Hi friends – it’s me, Michelle, the girl in the photo above! I started writing blogs in October of 2018 and published this website January 2019! While I’m no veteran, I feel like I’m past my rookie stage. Now I have so many friends or acquaintances who I’ve seen talking about starting a blog recently and it made me really think about what tips I would have given past Michelle when she was first starting. Blogs are really fun and while I quite enjoy mine, it’s also a lot of work (if you want to be consistent with it).
My earliest mistake was quite literally the first thing I did to start my blog… create the platform for it. At that point in time I didn’t work in the IT industry (I literally work for a company that specializes in building and maintaining websites) and so I wasn’t familiar with building a website or what platforms were the best for it, etc. I went with GoDaddy’s website builder and while it was extremely easy and convenient, I grew out of it quite quickly. It’s not easily customized so as you continue to grow and decide how you want your blog to evolve, it’s difficult to put those plans into action. Even simple things like fonts and colors have you very limited, at least when I was using it. My blog is now in WordPress, as are 33% of the world’s websites, and it’s hands down the best choice. Depending your builder, it can be quite user friendly and while I have the support of my developer friends, I’ve managed to figure out how to implement and create new features by myself!
The lesson here: the foundation of your website/blog is important. Don’t go with something so ‘easy and simple’ unless you’re okay with a complete rebuild when the time comes… because it WILL end up needing a rebuild.
After creating my website I wanted to have some content on it before I made it public for the world to see, which I HIGHLY recommend. I wrote and posted about 10 blogs before I announced my launch. Here’s where my next mistake comes to play. I was too scared to really write what I wanted and to make it as long as I wanted. I was so concerned with if it was ‘exciting’ enough or if it was ‘too long’, ‘too boring’, ‘too vague’. I wasn’t comfortable with the idea that there’s nothing I can do to make people be interested, they either will be or will not. They’ll read the whole thing or skip out early. They’ll share with their friends or keep it to themselves… that logic applies to endless situations and I have only one thing in my control with that – the content I’m providing for readers.
When I go back and read them now they’re nice and I like them, but they’re too short! They’re not as enticing as I feel some of my others are and they definitely feel like they’re ending abruptly, without a solid transition. They’re about 5 short paragraphs, if that. Now, I’m far more comfortable with my blog content and with putting my opinion out there on appropriate topics. At the end of the day, if I’m happy with what I post that’s really all I should care about and all that you should care about. I’m not hoping to make this my full time job. It’s just a hobby for me and I quite enjoy it! Basically it’s my own journal of growth that I’ll be able to look back on over the years and see how things have changed for me, and I love that. If other people enjoy following along or reading my opinion on different topics, then that’s amazing and it really warms my heart when people reach out. However, at the end of the day if you aren’t writing because you enjoy it, you’ll burn out quite quick.
Similar to what I wrote above, but also different?… I write as much as I want but I now only write ABOUT topics that are of actual importance to me. When I don’t have an interest in the topic I think it really comes through in my writing. When I first started my blog I felt the pressure to be posting every week if I wanted to see any growth in interest from readers. The truth is this, if you aren’t well-known when you’re launching your blog, you’re not going to have a bunch of readers any time soon. Once a week is honestly quite difficult to manage when it’s just a hobby, you have a personal life, and are also working 40 hours a week. Especially when you factor in that you want the content to be meaningful and not just thrown together… it’s a lot! I’ve been posting bi-weekly for over a year and honestly it’s perfect for me. Most of the time I’ll have this spurt where I write four blogs and I’m set for the next two months! But sometimes, like with this blog, I’m actually a week late. It’s been really difficult to feel inspired to write about anything as we’ve been in this lock-down from the Corona-virus. But the bottom line is this – when I first started posting I was so stressed if I missed even once, and honestly this is the first time I’ve posted late in about nine months… but it’s not the end of the world. Relax. If writing blogs becomes your job it won’t be so fun anymore. If this is just a hobby, cut yourself some slack and just enjoy it as a hobby.
A few more items and I think I’ve hopefully managed to give a few helpful items to watch out for!
I’ve always looked at my statistics since the beginning and really it’s been quite rewarding to see my readers per month grow. Now I have spikes in my charts even when I don’t post anything new! I used to have maybe 100 a month and now I’m well over 300. It’s exciting to see that by only posting consistently and writing about meaningful topics to me, I’ve been able to triple my readers in a year. I can also see if they’re new or returning, from which country they’re reading, what pages were visited the most, the average time readers stay on my website, etc. Stats are super important and SEO really gave me a big help in this growth. Again, I’m lucky enough to work for an IT company so actually my SEO colleague optimized my whole website and taught me how to do it myself for every post, image, link to be shared, the whole nine yards. If I didn’t have him, it probably wouldn’t have been something I would have thought about or figured out on my own. So I’m telling you – DO IT. Optimize your website and Google the basics of SEO. It’s worth it and it DOES help. Trust me on this – people from Singapore, Japan, Russia, Poland, Austria and more wouldn’t be seeing my website if it wasn’t optimized for search engines. Learn how to do the following just to start out and you’ll be off to a great start:
- Set featured images for when you share your links on social media
- Add tags to your posts
- Optimize those tags
- Add a focus key phrase for each blog AND set up the Google preview
Last one and this is SUPER important. The images on your website are extremely crucial. Try to stay away from stock and use your own. Even if it’s not the best image, it’s better to be relatable and show people who you really are rather than a generic one off the internet. This is another thing I learned from my SEO colleague. After my website was rebuilt he made me switch out ALL of my stock feature blog images for my own and it just made such a huge difference in the whole vibe my blog gave off. It became less of a “I wanna be a blogger” and more of a “welcome to my diary, I’m glad you’re here to share thoughts and experiences”. It’s okay to not want to be a famous blogger but still want to have readers! I mean that’s exactly where I am! I’m not writing for nothing, of course I hope people still read and enjoy and feel like they can relate to me! Photos are an excellent way to accomplish that. I feel like it shows you that I’m living this life I write about, not just wishing that I was.
Of course I’ve learned a lot more in the past 16 months, but I think these are the things I would really focus on if I could go back in time and start over again. I hope that anyone considering starting a blog found a few interesting points to think about and hopefully, implement!
Thanks for reading – chat soon.