Mistakes made, lessons learned and tips and tricks of a full time blogger who has run a successful blog for over two years
April 2016 marks two years of me running this little corner of the internet! It's been a hoot. And as I sit to write this post sharing what I've learned, things that contributed to my success and things that definitely did NOT, I find myself laughing and wishing that I had either read one of these posts in my first year of blogging or actually took the advice of that blogger. So here it is, in all it's glory: How to build a successful and profitable blog. Or, you know, at least how I did it. There's always more than one way to do anything! Happy anniversary, An Uncomplicated Life Blog.
Mistakes I made:
My whole first year of blogging, my posts were TERRIBLE. I utilized zero SEO, my images sucked, nothing was pinnable from my site and I think I got a whopping 200-300 page views a day. I wrote posts in exchange for free product and took (almost) whatever was sent my way. I didn't have a defined niche and wrote about all the things (all of them!) in addition to parenting and wellness.
Fast forward to May of 2015 and I got my Pinterest act together (here's how I did it). I started to make sure the images on here were pin-ready, and thus saw a massive increase in traffic from that site.
In July of 2015, I accepted my first sponsored post. It didn't pay amazingly, and I was a little concerned about the topic, but I wrote a story that told my truth and it was one of my most viewed posts of 2015 (25k views and counting, on one post!). I got so excited about it, I started to accept all kinds of sponsored posts. I at least angled them to fit my blog's niche, but looking back, some of it was super tacky. The money was nice but I wouldn't accept those posts now, and I'd go back and un-do them if I could.
Moral of this story?
Personal lessons learned:
Without fail, every single time I was scared to hit "publish", that post did amazingly. It turns out, when you write passionately about things you care about, people like to read it. Don't be scared to be yourself! Tell your stories. Show your personality. Yes, "list posts" and "be the expert" posts were a trend in 2015, but I can tell you from my own page views and from what me and my blog friends are actually clicking on, that trend is OVER for 2016. People are sick of pseudo internet experts (check this post out on why). My story telling and thought sharing/op-ed's have done amazingly well this year. It's a trend I'm thrilled about. If you're starting a blog just for money, you likely wont do well. But if you're writing because you love to write, have something to say, and want to build a community, your passion will come through and you'll do well.
Advice I have for new bloggers:
What I did well with my blog from the beginning:
Mark Zuckerburg and I are the same age, and he launched Facebook when I was a Freshman or Sophomore in college. Back when you could only friend people who went to your university, and had to have an "edu" email address to join (who else remembers those good old days?!) I also went to the largest university in the US (oooook, it's always a tossup between my alma mater, the University of Minnesota and Ohio State University. Whatevs. Ski-u-mah!) so we were one of the first schools to actually get our own network. What's taking me forever to say is, I got in on the ground level with Facebook, and learned early the significance of social media. So when I launched this blog, I knew social media would be key in growing my audience and marketing myself, my brand and my content.
I know how to WORK Facebook. I'm probably one of the few who absolutely loves the algorithms. I have a decent following (2400+) but my weekly post reach ranges from 15,000-40,000+ people. It's always in my top 3 for traffic referrals to my site. I now get paid almost 4 figures just to write one post for a brand, my reach is so strong! My longstanding love affair with Facebook has made me savvy, and I employed a solid Facebook strategy from day one of my blog launch.
Facebook aside, I employed a solid marketing strategy from day one of my blog. Prior to becoming a blogger, I worked in marketing strategy for 11 years and even got a Master's degree in it, so I was able to take my professional expertise and use it to grow this blog quickly.
Here's what's what with marketing strategy and blogging:
- You can be the most eloquent writer, the most beautiful photographer and have only original ideas to share, but if you don't market them and drive traffic to your blog, nobody will know it's out there. "Build it and they will come" is total bull$hit. "Market it and they will come" is more like it
- Be consistent with it. Just like you can't lose 20 pounds in a week, you're not going to get 1000 few followers (in whatever social media channel) overnight. Develop your strategy, set your direction, and stay your course for at least 3 months. Then evaluate and tweak (or outright change) as necessary
- Read tips from other bloggers. Kinda like this post. Except, take it with a grain of salt. What they're doing (including me!) works for THEIR AUDIENCE and you need to do what works for YOUR AUDIENCE. But you can certainly get ideas from them
- If you have little to no business experience, marketing knowledge or negotiation skills, go to a library and get legitimate sources and read up on it. DON'T take business advice from other bloggers, and I sure as hell wouldn't pay for a blogger's "e course" on how they're making an income blogging. Why? Because a self-made, self-taught online entrepreneur doesn't have all the answers. Just because they got lucky with their blog doesn't mean they have the knowledge to share with you on how you can do it. Get a REAL education in business and develop REAL skills - don't just take another blogger's word for it (although, like I said, you should totally be reading their advice on social media tips, blogging schedules, photography lighting and all the other fluffy parts of blogging - just not business. But hey, that's just my fluffy advice!)