Blogging is a little bit like a trip to Bangkok – it can be as dirt cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. That all depends on your style.
If you’re the sort of person who just wants to document your own personal memories, then blogging will be free, easy and you’ll probably get a lot of views from your family and friends. However, if your blogging goal is to build a larger audience and make money, then you’ll need to adopt a completely different strategy.
Blogging will ultimately start with your interests. It’ll be very tricky to build a successful blog about something you’re not passionate about. Whether that is travel, parenting, cooking, DIY or blogging itself, as long as you have a genuine interest and feel that you could actually write about the topic, there’s nothing stopping you from taking the plunge.
But if you’re in that second group of people that wants to take their blog all the way, it can be easy to believe that your blog will suddenly skyrocket you to internet fame. Of course, that’s not likely at all and building a blogging business is actually a lot of hard work.
Here are 11 things that a lot of beginner bloggers don’t realise.[divider style=’split’]
#1. It’s not about you
This is one for the hardest truths I had to realize at the beginning.
When you launch your blog, nobody knows who you are. Consequently, nobody cares what you had for dinner yesterday or what colour shed you’ve built in your garden. At the end of the day, nobody is going to search for you on Google because nobody knows a thing about you.
People want answers. They came to Google for a specific reason and if your post doesn’t help answer their questions, then they’re not going to be interested.
For example, just think back to the last thing you typed into a Google search bar. It was most likely ‘how to do something’ or ‘what is something’ – regardless, you were looking for information, right?
And you likely clicked on the top post or a post on the first page that quickly and easily gave you that answer.
Now, every time you write a post from now on, I want you to think what your audience will be typing into Google to bring them to your brilliant answer.
In the case of the dinner example, perhaps a post on ‘Easy Dinner Recipes for Busy Mums’ or if you built a lovely shed why not write a post on ‘How to Easily build a Shed from Scratch’?
Ultimately, if you want to build traction with people outside your own family, you have to answer questions and provide what people are looking for. It really is as simple as that!
#2. Your personality matters
Okay, so I know I said that it’s not all about you and I stand by that.
But even though people want answers, they don’t want to read through a pile of monotone drivel that reads like a college essay! You need to hook people and not send them to sleep, and that’s exactly where your personality comes in.
Everybody is different. We’re not robots after all and everybody has unique traits and quirks that makes them who they are. All you have to do is make this shine through in your writing.
As an example, if you asked your best friend to describe you in 3 words, what would they say?
If you’re a playful person, incorporate that into your blog posts; if you’re sarcastic, then maybe add some witty humour. It’ll resonate a lot more with your readers than if your posts purely state the facts and leave it at that.
Of course, make sure you’re still answering their questions, but answer them in your own way.
#3. You shouldn’t make your topic too broad
Everybody in blogging talks about a niche, and if you’ve ever read a blog post on how to start a blog, finding your niche will most likely be one of the top steps. And whilst this is good advice and you should certainly define your audience, finding your niche is also about finding that happy medium between too broad and too small.
For example, my blog is about affordable adventure travel mainly around European cities. Lots of other travel bloggers have focused on budget backpack travel or solo female travel or family travel which are all select niche topics. If I were to just write a blog about travel in general, I’d risk spreading myself too thin because I’d be trying to appeal to everybody at once without having a true focus.
So, here’s how to find your ideal niche topic. Think about your general interests. What do you want to write a blog about? Think about your passions – what specifically about that topic attracts you?
For me, I fell in love with travelling because of all the history and beauty all over the world and I love exploring ancient sites and beautiful cities. So, I decided to focus on the adventure aspect of travel.
Next, think about your audience. Who is your ideal reader? What separates them from the crowd? The likelihood is, your ideal reader is a lot like you, but really dig into those traits. Even make a character if you think it will help!
Finally, think about what makes you unique. What specific area are you an expert in for your chosen topic? If its food, are you great at finding cheap recipes or cooking meals in 30 minutes or less? Whatever makes you different, find that and there you have a perfect, narrow niche.
If you’re worried that you won’t appeal to as many people this way, don’t be! The likelihood is, not just people in your chosen niche will be interested in your content, but you should always know your precise topic and specifically who you’re writing for.
#4. Other bloggers aren’t your enemy
This was also something that I took a while to get my head around in the beginning. One of the easiest and best ways to grow your blog is by doing favours for other bloggers. Link to their posts, compliment them, share their stuff on social media – sooner or later they’re going to notice you and may even do the same back!
This can be an incredible boost, especially if they have a larger audience than you. But even if their audience is smaller, it’ll be different from yours. So, you’ll always be getting exposure to a new audience, which is exactly what you need! For example, I recently wrote a post on how to save money to travel the world and I asked 13 other travel bloggers for their top tips! Already this post has received more social shared than any of my other posts because each of those 13 bloggers shared it on their social media. Plus, I gave them a link back to their site too, so it was a win for all of us!
Networking is the key to blogging. You can’t possibly hope to grow entirely on your own with no help from other bloggers – or not quickly anyway! Hundreds of people across the world have successful blogs but once upon a time, they were a nobody and just starting out. It really helps to remember that!
Blogging Facebook Groups are also a great place to find quick answers. Some groups have thousands of members and over 10 posts each day. As well as sharing your work, you can ask questions, get feedback and grow connections. Plus, sometimes just reading a question someone else has asked can give you an answer you didn’t even know you needed! So, make friends with other bloggers, talk to people, and don’t think of the blogging community as your enemies.
#5. The internet will overwhelm you
There is an incredible amount of learning involved in running a successful blog. Pages and pages online are full of beginner blogging tips, tricks to grow traffic and guides to making money. You could end up spending a fortune on blogging guides, eBooks and course bundles and then spend hours reading through them all along with all the free content on Google.
Whilst you will probably learn a lot from this method, likelihood is that you’ll also end up overwhelmed, confused and with about 5 different methods for doing the exact same thing.
So, my advice is to slow down. Don’t try and cram everything and anything into your brain and implement everybody’s different strategies. Instead pick one person, or a few people if you want to learn different things, and just do what they suggest.
For instance, there’ll be hundreds of different SEO courses online, but the course I always hear spoken about is ‘Stupid Simple SEO’. This course has helped hundreds of bloggers build their traffic and a lot of the courses out there are probably based on the strategies learned in this one!
Once again, ask other bloggers what’s worked for them. If you’re in a Facebook community, just ask the question and see what people suggest. You can quite often find the answers you’re looking for without spending any money at all!
Google can be your best friends, but in the early days, try not to get overwhelmed with all the different information out there.
#6. Neglecting your email list is a huge mistake
Some people say the size of your email list is directly proportionate to the size of your paycheck. Others claim you can make $1000 with a 300-person list! Neither of these opinions are wrong, but it’s definitely safe to say that ignoring your email list is another rookie blogging mistake.
If you’re looking to monetize your blog, it’s no secret that the majority of your sales will happen via your email list as opposed to your website itself. Your email list is your most trusted list of fans. People don’t give out their personal details willy-nilly these days, so if someone has given you their email, you need to make them feel special.
Its once again about finding the balance. Ignore them and they’ll forget who you are; email them every day and they’ll get irritated and unsubscribe. As a general rule one email a week is a good amount and try to send your list your most useful tips. You could link to your latest posts, ask questions, promote products and share interesting things you’ve found online (that are relevant of course – don’t just send cat videos!)
But when it comes to promoting things, stick to the 80-20 rule. Only promote affiliate products or your own products 20% of the time. You don’t want to come across as a sleazy salesperson because that’s another great way to get unsubscribes! Besides, the more helpful you are in your email, the more people will trust you and the real win here isn’t to make money but to build a trusting audience.
#7. Not being consistent can kill your blog
I’ll admit, I am a serious list addict! I love a good list, whether that’s a to-do list, a shopping list of a list of goals for the end of the year. My desk is littered with post-it-notes and scribbled note pages and I love to keep things organised and on schedule. However, when it comes to blogging, this is more or less essential to success.
You’ll need to work out your own blogging schedule. How many times per week do you want to post? How many times per week do you want to send an email? How active do you want to be on social media and on which platforms?
Once you’ve worked all this out, then stick to it. That way, your audience will know what to expect from you and Google will also know what to expect from you. It’s very important as a blogger to be consistent. You can’t expect to post whenever you feel like it and suddenly have loads of traffic. Similarly, if you tell your audience you’ll email them once a week and then don’t, they’ll either lose faith in you or start to forget who you are.
So, stay consistent and it will pay off.
#8. SEO is not just finding a keyword
The world of SEO is constant and everchanging but one of the most important things to master when you’re setting up your blog for success. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and is basically how easy it is for Google to find your content.
To properly optimize your content, you will need to find a suitable keyword. It’s got to be something that people are searching for but also something that’s not going to be too hard to rank for, which is tricky in the early days. SEO isn’t just about including the keyword in your article. You also have to include it in the meta description, alt tags of the images, SEO title, article title, and meta tags. You
also can’t include the keyword too much because this is called keyword stuffing and Google hates that!
If you were to buy a course of any kind as a beginner blogging, I highly recommend investing in a quality SEO course, because there really is so much to learn.
Even if your content is killer, that doesn’t mean people will find it
This links with my SEO point above, but no matter how great your content is, it’ll be hard for people to find you on Google if you’ve just started your blog.
This is why you have to give people a helping hand and promote your blog as much as possible. A lot of people struggle with promoting themselves, but honestly tooting your own horn is literally the best way to get your name out there at the start.
If you’ve written a great post, then tell people about it. Post it in Facebook communities, share it on Twitter, ask your friends and family to share it and, going back to my earlier point about making friends with bloggers, ask other bloggers to share it too! The more eyes on your post, the more people are likely to clicks through to your website. Self-promotion is key at the start because nobody else is going to promote you if they don’t know you’re there.
#9. Quality is always better than quantity
Here’s a simple example of this: would you rather have 10 slightly stale, plain ring doughnuts, or 1 limited edition Krispy Kreme?
I know what you’re thinking. That’s an easy choice, right? But your blog, of course, isn’t a doughnut!
The point I’m trying to make is don’t push out 10 short, slightly vague blog posts. Instead publish one long, detailed, totally awesome one and give all your blog posts the Krispy Kreme effect!
Nobody wants to read wishy-washy work and it’s all too easy to tell which posts have had a lot of effort put into them and which have not. It can be tempting at the start just to push content out to get something on your site and fill the gaps. But if you went onto a fairly new website and saw 10 half-written posts, would you stick around?
Well what if you saw a fairly new website with a couple of long posts that go into loads of detail and answer all your questions? I know I’d be much more likely to stick around!
With blogging, quality always wins over quantity. Answer the question thoroughly, be as helpful as you can and don’t publish half the information.
#10. Pinching an image from Google can result in a serious fine
As a new blogger, you may not have all the photographs you need for a particular post. And whilst this is totally fine, what’s not fine at all, is merely taking an image off Google.
Google makes it so easy these days to find images. Simply type in a word or phrase, click image search and hundreds of thousands of results show up. It can be incredibly easy just to pick one. But do you really want to end up like the guy who paid $4000 for a photo that would have cost $10?
No, I didn’t think so! So, whenever you’re using photos online or in your blog posts, make sure they’re either your own or from a royalty-free stock photo website.
Pixbay, Upsplash and Pexels are great stock websites and have a huge database of photos. But the downside of using free stock photos is that you’ll probably find the same image published everywhere! You can also use paid stock photo sites like Shutterstock of Adobe Stock Photos to avoid this. But either way, for the sake of a fairly small photo fee, I’d rather not end up with a pretty angry lawyer on my hands!
#11. You should always start as you mean to go on
I strongly believe this about anything you decide to undertake in life but certainly when it comes to blogging. Trying to cut corners or cheat the system in the early days will get you nowhere.
Don’t get me wrong, it will probably save you money. It will be tempting to use WordPress.com or Wix or another free blogging site and set up camp there. However, this will greatly limit your options for monetization, mean you have to have ‘.wordpress’ or similar in your blog domain and quite frankly, you’ll look like an amateur.
You’ll end up much better in the long run if you spend a little money upfront. Think of it as start-up costs. When you’re starting any business, you’re going to have some initial overhead before you see any return, right? This is no different with blogging.
So, go self-hosted, pay for a premium WordPress Theme, and maybe even pay someone on Fiverr to design you a logo. Either way, if you set yourself up for success, you’ll be much more likely to succeed.