The last few years have been a whirlwind of events for those of us in the marketing business. Between the rise of social media, Google’s pinball-machine of algorithm updates, and the quest for consumer attention between the two channels, many of us have either starved or thrived as these constant changes affected our business.
You’ve read the stories – huge digital brands that went down the tubes after Google caught their black-hat linking schemes. Or the mom-and-pop small business that hired some BS SEO dude to do the same and was no where to be found after HIS business tanked after an algorithm update.
Then you have the “MySpaces” of the world, or even worse the businesses that built tools or services around these failed social media/networks that are no longer relevant. Can you imagine being the guy who’s business revolved around getting more MySpace friends? I bet that guy is cleaning dishes somewhere hating his life right about now.
I could ramble on for hours about all the missteps a business could have made or could continue to make as we hang on for the ride. I’m happy to say that my own business hasn’t suffered from any shady SEO technique or social media fad. I’ve always been very forward-thinking in my marketing concepts and practices. So how did my business crash and burn during all of this?
Because I did nothing. Now, don’t get me wrong, I kept myself quite busy as best as I could, but I didn’t do ENOUGH to prevent what happened. I spent years building my business and then once I had it, I took it for granted and thought it would always be there. I didn’t listen to my own advice and ended up learning the following lessons the hard way.
The good thing is, I’m still here today to teach you these valuable lessons so you don’t have to start over from scratch like I am. Take these 5 important lessons and learn from them – don’t let the same happen to you and your business!
1. Not Updating Content/Blog
So if you’re not familiar with me, HI! My name’s Eric and for the last 10 years I’ve been preaching the good book about content and how it can promote your business. I use to blog all the time here about the music business and it make me a little bit of money as a web developer and marketing consultant for musicians.
Then one day I stopped. I thought I was too busy to worry about blogging any more. As a one man show, I was burnt-out from spending 12 hours a day online taking care of client work. After a year or two of very sporadic blogging, and after deciding I was DONE working for musicians, I shifted my focus to more B2B work. I removed all music-related keywords from my site and turned off any lead generation tools I had. It was at that time that I realized I had nothing to fall back on and my site had no current discussions for anyone to read about. If your website isn’t relevant to anybody visiting it’s a sure bet that Google will take notice, and over those few years my traffic took a nose dive due to lack of any real updates or relevant information on my site.
Lesson Learned: Update Your Website & Blog Regularly and Stay On Top of Your Industry
2. Not Maintaining Security
As a WordPress developer for the last 7 years, I’m used to websites getting hacked. It’s usually not a big deal – someone get’s into the theme and adds a line of code that messes with a small website. No biggie.
If you’re smart, you have a handful of security plugins and techniques you use to keep your site secure. You update WordPress when the new version comes out, and keep your theme files and plugins updated as well. Then comes the day you STOP doing that, for the same reasons as not updating your blog – laziness. Then you get super-hacked, like I did last August. My site got hacked and it stayed hacked for over 2 months. I just didn’t have the time or expertise to really figure out what the hell went wrong, and by the time I did, Google hadn’t crawled my site in quite some time (not like it mattered) and I was stuck in “hacked-site hell”. After I got her back online, things were never the same again.
This didn’t just stop with my personal site – I’ve also had client sites hacked over the years. Some were easy fixes and others we’re a pain in the butt to fix. I had clients who understood the nature of the web and others who got mad at me, despite the fact that they paid me for a one-off website that came with no on-going updates or security measures. These things lead me to change my pricing and business model in regards to how I would handle web development in the future – not as a product but as a service.
Lesson Learned: Take Security Seriously – Use Proper Security Measures to Protect Your Website
3. Not Backing Up Files
Nothing to much to say here, as it follows our last lesson – back up your damn files! These days we are more and more in the cloud so backing up important files is a pretty easy task – hell, I’ve lost a few computers over the last few years and know what a big deal that can be. As a matter-of-fact, a month after my site was hacked and went down, my laptop shit the bed and that’s where things really started to crash and burn. Without a website to generate business and a laptop to actually do work on, I was officially screwed. Oh and the whole not-having-money or savings or credit didn’t help but this isn’t a lecture on how to save money so I won’t bore you with all that stuff!
The laptop thing isn’t the big lesson here though – it was my database that I failed to backup and protect. You see, that big hack that went down – yep, it affected my database, something that for years I had backed up via an automated WordPress plugin. Something happened, in my attempt to get my site back online (and by not updating the WP Database Backup plugin), that corrupted whatever database file I had left. I had one, and got my site back, but I lost 2 years worth of content. A ton of posts, articles, and in general killer content was gone (most of my premium Label 2.0 content vanished, for those of you who remember that or tried to access it). If you scroll down to the “recent comments” in the footer here, you’ll notice because I just started blogging again, that there isn’t any posts with comments since 2009
Lesson Learned – Keep Your Database Backed up!
4. Not Maintaining Social Media
Would you hire a marketing consultant who didn’t keep up their social media profiles? Neither would I, which is why I wouldn’t have hired myself a year or two ago. Again I used the “not enough time” lazy excuse to people who would question why I wasn’t staying active on Twitter or Facebook.
Even after a solid year of maintaining very active profiles across the major social networks, it doesn’t mean that I’m swimming in social media fans. It sometimes can be a pain in the butt but maintaining social media is all part of keeping up with the practice that I preach. Just posting to Twitter alone isn’t going to make or break your business, it’s all apart of an overall content sharing strategy. What it does more then anything is show my website visitors that I’m all over the marketing game and sharing resources about it on a daily basis, which adds a lot to my credibility. Every day I get important new followers and am slowly building a network of people who are paying attention to me.
If I wasn’t such a slacker I would have been doing that since day one (I joined Twitter in 2007, if my memory serves me right!) and it would have had a profound impact on my business.
Lesson Learned: Maintain Your Social Media Presence
5. Not Staying Current on Trends
Last but not least is a dichotomy of sorts when it comes to this business. Some minds will tell you not to get caught up in the daily stream of never-ending articles about how to rank in Google or how to use social media to grow your business blah blah blah. It’s really easy to get distracted by all the talk and noise when you should be keeping your focus on your work and learning about what’s working or not working by show of either successes or failures.
While I DID keep my focus on my work again I still should have found that there IS a balance you can find that enables you to stay up-to-date on relevant news and commentary. Where I slipped up was when I waited weeks before opening up my feed reader and realized that I was way behind on the news regarding Google updates. How could I possibly be taken seriously if I addressed these things weeks or sometimes months after they happened? I realized I was behind the curve a little when my clients and prospects started talking about things they had read online that I didn’t have all the answers for.
This obviously had an impact on my social media and blogging – if you’re not aware of what’s going on, you have nothing to say or share. Now if you check out my social media profiles, it’s very obvious that I have my finger on the pulse, and that goes a long way when a potential client is trying to decide over hiring me VS the competition.
It sucks that I had to experience failure in all of these areas in order to write this post for you – it was’nt fun by any means. Watching something you worked so hard to build burn is one of the most depressing experiences of my life, but it needed to happen. It solidified the things that I teach others and proved how important these things are to the life of a business, and now that the smoke has cleared and I see where I went wrong it’s an inspiration to get back to work and re-build. I hope these insights help you in your own ventures, and that you’ll share some of your own in the comments below.