What Do You Wish You’d Known Before You Started Blogging?

how to blog, what I wish I'd known

Business Blogging

how to blog, what I wish I'd knownI was talking with one of my clients the other day and she was a little down in the dumps. Her first two blog posts had gotten some interest and comments (which is quicker than most!) but the third didn’t seem to have any action.

She felt a little lost in terms of what to do to get more interest and attention for her blog posts.

The discussion brought me back to the time when I first started blogging. What did I think? What did I know? How did I manage to keep going, even when not much was happening?

Here is the advice that I wish I had gotten in the early days:

1) Look for the small things for motivation

For her, I actually pulled up the analytics for her site. I’d been helping her focus on her target keywords, so I knew that she should have some action based on that. Yes. Over the last couple of months she had gone from nothing to high double-digit traffic from people who found her site using some of her target keywords. This was the push she needed to keep going. After just three blog posts and some minor tweaks to the keywords on her site, people were already finding it. She was excited!

Do you have analytics installed? Did you know that you can get Google analytics for free (and there are other options)? Do you know what’s working and what’s not?

2) Most people don’t leave comments

Comments are a tough way to gauge the success of a blog. I think better ways are thing like the following: Do people find it for the right keywords? Do people find your site via links on other sites pointing to your posts because of your great content? Do web visitors email or call you? You may not really know unless you ask people how they found you.

Do people who check out your site before they pick you to help them say that your website or blog helped them decide? Again, start to ask these questions.

Your blog can provide several benefits for your business that have nothing to do with whether you get comments.

3) Don’t constantly tinker with your design

Don’t get me wrong, I love good design. You should get the best design possible for your blog or website (within reason in terms of price and time to get it up and running). If you’re using WordPress or another content management system, that usually means you can find a good free theme (if you’re on a budget), or a premium theme ($30-100 is worth it – see the end for ideas), or pay for a customized theme (if you really need it).

Once that’s done, don’t keep tinkering at the expense of writing. Make sure you get some great content out there and also consider guest blogging once you’ve got your own writing voice down pat.

4) Get to know other blogs and bloggers

A lot of us like to do things on our own. We think writing is a very individual task and that it comes from within. Yes, but see what other bloggers are doing. What posts do they write that you enjoy and why? What styles do you enjoy? How do they use their blog to generate business?

Okay, now that you’ve done some window-shopping, how about leaving a comment? Maybe they’ll come to your site and do the same. That’s one way relationships are born. You can also find people in places like LinkedIn Groups or Facebook Groups or Pages who are sharing great content. You can actually meet other bloggers online and help each other out as you both grow your blogs.

5) Producing content is the best way to improve

Don’t agonize over each post, delaying it for days or weeks. Produce the best content you’re capable of, edit it well, and the publish it. Look at other blogs and learn from them (as mentioned above). Then go back to your site and write another post. Try some ideas that you saw online at other sites. Try creative or unique angles for posts that you come up with in the shower, on the drive, or when you wake up in the morning. Find inspiration, write it up, self-assess and get feedback from others. Then do it again.

6) The visual aspect is important

The formatting, pictures, headers, colors, and other visual elements either will help or hurt the impact of your posts. Get good at formatting your posts and choose interesting pictures that can help tell your story and get people’s attention. For pictures, you can try istockphoto, fotalia, dreamstime, your own pictures (high quality ones) or creative commons (choose the proper license and give credit).

7) Share theirs, enable sharing, and share your own

The number one way for blog posts to get in front of people is via social media sharing. Practice by sharing other people’s blog posts. Just hit a share button on their blog posts (the little Facebook icon, Twitter icon, LinkedIn icon or other). You’ll need an account to share their posts on any given social media platform (so try sharing on one that you already have set up).

Enable people to share your posts by getting share buttons installed on your site like the ones I have to the top left of this post. Sharebar, Digg Digg, Sexy Bookmarks, or Share This are popular WordPress plugins. You don’t need an account on the social media sites for other people to share your content.

Distribute your content via social media. Make sure you share other people’s content but you can also occasionally toot your own horn by distributing your new blog posts. Do people re-share it or tell you they like your content? This is a good way to put your writing to the test.

8) Don’t try to do more than one site (at first)

Some people try to launch more than one blog at a time. I did this – in fact I launched many. Ironically, I came back to the first one and have made this site my home base. I learned a lot with all those experiments but also wasted a lot of time with design, branding and writing. I would probably have learned just about as much for a lot less effort had I stuck with my first blog. So pick well (including your domain name) and focus on doing one site well versus spreading yourself too thin.

Getting back on track

I didn’t go through all of this with her but I covered a few of the most important ones for her situation. We actually agreed to work together on an editorial calendar so she’d know what posts she was going to write, their purpose, and when she’d write them.

We also talked about making sure her posts included pictures (the last one didn’t) and to make sure that the formatting helped people read or skim the posts more easily (what about this post makes it easy to skim?).

She’s back on track. What about you?

What do you want to know? Or, what do you wish you’d known?

If you’re getting started, what questions do you have? Leave them in the comments. If you’re already blogging, what do you know now that you wished you’d know before? Let me know below.


**Click here to learn about my Blog Writing Workshop on April 4th (for beginner bloggers, but all are welcome!)**

Premium Themes: Where to get premium WordPress themes? I like Studiopress and Woothemes (I’m an affiliate) but you can also go here to see others (WordPress premium themes)

Tom Treanor is the founder of the Right Mix Marketing blog. He’s the author of the Search Engine Boot Camp, the co-author of Online Business Productivity, and regularly speaks at industry and corporate events. His writing has been featured on the Content Marketing Institute, Social Media Examiner, Copyblogger and other leading industry blogs.


  1. Tom,

    I can’t tell you how much time and energy I lost when I first started because I continually tinkered with my design. I spent more time changing the way my website looked than I did producing content.

    When I look back on it now it makes me sad.

    You’re completely right. Get something that looks good and leave it be… Start writing.

    Thanks Tom,

    Ryan H.
    Ryan Hanley recently posted..Content Creation Curation – Social Media RoundUp – Week 10My Profile

    1. Hi Ryan. Yes, I spent quite a bit of time on designing new sites versus getting content out there on any of them. I can only rationalize by saying that it taught me quite a bit that I now can apply here!

  2. Hi Tom, I like your advice here. For me, blog commenting did play an important role in my early blogging success. I’m not talking about the comments I received, but what was really vital was the comments that I gave. After awhile people started to pay attention to me and started visiting my blog to find out what I was all about.
    One thing I wish I knew back when I started, not to get caught up in following so-called A-list bloggers. I would listen to their every word and I found out rather quickly that I was wasting my time trying to emulate their style and their level of success. I started putting more value in reaching out to bloggers that I could really connect with and that’s how I began to build relationships.
    Community building sites like Blog Engage are super important, and we also have BizSugar and Blokube to help us make connections as well.
    Ileane recently posted..How to Build Facebook Page Timeline Apps with LujureMy Profile

    1. Hi Ileane. Thank you for that great advice based on your own experiences. I agree that leaving really good and thoughtful comments is a great way to get noticed. Interesting point about how reaching out to peers and making those connections can be really helpful while chasing “A-Listers” can sometimes be a waste of time!
      Thank you for the comment and for sharing the three community-building sites that people can use.

    2. Oh, Ileane – not following so-called A-list bloggers is a good one. Fortunately, I discovered that, too, fairly quickly. Participating in the discussion through comments is also a great tip.

      I guess if I had a single what I wish I knew moment it would be having something to give away (besides the blog posts) to create interest and drive traffic. A free report, e-Book, whatever. Great ideas here, Tom.
      Cathy Miller recently posted..Your Best Bang For Your Buck Marketing CollateralMy Profile

  3. I guess i did the same mistake when i started off. I made too many blogs, and it was a bad idea. Not counting my niche blogs though, they did mostly fine, the problem was the tech and make-money blogs, should have just stuck with one, if at all.

    If only we had articles like these in 2006, but anyway, sometimes learning from own mistakes teach greater lessons, compared to other people’s mistake.

    When i started out, i did not network much, this perhaps was the biggest reason for my slow progress. Would disagree with Illeane, partly though, as chasing A-listers actually kind of works out eventually :)
    Uttoran Sen recently posted..47 Outlandish Ways to Inspire WritingMy Profile

    1. Hi Uttoran,
      Yes, I’ve learned the importance of networking for any blogger. I think it’s good to balance your networking at all levels so you’re not just depending on A-listers. But I agree with you that the right mention from the right person can give you quite a boost. Thanks for the comment!

  4. Excellent post Tom, I think the one thing I wish I’d realised was just how much there is to write about! Back when I started I was scared I would run out of juice and end up looking flighty and inconsistant because I didn’t keep it up! Oh was I ever wrong!! Mind you, I suppose knowing just how many blog posts were waiting to be written might have overwhelmed me!
    Actually now I’m thinking about it there is one other piece of advice I’d share with newbie bloggers … write every day! Even if it’s only for thirty minutes. and make sure your writing time is dedicated just to that, nothing should distract you.
    Hope that helps :)
    Gemma Thompson recently posted..What are Your Competition doing on Social Media?My Profile

    1. Gemma,

      I think that’s great advice. I don’t write every day but I write 2-3 times a week in a focused way (for over an hour each time at a minimum). I think, to your point, regularly working on your writing helps you improve and makes it an ingrained habit. Thanks for the input!

  5. Man, oh, man, if I could pick two it’d be the editorial calendar and maybe how to put together an article style guide of sorts.

    Not that I stick to those 100% of the time these days, but when I do, it really helps not only keep me on track, but they help free my mind from some publishing details so I can be brainstorming the next article.
    Dave Huffman recently posted..NoFollow, No Cry: Why NoFollow Links Are Still OkMy Profile

    1. Dave, that’s great advice. Having a plan for what you’ll write and when (via an editorial calendar) and having some basic guidelines or steps for each post is another great one. Thanks for adding to the list!

  6. I started blogging about 4 things (yes, 4 things that indeed, interested me greatly) – Law of Attraction/Self-Help, Affiliate Marketing, Travel, and Writing. And since I was new in the blogging business (which I found to be 180 degrees different than just writing) I buddied up with bloggers writing about blogging.

    But thats all they wrote about – blogging. How to, do’s, don’ts, rules, supposed-to’s . . . When I figured out how to focus more on my niches, the ‘general’ bloggers faded away. Doesn’t bloggers writing about bloggers continue friendships after someone gains the skill-set of blogging?

    I surmised that if blogging went away tomorrow (just saying . . ) they wouldn’t have anything to write about. But writing, travel, marketing, and helping each other live a life of great passion will always be in demand. So I continue.

    My instruction/hint – decide your actual, very focused niche in the very beginning, immediately, and build alliances from there. You’ll save a lot of time on the fairway, and out of the rough!

    1. Gibson,

      Great story and advice. I appreciate your words of wisdom about niches and what will be in demand in the future. I think all of us need to find more fairways and stay out of the rough and this is really helpful. Thanks for contributing to the list!

  7. Tom

    I was having this discussion the other day with a friend. I’d do a few things differently thats for sure. When I started out I had a narrow niche. After about 6 months or so I felt like I was backed into a corner with no scope to take the site further, I felt like I was constantly rehashing the same info.
    So I readjusted, rebranded and moved on happier and with more ideas than ever.

    I’d also get over the fear of rejection and get out there and pimp my work to the wider world, instead of thinking people would find me (yeah right). I agree with your thoughts on this Tom, that you do need to find your voice and style before you take this step…but I’ve waited far too long on this score.

    Finally about networking. Just get out there and connect with people, I mean really connect and not just with people who you think can help you, but with people that you can help also. People that are interesting, whose work you admire and inspire you. They will make you a better writer.
    Jackie recently posted..You Don’t Suck, But Your Excuses Do!My Profile

  8. If I’d know then what I know now, I would have injected more personality into my posts. There’s really nothing new under the sun. Whatever your blog post is about, hundreds if not thousands of other bloggers have already written about it before you.

    The only unique thing about your blog is YOU. If all I wanted to do is learn about a particular subject, I can buy a book, read white papers, or have a quick glance at Wikipedia.

    What attracts me to a particular blog, and keeps me coming back for more again and again is the author. Her special voice, her unique way of delivering common information, her ability to make me think beyond the obvious.

    Even if you have a great post that goes viral, it will be replaced by the next best thing to come along as quickly as you can read this comment. No, a blog needs more than just good information to attract an audience. It needs personality to retain that audience.
    Jeanne Pi recently posted..Taking Chances and the Cure for EDMy Profile

    1. Jeanne,

      Great input and perspective about what gives a blog lasting power. Personality – possibly the great missing link for many out there. Thanks for adding to the list!

  9. I like the #1 tip… look for small things for inspiration. I put off blogging for days/weeks because I feel like I don’t have anything grand to say. This was a great post, really enjoyed it!

  10. Good tips Tom. Man, you’re full of them… :-)

    For me, you’re reminder to stop fretting to make each post “perfect” is um… perfect timing. I think Brian Clark said something like this: “Finished beats perfect.”

    I have it written on my forehead backwards so when I look in the mirror it’s screaming out to me…

    Thanks Tom… :-)
    Eric T. Wagner recently posted..Why Entrepreneurs MatterMy Profile

  11. Tom!

    You rock!

    What I really like about this post is that it offers appreciation and celebration for newcomers. There are so many powerful signs and great indicators of progress, and so many “dark tunnels” that aren’t so dark, if only we knew what was up going in :)

    P.S. On a list post streak? :)

    1. Jason. Yes, I try to encourage the newcomers because I know what’s it’s like to face something unknown. Thanks for your encouragement! And yes, I am on a list post marathon… I guess it’s my favorite format and I even teach a class on it! Okay, okay you got me. Next week at least one post will be non-list! I’m even thinking infographic…

  12. Really great post, Tom! There is a lot of the “write epic content” thing going around, and while I respect that, especially for first time bloggers, it’s more important to just start writing. Every great blogger out there has said that when they first started, they were not so good. Over time, you start to learn what works and what doesn’t, but if you don’t write at all, that can’t happen.

    It’s hard writing into a vacuum at the beginning (although it feels really safe too!!), but I’m glad your client is back on track. I have definitely gotten much of my current traffic from commenting on other blogs. Doesn’t quite rival guest-posting as a traffic strategy, but it made enough of a difference to get me through the first year and to a point where I was ready to guest post.

    Best of luck to your client and thanks for the great article – I’m definitely going to refer this to some friends who are new bloggers.
    Sarah recently posted..How to Make Life a CelebrationMy Profile

    1. Sarah,

      Yes, it’s hard to jump from just starting to epic! I like your advice on networking via comments as you start to get a little traffic going and then moving to guest blogging. Thanks for the comment!

  13. I’ve been trying to run two blogs at the same time and I’ve realised that I can’t produce content like Chris Brogan, I’ve got too many other demands on my time (unless I give up sleep that is). So I’ve decided not to pay the hosting invoice on the second one even though I’ve renewed the domain names because you never know what the future holds. I’m going to concentrate on making one blog great before developing my media empire!

    Things I wish I’d known before I started blogging? That it was fun. That it’s damned hard work but you should enjoy it for what it is and that if you’re half good at it, you should never, ever give up.
    Mike Garner recently posted..A few bests practices on FacebookMy Profile

    1. Hi Mike. Yes, I hear you. I’ve wiped out sites in the past and for others I have kept them on my hosting account and I’ve actually come back after a break. More than one regularly is tough though! Thanks for sharing your experience and for the inspiration – never, ever give up!

  14. Great read. I haven’t launched my site yet, but my area of improvement is website design. I need to leave it alone and post my content “LOL”. I love when you say to get better produce more content. I couldn’t agree more the more I learn and right the better everything feels. Thanks for the share.
    Mike Williams recently posted..Mike’s First Blog Post, What’s UpMy Profile

  15. Hi Tom. Thanks for a great post. Reading through the comments I suppose I’ve had most of the problems mentioned here when I first started. Knowing what I know now, I would have started by clearly identifying my ideal client and then I would have written my content in a much more personal manner as if I were writing it for that one specific person.
    Elizabeth Todd recently posted..How to improve your Social Media TrackingMy Profile

  16. Hi Tom. Well, a lot of these hit home. I could go on and on with the mistakes I first made. I’d say the biggest ones were spending too much time trying to learn technical stuff that I could have outsourced cheaply, picking topics based primarily on keyword research vs. interest, and trying to learn and do too many things at once. I love to learn and there’s no end to the amount you “need to learn” in internet marketing, but I’m trying hard to focus on just what’s relevant at a specific point in time for my business. Far better to spend the time writing, marketing and networking.

    Thanks for all the great tips!
    Sharyn Sheldon recently posted..Time Management PLR Article PackMy Profile

  17. My answer is such a tiny little thing, but I really wish I’d known more about file structure…on blogger AND WordPress. Those darned sub-sub-sub folders drove me nuts until I could see the pattern.

    After learning to eliminate some of the sub folders with the /%postname%/ designation and learning how to upload images and other files via FTP to the location I wanted them to be – rather than /datesub/datesub/etcsub/ locations, the blogging beast became MUCH more manageable.

    But I really DO wish I’d known how to change those types of options from the beginning.

    I like the ability to control my files and my code, so I’ve migrated over to Self-Hosted WordPress for most of my tiny blog experiments. I do still have a couple of small blogs on Blogger that I should probably transition to WordPress. …but I’ve done that once now. It wasn’t fun. …and it was a really small blog. These larger ones could be painful.

    For a couple of the tiny blogger blogs, I actually intend to keep them on Blogger. Some types of blogs actually do work better on platforms such as Blogger, WordPress.com, or typepad.

    BUT, for the larger blogs with potential to grow even more, I’ll probably bite the bullet and move them over to self-hosted WordPress.

    …but that’s probably a lot more detail than anyone needed to see my original wish that I’d known more about the platforms’ structure. That kind of early knowledge sure would have helped control file locations and help migrations from one platform to another.
    Sherry Snider recently posted..Change the Heading and Navigation Button Font Colors in the SimpleFolio ThemeMy Profile

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