2/7/2014 Update: Marketplicity Digital Marketing Blog was chosen as a Hubspot Blog for 30 Challenge winner!
— HubSpot (@HubSpot) February 7, 2014
Despite my best intentions, I never could get myself to blog on a regular basis. I am well aware that blogging is one of the best ways to drive website traffic and generate leads to my site. I also know that diet and exercise will help me lose weight, but I bet you can guess how many times I have been to the gym in the last three months.
This year I resolved to blog more and, luckily, I had a little help. Hubspot created the Blog for 30 contest that challenged participants to blog more for 30 days to see how it helped their website and their business. Hubspot shared blog posts from participants, gave blogging tips every day of the month, and created a community of bloggers who were trying to grow their businesses.
Marketplicity’s Blog Before 2014
You could say that my blog was pretty much non-existent prior to 2014. I had published 11 posts on my blog over the last two years. Total.
Even with so few posts, the majority of the traffic to my website came from my blog. Here is what an average month in 2013 looked like (stats from Dec 3, 2013 – Jan 1, 2014) –
- 1,529 Unique Visitors
- 2,420 Page Views
- Traffic sources – 85% from search and 4% from social
- Three sign-ups for my email newsletter from blog pages
Results after 30 Day Challenge
I managed to publish four posts in the month of January. To veteran bloggers this might seem like a week’s worth of work, but for me it was epic. I increased the number of posts on my blog by 36% in a single month!
I’m not sure why I was surprised by the results. As I mentioned before, I am well aware of the positive benefits of blogging, but I guess I wasn’t ready for how quickly or dramatically it would increase the traffic to my website. Here are the stats for the month –
- 2,758 Unique Visitors – 80% increase!
- 4,321 Page Views – 79% increase!
- Traffic sources – 61% from search and 20% from social
- 12 new email subscribers for the month from blog posts – 400% increase!
Here is the breakdown of how each post performed –
|Simple Small Business Blogging Manifesto
|My Facebook Campaign got 28,000 Impressions – It was a Total Failure
|Why You Should Write Content That Already Exists
|How I Tripled My Conversion Rate With Optin Monster for WordPress
The biggest result of all – I received and closed a lead that came in through my site via my blog!
30 Insights from 30 Days of Blogging
Aside from an increase in traffic, social connections, email subscribers and a new client, I learned a lot from blogging this past month.
- “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” – Les Brown – At the beginning of the month, I was determined to publish 30 posts in 30 days. By January 3rd I tempered my expectations, but I still worked every day on the blog. Some people advocate for realistic, bite-size goals. I think if I had set a more realistic goal such as a post a week, I would have ended the month exactly where I started. By holding myself to a higher standard, I made blogging a priority everyday.
- Promote your posts, because if you don’t, know one else will. Derek Halpern recommends spending more time promoting your blog than creating content. The importance of getting your post out in front of the right audiences and on influencer’s radar cannot be overestimated.
- If blogging is important to you, you’ll make time for it. I don’t want to pretend that I am busier than anyone else, but January was one hell of a month for me: caring for and spending time with my three-month-old daughter, traveling for business, working full-time and freelancing on weekends and nights, playing with my little girl, having my parents visit for a week, sick with the flu, volunteering 30+ hours at the Super Bowl Social Media Communications Center, preparing and giving four presentations. Did I mention I’m having the time of my life being a dad? Despite all these other commitments, I still found time to sit down and publish four posts and outline about a dozen others. How did I do it? I made blogging a priority.
- Inspiration comes from strangest places and at the most unexpected times. Keep your eyes open and keep Evernote on your smartphone home screen. Always keep an eye out for your next post.
- Engage with people who comment on or share your post. Someone took the time to give you input or feedback; take the time to respond back, connect with them, read their blog, etc. Use these points of engagement to start forming relationships; it’s one of the greatest benefits to blogging.
- Sharing your post on social networks might be instantaneous, but traffic to your post will sustain over time. I was pleasantly surprised to see traffic coming from Twitter, Facebook and Reddit to my blog posts days after they were published.
- Publish less fluff and more substance. My first post of the month (small business blogging manifesto) didn’t resonate nearly as much as my Facebook failure post did. Why? Readers could identify with the Facebook post because of they could relate to the experience I had. Sharing actual data in the post helped build credibility. Lesson learned: Be personal and provide insights no one else can.
- Make time and space to write. As I mentioned before, January wasn’t a boring month for me. Despite my jam-packed schedule, I made time to write. I made a habit of waking up an hour earlier than I usually do to go to my local Starbucks and write. I also invested in some new tools to help me focus on writing ,including a new bluetooth keyboard for my iPad and the Editorial markdown app for iOS.
- Don’t feel the need to go image crazy. An old SEO tactic (and still valid) is to place illustrative images with descriptive alt tags in your post. I took this tactic to heart in an old blog post and created 29 custom-formatted images for the post. Finding, editing and creating the images took more time than writing the actual post did. Looking back at that post, I realize the blog post would have been stronger with fewer images and my time would have been better spent writing another post! While images can be extremely effective in your blog post, make sure they serve a purpose.
- Let success motivate you. When I worked in sales, I was guilty of always celebrating after closing a big deal. Instead of celebrating, I should have been using that success as motivation to make more calls. The same is true with blogging. Don’t get me wrong – enjoy the feeling of publishing a post that gets tons of social shares and traffic. But make sure you get right back on the horse and funnel that energy into your next post.
- Make sure the rest of your house is in order before you commit to your blog. I was so focused on publishing posts and growing my blog, that I lost site of all the other key pages of my site that visitors were visiting after reading my blog. I’m sorry to say that these pages have long been neglected, and, as a result, I lost out on dozens of potential leads as a result.
- Never stop learning. Are you lacking a particular skill or need brushing up on a topic in your industry? Use this as an opportunity to learn and share your new knowledge in a blog post.
- Rising tide raises all ships – My older posts benefited from the new ones being published. Search traffic, entrances and page views of my older posts were all up as a result of blogging regularly over the last 30 days. Organic traffic to my blog was up 29% for the month!
- Understand what motivates you. I am (kind of) proud to say it – I am two-time winner of the biggest loser contest in my office. It turns out that friendly competition motivates me. Hubspot’s Blog for 30 Contest was just the thing I needed to get off the bench and get working on my blog this year. What motivates you?
- Writing is difficult. It turns out that blogging once a week is easier said than done. Just because blogging tools are easy to use doesn’t mean that blogging is easy to do. Thinking through and articulating your ideas in clear and concise prose is hard work. Don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t a pro right off the bat.
- Writing becomes easier. Trust me. After just a few weeks of focusing and committing myself to blogging, I feel like writing is much easier. Don’t get me wrong, I still am finding my voice and have a long way to go before I will consider myself a decent writer. That being said, I feel like I am improving with each post I write, and I am more confident with what I want to say when I blog.
- Anything worth doing is worth doing well. There are experts who advise a “more is better” blogging strategy. Self-imposed quotas of one or two blog posts a week perpetuate this trend. Don’t sacrifice quality. Ever.
- Have a clear and focused purpose. This is an insight I have avoided for sometime, but it finally caught up with me in the last 30 days of blogging. Is my blog’s purpose to be a lead generator for my business or earn affiliate income? I got a notice after submitting my article to managewp.org that my post was flagged for being spammy or having affiliate links. I’m not ready to decide in which direction I want to go, but now I know that I’ll have to choose soon.
- Grow Your Network with Original Content – My Twitter and Google+ networks have been built largely on the back of sharing other people’s content. After publishing and promoting my four blog posts in January, my Twitter followers grew by 5% and my Google+ network by 38%. Lesson learned: Curated content can only get your so far.
- Not every post is going to be a home run – Even the greatest baseball players get out 60-70% of their at-bats. Don’t be discouraged. Analyze and hypothesize why your post didn’t resonate like you thought it would – a poor headline, bad topic choice, not enough visuals, etc. Use these insights to create a better post next time.
- A little humility goes a long way. Don’t be afraid to share your failures. We are all human – this includes you and your readers. By revealing your vulnerabilities, you gain your reader’s trust.
- Don’t let anything go to waste. Do you have a customer success story? Blog about it. Did you learn something from a failed project? Blog about it. Did you work on a project that never saw the light of day? You guessed it – blog about it. Tip of the hat to Jason Fried.
- Add social metrics to your blog’s KPIs. As more and more of your customers adopt and use social networks, so should your blog’s key performance indicators. In addition to traffic, conversions, comments and inbound links, start measuring the amount of social engagement your blog posts. Metrics like Tweets, +1s on Google Plus, LinkedIn comments, etc. can help you identify which posts and topics resonate most with your visitors.
- When you publish new content, people read your old content too. Take the time to see what posts people are reading in your archive, and determine whether or not they need to be updated. I’ve identified two that I’ll be updating next month.
- Understand what really matters in life. This is an insight that extends far beyond blogging. When I get frustrated (and believe me, I experienced my fair share of frustration over the last 30 days), I have learned to take a step back and take a moment to remind myself about what really matters in life. This puts my frustrations into perspective and I am able to refocus on the task at hand.
Did you participate in Hubspot’s Blog for 30 Challenge or have you recently started blogging? If so, what are some insights you have had? Please share below!