11 Years of Blogging + The Power of Written Content

Show Notes:

  • The content management system I’ve been using from day one;
  • Should you pick a niche you’re passionate about?;
  • How the topics I cover have changed over the years;
  • My experience with having guest contributors;
  • My most profitable blog income stream;
  • Why focus on impact over money;
  • How to be your biggest critic as a blogger;
  • Why you can’t overlook SEO;
  • What to do instead of obsessing over blog design;
  • Can you rely on just one blog income stream?;
  • One thing I’m doing that’s slowing my blog growth;
  • Why I don’t want to be a full-time course creator anymore;
  • How’s affiliate marketing going for me;
  • Is social media necessary for a blogging business;
  • Why you should never leave your blog behind for a few weeks;
  • Your business needs structure;
  • What to focus on to grow your blog.

Last month marked my 11th year of blogging. I’m not self-employed since then, it all started as a hobby and I took my time figuring things out, because I knew nothing about online business when I started. But officially, I did start a blog in April 2013.

Even in March, actually. That’s when I set up the site, but I see that the first published articles are from April. The point is, I haven’t stopped writing and blogging and creating written content online ever since. And I believe that’s the single most important reason why I managed to turn it into a business.

Even though there have been ups and downs – financially, emotionally, creatively, and in every other possible way – that little business of mine makes me so happy, even more today than it did before. It allowed me to relocate to my favorite country, travel to different countries, work whenever I want, take breaks – big or small – whenever I want, impact people online, survive the pandemic, earn passive income, and so much more. So, this article is a tribute to that, to the consistency.

I hope it inspires you to keep working on whatever it is you’re creating online, or get that blog started, or focus more on growing it strategically if you’ve left it behind and creating written content. 

Too many people give up before they see results, or they switch direction without allowing their blog to unleash its full earning potential. 

Here’s what I want to cover today. I’ll share a few things that have worked well for me over the years, a few that haven’t, some lessons I learned, and things you can focus on now to grow your blog. Let’s dive in. 

What worked well in those 11 years of blogging

The first thing that comes to mind is that I picked the right content management system.

That’s WordPress, that’s what you’re using to actually distribute the content on your website, to create it, publish it. And there are many platforms, more today, of course, than a decade ago. But even then, WordPress was number one, and it still is.

It has evolved tremendously. All the big sites I know are using it. All the bloggers I’ve been in contact with, the ones I learned from and followed over the years, the successful ones I interviewed on my blog, they all use WordPress.

This is also what I teach and what I recommend in all my courses and trainings, because it just allows you to do everything, and it’s free. 

You pay for your hosting, you pay for your domain name. These are the two expenses that come with blogging. They can be very small based on the tools you choose, but the content management system can be free, and that’s WordPress. 

I signed up with it from day one. I remember that back then, my choice was between WordPress and Blogger, but I just went with WordPress.

I’m not sure why, maybe I read some positive reviews or I just followed my intuition, but I went with it. It took me some time to set it up, and that’s why in the beginning, I wasn’t with a self-hosted website. Meaning, my domain was ending in WordPress.com, I didn’t fully own the website, it wasn’t monetized yet, and I couldn’t monetize it because the options for that kind of website are limited.

Switching to a self-hosted site

But back then, it was a hobby, and I was just learning things in the process. I think it was only two years later that I switched to a self-hosted WordPress website, which means the domain was mine, I owned the website, I had full control over it. I started installing all kinds of plugins and adding functionality and monetizing.

Then I had some learning to do, for sure. Now it’s much easier, things are way smoother, but still the technical part can turn some people off from the blogging business model. That would be a shame because it can be easy to overcome.

I’m not a tech-savvy person, but I figured it out because I really wanted to make this thing happen. WordPress powers most of the websites on the internet, and it only keeps getting better. It’s so secure, there are amazing themes so you can design it in one click. There are amazing plugins, you can do anything with your website.

Google trusts WordPress. If you’re serious about being a blogger, I recommend this content management system. 

I know many people have started with other ones, because they’re sort of an all-in-one solution, maybe they go together with hosting. Or maybe they’re just simpler, easier to use, but that also means they offer less functionality.

I get it why you would choose that in the beginning, because you want to get to the content creation part, to the monetization part of blogging as soon as possible. But I believe in setting the right foundation. This is the platform you create – you want to do this once, you want to do it right, and grow from there.

Once you have a bigger website, once you’ve already monetized it, you really wouldn’t want to deal with switching to another content management system. But of course, that’s also possible. So if you’re just starting out and looking for the perfect content management system, and aren’t sure which one to go with, this is my recommendation.

Picking a niche and topics you’re passionate about

The next thing about being a blogger that worked well for me was writing on topics I’m passionate about. I really believe you should pick a niche you’re passionate about, and you should cover topics that you deeply care about. This is one way to stay in the game long enough to see results.

You’ll never get bored of it. It’s also something that you probably excel easily at. So as you learn more, you can teach more. 

You always have new content ideas, and just creating content about it will feel like a fun activity. It wouldn’t feel like work. 

These topics can change. That was the case for me. It all started with personal growth, then I went into the lifestyle design niche, then I started covering business, and teaching it once I knew enough about it. Now I create content about a combination of all of this.

These are the topics I’m passionate about. It’s what I read about, what I want to learn more about, where I want to improve in my life. So of course, I want to share it with you.

I want to share the lessons and the mistakes so you can avoid them. This is just how I do things, how I create content. I learn, I apply, and then I teach.

Guest posting

Another thing that worked for me was accepting guest posts. I say was, because that’s not the case anymore. But for many years, I was allowing guest contributors to publish on my platform.

I was publishing it on their behalf, I was just adding an author bio at the end. But this way, I had way more content than I could have produced myself. Those people got a link back to their website because it’s all about the link juice.

In the beginning, I didn’t know what dofollow and nofollow links were. But once I learned, I only started allowing nofollow links in the guest posts because usually the website they would link to didn’t have big domain authority and was a new blog. 

When looking at the big picture, linking to many of these with a dofollow link would affect my site negatively. So I stopped doing it. 

Blog sponsorships

Next, blog sponsorships. To this day, this is my highest income stream.

I didn’t expect it to be and I didn’t expect it to become that. But it just did and I went with it, and I improved. 

I have an amazing course about it where I share it all. It’s called The Blog Sponsorship Boss

What this revenue stream is all about is working with brands, publishing sponsored content, or sometimes just inserting a link in an existing article of mine, and getting paid for it.

Over time, you build your reputation and brands reach out to you via email. You form relationships. You can have regular clients.

I have my media kit, my page for sponsors, my packages. I work with fixed rates. But of course, we negotiate things sometimes.

I’ve also added my blog to sponsored post networks. If you want to get the basics of this, I have a free guide with the strategies I use to make a few thousand dollars a month from sponsored posts on my blog. You can grab it below:

Sponsorships are also a big topic inside our membership and community Blogger Playground. Members have questions about it, so I’m always ready to answer that. And in the monthly income reports I publish there, I share what articles I published exactly on both of my blogs and which of them are sponsored. 

That can be very helpful. You can go check out each and see how it’s structured, see the client link. 

I also recently shared in the membership about the new sponsored post network I joined and that I earned from. So if you need help on your blogging journey and that kind of strategic information, and to always be able to ask you questions, you can join us in the membership.

Gratitude

The next thing that worked well for me in my blogging career is the deep gratitude I have for the work I get to do. This is becoming more and more every next year. It was actually the most crucial element in the last two years when the financial crisis as a result of the pandemic actually hit.

Now things are getting better and I’m feeling great about it, but last year was tough and it’s one of the many moments when everyone else would give up. But I didn’t, of course. I’m in this for the long haul. As I said, consistency is the keyword here. 

Impact over Money

My focus on impact was another thing that kept me going and that worked well for me. 

If you focus only on the money, you can lose direction. You can start producing the wrong type of content. You can start chasing shiny objects and lose the existing income streams or engagement that you have, which is precious. So whenever you feel like that’s happening, you can focus again on impact.

This is the way in which you affect people with your content, even if it means inspiring them, even if it means one person emailed you back after you sent the weekly newsletter to thank you for the valuable piece of content that you shared because it was exactly what they needed that day. 

This is why we do what we do, right? The money is just a byproduct of the value we provide. 

Constantly re-evaluating everything

Blogging is often a lonely business, which is why I created a membership. I also needed that. 

It’s usually just you. Bloggers are mostly introverts. We don’t really like outsourcing things. We don’t really want to build a team unless it’s necessary.

So it’s just us. It’s a one-man business and we have to be our biggest critic. We have to stop every now and then, get away from the day-to-day business activities and look at our business from a different perspective and re-evaluate everything.

That’s why having a meeting once a month and acting as the CEO of your business can be very helpful. Then you can take decisions such as to remove an existing offer, to spend less time doing this and more time doing that, analyze the metrics, do research, focus on a new project, and anything else that makes sense. 

SEO

From day one, SEO has been one of the most important things. But of course, like most other bloggers, in the beginning, I didn’t know anything about it. I only started optimizing my content later on and I haven’t stopped ever since.

Now I do it on autopilot. I can write freely, I can optimize while I write a long piece of content, I can also update old posts, target a different keyword, optimize them better and republish them. I use tools like Google Keyword Planner and Google Search Console to find underperforming content, to find keywords, and just to take decisions about my content.

Google algorithm updates are important and you have to stay up to date with them. This and last year, big things are happening. With the helpful content update last year, with all the restrictions they are putting related to AI now, there will be many more changes this year.

Google is not against AI content, but there are right and wrong ways to do it. So the point is to constantly read about it because things are changing quickly in the SEO industry. 

If your content is not optimized, no one will see it regardless of how good it is. So you won’t convert readers to subscribers, you won’t grow your traffic, and with that, you won’t grow your revenue. 

Not obsessing over design

Another thing I did right was not obsessing over design and other things that don’t matter that much. 

In the beginning, I used to be that blogger who wanted the perfect theme or homepage design, who was constantly updating the categories, the footer, the menu, but most of that was a waste of time.

Eventually, I picked branding elements I love and I’m sticking with them. I can do small changes every now and then, of course, but I’m not spending hours redesigning things that won’t actually grow the blog or help readers in any way. 

Way too many people are doing that, unfortunately.

People from my audience are constantly contacting me to ask questions about something that doesn’t even matter, when instead of even thinking about that, they should be creating new content, updating the existing one, optimizing it, getting better at SEO, growing the email list. These are the things that bring results. 

Updating old content

Speaking of updating old content, that’s another thing that worked well for me and I highly recommend it.

I’ve deleted thin content, that’s articles that were short, not related to my main niches, outdated, or that just didn’t provide enough value and couldn’t be updated. 

I’ve also updated hundreds of posts and I keep doing it all the time. I often take editorial decisions such as redirecting an old post to another one, to a better one, so they won’t compete for a similar keyword phrase in the search results.

Inside Blogger Playground, we have plenty of resources on that. I shared a video training so you can see exactly how I update an old article and republish it and redirect it correctly, because you don’t want any broken links on your website. There’s also a PDF file you can download with the exact process you can follow every time, and a long guide with everything you need to know about when to delete a post, when to update it or when to republish and redirect it, because these are different options.

Diversifying blog income

Next, having different blog income streams also worked well for me. This is something that every blogger I’ve ever learned from recommends. Affiliate marketing works best for some. For others, like me, it’s sponsorships. For some, it’s ad revenue because they get a lot of traffic. For others, it’s selling digital products. These are usually the four main ways to make money blogging.

Each income stream takes a lot of effort and time to build, but then it can turn into passive income. You have to maintain it, you still have to work on growing your blog, but once you have more than one income stream, life is just easier. 

For me, that’s usually sponsorships and ad revenue. These are the two big ones. Then there’s also affiliate marketing and digital products, but these are just not a big part of the total income. They used to be, now they are not anymore. 

Things are changing. Ad revenue was lower some years, then it was back. Many years ago, it was two times what I earn now. 

There can be a Google algorithm update which affects your site, you lose traffic, and you don’t get much ad revenue for a few months.

But then things can pick up again. During that time, though, you rely on your other income streams. It’s really stressful to rely just on one.

If it goes lower, you might feel like giving up on everything. This would be such a shame, because things will be back to normal and you can have a thriving blogging business again, no matter how slow things are now. 

Pinterest

Another thing that worked well for me is Pinterest. It works well for many other bloggers, it’s also something I teach in all my trainings.

I don’t use social media, it’s not my thing. Pinterest is more of a search engine, it’s not a social media channel, and it’s perfect for bloggers.

You can create beautiful, optimized Pinterest graphics. You can share them on Pinterest and you can get traffic to your site, even if it’s a new one.

If you want some tips and strategies on how to get traffic from Pinterest to your blog, I have a masterclass on that. It’s called Pinterest Boost, it’s just $55, it’s a short and sweet training. I help you create your easy pinning strategy, and you don’t need to use any automation tools. There’s also a bonus of 35 pin templates using Canva, so you don’t need to start from scratch with your designs.

I’m sure there are many other things that worked well for me, but I can’t think of them all now. These are the ones that stood out and the ones I recommend you focus on in your blogging business because they are just timeless.

Now, let’s talk about what didn’t work well. 

What didn’t work well

Covering many niches

I cover many niches. It’s much harder to create topical authority and be seen as an expert in the eyes of search engines when you focus on more than one thing.

But there are reasons why I did that and why I really wanted it. First, like I told you, the things I’m passionate about are evolving. From personal growth, it went to lifestyle design, then to online business. There’s also spirituality involved, finance, marketing, many other things. 

I can teach all of that because, for example, personal growth and business growth – these go together and you need a specific mindset in order to make money as a blogger or as a course creator, so it’s all connected. I’ll probably never stop creating content on all of these topics, so I just couldn’t stick to one niche.

I would have limited myself, I wouldn’t be happy. I would have periods where I wouldn’t publish any content at all because that’s when I wanted to focus on another niche. 

But that definitely made things harder for me, and it still does, but it’s also what I’m consciously choosing. You, however, are likely to rank higher and sooner if you pick one niche, and especially if it’s a more specific one and you cover it extensively.

Being a full-time course creator

Another thing that didn’t work in the way I wanted it to work is becoming a full-time course creator. 

I created many programs and trainings over the years. That takes a lot of time, a lot of effort. I definitely don’t regret it, but that’s a whole different business model I got into. 

At some point, I decided I would do this full-time. I wanted to create transformational programs, to launch, have many students go through them, make a lot of money that month, then focus on improving the student experience, working on a new program, then relaunching an old one, and so on.

If you do that, you can really be busy for the whole year with launches, preparing to launch, the period after the launch, welcoming the students, upgrading the programs, etc. There is a lot of marketing and sales that goes into it, and this is not something I’m naturally good at. But I do believe that a course is one of the best ways to learn from me.

I still have those programs, thousands of students have enrolled in them actually. Most of them came into my world through bundles I’ve participated in, which is where many course creators get together and everyone adds their program. Then it’s sold as this one-time deal for a short period of time. It’s a fantastic way to grow your email list and audience, and to get students to take your course. 

Over the course of doing all this, one program after another, and learning from experts in the industry, I eventually started teaching the course business model.

But also I started focusing on that too much, to the point where I left blogging behind. This was a mistake. I didn’t know it at the time, I don’t have regrets, because this is what I wanted. I have to try it, it’s what led me here, ultimately.

I’ll be more conscious in the future when I switch business models. Because I’ve done it before, I went from freelance writing to full-time blogging. But this was the right thing for me.

However, the one thing that has always worked for me is just blogging. I can still create online programs, now I run a membership, it’s a more interactive version of that, and I won’t stop teaching how to earn from selling digital products because this is a very powerful addition to your blogging business. But what I’m not doing anymore is wanting to be a full-time course creator.

Even if it happens one day, it’s not going to be my goal number one because it took me away from the things that were actually working for me. 

All my blog income streams went down in the last two years. That was, of course, affected by the state of the economy. But it’s also because I took myself away from that business, I left it behind, I didn’t maintain it, and I thought the passive income would keep coming.

But each income stream became smaller, traffic went down, and it was time for me to focus on it again. 

Other side projects

I’ve also worked on many side projects over the years that didn’t work well, that didn’t work at all. They’re not mistakes, I would never call them that.

Maybe some were a waste of time if I invested more time in them than necessary. But ultimately, each was an experiment. I took powerful lessons from it, which then I can use to teach you what not to do online.

Some projects include publishing books, which I love. I make some sales with it, maybe they grow my brand. But ultimately, it has little to do with blogging and making more money and helping my readers more. But it’s something I wanted to do because I’m a writer.

I’ve sold many other things back in the days, I’ve tried many other platforms, but none of it was worth my time or attention. 

I didn’t enjoy it, or I didn’t make any money, or I couldn’t figure it out, or I was just too impatient and couldn’t stick with it until it worked. Or I just wanted to imitate someone else’s business model and to have the results they have, but it just wasn’t aligned with my goals and who I am. 

So don’t worry if you’ve tried 10 things online and none of them worked. You just haven’t found the one that will work for you and the one that you can keep doing for the next 11 years.

Affiliate marketing

Another thing that hasn’t worked well for me is affiliate marketing. I did earn more from it, as I said, years ago, but then I just stopped paying attention to it. Mostly I was earning from higher-priced affiliate products, such as courses of other bloggers or services, and with that you can make even $100 per sale, which is good.

But I think I stopped recommending those often the moment I started creating my online courses because they were on the same topics and it just wasn’t relevant anymore. 

I prefer to invite people to my products instead of linking to those of other course creators. But most bloggers that I know are actually earning the most from affiliate marketing, so I highly recommend this. 

Maybe I’ll focus on this more one day, but I prefer ad revenue, sponsorships, and digital products.

I’m also not actively working on growing my affiliate income. If I was, I would join more affiliate programs, I would create affiliate reviews, comparison posts and roundup posts. I would use any chance I have to add my affiliate links, also in the emails that I send to my audience and anywhere else. 

Social media

Finally, another big thing that never worked well for me is social media, but that is case for many bloggers, so I’m not worried.

I did have engagement on Instagram at some point, but it’s just not for me. I don’t want to be there, and it doesn’t really make sense for bloggers. 

I’ve seen some who made it work, but ultimately, people on Instagram want to stay there and they want short-form content. And as bloggers, our main job is to get them to our website, to get them on our email list, and to share with them the articles that we wrote, which is long-form content.

Okay, moving on to some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned thanks to blogging. 

Lessons

Get better at SEO. 

There is no way around that.

If you create content, you have to optimize it so it can rank well. 

Create content consistently. 

I can’t repeat this enough.

Many bloggers who are new or even in their second or third year of blogging have created content consistently for some time, but they didn’t see big enough results to actually keep doing it. That’s exactly the moment when you should keep doing it. 

It takes time for Google to notice you and to start trusting your website. It takes time to build authority, to build an email list, and to monetize. It takes time to have hundreds of articles. That’s what you need ultimately, so you can interlink them well and create a powerful site structure that will show Google what your site is about, and that will make sponsors and brands in your industry take you seriously and pay you a lot for a sponsored post. 

So no matter what happens, don’t leave your blog behind for a few weeks without publishing any content. And definitely don’t do it for a few months. 

There will be ups and downs. 

I still remind myself of that every day.

Find ways to pick yourself up after a low-income month or any weak period in your life or business, so you can keep going. Because ultimately, that’s the only thing you need, to keep going. 

If one way to grow your traffic or income doesn’t work, another will, but you have to get to it and you have to give it some time.

Master money management. 

That’s one of my weaknesses and I’m still learning how to do it. As a small business, it’s very hard to separate your business income and expenses from your personal ones.

So learn about personal finance, build some discipline, and manage your money well. 

Bring structure to your business. 

Have processes, have meetings even.

That’s what I’m starting to do this year. I just read a very powerful business book, it’s called Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business, and it has completely changed the way I do business. 

Every Monday now I have a meeting, I prioritize this.

For every two or three months I set big goals, and every monthly and weekly meeting is with that in mind. 

I have targets, and I’m either on track or not. If I’m not, I do something about it. If I am, then that goal will be achieved. 

I’m also creating workflows that I can follow. I’m automating what I can. I’m constantly taking decisions as to what I should stop doing, what I should focus on more, and that’s structure. 

I would love it if I could just create content all the time, because that’s what I’m good at and that’s what comes easily to me. But a business needs more than that.

It needs structure and processes and for the money to be made, but also to be managed. So eventually you’ll have to learn that. The sooner you do it, the better.

Personal growth goes together with business growth. 

Luckily, I never had to learn that lesson the hard way because I was into personal growth already before I got into business. But for those of you who aren’t, well, you’ll have to work on your mindset.

You’ll have to reframe some limiting beliefs because they are stopping you from charging more or actually monetizing your site or being more brave in your content, expressing yourself better, being more authentic, and all of that. 

It’s all happening subconsciously. You can’t only change it on the surface.

Written content is powerful. 

Ever since the internet has existed, it has been crucial for search engines. So don’t assume that blogs aren’t relevant anymore or that podcasts and videos are in any way replacing them.

They’re just for a different group of people, but the readers are still reading and Google still ranks based on text. 

Now let me finish with some things you can focus on to grow your blog. With some, I’m going to repeat what I already said, but it’s just so crucial.

How to Grow Your Blog

  • Publish content consistently. Seriously. At least once a week.
  • Understand how Google works and what it wants so you can actually rank your content. 
  • Don’t obsess over design. As long as your blog functions well, loads fast, and looks good, you’re good to go. It’s all about the content from then on. 
  • Focus on topical authority. Cover everything you can around one subject to become an authority in your niche.
  • Don’t try to do all the things. You might see me do podcasting, create digital products, and many other little things, but my main activity is blogging and anything related to it. The rest of the things aren’t something I work on daily and they come after the blogging tasks are done. So, prioritize. 

Final words

That’s what I have for you today. Here’s to 11 more years of blogging and many more after that.

If you need some help starting your blog, I have a free course about that called the Passive Income Blog Boss, which walks you through the process of setting up your website and earning passive income from it. It’s totally free and you can join right away.

passive income blog boss graphic

Want to listen to this article instead? Tune into the episode below: