How to Write A Successful Blog

I have been writing my blog crazygreenthumbs.com for 8 years now. I have had some great experiences with it, and at this point, in April 2021, I’m at a total of approximately 200,700 views. I have been published in a monthly magazine, I have an e-book through Kindle (which is available on Amazon) and I make a few hundred dollars a year directly off of this blog. I’m sure, as you are starting out, this may seem like small potatoes. I think we all start blogs expecting a decent return for time invested. At first, that is often a dream.

My blog will turn 8 this summer.

I have an ebook for sale, but that is the only product I have outside of my weekly posts. This tutorial is based on writing as your main business. If you are selling your own products, then you can definitely make a different profit level than I do.

Get my new e-book on Amazon! It’s free with Kindle Unlimited or $3.99 to purchase. There are projects in this e-book that you won’t find anywhere else, like: a tutorial for my 20 foot spiderweb; Solid, fast human shaped forms and more; plus all of the tutorials you can find on my website. There’s 14 total tutorials and they’re all in one place. Check it out now by clicking on the above photo!

My blog’s popularity has been part very hard work and part luck. Going viral is what we all dream of, and I have had some really great traffic on some types of my posts. Why? Well, I write about what I love and I write about things that I do that are unusual… and then there’s that “luck” part. So far, my writing has been well received.

I started writing only about gardening tips for beginners. I felt very solid in my knowledge of this. I grew up in a military family and we constantly moved. My mother gardened the whole time, and my brother and I were her free help. We moved, and then started over, every couple of years. My mom would go out in the yard of our new house and tear out the grass and plant a beautiful garden. Then we would move and it would be time to plan (and plant) something entirely new. Also, my grandmother’s both had at least 1/2 acre gardens in the mid-west and I learned what I know from three very strong willed, and strong backed women.

A constantly changing garden.

So, my blog started out being solely about gardening and garden related ideas. Then I started adding recipes and tutorials. Somewhere in the third year, I started making up fun, outdoor decorations for the holidays. That’s where the majority of my views have come from. But, my magazine published work, has been about outdoor crafts. Those posts are woven into my gardening entries.

My published work was my post about painting “books” on pavers. You can read it here.

There are three different kinds of readers out there that make up the people who visit my blog. Some are my peers: other bloggers that appreciate my work. They engage and comment and you get to know them through that interaction. That is who reads the majority of my blog entries for the part of the year outside my huge spikes in readership. They are the people who follow my blog and sign up to receive emails when I post. I am lucky enough to add a few every day. My current followers are a little over 3,500 people.

My current average weekly stats fluxuate between about 400-1,000 views a week.

Then there are the readers from pinterest (or other photo platforms). Those are where huge spikes happen for me. But they never follow my blog and they don’t comment. They also generally don’t look around at other blog entries that I have. Those readers sometimes find my blog through aggregate sites (the people who only share other people’s work). If I wanted to make money at blogging and not have to do the hard work of content creation: running an aggregate site is where I would concentrate my efforts.

Aggregate sites are sort of blogging cheaters. We do the hard work of creating content and they go through and skim the best of everything for their own numbers. However, I frequently get a lot of traffic from the larger sites when I agree to let them share my posts. So it’s a give and take, I suppose.

The last type of reader is the “golden unicorn” of readers and that is the people who want to publish your work and pay you for it. These people pay attention to traffic and photo sites like Pinterest. If you have great photos you can attract this type of reader. But even if you regularly sell to magazines you’re looking at about $100 a photo, for each photo that they use. You will not be able to quit your day job for that.

My published work. It’s out right now in stores in the summer edition of: Country Sampler, Farmhouse Style

After analyzing my blog stats for 8 years, I do have some universal tips on how to increase your traffic and some hints for keeping your monetary investment down. These are things that I did in the early years of my blog to get exposure and limit spending.

These days, one of the most important things that I do is that I post regularly. My blog ranks higher now that I have posted weekly for two years. Sometimes I recycle articles, especially in high stress times of the year. This is why I’m grateful that I chose a subject to write about that doesn’t rely on daily news or trends. I also try to write at a level above what I generally feel blogging is made for.

I’ve highlighted my last year’s stats in this photo. You can see that I have tried a lot of different things over the years and most of them were successful. Just keep posting and the rest will follow. Year two and three, were years I had some personal issues and didn’t post often.

I see blog entries like newspaper articles. They are disposable information. If you pick up a newspaper, there are engaging articles all the way through. Someone wrote each one of those articles and we consume the information and then throw the paper away. I feel that there is a similar consumption of information for blogs. People read the article, and then go somewhere else, for something different. I try to write articles that are timeless, I don’t write about experiments until I am sure that they work and gardening is a great format for information that does not age.

When I first started out I put reference links throughout my articles, in case someone wanted more information. I have generally stopped doing that because I have found nobody uses links and that’s a lot of extra work that goes nowhere. Keep this in mind when you link to products. Most people are phobic about opening links. It also takes several steps to set up each product link. There should be a good reason to use your links, or you are just adding time to something that won’t repay you.

I had the option of using WordPress.com and WordPress.org. I use the .com version. The reason behind that choice is that the .com is completely automated. I don’t have to set up a hosting site, an email management system, security etc. I don’t have time to do those things and each one of them costs money. I have a personal account that costs me very little. I have to pay for my web address, that I needed to run advertising and Amazon links. Had I gone with the .org everything would be on me to make sure things are running right, plus: each system I added would be more money going out. If you are making a lot of money off of your blog then .org might make sense. So far, it hasn’t for me.

Also, this is not my full time job. Blogging about what I do in my garden, means that I have to have time to actually be in my garden. So I need all that extra time that I might otherwise be diddling away with the blog’s background administration.

I also did something the first year that I don’t currently have time for, and that was opening up the reader part of WordPress and liking and commenting on other people’s posts. This is a fantastic way to see what else is out there and open up your site to more readers. If you like and comment on someone else’s articles: chances are that some of those people will go to your blog and read your entries. It’s great for reciprocal exposure.

Your reader should be your best friend in the beginning.

If you look up “how to get rich from your blog” or similar terms you will find a whole lot of people who would love to tell you how to make money: if you pay them. Unfortunately, this advice is not what they are using, it’s what they are selling. They should title their blog “How I Make Money Telling You How To Make Money.” They can also be involved in pyramid schemes (the “Fake it ’till you make it” crowd. Those business models are dangerous. You can easily go bankrupt trying to fake what you are making.) Those blogs are also most likely not actually run by the cute young blogger whose photo is posted.

Lying can be big business. Make sure you are OK with potentially losing money trying to learn how to make it, if you sign up for their “master classes”. And yes, I run classes, but mine are free and you don’t need to sign up to read them. I genuinely want to encourage people to learn to garden, so my choice is to focus on reaching the most amount of people instead of creating the most amount of revenue streams. You can find a good balance between sharing everything for free, and getting paid, that won’t drive your readers away. Too much automated advertising and product linking has shown me that you do, in fact, need to find a balance.

Another thing that I do (and I haven’t really seen anyone else point this out) is that I respond to every comment with a grateful and joyous heart. What you are thinking, often plays out more thoroughly in the comment section. I never write anything negative in other people’s comment sections. Nobody needs that. If there’s someone spreading false information: I generally roll my eyes and move on to something else, knowing that readers will not continue following someone whose information isn’t accurate. Their innacuracy will kill their site, I don’t need to personally get involved to try and help that along.

When I have someone (and this has been very rare) who writes something super nasty in my comments, I don’t approve it. The few comments that I have gotten, and not approved, were from people that I’ve never seen in my comments or likes before. I’m guessing that they spread their opinions over the entire internet instead of aim at a single blogger. These people usually don’t ever comment again. They are like a drive by shooter getting their anger out behind the anonymity of online comments. I have to let those people go, and wish them a happier life than what they appear to be having.

Controlling comments is the reason WordPress gives you the option to approve or disapprove them. Immature and negative viewpoints are not necessary. It changes the way your blog is perceived. If you allow a lot of petty arguments to play out: it will detract from your message. It is amazing to me how quickly things devolve into on-line screaming fits in gardening forums. It’s just gardening for God’s sake, not a final review of their manhood (or womanhood). Anyway, that is why I regulate my comments.

So generally, I don’t allow nasty people to run rampant. I especially do not personally reply to angry people. Maybe they are just having a bad day. I wouldn’t want to be memorialized across the internet as a grumpy troll. So, those people who appear as grumpy trolls, don’t get a platform on my blog. I have also seen other bloggers get down in the mud in the comment section, and that was usually the last time I visited their blogs. Just something to think about.

One of the best things I have ever done for my blog is learn to use a good camera for my photos. I don’t buy a bunch of stuff to stage my photos. I don’t make enough off of this blog to do that, so I don’t recommend it. However, learning how to take great photos is essential. I have been taking 10-15 photos a day for the last 13 years. It started out with my kids, and moved into my garden and kitchen. I currently have almost 10,000 photos on my phone (80% are my kids and my pets. But I have quite a few that I take for my blog, so that I always have many per post to choose from.) It is now second nature to take a great photo. My phone’s camera is excellent and I do not have a separate camera for my blog photos… although, I’d love to have one. That’s going to have to be for a future time. I still haven’t maxed out the memory (even after 8 years) that WordPress offers for photos, but I go in and delete unpopular or dated posts and prune out pictures that aren’t in the posts that remain. 

The edition of the magazine that chose to print one of my tutorials.

I am finally at a point where I am looking at expanding the backbone of my blog. I already have my own website address and email address. Adding to this blog will require a long call with the people at WordPress, though. And will take some investment on my end. It’s a gamble to put money into a blog (even after 8 years.) You are not guaranteed to get a return on it. If you are new, I don’t recommend sinking a bunch of money into your blog. See if you can find an audience first. Do all of the “free” stuff before you put money into what could end up being a black hole for cash.

Don’t hire a personal writing coach, or put anything but time and hardwork into a new blog. Use the free options, learn how to work the administrative side and be careful with what you add to your blog (Like paid for plans or themes.) until you know you have a message that resonates with readers. Because: you probably won’t make that money back immediately. It isn’t sexy, and it’s not what we want to hear in the beginning, but it’s the truth.

I also started out using other social media to spread awareness of my blog. I have found little use for places like Facebook. That is built to be a time waster and I use the time I save from not juggling several platforms to go outside and do the things that I write about. Keeping up with multiple social media platforms became a full time, unpaid job. There just needed to be a limit. I ended up deciding using more than one platform was a distraction, instead of a help, for my investment of time and monetary return over the long run. I do still use Pinterest, though. That platform has led to some very successful posts.

I was recently published in the 2021 summer, paper edition of the magazine “Country Sampler, Farmhouse Style”. That was really exciting and I am so grateful that the magazine reached out to me with an offer to pay me for my work. However, I only made about a hundred dollars by allowing them to use a photo from a tutorial. This isn’t an easy way to get rich, for sure.

There are themes for your blog that max out available advertising. I don’t use those. In fact, even in the beginning, when I first qualified for advertising: I turned it off for a while until I could better control it. You don’t want your blog to blast your readers with a bunch of pop-ups and other advertising. I quickly leave sites that do that, and I think the majority of people don’t want to deal with that type of advertising either.

After my viewership spiked in the fourth year, I was able to add advertising to my blog. Then I added Amazon listings. In my most read month last year (in October), I had about 26,000 views. My best single day for views is 1,417. I do not make a whole lot from advertising, even with that type of traffic. Amazon is sometimes a decent avenue for income, but there are people who only write to link to an Amazon product. Your readers won’t follow you long if you do that. I write what I intend to write, and go back and do product links after I’ve finished writing the article. Product linking truly has no effect on my writing. I make just a couple of hundred dollars a year between all revenue streams.

I write because I love to write, I write because I love to teach. I do not write to make a living. As my blog continues to grow: I am enjoying the rewards that come from that. But, my income was zero for almost four years.

WordPress.com offers this entire program for free for a reason. They are still making the most profit, out of all of us, who are investing time and energy into this company. Like the grand daddy of all aggregate sites: they make money off of content that they don’t create.

Imagine if a newspaper printed every article it had without paying its writers, still inserted advertisements throughout the publication and on top of that: asked the unpaid writers to buy products from them (so that the writers could have a special font or max amount of lines.) I doubt many of us would be onboard for that. But here we are, blogging, in that exact scenario.

What is up with getting people to give you their email address? Well this is how you reach your readers. If someone signs up, then they will get notified next time you post. I have around 3500 followers but this is over 8 years and a lot of those people are no longer actively blogging and therefore they are not reading my blog updates. If people are selling or doing something nefarious with email addresses I haven’t seen it. We’re all very private with our information (as we should be) but there’s a lot of safety built into the programs that are either a part of your blogging company or the individual add ons that you can purchase on .org. And yes, about WordPress.org… I am super cheap! I will not funnel tons of money into this hobby. I am still raising kids. My kids come first, always.

I am also not selling something other than my imagination and time. If I was trying to push a product, that would change my approach. I still think it’s pretty amazing that I make money from writing. I was writing for years before blogging was available, and nobody paid for (or even saw) that!

However, nobody works for free for very long. That’s not work, that’s volunteering. We all still have bills, and we all still require someway of paying those bills, so don’t feel guilty about asking people to give up their email address and sign up for your blog. Traffic equals income, as far as advertising is concerned. It is also something that I consider an honor, if someone chooses to hear more from me, among all of the other voices out there.

So, understanding what blogging is, and isn’t, is important. It’s taken me a long time to figure out what those two things actually are. I would still be writing had I known all of this in the beginning. I just would have lost the rose colored glasses a little earlier, and focused more on what blogging is. This is the fastest, dirtiest way to get experience as a writer. You may not get paid much, but your experience will make up for that. You will become more marketable and you will see the things that are worth spending time on and when to cut your losses.

There are some limitations to blogging. This is my advice:

Use the free stuff until you have, at least, a small audience.

WordPress.com’s restrictions have not slowed me down, and so far, it has been the cheapest option.

Learn to take great pictures.

Write regularly.

Respond to comments graciously.

Go into the reader and like and follow other bloggers. You should also write encouraging comments when you like what you are reading.

Avoid allowing the (very few) trolls you’ll encounter to duke it out in your comment section. You aren’t in control of nasty commentors but you are in control of approving those comments.

Know that there are different kinds of people who will read your blog. The spikes I get in traffic don’t last. The base that you are appealing to should be other bloggers who decide to follow you. They are actually interested in you, not the single post you made that ends up becoming super popular.

Don’t give up. It gets better. But don’t expect to get rich overnight from blogging.

Set up a way to encourage email sharing. You can add extra content and offer it for free in return for signing up. If you are not doing that, you will still get new subscribers but the rate will be lower. Choose a balance, I’ve offered this article for free because it benefits everyone involved. You get free information, and my blog subscriber numbers grow. It’s important to remember that openly sharing is mutually beneficial. There isn’t a loser in that scenario.

Advertising is great, but you need a minimum readership.

Don’t go overboard with advertising. I have lost viewership letting word ads run at full speed.

And then there’s this: don’t get involved in the awards that circulate. Those are essentially the old chain letters that used to go through snail mail and then morphed and went through emails. You know the ones that say: “I dare you to forward this to your contacts, or you don’t really support this cause” or “send this to seven people you know or you will have terrible luck”. I don’t know exactly who is behind those but they are getting something (your email address or active blog site, and your name) and then they send you emails with offers for bogus blog products. They are not in your corner and there is no such thing as a “beginner blogging award” or whatever they are calling theirs. I am actually sorry to have to share that. I know that’s a hard one to accept in the beginning and it’s a huge letdown that those awards are not in your best interest.

Now that I’ve outlined the limitations of blogging (The things that you start with versus what you are left with), this is what I’ve found that makes blogging stand out as a writing medium.

Blogging is not a bad investment of time. Bloggers are “super writers”. Instead of writing your one and only manifesto or a few print articles that you got paid for, you write with your heart and mind, as often as you choose. This means you figure out what other people want to read. I have 8 years of experience in this and I am still sometimes surprised by what ends up successful. But, I have a general idea of what information that I convey is consistently popular. You are honed by your successes. You are refined by your dedication. This big package of experience progresses into wider viewership.

I am not the same writer as the one who started out. I am no longer the dreamer, I’m the producer. I have not made a fortune in money, but I have a fortune in experience. Just like my photographs are on another level (after 10,000 shots), my writing is on another level after eight years of blogging. I am comfortable in this medium. It is now my artistic avenue of choice. I am qualified to write for a publication because I honestly wrote my heart out, for a long time, that only paid me in experience.

Can you get here? Yes. Absolutely.

Is it easy? Nothing worthwhile is.

Do I recommend it? Is blogging worth it? Yes. Yes, it is. Whatever your dreams are in writing: blogging will help you get there. Are you going to be instantly rich? I don’t see that happening for most of us. But after the dedication and after the work, I am a better writer. I am a better conveyor of information. I am a better content creator and I am much, much more marketable than I was in the beginning.

CrazyGreenThumbs.com in the beginning.

I think our obsession with a paycheck is in opposition to our desire to tell a great story. If you have the writing bug: keep blogging until you are heard. There is a place out there for each of our full potential writing selves. Getting to your full potential, as an author, comes not only by consciously enjoying the the journey, but there is a gift you will find, in retrospect, when examining your work.

I grew up starting over and over in gardening. As a blogger I started over and over finding my voice. I can confidently say that I have found my voice. I really encourage you to look past a desire for a windfall of money and seek your full potential writing voice. It will definitely develop as you write and I wholeheartedly recommend blogging as a way to find that voice.

I wish you a happy heart, and a fruitful experience in your writing. If your goals are deeper than a stack of paper money: you can meet them in the world of online blogging.

We can meet our full potential in writing, if our desire is to dedicatedly persue it.

Good luck, I hope you learned something helpful, and thank you for being a part of this blog!

11 Comments Add yours

  1. This is a very generous post. And an interesting read over morning coffee. 🙂 As for the business of starting over and over… that resonates! I’m not the least bit surprised a magazine picked up your painted book cover idea – I remember thinking that was really cool when I first came across it on your blog. Creativity is its own reward. All the best, K x

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Thank you for posting this. I’m still just dabbling really in my blog so it’s interesting to read about your experience. Basically do it because you enjoy it 🙂

    1. Definitely! I’m glad you found it helpful. Thanks for coming by, I appreciate the visit!

  3. As an ‘unsuccessful’ blogger, there’s often a little voice that looks at my minimal traffic and wonders if I should be more proactive. But then I think about my personal motivations for writing my blog, and realise that there are so many reasons why we write. I think the idea that comparison is the thief of joy is very true here. If I’m happy with my blog bring what it is, then that’s so that should matter.
    But if I want to change my motivations as I change, then I think your advice if wonderful, generous and thoughtful. So many people write posts about this topic, and too often they read like ‘get rich quick’ schemes. Yours was very insightful and measured. Thank you for sharing it

    1. I’m glad you liked it. I also would enjoy writing, no matter my traffic. But getting paid is definitely a motivation for me to keep going. I’m not sure where I will end up but I’m enjoying the journey. Thanks for coming by and commenting. I appreciate the visit!

  4. Helen says:

    Yes, thank you, I have learned from reading this post.

    When I first started blogging, I naïvely assumed I would have many hundreds of people reading my posts. Nine years later that had still not happened for me but what I have learned and appreciate us that blogging can be a social experience 😊

    1. I think we all start out with an idea of what our blogs will be, but, like parenting: it’s a lot bigger than the original dream and the rules we thought we would follow change. I think writers of any stripe are struggling more than they did when printed publishing was the norm. I always think of Clark Kent and Lois Lane at a huge newspaper hammering away at their typewriters and jockeying to be the first on a story. Those days have all but disappeared. I have heard that even if you have a successful book you can’t make much money unless you are writing sequels. I think that would be more disappointing than if my blog was not read. I haven’t put years into a single manuscript, I put several days into a post, but it’s definitely not the same. I have found meaning in blogging outside of my original dreams. I still don’t make much (as far as a paying job) from this, but I really enjoy the process of writing. I’m glad I wrote something useful. And I always enjoy seeing comments from you. I really appreciate that you have been here for so long!

      1. Helen says:

        Good luck with your future posts 😊

  5. Thank you for your amazing insight! Also, congratulations on the blog success. ❤

    1. Thank you! I hope it helps to see where blogging has taken me. Thank you for coming by and commenting. I appreciate it!

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