I don’t consider myself to be an authority on all things website related. I started this one in January of 2016, knowing next to nothing about blogging. While I’m still learning how to best do some of the behind-the-scenes technical wizardry, I know a lot more than I did when I first got started.
Why should you listen to me, then? In a little over a year, I’ve grown this blog’s readership from a few dozen a day to a few thousand a day, and those numbers continue to grow at a steady and rapid pace. 2017 was my second year blogging, but technically my first full year, and this site had 2.8 Million pageviews in 2019.
I regularly field questions from other relatively new bloggers, and I do what I can to give sound advice and help them out. I’m creating this page as a resource to share with them, and to give my non-blogging readers an idea of what goes into this endeavor.
Consider this your free “factory tour.” If you enjoy shows like How It’s Made (as I do), please read on while I describe how to start a site, create great content, and help readers find it.
Step One: The Idea
Before you start a website, you ought to have a good idea of what the premise of the site will be. What will it be about? How will it be different from similar sites in that niche? How will creating this site add value for the reader who already has thousands of blogs to choose from?
I chose to create a FIRE blog for high-income professionals because that’s what I wanted to read and I wasn’t finding it.
Be specific. If you want to start a personal finance blog that also shares hot sauce recipes, crossfit regimens, travelogues, and pictures of your stupid cat, you might have a hard time finding a dedicated audience. Narrow it down. Also, I don’t care to see your cat.
It’s also best to have something unique you bring to the table. If it’s been done before and done well, be prepared to do it differently (and preferably better).
Step Two: Start Your Site
You need a domain name, which you may purchase separately or with your hosting, depending on the company or companies you choose to buy from. Your name should be memorable, available (check here), and not too long.
www.moneyhotsaucebufftravelerandalsomycat.com would be a poor choice.
To get your domain name registered, website hosting, and WordPress installed, I would follow any of the following excellent guides from my friends. I won’t repeat the step-by-step instructions here. It’s already been done and done well, so I’m not going to reinvent that wheel. Please note that those sites and this one contain affiliate links, meaning the site gets paid if you the links to sign up for a service.
- Do You Even Blog: How to Start a Blog
- Retire by 40: How to Start a Blog and Why You Should
- Financial Samurai: How to Start a Profitable Blog
Here are my affiliate links. If you appreciate my advice, I would be pleased if you would return to this page and click through these to start your own site when you’re ready. I will receive a commission and I’ll donate a decent chunk of the reward.
Bigscoots: When I outgrew my first host, I switched to Bigscoots for improved performance, and have been pleased with the VPS service. Starts @ 2.95 a month.
Siteground: I see them recommended more and more. Starts @ $3.95 a month.
GreenGeeks: Also starts @ $3.95 a month. Powered by renewable energy.
Dreamhost: hosts more than 1.5 million sites, blogs, and apps. Starts ~ $5 a month.
Step Three: Select a WordPress Theme.
I wouldn’t pay for a theme, at least not at first. There are hundreds available for free. I’m still using a free theme (Smartline Lite) and it has served me well.
Browse through the options within different themes. Find one that appeals to you, is at least somewhat customizable, and select it. You can always change it later. I used two or three different themes before I settled on this one, and I have added a “child theme” to further customize the font, colors, and spacing. Check out what this place used to look like!
Step Four: Add Plugins
Plugins are little helpers that performs tasks within WordPress. Many are completely free or have a free “lite”version. I haven’t paid for one yet, although I’m sure I will at some point. Consider adding plugins for the following tasks:
- Site backup: I use WordPress Backup to Dropbox.
- Security: I use Aksimet Anti-Spam, Wordfence Security, and All in One WP Security.
- Social Sharing: I use Shareaholic and Add to Feedly.
- E-mail signups: I use MailChimp for WordPress, Mailchimp Forms by MailMunch, and Optin Forms.
- Comments: I use Subscribe to Comments Reloaded, Simple Comment Editing, and Basic Comment Quicktags
- Speed / Optimization: I can’t say how well these work together, but I’m currently using Autoptimize, WP Fastest Cache, and WP-Sweep.
- Additional: Jetpack does a whole bunch of stuff, and Yoast SEO helps you do things to increase search engine optimization. RS Feedburner directs your RSS feed to feedburner.
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Step Five: Read.
Before you do a lot of writing, do a lot of reading. If you are starting a blog, you’ve probably read some blogs and have an idea of what your voice will sound like, and how it will be different from the rest.
Read successful blogs. Read magazines and columnists — these authors are getting paid for the words they drop on a page. Dissect those paragraphs and think about what makes their writing special.
Are they writing in the first person and drawing you into the scene? Do they circle back to ideas or visuals presented earlier in the piece? Do they utilize literary tricks?
I might make mention of alliteration. I might start the next sentence the same way (we call that anaphora). Or, Boom! Hit you with onomatopoeia. Even a moron can come up with an occasional oxymoron. Of course, hyperbole is way, way more important than all those other tricks combined.
The two most influential books that I’ve read since I started this blog are Steven King’s On Writing and Joel Stein’s Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity.
The King book is simply a book about writing with an autobiographical slant. In summary, the author tells you to avoid the passive voice, allow your story (or post) to develop without too much predetermined, and understand that sometimes less is more.
This may sound ironic coming from the man behind It and The Stand, but he’s telling to cut out the excess. Words like really and very are really very unnecessary. You could say they are superfluous, and that only took one word, a more descriptive word at that.
I include the Stein book because the man has a knack for solid, self-depreciating humor. He describes how he inserts himself into all sorts of testosterone-rich situations as part of a grand experiment in which he is the subject. Sort of a scrawnier, less cerebral Tim Ferriss, although Stein is clearly quite intelligent — he bested my SAT score by 40 points. #humblebrag
When I’m struggling to find a way to add humor to a post, I wonder WWJD (What Would Joel Do) and find inspiration.
Step Six: Write Compelling Content.
Content is King.
This is The Most Important Step. You can’t get to this point without the first steps, but if you are going to gain any traction, you need to create articles that readers will not only enjoy, but also comment on and share.
Start by identifying your target reader. Who are you writing for?
I think for most of us, it will be someone like us. Someone who has similar interests, goals, and circumstances. My target reader is essentially the person I see in the mirror, or in the photo albums when I see a younger version of myself. A physician (or similar high-income professional) who is interested in living a life less ordinary.
Write with that person in mind. Assume he or she shares your quirky sense of humor and affinity for craft beer. Let your personality shine!
Give your reader actionable content. Show them how to minimize capital gains taxes. Walk them through a Backdoor Roth contribution. Demonstrate how a 2% fee on their investments will cost them millions, using Biz Markie’s friends as examples.
Entertain your reader. Throw in a non-sequitur. Use fancy Latin-ish words. Hell, make up words, like lupid. Just don’t swear. Make obscure references to hip hop songs (or country if you must, but don’t expect me to get it). Doowutchyalike. If 60% of the time, your attempts at humor work every time, you deserve a medal. Or at least a cuddle.
You might also want to mix in some humor that requires no savant-like knowledge of song lyrics and movie quotes. If the previous paragraph was pure gibberish, you might be a standard deviation or two away from my target reader, but that’s alright. As long as you smirk at least a little at “a skeleton walked into a bar and said, ‘gimme a beer and a mop.’”
How do you inspire your readers? Personal stories. Tales of your fears and failures will help the reader identify with you. Tales of your triumphs are good, too. Show them what you’ve done and what you hope to do. Readers don’t want to read your diary, but mixing in some personal details helps readers develop a connection with you.
Step Seven: Ensure Visual Appeal
Part of your site’s look will depend on your chosen theme, but there are additional considerations within each post. If the font is too small or too large, reading your posts will be a pain.
Be sure to look at your blog in a couple different browsers and on a mobile device and / or tablet. Customize your theme’s settings until you get the look you like.
White space is your friend.
Reading on a screen is not the same as reading on a page. While paragraphs eight sentences long might make sense and work in print, a paragraph on the screen becomes tedious after the third sentence. I don’t know why; it just does.
Limit your paragraphs to just a few sentences even if you think the sentence, like this one, belongs in the paragraph above.
A one sentence paragraph is perfectly acceptable.
Break up the monotony of the text with images. I try to insert two or three images per post. I’ve got a vast library of digital images I’ve taken over the last fifteen years, so I mostly draw from that, but there are archives of images that you can use for free if you prefer stock images.
Use headings to break up the text.
Even if there’s no natural break point in your prose, it’s a good idea to mix things up with a heading (that one’s an H4 heading) so that you don’t have an entire screen of just plain text. A free plugin I use (Yoast SEO) actually gets mad at me when I place more than 300 words under a single heading.
Step Eight: Help The World Discover Your Compelling Content
If you write the most important post of the 21st century, but you write it on stationary you keep in a drawer in your nightstand, exactly one person will know about it.
It’s like that with blogging. If you write great stuff and make no effort to publicize your site and yourself, you’re essentially keeping a journal in your digital nightstand.
A few months into this venture, I submitted a guest post to The White Coat Investor and we exchanged a few e-mails about blogging. He told me something that made no sense at all — that successful bloggers spend 10% of their time creating content and 90% of their time marketing that content.
A year later, I understand what he meant. You need to help people find you. You need to get comfortable with promoting yourself. That wasn’t easy for me and my Midwest sensibilities, but I realized no one would be reading my work if I didn’t give them a reason and a way to find me.
How do you help people find your blog?
Read the posts of the blogs you admire and make meaningful comments on them. This is your chance to introduce yourself to the author and hundreds or thousands of readers. Put some thought into your comment. Add to the conversation. Be witty. Be clever. Be comical, but try not to be redundant like I just was. Some bloggers love to ask questions; it’s a great way to encourage a response.
Participate in forums. You’re an expert in the field you’re writing about, right? Prove it by being an active participant in forums within your niche. These are the forums that I visit regularly.
- Bogleheads Forum
- MMM Forum
- Rockstar Finance Forums
- WCI Forum
Secure your domain name as your username if allowed by the forum. Comment frequently and intelligently, and occasionally drop links to posts written by others and posts of your own as long as you’re not breaking any rules.
Frequent and blatant self-promotion is crass and will likely get you suspended or banned, so use self-linking sparingly, and wait until you’ve established a presence on the forum with dozens of worthwhile contributions to the forum beforehand.
Guest post UP.
When you’ve got an idea for a killer post, pitch it to an established blogger in your niche that publishes guest posts. Don’t ask to swap guest posts. Contribute. It’ll be a one-way deal but when you’re successful, it will be reciprocated when newer bloggers looking to emulate your success will offer guest posts to you.
Sometimes, it makes sense to swap guest posts. I would suggest this strategy can be mutually advantageous if two criteria exist. One, your readerships are of a similar size. Two, the overlap between your readers is small. Now, you’re exposing readers of one blog to readers of another blog, and both readers receive a roughly equal benefit. If you’re the more established blog, swap with whomever you want, but recognize that you get more benefit from your efforts by guest posting UP.
The best way to utilize social media is the subject of many a blog post — another wheel I’m not going to reinvent in this behemoth of a blog post. Grab your domain names as usernames on the top sites and devote as little or as much time to them as you like.
I do more with Twitter than anything else. It took me awhile to figure out what to do and how to do it, but now I actually kinda like it, whereas initially all I saw was a bunch of people yelling and nobody listening.
If nothing else, have WordPress or a plugin autopost your new stuff to Twitter, Facebook, and maybe Pinterest or Google+.
Step Nine: Make Friends!
A one-man wolfpack lives in perpetual hunger. Grow your wolfpack.
Many of the efforts I outlined above will serve as an introduction of your blog to the titans in your niche. For a while, it won’t make a lick of difference. Almost no one will visit your site. Don’t worry about it.
Remain persistent, and people will start to notice your logo and moniker popping up all over the place. That is, they’ll notice it if you’ve done what I told you to do and you’ve been highly visible with perceptive or comedic comments all over the place. Give your favorite bloggers a great guest post and you’ve got instant rapport. Interact on social media. Retweet your favorite posts and add 140 crafty characters of your own.
Link out to your new friends. Be generous, and don’t worry about sending people away from your site. If you send them to quality sites, your readers will see you not only as a creator of great stuff, but also as a resource to discover more. My Sunday Best series sends my readers in ten different directions, and it might be the best thing I’ve done with this blog.
Initially, these online friendships will be virtual. You might only know them by handle and logo. Still, you sorta get to know them. Stick around awhile and the virtual friendship might become something more. I mean that in the most platonic way possible.
What I’m awkwardly trying to say is that eventually you might actually have a reason to meet up and person and have the opportunity to name drop. I met a few influential bloggers early on, and hung out with a whole bunch more at FinCon17.
Step Ten: Monetize Your Blog (Purely Optional)
Owning and operating a website takes time and money. The barrier to entry is quite low, but as your site grows, so do the expenses.
As the heading states, earning money from your site is completely optional. Some popular sites have made no effort to monetize. Our Next Life is a great example within this early retirement niche.
Others, such as my business partner, The White Coat Investor, have monetized quite well, earning more from their site and associated endeavors than their “normal” job. And my friend Pete has made it his life’s mission to teach you how to monetize a blog.
If you do choose to monetize, you should probably wait until you’ve got some traffic. Ads can be a turnoff to readers, although I feel that most of us are accustomed to seeing ads on websites.
I started with Google Adsense, Amazon Affiliates, and FlexOffers for Empower. Google ads are ubiquitious; Amazon and Empower are services I was using long before I was blogging, so I have no qualms with recommending them to my readers.
One cool thing about the Amazon program is that if you direct a reader to Amazon.com, and they buy anything from the site in that session, you get credit. You can link to Calloway’s I Wanna Be Rich, and if the reader goes on to buy a diamond ring, you’ll receive a small percentage of the ring’s purchase price.
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Privately Placed Ads
I planned to start thinking about taking privately placed ads once I reached a consistent 1,000 pageviews a day. It happened within four months, and I was not prepared when I reached the threshold so quickly.
I didn’t know how to add an image to the sidebar if I wanted to, and I had no idea what to charge. Fortunately, I found out what others were charging with a little sleuthing and communicating with my new virtual friends, and I came up with some prices and threw together a media kit in MS Word.
I quickly learned how to add an image in a text widget in the sidebar when Contract Diagnostics signed on as my first Site Sponsor. Others followed suit — a number of them contacted me in the first few months. I reached out to others.
When I partnered with WCI, I also gained an excellent business manager. I am grateful because she has freed up some time for me to focus more on content. I finally found time to put together this 3,500 word compendium of blogging tips, for example.
Please don’t ask me to refer this site’s sponsors to you. You are of course free to contact whomever you’d like, but realize that most of my sponsors serve a small niche, and are typically very small businesses with limited advertising budgets.
My advice to you is to think about your target readers, and consider what services would be most valuable to them. Target those businesses. Put your best foot forward, show them your excellent pageview and subscriber statistics, and convince them they’d be foolish not to partner with you.
Be persistent. Early on, I e-mailed dozens of craft breweries hoping to get one to sponsor my site. I haven’t heard back from a single one. That doesn’t mean I’ll stop trying. I could always throw in a freebie for one of the breweries I’ve invested in.
Selling stuff / sponsored posts
Some bloggers choose to sell courses, e-books, actual books, or other objects. Some make a bunch of money doing it. Everything on this site is free, but if I actually retire and find time to write and publish a book, it will be prominently featured here.
Another source of potential income are sponsored posts. When you reach a certain page and domain authority, expect unsolicited e-mails offering to pay you to run a post with a link to a company.
Odds are the post won’t resemble something you would have written, and probably won’t contain advice consistent with your typical recommendations. I used to politely decline; now I don’t respond. I do run guest posts, typically at my request, but I do not take payment to host a post.
As I said, monetizing is optional, but blogging can actually be fairly lucrative when you find an unfilled niche and fill it with an attractive site full of engaging content. If you don’t fill that gap, don’t worry. Somebody will.
Get Started Today!
The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is today. I tossed around ideas in my head for the better part of a year before finally making a New Year’s resolution to launch this site. I should not have waited so long.
If you’re ready to take the plunge, please consider saying Thank You by following my affiliate links to get started, and help support this site’s charitable mission.
127 thoughts on “Successful Blogging: 10 Steps to Building and Growing a Website”
Incredibly helpful and direct article. God… I cannot express in words how much more difficult this is in reality, so I appreciate you being able to boil this down to these key steps. I have been in the process of getting my website up and running using many of the steps mentioned above… and as a physician who is trying to tackle his debt, and juggle moonlighting to bring in extra income, and be a father (you see where I am going with this) and still find time to try and put together a semi-descent website with digestible content is no easy feat. I have nothing but respect for what you have achieved here. Further, you being willing to provide some pearls of wisdom to those of us getting started is endearing. I can’t count how many frustrating days I have spent in front of my computer trying to make a plug-in work, or figure out how to set up a subscription page, or make sure google analytics is receiving the correct data, etc. So thank you for this, it has acted as a roadmap for me over the past few months.
I need this
I am interessting…
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Thanks for writing such awesome article!
Thank you for connecting me with this post. Its helped me tremendously. I’m not sure where my blog will go but it has much more direction now.
Hey, how it is going Lief? If you had not tweeted out this old post; I would never have known the behind the scenes story and your rapid growth. I always assumed you were an old timer.
The 1k views/month after 4 months seem amazing. Was that when you were a solo blogger or was it after you joined WCI? Given the current crowded blogosphere what would you do differently if starting now?
Nice Blog. Thank you for giving us such a useful information by this blog.
I realize this is an old article but I got here somehow and am glad I did. This is really pragmatic advice said in a plainspoken way not present on some of the other “how to get 1 billion sessions in 3 weeks or less” posts.
I read the Stephen King book about writing and absolutely loved it. I second that recommendation.
Thank you, Drew. I mean for it to be evergreen. I could probably update it a bit, but all the advice here will hold up for some time.
Can’t thank you enough for posting this. As a FUTURE blogger i had no idea or clue where to begin… Can the phrase “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” be more apropos? not only am i impressed with the content each time i visit… but this post hit all of the major points I need to know to begin (potentially) my own blog…
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
You’re welcome. You’re welcome. You’re welcome.
Best of luck on your blogging venture!
This is a great article!
Do you have recommendations for plug-ins for advertising? Which one do you use? Also, how did you start offering advertising? Did folks come asking you and you had to figure out how much to charge?
Thanks! This is awesome! You’ve given me some great tips. I watched your blog since the beginning. Amazing!
This post and your blog in general inspired me to start my own blog.
I’ve been talking with and presenting to residents for a couple of years now and this will help me organize my thoughts and provide the residents with a resource.
Keep up the good work! I hope you don’t mind if I refer back to your site when appropriate.
Thanks so much for such a helpful and informative post! I just got started with my own blog, and I’m wondering- how did you originally find forums to get involved in and follow? I’m in a slightly smaller niche (pain management) and not sure where to start on finding some online communities to get involved in.
Thanks again! Your success is super inspiring.
It might be tougher to find forums in that niche. Sermo might be one place. I haven’t really spent any time on fmedical information forums. The forums I mentioned I was already at least a longtime lurker if not a participant, with the exception of WCI’s forum, which started about the same time as my blog.
Thanks! Sermo is a great suggestion I’ll start there.
I have been spending sooooo much time learning about blogging, that reading your post gave me flashbacks to the times I spend cussing out WordPress or watching Russian videos on SEO! I think you and WCI got in at the right time and started a revolution in the Physician-Industry and might be responsible for the future of escalating the physician shortage beyond the current shortage! Next thing you know, both of you will be in the hot seat in a Congressional Hearing! ?
My biggest challenge is good content which I believe can grow from crappy content. I am currently using writing courses on Linkedin Learning and Freelance writers den. Both are excellent and I have realized that although I thought I could write, I haven’t written anything decent since 1997. I love the Stephen King book and his style of writing. I plan on using it and all your other suggestions.
Keep up the amazing work! Like others have said, I have total appreciation for your Monster Posts which I only now realize how much work goes into them!
I like the acronym, DOAT.
Keep up the good work over there, and enjoy your part-time anesthesia gig and the freedom it provides.
PoF thank you so much for compiling this 3500 word monster! 😀
I developed carpal tunnel scrolling down and down, then scrolling past all of your comments 😉
I have a feeling I will be referring back to his blogging bible every now and again to brush up on your teachings 🙂
Loved the paragraph about alliteration and other figures of speech. But that had 6 sentences 😀
I’ve been writing for a while and have had other blogs and I’ve struggled with some questions. What if I want to write just for the sake of writing? What if I don’t want to optimize my blog on search engines? What if I don’t care for making money off my blog? What if I’m not churning out content every other day? Would I still be considered a “blogger” when I’m not making an active effort to promote my blog?
By the way, Hi from a fellow Gopher!
Cheers! There are at least a few of us out there.
Early Retirement Now
The Grounded Engineer
Bible Money Matters
Apathy Ends (I think – Twin Cities guy, anyway)
Of course. You don’t even have to publish your posts on the internet if you don’t want to, but I suppose if you want to say you have a blog (a WEBlog), you need to have it on the web.
You can define success in any way you choose. With the title, I’m thinking in terms of what most people are looking for, which is some combination of influence, readership, and perhaps profit.
Great and detailed how to list. I took the plunge just recently and started my own (unrelated to FIRE) site.
I appreciate your candor on how long it took and not to take to monetizing too soon and build a following.
Starting a blog is certainly intimidating at first. I wish I had stumbled on this post before launching, but fortunately for me I’m still brand new with lots to learn.
Also, loving the line about the best time for planting a tree. Thanks for the insight. Time for me to get it going.
What’s up it’s me, I am also visiting tuis web site regularly, this web page is really
nice and the viiewers are actually sharing good thoughts.
Wow!!! PoF you CRUSHED this post!! I’ve only been at it 3 months but I’m trying to build some momentum.
I appreciate hearing about how it was a struggle early on. It’s easy to get down in the blogging roller coaster. It is fun though!!
Thanks for all the SUPER actionable tips!! I’m bookmarking this post and putting it in to action.
Thanks again -Matt
Great post PoF. I’m about 6 months into my bogging and wish I had know some of these things earlier. I’ll definitely be incorporating some of them into my routine. Keep up the good work. BTW saw your new stats today. You’re doing awesome. I only wish to emulate some of your success.
Best of luck to you, Dr. Vaughan. I hope some of my insights will help you with your site. Worked for me.
Thanks for the Great tips PF! I recently started blogging and I am going to use these tips to move forward. I have been reading your blog regularly since I found you, I usually come here from Twitter. It’s amazing how you were able to grow this site so much in just 2 years.
Kraft beers are awesome! One more reason to love Midewest.
Kraft beer: the next best thing to Kraft Mac & Cheese, or as they call it in Canada, Kraft dinner.
I hope my tips bring you blogging success!
What a great list! Albeit somewhat intimidating. 1000 pageviews a day in four months? That’s really impressive. Thank you for posting such a comprehensive rundown of the process.
I wanted you to know that the humpty dance reference made this article for me. The rest was great, but using a word that don’t mean nothing like lupid. Well, that just put it over the edge.
I’m the one who said “Just grab ’em in the waffles.”
Or something like that.
I have been an avid reader of your blog for the past 1.5 years. I finally took the plunge and registered my new domain! Still working on my articles, and I am not ready (frankly, quite intimidated) to be posting all these on social media and to bring publicity to my posts/website yet. Still working on wordpress and blue host technical stuff right now!
I am an international medical graduate, and moved to United States after medical school at age 24. My blog focuses on financial issues, job search and immigration issues with a special focus on issues facing International Medical Graduates.
I would like to stay anonymous for now, and this
this article and all the comments have helped me tremendously.
Great post it is inspiring! You mentioned that you joggled this idea for a year or so before actually making the blog. During that time did you write posts so that when you first opened the blog you would have multiple posts on the site? Or did you have the ideas and then write the posts after the website was launched?
I’m thinking of starting a blog. I just don’t know if I want to write some posts first before launching the website or do it after.
I wrote one or two and had a few dozen one-line ideas for posts when I started. I still haven’t used half those ideas as I’ve had no shortage of new ideas come along since I started.
Let me know if you do indeed get a blog up and running.
Hey, I wanted to reach out and inform you that I did get a blog up and running! It’s about finances go figure 😉 . There isn’t much content to it yet… but it has been enjoyable to say the least! I don’t have much time to work on it simply because I’m in dental school. But it certainly is a fun little hobby!
Thanks again your content definitely helped me go for it.
Good read! It’s helpful to hear how to grow a blog from a “normal blogger” whose main content isn’t teaching people how to use complicated SEO tactics. Mine is about 6 weeks old, and I’ve spent a ton of time writing content (e.g. over 25 hours for my first article), but I need to focus more on promoting. The 90%-10% figure from WCI is interesting…
It is interesting, isn’t it… I didn’t believe it until I had been doing it for awhile. It might be 80 / 20, but still, writing content is a small part of what I do.
Now that you’ve spent 25 hours on that article, you’d best start on the 225 hours of promotion. 😉
Looking to start a blog, I am in no position to travel at the present moment (young twins), but thought perhaps for content sake I could use my local environment, this wont simply be just photos and un-planned material.
I read this when I first started around Jan 2017 and now reading again. Had a good start then got busy & lazy. Now re-motivated. I need to get over feeling weird about self promotion I am realizing. I also hate twitter. I guess I need to get over that too :).
Yes, I have adopted the mindset that I’ve got a good message and the best way to get it out there to reach the people that could benefit from it is to promote the site.
Twitter can be fun once you get the hang of it and start interacting with your peers.
Awesome post! Thanks for all the valuable information. I’m quite new so I’ll definitely try some or all of this. You’ve been an inspiration!
Happy to help, John. The Golden Rule has treated me well in this blogging venture.
Wow! Thanks for sharing. This is good stuff, Doc. You are obviously a quick learner because you distilled some of the best lessons. And even better, you’ve DONE it. Awesome.
I’m involved on forums, but not quite enough. Bigger Pockets, MMM, & RockStar Finance are my choices. I had my handle at BP before the whole Coach Carson gig, so I’m going to see if I can switch.
Guest posting has been big! Definitely can confirm that one. It’s the one promo activity I’d do if I couldn’t do any other.
As for monetizing, I’m going the route of no ads and my own courses and books. Also throwing a few carefully chosen affiliates in there.
Great, fun, informative post. Congrats on a million views now. You could never have gotten a million, before you took a risk to get that first one. I still haven’t gotten up north mountain biking yet. Buying and renovating our rental in May took a lot out of me! But I’m just getting the energy and urge to go golfing this weekend at the cabin, which means I’m starting to get back to my normal energetic self. We’ll be up north with the bikes on the rack before too long. See you at Fincon.
Woo! That was some super detailed stuff!! Thank you for sharing and thank you for listing out the forums, I only really knew about Rockstar and Boglehead.
Honestly I’m having trouble coming up with an exact niche. Its about getting everyone to be more responsible with $ and all these things to shave a dollar off the market price to make ends meet but we’re high-income technically ($250K) so some posts might be RSUs and rental property stuff. Sorta of all over the place because I’m poor (from an immigrant family) and my husband is the well off bourgeoisie. Its a totally mixed marriage and it shows in the content 🙁
Coming from very different backgrounds should give you a lot to write about in regards to your perspectives on money.
I’m guessing you’re the one who inherited “The Frugal Gene”
Haha sorta! I took it from the core of one of Financial Samurai’s post “The Unfair Competitive Advantage Of The Wealthy.” It made me giggle because it’s so tongue in cheek.
I coined the term “cockroach DNA” for good health (no allergies, strong bones, strong teeth) since cockroaches are you know…evolutionary speaking…fantastic survivors. It just doesn’t make a very good blog name; it sounds really gross actually. “Heyyy everyone, I’m cockroach DNA!” xD
I have read many how to blog posts in my time but you have done a great job with yours. I like how you mix examples, first hand experience and a lot of humour in the content. Well done and this should help many up and coming bloggers out there in cyber space.
Curious how much work is blogging and trying to grow the audience? As in how many hours a week does one spend reading+writing+marketing(commenting/forums/guest post)+engaging (emails)+business(emailing advertisers) etc ? Any thoughts PoF?
Think I do things different enough from the regular financial blogger index investing to start one, but am scared and non-committal with regards to time.
Work isn’t the right word for it, but for me, the range is probably 10 to 30 hours a week. You can do less, but if you’re into it, you’ll want to spend more time with it.
Perseverence is definitely the name of the game, and not only because of the time it takes for people to find you. I’ve noticed that over the first several months of blogging, my writing style grew by leaps and bounds and I made and fixed hundreds of blogging mistakes. I’m sure I’ll always be learning, but I definitely have more of a grasp on blogging now than I did 8 months ago.
Great post, great tips, great reminders!
Thanks a lot for a great post, PoF!
I especially found the plugin list and the 90/10 rule of writing/marketing helpful (I’m already executing on socializing with this comment 😉 )!
Every single time I come to your blog I find amazing content. You’re the man!
PS: I just started with Twitter, will ask you for some help eventually 😛
OK OK, I admit it PoF….I’m jealous of your success.
The fact you have such a popular site after putting out great content in a consistent manner, making friends in the pf community, and catering to your specific niche….it boggles the mind how you could possibly be so successful! 😉
In all seriousness, this was a great post. Very helpful stuff! Wish I was better at more of it!
This is awesome advice! How long did you know you wanted to start your own blog before jumping in? Also, just curious, how much time do you devote to your blog per week, and how do you balance this with your career?
Baller! You know you are a big blogger when you are now writing posts about how to be a successful blogger!
Survival is key. Last 3 years, and things will start to get much better!
Thanks for writing such a very helpful post. Even though it simply exposes all the things I’m doing wrong! Like many-sentence paragraphs in 3,000-4,000 word posts. I think I’ve been overly focused on content but with limited time, the content is the part I enjoy and everything else has been neglected.
Still, as you say, if no one finds or enjoys reading the posts, it’s not very helpful and the point is to share with others. Thanks again for the post of good things to consider….including several that I haven’t seen before.
One more blogging tip for your readers: if you want to stay anonymous, make sure to turn on domain privacy with your hosting service. I’m not necessarily trying to stay anonymous, but I failed to do this for the first two months of my blog, and I realized my personal email address, physical address and phone number was published at http://whois.domaintools.com/. That was probably a blatant newbie mistake.
Anyways, thanks for the great post with actionable information. I’m impressed with how you have grown your readership in just one year of blogging. Makes me wish I would have added a marketing minor to my engineering undergrad degree!
That’s an excellent tip! I paid the extra from day one, but I’ve had numerous privacy breaches despite my best efforts. Readers have been kind enough to alert me to them.
It’s not the end of the world that some people know my name, and I expect it to be public knowledge eventually, but I’m content to delay it for awhile longer.
Nice guest post at WCI today, by the way. Strong work!
White space is different then white noise I suspect…
Header 1 Header 2 Header 3, how many Headers do you see?
I wish I had downloaded the SEO plugin earlier. Now I have 40 posts that stare at me with a red readability circle. Taunting me and forcing me to go back and make some edits.
I see you take your inspiration from another doctor.
Dr. Suess. 😀
Better 40 than 140, right? A lot of my older posts haven’t been updated. I’m more focused on what’s next. It probably wouldn’t take that long to go in and add some “snippet” summaries, which is something I failed to do for at least six months.
All the advice is great!
We’ve found that just by blogging alone we’ve improved our financial picture just because we feel like someone might be watching us. It holds us accountable to public perception.
It’s a lot of fun too!
Accountability is a powerful thing, AJ.
When you declare something that everyone who doesn’t live in North Korea can read, you’ve got a lot of incentive to follow through.
That is absolutely true. The part that surprised me was how it even provides that incentive when you don’t know any of the people reading it.
Thanks for this post. Great insight. And passive voice is my evil nemesis. I have got to get better at that. My high school English Teacher would be so mad. I will take you up on the book recommendation.
Yoast SEO actually tells you what percentage of your sentences are in the passive voice. I think it’s a bit overblown, but Steven King has sold more books than me.
I did just sell one, though! Not my own, but still.
p.s. your logo looks awesome on your site, but gets lost in the dark blue in your logo / avatar displayed here.
Yes, the Yoast SEO was making me a bit crazy with the passive voice hits…i will look into adjusting the avatar…
Love the tips POF, thanks for sharing with those of us that are still a few months in. I’ve been trying to focus a lot on content, because I wanted to get into the habit of writing. I love interacting more with the PF community, because I was always a constant lurker/reader before. Now I sometimes even get famous people (to me, anyway) like J$, Retire by 40, or the White Coat Investor interacting with me! And I’ve “met” so many awesome people just as obsessed with personal finance as I am. Here’s to another successful year for you!
Thanks so much, Liz!
It’s amazing how you can sit down at the computer with the intent of writing a post, and then eight hours later, you don’t have two words written. There’s so much to learn from both the celebrities and the newbies.
Subtle. Made me smile though!
My biggest obstacle has always been Step One: The Idea. Turns out I vastly overestimated the number of people who would embrace my overtly pro-selfish decision making and weird mix of self-aggrandizing and self-deprecating humor. But I’m a lot more concerned with sharing that message than with making money on the blog, so I am mostly content with the fact that it just about pays for itself right now 🙂
I love your style, Vigilante! Your guest post here contains the funniest line published on this site to date. Spoiler alert: it has to do with “relations.”
When I realized I was earning about a dollar a day, I felt the couple hundred bucks I dropped on a few years’ hosting wasn’t going to be money down the drain — a good feeling.
One thing I am curious about – do you think your success has anything to do with the size/characteristics of your audience? What percentage of people visiting your blog are, in fact, FIRE-inclined physicians, do you think? I, for one, am neither a physician (to the dismay of my parents) nor necessarily FIRE-inclined, yet I still read your blog quite often.
I started my blog in January 2016 also. I have nowhere near the following of you. I’m quite happy with it; of course, I want to get better, but if I was always comparing myself to how well others are doing compared to me I’d have given up a long time ago.
As you know, I blog about millennials in debt. That’s quite a broad scope of people, and there are many, many, many blogs out there to cater to this type of person. Many millennials also ignore their finances.
Financial-inclined physicians, on the other hand? Do you think they’d be more likely as a group to pay attention to their finances than the general public and thus likely to seek out financial blogs? Also, it seems to me that there are far fewer financial blogs catering to just physicians (although I know of a few now thanks to you – haha) than blogs catering to millennials in debt.
Your trajectory has been fascinating (says my inner scientist/Spock doppelganger), and I look forward to reading more articles to come!
That’s like four or five things you’re curious about, actually. 🙂 I’m not sure I have the answers, Lindsay, but I’ll do my best.
I don’t know exactly who’s reading. The comments are always dominated by bloggers for reasons stated above.
I do know from e-mails I receive and a look at the addresses of subscribers that there are a lot of physicians reading here, but also other FIRE inclined individuals.
I earn and spend more than most other FIRE bloggers — and that sets me apart. High-income professionals might earn triple the salary of an engineer (like MMM), and I’m showing how to achieve FI while still living a pretty comfortable lifestyle.
The biggest boon for me was the timing of the White Coat Investor Forums launching about the same time as this site. The majority of my physician readers found me via the forum or guest posts I’ve written @ WCI.
In general, physicians are not known to be money savvy. In TMND, we are singled out as under-accumulators of wealth. We’re trying to change that.
Almost 500k as a anesthesiologist? I went to a party recently at the house of a Pediatric anesthesiologist. Do you think that specialty is also as lucrative? I had no idea the field paid so much. The Physician also had 3 of her fellow “PedA” friends there as well.
Thanks for sharing PoF! This is some great advice!
I just realised I need too change a few things, just adding more white space being one of them 🙂 it makes a big difference on a long post like this!
Keep up the good work!
At some point, I went through my old posts and turned almost every paragraph into two or three.
They became much more readable.
It’s odd how it doesn’t work like that when reading a physical book, but on the screen, the eyes start to wander when the words are all smushed together.
Thanks for putting this together PoF, it’s always interesting to get an “insider” view on managing a successful blog. I’m very impressed by the fact you were able to get to 1k page views a day after only 4 months, while still working a full time job! Sounds like you did that organically, I’m still trying to figure out the magic formula. You’ve crafted a great one, congrats!
Don’t kid yourself, MYF. Pesticides were involved.
Congrats on your rapid success and thanks for sharing your path.
Don’t forget Step Eleven (isn’t there always an 11?): Sell to Jim Dahle!
That was never part of the original plan, but it makes a lot of sense for both of us for the good Doctor to own a little slice of this site.
So much yes to this! I can’t stress enough the importance of planning out your blog idea and niche BEFORE you create your blog. It’s so much easier to have a direction instead of buying a URL and not knowing what to do with it.
Thanks, Mrs. PP. Can I call you that? Kinda sounds like potty language.
Anyway… so true. I think I had 50 post ideas and a definite direction I wanted to take the blog before I started. That being said, I’ve turned fewer than half of those ideas into actual posts, and have come up with a whole bunch of other ideas in the meantime.
The theme remains, though.
I call her ‘Mrs. PP’ all the time… she hasn’t complained yet! 😉
I’ve seen a lot of new bloggers never break up their content, so it looks like a really long story. This is a common mistake and once it’s fixed, it can really make the post look better!
Yeah. Throw out what your learned in high school about topic sentences and all that. I cringed when I went back and read the first stuff I wrote.
Don’t worry; I fixed it.
Oh common man…your stuff has always been good. That’s just false modesty!
Fantastic! I will no longer have to reinvent the wheel and can now spend that wheel-inventing time commitment to drinking beer.
I’m the craft beer loving doc. Get your own niche. 😉
Thanks for sharing this great info. It is nice to learn more background on what others have done (especially when they haven’t been blogging for very long, but have become quite successful). I’ve been using my own site as a creative outlet from my engineering day job, which I enjoy but doesn’t always allow me to pursue my diverse interests.
Also, I appreciate that you provided some of the research I was starting to do this month as part of my Sustainably Happy Project’s focus on “work”. Including some insight into how you network and some of the other programs/services/plugins you use.
Though I continue to wonder if I should have started my site using WordPress rather than Weebly. I do like Weebly’s ease of use (which was essential for getting me going since I had no prior experience with setting up or operating a website). I also have to admit to peppering my posts with the occasional cat photo, which I will likely continue to do when the mood strikes me 🙂
Congrats on the continued success of your site!
I’m not sure if that works, but I like to acronymize names. That didn’t work well for Star Trek Doc over on the WCI forum.
WordPress is probably the platform for at least 95% of blogs out there. A few are on Squarespace. I created a free Weebly site years ago. I just checked — the site still exists. I have no idea how well it works for a blog, but WordPress gives you the most flexibility.
I can deal with a cat picture as long as you’ve got the lift bridge in the backround. Or a growler from Bent Paddle or Fitgers.
US works 🙂
I will probably migrate over to WordPress at some point in the future, but for now I think Weebly meets my needs. But I agree that WordPress offers far more flexibility.
There is actually going to be two new breweries in town (both were folks formerly involved with Fitger’s):
And stay tuned for an interview I did with Bent Paddle regarding their sustainable business practices. So they don’t just make tasty beer, but they also have a pretty solid commitment to sustainability! Plus, they offered to provide growlers for our Bike to Work Week events 🙂
Hey Doc, great post, and helpful as I’ve been debating moving into the “monetization” phase on my site. Checking out your link with FlexOffers, and will point the blame at you if anyone complains about ads on my site….wink.
Blame away, and thanks for using my link! That’s what I call making friends.
Awesome post POF. In #8, promoting your content, which one has been the best for you? For the most part, I’ve been commenting on other people’s blogs and articles to drive traffic for the first 3 months of my blog.
Comments are good, as long as you show (as you have) that you’ve read the post and have an insightful comment or question.
You must have also read the part where I suggested asking a question. 😉
Forum participation has probably been the best driver for me. It’s a way to establish that you know what you’re talking about and can be considered an authority on certain subjects. After awhile, respected forum members with 25,000 forum posts might start linking to your posts.
What about chickens? Who doesn’t want to read about personal finance, travel, pizza making, and our chickens?
But seriously, congratulations. You’ve had some huge success. And it must take some will power to hold back from sharing your hot sauce and beer recipes 😉
Great post as usual. Now I am starting to think about this again. The back office part of the blog is intimidating to me. I could do this from the deck of my lake house and post cool lake pictures.
It does help to be somewhat computer savvy, but if you’ve figured out how to deal with uterine atony, this stuff is pretty low stress.
I do like a good lake picture. There aren’t any cats on this deck, are there? 😉
Very thorough PoF. I’m still working on some of these aspects but post like these are indispensable in getting the ball rolling. One wording to those new bloggers about plugins. Too many will big down your site so keep them under control.
A second piece of advice. Don’t just find a forum in your niche. Also find a blogging forum as you will have questions.
Great tip, FTF! I should have done that long ago. It wasn’t until the recent RSF forum was launched that I had a place to ask those blogging questions. I know there are WordPress forums, but I haven’t spent any time there except when Google led me there.
Can you recommend any others?
I was actually thinking about RSF. It has been invaluable. I am sure there are others.
Great introduction to blogging post. There is so much involved with running a website that most people don’t realize. I have been saying for months that writing posts is only a small portion of the big picture. I, too, am still figuring out the backend IT wizardry involved with making sure my site runs smoothly. I thought I was starting a fun little hobby – it turned into a second job. Ha! But I do enjoy creating content and seeing it being enjoyed by others. That makes it all worth it.
Thank you, M$M!
The feedback part is rewarding. It’s a little like Facebook; it’s fun to see the comments underneath your posts.
As a fellow blogger, what I can tell from this post is that you’re having as much doing it as I am.
The writing, the meeting people, the diagnosing weird WordPress problems are all so much darn fun.
Thanks for sharing your tips and resources. This will be a great post to refer all the new bloggers.
Indeed, BLI… except for the WordPress problems. All this coding and technical jargon is foreign to me. I’m glad you like it, and I’ve appreciated your help on a number of issues already. I still haven’t straightened out the GA vs. Site Stats discrepancy, but you’ve got me on the right track, I think.
Thanks for the great tips and support! You took the same dedication and fire you applied in medical school and put it into blogging and it shows.
Definitely a bookmarked page on my browser right now!
I hope you found some actionable info, Dr-In-Debt.
If this post had an eleventh step (maybe it should), it would be Patience. When I started, I committed to 18 to 24 months, as that’s how long I had read it can take to find your audience.
Awesome tips PoF. I’m taking them all to heart. It’s amazing how much time and effort is required to start and maintain a high quality blog.
And congratulations on all the success – I definitely consider you a guru in this blogging business. 🙂
You’re too kind, FPMD. I am more impressed that you are pulling off your blogging efforts as a resident. I have twice the free time now as I did then.
Fantastic post, POF! This is a must read for all new and prospective bloggers. Blogging has been more rewarding (but also more work) than I had expected when I first started out, so I encourage anyone who is thinking about starting a blog to take the plunge, use POF’s guide and try it out!
Thank you kindly, Wasp. It’s so true about the time. I enjoy it all though, so it doesn’t feel remotely like “work.”
Great overview and I especially like the tip about getting involved on the forums. This is one area that I have been neglecting and I know I need to get on top of it. Definitely some motivation as I’d love to hit 1k views a day.
Yes, you’ll learn a lot there, too. I read so many forum threads before I ever thought about starting a blog.
Be cautious with your links, as I said. One blogger managed to get booted from three different forums the day he signed up.
Make sure you read the rules for each forum. Most have them as a “sticky” thread. I was booted off of one, but allowed back after an appeal. Some are very picky when it comes to looking like you are using the forum for leads and a Company-type username can get you in trouble in those cases.
Before dropping links it is probably best to have spent some time being a valuable contributor.
Great post. Great tips. Because the barrier to entry is low, people often don’t really treat it like a business. Get your mindset right from the start and you can reap the rewards, but be prepared to spend a lot time before you see anything.
PoF, you are the man. I remember when you just started it out and now you’re a PF blogging rockstar!!
I wish I would have had access to this article when I was just starting out. It would have saved me a ton of time building momentum.
I really like your suggestion to target a specific reader a quickly as possible. It wasn’t until Fincon last year that I realized targeting a version of myself 15 to 20 years younger would make things so much easier and natural.
Congrats again on all of your success. It’s well deserved.
If you’re half as good a physician as you are a blogger, you can anesthetize me anytime! 😉
No, you’re the man, Michael!
Writing for your younger self is a good trick. I hope the young Michaels out there are becoming more financially alert as a result of your writing.