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The Day I Almost Lost My Blogging Business By Having Too Many Eggs in the One Basket

It was 17 December 2004 and my dream was falling apart, right before my eyes.

I had just celebrated the 2nd anniversary since I started to blog and I was on the tipping point of my part-time earnings becoming a full-time income.

I’d quit my only other employment to devote 100% of my time to blogging and had recently started ProBlogger to share what I knew about blogging for money. I had just been interviewed in a national paper about my business and all in all, I was pretty happy with how my dreams were progressing.

Then it happened. Most of my traffic disappeared, almost overnight.

I had been averaging 12,000 visitors per day to my main blog (a camera review blog that no longer exists) – around 80% of which came from great Google Search Engine rankings.

That level of traffic was enough to make a living from using the Google AdSense program (which accounted for 95% of my income).

I woke up on the morning of the 17th December 2004 to discover that my blog’s healthy Google rankings had disappeared overnight.

The result was that I was dropped to 2000 visitors a day (from nearly 14000) on my main blog and my other blogs lost even larger amounts of traffic.

Here’s how my traffic looked on my main blog at that time.

Statsdpb 1 2

Of course, with only a sixth of the traffic I previously had I also saw my income from AdSense take a similar tumble. Rather than a full time income, I was looking at earning enough money to call it a 1 day per week job.

I was devastated.

I was confused.

I was angry.

I was also deeply embarrassed.

Not only did my friends and family know that I’d quit my job to become a blogger… so did the world because I’d talked about it here on ProBlogger.

Falling from the rankings in Google was the single biggest challenge I faced as a blogger. I didn’t understand why it had happened and I came very close to giving up blogging altogether.

Thankfully I didn’t give up.

I’m glad I hung in there because just under 2 months later I began to rank in Google again and saw most of the traffic that I’d lost return. I’m also glad because that that really tough period taught me a lot about blogging, and about business.

The Biggest Lesson Learned: Diversification

That experience taught me many things but one of the biggest lessons was about diversification and becoming too dependant on any one area of a business.

Thankfully I learned this lesson very quickly. In this post (which I wrote 3 days after falling out of Google) I wrote about my mistake of having too many eggs in the one basket.

I was too reliant upon Google for traffic and too reliant upon AdSense for income.

Rather than see this challenge as something to stop me I decided to see it as a hurdle – something to get over that would make me stronger in the process.

I decided that I would not only keep blogging but that I was going to work hard to rebuild my blogging in a way that was less reliant upon any one source of traffic or income stream.

This mind-shift led to a range of decisions to diversify in the coming months and years.

It also led me to regularly ask a simple question that helps me avoid this problem again…

Is there a single thing that could kill my business right now?

I regularly ask myself this question (in fact our team discussed it the other day). By asking it on a regular basis I get a good sense for whether the balance in my business it out and whether I need to adjust my approach to spread the risk a little.

In a series of posts in the coming days, I’ll talk more about some of the areas I’ve diversified what I do to help with this but in the mean time, I’d love to hear your own reflections upon this.

Have you ever realised that you’re too reliant upon any one form of traffic or income stream? What have you done to diversify what you do?

Stay tuned for some suggestions on how to diversify your blogging to avoid having too many eggs in the one basket by subscribing to our RSS feed or to the ProBloggerPLUS newsletter below:

UPDATE: I’ve since followed this post up with a post looking at how I diversified traffic to my blog but do plan another couple of articles in this series in the coming weeks.

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. Chris says:

    Darren, this is basically what I’m focusing now on. I’m just starting to see my blog rise from a humble start and since I’m generating from affiliate marketing, I try to diversify by not relying on only one or two sources. This post empowers to add a few more affiliate sources, as long as they fit well with the content that I have. Thanks for this post! :)

  2. Great post, Darren! :) I feel your pain, here! I run a forum for forum owners and I run one for bloggers as well. The main question I see on them is “why am I not earning an income from Adsense?” and I answer it every time! I remember when I was in their shoes. It took me an entire year to earn $100 on Adsense. Then I tried direct advertising sales. This was for a forum, though. But in 2 hours, I had earned over $350 from one ad client. I always use that story as a response to the question above as a way to get the person to explore other options of earning online. Nowadays, I only use Adsense at the beginning, temp ads if you will.

  3. Yes! Most of my traffic comes from Google as well. However, in trying to increase my overall traffic and diversify traffic sources, I pick the next biggest traffic source and try to grow it by a certain percentage. Then I turn my focus to growing the third biggest traffic source by a certain percentage, etc. Finally, I once I’ve created momentum with what I already have, I seek to find a new source of traffic. Make sense? I hope so. If not, please offer suggestions.

  4. Justin Cooke says:

    My business partner and I consistently ask ourselves if we have any single points of failure as well. When we started off, we were wholly reliant on one client, putting us in a vary scary and precarious position. That client owned us and we realized it, so we started to figure out ways to better diversify our business.

    While I totally agree with diversification, I do feel it’s a “5-figure-per-month” problem. I see quite a few people just starting off making $1K – $3K per month and worrying about diversification. I think that until you have something that’s working and you’ve doubled-down on that profit stream, you need to worry less about diversification and more about getting to the level where that becomes a real concern.

  5. poorblogger says:

    great story darren.. it could inspire people who want to make blogging as their full time job like me.

  6. Thanks Darrenn. I find diversification can be tricky? On one hand one needs to have multiple traffic streams on the other hand one has to make sure there is adequate time available to properly develop a traffic stream – otherwise one can wind up with a bunch of “half baked” traffic sources (none of which will drive traffic because they are not fully developed).

    My approach to this has been to focus on a particular few social media sources (along with organic search). I was wondering how you walk the line between proper diversity and making sure you have not spread yourself too thin?

  7. susan wowe says:

    Your post is just the right time for me to read and for me to think the same question. In my second year of blogging, most of my traffic is from search engines. It is always safer to have multiple income streams, it should be the same for bloggers. I started using Amazon affiliate a while ago after read your article introducing the program. I see a little bit results. Now I am going to explore more affiliate networks to try different options.

  8. Jafar Dhada says:

    the important thing i’ve learned is , diversification and becoming too dependant on any one area of a business.

    good post

  9. Alex Cardo says:

    Oh, f*****, I’m afraid for it…I had one blog in travel niche and it grows up from the beginning…Every day I’ve see the better traffic report in my GA account. But 2-3 month ago something was happened and my traffic had cutted twice….Fortunately my adsense earnings still were the same…But, since this moment I decided to open as much sites as I can. I plan to open 100 sites for 10 years and 10 sites in near future. I mean “big” sites, not MFA!!! Because I need a warranty in my life.

    Thank you very much for your experience!

  10. JR John says:

    I think the question that you ask yourself “Is there a single thing that could kill my business” is something that ALL marketers should ask themselves.

    If I would take away one thing from this post, that’s it. Thanks again, Darren!

    Regards,
    JR John

  11. Alexa says:

    I think you shouldn’t take more tasks than you feel you can fulfill, otherwise it will be a disaster.

  12. Eyram says:

    It was a good experience for you Darren. I thank God you did not give up. Today, we are all learning from your experiences.