Top 24 Blog Lessons Learned In Two Years
It’s official. The Suitcase Entrepreneur blog just turned two! Can you believe it. No more diapers for this baby.
I wish I could sum up in one sentence how much joy, growth and opportunity blogging has brought to my life…*sniff sniff*. For those of you who have your own baby.. I mean blog, you’ll know what I mean.
I sometimes have to pinch myself that thanks to starting this blog and to you, my tribe, I’ve now built a location independent online business I love.
If you’ve been with me since the early days you’ll know this blog has gone through some serious transitions. I thought it would fun and valuable to share my top 24 lessons learned in 24 months of blogging.
I’ve also got a special birthday present for you – I’m giving away seven copies of Seth Godin’s latest book the Icarus Deception to celebrate.
But first up let’s give this some context….
A Brief History Of The Suitcase Entrepreneur Blog:
September 2009: Started my first ever blog called WomanzWorld aimed at women entrepreneurs, particularly in the tech scene.
May 2010: Went through first site redesign for WomanzWorld which was a decent improvement, still working with a ridiculous niche – `all women entrepreneurs around the world’.
November 2010: Attended Shine in Las Vegas and `stumbled’ across the name Suitcase Entrepreneur after one too many introductions telling people that I lived out of my suitcase – thanks Matt for telling me to buy the domain name and run with it!
December 6 2010: Announced my full rebrand to the Suitcase Entrepreneur in this post Get Ready To Take Off On The Next Business Adventure including a shift to the new domain name (actually it was thesuitcaseentrepreneur.com at the time).
December 17th 2010: Or there abouts, released the much improved new design courtesy of Clement and Marj. You may remember it – women striding out in heels with a suitcase behind her going through a city landscape? Lots of red everywhere.
January 2011: My hosting company essentially locked me out of my own blog and took the site down when I went over my bandwidth and attracted more traffic. Shit moment all round. Wrote about 4 Life Saving Lessons On How To Avoid Your Blog Being Taken Prisoner .
July 14th 2012: Fully embraced the growth of my blog with a fancy new blog redesign that you see now which has massively increased my blog popularity, navigation, traffic and conversions – thanks Leanne. Read the full story on why: The Suitcase Entrepreneur Has A New Home.
Ok there are already some lessons learned in the above but here are 24 more to celebrate 24 pretty incredible months:
Top 24 Blog Lessons I’ve Learned
1. Don’t start a blog, start a business. If you’re not prepared 150% to love it, nurture it and grow it into something worthwhile that makes a difference, don’t start. If you treat a blog as a hobby it will stay as one. Period. If you want a hobby then play with trains.
2. Get Over Yourself. There’s over 200 million blogs out there, if you’re going to create one make it epic. But don’t get hung up on writing your first post because you’re worried about `exposing yourself’. They probably won’t find it anyway. So take the plunge and hit publish.
3. Have A Real Voice. If I’ve said it once I’ve said it way too many times since – you are unique. You have your own opinions. You have important things to say. So say them. State them strongly, be bold, be proud, be controversial. But BE YOU!
4. Be Memorable. Don’t sit on the fence – ever (I did too much of this in the beginning). Make sure people remember you – are you a loud mouth, smart talking, in your face expert like the lovable Derek Halpern? Or a sassy, whip smart, kick you in the pants ex stripper like Erika Lyremark. Or are you a complete passionista wanting to build a community of living legends like Scott Dinsmore?
5. Yes You Need An Email List. And you need it now. I think I took 6 months too long to not start one, then I only emailed once a month for fear of pissing people off. What an idiot. This is THE way to keep in touch with people who opt-in to hear from YOU. Yes you, because they’re interested in what you have to say, what you can do for them and what you have to offer. Read Why The Money Really Is In The Email List.
6. Don’t Publish Shite. Yes I meant shite, for those of you not used to UK slang it’s essentially the same as shit. Don’t hit publish a mediocre piece of work just because you feel you haven’t posted enough this week. It will do more damage than good. Trust me.
7. Engage With Your Tribe. No use in publishing epic content and then not bothering to encourage people to share or comment, and worse not reply to people’s great comments. I really appreciate the regular readers of my blog who also take the time to leave insightful thoughts and do my best to reply to them here, and on social media.
8. Have A Contact Page. Want to build a tribe? You need to be reachable, not in accessible. I get the most amazing emails from my contact form. I get emails from real people with real life stories who share their hopes, dreams and fears with me, or just tell me why they found me and why they’re excited to be part of my tribe. That makes my day. That makes me know I make a difference! Oh and that’s also the way people contact you for interviews, joint venture opportunities and sponsorship – are you missing out?
9. Have An Editorial Calendar. This makes a world of difference in staying focused on the purpose of your blog, who you’re helping and what you cover and when. I have my editorial calendar planned out until June next year – not necessarily all blog posts but each month’s theme, when my podcasts go out, when my videos go out, when my launches are. I know what to write and who I’m writing for (see my recent Infographic for proof).
10. Plan For Awesome. Speaking to the above, the more you create a great vision for your blog and it’s future, the more excited you will be about it, and the more focused. I have a simple MS Excel Suitcase Entrepreneur `Plan of Attack’ spreadsheet on Google Drive. On the main tab is my vision and strategic 1 page plan for this blog plus keywords I want to rank for. The next tab is my editorial calendar, I also have a tab for affiliate opportunities, one for speaking gigs and finally my `circle of influence’. People I want to connect with, read their blogs, promote their stuff, thank regularly and Skype with! (If you want a template of this make sure you subscribe to my Highflyer newsletter as I’m sending it out to my subscribers next week).
On that note let’s break up these tips to tell you how to get your hands on Seth Godin’s latest book The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? I’m giving away 7 copies and you can watch my short birthday video celebration to find out more and why Seth has been such a big influence in my life.
11. Nothing Compares To You. Speaking to you being unique, please don’t judge yourself and your blog progress on that of others. That’s just a waste of your time. It’s also soul destroying. You don’t know what’s gone on behind the scenes for them, how many years they’ve been at it, what they’ve spent, who they work with and how they’ve gone about building their blog. Learn from them but don’t try to be them or get discouraged from your own journey because of them.
12. Know Thy WordPress Platform. I don’t think there is any other blog platform (or place to build your website on) than WordPress. They continually adapt and improve their backend, people create amazing WordPress plugins to make your life easier, and it’s intuitive and easy to use for any non-tech person – much like opening a Word document. When you’re first starting out it’s essential that you at least get the basics of using WordPress yourself, before you hand over to people who can do it better than you. It is after all your home for many years to come, so get comfortable with it. Start by reading this: How To Plan, Build, And Launch Your Own Website In 4 Days
13. Little Known Blogging Secret. I’m giving you this one for free, readers and your potential customers LOVE simple shortcuts. They love behind the scenes `how I did it’ articles. That’s why my article 24 Ways To Be Uncommonly Productive Today was so damn popular (and got over 30,000 views on Forbes!), plus I provide a free checklist. Also they love tips and actions they can actually use and implement right now, here’s a great example: 10 Twitter Tips For The Time Strapped Entrepreneur.
14. Get Found On Google. If you don’t know much about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) then you’re totally missing out. This is essentially how people find you online. You can increase your chances of being found for key words for blog topics by installing All In One SEO (free WordPress plugin) for a start and reading my other recommendations in how to build a better blog. You can also make sure your spelling and grammar is accurate and you know which keywords you can use in your titles, key headings and first few paragraphs of your blog post to rank highly on Google. For example I’m on Page 1 for Google for `Best Business Books’ thanks to this article!
15. Guest Posting Is King. If you want to drive more targeted traffic and readers to your blog you need to go out and blog for other authority sites with like-minded communities, otherwise you’ll just be sitting there bemoaning `why doesn’t anyone visit my blog?’. I like using this analogy: If you go to a bar and you’re the life of the party, then people want to hang out with you and you can invite them back to your place for a nightcap. That’s kind of like what guest posting is about. You write kick ass articles that make people sit up and take notice and come back to visit your blog and if you’ve got a great design and call to action then you’ve just attracted new members to your tribe. I wrote about how to Grow Your Blog Traffic Exponentially Through Guest Posting on Social Media Today.
16. Social Media Is A Blog’s Best Friend. A part from the fact that a blog is a social media tool in itself, the other way to drive more readers to your blog and website is through social media. And no you don’t need to be everywhere and anywhere, you need to be where your potential readers and customers are. I know thanks to Google Analytics that Facebook (and in particular my page) is the 2nd highest referrer of traffic to my blog, followed by Twitter. So I focus on those two platforms most – plus I love them. But I also know that YouTube kicks in when I post videos and Pinterest is starting to drive more targeted traffic especially since I created my board on Biz Tools I love to use.
17. Get Creative With Content. Not everyone likes to read, some people love visuals (like the infographic I link to above, or Pinterest images). Others love watching videos. Some love listening to podcasts. As you get to know your audience better you can start catering to their different ways of learning and digesting your information. The more places and ways they can access you, the better. For instance my Suitcase Entrepreneur podcast brings in a whole lot of new traffic from iTunes – people who never even know I existed. My YouTube Channel videos get views from people who find them who then click on links back to my blog in the video description. You have to pick the medium you’re most comfortable with but do experiment and see what works.
18. Love What You Do. You can tell bloggers who absolutely love what they do. Their words leap off the page at you, their opinions are clear, their actions are obvious, they write consistently or vlog regularly and you look forward to visiting their site every week. They’ve found their sweet spot, the intersection between what they love to do, what they’re really good at and what people will pay them for. Yes I wrote on The Secret To Finding Your Sweetspot too – my fave topic actually.
19. Have Fun Blogging. Cos if you’re not then you’re doing it wrong. Sure there will be times when you’re lost for words, or your plugin screwed up, or you can’t center your god damn image on the post you’re writing, but those are just all the wonderful parts that make up the whole journey of becoming a better blogger. And at the end of the day they don’t matter nearly as much as you think. People will love you for your content, for your unique voice, for helping them, inspiring them, believing in them and encouraging them.
20. Make It Easy To Share. I’m always surprised how many opportunities people pass up having their great content promoted. I’ve read some fantastic articles on blogs that people have asked me to share, only to find there are no share buttons! Make it easy for people to share your great work. Use Share This (great WordPress plugin that works). Put tweetables in your posts using Click To Tweet. Here’s an example:
Click To Tweet: If you write epic blog posts don’t forget to make them easy to share! People want to share your gifts with the world.
21. Create Strong Calls To Action. If people get to the end of your post and don’t know what to do next because you didn’t tell them then you’re missing out. For example the author box at the end of this post points to my BYOB guide. I can also make it point to my super valuable Ultimate Toolkit, or opting in to my Highflyer newsletter. What call to action are you inviting at the end of your posts? Even simply asking people to leave their comment is a great start.
22. Focus On Great Design. As I explain above I’ve been through several transitions in this blog and each time I’ve invested more money, worked with better designers and learned more about what works when it comes to great design, calls to action, click throughs, landing pages, clear navigation and more. Yes there’s a lot to it, but it’s so worthwhile understanding the psychology of online marketing and what makes people stick around. One of these is having a blog design that gets people’s attention and let’s them know what you do in 4 seconds or less – so make it worthwhile. Don’t skimp, otherwise you’ll get what you pay for.
23. Create Your Blogger Network. You have your circles of friends to do things with right? Your sporty friends, your social friends, those friends you go to the movies with, museums, traveling, the races or cafes. The same applies online, you simply cannot grow your blog (without taking into account the 22 factors above), if you don’t have your network of fellow bloggers that you can unite with in your quest to grow a kick ass blog. These bloggers should inspire you to be better. You should be sharing tactics and strategies with them on what’s working well, what new plugins, tools or methods they’re implementing. You should share each others’ work, take on joint projects and support each other whenever possible. Choose wisely. You’ll know when you find a kindred spirit that aligns with your blogging values. Make friends and make those friendships count. You don’t have to do this on your own.
24. Be Grateful. I’m writing this from a cool cafe in Amsterdam with loud music, candles on the table, a buzz of conversations, great coffee and mini Christmas trees everywhere. I feel inspired to write in such locations but I could just as easily do this from an airport, or plane or small village in a forest. That’s the beauty of blogging, that’s the beauty of being able to share your work with the world. You just need a laptop, an internet connection and your purpose.
See this image on Pinterest. Blogging does makes me want to be a better person…yes I’m paraphrasing Jack Nicholson!
Wow. That’s a lot of points. Share in the comments below which one resonated with you most. Be in to win one of Seth Godin’s new books – announcing winners next Thursday in my newsletter (watch the video if you haven’t).