The year was 2010…
I was a brand new mom.
I had quit my job as a Vet Tech to stay home with our firstborn, and even though I loved being home with her, I was CLIMBING THE WALLS.
Our tight, one-income budget meant I had to limit my trips to town, not to mention I didn’t have a whole lot of mom friends at that point anyway.
So I stayed home. A lot. And when you combine a Type-A personality with not enough human interaction and only one baby and a tiny house to keep up, it was a recipe for craziness.
So one day when I couldn’t handle mopping the flour or obsessively straightening the living room one more time, I started a blog. This blog, in fact.
My Not-So-Lofty Beginnings
Whenever I’m giving an interview, the interviewer inevitably asks how The Prairie Homestead began. And time and time again, I wish I had some sort of lofty aspiration to share as a part of the back story, but that simply wouldn’t be true.
The Prairie Homestead, which I consider to be my life’s work and calling, and has reached millions of people, was born out of sheer boredom.
Well, boredom and a desire to tell someone, anyone about the weird things I was doing at the time… Things like grinding up wheat or making yogurt, because no one in my local circles seemed to care and I was nearing implosion trying to keep all the excitement to myself.
(When I’ve talked about how boredom leads to creativity, I speak from personal experience…)
Recently, I’ve been auditing old software, updating links, and analyzing what is and isn’t working, and couldn’t help but notice how much things have changed in a decade of this blogging game. My little space on the Internet feels like a time machine of sorts. It’s simultaneously endearing and horrifying to think I’ve been broadcasting my thoughts to the world for TEN YEARS.
(Let’s just say my dogmatic nature has mellowed a LOT over the years. Thank goodness.)
In going through (and deleting) some older posts, I was struck with how not only has my mindset and perspective changed on so many things, but blogging as a whole has changed drastically.
Back in the day?
You started a blogspot.com blog (for free, of course), threw up some grainy photos you shot with you point-and-shoot camera, and BOOM. Visitors for days.
Spoiler alert: it doesn’t work like that now.
It’s harder than ever to get eyeballs on what you’re creating, whether it be a blog, a YouTube channel, a podcast, or some sort of social media account.
Considering there are a good number of you who follow me who either are currently creating content online, or hope to at some point in the future, today we’re diverting a bit from my usual sourdough/chicken/garden content today in favor of some business talk. Sound good?
How the Blogging Game has Changed
The Internet is NOISIER than ever before.
Everybody seems to have a blog, everybody has a website, everybody has a Facebook page, and there’s a lot more competition.
The things I did 10 years ago to get readers or subscribers to my website is completely different than what I have to do now to get people to pay attention to what I’m creating.
I can assure you that the idea of “if you build it, they will come” absolutely, positively does NOT work on the Internet anymore.
Nowadays? It’s more like, “if you build it, and pick a niche where you can solve their problems, and then you market it like crazy for months on end, they might come. Maybe.”
But– it’s not all a lost cause, because there are absolutely things you can do to maximize your exposure and find the people who need what you have to offer.
Whether your dream is to have a successful blog, YouTube channel, or podcast, there are three “secrets” that successful content creators use to ensure all their work isn’t for naught.
Please know– these secrets are simple, but that doesn’t mean they are necessarily easy. There isn’t a magic bullet for success.
But I can promise you that if you commit to doing the work and showing up consistently, you’ll be FAR ahead of the crowd.
The Secrets that Successful Bloggers Use to Grow a Following
Secret #1: They know their mission & purpose
Vague and generic content absolutely will not cut it anymore. Back in the day? You could get away with it. You might start a blog called “Linda’s Blog of Everything” and sometimes, it worked. You’d end up with some readers and slowly your following would grow.
Not anymore. The Internet is a different place. It’s vital you have a crystal-clear idea of who you want to speak to and your purpose behind that.
The only way for you to be able to create purposeful content is if you know your mission and for what you stand.
What are you an expert in?
What are you passionate about?
What can you bring to the world?
How are you going to set yourself apart?
Answering questions like these will be a game-changer, but don’t be surprised if the answers don’t come to you right away.
Time and time again as I work with my coaching clients, I’ve noticed this is the part of the process where it’s the easiest to get stuck. If you feel like you’re drawing a blank with these questions, just sit with them for a while and let the answers ruminate.
Because I have no doubt there is indeed a message inside of you that you are meant to share with the world, but oftentimes it requires a little bit of unpacking to discover.
And by unpacking, I mean lots of self reflection, lots of thinking, lots of journaling, lots of talking through it, maybe with your spouse or with your friends to sort through all the ideas floating around in your head. It’s absolutely a process– expect the answer to come in layers.
TIP: If you’re struggling to refine your message or purpose, I recommend opening up an Instagram account (if you don’t already have one). Start experimenting with your messaging, content, and different topics there before you spend a lot of time and money building out a blog or a website. This will help you avoid many hours of wasted time (and money) on building out a website that ultimately isn’t a fit for what you really need. (And this happens a LOT!)
Secret #2: They know the problems they’ve solving.
Once your mission and purpose feels more clear, it’s time to figure out the problems you’ll be solving via your platform. One of the biggest traps new bloggers fall into is that they learn towards treating their new blog as primarily an online diary.
Random online diaries easily gained traction years ago, but this strategy won’t work anymore (unless you are a celebrity or some sort of existing influence in the online space).
It’s a tricky balance, as you definitely need a personal aspect to the content you’re writing, but most readers won’t care about what you ate for lunch until they either feel a connection with you OR until you’re more well-known. Therefore, keep your content reader-centered at the beginning for best results.
There are a few different ways you can keep your content focused on the reader:
- Entertain them. Pick a niche or audience you relate to and make them laugh or think.
- Inspire them. Inspire your readers with aspirational content– beautiful decor, gorgeous food, manicured gardens, etc.
- Educate them. Educate folks and teach them new skills.
For example, if I were to start a blog for beginning bakers, I’d start off by thinking about the common problems a new baker might face, such as:
- Understanding what ingredients are best
- Figuring out what sort of baking equipment they need to buy
- Finding simple recipes that boost their confidence
- Troubleshooting common problems that plague inexperienced bakers
We help ourselves by helping others first.
Figure out your mission, find your people, and serve them well.
Secret #3: They think outside of the box.
Technically? You don’t even need a blog in 2020, because there are a myriad of other platforms that can help you connect with your niche.
There’s nothing wrong with blogging, but there’s also podcasting, Youtube, Instagram, Facebook groups, and so many other creative ways to create a tribe.
It starts by figuring out how YOU like to create.
If you shine on video, consider YouTube.
If you love listening to podcasts, perhaps that is a medium you’d excel in.
If writing is cathartic to you, a blog might indeed be your best tool.
Remember– no matter what platform calls to you, it’s crucial that you focus on quality content, not quantity.
It is not about publishing five blog posts or videos a week just to say you published something. Rather, it’s about really good content that’s solving a problem that’s speaking to your mission and that’s helping your audience.
That’s where the magic happens.
Final Thoughts on Building a Blog in 2020…
To wrap it all up, YES– it is still very possible to create a successful blog in 2020. The tools are better, and there are more options available to creators than ever before.
My biggest piece of advice for those venturing into the world of online content creation?
Be ready to learn.
Be ready to stretch yourself.
Be ready to play outside of your comfort zone and learn new skills and try new things.
If you stick with it, it’ll be a wild ride, but you’ll learn more about yourself than you ever thought possible, and you’ll have the privilege of inspiring a whole lot of people in the process.
If you are looking for some guidance in growing your online presence this year, I will be mentoring a small group of folks in June who are wanting to build a strong foundation for their existing or future blogs. (This is for both homestead bloggers and bloggers of other topics) There is a monetary investment involved, as this will be a 4-week training and a DEEP DIVE into my proven strategies and systems.
If you’re ready to strengthen your existing blog, or ensure your brand new blog starts off with a strong foundation, email me at Jill(at)theprairiehomestead(dot)com and let’s chat to see if we’re a fit.
Brian Voigt says
Thanks Jill. Very informative. I’m a member of your group and current day western novelist who has focused over the last four years on building content in two book series. You might remember my post on smoking meet and specifically brisket. You thanked me for posting it in February The time has come for me to learn about marketing. Although I have a website and blog it goes unused other than to provide links to my books.
Faith King says
Thanks for sharing. This really sounds like something that I would enjoy. I like to share things with people. I have struggled back and forth with a small blog I own for several years. But I am finding that posting things on instagram is way easy for me to work with and keep up with. Can’t wait to see and read more advice!!