The Golden Rule of Building a Thriving Blog: Tanja from Our Next Life

Tanja from Our Next Life is a blogging celeb these days.

Nevermind the fact that she was 100% anonymous for years, or that she’s only just begun to monetize her blog. Doesn’t matter.

She’s built up an incredibly tight-knit and loyal community of followers and proven herself as a top-tier writer (and podcaster!)


She follows a simple framework of helping people with authentic, honest, and transparent content, and has put for the work necessary to build valuable (but really just organic and “human”) relationships.

She has a TON of wisdom to add (and she’s also really good in audio format…hence The Fairer Cents Podcast)

We chat about:

  • What needs to be talked about in the blogosphere? What aren’t we talking about (this is good)
  • Sexism in the workplace, and in blogging
  • PRO TIPS for being an anonymous blogger
  • How long-term relationships are possibly the biggest blogging “hack” or “secret.”

Enjoy, and see below for how to get a FREE DYEB Tee 🙂

Want a free Do You Even Blog t-shirt?

Check this out:

woot! I can have 50 reviews?

I’m straight-up selfish. I want to get to 50 reviews! But I’m willing to barter for them 😉

Here’s what you do:

  1. Head to iTunes
  2. Leave me an honest rating and review! 1 star, 5 stars, doesn’t matter.
  3. Email [email protected] and let me know when it’s done!
  4. Include your name, blog URL, shirt size (Unisex), and physical shipping address (so I can mail you the shirt) 

This deal expires on Christmas 2017.

Listen to my episode with Tanja from Our Next Life

or listen on \\ iTunes \\ Stitcher \\ Google Play \\ Overcast \\ Spotify


Show notes and referenced links

Key takeaways from today’s episode with Tanja

1 – Relationships and community-building is a blog growth tactic, and is vital to long-term success.

How many dang times have we talked about this on the podcast?

Relationships might actually be the single biggest contributing factor to a blog’s long-term success, but only a small fraction of bloggers make this part of their strategy?


It’s hard. It takes time. Some of us are introverts.

For more actionable advice, we turn to…

2 – Twitter is the best platform for building relationships with other bloggers.

Stay on your platform for marketing, sure. Could be LinkedIn, Pinterest, whatever…but Twitter is THE place to engage with other bloggers in an easy and effective way. For most niches.

Here’s why:

  1. Twitter is accessible. You can tweet at any influencer at any time, and it’s totally more acceptable than emailing them.
  2. It’s relatively quick. Keeping engaged throughout the day might take you 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes in the afternoon, etc.

I agree with Tanja on this one. Twitter is my fave platform for connecting with people (and in my case, my social media platform of choice)

3 – “Do you really want to spend your time on something that feels like you’re forcing it?”

Blogging can sometimes feel like work.

We all start blogging with high expectations, and end up writing a pretty good amount. Very little marketing, very little promotion, very little designing, very little strategizing, etc.

Then we learn what we’re doing, and everything changes.

We start spending less and less time actually producing meaningful content, and start doing other stuff. Marketing and admin work.

The bad news is a lot of this stuff is important for growth. The good news is a lot of isn’t, and we CAN get back to the root of what we enjoy in blogging.

What aspect of blogging makes you happy? Brings you the most joy? For me, it’s

  • the 1-2 hours I’m actually interviewing bloggers
  • the early mornings where I can sit and write 3k words uninterrupted.
  • brainstorming creative marketing strategies and copy

I do not like editing (can you tell?). I don’t like managing social media queues. I do not like emailing/pitching people (but I do it anyways).

Do a quick 80/20 analysis in your head, and see if you can identify just ONE task you could do a lot less of (one you don’t enjoy), and still have roughly the same output.

Working sucks. Let’s have fun blogging.

(Also, see point below for increased joy from your blog)

4 – You’ll create your best content when you’re fired up.

For me, it’s

  • when I see ineffective marketing strategies in use from bloggers
  • when I hear about people stuck in full-time jobs they hate
  • when I encounter 20/30yr olds who don’t know what they want to be when they grow up.

I get absolutely fired up about the subjects, and can pump out some dang content on these topics.

Not only that, but my passion starts to bleed out of me, and land straight on the page. (this is a metaphor).

When we produce content we’re amped about, it shows to readers. Usually, it’ll be topics we’ve spent a great deal of time around, or have thought about a lot.

As far as I’m concerned, I also prefer to ingest content when I can tell someone is fired up. It just works.

What gets you fired up?

5 – Your readers can see through your thinly-veiled intentions. So, be honest.

Ugh. This gets me fired up.

While some niches suffer from this more than others (Hello, Tribe!)…blog readers “BS-detectors” are higher than they’ve ever been before, and are getting better.

Can’t YOU spot an inauthentic sales/marketing pitch from a mile away?

Do whatever it takes in your business to avoid this. Even if it results in short-term gains, inauthenticity or questionable marketing ploys will destroy you in the long-term.

6 – It IS possible to build a thriving online platform while remaining anonymous.

You’ll have to listen to the full episode for most of Tanja’s tips, but here are some short ideas for maintaining complete anonymity.

  • Private DNS registration
  • Get a separate Gmail account (including Google Analytics!)
  • It’s helpful to NOT share where you live, the exact career you’re in, etc.
  • Keep an eye on your photo location tags!
  • Be careful on Facebook and Instagram (if you use these, use TOTALLY separate email accounts. Oh, and don’t “follow” yourself from your personal account!)

Furthermore, don’t associate being anonymous with having disadvantages. It’s simply not as true as you think.

Create a persona, and continue to be authentic. Tanja did. Go produce something meaningful for people, and you’ll get the growth you desire.

7 – Treat your readers how you would want to be treated. The Golden Rule.

Speaking of fired up…

I’m pretty sure I got Tanja fired up when I asked “What’s something you wish other bloggers would stop doing, right now?”

Her response was amazing though: Follow the Golden Blogging Rule.

Treat your readers how you wish to be treated yourself.

  • If you don’t mind seeing ads, fine
  • If you don’t mind seeing loads of popups, fine.
  • If you DO mind, STOP IT.

Sponsored posts, spammy marketing tactics, big logos, small text, multi-colored design, etc. Whatever it is. Treat your readers the way you’d want to be treated.

For me, it’s

  1. brutal *%&#ing honesty,
  2. 18px paragraph fonts,
  3. no display ads,
  4. no popups,
  5. no script-led sponsorship reads,
  6. no promoted products I don’t actually recommend.

What topic gets you fired up? Comment below and share, and I’ll giveaway a DYEB Tee to a random commenter!

They’re 50/50 blend and oh. so. comfy.

Keep Reading

19 Responses

  1. Hm…what gets me fired up. I would say it’s the social culture with women in the workplace. There is no reason for a glass ceiling these days, women shouldn’t be expected to do it all, and men can have a place at home too 🙂

    1. I’m not sure if you listened to this episode yet or not Linda, but it will absolutely get you fired up in this case 😉

      STAY fired up about this btw.

        1. Pete,

          Just finished listening and it was a great episode. I feel like Tanja and I could be friends (so I’m going to go find her on Twitter).

  2. Hot damn, totally agree about the popups and/or ads. If you do it too, then you’re part of the problem. I hate popups, but don’t mind ads. I just look past them anyway. 🙂

    What gets me fired up? I suppose when people claim that they are “experts” because they’ve personally accomplished something. That accomplishment is great, no doubt about it. But respectfully, that doesn’t make any of us experts. I retired at 35, and I certainly wouldn’t claim to be a personal finance expert.

    I just wanted it bad enough…you don’t need to be an expert to want it!

    Usually, “experts” just wanna sell you something.

    1. But in all seriousness, this is a realllllllllly good one.

      Funny thing is, I’d imagine most folks who truly are an expert in any given field, probably NEVER refer to themselves as such.

      Except me, I actually am a blogging expert/influencer/guru/teacher/supreme leader.

      1. You crack me up, Pete! Your approach is definitely fresh and real – kinda reminds me of Steve Chou in the early years.

        1. Ya know what. I’ll take that as a huge compliment, as Steve has a $$$$$$$ business right now (and probably has since years ago, right?)

          Thanks for reading (listening?) Monica. I appreciate that!

  3. I really enjoyed this episode! Tanja has done such a good job creating incredible content, a thriving community and a reason to come back to her site over and over again. For me, the discussion around putting your audience first and avoiding a “perfect SEO but boring blog” pitfall had me fired up. Our site is not great at SEO and doesn’t have amazing content, but when I see readers/commenters come back, I know I’m on the right track.

    1. YES. And for the record, I feel like your content has always fallen into the personal/authentic category 🙂

      Definitely a good thing that this fires you up as well. You should probably be a podcaster as well.


  4. I have to agree with you and Tanja on the power of Twitter. I started my blog and decided to focus on Pinterest because that’s where many bloggers have seen amazing growth. But there’s really no interaction on Pinterest so I started spending more time on Twitter and I’m starting to see the benefits already. I only have a small following but just sharing other blogger’s content and commenting on them has been a good way to connect. I still have a long way to go but I think it will be worth it in the end.

    1. YES. I agree 100%.

      The golden age of *starting* on Pinterest ended about 12 months ago in my opinion. Totally think Twitter engagement is worth it in the end.

  5. I love th conversation about men vs women in the highest ranks of corporate America.

    I’m cautiously optimistic this changes in another generation, the American business culture has slowly migrated away from trust being formed on the golf course or in the exclusive clubs. Time will tell, but that’s my observation working at a fairly high level of a male dominated industry.

    1. I think it will, especially when you think back on 20 years ago, then 40 years ago. Add to that the rise in *reported* sexual abuse, etc…I’m hopeful.

      Thanks for listening, and you have an excellent brand name 🙂

  6. I like blogs that are personal and have quality contents. You can easily tell if a blog is build for SEO only when all you see are “How to” and “Top 10” posts.

    1. A bit. Even more so when it’s literally a combination of words that nobody would every actually *say*, but would type into Google lol.

      I.e. “content marketing proposal template”

  7. That was a great listen, you two.

    As far as being outed to my readers, it was an Excel spreadsheet that had my name buried deep in the properties on a page I had never seen or thought to look for. I fixed that, but it’s tough to stay anonymous forever, especially if you want to meet your readers and other bloggers / podcasters like you guys and gals. I’ve goofed in several other ways, too.

    Regarding authenticity, I don’t think about SEO until I’ve written what I want to say. The SEO part comes after the fact when I add the keywords, snippet, etc… I suppose I do think about it a tiny bit when writing, trying to add a heading every 300 words or so if it makes sense, just to keep Yoast happy.

    I also try to be honest about the ads and resulting income. When I talk about withdrawal rates and multiples of annual expenses, I refer to using them at a time when I no longer have an income, which won’t be when I retire from medicine, and may be never, depending on what the future holds, which, like Tanja, I won’t pretend to know. Wow, that was a lot of commas!

    Fun side note — I met Elizabeth O’Brien at Time Inc. the other day in The Big City. I had read her story outing ONL but didn’t realize she was the author until she started talking about you guys. She has also written about physicians who have retired early, and I’ve been sharing some of those stories on social media.

    Pete, I’ll see you at FinCon I’m sure, and Tanja, I look forward to your visit to the great state of Minnesota in August. That’s a much better time of year to visit, as every celebrity here now for the Super Bowl will tell you!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.