I’ve been blogging since 2007. That makes me an old-timer. As someone who works in the blog-o-sphere full-time, I’ve seen a lot of weird practices and trends. Frankly, I’m over it.
When I worked at a digital marketing agency as a content specialist, I became very bitter about the world of marketing. I was—I am—convinced a lot of it is predatory and scammy.
Blogging isn’t inherently predatory or scammy, but parts of it definitely can be. We live in an age where anyone can claim to be a blogging “guru” or “influencer” on social media. A lot of unsuspecting people blindly believe them. That’s not to say that all of the information you read online is bogus, but you definitely need a critical eye.
That’s why I’m presenting my controversial blogging opinions in this blog post format. As someone who loves blogging and reading blogs, I hope nobody takes this the wrong way. The world needs more bloggers like it needs more writers. If you want to start a blog (legitimately), I’ve got a full-blown post on how to do just that right here. Now let’s get into the rant.
1. Making Money Teaching Others How to Make Money
Famous blogger John Chow is known for saying, “I make money online by teaching others how I make money online.” I have seen this in action so many times that it physically pains me. Sure, most people know how to avoid blatent get-rich-quick schemes, but what about the sneakier ones?
A popular trend in the blogging world is making online courses. The bulk of these courses all are on the topic of using your blog to make money. How does this work when the only experience the original blogger has making money online is through selling courses on how to make money? This is a weird cycle in which only the top players actually make money while those at the bottom lose. You know what kind of business model this looks like?
A pyramid scheme.
I’m definitely not trying to drag anyone here who uses or creates online courses. I know there are some excellent blogging courses that teach unique skills like content marketing, social media marketing, pitching brands, whatever. I’m not talking about courses based on providing real value to an audience. I’m talking about the predatory cycle of making money by teaching people how to make money when in reality nobody benefits except the “business guru” who likely has no real experience.
I know what you’re going to say. But Sam, you have so many blog posts on how to make money online. Yep, you’re right. But these are all free articles or e-courses, and all of them explain multiple legitimate ways to earn money that I have personally tried. I am not sharing bogus expertise. I’m sharing my real-life experience and real-life methods (ie: value).
So how can you avoid falling for this cycle?
- Do your research! Don’t purchase anything without looking into who’s behind it and their own success story.
- Don’t take bloggers at their word. If they say they make money blogging, look for how. If they don’t share their methods, odds are they make money “teaching” others how to make money.
- See if it’s possible to learn a specific skill (ie: Pinterest basics) for free. It probably is.
2. Real Money is in Advertising
I put off monetizing my blog via advertisements for so long because ads get such a bad rep. As you can see from this page, I use ads on my blog.
At first, I used Google Adsense for my advertisements. This paid pennies and I think I made $170 in two years.
Today, I use Mediavine. I love Mediavine beyond words. It pays my rent. I want to write love songs about it. The pay is generous, and I have a lot of control over what appears on my website and where. If I need help, there’s always a real person there to take care of my problem. I don’t feel like a number.
In the blogging community, a lot of “monetization experts” talk about the dangers of using advertisements. You’d think these were some kind of nuclear weapon for the way they’re treated. My controversial blogging opinion is that monetizing with ads is one of the best (if not the best) way to make a steady income with your blog.
Let’s be real: traffic matters. Yes, I talk a lot about how anyone can start a blog, and I believe that wholeheartedly. But if you aren’t getting views, you’re not making money. That’s totally cool if you don’t plan to make money with your blog. If you want to turn this into a profitable side hustle or full time job, however, you need to start building your traffic.
Sponsored posts are great, especially when they have big budgets, but that’s not always the case. Working with brands also takes time, energy, and you sometimes stress over actually getting paid. On the other hand,
All of that being said, advertising isn’t for everyone. You should meet the following criteria before bothering with ads:
- Reach at least 20k views a month
- Steer clear Google Adsense and go with a reputable advertising middleman like Mediavine
- Have patience while optimizing your website with ads
If you’ve been afraid of adding advertisements to your blog, I’d encourage you to go for it. You can always opt out if you decide it’s not for you. Let’s all agree this superiority complex about not having ads on your blog is overplayed.
3. Blogs Aren’t Journals
Okay, okay, hold onto your pitchforks. First, let me start by saying I got into the world of blogging back in my
I had a cringey Piczo website followed by a
To prove that I used the internet as my personal gossip column, I’m going to include an excerpt from the internet archive of one of my old websites. This is from my original domain DaysADream.com which I ran from 2007 to 2014.
There’s a lot to unpack here. First of all, yes, I did all the graphics myself. I don’t know what happened to my talent but it’s clearly gone now. (Note: the internet archive did not preserve all of my design features. It looked much better than this!) Also, yes, I left the Twilight icons visible on purpose. You’re welcome.
As you can see, I treated my blog from 2007 until 2015 as my personal diary. I wrote about whatever and whoever. It was problematic in too many ways.
It’s 2018, people. The “Dear Diary” days are over. Let me be clear: if you’re using your blog as a way to connect with friends and family, then by all means continue doing whatever you want. There aren’t any rules about blogging, and I don’t want to imply anyone is doing anything wrong.
What I do want to say is that if you plan to make money with your blog, you’re going to need to push beyond the “Today I did X” and introduce some real value. I get it. Sometimes you want to share your life, and you should! The more personal you make your blog posts, the easier it is for users to connect with you as a person.
You don’t want to be a robotic blogger. You also don’t want to focus so much on your day-to-day life that you ignore the value component. To make sure your posts have real value, ask yourself these questions before you hit publish:
- What can readers learn from your post that they didn’t know before?
- Are people (other than your family) interested in what you’re writing about?
- Do you answer a question or fill a need?
4. Most of SEO is Pointless
This is hard to admit as someone who helps clients build their SEO. I basically thrive on bloggers not knowing how to handle their own SEO. That being said, a lot of Search Engine Optimization is nothing but elaborate mumbo-jumbo.
You can’t ignore your SEO. But you also don’t need to worry yourself mad over every tiny thing when it makes a microscopic (if any) difference. You know what’s the most important part of SEO?
Writing quality content.
That’s right, the secret to SEO is to just write blog posts people actually want to read. I love that a million dollar industry is built on this alone. It does mean more work as a freelance writer, so that’s a plus.
Here’s a piece of sad news for you to digest: you’ll probably never get to the first page for most search results, especially for your “ideal” keyword. You just won’t. SEO is mainly a pay-to-play game, and if you can’t pay the big bucks, you probably won’t get there. Those first-pagers pay outreach teams to get their links on top-ranking websites.
That being said, you don’t have to get on the first page of search results to get noticed. My favorite search engine for bloggers isn’t even google. It’s Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. All of these are powerful tools for finding blog posts.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge SEO advocate. The basics are easy to master, especially with Yoast SEO. However, a lot of the information out there is outdated nonsense that doesn’t do much. If you’re doing any of the following, odds are it’s not getting you anywhere:
- You aren’t link building through networking, writing great content, or targeted guest posting
- Hyper-focusing on meta keywords (pssst: they don’t rank in Google.)
- You use exact keywords and ignore synonyms
- You overuse your keywords
- You’re anchor texts are too-targeted and unatural
SEO is a living, breathing organism. It’s always changing. What works today won’t work tomorrow. The most important things to do today is to produce quality content and never get too comfortable.
5. Blogging is Robotic
Too many bloggers today sound like machines. This freaks me out because we’re getting to a point where AI technology can actually write blog posts. That’s an Orwellian concept I’m not ready for. As someone who loves writing for the sake of writing, please write like an actual human being.
Your humanity is only thing that will keep real writers from being overtaken by our robot friends.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Blogging isn’t like an academic paper. It’s not some National Geographic culture piece you’ll frame on your wall for your children to see. It’s a way of communicating digitally.
Can we all agree on some middle ground between writing like this is your tween diary and sounding like your college professor is breathing down your shoulder? It’s not rocket science. Just write like you talk. Here are some tips;
- Read your writing out loud before you hit publish to make sure it sounds natural
- Picture a friend you’re writing to
- Use Hemingway Editor to break down complex sentences and avoid passive voice
- Practice makes perfect, of course
If you’ve fallen victim to one of these controversial blogging opinions, I hope you don’t take it the wrong way. I mean no harm. After working in this industry for years, I’ve realized I’ve been bottling some thoughts up.
I love helping new bloggers launch successful, profitable blogs. I also don’t want to
What are some of your controversial blogging opinions? Let me know in the comments or shoot me an email.