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While I don’t believe much in dwelling on failures and mistakes, I do believe we can learn from them. Often other people can learn from your failures as well. By sharing these experiences we keep history from repeating itself. Every year I like to take a look back at my blogging efforts and examine what I’d do differently if I was building my platform today. These mistakes have helped me to determine what I consider the pillars of a successful blog.
Knowing the purpose, message, and mission behind your blog when you start is a bit of a double edged sword. If you know what this is when you start consider yourself lucky. But, you also have to be open to the possibility that it will change because building a platform is a voyage of self discovery. It’s a professional journey as much as it as a spiritual one.
If you don’t know the purpose, message or mission behind your blog, don’t worry. In many cases it reveals itself to you. If you’re a business owner you may be thinking this doesn’t apply. If that’s the case I encourage you to go back and the read what corporate blogs could learn from personal blogs. Once you become clear on the purpose, mission and message of your content, the right people show up in droves. It’s when things go from message to a movement.
2. Email Newsletter
In a world where people spend half their days on Facebook, it might seem odd that an email newsletter would be so important. Every single blogger or content creator I’ve ever talked to has said that biggest mistake they’ve made was not building their email list sooner. A book marketing strategist for a New York Times best selling author told me that emails resulted in ten times more book sales than social media. They may not see your latest status update or tweet but email gives you direct contact to your potential reader or buyer. Another thing to consider about email is that people tend to reveal quite a bit more through email correspondence because it’s private.
3. A Free E-Book/Manifesto
Besides the fact that it will help you build your email list, a free book or manifesto can have several other benefits. We’ve all had those friends who show up at our house late when we’re watching a movie and make us pause the movie to explain what’s happening. In the case of your blog you don’t have the option to pause and do this for every new reader that shows up. A free e-book gives you the option to catch the reader up on your ongoing narrative. It can also cause your ideas to spread:
- Chris Guillebeau wrote a A Brief Guide to World Domination. It was downloaded over 100,000 times and eventually led to a book deal.
- The Extraordinary Achiever’s Manifesto which I wrote has received several thousand downloads.
- Marcus Sheridan at the Sales Lion requires every potential customer to read his free e-book. It helps him eliminate customers who are not a fit, and because of this he has to do no outbound selling.
4. A Product/Business Model
As you build a platform you have to think about what value you’re going to create in exchange for money. There’s no right answer to this. It’s going to be different in every case. But if all you do is produce really good content and build a blog that gets a decent amount of traffic, that doesn’t equate to revenue.
There’s nothing wrong with packaging your content and selling it. In that case one kind of value you create is convenience. Packaging and repurposing content is how some of the world’s biggest media companies generate tons of revenue. Examples include books turned into movies, movies released on DVD and tv shows turned into boxed sets. Maybe your model is services. You might be an expert in a particular field, and your blog serves as a way to market your expertise.
The bottom line is this. It might seem obvious, but you have to sell something on your site to make money.
5. Site Design
In the online world people judge a book by its cover. I’ve seen people who have really impressive bios with terrible site design. The lousy site design made me question their credibility and lose interest in their content. Good design completely alters brand perception
- If you can afford to do it, hire a skilled designer. It will be one of the best possible investments you could make in your platform.
- If you can’t afford to hire a designer, embrace simplicity. Use a premium wordpress theme and make the site as clean as possible.
One other mistake I made in the design of my own site was designing based on what I thought would look good. A valuable lesson I learned was that you need to design your site based on the actions you want people to take.
6. Effective Self Promotion
If you create something and don’t tell anybody about it, it’s kind of useless. Self promotion gets a bit of bad rap in the online world. When people hear that they go to the other extreme and don’t do any self promotion. A friend the other day told me we need to get over this idea that it’s bad to sell via social media. It’s a bit of a balancing act.
- If you wrote a book and think it would be of value to your followers, feel free to tweet it out once a week.
- Share a tip from the book, but include a link back to the book.
- Do the same for your services or information products.
If you don’t promote your content you can’t expect anybody else to. If you don’t think it’s worth sharing why should anybody else?
If you look at any successful blog, you’ll see that all these pillars are in place. Are you missing any? What could you do today to solidify the foundation of your platform.