What I’ve Learned Through My First Year of Blogging
It’s hard to believe that its already been a year since I started blogging. Originally, I started out more or less blogging to promote the book I am working on. However, that quickly changed when I realized how much I loved informing everyone and then getting feedback on what I was doing. I did have a somewhat rough beginning with another website that I will not name, but I’m thankful for that experience as it taught me many valuable lessons as a newbie blogger. Then, in June of last year, I officially made the switch to WordPress and haven’t looked back. I’ve uploaded over 70 original posts and re-SEO’d everything from my prior site for my new site. I’ve had weeks were I had hundreds of views and weeks were I had 3 views. There’s been countless late nights and insane amounts of research on topics I never thought I’d know, but in the end, I wouldn’t change a single piece of my blogging journey. Along the way I’ve learned quite a bit, and it only seemed right to share what blogging has taught me with anyone who may be playing with the idea of becoming a blogger.
Always Do Your Research
As I mentioned above, I had some rough goings with the site who must not be named early on in my blogging career. When I decided I wanted to start writing my book, I figured blogging would be a great way to easily brand myself and the book, as well as post periodic update son said book. However, I kind of just dove into the first site I found and didn’t do much research outside of cost. Little did I know, the site I chose had almost no customization aspects and it was very hard to update anything aesthetically outside of blog posts. This, along with a poor name choice for my first site, led me to very quickly regret the decision I made for which site to use. I took the next week to really research a ton of different blog-hosting sites, and eventually landed on WordPress. If only I had done all that research from the beginning.
It Will Take Time to Find Your Niche
If you’re familiar with my site, then you should 1,000% know this as true facts. My blog is labeled as a “Lifestyle Blog”, but in all honesty, that’s because “Lifestyle” is the only term broad enough to capture everything I blog about. There’s been a few instances where I thought I found my niche, but things didn’t end up working out in the long run. The first was sports writing, and after that came movie reviewing. I landed Internships/jobs with both, but as time went on I decided I still wasn’t ready to settle into just one content area. It’s very similar to our careers: sometimes it takes time to truly know what you want to do.
Coding is More Useful Than You Think While Blogging
Now, I’m no expert coder (hell, I’m probably not even regarded as a novice coder), but the bit of coding I have picked up over the last year has gone an extremely long way. If you peruse my site, you’ll notice a lot of matching colors and texts that vary depending on what page you land on. Almost all of that variation is due to CSS coding. CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets and it allows you to store style information (such as colors, fonts, and layouts) separate form your HTML code. Without this coding, my site would look identical to the theme that I, and millions of others, have chosen from the basic WordPress theme bank. CSS does a lot more than just adjust colors though. I’ve used it to hide areas of my site I don’t want to be visible. It’s very useful for enlarging images and boxes that an image may be sitting in. You can even use it to add in things such as sticky menu’s, return to top buttons, and much more. Of course, WordPress also has an amazing team of CSS coders that are almost always readily available to assist with any questions too, which is a total lifesaver!
SEO is Critical to Driving Traffic
As I mentioned in my intro, when I switched over to WordPress I had to go back and completely re-SEO all of my old sites articles. When I first started blogging, I had no clue what SEO was (if you don’t, check these articles out). I was just coming up with super crafty titles for my articles that didn’t have any keywords that matched my writing and throwing headers into my content willy-nilly when I saw fit. That wasn’t good for traffic though because my articles weren’t being pulled up in searches. I had no relevant keywords, links, or content in all honesty. I was lucky if I had 5 clicks a week! But once I figured out what SEO was and how I could effectively implement it into my blog, those numbers began growing exponentially. I’m still not pulling in massive numbers weekly, but what I pull now makes my old site look like it was built (and written) by a child.
Quality over Quantity
When I first began blogging, I had a post work routine to write “x” amount of words for my blog and “x” amounts of words for my book before I went to bed later that night. At first, this was the exact thing I needed to get the site up and running with some quality content. However, over time, this became unfeasible… yet I was still doing it anyways. This led to what I thought was a great idea at the time, a short weekly review of whatever I was stanning in any particular week. However, writing only 100-200 words for a post is not great for a site and leads to sub par work – not to mention it kills any shot of solid SEO. This idea eventually led to all of my articles becoming smaller, and I quickly realized my desire to push out “x” amount of posts per week was resulting in a decline in my quality as well as my site’s traffic. Since then, I’ve really pushed myself away from word/post counts and more towards posting articles once I feel like they’re ready. This leads to weeks without posts sometimes, which probably isn’t great, but I’d rather have a smaller inventory of great products than a massive inventory of crappy products.
Social Media Can Drive Massive Traffic
This is probably pretty self-explanatory. If you have another platform where you can promote your blog, do it. Social media gets more eyes and clicks to your blog, especially in times like these. Almost everyone is stuck at home and glued to their phones due to COVID-19, and a few well-placed grams, tweets, or even Facebook posts can go a long way. Plus, all three of these have options for you to promote your work, which can get your blog content out to thousands of people who may not typically be looking for what you may be offering. I started with only a Facebook page a year ago, but now I have an IG for each section of my site (due to the fact that a good chunk of my site is also relating to my novel series), a twitter, and two Facebook pages that relate to separate areas of my site. I draw in a good chunk of my traffic from these three mediums, especially as my following grows day by day.
You Won’t Always Meet Your Blogging Goals
This was a tough pill for me to swallow right around the time when I started not meeting daily word and weekly post goals. I wanted so badly to have a consistent routine that allowed me to pump as much content out to my followers as possible, but life doesn’t always let you do what you’d like. Some layoffs at work led to me working longer hours and having less time to write, then I moved into a new house and spent weeks getting everything situated and livable. And on top of all that, my significant other and I found out we were having a baby boy! This mixture of things led to an extreme lack of content from me between mid September to Late December. The key here though is to just remember you can’t always do it all. You need to stay positive and take whatever you can get sometimes. Instead of having a word limit goal, have an idea or concept goal. Then, once your hiatus ends, you will have a backlog of ideas and started projects that you can dive into to reach whatever new goals you may want to set!
Sometimes You Just Need a Break
This somewhat ties into the above lesson, but since I’ve started blogging I’ve released you sometimes just need a break. I’ve taken two two-week breaks over the last six months. The first was in November. Among the things mentioned previously, I was also in the process of rebuilding my blog. It was near impossible to teach myself CSS, write my book, and blog. So I nixed blogging for a bit to focus on the site, and then came back with all cylinders firing in December. The second break was for the birth of my son. To me, the two weeks I was allowed to take off from work felt like they needed to be spent solely on my son. I did a little idea jotting here and there, but my handsome boy (and the lack of sleep that he brought with him) took up most of my time in late February. A lot of people may be within the mindset that you constantly have to be grinding, but for others, that can lead down a spiraling staircase of lost content quality. So remember to do what’s best for you in the long run, you will have plenty of time to figure out what’s best for your blog after.
I honestly can say that a year ago I knew I would have grown and learned quite a bit, but I never thought I would be where I am today. Within that incredibly short 365 day span I’ve closed in on 100 blog posts, 1,500 views, and over 700 unique visitors. I had no idea that I, as a full time worker and parent, would be able to reach and influence 700 people! I hope that the things I have learned can help you on your journey, and I hope we both grow our blogs and brands exponentially over the coming years. Be sure to check out the rest of my content at DustyPosts, and let me know what you’ve learned early in your blogging lives as well!