7 Essential Lessons for Beginner Bloggers
Being a professional blogger is, for many, one of those dream jobs - the internet is full of them: those people that have adoring audiences, hanging on their every word, huge readership numbers and social followers, and advertisers falling over themselves to give them money to advertise on their site.
That’s how it can appear to the casual blog reader, who has no real insight into what it takes to establish a successful blog and the work that goes on behind the scenes to keep it ticking along and grow as a business.
Many people have the idea that the formula goes something like this: whack up a website + regularly write about stuff = money and success. This is probably why so many people try their hand, and fail spectacularly, at blogging. The reality is very different to how they imagine, and it’s not until many people actually try their hand at blogging that they realize the learning curve is actually far greater than they imagined.
While learning to become a successful blogger and turning it into a side-income earner, or even full-time job, requires some pretty in-depth research and a significant time investment, here are 7 essential lessons any aspiring beginner blogger needs to know before starting out:
1. Understand you’re on a journey
Starting out, it is very likely you’ll realize the reality of blogging is quite a bit different from your expectations. It is very likely you’ll experience feeling overwhelmed and intimidated. This can especially be the case if you constantly compare yourself to established, successful bloggers: they have a snazzy, attractive, functional site while you may not even yet know how to register a domain name; they post engaging, entertaining content several times a week while you haven’t even begun researching what it is you should be writing about.
This is common - and though it can be demoralizing, you must remember one thing - every successful blogger started where you are - from scratch. The best way of learning is by doing, and the reason why most successful bloggers are successful is that they’re established; they’ve learned over time, by trial and error and learning as they go what works.
There’s one great quote you should take on board that will help you keep your head down and working at your own game, rather than constantly comparing yourself to others who are already thriving: Don’t compare your chapter 1 to someone else’s chapter 20.
2. Self-host; don’t use free blogging platforms
Now we begin to get into the more practical tips for beginner bloggers. One of the most important lessons is right from the outset, your blog should be self-hosted. This means you sign up with a paid web host and host your own domain and blog yourself.
This is as opposed to using free blog hosts, such as Blogger, Tumblr, Weebly, and Wix. Using one of these platforms means you don’t pay for hosting or a domain, but this is not the option to choose if you want to be a true blogging professional.
Think of self-hosting your blog like building your own house on your own land. Using a free blogging platform is like renting a property you don’t own - ultimately, you don’t have any control over it. With free platforms, you may be restricted in terms of your advertising options, available themes and plugins, bandwidth allowance, and essentially you don’t own your asset. In essence, your blog can be wiped from the internet with no recourse if the company you’re with goes out of business, changes its business model, or if you somehow violate their terms of service.
The safest and most sensible option right from the outset is to invest in your own domain and own hosting. The cost involved is worth it for the peace of mind that comes from having complete ownership and control of your blog, and it really is minimal. Many domain registrars have new coupon codes every month, and when it comes to hosting, you can always find HostGator discount codes, so getting started with a professional web host should be within reach to even those on a shoestring budget.
3. Use WordPress
Now that you have hosting sorted, there’s really one option you should consider when it comes to actually building your blog - WordPress. 30% of sites on the internet today are powered by WordPress, making it the most popular CMS (Content Management System) by far. And with good reason.
The advantages of using WordPress for your blog are numerous: it’s relatively easy to make changes without any coding knowledge, and it’s easy to find instructions and tutorials for just about anything to do with WordPress. But if you would rather leave any customization or changes to a professional, there’s no shortage of WordPress whizzes who will not cost the earth.
There’s an endless array of themes (for your blog’s appearance) and plugins (for functionality and add-ons) available for WordPress, and it can integrate with third-party tools, so you can have an entirely self-contained ecosystem, accessible from your blog’s Dashboard, where you can do everything from managing your email list to allocating and invoicing for advertising space.
WordPress is not only user-friendly and flexible, but it also easiest for building fast-loading, responsive, SEO-optimized sites - all features your blog must have in order to be competitive.
4. Invest in your website
It’s true that in the world of blogging, you need to spend a bit of money in order to make money. It’s worth investing in certain things to make your site unique, attractive, and to save time and make things easier on you when starting out.
Consider investing in a premium WordPress theme - these are almost always more customizable and feature-packed than free themes, as well as being better supported and updated regularly. To put your own unique stamp on your blog, hire a developer to customize your theme to reflect your unique style and brand.
Speaking of branding - you’ll want to invest in a professionally done logo, favicon, and possibly even nice-to-haves like custom social sharing buttons. If you’re serious about blogging and making money from it, you need to treat it as a business, and your blog is essentially your shop-front, so it needs to be visually appealing and unique. Consider user experience when choosing your design and layout. There’s a theme to suit just about anybody’s style and taste, but make sure it’s going to appeal to your readers and visitors who are going to be navigating your site as well.
5. Plan & schedule
This lesson is a simple one, yet one of the most crucial to your success as a blogger.
You must have posts planned and scheduled for publishing in advance. Even if you’re not at the stage of being a full-time professional, you should still treat your blogging as if you are - that means creating and sticking to an editorial calendar.
When doing your initial research for your blog, you should have a fairly lengthy list of post topics and keywords to write about. Set a writing schedule that you can realistically keep up with, and plan out your future post topics and publishing times in advance. The key to blogging is consistency and sticking to a schedule. If you can get into an editorial mindset from the start, the easier it will be to consistently maintain a schedule of researching, planning, writing, publishing, and promoting your posts.
Don’t overlook the importance of SEO to your blog’s success. You can’t expect to just write anything on a topic, publish it, and expect it to soar to the top of the search results. Following on from the previous lesson, a professional and methodical approach needs to be taken regarding SEO.
It begins with keyword research. It’s crucial to discover keywords for the topics you are wanting to write about that strike a balance between having a decent search volume and competition difficulty. Keyword and topic selection is an art form and worthy of a whole article of its own. Fortunately, there are some great SEO resources out there, the likes of the Ahrefs blog, Backlinko, and Quicksprout University that are great starting points for getting you up to speed in this area, as well as more advanced SEO.
One further advantage of using WordPress is how handy it is for SEO optimization. Many themes take SEO into account, and there are plugins (the most popular being Yoast SEO) that make optimizing all your on-page stuff like URLs, target keywords, keyword density, etc., relatively easy.
One other thing that is going to pay off in terms of SEO is the length of your content - if you’re getting into blogging because you love to write, then this tip is going to be right up your alley. It is a simple truth that lengthier content ranks better in Google - the average word count of a Google first-page result is 1,890 words. Go in-depth and provide excellent coverage on whatever topic you write about, and you’ll be more likely to rank, as well as providing value to your readers.
7. Make the commitment
Finally, realize that it takes time to build a successful blog. You can’t go into it expecting overnight success. Like any business, it takes time, commitment, discipline, and effort to get to a point where it’s sustainable and bringing in a full-time or even side income.
The effort you put in will accumulate over time, though. Blogging is a Tortoise and Hare type of race - stick with it and plug away doing the right things, and you will be rewarded in the long run. Note I said doing the _right things - _that means planning and preparing so you are doing things right from the start. Get it wrong, or try and take shortcuts, and you’ll inevitably end up another disheartened soul on the failed blogger scrapheap.
You will have moments of doubt, frustration, and inevitable setbacks, but if you know what you’re doing, you trust in the process and are prepared to play the long game, then chances are, you’ll reach your goal of an income-producing blog.
There are many lessons to be learned when you’re a new blogger just starting out, and far too many learn them the hard way; by going in blind with no real prior knowledge or research.
If you are just starting out, hopefully, this article has opened your eyes to some of the most common mistakes.