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Start a Blog Right: Learn by My Mistakes

2011 January 26
by Annie Wallace

I have learned a number of things over the years as a blogger. I have found out what it means to write content that balances personal interest and reader interest. I have discovered the importance of marketing and affiliates. I have figured out the formula of mixing both original content with reblogged content. I have even managed to work out a plan that has turned my blog into an actual business, rather than a place to spew my random thoughts.

Running a blog isn’t easy, and from the get-go you have to expect to make a lot of changes as you learn along the way. In hindsight, I can think of so many things I would have done differently. None of them really affect my blog itself; I have still had plenty of success, and I can’t say I have any deal breakers. But if I could start over again, I have a couple of actions I could have done differently. If you are just starting out, maybe you can learn from my mistakes.

RSS Feed

My blog has RSS feed, though it didn’t always. The problem for me is not that I didn’t get it sooner, but that I allowed a third party to handle it. Don’t get me wrong, the company I go through has done a great job. It is just that I can’t control what ends up in my feed. I do numerous posts a day, as do the three writers who work with me. Only a quarter of those new posts end up in the RSS, and so more important updates and posts rarely make it.

What bothers me is that I can’t take it on myself, now. If I were to suddenly cancel my service and begin doing the RSS on my own, I would lose those subscribers who originally signed up. Some will surely come back, but how many wouldn’t? Enough that I can’t take the risk.

Choosing a Niche

I have gone through five different major changes on my blog. The first three were within the first seven months, when I was still getting a feel for what I wanted, versus what my readership wanted. The other two were more recent, with one a year and a half ago and one three months ago. The last two had plenty of notice, and were really just a new focus on a topic already covered. Nothing that lost me readers,  from what I can see.

But if I could go back I would have started out more slowly and expanded in a clearly thought out niche to avoid the first three overhauls. If I had paid more attention to what I wanted in the beginning, I could have spent that time focusing on building my blog rather than deciding what to do with it.

Domain Name

My domain has nothing to do with what my blog is now about. Without getting too specific, I started out in one genre, and I ended up in a completely different kind of content. It still technically works, because I was able to create a relevant play on words. But if I had done what the last regret suggested and settled on a niche from the beginning, I could have registered a domain that was straight forward enough to draw in more visitors.

This hasn’t been as big of a handicap as it could have been. But I am now established enough that changing domains could likely undo much of my branding. That has been hard earned and I am not willing to risk losing visitors or credibility. Therefore, I am stuck.

If I Could Start Again

These are not end-all’s for my blog. In fact, most of them are pretty minor, and so I consider myself lucky. But if I could go back and do it all again, I would have changed each one of these and saved myself a lot of time and headaches.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by m.gifford

8 Responses leave one →
  1. January 27, 2011

    I have a feeling you’re in a big boatload of other people, Annie, who would have done things differently from the start. If only we knew then what we know now. 🙂

    “Choosing a niche” is one area I wish I would have given a lot more careful consideration to. Now I’m in the midst of doing some back peddling and trying to figure out a way to add a new target audience to my current niche. I know it’s going to be a heck of a lot of hard work, but I’m starting to develop a plan to, hopefully, make the changes seamlessly.

    The risk in making any major changes is obvious. The last thing you want to do is “confuse” your blog’s loyal readership.

  2. January 27, 2011

    I’m about to switch my email subscribers from RSS to an Aweber email list. I had the same concerns as you until I asked myself one question…

    Is someone not willing to switch over someone I really want? Are they worth anything to me…AT ALL?

    This might be a good opportunity to cleanse your list.

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