How To Play The Game Of Blogging

After I sold my company, 2 years ago, I knew there will be some inactive time for me. I mean, once you’re an important player and you sell your part of the territory, expect that you’ll be asked to take a break for a while. After all, it’s not ok to start to compete against your buyers the next day after the selling. I won’t go into the technical details of what a “non-compete” agreement should contain, because this is not the main point of the article. The main point of this article is to share what I’ve learned by playing the game of blogging.

The Beginning

The only thing I was able to grow and maintain on the online field, after I sold my business, was my personal blog. No more markets, contracts, niche strategies or online alliances. No more online business: just a personal blog. Although I did blog every now and then even before I sold the company, I never did “professionally”. All of a sudden, the selling of my company became a great opportunity to begin something completely new. With all the associated risks of starting something from scratch: not knowing the right tools, making mistakes, not being a native English speaker and so on.

The Lessons

This blog, as you know it now, was started in October 2008, under a Romanian domain dragosroua.com. In July 2009 I changed the domain to dragosroua.com. That was one of the lessons I had to learn the hard way: if you blog in English, keeping your blog under a localized domain name is not ok. You do need a .com, otherwise you’ll end up in a secondary index of Google.

A few months ago, the blog was moved to another hosting facility, outside Romania (in United States, I’m happily using the cloud hosting package of RackSpace). That was another lesson I had to learn the hard way: the physical location of your hosting company influences your ranking in search engines (at least Google).

As of January 2009 I started to actively promote the blog, becoming active (some say that I become even too active 🙂 ) in social media outlets like Twitter, FaceBook and StumbleUpon. Until then I was under the firm impression that “if you write it, they will come”. Another huge mistake. You gotta promote your blog, otherwise you’ll never reach to your audience. Why? Because blogging is like any other publishing business, only it’s taking place in an incredibly crowded market. There are literally hundreds of millions of blogs out there. I can hardly imagine another business on this Earth where you have such an incredible number of competitors. So, if you want to really make your voice heard, you gotta work for it.

Many of these lessons, mistakes and other interesting things, like monetization and promotion, were described in two milestone series: The First 6 Months Of Blogging and The First Year Of Blogging. Feel free to read them at your leisure if you’re interested in some historical data about my blog. Now, let’s get to the meat: how to play the game of blogging?

Know Your Availability

If you’re into blogging, you gotta know beforehand how much time are you willing to allocate to it. All those stories about how a stay at home mom become instantly famous after she published a blog are bullshit. Pardon my French.

Don’t get me wrong, you can get lucky pretty early and get featured on some of the largest social media sites like Digg and Delicious, and get enormous amounts of traffic in a very short time. It can get up to several dozens of thousands unique users in a week interval.

But that’s not success. You may have 5 minutes of fame and then you’re out in the cloud. Nobody will know your name anymore. Being successful as a blogger means to control your exposure, to predict the impact of your work and to constantly measure and influence the results. And that requires time. It requires discipline and commitment.

Starting a blog “only to see how it works” will never work. You gotta commit to it at least one year – in my persona experience, at least – before jumping to conclusions. Blogging is not a part time job. Unless you want a part time job that will pay you nothing.

So, the most important thing about playing the game of blogging is to know your availability.

Know Your Expertise

The second thing that’s very important after your physical availability is your expertise. You gotta be good at something. Even if you’re a stay at home mom, you gotta be good at this: being a stay at home mom. If you’re a programmer, you gotta be good at programming. If you write about self-improvement, be honest about what it takes to be in the self-improvement field.

Why is that so important? Again, because of the competition. When you compete against dozens of millions of blogs, you can’t fake it. You can’t pretend you’re a guru in some field and then just copy and paste other people articles. It won’t take you far.

On the contrary, it will take you down pretty fast. One of the most subtle mechanisms of blogging is what I call “reputation”. It’s a very special mix of expertise, trust and persistence. If you’re good at what you do, if you’re honest and you’re writing on your blog for a reasonable amount of time, you’ll get reputation.

And, believe it or not, reputation is the cornerstone of a blogging business. Not traffic. Not AdSense. Not affiliate deals. All of these are just tools or metrics. The core of the business is reputation. That will make your audience buy the products you create or refer. Keep this word in mind: reputation.

And, without, expertise, reputation is literally impossible to be created.

Know Your Audience

The third important thing in the blogging game is your audience. The fundamental difference between the traditional publishing and blogging is the interactive part of it. Blogging is not unidirectional, like a printed magazine. It’s open and alive. You get in touch with your readers instantly, via comments. And they want to talk to you, the real person behind the blog. They don’t want a corporation, they want a regular guy who’s honestly sharing his life. That’s what gives them inspiration, motivation, hope.

At some point during your blogging activity you’ll make a great discovery: you’re not writing for yourself, you’re writing for your readers. As simple and stupid this discovery may seem, it’s an incredible attitude shifter. The moment you’ll realize you’re sharing for other people, you’ll change the way you blog.

You’ll become interested in their needs, rather than in yours. You’ll become interested in their reactions and their attitudes and those reactions and attitudes will become triggers for your next blog posts. You’ll create a multidirectional, alive and useful product. You’ll create a real, significant change in the world. And that’s the only thing that really counts at the end of the day, when all the traffic and revenue stories are told and forgot.

By knowing your audience, you can evaluate your real impact to the world.

Identify Partners, You Can’t Do It Without Them

The fourth most important thing at playing the blogging game is about partnerships. You won’t get far without partnerships. Why? Again, the main answer is competition.

The blogs ecosystem is an incredibly complex web of interactions, links, authority and trends. This web is changing constantly and the chances that you will survive as an isolated blogger are incredibly small. You need a solid team of partners who will support you. Partners that you will support too, enforcing the power of your links in the blogging ecosystem.

But there’s another reason besides competition for partnerships and that’s also about reputation. Many times you’re evaluated by the friends you have rather than by your own deeds. And in such a very complex web like the blogging web, when time is extremely precious, you simply take for granted some references without verifying them. And that’s where your partners are starting to matter big time. They will extend your authority and reputation onto you. And of course, you will extend your own authority and reputation onto them.

The way you’re choosing your partners is also a statement of your own values and sometimes tells more about yourself than what you’re actually doing.

Hydrate Yourself: It’s A Marathon, Not A Sprint

I can’t emphasize enough on this one. Although if you took the time to actually read all the first 4 principles of the blogging game, you should have understand this by now, I’ll say it again anyway: it’s a long, long journey. Whenever you get tired, demotivated, hopeless or just sad, remember you’re not at the end of the journey yet.

Just keep playing the game.



Running For My Life - from zero to ultramarathoner


The spooky thing about depression is that it sneaks in. There aren’t really trumpets and loud voices announcing: “Hail, hail, this is depression entering the room, all rise!” Nope. It’s slow, silent, creepy. It doesn’t even look like depression. It starts with small isolation thoughts like: “Maybe I shouldn’t get out today, I just don’t feel like going out”. And then it does the same next day. And then the day after that and so on. And then it starts to whisper louder and louder in your ears: “Why would you go outside, you loser? Didn’t have enough yet? Want more people to make fun of how much of a big, fat loser you are?”

And then you start to breath in guilt and shame, instead of air. Every breathe you take is putting more dark thoughts into your body.

Until you get stuck. You can’t move anymore. At all.

If you want to know how I got out of this space, eventually, check out my latest book on Amazon and Kindle.

Running For My Life -from zero to ultramarathoner

Dragos Roua

The guy who started all this. Entrepreneur, ultra-marathoner, tanguero, father and risk taker. I'm blogging here, but I also spend a lot of time in this marvelous space.. You're invited, by the way.

This Post Has 25 Comments

  1. “That was another lesson I had to learn the hard way: the physical location of your hosting company influences your ranking in search engines (at least Google).” – good point here. I actually own a web hosting business (Singapore servers) that helped almost all my web businesses to rank well online in a local context.

    For the rest of the 3 points, let’s say that it’s only this year when I’ve realized how everything gels together as a whole ecosystem, which makes blogging more fun than “just typing” our thoughts. 🙂

    1. Absolutely, for the “typing your thoughts” approach you can always use journaling. There’s a big difference in blogging as a business and just typing your thoughts 🙂

  2. Well put. I was also under the impression that people will come if your stuff is good. I was so wrong. Promotion is definitely key. I don’t really understand your last heading. Did you mean ‘hydrate yourself’ because you need small amounts of encouragement to keep you going for the long-haul?

    1. Well, that last part means you should do whatever it takes for you to get you motivated. For some people there are small doses of encouragement, for others might be even some forceful approach, like a constant punishment if you don’t do your job. This hydration approach is very different form person to person. What matters is to do it constantly, the same way marathon runners are hydrating themselves during the race.

  3. Dragos –

    A very nice clinical look at what it takes to grow a successful blog. Excellent insights for any aspiring blogger out there. It is clear that you take a very analytical and focused approach to success. Thanks for sharing with the rest of us.

    Phil

  4. Hi Dragos,

    All excellent advice here. I back this statement up 100% “And, without, expertise, reputation is literally impossible to be created.” If you don’t have the experience and expertise, then say so! It’s better to be transparent than try to fake it out on your site. It’s hard for me to take seriously someone who is pretending to be a ‘life’ coach who is 19 years old or something like that. If you don’t have the expertise, then use your site to gain it and let your readers learn with you along the journey.

    I also strongly agree that the blogosphere is too huge to go it alone and that you need partners. Networking should be an important part of your blogging strategy. Give and you shall receive.

    Karen

    1. Absolutely, there’s a huge world outside and you can’t really do it only by yourself. Not to mention the reputation part of networking: you are pretty much who you are associated with…

  5. Dragos, This article is like an arrow that hits directly to the center of the bulls-eye! I’m not aiming to be a professional blogger, but nevertheless I would like to have an active readership. Your words made me see where my resistances are. At the same time, I really appreciate how personal and personable they are. Thanks so much.

  6. What a great post Dragos. I have a real appreciation for “Identify Partners, You Can’t Do It Without Them.” Especially with the success of my latest team effort. Besides the success factor, much of the joy attached to blogging comes from interacting with your network. On that note, you’ve been an inspiration and source of encouragement all along! 🙂

    1. Well, Jonathan, what can I say, we know each other for more than a year and a half now and it certainly was a very enjoyable ride. I appreciate your constant support very much too 🙂

  7. Thank you Dragos. As usual an incredibly helpful, insightful post. I have found resistance in personalizing my blog as I aim to sell my product to large organizations & feel a personal blog may be detrimental to my company perception, i.e. they like to deal with large organisations, not small independents. What are your thoughts?

    1. In my opinion a blog should be personal. Your product might be for large organizations but what you do on your blog should be a transparent expression of who you are and what you do. Hope this helps 🙂

  8. I agree the with John the joy is not only in writing but in the networking. I’ve made and met so many blogging buddies I feel like I’ve already won the lotto;)
    Great article but then that’s what we’ve come to expect!

  9. Perfect points
    – control your exposure, to predict the impact of your work and to constantly measure and influence the results
    – without, expertise, reputation is literally impossible to be created

    I haven’t shifted into full-gear yet. My main job is my day job, but I had also heard from too many people not to expect exponential growth until year three (and I’m closing in on year 2.)

    With that pace in mind, I’ve taken the long view and given my self room to experiment and test the waters … and run a marathon of sprints over a sprint and burn. I’m still learning, but more importantly, I’m still playing at possibilities and finding my sustainable path.

    At the end of the day, I like the idea that it’s about defending your niche in a Darwin world. The key to that is writing from your experience and your super skill.

  10. Very solid advice!

    I’m trying to get away from using the term Blogging. I feel it’s become a term that gets continued use because of it’s buzz and that relates to SEO. People search for the term and thus you want to use it in order to Rank for it and get the audience.

    In the game, When does one move from Blogging to new media marketing or self-promotion? Is a Business Blog the next level in the game?

  11. I appreciate everything you have written above and despite the fact that I ought to remain on topic I’m going to diverge.

    These days are not the good old days of blogging. We have entered a new era and it sometimes seems those who can assimilate the biggest army so-called friends and followers who may chat their faces off on Twitter and on Facebook, who will who click retweet or other buttons to extend the broadcast range, but who may never actually visit the posts and leave a comment are “moving up”.

    Prior to Twitter and microblogging authority was derived from creating high quality content containing authoritative links that got backlinks. These days we are witnessing the power of social media broadcast range. Tweets, retweets and “likes” are having their effect on linking patterns and the SERPs that bring readers to blogs.

    So how do I play the game of blogging? I’m no gamer Dragos and I am saddened as I witness social media broadcast range replacing authority formerly derived from creating quality content.

  12. Dragos,

    Thank you for writing this article and this is what I really could relate with:

    “Being successful as a blogger means to control your exposure, to predict the impact of your work and to constantly measure and influence the results. And that requires time. It requires discipline and commitment.”

    Well said.

  13. That is a great summary for anyone starting to blog but also for those seasonal bloggers. I learnt something new about the importance of having the right partners. Thank you for that.

  14. Hello Dragos,
    Gaining a realistic long term perspective and understanding that progress will be uneven (two steps forward and one step backwards) is the lesson I’m learning and have become disabused of the notion how easy this is going to be.

    Riley

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

What is 4 + 6 ?
Please leave these two fields as-is:
IMPORTANT! To be able to proceed, you need to solve the following simple math (so we know that you are a human) :-)