This is the final of a series of posts that I have been writing every Thursday during the month of August about my continuing journey to start a profitable online business. Read Part 1 here as well as my 7 Lessons Learned on Facebook.
Oh, if I only new then what I know now…
On August 29, 2011, JonLoomer.com was started as a virtual résumé to highlight my skills and experiences. One year later, it’s a highly trafficked resource focused on making a difference with Facebook marketing.
We’ve come a long way, baby!
The first six months, in particular, were littered with ups and downs, uncertainty and doubt. I lacked a true focus, purpose or routine.
I found my way in 2012, and really hit my stride beginning in March. I received fewer than 4,000 page views in both October and November, but now this site gets more than 4,000 page views during a typical day.
How? I’ve learned several very important lessons. I hope that, armed with these lessons, you won’t need to go through the same struggles. See it as a short cut.
Want to rock your blog? Do these seven things…
1. Don’t Skimp: Invest in a Rockin’ Theme
What was I thinking?
When I started this website, I went with a free theme. I didn’t see the value in a premium theme. Didn’t think it was necessary. I thought my money could be better spent elsewhere.
So, so stupid.
I was eventually talked into buying a premium theme. But even then, my research was misguided. I focused far too much on looking for an out-of-the-box theme that looked how I wanted my website to look. I ended up purchasing a theme that, while it was a vast improvement, was slow, had security holes and didn’t fit my brand.
But I was learning. I researched. I listened. I paid attention to what the respected bloggers were using. I quickly realized that my next step had to be the Genesis Framework. In April, I made the change.
It was the smartest move I’ve made with this website and my business. The change was made on April 26. Traffic went up in May, June and July. I now consistently get more than 100,000 page views per month.
Don’t make the same mistakes I did. Your website’s theme may possibly be the most important decision you make for your online business. Please… choose wisely!
2. Find a Niche: Develop Pinpoint Focus
In the beginning, I was writing about my job search. I was writing about Pinterest. I was writing about Google+ and Twitter. I was writing about personal use of Facebook. And I quickly got distracted because I was getting the most traffic when I wrote about Facebook hoaxes.
But then, at the end of February, Facebook Timeline for Pages happened. Everything clicked…
I started writing like a freaking madman. Every day, I was writing a tutorial about Facebook Timeline for Pages (sometimes two or three) until I finally ran out of tutorials. But even then, my niche was clear: I was focusing on Facebook marketing.
Having pinpoint focus was important for me. I knew what I was going to write about. I exhausted the heck out of the topic. And since I immersed myself in it, I truly became an expert on the topic.
Having pinpoint focus was also important for you, the reader. You knew what to expect.
Having pinpoint focus was also important for Google. You think search engines dig it when you exhaust a single topic? Heck yeah, they do. If I wrote a blog post about baseball today, do you know what Google would do? Ignore me. I haven’t established on this website that I’m an authority on that subject. But any topic on Facebook marketing? Google loves me.
So make sure that you pick a niche and stick to it. Trust me, it makes blogging easier. It makes reading your blogs easier. And when you exhaust that topic, Google is going to become a referral machine for you.
3. Create a Routine: No Excuses for Slacking
I was all over the place in the beginning. Following are the number of posts I wrote per month:
- September – 24
- October – 8
- November – 26
- December – 13
From day-to-day, you had no idea whether I was going to write or what I was going to write about. Hell, I had no idea either!
Beginning in January, I started publishing Monday through Friday (and sometimes more often). It wasn’t until the past three months that I had a true structure:
- Monday: Facebook Marketing
- Tuesday: Facebook Marketing (and Newsletter)
- Wednesday: Podcast
- Thursday: Blogging and SEO (and Newsletter)
- Friday: Facebook Marketing
- Saturday: Infographics
- Sunday: Someone Else’s Content as Conversation Starter
There are a few exceptions with days off, but I’ve stuck to this pretty strictly. I’m sure you appreciate it, but it also makes it a whole lot easier for me as a writer.
When there is no structure or routine, it’s easy to slack. There’s little motivation to feel like I have to write today. But when that routine is there, it is my responsibility.
Do yourself a favor and establish a routine. Set aside a couple of hours of every day when you know that you’ll write. And feel free to schedule that content so that it’s published at the same time every day.
4. Have Purpose: Establish a Clear Value Proposition
I struggled with this one for a long, long time. When someone comes to your website, do they know within a couple of seconds what you’re all about? Do they know what they are supposed to do?
I avoided this forever. Even after my second redesign, I left it unfinished.
The first step was adding the tagline Social Media That Makes a Difference. It’s a small thing, but it truly does “make a difference.”
The next change was a major restructuring of my home page. I created a “me statement” (thanks to Marcus Sheridan of TheSalesLion for this tip) and a conversion funnel.
Now when you come to my home page, you see this below my top navigation…
In big, bold letters, I tell you what my website and I are all about:
Use Facebook Marketing to Make a Difference.
Build Trust. Build a Business. Build Your Brand.
Underneath, I created a funnel to direct you to one of the three actions I want you to take: 1. Subscribe to my newsletter, 2. Contact me about working together or 3. Download my eBook.
It was a change that took some time, thought and effort, but it is paying off with results. I strongly encourage you to do something similar from the start. Let visitors know who you are, what you’re about and what you want them to do!
5. Encourage Loyalty: Build an Email List Early
Have I said that I’ve made mistakes? Oh, man, have I. A big one was that I didn’t start building my email list from Day 1.
If you want inconsistent traffic that is reliant on search engines and viral content, then don’t start an email list. You’ll get a sometimes steady stream of one-time visitors. And when search engines don’t love you and you aren’t writing viral content…
That’s why an email list is so important. It helps you establish a base of loyal readers who will always be checking out your latest content. And the emails will help you stay engaged with readers who may otherwise forget about you (it happens!).
After a long period of deliberation, research and consulting with others in the industry, I decided to go with AWeber. It’s an absolutely awesome, powerful email product that scales no matter how big you are. You can read my review of AWeber here.
My first newsletter didn’t go out until February. That’s right, more than five months had passed before I finally started it. Stupid.
Let me show you an example of how my traffic looked from January 1 through March 11:
I go through March 11 because I was still in the very early stages of building my list. This is some extremely inconsistent traffic. I rode a viral post that got me 25,000 page views over a two-day period in the beginning of January, but by January 21 that traffic was down to almost 300 page views in a day.
Even after a resurgence in which I received 4,000 page views on February 2, I dropped back down to a paltry 136 on February 23.
Now let’s look at March 12 through August 22:
You see that? That, my friends, is what you call consistency. That’s the power of AWeber. You can set your watch to it. I haven’t had a day under 2,000 page views since mid-May. I know every week that my best days will be Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I know that Saturday and Sunday will be a challenge.
Every. Single. Week.
What’s crazy is that it’s so consistent that you can’t see the upward slope. It’s there, but it’s slow and steady.
A big, big reason for this is my email correspondence. I moved my newsletter from once a week to twice per week. But I also offer an option to subscribe to a daily email whenever I update my blog — and this is now more prominent on the site.
The results speak for themselves. If you haven’t started building your email list yet, do it now!
6. Be Consistent: Your Brand is Your Livelihood
We’ve already talked about consistency around your content and publishing schedule, but I’m referring more to your branding here. I’m talking use of colors, fonts, logos and photos.
I’m still finding my stride here, but I’m much, much more consistent in these areas than I once was. With the old site, I had multiple shades of orange that clashed terribly. I paid no attention to font. My logo was awful. And there was no consistency between my site and my social networks.
But now, everything blends together. My logo is on everything I produce. I use the same profile photo across social networks. When I develop a graphic to be shared on Facebook, I use the shades of orange and gray that are in my logo. I also use the font (Euro-Stile) that is in my Cover Photo.
You want to be consistent so that when your readers see your stuff out of your element, they immediately recognize it as your work. Previously, that never would have been the case.
If you haven’t yet, create a style guide. I know, you’re not a designer — neither am I! It doesn’t need to be perfect. Just establish what dimensions your graphics will be, what colors you’ll use, when you’ll use various fonts and how you’ll use your logo.
7. Expand a Strategy: Your Blog is Not an Island
My website is rockin’. But it’s got a lot of help.
You cannot put your website on an island and expect to succeed. It needs to be part of an interconnected network where you’re constantly driving people back to it. Your website is your hub.
Facebook and email are the two main tools I use to drive traffic to my website. But I also create infographics to cater to Pinterest. I established authorship and connected my content to Google+ so that my profile photo shows up on anything I have written that appears in Google. And I share my content to about 40 relevant groups on LinkedIn.
I also use numerous tools to share to Twitter. Every day when I publish a new blog post, I auto-schedule it with the Hootsuite Hootlet. I also create three other entries that are queued up in Timely. The Tweet Old Post plugin also randomly shares my old content to Twitter throughout the day. And as I read content I love by others, I queue it up on Buffer.
It sounds like a lot. But I’m now a well-oiled machine. The vast majority of my time is spent on Facebook and my website. The others take up very little of my time. I know that I could be much more successful on Google+, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn if I dedicated more time to networking in those communities. But I also know where my time is best spent.
So determine your sweet spot. Rock the heck out of a two or three point network. Make your presence known on the others, but don’t spread yourself too thin.
Always More to Learn
It’s been an incredible year. I’ve come so, so far. I know far more now than I did a year ago, but by no means do I know it all. I’m constantly learning.
I encourage you to take the same approach. No matter how much we know about a subject, it’s constantly changing. And that’s especially the truth with technology.
My advice is to use this blog post as a guide. Establish structure, focus and consistency. Read, experiment and innovate.
Want to keep up with the evolution of my strategy? Make sure to subscribe to my newsletter below!