It is astonishing to me that as of this week, Average But Inspired is two years old.
I started this little blog on a whim. I literally sat down on the couch one night, made a WordPress.com account, wrote a post about fruit kebabs and hit publish. I kept Average But Inspired a secret for a few months and NEVER thought I would still be writing here two years later!
But I’m totally hooked. I love almost everything about blogging. The creativity, the friendships I’ve made (probably sounds crazy if you’re not a blogger, but I have made real blogger friends that I have never met in real life!), the fun opportunities that come along with blogging, and probably most of all, the CONSTANT learning that goes on.
And let me tell you, I have LEARNED so much, especially because I have made some of the biggest blogging mistakes during this two-year journey! Mistakes that, I believe, have caused me to miss out on a lot of traffic and growth. Don’t get me wrong – I am grateful to be where I am today, but I also can’t help but think where Average But Inspired might be now if it wouldn’t have been for these serious missteps.
Since I have never written a blog post about, well, blogging, I’m not really sure why I decided to now. I guess reflecting on what I’ve accomplished over the past two years brought all of this to the surface, and I thought that sharing some of my missteps might help others in Blogland not make the same mistakes. Note that while this post contains some affiliate links (denoted with an asterisk), these are sincere recommendations of products or services that have helped me correct my mistakes – not included in a cheap attempt to make a buck off of anyone.
So here goes – I’m putting it all out there and I hope it helps at least one person. Otherwise I wasted a whole lot of time drudging up the past and exposing my blogging stupidity. 🙂
1. I Ignored Pinterest.
Prior to March 2015, I essentially ignored Pinterest. I would, on occasion, pin others’ content, and I hardly ever remembered to pin my own content. In January and February of this year, my average Pinterest daily viewer numbers were in the mid-hundreds and hardly any of my blog’s page views came from Pinterest.
And then in March, everything changed. At the recommendation of my friend Tasha at Designer Trapped in a Lawyer’s Body, I joined Board Booster*, which is one of the several pin scheduling services available these days. I joined lots of group boards on Pinterest and then set up my Board Booster account to pin my old blog content to my biggest and best group boards on a recurring basis. (Note: the awesome thing about group boards is that your Pinterest followers do not see your pins to group boards unless they also happen to be following those group boards. So you do not need to worry about spamming their feeds because they likely will not be seeing your pins to these boards. Instead, the thousands of followers of those group boards see your pins to those boards – giving you access to Pinners than you may otherwise not have reached.)
You guys. I cannot even tell you the difference this has made. Now over half of my blog’s daily page views come from Pinterest, my Pinterest daily viewer numbers have skyrocketed, and I am gaining new followers every single day. I would definitely call this a game changer. And I am KICKING myself for not utilizing Pinterest until four months ago. I really feel like a total idiot.
Bottom line: Even if you don’t subscribe to a pin scheduling service, make sure to become a contributor to group boards and pin your content there regularly, following each board’s rules, of course. I promise you’ll see a difference.
2. I Moved My Blog Myself.
As I mentioned earlier, Average But Inspired started out on WordPress.com – the free version of WordPress. About four months into my blogging journey, I decided to move to the Blogger platform because I thought that if I ever wanted to run ads on my site, I needed to be off of WordPress.com.
Instead of researching the pros and cons of Blogger vs. WordPress.org (the version of WordPress that requires you to be self-hosted, but allows you to run ads), I sat down one night and exported all of my content over to Blogger. It was free, so I figured why not. I promptly shut down the WordPress.com site and congratulated myself on a job well done.
. . . until a few months later in 2014 when I went to apply for Google Adsense. And the Googlebots couldn’t find my site. And Google Webmaster Tools couldn’t find my site. And I realized my site was no longer even listed in Google. Average But Inspired was basically invisible on the world wide web.
So not only could I not get approved for Google Adsense, but I could not get ANY search engine traffic at all. ZERO.
I tried everything I could to figure out what was wrong, but nothing worked. I even hired an internet development company to figure out what was going on. A rather hefty fee later, they were able to get Average But Inspired back into Google’s Webmaster Tools, but my site still could not be indexed in search engine results, which meant I was still invisible on the web. That was money well-wasted.
Finally in September 2014, I bought a new domain name, got an internet web host, and had a professional (Laura Nicholson at Pixel Me Designs), transfer Average But Inspired to WordPress.org. Almost immediately everything changed. My site and posts were suddenly appearing in Google search results, and my stats started showing visitors that were arriving to Average But Inspired by way of search terms. I cannot even imagine the lost visitors over that one year and two months period of time during which Average But Inspired was known only to those who sought it out directly.
Bottom line: Make sure you know what you’re doing before attempting any technical “stuff” with your site. You can do serious damage. Also, pay attention to SEO because visitors will come to your site through search terms! That’s like easy, free traffic!
3. I Deleted Posts.
Early in my blog’s life, I had a lot of posts that were really embarrassing. They were poorly photographed, bad projects that I was not proud of. So I deleted them.
You guys, this really screwed things up for me.
I have no understanding of why this is, but apparently, if you delete posts, it creates bad or dead links in your site. And then when the little Googlebots crawl around your site, they come across these dead links and they get mad. (This is very technical, I know.) And from what I understand, if you have a lot of these, they penalize you! So much so that your site’s rankings can be harmed and your site can even be removed from Google.
I have a hunch that my deleting posts somehow tied into all of the problems I experienced in connection with point number 2, above. I just never got a straight answer of why or how. But even if I had deleted posts without moving the site myself, I’m pretty sure I would have run into some nasty problems. No exaggeration – I had pages upon pages of crawler errors and NO idea how to fix them.
Bottom line: Deleting posts can lead to dead links, which can cause your site to be penalized by the Google Gods. Tread carefully.
4. I Didn’t Have a “Tribe.”
For about the first year that I was blogging, I had so so so many questions and nobody that I could turn to for help. I literally felt like I was floating alone in the middle of the ocean.
And then one day I got invited to join small groups on Facebook of bloggers with blogs similar to mine. And my world changed. I suddenly was part of communities of women who were facing the exact same issues/questions/joys/frustrations as me, and it was glorious. No question was too dumb, no victory too small.
The support I have received from the women in my “tribes” is incredible, and I am totally sure that I would not still be blogging if it weren’t for them. Seriously. I wish I would have known to seek out a tribe of similarly-styled bloggers, as it would have been one of the first things that I did.
Bottom line: If you don’t have a support group like this, find one or create one, pronto. You may feel weird reaching out to other bloggers to see if they want to form a tribe, but you should get over it. They will probably be flattered that you thought to seek them out.
5. I Didn’t Set Any Goals.
All along I’ve treated Average But Inspired more as a hobby than as a business. And because of that, I never set any real goals for myself or the blog. In retrospect, I think that was very shortsighted and foolish.
Setting goals, no matter how small, pushes you further. Goals make you work harder and hold you accountable. I really believe that if I would have set some goals or benchmarks for Average But Inspired, I wouldn’t have spent as many nights watching The Real Housewives, and instead, I would have been working with a plan and doing things to network, learn about blogging, improve my skills, and more.
As Stacey Roberts said in this great post on goal setting for bloggers, “how can you get where you are going if you don’t know where that is?” Goal setting is key to having a blog that gets noticed. It’s time for me to set some.
Bottom line: Don’t be scared to push yourself. If you want to make something of your blog, you absolutely have to set some goals for yourself. They might change along the way, but that’s OK. The goals keep you going in a forward direction.
6. I Used Sub-Par Photography.
Blogging — especially in the DIY/Craft/Lifestyle niche — is SO visual. Traffic is driven by Pinterest, and readers are looking for gorgeous photos that tell a story, just as much as compelling writing.
Taking grainy photos with my iPhone, and later a point-and-shoot on automatic mode, did not do anything for my blog photos. Case in point, this AWFUL photo of macaroni & cheese in one of my earliest posts. Honestly, why would anybody want to visit my post with a photo like that? (Trust me, nobody did. Well except for maybe my mom. Thanks mom.)
After having every.single.submission of mine to CraftGawker rejected, I finally decided that I could not get away with sub-par photography anymore. So I’m doing something about it. I saved up and invested in this new DSLR camera* (it’s a total entry-level model, but that’s OK with me!), and I’m taking an awesome online photography class through Shoot Fly Shoot. I’m actually learning to use my camera and how shoot in manual mode, which is giving me so much more control over my photos.
My most recent project post (Newspaper Flower Pots) is the first post where I’ve used my new camera and the manual shoot skills I’ve learned so far in Shoot Fly Shoot (I’m not even halfway through yet!), and I think the difference in photo quality is REMARKABLE. Apparently the people at CraftGawker did, too, because for the FIRST TIME EVER, my submission was accepted! Hallelujah!
I am thrilled with the progress I’ve made in learning to use my DSLR in just 15 minutes a day. If you’re interested in learning more about Shoot Fly Shoot, just visit their website or click this image to be taken there.*
Bottom line: Try as you might, you cannot get away with photos that are not bright, clear and compelling. Every blogger needs to also have a basic understanding of manual photography to truly make it in this visual world.
OK, wow. We’ve reached the end of my blogging confessions. I feel so exposed. But at the same time, I feel relieved to have worked through, or to be working through, many of these issues and to see good things beginning to happen. We’ll see where Average But Inspired is at two years from now. But until then, I really hope that this post helps somebody, somewhere at some time.
Thanks for reading.