I can't believe I'm saying this, but the anniversary of my blog is just around the corner. It's hard to believe it's been a year since I sat down and finally started blogging and it's been a wild ride along the way. When I first started blogging, I had my first car, I lived at my parents and I worked at the old office. Now, a year later, I have my own place, a new car and a new office.
Not to mention a decently successful blog and the best readers in the world (that's you!), so thank you!
Never in my wildest dreams would I think a blog would help me meet the people I've met, or seen the places I've seen. Thanks to my blog, I've made lifelong memories, lifelong friends and learned more about who I am.
But, it hasn't all been fun and games. I've made some mistakes down the line and they've really hurt my blog and have done more harm than good. With every good time there have been some bad times, so here's My Seven Biggest Blogging Mistakes.
For those who don't know what "boosting" is on Facebook, it's when you pay Facebook to increase the impressions your posts get. More impressions equal more likes, more comments and more traffic to your site. It's a pretty simple concept: you pay Facebook for more exposure.
When I first started off I was putting a lot of effort into my blog, sometimes pumping out three articles a week. It wasn't too difficult as I was just copying notes from my journal, but it still took a lot of work and a lot of time. Unfortunately, I wasn't getting much traffic and my Facebook page wasn't growing at all. A few times I even had to send my friends a "friendly reminder" to like my page. After Christmas I had had enough of all the hard work and nothing to show for it, so I began boosting my posts.
I saw an improvement immediately, and my likes skyrocketed. Overnight my blog went from 60 likes to 300, and it just kept going up. It wasn't long until I had over 1,000 likes on Facebook, then 2,000, then 5,000. I was getting a lot of people liking my page out of the Middle East (Egypt, mostly) but also from Asia and the United States. My primary audience – Canadians – didn't increase at all. Once I hit 10,000 likes I looked and saw only 70 were from Canada.
10,000 likes is good in theory, but I soon discovered there's a downside to it. Facebook "guarantees" likes when you boost your posts. How does it do that? I don't want to say Facebook uses bots, but the term "ghost followers" fits them perfect. When somebody with a thousand followers shares a post, it gets a few hundred likes and half dozen comments. If I share a post it "goes viral" at 10 likes. Interaction on my Facebook page is pathetic compared to the number of likes my page has.
The cost of the money put towards boosting is more than I'm willing to admit, and I regret spending it. Bloggers who I met after asked me how I got so many likes and I sheepishly admitted to paying Facebook for increased traffic. This often translates to "he paid for likes". I wish I never had, and every time I see a promoted post on Facebook I shake my head. The return is not worth the investment. This was my greatest mistake, and I've thought more than once about restarting my travel blog just to remove the 9,000+ ghost followers I have.
Bloggers work hard and should be rewarded, nobody argues this, however sometimes people put monetary gain before their readers and for a while I did that too. This wasn't because I disliked my readers, but because of my sudden increase of traffic to my site (see above) I wanted to make some money.
I chose Google Ads as my primary service, and things were going great. Thanks to my Facebook boosting, my website was getting more hits and my ads were generating decent revenue. I thought I had found the Holy Grail of Blogging. Invest money into Facebook, reap income from Google, repeat.
Unfortunately Google doesn't think this way and the day I was moving out of my parents' house, Google shut off my ads without any warning. I didn't realize what I had done wrong, so I appealed to them, thinking it was a mistake. However it looks as if Google had realized I was paying Facebook to drive traffic to my site, which in turn undermined the integrity of their ads, and *poof* they were gone.
When it comes to getting your Google Ads suspended, the decision is permanent. Even the mobile app squawks at you when you try to read your last revenue numbers. Wanting some ROI for my Facebook boosts, I looked into alternative advertising methods. I have a whole blog about that, but the decision finally was, I wasn't getting enough traffic to justify the ads and I wasn't making enough money to have them on.
I retried the ads a few times since, but I have now decided to give up on them. My readers come first, period. Their enjoyment is all the satisfaction I need.
I'm not a huge people person. Have you noticed my lack of engagement on social media? You're lucky if you get a "like" from me on my Facebook page. This isn't because I don't like you; it's just because I don't know what to say. My Facebook travel page says my response time in getting back to messages is an outstanding zero percent (thanks for making me look good there, Facebook!).
It's taken a long time to realize this, but to have a successful blog I not only have to interact with my readers, but also others bloggers. I've joined several blogging groups on Facebook and I try to interact with them the best I can. I try to use their advice and I offer my experiences and we help each other grow.
My mistake here was not realizing the power of "social" in "social media". I'm not a newspaper, I'm a person, and I have to interact with my audience. I have to give my readers a reason to want to read my blog, and it took me longer than it should have to figure that out. There are literally thousands of travel bloggers out there, and I have to offer something different. A cold shoulder is the wrong kind of different, so I apologize to anybody who thought that of me this past year (that means all of you who I owe Liebster Awards too! Sorry about that!).
I'm still not great at this, as I often like to block people out and do my own thing, but I'm trying to be friendlier. Please be patient with me, I'm learning too.
My girlfriend has joked that one day while proof reading my articles, she's going to slip a note into one of them informing my readers about the horrendous pieces of literature I ask her to review. There's been times she's called me over the phone and informed me that "it" followed by "is" is the only time you can abbreviate it into "it's". There is no possessive "it's" like there is for "Kenton's". We've fought about this, but she's right.
However, I'm right about the Oxford comma, so deal with it.
Besides punctuation, I also have trouble putting my mind down as it's always jumping around. Sometimes while typing I will skip letters to just get to the next word (seriously, Jessica deals with some pretty awful things. She deserves way more credit than that little side note at the bottom of my articles). If I skip letters typing, just imagine how my writing looks.
I am aware my earlier posts are riddled with mistakes, and while I do intend to go back and proof read them, I'd be hesitant to rewrite the memories. Sometimes I'm embarrassed to share them (apparently my Venice one is really bad) because of the spelling mistakes which makes me look bad. Lately I've been getting better as I type things first in Microsoft Word, read it over twice, get up and do something for twenty minutes and come back and read it again. Then I get Jessica to read it. Lately she's been saying they've been a lot better.
Thank you again, Jess, for everything you do for me.
And yes, my spelling mistake on my "About" page gets mentioned to me a lot. Thank you, but I'm not fixing it. It's intentional.
There's an addictive cycle when it comes to writing blogs. A blog goes out, it does pretty well, and then it dies. The only way to bring traffic back is to push out a repeated article, or write something new. New articles always do much better than repeats, so I'm always thinking about the next big story.
But sometimes I'm just not inspired to write, or sometimes I just write for the sake of writing. This can be seen in my articles "Why I Love Hong Kong", "Remembering Seneca Village", "Welcome to Canada" and "Best Travel Tips". They're an alright read, but they don't grab the reader and immerse them into a new world. Instead, they're toilet reading material, and I've thought about deleting them far too many times to count just to have them off my blog.
I need to remember writing when I don't want to is like cooking when you don't want to eat. There's no satisfaction in doing it, and you feel miserable when you're done. Sometimes I just don't want to write, and sometimes I need a break. That happened once after that 7 week long Instagramming Canada sprint I did, but that break was more because I was just burned out!
I try my best to be good at giving people copyright credit, but sometimes I make mistakes and once it came back to bite me.
While I was doing my "Instagramming Newfound and Labrador" article I came across the quote "oyster skies and jellybean houses". I loved it so much I wrote it down to use in my blog.
But I didn't write down the person who created it.
I ended up using it both on my blog and on an Instagram post the following morning, which then pushed out onto Facebook and Twitter… and right onto the newsfeed of the person whose quote I used. I received a strongly worded message from her about it and I realized I made a mistake. I know the phrase wasn't copy written but it was her intellectual property and needed to be respected. I apologized to her, fixed the article and gave her credit, and threw a notice out onto Facebook and Twitter. Good thing I did that too, as it became one of my most popular articles.
Last month that sting of having work published without credit came back to bite me as I shared a picture on Twitter of my flight around Regina. Regina is building a new stadium and I got a great picture of it from above, so I thought it would be great to share it. It ended up being copied off Twitter and began circulating on Facebook, being shared over 200 times with credit to me nowhere to be seen. Had there been a link, my blog would have had a huge boost of exposure. Instead, I got nothing.
I won't get into the nerdy bits about what I've broken on my site, but the list is very long and it's getting longer all the time. One of the worst things I did was right at the beginning of my Instagramming Canada series. On my "Instagramming British Columbia" article I included descriptions to what the pictures were. This is the only article where I did this, and some people were confused as to why.
The answer is because of those awful emojis! Those quirky little confused cats or melting pizzas or monkey-things-with-hands don't parse well with my databases' character set. As a result they broke my script importing the Instagram images.
This wasn't a big deal, but I thought it was because the article was going to be too big with the 45 images and all their embed code, so I set my character limit to 10,000 characters in the database thinking this was big enough. I soon realized, however, not only was this not big enough, it wasn't big enough for some of my earlier articles either and suddenly over 40 of my articles ended prematurely. I considered just taking down my website and walking away from it all. I thought to myself "This is it. I've ruined everything. Goodbye 10 months of my life."
But then I smartened up and contacted GoDaddy. They restored my database to the day earlier as a complimentary service, and it all came back! Whew!
That was my worst mistake; giving up without giving it a fair shot.
It also gave me a hatred for those awful emojis.
I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I did writing it, and living it! It's been a crazy year and I can't wait to see where Year 2 takes us! Thank you for all the support!
And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.