But here it is! So Not Niche turned one year old on December 15th (yay!), and that year has been full of mistakes, progress, and learning...
That may not seem like much when you see bloggers who have been online for a decade or more, but it is an important blogging milestone.
Before I talk about what I've learned from this year and such, I do want to mention that this is not my first blog. I've been dabbling in blogs on free platforms for five years now. But this is the first time I set a goal for myself to get serious with blogging, and turn it into a business.
And running a blog as a business meant learning a LOT of new stuff, putting in a lot of work, and spending a lot of days being frustrated and lost.
So, was it worth it? (warning: this post is long and honest.)
Spending one year with a blog is a lot like your first year in a relationship. You go through a lot of joy and tears together. But after a year, you've worked out most of your problems and established a comfortable routine.
I absolutely love my little website. Even though it has, I'm pretty sure, given me ulcers. Mostly during those early days when I was having to learn everything from scratch.
Setting up So Not Niche was different than using Blogger, where all I had to do was make a header image and write posts on a niche topic. This time, a few of the things I had to learn included:
- How to do the whole hosting and domain name thingy.
- How to customize certain parts of Weebly's coding.
- How to brand a website
- How to design my own graphics with free programs (I had zero budget)
- How to use Weebly's built in SEO features correctly.
- How to use all the social media platforms in the best way (including setting up a Pinterest business account.)
I also had to read and research a lot for tips on traffic, indexing, ad placement, page layouts, affiliate marketplaces, image sizing, product creation, ecommerce, and general blogging tips.
I worked for 365 days straight without taking a single night off. Longer actually, since I started working on this site around October 2015, and I didn't take a break until Christmas week 2016.
Was that smart? Probably not.
Oh. Did I mention I made a lot of mistakes? Yep. They were awesome. No. Really.
They taught me a lot, so let me share some of them with you. (you can laugh if you are a seasoned blogger.)
-Mistake #1. I reworked an older site instead of starting fresh.
This blog used to be called "Normal Doesn't Live Here", and I started it as a sort of funny "family fails" journal. It was a free Weebly site.
Instead of starting fresh, I thought adding to the old one would be "easier". I think it just slowed me down a lot in the beginning and annoyed Google, because I changed the name AND deleted a bunch of old posts. Not to mention changing the general look and content keywords.
-Mistake #2 I didn't start with a new Twitter account.
Just about everything I had ever posted to Twitter had been about weather, elder caregiving, and Oklahoma. Then boom, I started tweeting blog ideas, business articles, art, personal finance, etc.
I think all of my 150 followers dumped me within a week, and it took a long time to build up a new reputation.
-Mistake #3 Dabbling in Personal Finance
Don't get me wrong. Writing about money making and saving will always be a part of SNN. But when I started the blog we had just started buckling down on our debt free journey and I was enthused.
I wrote too much about it at first, and got a lot of traffic. But they didn't stick around once I started filling in my other topics.
I never intended to only write about personal finance, so I should have balanced it better in the beginning.
-Mistake #4 Worrying too much about perfection
There's a lot of pressure to have a "beautiful" blog, with perfect everything. From the header image to the font style to the pin images to the keywords.
I tweaked this stuff way too often in hopes of having everything looking just right at the same time.
In the process, I unpublished posts that didn't feel perfect, changed graphics (a lot), wasted a lot of time customizing Pinterest, and even more time trying to find a beautiful white place in my house to take photos.
I should have been learning or creating content or networking with that time. Changing "faces" so often and having a dead links didn't do much to earn the trust of either my readers or the search engines.
What I Learned
All of those mistakes were teaching moments. Some of the biggest takeaways from the year were:
Raise your hand if you seen a post promising you will have a money-making blog set up in less than an hour.
Sure, you CAN open an account and set up your hosting in 15 minutes (provided you have good internet speeds and already know what to name your website.) With Weebly this probably only took ten minutes because it's all point and click from one page.
But it takes weeks, maybe months, to actually build your basic blog/website if you are doing it all yourself.
Timing Is Everything
2016 overall probably wasn't the best year to start a business and get noticed. There was so much going on in the world to distract people's attention. A few of the things that served as competition:
- Orlando, Florida
- Iconic celebrity deaths
- Presidential campaigns and elections
- Scary Clowns
- The Cubs won the World Series (!!)
- Pokemon Go (Seriously, where did readers go??)
- The 2016 Summer Olympics
- Hurricane Matthew
- Nice, France
- Tennessee fires
Probably not a problem for seasoned bloggers who already had an established group of readers/followers, but it did feel like social media eyes were more drawn to headline topics than other types of posts.
Pay Attention to Social Media "Moods"
I didn't reserve a lot of time to really focus on social media. More like I just shared links to my posts and other people's content without reading the news first.
And duh. I got unfollowed a lot.
I even read a few posts by other bloggers that said people who wrote or shared "mundane, normal stuff" when there were more important, serious issues in the world were bad. I don't believe in that. Just because you don't share all of your opinions daily on current trending news doesn't mean you aren't concerned or involved behind the scenes.
I personally chose NOT to write strong opinion pieces on SNN because I didn't feel that my opinions or views were needed by my readers, helpful in any way, or even entertaining. Those pieces fit beautifully onto other, more personal blogs though, so that isn't bad either.
Don't Make Promises Too Soon
I started too soon telling readers I would do more of this, or would post on these days, or would have some project done on X day. And that is not a bad thing. Except in in the beginning while you are actually building the technical part of your blog.
Stuff can happen that's out of your control, and no amount of "hustle" is going to help.
After several such embarrassing moments, I decided to not announce anything unless I already it had it done.
Stick to Your Dreams
The whole point of working from home is to be able to have more freedom. But I spent a lot of time worrying whether what I wanted to do was worthwhile. I knew I wanted to write a multi-topic blog, but I didn't want to write on the usual lifestyle topics.
I would get discouraged by advice to stick to one topic only ( and mull over whether or not I was wasting time and money by not just picking one). Then I would be encouraged by success stories of people who had multi-topic blogs.
When I quit worrying about it and decided to just blaze my own trail, my traffic improved and the creative blocks vanished. Best choice business-wise? Probably not. Worth it to me anyways? You betcha.
One Year Progress Report
Those are just a few things I learned. I also learned how to resize a Weebly header, and I really think I deserve an achievement award for that one.
But how did the year go as far as stats and numbers and such?
If you are waiting for a big "Boom" moment, you can back out now. No huge, overnight success story here.
I've not yet hit my first goal of 10K views per month. (but came very close this December.) I wasn't too surprised or broken-hearted though, since my other blogs didn't take off until year 2.
My resolution for the year is to not obsessively compare my numbers to other bloggers' (too many variables behind every individual story), but reaching 10K is on my goal list.
I did make money though, and it was a little bit more each month. To celebrate that somewhat awesome achievement, I'm sharing a free cupcake with anyone who reads this. You can grab that printable right here, because any victory is a good reason to eat a cupcake!
I totally bombed social media last year. I had two phones lock up and die on me last year, so that limited the amount of time I spent networking. (As in, delete almost 4 months of the year due to phone issues.)
I also had that sad moment when I realized I was putting most of my time and focus into Twitter, and it only accounted for less than 1% of my traffic. :( Not cool.
A Brief Look At Art
Along with regular blogging stats, I have to throw in a bit about the art and design too. I had not actively tried to sell any artwork online since 2012. So whereas I didn't make many sales last year, I was surprised that I made any at all.
So far, Zazzle is showing a lot of promise for what I like creating, and I'm hoping to build that up more this year.
Blogging Goals For This Year
So that was my first year with this site. It was crazy, fun, and sometimes very sloppy.
I really wanted to be able to write this and say how I did tons of amazing things and broke records, but maybe this will help to encourage others to keep trying and not worry so much about numbers or perfection at first.
I'm ready to start this year clean, sharp, and focused.
A few goals:
- Build up my pageviews
- Master affiliate links
- Create more products
- Try guest posting
- Network better
- Become supreme overlord ruler of the universe.
Oh. And maybe write an ebook.
Sharesies: What was the most important lesson (or mistake) from your first year with a new blog or website?