The Day I Almost Lost My Blogging Business By Having Too Many Eggs in the One Basket

I had just celebrated the 2nd anniversary since I started to blog and I was on the tipping point of my part-time earnings becoming a full-time income.

I’d quit my only other employment to devote 100% of my time to blogging and had recently started ProBlogger to share what I knew about blogging for money. I had just been interviewed in a national paper about my business and all in all, I was pretty happy with how my dreams were progressing.

Then it happened. Most of my traffic disappeared, almost overnight.

I had been averaging 12,000 visitors per day to my main blog (a camera review blog that no longer exists) – around 80% of which came from great Google Search Engine rankings.

That level of traffic was enough to make a living from using the Google AdSense program (which accounted for 95% of my income).

I woke up on the morning of the 17th December 2004 to discover that my blog’s healthy Google rankings had disappeared overnight.

The result was that I was dropped to 2000 visitors a day (from nearly 14000) on my main blog and my other blogs lost even larger amounts of traffic.

Here’s how my traffic looked on my main blog at that time.

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Of course, with only a sixth of the traffic I previously had I also saw my income from AdSense take a similar tumble. Rather than a full time income, I was looking at earning enough money to call it a 1 day per week job.

I was devastated.

I was confused.

I was angry.

I was also deeply embarrassed.

Not only did my friends and family know that I’d quit my job to become a blogger… so did the world because I’d talked about it here on ProBlogger.

Falling from the rankings in Google was the single biggest challenge I faced as a blogger. I didn’t understand why it had happened and I came very close to giving up blogging altogether.

Thankfully I didn’t give up.

I’m glad I hung in there because just under 2 months later I began to rank in Google again and saw most of the traffic that I’d lost return. I’m also glad because that that really tough period taught me a lot about blogging, and about business.

That experience taught me many things but one of the biggest lessons was about diversification and becoming too dependant on any one area of a business.

Thankfully I learned this lesson very quickly. In this post (which I wrote 3 days after falling out of Google) I wrote about my mistake of having too many eggs in the one basket.

I was too reliant upon Google for traffic and too reliant upon AdSense for income.

Rather than see this challenge as something to stop me I decided to see it as a hurdle – something to get over that would make me stronger in the process.

I decided that I would not only keep blogging but that I was going to work hard to rebuild my blogging in a way that was less reliant upon any one source of traffic or income stream.

This mind-shift led to a range of decisions to diversify in the coming months and years.

It also led me to regularly ask a simple question that helps me avoid this problem again…

I regularly ask myself this question (in fact our team discussed it the other day). By asking it on a regular basis I get a good sense for whether the balance in my business it out and whether I need to adjust my approach to spread the risk a little.

In a post in the coming days, I’ll talk more about some of the areas I’ve diversified what I do to help with this but in the mean time, I’d love to hear your own reflections upon this.

Have you ever realised that you’re too reliant upon any one form of traffic or income stream? What have you done to diversify what you do?

Stay tuned for some suggestions on how to diversify your blogging to avoid having too many eggs in the one basket by subscribing to our RSS feed or to the ProBloggerPLUS newsletter below:

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5 Reasons Why Blogging is Not Working for Your Business

This is a guest contribution from freelance writer, Jawad.

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Over the last few years, the significance of high value content, in generating qualified sales leads, has increased tremendously for businesses.

More than ever before, businesses are now focusing on generating regular content for their target markets to keep a steady inflow of customers.

This, of course, cannot be done without a well-managed and regularly updated business blog.

However, over the last few months I have come across a number of business owners who have not managed to get a single client despite regularly updating their blogs with useful content.

At first, their arguments about the ineffectiveness of blogging seemed to carry weight. But a closer look revealed certain patterns behind the failure of all those business blogs.

In this post I’ll try to sum up the reasons why some businesses find it hard to achieve success through blogging.

This post assumes that,

Your business takes blogging seriously and has either hired permanent blogger or contracted a professional freelance blogger to manage your blog.You follow a fixed posting schedule and update your blog regularly.

This, in my opinion, is the biggest reason why a number of business blogs fail to make an impact.

They seem to lack focus. There’s no set pattern to their content and it is difficult to understand what they’re trying to achieve through it.

Like everything else in business, you need to have a clear objective that you want to achieve through your blog. You can’t expect a blog to get you customers if it is only updated with your latest corporate event pictures and news.

Your blog should be a part of your greater business strategy. You should be clear about the objectives you want to achieve through it.

Are you looking to attract customers? Or are you focused on creating awareness about your product?

Whatever the objective is, you need to be clear about it. Because your objective will ultimately give direction to the type of content you post on your blog and the type of marketing channels you choose for promoting your content.

Blogging alone is not going to get you customers. You need to have a broader strategy and use blogging as a key component of that strategy.

Your strategy should not only include the type of content you’re going to create for your target market, but it should also include a comprehensive plan to promote your content so that it reaches the right audience at the right time.

The same goes for your social media strategy. Blogging, content promotion, social media etc. are all connected with each other and cannot be used in isolation.

Each of these components has a unique role in achieving your objectives and they should complement each other in your overall content marketing strategy.

What I see with many business blogs is a random set of posts that does not contribute to any particular direction.

Develop a sequence in your content and connect it with the greater strategy. That is the only way to move forward

One of the most obvious, yet common, reasons for ineffective business blogging is the lack of focus on your target market.

You don’t want irrelevant people to come to your blog. Traffic alone is useless if it is not converting into regular visitors.

For example, if you are a blogging agency or a freelance writer, why would you want to write about freelance writing on your blog if your objective is to get clients? The only people who are going to read such content are freelance writers themselves. And they are certainly not your customers.

Identify your customers and write content that provides solutions to their most common problems.

That is the only way to not only get their attention but also to convert them into regular visitors and, eventually, loyal customers.

If you’re trying to make sales through every post on your blog, then you’re probably better off without any blog at all.

Nothing damages the credibility of a business in the eyes of potential clients more than hard sales pitches. It simply shows that you’re not concerned with the problems of your target market.

Blogging is NOT a direct sales channel.

By its very nature, blogging should be focused on developing a credible image of your brand as a company that cares about its customers and offers solutions to complex problems.

Once you establish this image, getting sales is not an issue.

Look, customers are not afraid to spend money on the right solutions. Your job is to convince them, through your content, that you indeed ARE the right solution.

And that can never be done through hard sales pitch content.

Offer solutions, the clients will come themselves.

You might not be making any of the mistakes I’ve listed above.

You have a great plan for your blog, you have a great strategy that compliments your business goals and you realize that hard sales pitches never work.

Then why is your blog still not bringing results?

Chances are that you’re being just a bit too neutral in your content.

It’s obviously recommended not to push sales pitches in every blog post, but that does not mean that you leave your readers with no clue about your services.

At the end of the day, your blog is a part of your business strategy and businesses need sales.

Make sure every post on your business blog makes your readers take action. For example, if have a product that can genuinely solve the problems of your readers, then there’s no harm in adding a link to the product page at the end of your post.

Similarly, never forget to drop hints to your readers within your content about how you can solve their problems.

Like your overall blogging strategy, have an objective for every blog post as well.

You’ll be amazed how small signals within your content can help your readers take the actions you want.

There’s absolutely no question that the significance of blogging for businesses is only going to increase in the coming days.

However, unlike the old days, blogging is much more about long term planning than short term gains.

Get your strategic hat on and develop a plan around your blog. If done correctly, it will be the perfect catalyst for achieving your business goals.

If you are a business, online or offline, that is using blogging to drive sales, I would love to hear your comments about the strategies that work for you.

Jawad is a freelance writer and professional blogger with a keen interest in content marketing, blogging and wordpress. With professional experience in Web Project Management, he also provides content and design consultancy to a number of tech companies. He blogs at WritingMyDestiny.com

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How to Build a Successful ‘White Hat’ Business on a ‘Black Hat’ Internet

White-HatOver on the ProBlogger Facebook page I was asked a great question by Aman Tandon, who asked for some tips on ‘how to stay alive using white hat techniques?’ when competitors in his niche were being ‘foxy’.

It’s a great question and one that I know many bloggers face in different ways.

The reality is that when you’re developing blogs or websites, there are many temptations that face us as bloggers. People make all kinds of choices about how to grow their businesses – choices that span the entire length of the ethical spectrum.

These choices impact the way that bloggers:

create content (eg. using others people’s words, images, and ideas)optimise their sites for search engines (eg. buying links)engage on social media sites (eg. buying followers)monetise their sites (eg. selling links, disclaimers, promoting dodgy products)grow readership (eg. personal attacks on others to create controversy)

The list could go on… and on.

Not a day goes by when I don’t see some kind of black…. or at least murky grey…. hat strategy being employed in some of the niches that I operate in (particularly the ‘make money online’ space).

Note: it is probably worth saying that while there are plenty of examples of ‘black hat’ around, most bloggers I come into contact with are good people with great morals, integrity, and a genuine desire to build businesses that not only are profitable, but that serve and help others. It’s also worth saying that there’s lots of different shades of grey between the extremes!

I have always taken the stance that I want to approach what I do with high ethics, transparency and integrity. That doesn’t mean the temptations are not there. I, like everyone else, am human and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t face temptations to take shortcuts or get ahead.

However I’ve worked hard at keeping on the straight and narrow and operating at the ‘white hat’ end of the spectrum. This probably flows from a mixture of motivations – partly it’s just who I am and how I was raised, partly it’s because I get a lot of satisfaction from doing things well and without taking short cuts, and if I’m honest it probably is partly out of fear – I’d hate to lose what I’ve built as a result of making a dumb choice.

I’m not going to use this article to define what is a ‘white hat’ vs a ‘black hat’ approach to blogging (although that would certainly make for an interesting discussion), but let me make a few comments for those bloggers who do try to play by the rules and approach what they do with ethics – sometimes in the face of others in their space who don’t mind bending (or completely breaking) the rules in an attempt to get an advantage or take short cuts.

The main message I have regarding this topic is to approach what you do online with a long-term vision in mind.

As I mentioned above, I’ve seen many examples over the years of people crossing over to the ‘dark side’ to grow their online businesses. It is frustrating to see it happen, but in each case I’ve reminded myself that I’m not looking for a quick buck, but am looking to build a business that sustains itself over the long haul.

Numerous examples come to mind of when I’ve seen people make decisions for short-term gain that have led to long-term hurt.

I think of one blogger, seven or so years ago, who went on a spree of personal attacks of other bloggers to grow traffic to his site. He got the traffic, but destroyed his own reputation in the process.I think of another blogger who made the decision to promote a product he knew was dubious as an affiliate on his blog. He hyped it up and made a lot of promises the product couldn’t live up to. While he made some quick money, he lost his reputation and most of his readership.I think of another blogger who tried to grow his blog with some prolific link-building schemes with a ‘blog network’ that promised he’d be #1 on Google overnight. He did get to #1… for a week, before disappearing from Google altogether at the last big Google algorithm update.

Of course there are good examples around of people who behaved in arguably unethical ways that ended up doing well (anyone who has seen the movie ‘The Social Network’ probably has a good example in mind – however in many (if not most) cases that I’ve come across, the people who decide to go to the ‘dark side’ to get a short cut often end up behind the pack as a consequence of their decisions.

Instead of looking for a short cut, look to deliver value and be useful.

Usefulness trumps pretty much anything else I can think of in the online (and offline) space.

The online businesses that I support by spending my money with, are the ones that solve a problem for me.The blogs that I support by subscribing, reading, and interacting with, are the ones that make my life better in some way.The people that I meet on social media that I retweet, link to and recommend to others to follow are the ones that add value in some tangible way to my life.

Conversely:

the website that is clever enough to get me to visit them by ranking #1 in Google but doesn’t serve any purpose when I get there doesn’t get me to come back.the person on twitter who simply self-promotes, or spams out affiliate products gets unfollowed, blocked, or reported as spam.the business that rips me off or tells untruths to get a sale gets their reputation left in tatters, as blog posts and tweets go out exposing what they’re really about.

My personal experience is that when you build value, you build something that is much more likely to last as a business.

Much of what I’ve written above probably sounds a little trite, and will probably be laughed at by those who take pride in their ‘black hat’ ways.

I’ve previously been linked to and ridiculed in a number of black hat forums for the stances I’ve taken, so as I’m writing this half-expecting that reaction again.

However, all I can really say is that you’ve got to be true to yourself and do something that matters to you.

Me donning a black hat and going to the dark side simply isn’t who I am. I get a lot more satisfaction in life in building something of value, serving others, and looking to build a business and become sustainable through a win/win exchange with those whom I interact.

I sleep easier at night living in that way.

Others seem to be comfortable living at other points along the spectrum, and sleep easy with the decisions that they make. At least to some point, I think we have to live knowing that we’re each different.

When I first started out in blogging, and I would see others doing things that I disagreed with, I would often get angry and outspoken about it. I guess in some ways I’ve come to peace with the fact that in most cases, as angry or outspoken as I get, it is unlikely to change the perspective and practice of the other person.

Instead, these days in most cases I choose to focus my energy less upon what others are doing that annoys me, and more upon doing something myself that matters to me and those who read my blogs.

A final thought – there does come a point when sometimes you do have to take a stand, and not ignore what others are doing in your niche.

For example: if I see another blogger blatantly copying and pasting my content onto their blogs without any attribution, or pretending it is they who wrote it – I act. I start with an email to them, and will escalate that to issuing DMCAs.

Another example that comes to mind is a time when I saw a lot of ProBlogger readers being ripped off by a certain blogging network/service that I felt was a scam. In this case I wrote about it as a service to my readers.

While I’d rather ignore the dodgy behaviour of others and focus upon building something of value, there are times when I think it is important to take a stand to either protect what you’ve built, or to stay true to your values.

These are just my thoughts on this topic – I’d love to hear yours.

How do you approach working on the web where there is such diversity in the approaches that people take on an ethical level?

What do you do when you see others in your niches taking different approaches to you?

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Why Internet Marketing – Cheap – But Its A Business

When my restaurant crashed and burned, not literally – though at times it might have been easier, I knew I wanted to have my own business so when someone asked me ‘why internet marketing’ I said, ‘why not?’. I mean think about it, it cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars to start up a restaurant. I had to hire staff, train staff, advertise, buy food and beverages,etc. With an online business I could start literally for free, to me that seemed like a no brainer.

But one thing I quickly learned, is that having an online business that you can work from home has it’s own unique challenges. For one thing, working from home. I always laugh when I see those commercials on t.v. about starting an online business and the people are so tickled because they get to work in their p.j.’s… big deal. Don’t get me wrong, I love working from home but before you dive in you have to make sure it’s for you. Some people just aren’t cut out for it.

For one thing, you have to make sure that you can kick yourself in the rear so that you don’t blow off work to go lay by the pool (o.k. I’ve done that). You also have to make sure that your family understands that just because you’re home doesn’t mean you’re available. Let them know when your office hours are and that when you are ‘at work’ that they have to leave you alone.

If you want to succeed online you have to make sure that you invest some time and money into a course that will teach you the skills you need. You don’t have to learn everything before you get started but you do need a fairly strong grasp of some basic concepts.

The first of these is the ability to drive traffic to a website. There are many ways you can do this, for now though stick with free methods like article marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) techniques. I wouldn’t even bother to invest in any course to learn pay per click (PPC) at this point since it has a steep learning curve and it’s expensive.

You should also consider starting your online career by becoming an affiliate. When you sign up to become an affiliate you are simply agreeing to drive traffic to a website, if a sale is made you will receive a commission. Simple. You don’t need to stock any products or talk to anyone to make a sale, just drive traffic. It’s also free to sign up to become an affiliate. Of course, if your job is to drive traffic, you need to know how to drive traffic.

Before you jump into an online business take stock of what I’ve told you. It’s important that you go into it with the right mindset so you don’t get overwhelmed. There is a lot of hype online, be careful you don’t fall into any of it but with all the advantages it’s easy to see why internet marketing is a great career choice for many people.

Importance Of Internet Marketing – Propel Your Business Upward

The importance of internet marketing cannot be overstated. Whether your business is online or off, grasping the concepts of marketing online will help you propel your business to ever higher levels. The good thing is that many of the techniques you can use online are very inexpensive, or even free, to use and they can be used whether your business is an online or offline business.

Having said that though don’t think that it’s all sweetness and light. Learning how to effectively harness the huge resources of the internet and put it to work for you will take a little time and practice and that should be step one.

Find a course that can teach you the basics of marketing online. Your first order of business will be to learn how to drive targeted traffic to your website. Without traffic, or customers, you won’t have any type of business for very long.

There are many ways of driving traffic to a website and many of them are completely free. For example, you can use article marketing to get extremely targeted visitors to your website… all for free. All you have to do is determine what keywords to target

(I’ll give you a hint, you want a keyword phrase that has at least 1,500 searches a month and no more than 15,000 competitors). Once you’ve got your keywords you just have to write an article and include those keywords three to five times in the article. Once it’s written you can submit the article to the article directories where it will be published for free.

As long as you follow the article directories terms of service you will get published. This isn’t like submitting a book to some New York publisher and getting turned down over and over again. Follow the rules and get published, it really is that easy.

Another great technique for getting a lot of very qualified visitors to your website for free is with search engine optimization or SEO. This is just a way of using carefully chosen keywords in the code of your website so the search engines can find your site. It’s really not that hard to do and you can do it yourself in most cases. Just take a little time to learn the basics and you’ll be good to go (you can learn more in depth techniques if you want, but the basics are all you need for now).

More and more online marketers are realizing the benefits of using a blog platform for their website, and you should too. This is an excellent way to get a high search engine ranking and it’s all because you can quickly and easily add new content to your blog. When you do this you will be rewarded by higher rankings because you are giving the search engines what they want, fresh content.

All of these techniques can help you drive traffic to your website, it doesn’t matter if your business is online or offline, you still need to know how to drive targeted traffic to your website and that’s the importance of internet marketing. Take some time to learn these techniques, or hire someone who does and will do it for you, and you can really improve your bottom line.