How Do You Start Over After Building a Successful Blog?

start a new blog

By Jason Falls, {grow} Community Member

What if I told you I knew someone who built a blog and its subsequent community from nothing into the top blog in its vertical in the world, drove over one million pageviews per year, almost a million unique visitors per year and became widely known as an industry thought leader because of his writing there, and then gave it all up only to start over from scratch? You wouldn’t believe it, would you? Certainly you would have heard of such a moron, right?

What if I told you I was the moron?

Social Media Explorer started in September of 2007 as a place for me to blather on about this new-ish marketing channel. In October of 2010 it spent a couple of weeks ranked number 1 on the Ad Age rating of top marketing blogs – a feat that, though just the product of a favorable algorithm, still baffles me.

Fast-forward through expanding to an agency, bringing on a business partner, jumping at a once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity, selling to the business partner then landing back on the agency side but not at SME, and I was a blogger without a home. Or at least without one that made strategic sense, driving people to me rather than someone else’s business.

In early December, I re-launched JasonFalls.com, my long-time marketing keynote speaker website, with a blog. Here we go again. Starting over. From scratch.

And scratch is hard.

start a new blog

This is what launching a new blog looks like when you have a considerable audience, but one that is used to you posting elsewhere. Nice spike on day one, then … crickets.

The sad reality of launching a blog today is far different from when I started SME. Subscribing to blogs is, well, sooooo 2007. I sense that more people just trust their networks for links to good content. Sure, I’ve built a nice audience to facilitate that, but only a select few of my network of friends and influencers share my content. (I’m not sure why, but I don’t stress about it.) Asking those that do not share to do so seems disingenuous and spammy to me, so I don’t.

There’s a second level of readers that share generously, but the era of automation bites you in the ass. An example:

start a new blog

Certainly, I’m honored that these people would think so highly of my content they’d automatically share it, but the post referenced in these auto-Tweets on Social Media Explorer isn’t even written by me. Sure, that’s a bi-product of SME’s direction over the years, not some mistake these users made, but still. The expectation is that I’m still over there and there’s no automation set up to share my JasonFalls.com content.

So what’s a poor, once successful blogger to do?

Rinse and Repeat

In retrospect, my rules of the road in building Social Media Explorer into something relevant looked something like this:

  1. Write generously and honestly. Call a spade a spade and a douchebag a douchebag. Don’t filter yourself for clients, friends, family, or sensitive people’s sensitivities.
  2. Don’t apologize for polarizing opinions. In fact, seek them out. Look for opportunities to stir shit up.
  3. Thank people for bothering to comment and engage with those that do … they care.
  4. Hold your audience to a high standard, too. Don’t let the turds and trolls derail the conversation. Force them to be respectful. Teach them discourse rather than discord.
  5. Keep SEO in mind, but don’t obsess over it. Pick a relevant keyword phrase to pepper throughout the post to give Google something to rank, but that’s enough.
  6. Promote your blog above other things you need to promote. This is where you want people to find you, hang out, think, and contribute. All that other stuff comes and goes. The blog stays.

And that’s exactly what I’m going to do at JasonFalls.com now. But I’m also going to add a few components to the mix. Among them:

  1. Write when you have something to say. When you don’t, don’t.
  2. Write with the intent of establishing thought leadership on topics you wish to speak about and conference organizers wish to hire speakers to speak about. Every post is an outline for a talk.
  3. Promote specific posts to specific audiences where generating traffic, engagement, and interest can result in leads, exposure, or media opportunity.
  4. No guest posts. No product reviews. This blog is about building my thought leadership, not being someone else’s trumpet. There are other platforms for that.

The last thing I’d add to my list of how-to is the big one: Be patient. Here’s a snapshot of Social Media Explorer’s traffic for the first four years of the blog:

jason_falls_traffic

It’s valuable to see that it took a long time for Social Media Explorer to build an audience. This will be no different. Sure, I have the benefit of an established network and a nice introductory spike to start things off at JasonFalls.com, but the road ahead is still full of hard work, tests and trials, mistakes and missteps. I may very well get to the same or better size audience quicker, but nothing worth having is built overnight.

It wouldn’t hurt my feelings, though, if you all went there now and subscribed. Heh.

jasonfallsJason Falls is SVP for Digital Strategy at Elasticity, a digital marketing and public relations firm known for disruptive content. His own disruptive content has been intriguing audiences for years at sites like SocialMediaExplorer.com, a leading marketing blog he founded and grew into an agency. You can find his thoughts and connections at JasonFalls.com.

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