Experience is a skill or knowledge that you get by doing something; we can be self-confident and build it by ourselves, or we can learn it from those who already did what we are only planning to do.
We have asked our bloggers to look back on their first steps, and analyze their mistakes and their lack of knowledge at the beginning of their careers.
1. Content Strategy
Content Strategy is the cornerstone of any blog and here lie most of a blogger’s problems; Dennis Restauro who runs the blog Grounded Reason shares his thoughts with us:
A mistake I made when starting Grounded Reason was twofold. First, I neglected to develop a content strategy. I should have mapped out the first one to two months of what I was going to write about.
This would not only have provided deadlines and ideas to write about, but give more cohesion to the content on my blog. Mapping out content two months in advance allows strategic publishing. A blogger can publish a few posts with granular topics, then lay down a post that brings them all together. This integrates a linking strategy within one's content strategy, naturally providing a benefit to SEO.
My second mistake was thinking keyword strategy and content strategy were two separate activities. When developing a content strategy, make sure you (at the very least) decide which high level keywords each piece of content will target. I also suggest keeping a spreadsheet with this information handy. It will allow you to always link back to relevant content down the road, with little searching.
While it's easy to remember a dozen or so post topics when starting your blog, it's a little more difficult to recall keywords when looking at 300 posts. Doing this extra step early will save hours digging through old posts in the future.
2. People are interested in your blog, not in you
Good content strategy is essential for any blog, and the core of it is specialization. It is hard to be an expert in everything, and it is even harder to persuade your readers of it.
Zondra Wilson, the president of Blu Skin Care shares the importance of sticking to the blog’s topic:
I used to think in a vacuum. I wrote about whatever I thought about. WRONG! When blogging, ideas will come at random times: in the bathtub, while jogging, and even while watching TV. You may have some great ideas, just make sure they tie back into your industry. For example, I am passionate about the youth, and as a result many of my articles focused on American’s young people. What has that got to do with skin care? Nothing! So, I corrected it by making sure my blog post ideas helped serve the goals of my company, not just random rants because I’m passionate about something.
I also used to write too stiff. I’m a trained news reporter and so initially my writing reflected that. Now, I’m writing more like how I speak. The writing comes across more friendly and inviting. People are happy to respond or like a post they can relate to.
I also believed people cared about me as a writer. I would write this amazing stuff (so I thought) and was offended that others didn’t see it the same way. It’s just when you are new, typically nobody is interested in you or what you are saying. Stick with it…that will change. People care way more about what you can teach them than what you have to say.
My writing didn’t show my personality. After several blog posts, I loosened up.
Also, my topics were too broad. I wrote about whatever was going on at the time. I’ve since learned to stick to my industry, which is skin care. Hey, isn’t this why I started blogging in the first place?
3. Prepare it in advance
Bobby Bernstein from Nerdmuch recommends to prepare some articles in advance before making the blog public:
I think the biggest key is *having some content ready* to post before you actually send the blog live. I made that mistake, and just launched my blog without thinking about how it would look to those coming to the blog for the first time. Even if it takes you a week longer to create the content yourself, make sure you have some juicy reads on there before you actually launch it.
But an important piece of advice I have to give is to *not use content creation sites* like iWriter or Fiverr, because they're loaded with passionless writers who are just there for the money, and it shows in their writing. Typically, you receive poorly written articles with poor grammar, with words placed on a page just to hit a word count. Find writers that love writing, not money, and it'll pay off in the long run.
There are much better places to find writers, like posting an ad to ProBlogger or even Craigslist.
4. It requires a lot of work
Henry McIntosh, the author of Ri Web Blog, suggests that the first thing to know about starting a blog is to be aware of how much work it will take to get it off the ground. It's not easy, and at times it can be an incredibly difficult path. He recommends to make sure you're blogging about something that's a passion of yours, otherwise you will quickly lose interest.
Before you even consider blogging, it's worth putting together a content plan; each article you earmark within the plan should be of direct interest to your target audience. This plan will save you time going forward: you can always revise it, but thinking of ideas every day can be tiring. It's worth using the plan to start putting together series, as well as one-off articles, e.g. an interview series, as this will help drive return visitors.
You also need to think about your blog's aesthetics. It should be incredibly easy to navigate, and include plenty of calls to action, e.g. buttons driving social shares, follows, and newsletter sign-ups. Use a subscribe box at the bottom of each article and possibly use pop-ups to drive people to sign up. Large social followings and a big newsletter database will help you reach your audience when you need to.
Henry would also create a bit of a backlog of content (maybe five or six articles worth), consisting of evergreen articles that can be put up so any visitors can have a mooch around.
By making your blog look like it's been around a while, people are more likely to return. The next stage before you start is to get in touch with editors at high-quality publications within your niche and offer guest posts. Guest posts are a great way to direct a relevant audience back to your blog.
After the content part of any blog comes its representation: how the blog looks in the beginning can really scare away visitors.
5. Self-organization can be tricky
Especially when we speak about independent bloggers. Despite the fact that we enjoy writing, sometimes it is hard for us just to sit and finish the post we’ve been working on, or just thinking about.
Nick Leffler, who has been regularly blogging for his career and business the past five years, and before that not so constantly, tells us his story:
This leads into what I wished I had done differently. I didn't start blogging consistently enough when I started which made it harder for me to build my audience. If you don't blog on a schedule and frequently enough, then it's easy to become discouraged with the lack of results you see from it.
As with most things, it requires perseverance. I wish I had created a schedule to blog on and had stuck with that schedule for longer. I have recently been blogging twice a week every week and have begun to see significantly more growth. Before that, I was blogging every two weeks and sometimes once a week, which isn't enough to see significant growth in a blog unless you have an extreme niche.
My advice for new bloggers is to create your blogging schedule (e.g. every Monday and Thursday) and stick to it week after week. Don't give up blogging without giving it plenty of time to start bringing in visitors. If you stop too early, you'll never know how close you really were to succeeding.
6. The promotion
The promotion of the blog, to actually bring the readers to read your posts often can be more challenging than writing itself. Not all traffic helps your blog; we want readers to stay on the blog, to come back and read more articles in the future, and to stay on the site and help the site improve.
Nick D'Urso noticed this at the beginning of the promotion of his blog:
When I first started blogging for our website, I focused a lot on trying to promote the site with marketing. I added our page to StumbleUpon and Facebook, etc. This was great! I was getting a lot of views. What I did not realize was that this was affecting our bounce rate in Google Analytics which resulted in dropping spots in organic searches.
StumbleUpon is great to get views but they are not quality views. This affects your organic traffic and SEO when your bounce rate increases and the time on the site is around four seconds.
Even though you want to get views when you first start blogging, it is important to build it organically. You need to focus on building backlinks and epic content. This process takes around four to eight months to build a solid foundation. I use a powerful tool called www.ahrefs.com to spy on my competitors and get intel on their backlinks.
Building backlinks through .edu domains by offering a scholarship will allow you to jump millions of spots in Google searches. I attached a screen shot of our spots that we jumped by building the right backlinks.
I purchased the domain TheNutritionalSource.com on April 10, 2016. We were ranked 159,478,221 on April 10. As of today, we are ranked 59,444,476.
In just a few days we have jumped over 100,000,000 spots.
Don't worry about getting people to your website from the beginning. You will find yourself pulling valuable time away from creating content and building backlinks to be found organically. This will create a lot of stress on your end. It is important to focus on building your foundation for the first four to eight months.
7. Google can let us down
One of the biggest expectations of the fresh blogger is Google—that after creating good quality content that benefits mankind it will be appreciated by Google, providing tons of free traffic. Sometimes it happens, most of the time not, and seeing empty statistics can be very discouraging.
Fortunately, Google is not the only source of traffic, and for some bloggers not even the biggest one. David Mercer, the founder of SME Pals recommends good old networking to build the blog’s audience:
When I first started, my marketing skills were rusting away in a corner because I simply didn't need to reach out and build relationships and a network of contacts, referrers, and followers. Google provided everything.
One day, that all stopped. No word from Google. No reason. Nothing coincided with an update, which would indicate an algorithmic penalty. No manual penalty (I never engaged in any so-called black-hat—never needed to).
At that point I had to start back at the beginning and actually promote content. Promote other people's content. Make friends. Build a strong network and so on. Working like that from the start will mean that your blog grows in a sustainable balanced way—and will ultimately attract more Google traffic that can be thought of as the icing on the cake.
8. Is anyone really interested in your blog?
Kieran MacRae, a writer for Djent Hub, looking back two years, wishes he started growing his social media presence earlier. “I waited until my site was live before beginning an expansion of my social media presence. Had I started early, I could have built up a much bigger audience to target straight from launch day.”
Now on the flip side of that, he took three to four weeks to start writing content before he began work on the site itself. He wanted to explore the topic fully to see if it was something he could comfortably write about.
He had had a previous idea that seemed fantastic, a perfect niche, a huge audience; so he bought the domain and started designing the website. Then when he sat down to write his first post, he realized it was the dullest subject imaginable to write about. He had no excitement whatsoever, and if he is bored writing, there is no chance his readers will enjoy reading it! He wasn't in the position to pay for a content writer, so the site died after just a few weeks of life.
Kieran thinks a balance is best: definitely take some time to make sure you are happy writing about your topic, but don't leave it too late. Three to four weeks was too long, and writing seemed pointless when it was sitting in a folder instead of being published and pushed out. If left for too long, self-doubt starts creeping in.
And last but not least, 14 pieces of advice from Stacy Geisinger of Stacyknows.com:
- Be prepared for negative comments
- Be prepared to be an IT expert
- Be prepared to be obsessed with numbers
- Learn that you can't be an expert in all things
- Be prepared that strangers will recognize you
- Be prepared to make new fabulous friends
- The blogging community is a good one
- Google can be good, but they can be evil
- Email never sleeps. It keeps coming
- How much joy and respect you can earn by just putting yourself out there
- Nothing replaces the face to face
- Print business cards
- Every post is different
- The answer is usually on the internet already