I have been been using WordPress to create websites and blogs for as long as I can remember. Through my teens it was more experimentation and learning, I opened countless websites using the free WordPress hosted servers just so I could learn about CMS and how to do the basics.
Five years ago was when I really started taking it seriously and thinking about websites as businesses. When you start a website and you create content you are only ever one piece of content away from viral success or “making it” and along the way I have made a lot of mistakes and learnt from those mistakes.
Maybe this will be of some help to those who are just starting out, I have been receiving a bunch of messages over on Instagram lately asking about blogging and websites in general from people who are just looking at getting started. Here are the biggest mistakes I have made along the way.
Five years ago I made possibly the biggest mistake of all, well maybe a close second to my biggest mistake which I will talk about later. I was bold and brash and stupid enough to disregard email marketing. I thought there was little value in it and that email marketing was fizzling out, boy was I wrong.
I wish I had collected emails and started a newsletter right from the start, I should have done it and now I am trying to play catch up which is hard. Email marketing may not be as big as it was back in the 90’s but there is still massive value there and is something everyone should be using when they are creating content. It is another way to hook people back to your site and your product/services.
I rolled with a .wordpress.com domain extension for around a year and saw pretty much no success. That is simply because people don’t take websites seriously when you have a domain extension like this. It screams that you are using free hosting and if you won’t invest in your business then who is going to invest in your products/services?
Domains can be picked up at a low cost so there really is no reason that you should be rocking a .blogspot or a .wordpress extension if you really want people to take notice of you. Get your custom domain before you even start, that year where I used a .wordpress extension was basically a complete waste because nobody was interested.
I still struggle with this up to recently and I think I may have finally cracked it with the current design but time will tell. Back when I was starting out though I was using a default wordpress design loaded with widgets. I thought it was the real deal but when I visit sites like that now I cringe and when I look back at what my sites were like I cringe even more.
Invest in a design, go out and spend money on one and take the time to install it and set it up right. You can grab a great looking design from between €50 – €80 and have it setup and rolling in 1-2 days. Don’t hunt for just the free layouts, this is a business website you want to run or a personal brand you want to build, so take the time to invest in building it right and designing it well. First impressions online are everything and are made within around 2 seconds.
There are no ads on the Mark Dalton Media website and the other website I own – In The Red Zone has one ad built into the sidebar due to the nature of the content and how frequent updates are we can just about get away with it.
The long and short of it is that ads suck and most people are using ad blockers now anyway to stop ads stealing their time. When I started out I was running like 3-4 ads on the site and it looked horrific, it was a plea to come and click so I could make a few cents.
If you are going to display ads I would recommend sticking to one ad, no more and placing it tactfully somewhere that won’t bug the shit out of people visiting your site.
Lack of patience
The reason why I opened and closed so many sites so regularly back a number of years ago was because I was not patient at all. This takes time, it is a process and you have to work at it while nobody is looking. You can be assured that we all started from the same place and when I started Technologi Tab a few years ago I spent the best of a year writing and not a single fucker was looking. I kept going anyway and then people started paying attention in small numbers.
Recently I launched In The Red Zone and that is also a process where I have to take the time to grow it and nurture it and grow the audience there. Patience, think about the long game and thing about going deep, not wide. If one person reads a blog post on any given day then I count that as a success. You won’t get overnight fame or success, you have to build and build. Slowly the quality and the traffic will grow and you will create a community around you.
Working for “exposure”
The biggest mistake I have made so far, I worked for free for too long. Working for nothing for a good website has its merits, it opens you up to new opportunities and helps grow your experience while connecting you to a team. I think everyone should do it at some point if they have aspirations to make it big, when you give without expecting anything in return there is potential for great things to happen. I made the mistake of doing it for too long, I created content for a website that was not my own for two years at no cost.
I wish I had stopped six months in and moved on from it but honestly I was afraid of leaving. I was afraid that I would go and something great would happen in that team and I would just miss out on it, I was fearful that I would go and if I just hung in for a few more months something great would have happened and I would have missed my chance to be a part of it, and when I say something big I mean really big. I have never cared for awards all that much because my aspirations and goals go well above awards – not to belittle award season at the end of the year or people who win awards. If you win it then you damn well earned it but it has just never been anything I have had much of an interest in. I want business success, thats what I am really hungry for and what I still strive for every day.
I was fearful of losing any kind of exposure I was getting from them and in the end I hung around for two years which is a year and six months more than I probably should have. This is not to belittle them and try make it out to be a bad thing, it is a great site and a good team. It is nobody’s fault but my own and since I left I have been so much happier with my content and how it is being created and shared, I can’t tell you how much happier I have been.
If you get the chance to work for a big website when you are starting out then you should absolutely do it for around six to eight months, no more. Then you can either look for something that benefits you from doing it or move on. Don’t make the mistake I did of clinging in there and creating years of content at no cost. I thought it would benefit my own website, what happened when I left was that my traffic went up because my content was now only in one place.
Go do it, gain traction, grow your brand, create as much as you can and then pull the audience back in to you in anyway you can, there was a big benefit in networking with new people and those people I now talk to on a daily basis on social media. Pulling a small number of people back to my personal brand I count as a big success, every little bit makes the difference. I recently almost make the mistake of going back and sharing more content for free because I thought it might be a good move for me to make in a weaker moment.
But something woke me up shortly after and made me realise and understand how much I have been enjoying creating content agains since going back solo and how happy I am being accountable to only myself.
Learn from mistakes
The most important thing is to learn from your mistakes, put them right and keep going. Persevere and don’t listen to people who are judging you from their ivory tower. Do it how you want to do it, roll how you want to roll and when you make your mistakes, learn from them. Enjoy it, have fun with it and don’t let people try tell you to do it any other way.