One year ago today, I made a decision to concentrate on one blog and see where that would take me.
I’d been blogging for 2 years and had already started and abandoned 3 blogs within that time. It was time to get serious.
The journey to committed blogging is not an easy one and the road I’ve travelled is one that many bloggers have gone through.
In this post, I’ll share my first year of blogging milestones, the challenges I’ve faced, and my plans for the way forward.
Milestones for the First Year of Blogging
- Publishing my first post on this blog: It wasn’t as hard this time as it was the first time I did it. This blog now has over 50 articles.
- Mastering WordPress: This has been a huge one because WordPress is a learning curve on its own. I now have enough skills to set up and manage this blog without much effort.
- Promoting posts on social media: Blogging has cured my aversion to social media and I'm now active on Facebook. I've also learnt how to share stuff online without losing my privacy. Big win!
- Creating and managing an email list: My mailing list was not active on a consistent basis and I kept changing my business focus, with each change leading to loss of subscribers. I’m now highly focused on growing and communicating with my list through a weekly newsletter.
- Setting up blogging and newsletter editorial calendars: This has helped save time because I don’t have to think about what to write about each week. I created my calendars for this year in January. Setting up the calendars took time, but they're easy to maintain.
- Getting social shares of blog posts: I love seeing people share my posts or getting comments when I share posts with my friends.
- Gaining the first email subscriber from the blog: Every blogger knows that the money is in the list. So if people aren’t subscribing to your email list from the blog, then you’re losing a lot of traction. It also feels great to know that a stranger liked something I wrote.
- Getting the first blog subscriber: I was pleasantly surprised when the first person subscribed to receive blog updates.
- Gaining credibility as a coach: Blogging has made people trust me more. I’ve had prospects who visit the blog and then hire me as their coach after reading some articles. The resources on this blog have also been beneficial to my clients because they're based on real-life challenges encountered when starting or growing a business.
- Creating a host of resource articles: One thing I learnt from Yaro Starak, a top blogger, is to create posts that become pillars for the blog. Having identified the challenges people in my niche are going through and the kinds of topics they are searching for on the internet, I've been able to create massive value posts that link to each other and come up with resources that examine each topic in depth.
- Improved writing skills: The more I blog, the better my writing gets, and the faster I'm able to create articles. It used to take 4-5 hours to research for information and create, edit, and upload a 500 word article. Today, that amount of time will end up with a well-researched pillar article of about 1,500 words.
- Writing my first book: My book 12 Weeks to Startup started out as a series of posts on my first website. I then expanded this series into a coaching program and summarized the first 3 months of the coaching program into a self-coaching manual that has been selling as an eBook for almost a year now. A few days ago, a client challenged me to take this book to the next level...so watch this space.
Blog posts and pages that got the most readership
According to Google Analytics, the top 5 posts and pages were:
- 12 Weeks to Startup book: This is not surprising because I actively market this book all the time.
- 60 Easy to Start Businesses: This post outlines 60 businesses that can be started in Kenya with 5,000/- or less. It's a summary of brainstorming done during my business startup workshops from 2013 to 2014.
- Upstaged by an 11-Year Old: This is the story of my now 12-year old son who created a blog last year and got more readers, followers, and comments than I had.
- 5 reasons to stop procrastinating on important things: In September 2015, I procrastinated on transferring contacts from my phone to a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system with disastrous results. This post examines 5 major lessons learnt from this experience.
- The Main Obstacle to Success: This post got my first comment.
Main Challenges Faced in Year 1
#1. Having divided focus
When you read through this blog, you’ll notice that the articles range from business startup to business growth, and a lot of other stuff in between. I haven’t managed to get a good balance and that’s something to improve in Year 2.
#2. Trying to do too much
There was a point when I started posting 3 articles a week, which led to loss of focus and momentum because I was doing too much.
Today, I focus on the fact that blogging is one of my marketing tools and not the main job. I’m a coach who blogs and not a blogger who coaches. And so my main focus is on coaching and getting coaching clients.
This shift has also helped me get clearer about the topics to focus on in Year 2 to make the blog more informative and relevant.
#3. Not promoting the blog enough
Over-reliance on organic traffic at the expense of actively promoting the blog didn’t help the blog’s readership grow. I didn’t know that a blog needs to be promoted actively and that it was my duty to do so.
#4. Lack of engagement on the blog
As of today, I’ve only had 2 comments on the blog – from my sisters! I do know that people are reading the articles, but they aren’t commenting. I also know that this is common in the first year of a blog, but that hasn’t stopped me from wondering…
#5. Not understanding and utilizing Google Analytics
If I want to get most of my clients by writing on the internet, then mastering Google Analytics is going to be a must this year.
It’s not so much about becoming an expert in analytics. It’s more of understanding what people are looking for on the blog and what the blog’s main sources of traffic are.
Some Lessons Learned
#1. Focus demands sacrifice
I learnt this from a communication expert way back in 2007 when he was helping a group of social scientists come up with a 5-year strategic plan.
It’s not been easy having a single focus because I’m always seeing things I could write about. However, I’ve had to learn to ignore all the shiny new objects and concentrate on the things that matter to women who want to start or grow their businesses. These are: mindset, business startup and growth tips, and money.
I’ve lost track a few times, but always came back to the main focus. When I became more focused, I started receiving requests to speak or train people because my specialty is clear.
#2. The first year of blogging is lonely
It’s hard to constantly put your writing out there without feedback. Some days I don’t feel like writing at all and some days I have loads of motivation.
I’ve learnt to keep writing and to have backup articles for the days when I don’t feel like writing. Start blogging because you want to and love the topic you write about.
#3. You can’t avoid connecting with other bloggers
So far, my journey has been a solo one. However, if I want to grow and gain online visibility, then I need to befriend other bloggers and guest post for them.
I’ve been avoiding pitching for guest blogging out of fear of rejection, but I cannot avoid it anymore. Luckily, I’ve already been invited to write guest posts for 2 blogs and can start there.
#4. Learn the basics
These include (among others):
- How to set up and manage a blog.
- Creative writing skills.
- Creating blog posts and content that is valuable, on-point, and interesting to readers.
- Finding images that match your topic.
- Promoting yourself and your blog online and offline.
- Pitching for guest posts; keyword search.
- Focusing on your writing and excluding distractions.
#5. Learn from experts
For all that I’m a coach, I do tend to forget that it’s easier and more feasible to reduce time spent working on a goal when you follow what other experts have done.
I’ve worked through a lot of information from bloggers, writers, coaches and teachers. The following resources helped me a lot in Year 1:
- Pat Flynn’s books EBooks The SMART Way and Will It Fly?, and his blog Smart Passive Income.
- Darren Rowse’s 31 Days to Building a Better Blog podcast and his blog ProBlogger.
- Yaro Starak’s eBook Blog Profits Blueprint and his blog Entrepreneur’s Journey.
- Kenn Schroder’s book The Coaching Site Guide and his blog Coaching Sites That Work.
- OptimizePress’ video lessons (this blog and its landing pages are built using OptimizePress).
- GetResponse’s 180 Days to 10,000 subscribers list-building program.
- Coschedule's blog and free resources.
- HubSpot's blog and free resources.
There’s a lot of information and resources online and you can get overwhelmed. My tactic is to pick one tip or resource and implement it before moving on to the next one.
One resource that helped me immensely but is missing from the list is Paula Thayrow’s Blog and Internet Marketing INcome (BLAIN) program. Paula is a Kenyan online marketer who helps people start blogging and make money online.
#6. Marketing is a MUST and not an option
According to Yaro Starak, most bloggers are poor marketers and so their blogs don’t get much traffic.
Marketing is important even if you’re not seeking to make money with the blog. This is because only a few peopple get to read your content if you don’t market your blog.
Way Forward for Year 2
Just as I was about to write this post, I came across Kevin Duncan’s article The Blogger’s Bucket List: 20-Must-Reach Milestones on the Path to World Domination, which outlined key milestones to aim for in Year 2 of blogging.
In the second year, I want to focus on the following milestones.
- Selling directly from the blog: At the moment, the blog is more of my credibility builder and not so much an online marketing tool. This year, I want to get most of my coaching clients through the blog. I’m also creating an e-course that will sell together with my book.
- Getting and increasing engagement on the blog: I want to have people (especially strangers) commenting on each and every blog article. In case you didn’t realise it, that’s a hint for you to go to the bottom of this article and comment (shameless begging for comments…). To increase engagement, I'll promote the posts more on Facebook and get active on LinkedIn and Twitter.
- Getting backlinks from other bloggers: Google loves backlinks! A backlink is when another website or blog link back to your content, like I’ve done with the links in this article. This is how many bloggers have grown their readership because it leads to more shares and traffic to your site.
- Reaching at least 100 new visitors per day: I’m currently averaging 15 new readers each day (Google does the math for me). Making the blog's content more relevant and interesting is one of the tactics that will be used to attract new visitors and turn them into regular readers.
- Receiving fan email from people who have read my posts and liked them (this one needs no explanation).
- Getting my first negative comment (or hater): It may seem counter-intuitive, but this is a milestone for bloggers. It shows that your content is on track. So go ahead and make that negative comment if this article is not up to par for you.
- Getting invitations for guest posts from other bloggers: This is yet another way of building traction online as it exposes you to more readers. It’s a great tactic if the person you’re guest-posting for is a famous blogger or has wide readership.
- Hitting 3,000 email subscribers from the blog: I’m working through GetResponse’s list-building program to achieve this goal. The program provides daily activities that will help the user build a list of up to 10,000 subscribers in 6 months. My goal of 3,000 subscribers is a pretty conservative one – but I'm OK starting with it. You can access the program for free for 30 days at this link.
- Having my posts go viral: Every blogger’s dream is to have a post take a life of its own online. This is when you’ve written something and people just keep sharing it, commenting on it, or backlinking to it. Oooh I’m dreaming and loving it!
- Hire a blogging team: I’m in the process of hiring a professional freelance writer to create blog posts. This way, I’ll have professional content without killing myself writing it. Another goal is to hire a social media manager to take over online marketing so that I can concentrate on doing what I love most.
Blogging is one of the most fulfilling aspects of marketing that I’ve undertaken in my business over the last 12 months.
While it took long to get to this focused point, I now enjoy the process and love blogging. I’m looking forward to sharing my knowledge and experiences with readers.
I’m also looking forward to becoming a better business writer and using the blog to get more clients because as C.J. Hayden, a renowned marketing and business coach says, writing can bring you clients.
What was your experience in the first year of blogging?
Share your experience, tips, resources in the Comments below. Also, feel free to let me know the topics you’d like to see this blog address more and what you’d like to see less of.
(Image credit: Stuart Miles at Free Digital Photos)