14 Lessons Learned From A Nearly Failed Blog Launch
Over the past week I learned a lot about launching a blog. During its first week, TzuVelli received about 20,000 hits. I had not expected that much traffic. I was unprepared for this type of traffic. I was not able to capitalize on the traffic the blog received.
Although, some bloggers would consider a blog launch with 20,000 hits a success, I do not. If you cannot capitalize on traffic then the traffic is worthless.
Most of the traffic that TzuVelli received in its first week, came from one article, Your Ultimate StumbleUpon Resource. Thanks to Steve Snell of Vandelay Design for reviewing and thumbing up the post at StumbleUpon. Otherwise, the blog launch would have gone largely unnoticed.
Why I Think The Blog Launch Was A Failure
- I was not prepared to capitalize on site traffic.
- I damaged what little reputation I have by launching with incomplete design elements, empty categories, and blocked main menu items.
- Posting during the first week was erratic due to not having a good basket of posts to draw upon during the launch phase. This further damaged the blog’s reputation.
Failure is the mother of all success. I learned a lot launching TzuVelli. It will not be the last blog I launch. So, this past weekend, I spent some time thinking about what lessons I could take away from the experience. One of the biggest lessons I learned is that you cannot expect to become a successful professional blogger by walking the path alone.
Lessons I Learned Launching TzuVelli
- Don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today. This is probably one of the most important lessons that I have learned. While I was developing TzuVelli I tended to create "to do" lists. These "to-do" lists eventually got so big that is was a full project just to complete all of them.
- Link out to other bloggers as much as possible. Until I launched TzuVelli, I do not think I fully understood this advice. Of the five posts I launched TzuVelli with, two, "Your StumbleUpon Resource" and "12 Reasons To Start A Niche Blog," got the most traffic. They are the only posts that have outbound links. There is a really good possibility that if I would have taken the time to add links to more of the posts they may have gotten a bit more attention. Linking out to other bloggers is one of the best ways to get their attention. For A-list bloggers this advice still rings true but to a lesser extent. At the very least, linking to other bloggers is an excellent tool to start the networking process.
- Have a pre-launch plan outlined in writing. Know what you are going to do before you launch. TzuVelli is the first blog that I have launched. I knew what to do. But, there were a lot of distractions competing for my attention. If I would have had a plan in writing, a blog launch blue print, the launch would have gone much smoother. And, I think I would have been able to much more readily capitalize on early traffic.
- A slow sizzle is better than a big bang. Everyone wants to make a great first impression. Be the big kid on the block. Delusions of grandeur. If you are new to blogging, your blog is a one man operation, or you don’t have much of a network, don’t try the big bang approach. It is better to launch slowly, it is easier. and less stressful.
- Don’t launch your blog naked. A blog is considered naked when it has very few posts. For, TzuVelli it also meant that several of the graphics were not complete. Due to time constraints I neither had time to complete the original launch articles nor did I have time to complete some of the graphics. Instead, I took short cuts. I delinked categories that were empty and and used spacer graphics. This was probably not the best decision. Using spacer graphics made the blog look incomplete and delinking categories reduced the blogs usability. The take away here is that, I should have been more realistic about when to launch the blog. I should have at least had the structure and graphics done before I set a launch date.
- I was using too many categories. When TzuVelli launched I did not have enough posts to seed all the categories. This got me thinking about how many blog categories are too many. I put some thought into this and realized that of the 18 categories that TzuVelli started out with I only needed 6. I realized I can use "tags" to further organize my posts. That’s the power of tags. If I find myself writing a lot about a topic, then I’ll create a category for that topic. For me having too many categories is just distracting.
- I should have had a basic editorial calendar completed to help plan posts for the first few months. Having an understanding of what you would like to post will help you decide the types of posts that will have the greatest positive impact on your blog’s launch. A good editorial calendar will help you stay focused on a topic. Editorial calendars can also help you build out themed post days. They also help eliminate some of the pressure associated with developing content ideas. If I would have had even a basic editorial calendar completed, I would have saved a lot of time. Time that I could have used to complete those unfinished to-do’s that I let build up.
- I spent too much time looking at blog stats and trying to figure out why one article is more popular than another. This was really distracting to me. And sent me into a bit of a panic when I saw some posts were not doing as well as others. I really got stressed. I tried promoting the less active posts. I was a bit successful. But, in the end, my time would have been better spent writing a post or completing one of the things on the to-do list for TzuVelli.
- Getting into a blogging groove is more difficult than I thought it would be. Before your blog opens, everything you do is in a vacuum. So, it is a lot easier to get things done. Once TzuVelli was open I was surprised by the number of different things that competed for my attention. Getting into a blogging groove and producing posts really seemed to elude me the first week.
- I should have networked more with other bloggers in my niche. Networking is more important than anything else you might do. Having a strong network of bloggers that you have a good relationship with is more important than social media, more important than search engine optimization and almost as important as having good content. Skellie of Skelliewag.org wrote "How to Get 1,100 Subscribers in Five Days". This article really highlights the impact that having a great network can have on launching a new blog. Following these 7 networking tips is a sure fire way to get you started networking with other bloggers. Without networking with other bloggers it could be a lonely journey.
- I need to use more graphics in posts. Free or cheap graphics are harder to find than I had expected. I really spent hours trying to find good graphics that were either free or cheap. At one point I had given up on the prospect of using graphics in posts here at TzuVelli. But, after reading Skellie’s "A Complete Guide to Finding and Using Incredible Flickr Images" I have had much better success using Flickr. For low cost stock photography one of the best resources I have found is, "Stock Photography Resources."
- Be very clear with your social media friends on what you need them to do for you. As I said earlier I panicked when I saw several posts not doing as well as others. I marketed one post to several friends at StumbleUpon. I was not clear with them what I needed them to do for me. The post got reviewed but without a Thumbs Up and so it ended up in the StumbleUpon Graveyard. This was not my friends fault. It was my fault. I was not clear on what I needed. To get it out of the graveyard I had to review my own post. So as you can imagine the post did not go very far.
- I need to use a more conversational voice. Reading back through the first posts I realized that several of them sounded as if I was lecturing. I need to learn how to write the way I speak.
- Be prepared for the worst. Never forget Murphy’s law. The basic premise of Murphy’s law is "what can go wrong, will go wrong." I did not prepare for what could go wrong. And what could go wrong did go wrong. I was sick for about three weeks before the launch of TzuVelli. If I would have planned ahead, made sure launch posts were on their final edit, had a written launch plan, and a well written a to do list, But, I did not and every aspect of the blog launch suffered for it. Plan for the worst. What can go wrong, will go wrong.
1 Blog, 1 Week, 14 Lessons
I learn from failure more than I learn from success. From launching TzuVelli I learned that networking, planning and organization are the keys to a successful blog launch. How well you plan and organize your blog launch will determine the degree of success you will realize. How well you network with other bloggers will determine what lies at the end of your path.
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