18 Rookie Mistakes I Made In My First Year Blogging (And How You Can Avoid Them)
This last month has been a month of reflection:
On life, love, blogging, marketing, writing and everything else in between.
Because as I sit here, the clock turns to midnight, and I’ve officially been a blogger, marketer and life-lover for a whole year.
(See how to find your niche for blogging)
And it’s taught me a lot about how to:
- Brew Coffee (Coffee is life, life is coffee, okay?)
I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way – on all of them – that have resulted in me losing money, friends and readers. But I’d never change a single one of them.
Because the mistakes you make are important
They’re where you learn. Where you grow. Where you see real changes in your income, in your blog, in your marketing and in your business.
So, if you don’t mind, I’d like to share with you some of the mistakes I’ve made over this last year. The deep, dark, secrets I’ve hidden from the world for fear of looking stupid.
That way, you don’t have to make them yourself.
If you’re interested, read on. Because there’s a lot to be learned.
What You’ll Learn
- Traffic mistakes you should never make so that you only get the RIGHT traffic to your site.
- How to isolate your audience (and never get subscribers) - AVOID this.
- Lessons in life from a full time blogger so you don't have to make the same mistakes he has.
- The most effective way to waste your time on metrics so you....never waste time.
- Bonus: 8 common mistakes that rookies make (infographic)
To make this article as easy for you to follow as possible, I’ve put these mistakes into different categories, so you can pick and choose the ones you want to read about.
Or, so you can bookmark this page and come back to it whenever.
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Deathly Traffic Mistakes
Traffic is magical.
It’s what powers your blog.
It’s what allows you to help people.
It’s what make you money.
It’s where all the wonders of blogging start.
But it’s also easy to get traffic wrong.
Because, there is so much information out there telling you you’re either doing it right, or you’re doing it wrong.
And, occasionally, I bought into those too.
That was a mistake.
So I want to share with you some of my biggest traffic mistakes, and what you should do differently:
#1: Underestimating The Power Of Reddit (It Can Make Your Content Viral)
One of those that really hit a nerve was Reddit.
However, I’m going to hold my hands up and admit I was wrong:
Reddit can be a really powerful tool for getting traffic to your blog.
Thousands of people use the site, and it’s sub-Reddits each and every day.
And not all of them are trolls.
But the traffic there can often be low quality and have a high bounce rate.
Plus, they’re super critical on self-promotion nowadays, which can often get in your way.
That doesn’t mean you should write this method off, though.
But what you do have to be prepared to do is become part of the community.
Take the time to comment, like and join conversations across Reddit and you’ll see a spike in the quality of your traffic.
Because, you’ve gone from “Sell, sell, sell!” to, “Hey, I wrote this and thought of you!”.
"The trick to reddit marketing is, well, to not market" - Travis Levell
#2: Not Having A Distribution Plan (You Need One Or You'll Fail)
“If you write a blog post, and nobody reads it, did it really happen?” - Plato
Okay, so, maybe that wasn’t Plato. But I bet he’d have been one kick-ass blogger, wouldn’t he?
The truth is, if you write a post and nobody is reading it, it’s not the Internet’s fault, or the content’s faults or anybody else’s fault.
It’s your fault.
Because you haven’t put the post out there for people to see.
A lot of beginner bloggers, myself included, have this belief that once you’ve written a post your job is done.
It’s time for the masses to flock to you and read what you wrote.
But that’s not how it works.
You need to have a solid method that gets people to see your content each and every time you post it. Even if it’s only a handful of people to begin with.
So, let’s look at how you can start to get your content out there, simple and effectively.
The Rule Of Three
This is one of the simplest ways I’ve found to get your content out there in front of people, especially to begin with. It’s easy to do, and not hard to follow at all.
All you have to do is share your post in three places within 24 hours of sharing your content.
It could be anywhere that you find effective:
- Blog Comments
And you can play around with these post after post to see which get the most, or highest quality, traffic after a certain amount of time too.
You’ll also find that different posts need to be shared to different places, too.
For example if I write a post for Canva, it needs to be shared on LinkedIn and Pinterest more than say the Warrior Forum or Facebook.
So toy around and see what works for you in the long run.
#3: Not Building A Social Media Presence (Without One Who'll See Your Content?)
Kristi Hines is someone I really admire on the Nichehacks team, because she’s got this down to a tee.
If you look at all of her articles, on any site that she writes for, she has a lot more shares than most writers, just as a standard.
Well firstly it’s because she’s a kick-ass writer. Secondly, it’s because she’s put countless hours into building a social media presence that is highly engaged.
This is a mistake I’ve made for most of the last year, and only recently have decided to do something about. And I’m kicking myself for it.
Your social media presence – as you’ve just seen in the last mistake – can be your way of getting high quality traffic to your blog.
And the more people who see your content the more of an impact, change and chance of generating income you have.
The platform you choose is important too, because of your niche.
For example, if you’re in a business related niche, you’re going to perform better on Twitter and LinkedIn. But if you’re more of a fun, artsy niche, you’ll work better on Facebook and Pinterest.
Or any number of infinite combinations depending on your target audience.
Now, as I said, this is a mistake I’ve made for a long time myself, and I’m in the process of building it myself. So I’m going to put you in the slightly more qualified hands of Jawad Khan, if you want to read more about this right here.
#4: Ignoring SEO Is A Mistake. Here's Why...
I used to think SEO had nothing to do with blogging.
That it was just done by people who look like the cast of the Big Bang Theory, in small rooms hidden deep inside secret underground bunkers, looking to make sure big fancy sites could get the top ranking on Google.
We’ve all been naïve in the past though, right?
What I’ve come to learn is that it’s actually an important part of blogging, and paying even just the smallest bit of attention to it can bring some great results to your blog.
But, I’d like to bring to your attention some great advice from Sophie Lizard on the Matt Woodward blog:
“Worry more about what your website’s visitors think than what Google thinks.
That doesn’t mean you should *ignore* SEO – it’s worth knowing how search engines rank content, and taking some time to consider how they’ll rank yours.
But ultimately, there’s no point having fantastic SEO for mediocre content. Better to get the content bang on target first and think about SEO later.
Anyway, Google *wants* to rank you higher when you create good stuff, so irresistible content is the first step in any sane SEO strategy.”
So while it’s important to know about SEO it’s not important to obsess about it.
The way I got around this was by simply installing the Yoast SEO Plugin (for free) on any blog that I write for.
Then you can just do simple Keyword research around the topic, or niche, you’re writing for. And make everything, from headlines to your content, fit around that keyword with a good, bad or ugly rating.
Rookie Blogging Mistakes
You have to wear a lot of different hats as a blogger.
You’re the writer. The marketer. The strategist. The product developer. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
So it’s common to get confused, dive right in and make some shoddy mistakes that you look back on and laugh at. That’s okay; we’ve all done it.
In this section we’re going to look at some of the stupidest mistakes I made, and that you’re making (or have made) too. From all the different hats you’re wearing.
#6: Not Offering Value Is A Big Mistake
You might be thinking, “Well, I run a blog. Of course I’m offering value, I can’t not be!”
And that may be true. What you have to say does have value, because it came from you. But here’s the thing:
A lot of blog posts serve only as motivation.
They give the reader a swift kick up the ass that they need to do something right now. And posts like that, from time to time, are great.
But motivation dies out. Quickly.
People may walk away from your blog post saying, “Damn, I feel good right now!”. But then, the next morning, they’re back to square one.
When I used to run a site in the Personal Development niche, this was a big problem of mine. And it carried on into my work in Health and Fitness writing too.
I was giving people a lot of motivation, but I wasn’t giving them much guidance.
And guidance is where the true value in your blog posts comes from. Like this post is to guide you towards (or away from) certain decisions when you’re blogging.
Product reviews guide you toward, or away from, an item. Dating advice should steer you towards an action. Survival blogs should guide you on the best way to, well…survive.
You get the picture.
So ask yourself:
- Are your blog posts guiding people?
- Can they take action on what you’ve said?
- Is there a specific point they can use in their lives right now?
If not, you’re not offering value.
#5: Not Paying Attention To Formatting Will Cause You Readers
Okay, so who noticed number five was missing?
And, who's only just noticed that number five is now after number six?
Yeah. I did it on purpose, don't worry.
Although you might not think formatting, sequencing and getting your shit together is that important, it can actually mean the difference between a successful blog post, and you getting a load of angry comments.
Now, if you ask Stuart, I was a nightmare for this when I first started writing at Nichehacks. My links wouldn't open in different tabs, my paragraphs would melt together and my click to tweets wouldn't tweet.
And it's super frustrating. It makes the whole process take much longer than it has to.
So, just take some time to get used to formatting, find a process - or hire a proofreader - and get it right. Don't give anyone a reason to not like your blog, just because of a few errors.
#7: Not Networking Is The Worst Thing You Can Do
“Your network is your net worth” - Timothy Ferris
The people you know, the people who like you and the people you do good work for are the ones who will help you build yourself a successful blog.
At first, I didn’t realise this. I was one of the, “Yeah, bro, I can do this shit on my own!” crew. But as time goes on, you realise you need influencers and people with bigger platforms that your own to help you get to the next level. And the next.
For example, my first ever guest post was over at Addicted2Success. That got me an endorsement from Joel Brown. Which lead to me being featured on LifeHack. Which then lead to a spot on Tiny Buddha.
All big names to back me in the Development Niche.
Then, when I got into Internet Marketing, I got to know people like Stuart. Who got me in touch with Matt Woodward. Who helped me talk to Kevan Lee, to get a spot on Buffer.
And so on.
If you’re not networking right now – performing outreach to other bloggers, and influencers in your niche – you’re making life hard for yourself.
So it’s time for you to start reaching out to them. But how?
Here’s some tips to help you get in touch with these people:
If you want something, ask for it. These are busy people (which is what makes them worth knowing), so get right in there and ask for a guest post or collaboration.
You might get knocked back, and a few may not reply, but you’re at least putting yourself in a good place for them to recognise you.
And, a cheeky follow up email never hurt anybody either.
If you want to learn how to guest blog and network this way more effectively, I wrote about it in depth right here.
Ask them for their opinion on one of the big questions in your niche. It doesn’t have to be for an article or anything, just ask them for their insight.
Then, keep the conversation going.
Stuart did this well when he asked Neil Patel – a millionaire Internet mogul – to review his site.
Now, I’m not saying they’re the best of buds and are going for a beer on Friday. But Neil will remember him in the future and take notice if he gets in contact again.
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Help Them Out
Jeff Goins once wrote:
“It’s not who you know, it’s who you’ve helped”
Which is a great way of looking at it.
Try things like Ludvig Sunstrom did, where you send out widgets that would help them on their sites. Or just offer some helpful hints and advice, from the goodness of your own heart.
Ryan Biddulph is a great example of this. The guy just goes out of his way to comment on blogs, add value and impart wisdom to everyone…whether he gets a return on it or not.
In fact, one of his blog comments over at Matt Woodward’s site actually turned into a guest post slot.
So, this is a great way to add value and get yourself some extra networking done in the process.
#8: Paying Attention To Vanity Metrics Is A Mistake
Some metrics matter, and some of them don’t.
But it’s usually the ones that don’t that bloggers get excited about. Because, well…they’re nice to look at.
For example, when I first started, I was only ever focused on page views. How many people were coming to my site?
And I’d get really excited when thousands of people would come to my post…
But I’d neglect to look at the fact my bounce rate was up in the 90 percent range.
So while people were coming to my site, because I’d written a cool headline or goaded some troll on Reddit, they weren’t staying because I wasn’t grabbing their attention.
This took me months to figure out. And wasted a lot of time. Because while I thought page views were everything, they weren’t. As nobody was coming on to my (or my clients) mailing lists.
But you’re probably wondering, what’s a vanity metric? And how do I spot it?
“Whenever you start tracking a metric ask yourself if it helps you take action and make decisions. If not, ditch it.”
And these metrics will change depending on where you are in the life of your blog too.
But, as a blogger, it should help you answer these questions:
- Does it help me get more subscribers?
- Does it help me make more money?
- Does it help me improve my content?
If it doesn’t, then it’s a vanity metric. Because it’s not helping you get closer to your goal (more on that later).
Let’s say you’re looking to grow your mailing list.
Your page might have amazing amounts of page views, but absolutely nobody is sharing your content, and you’re getting no new subscribers.
Which of those metrics is more important?
Firstly, the subscribers; why aren’t people subscribing to your blog?
Secondly, the shares; what’s wrong with your content that means people aren’t sharing it to their friends?
The page views aren’t as important, because although the number might be great, they’re not of a high quality.
But most bloggers – even you – can often be blinded by just how lovely that number is to look at.
So always be sure to look deeper and pay attention to the metrics that really matter. It’s better to have 10 people who all subscribe to your mailing list, than 1000 who don’t.
#9: Not Being Honest. Do You Think They Are Dumb?
Your audience aren’t as dumb as you think they are.
Yeah, I just said that. Why?
Because there are a lot of bloggers who basically make shit up to get their point across. And, they don’t just embellish stories or tie up a few loose ends to make a story make sense.
They straight up lie.
I did it. Once. And it was a mistake. Because the audience I was writing for saw right through it. And, thankfully, that post isn’t online any more.
As a blogger it’s your job to put the truth in a frame your audience will understand. In the same way that an author will write a self help book that applies to as many readers as possible.
But making shit up will get you nowhere.
Take your time and find some stories that did happen in your life that fit your article. If you can’t, find a case study of someone who can back it up. Or use the research available to paint a picture.
Unless your blog is based on fiction (and it’s probably not, if you’re here) it’s time to be honest and genuine and straight up with your readers.
Note: I deleted this section four times before I decided to post it. But deleting it goes against what I’m saying.
#10: Trying To Be (Too) Original Will Cost You
What you think makes a blog original, and what actually makes your blog original are two completely different things.
- Your niche
- Your content ideas
- Your products
That make you original. Because, at the base of it, all the blogs in every niche are similar in all of those ways. They are just variations on the same ideas, done over and over again.
After all, there’s nothing new under the sun, right?
What it is that makes you an original then is:
- Your opinions
- Your approach
- Your story
- Your tone of voice
Which is what makes methods, like the Skyscraper Method, so powerful. That you can express your opinions and ideas on topics that people want to read about.
Don’t be afraid, then, of stealing ideas. Of taking the same approach as other bloggers. Of following the crowd.
Because when it comes to actually putting pen to paper (or words to screen) that’s where you’re going to prove your originality.
The niche is never too saturated. The idea has never been overdone. Because you’ve not done it yet.
Life Mistakes (And Lessons) From A Full Time Blogger
I’m what’s known as a freelance blogger.
A pen for hire.
Someone who knows lots of different subjects and can turn his hand to anything with enough research.
It’s how I make my living (you can read about that here) and I love every single minute of it.
But, along the road, it’s taught me a lot about life and enjoying yourself. Because, damn…life’s too short, isn’t it.
So, if you’re only here for the Internet Marketer stuff, then feel free to close the article off here.
But if you’d like some insight into life, and how to grab your blogging career by the balls, then read on.
Hopefully I can give you something you can use:
#11: Not Writing About Topics You Love
There are thousands of profitable niches out there that you could start a blog in right now.
But, don’t do it. Especially not just for the money.
You should only choose a niche or a topic that you love. That you care about. That you want to write about.
Blogging takes a lot out of you.
There’s a lot of thinking, strategy and research involved. And if you don’t love your topic, you’re not going to want to do it.
And your content will suffer. Your audience will suffer. Your reputation will suffer.
And you income will suffer.
I once took a blogging gig writing for one of the worlds most renowned Life Coaching companies, because they offered me a lot of money to write for them.
And everything I wrote sucked.
Because I have zero interest in life coaching. Every article felt like a struggle.
I was grinding them out. And, while the pay check was great, the work wasn’t.
And it didn’t make me happy.
So, I stopped.
And you need to take a similar approach – whether you’re a freelancer or starting your own blog – because if you don’t love it, you wont succeed at it.
It’s easier to pour your heart and soul into a niche you love, for a little less money, than it is to grind out a profitable blog you couldn’t give a shit about.
"Find what you love and let it kill you" - Charles Bukowski
#12: Not Taking Risks Is Risky
You gain nothing in blogging – or in life – from playing it safe.
If you want to play it safe, you’re in the wrong game.
Instead you need to take risks.
Whether that’s putting something offensive in your post, pitching to a blog that you feel is way out of your league or quitting your job to go travelling with a girlfriend you eventually break up with.
Yeah, that happened.
But if you’re ever worried about doing something – whether it’s in your blogging, your business, your writing or your day-to-day – because of what someone might think, that’s usually a good sign you should go ahead and do it anyway.
#13: Not Knowing When To Say No Will Cause Problems
No is probably the most powerful word in your arsenal. But, it’s often the hardest to say.
You want to say yes to everything. Especially if you’re just starting out.
- Yes to a new theme
- Yes to writing more posts
- Yes to taking on extra work
- Yes to multiple traffic strategies
In fact, you’re ready to say to just about anything. But there comes a time where Yes makes you a pushover. And that goes for your life as well.
Don’t do things because you think you should. Don’t do them because there’s money to made. Don’t do them because some guru said you should. Or to jump on the latest fad.
Do them because you damn well want to.
Mark Manson write a blog post a while back called, “Fuck Yes, or No”, that says if you’re not an earth-shattering yes to something, you should say no.
That will steer you well in blogging and life.
Because you’ll always be sure you’re saying yes to something that excites you, that speaks to you, that you know isn’t going to fail.
And, even if it does, you can handle the failure even better anyway.
#14: Letting Other People Give You Limits
I read a book about Freelance Writing not too long ago. And it had a paragraph in it that always stuck with me. It said:
“The average yearly salary of a Freelance Writer is $5,000. So I’d recommend you don’t quit your day job just yet.”
I spat my coffee out as soon as I read it.
Because I’ve been known to make that in a month, never mind a year.
And there are hundreds of freelance bloggers making six figures (I’m not one of them, yet) every year.
So, fuck limits.
Don’t let anybody tell you that this is all you’re capable of. That you’re not enough.
That you can only go so far.
You get out what you put in. If you go half-assed at your niche marketing, you’re going to get half-assed results.
But if you do that one thing every day towards growing and getting what it is that you want, then no limits can contain you.
People told me, readily and often, that I could never make a living doing this.
That I was just turning my hobby into something more than it ever should be.
Fuck those guys, too.
People will never understand what you do.
This online marketing game is misunderstood, and there are those people who will never get what you do.
But do it anyway. For you.
#15: Not Breaking The Rules
How many times have you been told that you can’t, or shouldn’t, do something?
You’re usually told this by people who have tried, failed and didn’t want to get back up on the horse again.
And they become the rules of what you believe you can, or can’t, do.
You start to tell yourself that the rules are the truth.
Stop listening to Guru’s that tell you things can only be done a certain way.
Or that you have to achieve X, Y and Z before you can be successful at anything.
I wear a pendant that was given to me by my Grandfather that says:
“My Dear Grandson, Forge Your Own Path, Anything Is Possible”
Or, to put that in an even simpler way – screw the rules, do it your way.
If you try something and it goes tits up, so what?
You’re no worse off than when you started.
And, as long as it’s not something super-illegal, you just end up back at square one.
And then you know that’s a rule worth following, don’t you.
But when you find that rule that you break, and it sends your results soaring, that’s the day you’re glad for every time you stepped outside of your comfort zone.
With the wonders of A/B testing that are around too, you’ll create your own set of rules in no time at all.
#16: Not Getting Out Of Your Damn Head Is A Problem
Not every blogger is a location free, world traveller. I’ve toyed with it, but I’ve not gone full throttle on it just yet.
But when you work from home, and all you do is write and work on your business, it’s easy to get caught in your own head. Overthinking and overanalysing everything.
It’s a completely natural by-product of looking at the same four walls over and over again. Don’t worry.
So it’s important you make time to get out of your own head (or house) from time to time.
But be sure to give yourself the time to unwind and escape your over-blogged mind. You’ll create better content, and have better ideas, because of it.
#17: Not Living With Purpose Is A Problem Too
Recently, I lost a lot of people close to me in my life. Through death, through severed ties and ended relationships. And, with them, my purpose seemed to disappear too.
And it felt hollow.
You’ve probably experienced it at times too. Where you’re just floating through a rough patch, or going through a time where you can’t figure out just what it is that you want.
These are the times it’s important to find your purpose, and live for it.
Whether you feel your purpose is to make money, to help people, to write about cats, to travel the world, to learn physics…whatever.
It doesn’t matter. Just go out there and find your purpose.
For me, it’s writing.
Because I know that through my words, if I even help one of you – to become a better marketer, make more money or change your thinking – I’ve done something worthwhile.
Your purpose will get you through the bad times.
It will get you through the good.
It defines who you are. So, go out and find it.
#18: Not Setting Goals Will Cost You
Blogging – and living – without a goal is a waste of time.
Whether your goal is just to get out of bed in the morning and make it through the day, or if it’s to plough through and make $7,000 this month, you need to have one in place.
Scientifically, you should have it written down, too.
I used to live without goals.
Why did I need them? I wanted to be a writer, so I just wrote.
And that’s how you become a writer – by choosing yourself to be one – but how you become a paid, successful writer, is by having goals in place that get you there.
For all of last year, this sign hung on my wall:
I quit my job within a month of hanging that up. I made that amount of money a few months later (and just before the deadline).
Now that’s not to toot my own horn. That’s to say that having goals works wonders. And you should always have them:
- For your life
- For your blog
- For your business
- For your relationships
- For your hobbies
And whatever else it is that you have going on in your life.
Set them, write them down, and make them part of your purpose.
You’ll be much better off for it.
8 Common Rookie Mistakes:
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It’s Time To Learn From My Your Mistakes…
Be honest, how often have you made any of these mistakes? Probably a few times right.
Some of you will check all 18 off the list. Others, you’ll have one or two. And there are those of you who sit everywhere in between too.
The question is…which of these mistakes are you going to work on first?
Answers on a postcard. Or, in the comments…