7 Lessons From My Failed Blog

Michael Leonard

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I quit my $120,000 career after making $200 in affiliate sales from my blog.

Most people thought I was crazy. But I was determined to prove everyone wrong and show that you could make money blogging.

After reading endless amounts of income reports from fellow bloggers, I figured if they could do it, I could too. For the next eight months, I slaved away 12–18-hour days doing anything I could to make my blog print money.

But despite endless amounts of hours, my blog was barely making $500 per month. I was relying on random side hustles and credit cards to keep my dreams alive.

The blogging dream didn’t pan out, but thanks to freelance writing, I’ve never had to go back to a cubicle and have made over six figures writing. Ironically, as a writer, I work with a lot of successful bloggers and know what works (and what doesn’t).

Use these lessons before going all-in on your blog, so that you can increase your odds of success and not hit rock bottom like I did.

Blogging is 20% Writing

I got into blogging because I wanted to make money writing.

But believe it or not, writing is only about 20% of creating a successful blog. Sadly, you can’t just create the best content in the world and expect it to start driving traffic and producing income overnight anymore.

This is where I struggled. I spent all of my time and energy on creating great content that I had zero time left to promote. This strategy created minimal results.

Creating a successful blog is 80% learning how to get traffic. It’s about learning SEO, email marketing, paid traffic and promoting your content via social media. And then continuing to learn to keep learning because things change quickly.

Google is always changing their algorithm so you will always need to adapt. Social media platforms come and go. But it’s up to you to figure out the best ways to promote your content so you can build an audience and start to rank in Google.

My biggest advice? Don’t get into traditional WordPress blogging if you just want to focus on writing. Instead, write here on Medium or start freelance writing.

Marketing is 90% of the Game

Blogging is a cruel game. You can spend hours (or days) creating the best piece of content in the world, only to have no one read it (which is the exact opposite of writing on Medium). Not only is this extremely frustrating, but it also makes scaling nearly impossible.

The truth is, growing a blog (or any personal brand business) is 90% marketing. For the longest time, I avoided this reality and tried to focus on content, but it never worked. The most successful bloggers that I write for now are relentless about marketing and getting traffic to their website.

Of all the bloggers I’ve worked with, all of them are marketing wizards. They are intentional about:

  • Tracking their stats religiously.
  • Studying SEO, like their life depends on it.
  • Mastering one social media platform before attempting omnipresence.
  • Spending money on paid traffic through Facebook and Google (which also helps with SEO).

Do what successful bloggers do long enough, and eventually, you will become one yourself.

“Content is king but distribution is queen and she wears the pants.” — Jonathan Perelman

Never Compare Yourself to Others

One of the biggest mistakes I made in my early blogging days was comparing my success (or lack thereof) to everyone else’s. I would continuously envy this person’s website design, this blog’s content, or that blog’s automated webinar funnel. But nothing good came from comparing blog vs. blog, and it killed my motivation.

If you want to start and grow a blog, only compare your blog to where you were in the past. You can’t compare yourself to anyone else — no two blogs are alike. So many factors differentiate blogs, including:

  • Niche
  • Paid ads
  • Backlinks
  • Site speed
  • SEO skills
  • Organic traffic
  • Domain authority
  • Frequency of content
  • When the site was created

And that’s just a few factors. Honestly, there are millions of data points that Google takes into account when ranking blogs. So instead of comparing your blog to another blog, get to know your own numbers.

The old “I’m not a numbers person” excuse won’t cut it. If you don’t like numbers, good luck finding success with any online business.

Even if it’s not sexy, it’s what moves the needle in your business. Plus, with tons of software, it’s never been easier to track what’s working and what isn’t performing well.

Niche Down ASAP

According to this TechJury study, there are now 488.1 million blogs — up from 50 million in 2005 and 152 million in 2013. Blogging isn’t dead, but it is a very crowded space.

You can’t create a new blog from thin air that provides general advice for readers. No — you need a niche, and then a niche inside that niche. Don’t try to be a general blog that tries to reach everyone.

I know because that’s exactly what I did. With a name like “Inspire Your Success,” I was way too broad and never had a clear audience. Was it motivational? Entrepreneurial advice?

My blog had no identity, so not many people followed, and I never created my first 100 raving fans. It wasn’t until I niched down and rebranded on all platforms that I finally found some traction.

So if you want to make an epic blog for the long run, niche down as much as possible in the beginning. You can also broaden in the future, but doing this will help you create content for your readers and build authority with Google. Become “known” in a space so you can create content for your readers that speaks directly to them and begin to build a name for yourself!

Identify Your Reader

Once you have a clearly defined niche, you need to know your reader as if they’re a family member. You hear things like “Know your avatar” on seemingly every blogging course ever, but it’s true… it’s necessary for success.

On the other hand, I ignored this entirely and tried just to force whatever I wanted to write about on the website. At times it was more a diary than a blog, which isn’t helpful for anyone.

The truth is people only come back to websites when it’s valuable to them — not to hear your sob story. While you should use storytelling to make the blog post enjoyable, always think about the reader.

Earlier in the year, I attended a networking event and got to hear internet marketing legends Amy Porterfield and Pat Flynn talk about this in-depth.

Amy said that every piece of content is 100% intentional to her launches and speaks to her ideal audience. She knows their approximate age, what they’re feeling right now in their business, their biggest struggles, their biggest goals, etc. She even named her avatar and talks about this imaginary person in their business.

Pat Flynn echoed the same thing in his speech later that day. Despite making millions of dollars in his business, he still is always working to understand his audience.

In fact, despite having millions of followers, he still gets on the phone with five people each month just to talk. There is no sales pitch, and his entire goal is to get to learn where they are and what they feel, so he and his team can create the best content.

Schedule Your End Time

A blog is always a work in progress; it’s never done. There’s always something that you can do to make it better, increase conversions, update old posts, etc. But you need to have a clear separation from your blog and your life.

I didn’t, and it led to working until the wee hours as my brain never shut off and eventually hit burnout. So if you want to create a profitable blog, make sure you have a clear separation from your blog and real life.

Sometimes you need to take a step back, so you have space to think, problem-solve, and figure out what to do next. Working until your eyeballs bleed isn’t the answer.

I suggest having an end time and a ritual to end the day — this is even more important if you work at home. Just as you start your day at a certain time, make sure to create an end time.

Then, have some sort of ending ritual to signal to your brain that it’s okay to shut down for the day. This could be closing your office door and silencing your phone, going for a walk, or cooking dinner. Whatever it is, stick with so you can make it a habit and not let your blog run your life.

“The rest is the work.” — James Wedmore

You Can’t Do it Alone

The final mistake I made in my failed blogging career is going at it alone. I tried the solopreneur route and ultimately burned out. Now, all the bloggers I work with have a team of people to help them grow their brand.

You can’t do it alone — there’s just too much to learn and master. While there are tons of tools to help automate, you still can’t write content, do website maintenance, manage social media profiles, write emails/sequences, create products, partner with affiliates, etc. all on your own.

Quit trying to be a superhero and hire help. Eight months ago, I hired my first virtual assistant, and it gave me 8–10 hours back each week. And we recently brought on two more part-time people. It’s helped me free up so much time and allow me to stay in my zone of genius.

While it seems like “doing it yourself” is the cheaper route — I think the opposite is true. Doing it all alone actually costs you time, which is 100X more valuable than money. You can always generate more revenue, but you can never get your precious time back.

Final Thoughts

While my dreams of a six-figure blog failed miserably, it did help me learn a valuable skill in freelance writing. I’ve found a lot of success in this arena and have used it to grow the rest of my brand without creating content for my blog.

If you are set on creating a blog and have the patience for it, know that it’s possible — but it won’t happen overnight. According to SEO guru Neil Patel, the average piece of new content takes 61–182 days to rank on Google (and that was high authority blogs).

So don’t expect to hit publish on a brand-new blog and find yourself on page one tomorrow. I say none of this to discourage you, and I just want to be 100% real with you as I didn’t read a lot of these posts when I got started.

Instead, I read articles that made it seem like you can start a blog today and print money this month. Like building anything great, it takes time. So if you get into traditional WordPress blogging, just commit to it for the long run.

Make sure to:

  • Learn the ins-and-outs of blogging besides just creating great content.
  • Become a marketing ninja so people can find your epic content and keep you motivated.
  • Only compare your blog vs. the past — never anyone else!
  • Niche down and then niche down some more. As you grow your blog, you can always broaden.
  • Get to know your ideal reader as if they’re your best friend. Get on the phone, email subscribers, and be genuinely interested in how you can help them. Remember, those emails are real people!
  • Separate your blog from real life by setting an end time when you start the day and having an end-to-day ritual.
  • Hire help and scale so you can grow quicker and enjoy your online business instead of it owning you.

Get out there and make it happen!

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My name is Michael Leonard and I am the creator of Inspire Your Success. I'm on a mission to help readers build online writing businesses and quit their jobs to live a life of freedom!

Scottsdale, AZ
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