And now the sky is falling. Seasoned bloggers lament the fact that blogging just isn’t what it used to be, when traffic came fast and easy via group boards and automated pinning. Gone are the dates when page views were plentiful, ad rates were high, and you just didn’t have to work quite so hard.
New bloggers wonder why they can’t seem to get the traction that seemed to come so easily to everyone else, and worry that they might be too late to the scene. They worry that they’ve missed the boat.
Because the reality of this online world that we occupy is that it changes quickly. Platforms rise and fall. And so if you want to survive—and even thrive—in this world, you’ll need to figure out a way to transcend all those changes and build something that will last.
I learned this lesson all too well in my first year of blogging, when I was writing a lot about how to use coupons. In those days—2010—getting more blog traffic was all about SEO, and so I read every book and article I could about the subject. I optimized every page and every post on my site, and in early 2011, all that behind-the-scenes effort paid off big time when the show “Extreme Couponing” burst onto the scene and suddenly everyone wanted to know how to use coupons—the very topic I had optimized my site for.
For a while, life was good. I hit the sweet spot of high-paying ads combined with great SEO combined with a topic that everyone was searching for.
But it didn’t last. Almost as fast as the coupon craze burst onto the scene, it faded away again, as I panicked seeing that I was powerless to stop the inevitable. And while I was thankful to be in the right place at the right time, I also learned that putting all your eggs into a basket you can’t control is never a good thing.
A few years later, I experienced a similar wave with Facebook. For some unknown reason, the Facebook gods smiled upon me, and my page grew exponentially in a very short time, from around 30,000 likes to more than 500,000 in just a few months. Every post went viral. My traffic was through the roof.
Once again, life was good.
And then, one day, as if someone very cruel decided to turn off the faucet, it all went away. Literally overnight, my Facebook reach dropped to almost zero and my traffic disappeared. Once again, I panicked. It felt like my life as a blogger was over. How would I ever recover?
But luckily by sheer force of luck, literally just a few days after this overnight Facebook catastrophe, I attended a conference for influencers and online business owners called Launch. I had signed up for it months before, while my numbers were soaring and I was at the top of the world, but I arrived feeling broken and defeated. I was sure all hope was lost, so what was the point of even trying?
What I certainly wasn’t expecting was for that conference to be the turning point for my entire business. But I listened to the ever-brilliant Dan Miller talk about products, and about how every time he gets asked the same question three times, he creates a product, and I started to get excited. And then I listened to someone else talk about how we all have assets in our business, and the key to success is learning how to recognize and then leverage those assets, and I had an epiphany.
I realized I was chasing stats instead of building a business, and that the path I was on—one completely outside of my control–would never allow me to feel safe and secure.
And so I started focusing on the things I could control, things like creating more value for the people already in front of me. I stopped focusing on vanity metrics like page views and Facebook likes and instead worked on building my email list and developing a stronger relationship with my audience. This in turn allowed me to create products that could solve the problems they were already telling me about.
It was a game changer, one that transformed my low 6-figure business into a thriving 7-figure business, a business that has more than doubled in revenue every single year since. In fact this year, despite the fact that due to the Pinterest changes my blog traffic is only half of what it was last year, we still are on track to triple last year’s revenue.
But looking back, I realize so clearly that had I not experienced that devastating Facebook crash just a few days before the Launch Conference, I would never have experienced that breakthrough! Instead, I would have shown up thinking I was already doing pretty great—and so why rock the boat? I would have never had the motivation or the humility to realize that what I was doing wasn’t really as great as I thought it was, and that it could go away at any time.
In hindsight, that Facebook crash—the one I thought was the end of the world–was the best thing that ever happened to me.
The truth is that within every catastrophe lies an opportunity, and the difference between success and failure is choosing to look for the opportunity, rather than someone or something to blame.
Yes, the fact that the Pinterest Smart Feed has changed is annoying and frustrating and probably even a little—or a lot-scary, especially if you’ve seen your income drop. It’s also scary when Google makes an update that affects your SEO, or when Facebook reach drops to zero.
But in the midst of catastrophe is also your opportunity to reassess and to figure out what IS working for you, as well as what is not. What hidden assets have you been ignoring while everything was going well? What clues can you find from the questions your audience has been asking? How focused have you been on building your email list and growing an audience that isn’t at the mercy of someone else’s algorithms?
Change is scary, but it is also necessary. And it is also human nature to resist change until you are forced to act. Perhaps this is the universe telling you it is time to try something new.
And maybe, just maybe, a year from now you’ll be talking about how the Pinterest crash of 2016 was the best thing that ever happened to you.
Which leaves me with just one question—what are you going to do now?