One Harsh Reality of Blogging

From Jeff: This is a guest post by Darrell Vesterfelt. Darrell is a social media specialist at Sheepish Design and on staff at a church plant in West Palm Beach as an associate pastor. You can connect with him on his blog, via Twitter, or on Facebook.

I have been blogging for about four years now, and I’ve learned a lot.

Most of the lessons have been humbling to my ego, while others have been illuminating.

When I first stated blogging, I was pretty proud of the fact that my writing was being published to a small audience and that they were actually reading it. It felt good to be acknowledged.

Really what I was, though, was an insecure writer clinging to every pitiful page view.

As my traffic increased, I started getting a big head. I thought that what I had to say was really important and that my writing was so good that it would change the world.

Months later, I found myself frustrated when my blog had hit a wall and stopped growing. I was following all the advice I had read from the experts. I was doing all the “right things” to make it as a blogger. Well, all the advice except one major piece:

Serve your readers. (Oh yeah…)

Blogging Reality
Photo credit: Flickr (Creative Commons)

I forgot the harsh reality of blogging

What’s that? It’s not about me.

Of course, blogging can be about you. It’s just better when it’s not. And usually, in order for that model to work, you either have to be interesting or famous.

Even then, your blog’s influence will be limited, and your readership might not be large. Your blog won’t ever be able to grow beyond your personality.

So why not make other people the point? Why not serve your audience?

(Good) blogging is about serving people

This can be a tricky place to find yourself.

You have a unique perspective, but you have to share it in a way that will serve those who are reading your blog. You have to be willing to be vulnerable and often “go there” first, before expecting your readers to do the same.

But this is the best way to build rapport — humble yourself and become a servant. This is what delivering great content is all about — meeting needs.

If it doesn’t serve, then it doesn’t resonate. Remember that.

How do you do this?

How do you actually serve your audience? (And not just say you’re serving them?) Here are three ways:

1. Ask yourself: Why someone would care about what I am writing?

This question challenges you to think beyond yourself. The people reading your blog deserve your thoughtful composition. Their attention requires your commitment.

Consider why someone would want to read what you’ve written, and if you can’t come up with a good answer, write something else.

What this question should not do is cause you to second-guess yourself. You have something important to say. What unique perspective do you bring, and how can that be an asset to your blog? Consider this before composing your next post.

2. Ask yourself: How will my topic benefit those who read it?

I hope you tell yourself something like this: “This content will make my reader a better ____________.”

Or: “This content will cause my reader to do ____________.”

Your smartest readers understand that there is room for them to grow. They want help in the process. Help them.

3. Don’t forget why you started. Lets hope it was for a good reason. Let’s hope it was to serve people and make their lives better. Or because you just genuinely loved communicating.

If you don’t stay focused on this purpose, you’ll burn out. (Just to refresh your reasons for writing, you may need to reread The Writer’s Manifesto.)

While writing for others is a great way to build an audience, if you only do this, you won’t last.

For every blogger, there is a balancing act between passion and purpose.

If you are blogging because you love to write, don’t forget why you started. It will help you focus on others without losing touch with what originally inspired you.

What humbling lessons have you learned about blogging since you have started? Share your harsh blogging reality in the comments.

*Photo credit: Hans van der Berg (Creative Commons)

42 thoughts on “One Harsh Reality of Blogging

  1. Very true: we can easily miss the point of it all, that it’s better to serve and meet needs. It’s also critical to listen and have a pulse on what your audience wants in order to find any type of success. Great post!

      1. It’s really simple: I am a veracious reader. I pour over comments on many, many posts related to my niche, and of course look at what’s being shared on social media platforms, and I listen.

  2. I only just started reading this blog about a week ago as I’ve been thinking about blogging more seriously. The posts are all so relevant to that, and this one even more.  It’s been very humbling for me to think hard about whether the things I want to write about actually matter to people.  I really believe they do, and I want to do it to serve people who are on the same walk as me, but I’m really trying to make sure I’m clear about a specific direction for the blog.  Great post and thank you for the continued heart searching.

    1. Adam — I think you are struggling with a really good thing.  It is really important to know that what you are writing about is important, and I believe it is because we all have a unique perspective.

      It is also important you have a specific direction for the blog as well.  I call it blogging with purpose.

  3. I am very much in the beginner phase of blogging, so I don’t know that “harsh” reality is the right word. If I have learned one thing, it is this:

    Readership does not equal comments.

    I have blogged for 5 months and received a total of 2 comments, but I’ve received encouraging feedback through other mediums – phone calls, in person, Twitter, etc. No one likes the goose eggs in the comment section, but it doesn’t mean no one is reading.


    1. This is very true Stephen. I have noticed that most new bloggers put so much weight on comments. Of course, it can signal success. Nonetheless not everything about success depends on it.

      I am growing a mailing list although no one is commenting, which for me means more. Meaning people want to really engage more than just leaving a comment on a particular article.

  4. I’m with Stephen. I have only been blogging a few months, but there are two things I have already learned. 1) It is foolish to compare myself with others or their success. I am me. I cannot succeed at trying to be someone else or doing what they are doing (nor do I want to, but at times I get stuck thinking that way.) 2) I can easily become a slave to the numbers/stats rather than serving my readers.
    Thanks for the important reminder today!

    1. I think it is important not to compare yourself to people who are in a different stage then you, but it is important (if you are wanting to achieve success) to follow after their lead.  I heard someone once say to not compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.  I think that is important.

      I also think it is important to not become a slave to numbers. How do you measure success on your blog while keeping that in balance? 

  5. Trust is big. Your readers have to trust you.

    I am learning that just because I use standard theme and I post something everyday, doesn’t mean I am worth someone’s time to engage in community. I have loyal readers but not necessarily loyal engagers.

  6. Thank you for making me feel better. I write for a VERY niche audience and my brother (who is NOT a professional blogger, but always has an opinion-stated-as-fact about EVERYTHING!) told me that my blog will never be successful because “people just don’t care about that topic.” When he started a blog about fish through a dubious company and got more hits in a day than I did in my first month, I began to lose heart. When his Adsense was out the roof (though not enough to cover the cost of his service provider) I began to feel like giving up. But I have kept going and am still growing (though very slowly.) I get comments, while he still has nothing and I have a regular following, whereas he has not received a single follower. My small niche may be small, but I feel that they really do care and are learning from what I share. I’ll probably never be rich from blogging, but the knowledge that I may have helped others is worth more than money!

    1. When you write for a more specific niche, it may take a little longer to grow your community.  I promise those people are out there (over a billion people on the internet in a day, they are there somewhere). 

      1. That is what I am discovering! And it is worth building a solid (even if small) community than having 1000 hits a day from people who don’t care! I would rather have a village that is involved than a metropolis that ignores you!

  7. I love when a blog post has “questions to ask yourself”.  It makes benefiting from it way easier.  This is a good list and I’m definitely going to have to refer back to later.

    I also think some readers like to be needed.  Your post “Ask me anything” was a good example of that.  You needed people to ask you questions in order for that post to be a success.  (Some)  Readers like that.  Depends on the reader.

  8. I learned that being myself is key. For a while I was trying to do everything the “pros” said I should do – bullet points, short posts, questions at the end. Eventually I realized that just wasn’t me. I went back to how I write and communicate and love it. And so do my readers.

    1. Thats great Jason.  I think that is a really key point.  I am writing an article on monday talking about returning to my first love.  It will key in on this principle.  Thanks for sharing your journey with us.

  9. Such a great post! Thank you Darrell and Jeff.

    I think these are very important questions to ask and will help me to focus and evaluate my writing going forward.

    Thank you for calling out that asking “Why someone would care about what I am writing?” is not meant to second guess, but rather to provide purpose and direction.

    My harsh blogging reality is that the stats don’t matter. The community and connection with people is what will bring lasting fulfillment.

  10. Thanks Darrell. Great post and a continual reminder I will read often (like each time I write) –  especially the part about “how do you do this”. I will read that as I create each post for focus. I  feel called to write my blog, to help others and share with them. I keep 1 Peter 4:10 in mind, that God gives each of us our gifts not for ourselves but for others benefit.

    I started my blog almost 2 years ago. I’ve learned and grown a lot, especially in the last 6 months. It’s not about me; it’s about my readers and striving to serve them. I’m a food blogger. I think that’s even tougher because food bloggers not only write the main content but create recipes (which also have to be properly written) then photograph it. There is extra work in food blogging (not that any blogging is easy!). It’s hard not to watch stats as you grow. It is exciting to see the traffic of a well-received post and sometimes disheartening to see lower traffic on the next, but I just keep writing and (hopefully) growing. Thanks for your post. 

  11. ‘humble yourself and become a servant’ . . . hmm . . . I think I’ve heard that somewhere before.  

    Great post!  Lots of good things to think about!  Thanks.

  12. Some great thoughts in this post.  When I first started blogging it  WAS  all about me, I  was pretty naive about the whole blogging thing.  I was new at writing and just needed a place that might motivate me to write more.  Then, I started realizing that people actually started to read what I had to say.   And then, I started to take the time to read what my readers had to say too on their blogs.  It’s been an amazing  journey.  I’ve met a great community of friends through blogging.  We sincerely care and encourage one another.  I love it!

  13. Darrell!  I love that sentence, “Your people reading your blog deserve your thoughtful composition.” …..That’s so poetic, I really want to frame it.  I like this post!  The part about if you love to write & staying connected to your core is also still resonating in me.  Well Done!  Thank you for sharing!

  14. I really appreciate the message of this post – and especially appreciated this point: “But this is the best way to build rapport — humble yourself and become a
    servant. This is what delivering great content is all about — meeting
    needs.” What a great thought to consider before hitting the “publish” button on a post! Thank you for sharing!

  15. This post by Darrell Vesterfelt has landed on one of the core paradoxes of the writer’s life: if your work is self-serving, it will be pretty evident to those who read it, and they may not feel good about the experience, but if you try to serve others, sooner or later you find out that what you have to give is yourself. This post says you have to be willing to go first, to explore something vividly enough that others care about your story and more authentically live their own.

    My writing goes into obscure places and explores antiquated art, such as opera, but the places I’ve been are the places I’ve been, and the music I sing, old and unfashionable as it may be, has proved its worth. I try to make others aware of experiences that are assessable to them, if they pay attention day by day. Nobody else has their material. If they follow me through my cul-de-sac, they should feel that their own is just as vivid. Even if they don’t write, they should say, hey, I could have written that.

  16. This is excellent, Jeff.  Thanks.  You are practicing what you preach.  That is why we like to read what you have to say.  You have a servant’s heart.

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