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
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 Elance, Odesk, 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.