Why I Quit Blogging (and What to Do If You're Struggling)

About four years ago, I quit blogging.

It wasn't anything dramatic. I didn't get drunk, delete my blog in a fit of rage, and tell everyone on twitter to go to hell (although I've been tempted).

No, I just kind of walked away. I stopped posting, let the blog go stale, and then canceled the hosting account.

The best way I know to describe is it was a kind of "learned helplessness."

I wrote lots of great content, but no one linked to it. I optimized for search engines, but I couldn't find my site anywhere in the first 100 pages. I tried submitting my posts to social bookmarking sites like Digg.com, but I couldn't pick up a single vote.

Eventually, you just get fed up, you know?

You do everything popular bloggers tell you to do, but it doesn't work, and so you feel like, "What's the point?" Obviously, you're doing something wrong, but you have no idea what it is.

And so you quit.

At Copyblogger, I've called it the glass ceiling of the blogosphere. If you do everything people tell you to do, you can get up to about 100 visitors a day, but then it's like you hit an invisible wall, and you can't go any further.

For me, it didn't just happen once. It happened three times in two separate niches. At first, I thought it was just the topic, but then when the same exact thing happened to me with a different topic, I knew something else was up.

And the honest truth?

I never figured it out. Big, fancy pants "traffic genius" Jon Morrow couldn't put two and two together.

After about six months of licking my wounds and thinking about it, I finally decided to hire Chris Garrett (co-author of the Problogger book) to look at everything and tell me what I was doing wrong.

Here's what he told me:

Nobody knows who you are.

At first, I didn't get it. I said, "Yeah, but isn't that the point of publishing great content? You write lots of great stuff, and then the word spreads, and popular bloggers find out about you?"

"No," he said. "Popular bloggers find out about who you are, and THEN they read your content, and THEN they link to you. Connections come first. Great content comes second."

You see, I had it backwards.

I thought great content led to connections, but really, it's the other way around. Feeling like an idiot, I decided to give it a shot.

I wrote about the same topics. My writing didn't improve at all. I promoted my posts in exactly the same way.

The only difference was I made some friends with popular bloggers first, and then I asked them to help me promote it. Here's what happened:

Within one month, I was averaging 1000 visitors a day from StumbleUpon, Delicious, and Digg. Why? Because I got to know Brian Clark, and he connected me with social media power users who promoted my posts.

I got nominated for the Best Business/Money Blog in the world. Guess who was on the nomination committee? Yep: Chris Garrett. I'd love to think it was a coincidence, but I know it's not.

I got linked to by Lifehacker, one of the most popular blogs in the world. How? Brian introduced me to Tamar Weinberg, who wrote for Lifehacker at the time, and I wrote posts I knew she would be interested in.

One thing led to another until, nowadays, I know almost everybody.

The Power of Connections

Sure, I've improved as a writer since then, but what really makes it possible to get so much traffic is all of the connections I've picked up over the years. Recently, I helped a consulting client launch a new blog, and we picked up something like 200,000 unique visitors within two months, starting from nothing.

How?

Connections.

I'm not saying great content is superfluous. It's not. You just need connections before it matters.

The cool thing?

Guest blogging helps you get both

Everyday, popular bloggers wake up with tens of thousands of readers hungry for something insightful, fresh, and amazing, and they have to keep them supplied. Privately, we call it "Feeding the content beast."

And so what's the one thing you can offer them that they'll always be interested in?

Guest posts.

They don't just want them. They need them. And if you can become a reliable provider, most will want to get to know you and do everything they can to help you, including introduce you to other powerful people.

Also, your content gets better the longer you write for them.

For the past three years, I've written for Copyblogger, and Brian Clark has edited my posts and given me feedback. Do you think that helped my writing? You betcha.

I go through my posts word for word, line by line and look closely at what he changed. It's taught me more about writing than a degree in English Literature.

The coolest part is the price. For three years now, I've been mentored by one of the best writers in the world, and it didn't cost me a dime. In fact, he paid me.

Of course, you might say, "Well, that's easy for you to do. You're in the blogging niche where there are tons of huge blogs. In my niche, there aren't any big blogs to write for, so obviously this won't work for me."

But listen to this:

My first popular blog was about lessons I learned from investing in real estate. Guess how many popular real estate investing blogs there are? Zero. If you don't believe me, Google it. The closest big niche is personal finance, and I didn't write for any of those blogs either (although I should have).

The truth is, it doesn't matter. You're targeting readers, not topics. I wrote for Copyblogger because most bloggers are interested in learning how to make more money. The same thing for Brazen Careerist. Your career is a big part of your income, and so I wanted those people.

You can do the same thing for any niche. I've had students who focused on drawing stick figures, vegetarian fitness, and even a blog about nothing but tomatoes. We found related popular blogs for all of them.

The point?

You can do this.

If you've been struggling, it isn't because you're a bad blogger. It's because you're trying to do it all by yourself.

Getting your blog going isn't about learning yet another traffic strategy. It's about surrounding yourself with powerful people who can support you, and the best way I know to do that is guest blogging.

Granted, maybe you're stuck in the whole "learned helplessness" phase, and you can’t believe it'll work for you. If that's the case, here's the deal:

I'm probably going to regret this, but if you're wondering whether guest blogging will work for your topic, leave me a comment below, and I'll take a look at your blog. Try to keep it as short as you can (no more than three paragraphs, please), telling me what your blog is about, who your readers are, and what you're hoping to accomplish.

If you'll do that, then I'll do for you what Chris Garrett did for me: I'll personally respond back to you and give you some ideas. Free charge.

Fair enough?

Well then, what are you waiting for? Get started writing that comment! :-)

Amazingly, we are at over 2,500 comments now, and we've been able to answer every one of 'em. It's a lot of work, of course, and I've considered closing the comment form, but everyone seems to be getting a lot out of this, so instead, I've handed over the answering duties to my Assistant Instructor Marsha Stopa. You'll be able to get a much faster response from her, and she knows this stuff just as well as I do. So, have at it! Marsha is waiting for ya. :-)

2,809 Comments

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  2. Elda Dorothy
    Nov 25, 2014 @ 09:28:26

    Marsha and Jon,

    Thank you so much for this!

    1) my blog is about helping people who are estranged from family members find ways to cope by seeing things from a different perspective 2) my readers are people who are feeling emotional pain over not having certain family members who are still alive be a part of their life 3) I am hoping to make a connection with readers so that they will be interested in hiring me for my services- "Revealing and healing the pain of family estrangement"

    With much gratitude to you both!

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  4. Pat
    Nov 20, 2014 @ 23:16:36

    This is sooo cool!
    http://www.ingzig.com celebrates the Art of Everyday Earnest Effort, aka, 3E. It's rooted in personal growth and achievement/satisfaction (a pretty big genre).
    I feel I'm ready to start guest blogging, would like to build my email list (just completed a 13,000 word ebook I'd like to offer for free in exchange for your subscription).
    I also have t shirts ready for ecommerce. This will be my primary source of income.
    Note: This is not yet another "How to" reach your goals or realize your dreams sorta site. But rather a "Tribute to" all it takes to potentially do so.
    Takes for your time and input,

    You guys rock!

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  5. Jula Pereira
    Nov 20, 2014 @ 10:16:10

    Hi John and Marsha, I just started my website about having a childfree life. It's called http://www.nokidwoman.com. I've been following your advice already, John, and have a few guest posts lined up. My main question is whether I need to always write specifically about the chidfree theme or can I include other tidbits about writing and other non-related activities from my life? Thanks so much for your help!

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  6. Jodi Lea Stewart
    Nov 17, 2014 @ 15:26:39

    As a fiction author who writes sassy adventure books set in the Southwest, finding a blogging niche has been difficult. Because I love humor, and also have a journalism background, I find myself writing humor "essays" or columns for my blogs. I've blogged about the Navajos and their culture/heritage, since my first series is set in the Navajo Nation. Also, I've written about cacti, fry bread, mules, horses and other Southwest interest points to appeal to readers who enjoy my novels. A subtopic running throughout my blog is food because that's part of whom I am as well.

    I appear to be all over the place, and can't decide if continuing to blog is worth it. I'm required to build a social platform as an author, and a big part of that is blogging. However, without a specific niche that many non-fiction bloggers enjoy (i.e., psychology, social media marketing, finance), I'm more than a little lost. As a result, I haven't blogged since this past June. Help?

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  7. Smoomander
    Nov 16, 2014 @ 12:06:56

    Dear Jon and Marsha,

    K.I.S.S so here goes:
    Telling me what your blog is about: Tagline is a girlie view on HK living and globe trotting. In short, it's about a Canadian girl who has just moved to HK and wants to document the funnies of living in HK, and the other part is about travelling around South East Asia because HK is a great hub to do so!

    Who your readers are: My target market is basically someone like myself. An expat or a person that's not born in HK and is not in HK because of work or school. They're probably around the 20-40 year old range.

    What you're hoping to accomplish: mmm... get viewership? Trying to see if I can get enough traffic to do this full time!

    Looking forward to your response. Thanks.

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    My website is about helping people to manage their finances in the UK.

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  10. Debashish
    Nov 13, 2014 @ 11:06:09

    Hi Jon & Marsha,
    I'm going to keep this short, like you asked.
    My blog is about - helping people quit their soul sucking corporate jobs, and making their first $1k online, so they can start living the life of their dreams.
    My readers are - frustrated corporate employees who have been in the corporate rat race for 5-7 years, and are looking for a way to escape. They have no idea where to begin, or how to even plan their escape into a life where they can live their dreams.
    What I'm hoping to accomplish - help at least 50 such people quit their corporate gigs, and transition into building their own lifestyle business.

    Would to hear your thoughts on this.

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  12. Chauncey Gilliam
    Nov 11, 2014 @ 15:38:44

    Hi Jon and Marsha, I a new style blogger and I only recently created Hype X Edge, http://www.hypexedge.com. As much as I talk about it and as passionate as I am about it, no one even my friends are reading it. I have no idea what to do and I'm worried this is a sign I should quit.

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  13. Vicky Poutas
    Nov 11, 2014 @ 03:42:20

    Hey Marsha,
    Nobody can say you're not earning your salary! My website just went up a few days ago, so there's really nothing on it but my home page blurb about being a freelance writer, and a few posts I've labeled "portfolio" to give editors a chance to see the versatility of my writing style (read that, "I don't have many published articles"). Anyway, I've been playing around with the idea of starting a blog about (gasp!) mental illness. I would write each post about a different type of mental illness, the pain it brings to the sufferer, the stigma involved in being mentally ill and offer up some well-researched and well-sourced bits of advice for those suffering from this tragic disease. I know of no other disease where there is so little sympathy for the afflicted; and people don't want to tell you they're suffering from depression or that they're bi-polar because they're afraid of that stigma - of being judged and found wanting - of being considered weak, or better yet, "crazy." But, these people need to hear that they're normal and that, for the most part, what they're going through can be controlled through therapy, medication and support from other sufferers. It's good to know that you're not the only person in the world that finds it monumentally hard to simply get up and brush your teeth in the morning, and it's even better to know that there is help and hope. The biggest source of help I'd like to provide are comments from other people who have gone through what someone is going through, and have come out the other side, and how they did it. I'd like to write posts on living with mental illness and how it affects our everyday lives and the lives of people that love us. For instance, depression is not something you can just "snap out of." Many people feel "less-than" because of their illness. I feel that mental health is like dental health. You wouldn't stay home from the dentist if your tooth is throbbing, why stay away from a good Psychiatrist or support group if your soul is aching? It's just like the commercials say, the biggest difference between someone suffering broken ribs and not being able to run a 10K, and someone suffering from depression and not being able to run a 10K is sympathy. I'd like to educate the general public and the afflicted, provide support and knowledge through my articles and through people's comments to each other, and make a dent in the stigma that goes hand in hand with being mentally ill. I want people to know that just because a person has a mental illness, it does not make them a bad person, "less than," or crazy. Mental illness is the "hidden epidemic." I just don't know where to start and how to go about getting subscribers. What do you think? Is there a market?

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  14. Monica Dubay
    Nov 10, 2014 @ 11:55:19

    Hi Marsha and Jon
    I have a blog that is about self-improvement with a spiritual focus, namely how to get started with a self-study book called A Course in Miracles. The blog is called resurrectedmind.com and it is about training the mind to think holistically with an emphasis on releasing fear and guilt. I am in the guest blogging class, so I am probably going to scrap it, but was interested in your take on it, whether it targets too small an audience or if the content is too narrow. I do think a lot of people are interested in the topic, because look at Wayne Dyer, Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra, etc. They use the information in the Course, rehash it and put their personal slant on it and everyone loves it and is helped by their stories. So, I guess I would simply want to know what you think about what I've done and whether you feel I should change my approach for the new blog. Thanks for your feedback!
    Monica
    P.S. Your class rocks!

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    Hello,
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