If you’re here and you’re just now starting (or thinking of starting) your own blog, then congrats! You’re giving this more thought than I did when I started blogging.
I started blogging in 2012 because I was unemployed, I couldn’t find work (aside from the occasional temp job), and had nothing better to do. It wasn’t until a year later that I even thought about traffic or monetizing…and the second bit was only with some push from Zach.
If I could start all over again, here are some things I wish I had known.
1. Don’t fret about your first post and don’t worry about introducing yourself.
If you’re on the WordPress platform, the first post on your blog is automatically called, “Hello World!” You can go ahead and delete that. The “world” won’t be watching you for quite a while. As for introducing yourself, that’s what your About Me page is for (and you should have an About Me page. If people really like your posts, that’s the first thing they’ll look for).
My first REAL post was a letter I painted and hung up on my front door. The photos were taken with my iPhone. It was years before that post got any real attention.
Just make your first post whatever you want it to be and promote the crap out of it later as you start gaining momentum on social media. As I’ve mentioned before, your social media presence is very important.
2. You don’t get traffic by simply existing.
It took me a LONG time to start getting real traffic. Three things could have changed that: better photography, doing link parties correctly, and a better social media presence.
Social media is VERY important for getting views. The very first thing you should do when you decide on your blog’s name, AFTER registering for the domain, should be to register that name on every social media site you can think of. Even if you don’t want to use that site, it’s important to make sure no one else is able to claim your brand name.
The ones that most people find useful are Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I also really like Tumblr. If you’re a food blogger, submitting your photography to Foodgawker and Tastespotting is important. If you get rejected, they’ll tell you what to fix (so you can improve) and if you get accepted, it’s GREAT for traffic.
3. Choose a niche carefully.
When I started, I wanted to do only DIY.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that DIY is expensive (even if it’s to avoid paying more) and coming up with and posting a DIY regularly is very difficult.
When choosing your niche, take two things into account:
- write about what you want to read about, and
- choose something that you know you can constantly talk about.
You don’t want to be running out of ideas for content after a month (though writer’s block happens, even for bloggers!). Updating multiple times a week is ideal, for the sake of having more posts drawing in traffic AND for SEO. (Speaking of which, SEO is complicated, but VERY important. I recommend looking up some blog posts about it on Google and learning how to do it. It’s too much information for this blog post, unfortunately.)
4. Reach out and find great resources.
Blogging is like any other job–there’s a learning curve. Anyone can start a blog, but not anyone can be a successful blogger. The ones who do become successful go out of their way to learn and keep up with new information. Blogging is a constantly changing beast, so you need to stay on your toes (especially with social media).
Learn to Blog Hangouts is VERY helpful. I’d recommend watching all of their videos and taking notes. I won’t talk too much about all of the resources I use, though, since I did that in How I Monetized My Blog and 30+ Helpful Blog Posts About Blogging. You can also find great resources through Pinterest and by Googling any questions you have.
5. Readers care about how you’re going to help them.
Readers initially come to your blog because you’re offering a solution to their problems, not because they care about the mundane details of your life. I know that sounds harsh, but this is true for all of us. No one actually cares if my recipes came from my grandmother or from a magazine–they’re just hungry and they want me (or another blogger) to fix it. But your readers will GROW to care about you as they read your blog posts and get to know you. Which is why you should still be personable even if you’re posting a tutorial. People will come for your solutions, but they’ll stay because you’re relatable and you make them feel comfortable.
For food blogs, people come to your site because they need dinner ideas. For DIY blogs, they do it because they want to do a project, save money, and/or probably just drool over your pretty home (this is the one area where a “solution to a problem” is more subtle, because you can get away with just posting photos of your home for people to use as inspiration. But talking about how you did it and where you got certain items is a huge bonus).
If you’re a photography blog, people will enjoy your pretty pictures, but they’re not going to go out of their way to visit and see what new landscaping photo you took. They’ll want tutorials–“How to Stage a Great Recipe Photo,” “How to Edit Photos,” “How to Get Your Kids to Sit Still for Long Exposures,” “How to Make Your Christmas Tree Look Like It’s Glowing,” or even just the “Elements of a Great Photo.” Pretty photography will draw them in (it’s the entire reason Pinterest is so successful). But the next question they’ll have is, “What kind of camera/lens/settings did you use?”
I’m probably going to add on to this later. In the meantime, what are some things you wish you’d known when you started? For those who are new, what are some things you find confusing? Leave it in the comments!