Blog 2.0 is brand new and it’s way too soon to measure its success or failure on any level. Of course, that doesn’t stop us from trying!
How Are We Doing?
Of course, everyone wants to be the exception, the positive outlier. Amy and I were so excited about the concept of Blog 2.0. We were so certain that not only did the blogosphere need a site to provide honest reviews of all of the products being sold to us, but that we were uniquely positioned to deliver.
No doubt we each thought that we’d explode onto the scene and have 1,000 email signups a week, right away. After all, we were doing everything The Right Way:
- Pinterest would be a done deal. We’d start pinning others’ amazing content in this niche for weeks before we launched the blog, and our profile would be healthy before we hit publish on even one post. Pinterest traffic would flow the moment we started pinning our own content.
- Facebook traffic would be in the bag, too. I had built the Facebook page for my food blog organically, and it’s performed pretty steadily throughout all of the algorithm changes. Our expectations were realistic but robust.
- ✉️ Our email list would grow and grow. We know how to create lead magnets, and we’re bursting with knowledge that we simply can’t wait to share. We know how to use effective opt-in forms and know what to look for in an email service provider.
All I can say to that is: Hahahahahahahaha.
By any measure of immediate success, Blog 2.0 is a complete failure. We don’t have 1,000s of email signups, and unless I’m mistaken, we haven’t made one thin dime off of affiliate links. We’re learning affiliate marketing, though, and we’re hoping to teach you what we’ve learned. Success never happens fast enough, does it? Especially for Amy and me, since we’re both naturally super impatient.
What Have We Got to Lose?
The upside of this “failure,” though is that, since we haven’t achieved any real outward markers of success on Blog 2.0, we’re more than willing to take some chances. If we felt like we had something to jealously protect, we’d probably be too afraid to rock the boat. We may be seasoned bloggers in other niches, but our blogs were built long ago. We believe that we can best help you build your own blogs the right way if we’re working alongside you. We hope to achieve a measure of success with each new product or service we try—and to be able to help you decide what’s worth your time and money, and what isn’t.
For example, since we have a small email list, we can afford to use a few different email service providers. We started out with MailerLite, and now we’ve moved to ActiveCampaign. We plan to review both services fully here on Blog 2.0.
We’re looking to build our email list in unconventional ways, including a coming campaign with UpViral, a viral referral marketing software. The way UpViral works is to provide a reward (that everyone who qualifies receives) or a chance in a contest (that everyone who qualifies gets a chance to win). We were going to do a contest (a chance to win a one-year subscription to SocialWarfare) but decided a high-value reward was much more compelling.
To that end, Amy and I are hard at work on an eBook called Secrets To Building Blog Traffic: Notes From The Trenches, where we teach you not only how to build traffic, but how to build the right sort of blog traffic to your website—which, incidentally, starts with deciding what you want your blog to accomplish in the first place.
How Am I Doing?
I’ve been writing a food blog called Gluten Free on a Shoestring since 2009. I’ve had many, many benchmarks against which to measure my success or failure over the years. Among them are the usual suspects:
- Blog traffic (everyone blogger’s favorite benchmark!):
- Is it growing year over year?
- Is my traffic spiking when everyone else’s is?
- Social media numbers and engagement:
- Email lists:
- Size of my list
- My open rate
- My click rate
- My unsubscribe rate
- My rate of new sign-ups (lead magnet success or failure)
- My conversion rate when I offer a paid product or service.
Since I started writing my first cookbook the very same year that I started blogging, I’ve also had additional cookbook-related metrics, like the size of my cookbook advance and cookbook sales to measure myself. I used to live and die by my newest cookbook’s Amazon ranking. Talk about stressing over things you can’t control!
If you define failure as an endeavor’s not having immediate success, then my failures certainly outnumber my successes. I might make a “full-time living” from my food blog, but nothing is guaranteed. Most of my income comes from display advertising on Gluten Free on a Shoestring, and we all see what’s happened to newspapers and commercial television. Display advertising doesn’t seem to be a solid enough foundation upon which to build a business plan for the future.
Necessity is the Mother of Invention
When I started my food blog way back in 2009, I had no email list. Only business bloggers spoke of such abstractions. Not food bloggers! My Facebook page grew rapidly and organically from the start and was by far my biggest source of website traffic. Only when the bottom fell out of organic reach for Facebook pages in late 2013 did I wake up and start learning how to use Pinterest effectively, learning about search engine optimization, and cultivating an email list.
Today, my email list is designed to drive traffic to my food blog, but more importantly, it’s an ongoing opportunity to cultivate a helping relationship with my readers. I truly enjoy providing them with reliable gluten free recipes for all the foods they’re missing now that they’re gluten free.
Then, along the way, I’ve created some online products to offer them for sale. My first product was called Gluten Free Flour Blend Basics, and I offered it only to my email list for one week in early 2017. It was a huge success. Right now, as I’m writing this the Saturday after Thanksgiving in the U.S. in 2017, I’m on day 2 of the 1-week offering period for my second course, Gluten Free Yeast Bread Basics. And frankly, it’s not competing so well with all the noise of Black Friday.
I’m only on day 2, but it doesn’t feel great to not have the second time around be the out-of-the-box success of the first time around. I’ll do what I can this weekend, and then regroup on Monday with the marketing guys I have on retainer. Since there are so many factors at play in the success or failure of an online product in a short offering period, you can’t act rashly and throw everything you can at the problem. No matter how much you might want to. And trust me, I really really want to! But I can’t take a chance of alienating the readers that trusted me enough to provide me with their email addresses.
And I’ve found that struggling along with Blog 2.0 these last number of months is helping me maintain perspective when it comes to Gluten Free on a Shoestring. Amy and I brainstorm different ideas for Blog 2.0 constantly. We have a very full queue of Blog 2.0 projects on a shared board in Trello, and there’s no shortage of sellers out there promising that their blogger tool is your key to success.
So What’s a Blogger to Do?
In a word: Email
About 2 years ago, I decided to shift my focus with respect to my food blog to my email list. That doesn’t mean that I develop fewer recipes, necessarily, or that I don’t try to drive traffic to my blog to increase my pageviews (which contributes to my ad income). It just means that I view everything I do in my business through the lens of how it will serve or otherwise have an impact on my email list.
When I drive traffic to my website from social media and search engines, my short-term goal is advertising income. But the longer term goal is to turn visitors into email subscribers. And then, as I nurture those email relationships, I hopefully turn email subscribers into allies and some of them into customers. And yes, I’ll hopefully send them back to my website when I email them about new recipe posts, but to provide them with value.
In another word: Perspective
We have to gain some perspective. We know that lasting success doesn’t happen overnight. Amy and I may both have been some of the earlier bloggers in our respective niches (food blog for me, craft blog for Amy), but in Blog 2.0, we’re starting from scratch. No one knows us in this space. We have to make our case. We have to prove it, just like everyone else.
I’ll give you this, though: it’s no fun starting from scratch! Well, actually, in some ways it is kind of fun. We get to take chances, and then to report on them. Plus, the work of Blog 2.0 has forced each of us to look more critically at how we run our primary blogs and businesses. And we’re learning more than ever.
You know how actors win an Academy Award and say that they’re “humbled”? I’m pretty sure that word doesn’t mean what they seem to think it means. It’s not humbling to win. It’s AWESOME to win! It’s humbling to lose, to fail, to fall down on your face.
But as I tell my 3 children, if you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough. If you don’t step outside your comfort zone, you don’t grow. And that becomes so boring that you tend to lose motivation to do the original work you did that’s squarely inside your comfort zone. So it’s time for me to put on my big girl panties and practice what I preach.
You can’t plan for failure. It just has too many faces. But you can plan on failure. It’s going to happen. It’s not “if”; it’s “when.” Anyone can succeed in the face of success. But when you’re faced with failure, the question is: what do you do next? That’s where you find out what you’re made of.
If we had lost perspective at all over the years with our primary blogs, we’ve got it back in a big way from our work on Blog 2.0. So let’s help each other.
What’s it like for you? How long have you been blogging, and what do you struggle with the most?