I have officially crossed the much-acclaimed six-month mark in the blogging world. Yay! I think six months is a good enough time to test the waters and find out if one is cut out for the blogging world. I know I am! During these first six months, I have learned about the backend of the blog, a basic idea of how to identify and attract the right kind of audience, how to create useful content upgrades, etc. But there’s so much more to learn.
You guys, I started blogging with some idea about the hard work that needs to be put in. That’s because I spent a lot of time researching the ins and outs of professional blogging before I decided to take the plunge. What I didn’t anticipate is how addictive this profession is, especially when you start seeing some traction, as I am starting to see. I often find myself sinking deeper into my work even when my preschooler is home. I have to constantly remind myself to stop but it’s difficult to tear away from the screen. I am working on this aspect with all my might because nothing in the world can be worth more than my family time. They are the reason I quit my high-paying corporate job though I continued working part-time to quench my creative thirst (I have been creating online courses for 15 years now—I started long before it hit the professional blogging market).
But I digress.
In honor of crossing the six-month mark, I am sharing six things I have learned about professional blogging during this time.
6 Months. 6 Lessons. 1 Blog’s Journey
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1. Define your business vision and goal(s) when you start…and take your time doing this.
Why do you want to take up professional blogging? Make sure you are doing it because you want to give back in some way. Sure, all of us want to earn an income from our blogs, but that’s for the service you will be providing to your readers. Here’s the thing: the blogs that blow up within the first six months are few and far between. For the rest of us mortal souls, it will push your limits and then some more. Without a vision, these are the times, many will abandon the ship because they were in it only for the income and that’s nowhere in sight. Your vision is your driving force, and often, subjective and emotion-driven. Earning 1 million dollars is NOT your vision; helping others realize their financial dreams is—the keyword being ‘helping.’
On to goals, determine your objective, number-driven goal that will help you deliver your vision. What can you do to ‘help’ others but grow your own business? Writing goals help you gauge your growth strategy and progress. It includes statements like x number of subscribers by xyz date; $x amount of sales by abc date; etc.
The vision statement is your ‘why’ while the goal statement(s) is your ‘how’.
- Write your goals in a statement format so that it is in alignment with your vision.
- Make sure your big goal funnels up to your vision, and your small goals funnel up to your big goal.
- When defining your goals (big and small), use the SMART goal-setting methodology.
2. Pay attention to data
Linking your website with Google Analytics is one of the most common pieces of advice you will come across in the blogging world—for good reason too. Business analysis is fundamental for any business—online or offline, big or small. Without studying your business data, you will not know about the direction your business should take.
Now, while I understand the importance of analytical tools, especially Google Analytics, I am far from mastering it. I do use it on a weekly basis to check my time on page, referrals, and demographics so I can tailor my content accordingly. I am sure there are a lot more cool things I can do with Google Analytics but I am saving those tricks for later (read: I am scared to even think about it). It used to break my heart to see a bounce rate of 70-80% but I recently learned that is the norm for new-ish blogs, not the exception. Phew! My aim is to bring down the bounce rate anyway.
I realize I need to dive a little deeper into data, but for now, what I know serves me well.
(Note: If you have any recommendations about essential data to focus on, please feel free to leave a comment below, or send me an email at [email protected]. I shall be indebted.)
3. Invest money in your blogging business
You are a business owner and you need to invest money first before you can see any returns on it. I get it: it’s natural to keep your wallet close to you when you are just starting out. I have been there! I thought, “Oh why should I pay for information that I can find for free.” Makes complete sense but here’s the thing: as a business owner, time is money too. If you are okay with spending hours searching for content instead of spending it to create content and network, go right ahead. The other thing is the echo chamber effect. Often, the free content you find sounds similar because everyone (even a new business owner) is telling you the same thing…but those are just the basics. Nobody is going to give away a game-changing tactic free.
Let me give you an example: when I started blogging six months ago, everyone was talking about Pinterest being the next best thing. I read post after post advising to pin content 20-30-50-100 times a day. And to sign up for a business account. So I did. But it wasn’t until I enrolled in *Jen Snyder’s Find Your Tribe Online course that I learned about Pinterest aspects that free content doesn’t talk about, such as setting up your profile and types of pins that convert. *Jen’s course also helped me find and narrow down some amazing Facebook groups for networking and marketing.
*Find Your Tribe Online was the first course I invested in and I do not regret the expense one bit because the knowledge I gained from the course far outweighed the cost. My Pinterest monthly views have grown from about 50-75 to 25K+ in little over two months. It is also translating to increased blog traffic and more email signups for me.
So, go ahead and invest in your business. It may be a course to help you gain mastery over a certain topic, or it could an automation tool to save you time, or it could be a paid mastermind group to hold you accountable. Determine your business needs, research the available products, and start investing. It doesn’t need to be a big purchase because big is not always better!
- Courses aside, please invest in an external hard drive or SSD card or cloud storage because your laptop WILL fill up fast and as a result processing WILL slow down. I learned it the hard way.
- Be ready to invest time as well. You cannot grow your blog into a business by spending one hour a day on it. Or, maybe you can, but it will just take that much longer to see the returns. Schedule at least 3-4 hours a day to spend on your business. If you need help in the time management department, I have created a resource to help you to manage your time better. Hint: prioritization is key!
4. Sign up for all the big social media platforms but focus on only one (or two)
You have defined your vision and goal(s). You researched your niche and target audience. You have created awesome content that is in alignment with your business vision and goals and added keywords in strategic positions throughout the blog. Apparently, in the olden days, that was enough. You build and they will come.
Not anymore. Especially for a new blog owner, you are yet to build domain authority. Without that, Google is unlikely to rank your content on the first page.
So, what do you do? Do you just wait and watch? No, if they don’t come looking for you, you go seek them out. This is where the social media platforms come into play. People hang out on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest etc. a lot more than on Google search page. So, that’s where you go too.
Facebook groups are awesome mediums to promote your content actively.
*Suzi Whitford’s signature course, Blog By Numbers has an exhaustive list of Facebook groups you can join but she also puts her finger on her favorite ones. You are free to join and check out all of the groups she provides, or you could go with her recommendations. I definitely joined her recommended groups and I have also started identifying 3-5 groups that I want to continue in. These are groups I had previously joined on my own.
*In her course, Suzi also gives you access to a long list of Pinterest group boards, which are a big thing these days to promote your content. I’ll be honest: I haven’t joined too many group boards. I think I am part of just 4-5 such boards and I definitely need to pick up my pinning game on these boards. Who knows…maybe if I was active on these group boards, my numbers could have been even higher.
5. Create systems and processes for your blogging business
Once you have spent a few weeks on your blog, you will begin to see certain patterns emerging. These will relate to your posting schedule and techniques, your working process and schedule, your preferred social media platforms, etc. Pay attention to these patterns and see what you can do to simplify/automate and standardize these patterns.
I described in an earlier post about how I batch process my blogging tasks and the schedule that I follow to execute the batched tasks. Another thing I am seriously looking into is automating my social media posting, especially Pinterest. (I almost bought Tailwind but I don’t own a credit card and Tailwind doesn’t support PayPal yet, so there’s that.)
Another example of standardization is creating templates. When I started blogging, I used to run around like a headless chicken trying to come up with graphics for my blog promotion. I kept experimenting with fonts and colors and come up with a certain style only to forget what I had come up with when it was time to do it again. Then a light bulb went off—why was I not doing what I had been following for the last 15 years as an online course creator? Maintaining a style guide has been an integral part of my professional life and it was time I built it into my blogging life too. Boom! I now work with premade graphics templates—all I need to do is change the image and text. What took me 15 minutes earlier now takes me no more than 2 minutes.
The idea behind the automation and/or standardization is to save time. As your business starts growing, you will find yourself spending more time on creating epic content and nurturing your subscribers. You cannot afford to waste any time doing other tasks that can be automated or delegated. Again, make prioritization your best friend.
6. Build relationships with people
Like most bloggers, I am an introvert too. Quitting the corporate rat race was my greatest gift to myself. It used to drain me to function in a structure that essentially favors extroverts. I would feign illness on days of office parties because I just could not stand the whole networking scene and gabbing nonstop for three hours.
So, when I read to be successful, bloggers not only have to network but also market and (gasp) sell, I panicked. Then I thought I don’t HAVE TO meet or broadcast myself live. I could still hide behind my screen and do it all.
I was wrong. Well, technically, I wasn’t…I really can hide behind my screen and do it all but the truth is like everything else in life, blogging success also depends on human interactions. Luckily, I don’t have move around in big groups (nightmare for my introverted personality). I can have meaningful relationships with others on a one-to-one basis.
Remember your vision is to ‘help’ others…make their lives easier by providing them with inspiration, advice, and tools. In return, find people who will help you give your best and boost your confidence. And it helps of course when your network supports you by supporting your products or services.
So, after dilly-dallying for 4 months (out of 6!), I finally took the plunge and sent out an email to my only subscriber. I sat waiting for the unsubscribe notification to pop up. But she didn’t unsubscribe. My list has since grown (albeit slowly) and I have been sending emails on a weekly basis to my group. I have seen a few unsubscribe notifications too (some on the same day as subscribing :-P) but the number of subscriptions far outweighs them and motivates me.
I am now working towards creating a safe environment for my subscribers and me to interact. To understand their needs and equip them with the information they need is my one of my top blogging priorities.
How long have you been blogging for? What have you learned in this duration that you think can help others, like me? Share in comments below.
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