A few weeks ago, you may have seen a very sly mention of the very first blog post written for Spin Sucks (which was published at 11:35 p.m. and we wonder why no one read it).
I almost hate to mention it again because it was so bad. But I do so because, as of September 11 (yes, the anniversary), we have been blogging for six years and I thought it’d be interesting to take a look back.
You see, as human beings (particularly in America where our society honors the great achievements), we tend to look at success and think people got there overnight. For some reason, we also think successful people must put their pants on differently or have clones or somehow have more hours in the day than the rest of us or don’t need to sleep or maybe even are cyborgs.
Americans also have this really weird idea that they’ll get rich quick or lose weight fast or truly become an overnight success.
When, in fact, none of that is true.
We’re all people. We all make mistakes. We all have failures. We all screw up. And we certainly don’t get rich or lose weight or become successful overnight.
To prove my point…Spin Sucks is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a Mashable or a Huffington Post or even a Dog Shaming (which I’m totally going to get Jack Bauer on one of these days). It’s not even my sister’s blog, Pintology, that has 20,000 monthly views in its second month of existence.
But, for a niche blog that speaks to PR and marketing pros (and some entrepreneurs and one insurance guy), it does fairly well.
But it didn’t start out that way. In fact, the first couple of years – like the very first blog post – were a disaster.
Case in point:
- We published twice on September 11, 2006 – once at 11:35 p.m. and once at 11:38 p.m. I have no idea why we did that. I suppose we had a lot to say in three minutes, close to the middle of the night.
- After that, we published only one more time in September, six times in October, six times in November, and twice in December. In fact, we didn’t get any real consistency until 2009 when we (cough, I, cough) figured out that was important and that we could schedule posts.
- In 2007, we all took turns blogging. There were 23 of us at the time and everyone – interns on up – blogged. There wasn’t a consistent voice, there wasn’t an editorial calendar, and it was like pulling teeth to get people to contribute.
- There were no comments, no SEO, no categories, no tagging, no images (really nothing except words on a screen) until summer of 2009. We blogged for nearly three years with nothing in return. And I mean nothing.
- The comments began to roll in, but they were interspersed. Some blog posts did really, really well while others still had zero, until early 2010.
- In 2010, a couple of things happened. That summer I hired our first community manager who really helped us expand the blog and we also had the site redesigned and began to brand it toward the vision of changing the perception of the PR industry.
- It took three and a half years of blogging to figure it all out, begin to build a community, figure out SEO, create some consistency, and add guest bloggers. Three and a half years.
Spin Sucks Stats
I’m a numbers person who looks (and acts) like a communications pro. Some of you already know that about me so it won’t come as a surprise that we keep meticulous records on the stats.
That said, we (cough, I, cough) had no idea about Google analytics until July 2008. So we had nearly two years of blogging without knowing how we were doing. It’s probably not a big deal because the first two years were such a disaster.
But starting in July 2008, the stats are:
- We had 128 visitors back then; probably only 105 because 23 of them were my team.
- We had three percent growth through July 2009.
- Not surprising, based on the above mistakes, but we boomed in 2010 with 31 percent growth. That was the first year we won the Reader’s Choice Award.
- From 2010-2011, we had 39 percent growth, we won the Reader’s Choice Award a second year in a row, and we won Top 10 Social Media Blogs from Social Media Examiner.
- And, this past year, not only did we have our best month ever in July, but we had 88 percent growth.
- This year, we’ve won Top 50 Social Media Bloggers from Kred, Top 10 Corporate Blogs from Social Fresh, and Top 50 PR & Marketing Blogs from Cision. We’re also up for PR Blog of the Year from PR News (to be announced October 1).
I’m glad I haven’t done this exercise before now. I probably would have been discouraged and walked away from blogging long before 2010, when we finally got our groove.
Some of the lessons won’t surprise you because I’ve blogged about it parts of it before.
But they include:
- Be consistent. Our 2010 summer community manager insisted I publish by 8 a.m. every day. He really held my feet to the fire on it. I whined, just like I hear other business leaders do, about how I didn’t have time and blah, blah, blah. But I did it. And now it’s a habit.
- Break up your copy. Just like I’ve done on this blog post with subheads and bullet points. As much as I’d like to think every one of you is reading every word of this, I’m not naive. Make it easy for your readers to scan.
- Learn basic SEO. Learn how to tag, how to categorize, and how to create meta descriptions. Learn how to include backlinks (appropriately, not just to please the spiders) and learn how to write headlines that people will search.
- Include images. But not just any images. Make sure they’re protected so you don’t get in trouble. Use Zemanta if you don’t know how to do it or are afraid of infringing on someone’s copyright.
- Invite guest bloggers. But have guidelines for doing so. Your blog is your brand, your voice, your vision. Don’t just let anyone type something up and send it along. Make sure it fits with what you’re trying to accomplish.
- Have a call-to-action. This is an important one. In 2010, when we began to get our groove, we didn’t realize we were giving away all this great content and getting nothing in return. Figure out what you want people to do – subscribe, share, buy – and ask them to do it. Over and over and over again.
- Have fun. If you’re not having fun and you don’t enjoy blogging, you won’t do it. This isn’t a term paper and it’s certainly not some marketing babble piece of content you’re required to produce every day. It’s a blog. It’s conversational. It’s personal. It’s intimate. Have fun with it!