Learning From Mistakes: 7 Things I Wish I Did Earlier As A Blogger

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Wish I Did Earlier

For the past 5 years I have been fortunate enough to be able to earn a living online, and blogging has been a critical part of my business. Over the years I’ve learned a lot from mistakes that I’ve made, and the good news is that as I start new websites and blogs I can apply the things I’ve learned to speed up the growth process. I’d like to share some of the most important lessons that I’ve learned so that those of you who are just getting started with your blogs can get on the right path faster than I did.

Here are 7 things that I wish I did earlier as a blogger.

1. Built An Email List

When I started blogging there was a lot of talk about how RSS was going to replace email. The main reason was that you didn’t have to worry about spam filters preventing your RSS subscribers from receiving your updates. At that time not many bloggers were focusing on building email lists. If they were offering email subscriptions it was probably through FeedBurner, which is really just a subscription to the RSS feed that is delivered by email.

Then a few years later I started to see some bloggers adding an email newsletter, but I took a while to get on board. Although RSS does offer some nice benefits, it has never proven to be nearly as effective as email for getting results. Email lists tend to be more responsive in terms of clicking on your links in the email, and certainly more responsive for buying products that are promoted to the list.

Once I did eventually get around to focusing on an email list I saw results within just a few months. I used the list to help with selling my own digital products, and it proved to be just as effective as my RSS audience that was much, much larger. If I had started building that email list earlier I could have gained thousands more subscribers and made a lot more money as a result.

I’d recommend that any blogger focus on getting visitors to opt in to an email list, and not just an email subscription through FeedBurner. While FeedBurner can deliver your blog posts by email it lacks many features, like the ability to send emails without posting anything to your blog, A/B subject line testing, autoresponders and email templates. I personally use and recommend GetResponse, but there are other good options too, like AWeber, MailChimp, Constant Contact, and iContact. While FeedBurner’s email features are very limited, FeedBlitz offers a similar service but also includes many additional features.

2. Focused On Profit Instead Of Traffic

In my early days of blogging I was consumed with traffic statistics. I wanted to grow my blog and expand it’s reach, and so I always worked to keep the numbers in Google Analytics moving upwards. While I was able to keep the traffic numbers increasing, I was missing opportunities and focusing on the wrong things. If I had a good day or a good week in terms of traffic I felt encouraged and satisfied with the growth, but ultimately the traffic wasn’t directly making the blog profitable. Visitors would come and go, but if they never returned I hadn’t really gained anything just by having a spike in traffic.

It took a while before I shifted my focus and started putting more emphasis on revenue and profit instead of traffic. Once I did start focusing more on making money with the blog I saw my income rise significantly, even at times when traffic growth slowed down or came to a complete halt.

For new bloggers it can be challenging to get anyone to visit your blog, and seeing that very few people are reading your posts can be discouraging, so when that traffic does start to come it’s easy to get caught up in the numbers. I’m certainly not suggesting that you shouldn’t work hard in order to get more visitors to your blog. What I do want to get across is that you should not measure your success by traffic, or lack thereof, alone. In the end, revenue and profit will have much more impact on your blogging success than traffic, and you don’t always need to have a high traffic blog in order to make decent money with it.

If you find that you’re always consumed with increasing your visitor counts, take a step back and see if you are giving enough attention to your monetization efforts.

3. Focused On Action Goals

Another mistake that I made early on was to set goals based on milestones that I wanted to achieve. So I might have a goal of getting 50,000 visitors during the month, or making $1,000 in the month. Those types goals aren’t bad to have, but they don’t really help you to know what you need to do in order to achieve them.

Later on I changed my approach and started to set action goals that would put me on the right path to success. As an action goal I might say that I want to submit a guest post that gets accepted at ProBlogger this month. This goal is directly related to me completing a specific action that will help me to grow my blog. So my approach now is that I set a lot of small action goals each week and each month. Those goals essentially help me to form a to-do list that keeps me focused and on task, and if I’m able to accomplish all of the goals I will be on the right path towards growing my blog.

I still use milestone goals sometimes, usually aimed at a certain revenue that I want for a given month, but I use them mostly as motivational tools and also to give me a reason to enjoy and celebrate a good month. If I do set a milestone goal I put a plan in place using action goals that I think will get me to the point of achieving that milestone.

4. Created and Sold Products

Create-A-Product-To-Sell-Online-On-Your-Own-Website

Early on in my blogging career I mostly made money from AdSense and advertising sales. If you have enough traffic and you’re in an industry where advertisers are willing to pay to reach your audience, you can obviously make money with this approach. However, my income really took off when I added other sources of revenue, most specifically, product sales. In just about any industry or niche you can create digital products, and a blog is an excellent tool for marketing those products.

With your blog you’re already working to build up a targeted audience, and you’re working to establish the reputation of your blog and of yourself as the blogger. This makes it a great fit as a place to offer and promote products that are relevant to your audience. Your products could be eBooks, online courses, videos, access to premium content, or any other type of digital product that can be downloaded.

Creating and selling products does take considerable time and effort, but if you’re looking to maximize what you can make from your blog it is a good option to pursue.

5. Outsourced Some Work

One of the biggest keys to success as a blogger is to work efficiently. Whether you are blogging part-time or full-time, those hours that you are dedicating to your blog are very valuable and limited. There are many different tasks that you’ll be responsible for as a blogger, and some of them can be outsourced. Hiring freelancers or virtual assistants can be a good way to free up your time for the most important things.

Early on I did everything for my blogs. Slowly I started to outsource some of the work, and I’ve seen the benefits in how it frees up my own time and ultimately allows me to be more profitable. I now outsource the writing at some of my blogs, some of the product creation, as well as some design and coding work. For a long time I didn’t want to pay someone to write a blog post that I could write myself, but eventually I decided that if I could hire someone at a rate lower than the value I place on my own time, then it is a good deal.

There will some situations where you don’t want to outsource the work, even if it makes sense financially. For example, at ProfitBlitz.com I plan to write all of the blog content myself because I want it to be a blog where I share things that I’ve learned, but at my other blogs that are less personal to me I will outsource if it makes sense financially.

In the previous point I recommended that you consider creating and selling products from your blog. This is actually an ideal scenario for outsourcing. You may not have the time or expertise to create a product that you want to sell, and you can probably find a freelancer to hire for the project. This is a great way to get started with selling products even if your time is extremely limited. I’ve outsourced product creation for several years and it has turned out to be a very good strategy for me. The key is hiring the right person. Sites like ElanceOdesk, and Microlancer are great for finding freelancers who are looking for work.

6. Pursued Joint Venture Opportunities

After I started selling products from my blog I occasionally pursued joint venture opportunities with other bloggers and website owners, and this opened up a lot of new possibilities. The most common joint venture scenario for me has been partner with bloggers or website owners to sell my products at their site, often times through a limited-time promotional offer. The ideal situation is to partner with someone who shares a similar target audience as my own blog, and someone who either doesn’t sell their own products or sells related but non-competing products. If another blogger or website owner sells the same types of products as me, obviously they’re not likely to be interested in partnering with a competitor.

These types of opportunities helped me to make some money without doing very much extra work. I already had the products created, and they already have the established audience. I’ve also worked on the other side where I promoted someone else’s product to my blog audience for a limited-time promo, but I don’t have as much experience with this.

I had been selling products for a year or more before I pursued these types of joint ventures, and I wish I had not waited so long. If you are selling your own products, or if you have an established audience through your blog or email list, you have the potential to join forces with someone else to make money together.

7. Prepared In Advance For A Blog Sale

Over the last 5 years I’ve sold a few blogs in situations where I was ready to move on and do something else. The biggest mistake I made with my first blog sale was that I didn’t prepare to sell the blog in advance. I had a good month or two prior to selling it and I thought that success would translate to a big payday. While that increase in revenue and profit did help me to make more than I would have based on the previous months with lower incomes, I would have been much better off if I had a year, or even 6 months, at the higher income level. Buyers want to see more sustainability if they’re going to pay a higher amount, and one or two good months may not be enough to convince them that the blog can continue to produce at that level.

If you are thinking about selling your blog at some point in the future, I recommend that you plan in advance so that you can maximize the value of the blog and allow yourself the time to prove that value to potential buyers.

What’s Your Experience?

If you’ve been blogging for a while, what do you wish you had done earlier?  Please let us know in the comments below.

About Marc Andre

Marc Andre is a full-time blogger and internet marketer from Pennsylvania. At his new blog ProfitBlitz you can get a free ebook: Guide to Profitable Blogging. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

  • Laura

    Hi Marc! These tips are great. Have just started my own blog (finally) and am bound to make mistakes along the way. Will try to follow your advice and do these sooner rather than later.

    • http://profitblitz.com/ Marc Andre

      Thanks Laura. Good luck with your blog!

  • http://WWW.EXTRA-CASH-ONLINE.COM/ Robert Connor

    We like post lots of great info Marc!

  • jhonny

    Thanks for your post Marc, I’m a newbie in blogging, and I’ll be using your post as a guide.

  • http://www.soniamharris.com Sonia

    What a great post. I’ve definitely started to take some of the things on board that you mentioned. Learning from mistakes is a great place to be actually. I am working on my first product to offer people that visit my site. Thanks again for your insights.

    • http://onlineincometeacher.com/ Matt Smith

      Hi Sonia,

      I think Marc’s post is great as well. Have always been of the opinion that mistakes aren’t bad, they can actually be very beneficial if you can learn from them. So if we can learn from other people’s mistakes, that is even better!

  • Alan Dingwall

    This is a great post. It’s great to see information from people who have made these kinds of mistakes because this is the kind of thing that gives them authority on any blog.

    Everyone goes through those small mistakes that can have big results. I know that when I launched my first few blogs my interests changed and I stopped updating them because I didn’t think any of my content was good and I didn’t think that anyone liked my content.

    I feel that this situation is what a lot of newbies have on their hands and the situation above describes everything wrong that I did with my first few blogs so hopefully when I launch my new blog with my own domain name it’ll change and I’ll be able to tackle these problems head on.

    This post has some really good tips for beginners or people with little experience and I think that if people follow through avoiding the mistakes that Marc made when he first started they can grow a successful blog and generate a great revenue from it.

    Thanks for the post Marc and Matt! XD

    • http://onlineincometeacher.com/ Matt Smith

      Hi Alan,

      One mistake that I’d add to this list that I think many new bloggers make is to “give up too quickly”. I’ve done this in the past and get plenty of emails from people who have done the exact same thing.

      It’s easy to be really enthusiastic about a site when you first start it, but that can quickly fade if you don’t get the reaction that your were expecting straight away. People usually just have to stick with it and persist for a while before they will see traffic start to pick up. Every successful site has gone through this and the only reason why they are still here is because they didn’t give up.

      • Alan Dingwall

        Right on Matt! :) The A-list bloggers have been around for years and managed to build their audience as blogging grew to become a sure thing on the internet.

        I feel that this made it easier for them because it was becoming more known and more popular, but there are still many great opportunities for people to find a big audience like that nowadays too.

        They just have to work hard and persist through the hard times. I know from my first few free blogs that it can feel like people don’t give a crap about the blog.

        However what I found was that when I deleted my blogger blog someone left a comment on a Google+ post from where I had shared it earlier asking where my blog was and I put it right back up.

        The only problem was that after that I never really had much traction with my blog and in the end I deleted it.

        I’m still a little what should I do before I launch my blog stage kind of thing. I was thinking about launching with a collection of article and then I thought that I shouldn’t.

        Then I thought maybe I should post every day of the week for the first month and then as each month goes by cut it down by one day until I reach a point where I’m only posting 1 day a week.

        I know this strategy brings a ton of traffic to your blog, but the problem with this is a lot of that traffic may not be your target audience so I initially decided against it, but now I’m thinking about doing it again just to get the first few readers on my blog.

        I also thought about writing a ton of article and marketing my blog when I launch that way to bring a stream of traffic to my blog through article marketing, but this method doesn’t do much without some promotion and with the amount of article that I was planning on posting there was no way I could equally promote them all.

        I then thought about doing a bunch of guest posts before I launched my blog, but I’ve never done that one before and I’m not to sure if other bloggers would allow me to guest post without having my own blog up.

        Then I was thinking about launching my blog and updating it like onnce a month with strong promotion everyday and every few days adding a new piece of content to them. For example a few days after I post I would add more pictures to the post, a few days later I would add a slideshow, then a video, then a infographic to my blog post.

        Although I do feel that this is a great idea to give new life or increase the life of an older blog post. It would most likely eventually become a case study and be very over optimized which could get me penalized by google.

        The reason as to why I wanted to do this was because I was thinking maybe I could do that in the first year or so of my blog and then the next year I would post every day, the next year I would post once a week and then the next year I would post say every two weeks so I can concentrate on other parts of my blog as well as content creation, content promotion among other things.

        Now I’m thinking about uploading a video or two each day to youtube leading up to the blogs launch to build a audience and obviously build up my facebook, twitter and G+ audience at the same time.

        However now I’m thinking that these idea’s may help to build up my blog if I mix them together.

        Maybe I should do less posts and continue to promote and add content to them, while building my audience on Youtube through posting video’s every day before launch and then one to a few times per week after launch. Do at least 2 guest posts per month and at least 2 articles per week to market my blog.

        I know I sound like a crazy person and I’m sorry this comment is so long. I’m just trying to find the perfect launch strategy now. Lol.

        • http://onlineincometeacher.com/ Matt Smith

          Wow, that is a lot to digest in a comment :)

          First things first, I think you are seriously overcomplicating things. It’s good to have plans and strategies beforehand, but you can get to the point where you can’t act for fear of going against your master plan.

          For now, forget about what you plan on doing in a year/2 years/3 years with your site and just focus on getting your site online. Sometimes it’s much better to focus on short-term goals, especially when just starting. And anyway, I can guarantee that there will be things that won’t have even thought about yet.

          Now you mention your planned posting schedule. When I first started this site, I had three posts (as well as an about page, contact page, etc.). I posted 2 posts a week (Mon & Thurs) every week until traffic started to pick up. You say you have a few posts stockpiled already, so that would give you a few weeks of posts if you followed the same strategy. That way, you can focus on the other important aspects of getting your site up and running (i.e. social media, site design, etc.).

          I wouldn’t bother with YouTube before launch, as it probably wouldn’t be worth it for the traffic. By all means, make them after launch for your posts, but I don’t think you’d see that much traction from them beforehand.

          Right, so if I were you, I’d pick a date that you want to launch your site and stick with it. In the mean time, work on actually setting your site up (domain, hosting, WordPress, branding, etc.) Get all your posts that you have already written and schedule them to go out at intervals – so 3 on launch day, one on Monday, one on Thursday, one on Monday, one on Thursday…etc.

          Everything else, for now at least, you can put on hold and forget about. Just focus on the goal of getting your site up and running.

          • Alan Dingwall

            Wow that was really a lot. I didn’t even notice how long that comment was until I read it for like the second time. I’m so sorry.

            I’m bombarding your blog with massive comments. I hope none of my comments or constant idea’s and mind changing has annoyed you.

            I promise I’ll try to do shorter comments from now on to save you some time. Again I’m really sorry.

            I guess your right about the Youtube factor I was just sort of looking at Marie Forleo and Derek Halpern for inspiration and thought it would be a good idea to set up my own Youtube show.

          • http://onlineincometeacher.com/ Matt Smith

            There is absolutely no need to apologise Alan. You can post comments as long as you want, they are all good in my eyes. It’s my job to try and help people out like yourself, after all it’s why I started this site in the first place.

            YouTube is a fantastic place to get traffic from. There are some great examples of people (like the ones you mention) who have been able to create a bit of a buzz around a site before launch. These people tend to be fairly experienced though and usually have an existing fan/reader basis.

            The only reason why I suggested to leave it for now was that you are quite inexperienced with sites at the moment. There is SO MUCH to learn about when starting your first site that I think you will be surprised. You will make plenty of mistakes along the way (I made countless) but that is just a part of learning. Try to break things down into much smaller, bite-sized chunks and you will find it much easier.

          • Alan Dingwall

            Yeah. I did try to start a vlog on Youtube about a year ago, but I only got like 18 views. I’ve taken the video’s down since then though.

            Marie Forleo is really inspiring with all of the things that she’s done and because she’s built her business through video too. I have a lot of bloggers on my inspirational list and you’re on there too. :)

            That’s true before Marie launched her online business she was doing personal training and stuff like that. I am quite in experienced. Lol. I definately need to work harder to learn more.

          • http://onlineincometeacher.com/ Matt Smith

            Like I say, you will really start to learn about all the different aspects when you start your site. It’s a powerful thing to learn about something, implement it on your site and then see how it works. I didn’t know that much about blogging when I first started this site, but you just grow as you gain more confidence in what you are doing.

          • Alan Dingwall

            Yeah. I’ve mainly used blogger to run my early blogs, but I did do one on wordpress. They’re pretty different so I was a little confused how to use it, but I got over it. :)

            I think that I’ll do well once I start it and it’s up and running. I think my previous blogs I deleted was because I wasn’t getting as much traction as I wanted and if I did stick to it I would have probably had a good thing going now.

          • http://onlineincometeacher.com/ Matt Smith

            WordPress.com is much better than Blogger (in my opinion). Not only is it more closely like the self-hosted WordPress.org version, but it is easier to transfer it to a self-hosted server once you plan on going that way.

            Blogger, even though it’s run by Google, seems very dated now. It doesn’t get the support it needs and gets far less traffic than it should, which again is surprising with it being part of Google.

          • Alan Dingwall

            Yeah. My first blog on blogger got like 1000 hits in about 3 days because I was over promoting it, but I was still updating it and I didn’t get much traction.

            It does look very dated too and I completely agree with you there. WordPress is definitely better and more people should use it.

            I have created several blogs there on blogger and I didn’t really see any Google benefits to be honest.

          • http://onlineincometeacher.com/ Matt Smith

            1000 hits in 3 days is pretty good! Just a shame that it didn’t carry on like that, otherwise you’d have been onto a winner.

            Yeah, is really surprising when you think of it. You never tend to see ‘Blogger’ blogs ranking on the 1st page of the search engines. Are usually hidden deep within the rankings. Just totally not worth it for that reason alone.

          • Alan Dingwall

            Yeah. What surprises me more is why they still have the service online when it doesn’t provide a good enough service to other people and that’s the whole point of a free blogging platform.

          • http://onlineincometeacher.com/ Matt Smith

            Blogger is alright for personal blogs. Am sure Google makes it’s fair share from advertising from them, but I do agree that they could make a lot more from it if they wanted. Sounds like they are more focused on robotics, drones and Google Glass at the moment though.

          • Alan Dingwall

            I agree with you. And they should do something more with it because it’s become so popular and I read somewhere that it’s one of the most popular blogging platforms. What’s Google Glass?

          • http://onlineincometeacher.com/ Matt Smith

            You must have heard of Google Glass. It’s like a mobile phone that you wear on your face (haha, maybe they should add that to the advert).

            It’s not out yet, but is coming very soon. Here is a link: http://www.google.co.uk/glass/start/what-it-does/

          • Alan Dingwall

            It looks interesting.