My Advice for New Bloggers
There are a lot of tips a new blogger can Google and stumble upon some random “top 10 list” on how to be a better blogger. This isn’t really one of those, and for good reason. Everyone has a blog of some sort these days to probably include your grandmother. I have been blogging since 2003 in full form so it’s only right that I type out some of the realities that I have learned along with advice that might actually help you not make the same mistakes. So many things that I thought would happen as I typed out hundreds of thousands of words over the years never did. I could chalk it up to the niche I blogged in, or that I was terrible at it. Either way, there was some really hard realities to deal with at the end of the day.
People blog for various reasons and all of them are probably good ones. It’s a lot like small business though, so many start with great possibilities but end in failure. It could be your niche, approach, platform, marketing, or whatever else you want to throw into the mix. At the end of the day you have to ask yourself if you have the experience to turn the ship around. Sadly, for so many the answer is no. Platforms like Blogger, Tumblr, and WordPress.com are perfect for those that want to get familiar with writing online but awful for those who do something more with their effort. Let’s dive in and discuss some of the realities you have to learn to accept in order to develop a Plan B to overcome them.
The Realities First
No one likes a “negative Nancy”, but sometimes an “experienced Ernie” can help avoid some of the mistakes new bloggers make or limit the false hopes that some may have once they find out about shared hosting and WordPress. There are many that will only use a third-party platform to blog such as Blogger, WordPress.com, or maybe Tumblr. This isn’t about selling you a platform to push your thoughts out to the world on. This is about documenting some of the pitfalls that I have been through when I started out and even long into my “career” as an internet conversationalist.
Each time I thought of this new website that I could write until my heart could have no more, I would begin the process of buying the domain, setting up hosting, installing WordPress, and getting the theme just right. Sometimes I would make it to post #10 and every once in a while I would have some longevity and get to post 100. My hopes were always dashed and my cry for attention was drowned out in a sea of others looking for the same thing. I am a dreamer and an entrepreneur that is looking for the right opportunity to turn this middle-class guy into the next superstar that everyone is reading about. Everyone is allowed to dream about making it big, right? It’s what every American is raised to believe from the first time mom looks into your eyes and tells you can be anything you want to be. She was always my biggest fan…
I want to pass on some of my thoughts in the form of a list and explain a little about what I mean when I call these the realities.
- You won’t make any money. You may make some, but making money by blogging is like getting into major league sports. Few will, but the vast majority will not. The sooner you stop thinking about making money the better you might actually position yourself to earn some dough. This one is much like love. When you least expect it, it will come knocking. Go in and assume this is nothing more than a hobby and grow it into a passion, then a business.
- Adsense will not make you rich. It will help make Google richer and you look like the jerk that is peddling terrible ads. No one likes the site that has ads because “It helps keep the lights on”. This is a lot like the first item in the list. Everyone immediately thinks Google is their answer to money because it’s easy to put ads around your site. People judge you based on the company you keep, and this is not a good one.
- You are not entitled to make money online even if you have positioned yourself just right. Just because you decided to create a website does not mean the rest of us are supposed to pitch in and fund you. That’s what Adsense sold you and an assumption so many bloggers have. I know, there seems to be a lot about money. That’s because it’s normally reason 1, 2, and 3 to start a blog.
- You may never get even one comment. This one hurts the most for me. I spend hours and hours crafting what I think is amazing content and no one leaves even a simple comment saying hello. People just don’t really like commenting that much. If I could suggest one thing, install LiveFyre in your WordPress installation for commenting. It will give you a better chance at getting engagement. To date though, Facebook comments were the most active, however, the comments aren’t saved in your database so if you change permalinks you may loose comments. That’s why I suggest Livefyre from the get-go.
- You are competing against millions of websites to be seen, and the worst part is that most people only go to about 5-10 websites during their time online and don’t go much further unless they are searching for something specific on Google. This is why you need to have a plan to overcome this issue. By this I mean SEO and SMM plan.
- Your images suck and you shouldn’t take them from Google Images or stock photos. Almost everyone has a camera, but no one wants to walk outside to take original content with it for their blog post. People want something special that they haven’t seen before.
- Your website will never be fast enough. It’s a well-known fact that Google chases after ever millisecond they can eliminate to speed up their website, but then again, we aren’t Google. Do what you can to be fast, but I have found that it’s more important to be valued. People will wait a bit longer for something that is worth it.
That’s a short list of things you have to plan on facing. Blogging is tough even if you think you have a niche that has been waiting for you to arrive. Even as I write this I am thinking that it could all be for nothing. What keeps me going and writing posts all these years? The truth is my blogging is for me. I am not interested in money, fame, or even comments but I will gladly take them. I don’t really care if no one reads me. That’s true to a point at least. I go in with the mindset that it’s all for nothing. I suppose it helps me cope with failure but sets the bar low enough for success.
I have plenty of people that read my blogs from all over the world daily. I hope they keep coming too. I appreciate being validated through Google Analytics and you will too if you learn not to get wrapped up thinking about money, fame, or whatever you might be after. Now that I have been spending most of the post so far being negative, let me change things around a bit and tell you my tips for success!
Blogging is a LOT of fun if you put your energy into it. Your thoughts will be read by many, and you may help people with your blogging. Those reasons alone keep me producing better and better content. Let’s do a list about positive tips that I have for any new blogger.
- Focus on quality over quantity. This is a common recommendation. I go further though. I mean really sink your teeth into your content. It’s you first chance of making a great impression to a new reader.
- Let your personality seep through all those words and have fun with your writing. Never censor yourself because that is what makes your blog special.
- Use original images always! I can’t tell you enough how important it is to take your own images or create them using your favorite image software. Using copyrighted images makes your blog lose credit and doesn’t add anything special. I use to just go to Google Images and grab something that made sense. I stopped when I realized it wasn’t helping. If you can’t tell by looking at the blog here I use original images for each post.
- Don’t rehash other content that can be found online. Be as original and unique as possible. This will help you gain that following you started blogging for.
- Do NOT skip social media when you start your blog. You want to be on Twitter first, then whatever matches your niche. I have plenty of articles on this subject.
- Brand your blog and your identity. You can notice very quickly that I did just that for this website because it’s something that is extremely important to me. My name is my brand just like any other business like Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, or Tommy Chong. They all know how important their names are.
- Don’t blog just to be consistent or get your post count up. Make your posts count and put them out when they are ready. Everyone says consistency but the reality is that most bloggers don’t have a staff queuing up content left and right. If you are like me, you are alone and thoughts come whenever they feel like it. It’s such a bummer for my readers, but they will come back if they think my content is worth it.
- Make things highly shareable. There are more than enough plugins for your content management system (CMS) to choose from. I don’t have any recommendations on what you should use. Search and see what fits your end goal. The more people can share your content the better it is for your blog. Leverage it always!
- Give credit where it should be given. You can name drop people in your content if it makes it more credible. I don’t do this that often because most of this comes from my head and practicing it daily. From time to time I will mention people that I may have heard something from that deserves being mentioned.
- Guest blog if that’s your thing. I don’t guest blog because I either don’t get asked to do it, or I just don’t have the time to do it. I write on average 15K-20K words a week so my time is limited, but it can be really great exposure if you get the opportunity.
- Focus on the User Experience (UX) when building your site. This includes speed, limiting the clicks it takes to get to content, and removing barriers that slow down your guests access. This simply means to keep your site simple, easy to use, and for Pete’s sake, no pop-ups for your newsletter or whatever you want them to do. Leave it around in the sidebar and if they want to be added then they will do so. I personally leave sites that make the experience difficult.
- Get someone to do graphics for you if you are not able to produce them yourself. Don’t know someone? I do, and I don’t mind helping you. You want to do branding across your site and social. The to-do list should be colors, logo, all social media profiles and cover images, and anything else you plan on doing. They should look great!
I will update this list as needed, but there is a lot to chew on in there for any new blogger. Even if you are an old blogger that is looking for something new and fresh for your site you can hopefully add something I mentioned. My goal is to help a fellow blogger out and build better content. Let me know if you enjoyed this and I would be happy to expand on anything in this. Leave a comment below and say hi too!