10 Important Blogging Lessons I Learned The Hard Way
As someone that has been creating websites and building online businesses for over a decade I’ve had more than my fair share of ups and downs. From quitting my job to go full-time online to selling sites for multiple five-figure sums, from completely losing sites to having my Paypal account closed down I’ve learned a lot over the years from the “school of hard knocks”.
In this article then I wanted to discuss the ten biggest lessons that I’ve learned during that time. You may have heard many of them before but they’re so easy to ignore when you’re busy with other things that they’re worth repeating.
Every single one of them has affected me – either for good or for bad – over the years so they’re lessons I recommend everyone learns, understands and applies if they’re serious about building a successful online business.
Don’t Rely On Google
In terms of traffic generation I’v always considered myself an “SEO guy”. I love to create great content, build high quality links and watch as my sites rise up the rankings. Let’s be honest – I also love all the extra traffic and the sales that they bring too.
But over the years I got so experienced in the dark arts of SEO that I slowly started to ignore all the other traffic generation strategies I was using. Quite simply search engine optimization became the quickest, easiest and cheapest way for me to drive traffic and I could out-compete even the most well-known brands in any niche I went into.
Then Google changed the rules. And it all came tumbling down. Years of work – thousands of daily visitors – all came to a sudden, unexpected and painful end.
The lesson is this; diversify.
Don’t rely solely on any one traffic source – or any one provider of anything for that matter. All might seem well for now but it’s only a matter of time till your Adsense account is closed down, Amazon change their affiliate program rules or Google decides they don’t like you any more. The more diverse your portfolio is, the better insulated you’ll be from these changes.
Social Media Can Be Fun
As my search engine traffic started to dry up, I once again eyed-up another traffic strategy I’d been investigating but hadn’t got around to implementing; social media traffic. It all seemed to time-intensive, so lacking in residual traffic and so unpredictable. Better stick to the things I know. Or so I thought, until my hand was pushed.
I jumped into social media marketing and was astonished to find that it wasn’t just driving great-quality traffic to my sites – it was actually really good fun too! Who’d have thought that a die-hard SEO fanatic could fall in love with chatting to other peopl, asking questions and sharing great content I’d found?
Even better, by posting out a link to my latest blog post I could muster traffic almost on demand, rather than needing to wait for Google to discover the new content, and the links I’d built to it, before starting to send me traffic.
Traffic Can Go Down As Well As Up
Too often over the years I’ve launched a new website as an “experiment”. I’ve got some rankings, built some links and seen some traffic coming in. I’ve quietly watched it grow and mature while working on “more important” tasks, promising myself that when the site hits 100, or 500, or 1000 visitors a day I’ll get around to properly monetizing it, or bulding a list, or optimizing it for my visitors.
Then something happens, the traffic starts to dry up and I lose interest. Worse, I missed another opportunity to grow my network, grow my visitor numbers and grow my profits.
Remember that traffic can always go down as well as up and aim to make your site the best it possibly can be from the moment it launches. Then, you’ll be in a prime position to benefit from your work – even if the results you see are only short-term.
Build A List From the Start
Just as social media can send me almost instant traffic to any new content I create or site I build, having a list of email subscribers with whom you have a relationship is just as powerful.
When my traffic from Google dried up and my social media accounts were growing, the only thing which kept my business in the black was having a list of previous customers. It was this list that I could promote new products to – as well as sharing my latest blog posts – which helped to not only keep me motivated with blog comments but also bring in revenue pretty much on demand.
Don’t underestimate just how powerful owning your own mailing list can be. It’s allowed all manner of people to quit their jobs and go full time – and it’s also the perfect tool for “weathering the storm” any time your website traffic nose-dives.
Create The Best Content You Can
It’s not too long ago that a successful author stumbled across one of my blogs and liked the content so much he asked if he could publish some of my posts in his latest book. I, of course, agreed. Not only has being featured in a book increased my traffic considerably but it’s also helped to make me appear to be an “authority” in my niche.
But the funny thing was I certainly didn’t set out to get published. I just created the best content I possibly could and got lucky. I could tell you all sorts of other stories about how my content has benefitted me in the oddest and most unlikely ways but I won’t go on.
The point here is that you should always put out the very best content you possibly can because you never know when the next opportunity might arise as a result of it.
Back Up Your Work
Nobody likes losing their work whether that’s an article you’re writing on your computer or an entire website. I’ve managed both, several times, and it put my plans back every time.
These days I’ve stopped crossing my fingers and hoping and instead I use an online storage service to back up both my computer and all my websites. So when the worst happens I know I have “insurance”.
The small monthly fee I pays is more than worth the peace of mind, and being able to completely rebuild a profitable website in a matter of minutes is worth an awful lot more to me than a few dollars a month.
Authority Has Value
I suffer from the “entrepreneurs curse” of getting all excited and motivated about a new project, then once it’s up and running I start to tire of it and then move onto my next big idea. That means I have websites in dozens of niches all round the internet using various themes, pen names and marketing strategies. Sadly it also means I don’t update them or add new content as often as I should.
However thanks to Google’s obsession with PR and authority, it seems that these older, more established sites that possess a wide range of good quality links and high PageRank have value in themselves besides the Adsense and affiliate revenue they bring me. Namely, SEO’s are going out of their way to get links from them.
Not a day goes by without me getting at least half-a-dozen emails from individuals and marketing companies asking how they can get a link from me, and this brings in a constant supply of new content *and* Paypal payments for me – even on sites that are no longer ranking.
Infact, ironically, if Google was still ranking those sites I’d never consider publishing paid posts. The fact that they have a high authority but receive very little traffic is exactly why I choose to leverage them for guest posting opportunities.
In other words a website doesn’t necessarily have to rank highly to be valuable. Build enough of the right kinds of links and the authority your site assumes has value in itself when you know what to do with it.
Make It Easy To Contact You
Whether it’s to offer you a free product to review, to enquire about advertising rates or to offer to buy your domain/site, once you start building top-quality sites you’ll find a constant stream of people willing to offer you goodies in order to get featured on your site in some way.
So make it easy and ensure that there’s a simple contact form on every site you build – you’ll be surprised by what opportunities come your way.
Auto-Renew Your Domains
Many years ago I got pretty ill and spent the best part of a month in bed recovering. Sadly, in that time, one of my top domains expired and was snapped up by someone else. A site that was basically paying all my bills vanished thanks to my own mistake.
Of course the more domains you own and the more sites you build, the harder it becomes to keep an eye on which of your domains and hosting account and the more likely it becomes that sooner or later something will expire without you knowing it.
So turn on the auto-renew and ensure you never lose a site without even realizing it.
Master The Art Of Keyword Research
The final lesson I’d like to share is how essential keyword research can be to your online success.
Whether you’re using keyword research to find topics for discussion on social media sites or to create search engine-friendly content, gaining a deep understanding of how to find keywords with high buyer intent, a decent number of searches and weak competition can literally change your business results in a matter of weeks.
So many people think they understand proper keyword research yet gloss over the subject as “boring” whenever it gets discussed. Instead, make it your goal to find a research tool that suits you and test out your keyword research skills in the real world.
Because once you figure out where the gold is found, the only limit on your traffic is how quickly you (or your freelance writers) can create top-quality content.
Stephen Patten writes at technology blog TechToucan, where his most recent article investigates a range of keyword research tools.