Things all bloggers wish they’d known when they started blogging
August 17, 2020
Think back to when you started blogging and imagine that you knew then what you know now. How much easier would your blogging life have been!
When we first started our first blog 5 years ago it was definitely a case of ‘winging it’. We had no idea about all the rules and hacks to get blog posts seen or on to the first page of Google.
5 years later and we’ve learnt so much, thanks to publishing lots of blog posts, taking courses, and a lot of trial and error.
Whether you’re new to blogging and want to learn as much as possible before you get going, or are an experienced blogger who has also learnt a lot along the way, take a look at this list of things all bloggers wish they’d known when they started blogging…
Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links which means that we may earn a small commission at no cost to you if you make a purchase via one of these links.
Writing posts takes time
Before you start blogging you think that writing a post is quick, maybe 30 minutes tops. How wrong we were!
Writing a blog post takes a lot longer than you think. When you add up the time spent to carry out keyword research, write the post, proofread, format, find images, optimise, and schedule social media posts, you can often spend 2 hours or more writing one post.
Once you’ve been blogging for a while you no longer fool yourself into thinking “I’ll just write a quick blog post”. Instead you make sure you have a couple of hours spare to give your blog your full attention.
You need a plan
As you get into blogging you’ll find that having a plan is essential. To get regular traffic to your blog you need to publish regular posts. Publishing regular posts means you need lots of ideas and to consistently get new content out there. For all of this you need a plan.
Your blogging plan could simply be a calendar of what you plan to post when, or it could be a more complex spreadsheet. Work at least a few weeks in advance so you have your next few posts scheduled, and don’t forget to plan any seasonal content way in advance to make the most out of search engine traffic.
Blogging is a lot more than just writing
As mentioned above, writing a blog post is only a very small part of being a blogger. To have a successful blog you also need to know about keyword research, SEO, social media, website design, and lots more.
After a couple of years of blogging you will know enough to give most Digital Marketers a run for their money!
Self-hosting is vital
There are lots of free options for new bloggers but if you want a successful blog you need to take the step to self-host. This costs money but it is worth it, without a self-hosted blog you won’t be able to make money blogging.
Self-hosting is something that can be done at any time, but if we’d known how important it was we’d have done this from the start to avoid any hassle!
You also don’t want to pick the cheapest self-hosting option – we speak from experience when we say it will cost you more money (and stress) in the long run.
If you haven’t yet self-hosted we’d strongly recommend Siteground. Their customer service is excellent and if you already have a blog they will help you to move it over to one of their hosting solutions.
Keyword research is important
Our early blog posts were so simple, we wrote what we felt like, using the words that popped into our head and we were done. That’s also why those posts don’t get much traffic from Google!
Before you start writing use an SEO tool to do keyword research on the subject, and find the keywords and phrases that people are typing into search engines. This will help your posts to show up in the search results. We now know that we can’t write a blog post without first doing some keyword research.
Many bloggers join every social media platform when they first set up their blog and spend a lot of time posting to all accounts. You don’t need to be on every single social network though. Where you need to be will depend on your niche – which social networks do your followers use?
For this blog we started by using Instagram, however found that as blogging tips don’t naturally lend themselves to photos (and Instagram doesn’t drive traffic), we were better off spending our time creating pins to help people find answers to their questions.
To be fair, when we started blogging 5 years ago not many bloggers were using Pinterest to generate traffic. However, over the last few years Pinterest has become a big deal in the blogging world, and many bloggers wish they’d jumped on the pinning train much sooner.
We were so focused on SEO for a while and trying to get traffic from Google that we put Pinterest to one side. Now though, we know that Pinterest generates a lot more traffic for us than SEO and much quicker, so we definitely wish we’d started pinning sooner.
If you haven’t started pinning yet, what are you waiting for? You can read up on this post about the latest Pinterest best practices, and get your free trial of Tailwind here. Tailwind is a massive time-saver when it comes to scheduling pins.
Engage, engage, engage
It’s not enough to just schedule lots of social media posts pointing to your blog, you also need to spend time engaging with your followers. As you build up an audience and people get to know you, they will be more likely to want to read your blog posts.
If you just post and run, you’ll never manage to create a loyal reader basis who wait for you to publish new posts. You may also been seen as a bit spammy.
Like, share and comment on other people’s posts. Get to know your followers. Respond to all comments and questions you receive. Set aside time in your week to engage with your audience as well as to write blog posts.
Start an email list from day 1
We, like many other bloggers, thought we had to wait until we were getting a decent amount of blog traffic before starting an email list. In reality you need to start collecting email addresses from day 1 so that by the time you’re getting a decent amount of pageviews, you already have a long list of people to get in contact with.
If you want to know more, check out our blog post on how to build an email list with your first 100 subscribers.
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Join affiliate networks early on
When we started blogging we had no idea what affiliate marketing even was (if you’re not sure you can find out more here) let alone how to use affiliate links. Once we understood what affiliate marketing was we joined a load of networks and started earning some money.
The best affiiliate network for bloggers we have used is Shareasale. There are so many different products and services here that you are sure to find something you can use on your blog to start to generate an income.
It took us even longer to realise that our fellow bloggers also offered some fantastic affiliate marketing opportunities, and many of these offer much better commissions than the affiliate networks. Find some successful bloggers in your niche and see what products they are selling, this could be courses, ebooks, pin templates, photographs, printables and more. The chances are, if they are selling products they will also have an affiliate program.
Create your own products
Creating products is one of the best ways to make money blogging and also to drive traffic to your site. Even if you’re not fussed about selling a product, offering some kind of freebie on your blog is a really great way to get more traffic.
Think about what you could offer to your readers. Is there a checklist that would help them save time? Could you write an ebook to answer their questions more in-depth than you can in a single blog post?
You don’t have to wait to create your own products until you have a successful blog. Start small and offer more as your blog grows. If you haven’t created a product before, check out this post on how to create a freebie for your blog.
This meant absolutely nothing to us when we started blogging, we just went with the default structure of having the date within the link, after all why wouldn’t that be ok? We now know that this isn’t good for SEO, but one of our blogs have almost 500 posts and it’s a massive amount of work to change the link structure.
If you’re about to start a blog, or only have a few posts, set your permalink structure to only display the post title.
Install Google Analytics
If you set up your first blog on WordPress you’ll see stats displayed on the dashboard. This is great as it shows you how many people are reading your blog posts. But what we didn’t realise when we started blogging is that these stats aren’t actually that accurate and don’t tell you all the information you need,
By installing Google analytics you can find out so much more valuable information about your blog visitors, what they are reading, where they are from, how long they spend on your blog, etc. Take a look at this post on 5 Google Analytics stats bloggers need to track,
But don’t obsess over stats
When you first install Google Analytics you’ll probably spend the first week or so refreshing the app constantly to see how many people have read your latest post. Not only is this a waste of your time, it can also be quite demoralising if the stats aren’t what you hoped for.
Try to just check once or twice a week, and make this a more in-depth check where you analyse what is going right or wrong, and what you need to change or do more of.
Ignore the trolls
Almost all bloggers will get a negative comment or two in their time. This might be on your blog posts or it might be on social media. The first time this happens you will take it to heart and spend a lot of time thinking about the comment, how to respond, and what you’ve done wrong. Our best advice is to ignore, delete the comment if it really bothers you or is offensive, and move on. Don’t take it personally, every blogger gets negative comments at some point.
If you’ve been blogging for a while, do any of these sounds familiar? Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing!
If you’re new to blogging, we hope that these save you some time and headaches in your blogging journey.