What Do You Wish You’d Known Before You Started 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.

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**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)

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Comments

  1. 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? :)

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. 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