My first blog, Ripped Jeans and Bifocals has been online for about three years. I’m happy, proud and a little bit in awe of the things I’ve been able to accomplish. I never set out to be a professional blogger, in fact, when I first started my blog, I had no idea people made income from blogging. I wish someone would have passed on some tips for new bloggers to me back them. I’ve learned quite a bit in three years. I’ve learned a ton from networking and talking to other bloggers. See also I’ve learned a ton by royally screwing things up…but that’s life, right?
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So consider this friend-to-friend blogging advice from me to you. If I could go back give 2014 me these tips for new bloggers, this would be what I’d say:
1. Buy your domain.
If you think you might just be dabbling in blogging, there are free platforms through Google (Blogspot) and WordPress. These cost you nothing to set up…but this also means that you’re not master of your own domain (tee hee!)
It’s very simple to buy a domain and set it up. If you set up a free version now you can always transfer to self-hosted later but it’s expensive and a little bit of a PITA. Buying a domain and setting up a hosting plan usually isn’t that expensive, so if you try it and don’t stick with it, you probably haven’t lost that much.
What am I talking about?
Momitoutloud.blogspot.com: Not my domain. Google’s domain.
Momitoutloud.wordpress.com: Not my domain. Google’s domain.
Momitoutloud.com: My domain.
You can buy a domain pretty inexpensively through Go Daddy or Bluehost and it’s not that hard to set up a self-hosted WordPress site…and if you feel it’s beyond your scope, there are plenty of people out there who will help you set it up without charging you an arm and a leg. YouTube is a great source of “how-to’s” for blogging. Use plain search terms for what you want to know and there’s probably a video that will walk you through it.
2. Think long and hard on the name of your blog
I’ll tell you a secret…I named my first blog on a whim and I’ve wished a thousand times that I’d have chosen something else. Many bloggers feel the same way about their blog’s names. Does your blog’s name make sense? It’s all well and good to be catchy and quirky but it your blog name something your target audience is going to be motivated to click on?
3. Check availability of social media accounts before you buy your domain
If you want to start a blog called “Chin Hair Sucks” take a minute to scope out the availability of social media accounts before you buy it. Is “Chin Hair Sucks” available on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest? Something similar? The last thing you want is to have all sorts of different handles…it makes you hard to find on social media once your blog takes off.
4. Have some sort of clue on how to take and edit photos
I’m not suggesting you need to be a pro photographer or graphic designer (I’m certainly not) but you need pictures to go with your blog posts. Try to get familiar with how to take and edit decent photos before your first post goes live. Don’t think you have to be a photography whiz from the get go but bad pictures are a huge detractor, so start off on the right foot.
Some of my earliest blog posts don’t have images associated with them and that’s a no-no. If you’re going to share a blog post, social media needs a photo to pull. You can take good photos with your smartphone and there are a ton of apps that help your smartphone pictures look great, but if you want to be in it for the long haul, invest in a good camera.
Learn what a royalty-free image is and what photos you can legally use. Just because a photo is on the internet doesn’t mean you have permission to use it. There are plenty of free photo sites out there and plenty of places to buy stock photos if you can afford to buy them. Don’t assume something on Google images is okay to use and read the fine print on what’s required as far as crediting the photographer.
I use PicMonkey to edit photos and make graphics. You can also use Canva or Photoshop and I’m sure there are a ton of other tools out there that are great. There is a free version of PicMonkey, and while that is great, I love the upgrade – I get a ton more features. But, you can certainly play around with the free version and see if you like it.
5. Read other blogs in your niche – and interact with them
If you’re going to start a parenting blog, read successful parenting blogs. Same deal for cooking and fitness blogs. Get a good idea of what’s out there before jumping in. Check out the way successful bloggers set up their website: where they have their share buttons positioned, how their comment systems are set up and so on. What do you like about their sites? What do you not like?
Networking with other bloggers in your niche is a great thing to do before you start your blog. Subscribe to their blogs, follow (and engage) on their social media. Connecting with a blog similar in nature to what you want yours to be is never a bad thing. If you’re a just starting out blogger and think the other bloggers in your niche are your competition, you need to get that thought right out of your head. The internet is a big, big place and there is room for all. What’s that saying, a rising tide lifts all boats? It’s like that.
6. Have some goals or expectations for your blog
Think about this before you start your blog. As someone who thought very little about this before buying a domain and publishing content on the internet, I wish I could have a do-over here. I had no expectations and no plan and my first year blogging was all over the place. It was fun, moderately successful and I learned a lot but I felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants. Maybe that’s normal, but if I could go back and consider what I wanted or expected, I think I would have had a better experience.
7. Find a tribe
You’re going to need blogging friends. As I said above, other bloggers are not your competitors. You can learn a ton from your fellow bloggers and you’re going to want support…because your non-blogging friends are probably not going to “get it.” Most tribes operate within closed or secret Facebook groups. It might take some trial and error before you find the right fit but once you do, it’s totally worth it.
8. Consider your family’s privacy before you start writing
This is especially important for parenting bloggers but I think everyone needs to consider this. Will putting your words, your life and maybe even your personal photos on the internet be a problem for your family? Does your partner have a sensitive job or just plain object to being plastered all over the internet? Will you show your kids’ pictures or reveal their true names? These are all things to think about before you share your story online. Privacy may not be important now but it may become important at some point and once it’s out there, you can’t take it back.
There’s always the option to blog anonymously or with a pen name. Many parenting bloggers use nicknames for their kids for their own safety or for privacy’s sake. I’ve been all over the place with my stance on privacy…I can’t say what the right answer is for you but it’s something to consider before you start.
Thanks for reading – I hope this list of tips for new bloggers was helpful. I’ve also put together a list of resources for you. These websites and books have been my go-to’s for info about blogging and social media.
Learn to Blog Hangouts – These ladies are the SEO experts.
N.D. Consulting – Sarah is a kick-ass consultant for blogging and all things digital. If you’re looking to work with brands and make money doing it, her Pitching Perfection course is a must. She also offers personalized consultations which don’t come cheap but they are truly worth the investment. Tell her Jill sent you.
The SITS Girls – This site is a wealth of resources for all bloggers. They have a vibrant community on social media and if you’re looking to connect with a tribe, this is a good place to start.
How to Blog for Profit without Losing Your Soul by Ruth Soukup Whether you have been blogging for years or just a few weeks, How to Blog For Profit (Without Selling Your Soul) offers solid advice and practical action plans for creating an authentic, successful, and profitable blog.
Let’s Collab – How to Find the Tribe that will SKYROCKET Your Blog to the Next Level by Herchel A. Scruggs – In her easy-to-read e-book, Herchel talks about how to find your tribe and work together to take you to that next level. She has an awesome online community for bloggers as well!