Why my first blog did not succeed (and why yours may be failing too).
If you want to blog for fun and don’t care about traffic or making money with your blog, then this post is not for you.
However, if you have dreams of:
- gaining thousands of hungry readers who read, share and rave about your blog and
- making money from that blog
then, you want to read this blog post to the end.
This is not my first blog.
In fact, I had an okay blog that I grew from scratch to around 30,000 monthly visits at its’ peak.
Many people who follow my work today found me through that blog.
I leveraged that blog to start my first freelance business.
I made an okay affiliate income from it – between $200-$500 per month.
And thanks to creating a few posts that were well optimized for Pinterest and Google (by luck and not strategy), I was able to convert some readers into buyers for my digital products.
So while I don’t consider my first blogging attempt a complete failure, now that I have been blogging for six years, I see why my income, traffic and overall growth of my blog was just meh and never really delivered the results I was looking for.
The points I am about to discuss with you in this post are the mistakes I made with my blog that kept my traffic and income stagnant and kept me frustrated.
I am sharing them so you don’t make those same mistakes.
Are you ready for some brutal honesty?
#1- I did not focus on a niche
Although I chose to blog on entrepreneurship, my blog was not specific enough. Because I was writing about my journey into entrepreneurship, I wrote about everything from the books I had read to freelancing as a social media manager to blogging tips.
Entrepreneurship is a HUGE subject.
You can focus on blogging for money.
You could focus on self-publishing.
You could blog about using Amazon to build an e-commerce business.
I was not specific enough. I was blogging about everything, had multiple email opt-ins for the 50 ideas I wrote about on my blog and in the end, I was only confusing myself (yes, I did!) and my audience.
I tried to be a woman of all trades and in the end, I was the master of none.
As a blogger, you want to be known for a specific area of expertise.
Now, don’t get hung up on the word “expertise”.
All I mean here is this: when you start blogging, you want people to know you for a specific thing.
For instance, when I think about blogger and writer James Clear, I think about habits and productivity.
When I think of blogger Suzi Whitford, I think of someone who helps moms start blogs.
And when I think of my friend Adeola who has been blogging for about a decade, I think about natural hair for women of African descent.
On my previous blog, I was not known for a specific topic.
Now to be fair, I was exploring during my earlier years of blogging and found that I loved talking about writing for a living.
This falls under entrepreneurship but it focuses on how people can make a living specifically as a writer.
People who want to sell dollhouses on Amazon don’t come to my blog because that is not what I talk about.
However, if they wanted to figure out how to start freelance writing or how to self-publish their book, my blog would be great for them.
And I dare argue that in my case, even the topic “writing for a living” is still a broad topic!
I could talk specifically about copy writing, technical writing, manuscript writing, TV writing and more!
On this blog however, I have chosen to focus on 3 topics within the broad topic of “writing for a living”: becoming a freelance blog content writer for others, blogging for income and self-publishing.
If I wanted to niche down further, I could focus on just freelance writing or just self-publishing.
Focusing on a topic will attract the right audience to you.
It will inform you on where to promote your blog.
By attracting the right audience to you, you will know which digital products to create and which services to offer.
The riches are in the niches.
It’s cliche but it is true.
It’s okay to explore in the beginning.
If you plan on earning an income with your blog, then I want you to sit down and REALLY think about what you would like to be known for.
How to pick a blogging niche
Take a pen and paper. I want you to think deeply about each of the following questions and write down your answers.
- What do you enjoy blogging about? Yes, I think you should enjoy blogging about your topic or else you will quit. Write down 3-5 topics that excite you.
- Are people interested in the topic you want to blog about? You can find this out several ways.
- Go on Facebook and search for groups that are interested in your topic. For instance, if you want to blog about minimalist home decor, go into Facebook and type the topic in the search bar as shown below. If you find Facebook groups with thousands of people interested in the topic (or topics) you have written down, this is a good indicator that people interested.
- Go to Ubersuggest and type in your topics. Ubersuggest will give you data on whether people are searching for your type of content on Google. So for instance, if I wanted to start a food blog that focused on West African food, I would go into Ubersuggest and type in “west African food”. As you can see from the search results on Ubersuggest, this term is searched 1900 times on Google each month. If we put related phrases in there, we uncover even more potential to be found on Google. So again, this informs us that this is a topic people are interested in.
If you can do this type of simple research for your chosen blog topic, you will find out if what you’d love to blog about is also something people are looking for.
In picking a niche, you may find that you want to talk about 2 or 3 topics on your blog.
For instance, if you wanted to talk about beauty and budgeting, that is fine! Your niche could be high-end beauty looks on a budget!
Or for instance, you might create an educational blog for PhDs who want to become entrepreneurs.
It is alright to mix and match topics to create a unique niche.
#2 – I did not have a plan
After picking a niche, you need a plan.
For my first blog, I really did not have a plan.
- I did not have an editorial calendar. I published whenever I had time.
- I did not have a plan for creating content people wanted to read.
- Did I research blog post topics my potential readers were looking for? Nope. I put no thought into that.
- Hello random topics! I posted on random topics in online business.
- And a blog promotion plan? I had no idea what that was!
The haphazard nature of my blogging-business plan meant my results were also all over the place.
If you plan on making money with your blog, you need a plan.
Successful businesses have plans.
If you want your blog to become successful, I want you to think seriously about the following questions.
When will you publish blog posts?
Once a week? Twice a week? Yes, you could choose a day and stick to it. However, we are talking more about being consistent here than choosing a magical day of the week to post.
Pick a consistent posting schedule and stick to that.
How will you research blog ideas before you publish?
Personally, I like to use Ubersuggest to find content ideas that have done well for blogs similar to mine.
You can use tools like Pinterest and Answer The Public to discover even more blog post ideas that your ideal audience will enjoy.
How will you promote your blog?
There are 101 ways to promote a blog post.
I am not kidding.
When you’re starting out, I recommend you focus on two or three.
I have been focusing on Pinterest and LinkedIn as part of my short-term blog promotion plan.
I also include links to my blog posts in the description area of videos on my YouTube channel.
However, I am also putting a lot of work into making sure my blog posts and website overall is optimized for search engines. This is a longer-term plan that will pay off for months and years to come.
Don’t get confused and bogged down by all the ways you could promote a blog.
Pick a handful and learn EVERYTHING you can about promoting your blog using those methods.
How will you make money with your blog?
This is something to think about from the beginning as well.
It is okay to start making money from your blog from day 1 – as long as you are also offering something useful to the people reading your blog.
Check out this post where I talk about 18 proven ways to get paid as a blogger.
Again, there are many ways to go about this.
In the past, I tried to chase too many income streams. Needless to say, that did not end well.
It was when I focused on offering my services as a freelancer that I began to see my blog pay off.
So again, please focus here. Pick two or three ways to monetize your blog and go hard at them for 3-6 months.
You will begin to see what works and what doesn’t.
At the 6-month mark, drop what is not working (at least for now) and pick up another income stream and work hard on that one.
#3 – I did not build a personal brand
To be clear, you don’t have to build a personal brand to have a successful blog.
You could just focus on helping people with your blog and never really attach your face to it.
I find that if you can build a strong personal brand within your niche, people will naturally want to consume your content. This is because a personal brand is social currency.
A personal brand allows other people to tell their friends and family about what you are doing.
It makes you a household name in your niche and doesn’t depend on Google algorithm changes.
Once you gain that popularity in your niche (again, remember we are not trying to attract EVERYBODY and their auntie here), as long as you keep serving your audience, it becomes easier to be profitable.
Building a personal brand takes time.
Building a personal brand is not impossible – it just takes time.
Starting your blog and social media outlets that help you promote your blog is the first step to building that personal brand online.
Another powerful way to build your personal brand online is to start showing up in front of other people’s audiences.
Over the past year, I have particularly found being a podcast guest helpful in getting in front of other people’s audiences.
If you go on Apple Podcasts (or your favorite podcast app), you can search for podcasts that serve audiences similar to yours.
Podcast hosts are always looking for guests.
So if you have a story or valuable lesson you’d love to share with that person’s audience, you can pitch them your idea of being a guest on their podcast.
Your pitch has to be full of value though! You cannot just expect people to host you on your podcast to talk about nothing.
Here’s an email template I use when I pitch podcast hosts.
I’ve landed several podcast slots using this simple template.
You can also do this by collaborating with YouTube creators and by submitting guest posts to blogs that are well-read in your niche.
Psychological research shows that people are more likely to want to learn more about you and your blog if somebody they trust recommends you. In this case, if you appear on a podcast that even just 100 people listen to regularly, because those 100 people trust the host, they are more likely to take their recommendation to check what you have going.
Another great thing about guest podcasting is the fact that, podcast hosts will usually link back to your website in their show notes describing you and your work.
Links from other websites that lead back to yours indicate to Google that your website is potentially trustworthy and so it ultimately helps with ranking in search engines.
Same thing can happen with a guest blog post.
So you’ll be getting the short-term benefit of appearing before an audience interested in what you have to say. Plus you will also be building links back to your blog; links that are precious signals in the eyes of Google.
#4 – I did not invest in my learning
Succeeding as a blogger takes several skills.
You have to learn:
- How to create stellar content – you cannot create mediocre content if you want to become a successful blogger.
- How to market your blog and ultimately your business attached to it
- E-mail marketing
- Audience building
- Persuasion and copy writing
Each of these is an essential blogging skill and it is important to dedicate time to learning each.
I did not do this in the beginning.
I was just excited to start writing my thoughts and putting them out in the world.
And that is fine! You are entitled to your thoughts and musings on life.
But if it is not wrapped up in stellar content, tying your thoughts to how your blog creates more awareness of your business and falls flat when it comes to sales, it will be hard to profit from it.
You have to dedicate time to learning these skills.
Over the years, there are several books and courses I have found valuable in learning these skills.
You will have to invest in your learning if you want to be a successful and profitable blogger.
In the video below I talk about 3 ways you can invest in yourself as a blogger and entrepreneur.
#5 – I majored in the minors
This is a topic worthy of a sermon.
Do you want to know what I wasted my time on as a new blogger?
Friend, I would spend hours and hours tweaking my blog theme, comparing my blog to other bloggers who had been at it years longer than me and reading other people’s income reports!
You can choose what you want to do with your time.
But I can assure you that as a blogger, your time will be better spent on studying how you can create the best content. And on building relationships with your audience.
Don’t get distracted.
You want a blog that attracts thousands of hungry readers, positions you as a key voice in your niche and ultimately makes you an income.
Tweaking your theme and spending late nights comparing yourself to others will do none of this for you.
Speaking of WordPress themes, I LOVE the Divi theme from Elegant Themes (this is my affiliate link). That is what I use on this blog and I highly recommend them.
Get Divi, set it up and get to writing valuable content.
Don’t make these blogging mistakes
Blogging for income – meaningful income – takes time and it takes strategy.
If you don’t plan your blog and come up with a strategy that works, you will fail.
That’s the truth.
The thoughts I just shared with you are the reasons why my first blog did not succeed. Avoid the mistakes I made.
What are your thoughts on this? Let’s hear it in the comments below!
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