As blogging continues to grow as a method of sharing information and solving problems, so does its ability to generate revenue and become a source of income for writers and publishers who grow an audience and are able to attract traffic to their blog posts.
Those bloggers who have stuck with it long enough or have found a content niche that drives enough traffic are lucky enough to leave their “day jobs” and embark full-time into the world of blogging.
I count myself as fortunate enough to have accomplished the goal of being a professional blogger, so I thought I would share some tips for those who are interested in trying to grow their traffic in a way that it not only generates revenue, but actually becomes profitable.
This post is primarily for those who have already started their blog and are working to grow traffic. I always like to share the potential pitfalls so you can avoid falling into these potentially dangerous traps.
What is a professional blogger?
In order to first understand the mistakes that professional (and novice) bloggers make, we first have to set some parameters around the question what does it mean to be a professional blogger? For me, the key element is the word “professional”. Regardless of what activity you are engaged in, you can’t be a professional at it unless you are able to make money doing it.
But for me, the definition of professional requires something additional.
It means not only do you need to generate income…it means you HAVE to generate a profit. And not just any level of profit. To be a professional blogger, you need to generate enough profit that you could live off the income.
It means that you could quit your “day job” and just write blog posts for a living. You could pay your mortgage, you could pay your utilities, you could buy food. Basically, you make enough from your blogging activities to earn an actual living.
That’s what it means to be a professional blogger.
NOTE: I am not, in any way, belittling those who don’t make a living blogging. I’m not calling them “unprofessional” or “not professional”. I’m just saying that, in my opinion, a professional blogger is someone who does it for a living.
So how do you calculate whether you are blogging professional? It simple.
- Add up all your personal monthly bills. Things not related to your blogging business like your rent or mortgage, your car payment, your health insurance, food costs, entertainment, etc…
- Calculate the revenue you earned for the month from your blogging activities. This would include ad revenue, affiliate earnings, sponsored content, etc…
- Calculate your monthly business operational expense (aka OpEx) and could be things like hosting costs, cost of a computer, any subscription fees like Canva or Adobe Creative Suite, services like Quickbooks, or your payroll processing fee. Basically, any monthly fees that you pay to keep your blogging business running.
- Subtract your OpEx from your Revenue. This is your monthly blogging profit.
- Now…subtract your personal monthly bills from your blogging profit.
If there is money left over after subtracting your monthly bills…congrats. You are a professional blogger.
If there is a deficit, it doesn’t mean you aren’t doing amazing things…just keep writing, publishing, and sharing. You’ll get there!
NOTE: Some people don’t necessarily want to become a professional blogger. They want to enjoy their writing and maybe earn a little extra cash on the side. There is NOTHING wrong with that and I applaud them. Keep on doing you!
To become a professional blogger, it takes a lot of time, energy, dedication, and patience. You have to be a writer, editor, graphic designer, technologist, and innovator. For many they also need to be videographers, research experts, and an expert in their focus niche.
It’s not easy. And it takes a lot of effort.
Which is often why some professional bloggers continue to make the mistakes we’re going to discuss below. While some of these are “rookie mistakes”, they also can occur at the pro level because professionals are often really busy trying to grow their content and just run out of time to get everything done.
If you read the mistakes below and find yourself identifying with some of them, don’t be too hard on yourself. We all only have 24 hours in the day and we have to prioritize.
If you do recognize a mistake or two below that might impact your blog, novice or professional, be sure to put the remediation step on your to-do list so you take care of it.
How do I know that these mistakes are being made by professional bloggers?
Because I work with a lot of different pro bloggers and I consult private forums of professional bloggers on a daily basis. Each of these mistakes below came directly from a conversation or online dialog with a person who I know makes a living via their content.
Blogging mistake #1 – Not paying for high quality hosting
Discount hosts are bad for your blog. They might be good for your budget, but sooner or later you will regret not paying for a high quality host.
What should you look for in a WordPress host?
- They are proud of their security features
- They offer nightly backups and they allow you to create and restore backups manually
- The offer secure FTP (see the section on FTP below)
- They focus heavily on speed
- They have responsive customer support that can be reached via multiple channels (phone, email, chat)
- They place limitations on services like storage, bandwidth, inodes, etc.. (While it limits you, it helps ensure that others on a shared server don’t abuse the services and take down your site)
- They are competitively priced, but not cheap.
Blogging mistake #2 – Not securing your site properly
This is a big one. To properly secure your WordPress site, you need to:
- Use strong passwords – This is a must to keep hackers at bay.
- Implement a security plugin – Tools like iThemes Security and WordFence can keep hackers from attacking your site and gaining access to your WordPress console.
- Change your password frequently – I recommend changing your password every three months…and not just your admin password. Change your FTP password and the password to services like Mailchimp, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc…Don’t believe me about how important this is? Take five minutes and read the comments on this post of people lamenting that their Facebook account has been hacked and they can’t get in touch with Facebook.
- Use 2 Factor Authentication – Use 2FA not just for your blog, but for all your accounts.
It’s important for all bloggers, novice or professional, to take their site security seriously.
Blogging mistake #3 – Slow site speed
In case you haven’t noticed, Google has been sending VERY clear messages to the blogging community that site speed is becoming more and more important. The Google Core Web Vitals exercise, the Google Page Speed Insights tool, and a host of blog posts directly from Google are all messages that indicate that
GOOGLE WANTS YOUR SITE TO BE FAST!
If you are ignoring site speed because it sounds hard or you just don’t know where to start, then it’s time you stop fantasizing that this is going to go away and buckle down and start fixing your site.
I wrote an entire blog post about the steps you can take to evaluate and speed up your site. If you dedicate the time, you could complete the exercise in a weekend.
Any enhancement in speed is a good step in the right direction. Don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t passing core web vitals yet. Just take steps toward progress.
As a teaser to the exercise, the most common causes of a slow WordPress site are:
- Too many plugins
- Poorly coded plugins
- Poorly Coded theme
- Too many external service calls
Once you go through the process of understanding which element or elements are slowing down your site, you can fix them and see those page load times decrease.
Blogging mistake #4 – Not updating plugins regularly
This one is just plain laziness. If you own a WordPress site, you should be updating your plugins on a weekly basis. If you have optimized your site for speed, you should be running fewer than 15 high-quality plugins, so updating them should be easy and should never break your site.
If updating a plugin breaks your site, find out where the conflict is occurring and consider getting rid of the plugin.
Keep your plugins up-to-date to keep the hackers out.
Blogging mistake #5 – Outdated theme that isn’t commercially supported
I get it. It’s tough to get rid of that theme you have been using for the last 5 years. It seemed right at the time and it fit your needs, but now the developer has stopped updating it and it’s not even listed in the WordPress theme directory anymore.
Not only that, but it’s slowing down your site and you’re worried that it’s hasn’t been updated for at least 3 major versions of WordPress and it might have a few security holes.
Yes. It’s hard to give up old things.
But that is no reason to put your blog at risk. Set up a staging site. Try a few new themes. Find one that is fast, dependable, and is supported by the developer so you know that it’s going to stay up-to-date in the future.
Blogging mistake #6 – Not backing up their site and understanding how to restore it
It always surprises me when I talk to a professional blogger who doesn’t know whether their host is backing up their site or how to do a restore if they needed to.
Trust me…all it takes is one hack and you’ll wish you knew every iota of information about backups and restores.
If you don’t know whether your host is backing up your site, find out today. If you don’t know how to restore your site from a previous backup, find out today. If you don’t know how to conduct a periodic backup….find out NOW.
If you find out that your host isn’t doing nightly backups, get a new host. While you’re in the process of finding a new host and moving your site, use a plugin like Updraft to run a manual backup and be sure to use FTP to download those backup files so they are stored on your local machine for safe-keeping.
Blogging mistake #7 – Not having an FTP account and understanding how to use it
Speaking of FTP, if you don’t now what FTP is, how to use it, and have it already configured to use on your machine, now is the time to learn.
FTP is your best friend when a plugin conflict causes your site to break. It’s your best friend when a theme update goes wrong. It’s how you can bulk download and upload files faster than using the browser-based cPanel or site tools offered by your host.
It’s an important tool to understand if you’re going to be a professional blogger.
Blogging mistake #8 – Not leveraging their email list to its fullest
You do have a signup form for your visitors to subscribe to your email list, right?
And you are sending periodic updates to them about your content so they will return back to your site, right?
Email lists are the gift that keep on giving if you use them right. These are people who like your content so much that they gave you your email address so you can communicate with them. In my opinion, that’s better than a Facebook like, Pinterest pin, and Instagram save combined.
Oh yeah, did I mention that you can get a FREE Mailchimp account that remains free until you reach 2,000 subscribers? In other words, there is no earthly reason not to have an email list and use it to engage your visitors.
Blogging mistake #9 – Pinning all their traffic hopes on one channel (like Pinterest)
I cannot tell you how many stories I have heard from professional bloggers who’s income tanked because Pinterest stopped sending them traffic or Google released an algorithm update.
Your blog traffic should be like your investment portfolio. Diversified.
Personally, I love organic traffic so I strive to have 75% of my traffic coming from search. The other 25% I try to diversify with email traffic, social media, and referral links.
By doing that, it can help ensure that one source of traffic taking a dip doesn’t wholly kill your revenue.
Blogging mistake #10 – Not learning (and applying) the fundamentals of search engine optimization.
If you don’t understand the fundamentals of SEO, but you are earning a living blogging, then congrats to you. You write well and you write for your audience.
Now it’s time to REALLY skyrocket your traffic by learning how to use a tool like SEMRush to optimize your older posts and expand your keyword reach for search. Using some basis SEO concepts, you can further enhance your content to bring in even more traffic….and more revenue.
A few SEO concepts that are really important:
- Every image should have an optimized alt tag
- Every headline or section should use heading tags
- Image file names should accurately reflect the content in the image
- Video files should be hosted on services like YouTube or Vimeo, not on your web server
- Important keywords should be used in your title and headings
- Keywords should NOT be overused or “stuffed”
- No SEO plugin will tell you whether your article is good or bad. Do not try to make all the little stoplights in Yoast green. This leads to over-optimization.
So there you have it, 10 mistakes that even some professional WordPress bloggers make.
I can honestly tell you that at some time in my blogging career, I made ALL of these mistakes. I hope this list helps you improve your security, writing, and eventually your traffic.
Did I leave something off the list? Be sure to add a comment so others can benefit from your input.