The most important thing when starting a blog is to be realistic. So here’s your reality check. I’m not here to tell you to write great content. Have an eye-catching headlines. Use long-term tail keywords. Share your posts on social media. Include share buttons. Use analytics. Yes of course these things can help. But you can do all these things (and more) and still only have a handful of people reading your blog. Itchy Feet Travel had its first birthday a few months ago. My first year blogging had many ups and downs. Many challenges and frustrations. Some mistakes and some wins.
Learn from my mistakes to avoid repeating them.
Hello. It’s me, reality.
This post is for people who think that starting a blog is all rainbows and unicorns and that in six months they’ll be quitting their jobs and blogging full-time. I’m sorry (not sorry) to crush your dreams but for the majority of people that’s just not the case.
This article is for bloggers who know that it can take a lot of hard work to stand out in an increasingly crowded sea of blogs. They know that it’s not always easy and that along the way it’s important to celebrate the little victories.
This article is to give you a realistic expectation of some of what it takes to get a blog up and running. Blogging is highly competitive. Pretty much anyone can start a blog today. In addition to talent you also need knowledge, opportunity, and a bit of luck.
Here are the most important things I leaned during my first year blogging (and what I wish people would have told me).
1. Don’t believe the optimists
There are so many articles online with people gushing about how they only started blogging 9 months ago and now they have over 10,000 followers a month. Telling you that if you follow their 10 or 15 or 20 steps you’ll be in the same place as them in no time. Blah blah blah.
Much more important than being optimistic is being realistic.
Sure, you could be that person who in 9 months is gushing about what a success their blog is. If you are, then great! However, that’s not what you should expect because it’s not reality for the large majority of bloggers. People always say that if you work hard you’ll be successful – unfortunately that’s not always true in blogging or in life.
2. Don’t jump into the deep end with no idea what monsters are lurking beneath (like I did)
When you first start a blog you’ll be pumped and ready to go. It’s good to be excited but I can tell you from experience that it’s also important to do research beforehand. You want to get off to a good start. Before even starting your blog you need to consider what your domain name will be, what host you are going to use, what blogging platform, and what theme you are going to use.
When I started I didn’t do much research (I basically did none and decided I’d figure it out along the way). I ended up changing my domain name three times and my blogging platform twice – essentially having to start over again each time. Once I settled on a domain name, host, and platform I still changed my theme three times. Each time it was very time-consuming to reorganise things how I wanted them.
Research the options so that you can make a well-informed decision about what is going to work best for you and your blog. Otherwise, you will waste a lot of time trying things that are not a good fit.
I recommend getting a domain name from Blue Host and install Word Press as a blogging platform. For choosing a theme check out Theme Forest.
3. Don’t assume that you’re so interesting that everyone just can’t wait to read about your life
You may think that you have such a super interesting life (or some unique point of view) that you can simply post stuff and people will be tripping over themselves to read it. You can’t assume that just because you have great ideas or great stories or great writing that your blog will be an instant success. Chances are that someone out there has better ideas, better stories, and better writing (and in today’s world they probably already have a blog) ((sorry that’s just me being realistic)).
You need to have some kind of blog strategy.
- What value can you give to people?
- Which people will your blog appeal to and how will you reach them?
- How are people going to find your blog in a sea of blogs? Your blog is like a needle in a haystack.
- What will make people want to spend time on your blog?
- Why would people want to share your blog?
- What will make people remember your blog and come back?
4. It’s not a sprint it’s a marathon. If you stop someone will pass you and if you push yourself too hard you’ll puke.
Until you get a ton of content and followers, a blog is something that needs regular maintenance and investment. Publishing content on a regular basis (at least once a week) and promoting it daily is required to maintain continuous growth. Focus on creating consistent high-quality content and followers.
If you try to sprint to the end by rushing to make as much content as you can and by adding anyone and everyone on social media then you’ll fall flat on your face. Focus on providing quality content that adds value and entertains your readers. With each high quality piece you will have more and more content.
5. Blog for the right reasons (no the right reason isn’t money)
A lot of bloggers quit because they don’t realize how much work and time can go into making a blog a success.
You can spend countless hours playing basketball but you will probably never make it into the NBA. You can spend your whole life swimming but you’ll probably never make it to the Olympics. Blogging is the same. You have to do it because you love it. Not because you expect to get rich from it. You can have dreams and goals to make it to the top but that can’t be the only thing (or the most important thing) that drives you. Your passion will help grow and improve your blog. With hard work, the right opportunities, and a little luck you might just make it.
6. Take a break but don’t give up
Working on your blog and you aren’t seeing the results you expected? It’s easy to become frustrated and discouraged. You might start to wonder why you are putting so much effort into something that is not paying off.
That’s normal and I’m sure all bloggers have felt like that at one point – I know I have. Sometime you just need a break. You will do your best writing and create your best content when you are inspired and motivated. Take a break from blogging – your blog will be waiting for you when you’re ready to start again.
7. Take advantage of opportunities
Many of today’s successful people have this in common. There was a point in their lives where an opportunity presented itself. This opportunity, and the ability to recognize it and act on it, helped launch them towards success.
You need people to be able to find your blog. If you get an opportunity to be featured on another site (a good site that has a similar audience to yours) then seize the opportunity! If you have an opportunity to do an interview go for it! This can give you a boost in traffic and you never know who might read your work. Every bit helps.
At the very least, it’s another link back to your blog which can help improve your SEO. It will also help you to develop relationships with other people in your industry.
8. Celebrate the little wins
Set goals for yourself and when you reach them celebrate! Every step forward puts you one step closer to having a stronger and bigger blog. It’s important to look back and see how far you’ve come instead of always focusing on how far you have left to go. It’s like when you are waiting in a long line. Looking in front and seeing all the people ahead of you is discouraging and frustrating. Instead, look at all the people behind you. Focus on how far you have moved up (and how many people are behind you) instead of how far you have left to go.
9. See other bloggers as assets not as competition
I have found that many bloggers are very open to helping each other out. There are lots of other bloggers out there who have been where you are and who are where you want to be. Take advantage of online blogging communities to ask other bloggers questions. Help support other bloggers and look for opportunities to collaborate. It’s about collaborating and building each other up instead of trying to run over the competition.
You can also use other bloggers to get an idea of what works and what doesn’t. What do the top bloggers in you industry have in common? What do they do really well? Looking at other blogs can help point you in the right direction of what works.
10. Don’t let people take advantage of you
Once you start to build up a following it’s important for you to understand your value. This is important because a lot of companies will expect you to advertise or promote or feature this or that for free. They either don’t realize the amount of time and effort you’ve put into building your blog and following or they don’t care. Either way, don’t feel like you have to work for free. Pass on the people and companies that are not willing to recognize your value and form partnerships with those who are.
11. The longer you do it the better you’ll get
When I go back and look at posts that I wrote a year ago I often cringe and think man did I really write that? Over that last year I see a big improvement in my writing. The more you do something the better you’ll get. You don’t need to be an expert when you start you just need to be willing to try new things, to learn, and to grow. You should always be thinking how can I improve this? How can I make this better?
12. The biggest bloggers in the world started at the same place as you
Finally, this point is important to remember when you start comparing yourself to other bloggers and wondering how you’ll ever reach their level. Remember, your favorite bloggers were at one point in the same place that you are. Even the most popular blog started from zero. Everyone starts at the same place. It’s the people with passion, determination, creativity, and persistence that get to the top.
First Year Blogging
When you decide to go into blogging make sure you’re doing something that you enjoy and that you are doing it for the right reasons. Stick with it, it’s not something that goes from 0 – 100 overnight. It will require a lot of work but who knows, in the end, it might just pay off.
Even if your blog does not turn into a raging success you will still meet new people with similar interests, you’ll improve your writing and content creation skills, your social media skills, and your website creation and management skills. All of which are very valuable skills to have.
If you havn’t taken the first steps to starting a blog yet, make sure you check out How to Start a Successful Travel Blog in 5 Easy Steps.