10 blogging guidelines that don’t apply to personal blogs

Photo of many pencils and pens on a table mat

We personal bloggers have highly individual reasons for blogging.

For whatever reason, you have started a personal blog. So headlines like these spark your interest:

  • How to start a successful blog in 2018
  • 6 strategies for launching a successful blog
  • Top 25 blogging tips from the pros

There’s a heck of a lot of headlines where those came from. A search for “successful blog” on Google today produced “About 1,030,000,000 results”, so there’s no shortage of advice out there.

You’ll soon discover that the vast majority of articles assume that you are blogging for business or professional purposes. But hey, you don’t want to build a brand, make money, or grow your business. You are blogging to express yourself, to make friends, to develop your own ideas, to learn about other lives, to expand your understanding of the world, to get advice or support, to offer advice and support to others — or just for fun.

I’ve been a business blogger in my time, blogging for years on behalf of Contented, my business. (We provided books and training courses in — guess what — business writing in the internet age.) After I left Contented, I became familiar with the marvellous unsung world of personal blogs. I soon realised that for us personal bloggers, certain widely accepted guidelines for blogging are just plain inappropriate. Sure, we can do our best to follow those business rules, but we are free to change direction at any point. That’s the point. We are free, yippee! Free to make our blogs like no other, break (nearly) all the rules and make up our own.

Business blog tips vs. personal blog tips

  1. Business blog: build your brand
    Personal blog: just be yourself and find your niche along the way
  2. Business blog: get squillions of followers or you are a failure
    Personal blog: some are happy with six followers or none at all
  3. Business blog: blog frequently and regularly
    Personal blog: it’s OK to blog whenever you like; your blog, your rules
  4. Business blogbe successful, be the best
    Personal blogblogging is not a competition and there’s no such thing as failure
  5. Business blog: monetize your blog from Day One
    Personal blog: making money is not what most personal blogs are for 
  6. Business blogyou must have a professional and brand-appropriate design
    Personal blog: start with a free WordPress theme and customise or change it as you go
  7. Business blogfind powerful topics to write about
    Personal blog: that’s ideal, but many bloggers get satisfaction and find an audience writing about common or generic topics
  8. Business blog: write compelling content
    Personal blog: compelling content is the exception rather than the rule (in business blogs too)
  9. Business blog: focus on writing an amazing call-to-action
    Personal blog: a call-to-action may alienate your readers
  10. Business blog: build your email list
    Personal blogoh please, give me a break!

How to get maximum satisfaction from a personal blog

Now hold on, this is a big topic and the slate is blank! However, I’m keen to deal with it, and I will do so in future articles. My mind is teeming with ideas and I know I can help. Watch this space…

Please give your own ideas and please share!

40 thoughts on “10 blogging guidelines that don’t apply to personal blogs

  1. Rachel, I LOVE this!!! I’m really new as a first-time blogger and every guideline fits! I have to admit, I’d love as many followers as I can get, but mostly because I’d love to be of help in the world of aging. (Okay, trying to avoid vanity shows up now and then…) Thank you – I’ll look forward to more!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Delighted to be of use to you, Grace. Onwards and upwards!

  2. Well said Rachel, or I should say written. Be yourself and write what makes sense to you and your life.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Best place to start 🙂

  3. alison41 says:

    You have put your finger right on the crux of the difference between Business vs Personal blogging. I’ll be sharing your wonderful post with other blogging friends. And long may you9blog, dear lady !

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Thank you for sharing this post! And hey, I plan to carry on.

  4. Looking forward to reading more. I have loved writing my blog over the last year and have grown because of it and the interaction with others.

  5. Jonno says:

    Great post Rachel, spot on with the differences too. It’s so easy to get bogged down in the success/followers/hits of your blog that it can sometimes take away the sheer enjoyment of writing it.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      But how we do appreciate a thoughtful comment (like yours).

  6. samwalllace says:

    Thank you for clarifying this for me Rachel! I’ve been so hung-up on whether my blog is a ‘success’ or not, but it seems I’ve been using the wrong categories as my milestones. (PS: I’m one of Alison’s blogging friends she shared this with…)

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Hard to avoid, especially when you google for tips. Take pride in your blog as it is now, and see where it takes you. (And thanks to Alison!)

  7. rummuser says:

    I have been a personal blogger for over ten years now and have written 2861 posts so far. I have enjoyed the experience, made a number of blogger friends and have met some of them personally too. I have resisted the temptation to monetise it and have not regretted it. I look forward to your follow up post on personal blogs.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      What a record, Ramana! Your blog is a treasure.

  8. kersten says:

    That’s more than one billion ! the mind boggles , mind you a google in numerical terms is one with a hundred zeroes beyond belief.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      And still we seek more 🙂

  9. Julie G says:

    Very useful post, thank you. x

  10. Claudette says:

    This is my third blog. If you want to talk success without the monetary component then this one currently is my most successful. Why?
    Let me count the ways:

    1.Followers do matter but not so much (to me) if they never comment. The point of success for me is the community, the dialogue. I have this in my blog now, I didn’t before.

    2. Likes also matter because face it, not everyone has time to comment every day. Over time, you will see familiar faces in the likes which is encouraging because you see repetition. This goes back to community building.

    There’s more but I have to go visit my parents now. I’ll revisit this topic Rachel, thank you as usual for starting interesting conversation, and Happy New Year from 🇨🇦

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      This makes perfect sense to me, Claudette, and I’m sure to many other personal bloggers. High satisfaction lies here. Happy New Year to you from New Zealand; we “successfully” reach New Year’s Day first — another inappropriate measure of success.

  11. Rachel,
    What I need to hear and an opportunity to connect with like minded people. Thank You, Claudia

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I’m glad this post was timely for you.

  12. JT Twissel says:

    This is the best blogging advice I’ve read! Congrats!

  13. Elizabeth says:

    I learned how to search my old posts to make sure I wasn’t completely repeating myself, a common struggle at my age! I enjoy having a theme for a series of posts. I recently did a series on virtues and actually had a very enjoyable response from readers. Right now I am writing about games and other amusements. It helps me to think of a group at a time and run with it. I also have all my family photos digitized and use a lot of photos of me as a kid. They seem to interest people also.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Your games posts are a delight. Blog on, Elizabeth!

      1. Elizabeth says:


  14. Dan Antion says:

    These are great, especially #10 !

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Yes, #10 is top!

  15. Yes, we are free to do as we please.

  16. Wise wirds😍😍😍😍😍

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      And blindingly obvious!

  17. khadz says:

    Thanks for this. As for someone (LIKE ME) who’s tarting to write, this is insightful and helpful.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Good luck and enjoy the learning.

  18. Vicky V says:

    This is great! I love your differences between personal and business blogs. Sometimes you just want to enjoy something without making money from it or turning it into a brand.

  19. chattykerry says:

    This is an excellent post, Rachel. I am stuck somewhere in the middle having started my blog to promote my book and then meandered off into the delightful world of personal blogging. There is no longer an obligation to stick to a ‘brand’ but I now I have hundreds of true online friends, some of whom worry when I don’t post. The advice I would offer myself is to be as honest as is safe and let friends know when you are on a break. Then don’t feel guilty…

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      That trajectory is familiar! Those sound like useful and comfortable guidelines.

  20. Shelley says:

    I truly appreciated you comparing business to personal side-by-side. Excellent advice, thank you for sharing!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      They are different in so many ways.

  21. thekourabie says:

    Thank you so much for the precious guidance! Reading this has been very comforting x

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      And that makes me happy too.

  22. Gabe Clay says:

    This post is really helpful and reassuring. I’ve had a personal blog since I was fifteen but I never could keep it up for more than couple of months if I was lucky. Now I realise it was because I tried to follow all those business blog rules and it got overwhelming. Thanks to this post I won’t be burned out for months/ years at once anymore. I wish I knew this stuff earlier because I really love writing.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Hooray! Time to get back to the basics: your love of writing.