I’m not normally one for navel-gazing, but for the second time in a week I wanted to share a post that was more personal.
Here are the biggest mistakes I’ve made in my first 8 months of blogging.
My 5 Biggest Blogging Mistakes
1. Setting up my own WordPress page
I’m no stranger to website backends. I launched my first WordPress site in 2013. In the past four years I’ve managed posting new pages to literally dozens of client websites, gaining proficiency in both WordPress and Squarespace.
And yet when I launched my new blog at the beginning of this year, I accidentally made a few rookie mistakes that have cost me significant traffic.
First, I accidentally erased my homepage, making my main page invisible to Google and other search engines for SEO (ahem – “Search Engine Optimization”) purposes.
For those of you who may be new to this, one of the huge signals that Google and Microsoft use to rank your website for search purposes is the number and quality of backlinks (referrals) from other quality websites. The more of these referrals your site gets, the higher Google ranks you in search results, thus directing more traffic to you.
Somehow I made my front page invisible to Google, meaning even if every marketing professor in the world visited it, Google wouldn’t care.
Second? I accidentally entered “Social Media” as a permanent category for my blog posts without capitalization.
That’s just a consistency issue, but it bugs me every time I see it.
I lack the coding skills to properly edit the CSS on my own, so the inconsistency persists.
The lesson in all this?
Hire an experienced coder to set up your website.
$500 – $2,000 is a small price to pay to get it right from the outset, rather than discover months later that a few mistakes have cost you hundreds of visitors.
2. Not having a free giveaway
No matter who you are in digital marketing, or what you are trying to promote, subscribers are key.
The reason is simple – email marketing (still) works.
But how do you entice visitors to hand over their valuable email address, trusting that you won’t simply spam them?
Offer them something of value – a valuable piece of content they cannot get from your blog posts alone.
This could be anything from a 30-page ebook to an infographic that summarizes a few key concepts in visual form.
I still don’t have one.
My focus has been on writing – on writing the types of articles and offering the types of insights on the PR, marketing, and social media landscapes that I myself would like to read.
It’s only as I’ve tasted a bit of success that I’ve realized promotion is just as important as the writing itself.
I’d be content to keep posting my insights as a sort of personal diary of my evolution as a public relations professional. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love that more than 1,000 different people visited this site last month.
So I’ll get to that free giveaway soon. In the meantime, thanks for reading!
3. Weak social media presence
I had very little footprint on social media when I started. This is a problem, as it’s one of the easiest ways to promote your blog.
It’s also a chicken-and-the-egg problem: how do you get a social media following when you don’t yet have original content to promote?
Better yet – who has time to focus on social media promotion when you’re too busy doing your thing?
Me? I’d rather think and write than Tweet, Instagram or Snap.
So I hired a virtual assistant in July to run my Twitter feed. And guys? She’s awesome. Email me for details if you need help.
It’s not that I don’t know how to use Twitter – I’ve run the accounts of more than a few clients; it’s just that I’d prefer not to spend my scant off-hours doing so for myself.
The result? In just over two months my assistant has grown my Twitter following to more than 2,000, and this has sent a significant number of visitors to this blog.
4. Not testing my sign-up form
A few months ago, I designed a really cool sign-up box and programmed it to appear at the bottom of every blog post. It looked like this:
I never tested it by signing up myself.
I only discovered last week that, in order to work, my fancy sign-up box needed to be connected to a separate auto-emailer.
Now that I’ve diagnosed the problem, I can fix it – I just haven’t yet.
Again, I’d rather write than deal with coding issues. Sigh…
5. Not guest posting
Heed this well: the fastest way to gain visitors to your new website is to guest post on established platforms.
First, you’re giving value to other established luminaries in your space.
Second, you’re essentially promoting your own site to the fans of said luminary, with their blessing.
Number of posts I’ve published in my first 8 months? 60.
Number of guest posts I’ve published during that same time? 7.
While, in retrospect, that’s a fairly respectable ratio, it should have been closer to 2:1.
As in, 45 blog posts to 22 guest posts.
Again – in the beginning, few folks know who you are, let alone why they should care.
The quickest answer to both of those questions is to post on larger platforms, which give you greater visibility, social proof, and tell the robots at Google that you’re kind of a big deal.
What I did right
Not that I’m complaining. I’m now 8 months into my 12-month New Year’s Resolution to “start a marketing blog” and I’m happy with my progress.
So what did I do right?
At the end of the day, I’m glad I didn’t focus too much on design or capitalizing “social media” or properly optimizing for search engines.
What did I do instead?
1. I wrote
By September 3 I had published 60 posts to my blog, and 7 additional guest posts on other blogs.
I now think of myself as a writer. My mind is full of ideas, my production speed has increased, and I now get antsy if I don’t write for three days in a row.
2. I didn’t worry about SEO
The dirty little secret about SEO? All the tips and tricks in the world don’t substitute for content. New, fresh content each week that shows Google that you’re active – you care.
The most sobering statistic I’ve read this year?
95% of bloggers quit in the first 5 months. That’s 19 out of 20.
Knowing that, I’m glad I didn’t sweat my blog’s design or SEO from day 1. Had I done so, I would likely have gotten so bogged down in minutiae that I would have forgotten the most important step – write.
So if you are just launching a new website or contemplating doing so, my best advice is just to do it. Don’t sweat the design, the social media, or anything else. Just buy a domain, do a barebones set-up and write.
Start. In six months you can start worrying about the other stuff. Your goal for now? Simply make it to six months.
3. I took time off
This may seem counterintuitive.
But I took a long break after reaching a milestone of 25 posts published in my first 90 days.
I took a break. Not for a week or two, but for six weeks. Nearly two full months.
What happened? Life, other priorities. After awhile? Inertia. It got to a point where I had taken so much time off, I wanted to wait for the perfect post to return.
In the movie world, this is called James Cameron Syndrome.TM
You remember James Cameron, right? Used to be an amazing film director:
- The Terminator
- T2: Judgment Day
- The Abyss
- True Lies
So what happened?
Massive success. Titanic came out and smashed all the records. Made $650 million at the domestic box office.
The problem: Where do you go from here?
Cameron waited 12 years to make another movie, with Avatar.
And then the impossible happened – he struck pay dirt again, with $750 million at the domestic box office.
I’m sure that any fears of being able to replicate those successes only compounded. When two of your movies sit at # 1 and # 2 on the all-time box office chart, it’s hard to go back to making smaller films.
It’s now been another 7 years, with nary a movie in sight.
Cameron, the filmmaker who gave us a solid 5 science fiction and adventure classics in 12 years, has now produced only two films in the last 20.
Don’t let yourself be so corrupted by success that you paralyze yourself into inaction.
Still – I needed that 7-week break. To recharge, reevaluate, reset. And then come back with a renewed sense of purpose and inspiration.
The number one lesson from all of this?
Be nice to yourself.
We all work in waves of high vs. low productivity. The key is to start. And then keep going, celebrating the small wins and pushing through the disappointments.
Soon, you’ll find you’ve developed good habits.
And maybe, just maybe, learned a bit about yourself in the process.