Blogology-101: What I wish I knew before I started Blogging
We are switching it up this week in honor of school starting, us missing college and because we went heavy on the beauty talk the last few weeks.
We like learning and think this post will be helpful to those who want to start blogging.
andddd, because here’s to trying something new so I hope you all enjoy.
Brace yourselves because this post is a little longer than the norm.
Okay, Let’s get started:
The only thing I did right – when I first started blogging in July of 2013 – was to start and not let my perfectionism hold me back.
Since then, I have discovered that I actually had no clue about the blogging world.
– but –
back then, I did some research – or thought I did – put aside my fear of being judged and thought I had really put myself out there…
Looking back now, I really had no idea what I was doing and thought people would just find my blog and want to read about my life.
I thought my blog couldn’t get any better.
Wrong (but proud mama bear syndrome).
I also thought I knew a lot about blogging and what it took to be successful.
I was so wrong.
I had NO idea how much actually went into a successful blog – until now. The good news is you won’t make the silly mistakes I did if you read this post.
When I started my blog, Fit Chick Nextdoor, it was a personal blog to help others with their fitness journeys through my experiences with competitions, being a personal trainer and with the help of healthy recipes. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I decided to turn this blog into a business that I am passionate about and where I truly put myself out there by helping others. I gave Fit Chick Nextdoor a face-lift and changed it from a personal fitness blog to a successful, monetized life + style blog.
Here is what I wish I knew before I started blogging:
1. Invest in yourself: If you are serious about making your blog into a successful business then you need to invest in some good tools. Like I said earlier, I thought my blog couldn’t get any better – Gosh I was wrong. During the face-life I invested in a paid premium theme with StudioPress. You don’t have to buy a theme right away (wordpress has free ones) but once I did it completely changed the feel of my blog. After removing the childish, limited color scheme and layout, I now had a solid template that I could modify. I can safely say that FCN has come leaps and bounds since I first started. I look back at older posts now and cringe at my style and photos – which I am still updating because it’s two years worth of posts – but now it is starting to look consistent which is our next point.
2. Consistency: Consistency builds trust with your readers and they know what to expect when they show up. Aside from posting on the same day(s) every week or month, the look of your posts should be the same every time. Same fonts, same picture sizes, same format. I wish someone had told me how important this was, it could have saved me a lot of time and limited me from now having to go back and update old posts and pages (I have over 35 pages of posts!).
3. Photography: Holy smokes pictures are so important. Seriously, just having better quality pictures has turned my blog upside down in the best way possible. Here and here are examples of older pictures vs here, here and here are some of my updated looks. What the hell was I thinking with some of those original fonts and color choices? Anyways, the pictures are better too and I learned the difference between PNG vs JPEG photos (Use PNG every time for clearer images). I got a DSLR camera for Christmas – not that you have to buy one – but a decent camera is recommended. Also, there are plenty of free stock image sites out there. A few I use are PhotoPin, StockVault and Foter, but I like to create my own images so I can control the lighting and what is in the picture (more on that in Blogology-101: Photography class coming soon!). Also, PicMonkey saves lives. I recently invested in the paid version for $33 per year, which gives you access to extra editing options and you can import your own fonts. I have three to five fonts I use now and two I downloaded from DaFont.com so they are rarely available elsewhere.
4. SEO: This should probably be number one on the list but the other three points are just as important. SEO is Search Engine Optimization aka how people find you, your blog or your website. I didn’t start incorporating SEO into my posts/blog until this year and it was a game-changer. Guess what? Now people can find and read my blog which is pretty cool. At first SEO was really confusing for me but I self-taught myself how to use it via Pinterest (there are a lot of great posts on the subject) and I’ll teach you about it when I create a Blogology-101 post on it. But for now, the basics, make sure each post/page has a keyword set for it. If you download the YOAST SEO plugin, at the bottom of your post or page you will be able to set a focus keyword. Also, make sure you read up on Google Analytics to follow your traffic and sources.
5. Networking, Link Parties + FB Groups: Ah yes, the bread and butter of building your support system. As much as I don’t like to admit it, I needed help. Networking helped grow my following, taught me new tricks and I really wish I reached out earlier. Networking with other bloggers not only helped me with new ideas but my interactions skyrocketed and I was getting my brand out there. Most importantly though, I have created great friendships because of it. Link Parties and Facebook Groups help spread the word about my posts and allowed me to work with other bloggers on giveaways and more. You can see a list of my favorite parties here.
6. Social Media: This was one thing I had a little knowledge on before I started but I added it because I didn’t know how to properly connect social media and blogging. The first thing I should have done before I started my blog was check if Fit Chick Nextdoor was available not only as my blog name but on all social media and it was – kinda – except on Instagram and for the blog URL, hence fcnextdoor.com instead. UGH. So, before you get going make sure that your name is available everywhere.
7. Affiliate Programs + Media Groups: If you want to monetize (make money) with your blog, you need to seek out media groups and affiliate programs. There are so many out there but I recently joined The SITS Girls group. The SITS Girls allows me to get featured, earn money through their Massive Sway program, and provides me with networking, marketing and sponsorship opportunities with HUGE companies. I highly recommend their program. I also use affiliate programs to help fund this blog. My favorite affil programs are Rakuten Linkshare, ShareASale, Shop Sense by ShopStyle Collective and Amazon Associates. You can also find some affiliate programs with your favorite brands. Most brands will give you a commission on purchases made by new customers using your affiliate coupon but you usually need to apply on their websites. For example, here is CityColor and Coastal Scents Affiliate Application. Also, CityColor provided me with a personal 10% discount code (Code: FitChickNextDoor) so if someone uses the code they get the discount and you get a commission for your tier level.
8. Pinterest + Evernote: I get a lot of my blog traffic from my Pinterest pins. Crazy right? but I can believe it because I do love Pinterest. Aside from loving Pinterest, this goes back to having good images. Think about it. You normally click on the images that are easy to read or attractive right? So why not make your pins look great too? I’ve found my most repined-pins are the ones that are clean, clear, aren’t too busy and have a good quality image (PNG baby!) 😉 . Also, I’ve found that longer, vertical pins take up more space and get pinned more frequently. However, I didn’t know that in the beginning so most of my older pins are horizontal, square and a little bit tiny. Ew.
9. Email Lists: I didn’t start growing my list until last month and I’m kicking myself for it. People get busy and have lives so lists can help remind your readers you are here by sending newsletters straight to their inbox! I use MailChimp which is popular and free* but some other bloggers use Aweber, ConstantContact, Leadpages or other services. Since I am still building my list, MailChimp works fine for me. *However, in order for it to automatically send a string of emails I just had to start paying $10 a month but it works and that’s not a terrible price.
10. Plugin Basics: There are some plugins I wish I had when I started. For example: Jetpack by WordPress.com provides me with traffic growth, performance and security information. Some other plugins I find extremely helpful are: Akismet (protects from blog and comment spam), Anti-Captcha and GM Block Bots (protects your site from false traffic info and spam), Google AdSense (also for monetizing), Google Analytics (there are ones for WordPress dashboards, by Yoast, etc), Instagram Feed (your feed goes straight to your blog), Shareaholic (So people can share your content), Simple Social Icons (so people can find you on social media), Wordfence Security (firewall and anti-virus plugin), and Yoast SEO.
I have self-taught myself about marketing, social media, networking, seo, photography and more. One thing I read on the www that stuck out to me was: “How do you expect people to find your blog if you don’t put yourself out there?” Touche, that is the big picture.
I know this post was long but I hope it helps you.
The silver-lining is that I got to make the mistakes that you hopefully won’t have to. Don’t wait until you are 100% comfortable because you will still learn along the way (heck, I still am). I have learned more from from Pinterest than I have in some of my college classes. Chalk it up to the fact that maybe I find it more interesting than economics or because some posts have adorable graphics – I don’t know – but the point is you will continue to learn and grow as you go along and I hope to give you the tools to do so.
Here is your Pin-able: