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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.

5 Fundamentals That Determine How Fast Your Blog Grows

This is a guest contribution from Tim Soulo.

This year I’ve managed to grow a photography blog by 500% in about 6 months and I think I’ve learned something along the way.

I was following five fundamental things that you can learn from any marketing blog, but I like to think that I’ve made a few personal discoveries about each of them.

And the most important of all the discoveries is how these five fundamentals unite into one solid strategy. Once you comprehend it ­ your blog will start growing.

So let’s see if I’m good enough in sharing what I’ve learned.

1. Write Mind Blowing Content

Writer's warm-ups

Image copyright Robert Kneschke – Fotolia.com

I know it’s been said thousands (if not millions) of times how much the quality of your content matters. But let me try and give you a deeper understanding of this matter.

Poor content doesn’t get shared on social networks.

Of course you can always trick people into sharing your articles with all these “Social Locker” plugins (those will hide the content from readers unless they click on social sharing buttons). But this will only get you so far.

If your content is poor ­ there’s no motivation for visitors to click the “tweet” button.

Unless of course you have a raving community of fans, who will support just about anything you do. But…

Poor content doesn’t attract fans.

How can you expect a person to stick with your blog if he can hardly make himself read the first few paragraphs of your boring article?

Remember this: every time you allow yourself to publish a mediocre article, you lose a few potential fans (and maybe a few existing ones as well).

Most free content is poor content.

I think many blog owners will support me on this one. How many guest post offers do you guys get per week? And how many of them are actually worth being published at your blog? Hardly a few.

And that is one of the reasons everybody hates SEO guys.

They order cheap content from freelance copywriters (like $5 for a 500 words article) and then send out canned emails to every blog they’re able to find, offering this poor content.

In their turn, lazy blog owners are often tempted by the chance to publish a ready­made article on their blog. Somehow many of them still think that the more posts you publish, the better your blog performs.

And, to be honest, it’s not just SEOs. Many bloggers will challenge themselves to something like “write 3 guest posts per day for 30 days” in order to promote their blog.

But can one write 90 awesome articles in a month? No. Maybe 30? Sorry, but No. I guess this very post will take me 2­3 days to be finished (but I’m not doing this full time of course).

Even the content you pay for can be lame.

At a certain point you may feel you need to hire a few people to help you with your blog. Well, the fact that you pay them doesn’t mean they will write great articles.

Unfortunately most of the so­called “freelance copywriters” will treat their work as a routine, where they exchange a certain amount of words to a certain amount of money. While in an ideal world, they should be looking for someone to pay them based on their level of expertise and the amount of effort they put into their work.

So now you understand why poor content won’t get you anywhere. Here’s what you can do about it: learn to write awesome articles.

2. Get Serious About SEO

SEO flow chart SML

People should be able to find your awesome articles. And Google is where they will search for them.

But you have to do quite a few things to make your articles rank well in Google.

On the photography blog, that I was talking about earlier, the traffic from Google was growing by 10­15% each month. And surprisingly I didn’t do much to achieve that.

So what are the basics to get you started?

Learn to pick relevant keywords.

As they tap into SEO, most bloggers will always go for very broad and popular keywords… and fail miserably.

I mean for a post titled “10 Leather Camera Bags Reviewed”, newbie bloggers will pick the keyword “bags” ­ as it’s more popular and should bring more traffic once you’re on the first page of Google.

But what they don’t understand is:

1. Shorter, broader, more popular keywords are much­much harder to rank for. So you’re doomed to stick somewhere at page 15 of Google’s search results with no visitors.

2. A person searching for “bags” is not necessarily interested in “camera bags”, with even a smaller chance of being interested in “leather camera bags”. So why do you want to show him your article anyways?

Think logically. You want to show your post to people that search for “leather camera bags” or, to be even more precise, “leather camera bag reviews”. That’s the keyword you should go for.

Learn to optimise your articles.

I guess the majority of you guys know it already, but I can’t just make gaps in this article, so…

In order to optimise your article for a certain keyword, you should put it to:

  • Title of your article;
  • Headline of your article;
  • URL of your article;
  • Meta Description of your article;
  • Content of your article.

And there’s a handy free plugin for WordPress that will help you do this ­SEO by Yoast.

Build links.

The last ingredient of your success in Google is links pointing from other sites to your article.

Where do you get them? Just reference your articles all the time!

  • Writing your next post? ­Reference a few of your past articles.
  • Writing a guest post for another blog? ­Put a few links to your own articles.
  • Writing a comment somewhere? ­See if a link to a post of yours would be relevant.
  • Writing a post on forums? ­Well.. you’ve got the idea.

The more trusted links your article has coming in, the better it ranks in Google. So you should get serious about your SEO starting today!

Ask any blogger and he will tell you that Google is responsible for 40% to 70% of his total blog traffic. That’s definitely something worth investing some of your time.

3. Master the Art of Guest Blogging

jimmy-stewart.jpg

Google is huge, but it takes lots of time to build traffic from it. How about some instant visitors?

You can get them quite easily by tapping into the existing audience of relevant blogs that dominate your niche. How? Just write them a guest article.

But not every guest article will bring visitors to your website. Only those that follow the next two principles:

Make readers care about you.

Your writing style is super engaging ­ good for you. You’re sharing tons of tips and giving out lots of value ­ well… I guess… thank you? But why should readers care about YOU anyways?

Here’s the thing: people won’t read your author byline and follow the link to your personal blog, unless they are interested in you.

Take Problogger per se. There are dozens of people, who write exceptionally well, but do you remember all their names? Most of them share super valuable advice, but again, can you recall if they have personal blogs?

So how do you make people care about you? The answer is damn easy: tell stories about yourself!

Did you notice how I started this article? ­ “This year I’ve managed to grow a photography blog by 500% in about 6 months…

This is a part of my personal story which helps me to differentiate myself from the rest of the guys who share cool articles at Problogger.

To be honest, this particular fact is not too memorable, but you can always add some extra information about yourself later in the article.

So since we’re speaking about guest blogging… The very first guest post I wrote got published at Moz.com (a very popular SEO/Marketing blog) and to my sincere surprise it became a Top Post of 2010 in three categories: “thumbs up”, unique visits & retweets. Which makes me kind of a big deal (just kidding).

See how it works? Now you are interested in my persona a little bit more, so there’s a better chance you will check my author byline.

It’s not that hard to tell stories about yourself, unless of course there’s nothing too exciting that you can share. Well, why don’t you DO something exciting, get some impressive results and go tell everyone about it?

PS: I didn’t know about the storytelling trick back in the days, so sadly this huge guest post I wrote for Moz.com didn’t land me much traffic.

Reference your articles.

Most bloggers don’t like it when you “self promote” too much. But hey, everyone understands that the primary reason why you’re contributing an article somewhere is to promote yourself and your own blog.

So just don’t go overboard with linking out and you’ll be fine. Make sure you’re referencing only articles that truly deserve attention and make sure they fit nicely into the post.

I think the best way to link out is when you mention something that deserves an article of its own and by a lucky coincidence (hint! hint!) you already have that article published earlier on your own blog.

And yeah, the actual article that you’re contributing should be perfect in all senses! This way the blog owner won’t resist, even if there are a few of your links here and there.

Just to wrap it up, don’t waste your time writing numerous guest posts if you don’t know how to make readers interested in you and don’t have any solid articles on your blog to reference.

4. Outreach Is Your Gun Powder

Let’s say you have a friend with 100k followers on Twitter. You’ve just published a new article and you ask him for a tweet…

Bam! A couple hundreds of visitors land on your newly published article immediately! You wish you had more friends like that, right? So just work on it!

Connect with other bloggers.

I’m not necessarily talking about the big guys. They are already overwhelmed with people, asking them for “small favours”.

You can start with bloggers that have the same size of the audience that you do, or maybe a little bit bigger. They are much easier to connect with and who knows, maybe in a year some of them will grow really big.

Oh, and by the way, once you contribute a guest article somewhere ­ that’s a perfect way to start building a relationship.

Later you can exchange tweets, reference each other in your articles and maybe even mention each other in your email newsletters.

Mention people and let them know about it.

Surprisingly enough this doesn’t necessarily refer to mentioning other bloggers in your articles (though this tactic has proven to work really well).

When I was running a photography blog, we did a series of articles like:

  • 50 Brilliant Photo Sites of Professional Photographers
  • 50 Awesomely Inspiring Tumblr Blogs for Photographers
  • 100 Incredibly Tasty Instagram Accounts for Foodies to Follow

And then we went ahead and reached out to everyone saying that they were featured in our article.

As a result, most of the guys “liked” and “tweeted” the articles they were mentioned in. Their friends saw that and did the same, which was kind of a chain reaction.

In other words, when you mention 100 people in an article and let them know about it ­ prepare for a noticeable traffic spike.

But remember, at the end of the day it all comes down to the quality of your content. If your articles are lame ­ people won’t care about them, even if you point them personally.

5. Make Your Visitors Stick

stickier-velcro.jpg

Most bloggers refer to it as “community building”, but you won’t build a community unless you make your visitors stay at your blog right after their first visit.

When you’ve mastered the first four fundamentals that bring a plethora of visitors to your blog, it would be really silly to just let them bounce and never come back.

Take their email address.

Once you have it, you can bring back a person to your blog anytime you want (and do all sorts of other cool things).

But most people won’t just give you their email address for nothing. That is why most pro bloggers are offering tons of free stuff in exchange for your email: pdf ebooks, email courses, free downloads, exclusive updates, etc.

Three best locations for your email capture form with a freebie are:

  • pop­up email form upon first visit;
  • sidebar email form;
  • email form below the post.

If you ask me, I use all three of them on my own blog, with pop­up form bringing me the most email subscribers.

Interlink your articles

Remember the trick with mentioning something that deserves an article by itself and actually linking to your own post?

Well, each article on your own blog should be full of such cliffhangers that make it impossible for readers to get a feeling that they’ve already learned everything they needed.

Show them your best content

Most visitors are likely to leave after reading the article they’ve landed on. So your job is to advertise them your most amazing content till they’re still here.

I’m talking about:

  • “popular posts” section in your sidebar;
  • “related posts” section at the end of your article;
  • resource pages that list the best articles of your blog.

Once they read your best work they are much more likely to stick around and follow the future updates of your blog.

Get rid of the clutter

I don’t remember where this thought comes from, but I like it a lot:

“If people don’t click a certain element on your website you should either replace it or remove it.”

Learn analytics and put tracking everywhere. Try to make your website a black hole where people can easily get in, but can’t get out. Everything on your blog should be carefully crafted to make people stay longer.

That’s all Folks!

I honestly believe that these five fundamentals will make your blog grow once you put enough effort there.

And I hope I was able to demonstrate that they heavily rely on each other. Once you drop one of them, the whole system will slow down.

Want to talk about that further? See you in comments!

­­­­­

Tim Soulo is a blogging experimenter and conversion junkie. Check his free email course if you want to grow the traffic of your blog or check his free online tool that will show you the most popular articles of any blog you put there.

My Top 5 Blogging Blunders You Can Avoid

This is a guest contribution from Gary Newell.

guest-post-mistakes.jpg

I started blogging almost two years ago and since then, my blog has grown considerably.

I have learned a lot in a relatively short period of time and I want to share five of my biggest mistakes so you can avoid falling into the same traps.

1. I didn’t link to my own articles

For well over a year, I would write articles and post them on various news sites and social media networks.

This isn’t a bad thing to do but I never linked to other articles I’d written so people bounced off my website very quickly.

For a while I couldn’t understand why people wouldn’t click on the menus at the top or click on the links in the “most popular posts” section in the side bar of my blog.

The truth is people clicked on my article in the first place because they may have been mildly interested in the title. I needed to give them a reason to stick around. And so do you.

It is up to you to sell your blog posts with great titles but then you need to try and sell other blog posts on your site. By not linking to your own articles you are just giving readers an excuse to leave.

2. I sold an outbound link to another site

There are various ways to make money from blogging but selling outbound links is not one of them.

There are a huge number of sites that provide lists of how to make money from your blog and some of them suggest selling links. I think this is bad advice.

Selling links is a sure fire way of annoying Google so selling one link for $10 isn’t worth plummeting to the bottom of Google’s rankings.

Another danger I discovered when I sold outbound links is other sites selling the same link, reducing the value of the link. I also realised the site I was linking to had a dozen pages of bad reviews. I quickly retracted the link and refunded the purchaser!

3. I spammed social networks with links

If you read the get-hits-quick guides for getting visitors to your blog, they will often say that you should embrace the social networks. I posted all my blog posts on social media before I realised the “trick”.

The “trick” behind getting value from social media is actually engaging with the people. You need to have conversations with people before they trust you enough to follow you and share your links with friends!

For many of you, this won’t be a surprise.

You have to get involved and comment on other people’s articles and build up a comment Karma. You also have to post not just your own links but link to other people’s articles.

4. I randomly posted affiliate adverts all over my site

For a while I became disillusioned with affiliate schemes. I placed adverts across my site but nobody was clicking them.

Then one day, I realised why. I was doing it wrong.

Placing an advert at the top of the page is just eye candy. Hardly anybody clicks through to them.

I found that if I provided an ad for something that was related to my content, that wasn’t easy to find elsewhere and was something people needed then they would click through and purchase goods. I’m not making millions but I am getting a good return now.

I also found that Amazon links don’t work when sporadically splashed around the site. If you link to content and write articles that link to items on Amazon without overly selling the item then people click through and buy goods.

5. I kept all the best articles for my own blog

This is a recent one really. I have only written a couple of guest articles because as a blogger I wanted to keep my best content for my own blog.

I thought that if I want people to visit my site then I need to have the best content on my site.

The truth is, however, that to get people to click through to my site I needed to have great content on other people’s sites as well. I also accept guest articles and they often attract a great number of new visitors.

Summary

Be careful about following advice on how to get rich quick from blogging or advice thats tell you how to grow your blog ridiculously fast. If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.

My five blogging blunders have helped me become a better blogger . I have learned that if I write good content and build relationships with other people in my niche area, my blog grows naturally. And it has.

I’d love to know…. what have your big blogging blunders been and what did you learn?

Gary Newell lives in Scotland with his wife Stephanie and three children. Gary runs the blog Everyday Linux User which provides news, reviews and technical how-to’s.

 

How to Speed Up the Blog Writing Process [My Method]

Image by Jonathan Cohen

Image by Jonathan Cohen

Earlier today I was asked for tips on how to speed up the writing process when writing longer posts.

I don’t know that I have an answer that will help everyone with that one as I think it partly comes down to personal style, experience level and skill – but two thoughts did come to mind based upon my own experience.

And before I share them – one quick note/disclaimer…. sometimes slow is best.

While I will talk about my process for writing that has helped me get a little quicker as a writer I do think that it is important not to rush your posts. Slow blogging can lead to posts which have more depth and that are more useful to your readers.

Having said that – I think there are times where bloggers spend so long on tweaking and perfecting their posts that perhaps they could do with some speeding up.

OK – enough disclaimers – here are my two tips!

1. It takes Practice

I remember in my early days when I’d spend hours writing even the shortest of posts. While there are still some posts that are more of a grind to write and can take time (for example three days ago I spent most of the day working on the Ultimate Guide to Writing Comments on Blogs) I do think that my writing has sped up when I compare it to how I used to write.

Related to this idea of practice is that when I write regularly I find that I write faster. If I write every day I get into a groove but if I take a couple of weeks off for a vacation I often find it really difficult to get going again.

While I don’t think every blog needs to publish a post every day – I do see this as a good argument for bloggers to write something every day – just to keep your writing flowing.

2. Break it Down: How I do It

The second thing that comes to mind is that when I approach a larger topic and sit down to write what I think will be a longer post I tend write in a different way to when I write shorter posts.

Knowing that the topic is big I will often try to come up with an outline for the post before I start.

Start with a List

For me this means I almost always create a bullet point list before I start writing a longer post.

The list simply contains the main points or sub topics that I want to touch on in the post. Each point might simply be a word or two but as I create the list I begin to look at the post not as a massive overwhelming job but as a series of smaller tasks that I need to work through to write the post.

Expand Each Point

With the list in hand I will generally try to start writing a paragraph or two on each point.

Of course as I write inspiration might come and I might add in points or change their order – but with the list to work through I quite often find that the post is written before I realise it.

Introductions, Conclusions and Titles

Once I’ve worked through all the points I will usually go back to to the beginning and work on my post title, write an introduction (or tweak what I’ve already written) and will then work on a conclusion and call to action.

I know some people like to write their introduction first but I find my introductions flow a lot better if I know what I’ve written rather than writing an introduction to something I’m not completely sure of how it will end.

Make it Flow and Consider Format

Sometimes I might also need to work a little on tying points together to make the post flow but as I tend to write articles in a single sitting I will often have naturally done this as I’ve written.

The other thing to consider at this point is how I’ll format the post. Because I’ve started with a list might mean that the post ends up looking like a list. A good example of this is my recent post ‘7 Ways to Stay Inspired and Avoid Bloggers Burn Out‘ in which I followed this exact process and then number each of the points in the post.

Your post need not be numbered or look like a list though. Alternatively you might just use headings to start each point without any numbers (as I did recently in my post on on my Facebook experiments) or you might even choose to present the post as an article/essay without any headings.

My personal preference is to break a post down with headings, steps or into a list – mainly because I think it makes my posts easier to read (see below on this).

Edit and Polish

Last of all comes a once over to Edit and Polish the post.

I personally find that this stage works best for me if I have a break from writing – even an hour or two away from the post gives a little perspective and can help make final edits that take the post up a notch.

Good for the Writer and Good for the Reader

The other thing worth mentioning is that this style of writing (starting with a list) can end up producing articles that are not only easier to write – but easier to read.

I find that my readers often give more positive affirmations on a post if its broken down into a well organised flow and smaller sections.

This doesn’t mean you can’t go deep into a topic – but just think about how you can get to that deeper destination by breaking it down and ordering your points to get them to the place you want to take them.

How Do You Tackle the Writing Process?

Do you write outlines for posts or are you someone who prefers just to sit and write?

I’d love to hear a little about how you tackle the task of writing in comments below.

Further Reading:

If you’d like to learn a little more about my writing process check out my series – How to Craft a Blog Post which explores 10 points to pause in the writing of a post to make it a better post.

How I use Google Analytics ‘Compare’ Feature to Motivate Me to Grow My Blog

This morning, a reader asked me this question:

“How do you motivate yourself to grow your blog traffic from day to day?”

We’ve covered a whole heap of techniques for growing the amount of traffic you attract to your blog in our Blog Promotion category (also check out this ‘how to find readers page‘ and listen to my recent finding reader webinar) but one thing that has helped me on the ‘motivation’ front lately is the report below in Google Analytics (click to enlarge).

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What you’re looking at is the traffic so far today (the blue line) on Digital Photography School compared to the traffic on the site one week ago (the orange line) – arranged by the hour.

I’ll tell you how to get this report below but first, the reason I love this report is that it tells me whether I’m on track to get as much traffic to my site today as I had this time last week.

Having something to compare traffic keeps me motivated to better the previous week’s result.

Note: I always choose to compare traffic from exactly 1 week previous because on our site we see quite distinct rises and falls in traffic on different days of the week.

In the chart above you can see the day’s traffic started well, with the first 4 hours between 1.7% and 18.1% higher than the previous week.

This all happened while I was asleep so when I checked in at 9am I was pleased! However, I also saw that from 6am-8am that we were beginning to slip behind.

Knowing this gave me a little bit of motivation to find some ways to drive more traffic to the site today.

I took a look at the schedule of Facebook updates that I had planned for the day and decided to move a status update I thought would drive some traffic to be earlier in the day.

That status update went live at 9am and resulted in a nice bump in traffic to get the blue line trending up above the orange again.

I also identified some older posts from my archives that I then scheduled to be tweeted throughout the next 24 hours (based upon my advice from last month to promote old content), which I thought would help us to keep nudging the traffic up higher for the rest of the day.

Having this report open is a great little source of motivation to keep working not only at writing great content but also driving traffic to it.

I also find that having this comparison open during the day (and watching ‘real time’ stats) helps me to spot anomalies in traffic. It helps me to quickly spot if there’s a problem (server issues) or on the flip side it shows me when a post might have been shared on a big blog or social media account.

Knowing this information helps me to react quickly to fix a problem or leverage a traffic event.

UPDATE: here’s how the traffic looked at the end of the day in the comparison view:

Screen Shot 2013-11-21 at 8.56.20 am.png

Things slipped for the last hour or two but over the full day visitor numbers were up by 4.22%.

While a 4% increase in traffic isn’t the most spectacular result I see it is a small step in a larger race I’m running. I know if I can see even a 1% increase in traffic each week that over a year or longer that it’ll significantly grow the site over time.

How to Get This Report

For those of you new to Google Analytics here’s the easy process to get this report (it will only take you a couple of minutes).

1. Login to your Google Analytics Account

2. In the menu click on the ‘Overview’ link under ‘Audience’

Audience_Overview_-_Google_Analytics.png

3. By default you’ll be looking at the last months traffic. You want to drill down now to today so in the top right corner click on the date range and a calendar will open up like this:

Audience_Overview_-_Google_Analytics-6.png

4. Select today’s date.

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5. Check the ‘compare to’ box and then in the new date field that opens up underneath you can put in last weeks date by clicking on the day you want to compare it to. Once you have – click ‘Apply’.

Audience_Overview_-_Google_Analytics-7.png

6. You’re almost done now. You should be looking at a report that compares the two days but by default it’ll be showing you the total of the days in the chart as two dots. You want to view this now as ‘hourly’ so hit the ‘hourly’ tab.

Audience_Overview_-_Google_Analytics-8.png

You now should be looking at the comparison of today’s traffic with the same day last week (note: your current days report won’t yet be complete unless the day is almost over and it does run an hour behind).

Variations on this report to check out

This comparison tool is really useful for a while heap of reports.

For example you can choose to compare one week with another:

Audience_Overview_-_Google_Analytics-10.png

In fact, any period of time can be compared with any other period.

Also, with a date range locked in you can drill down into many other metrics.

For example, earlier today I was doing some analysis comparing this last week with the corresponding week in September, which was just before we did our new redesign on Digital Photography School.

A day by day comparison showed a great improvement in overall traffic.

Audience_Overview_-_Google_Analytics-11.png

Drilling down further, and viewing the two weeks by the hour, was also fascinating and showed that the two weeks had remarkably similar patterns in traffic from hour to hour – so the increase in traffic was very even across the week.

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Under that chart was some interesting data:

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Not only were Visits and Page views well up – but being able to see that bounce rate was slightly down and that average visitor duration was up was encouraging. Seeing Pages Viewed Per Visit was down showed we have an area to improve on (we’re already working on this) and seeing that we had a good rise in ‘new’ visitors was something that should be investigated further.

To investigate the rise in ‘new’ visitors I moved into the ‘Acquisition’ menu on Google analytics. The same date range and comparison is still selected so now I’m able to compare the two periods when it comes to different sources of traffic and see why we’ve had rises in traffic:

It turns out we’ve seen increases in a few area:

Search Traffic is up:

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Facebook Traffic is up (due to my recent experiments):

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But interestingly Feed traffic is down (giving us something to investigate).

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There are many other areas you can drill down into with the comparison tool – almost anything that Google Analytics has a report for you can compare from period to period and get a great overview of how that stat compares very quickly.

Have a go yourself – do some comparisons and let me know what you find in comments below!

The Ultimate Guide to Leaving Comments On Blogs

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If you’ve ever read a post, book or eBook, or listened to a webinar or conference session on the topic of ‘finding readers for your blog’ you’ll have heard the advice:

Leave comments on other blogs

It was the first piece of advice I remember reading about building readership (from memory a 2002 book by Rebecca Blood was the first blog tips that I ever read) and it’s advice I’ve heard (and given) hundreds of times, since.

In fact this advice is Day 20 in our 31 Days to Build a Better Blog workbook.

7 Benefits of Leaving Comments on Other People’s Blogs

1. Building your own profile – leaving a comment gets you seen. Leaving a good comment can make people pay attention.

2. Showcasing your expertise – sharing what you know or the experiences that you have can help build your credibility.

3. Getting to know other bloggers – leaving a comment can often be a great way to get on the radar of another blogger.

4. Driving traffic to your blog – as a result of your engagement, you will often get people checking out your blog.

5. Idea generation – often, when you engage in conversation in other blogs comments, you get ideas for your own blog posts.

6. Staying sharp - I find that reading and commenting on other blogs  is a good daily discipline to help me keep abreast of what is happening in my industry and keep my brain engaged on the topics I write about. It’s also great writing practice!

7. Opportunities May Follow – just last week someone left a comment on my photography blog that I thought was so insightful that I asked them to write a guest post. In fact, now I think of it, one of our most successful eBook authors on dPS first made himself known to me through a great comment on the blog. You never know where a great comment might lead!

1 Problem with Leaving Comments on Other People’s Blogs

The problem with leaving comments on other blogs, as a technique to grow traffic, is that while it can have many benefits it can also end up hurting your blog’s brand and reputation – if you don’t do it the right way.

This post is an attempt to give you some advice on how to leave comments effectively and what to avoid.

4 Types of Commenters

Over the last 10 years I’ve seen a real spectrum of approaches to leaving comments on blogs. I suspect that most of us sit somewhere along this spectrum.

1. At one end of the spectrum we have the spammers

We’ve all see them – they leave comments on your post that are completely irrelevant and stuffed full of keyword rich links in an attempt to rank for those words in Google. Many times these are auto-generated spam systems that simply get caught in your spam filters and never work anyway.

There’s no real debate around the legitimacy of these comments – they are spam and any blogger in their right mind mark them as such.

2. Next we have the spammy self promoter

A little further along the spectrum we see commenters who usually at least go to the effort of manually leaving their comments and who sometimes even go to the effort of keeping comments slightly on topic…. (sometimes).

However, their comments are pretty obviously only about trying to get a link to help their search rankings or to get a few clicks back to their site.

This group use a variety of tell tale strategies that show what they’re really on about.

For one, they usually don’t leave comments with a personal name but their name is something like ‘Best Dog Biscuits’ or ‘Hawaii Accommodation’.

They also rarely say anything that builds on the conversation but leave empty ‘great post’ comments. Alternatively, sometimes this group will do something controversial to try to get some attention (attacking the writer or other comments) in the hope of people wanting to check them out.

They also will often leave links in their comments that have no relevance to the post.

In short – this group are impersonal, irrelevant, add no value and self promotional.

Sometimes these comments get through spam filters but most bloggers will delete them if they are spotted. It’s doubtful that the comments have any real benefit to the commenter as most blogs have nofollow links in comments which kill any search ranking benefits and nobody in their right mind will click their links as they’re so obviously spammy.

3. Next is Commenter who Builds their Profile by Delivering Value

Next on the spectrum for me is a commenter who is doing it right.

They have obviously read the post and have something of value to contribute. Their comments may not always be long or in-depth but they add to the conversation with something that is thoughtful and relevant.

This group might share a story, give an example, put another point of view, answer a question or do something else that provides value to the blogger and their readership.

This commenter is all about delivering value but in doing so builds their profile and credibility. They are after a win/win exchange where the blogger/readers get value from their comment but they also might get some traffic and kudos from the exchange.

The best of these commenters in my experience tend to use a personal name (and where possible use a personal avatar). They tend to leave less comments than the above groups but the comments are more effective.

Note: on avatars, it can be worth registering for a Gravatar account as this is often used for avatars on many blogs.

4. Lastly is the Value Provider Who Gets No Value Back

At the other end of the spectrum are a rare bunch of commenters who are all about delivering value but for one reason or another don’t promote themselves.

There’s nothing wrong with this – but I have come across a few bloggers of late who are either so shy or so scared of being seen as a spammer that they don’t ever leave a link back to their own blog.

I do partly understand the ‘shy’ thing but my advice to this group would be to know that if you deliver value that most bloggers wouldn’t mind you leaving a link back to your blog – or they wouldn’t have a field in their comments section for you to share a link.

One blogger who I came across lately said that he never leaves links because he heard it can get him in trouble with Google.

I do know that Google look for unnatural links (so those in the first two spammers categories above should watch out) but that they don’t have a problem with genuine comments. In fact, Matt Cutts (from Google) made this video on that topic last week.

How to Effectively Leave Comments on Other Blogs

Several years ago here on ProBlogger I suggested 11 tips for getting the comments that you leave on other blogs to stand out.

I think most of the tips I gave are still relevant today:

  • Be the Early Bird – earlier commenters will have their comments seen more than later commenters. However, being first on every single post can be a bit annoying.
  • Share an Example – built upon the blog post with an example that illustrates what the blogger is saying.
  • Add a Point – if there’s a point the blogger has missed, politely suggest it.
  • Disagree – you may not want to do this on every comment you leave but courteously disagreeing and then adding constructive reasons why can make a good impression.
  • Write with conviction, passion and personality – these things stand out and show you care about your comment.
  • Use Humour – this can grab attention of those scanning through comments.
  • Ask a Question – I’ve long noticed that those who ask good questions often become the centre of conversations in comments.
  • Formatting Comments – be careful with this. Some commenting systems allow you to bold or italicise comments. But don’t go over the top here as it could looks spammy. Comments systems like Disqus allow you to add images – this can also work to draw attention to your comment.
  • Helpful Links – if you’re going to add a link make sure it is of high relevancy and value
  • Comment Length – Are all the comments on a post long? Leave a short one – it’ll stand out. Are all the other comments short? Leave a long one – again, it’ll stand out.
  • Lists/Break it down – think carefully about how your comment will look. Will it be just one big block of text? If so – consider breaking it into shorter paragraphs or even a list type format

One additional tip that I’ve used a number of times: when you leave a comment that you think adds a lot of value to a blog post – share a link to that post with your own social networks.

This shows the blogger that you’re not only willing to engage but promote their blog (which creates a great impression). It also has the side benefit of providing your followers with something useful to read (both the blog post and your comment) and shows them that you’re engaging beyond your blog which can only enhance your brand.

You can also take this a step further by blogging about the post you commented on. I’ve only done this on a few occasions and only when I think the blog post and the comment thread are of high value – but it can have a big impact.

Oh – and one more tip, regular commenting on the same blog can be worthwhile. A one great one off comment can have an impact – but this impact grows exponentially over time. Just don’t become an over contributor and dominate the blog (see below).

What to Avoid When Leaving Comments on Other Blogs

Also written several years ago is a post I wrote about how you can actually hurt your brand by commenting on other blogs. In it I listed 10 things to avoid (this did cause a little debate on a couple of them so there are different opinions):

  • Excessive use of Signatures – this practice was more common several years ago but it involves leaving a link to your blog IN your comment in addition to in the link field that bloggers allow you to link to your blog in.
  • Excessive Self Linking – only leave links that are relevant and not in every post you write.
  • One or Two word Comments – it’s ok to show some appreciation and say ‘great post’ – but more useful to the blogger is for you to tell them WHY you think it’s a great post. Add some value.
  • Not Reading Posts Before Commenting – this is pretty self explanatory. I would also advise reading through other comments already left!
  • Flaming and Personal Attack – not good form. If you disagree, be constructive.
  • ’Anonymous’ Flaming – if you have something to say, put your name to it.
  • Always Being First To Comment – I’ve seen a few people do this over the years and they’ve ended up annoying the blogger and other commenters. It’s not good manners to always be the one to say something… conversation is also about giving others room to speak.
  • Dominating Comment Threads – similar to #7, listen, allow others to contribute and let your comments bounce off them a little.
  • Keyword Stuffed Names – I know this one causes some debate but my personal preference is to know the name of a person that I’m speaking to rather than refer to them as their Business Name.
  • Not adding value to the Comments – Ultimately this one is what it is all about. If you’re adding value, you’ll get value back. If you add no value, you could be hurting your brand.

One last thing to avoid – don’t comment just for the sake of commenting.

While leaving comments does have many benefits I think that most people get into trouble with commenting when they are just going through the motions of leaving comments as a ‘strategy’ rather than leaving comments because they genuinely want to engage.

What Did I Miss? (your chance to practice)

I’d love to get your input on this topic.

What commenting practices have you used or seen others use that either are effective or annoying?

I’m looking forward to some good comments on this post!

7 Blogging Mistakes That Will Give You Zero Traffic

This is a guest contribution from Ness.

Everyone wants more traffic to their blog, don’t they?

Image courtesy Moyan_Brenn, licensed under Creative Commons

Image courtesy Moyan_Brenn, licensed under Creative Commons

If you’ve been staring at your analytics wondering what’s going wrong, you might be making a few mistakes that are holding you back.

Not Having a Marketing Strategy

The first thing that should be thought about when blogging is how you will be marketing it. There are so many different ways to promote and market your blog, but without a good strategy or plan, you won’t be successful. This is extremely important at the start of your blog because you won’t have many viewers, so you won’t get any word of mouth visitors. All of the people you will be attracting are from your marketing efforts.

Rushing Content

Content that is rushed will always get very few viewers. Other blogs provide their viewers with quality content, so why would people want to stay and read a rushed post that isn’t as valuable? They won’t.

Take your time and create the best content as possible. You will attract more people and you will also be ranked higher (long term). The better the content, the more chance you have at ranking higher.

Improper Branding

Branding your blog can have some major effects on your traffic. Everything that you post for the public to see can be used to benefit your brand or the reverse. Bad branding will decrease your chances of attracting traffic, drastically.

Remember, branding your blog is more than the look and feel - it’s the tone of voice and the content too. You should be doing everything in your power to try and help your image and increase your authority.

Not Using Keywords

Keywords should play a big part in every blog post that you create because if you don’t know the phrases people are using to search, how can you expect to match those searches? Start by doing keyword research to find the keywords that will attract reasonable traffic for your topic. Keyword research can also help you find great blog ideas!

No SEO

If you want to rank higher, you need to apply search engine optimisation. Although I mentioned a few aspects of SEO so far, there are plenty of other techniques that you will need to learn and implement into your content. The truth is, if you want to rank higher you shouldn’t be posting content that is not properly optimised.

SEO is a long term strategy but once you have the basic SEO techniques down, you will see your blog posts creep the search engine results.

Not Understanding Your Competition

To be successful in your blog, you are going to need to know what your competition is up to. Research the marketing strategies they are using, what kind of content their audience enjoys, where their traffic comes from, and everything else they are doing to give you some ideas on how to improve your own blog. Using the information to come up with a better strategy will give your blog a better chance at being successful and attract more traffic.

No Social Media Presence

Billions of people log into their social media accounts every day and share content with their friends and family and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have become an incredible way to gain a large amount of traffic to your blog – if used correctly.  If you can target an audience and provide them with something they want to read, then your blog’s traffic will see a massive increase in no time.

There are plenty of ways to attract more traffic to your blog, even if no one knows you yet, but if you’re making any of these 7 mistakes you’re sabotaging your own success.

Have you made any other mistakes when it comes to building your blog? Maybe you can help others avoid them!

Ness writes articles for MakeAWebsite – a site providing reviews on hosting companies allowing users to compare the performances of each host. You can go ahead and visit their website if you need any help in choosing the perfect host for your domain.

5 Reasons Why Blogging is Not Working for Your Business

This is a guest contribution from freelance writer, Jawad.

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Over the last few years, the significance of high value content, in generating qualified sales leads, has increased tremendously for businesses.

More than ever before, businesses are now focusing on generating regular content for their target markets to keep a steady inflow of customers.

This, of course, cannot be done without a well-managed and regularly updated business blog.

However, over the last few months I have come across a number of business owners who have not managed to get a single client despite regularly updating their blogs with useful content.

At first, their arguments about the ineffectiveness of blogging seemed to carry weight. But a closer look revealed certain patterns behind the failure of all those business blogs.

In this post I’ll try to sum up the reasons why some businesses find it hard to achieve success through blogging.

This post assumes that,

  • Your business takes blogging seriously and has either hired permanent blogger or contracted a professional freelance blogger to manage your blog.
  • You follow a fixed posting schedule and update your blog regularly.

1. Your Blog Doesn’t Have a Clear Objective

This, in my opinion, is the biggest reason why a number of business blogs fail to make an impact.

They seem to lack focus. There’s no set pattern to their content and it is difficult to understand what they’re trying to achieve through it.

Like everything else in business, you need to have a clear objective that you want to achieve through your blog. You can’t expect a blog to get you customers if it is only updated with your latest corporate event pictures and news.

Your blog should be a part of your greater business strategy. You should be clear about the objectives you want to achieve through it.

There should be a reason why you’re putting so much effort into your blog.

Are you looking to attract customers? Or are you focused on creating awareness about your product?

Whatever the objective is, you need to be clear about it. Because your objective will ultimately give direction to the type of content you post on your blog and the type of marketing channels you choose for promoting your content.

 

2. You Don’t Have a Blogging Strategy

Blogging alone is not going to get you customers. You need to have a broader strategy and use blogging as a key component of that strategy.

Your strategy should not only include the type of content you’re going to create for your target market, but it should also include a comprehensive plan to promote your content so that it reaches the right audience at the right time.

The same goes for your social media strategy. Blogging, content promotion, social media etc. are all connected with each other and cannot be used in isolation.

Each of these components has a unique role in achieving your objectives and they should complement each other in your overall content marketing strategy.

What I see with many business blogs is a random set of posts that does not contribute to any particular direction.

Develop a sequence in your content and connect it with the greater strategy. That is the only way to move forward

3. You Are Not Blogging for Your Target Market

One of the most obvious, yet common, reasons for ineffective business blogging is the lack of focus on your target market.

You don’t want irrelevant people to come to your blog. Traffic alone is useless if it is not converting into regular visitors.

For example, if you are a blogging agency or a freelance writer, why would you want to write about freelance writing on your blog if your objective is to get clients? The only people who are going to read such content are freelance writers themselves. And they are certainly not your customers.

Identify your customers and write content that provides solutions to their most common problems.

That is the only way to not only get their attention but also to convert them into regular visitors and, eventually, loyal customers.

4. Your Blog is All About Hard Sales Pitches

If you’re trying to make sales through every post on your blog, then you’re probably better off without any blog at all.

Nothing damages the credibility of a business in the eyes of potential clients more than hard sales pitches. It simply shows that you’re not concerned with the problems of your target market.

Blogging is NOT a direct sales channel.

By its very nature, blogging should be focused on developing a credible image of your brand as a company that cares about its customers and offers solutions to complex problems.

Once you establish this image, getting sales is not an issue.

Look, customers are not afraid to spend money on the right solutions. Your job is to convince them, through your content, that you indeed ARE the right solution.

And that can never be done through hard sales pitch content.

Offer solutions, the clients will come themselves.

5. Your Blog Content is Not Driving Action

You might not be making any of the mistakes I’ve listed above.

You have a great plan for your blog, you have a great strategy that compliments your business goals and you realize that hard sales pitches never work.

Then why is your blog still not bringing results?

Chances are that you’re being just a bit too neutral in your content.

It’s obviously recommended not to push sales pitches in every blog post, but that does not mean that you leave your readers with no clue about your services.

At the end of the day, your blog is a part of your business strategy and businesses need sales.

What should you do then?

Make sure every post on your business blog makes your readers take action. For example, if have a product that can genuinely solve the problems of your readers, then there’s no harm in adding a link to the product page at the end of your post.

Similarly, never forget to drop hints to your readers within your content about how you can solve their problems.

Like your overall blogging strategy, have an objective for every blog post as well.

You’ll be amazed how small signals within your content can help your readers take the actions you want.

Conclusion

There’s absolutely no question that the significance of blogging for businesses is only going to increase in the coming days.

However, unlike the old days, blogging is much more about long term planning than short term gains.

Get your strategic hat on and develop a plan around your blog. If done correctly, it will be the perfect catalyst for achieving your business goals.

If you are a business, online or offline, that is using blogging to drive sales, I would love to hear your comments about the strategies that work for you.

Jawad is a freelance writer and professional blogger with a keen interest in content marketing, blogging and wordpress. With professional experience in Web Project Management, he also provides content and design consultancy to a number of tech companies. He blogs at WritingMyDestiny.com

What My Wife Has Taught Me About Blogging After Just 3 Months

Next week marks the 3 month anniversary of Vanessa (my wife) starting her first blog at Style and Shenanigans.

It’s been a fascinating process to watch her plan, launch and grow her blog.

Some might imagine that being married to ‘the ProBlogger’ means she’s constantly being told what to do and being given secret tips and advice – however I’ve been remarkably restrained in my involvement and very impressed by what she’s intuitively built already.

While she’s not got a huge readership – it continues to grow and it has already opened up some pretty cool opportunities for her.

In fact having watched her over these last 3 months I have been somewhat inspired and learned a lot and in this post want to share some of the things I think she’s done well that have helped her to grow her blog’s traffic and profile already.

My hope is that in doing so it’ll help others at the beginning of their blogging journey to get their blogs rolling.

1. Focus Upon Community Management

Perhaps the #1 thing that I’ve been impressed with so far is Vanessa’s commitment to engaging with her readership.

This has shone through in a number of ways including:

  • writing in an engaging style – most of her posts end with a question that invites comment
  • every comment on the blog is responded to
  • every comment on her Facebook Page is responded to
  • every incoming Tweet to our Twitter account is responded to

This is partly just who Vanessa is (she’s very engaging and inclusive in real life) but was something that probably stretched her a little too. I remember in the early days when she would get comments from people she didn’t know for the first few times it was certainly a bizarre feeling for her to engage with them – but she’s fully into the swing of things now!

Interestingly she’s now well and truly passed the tipping point of having more ‘strangers’ reading her blog and following her on Facebook and Twitter than she has ‘real life’ friends.

2. Personal/Personality Driven Content

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 8.15.43 pmI wrote a few weeks ago about Vanessa’s first foray into including a few ‘selfies’ on the blog. These more personal ‘Everyday Style’ posts have continued and have been received well (they’ve been the most commented posts on the site). In fact her ‘Everyday Style’ series of posts have become something she’s become well known for of late.

Other experiments with a more personal style of content included a post about a dinner party we threw for a few friends and a couple of posts about a short trip we took.

And then there’s Facebook…. this for me has been one of the most fascinating parts of the journey because her blog Facebook Page has gone ‘off topic’ and into a more personal space than I would have predicted.

There are certainly the predictable updates that are links to new posts on the blog – but mixed in are plenty of slightly more personal updates. Photos from things she’s doing, questions, funny family moments, personal quick tips and random off topic humorous posts.

The result is that she’s got a page with pretty high engagement – in fact if I had the engagement she had on my pages relative to how many people were ‘liking’ my pages I’ve be over the moon!

3. Helpful Content

The other key thing that I think is going to work in Vanessa’s favour is that the bulk of her content on the blog is ‘helpful’ and solves problems for readers.

V is what Malcom Gladwell would describe a ‘Maven’. She is a gatherer of information, a watcher of trends and LOVES sharing what she finds. She’s been doing this on the topic of style in her friendship circles since before I met her and her blog is an extension of that.

The bulk of her content reflects that and is basically her curated collections of different themes of fashion and home wares.

Her typical posts feature a collection of suggested products on a colour style or brand theme and the comments I see on them are often people saying thanks for the suggestions.

Also of interest to me is that I’m starting to see readers leave messages asking for advice on particular areas based upon her posts.

4. Understanding the Audience

Her 7am post - got decent engagement.

Her 7am post – got decent engagement.

This morning Vanessa was posting an update to Facebook at 7am and I suggested that it might be a bit too early in the morning for her readers to be checking Facebook.

She responded that it was one of her best times of day and that when she posted that early she often got a lot of responses by 8am as people checked their phones over breakfast.

I had my doubts but as I ate my porridge I watched the comments come in on Facebook and the blog and realised she had her finger on the rhythms of her readership perfectly.

Also of interest is that she’s already noticed that some days of the week seem to get more comments on posts than others and that certain types of Facebook updates at certain times of the day get more interaction.

This is golden information!

5. Getting OFF her Blog

I’m always talking here on ProBlogger about how important it is to ‘get off your blog’ if you want to grow traffic and to monetise your blog.

Vanessa has intuitively started to do this without much prompting at all.

It is a challenge – she’s a busy person with 3 active boys (two home during the day), working a day a week, involved in a variety of community activities etc – but she’s going beyond just writing content and responding to comments.

This has happened in a variety of ways including:

  • when she’s mentioned brands or other sites in her posts she lets them know (this has already led to one brand suggesting that they might like to work with her and others linking up to her blog!)
  • reading and engaging on other relevant sites/Facebook pages
  • involvement in a small Facebook group for other bloggers in her niche
  • responding to opportunities that other bloggers and media have already offered her to guest post on them

By no means is it easy to get everything done (and there will always be more that you can do) but I’m always amazed at what happens when you push open doors and get active about engaging off your blog with others.

The key lesson here is to not just build a great blog and expect good things to happen to you. You need to take some initiative and get off your blog to see those good things come into being!

6. Involving Others

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 8.22.52 pmIt was several years after I started blogging that I even considered the possibility of other people writing content on my blogs. That’s not the case for Vanessa.

Just 3 months in she’s already had two guest posts. Both have been submitted by the one person – a good family friend – but both posts have added something to the blog that V couldn’t have written herself.

The key is that she’s found someone who writes in a similar voice and that the posts have complemented existing content on the blog (for example this post from Mandy on toys for Girls was a follow up to one V wrote on toys for boys).

7. Visuals and Creating Content for Social

CR-CollageA couple of weeks ago I shared some great image creation tools that I use to create visual content for my blogs. Vanessa is also a convert to PicMonkey and Canva and a regular feature of her posts are collages of the products that she’s talking about.

I suspect that the visual element of her blogging will only evolve in time but these simple collages have been really popular with readers and I think are a big part of the reason that her Facebook Page has had great engagement.

Visual content is gold – particularly on social!!!

Lots More to Learn

By no means am I suggesting that Vanessa has arrived or is a poster child of blogging. She has a lot more to learn (as do I). I just have loved watching her growth and development in these early months.

What did you learn about blogging in the first few months that has stuck with you ever since?