May 9, 2016

18 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started My First Blog

When I first started blogging, I didn’t know too much about it. In fact, I didn’t even know people were making money through their blogs. I was working at a job I didn’t like, and I saw an ad on Facebook for something that sounded like a data entry job. The thought of working from home online and making good money was enough to get my interest, and after some reading and research I realized the ‘data entry’ they were talking about was blogging as an affiliate marketer. I was already hooked on the idea of working online, so I started my first blog with an enthusiasm I had never felt before, and I tried to learn as I went along.

Unfortunately, the more you try to learn when you are naive, the more you will be reeled in by unethical people telling you that you can earn millions of dollars blogging in your first year using their methods. It’s hard not to believe what they are saying because you WANT to believe it so badly. So, because I listened to their advice, which was complete nonsense, my first blog didn’t do much for the first year. In fact, I had it for a few years and, because I started off on the wrong foot, it didn’t earn me much more than $100/month near the end. I finally sold it for $1000 and started a new blog with a little more knowledge on what to do and what not to do.

Now, years later, I know exactly how I would have started that first blog off, and I wonder if it would have been successful. Would I have been earning a full-time income by the end of that year? Would I have been earning 5 times or 10 times more by now with an established blog that has been around for close to a decade? I will never know the answer. But, what I do know for sure is that there are some things I wish I knew before I started my first blog. Following are 18 of them.

1. Blogging Requires Time, Energy, And Money

The one thing I bought into when I started blogging was that I could make a full-time income only working a few hours a day. Have you heard that blogging myth? I’m sure some people might get into the right niche and interact with the right people and have the exact right knowledge that people are looking for and luck out. But, for most of us, blogging requires time, energy, and money.

Time is needed to put together blog posts and interact with social media and other bloggers. You have to make time in your day in order to blog, especially if you have a job, a family, or other obligations.

Energy is the driving force behind doing what you need to do when you have other things going on in your life that demand your attention. You got to be passionate about your blog in order to do what you need to do otherwise it will get put to the bottom of the priority list, especially because blogging is a long-term game and you need to build something up in order to start seeing success. It can be frustrating to see little progress and keep putting your energy in.

And money invested towards real blogging courses, niche education, advertising, blogging tools, and outsourcing are all important to grow your knowledge and your blog. Let me make it clear; you don’t need to spend a ton of money in the start. But, if you have it, paying for things like keyword tools, themes, plugins, email marketing, outsourcing, and advertising can help you grow your blog quicker.

If I were to start over with a first blog, I would dedicate some serious time to my blog each day. At least 2-4 hours. And, on weekends, I would make it my full-time job. I would also have picked a more exciting niche that I was passionate about – not just one that I thought was going to earn money. And, I would have bought some of the essentials, like an email marketing membership and some real courses on how to blog for money.

2. WordPress And A Paid Theme Are Important

When I started my first blog, I was using Intuit Websites powered by Homestead. I have a friend who is an accountant and he was creating a blog through that platform, so it was the only thing I had heard of.

It was such a pain in the butt. To do anything on that platform, it took hours. Unlike WordPress, the blog editor was a blank page, and you had to place your text, pictures, videos, widgets, and ads where you wanted them, and usually the published version looked a lot different than the version you edited. I remember spending the whole week trying to get one page to look right. What a waste of time!

Then, after about 6 months, I was introduced to Blogger, which is a free platform to build blogs on. I kept my Intuit membership for my first blog and then started a free blog on the same subject. It was so much easier to use because it was just writing and publishing. I didn’t have to put any text boxes or HTML boxes anywhere. It was all set up. But, the free blogger platform turned out to be a bloggers nightmare – at least for me who wanted to make money from it. I couldn’t add elements I wanted to add. I couldn’t find a theme I liked to represent the colors and look I wanted. And, I could write about certain things or put certain products on my site because it was against Blogger’s rules.

Then I found WordPress. I tried it out and was hooked. I moved my first blog over immediately, which mean copying and pasting every single post I had done. I couldn’t believe that WordPress made it so easy to write a blog post and create a blog that looked exactly how you wanted it to look, and you could write about anything you wanted!

This is another one of those expenses that I was talking about in the last point. Just like at Intuit, you had to pay for hosting, but I realized that if I really wanted to make the blog my own, I needed to buy a theme. Once I found a theme I liked and got it on my blog, things ran so much smoother for me! Who knew that blogging could be about writing and publishing instead of trying to create a good looking post for hours on end? WordPress saved me countless hours and headaches, and the plugins that it offered increased my ability to get seen and do what I wanted to do as a blogger.

3. Proper Email Marketing Is Important

Email marketing felt scary to me. I didn’t want to have to talk to my readers and listen to their comments about my blog. As a blogger, connecting with your readers is important, but I thought that I could write amazing blog posts that went viral every time, and I wouldn’t need to build a list in order to build a readership and make sales. They would all just flock to my blog because it was so great.

I was wrong.

Email marketing is important to a blogger who wants to build a long-term blog that makes money. Staying in touch with people who are actually interested in your blog is the way to build trust and get an army of people on your side that will help you become more successful.

Your list will help you to promote your blog posts. They will comment and leave you feedback so that you can improve your knowledge, writing, and blog in general. They will follow new blogs you create if they like you. They will buy things that you recommend if they trust you. They will talk about you to their friends offline, and you will gain new followers that you may not have got in front of otherwise. In short, they are your lifeline to success.

If you just have random people coming on and off your blog, you will never form those relationships that help you get further in blogging. The chances of them landing on your blog again are slim, and if they do it will be for a quick look and then off they will go again.

If I had built a real email list on my first blog, I can’t even imagine how big it would have been by now. I’m sure that the list would be a substantial part of my success and income.

Another one of the things I wish I knew before I started my first blog was the fact that email marketing was not all about sales. When I finally did start doing it, about 6 months after I started my blog, I sent strictly promotional emails trying to make money. Thinking back on it, I cringe at that. But, I didn’t realize that email marketing was about building relationships, not sales, so needless to say my list never really amounted to anything from that blog.

4. A Content Schedule Can Help You Succeed

When I first started blogging, I believed that I would have millions of ideas to write blog posts about. That lasted about a month. After that, I was often struggling to find something to write about, which means I wrote about nothing a lot of the time or, worse, I wrote really bad blog posts that were pointless and just something to show for the day. A content schedule would have made life so much easier.

You need to post consistently to show your readers that you mean business, show the search engines that you mean business and have something to give readers when they arrive at your blog. If they see you haven’t posted for weeks, then they may think that you are not that serious about your blog and move on. If you post, daily, on the other hand, they know you are around and have an active blog worth checking out.

But the quality matters too. A content schedule can help you put up some quality posts. I can’t count how many times I wrote about something pointless just because I didn’t have a blog post in mind. My first blog contained a lot of 300-word posts that were simply my ramblings for the day.

Now I take the time to brainstorm some ideas (like things I wish I knew before I started my first blog) for the month and put them into a content schedule. This gives me a focus for each day that I post a new blog post, and I don’t have to spend hours trying to find something to write about. Those are hours that I simply don’t want to waste and can be used for better things than stressing out trying to find a topic for a post.

5. Tracking Is Important

For the longest time, I kept track of nothing. Then, I kept track of my Page Rank and Alexa rank, but the PR rank doesn’t matter anymore. It was an indication of how well you were doing in the search engines, but now it means nothing. Then, I started to wonder things like where my traffic was coming from, how long they were staying, what they were clicking out on, and what type of audience I was actually reaching. I don’t know why I waited so long to wonder these things, but I did.

Tracking is important to your blog because it helps you figure out what your efforts are doing and where you need to improve. Tracking how your blog is doing, how your email marketing is doing, how your social media is doing, and how your ads are doing is important. You can’t improve what you don’t know. There are many different things you should be tracking, but the bottom line is if you are doing something for your blog, you should be tracking that something in some way.

6. The Search Engines Have To Find Your Blog Relevant

I knew that keywords were important. Every blogger will tell you that as you begin your blogging career. But, I started blogging in a time where people were abusing keywords by stuffing their articles with keywords and, therefore, getting ranked high in the search engines. Moreover, they were linking to their blog through various linking methods using keywords for further traction in the search engines. That has long been deemed as spam by the search engines, yet I still see a few articles here and there that seem to slip by and get on the first page for poor quality content that’s been stuffed with ridiculous keywords.

The point of search engines is to offer their users relevant and informational content. While no one knows exactly what the factors are that make them rank one article over another, it’s important to try and write in a way that will attract the search engine’s attention. This means keywords, but it also means natural writing, building real links in from other sites, and writing posts that readers want to stay on.

In short, it’s important to focus on on-site and off-site SEO for the most success on your blog. Stay up-to-date with the latest news on blogging and content marketing. If you don’t have time to read the daily news, then Ana Hoffman does it for you in her Weekly Marketing Skinny at http://www.trafficgenerationcafe.com/category/marketing-news/. This is a great resource for new bloggers and old bloggers alike.

7. Backing Up Your Blog Is Important

If you ever lose all of your blog’s information, you will kick yourself over and over again. I lost everything on my first blog somewhere in the first six months. I can’t totally remember why it happened, but I think it had a lot to do with the silly hosting platform that I was using. Anyway, I remember the pain of it all being gone. All that hard work – even if it wasn’t paying off – had been wasted, and I had to start all over again.

No one told me that backing up my site was important until AFTER I lost all my information. I’ve heard horror stories of hackers ruining popular blogs and one bad plugin installation making everything go bye-bye. If my blog had been amazing, it would have been even more painful to lose everything. You can buy plugins that help you backup your blog or you can backup yourself through your hosting company.

8. A Good Flow To The Blog’s Categories Is Important

Before I started my first blog, I wish I had created a category plan. I feel like having a good category plan helps people follow the flow of your blog and keeps readers interested.

For instance, if you are writing about food and one of your topics is pizza, then having subcategories, such as homemade pizza, restaurant pizza, and frozen pizza can help people find what they are looking for faster. In my first blog, I just grouped everything under the main category and didn’t give much thought to the flow of my blog.

Since then, I’ve found that blogging is all about providing content and then helping your readers find that content. If you don’t structure your blog in a way that helps readers flow from one topic to the next, then there is a good possibility that they won’t find some posts that they would really find beneficial.

9. Guest Posts Need To Be Relevant

On my first blog, I had a lot of people reach out to me to do guest posts after a while. I actually joined up with a guest posting site that made it easy to find guest posts for your blog. Often, I had at least 2-3 guest posts per week. Of course, those guest posts wanted to include links that pointed to Russian bride sites or online casinos or something completely irrelevant to my site. At first, I thought it was cool just to get content, but then Google penalized a whole bunch of blogs for having irrelevant links on their site, including mine.

I had to do a lot of work to remove all those guest post links and get my site back in the good graces of Google, as many other people did, and it taught me a lesson. Guest posts may be a great way to add content to your site, but if they are crappy posts with irrelevant links, then they are going to do more harm than good.

10. Favicon, Headers, And Logos Matter

This is absolutely one of the things I wish I knew before I started my first blog. It didn’t have a logo, header, or favicon. I regret that now. I think the logo, header, and favicon are important for making yourself stand out and giving people something to remember you by. You can get a logo created for you cheaply, and you can add it to a customized header for your blog. The favicon is the little picture that sticks up in the top of the tab or the favorite section as an icon, and it helps people recall your blog.

11. Success Requires Work

As I said before, I thought I was going to make millions of dollars quickly. I didn’t forecast how much work blogging would actually be. The fact is that if you want to have a successful blog, you have to put in the work. It’s like any other reward out there – you get back what you put in. If you put in some time, then you will get some success. If you put in a lot of time, then you will get a lot of success – assuming you spend your time wisely! But, that’s part of the work that blogging requires. Researching, learning, and implementing that information helps you become more successful every step of the way.

12. Negative Comments Are A Part Of Blogging

On my first blog, I got a few negative comments and almost gave up completely. I felt like I was a horrible person with horrible beliefs and crappy life experience that didn’t matter. I started blogging to share what I knew, but after a few negative comments, I started to think that maybe I didn’t know anything.

The fact is that the online world opens you up to hate. A lot of people like to say mean things, put you down, and try to hurt you. Why? There are many reasons I’ve found over the year. Bitterness, lack of awareness, and inability to give constructive feedback. Whatever the reason, it has more to do with them then you, and you will find that there are many more positive comments than negative ones as you move along with your blog. Don’t let them cause you to give up!

13. You Have To Be Social

Just as I was scared to do email marketing, I was also scared to be social with other bloggers and people on social media. I didn’t even bother interacting with other people in any way besides getting guest posts. I pretty much wrote posts, promoted them, and then closed my computer. Now, I realize how stupid that was.

The online world is all about being social. People find you through social shares. People talk about you when they are being social. You earn people’s trust and interest by reaching out on social media, forums, and other people’s blogs. You boost your ability to reach people by connecting with other bloggers and helping each other out.

I wish I had known the most successful bloggers are good at being social in one way or another. Maybe I would have pushed past my fears and been social from the very beginning.

14. Being Friendly Beats Being Professional

Another mistake I made with my first blog was being too formal. I felt like it was important to sound professional in order for people to trust me, but it wasn’t my real voice, so it didn’t help people really get a feel for who I was as a blogger and what I was trying to do. I do tend to talk with a little less slang than most people, so my writing is pretty much relevant to the way I speak, just a touch more descriptive to get my point across.

The bottom line is that WebMD is for professional writing. Bloggers, who are interacting with people and trying to gain followers, need to be a little more friendly.

15. Current Events Get Views

I focused on keywords when I first started, but one day I did a post on the show Survivor and a hot topic at the time. It was the first time I had written about a current event, and it was my most viewed article of all time on that blog. Since then, I’ve done a few current event posts on my blogs, and I’ve always found that they get views both from social media and in the search engines. If nobody else is writing about these topics, then you can easily keep your number one position in the search engines and get readers for a long time to come.

I’ve found, though, that to turn those readers into long-term readers, the post needs to be relevant to your blog. Taking current events and matching it to your blog is definitely a trick I wish I would have known to start off my first blog in an interesting way.

16. Thinking Long-Term Matters

Now I know that some of my oldest posts are the most valuable. Writing for today does little for you, unless you are already popular and have a regular stream of people coming to your blog. Writing with the future in mind will help your post get some traction today and a year from now, which will help you get more readers, views, subscribers, and success in the long run.

The most important things to consider are quality, uniqueness, and interest.

– Will the quality be enough to outlast other articles that pop up in the search engines?
– Will it be unique enough to keep interest with readers?
– Will there still be interest on the topic a year, two years, or a decade from now?

Your older content will still matter a long time from now. In fact, if it is a quality article that is unique and interesting, it has a good chance of beating out any new or old articles for traffic.

17. People Are Going To Doubt You

I thought everyone was going to think that being a blogger was the coolest thing in the world. Instead, I was met with a lot of disapproval from my family and friends. I wanted to blog for the rest of my life, and I could see the potential that blogging had in terms of financial success, but they wanted me to focus on a ‘real career’ and give up the stupid idea of making money through blogging.

For a long time, I was unable to share my excitement and passion with anyone. I wasn’t making enough money to justify my actions to people, but I could still see the potential.

It was a lesson in how people view things that are different. Until you can prove that your vision is actually something good or worthy, people are going to doubt what you are doing.

18. Some People Have Dumb Luck

Lastly, you will find some horrible bloggers doing really well. When I started my first blog, I saw a lot of them, and as the months went on, they made me want to stop putting in any serious effort and just write ridiculous posts, pay for links, and do other things that seemed like much less work than what I was doing. In fact, I did try to take some shortcuts like they were doing, but it didn’t pay off for me as it did for them.

I still see horrible bloggers having some success, although, it is less often now. But, now I know that they are lucky right now, but soon, their blog will get flagged, people will stop coming, and they will have wished they had put in the effort required to create a solid blog that will stand the test of time.

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