17 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting a Blog

Lessons learned and the articles and resources that helped me make sense of everything. When starting a blog, the list of things that you must learn grows very quickly. With many of those things, you start to wish you knew about them BEFORE investing in your domain. Here is a list of things I wish I knew BEFORE starting my blog and how my struggles can save you time and maybe some money! Blogging tips for beginners | before starting a blog | new blogger
Lessons learned and the articles and resources that helped me make sense of everything. When starting a blog, the list of things that you must learn grows very quickly. With many of those things, you start to wish you knew about them BEFORE investing in your domain. Here is a list of things I wish I knew BEFORE starting my blog and how my struggles can save you time and maybe some money! Blogging tips for beginners | before starting a blog | new blogger

In your first days and months of blogging you are overwhelmed, you feel hopeless and you see everyone writing about their amazing “overnight” success while your site visit meter holds steady at “0”. I’ve been there and, if I’m being completely honest, I still have quite a few of those days that put me in that slump. Those days that I think that if I see one more article titled, “How I started a blog, gained a MILLION followers AND started making $50,000/month within my 1st month of blogging” I am going to throw my *insert expletive here* computer across the room. Don’t give up! Think about it, a year from now, do you want to be able to write a post about your first year of blogging or do you want to say that you started one a year ago but gave up after 2 months because it got hard? The answer is, you want to write that damn post! Alright, now grab some popcorn because I took notes from day one on what I learned in my crucial first 2 months of blogging, how you can learn from my struggles complete with links to some of the helpful articles and resources that helped me and all of this will help save you precious time.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links through which if a purchase is made, I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you. All thoughts and opinions are my own and any recommendations for sites or services contained within the text are ones that I use or feel that readers can benefit from. Thank you for your support and readership!

1. Be Self-Hosted

Know that if you want to monetize your blog you MUST be self-hosted. This means you unfortunately can’t just get one of the free WordPress.com blogs (the ones where your site is “yourawesomesitename.wordpress.com”) and start writing hoping to add affiliate links later. This is something I had no idea about when I started my first 2 failed blogs (only wrote an “about page”). There are many hosting services you can go through and I tried to do as much research as possible on this because I had read so many blogs about people having to switch later because they weren’t happy with their service. I eventually decided on SiteGround because of their speed, uptime and customer service (they will have someone help you set up your webpage if you need it). Your site will be using the WordPress system but you can customize it, monetize and own your domain name.

Web Hosting

2. Decide on your Niche

At first, I thought my direction was pretty clear: Be a lifestyle blogger that writes about DIY, home improvement, fashion, aviation, food, travel, outdoors and thrifting. Instead, I started rambling about other things that didn’t align with what I really wanted to talk about long-term and realized I did not put enough thought into this. After some soul-searching, Googling and Wine, I finally decided how I was going to approach solving this identity crisis by condensing my topics to just a couple at first: Recipes and DIY with room to expand later. Yes, this existential crisis happened to me already in just the first week of blogging so to you I say, be absolutely POSITIVE what your blog will be about before you start! For a helpful article that really breaks it down and has the potential to talk you off the ledge of insanity, check out this article by Melyssa Griffin over at “MelyssaGriffin.com”.

3. Start a Post Arsenal

This is something that I didn’t do but wish I had thought of before clicking the “purchase” button for my domain. First I want to say, don’t get wrapped around what your first post should be about. I know that sounds weird but, here me out, I thought WAY too hard about this, first thinking that the first post should be an introduction post or some other stuff that didn’t make sense. Don’t do that, that’s what your “About Page” is for and you can always add more to it later. Just get right into writing quality content for your niche. Once you have figured out what topics you are going to start off with writing, write several (at least 5) quality posts to have ready so that when your site does go live, you already have great content for visitors to enjoy. It makes your site have substance and, most importantly, it will take a lot of the beginning pressure off of you, especially if you land up in the hospital a bunch of times because you (unknowingly) had a twisted ovary which sets you back a few weeks on your writing. Yup, true story and you can read about that whole tale here! For a fairly comprehensive list on some of the most successful types of articles you should consider having on your blog, Elna over at “Twinsmommy.com” created this useful post for your reading enjoyment!

4. Make a Schedule

Making a Schedule for this blog undertaking is something that I knew needed to be set in place from the get-go. I knew that I wanted to post at least twice a week for the first few months until I got more proficient. I also knew that I needed to set aside time in between writing days to work on tweaking my website and reading to soak up as much information about the blogging business as possible. I must also do these things on their designated days all BEFORE the kids wake up so, my advice: get up early or stay up later in the first couple of months if you have the same situation. While I don’t currently have set days that I post (something I will work on nailing down), I have stuck to posting twice a week as well as site/social media maintenance and research the other days. Find what works for you but stick to it and be sure to check out this article about creating a blogging schedule, from the International Bloggers Association.

5. Make Lists

I make lists for everything and I just keep them on my phone notepad so that they are all in one place. Even this post is a result of one of those lists! I write down post ideas as I think of them and now my list has about 50 ideas that I just have waiting for me to write. I also have a list of things that I have learned from reading other blogs that are good tips for setting up your website. In the beginning, this is a must because, if you are planning on taking blogging seriously, you are reading article after article from successful bloggers on their tips for success. There is so much information and it can become hard to remember what information you wanted to implement. One last thing, make a list of goals for each week/month. It will help motivate you and will give you something specific to focus on.

6. Get Yoast SEO Plugin

I didn’t find out about this free plugin until about 6 weeks into my blogging journey when I signed up for a Pinterest Business account (more on that later). I love this plugin (there may be others but this is the one I use) because when I am creating a new post, there is a summary at the bottom that tells me where my post is weak for SEO (search engine optimization). It basically walks you through everything you need to do to improve readability and tells you what the post is missing, in real time. This is a life-saver for someone like me who really had no idea what search engines want to see. Once I have a green light on all of the SEO bullets, I know that when I hit “post” my article is set up for success, SEO-wise.

7. Create your Brand

This struggle for me went hand-in-hand with my above identity crisis because for marketing purposes, people will remember a streamlined, memorable brand. Think about your favorite products or maybe bloggers and what you think of first when you hear their name: Maybe a color scheme? Logo? Tagline? I hadn’t thought much about branding until I was already committed to a domain. After picking my site theme (I used the Azalea WordPress theme) and colors, I realized I needed a tagline that conveyed to visitors what they might find on my blog but one that was also open enough to allow me to expand my topics later. After cycling through what seemed like 100 different ones, I decided on “Real Projects. Real Ideas. Real Simple.” Another thing is, I created several different variations of my logo on Canva before finally deciding on my current one. More on the wonderful site that is Canva here shortly! For a very in-depth article with tips on creating your brand, check out this article from Kate at “Layeredindulgence.com”. I definitely still need to implement a lot of the advice that she suggests in that article but hopefully at least you can check it out and get ahead of your own identity crisis before it happens…unlike me.

8. Site Configuration

After figuring out the basics of who I was a blogger, I realized that I needed to get serious about the set up. There is so much that goes into this but just take it one step at a time because even when I think I have everything the way it’s going to be, I still make changes. In fact only a couple of weeks ago, I set up a drop-down menu for my categories. The bottom line is, just devote a little bit of you time each day or every other day to fine-tune how you want your site (remember those schedules we talked about?).

9. Set Up Social Media Accounts

Social Media is the bane of my existence. I was really hoping I wouldn’t need to get back on social media outside of Pinterest but the truth is, unfortunately it is a must but more on why that is later. The thing you need to know is to just suck it up and set up those social media accounts: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest and link them all to your page. There are many ways to do this, I personally use the free Sumo Me plugin because it has the option for visitors to share to nearly any social media platform you could ever think of, even ones I’ve never heard of! Just do what works for you but please, learn from my mistakes and don’t try to start this blogging journey without these very important marketing tools. For a good breakdown regarding social media for your blog check out this article from “devandanielle.com”.

10. Create a Gravatar

This is a simple thing to do that I had no idea about until I started to notice that when some people commented on other blogs, they a nice picture and sometimes a link to their latest post. Having a Gravatar is a great marketing tool because it gives you an identity that builds trust and it is also a way for people visiting those blogs that you may have commented on to have a direct link to YOUR website. I have personally gotten traffic to my site as a direct result of a comment I left on other blogs and is something I plan on working to do more of in this next month’s goals list. Which reminds me, commenting on someone’s blog not only can benefit you but it will make that person’s day so, go spread some love! Visit the Gravatar site now to set yours up for free, plus, it only takes a few minutes!

Pinterest {If You Pin It They Will Come…Not!}

Pinterest has incredible potential to be a fantastic tool but in the beginning, I thought that if I pin one of my blog posts to my personal Pinterest account, at least one other person would pin it and then it would be a chain reaction eventually going viral…but, after a week of exactly zero site visits, my heart sank…BUT I decided not to give up! This is when I started my Pinterest research and also found a fantastic resource through a Pinterest expert that I will talk about a bit further down but if you don’t want to wait, you can find out more about her here!

  • What are other Successful Blog Pinners Doing that I’m not?

11. Headlines and Images

The first most obvious things these successful unicorn-like bloggers were doing was to have great headlines and images to grab Pinners’ attention. I learned about Canva which is free to use most of the features to get you going and that is where a lot of those beautiful, organized Pinterest images we fall in love with, are born.

12. Pinterest Business

They all had Pinterest Business accounts, you know the people that have the summary under their image of the ingredients for their recipe or the professional-looking article snippet. Yeah, that is Pinterest Business and those organized, more informative pins are what are called Rich Pins which generate automatically when you are approved into the system. It is free to use and the best part is, you can convert an existing account so there is no starting over.

13. Pin Often (not just their Pins)

They pin not only their content but a variety of pins from different sources. They are also consistent and many use systems like Boardbooster or Tailwind that will allow you to schedule pins and streamline your pinning activity. I know for sure, that Boardbooster and Tailwind both have a free trial where you can try the system up to 100 pins to see if you like it which I wish I had known a lot sooner!

    • If you would like to get started on your Boardbooster free trial today, click here
    • For your Tailwind free trial AND $15 credit for Tailwind Plus when your trial has ended, click here!

14. Really evaluate Pin Images

I know I already mentioned images but this is after giving them a little time out there. I thought mine were exactly how they should be but after little to no response OUTSIDE of my Facebook Pinterest Group, I really looked at how the successful pins for each category that I write about, appeared and whether or not they would be attributable to my brand (color, font, style). I still have some work to do here after my latest evaluation so we shall see!

15. Capitalize on upcoming events

Using (Father’s Day, 4th of July, etc.) in pin titles and key words. Trends change and you need to be able to change with them as well as ensuring the keywords that you are using help people find these great, seasonal articles. This is something that I think I have WAY underestimated but it is a work in progress!

16. Tailwind Editorial Calendar

Ever wonder how other bloggers get ahead of the seasonal trends and have content ready for when they’re hot? Yeah, I did too until I recently discovered that Tailwind has a free editorial calendar that you can download that gives ideas for what to be pinning (and writing about) during certain months.

17. It Takes a Village to Raise a Blog

Remember when we were talking about social media earlier? Well, I am not saying someone can’t create a successful blog on their own (I’m sure someone has) but it only makes sense to join some of these social media groups. I am now part of 3 Facebook groups which is about the most I can realistically keep active in right now without being on social media ALL day. I also just started getting invites to a few Pinterest groups because I only recently realized that Pinterest Groups are key for getting content shared. So start requesting invites to as many groups in your niche as you can because, it is important to remember, you won’t be invited to every one that you request. To more easily find Pinterest Group Boards in your niche, visit Pin Groupie. There you can break down your search by category, number of followers, number of pins and more. Remember, it truly takes a village to raise a blog and the sooner you embrace that, the better off you and your blog will be!

  • What’s the best resource for Pinterest?

There are soooo many posts out there from, what seems like, everybody and their pet parakeet about how to be successful on Pinterest. I tried to implement everything I was reading: join group boards, pin often and make pretty pins, not to mention, have good content, but I still wasn’t getting views from Pinterest until I took a free webinar from a Blogging Expert by the name of Krista Dickson who, totally got me, as if she could see into my soul! The information that she was giving me for free was amazing so, what would her “for purchase” courses be like? For her paid course Pageviews From Pinterest, she basically listed off all of the frustrations that I was experiencing and broke it all down in a way that I felt like I had finally found “The One” for all of my Pinterest troubles. Now I won’t take too much more of your time but I suggest you check out her link too. I know I’ve given you A LOT of links today but I am fairly certain that you will find it to be worth it!

So that is basically just the cliff notes of SOME of what my experience has been this last 2 months and I know it was a long one (could have been longer!) but these are all things that anyone starting out, needs to find all in one place to save you time and frustration. Time is money if your goal is to monetize your blog so the sooner you know these things the better! I still have SO much to learn but if I can share my struggles with fellow newbies and maybe help someone, then I have accomplished one of my goals. This is why I want to try to do a “Things I’ve learned” post each month going forward so be sure to check back for more insight on the good, bad and ugly of starting a blog.

If you have tried any of these ideas to improve your blog, what was your experience?  Do you have any more recommendations that weren’t on this list? To be the first to know about more tips, DIY projects or recipes, sign up for the Real Housewife of Montana Newsletter and be sure to follow me on Pinterest, Instagram or Twitter for up-to-the-minute happenings from Montana!

 

Until Next Time!

 

 

 

 

 

13 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Great tips! I’m starting my life as a blogger and I love the “post arsenal” idea. I was very focused on how to get it monetized, but I see it is more important to have great content first. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you Cynthia! I soooo wish I had thought of having posts already written before officially investing in my domain but hopefully all of these tips (which you usually have to read 100 different “Start a Blog” articles to compile) will reach others just starting or thinking about starting so that they can begin on the right foot! I’m glad you found this helpful and I wish you every bit of luck on your blogging journey! Thanks for visiting!
      Crystal | Real Housewife of Montana recently posted…17 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting a BlogMy Profile

  2. All these are soo true and well listed!
    This is like summarizing all those blogging courses in one article. I have done most of them and seen my traffic going up, but hell, earning from blogging is not a one day effort. PS: I came here from Blog Engagement Group. FB groups do work 😀

    1. Awesome! I just started into that group and I’m excited to start really engaging with all of you! The goal of this post was to put all of that info that you have to read a ton of articles for into one post because it can get so overwhelming when you don’t know which article to read first or what to prioritize. And you’re totally right, monetizing does not happen over night and there is still sooooo much I have to learn but it’s good to hear a lot of these same things have worked for you. One day at a time! Thank you for visiting and make sure to set up that Gravatar so that I can read your next article too!
      Crystal | Real Housewife of Montana recently posted…17 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting a BlogMy Profile

  3. As a newbie blogger too this list is great. I’ve tried all these things except Pinterest and the Gravatar. I really need to get on that. Yes, blogging takes work, time and patience. It goes by fast. Keep going!

    1. Thank you so much for the comment, Kamira! I am learning that Pinterest is definitely a science but it is one that I hope to learn over time. It is an incredible tool that can propel us relatively unknown bloggers to household names *fingers crossed* with hard work, research and maybe a little luck. Also, make sure to get on creating that Gravatar so that it will allow anyone who sees your comments to link right to your blog. That’s free advertising and it only takes a few minutes to set it up! Good luck and I hope to follow your journey.
      Crystal | Real Housewife of Montana recently posted…Grilled Asian Steak SaladMy Profile

    1. Thank you so much for the comment! I am so glad that you found this post helpful because that means I met my goal to provide useful information. I know that any one of these tips can be found all over Pinterest but my aim was to offer a compilation of the main things I and many new bloggers come across in the first month of blogging. Thanks again for dropping by!
      Crystal | Real Housewife of Montana recently posted…Grilled Asian Steak SaladMy Profile

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