6 More Priceless Lessons You Can Learn From My First Year of Blogging

  • January 31, 2012 by Caleb Wojcik
  • 28 Comments

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As we rolled into 2012, my main blog Pocket Changed turned one year old. (No, there wasn’t a party or even a solitary candle on a cupcake.)

In honor of the first year, I looked back at 14 Lessons I Learned From Blogging, but a few weeks later I’ve realized there are even more lessons that I didn’t cover in that post that shouldn’t go unshared.

This post will add six more key lessons and delve deeper into the what you can learn from the last 13 months I’ve spent blogging.

Let’s jump right in.

1. If you genuinely help others, they will help you.

This lesson was brought up by Jeffrey Trull in the comments of the previous post and it is definitely true. When you are just getting started with your blog it is easy to publish something that you think is sliced bread reincarnate, hop up on your social media soapbox, and pray that people will start to listen.

Instead what you should be doing is reaching out to other bloggers and creating connections based on things you do for them, while expecting nothing in return. Feature them in your content like this. Write guest posts for them that are extremely targeted to their audience. Interview them on your site and get their name in front of more people.

Help others BEFORE you ask for something from them. They will be more likely to return the favor.

2. Don’t wait for the right moment to start.

If you are waiting for the right time to start a blog, that day is today. Almost every blogger that I’ve talked to has mentioned that they wish they had started sooner. Yes, you need a proper launch plan, a specific unique selling proposition (see #4), and energy to dedicate to it, but don’t waste too much time waiting and “learning” (i.e. just reading blog posts all day).

Benny Hsu pointed this out in the comments of my first 14 lessons post. He said, “Unless you’ve blogged for a long time before, your new blog isn’t going to be perfect at the beginning. Just start posting and improve along the way.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

3. Participate in mastermind or social media peer groups.

The power of mastermind groups is not just in connections you make with your fellow peers. Accountability is the biggest reason you should find a mastermind group. Get on a Skype call a few times a month with 2 or 3 likeminded people that you get along with and push each other to accomplish more than you could on your own. (If you need more help with accountability, check out action #21 in this post.)

Another option is a closed social media peer group. This is a group of people (could be up to 50+) that are all sharing ideas and asking opinions of each other on a platform such as a private Facebook group or a closed LinkedIn group. This is one way for you to more passively have a closed network to bounce ideas off of if you don’t have a mastermind group and can also be used as a test ground to find the right 2 or 3 people to create a mastermind group with.

4. Laser focus your USP and keep repeating it.

People should know exactly why your site exists and they should be able to find that answer all over the place. They shouldn’t need to go find the first post in your archives or wade through page after page until they find a manifesto post. Link to content that directly explains your unique selling proposition all the time.

Even if you think your USP is clear from the name of your brand or in the tagline, spell it out in:

  • the sidebar
  • the about page
  • the start here page
  • a welcome video
  • the footer
  • your content

You might think that you are overdoing it, but your USP needs to be clear and concise to the people that are visiting your blog for the first time. Those are the people that you are creating all those bulleted items above for anyway.

If you are a regular reader of Think Traffic, when was the last time you looked at our about page? (Maybe the first time you visited?) Target those landing pages towards non-regular readers. Completely explain what your site is about on those pages (and don’t just talk about yourself).

5. Don’t waste too much time trying to get big wins.

It is fun to read about people’s content getting syndicated by Gizmodo and their site getting flooded by 42,000 visits, but luck isn’t the main contributor to “going viral” like Steve Kamb did in that situation. He had a breakthrough because he had been working his ass off for years on his blog, wrote an amazingly informative and entertaining post, and his audience did the rest.

If you do get a big break or something you make goes viral, most of the time it will happen without much help from you (after creating it of course). I’m not saying that you shouldn’t share what you put up online, but you shouldn’t keep looking for a huge site to pick up your content or for someone popular in your niche to tweet your work.

Focus instead on continual forward progress. Just focus on making today better than yesterday and tomorrow better than today. Then perhaps someday you’ll get a “big break” when you weren’t even trying to anymore.

6. Make everything you post insanely useful & purposeful

While this goes a bit contrary to a theory Joel Runyon wrote about on here last month, making each and every piece of content you publish insanely useful goes a long way. Instead of publishing just to publish (which can lead people to unsubscribe if what you create is lackluster), slow down the frequency at which you put out content.

“Won’t that mean less chances for people to come to my site, share my content, and subscribe?” Perhaps, but the key to publishing less often is to put in as much, if not more, time as you were before into creating content. This will lead to you spending two to three times more effort on a single piece that you publish. This almost guarantees that it is going to be better, more in-depth, and worth sharing.

Try it for a week or two and see what kind of difference it makes.

***

If you’ve been blogging for over a year, what are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned so far? 

I’d love to hear some of them in the comments below.

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Written by . Caleb Wojcik is one of the 3 C's at Think Traffic and Fizzle.co. He writes at CalebWojcik.com and hosts the Cubicle Renegade Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @CalebWojcik.


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Dwayne@TWC January 31, 2012 at 6:31 am

Congratulations, Caleb. My blog is only 1 month old but I’m celebrating the small victories in anticipation of the larger ones. I’m looking ot help people so much so that my blog has no advertisements of any kind and I do not plan on ever selling anything because I feel like by just helping them I help myself in more ways than just monetarily.
Now I just need to find a mastermind group. Still looking though. Again, congrats on the 1 year anniversary.

Caleb Wojcik January 31, 2012 at 8:22 am

Small victories definitely need to be celebrated. Good luck on finding a mastermind group. It can take multiple tries to find the perfect fit, so don’t be afraid to walk away from one that isn’t perfect for you.

Kris @ myhealthyweightlossjourney.com January 31, 2012 at 7:25 am

Nice list you have here – it takes a somewhat different approach from similar posts in this area and it’s quite refreshing – certainly provided me with a little food for thought.

The first thing I learned in my first year of blogging is perseverance. Readers and community can take a while to build up and you just need to stick with it. Not entirely original, I realise, but that doesn’t make it any less effective.

Caleb Wojcik January 31, 2012 at 8:23 am

I completely agree with you Kris. Growth takes a long time, especially with so many blogs out there these days. Perseverance is key.

Gregory Ciotti January 31, 2012 at 7:55 am

Great post Caleb, point number 5 is excellent, it’s the long haul that counts.

Caleb Wojcik January 31, 2012 at 8:23 am

Thanks Gregory. :)

Benny January 31, 2012 at 8:13 am

Thanks for my quote!

There are so many things to add, but if I just had to add one, I would say treat it seriously if you want a thriving blog. Taking it seriously means, you’ll have to put in a lot of time. You’ll have to make sacrifices. It’s going to take hard work, but you’re willing to because you want to succeed.

Caleb Wojcik January 31, 2012 at 8:24 am

No problem! You really hit the nail on the head with that one.

I agree that sacrifices are big part of it. Mostly sacrifices of time. If you want to make it worth your time, you need to put in the additional effort.

Jamie Northrup January 31, 2012 at 8:23 am

I’ve been blogging for many years, and now more than ever I invest a lot of time into planning, it makes things better and easier.

Caleb Wojcik January 31, 2012 at 8:25 am

Absolutely Jamie. Without a plan it is easy to just post whatever is on your mind (or nothing at all) instead of content that can help your readers.

Sheyi January 31, 2012 at 8:56 am

I am confident I will be able to share success story when my blog gets to 1 year online too. Nice one and keep it up!

Sheyi

Chris @ ProInternetMarketing January 31, 2012 at 8:59 am

I couldn’t agree more, especially with #6.

I used to knock out posts in 5-25 minutes at 300ish words and a few pictures, no headlines, any old thing would do.

Then I changed up, switched to posting longer and more informative posts that looked more like magazine articles than a typical blog post – the sort of thing us magazine readers used to pay for and now expect (demand?) free-of-charge on blogs / the internet.

My traffic went from 250-400 a day avg to 750-950 a day avg, within about 4 weeks, and I picked up a retweet from a twitter(ererer?) who had 12k followers. Sales haven’t unfortunately increased at a like-for-like rate, but it’s still early days and the blog isn’t optimally monetised – I’m still working on that, but having 3-4x the daily readers is a proper nice motivator!

Great article as always.

Chris

Chris @ ProInternetMarketing January 31, 2012 at 9:01 am

oh, and one very quick follow up – the blog I am referring to in that comment is not that on my link, that’s my personal blog and the other is my ‘money site’.

Caleb Wojcik January 31, 2012 at 9:30 am

Great example Chris. I think the mantra of quality over quantity is a good one to have.

Andrea Hypno January 31, 2012 at 10:22 am

Surely that I should have begun to blog sooner, but trying to write any post useful is another thing I usually do. Not that I always succeed but that’s what I aim for. It will pay out when my blog will be big enough.

Thanks for the sound advices.

Alan Chatfield January 31, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Hi Caleb,

these are great tips – quite timely for me as I have just created a mastermind group & it’s proving to be great for all of us before we’ve even had our first call(because we’ve started helping other offline before we’ve even had the first meetimng).

It’s all about good solid and genuine relationships rather than going for numbers of comments/backlinks/shares etc (if you ask me),

plus it’s more natural and more comfortable so I agree with what you say above 100% (forget ‘tactics’ it’s a dirty word!)

take care & best wishes,
Alan

Caleb Wojcik January 31, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Glad to see that you’ve found a mastermind group and that it is already helpful for you Alan. That’s awesome!

And I agree. It is all about the relationships.

Jeff Greenland January 31, 2012 at 8:08 pm

I have a problem with #1. I’d love to get to know / help other bloggers, but…

I feel that, as a new blogger, I have very little to offer other bloggers by writing about them, or featuring them in content. Some of this is because I haven’t launched my blog – I wonder who will accept posts/guest post for me if I don’t have an audience yet.

Additionally, I read all these incredible sites (like Think Traffic!), and wonder what I can possibly offer the authors – they all feel like BIG names, compared to little ol’ me.

Part of me says to just get out and do it anyway – submit some guest posts see what happens – but I don’t want to come off as some idiot noob who doesn’t know what he’s doing: “Submitting a guest post before his site is even up? Wtf is he thinking?”

Any pointers?

Caleb Wojcik February 1, 2012 at 9:50 am

If what you write is of a high enough quality, it won’t matter whether or not you have a site up or not. Some people just link to their twitter account in their bio.

It can definitely be intimidating to reach out to the bigger names at first, so starting out by writing for smaller audiences is a way to build both confidence and reputation.

Hope that helps Jeff!

Kyle January 31, 2012 at 11:08 pm

Congratulations Caleb. Today I celebrated the first month my blog cleared $1000 in earnings.

And of course I couldn’t have done without you and Corbett (and Chris Garrett).

Thanks!

Rodrigo @ The Brave Man Blog February 1, 2012 at 5:01 pm

Nice post, I have been focusing on those points since the start but I have to be honest I’ve been getting out of the path a little bit, so now I’m going to start focusing more in them from now on.

I’ve been thinking for a while in socializing and start including other people with the same mindset in my journey so like you say, the perfect time is now, so I’m going to start doing it right away :D

Nikoya February 2, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Well put, comprehensive list. My experience is a little similar to yours with blogging. Honestly, the #1 thing I’ve learned is persistence. It’s okay too slow down, reflect, re-organize; as long as you don’t give up and keep pushing.

That’s my 2011 blogging experience in a nutshell.

Jeffrey Trull February 3, 2012 at 8:00 am

Thanks for the mention in the post, and another great list on here! These are all pretty straightforward tips that bloggers shouldn’t have any problem following.

Praverb February 5, 2012 at 10:20 am

The thing that I learned over this year is that frequency does not equate to a ton of views. I always thought it was better to post 5-10 posts a day to keep up with the other blogs/websites within my niche. In January I decided to knock that number down to 2-3 a day sometimes zero and the result is more viewers and better content.

Thank you for your lovely website…I added your link to my Links section. I would love to interview you for my site as well. Let me know if you are interested.

Serena {Pretty Fluffy} February 6, 2012 at 6:23 pm

Really like points #5 and #6, and think they go hand in hand – I think if you are lucky enough for something to go viral (and sometimes its the post that you least expect to be so popular!) you want people to come to your blog and want to stay because they find even more content that they love. If they come and find a blog that they have to wade through pages of half assed content for one good post I don’t think they are as likely to stay. Quality over quantity I say.
Love #1 as well – helping and supporting others is definitely the way to go.

Amit Shaw May 30, 2012 at 4:32 am

Great Post Caleb. Every point to should maintain to build better blog.

James January 13, 2013 at 9:03 am

One thing that’s really helped boost my blog-rate is writing first thing in the morning, *before* breakfast.

I find there’s something about writing in the early hours (I’m talking 6 to 8am) that really helps the mind can focus.

And you know that whatever happens during the rest of the day, you’ve already got the most important thing done (updating your blog, of course).

Plus, knowing that you don’t get breakfast until you’re done is a great motivator :)

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