Like it or not, there are certain blogging skills you’ll need to build (and strengthen) if you have hopes of growing and profiting from your blog in the long-run.
Whether you’re thinking about starting a blog for the first time, or you’re working hard to grow your existing audience—it’s normal to wonder if you really have what it takes to make your own blogging business work. Do you have the right blogging skills to capture the attention of readers, promote your content, and make money blogging? These are all good questions to ask.
Thankfully, I have good news for you. There are almost certainly some blogging skills you already command—that originally sparked your interest with blogging in the first place. Maybe you’re naturally skilled at writing, you have a knack for marketing, or an affinity for building relationships. The best part though, is that you can develop all of the other necessary blogging skills you’ll need in order to succeed. You just need to know where to focus your learning efforts.
16 Blogging Skills You’ll Need in 2020: Top Skills for Bloggers
- Relationship Building (Networking)
- WordPress Management
- Basic Knowledge of HTML
- Understanding SEO
- Finding and Learning From Your Audience
- Financial Management
- Understanding Analytics
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I’ve been blogging for well over a decade, and my experience has really taught me which blogging skills are most pertinent to becoming a better blogger over time. While this is by no means an exhaustive list of every skill a blogger can have, it includes my picks for the most fundamental, crucial blogging skills that you’ll need to command in order to become a successful blogger.
Now, let’s dive in and break down all of the most important blogging skills you’ll want to build (and strengthen) this year.
One of the first (and arguably most important) blogging skills that’ll benefit anyone who’s considering a blog as a long-term endeavor, is developing an intense curiosity—particularly when it comes to the niche you’re blogging about.
A natural curiosity for the things that you’re writing about (or soon will be), is going to help you stay focused even while the hours are long and the rewards are few in the early days of your blog. Without this in your stable of blogging skills, you’ll have a difficult time gaining momentum and pushing through the tough times ahead.
Why? Because moments of motivation aren’t enough to sustain the long-term investment it’ll take in order to reach meaningful growth with your blog. It takes time to figure out who your target audience is, identify the tactics that can successfully reach them, build up momentum and find win-win ways to monetize your blog with your audience’s best interests in mind. An eager curiosity to learn more, share more and better help your audience is essential amongst the blogging skills you’ll want to develop for yourself.
So, what’s one way to help keep up your curiosity with your blog audience? Pick a clear niche that you feel excited about spending time exploring for the foreseeable future.
Ideally, you should be able to choose a blog niche that meets these two criteria (to help keep your curiosity alive):
- In a topic area you have a good amount of experience with
- Is interesting enough to keep you engaged for months (and years) to come
If you truly enjoy the subject you’re blogging about, then your level of curiosity should be sustainable over time. Without that internal drive to continue learning & serving, it’ll be that much more difficult to secure the success of your blog over the long haul.
I’ve seen this happen time and time again with bloggers. They’ve found their niche, they’re passionate about helping people and they’re pumped to start down the path of generating revenue from their blogs. They get the right hosting plan, start using WordPress and publish their first few blog posts.
Then reality sets in and things go quiet…
They’re still working a full-time job, they may have a spouse and kids at home, then it dawns on them that time to work on their blog is precious and rare. They haphazardly write a blog post here and there without it feeling like their best work. There’s no time to promote it and as a result, income doesn’t come in yet. Pretty soon, the blog becomes their lowest priority (because there’s little instant gratification) and it dies a quiet death.
The reality is that if you don’t create the time and space within your schedule to put in focused time on your blog, then progress will be very slow. This is one of the top blogging mistakes that leads to giving up on your blog way too soon, even when there’s so much potential for future growth.
The solution? Prioritizing real blocks of time within your day, week and month to work on your blog. Take the Google Calendar screenshot above as an example of how I structure my own schedule into blocks of time throughout the day—each with its own purpose and focused activity I’ll be working on. The same practice can be applied with scheduling your “blog time” around other blocks of commitments in your life.
It doesn’t mean taking time away from important things like family or your full-time job (yet), but developing prioritization as one of your blogging skills, does mean intentionally carving out time to work on your blog. It may mean making sacrifices like watching less Netflix during the evenings, getting up a little earlier in the morning or forgoing a little time with friends & family on your weekends.
Bloggers who are able to intentionally schedule blocks of time during the day (or week) are able to see the fruits of their labor much sooner than those working with an unorganized schedule.
Discipline is another one of those character traits (and blogging skills) that truly can’t be overhyped in its importance to blogging. This blogging skill works hand-in-hand with both curiosity and prioritization, too.
Without discipline, you may have your blog working time scheduled, but you won’t be able to stick to your agenda. All the planning in the world can’t keep you on the right track if you don’t adhere to the commitments you’ve made to grow your blog—which means logging out of Facebook, avoiding distractions on your phone and not allowing yourself to get sidetracked by other impulses (or requests on your time).
If self-discipline isn’t your strength right now, fear not—it’s one of the blogging skills that can be improved greatly. Here are a few things you can do:
- Make small changes: If the many components of blogging seem overwhelming, focus on a few small things you can work on at a time. Start by writing just one blog post a week (or one every two weeks) using SEO best practices. Once you have that mastered, you can start adding in other important parts of blogging like creating landing pages, launching an email newsletter and otherwise.
- Find joy in your work: It’s much easier to be disciplined with something you care about and enjoy. This largely goes back to picking the right niche for your blog. If it’s something you’re actually interested in, there’s a much better chance you’ll be able to stay disciplined in your work on it.
- Don’t be goal focused only (use smart habits instead): My friend James Clear wrote an incredibly popular book, Atomic Habits about this exact subject, in which he describes how changes in seemingly small habits can help people become significantly more productive. He makes a compelling case for loving the process that leads to a goal—rather than only focusing on achievement of the goal itself. Here’s how he describes it. When you fall in love with the process rather than the product, you don’t have to wait to give yourself permission to be happy. You can be satisfied anytime your system is running. And a system can be successful in many different forms, not just the one you first envision.
For even more ideas about how to develop your blogging skills when it comes to discipline, I actually have my own book, The Habits of Highly Successful Bloggers, which goes even deeper into developing your own actionable ways to become more disciplined with your blog.
I know, it seems obvious that writing is one of the top blogging skills you’ll need at least a certain level of proficiency with, but don’t let it intimidate you.
Commanding even just the basics will carry you a long way! You don’t need to be a trained writer, professional journalist or seasoned copywriter in order to be successful with a blog.
When I first got started with my own blog here, I wasn’t a great writer at all. Over time though, I leaned into my strength as a marketer to start driving some early readers and results to my blog. Doing that gave me the motivation to invest in building my writing abilities. With a lot of writing practice (and reading of authors I admire), I gradually became much more confident in my own writing skills and personal voice.
Internet Writing (Blogging Skills)
As a blogger, it’s important to develop a certain kind of writing skill. Some people are exceptional writers when it comes to academic papers or physical books, but this doesn’t always translate to successful Internet writing.
When you write for the Internet, you have to remember to make your content very easy to read. Most people doing a quick Google search are not looking for something overly complicated. Large walls of text are also difficult to scan (and off-putting) for someone looking to get a specific answer to a question they have—which also makes your blog layout crucial.
To make writing more Internet-friendly, take these best practices into account:
- Utilize a lot of headers and sub-headers to break up your ideas
- Distill large paragraphs into smaller paragraphs for easier readability
- Use images, graphs and videos to make your writing more visually interesting (and break up text)
- Leverage formatting features like bullet lists, block quotes and section dividers to encourage readers onward
Here’s an example from my break down of the best eCommerce website builders, where you can see the ways I organize my content for Internet-friendly reading.
First, I have a short introduction to the piece, setting the stage for my article. Next, I have the title of the piece followed by an easily navigable table of contents. The table of contents allows readers to jump right to the section they’re interested in, if they have a specific question already in mind.
You can also see a sidebar menu that scrolls along with the article (on desktop), in case someone wants to quickly find a new section:
In the next section of the article, I include several collapsible drop-down tabs. This was information that I felt would be helpful to many readers, but may distract from the core idea of the article, so those that want to opt-in to reading those Q&As could choose to do so—or they can move past it quickly to get to my reviews of eCommerce website builders:
Here’s a section where I discuss one of the website builders, WooCommerce. Throughout, you can see that I use headers, screenshots and bullet points to make the piece visually interesting—and to keep the text from becoming overwhelming to my readers:
Depending upon the kinds of topics you’re covering with your blog, there are some of these formatting features you may choose to forego (and that’s ok). Just keep in mind that Internet readers have short attention spans—and a large part of serving your audience is giving them the answers they’re seeking in the quickest, most valuable package. Either way, writing for the Internet is one of the blogging skills we can always be perfecting.
Some people are naturally skilled marketers and others have to learn how to promote their blog from scratch. I’m fortunate that I’d worked in content marketing for several years before starting my blog here, so I had a lot of opportunities to build this blogging skill—and I’m living proof that marketing is a skill that can be learned.
Marketing skills are very useful to bloggers, but there isn’t a rigid manual that you should follow. The blogging skill of marketing, often comes down to experimenting with different growth tactics and seeing what works best for your unique blog (and audience). What works for one blogger or particular niche may not work (the same) for everyone else out there.
You may have in your mind that if you’re presenting something good enough to the world that it will immediately go viral. While there are some lucky few who are instant internet sensations, that’s not the story for most bloggers. Most bloggers will tell you that they really have to work hard to get eyes on their content and grow a group of loyal followers. This is the case even if you have great content.
I’ll lay out some of my best blog marketing ideas here to give you somewhere to get started. These concepts are a great launching point if you’re not sure how to start marketing your content, but remember that it’ll take relentless experimentation to crack the code to drive an audience to your blog:
- Learn how to use social media: Social media is an incredible way to connect with other people. You can use it to network, promote your content, and learn more about your niche. One of the best things you can do when using social media is to choose one or two platforms that you’re familiar with that match your style and niche. Choosing the right platform and focusing all your efforts on those ones will help you stay focused and reach the largest number of people.
- Make a nice layout for your blog: Part of marketing your blog means having something that’s marketable. If your blog looks clean, professional, and attractive, you’re far more likely to get shares and repeat visitors. You can check out my guide that covers blog layout examples for more ideas about how you can make your blog look amazing.
- Have a basic understanding of SEO: I’ll go into this in greater detail below, but search engine optimization is one of the greatest tools you can put in your toolbox for blog marketing. When social media posts fall to the wayside, you can still drive traffic through organic searches.
- Network in your niche: Later on in this guide, I’ll share more about the blogging skill of networking, but it’s worth mentioning here as well. Networking is a key way of getting the right people to see your blog and help promote your content.
- Make it easy to share your content: Don’t make it hard for your visitors to share your work with others. Include social media share buttons on your blog, encourage people to share your work, and make content that’s worth sharing.
- Try out guest blogging: In my career as a blogger, guest blogging has been an integral part of my blog business plan. Not only is this a great way to network, but it also helps drive traffic and boosts my SEO ranking.
- Include email in your marketing plan: You’ll often hear bloggers say that you can never start too early with email marketing, and it’s true. Start by choosing a smart email marketing tool and begin collecting email subscribers. As you grow your email list, you can try out different email styles to see which ones drive the most traffic to your blog.
- Use great blogging tools to market your blog: There are a ton of blogging tools available to help you along the way.
- Learn how to differentiate your blog from your competition: More than likely, you’re not the first person blogging in your niche—and that’s a good thing. If you want to learn the best way to market your blog content, go see what the competition is doing. If it’s working for them, it might work for you. Understanding the competition also gives you the opportunity to try out new ideas. You may be able to come onto the scene with a completely fresh outlook that readers will love.
Again, I really can’t stress enough that marketing is one of the blogging skills that’ll be continually build, tested and strengthened over time with your blog. There’s no simple code to be cracked where you’ll instantly unlock thousands of readers, but if you invest enough time into experimenting with how you can bring readers to your blog, you’ll start to learn what works—and you can double down on those strategies.
One blogging skill that may not immediately come to mind when considering your blog, is networking. Blogging by nature often feels exclusive, but building a community and learning from those who’ve already come before you, are key aspects of growing your blog.
Networking was mentioned as a top skill to develop, by many of the world’s top bloggers in my roundup of actionable blogging advice, but finding win-win ways to partner with other people in your niche (or related fields) has been essential to growing my audience and personal brand over the years.
Here are some of the best ways I’ve found to grow your blog through relationship building and networking:
- Speak at conferences and offer expert advice: If you’ve started a blog based in your experiences, then there’s a good chance you have something to teach others. Speaking at a conference and directing the audience to your blog is a great way to network in your niche.
- Guest speak on a podcast: Podcasts are extremely popular. People listen to them on their commute to work or when they’re cleaning the house. Hopping on as a guest on a popular podcast can help you reach a much wider audience.
- Join online communities in your niche: You can find people to network with online if you can find communities in your niche. Some good places to look are niche-focused forums, message boards, social media groups, and other social networks.
- Host thought leaders in your niche: I strongly suggest guest posting on other people’s blogs, but you can also host people on yours. This is another way to share audiences.
- Co-host webinars: Hosting a webinar with another podcaster, Youtube creator, blogger or expert in your niche is another great way to network.
- Contact people you mentioned in your blog posts: If you link to another blog, quote someone, or share their advice, it’s a good idea to contact them and let them know. It’s a good way to build relationships and they might share your content with their audience.
- Leave comments on other people’s blogs: Another way to network as a blogger is to leave comments on other people’s blogs. Try to avoid writing comments that lack value like “good job” or “good post.” Instead, leave insightful or helpful comments that show your authority on the topic.
At first it may not feel like networking is one of those blogging skills you can build on and get better at. However, you’ll be surprised at how rewarding it can be (and by how much easier it’ll feel with time) once you get in a groove of regularly stepping outside your comfort zone to meet others in your space.
Like it or not, the vast majority of new bloggers will take several months (sometimes more than a year) to start earning a decent income from their blogs. Enter: patience as another of our most crucial blogging skills to command early on.
It takes a dedication to following proven principles and experimenting with ways to drive traffic to your blog, until you eventually reach a meaningful tipping point and growth comes easier.
Patience is key in holding out long enough to see your blog’s time investment through for long enough to begin reaping the rewards.
The incredible article you post today might not start getting many readers until several months later. In fact, blogging takes a lot of upfront work. The payoff will come, but it won’t be fast in most cases. That’s why having patience and being content with the nature of delayed gratification is so essential in this business.
Like it or not, WordPress does have a learning curve when you’re just starting out. Thankfully, there are a ton of resources to help you get started—from tutorials, to video walkthroughs, forums and even entire websites (like my own site, SmartWP) dedicated to teaching the ins & outs of WordPress.
As you’re getting the gears moving on your blog, there are at least a handful of important elements you should know for basic WordPress management.
Some of the first things I often suggest new bloggers learn about include:
- Picking a hosting company
- Choosing a domain name (that works for your niche) and registering it
- Selecting the right WordPress theme
- Learn how to use WordPress plugins to customize your blog
- Writing a blog post that can capture the attention of your (future) readers
- Learning how to add images, pictures, videos and graphics
- Publishing your first blog posts
- Check out my full library of WordPress tutorials
For more tactical tutorials on getting started with WordPress, hop over to my ultimate guide about how to start a blog.
Learning some “code” is quite possibly the most scary idea to new bloggers who aren’t very tech-minded. But don’t worry, you don’t have to be a tech genius in order to become a successful a blogger—however, a rudimentary understanding of HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), the standard language for all documents designed to be displayed in a web browser, is extremely helpful.
In essence, HTML is a way of changing plain text into something new or different. You can add headers, sub-headers, italics, bold type, colors and more. WordPress allows you to do a lot of things in your backend editor without ever needing to touch the code, but you can fine-tune these things to a great degree by understanding how a little bit of HTML code functions. HTML can also be used for images, graphics, and videos.
To access your HTML version of a blog post in the classic WordPress editor, select the “text” tab at the top right of your editor window. Here’s what an image would look like with the visual editor:
And this is what it looks like when viewing through the HTML editor:
Accessing the HTML editor version of your text, can help you fix errors that come up within the more limited (simpler) visual editor. If something doesn’t appear correctly when you preview the blog post, you may be able to fix it with some HTML tweaks—and don’t be afraid to Google search for some HTML customization snippets, you’ll be surprised at what you can do.
Examples of HTML (as a Useful Blogging Skill)
HTML can be used for a number of helpful things on your blog. Here are some examples of ways to use HTML:
1. Nofollow links
A nofollow link allows you to add links within your blog content, without passing page authority through that link (which affects a Google ranking). For example, if you were to include a link to a resource on a competitive site, you wouldn’t want to help them rank higher in a Google search as a result of your link—so you’d want to make that link nofollow.
To change it to a nofollow link, go to the text editor in WordPress and find the link.
rel=”nofollow” attribute tag to the link text.
For more about how to do this, you can see my detailed guide to adding a nofollow link.
2. HTML Headings
You can use HTML to change the heading sizes of your text, too. Headers range from H1-H6 with most WordPress themes.
In HTML, that looks like this:
<h5> Heading </h5>
Here’s what it might look like in the HTML editor:
Here’s what it looks like in the visual editor:
3. HTML Links (Hyperlinks)
HTML links always start with an
<a> tag. It’s then followed by the
href attribute, which I explain in greater depth in my guide to adding links in WordPress.
A complete line of code with a link would look like this:
<a href="https://www.ryrob.com">Ryan Robinson, Blogger</a>
This is what it looks like in HTML:
Here’s what it looks like visually:
This is just a small taste of what you can do with HTML as you add this to your stable of blogging skills. It can seem extremely overwhelming at first, but it can actually become quite fun learning the inner workings of your blog.
Having a basic understanding of how HTML code functions can help you problem solve minor issues with your blog and be more knowledgeable about your business. Check out more of my technical tutorials here.
SEO (search engine optimization) is a term you’ll hear again and again as a blogger. In fact, I wrote an entire guide to blog SEO strategies and best practices if you want to dig deeper and fold this into your stable of blogging skills—but we’ll go over the basics here.
Understanding even just the basics of SEO, will put you miles ahead of the game when it comes to blogging—because you’ll be able to start immediately working towards sending organic traffic to your blog (as long as it slowly begins to rank well in search engine results).
To get your content ranking on the first page of a Google search results, here are a few fundamental things you’ll need to do:
- Do keyword research: You use keyword research to find out what people are really searching for, rather than going with your own best guess. Keyword research helps you choose the right words or phrases to use in your blog post title, headers and throughout the body. It can even inform you on how to shape the outline of your blog post, to make sure you’re solving your reader’s challenges in the best possible way. Look for keywords that have low competition but medium to high search results as you’re just getting started. These will be the easiest to rank for and start building up some momentum.
- Understand user-intent: Think about what real people are searching for when they type a phrase, question or keyword into a Google search. If your blog post doesn’t deliver the content they actually want to read (and deliver the solution they want to find), it’ll hurt your ranking abilities. Try to address your reader’s challenges as best as possible, because this is the key metric search engines like Google are really trying to best optimize for.
- Write a great headline: A well-written blog headline can attract readers, help you rank higher in search results and even encourage higher clickthrough rates on your article compared to the competitors around yours in search results. Plus, your headline is an opportunity to tell the story of what your blog post will help readers accomplish.
- Use the correct heading tags: Make proper use of the heading sizes at your disposal in your WordPress editor A heading 1 (also known as an H1) should only be used once and is reserved for your title up top. Use heading 2 for your highest level main topic points—and headings 3-6 should be utilized for sub-headers to break up ideas throughout the rest of your content. Using the right headers can help Google identify what your blog post is about and send the right readers to your blog.
- Choose smart URL slugs: Your URL (or URL slug) is the portion of a particular blog post’s permalink that’s unique for that post (see the screenshot below). Your URL slug is the part of your permalink that comes after your domain extension. So, for example with the URL “ryrob.com/blog-seo“, the bold part is the slug. Your main keywords should be included in the slug, but you don’t need to include unnecessary filler words. You can see what I mean with this example right here:
I have “make-money-blogging” as my URL slug, but removed the extra words like “how” and “ to” because they’re not my exact target keywords—and longer URLs can sometimes be frowned upon.
- Use links to help boost your SEO rankings: From an on-page SEO perspective, internal links (links you add within your blog posts that encourage readers to click through and read other blog posts across your site) is a crucial signal to send to search engines like Google—telling them that a particular article is somehow related to the one at hand, and boosting the visibility of more content. External links from authoritative websites, ideally in the form of guest blog posts or earned mentions as a result of creating standout content, will also be incredibly helpful to help boost your credibility.
- Write SEO-rich meta descriptions: A meta description is the short blurb that shows up as a description below your title in a Google search result. If you use the Yoast SEO WordPress plugin, you can add a meta description to your blog posts very easily. This is what it looks like in my editor:
This is what your meta description (and meta title) will look like as a Google search result:
To make your meta description more SEO-friendly, be sure to write an enticing teaser that’ll capture the attention of readers while still including one or two relevant keyword phrases.
- Optimize your images: Believe it or not, optimizing the images on your blog can actually be very meaningful in the grand scheme of your overall SEO strategy. Google doesn’t automatically know what your images are, so you have to help by adding some image alt text (a description of the image) to make it more easily identified. You can add alt text and a title for each image to let Google know what’s in the image. This is what that looks like in the WordPress editor as you add an image to your post:
Now, unfortunately these SEO best practices really only scratch the surface of everything you’ll eventually want to learn in order to truly add SEO to your arsenal of blogging skills—but these are the basics you’ll want to work on incorporating throughout the content on your blog as early on as possible.
Do this well and you should see your content begin to perform well in organic search results within a matter of a few months after you get started.
Another useful skill in blogging is being able to find your target audience, understand and learn from them. Without knowing who your target audience really is, it can be very difficult to properly market your blog content, let alone learn enough to be able to eventually monetize your blog with them.
Here are some simple ways to start locating and developing an understanding of your audience:
- Learn more about your niche: If you’re already interested and experienced within your niche, you’re far more likely to jive with (and understand) other people who are interested in the same things.
- Hang out with people interested in your niche: Find other people (in-person or online) who like what you’re blogging about. Ask them what topics they want to learn about and what challenges they face.
- Research your niche: Regardless of how much you know today, dedicate regular time to researching more within your niche. The more you research your niche, the more you’ll discover new topics that people are searching for answers on, the topics your audience want to read more about, which products they use and what content is already available out there (so that you can create more impactful content).
- Check out social media: The right social channels can be very powerful in helping you get a better idea of who your audience is and the things they’re interested in. A good way to find your audience, is to join Facebook groups in your niche, follow related hashtags on Twitter or Instagram and see what you can learn from browsing through the followers of top influencers already in your space.
- Browse discussion forums: Find discussion forums in your niche and observe the chatter to see what people are talking about and the topics they’re discussing.
- Visit the competition: Find out what your competition is delivering. Read the comments section of their most popular articles to see what people think of it and identify questions you could answer more effectively on your own blog.
- Watch videos and listen to podcasts: Videos (on YouTube) and podcasts from industry leaders are another great way to stay current on the most important topics in your niche, identify other potential creators you can eventually partner with and see the content that your audience is craving more of. Plus, you might be able to (soon) pitch yourself as a guest to go on some of the podcasts or YouTube channels within your niche.
This blogging skill is a non-negotiable, because without the capacity to really connect meaningfully with your audience (or future readers), you’ll struggle to ever build a real business around your blog.
Write what you know. You’ve probably heard this phrase before, right? I’ll be the first to agree that successful bloggers pull from their own experiences in order to deliver impactful content, but I can’t stress enough how important great research is for bloggers to create more well-rounded, accessible and truly comprehensive content.
Even if you’re an expert in your field, you won’t grow as a blogger without continuing to learn. Deep research is an effective way to understand a topic far deeper than just the surface level—and share solutions that give your reader much greater value. If researching isn’t one of the blogging skills you’ve mastered yet, here are a few tips to get you started:
1. Check Your Facts
One thing about the Internet is, well, not everything you read is necessarily true. In some cases, an insight from an article you just read may have been true at one point in time… but isn’t anymore. That’s why I make a practice of checking, double-checking, and triple-checking any key facts or statistics (like my blogging statistics) that I share.
On the Internet, people will share a fact that sounds shocking, with the goal of getting more clicks on their articles. These ideas are quickly considered truth by some, even if they aren’t accurate.
For example, Insider recently published an article, 10 “Facts” Everyone Believes But Aren’t Really True, which includes some pretty commonly repeated “facts” that aren’t in fact true…
In the article, they talk about how most people believe things like cracking your knuckles will lead to arthritis—or if you swallow gum it’ll stay in your body for seven years. These things aren’t true, but people believe them anyway, often because they’re told about them from friends or family that simply repeat the false information from others they’ve known.
While it’s not always possible to get every fact correct (things often change very quickly), it’s worth the extra effort to dig a little deeper in your research. If you’re sharing statistics from 2003, it may be time for an update.
2. Know Where to Find Answers
The information is out there, you just have to know where to look. Here are some of the best places to start when doing research for your blog content:
- Read the experts online: Find authority websites that are covering topics you’re writing about too. Keep up on trends, news and learn from people who are taking a close look at subjects you’re writing about.
- Listen to podcasts: Podcasts are extremely popular today, and you can find people with deep levels of expertise creating podcasts about very niche topics.
- Head over to YouTube: Sometimes when I’m writing about a topic that’s difficult to wrap my head around, or if I want to learn about something while I’m eating breakfast, I’ll pull up a YouTube video about it in the background.
- Subscribe to magazines and email lists: Magazines might seem outdated, but they’re some of the most concentrated sources of real writers who are writing deeply about current topics. If you want to stay digital, you can opt for signing up to receive relevant emails both from magazine publishers and from trusted bloggers in your space.
- Go to the library (or Amazon): Books are excellent resources for doing additional research. They’re helpful for referencing and they’re useful in fleshing out ideas that expand far beyond what you can uncover from an individual blog post. I’ve compiled a list of the best books for bloggers and the best blogging courses, so you can find impactful books & courses within your niche.
- Talk to experts: You can also do research by interviewing people in your field. People who have a lot of experience on a subject can be invaluable to you and your blog audience. And while effective blogger outreach is one of the most coveted blogging skills in its own rite, if you’re able to authentically connect with an expert, they’ll often be willing to share an insight that can add to your own content’s authority.
There’s no real limit to the places where you can find useful answers (both online and offline), but it’s important to also maintain a healthy level of skepticism—you should never believe everything you read on the Internet.
3. Keep Track of Your Research
One final important aspect of doing effective research, is keeping useful notes that can actually make your content stronger. For that reason, when I start writing something new for my own blog here, I always start with a solid outline to make sure I’ll be covering everything about the subject matter that my audience will (likely) crave answers on.
As you research for your blog posts, you should add links to your outline (to reference for additional reading and to come back to, yourself). Adding links will save you a lot of time when you really dig into the writing process later on. You can also copy and paste important ideas or quotes that you know you’ll want to include when it comes time to write your own blog post, just be sure to cite the original sources for any material you pull directly from.
Most of us bloggers aren’t accountants or finance professionals, but if you’re running your blog with a business plan, there will definitely be financial aspects you can’t afford to neglect. While these kinds of blogging skills can take time to really develop (and form new habits), the bottom line is that you want to bring in more money than you’re sending out—and you’ll also want to be organized & thoughtful about what you do with your money.
Here are a few ways that you can manage the financial aspects of your blog and create winning money habits:
Understand Your Expenses
The first step in mastering your blogging finances, is understanding your expenses. While it should be fairly inexpensive to start a blog, you’ll naturally begin to accrue more costs as your blog grows and you need to invest more. Some basic blogging costs that you’ll need to account for early on in your blogging business include:
- A computer
- A reliable Internet connection
- A domain name
- A great hosting plan (or monthly hosting plan if you’re on a budget)
These are the essentials that’ll allow you to get started, but as your needs grow—so will your expenses. Some things you may need to invest in as your blog grows could be:
- SEO tools (and other blogging tools) like Ahrefs
- Premium analytics tools to learn more about your readers
- Blog security plugins and services
- Advertising costs
- A premium WordPress theme
- Additional plugins to extend functionality on your blog
- Email marketing tools (like ConvertKit vs AWeber vs Mailchimp)
- Additional hardware costs like microphones or headphones
- Office supplies
For a much deeper look into potential expenses, check out my guide about, how much does it cost to blog? where I break down the costs for hobby bloggers all the way up to full-time bloggers—so you can get a better idea of how your expenses might change depending on the size of your blog over time.
Keep Reliable Financial Records
The next step to responsible financial management, is keeping reliable records of your incoming revenue and outgoing expenses. You can see how I categorize these line items in my own monthly blog income reports. Here’s an example from one of my recent monthly blog income reports, broken down by income source:
And on the flip side, here’s a snapshot of my expenses broken down in detail too:
While my blog income reports have become one of the most popular regular pieces of content I publish, they’re as much an activity for reinforcing my own responsible financial management—and having this as a routine keeps me disciplined on regularly analyzing the financial health of my business, which is one of the blogging skills I’m most proud of building (from scratch) over the years.
Find Multiple Sources of Income
As you grow your blog, it’s essential to diversify your income sources. You might begin with Google Ads and Amazon’s affiliate program, but as time goes on, you can add other better-paying affiliate programs and partnerships to your lineup.
You can even find niche products that relate to your blog, or ads that your visitors would appreciate. You may even want to start selling your own products through an eCommerce store attached to your blog.
Keep a living document that includes all of your sources of income, so you can see how well they’re performing each month. Documenting all of this will also help when it comes to paying your taxes.
Be Ready to Pay Your Blog Taxes
Yes, paying blog taxes can be a frustration for many bloggers and online creators, but it doesn’t have to be a complete nightmare. With organization and simple bookkeeping, it isn’t too difficult to pay your taxes correctly (while maximizing your deductions under your local tax laws).
If your blogging business reaches a sizable point, it may be worth hiring an accountant. But even early on, I recommend using an easy tool like Quickbooks Self-Employed to help you with your taxes.
As a blogger, you’re (hopefully) regularly checking to see what’s working and what isn’t. Analytics are a great way of seeing how well your website, social media channels and email campaigns are performing.
When you first set up your Google Analytics (or a privacy-oriented analytics solution like Fathom), the information can sometimes appear to be confusing. I’ll explain some of the analytics terms here so you can understand them the next time you log in to work on making this one of your blogging skills—and try to pull out some actionable insights:
- Realtime: Realtime shows you when (and where) people are currently on your blog. You can see where they’re from, what page they’re on, and what traffic source they used to get to your blog.
- Audience: The audience tells you the number of users, new users, sessions, bounce rate, and a number of other important details about the people visiting your blog. You can adjust it to tell you the stats for a single day, or a section of days. You can also compare time periods with other time periods to see if your traffic is improving. For example, you may want to compare the month of July in 2020 to July 2019.
- Acquisition: Acquisition tells you where people are coming from to reach your blog. You can see if they’re coming through organic traffic, direct, social media, or referral. Acquisition is a very telling section because you can see what type of marketing works best for your blog. If you’re seeing a lot of social referrals, then you know your social media campaigns are doing well.
- Behavior: Behavior tells you which pages people have visited, page views, unique page views, average time on page, bounce rate, and more. This analytic is helpful to see if people are visiting more than one page on your blog. You can instantly see which pages are getting the most traffic.
- Bounce rate: A bounce rate refers to the number of pages that a person visits when they come to your blog. If you see a 100% bounce rate, that means the visited one page before they exited your blog. An excellent bounce rate is between 26-40%, and an average bounce rate is 41-70%. This number will vary, but as you create more relevant content with internal links, you should see your bounce rate drop.
Other Tools to Help With Website Analytics
There are several other tools you can use that’ll help with analyzing and taking action on your blog’s analytics. Some I personally use and recommend include:
- Tableau: A different analytics tool that makes it easier to interpret & understand your data
- Google Search Console: Another tool from Google that allows you to monitor your keyword positions and identify any technical errors on your site
- Sprout Social: An analytics tool that allows you to quickly monitor your social media analytics and make informed decisions about the content you share
While there’s a seemingly limitless number of useful analytics-related tools out there for bloggers to choose from, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you should strive to continually learn from your audience—to make better informed decisions about what to publish and how you can better serve your readers in the future. Learn how to repeatedly do that, and you’ve mastered one of the most important blogging skills out there.
One of the remaining top blogging skills you’ll need to invest in building this year, is flexibility. Not in the context of touching your toes, but rather a flexible mindset.
You might have a detailed business plan for your blog that simply doesn’t pan out, or it may be that certain parts of your plan are underperforming and need to be tweaked in response to real world observations.
The Internet is a fast-paced environment, and what works now may not work the same in a few months or years from now. Be willing to change, adapt and learn from what’s changing around you. Here are a few ways to become more flexible within your blogging business:
- Try out A/B testing: Like it or not, sometimes it takes testing several ideas to see which plan or strategy is most effective. For example, if you publish a pin to Pinterest, share several more over the next few days with different background images, text treatments and colors to see which ones people respond to the most.
- Be honest with yourself: Let’s imagine that a year ago, you used to get a ton of traffic from a specific social media outlet. Now, a year later, you’re only getting in a trickle of visitors. Be honest with yourself that something needs to change. You either need a new outlet, or you need to learn what changed and update your strategy to match the changing environment.
- Keep up with your analytics: We’ve already said that understanding your analytics will help you tremendously as a blogger. But, if you send out an email to your subscribers and no one clicks through, you probably need to change approaches the next time, for example.
- Stay on top of trends: Be quick to notice when something big happens in your niche. If you’re one of the first people to write about a new topic, you’ll be able to glean a lot of traffic from moving quickly.
Another one of the major benefits of adopting a flexible attitude with your blogging efforts, is that you won’t lock yourself into doing things only a certain way. The reality of blogging, is that everything is constantly changing & evolving, so the nature of the business requires your ability (and excitement) to adapt. That’s why flexibility is one of the most essential blogging skills to build upon in your daily actions.
The last blogging skill on my top list here, is humility. It might seem odd that there are so many character-driven blogging skills on this list, but these qualities are actually essential to enhancing any of the other skills you may have (or work to develop). Technical skills can arguably be learned a whole lot easier than changing things about your mindset, habits or character—but the latter will be much more impactful in helping to grow your blog business over time.
When you produce something and put it out on the Internet, most people are going to have opinions. If you’ve read the comments section of a somewhat controversial Facebook post or news article, then you know what I mean. People can even be downright rude or antagonistic online.
And yes, you need a certain amount of self-confidence to push past internalizing the negativity, but you also need humility. Humility keeps you from being crushed when someone leaves you a negative review or questions your authority. Though sometimes comments are just intentionally mean, there are other times when someone is offering constructive feedback that may help you improve your delivery.
That’s another massive benefit of adding humility to your roster of blogging skills, because when you’re humble, you can give yourself permission to learn from other people (and not be naive enough to believe you’re the sole source of expertise on a subject). You shouldn’t reach a point in your career where you can no longer learn from other knowledgeable people in your space. I promise it’s not going to hurt your reputation if you’re willing to learn from your readers, or other experts in your niche.
I’ve been blogging for the better part of a decade now and I still regularly listen to blogging advice, take in new information and make decisions based on insights from other experts in my field.
What Are Your Most Underrated Blogging Skills?
Turning this conversation about blogging skills over to you now, did I miss any big ones that should be prioritized this year?
What do you think are the most important blogging skills we should be working on? Which skills have benefited you the most as a blogger so far?
I’d love to hear your take in the comments below!
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