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33 Common Online Struggles from Last Week’s Experiment

By:     Topics: Blogging

Last week I asked, “What do you struggle with online?

The point of that post was two-fold. One, to interact with you on an individual level. Two, to better understand how I can help you with your website right now.

All of your struggles seem to fall into one of six categories: setting up your website, creating content, getting traffic, converting traffic, making money, or remaining true to foundations of internet success.

With that, here are 33 common online struggles and my best advice for handling each.

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Setting up Your Website

Most of you seemed to have your sites set up, self-hosted, and otherwise running properly, which is great. There are still a few common problems that I saw.

1. Who is this site for and why does it exist?

If the homepage doesn’t answer this question immediately, people are likely to leave.  Communicate this with your logo, tagline, header area, or featured area.

Michael answers these two questions with his 5-word tagline, “How Pros Make Money Online.”

2. Creating a Custom Blog Design

If you haven’t at least upgraded to a premium theme, I would start there. Spend $50-$100 and your site will look drastically better. Michael started Income Diary with a $70 WooThemes template. Within a few months, he paid someone to update it.

Custom blog designs start at $1,000 and run up to $100,000 or more.

3. Cleaning Up the Blog Design

If you have a logo or an opt-in box, make sure it matches the colors in the design. If you include post images, make sure they’re all exactly the same size (here it’s 345 pixels by 180 pixels). If you start adding widgets to the sidebar/footer, make sure you can answer the question, “how does this improve the site for my readers?”

Simply using colors that match is a great start. You can find matching color schemes with ColorSchemeGenerator.com.

 4. Blog Excerpts vs. Full Articles

All major news sites and big-time blogs, with the exception of a few, feature post excerpts on the homepage. They do this to make their content more consumable and to help people find what they’re looking for. Plus, it makes the scroll bar smaller.

To enable homepage post excerpts within WordPress, put the Read More tag at the end of your excerpt.

Some premium themes automatically create and show post excerpts on your blog page.

5. Choosing from a Sea of Plugins

Before you start adding every five-star plugin that might improve your site, you need to understand that plugins are little pieces of software. Once you install more than 5-10 of them, there’s a good chance that they’ll conflict with one another, which could crash your site.

The only plugins that are absolutely necessary are Akismet, Google XML Sitemaps, Contact Form 7 (free) or Gravity Forms (premium), and WordPress SEO by Yoast (unless your theme has SEO options built-in).

Creating Content

After getting your site set up, the next step is writing content. All of us can improve on this.

6. Writing Well

Writing is like painting. Anyone can pick up a paintbrush and make a few strokes, but it’s immediately obvious when you can’t do it well.

Simply writing content without spelling or grammar mistakes doesn’t make it good.

If you don’t have a command of the English language, you have three options: become a better at writing in English, hire a writer, or write in your native language. Even those of us who speak primarily English need to work on this, a lot.

7. Creating Exceptional Content

Exceptional content talks about things that people are actually interested in. It educates and entertains. Most importantly, it uniquely solves a problem.

If you tell me that your content is exceptional, yet you’re not seeing the results, your content isn’t exceptional.

8. Crafting Headlines

The headline is the most important part of your post. If it’s bad, no one will notice it, click it, or read it.

To write better headlines, make sure they are keyword-focused, benefit-driven, and power-word ridden. In the eight hours I spent on your sites, I saw less than a handful of good headlines.

9. Writing Audience-Focused Content

People expect blogs to be flooded with useful information that benefits the audience more than it documents the blogger’s life.

If you want to build an audience, focus on the audience.

10. Finding Motivation to Write Consistently

When you put a lot of work into something and don’t experience results right away, it’s demoralizing. You question why you’re doing all of this if no one is paying attention.

Two things. One, you’re definitely doing something wrong and you just need to figure out how to fix it. Two, this is the internet’s way of filtering the good from the bad. If it was easy, everyone would do it.

The people who find success online, without exception, dedicate years to figuring out the internet before they finally crack the formula.

11. Writing with a Busy Schedule

I’ll admit I haven’t found a good solution for this either. The posts I write here take 6-8 hours. If you have a full-time job, an attention-hungry kid, and a literally hungry family, I know it’s hard to find the time to write even once a week.

You have three options. One, write higher quality, less often. Two, find (probably hire) someone to create content for you (by lawrence mcmeen). Three, find a way to accept and filter user-generated content.

12. User-Generated Content

If you can figure out how to accept user-generated content and maintain a high-level of quality, you’re golden.

Again, two things. One, tell your users exactly what you want them to submit. Two, make the submission process as smooth as possible.

If you use Gravity Forms, you can create a form that saves their submission as a draft in your “Posts” section of WordPress.

Getting Traffic

Getting traffic was the most common struggle online. Over half of you mentioned that you wanted more traffic.

13. Ranking for the Right Keywords

If you want your site to rank for the right keywords, you need to create exceptional content for that keyword. Either that, or you’re going to be paying for traffic.

14. Building Backlinks

I’ve been running blogs since 2008 and I’ve never implemented a formal link-building campaign. Yet, between my two largest sites, I get 18,500 search visits per month which accounts for 56% of my traffic.

Backlinks are important, but not as important as creating exceptional content. Links come naturally.

I think the larger problem is that people would rather focus on building backlinks than creating exceptional content.

15. Optimizing Blog Posts

None of you mentioned that you struggle with optimizing blog posts, but I saw that this was an underlying problem to why you’re not getting traffic.

To help you with that, here are 10 SEO Blog Post Publishing Steps that Most Bloggers Forget and 10 Blog Post Marketing Steps to Take Immediately After You Publish.

16. Encouraging People to Share Your Content

If you’re not creating content worth sharing, people aren’t going to share it.

Again, it all comes back to creating exceptional content. If you’re doing that, they’ll find a way to share it.

17. Boosting Page Views by Keeping People on Your Site

To boost engagement, get people to consume as much of your content as possible. If I read seven blog posts on any one site, then I’ll probably become a regular reader.

To increase the likelihood of somebody staying on your site, add a Related Posts area to your blog post footer. For this, I use the Similar Posts plugin.

Converting Traffic

Once you get people to your site, focus on encouraging them to do something. It could be to subscribe, to buy, or even just to comment.

18. Creating an Opt-In Bonus

To create your opt-in bonus, the first step is figuring out what readers want. If they have a specific set of problems that you can help them with, write an ebook, create a video series, or set up an auto-responder.

The software-as-a-service equivalent is a free trial. Very few sites find success without first giving something away for free.

19. Getting More Email Subscribers

The first step in getting more email subscribers is to give them a great reason to subscribe, oftentimes with an opt-in bonus.

Once you have a compelling reason for getting someone to subscribe, then it’s as simple as constantly reminding them to do so in a way that communicates the benefit of subscribing.

20. Positioning Your Opt-Ins

The most popular places to put opt-ins are in the header, at the top of the sidebar, at the bottom of the post, and in the footer. Of course, Popup Domination works so well because it makes the opt-in front-and-center.

One location that IncomeDiary.com used to utilize and is beginning to pick up steam on other sites is above the content and sidebars on the homepage.

21. Designing Your Opt-Ins

Using the Aweber/MailChimp-generated opt-in templates is a good start, but they don’t fit in with the rest of your design. It looks sloppy and makes people think that your bonus/newsletter is subpar.

If you know HTML and CSS, you can strip out the auto-generated styling and style them however you want. Explaining this in more detail is outside the scope of this article, but if you need help, drop a comment and I’ll see what I can do.

22. Building a Community

Building a community is a process that starts with earning one reader at a time. Get someone to read one post. Then another, and another, and another. They’ll subscribe, open your emails, leave comments, and share your stuff.

Then someone else will come along and the two of them will start recognizing each other in the comments. Then another will come, and another, and another.

But it starts with one reader reading one post and thinking, “That was worth my time. What else is here?”

Making Money

If you’re doing everything right up to this point, it’s time to cash in, but in a way that doesn’t detract from the work you’ve already done.

23. Ethics of Making Money Online

It’s not wrong to start forming a business around helping people with their problems. That’s what businesses do.

If you’re not making money nor independently wealthy, then the only way your blog can be sustainable is if you start selling things to your audience.

I understand the hesitancy to start making money online because it feels like you’re exploiting the very people that you’re trying to help. The best way to overcome this hesitancy is to only sell them things that they need.

The more niche your audience, the more easily you’ll be able to recommend products and show ads that’ll fit their needs.

24. Making Ads More Relevant

Click-through rates depend on the relevancy of the ads.

If you have a news-based or humor-based site that appeals to everyone, it’s going to be difficult to serve them relevant ads. If you focus on building an audience of a specific type of person, you won’t get as much traffic, but advertisers will pay more for that traffic because it’s targeted.

25. Positioning Ads to Increase Clicks

I’m not a fan of trying to trick people into clicking your ads. It’s a short-term game that’s not worth playing.

But if your ads are relevant enough to actually help people, then put them in the same places you would put your opt-ins (header, top sidebar, bottom post, footer).

26. Focusing on Affiliate Sales

Quick rule: Don’t recommend something that you haven’t used and benefited from using yourself.

Let’s say that you’re building an audience of people like you. If a product helps you, it’ll help them. If it has an affiliate program, sign up and recommend it. You can create full-scale reviews or simply drop it into your posts and emails when it’s relevant.

Recommend a mix of products with and without affiliate programs. That’ll show people that you’re there to help, not just to make a buck.

27. Coming up with Product Ideas

Ask your audience what they want.

Organize information into an ebook. Develop software that helps you and package it to help them. Launch a premium course to help them individually.

The neat thing about building an audience first is that they’ll tell you what they want and you have a platform to sell it.

28. Sales Page Strategy

The rules here are constantly being rewritten.

If you create something that people need and you effectively communicate the reasons why they need it, they will buy it. If they don’t buy it, you made a mistake on one of those first two things.

Foundations of Success Online

In terms of building a website, getting traffic, converting traffic, and making money, success is simply a matter of doing the right things in the right order. It’s easy once you know how to do it.

The more challenging part is getting the fundamentals right. If you don’t do these five things, you will struggle at every other level.

29. Help People Solve Problems

If your website doesn’t help specific people solve specific problems, it’s not going to get the attention that it deserves. And even if it does, it’s going to be difficult to sell things to those people.

30. Be Unique in a Crowded Internet

Most sites are average.

If you want to stick out, be different. If you want to be remarkable, be memorable. If you want to make waves, create something that you’re proud to show to your real-life friends.

Too many of us have template-y designs, generic logos, auto-generated opt-ins, and regurgitated content.

Be unique.

31. Get Past the Desire for Anonymity

I know that many of you choose to be anonymous because the internet makes that possible. Maybe it lets you be more honest with your advice. Or maybe you justify it with, “this site isn’t about me.”

But it’s like walking into a sales meeting with a mask on. Sure, it’ll be interesting for a few minutes, but if you never take the mask off, they’re going to walk out.

People buy from people they know, like, and trust.

32. Avoid Paralysis from the Pursuit for Perfection

One month on the design, two on the logo, a few months of market research, and many, many months crafting an amazing opt-in bonus. Now, just a few weeks to write the first five blog posts and bam! Site’s live.

Nobody comes.

I know, the gradient in the nav menu is all wrong. Just a few weeks to fix that. Might as well re-work the footer too. Another month goes by.

Nobody comes.

Maybe something’s wrong with my color scheme…

A year later. You cracked the 1,000 uniques mark in the 11th month, but your site never picked up steam like you planned for it to.

Just get your site up, track data, and adjust your site based on feedback. Then, never stop improving.

33. Stick with One Project

Results are going to take longer than you expect, especially if you’re just getting started online.

If you move around from shiny object to shiny object every three months, none of your projects are going to get the attention that they need.

Like I said, if you have the fundamentals right, it’s only a matter of doing the other 28 things in this list. It’ll take time, more time than you want it to, but it will happen.

The Last Word

I learned a lot about you all last week. What you struggle with. What you’re doing well. What you can improve. And I hope this post shed some light on your common struggles.

For us to continue serving you, we need you to continue telling us how we can help.

I appreciate the, “Awesome post, Nick! Way to go. You’re so smart (and handsome)” comments. I really do.

But I’d like more of you to challenge my thoughts. Give me feedback that’s scary to give. Tell me, “Nick, this concept is good in theory, but I’m really struggling to implement it because…”

As always, I’m looking forward to your comment.

Photo by kirstinmckee

  • justice

    I felt like you were talking to me one on one.I still use the free wordpress theme and its time i switch to a premium theme..Thank you for your wonderful post

    • Nicholas Tart

      That’s because I asked you a personal question. And pretty much everyone struggles with these 33 things. Glad I could help, Justice.

  • http://brianfarello.com Brian Farello

    Hey Nicholas,

    I really enjoyed how you talked about struggles that people have when creating a website and developing their business. I have faced all of these struggles and by taking action, I know that I can one day have a profitable website that provides extreme value to others. The one that stood out to me the most in this article was #29 helping people solve their problems. I feel that nothing is more rewarding than helping people with their problems and creating easy solutions that they can implement. I really took a lot out of this article and will be sharing it with my followers.

    -Brian

    • Nicholas Tart

      That’s why I’m in it too, Brian. Just to help. One thing people don’t realize is that everyone struggles with all of these things at one point or another. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.veggieab.com Abigail Johnson Akingbade

    I like the post but I can see where sticking with one project can limit the visibility of your site. I think one should focus on one topic but take advantage of all online platforms such as facebook, YouTube, eBooks, podcasts to get their message across. One message but many platforms.

    • Nicholas Tart

      Why do you think that you should spend so much time on those other platforms, Abigail?

      • http://www.veggieab.com Abigail Johnson Akingbade

        You can reach a broader audience with your message more so than only blogging. Though this also depends on the target audience a blog wants to attract. Personally sometimes I like looking at video entertainment more than reading an article for appeal and increase visitor stay on site. Social media is a good way to connect with people and share a message. I like social media checking for someone before I buy from them to see how they interact online with fans, friends, customers, etc. I think I heard from Gary Vaynerchuk but it’s a new era of personal branding that outshines bigger companies.

        • Nicholas Tart

          I agree with you, Abigail. Ideally, be everywhere, as Pat Flynn says. But all of that takes time and resources. Knowing that, you need to figure out the best way to spend your time. Maybe it’s not spending time on social and creating videos, but maybe it is.

  • http://www.howdoyousaythatword.com Marie-Ora

    Hi Nick
    Great post, as always. In my limited experience, SEO is crucial – you can do everything else right, but if your site isn’t optimised for SEO (I have Yoast’s plugin, cannot say enough good things about it), you are sunk. My stats were hideous – the minute I got my SEO sorted, they climbed to 12k in the first month. Nothing else had changed – not even my material. I did spend money on it, and I had to have my site redone, but it was absolutely worth it. The next step is finding a way to make it pay…

    • Nicholas Tart

      Oh wow, Marie. Is that 12k organic search traffic? Or did you pay for all of that traffic? What can you sell to your audience?

  • Kenny

    33. Stick with one project, couldn’t agree more I never made any money online until I stuck with one niche I was passionate about, if your not passionate about what you are creating a website and marketing funnel around you won’t make it to your breakthrough point. P.S I am sharing this with my subs thx.

    • Nicholas Tart

      I’m curious, Kenny, how many sites did you start before you found one that you enjoy? And thanks for sharing.

      • Kenny

        3rd niche, i also did a lot of try to make money without a website too which didn’t really work.

  • Jack

    Oh, yes indeed!!! I will be back here when I set everything up finally.. Good job mate!

    • Nicholas Tart

      I’m glad, Jack. I wrote and organized this post as a resource that you can come too based on where you’re at in your journey.

  • http://www.dansumnerblog.com Dan Sumner

    Hi Nick,

    A Very comprehensive list of online business.

    I’m having a nightmare at the moment creating my sales letter for my latest product. I’m at the guarantee and call to action stage and it’s just not working.

    I know I will get it eventually but for now I’m just not happy with it.

    lol another 4 hours of try new graphics and ideas today.

    Great stuff Nick cheers.

    Dan

    • Nicholas Tart

      Hey Dan. Do you mind sharing a link so I can give you feedback?

      • http://www.dansumnerblog.com Dan Sumner

        I knew you were going to say that.

        I hope you don’t mind but it’s kind of secret at the moment Nick.

        If you would like to see it I will send it PM to your inbox. Use my email address attached to this post or reply wit an email address I can use and I will send it to you.

        Thanks

  • http://www.aviationmd.com Peter

    Thanks Nick, as always another great and informative post. I use a premium theme yet who can afford the design costs when you’re just starting out. It’s a constant struggle to make something look decent so the search engine raters don’t call it spam! Peter

    • Nicholas Tart

      I know what you mean, Peter. I started with Thesis as well. Wanted a better design, figured out how to do that, bought Photosphop, and it took me two years to get where I am today with my design. You have to weigh out, spend time vs. spend money vs. never improve, from a design standpoint.

  • Frank Claassen

    Thanks a lot for these tips. Going through your post and at the same time looking at my blog I saw that my blog needs a overhaul.
    I going to start to think about the changes I want to make and implement them and see what happens.

    Once again thank you for these very helpful pointers.

    Kindest

    Frank

    • Nicholas Tart

      Needs an overhaul in which ways, Frank?

  • Sheyi @ ivblogger.com

    Nich, you are such a wonderful writer and your articles makes sense a lot to me.

    I still believe in facing one niche, make money then enter other niches.

    Sheyi

    • Nicholas Tart

      Thanks, Sheyi. What do you mean, “face one niche, make money in other niches?”

  • http://outsmartdisease.com Marina Gutner

    It would be great if you could point to simplified tutorials for non-tech people how to customize Aweber-generated opt-in templates!

  • http://www.magnetichealth.wordpress.com Mary

    Thank you Nick, this was a most helpful evening’s study. I have made notes to use as a checklist reference to everything I am doing in creating my new site.
    Being an older person I have struggled in getting previous sites sorted because the learning curve at every step of the way was so steep. At least today we have so many more services to make this easier, yet one of the main areas of difficultyfor me was the computer speak….that has had me going round and round in frustrating circles while I learn what they are talking about!
    One of the free sites called Webs used to be really easy to get started, load up images and so on but that has become impossible. WordPress is the best I have found, yet it has again still been and still is a learning curve trying to sort out what goes where and what the potential of the site is.
    Thank you for all your posts they have always been useful.

    • Nicholas Tart

      Thank you, Mary. Remember, the nice thing about this whole process being challenging, is that most people aren’t willing to give it a go. Which means, less competition. As it gets easier, the internet gets more bloated, and our jobs become more challenging.

  • http://www.bizoppsbuzz.com Owen

    Hi Nick,
    You really give value in your posts. Right now, post Panda everyone is talking about backlinks. I agree with you. Good content is what everyone should focus on first and backlinks after.

    What do you think of odesk for outsourcing?

    Keep up the good work.

    • Nicholas Tart

      Outsourcing for what, Owen? I’ve never used them, but I like how simple it makes it to track progress on your projects. In general, with outsourcing, it’s best to find people for the long-term so you don’t become just another client, just another number.

  • Cristina Marin

    Well you got me again with this post…but after going over the middle part I just wished I had this article structured in another ways and had some more content(info) at each point. So i got to 33 and that was it. I would have loved some part 1 part 2 an so on… do you know The Young and the Restless … well not so many episodes! I like point number 14 i think with the back-links – my personal opinion about why writers opt for back-links instead of unique content is they think it’s not worth the struggle – but it takes work to be the best. So instead of being a guru scientist worker they tend to hire themselves as factory workers. I like very much this site…i have my eyes on you guys…i love to steal knowledge!

    Regards,
    A.C.Marin

    • Nicholas Tart

      Ah, Cristina is your middle name. Nicholas is mine. My first name shall never be revealed… I agree, Cristina, this post would be better if it had more descriptions underneath. Remember this post? http://www.incomediary.com/advanced-blogging-strategy This article serves as a pillar article. Now that I know what you all struggle with, I’m going to go into more depth on each of these struggles and link them to the new posts.

  • Parth

    A masterpiece from incomediary , once again.

    I am a new reader of your site , and I cannot express in words how much this site amazes me. All the articles from all the writers are so full of valuable information , inspiration , personality and what not. How do you people manage to produce such great content so consistently? Don’t you get overwhelmed?

    I have been reading the posts on incomediary for nearly a month now , and so felt it would be an injustice if I do not even give feedback on your hardwork. I am not a blogger or webmaster , and so cannot link to or share this post , but I am an awed reader. Your site must be really helpful to serious bloggers. And actually , so much interesting stuff about blogging sometimes makes me think whether I should start a blog myself.

    Sorry for not adding any value to discussion in comments – I had to tell you people what an amazing work you do. And please do not mind the length of this comment – I can actually write a full blog post praising incomediary.

    • Nicholas Tart

      It’s not easy, Parth. I’m glad they come across as such… And who says that playing up to our egos doesn’t “add value to discussion in the comments?”

  • Lianne-carla Savage

    Great pillar post. Looking forward to seeing the articles you build around this.

    I was a little late to the game on the previous post and my comment ended up on page 2. Would be great if you popped over and took a look. I’ve not only left a bit (maybe a lot) of info about my site but also:

    1) The solution to number 11.

    2) My thoughts on 14 clicks and the direction for it to take.

    • Nicholas Tart

      I did see you’re original comment, Lianne-carla, but I had just stopped replying. Had to draw the line somewhere. But since you came back, I left a few comments with my thoughts. Thanks again for your feedback.

  • Nick Messenger

    Hi Nick,
    What a great read & how we are all struggling one way or another! Whilst I was re-reading the post as well as all the comments I couldn`t but help think that surely ALL these points are the result of INEXPERIENCE!
    Nick, please put the clock back for us. When you started, what did you struggle with? Who did you turn to for help?
    In your reply to Abigail you said ” But all of that takes time and resources. Knowing that, you need to figure out the best way to spend your time. Maybe it’s not spending time on social and creating videos, but maybe it is.” Nick, What does that mean????? How do you know if you`re spending your time on the right thing?
    Here`s another question for you Nick. What would you do if you were starting today? Remembering the fact that you are NOT the genius that you currently are.
    Nick

    • Nicholas Tart

      Those are big questions, Nick. When I first started, I struggled with all of these things. That’s why I was able to pick them out. Particularly, I struggled with getting my design exactly how I wanted it and my content strategy. To fix the design, I installed the Firebug extension and started peeking at the HTML/CSS for dozens of design elements that I liked from dozens of sites. For my content strategy, I started reading Copyblogger 2-3 times per week. Still do that. I also interviewed a bunch of people who I wanted to be like (Michael was one of them). And I kept reading and learning. I still read about 2-3 hours per day. What I meant by that comment, is you have to figure out a traffic formula that works, and transition most of your time to those tasks. If I were starting from scratch today, I would learn 4-5 hours per day and implement the things I learn 4-5 hours per day. Figure out what you want to learn (i.e. how to design an opt-in form), then find the best tutorial to fit your needs and implement it. We’re wrapping up a cool project this week that I think you’ll be interested in, Nick. Stay tuned.

  • http://www.melakashop.com Warren Kuan

    Dear Nick, this post of yours came in at a great timing for me.I started to plant this 33 stuffs in my head now :)

    Again, thanks.

  • Theodore

    Hi Nick, thanks for your tips, you’ve proven that you’re really here to help we newbies. I use woo free theme and Imnica mail auto-responder on my site but i still have some challenges like how to edit the optin-form and how to further beautify the look of the site. Talking about the related post plugin, how does it work? does it generate related post on its own, or is it by adding links to it?
    Thanks for your help so far, please keep it up.

  • http://www.TalkingGolfOnline.com Troy Vayanos

    Some really great ideas here Nicholas. I’ve added the automatic pinging. Have been guilty of spending too much time on the design of my blog but understand now the importance on focusing on writing great content.

    Cheers

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