By @TheMarkDalton

A lot of people are shocked or amazed when they hear how long it took me to get it right. I started my first free WordPress blog when I was 16 years old. I was 26 when I started writing for Irish Tech News. I spent 10 years in my free time trying to figure it out.

10 years of opening new blogs thinking, “This is it, this is the one” only to shut it down a few months later through lack of passion, drive, desire or any interest. I tried starting all different kinds of blogs – Apple Mac News, Politics, Manchester United, Food and Wine, NFL, Technology…all kinds of different topics and they all failed.

Some of them managed to gain a very very small bit of traction but nothing significant. When I was 24 I started a blog called ‘Technologi Tab’ which soon was rebranded into ’60 Second Social’ and that blog was what started gaining attention.

With 8 solid years of trying hard to get it right, I’m going to tell you some of the biggest mistakes I made at the time so you don’t have to make those same mistakes.

I wanted money

When I started out I was focusing on the wrong things. I wanted to blog and make money, I visioned making money off ads running on the website as well as being paid to write content and a book deal down the line.

Reality gives you a good swift kick however and you soon realise that there is no cash windfall every time you hit the publish button on WordPress. Money matters, you shouldn’t work for free and the only kind of exposure you should be interested in is the exposure which creates opportunity for you.

What matters more than money when you are a blogger is love. You have to love what you are writing about. If you choose a niche which is too narrow you will soon get bored and lose interest. Select a niche which allows you to cast your net a bit wider. I primarily write about marketing and social media but I also write about blogging and general technology. Don’t stay too narrow!

I thought of the site as a blog and overloaded it with Google ads

Sounds strange right? One of the biggest mistakes I have ever made during my time blogging has been that thought of it as a blog. As a result there was never any planning, no aims and no goals. I just went with the flow and allowed things to take their course.

Big mistake, you shouldn’t be thinking of your blog as just a blog. You should be thinking of it as your business or an extension of your business. The first blog I ever thought of as a business was 60 Second Social and that was a large part of the reason it was successful. There was a plan, there were aims and objectives – targets to be met.

My blog is not a blog now, it is a marketing tool to help grow my personal brand and support my client based business.

The other big mistake I made was that I signed up for Google AdSense and stuck ads all over the place. Then I sat back and waited for the money to roll in. I waited a long time…a real long time. In case you haven’t noticed, there are no ads running on Mark Dalton Media at all. Why? Two reasons.

1) I never made enough money from running Google AdSense on any of my pages and you won’t either unless you have a really big blog so there was no point having them.

2) I personally feel that ads take away from the value of the website and with all the adblocking options available I don’t see the point in using them. Who goes on websites to click on horseshit banner ads? I’ll give you the answer, nowhere near enough people to merit the use of them on medium to smaller sites.

I didn’t interact with readers

When I started out blogging I never replied to the very few comments I got. I was so convinced I would have tonnes of traffic and loads of comments so I took a very big headed egotistical approach and didn’t bother to reply to comments.

Readers are the lifeblood of any blog or website. They have taken their time to leave a comment on your content and whether they agree with what you have written or not, they are giving you valuable feedback.

Social media changed my interaction with readers dramatically. I reply to every tweet, every Facebook message, every email, any kind of social media interaction I will reply to. I will reply to any comments let on my blog, though most people choose to interact via social these days instead of on the blog comments and to be honest I prefer that!

One thing I do need to make clear before someone jumps on me and says “Hey I left a reply to you on one of your Irish Tech News pieces and you never replied!” Irish Tech News is the one exception where I don’t reply to comments. I simply don’t have the time, and I also know that not replying is not going to damage by brand or business approach. I read any comments by content gets on Irish Tech News but very rarely will I respond unless I really feel the need to address something. I prioritise the social interactions on my own channels and blog first which, along with constant content creation is terribly time consuming!

What you need to remember

You are not in it for the money. If you are then you need to stop blogging right now and focus on something else which can help your brand or business because starting a blog for the sole purpose of money is not going to work out well for you at all.

You need to be focused and you need to think of your blog as your business. Have a plan in place, have targets and goals to reach. Aim for those targets and think about how you can constantly evolve and improve.

Don’t limit yourself by staying too narrow. You need to pick a niche which will allow you flexibility with your content. You also need to invest time in your content, throwing a blog post together in around 20 minutes is no good. It typically takes me around 2 hours for each blog post from getting the structure in place to writing, formatting and tidying it up.

Don’t be afraid of criticism and feedback, interact with your readers. They have taken the time to reach out so don’t ignore them.

Finally, don’t be afraid of failure. If it is not working at all then don’t be scared of shutting it down and starting fresh. If you feel that it is never going to work then it never will work. You need to be made of the right stuff and have the right frame of mind because the reality is that blogging is hard. You will have way more lows than you will have highs…so savour the highs when they do come along.

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