January has come which means its that time again where many people set a new years resolution to start a blog. Most of these blogs will fail, but some don’t. I started my blog at new year and here I am 7 years later still blogging. I’ve learned a lot over that time, so I thought I would share 7 things I wish I did differently as a new blogger.
There is a reason for me doing this. I don’t want any bloggers to make the same mistakes I did when getting started in the whole blogging world. I’ve been blogging for a long time and I’ve learned a lot over that time. Some things aren’t very useful. Others have been life-changing.
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Only now that I’m looking back can I see there were a few mistakes I made with my blog. Some of which make me cringe. I’m amazed my blog had any readers at all in its first few years. I did write some good content. But other posts on my blog make me wonder what I was thinking.
So today I’m going to share a list of 7 things I wish I had done differently as a new blogger. I’m not saying you’re a bad blogger if you make these same mistakes. But my life would have been so much easier if I made these changes while getting started.
7 THINGS I WISH I DID DIFFERENTLY AS A NEW BLOGGER
NOT FOCUSING ON SEO
SEO is the biggest thing I did wrong as a new blogger. I, like I’m sure everyone else had heard of SEO. I knew it was something I could use to increase the number of people reading my blog. But I decided to not do anything about it. I remember having conversations with people that went something like “I know I should spend more time on SEO but I don’t want to”.
SEO is the process of gaining organic traffic from search engines. You do this by optimising a page on your website for a specific keyword. Say I wrote a blog post about bullet journal spreads. I would optimise that post so the keyword appears in certain places.
When someone searches for ‘bullet journal spreads’ the search engine will show all results that it thinks is relevant to that key phrase. Those results will be sorted and the page it thinks is most relevant appears at the top of the search results.
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Search engines aren’t quite like people. It won’t go looking through an entire page to determine what that page is about. This makes SEO very important. The funny thing is that I wrote a few blog posts that had good SEO.
A post I wrote in 2014 still gets 30 hits each day because its at the top of the search results for that keyword. I didn’t write the post to get it to the top of search results. But it was a very long blog post which meant it had a lot of keywords in it.
Compare that to something like this blog post I wrote about being annoyed about my chronic illness. It was about frustration and chronic illness. But I set the title of that post to ‘Annoyed’. The page title is something search engines will look at when assessing what the page is about.
If someone searched for ‘frustrated by my chronic illness’ that post wouldn’t appear in the search results. Even though that is what the blog post was about. The search engine didn’t know that is what the post was about because I hadn’t optimised it for search engines.
INTERLINKING BLOG POSTS
I did a whole lot of other things wrong from an SEO point of view. But there is one specific thing I want to mention because of SEO and user experience. I didn’t link add internal links from one blog post to another. Linking posts together shows search engines how important pages are on your site.
For example, I could write a blog post about starting a bullet journal. I then go write other blog posts related to that post. Like which notebooks are best for bullet journaling and which pens are best for bullet journaling. By linking those three pages together on my blog it will show search engines that those three pages are related.
I didn’t do that which was bad for SEO. But the bigger problem is how it affected user experience. When I started blogging I would write a post and mention another post I had written. But I didn’t include links to that other blog post. If a user wanted to read that other post they would have to manually find that page.
This would have made it more difficult for users to navigate my blog. WordPress.com has a feature where it will show some related posts at the bottom of each page. But these posts are just what it thinks are related to that specific page. If you are writing a post which mentions another post on your blog it’s always a good idea to link to that page in the reference.
Going self-hosted has always come across to me as this big step in a blogger’s career. You had made it because you were no longer reliant on a hosted site like Blogger or WordPress. I’ve been blogging since 2013 and waited till 2017 to make the move to self-hosting my blog.
I still have many thoughts on whether this was a good idea. Having a self-hosted blog has given me more control over how my blog runs. It has also caused all sorts of problems. Just last week my blog refused to load. I had to FTP into my server to change a bunch of files and I’m still not 100% sure why my blog stopped working or what fixed it.
The amount of views I get on my blog now is nothing compared to what it was in 2014. There are a whole lot of reasons for this. Blogging was different back then, it was more like talking to friends rather than running a blog in one specific niche. I also had far more time to devote to blogging. I was dealing with health problems which made it difficult for me to leave the house. This left me with lots of time to spend working on my blog.
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If I had a self-hosted blog in 2014 I would have been much more successful. By that I mean I would have been able to run ads on my blog and make some money from it. I didn’t start blogging to make money but based on the revenue I get now compared to the views I got back then I would have made a decent amount.
The problem is that moving to a self-hosted blog is an expensive process. You have hosting fees which need to be paid upfront and a whole list of other associated fees. Though it may have been better if I moved to a self-hosted blog in 2014 there is no way I would have been able to afford it.
I still have many thoughts on if moving to a self-hosted blog was right for me. I don’t enjoy dealing with the problems that come from hosting my blog. But all the advantages you get from self-hosting outweigh some of the problems it can cause.
I have had all sorts of different posting schedules over the years. I’ve tried everything from three or four posts per week to posting every day for a month. Posting four times a week worked fine while I didn’t have any other responsibilities. But as I started college and moved to university the amount of time I have to devote to blogging has changed.
At times I tried to stick to my three posts per week schedule. I would manage it for a while. But I couldn’t maintain this schedule long term. I would post three times a week for a few months then disappear for a few months. This wasn’t working. I would go through phases of hardcore blogging then burn out and ignore my blog till I got interested again.
This isn’t good from a readers perspective. People are more likely to come back to your blog if you maintain some sort of consistent posting schedule. This posting schedule doesn’t have to be multiple times per week. The important thing is that you show up.
Part of this goes back to how blogging has changed over the last few years. In 2013 blogging was more like talking to friends. It was more acceptable to write a short post. This has changed in recent years. Longer, article type posts work better for the reader and SEO. By posting three times a week I was sacrificing longer, better quality posts for a consistent schedule. One that wasn’t all that consistent.
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In the summer of 2018, I made a change in how I post on my blog. I decided to only post once per week. I knew I could write three posts a week and decided not to. There was a few reasons for this. First, it meant I could spend more time writing one good blog post rather than three mediocre blog posts.
It also meant I could maintain a more consistent schedule. My problem with blogging has always been what to do during term time. Because I don’t have the spare energy to do my coursework and maintain a blog. At certain times during the year I focus more on my blog so I can ignore it during term time.
I post once per week, but at certain times during the year will write more than one post per week. This means when I have more time to focus on blogging I can get extra posts written for times when I can’t blog.
I’ve also been experimenting with bulk writing my blog posts rather than working on one or two each week. This means I spend a week writing 5 or 6 posts. But it works out better because that turns into two months of content. All the free time I’ve created can then be spent on other projects or university work.
FINDING MY NICHE
I describe myself as a creative lifestyle blogger. If I’m honest I don’t quite know what that means. Its art and graphic design, combined with stationery and lifestyle content. My blog’s niche is something I’ve only recently come to define. But it has a focus on stationery.
I’ve been reading stationery blogs for a long time. I was reading Filofax blogs back in 2011. Considering how long I’ve been blogging, its surprising that I’ve never written about Filofax. Especially seeing that I own a few.
When I was a new blogger I would write about anything I found interesting. Some of the first posts I wrote on my blog were about Apple support, washi tape and Bioshock Infinite. I found these topics interesting, they seemed to be acceptable things to write about.
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But it doesn’t work so well from a readers perspective. Take this example. You’ve been following a stationery blog for three years. That stationery blog changes and starts writing about Formula One races instead. You’d stop reading it because this isn’t what you signed up for. This is why having a niche is important.
My plan of writing about topics I found interesting sort of worked. I ended up with a slight book blogging niche. By all accounts, I did very well as a book blogger. I wrote about books and received more books to write about. But I never felt that it was right for me. I never felt that I was good enough to review books, even though it was a topic I found interesting.
As a new blogger, it’s a good idea to start with one niche, the more focused the better. You gain a readership by finding people who enjoy that same niche. As you gain more readers you can start to widen your niche, writing about more related topics. If you’re getting starting, or even before you set up a blog. Figuring out what topic you want to write about is very important.
I now think of blog posts the same way as essays. That they need a beginning, middle, and an end. But they also need a defined topic. The introduction tells the reader what topic you will be writing about. The middle bit is where you mention points related to that topic. The concluding then reiterates that topic and all the points you made within that post.
This seems to be working for me. My posts are long, around 2000-3000 words and they have a defined topic. This wasn’t the case when I was a new blogger. I didn’t know how to write a blog post when I started blogging. I would decide on a topic that I wanted to write about and write something.
Those posts were very short. I’d know I wanted to write about a certain topic, but not know what I wanted to say. This would lead to a very short post that didn’t seem to have a point. There was no value to the reader and this is important.
The point of a blog post is that it has some use to the person who is reading it. Writing a review of a hotel or destination has lots of value to a person who wants to travel there. But the content of my blog posts didn’t have any value to the person who was reading them. Not all my posts had this problem. Someone wanting to read a specific book might have gotten lots of value out of a review I had written.
A post has to be of use to the person who reads it. This is how search engines work. The search engine will take the keywords a user searches for, asses which pages will be of most value to the user. Say a person searches for ‘how to start a bullet journal’. The search engine will show the pages it thinks best answers that question.
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All this goes back into SEO. You want to write a post which is optimised for search engines. It’s much easier to write a post which answers the question ‘how to start a bullet journal’ and have the search engine think it has value if it is a long post. This is why your blog posts should be at least 300 words. But you should write more than this. An exact number depends on what website you visit.
I was writing a lot of 300-word blog posts. This was bad because it was hard to include keywords relevant to the topic of the post. And also those short posts gave very little value to the reader.
Earlier I mentioned I wrote a blog post which got to the top of search results for its specific keywords. Part of the reason this happened is that it was very long. Over 3000 words. At the time this was massive for me, I had never written anything so long. But its length turned out to be an advantage. I naturally included a lot of keywords simply because it was a long post.
At one point I had considered splitting it into many blog posts. Some people will even recommend you do this because blog posts shouldn’t be too long. You’re better off writing longer blog posts, and not splitting those into many posts. If someone wants to read your post they will, you need to make sure it is of value to the reader.
I’ve had Twitter for a long time. Recently I celebrated my 10th anniversary on Twitter. But Twitter was something I never paid attention to when I started blogging. I had a very little following and didn’t talk about my blog.
I would say this was a mistake. If you have a blog you should be advertising it on social media. You don’t need to have all the social media accounts. It’s a good idea to choose a few social media sites and advertise your blog on them. It is also a good idea to choose social media sites based on what your target audience uses. So if you have a craft blog you’ll do better on Pinterest compared to Twitter.
The problem with me when I started is that I didn’t advertise my blog posts at all. WordPress has a setting which will tweet a link to a post when a new post goes live. Apart from this, I wouldn’t do any advertising on Twitter. This is a problem because your Twitter followers won’t always be online at the same time as you.
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As a new blogger you have to make sure you’re not spending too much time focusing on social media. Yes, it does help with SEO. You need to post on social media because that’s where your readers will be following you. But you always have to remember that the people who find you on social media will always be limited to your niche.
Look at it this way. I post about stationery. My Twitter followers like stationery, that’s good. If I advertise my blog post on Twitter some of those people will see my blog post.
Now compare that with search engines. If I write a blog post where I review a planner and it is the first result on Google. Everyone who searches Google for that planner will see my blog post. Depending on search volume this could mean far more people see my post.
Social media is important because you can advertise your posts to people who already read your blog. Organic traffic is what you should focus on if you want to find new readers. Both are important but you can’t make one more important than the other.
I hope you will be able to gain some useful advice from this post if you are a new blogger. It’s easy for me to look back now and say these are the mistakes I made, don’t do what I did. Part of blogging is that you have to go through the same learning process. You have to make mistakes and try new things to find what works for you.
I’ve mentioned some things which should make it easier for new bloggers to get started. But if you want to improve as a blogger the most important thing you can do is practice. It’s easy for me to say write 3000-word articles. I only manage to write those types of posts because I’ve had 6 years and over 500 blog posts worth of practice.
Take what you can from this post as advice for starting a new blog. But remember that as a new blogger there will still be things you need to work out for yourself.