This is the worst mistake you can make running your personal blog

If you want to run a personal blog that generates organic traffic, gets noticed, and grows, do not make this mistake.

When I started blogging a little over 15 years ago, the field was not fashionable yet. The thing about something becoming fashionable is that a lot of the meaning tends to get lost in the buzz and people just do things because. There is more meaningless randomness. Blogging has since become fashionable, and I can see how that is impacting the field.

You probably came to this page because you are interested in starting a blog. Or perhaps you have started one already. Or you have an interest in blogging though you do not run one. If you belong to either of the first two categories, avoid something that I call a mistake – perhaps the worst one you can make.

A quick one: this article is not for you if you blog as a form of personal therapy and so you are satisfied with a few pageviews per month. If you are fine with just members of your family, friends, and the occassional stray visitor who stumbles on it, none of what I have to share here is intended for you.

However, if you want to blog and generate income from it, you will find this article helpful. Let’s proceed.

Here is a picture for you to consider: there are a million and one websites out there offering general news. Some of the most powerful names in media run some of those websites. As a matter of fact, the top news websites are run by these powerful brands. They are big names with deep pockets. They have the resources to employ people in all the places that matter so that getting fresh, juicy bits of information and news is much easier for them than for the competition.

You, on the other hand, are a one-person operation – you in your living room with your laptop. You have no budget – or at best you have a small budget. You have no employees, no contacts in high or low places, and no means of making sure that you are the first to get those juicy news items.

Do you really think that your new general news blog stands a chance against the BBC, CNN, The Guardian websites, and others like them? Why would Google rank your blog anywhere near the front page of its search engine for the news item they carry? Think about it: sitting between your blog and the top news sites are thousands of other news sites that run much more intensive and extensive operations than you do.

News flash: unless you have lots of cash to burn, your news blog stands no chance of attracting huge traffic. If you can raise investment, sure; you stand a better chance of pulling it off. A better chance, not guaranteed success.

For example, Naij (now Legit) showed up with a lot of cash. Even at that, they have focused on a segment of the news market – news that interests Nigerians. But make no mistake about it – building a viable digital news content machine at this time takes lots of cash.

If you want to run a personal blog and get noticed by Google i.e. enjoy lots of search traffic, you have to pick a niche. Pick something that has enough people looking for information about it and that you know quite a bit about or have some experience with. That way, your blog can be a go-to place for information about that. It is much easier to grow a personal blog that way than to push out news items.

Generic news is already available everywhere: it is an uphill task plowing the general news field. You will almost always have to play second fiddle to the big boys. But if you offer useful information from your unique perspective, you can grow a reputation and a following – both with people and with Google and Bing (trust me, you can pull huge numbers from Bing too).

Over the years, people have asked me why Mobility Arena has not doubled down on hot news items in the mobile world. How many mobile products are launched first in Nigeria each year? Perhaps a handful. In other words, most of the time, we would then have to play second fiddle to the biggest tech blogs out there, because they are on ground in those locations where the action is hot.

We would be wasting time rehashing what every major tech blog based in the US, China, and India has already published and ranked for. What a waste that would be.

Instead, I pointed the focus of MobilityArena in a different direction that would make it easier for us to build a reputation and be ranked better by search engines. Over the last 15 years, I have seen Nigerian tech blogs come and go, and MobilityArena is still here leading the pack. They show up and try to keep up with the news machine, but it is mostly a fruitless endeavour. A few have survived and some of them are returning good numbers by spending a lot of money (validating my earlier point). Even with the huge cash burned, they are not posting numbers commensurate with the cash burn. It is a tough hill to climb.

I have been mocked by some for my unconventional approach, and that’s fine. The mockery is often like water on a duck’s back. But my approach has paid off while those who did the mocking have faded away from the limelight or got burnt and re-strategized. Time is a beautiful vindicator.

Our strategy at MobilityArena is not the only reason why we are still up and running and leading the pack 11 years on, but it plays a part. I call it working smart (and hard). What did you say? You want me to share our strategy with you? Tough one. You see, if I told you, I would have to kill you. Sorry.

Make no mistake about it: you can grow a blog successfully in other ways, and I have pointed that out in this article. It is doable by burning a lot of cash employing writers to churn out generic (news and non-news) content every hour and by advertising heavily. Do count the cost before you jump in. You need a hefty war chest to pull that off.

Another route is to attempt what Pulse NG did – a partnership with a much bigger news platform. I do not have details of how the deal works. Perhaps it involves a lot of money too; perhaps not. I suspect that it does. Even if it does, riding on the back of a stronger news platform is a much more viable way to grow than going up directly against the big boys. So, you might want to explore that too.

The bottomline is this: the worst mistake you can make with your personal blog is to try to be everything to everyone and go up against those who have a bigger, stronger, better equipped army than yours. Unless, of course, your objective for is not to grow your blog into something bigger than you. However, if you intend to generate income from your blog, it needs a lot more readers than the people in your circle of friends.

A personal blog running on a lean budget stands a much better chance of survival, growth, and success if it is focused on meeting a specific need that people need solutions to. Needs that people are searching for answers to. That is what I did to grow MobilityArena.com.

In today’s highly competitive digital content space, you have to go guerilla if you are the underdog. Then as you gain ground, you strategically take on the form of a more standard military organisation. All the best.