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
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.
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:
- I kept going for the whole year even when it looked as if I’d never make it.
- I wrote guest posts.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- I believed in myself and ignored people who said it was a waste of time.
- I worked hard and kept my goal in mind.
- Once I did set my blog topic I focused on it 100%.
- 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.