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4 Classic Mistakes I Made In My First Year of Blogging [and How I Got 1000 Subscribers Anyway]

Guest post by Annabel Candy from Get In the Hot Spot

Like a lot of people I set up my blog as an experiment. I wanted to raise my profile as a writer and build up a blog which publishers would see as a useful marketing tool.

Realising how important it was to commit to blogging I vowed to blog for a year and, because I work best with a goal in mind, I set myself the challenge of getting 1000 subscribers after a year blogging with my deadline the end of March 2010.

I picked 1000 subscribers as my goal because I read somewhere that this is the amount of subscribers a writer needs on their blog to get publishers interested. I know 1000 doesn’t sound like a lot when you look at Problogger’s RSS count, but I thought it was a number that was both achievable and challenging.

The point of an experiment is to find out what works and what doesn’t and from that point of view my experiment has been a successful one.

I started blogging in about March 2009 and there are a lot of mistakes I made during my first year of blogging that I’ll do differently next time I set up a blog.

My Classic Blogging Mistakes





1. I changed my topic after 4 months


Although I spent a lot of time thinking about what to write about in my blog I still got it wrong. In the beginning I focused on writing a blog for people who want to move overseas but I soon ran out of steam. It was a subject I knew a lot about and loved but after about 4 months it just didn’t interest me enough to keep me writing about it three times a week.

In the end my blog topic really chose itself broadening naturally to self improvement with the focus on helping people live their dream. Since many people have the same dream of travel and writing as me I had a good angle and since I’ve been interested in travel, writing and self improvement for as long as I can remember it wasn’t something I’d ever lose interest in or run out of things to write about.

As you can see from my Feedburner stats even after about 6 months of blogging in August 2009 I’d only got about 43 subscribers.

feedburner-stats.jpg

It was depressing but I’d made a promise to stick with blogging so I persevered. I even wrote a guest post for Problogger called Getting Over The Blogger’s 6 Month Itch telling other bloggers why they needed to stick with it too.

2. I only got my own domain name after 6 months of blogging

Because my blog was an experiment I didn’t buy my own domain name or host the blog myself, it was just hosted by WordPress.

In August 2009 I got my own domain name and started hosting my blog there. That month I doubled my subscribers from 37 on August 1st to 83 on August 30th. Maybe readers started taking my blog more seriously now I was.

3. I never invested in graphic design

My husband and I threw together the look and feel of it based around the invitation for a leaving party we had in 2007. We’re now working with a graphic designer to get a professional look for the blog. It will be interesting to see if that helps convert more subscribers but I’ll never know how many potential readers and subscribers I’ve lost this year by not investing in graphic design at the beginning.

4. I used Feedburner for my email newsletters


There were two main problems with using Feedburner for email subscriptions. First it sent an email every time I posted which was overkill when I was posting three times a week. Secondly the emails were unbranded and ugly.
This February I switched to a different way of managing my email subscribers. If you look at the Feedburner graph that’s when there’s a drop off in subscribers because the email subscribers were being recorded on MailChimp. It lets me send out branded emails and is free if you have less than 500 email subscribers. I have a feeling choosing MailChimp could have been another mistake as all the professionals recommend Aweber so once again my penny pinching could have cost me subscribers but at least my email newsletters only gets sent when I want them to, not every time my blog is updated. I can always switch to Aweber but if that happens I’ll probably waste a of time changing over.

So How Did I Get 1000 Subscribers?

Well, actually I’ve only got 923 so far (575 by RSS feed and 358 by email) at the time of writing I still have 16 days until my self-imposed deadline. I’m fairly confident I’ll make it to 1000 and if I don’t I believe in rounding up so anything over 950 will do the job.

Here’s how I did it:

  1. I kept going for the whole year even when it looked as if I’d never make it.
  2. I wrote guest posts.
  3. Even when my guest posts were rejected by my blogging heros I wrote more posts and tried again until they accepted one. I finally succeeded in November 2009 with guest posts on Problogger and Zen Habits. If you look at the graph again you can see a huge jump in subscribers from 117 on November 1st to 478 at the end of the month because of that.
  4. I kept learning about blogging and improving my writing and my blog layout but although my subscribers rose over the next 3 months progress was slow.
  5. I started posting once a week instead of three times a week on my own blog so I had more time to write guest posts for other blogs because that proved the best way for me to find new readers.
  6. In March 2010 with my deadline looming I went all out and had guest posts on five major blogs including Problogger, Zen Habits and Write to Done.
  7. I believed in myself and ignored people who said it was a waste of time.
  8. I worked hard and kept my goal in mind.
  9. Once I did set my blog topic I focused on it 100%.
  10. I wrote my heart out and really helped people by giving them the most useful information I had on how to make their dream come true.

If I can do it anyone can. I own a business, work from home, have three young kids and run a busy household but in 12 months I still managed to set up a blog I’m proud of.

Over the next year I’ll be continuing the process of improving my blog by setting up the new design, adding incentives for subscribers, possibly offering a free e-book, writing more guest posts, working on my search engine optimisation and setting myself a new goal.

In March 2011 I’d like to have 5000 subscribers. But I worry it’s too low. Over the last year I’ve increased my subscribers 1000 times so if I do that again next year I should be aiming for 10 million subscribers but that ridiculous. Somehow I need to work out how many subscribers I should aim for after two years of blogging and then get on to it.

My ultimate goal is to make money from my blog. I have a few ideas on how to do it but there’s still lots of work to be done, experiments to be made and challenges to overcome. I’m looking forward to it.

What have your worst blogging mistakes been and how do you measure your blog’s success?

Further Reading: Check out ProBlogger’s Guide to Your First Week of Blogging.

For information and inspiration to help you live your dream read Annabel Candy’s self improvement blog, Get In the Hot Spot. Please subscribe to the RSS feed or choose email updates to stay posted on the latest articles.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Didier – The bottom line is that it has to be useful and fun for me and my readers. I’m counting the subscribers as a way of giving myself feedback on how well I’m doing it and as a means of pushing myself to keep improving my blog and the way I run it. Merci mon ami et bon chance at tout le monde:) Thanks friend and good luck to everyone:)

  2. farouk says:

    very useful info
    i strongly agree with the fact that guest posts are accepted right after facing few rejections :)

  3. Carla Daly says:

    Wow, I am impressed I only have 45 followers on my blog, I don’t know how many by RSS feed and I have been blogging for a year! I am not a writer but an artist and I write about my work and my online shops. I enjoy blogging but find it hard work and very frustrating trying to get people to follow. Your post gives me some hope and some great ideas.

  4. ibnujusup says:

    good post annabel…

    never give up spirit… i like it….
    good luck.

  5. Tanya says:

    Terrific post! A lot of newbie bloggers seem to expect success to be immediate but it really takes a lot of hard work and time – like everything else in life that is worthwhile, right?

    Like Annabel said, even when the going gets rough and the goal looks impossible – KEEP GOING!

  6. Motaz says:

    Great article, just read it in time I might add :) I have been considering starting a blog for the past few months but could never settle at one idea. Your article has confirmed that it is not easy to choose the right topic from the first go.

    I think I am now well cured of buying domain names at the drop of a hat and then going through what you went through with mind-changing about the topic so I will think a bit more before I commit to a domain for the blog.

    Good eye-openers here, thanks for sharing.

  7. I made my first blog using blogger to introduce my self on web then after some days i tried my luck for ad-sense but i put duplicate contents on my blogs so that ad-sense rejected my application for ads on my blog.
    Till today i don’t get approval from ad-sense even i made many blogs due to same address. :)

  8. Elina says:

    I promised myself a long time ago to never ever write a blog. I was proud to resist temptation and was a self-professed blog virgin. Well, 2 weeks ago, I started one. I think I got my topic down, but I am already making all of the mistakes you are mentioning. I am obsessively watching the traffic log, but I think at this point only my husband is reading it.

    Thank you for great tips, this article is very encouraging and uplifting.

    I hope this comment wasn’t “the wrong” king. :)

  9. usman says:

    Cool post Darren. Congrats for reaching your goal. I’m a novice blogger, so these tips will definitely help. To answer your question, I would be making mistakes right now. But then, that’s how I will learn along the way. I am new to reading blogs as well, so I’m also in search of bloggers that I resonate with and model after. I hope I will succeed like you did.

    Cheers :)

  10. I am not trying to make a buck with this suggestion. I, as of yet, haven’t set up my affiliate with “Blogging to the Bank 2010″ but I will. It shows ways to monetize your blog that I would never have thought of…. and I have a good imagination when it comes to marketing.

    I am glad to hear what you have done and hope that your goal will be 10 million…. why not? Those blogs that you were happy to get linked with started out with just an idea and a lot of work. You can do exactly the same. Most of the time I find that hard work produces a lot of things, but the main thing are the ideas which come out of that work.

    goodeal & gooluck
    HHH

  11. Deborah says:

    Hunter Hill,

    I am trying to click on your page – it’s not working. Every time it says “problem loading page” error. I am interested in the ways to monetize a blog.

    Deborah from Creative Gift Ideas

  12. I thought this was an insightful article about blogging and I hope to learn from it. What is the difference between a subscriber and a follower? Also, does “unique visitors” counted count for something?
    I started a blog about 2 months ago about Country Cottage Living. If you like gardening, decorating, new recipes, bike rides and picnics, you’ll like my blog! http://handful-of-daisies.blogspot.com
    Hope to stop in for a visit!

  13. Jared says:

    It sounds like you’re doing a great job. I’ve also struggled with the topic on one of my blogs and did make the mistake of switching topics. But it seems to be working out in the end. :)

  14. Matt Maresca says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I’m sure you got another nice jump after this guest post, so you’re probably over 1,000 by now. One of your mistakes is one I’ve made several times. I’ve switched blog topics multiple times, having trouble keeping an interest. Now, I think I have my niche. I’m finally writing stuff I enjoy writing and I vow to stick this one out. Hopefully, one day I’ll be posting my experiences here on ProBlogger.

  15. JK North says:

    Really interesting post.
    I’ve made some of the same mistakes, more than once.
    I might add. :)

  16. SEO-Blog says:

    Hope I can follow your tactics because I can’t even get 15 subscribers hehehe

  17. I am more a person who thinks you should JUST DO IT. Forget about the mistakes – just write, and start on a free service. Because blogging will change you. Then, once you have all the blah blah blah out of your system that no one cares about, you’ll hit on an idea for a really great blog. Then go set up THAT blog and do it right.

    But I also think people can do blogging on a small scare and hang out in their niche and not worry about who’s reading it, but like Seth Godin says, “. . .just putting it out there so you are a part of the conversation . . .”

    Some one once said, “Mistakes are stepping stones to success.”

    I say step on!

    Catherine

  18. Sean says:

    As a new blogger as well, I find myself making a lot of these same mistakes too! I’m trying to write 5 posts a week, which I know seems like a lot! I think I’m for sure going to start focusing on the guest blogging a lot more. First thing is first. I need to find where to guest blog…

  19. Tyler says:

    Thats wierd. This page doesn’t display in IE8 correctly. I had to switch over to Firefox just to get it right. Still, great information that can help me become a better blogger.

  20. Very useful article. After reading, I admit the conclusions now seems so obvious!

    Really the fact you wrote 3 times a week is quire impressive. I think if you have to say something on your blog than you don’r have to stop yourself. But writing just because of writing (like 3 times or 5 times a week) it is not worth.

    Great article thank you.

  21. Great post! Thanks for sharing your experience.
    I’ve just started blogging this year and my goals for these semester are 300 subscribers and 3000 pageviews/month.

  22. I found your post very informative but I’m still at a loss as to what, as a fine artist and not a writer, I should be writing about. I was trying to post about my art work but the thing is, I have a full-time job and I don’t have new work every week.
    I have a side blog topic about training my horse but that is just a response to a Yahoo group friend as they like the story of me and my horse (long story and in progress).
    I’m digressing, I’m sorry, but as a writer, do you have any suggestions for a visual artist about blogging?

  23. jo oliver says:

    Thanks for sharing your mistakes…helps us not make the same ones and waste our time. I have been blogging for awhile, but just recently changed my motive of blogging from venting to actually wanting to share my information with as many people as possible. Thanks again, and much success to you!