I 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.
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
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!)
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
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
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
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!!