5 Things I Wish I Had Known When I Started Blogging
Blogging, the bane of some small business owners, the hobby of many and the passion for a few.
As a writer at heart, I always knew that any of my small business efforts would in some way involve blogging. And I have had a few different blogs over the years, some as hobbies and a couple for business.
In my constant search for the latest blogging methods, I was recently listening to a webinar from a successful fashion blogger. The webinar was basically about selling her ‘secret formula’ for how to achieve quick blogging success. She had quite an interesting back story which was disturbingly similar to my own, however, the key point which took my interest was how she talked about what a failure her first blog was.
And that how much research, energy etc she had put into creating the perfect second blog. Which had taken off.
This got me thinking. It took me a long time, working away and making the same mistakes that most new bloggers make before I really started to see some progress with my blogging.
Part of the reason was because I literally didn’t know what to do with my life. I’d spent all my life until that point training for a profession that I had now left. I didn’t really know what I wanted, what I enjoyed or anything about myself after that point.
So a good amount of my blogging failure was because I simply could not decide what to blog about.
But apart from that, I took a long time, reading articles, subscribing to blogging newsletters, learning design, learning MailChimp etc and I wondered if someone had sat down and explained all of this to me in one go, whether that would have helped.
I didn’t buy this course, or find out what the ‘secret formula’ this blogger was talking about so I can’t say for sure. However, I imagine it probably would have been this blogger passing down all the things she learnt in that first, failed year of business.
So, I thought I would share some of the important things that I learnt when I first started blogging that really helped me on the way. And I hope maybe it will help some of you too.
Blogging Advice To My Younger Self
Have A Plan
When I finally decided that I was going to re-train in graphic design, I started my graphic design business and started blogging about self-publishing, design and art.
Because I had come from the self-publishing industry and that’s the area that I was most comfortable with, I started to design book covers.
And, because I did all the artwork for my book covers, I was also trying to sell stand alone artwork and gifts on sites like Redbubble and Etsy.
So my social media was split in half, one minute it was promoting book covers to authors and the next minute it was promoting my artwork to…well I never actually managed to nail down an audience for that, so to everyone basically. Not a good business strategy FYI.
It was a mess. Eventually I realized where I was going wrong and I dropped the artwork element completely. I still have a small passive income coming in from Redbubble, but I do zero promotion for it because it is not the focus of my business.
However, I wasted a couple of months essentially trying to run two different business from the same account. Which turned off my target audience, made my life very stressful, frustrated my blogging efforts and hampered the success of my design business.
So, whilst I will talk about ‘over-planning’ a bit more in a moment, my advice if you are just starting out is this;
- What are you selling/blogging about?
Define exactly what it is that you are offering. Is it a product? Is it a particular kind of content?
If it is more than one thing, are they connected? For example if one product is face scrub and another is bath oils, whilst they are two separate items it seems reasonable to sell them from the same place. If, however, you’re selling fishing equipment and bath oils you will either need to be targeting the specific audience of fishermen who need a luxury bath after a long day, or you need to market to two different audiences.
2. Who are you selling it to?
If you don’t know who you are selling to, how will you ever know what to say to your audience? Would you talk to your five year old nephew the same way you talk to your forty year old boss?
If you do, video footage of that would be awesome, kthanks.
When I started my design business I was simultaneously trying to talk to authors and people who were interested in cuddly Red Panda prints. That is not easy. Learn from me.
What I wish someone had told me: Planning and focus is your friend
Don’t Get Caught In The Planning Trap
Oh, what’s this? Totally contrary advice? A little, but stay with me.
Read any article on how to start a blog and they will inevitably begin with something like; name your business, reserve your domain name and set up your blogging platform.
And many bloggers will get stuck at this first, blogging hurdle. What should I name my business? They (I know I did) spend hours tweaking their site, trying to prefect it before they launch.
Other advice might state that you need to write a certain amount of blog posts before your launch. So, another month, perhaps, of sitting down and blogging away, churning out posts that no one can see.
I’m not saying this is bad advice per say.
Of course your business name is important, your website look will help encourage visitors to stay and your blog posts will want to capture peoples’ attention.
But if you linger on this then you will find yourself three months down the line, having not launched a thing and already feeling like your blog isn’t a success.
I think the issue here is people skipping the first step above; focus.
If you are trying to name your business, write posts and design your site whilst your focus is changing all the time, you will be stuck in the planning process forever.
Decide what the purpose of your blog is and who you are writing to. Then the naming and designing of your site will go much quicker, I promise.
What I wish someone had told me: Whilst I defiantly recommend taking some time to think about what the focus and purpose of your blog will be, try not to get too hung up on the planning stage forever.
When I very first started semi-seriously blogging back in 2012, I set up a site on WordPress. I had a button in my sidebar for people to subscribe and when I published a post, I went on Twitter and tweeted that I had published a new post.
I got, maybe, twenty views a day.
It is a very formulaic procedure that I think all beginner bloggers start out doing. You spend ages writing this wonderful post, you share it on your social media when you publish it and then you sit and wait for the page views to come rolling in.
Now there is not one single fix to this problem, however ‘promote more’ is definitely one of the key things to get more traffic.
Posting to social media is a good start but remember to keep posting to social media. Don’t just leave your old posts to fade away, keep bringing them back. You get new followers everyday right? Followers who have absolutely no idea what you were doing last month, show it to them!
But you don’t want to annoy your long time fans by sharing the same content they’ve seen before right? Sure, you need to maintain a healthy mix of older posts and the new offerings you have. Also, you don’t need to be repetitive with what you share.
For example, say you have a post 10 Ways To Wear a Scarf. If you keep sharing the link 10 Ways To Wear a Scarf then people might notice the repeat (although remember on platforms like Twitter not all your followers will see every single thing your post anyway).
Instead try this little formula. The first time you share it, share the title and what the post is going to help your followers do. The second time you share it, share an interesting quote or fact from the post. The third time you share it, share a relevant graphic or picture with it. Repeat.
Of course, keep the time frame in mind. I’m not saying you should share the post multiple times a day, make sure you fill the times in between with fresh content and other people’s content as well.
And don’t just promote it via status updates on social media. Reach out to people, go into Facebook Groups, answer people’s questions on Quora, venture into Reddit if you are brave. Hell, tell people you meet in real life.
You spent a long time working on this content, be pro-active about getting it out into the world.
What I wish someone had told me: Spend at least as much time promoting your post as you did writing it
Don’t Just ‘Be’ On Social Media; Be Social
This is an extension of the point above but let’s talk more specifically about social media platforms.
When I first started blogging I couldn’t understand why my content wasn’t getting shared more. The people who left comments on my blog were really positive, many of them were actually ‘glowing’ reviews of the post. So, why was no one sharing my content?
After all, every time I posted a blog post, I immediately announced that I had published something new. I had a decent amount of followers on Twitter, I think about 500 at that point.
But…not really many shares at all.
It’s a difficult thing to explain but let me put it this way.
On your left, you have ten people who you don’t really know and all of them are shouting ‘new on the blog’, ‘today on the blog!’. Quite frankly it’s just sort of noise.
On your right, a friend says to you ‘hey, I think this would be helpful for you’.
Which are you going to pay more attention to?
The reason why social media wasn’t working as well as I would have liked, was because I wasn’t being social. Sure, I shared other people’s posts and I had a good number of followers but I didn’t have relationships with any of them.
For example, I have several business besties and I am more than happy to share their work. Because I have a relationship with them, I know and respect their work and I like chatting to them.
As a new blogger, if someone said; hey every time you post to social media, these five people will always share your posts to their audience – you’d be pretty excited right? What about ten people? What about fifty people?
Sounds pretty good right?
What I wish someone had told me: Don’t bother just posting to social media, make friends on social media and then post.
You Are Not Always Right
OK, ego check about to happen friends, apologies.
Without trying to sound too much like a free radical, we can sometimes have an odd propensity to assume that everyone holds the same beliefs as us…and those that don’t are wrong.
In terms of blogging, you might well sit down and think ‘gosh, I love my website, it’s beautiful’. But what if someone comes to your website and tells you they don’t like it?
Well you like it, so they must be wrong, right?
But what if that reader is your target audience? What if that reader represents ten other visitors to your website, who also do not like the way your website is set out?
It is at this moment you have to ask yourself, who is this blog for? Is it a personal project, just fun? Or is this part of your business plan? Something you would like to monetize eventually?
If the blog is not for you, why are designing it to look like you want it to look like? And not what your target audience wants it to look like?
It’s a fine balance to walk. Of course, you don’t want your business to in no way reflect you and your passions at all. I am not saying you should totally throw away all your dignity and just simply do what you think other people will like.
However, with certain decisions, design decisions especially, you might want to step back and consider your audience. For example, you, personally, might not like share buttons appearing down the side of your blog. However, if your shares increase by 30% when you have share buttons, chances are the smart decision here is to include them, despite your personal preference.
For example, when I very first started blogging, I was of the opinion that sidebars were ugly and intrusive and I didn’t want one on my site. When I finally surrendered to the sidebar, guess what? Yep, subscriptions to my newsletter (which was still of the ‘subscribe for updates’ variety) more then quadrupled.
What I wish someone had told me: Ask your readers what they want to read, not just what you want to write
I’m not entirely sure whether by reading what other bloggers have learned along the way, you can instantly build a better blog for yourself. I think, to some extent, all successful bloggers have to live through the first failed business, that first unsuccessful blog in order to gain the experience and know how to create something really valuable for their readers.
But on the other hand, I hope for those of you just starting out and feeling overwhelmed by how many more followers/readers etc other bloggers have, that you know that we all started somewhere. And most of us started out in failure first. So don’t feel the need to compare yourself, remember:Albert Einstein — 'You never fail until you stop trying.' Click To Tweet
If you could go back and tell your new blogger self anything;
What would it be?