How I Failed My Authority Business Blog: 7 Lessons Learned

written by Ivan Widjaya on March 5, 2013 in Personal Development and Tips with no comments

Failure is the best teacher. I embrace it as a part of my entrepreneurial journey, but some failures are difficult to overcome. One of them is how I single-handedly bring my authority business blog down to the ground. Lessons learned, and if you are going to build an authority business blog – or even already have an established one, be sure you read this blog post before it’s all too late.

fail blog

As you might have already known, Biz Penguin is not my first blog. I’ve built hundreds of websites during my 5-year online entrepreneurship career, yet only a handful is proven to be clear winner. One of them is a business blog I build from zero to 120,000 visitors/month with sweat and tears in 4 years, which I – due to my ignorance and inexperience – ditched it to the gutter.

Ironically, the business blog was my first and my most successful blog of all time. I remember the first time I wrote my blog post, it was about a dropshipping company which service I used to help me find a supplier to my first and only e-commerce site – that failed miserably.

As you can see, I do fail. A lot. That’s why I hone my skills to overcome failures and use them for doing things better; that’s why I keep on standing up even though I fall numerous times; that’s why I can write the very blog post you read right now.

Let’s just say I am an enthusiastic failure :)

“Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm” – Winston Churchill

Now, let’s go back to the business blog fail; you see, it’s still difficult to discern why this blog stumbled, but I have gotten over it – and learn a great deal.

The authoritative business blog is pretty much having a good reputation online. It attracts reputable guest authors, and some of them are turned into regular contributors. A lawyer, business broker, financial adviser, lecturer, business owner, entrepreneur, consultant… the list can go on and on. Such roster of authors have raised the blog’s reputation; that’s why The New York Times’ You’re the Boss Blog mentioned the blog’s posts a couple of times; that’s why SmallBizTrends.com’s articles mention my blog posts several times.

Although the business blog is not one of the most popular ones, it’s clearly viewed as one of the authorities in small business.

A milestone the small biz blog reached is when it’s picked up by Google News. You see, when your articles are on Google News, expect your website to be flooded with targeted visitors, who are news readers, business owners, professionals, media people and so on. It’s quite an achievement for me.

Google and the other search engines love the biz blog, too, it seemed… the blog post pages are ranked on top of search engine result pages, and thousands of Googlers visit my biz blog – every single day.

But then disaster strike. I became complacent; that’s why success is a bad, bad teacher, indeed.

“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose” – Bill Gates

I understand you might have heard about the Google Panda update. It’s a major update on how Google ranks a website. The series of updates reward authoritative content and penalize low-quality content.

You might have thought that my reputable biz blog was safe, right? It’s an authority blog, after all! Well, I’m “happy” to report that the blog survive several Panda updates, and then, about one year since the first Panda update, the blog was (finally) hit hard. Along with the next major series of updates called Penguin, my biz blog was hit even harder.

Firstly, perhaps a coincidence, my biz blog was kicked out from Google News. Then the pages that was ranked above Entrepreneur.com’s articles and the rest, dropped in ranking, even missing from the search results altogether.

To cut long story short, here’s the aftermath: I lose 80 percent of traffic; and that, of course, affecting my overall income quite significantly. I was devastated, but what’s worse, the slide continues – it seems that it’s unstoppable.

But I’ve found something – it’s probably a road to recovery. It’s a long road, but a worth taking. Read on.

Lessons learned

I’ve learned a great deal from the slump, and would like to take this opportunity to share 10 of many lessons I learned:

Psychological-side lessons:

1. Don’t procrastinate – don’t feed your ego with success

When things were picking up, I started to compromise on quality. I thought “wow – I can now slow down and relax” – I was wrong!

I started to take things for granted, and think that success is within reach. I enjoy how the blog’s doing and I was planning to do big things with the site. However, I forgot that high rise buildings are standing firm because of the strong foundation. My biz blog turned out to be weak in the foundation.

I forget to make it better at the back-end and prepare the blog for the future, thinking that what I do is sufficient and all I need is just following-through what worked out in the past.

2. Don’t play a stupid game of “who work less”

I was a strong advocate of “working less, earning more” – I pursue that in my entrepreneurial career, trying to develop a way to work less, while increasing my income-per-hour significantly. I actually made it, but I do it for the wrong reason.

My mistake was that I caught into the game of “who work less” – I try to work less for the sake of working less itself. It’s like a personal pursuit with no clear focus at the end. Upon reaching a milestone, I was like, “okay – I now manage to work 2 hours a day – then what?” I keep on pursuing on working less and earning more, but I forgot one thing: While I work less and don’t really know how to properly use the rest of the free time, other people who manage to reduce their on-the-work time boom their business.

What’s the difference? Well, those who have made it use their free time to develop a system that can build highly-replicable, lean, sustainable businesses; they become serial entrepreneurs who exponentially grow their business – in their “free” time.

I, instead of working on a system that can replicate my authority biz blog’s success faster, will lower failure rate, I try to let my creativity wild, building different things only to see most of them failed – and I learn nothing about building a successful blog faster – even I forgot to acquire new ways to grow the business blog! I was late in realizing it, and I get the consequences.

Technical-side lessons:

3. Don’t play around with search engines’ Terms of Services (TOS)

Terms of services are there to make sure website owners and users are playing by the rule. When you are trying to use shady techniques – and get caught – you will be punished.

My biz blog was actually doing gray-area-SEO techniques; I thought that if many do it successfully, why can’t I enjoy success, too? I was using link wheels, I indirectly bought links (mainly via WordPress themes sponsorship) and so on…

The best advice I can give you is if you want to rank high on Google, play by Google’s rules – don’t whine and rant. It’s that simple. Sure, you want to get results fast, but quite often such strategy backfires.

4. Stop approving low quality guest posts

It’s no longer a secret: guest posts are great for SEO/link building. Unfortunately, many abuse the system, in such a way that the post’s quality is sub-par.

I was more than happy to get so-so posts up and running. I thought that publishing blog posts often will draw in more visitors. I was right, until Google Panda updates. With Panda, your low quality articles will bring the whole site down. No mercy.

So, if you want to survive on Google long term you need to remove or rewrite low quality content on your biz blog.

5. Stop experimenting new things – on your main web property!

My authority business blog was also the place for me to try new things to see whether it will work or not. This is a stupid mistake: How can I use my top biz blog as a crash test dummy?

I try SEO/link building strategy on it; I arrange – and rearrange – layout and structure as I wish on it; I use experimental content writing strategy on it; all I did was trying to grow it into a better blog.

My mistake is, again, due to the fact that I try things out on my main blog. I should do it on a blog which purpose is to see how things work – or don’t work.

Financial-side lessons:

6. Don’t take anyone who pays on board

When an advertiser pays, I should do whatever I can to do as he/she wishes, right? Wrong. You CAN reject advertisers who don’t share your vision.

Sure, the money is nice, but if you are getting paid for something that could damage your site’s reputation, you might want to respectfully reject the offer and stay away from such offers in the future.

7. Reinvest the profits – in THAT particular blog!

I do retain a significant amount of profits for business growth; my big mistake: I use most of the retained profits from the business blog to nurture my network of blogs. The result? When the time comes, my authority blog lacks “inner strengths” to compete with the others; I should hire people to make my biz blog better, instead of spending the retained profits on riskier projects.

My authority blog is like a cash cow that feeds the rest. I should do things better – which I do right now – e.g. reinvesting Biz Penguin’s profits for growing Biz Penguin – none others.

Takeaway

Sometimes it takes a good fall to know that gravity favors someone who keeps his feet grounded.

When you are “grounded”, stay on focus and don’t learn from your own success, chances are you will know that when there’s a road block in front of you all you need do is to avoid it right on time.

When you are failing due to the vision-blocking success you have, you will soon know that you do something wrong; it does hurt failing right after you found your success. Learn from it, be humble and stay humble; before you know it, you will be a wiser person and entrepreneur.

Now what’s in the future for my business blog? A story of revival, I hope!

I won’t give up on the blog (NEVER!) and will continue to find ways to get it back on track – even if I failed, I won’t regret it because I have tried to do my best.

So, are you struggling with a declining business? Are you working hard on your business yet you still don’t see any improvement? Well, don’t lose hope – keep on trying things out… you will find a way, eventually!

Further reading

Here is a small collection of blog posts I recommend you to read; they are all filled with useful tips. A bit of been there done that here and there, but all in all following the tips will avoid you from business blogging (and blog building) pitfalls…


Project Management & Planning Apps