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9 Reasons Why My First Blog Was Successful And Yours Isn’t

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There’s a learning curve when it comes to blogging, and that curve for me was my first blog that failed to get any real traffic. Here’s a list of 9 things that I did wrong on my first blog and how you can avoid them when starting yours.

Useless Domain Name

My first problem was that I was writing a blog from my personal portfolio at www.JoshuaDunlop.com, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you’re a well established photographer, but when you’re just starting out, that domain name says absolutely nothing about what your blog is about to any potential readers. You need to include a keyword from your niche in the domain name of your blog, just like i did with my new website; www.ExpertPhotography.com.

My domain name contains 2 keywords; expert and photography. The expert part implies that we’re an authority site, and the photography part tells the reader what we’re writing about. This is important for getting recognized in google and drawing interest into your site when someone sees a link to it. This step makes a noticeable difference to the number of visitors and as you’re going to be sticking with it for the rest of the site’s life, you may as well invest some money into it.

Horrible Design

If you had a look at my site, you would have notice that it’s not really ideal for writing long blog posts with grey writing on a black background. Because of the theme that I was using there was very little customisation that I could do to it to make it look better without sacrificing the look of my website. Using a proper theme for blogging, like a Woo theme, made all the difference and we were able to customise it in a number of ways.

  1. We included a custom header with images that reflected the nature of our website.
  2. Found a featured slider that worked for what we wanted to display, and because we’re using WordPress, there were loads to choose from.
  3. Could place adverts exactly where we wanted them which makes us money.
  4. Used a much better colour scheme that’s easy on the eyes when reading.
  5. The blog post template was laid out better, making the content easier to read.

Using WordPress allows you to customise your site to help it to stand out from the rest of the sites on the internet. Poorly laid out websites lose visitors quickly, so we implement related posts and categories to help the visitors stay on the site for longer.

Poor Writing

It’s easy to start a blog these days, and I would encourage everyone to give it a go, you just need to know what you’re writing before you start. If you can’t provide valuable insightful information that can’t be found many other places, then people don’t want to read it. Plan your blog posts properly and research them well, and you’re halfway to writing good content.

Whenever I write a post, the first thing I do is google the title i’m going to use; not to copy everyone else’s writing, but to see what’s out there so I know what I have to do to make mine better. I strive to write the best content for my niche on the internet, and to do that you’ve really got to put in some time and effort into it, but if you know what you’re writing about, it’s not hard. I think the main reason I find so much useless information on the internet is because people aren’t willing to put in the time it takes to write good content, and that’s a good thing for you, because it makes it that much easier to write better than them.

Wasn’t Writing Enough

If you really want to build a daily following, you need daily content. I’ve written before on how to direct traffic to your website, but that’s wasted if you’re not spending the time it takes to write content regularly. It’s going to take a very long time to build up regular traffic through google or other means if you only write once a month. When I started my first blog, I would write when I felt like it, but now I set myself a task of writing a minimum of 3 posts a week, and extra smaller posts when I can.

Same Old Thing

The internet is packed full of billions of webpages, and yours is one of them. If you want to get noticed, you need to stand out, and to do that you need to think carefully about what you’re writing about. Are you just churning out the same thing everyone else is? How can you make yours different? What’s your USP? What can you provide to your blog posts that make them more valuable and insightful to your readers then anyone else can?

I write in a variety of different styles on many different topics, but along with the educational tutorials and top lists, I include a series called ‘Shoot My Shot’ where I can show readers the steps I took to take my photo; something that not many people are doing on the internet. This is something I took on when my new blog went up, as I knew it was different and would draw in a different type of reader then before, which helps my blog grow.

It Wasn’t a Priority

When I started, I wasn’t really taking it seriously, the idea was that it would bring traffic to my portfolio if I got into Google for my tutorials. This is why a lot of people start blogs, but the problem is that you don’t really take it that seriously. You need to think of your site as a business that it’s going to potentially earn you a lot of money.

Once you change your mindset, you start to think about it in your daily life, and it helps to improve your website as you come up with new ideas. As a photographer, I see everything as a potential photo, and the same is true with being a blogger, I see potential blog posts in everything these days. For me, coming up with a good topic to write was half the battle, the writing part is the easy bit.

Didn’t Market The Site

I didn’t understand how websites worked back when I started, and I thought that if I wrote enough content I would eventually be in google and the challenge would be over. Now, I spend probably as much time working on the marketing side as I do the writing side, as it’s just as important. As we all know, the best type of marketing is free marketing, and this is remarkable easy to do these days if you know what you’re doing; particularly if you’re using social networking to help you.

Facebook and Twitter are the some of the best ways to drive traffic to your site; Facebook is direct contact with a reader and twitter has the ability to be retweeted and shared by other people without you even having to do anything. Not only does this directly send traffic to your site, but Google recognises it and you’ll start to see more traffic from them too.

Facebook is the best way to maintain a following as the quality of visitor is much better, they’re someone who is willing to have your information in their newsfeed along with all their friend’s updates. Start a fan page as soon as you start your website and start on building a following immediately, it takes very little work and the results are great.

Twitter is similar to Facebook in that your updates will appear in other people’s feeds, the only problem is that they may get thousands a day, and yours will just be lost in the mess. From a tweet for roughly 1600 followers, I get between 50-60 people actually click on the link, which isn’t really that good, but that’s not the main reason I use twitter. The retweet function and the ability for other people to post your links has a huge effect on the amount of traffic you get to your website.

I Wasn’t Working on Google Traffic

Recently, someone at Adobe Lightroom found a tutorial of mine that I wrote months ago and tweeted it to 30,000 of their followers with an @photojosh tag on it. That then got retweeted to roughly 15,000 more people and drove about 5,000 visitors to my site in just 2 days, which is a big deal to me. Great to get traffic like that and Adsense certainly felt the impact, but the main, long term result of that is something I wasn’t expecting – my hits in Google went WAY up. Have a look below at my 2 screen shots, the first one is a timeline of the traffic I was getting to my website and the second one is a graph of the number of hits that came through search engines. 

There’s obvious correlation between the amount of unique visitors I got in a day and the amount of traffic I got through search engines in the graphs above. Before June (about halfway along the timeline) My traffic was all over the place and my search engine visitors ranged from anywhere from 0-10 a day. I published an article on the most influential photographers, and that got everyone visiting at the beginning of June and after that the following started to grow, along with the search engine traffic, which went up to between 10-30 a day.

Although my recent boost in traffic isn’t the most i’ve had in a single day, search engines have started to notice people sharing my website through social networks like Twitter and that’s resulted in a sustained increase in traffic. The key is to write articles that are either really damn good, or a little controversial so that people will talk about them on the internet and then Google will recognise it and you’ll start seeing more traffic to your site for posts that you wrote months ago.

No Reader Interaction

I wasn’t really paying too much attention to what people wanted to learn on my old blog, and I was mostly writing for myself and starting at the beginning. Now that my new site has grown, and people comment, I like to comment back and help them with any questions that they may have. In fact, at the end of every post, I encourage people to comment and ask for help so I can build reader interaction and get people talking about my site. These small gestures, which take very little time, make the site a load more personal and welcoming to your readers.

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Comments

  1. Great post – it’s of interest to me because I have just started a blog of my own. The issue i’m finding as of current, is being able to write posts at least three times a week. Where do you get your inspiration and ideas from? I seem to be able to write detailed and informational posts, but finding new content to write about in such mass is a hard (not impossible) task. Cheers.

    • It’s an ongoing battle, but I take notes on my phone when I think of something and try to have at least 3 that are ready to write. Keep your ideas jotted down in a notebook so you don’t forget. As it’s a photography blog, I carry my camera everywhere so that i’m always taking photos that can be used on the blog.

  2. Jamie Northrup says:

    Thanks for sharing these tips, I was like you too at first thinking if I wrote it that would be enough, but the marketing part is the key, I now spend much more time marketing my websites than writing content for them.

    10 guest posts are better than 10 posts on your own blog as far as I’m concerned.

  3. Onibalusi Bamidele says:

    Thanks so much for the awesome post Josh!

    You made a great point about the importance of choosing the right domain name and I just started a niche site that is starting to get results quickly, especially from search engines – what I’ve noticed is that the more related your domain name is to your keyword, the more traffic you can get from Google.

  4. thanks for sharing this…nice info..

    my priority is the domain and blog design because it can give the first impression to the visitor..

    and now im working on my blog design..i will republish back my blog maybe this week 🙂

  5. Thanks for the tips. That is one huge problem I have, is not writing enough content. I have become wrapped up in my career, and put my own assignments on the back burner. I think now, though, that I will really start to put an hour a day aside to focus on my blog, since that is the thing I want to succeed at more than anything.

    Thanks for the advice!

    • Andrew @ Blogging Guide says:

      That is the spirit… I think the secret of being successful is to fail and learn from it. No one wants failure so the tendency it to work harder and smarter.

  6. Liudas Butkus says:

    Ahhh I’m making many of these mistakes on my blog. Great post very useful.

  7. For my 4 hour body blog, I have to remind myself to remember these all the time. My biggest hurdle is the marketing one, because I’m not a great headline writer yet. I’m not sure how to best do Facebook yet, but that’s why I read articles like this: to teach me what I need to be doing. 🙂

    I will agree with Josh that getting a solid theme is crucial and posting consistently is probably the one thing that keeps people from leaving me once they start following me. When I feel like writing less, I remind myself that if I keep doing it, eventually I’ll see several hundred RSS subscribers and maybe eventually thousands.

    Thanks for the post!
    -jason

  8. Susanne says:

    Thank you so much for writing about this in details, as usual the Dunlop brothers delivers-over delivers when explaining things. I have been following Michael for a while now and my first thought was; wow he really tells you what and how to do it all! Keep up the good work guys you are fantastic!!!

  9. Hi Josh, first time commenting, I´ve been following your page for about a week and I got to say is great!
    I´ve started a blog about 1 month ago and I look to monetize it in the future but so far since I´m not getting enough visits I want to keep it clean and keep my fans and get new ones maybe easily.
    Anyway, I wanted to ask you if you know a way on how to configure Google Analytics to ignore the visits from your computer or IP address as I´d like to get real data and ignore all those visits I do during the day.
    Hope you can help!

    Thanks!

    BTW, my website is in spanish but if you have time and would like to check it out for a minute is http://cuerpoaldente.com – Its about fitness and nutrition 🙂 comments are welcomed!

    • Google counts visitors as unique visitors so it will only count you once in a day. Thanks, Josh

  10. Hi,

    I’m totally agreed that domain name should be good enough to attract visitors and search engine too. As for as content posting is concerned you have to be consistent whether it is once a week or 7 days a week.

    Thanks for sharing several other points too which are very important.

    khalid

  11. Emmanuel says:

    Thanks Josh,
    2-word domain names are very good for a good perception on your blog’s value. Long tailed ones portray to an extent inexperience. I am sometimes guilty of not really creating a community around my blog… Thanks for reminding me.

  12. Kamil Ali says:

    Micheal, thanks for sharing.

    I also have this theme. Th e problem is that it says to change the Permalink setting and I f i do so, my links does not show my article. Previous articles give error.

    How to resolve this issue?

  13. Great post as usual. You give us all a lot to think about by showing us your past mistakes.

  14. Brendon Held says:

    Great advice Josh. I have watched your new photography site grow over the past few months and I think you and Michael are doing an outstanding job with it, which was of course to be expected.

    I am impressed to see that you seem to publish every 2 days like clock work. I am starting to realize that this is crucial to growing a site quickly and an area I definitely need to work on…

    Thanks for a great post!

  15. Mathias F says:

    Thanks for great inspiration. If it wasn’t for you Michael (and Josh) my blog motivation was like zero!

    Thank you so much!

  16. Chukwuka Okwukwe Chukwuka says:

    God willing I won’t be making any of these mistakes on my blog since you’ve clearly stated it here.

    Thanks, Josh.

  17. Alistair Summers says:

    Thanks for the post.

    If you know and ubderstand the ‘rules of the game’ anything in life becomes easier. There seems to be so much mystery surrounding blogging – so thanks for shinning some well needed light on the subject.

    Content takes a lot of discipline and a good plan to keep you on course.

    Thanks.

    Alistair

  18. Pst. Bless says:

    Thanks Josh, i quite agree with you in the above listed points, i am beginning to to realize these things now

  19. This is a great article Michael. You’ve been such a help to me, whether you knew it or not, as I’ve created my own site over the last two months. I wish you and your brother much luck!

  20. Leo Dimilo says:

    Hmmmm….I agree with every point but point #1. When you go with a name that doesn’t automatically reveal the market, then you just need to lean more heavily on branding.

    The benefit of actually making your name synonymous with your market is that it becomes instantly recognizable as part of the market. The gratification is delayed, sure, but the payoff is much better in the long run.

    My opinion though. I see the benefit of both.

  21. Great Sharing, Thanks Josh and Michael, I feel that the poor writing is the main thing that affects the progress of the blog because as we already know that “CONTENT IS KING”.

  22. Nate @ Strayblogger says:

    The posting regularly does make a huge difference. On some of my niche sites that are more competitive, I’ve found that the main thing that keeps me in the top 5 in Google is posting at least 3X a week.

    That’s definitely not to say that’s all you have to do to rank high, but once a site gets up there and you’re competing with other blogs, you better be posting new content on a regular basis if you want to stay there.

  23. fazal mayar says:

    great post josh, it took me a full year to realize that what i was doing as a blogger simply didnt work. Design is an underrated aspect still.

  24. Great. This is really inspiring. It is so funny that we tend to focus on some other things and forget these small but most important points! Thanks Josh

  25. I have just started getting my site up and running and writing content. This article and many other articles here are helping me out with my goal. Thanks

  26. Very good article! As a newbie, it’s a useful guide and a reminder. For those who are already into blogging for a while and still not successful then this post is perfect as well to weigh things out why they did not succeed.

  27. I can relate to this post very well, since I just started a blog 2 weeks ago. This will be bookmarked to keep me ahead and staying in the right path to success.

  28. Helpful post.I have also started my first blog recently but I have some prior experience with Internet Marketing.And after reading your post I discovered that I’m not making all the mistakes as mentioned by you in this post.Yes some mistakes I’m doing now also but I’m going to work hard on this blog