What I’ve Learned About Blogging Over the Last Two Years

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What I've Learned About Blogging Over the Last Two YearsI started the Route to Retire site in May of 2015 and quickly learned that blogging is an interesting endeavor.  Like most new bloggers, for the first few months, I would just write and publish and wonder “is anyone even out there?”

The analytics showed a nibble here and there, but really… nothing.

It took a number of months, but eventually, the traffic started to grow.  The comments on my posts began to slowly trickle in – and that was the most exciting part.

Now, a couple years into it, I have a good number of visitors coming to my site every day and I’m enjoying the discussions that I get to have with my readers (that’s you!).

All in all, it’s been a great ride so far, but there were a lot of aspects about blogging that were unexpected, so I’m thinking it’s time to share a little bit.  I’m sure any of the regular bloggers out there are going to be able to relate to this.

Here’s what I’ve learned about blogging over the last two years…


Blogging is not just about writing

When I came up with my idea for the Route to Retire blog a couple of years ago, I underestimated what this was going to entail.  I figured I’d throw up some ads and spend all my time writing.  Then over time, I’d grow an audience and live happily ever after.

Yeah, not that easy.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love it – more than I thought I would.  But I definitely learned that writing’s only a small part of the job.

What I've Learned About Blogging Over the Last Two Years - Blogging is not just about writing
I could have used a professional-looking photo here, but how cool (and obscenely weird) is this one?!

Here are just a few of the other hats we get to wear as bloggers:

  • Technical support – This one’s always fun.  I’ve been in IT for almost 20 years and still struggle with goofy site problems.  Maybe a plugin just decides to stop working or conflict with another one.  Wonderful.  Time to figure out which one is causing the problem and then try to fix it.  Maybe your site suddenly starts loading slowly – great, now what?  There are just all kinds of issues that like to creep up and make you wonder if this is really what you signed up for.  And at least I have a technical background… I can’t imagine the fun that other bloggers who don’t know IT go through!
  • Website designer – Pick a theme and you’re done, right?  Nope.  I want this to look a little differently or I want this over here or that over there.  No problem says support or Google – just make some changes in your CSS or your functions.php file.  Cool!  Easy enough… oh, wait – what the #$%^’s CSS or a functions.php file??!!  Actually, I’ve become quite a bit better at this over the past couple of years, but boy, this was a struggle for a long time.  It also makes me dread the idea of changing themes down the line because I’ll have to go through trying to figure everything out all over again.
  • Graphic designer – Guess what?  People enjoy reading your articles more if there are pictures in them (maybe that’s just the kid in all of us).  No problem, I’ll throw some pictures in there.  Wait, what?  I need to try to make them more Pinterest-friendly so they’ll be better for sharing… uh, ok, fine.  Oh, I need to do different sizes to optimize for Twitter and Facebook… um, Ok.
    It’s definitely different.  I was a studio art major for the first couple of years of college, but I’m no graphic designer.  I’m getting a little better at it (thanks, Canva!), but what a pain in the %^&!!
  • Social media and marketing manager – Ok, the site’s all good and the post is written… glad that’s done!  Huh?  What do you mean that I have to cater to social media to increase traffic to my site?  Time to start sharing on the social networks and building relationships.  Oh yeah, that also means I should throw in some social media sharing plugins on the site to make sharing easier… that means I’ll probably get to figure out some conflicts with other plugins later! 🙂
  • Community relations – One of the best things that you can do to draw traffic back to your site is to comment on other blogger’s sites.  Not only do you make some friends in the process, but if readers of those blogs find your comment interesting enough, they might pay you a visit.  I enjoy checking out what others are blogging about and “meeting” new people, so this is fun for me.

I can go on and on… from SEO to media relations, you get to do it all.  It’s not bad.  In fact, I enjoy doing some of these things.

But it’s definitely time-consuming.  And that’s not something I took into consideration out of the gate.  I figured it would take a little bit of time to get the site the way I wanted and then just start writing.  Live and learn.


You might be surprised at the content your readers want

What I've Learned About Blogging Over the Last Two Years - You might be surprised at the content your readers want
What the what?!!!!

Photo by Ben White

I started this blog with the intent of helping others learn some tips and tricks to help them grow their finances and possibly make their way to financial independence and early retirement.  Along the way, I thought I would include a few personal posts just to change things up.

However, through Google Analytics, I’ve learned that my personal posts tend to be the more popular articles that others want to read.  Although the “educational” posts do garner a fair amount of traffic, it’s nowhere near what I get for posts like Escaping the Hustle-Bustle of the Rat Race with a Walk or $1 Million Net Worth… Now What?.

That was definitely a surprise to me, but it’s important to know because I want my readers to enjoy my posts.

What I’ve done recently is started to alternate my posts.  It’s not always going to be the case, but for the most part, I’m posting a financial-related article one week and then a more abstract or personal article the next.  As the months go by, I’ll continue to re-evaluate the analytics and evolve my content to keep my readers happy.


It takes up a lot of time (a real lot!)

What I've Learned About Blogging Over the Last Two Years - It takes up a lot of time (a real lot!)
Like the sands of time through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives. Who still uses an hourglass to represent time being spent??!! THIS GUY!!

I thought writing each post when blogging would be a quick hour-or-two job, but that’s not the case.  I would venture to say that each post takes me around 6-8 hours to do.

Why so long, you might ask?

When I first started blogging, my posts tended to me much shorter, but over time… well, I just can’t stop going on.  Not only that, but any research that needs to done is also going to eat up some time.

Then, there are other factors that you might not think about.  Images are one big time-sucker.  A post without them is boring for your readers, so I try to include them throughout.  But, they take time to find and optimize – especially building the larger image for posts, which is my Pinterest-friendly image.

While I could just get some general photos from some stock photo sites and slap them on the site to be the main image, I try to take into consideration some of the other factors, like social networks.  I want images that are going to be good for Pinterest and Twitter and other sites.

Once your content is shared, the images are what helps draw the traffic of other readers back to your site.  So, you need to come up with good images and optimize them appropriately for the different sites.  It ends up looking good, but it’s definitely a pain to do.

It also takes time to proofread posts.  I read through mine first from start to finish.  As my brother once said though, “when you read it, you’re seeing it the way you think it should be so you’re going to miss things.”  He’s right.  I hate it when he’s right.

So then I paste a copy of the post in Word, run the spelling and grammar check, and go back to my post to make changes accordingly.  Then I paste a copy in Grammarly and do the same thing.

And then, guess what?  After it’s posted, it’s inevitable that I’ll get a text from my brother with mistakes that I need to fix.  Son-of-a-!!!!


A lot of blogs come and go

What I've Learned About Blogging Over the Last Two Years - A lot of blogs come and go
This is the representation of blogs disappearing like the sun setting… I thought that was pretty creative. Can I get a woot woot?!!

A lot of folks are inspired to write a blog and have some great ideas about what they want to do with it.  So they get a great blog started and rolling.

But then it happens.

The blog disappears off the face of the earth.  Many, many blogs don’t make it past the six-month mark.

So why is that?

My guess is that it’s generally going to be the result of one or more of a few reasons…

Burnout – when you start a blog, you have tons of ideas and are super excited about getting started.  You start the blog and start posting every day – maybe even twice a day – filling your site with all the great content you’re mind’s been storing for way too long.

Then you’re out.  Out of ideas or starting to despise the amount of time the blog is taking since you’re posting so much.

I got lucky on this.  I started out strong and was posting a couple of times a week, but then I realized that it was taking too much time away from my family.  That’s why I generally only post once a week for the time being.  I would love to do more, but I decided a balance of family time was more important.

Fortunately, that’s kept the Route to Retire blog going strong and preventing burnout.  The key for me has always been consistency.  Although I don’t post as much as a lot of sites, I write a post every single week and haven’t missed a week yet.

Only want to write – as I mentioned earlier, blogging requires a lot more work than just writing.  Unfortunately, most bloggers don’t realize that until they’re already in too deep.

They get frustrated with the technical issues that need to be resolved and bail.

Bored – maybe blogging isn’t what you thought it was or it’s just not as exciting as you thought it would be.  So, eventually, you post a little less often… then a little less, then a little less.  The next thing you know it’s been 6 months or a year and you haven’t created any new posts.

Then renewal time comes for your web hosting or domain name and you think, “well, I’m not even posting that much anymore…”  And that’s the end of the blog.  Sad, but true.


Another big reason why blogs probably disappear pretty quickly is because of the money


You’re not going to get rich quick with it

What I've Learned About Blogging Over the Last Two Years - You're not going to get rich quick with it
Many sites will make you think you’ll be this Monopoly guy after blogging for a month or so. This is almost never the case.

If you’re thinking that you’re going to just slap up a quick blog, write a few posts, and make thousands of dollars every month in the blink of an eye, that’s very unlikely to be the case.

It takes time to grow your blog and gain a solid readership – particularly readers that want to come back to read future content.

Luckily for me, I knew this going in.  I started Route to Retire with the intent of growing it over several years as a part-time job until I would retire early from my full-time job.  Then I would have a solid blog in place with readers already in place and possibly have a small, supplemental income stream ready to go.

I anticipated from the beginning that I wouldn’t make any money from the blog for at least the first two years.  Here we are, a couple years in, and I would say that’s pretty accurate.

I’ve made a few hundred dollars between advertising and affiliate linking, but that’s about it.  And I’m Ok with that.

What’s important is that I’m seeing the growth.  As each month passes, my audience is continuing to expand and the bulk of the income I have seen has actually been over the past several months.

So the money is there and will continue to grow, but it will definitely take time.  And going back to what I said earlier, I generally only post about once a week for the time being, so it’s going to be a smaller pace than someone posting a lot more might see.


The community is fantastic

What I've Learned About Blogging Over the Last Two Years - The community is fantastic
The personal finance community rocks! I’m just not sure why we’re all naked.

This was the most unexpected facet of blogging for me.  As I mentioned, when I initially decided to start a blog, I just figured I’d be doing a lot of writing.  Then, hopefully, some people would come read my posts and that would be the extent of it.

However, what happened was great.  I started to gain some “regular” visitors commenting on the site.  I also was visiting sites of other bloggers.

Eventually, I started to get to know my readers and other bloggers a little better.  Over the past couple of years, I feel like I’ve made a lot of online friends.  I was very surprised and impressed by just how supportive the community is of one and other.

This year, I’ll be attending FinCon for the first time and I’m absolutely excited to meet a lot of the folks out there.  I’m excited to get to know both the bloggers I’m familiar with as well as others who I’m not.

I’ve loved the ride I’ve had over the past couple years and how far this site has come.  I’m excited about the future and continuing to grow this site.

If you’re not already a blogger but have thought about the idea of starting one, maybe this post has given you some solid reasons about the good and the bad.  If you’re interested, here is some direction on creating your own blog.


If you’re not already blogging does any of this surprise you?  If you are a blogger, is there anything you’ve found that wasn’t what you thought it would be (good or bad)?


Thanks for reading and for sticking around for the past two years!!

— Jim

You know you wanna share this!!

50 thoughts on “What I’ve Learned About Blogging Over the Last Two Years”

  1. Congratulations, Jim!

    As a fellow blogger (1/2 your blogging age) I have an idea of the fun time sink that is blogging. Also, learning what your audience likes is a confusing mind bender at times. An odd post I did about Norwegian Cops vs American Cops ended up being one of my best ever. Similar posts about Chinese cops and Romanian cops were nowhere near as spectacular. There must be something magical about Norway!

    I was also surprised when a reader said they liked my shorter, more direct posts. I love a good ramble, but learning good communication is what this endeavor is all about.

    Keep up the good work, Jim!

    1. Thanks, Jack! It’s funny how a post you might not think is that special can end up taking off and getting you good traffic.

      I can relate to your reader talking about making shorter, more direct posts. I haven’t had anyone tell me that yet, but I feel like my posts are getting too long… something I need to work on.

      — Jim

    1. Thanks, PFK! The nice thing is I’m not worried about the money aspect right now. I’ve enjoyed writing the past couple years and hope to actually grow it more once I hit FI in a few years.

      — Jim

  2. Great post, thanks for sharing. I have to learn all of these and get my own experience.
    You’re absolutely right saying that a lot of blogs come and go. I remember my first attempt, it was a disaster. I had a lot of ideas (I still have ’em) but each post would take tons of time just to write it. And this shame because of my pure English… I used to write a post and delete it just because I didn’t want to be embarrassed.

    But one day I told myself, ‘Hey, Rome wasn’t build in one day. You’ve got a lot of things to share with people, so do it. ‘

    And now I am learning a lot of new things about blogging and community.

    Thanks again for sharing this post.

    1. I’m glad you decided to get back to blogging since you have a unique situation that a lot of bloggers can’t offer up to readers. Coming from another country to the U.S. is really an interesting journey to read about! 🙂

      — Jim

    1. Glad to see you here, Michelle! You’re proof that if you keep at it and work hard enough at building your business, there are absolutely some great opportunities to be successful! 🙂

      — Jim

  3. Oh the technical woes. I, too, thought blogging was mainly about writing. I remember agonizing over committing to publishing three posts a week (would I have time? would I have enough to write about?). Now that I’ve been doing it for over a year, I have plenty of time for writing and more material than I know what to do with. What I didn’t anticipate was how much work it takes behind the scenes to run a blog. Hours and hours! But it’s all been fun though, particularly when you have such nice people helping you out along the way. Looking forward to putting some faces to names at FinCon this year!

    1. It really is a great crowd out there, both with the personal finance bloggers and the non-bloggers as well. Even though there’s a lot of work involved, I really enjoy talking to everyone (you included!) and seeing everything continuing to grow. See you at FinCon! 🙂

      — Jim

  4. I love this post. As a new blogger just starting out these are great tips. I just spent 2 hours of my life fiddling with widgets and still have no idea what I am doing 🙂

  5. I can identify with everything you say here and then some. The big learning for me is social media. As soon as I get a grasp on one it seems another shows up I have to learn. Eight months and as of Monday 100 posts in.

    1. Wow, 100 posts in 8 months is fantastic! Congrats on that one!!

      I’m with you on some of the social media – I do (just) Ok on Twitter and even Facebook, but this Pinterest stuff is a whole different beast to tame! 🙂

      — Jim

  6. I’m not into IT at all…and have no idea what “code” is. SEO is totally confusing to me too! No wonder blogging can stress me out! The one thing I’ve been really consistent with is writing/commenting on other blogs. I think that’s been a great way for me to connect with the community. Thanks for sharing all of your thoughts, Jim! Two years is amazing! I’m a few weeks away from the one year mark. Looking forward to meeting you at FinCon!

    1. You’re definitely on top of being a big part of the community – and your sincerity and helpfulness definitely makes you stand out! 🙂

      I’m looking forward to meeting you at FinCon as well!

      — Jim

  7. Great post. As a newbie blogger I found it both encouraging and horrifying. It’s nice to get a glimpse down the path to see what twists and turns lay ahead. I too believed I would just write down my thoughts hit publish and be done, but already have learned there is a lot more too it than that. I enjoy the creative side (i.e. adding graphic content, but still need to get better at it), but struggle more with the few technical issues I’ve come across. I’m worried about what will happen when I run into a major technical issue. Thanks for the insights.

    1. Thanks, MSF! That’s cool that you enjoy the creative side – I’m not so good at it, but it comes with the job I guess. 🙂

      On the technical side, as long as you’re doing regular backups and have some good security in place (I recommend UndraftPlus for backups and Wordfence for security), most problems aren’t going to be the end of the world. The web hosting providers are usually pretty good at helping get you back to where you need to be and the different forums are great places to go for figuring out other minor issues.

      — Jim

  8. Thanks for sharing your experience. My blog is only 1 month old. I too am looking at a long time horizon to build it up. It is great getting to interact with likeminded people.

    1. Hi Dave – that’s good you’re looking long-term and have your expectations where they need to be. Being consistent in posting and getting to know other bloggers (commenting on their sites) is what will slowly (probably very slowly!) build traffic and help your site to grow. There are definitely a lot of great people in the personal finance realm of blogging. 🙂

      — Jim

  9. Congratulations on 2 years. Just got started blogging myself, and you certainly give me things to think about above. Still, I hope to enjoy the process and believe it will help clarify my thinking as I get new ideas.

  10. As a new blogger I really appreciate the veterans giving us a behind the scenes ticket. Thank you for sharing.

    I’ll be at FinCon this year and I’m looking forward to meeting the great blogging community.

    Tom @ HIP

    1. Haha, not sure if I’d be a veteran with this compared to some of the guys that have been doing this for 10 years, but maybe we can settle on that I’m starting to creep out of being a newbie! 🙂

      Hopefully, we’ll get to meet at FinCon!

      — Jim

  11. As I work also in the IT world, it’s great to see a fellow IT’er write about his experiences so far. As I only recently launched my blog dividendcake.com, I still have to “suffer” and experience all this, I guess.

    Thanks for the advice and insights in this article. Very helpful. Once day I may go to FinCon but it’s a long journey from Belgium

    Cheers, Patrick

    1. That would definitely be a long trip to make to attend FinCon!

      Blogging does add some different stumbling blocks along the way. The good news is that depending on your area of expertise in IT, the technical problems might be easier for you to figure out than they have been for me.

      — Jim

  12. Thanks for the post. It’s interesting to read the ups and downs of someone who has been at it a while. I started a small blog to start building a community of people interested in dividend growth investing and also people who were raising a child or have family members with disabilities. The two things go hand in hand for me, the need for a strong financial foundation and a passive stream of income that can last a lifetime.

    I have zero technical background and am not going in “guns blazing” – It’s a limited effort right now with the thought that I can slowly build my skills and readership over time. I definitely enjoy it, but like you mentioned, I don’t want to have burnout or just throw in the towel after a few months.

    Thanks for the perspective!

    1. That’s a great way to do it, Brian. If you build the blog up organically, it should help keep it more fun instead of being a chore you don’t want to deal with.

      — Jim

  13. Appreciate you sharing your lessons learned, Jim. I’ve been a reader for almost all of your two years and jumped into the game myself this past February. I can already relate to so much in this post. No, IT background but I love a challenge. Having such an awesome community to interact with and learn from is fantastic. I’ll to be at FinCon and look forward to meeting you!

  14. All this rings very true Jim! Congrats on lasting 2 years, no small achievement that.

    I’ll chime in with a few others common PF blogging pitfalls I’ve observed or experienced first hand:

    – dealing with the occasional comment troll or stalker can be a bummer, particularly if you’re unlucky enough to attract a persistent one.

    – the annual April/May questioning whether it is all worthwhile. Tax time is done, new year resolutions are a distant memory, finances on autopilot, warmer weather is starting to entice bloggers away from their keyboards… and then what? There are more than a few PF bloggers hitting that identity crisis hurdle these past couple of weeks!

    – running out of steam. The new blogger has written their variant on most/all the PF cliches… emergency funds are good / spend less than you earn / debt is bad / don’t buy crap you don’t need / the power of compound interest / don’t try and time the market / index trackers outperform active funds and stock picking / etc. Then they realise they are starting to repeat themselves… but original ideas are so much harder to come by than “me too” posts!

    – self imposed publishing schedules creating pressure where there needn’t be any, blogging is supposed to be fun after all! Maybe they write some low quality listicles, start a “round up” / digest post, add an “interview other bloggers” feature, throw up some sponsored posts, or generally churn out unoriginal content just to keep feeding the machine.

    – when sites start making a (very) little bit of money and the posts suddenly start being affiliate sales funnels rather than the previously well written high quality content. Start a Bluehost blog! Use PersonalCapital! Join the flavour of the month P2P lending or matched betting program, and so on.

    Mostly blogging is fun, but many of us need to be consciously aware of the time commitment involved, and as you so wisely have done pull back if they become too great a time suck.

    Good luck with the next 2 years and beyond.

    1. Thanks, Slow Dad – by why are you looking at me when you’re talking about stalkers? 😉

      These are actually some awesome pitfalls you’ve mentioned… not awesome in a good way either! I was laughing reading them, because it’s dead on – there are a lot of bloggers that fall victim to these traps. I read through ’em thinking “do I this one or that one?” 🙂 I think I’m pretty clean on most of them for now, but I do like having the New Year’s goals post (helps keeps me accountable!).

      Thanks for putting the time into this, too… very well-thought out and much appreciated!

      — Jim

  15. Hi Jim, I love reading these ‘what I’ve learnt from blogging’ posts, as it’s a bit of insight into all the work that’s going on behind the scenes! I recently shared my own 1 year story, and couldn’t agree with you more – it takes a LOT of time(!) and writing is just a small part, who knew there was so much else to it?!

    1. Thanks, Sarah – my brother who usually reads my posts and yells at me for a caught misspelling hit me up on the morning I published it and told me he got too bored reading it and bailed on it. I guess this kind of content is only interesting to those of us who are currently blogging or plan to down the line. 🙂

      — Jim

  16. I can relate to absolutely everything in this post, Jim! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience. I love blogging for reasons I wouldn’t have guessed before I started – and it’s the close, supportive community that keeps me going! 🙂 Look forward to meeting you at FinCon!

    1. Thanks, Amanda – that’s a good way to put it. Although a lot of the things with blogging might have been unexpected, I love it as well… and tons of great peeps out there!! 🙂

      Looking forward to meeting you at FinCon as well!

      — Jim

  17. 2 years is quite the milestone. I’ve created a contact form to ask my readers what they want to read. Like you’ve said, a lot of times what you think readers enjoy reading and what they actually enjoy reading can be 2 very different things.

  18. At 6 months in, I appreciate the perspective! Thank goodness for Canva!!!! And I can totally relate to the typos. 😀 I began at two posts per week, but I’ve given myself permission now to dial it back exactly because of fear of burn out. Thanks for this write up!

    1. Thanks, Melanie… I think the balance between not over-posting, but still being consistent has kept it fresh for me. Hope you’re loving the first 6 months of your site!

      — Jim

  19. Creating a blog is tons of fun, but also a lot of work. Thanks for being honest about that Jim!

    Frankly, I agree about the money. If someone starts a blog they shouldn’t be in it for the money. There should be other reasons for blogging. The money generated by most blogs is tiny. Most people would be better off with a minimum wage job!

    Web hosting is also kindof a scam. Frankly most hosters ask you to buy multiple years worth of hosting to get that “discounted” price. As you said, most never make it past 6 months.

    The most talked about web hosting companies generally aren’t the best either. If anyone’s interested, I wrote considerably more about this topic on my own blog: http://www.mrtakoescapes.com/web-hosting-its-a-giant-scam/

    1. I never thought about the web hosting… considering how excited everyone is when they get ready to start a blog, I would venture to guess that a good majority think they’ll do this forever and opt for the longer term. Obviously, we know that doesn’t always pan out and becomes a waste of money.

      I know what you mean in your post about bloggers pushing the bigger affiliate programs. Bluehost wants me to start promoting them, but I won’t do it (at least for now), because I don’t use them and only want to recommend the stuff I know and use.

      — Jim

  20. Gosh, did I underestimate this Blogging thing too! It’s great fun, but takes up massive amounts of time. Which, as you clearly explained, is not all just actually writing of posts!

  21. Early on, Dr. Jim Dahle of The White Coat Investor told me I’d spend 10% of my time writing for the blog and 90% of the time promoting it. I had no idea what he meant by that.

    Now, I get it. I don’t necessarily consider reading other posts, commenting, goofing around on Twitter, etc… as purely promotional activity, but essentially, that’s what it is. It’s all a lot of fun, though.


    1. I would guess those percentages come out to be pretty close – something I would have never guessed when I started this.

      So right on visiting other blogs… in the end, it’s definitely promotional, but it’s also fun and a great opportunity to learn more about others in the community.

      Thanks for coming by, PoF!!

      — Jim

  22. As a newbie blogger, I love these sort of posts. They give me an idea what to expect, and what I need to look out for to avoid burnout and make my blog last!

    Does your brother want another site to proofread – my grammar is atrocious!

    1. Haha, he actually just corrected me on a post that came out this morning. 🙂

      Glad this was helpful… it’s a lot of work, but if you enjoy the writing, it’s well worth the time you put into it.

      — Jim

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