11 Epic Lessons From My First Month Blogging
Well, here it is. My first blogging post. Let me start this off by saying that I can't believe I even started a blog! I never would have thought I would do this and actually catch the blogging bug! I love this platform and the outlet it provides for me. To top it all off, I've been at this for a month now. Juggling the maintenance of this blog and my full-time job certainly isn't easy, but the payoff that I've received so far has been worth it.
Okay. Let's get to the juicy details. I'm sure that most of you reading this post are new bloggers, interested in blogging, or are somewhere in between. You want to know the good stuff, so here it is!
What I've Learned During My First Month Blogging
1. SEO is important!
It sounds extremely high-tech and intuitive, but that's because it is. But once you get the basics down, it's actually not that difficult and will become second nature. If you're not familiar with SEO - I know I certainly wasn't when I first started blogging - it can be quite intimidating. Let me provide a quick run down.
SEO (aka Search Engine Optimization) is the process used to allow your site to become "visible" on the internet. It basically affects the quantity and quality of the traffic on your page by optimizing it to promote more organic traffic through search engines. In other words, it allows your site to be found through Google, Bing, and other search engines.
When you search something on Google, those articles and websites that pop up in the results are there because of SEO. If you want your site to be among those that can easily be found through a Google search (and I'm not talking about a search using your website's name), then you need to "master" SEO. I use the term "master" quite loosely because you don't need to know all of the in's and out's of SEO, but you do need to put in some work. SEO requires the use of keywords in your posts, meta tags, title tags, and more. It's even affected by the readability of your content! It can be a lot.
Bonus! Quick Tip: Use a SEO plugin
There's so much information out there that it can be quite scary, but to make things easier for myself, I use Yoast SEO plugin to help me out! This is a must-have if you want to get your blog out there and make it searchable on all search engines. The Yoast SEO plugin saves me time and points out different things to help optimize my blog even more!
2. Plan your content!!
I can't stress this enough. Don't be like me. When I first started, I didn't plan my content at all. I just wrote my blog posts based on my thoughts at the time. Although that sounds like it would be easier, it's not. I actually had to put in more work than you'd think because I had no idea what the actual scope and contents of my blog posts were going to be.
As you may know from my About Me, I blog part-time because I work full-time. Trust me when I say that my job takes up A LOT of my time already. My first few weeks of blogging, I had some difficulty because I wasn't sure what I was going to write. Of course, that was also because I wasn't sure of what the scope or niche of my blog would be (I'll discuss this more in a minute). Planning out your content will make things easier. Trust me! You'll know exactly what your next post will be so you'll be able to focus on that and get the writing done!
Earlier this week I purchased a little planner that I carry around with me. I write down my scheduled blog posts in the planner so that I know what's coming next. I also integrate this into the calendar app on my phone. If I have any work meetings or any assignments due, I can adjust my blog schedule around that. I've been lucky so far with my availability, but it won't always be that way. Having a content calendar is absolutely great and is key to keeping you organized and saving you time and stress.
I will be writing about my content calendar soon and will discuss in detail why it is absolutely necessary for your peace of mind as a blogger.
3. Outline your blog posts!
It makes life easier and makes for better writing. Check out my first blog here. You can tell that it was a blog written right off the top of my head. What can I say?! I was excited about starting my blog!! But I think my issue there was two-fold.
First, I wasn't sure of the direction I wanted my blog to go in just yet. I knew I wanted to discuss positivity, wellness, and more, but I just didn't know what the "more" was. As I mentioned earlier, this approach took up more time.
Second, I didn't outline that post at all! I just typed up the post, proofread it, and hit "publish". No second thoughts. No care! But the post isn't "juicy" nor is it a blog post that readers would want to come back to. At least I don't think it is.
I'll say it again, outline your posts before you write them. It makes for better writing. I've actually had to go in and beef up the first post for SEO purposes. I will be going back in to add more and make it more captivating and entertaining.
4. Write Down Your Blog Post Ideas
If you're anything like me, your brain is going a mile a minute. One second I can be watching television and the next a light bulb goes off and I have a new blog post idea. Get yourself a handy-dandy notebook (yes, like Blues Clues. If you don't know that show, I'm not sure I know what to say to you right now.) You need to write down your ideas as soon as they come into your head or else you will forget them. The more ideas you write down, the more posts you will have in your content calendar, the more content on your blog. It's as simple as that.
I carry my notebook everywhere with me. It's small enough to fit into all of my purses without taking up a lot of space. If you can't carry a notebook, use your phone. Email or text the ideas to yourself or use a note app, if you have to. Never go without writing down your ideas. Ever!
5. Be yourself
Having a blog can be daunting. Even worse, seeing all of the successful bloggers with thousands or even millions of followers can be intimidating. You may have even started your own blog because you were inspired by these individuals. Or, like me, you may have started your blog on your own but discovered these "golden" bloggers once you began researching how to become successful on this platform. It can be intimidating and you may want to either give up or try to be more like them because you think that's how you'll grow your blog.
I'll tell you right now, stop it! I started to go down that road for a while and found myself reading everyone else's blog instead of working on my own because I was fascinated with their success. I almost began thinking of ways to change my content to mimic everyone else's since they were successful already.
Don't think about copying someone else's approach and, most importantly, don't try to change yourself in the process. Each of those bloggers are successful because they have one thing that is unique to them. And that's themselves. You are unique so use that to your advantage! That's how you'll get the followers. That's how you'll develop your content. That's how you'll get your success. Besides, you're awesome already. Why change it? You being you is enough!
I actually noticed an increase in views on my more recent posts because they are more my style and who I am as a person. My first few posts (besides the first one), although topics that I like, are not what I am truly passionate about. They're me, but they're not ME, if that makes sense.
6. Figure Out your niche
Here's that word. Niche. You probably clicked on this post because you are a new blogger like myself or you're thinking about becoming one. I have no doubt that you've read countless "How to Start Your Blog" posts before clicking on my little post here. I bet that each one of those posts said that you have to find your niche. As tiresome as it is to hear that, it is the truth. But I'm just going to widen my thoughts and stray from the crowd a bit on this one.
When we first start out blogging, most of us are doing this on a whim. We don't necessarily know what our first blog post is going to be about, let alone what we plan on writing about for years to come (assuming you continue blogging for that long). I suggest that when you first start out blogging, let loose a little and discover what you actually like writing about.
Take a look at my first four blog posts. They are so vastly different and don't really relate too much to each other. My first little post was about relieving your stress by breathing, my next post was about office plants, and my third is about sleeping habits (everyone seems to love that one!), my fourth is about oily skin! I mean come on! No true correlation. But through those posts I began to figure out what I want my focus to be. My posts thereafter became more developed and have more of a common undertone to them. And that's because I started to see the bigger picture for my blog.
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BONUS! Quick Tip: Figure out your blog mission statement
This is an idea that I got from an amazing book by blogger Ruth Soukup called "Blogging 101 Workbook" which came as a bonus with Ruth's book "How to Blog for Profit Without Selling Your Soul". (I'm not an affiliate, so don't worry about that. All of my opinions are absolutely true and real!) These books were definitely an eye opener for me!
Ruth suggests that after you get your blog name together, you have to figure out what you want to write about. Do this by asking yourself a series of questions which focus on why you want to start a blog and what you actually want to talk about. You must be honest with yourself. Forget about all the other bloggers you like and the topics they're writing about. This is about you because you're the one that will have to continue writing about this stuff if you want to be committed to it. I'm not going to go into details because you just have to read these books!
Once I finished this exercise, my eyes were opened. I knew what I wanted to write about and took to my blog to make the changes I needed to reflect my ideas. My About Me page changed. I changed my navigation bar to include the categories that I want to discuss on my blog. What's even better, I can now plan my content around those categories and their subcategories. It's absolutely amazing and genius! I saved myself so much time by figuring out my niche.
Don't be concerned if you've already started a blog on a different topic. It is okay to change your scope. Once you begin writing about things you are passionate about, your writing will instantly become better and your readers will thank you for it.
Update: I recently rebranded my blog to further refine my mission statement. It was easily the best decision I made for my blog.
7. Organize your time
I struggled with this for quite some time during this month. It is something that I am still working on. Organizing my time has been a key factor in maintaining my sanity between blogging and working full-time. I have begun to figure out when I can work on my blog and when I cannot.
My current routine is okay, but it still needs work. As of now, I work on my blog at night when I get home. I take the time each night to schedule my pins for the next few days on Tailwind and Boardbooster. By scheduling my pins ahead of time, I have more time to focus on my work and other things that I need to take care of for my blog. I also work on any upcoming blog posts that I have planned. In the mornings on my commute to work, I am either on Pinterest being active on group blogging boards and scheduling more Pins or I am reading e-books about blogging.
Bonus! Quick Tip: Keep your blogging time separate from your work time
Blogging is so much fun that I want to focus on it all day. However, I cannot. Keep your blogging separate from your job. It is tempting to tinker with your blog at work, but I doubt that is what your employers are paying you for. Resist the temptation! You can do it!
8. Save monetization for later
Don't focus too much on monetizing your blog just yet. This is something that I figured out rather quickly. Monetizing sounds lovely, but you only truly earn money if people are actually coming to your blog and sticking around. You have to draw in the readers first and you do that by providing them with good quality content, a nice blog design, and consistency. Before you can make the money, you need to get the traffic. You won't have much traffic if you're not giving your readers something to come back to. Focus on building up your content first.
I have been itching to start monetizing my blog, but I know that I won't get much payoff if there is no one reading my blog. Ultimately, I have plans to monetize my blog and hopefully make at least a part-time income from it. As tempting as it is to begin working with affiliate networks, I have decided to put that on hold. My main mission for this blog to inspire others and that is what I want to focus on. Monetization will come later.
9. Go out on a limb and promote yourself.
Tell your family and friends about your blog. It may be embarrassing and you may even feel vulnerable, but word of mouth is a basic way to get readers to your blog.
I was quite hesitant about this step. I didn't want to put myself out there because I wasn't sure if my blog was even worthy of someone's time! Only my fiancé knew about my blog. I waited until I had two blog posts before I announced my blog on social media. But once I did that, I felt free to promote my blog everywhere else too! I've had some friends that have told me that they love and appreciate my content and that it has changed their lives in some way already!
10. Social Media Marketing is Key
If you're blogging for fun and really don't care about having followers or readers, this point isn't really for you. However, if you consider your blog to be your side hustle, you want to monetize your blog, and hope for it to become a business, you MUST - I repeat! - you MUST market your content on social media. Social media is just like word of mouth but on steroids!!! Your content will be shared faster and can reach millions of people within a matter of minutes! Of course, your stuff needs to be good and entertaining first.
Don't skimp on this part. My marketing platform of choice at the moment is Pinterest. I have an Instagram account that I post to as well, however, I'm taking it slow and am temporarily focusing on the one platform that has given me the most views. I have already seen a 100% increase in views on my site already!
Update: I have received well over 30,000 page views in one month with this Tailwind strategy. Click here to read more to learn how you can do the same.
I still post to Instagram regularly as well. Don't put your eggs in one basket!
11. Have Fun!
Blogging is supposed to be fun. I got into it because I wanted something new and different from my job. It allows me creative freedom, an ability to express myself, and an entirely different and new platform to help others. Yes, you can take it seriously, but don't stress yourself out to the point that you want to give up. Your blog is YOUR space. YOU are the boss. YOU are in control. Make it an escape for yourself and not a burden! The quality of your content will show through because of it!!
What I did for my blog during my first month
- Set up my blog on a self-hosted site with Bluehost
- Downloaded a pretty looking theme.
- Wrote one new blog per week
- Promoted my blog on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest
- Signed up for Canva to create awesome pinnable images
- Signed up for Tailwind and Boardbooster to help schedule and promote my pins on Pinterest
- Installed plugins and widgets to beef up my blog and make it look purdy!
- Figured out my niche and blog mission statement
- Changed my menus, sidebar, and navigation to reflect my mission for the blog
- Research, research, research! Including downloading free e-books to learn as much as I can about this new venture of mine
- Signed up for free e-courses. Super helpful!
- Purchased a notebook to write down ideas
- Purchased a planner to create a content calendar
- Most importantly, invested as much time as possible!!
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My Goals for October
- Continue writing two blog posts per week
- Get at least one week ahead of my blog posts
- increase my daily blog traffic*
- grow my traffic and followers on Pinterest*
- increase the amount of subscribers on my blog*
* I'm not putting a specific number because I want to be realistic. I don't want to set a number so high that I left myself down. Any increase is a good increase for me!!
This first month of blogging has definitely opened my eyes to an entirely new world, one that I was not familiar with. The blogging scene is huge and is largely underestimated. I've absolutely enjoyed this journey so far and plan to continue on this path. I hope that sharing what I have learned has been helpful to you and inspires you to give blogging a try!!
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