How to create a successful blog.. 10 things you ABSOLUTELY NEED to do to be a success!
Something different today for the many who have asked me how to start a blog and get it to be known. I do not proclaim to be any kind of expert on this matter, not even close, but I do know a few things about blogging as I have been doing it every day for the past 3+ years (Now 5+ in 2014). So this is for those who have asked me about it..here are my thoughts.
BTW, photos in this post were shot with a Fuji X-Pro 1 and Konica Hexanon 60 1.2 Leica M mount Lens.
Over the past 3+ years I have been working every day of the week on this very web site/blog that you are now sitting down and reading. It has come a long way since the humble beginnings with my iWeb hosted and very basic site and today it hosts thousands of articles, hundreds of guest and user reports, hundreds of reviews of cameras, lenses and accessories. It started out costing me $10 a month to keep up and maintain and today costs me more than $900 a month to just keep it live (not counting all of the additional money I have to spend to run it and provide content for it).
It started out with 10-15 views per day and today enjoys anywhere from 90,000 to 180,000 views a day. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine this blog would be one of the well-known spots/hang outs for photography enthusiasts nor would I ever dream that I would get yearly visits from Sony to show me their new gear in my home. Never did I dream I would travel the world and be invited to Berlin from Leica to witness their new product unveilings, and I surely never thought I would make so many new friends from all over the world. THAT is the best part IMO..getting to know so many of you who read this very site.
Over these past three years I have noticed that Leica based sites went from about TWO to TWO HUNDRED. Some have been exact copies of mine, many have already disappeared and some are doing well, which I think is absolutely amazing. The more passion and excitement we all share the better off we all are. It can be infectious and what better way to be in life than to be happy, positive and full of life and energy and most of all ENJOY our lives by doing something we LOVE to do!
I get many e-mails asking me “How can I start a blog and get people to see it”..or “I want to be like you and start a blog about photography, can you tell me how to do it”..or “I put up a blog but not many people are finding it, how do I get the word out”??
Usually those e-mails go unanswered because the answer is not a simple one. It is not a short one either and there is not something that I can just say that will bring someone instant blogging success. Since I have just today received my 100th email on this topic I decided to write a post about it..so those who are interested in blogging can get an idea of where to start, how to go about it and most of all what to expect if you are trying to do this as a way to make money because in my opinion that is never a smart reason to start a blog!
Know that this is a highly competitive area and in the last 3-4 years it seems that everyone and their mother has been starting blogs. I do not mean just Photo blogs…there are thousands of blogs about everything from photography to ghost hunting to fish bait and the internet is so full of information it is pretty incredible when you think about what we have today compared to what we had just 15 years ago. Information is like gold and today we have full access to just about anything we want to know.
To stand out from the field of “blogging” you need many things but one of them is PASSION. I have said this before and when I say “passion is needed” I am not really only talking about passion for what you are writing about, but a passion for life, success, and happiness. You must truly live, breath, eat and sleep what you want to blog about if you want it to be a rip-roaring success. These things are key. For example, if someone is only out to make a quick buck..starting a blog will not make you an overnight money bags..even after years you may find yourself asking “is this all worth it for such little financial reward”? If what you write about is filled with true passion then it will be worth it no matter what you earn from the site as money is not the concern. If you have no passion then no one will want to read your blurbs and popularity will be low. Doing this for the money is not a way to go about it as it is rare for a blog to make any real serious cash. Maybe 3-5% of blogs do.
I will try to keep this as simple as I can, sharing my experiences along the way. This blog is surely not one of the top 3 photography related blogs in regards to traffic, but it is in the top 10 somewhere and it took about 3 (2014 – now 5) years to get there. Sites that came out in the 90’s are the ones that have the rock solid reader base…sites like DPreview, Luminous Landscape, and the oh so popular and controversial Ken Rockwell. All of these sites register quite highly on the Alexa scale for popularity and traffic, as they should. They are very well established and just a few years ago DP Review was so popular that Amazon (supposedly) paid MILLIONS to buy the website from Phil Askey, the previous owner and originator of the site. Pretty amazing. But why did Amazon do this and why was DPReview so popular? Well, Phil started it at a time when there was zero competition. He was a pioneer. An originator. He worked his ass of for years and had the passion, the desire and the mental capacity to sit at a desk for 14 hours a day writing and testing cameras 7 days a week. He created the largest photography site online and his success was well deserved. Over 7 million visitors a month. Pretty impressive. I manage about 2 million here on this site so I can only image in the work it would take to handle 7 million.
So what do you need TODAY to start a blog that can break out from the sea of sites on the internet? I am no guru but here are 10 things to keep in mind…
Numero UNO! If you do not have this you do not have squat! Do not start a blog for money otherwise you will be losing money and time. Period. Start a blog of something you are passionate about and you will not only enjoy what you do but you will most likely gain popularity as well.
You have to WANT to write and you will have to do it daily so having the DESIRE to go with the passion is a must.
This one goes right along with the top two. You must have the passion, desire and LOVE for what you intend to write about because if you do not it will show in your writing and it will get old quickly.
Readers will flock to you if you are yourself and share your enthusiasm and positivity. If you are a negative person and just rant, bitch and moan then people will not want to read what you write. Be positive, be energetic and be fun. Most of all, be YOU. If you are a cocky type that is a turn off for many readers. Most people do not like to read the words of “know it alls” because the know it all rarely does indeed know it all. Just be yourself and if you are genuine and have an enjoyable personality things will flow very well.
5. TREAT OTHERS AS THEY TREAT YOU
If you have someone helping you out in the beginning then PLEASE be nice to them and do what you can in return for them. If you have someone who is out for you or jealous and attacking you then that is a GOOD thing because it shows you are getting some attention. Best thing to do about those people is to ignore them as they do not deserve the attention. As your blog grows you will gain people who like you and you will find others who for some reason or another dislike you but always be grateful and kind to those who help and respect you.
One man I insanely respect is Ken Hansen. He helped me from day one by loaning me lenses that Leica wouldn’t. When I started Leica ignored me and for good reason! I had no readers! Ken believed in me and loaned me lenses and cameras and in return I linked to his e-mail. Turned out he is not only one of the nicest guys I have met in this business but he is also one of the absolute best Leica dealers on the planet. It’s not just me that says so, there are thousands of others who say the same. This site is mine but I didn’t build it alone..others have indeed helped me along the way, in one way or another as they do with any venture but I have also helped then in return. It’s the right thing t o do.
6. STAY TRUE TO YOURSELF AND STICK WITH IT
Be you and only you. Don’t try to copy other sites or personalities as it will show and people will see that. Copying will not help anyone gain success in blogging. You can take ideas of others but be yourself all the time.
When this site started I worked 12-14 hours a day on it..and I did this for at least 2 1/2 years. These days I work 8-9 hours a day, 6 days a week. I am dedicated and I love what I do. I do not wake up and say “Damn, I have to go write an article or answer email”..instead I say “I am blessed to be able to do what I love to do”. So I am dedicated because I love what i do! Dedication and hard work will pay off over time. TIP: Update your blog daily but do not burn out!
To create, design and maintain a website does require some creativity. So be sure you know the basics and every day could be a new learning experience. Be creative and do not be afraid to explore things outside of the box.
BE ORIGINAL!! Ties in with being yourself but if I have to repeat it I will. Do not copy others..pave your own way. When I started my site 3 1/2 years ago NO ONE was doing real world reviews. They were ALL technical and boring. ALL OF THEM. Some love the tech reviews but I could never sit through all of them and read every word. I started this site because it was what I WANTED to see in a photography site. It has since morphed into exactly what I wanted from the get go..a site created by me and by all of you with a community that participates not only in comments but in guest articles as well. I remember posting guest articles and months later DPReview, the head honcho of all photo sites started to do the same and then other sites joined in doing it as well. Other sites would even e-mail guys who wrote for me to try to get them to write for them. Lol. Community is key and this site does not even have a forum yet most major articles get hundreds of comments. I think this is awesome and is a testament to positivity, energy and real world reports as well as the amazing people who come here to visit and hang. Awesome.
10. NEVER FEAR and JUST DO IT!
It may be scary starting a blog from scratch but never fear! Go forward and do what you feel. Don’t be afraid to write what is really on your mind. Don’t be afraid to make someone mad if it is warranted and do not be afraid to tell the truth all of the time. Push the envelope and always create but the most important 1st step after having the passion is getting of your behind and MAKING the blog. Once you get it started it will flow like water…just have to make it over the initial hump.
Follow those ten points and your blogging adventure will be off to a great start. There is much more of course to the whole big picture but most of it can be figured out as you go. I am still learning and imagine I will still be 5 more years from now, just as I am doing with Photography. Blogging can be fun, fill up spare time for hobbyists, make some extra cash for those who want to do something they love at the same time and it can also be a life changing experience. It’s not and never is easy but for me, I wouldn’t dream of doing much of anything else right now.
Great tips. Thanks for sharing.
Creating a successful blog is the dream of every bloggers but it happens with very few. Since, i am a newbies in this field so such kind of article motivate me and inspire me to take my blog on next level. Thank you so much for sharing this mind-blowing tips and tricks.
Enjoyed your writing style 🙂
I bought the Fuji X-Pro 1 with the Leica M mount after doing extensive on line research inc. your blog. I’ve been vacillating about whether or not the Fuji X Pro 1 is going to be “up for the job” at the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop in Antigua, Guatemala in July 2014. To date I’ve used primarily the LEICA M6 with film. Thanks for an example of Fuji X-Pro 1 professional quality images in his post.
Great tips steve. Something I seem to lack a lot is dedication. But after reading your perspective on it, I want to tack blog making with a open mind again.
Do you know if this website is a decent guide? – http://www.trafficrescue.com/
This is by far the most helpful post I have seen about starting a blog, I am a budding blogger, and really started with no plan at all. Now I find myself writing all the time about my passions: my kids, our cats, our dogs and the adventures we have together, lord they abound. Your tips were positive, true, and clear. Thank you. This read was my favorite of the day.
Awesome advice! I read the whole thing from start to finish. Thank you I learned a lot!
This post is really inspiring. I just recently started my own blog over at http://www.TheBlogAge.com and your insight has motivated me to really step my game up. I’m already passionate and love what I do but reading this post has given me the extra “push” that I need. Thanks again and best of luck to you!
Wow . . . Well said!
I have been blogging for a while, failed a lot but i also learned a lot. i know the commitment and passion it takes . . . so thank you for sharing this.
I have quite a bit to go still, but your success inspires me, so i will keep going.
Building a successful blog cannot be easy, but if you apply some of these awesome tips that you have shared in this article it is sure going to make it easy for anyone.
Your words are so true! I wish you the best both for your blog and in life.
Blogs are fun but to keep one going you need a lot of passion and drive to do it.
Wow, thanks! You’re dedication really shows even in this post! I just started my first own blog about travelling and trying to spread the word about it.
I actually found this while looking for blogging advice, but I know several friends who will go nuts over this blog because they love photography. Keep the dream alive!
Love your post….PASSION is a great number one.
Thanks for putting down these thoughts. As a new blogger, I love learning from all different genres about what blogging can be. Your genuinely honest approach shows through in your information.
Your blog shows the time and energy needed to create it. I like the use of the word “passion.” There’s not enough people passionate enough about things to speak, act or change things. Keep snapping. I’m impressed with your success!
This is a very powerful advice on blogging in fact after reading it, I went straight to my blog “Kiasman World” and did some comparisons to the advices stated here and made a few changes to reflect some useful advices I found in this article.
What I magnify mostly to bloggers is the passion to do what they love most, writing and sharing to the world. If someone has a real desire for what he does, then the rest is easy for him.
I also emphasize on creativity not only in design but also on the content, a good knowledge of the language a blogger uses (English, German, Spanish etc) is fundamental to producing wonderful content that will keep people coming for more.
You have really listed great points on how you should really be blogging in order to be successful. Newbie bloggers tend to give up easily when they don’t exactly know why they are doing. They just blog for money and don’t have any passion to it at all, that’s why many of this bloggers fail.
I also wanted to add, as for my own experience, what newbie bloggers should have also is the a thing that pushes them to keep going, the motivation and inspiration. Without this, they really tend to quit easily.
I have also made a blog regarding how newbie bloggers should start. I have collected advice from some of the powerful bloggers online from an interview and posted it on my blog. For me, it will help them on how they should be blogging. I really like also your blog post. I have enjoyed reading it.
I just wanna add the point, maybe we can add SPIRIT and STAY FOCUS, sometimes many blogger lost their spirit for few month and not focus because of other jobs, so we can to reduce that as best as we can.
Great post steve – like others here, I discovered your site whilst looking for reviews on the original NEX 5 and the Pentax K7. I got the Pentax partly becuase of your excellent review (and the wonderful FA 43mm limited lens). You also prompted me to get the NEX 5N monster (to quote you!), though that got traded in for the fantastic X100, which you also “sold” me on! So I feel your blog has had a great positive influence on my photographic journey which reignited a few years ago with the Leica D-Lux 4 and a photography course at Oxford School of Photography, here in the UK.
You also inspired my own blog (www.photonbox.co.uk), which I view as much as a photographic diary. It’s a great way enjoy a daily dose of photographic inspiration, comment or review. I hope if I’ve stolen any ideas, it’s seen as a compliment and as I continue to tinker away I’ll find my own voice…and improve my photography.
I first came upon this site while I was researching the most talked about camera then(Fuji X100). I enjoy your candid and unbiased reviews and have made purchasing decisions on your recommendations. Not one was a regret. Thanks for being you.
You forgot to put;
11,…..Do not go on a cruise during photokina.
12,…….Do not have a fit just because somebody doesn’t agree with you.People might think your a little childish.
Agreed, moderators sometimes need moderating. It all gets a bit rose tinted when certain brands appear
Quite interesting article, I found this blog by chance just few months ago and glad I did.
As you said it has everything we wanted to see in a photography blog..the real life reviews and most important the SPIRIT.
Just let me add few words to yours, pride..I know this sounds odd somewhat but yes it really annoys me seeing photographers begging for donations etc…appreciate yourself and what you do and people will appreciate both, you and your work.
If you want to help someone.. you don’t beg him so he allows you to help him and you don’t trade in your family! simply.
Thanks Steve and G’day everyone.
This is a great site which I visit daily, but I have to agree with your point that running a blog is hard work which not only takes dedication but a lot of time and effort as well..I ran one for a little over 8 months whilst also doing a full time day job, in the end something had to give, and so I closed my blog down, but as Steve has pointed out if your Site is succesfull then doors do open , with my blog running only a short time I was given the chance to visit Canada, Sadly through work commitments I had to decline, So all I well add is that we have to give full credit and applaud anyone who runs a succesull Blog even if we dont always agree with whats written… Kind Regards Clive
First, congratulations on the success and stature of this site. I don’t think a lot of people think of it as a blog but that’s what it is and it’s a great model for those of us who are attempting to come after you, and hopefully fill a niche or two that doesn’t copy or overlap what you’re doing here. And thank you for the advice, I will certainly take it all to heart. And lastly, thanks for the site itself and the years of inspiration that it provided to me.
Oh, and thanks for publishing my pieces. I don’t know if you ever caught the whole story but the Disappointment at Dealey Plaza piece was picked up by Vanity Fair’s James Wolcott, where it was seen by Robert Wolinski at the Dallas Observer, where it caused a stink that, reportedly led to the Dallas city council setting aside up to 2.5 million dollars for repairs at Dealey Plaza.
Hello! lol. Anyway. Thank you for everything and continued good luck.
Great article. It’s the guest articles and daily inspiration that do it for me, it keeps your site interesting and worth returning to every day as it provides a more balanced view of photography than other blogs. Other blogs lose their appeal over time as I eventually tire of only reading one or two persons opinions.
Now that is Giving something back to Your readers Steve- helping them compete with you and advising on how to make a good fist of doing it.
There is still, however, only ONE Steve Huff.
Thanks so much Rich!
I have been coming here for at least a couple of years now, Usually a couple times a day. I bought my Nex5n based on your review and value your opinions over most others. It is because you really USE the cameras and you have a great eye. I loved that pick of just the fruit bowl in your house in the NEX5N review:) I have to say what got me interested enough to come back more than once from the first google search was the Seal connection— added some weight to your opinions. I went to Ken Rockwells site once just to check it out after hearing about it here. Personally I can’t stand his site, he comes across like he is still in high school imho. Best of luck in the future, love your passion!
P.S. Google log in would be nice.
Thanks Stephen! Will look into Google Log in..should be easy 🙂
Steve, your blog is a first stop for whenever I find the time. I have learned loads, been inspired and made purchase decisions after reading you blog. I like Ken’s site and DPreview and visit there every week or so, but yours is my daily read. My fix. So thanks Steve.
Thank YOU for reading!
Thanks Steve for sharing, I’m running my photoblog for over 8 years now, and I very often wonder if there’s still a point. Well I definitely don’t have tons of reader, but as you say I didn’t start it for money or fame, but as a part of my passion for photography and to get some feedback.
I started with a 2mp sony pocketable with a screen smaller than my fingernail and full auto usage, doing very naïve pics (http://a-tension.eu/index.php?x=browse&category=43&pagenum=1) and ended up with too many tools, old and new, but some better-composed better-processed pics (http://a-tension.eu/index.php?x=browse&category=47&pagenum=1) and more and more addiction with every year passing.
I have to say we’re lucky to have blogs like yours, it helps keeping hardware-lust to a safe 50% and looking at other’s picture on a daily basis. So many people around me seem to shoot nothing but flowers in their gardens to show their newest lens bokeh (flowers are brickwalls sidekick I guess) and don’t take risk anymore trying to shooting original stuff…
after I was done creating my free blog site at WordPress.com, I wanted to know how to get my supposed audience know about my blog. I googled for help and I got the satisfactory advice from you. Thank to both you and Google for locating your blog for me to answer my questions.
Hey Steve, is advertising is the only source of income on your blog?
Well yes and no..affiliate and advertising
Kudos Steve!!! You deserve the passion and love to keep the desire between your readers! I’m truely inspired!
Deepest regards, Jeffrey Dam
The most important
To not want your blog to be a success
Same as when I said do not do it for $$..do it for love.
Its like trying to find love harder we try the further we seem.
When we not trying it just happens
Thank you Steve for your insight. It’s nice to know what you do and what it takes to do it.
But I wonder how one would be able to start a blog today based on a 9 -14 hours a day commitment with almost no guaranteed income from it. So how does one make a living? Unless you are retired, inhereted money or have won the lottery I do not see how one can start a blog, go to work, and still have time for family. Don’t get me wrong, I believe if there is a will there is a way. But at what expense? I wonder.
Anyway, I like what you are able to do and provide for all photography enthusiasts and I hope that one day Amazon pays you millions for your website.
Well done Steve. Being an enthusiast is something special that leads you into success and attract people. This easily shows when people do something they really like to do and not only as a “must be done” stuff. This may lead to some less inaccurate reviews / reports due to preferences for some products but that’s how field reports shell be.
The best equipment isn’t going to the best specked one, but actually the one you feel eager to use and get you excited with the results. What does it matter for common people if camera “x” has more accurate colors or less noise, and you happen not to like that reality. 99% of people prefer the warmer and vibrant colors of my EOS600 instead of Nikon’s D7000 accuracy – in standard settings.
I see people happy with just using cell phone cameras, they’re always ready for a shot at your hands. I now almost only use my RX100. It has many faults but I simply love using it and get some great results before going for bulky gear. It goes everywhere with me. I may not be able to take better and clean photographs with my D7000 or EOS if they hibernate at home, right?
It is very pleasant when I cross with people who really enjoy the art of photography and get fun with it, whether using top or just common spec gear. You have to like it, otherwise you end up comparing spec sheets and trading equipment every half a year…
Keep it going Steve.
I have been a silent reader for about a year now. Just started my blog about Amsterdam yesterday. A coincidence, maybe.
Inspired by you, and because I wanted to do more with the many photos I take in this city.
I bought my 5N after reading Steve’s review. I still like it very much. It works very well with Leica R lenses I purchased recently.
Also you got to have a “hater deflector”. Some people (cowards) have written some harsh words on this site and others. It hurts at first but just let it wash over you and keep doing what you are doing!
Great post Steve! All of these point not only apply to a blog, but to life in general. Anything you do should be done with passion and love. Negativity will always isolate you in one way or another.
My motto is, Do what you love and never give up.
Great list, great post. I surely hope your website stays alive for as long as you want to since its been a breath of fresh air for all the other ones I have seen. I ADORE this website and you sincere, no nonsense view on things.
Although mine is not commercial at all, I am starting to put more time on it and so far I am seeing great results!
It gets nowhere near as many hits as others though, LOL! 😉
Awesome! Thanks for reading and the kind words!
Great list. Running a blog is hard work. I think one element that is important is consistency. Knowing that new entries will be available almost every day makes a blog part of a daily routine. LL gets away with maybe 2-3 entries per week but they are consistent with that as well. I run a little blog on the side and while my goal was to do entires every week, I am happy to have one per months. Adding outside content may help, like your daily inspirations and guest blogs. Those keep feeding the blog and take off some of the work load. Great work so far, Steve. Keep it coming. I saw your boat yesterday in Boston. The day looked spectacular for photography. Looking forward seeing the results. D!RK
Steve, is there something funky with the passengers hands in pic 3?
Leica still doesn’t care about you … Especially now.
Lol..nice to see you again Mr. Anonymous 🙂 You must be one of those guys I write about..hahahaha. Enjoy your weekend!
I really have to take my hat off to you, Steve. I also hope ( not being sarcastic) that you make at least more then 700 a month from this site. Cheers.
Well done Steve! By the way, i found your blog because of the NEX-5N and stay with you (almost) every single day 😉
I found this site while researching M43 cameras. The EPL-1 review helped me decide to buy the EPL-1. I haven’t regretted that decision.
Good job Steve! please keep this site alive!
Steve, I read your site every day. Keep it up, especially the “positivity” and love you put into this! Best to you!
Nice one Steve. As you say, there is no such thing as a free lunch. There’s lots of work behind a successful website. Dream of easy money? Well most sites don’t even make little money. It’s a dedication thing. And content, content, content. Additionally, one might add that’s it’s more and more complex to start a new blog from scratch, just to mention SEO, hacker attacks, slow servers, CPU throttling, and so on. It’s a highly complex undertaking, that was easier a few years ago. But then again, content content content delivers. That’s what makes your site so strong!
but if even one of these rules are wrong then any of them can be wrong, then all these points go straight out the window.
even ken rockwell hasnt #4 and is many times more succesfulled blog. lumimous landscapes also makes some ludicrous posts for hitrates and gets em. and where is the most important point in a blog – honesty??? whether a product sucks or not.
i want make my blog sucessfully can u give me some tips for me………….?