Do you remember when you first started blogging? Wordpress publish button image

Although I don’t think about it often, I still do.

I was scared to hit “publish” the first few times, and I worried because I kept switching my theme.

I didn’t know any of the blogging terms either.

Being self taught, I spent most of my non-writing time searching for help, but even when I found help, I usually didn’t understand what to do with it.

I was pretty naive.

Today’s Lesson

When I think back to when I first started blogging, I didn’t have too many expectations except for thinking I could make lots of some money by having a blog.

  • I wasted a lot of time signing up for affiliate networks and tweaking my Google AdSense ads.

  • I didn’t know that without thousands of visitors a day, making a decent income from a blog was out of the question. When I figured it out (that I needed traffic to make money), I wasted time trying to get more traffic, too. Instead, I should have been learning more about SEO (search engine optimization) and spending less time looking for an “easy way”.

  • I wanted comments. Little did I know I should have kicked the “If I build it, they will come” attitude and should have spent time visiting and commenting on other blogs.

  • Although I worried about changing my theme so often, I should have realized without a steady stream of visitors, it really didn’t matter.

  • I love numbers, so for me checking my statistics became a daily obsession. Instead of wasting time watching the numbers rise and fall, I should have spent time either writing and publishing or learning techniques which would take me closer to my goals.

  • Social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook can be fun, but they can also be addicting. Before signing up, I should have asked myself if the benefits of participating in social networking will outweigh the investment of my time.

Truth be told, I wasted a lot of time on blogging activities I should have postponed until later or maybe not even got involved in, but that’s in the past.

What about you?

Today’s Assignment

Looking back, if you had to do it all over again, where would you have spent more time?

Where would you have spent less time?

Care to share?

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  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Gail Gardner and Barbara Swafford, Stan Carter Jr.. Stan Carter Jr. said: I Shoulda… http://bit.ly/ggCzT7 [...]

  2. PatriciaNo Gravatar says:

    I still can not figure out SEO and I am not increasing the visitors to my page – it is important.

    Since I just write my blog and try to pick ads etc…and IT Girl does the layout etc. I have not changed what I do much at all. When someone says – use threaded comments, I have to figure out what it is and then ask IT Girl to set it up. There are times she is just too busy.

    I work on Keywords for about 2 weeks and attempt to optimize and then I get frustrated and just move ahead, and do what I always have done. If I could get some basic regular income out of my blog, I would pay someone to edit SEO into my posts for me and step by step show me how, because I just don’t seem to get it.
    And with no comments coming in on bikingarchitect we just sit at the 25-35 readers a week, I feel like I am knocking my socks off there to get some truly valuable information out which teaches

    at 2.5 years I am quite angry with myself for not being able to figure this out.

    Another great post…
    I can’t believe it/ my old post is showing up again/ not todays???
    Comment luv is not working again…aargh
    Check out Patricia’s awesome post.A SUDDEN COUNTRY Karen FisherMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Patricia,

      It all takes time, doesn’t it? With regard to SEO, I *kinda* understand it, normally don’t use it on this blog, but do know it helps to get posts found. In a nutshell, it’s a matter of inserting the words (i.e. keywords or keyword phrases) you feel others will use when they are searching for the topic you’ve written about. Using them in your header and sprinkling them throughout your post will tell the search engines what your article is about. However, to make matters more confusing, it also depends on how much competition there is for those same keywords/phrases. What I’ve also understand is sites with a higher page rank will be shown first in the search results.

      P.S. (to everyone) If I have this wrong, please feel free to correct me. :)

  3. Kelvin KaoNo Gravatar says:

    I would have kept my WordPress more up to date so I wouldn’t get hacked and ended up having my page rank plummet before I fixed it and it eventually went back up.
    Check out Kelvin Kao’s awesome post.Channeling MacGyverMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Kelvin,

      That had to be disheartening to have your site hacked and to lose your page rank, too. I’m happy to hear you’ve got it back up.

  4. Oh Barbara,
    You hit a nerve with this..I was nodding all through this post and thinking…oh God I did all that(and sometimes still do) , But a lot less now.
    I’m still obsessed with my blog theme, but the numbers game doesn’t bother me anymore. Somedays its 1000′s and some days not so much…no problem. Writings consistently good stuff and promoting it on the pivotal places in social media makes the best sense to me. And now with all the automated publishing tools wordpress.com and networked blogs has, I hit publish on a post and it gets published on facebook,twitter,friend feed and google buzz.too, not to forget the feeds. I tell you it saves so much time.
    And commenting, is more funnn than anything else. I love to watch, read and learn from my blogging buddies.and I so love making new pals online everyday. Blogging is funnnn….I guess once we have a set schedule for it all and set into the routine it just falls into place.
    You know, for the first time I have shared my experiences with social media on my blog. Come over and tell me what you think.
    Am still learning Barbara, a new mistake a new lesson :) But all funn… :)
    Lots of love,
    Z~
    Check out Zeenat{Positive Provocations}’s awesome post.How Facebook&Twitter Can Keep You Happily MotivatedMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Zeenat,

      That’s true. The more we can automate, the easier we make it on ourselves.

      Yes. Commenting can be loads of fun. With so many great blogs out there, we can learn so much and in the process, like you said, make new online pals.

      I’ll be by later to check out your post. See you then. :)

  5. In the beginning all I did was write and go visit other blogs and comment. That wasn’t really intended to be a strategy, I was too ignorant to have a strategy! By the time I figured I should get a strategy, I decided what I was doing was a more natural, organic way of doing things and suited me just fine. I did eventually figure out what SEO and keywords meant, but low and behold, there they were in my writing anyway, because I have a pretty tight theme, so I stopped worrying about it all over again!

    As far as social media goes, I enjoy it to keep up with my friends and to meet new ones. I really don’t have it in me to chase down thousands of followers, I like to know the people I chat with, it’s more fun to me that way.
    Check out Wendi Kelly-Life’s Little Inspirations’s awesome post.Are you ready to get emotionally nakedMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Wendi,

      So it worked perfectly for you and you didn’t even realize it. Don’t you love when that happens?

      That’s true about social media. It’s easy to chase the numbers, but if we don’t know the people we’re friending or following, it makes it pretty hard to strike up a conversation with them.

  6. AnneNo Gravatar says:

    Ahhh, a trip down memory lane.
    I started publishing websites long before I started blogging. My first blogging attempt was related to wartime here in Israel, as I launched the first version of my blog IsraeliMom.org.
    I was fortunate in the sense that I had already had some web publishing experience, so knew what my focus should be.
    I’ll post about my first blogging experience too some time – thank you for the inspiration!
    Check out Anne’s awesome post.Shopping for Accommodation – OnlineMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Anne,

      How lucky you are/were to have web publishing experience prior to starting a blog. That had to have made a huge difference and probably saved you lots of time and headaches as well.

      Drop me a comment when you post your first blogging experience article. I’d love to read it.

  7. [...] I Shoulda – a trip down memory lane and an inspiration for a future post here. [...]

  8. HilaryNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara .. when we start we ‘know nothing!’ So unless you’re lucky and get a little help .. you’re lost before you start. It takes time to learn .. also to realise what we want to blog about .. perhaps our first thoughts aren’t right.

    If I started or rather when – I’ll be planned up and ready to go .. and the same does apply to social media – we have to have the experience … but we need to learn the why and necessity for doing it – that’s getting our heads round the why.

    The reason for the blog – we could have a baby that we love – as I do mine (& it won’t go away!) .. but I’d definitely be much more ruthless in my approach to the next one ..

    Thanks – Hilary
    PS did the snow come? See you tomorrow .. H
    Check out Hilary’s awesome post.Hanging Hooke My Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Hilary,

      That’s true. With anything we learn, we start from scratch and when we start a blog, some of us have more to bring to the table than others.

      I agree with you on the part about asking ourselves what the necessity is for engaging in social media. For some it’s just to stay connected, whereas others benefit from it by promoting blog posts, services or products.

      Yes. The snow came. We have 6-8 inches on the ground and cold temps now. Brrrrrr!

  9. Wow, I started site building with portal sites and only started a ‘blog’ when I decided it would be good to actually (get this!) interact with folks. :)

    What would I have done differently? Definitely spent more time visiting others and commenting rather than being an island of greatness by myself. Multiple pools of greatness are far more enjoyable to follow. :)
    Check out Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach’s awesome post.Easily Turn Your Site Downtime Into Profitable Business In With These 3 Simple StepsMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Barbara,

      So for you, the blog came second.

      I know what you’re saying about interacting. It’s one thing to just keep hitting publish, but without getting feedback from others, we’re often unaware if what we’re sharing is helping. Plus, that can get to be a pretty lonely experience.

  10. LanceNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara,
    As I look back today – the one thing that really jumps out for me is that I should have used more of my time to really develop and grow meaningful connections with others.

    When I started, I was unsure of my writing voice. This kept me from making deeper connections with others early on. And for me, that’s what has become most meaningful…these connections, and how they have impacted my life…
    Check out Lance’s awesome post.Sunday Thought For The DayMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Lance,

      I wouldn’t have thought you were unsure of your writing voice since from early on, your message was clear.

      And look at you now. You’ve traveled all over the country and met many of the bloggers who were following you right from the start. How cool is that?

    • wow, Lance, that surprises me, the last thing I would have expected to hear was that it took time for you to learn to make connections with others. That seems to pour as naturally from you as water from a fountain. I bet that would be really inspirational for some of your very many fans to know. Some people think it’s just a gift- that people are either born with it or not- and don’t realize it’s a skill they could develop.
      Check out Wendi Kelly-Life’s Little Inspirations’s awesome post.Are you ready to get emotionally nakedMy Profile

  11. Hi Barbara – What? You, the guru to whom I owe so much blogging wisdom took some wrong turns and dead ends? That’s why there’s wisdom in these thar posts. :)

    Like you mention, I, too, spent way too much time on the numbers: numbers of comments, numbers of subscribers, number of visits, number of this/that. And, what’s up with no adsense revenue? If we built it, why wouldn’t they come and spend?

    What I realized is 1) we still have interesting content to share no matter the numbers, and 2) what we have to sell deserves enough respect that we’re willing to communicate it instead of apologetically leaving it to people to discover on their own.

    I think over time we develop our own winning combination. If I could add one more thing, it would be don’t try to DIY everything. Paying a professional to help you is worth it if you’re struggling with some aspect. Thanks.
    Check out Betsy Wuebker’s awesome post.Adventures in Customer Service- Micro CenterMy Profile

    • ElizaNo Gravatar says:

      @Betsy – I love this remark: what we have to sell deserves enough respect that we’re willing to communicate it instead of apologetically leaving it to people to discover on their own.

      I have just figured this one out myself. Marc and I are developing products and services we truly believe in. I used to be totally uncomfortable with marketing, but you totally nail it on the head. Do not apologize! Communicate, communicate, communicate. Our products and services deserve it!
      Check out Eliza’s awesome post.Words From The Editor- Stress- Empty Nest- Unreasonableness- Happiness- WillsMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      LOL Betsy,

      Trust me. I’ve banged my head against the wall more times than I can count, and being stubborn and wanting to learn it on my own certainly didn’t help. Aurghhh!

      As Eliza mentioned, I’m happy you brought that up; about us being proud of what we have to sell instead of apologizing for it. I’m not sure what it is about bloggers, but for some reason it seems like we (generally speaking) feel guilty for wanting to make money with a blog, product or service – and we shouldn’t. Hmmm. Sounds like a good topic for a future post. Thank you!

  12. I basically agree with all of your points. But I also think that those first two years gave me tons of experience – important experience – so I don’t worry too much about time wasted. There’s a learning curve to everything, including blogging.
    Check out vered | blogger for hire’s awesome post.Your Life- As It Is Right Now- Forever Do You Take This DealMy Profile

  13. Lori HoeckNo Gravatar says:

    When I first started and up until a year ago, it seemed everything blog-related involved a learning curve. I’ve burned out on them a bit and can see using some professional help might be an option.

    If I could do it over again? I’m the type who refuses to go back in time like that, preferring to mold the experience into something new. But, I would tell others to assess their Twitter, FB, and other activities more closely to see where they are getting the most movement toward their goal.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Lori,

      What you said reminds me of how what we did or didn’t do, makes us who we are today, and without those experiences we may not be as wise.

      I agree. It’s important to monitor the the time we spend on social networking sites.

  14. Alien GhostNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara,

    Since I don’t have anything to sell, I’m not “pressured” to get thousands of readers or promote my blog to win google ranking competitions, which in turn allows me to be a little lazy when it comes to learning all the nuts and bolts related to blogging.

    I won’t deny that one of the attractive parts of blogging at the beginning was the “make money blogging”, but quickly realized that it was just a gimmick to sell ebooks and not reality, and that was OK since the possibility of expressing thoughts and finding people who might share similar opinions was the most important part of all.

    Even today I don’t really care much about numbers. This whole blogging thing is more like for fun to me than business, so there are no parts to change from the past. It has been like “living life” rather than doing business, so that takes pressure of the back. Maybe if I decided to create and promote a product to sell through my blog, then things would start to get difficult, and remorse for the waisted time will settle in.

    Raul
    Check out Alien Ghost’s awesome post.About Chewing GumMy Profile

  15. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Raul,

    You’ve raised a good point. When we’re blogging for fun, there’s a lot less pressure to get the numbers up, and even to post on a regular schedule. I think once a hobby blogger builds a readership, it doesn’t matter if they publish once a day or once a month. Their readers will continue to visit because they enjoy the content and feel a bond with the author.

  16. Hi Barbara.

    Yep, that looks about right as far as the path most new bloggers follow, doesn’t it?

    At least they were learning experiences.

    For me, I think things might have moved quicker for me if I realized how important proper research is. Without sound research, all of your efforts will be a shot in the dark.

    I know SEO, that’s great. But, if it’s applied in the wrong direction, you may find you’re never getting anywhere.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi John,

      That’s true. Blogging can be a lot easier if we do the research first. Although we can learn from our mistakes, in many cases we could be further along had we followed the proper channels.

  17. J.D. MeierNo Gravatar says:

    My, you’ve come a long way … what an incredible journey. Sometimes it feels like just yesterday, and other times it feels like so long ago.

    How ironic … just the other day I remembered my parents always saying “Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda …” I was going to post on it, but I had a few bigger fish to fry.

    I’ve made, and continue to make tons of mistakes in blogging, but what helps me is finding models and examples to learn from. I also think of blogging as a living thing, so I just keep testing and learning what to carry forward.
    Check out J.D. Meier’s awesome post.Enjoy the StruggleMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi J.D.,

      I agree. In some ways it does feel like it was just yesterday. :)

      I’ve never thought of blogging as a living thing, but that makes sense. With each update we post, that which we created grows larger.

  18. I guess the first three to four months your focus should be only on (and hence more time spend on)

    - Building quality content and being regular at that
    - Networking with numerous bloggers
    - Build social media footprint

    It’s a waste of time if you intend to make money without at least 500 search visits per day. The ad banners and the ads could be placed in the beginning ONLY as a filler if that helps the site design look good.
    Check out Ajith Edassery’s awesome post.HostGator Black Friday Offer – 80 OFF on all Hosting PackagesMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Ajith,

      You’ve raised a good point. If we’re not getting enough search traffic, chances are the ads we put on our blogs will not generate an income. That said, we also don’t want to start with a clean and crisp blog, only to have it turn into a billboard once our traffic soars.

  19. AmyNo Gravatar says:

    Appreciated looking in the mirror, Barbara! Oh boy. I know about the SEO, but I have not studied it so am not sure if I am using the right words, tags, etc.

    I’ve missed this blog very much. I finally came by today after realizing I have not been RSSed with updates on a few blogs. I really don’t know what happened, but I will be doing some back reading so I continue my learning curve.

    Really appreciate all the help you give.
    Check out Amy’s awesome post.The Guides – After the Archangel’s VisitMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Amy,

      I hear you. I know SEO is important, but am also aware there’s lots to learn in that regard. With blogging, we never lack for things to learn, do we?

  20. Brandon CoxNo Gravatar says:

    I shoulda started with multiple blogs to begin with. I had a personal blog that became a ministry and leadership blog that become a personal, ministry leadership, design and communication blog. Now I’ve launched separate sites for each and I’ve lost a lot of time on SEO. Shoulda started out with a blog for each major heading.
    Check out Brandon Cox’s awesome post.If I Were Preaching a Christmas Sermon SeriesMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Brandon,

      That’s how we learn, hey? As John Hoff (see comment above) pointed out, that’s where proper research comes in handy. It’s sad when we start on the wrong foot, only to realize later on, all of that work may be for naught.

  21. If I could to do it all over again I’d be more strategic in commenting and everything else. I’d look sooner at what was working and what was not and be more decisive about changing strategies. I’d quit playing those silly games of comparison. But it’s all good.
    Check out Tom Volkar / Delightful Work’s awesome post.Leveraging Your Deepest WoundMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Tom,

      Yes. It’s all good, and that’s how we become better bloggers, but you’ve raised a good point. If we are more strategic about what’s working and what’s not early on, chances are we could be further along than if we hadn’t.

  22. green coffeeNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara, just want to say I love how fearless this post is. Most people wouldn’t be so bold to enumerate their mistakes but here you are listing them down in bullet points! Thank you for writing this. As a new blogger, this helps me and teaches me a lot.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Green Coffee,

      I’m happy to hear by sharing my mistakes with others, it’s helping you; a new blogger. On that note, I hope you’ve also taken the time to read the rest of the comments since fellow bloggers are sharing what they’ve learned, as well.

      Happy Blogging!

  23. Barbara, if I could do it again I don’t think I would have started blogging in the first place. Or, I would have published and kept the comments closed and submitted articles to other sites to increase visibility and attract traffic. It would have been strictly business.

    Don’t get me wrong… I LOVE the people who comment on my blog and I wouldn’t want it any other way now that I’ve reached this point. But, it is SO easy to become “friends” with people online and spend more time in front of the computer as a result. Online friends are more accessible through reading their posts and comments and via social networks. If you have a dozen “friends” the chances of one or two of them being online at any given time of day are pretty high. There’s always someone to talk to.

    It’s easy to get caught up in those connections and spend less time out with real people who you can actually see and do things with. Considering offline people these days are so caught up in raising families and working to support those families, they seem to have less time to spend with other people. So, the tendency IS to spend more time in front of the computer. It’s a vicious cycle.

    I still consider myself lucky to have made the online friends that I have made. There are some fabulous people out there. I just wish we could visit in person.
    Check out Davina Haisell’s awesome post.When Writing Goes StaleMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Davina,

      I, for one, am thrilled you started blogging, but I do know what you’re saying. If we’re trying to promote a business endeavor, spending time commenting and/or chatting with online friends can easily take us away from the business itself. Like you said, it is a vicious cycle, and if we’re not careful, that which is paying the bills could unintentionally end up on the back burner.

  24. JennNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara,
    What a great post and no kidding a trip down memory lane for so many of us!
    When I first started making web sites and later blogging I had also never really knew much about SEO and was so busy writing it never really occurred to me that I needed a way to let potential readers know that I was there!
    I also fussed so much about making style and theme changes early on when my readership was probably just limited to search engine bots.
    Love your blog —
    Jenn

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Jenn,

      I think that’s easy to do; to spend time on portions of a blog which *should* wait until later. Like you mentioned, we can blog and post to our heart’s content, but if we’re not learning HOW to get our target audience to find us, we could end up in a position where we never get found. :(

  25. Miss BeckyNo Gravatar says:

    This is a great post, and informative comments too. I’ve found that I don’t usually spend much time reading other people’s comments on the blogs I visit, but rather go directly to leaving my own comment and then I move on. It’s more time-saving that way. Not so today, as I’ve read all the comments here and find them helpful. I agree with Davina, I’ve learned that my day becomes not much more than time spent at a computer, and then I feel like it isn’t really “real” because all of that interaction isn’t in person, with a real person. I too had difficulties finding my blogging voice, and still have trouble deciding how much of my personal life to share. I closed all my social networking accounts because I felt it was sharing too much and I was giving away a part of myself in the process. So…it is still a struggle, but it’s getting easier.

  26. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Thank you Miss Becky,

    That’s true, isn’t it? When we’re communicating with others online and then look back on the amount of time we’ve spent doing so, in some ways it doesn’t feel *real*, but on the other hand, we may have learned more than if we hadn’t been online.

    It can be difficult to find our blogging voice, but what I find works best for me is to write in the same manner in which I talk and that way the words just flow.

  27. AnnaNo Gravatar says:

    I just want to recollect my early blog posting memory – I was afraid of writing and my blog posts looked like small unconnected and uniteresting notes from some crazy man even if I was writing about something interesting. What I wasn’t care about was earning money with my blog.
    Now I also do the same as you do. Barbara, I just write as I talk but now I even talk better.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Anna,

      That’s true. When we first start blogging and only have a few posts in our archives, our blog may appear to have no rhyme nor reason. The more we blog, the closer we get to finding our voice and like you mentioned, the process can also help us talk better, as well.

  28. Keith DavisNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara
    Fortunately I knew something of SEO for static sites and the same applies to a WordPress blog.
    I spent a lot of time getting a domain name right and finding a theme that looked good and had a help desk – I tremble if anyone mentions PHP.
    I spent most of my time learning how to use WordPress and add plugins, contact forms etc.

    I’m not a big fan of learning from your mistakes… I’d rather find the info you need and do the job properly.

    Good point about the sort of traffic that you need to make money blogging – sad but true.
    Check out Keith Davis’s awesome post.Look for the Shining EyesMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Keith,

      With you knowing SEO, that put you way ahead of a new blogger (like me) who had never even heard of search engine optimization.

      I agree. It’s ideal if we can find someone to learn from instead of learning by trial and error. That’s such a time saver.

      P.S. It’s good seeing you again. :)

      • Keith DavisNo Gravatar says:

        It’s good to be back Barbara – been very busy with other things.
        BTW – if anyone is interested in SEO they should Google SEOMoz and take a look at ther videos and free reports.

        Rand Fishkin over at SEOMoz almost makes SEO interesting… almost.
        Check out Keith Davis’s awesome post.Look for the Shining EyesMy Profile

  29. Tony SingleNo Gravatar says:

    Barbara, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who made all those classic rookie mistakes, although it took me over a year of frustration and then burn out to back off of those tactics. I’m glad I no longer worry about those things and now, as a result, have more space to make all new mistakes! ;)

  30. Do you know of any other services like Google Adsense? I’ve been looking for that ever since mine got disabled.

  31. I think that “If I build it, they will come” can apply to some extents. It’s just that the traffic will build slower. However, word of a well written blog will spread if people who have found it like it.

    Ultimately, SEO can only get a site temporary traffic – if people don’t like what they see, they will click off – so content is still the most important aspect if you want regular visitors.

    One mistake I think is rather common is to make your blog too diverse. A blog which isn’t about anything in particular is a hard sell.