Blogging Skills Checklist: How Do You Measure Up?

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blogging skills checklist

We often look at “external” metrics like email subscribers and traffic levels, but should we also occasionally look at our own blogging skills to see whether they are developing nicely?

This idea has been floating around in my brain for a while now, and so I decided to do a type of audit to see what skills I had and what skills I wanted.

In the end I decided to put together a basic blogging skills checklist that you can use as an audit or guidepost to see where your skills are and what you might want to develop. Hopefully it helps bloggers who aren’t sure what is the most important area to be working on.

Let’s take a look.

Blogging skills checklist: what’s your score out of 100?

Here are the practical things that I try to develop as a blogger.

Give yourself the full points if you know it well enough to charge a client for advice, half the points if you can apply it well but are still learning, and no points if the topic really confuses you.

The main things I think should be on the checklist:

1. Understand the principles of effective content creation (+20)

Content creation is the backbone of all online marketing. It doesn’t matter whether you run a blog or a physical company, it’s the content that you create that grows your audience, makes sales and gets you in front of new markets.

Sadly, many new bloggers don’t really understand what makes for good and effective content. And if you want to run a blog or grow a business you really have to figure out what works and why. Ultimately you want to make sure your content (long form articles, videos, podcasts, etc.) help to solve problems. It should help people.

Strategically speaking, good content creation comes down to having a deliberate strategy that achieves outcomes. Dedicate as much time as you can to researching and mastering this point because without effective content the rest becomes useless.

2. Grow traffic and convert it (+15)

The lifeblood of any successful blog is traffic. And not only do you need visitors, you need to be able to convert them once they arrive on your site. This process of converting visitors into subscribers or readers is absolutely vital and should be emphasized in your study.

A considerable portion of your time should be spent on understanding how to get more traffic, how to get more email subscribers and then how to test and setup your blog in a way that maximizes these conversions.

As Bibiano said recently:

There are a lot of successful people online who had been in more challenging situations than me but still managed to ship things. Then there are full-stack, talented individuals who AFAIK haven’t made anything substantial and sustainable for themselves or for others but seemed to have the knowledge and resources to do so.

There’s no point spending time writing that amazing content unless you’re getting the right readers and then converting them to an outcome.

3. Begin collaborations with other bloggers (+15)

Any success that I’ve had here on Blog Tyrant has been because of the influence, kindness and collaborations I’ve had with people like Darren Rowse, Brian Clark, Glen Allsopp, etc. By making connections with these people I have been able to land guest posts, get endorsements and find a lot of new traffic that I otherwise might have missed.

From the very first day that you start a blog you should start making connections with people in your niche. This means mentioning them in the amazing content that you write, tweeting their content and getting on their radar. Over time these relationships become more genuine and you can really start to build something that is mutually beneficial.

4. Manage your work and rest time effectively (+10)

If you work for yourself there is a temptation to always be working. In fact, what I’ve found is that this means doing a lot of things really inefficiently all the time at the expense of your family, health and business itself.

I think Matt from Stack Digital said it well on my Inbound thread:

What doesn’t get you revenue? Reading Facebook. Redesigning your newish website. Setting up a social media profile on Periscope and using it to watch fireworks videos. Checking your Analytics for the 3rd time today. Checking Moz blog again. Seeing if anyone sent you a message on Slack. Taking 20 minutes to figure out how to re-enable desktop notifications. Setting up your email subscriptions.

It’s the same for everything. You want to lose weight? Eat less, move more. Do the work. You want to write a book? Write some words that will be in the book. You know what doesn’t write the book? Tweaking a sentence or two, doing research again and getting lost on a Youtube tangent about how to use Scrivener. Write the book.

But the next part to this is knowing when to stop. Taking time to sleep, have routines and be healthy. You can push yourself really hard for a little while but after a point it begins to be really unproductive. This also ties into something we talk about a lot here – outsourcing things to people who can do it better than you.

Here is what Sarah said:

The personal metric I value the most is understanding my limitations. There’s stuff I’m great at and stuff I suck at. You can waste so much time trying to get your weaknesses to a basic level when you could just acknowledge you’re lacking in that area and get some help. Ask a mate, hire a freelancer, user fiverr, whatever it takes.

You don’t have to do it all yourself. In fact, you most definitely shouldn’t do it all yourself. Make sure you prioritize this stuff because it will really help you focus and maintain some sense of blogging longevity.

5. Manage security protocols across all your assets (+10)

Security is becoming more and more of an issue as the internet gets older and more complicated. It represents a pretty big risk for our online businesses.

And while it can be frightening, you don’t need to be overly stressed about it if you have plans in place. I mean, if the US Government and massive websites like Sony can be compromised then what chance do we have? Just do you best. Here’s a list of some very basic tips I wrote a few years ago that everyone should be doing.

Some of the main things you need to consider are regular server backups, security plugins, complicated usernames and passwords, computer antivirus and malware protection, and never using public WiFi. If you’re not sure about this stuff the best thing to do is jump on support with your server support staff and ask them what is best for your particular setup.

5. Understand metrics and results (+5)

Are you getting the results you want? Do you know what content is leading to sales and signups? This is a really basic question but one that not a lot of bloggers can actually answer. It’s quite funny.

You don’t want to be checking your stats every five minutes but it is a good idea to know your basic blogging goals and then track whether or not they are happening for you.

At a minimum you want a service like Clicky Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools and then something like AWeber where you can monitor how your emails are performing. Take a daily look at your stats like traffic, page views and bounce rate but then learn how to dive deeper into your content and see how to develop stuff that attracts backlinks, shares and then sign ups.

6. Know the basics of server admin (to communicate with support) (+5)

When you’re set up on your own blog host there’s a bit of a learning curve to go through. This can be a little overwhelming at the start but it is okay to take your time and learn it bit by bit.

Having an understanding of the difference between your server’s back end and WordPress’s back end, how plugins work, what a database is, how to use FTP, etc. can be really useful if you need to get work done or sort a problem out with your support staff. It makes the communication process much quicker.

For example, if you are having an issue with site speed you can look at throttling, your image sizes, the plugins you are using, the configuration of your caching, etc. and talk to support about what might be happening.

7. Adapt to modern SEO (+5)

Search Engine Optimization is always evolving and changing. Sometimes, if you’re unlucky, you can get caught up in it and really bugger your business. Focus on the wrong things and a change in their algorithm could be horrible.

This is why it is really important to have a basic understanding about how modern SEO works. I don’t think you need to spend thousands of hours figuring it all out (unless that’s your thing…) but I do think you need to have a fair idea about what Google is looking for in the short and long term.

Here’s a post I did a little while ago on blogging SEO basics that is still relevant. Try to get your head around back links and their value and then just focus on solving problems while building a memorable brand. That’s what Google wants.

8. Know where to find and manipulate graphics, photos and other media (+5)

A big part of blogging is finding and choosing good graphics to use in your posts, social media, adverts, products, etc. This might be a photo or it might be a video that you create with your iPhone.

The thing is, if you try to do all of this by yourself you’ll find that there isn’t a lot of time for actual blogging! It’s a good idea to have a system in place for all of this. Try and find a few people you can work with and make use of sites like Unsplash and Fiverr.

9. Use social media efficiently and sparingly (+5)

Social media should not take up a significant portion of your day unless you are running Facebook ads or some equivalent. Bloggers to often get caught up in the idea that social media is the answer for traffic and relationships – it’s not.

I would spend some time figuring out what platforms work best for you and then focus in on them strategically. Don’t ever spend time focusing on Tweets when you could be writing new content for you blog. This is a really important lesson to take away and while it’s not true for everyone, I have found it really helpful for my own business.

10. Troubleshoot problems effectively (+5)

When you run a blog it’s not a matter of if something will go wrong it’s just a matter of when.

What this means is that you need to be ready to troubleshoot problems without freaking out and getting yourself into even more trouble than before. So what do you do?

Your first point of call for most of your blogging problems is your host’s support staff. Open a ticket and get help. If that doesn’t work you need to look for help in different places depending on what’s gone wrong. If it’s WordPress problem then head on over to the WordPress Forums. If it’s a security problem then get in touch with Sucuri. Try to learn how to solve problems in a proactive and individual way, it’s hard but well worth the effort.

But is there something more important?

A few days ago I sent emails out to my friends and started a thread on Inbound about what skills they prioritize most.

This was highly interesting because, rather than give a practical tip, most successful entrepreneurs emphasized something to do with motivation, hard work or discipline.

Here are a few of my favorite answers on what should be included on any bloggers checklist:

Patience. – Pat Flynn.

Dedication. Blogging is all about learning and being consistent. Without dedication there is a good chance you will give up. – Neil Patel.

Consistency. This is where a lot of bloggers go wrong in their first year. They start with the greatest of intentions and then slowly, but surely fade off with their blogging consistency as the year progresses. That’s the WORST mistake you can make, as people need to hear from you consistently. Keep your foot on the gas, create valuable, highly engaging content and do it consistently. Oh, did I say be consistent yet!?? You get my drift! – Chris Ducker.

Determination and I mean that in every meaning of the word. Things can turn sour very quickly and if you’ve got a family then its incredibly easy to just throw in the towel and give up. There are dark, terrible, rancid days that bleed into weeks, followed by months. (perhaps even years)

You’re tested mentally, physically and to an extent spiritually. As you try to rationalize the crazy in your life, with equally as crazy theories, life continues to pound you into an unrecognizable, bloody pulp.

But, if you survive the savagery, then your luck will change. All of the minor victories that were lost in the noise of the daily battles, fit seamlessly together and as the smoke begins to drift, you’ll have a new appreciation for any high-points to follow. Yet, the most important thing of all is that you ‘truly’ discover who you are and what you’re made of. After all, how can you possibly know if determination is a part of your character, unless you’ve been pushed beyond the limits of your imagination? – Chris McCarron.

I tend to agree.

All of the technical stuff can only be possible if you take care of your focus and effort. For me, I really want to make my business grow so that I can donate more money to charity over my life. That is a goal that gives me a lot of determination and helps to keep me motivated. It’s important to find a goal that works for you.

How did you go with the checklist?

How did you score out of 100 with the checklist? Or if you didn’t do it, what other elements do you think I should have included on there? Do you think there is anything else that is super important that hasn’t been mentioned? Please leave a comment below and let me know.

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Hi, I'm Ramsay. If you enjoyed this post you might like to check out:

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42 Comments. Join in. *Closed after 30 days*

  • CC

    So, I flunked your Cosmo Quiz! I put it down to still being a pup in the blog world and midway through converting my mediocre blogger attempt at blogging into something amazing on WordPress. Just jumped in without research ’cause that’s the kinda gal I am.

    I do have a tendency to obsess and not let things go. I find I have to have designated days that are ‘work on blog’ days. And to really delineate blog time from anything else I take myself off to the local library. Otherwise I find I loose myself ‘down the rabbit hole’ of code and layouts and content research and image editing when I’m meant to be doing other things. Like my real job. Oh for the days writing IS my real job!

    1. Ramsay

      That is such an important lesson to learn. I’ve been doing this a long time and still struggle with it.

  • Kirsten

    I think I got a -100 because I took off so much for life/work balance. That’s not bad…right?? πŸ™‚

    This is super helpful and I want to dive further into some of the links and resources and really take a few moments to examine my blog (and my LIFE) to see how things are actually stacking up. (I’m probably not really at -100 for life/work balance. Just -75.)

    1. Ramsay

      Yeah, your blogging goal should be 7 hours of sleep per night.

  • Lisa Frideborg Eddy

    90. I probably need to beef up security. Thanks for this Ramsay, helpful as always!

    1. Ramsay

      90 is great! Well done.

  • Dave

    Another useful post, Ramsay.

    There are so many things to have to keep in mind when running a blog that it makes my brain ache. And that’s before even writing the posts themselves (that seems like the easy bit!). Because there are so many tasks many of which are technically complex, I’ve begun making a priority list than I can methodically work down. But, again, because there are so many, the list has to be adaptable because the priorities change as I learn more. Also, the amount to do increases exponentially as you learn more – it’s like a never ending rabbit hole!

    So thanks for the step by step list and links for further info. I’m going to have to see if my priority list agrees with your points above and, if not, adapt accordingly.

    1. Ramsay

      You’re completely right. I’ve often commented on how much bloggers need to be across in order to be successful. I think as long as you’re prioritizing the content and the strategy the rest will fall into place eventually. Thanks for sharing!

  • Crowdfunding Tips

    Great skills checklist and I feel like I have most of them locked down but it’s still good to have a reminder.

    I especially need help with 5 thru 8. Metrics and analtyics hurts the brain.

    1. Ramsay

      Indeed they do!

  • aurora licht

    I have just started so for me it is very educational and the abc’s to create something good. There is a lot of homework for me… but I’m looking forward. Really glad to have found your site, blog tyrant!

    1. Ramsay

      Really glad you left a comment!

  • Cameron

    I scored myself a 49.

    I understand many of the basics on the list but probably undercut myself on some, as I’m always hard on myself. πŸ™‚

    My blog, is turning a year old in 1 week!

    In that time I have published over 120 posts, made 1 guest post, set up twitter and Facebook of course, recruited other writers to work on the site, done my best to monetize, (over $350.00 in a year) grew my traffic, built backlinks, and am beginning to really dive into SEO with regards to optimizing content creation. I’ve made it onto the front page of Google for a few keyword phrases and this was all done in the, omg had no idea when I started how competitive the movie niche online is.

    As many of the top pros said, patience, persistence, and I would say damn stubbornness are the main keys towards growing your blog. There will be good days and bad days. But as long as you keep striving forward good things will come.

    You just need to be VERY patient.

    1. Ramsay

      And I still haven’t forgotten about the site audit. πŸ˜‰

  • Karolina Kornell

    Great checklist! Right now I’m failing on #4 but working on it:)

    1. Ramsay

      Thanks for sharing, Karolina.

  • Scott Kindred

    I really liked Step 1 – content creation – because without it, none of the other steps have all that much promise for success. Your link out to the “deliberate strategy” post was great, too – I really needed to read that one again!

    1. Ramsay

      Thanks mate.

  • Matt Banner

    Nice work here Ramsay, I really think a lot of people will resonate with this in understanding how much or how little blogging knowledge they currently posses. In turn, this will help them narrow down exactly what they need to work on next.

    Let me know how your readers respond to this! πŸ™‚

    1. Ramsay

      Thanks so much for stopping by. It’s a big learning curve, I hope it helps people.

  • Hammo

    Impressive list of friends. πŸ˜‰ I wish you would’ve assigned more points to the technical stuff πŸ˜›

    1. Ramsay

      But I hate the tech stuff! πŸ™‚

  • Dawn

    Thank you for the concise list, Ramsey! My biggest struggle right now is converting readers to email subscribers. I am about to change my ebook freebie and then might try a giveaway – something that only my target readers/buyers would want. Thanks again!

    1. Ramsay

      I have a few suggestions for you if you’d like the hear about them publicly. πŸ˜‰

      1. Dawn

        Sure, I’d value your input! Please be gentle. πŸ™‚

        1. Dawn

          And, geez, I’m sorry I misspelled your name, Ramsay….

  • Slavko Desik

    About time someone shifted the focus on skills versus tactics. Great post!

    So glad that you placed content creation so high in your checklist. Thinking about it, that is the most valuable skill as a blogger. I guess you’ve heard about Tim Urban from Wait But Why. He almost didn’t have any of the other skills when he started (still very shy on most of them), but managed to turn the site into a content powerhouse, and got a call from Elon Musk.

    He doesn’t know a thing about SEO, yet he ranks high for terms such as “artificial intelligence” “elon musk” “fermi paradox” etc. Content IS the king!

    A thought crossed my mind even before I saw #3- why not create a quiz-like checklist, and suggest improvements, reading material from Blog Tyrant etc.

    This article sets the direction.

    If you’d like a hand, me and my friend have some time to spare πŸ™‚

    1. Ramsay

      Dude I’ve been half working on this for months. If you want to get in on my idea I’d be happy to make it happen. I’ll shoot you an email.

  • Jo

    Pretty well, but there are a couple of areas I need to get better at. Technical mostly and staying focused and on message. I have started, by the way, trying out that lovely microphone I won, and went to a podcasting workshop last week. Onwards and Upwards – and you will tell me no doubt, “Put it into action stop procastinating!”

    Great post as always which got me thinking πŸ™‚

    1. Ramsay

      I’ll never tell you to stop procrastinating. I’m the worst at it.

  • Theodore Nwangene

    You’ve really spoken very well Ramsay,
    All the skills and checklists you mentioned here are highly required in order to build a successful online business at list, everyone needs a basic knowledge of all.

    Starting from content creation, content promotion, collaboration and others, they are all very necessary and none should be excluded.

    1. Ramsay

      Thanks for sharing. Nice having you here.

  • Sarah

    I love your point about social media Ramsay. I’ve definitely been guilty of spending too much time trying to build my audience on social media when more regular and higher quality blog posts would’ve gotten a much better result! I used to think the more people I could tell about my blog the more likely I’d catch the eye of an influencer who’d share my content but you’re so right with point three about building connections with other bloggers/influencers. It’s so important and IMHO time spent on this can be much more valuable that trying to build a Facebook/Twitter following!

    1. Ramsay

      Have you had any luck with other methods?

  • Patricia Taylor

    Great checklist! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Ramsay

      Thanks for reading.

  • Ramona

    I’ve been blogging for 8 years now (a Romanian blog) and had few attempts for the ‘international’ audience as well, but I always got distracted and wanted to do too much.

    The only project that I kept on working constantly was the one in my language, which developed nicely over the years. I was forced to go slower a year and a half ago, since the birth of my baby, but the work I did previously kept it going strong. Even if I could barely write 2-3 times a month (compared to 3-4 times/week), the content I had created allowed me to lose just a little traffic.

    I am also a web designer, so it’s easier for me to do all the technical stuff, design my themes, do all my photo manipulation, SEO etc. Serious savings, compared to someone who had to hire someone for this.

    Now I am trying to put everything I’ve learned all these years (plus all the great new things I am constantly learning from you guys) into my new PF blog that’s not gonna change or disappear anytime soon. After few weeks of really working hard on it, I am starting to see some nice results. It’s getting noticed, I am getting some advertisement deals already and it’s slowly getting where I’d like it to be.

    The key ingredient in this is CONSISTENCY. I was pretty consistent with my Romanian blog and I hope the same quality will help me achieve success with this small new one.

    1. Ramsay

      I really don’t think anyone needs to blog 3-4 times a week unless you’re running a news site. I think a much better strategy is to write once a week or fortnight but make it a long, detailed useful piece. I have found that to be much more helpful. Good luck with it all!

  • Carlos Oporto

    I agree that content is one of the most important things that you must concentrate and spend your time. If you got quality and useful content traffic will come and people will subscribe.

  • Joep van der Poel

    Ramsay, another great post!

    I am not yet there but slowing seeing more and more traction. I agree with your points and I would add that for me the fourth point is very important. When you are just starting out it is so easy to get caught up with all the nitty-gritty aspects of starting a blog, making long hours every day.

    These long hours do not only slowly burn you out and decrease your motivation over time, but they also have a negative impact on your family and the people around you that you care about. I think you wrote an earlier post about this, and the importance to focus on what is adding core value to your business and I think these two topics are closely related to each other.

    Keep it up Ramsay and take care!

  • Manikanta

    Hello Ramsay,
    thats a great check list
    I am falling under 50
    but very important points in the life of a blogger
    thanks for the share

  • Tom Southern

    Hi Ramsay,

    A timely checklist for me, thanks. I fall down on security and time management. Growing a blog takes up so much time. Often, it’s not the content creation or the relationship building, it’s the techie stuff that sucks up a lot of my time.

    One awful thing that shocked me was finding a big marketing blog using on my posts! Not good! Any ideas for how a non-techie can stop this happening?

    Also, all those spammy sites supposedly sending me traffic according to my Google Analytics. Urgh!

    Love your site, it’s has a peaceful feel to it. A kind of blogging-ahhhh! when all about is bloggy traffic spiel. Love your cat, btw. What’s his name?