11 Things No One Tells You About Starting A Blog That You Need To Know
Starting a blog isn’t as easy at times as it is portrayed to be, while it does only take a few simple steps to build your physical blog (which you can learn to do here in only 8 steps) there is a lot more that goes into it than just simply starting a website and watching it explode. A lot of posts out there make it seem like making a blog is the key to quitting your job and travelling the world for good, but in reality that isn’t necessarily going to happen. Does it happen, yes it does, but the likelihood is very slim and if you look at all the blogs in the world probably around 1% of people are in that category
With that being said, it shouldn’t deter you from starting a blog if you are truly interested in it. In fact, these points about things you should know before you make your own blog could help you fully understand what it takes to make a blog, build its content, stick with it, and not stress over the small stuff. Honestly, most of these points we wish we knew well before building Toques & Boots. It probably would have helped us avoid a few mishaps, arguments, and cry-fests along the way.
We would be lying if we said that we don’t find running our blog extremely rewarding, is it currently our full-time job? No, it’s not, hopefully, one day it will be but not for the time being. But being able to connect with our readers and help people have the trips of their lives is so rewarding that it makes every ounce of energy spent on this hobby well worth it.
But we don’t want you to think that starting a blog is all glitz and glamour, it’s not.
Starting a blog is essentially building your own business from the bottom up. We love those articles that are like ‘I made $5,000 a month in my first month of blogging!’ Because honestly, that isn’t going to happen to a good 99% of blogs, it’s very rare. Will you make an income on your blog? You totally can, but it takes time.
So with all of that being said here are the 11 things we wish we knew and think you should know about starting a blog.
1) If You Build It They Will Not Come
Just because you decided to start a blog, wrote a few posts and put it out into the world doesn’t mean people are going to find it or care about it. A lot of it comes down to marketing.
Did you know that Telsa Motors was not invented by Elon Musk? He was an investor and simply marketed the idea/product in the companies early days. Which effectively turned Telsa into what we know it as today. The technology was already there but no one was interested because it wasn’t pitched properly and put in front of a wide audience. Blogs work in a similar way. You need to catch your audience, sure you will get some organic traffic along the way (we will get to that in a bit). But a majority of your traffic is going to come through marketing.
You’ll find yourself constantly posting on social media, updating articles and re-posting them to these channels. Sharing on Facebook, Pinterest, Stumbleupon, etc etc etc.
There are ENDLESS avenues for marketing your blog.
But they need to happen and happen consistently until you reach a point where sharing channels do the work for you. Do this from the moment you start a blog. Even after sharing on all those platforms, you still need to be active in the community.
WARNING: When you are active in the community you are going to see a lot of people boasting about how well their blogs are doing. But do NOT compare your blog and its success to theirs. They are two completely different blogs, often with completely different markets or target audiences. If you compare yourself to them you’ll end up just getting upset if you’re behind them in any way. You may feel like a failure at points, but you aren’t. Just keep going and remember to think positive. Like we mentioned 99% of blogs won’t explode overnight.
2) Social Media Isn't That Easy
It’s not as simple as posting a couple mediocre photos, posts or tweets every day. Social media posting needs to be consistent, timely, organized and of the utmost quality. Basically, users want a constant stream of media that is superior. Example, Instagram growth can be tricky. You want to post a photo 1-3 times a day provided it’s a quality photo. That’s 7-21 photos per week, of DIFFERENT material. No one wants to see the same photo posted constantly with a different edit. They want variety.
Which means you are editing 7-21 photos per week. If it takes you even 30 minutes to edit a photo that’s 3.5-10.5 hours a week. On JUST your Instagram feed. Now add in Pinterest (recommended 30 pins/re-pins a day), Twitter (1-5 tweets a day), Facebook (2-3 posts a day) and all of a sudden it’s nearly 20 hours a week. Now, keep in mind that 20 hours isn’t including the time spent writing and re-writing blog posts.
That’s a lot of time.
Let’s throw a wrench in that plan. Instagram changes their algorithm and now users typically only see content from accounts they have interacted with before. All of a sudden you lose a significant audience and have to rework your entire marketing plan. Better step up that hashtag game. RESEARCH your hashtags. Find accounts similar to yours and see which ones they use, copy those and refresh them at least once or twice a month. Interact with their audience to draw them into your feed. That doesn’t just go for Instagram, all other social media platforms are similar. Be active in your community.
Pinterest has been a huge traffic boost for us and we highly recommend and love using Tailwind. It makes pinning SO SO SO MUCH easier. You can schedule a bunch of pins for even up to a month at a time if you want! Which means you can focus on other channels. It also has something called Tribes. These Tailwind tribes are groups of people who share their pins with each other and re-pin those pins. It’s a great way to access new boards of people who are constantly marketing themselves as well. So you know that active users are re-pinning your articles which is great! You can sign-up for Tailwind here, it’s around $10 a month and worth every penny!
3) SEO Is Super Important From The Start
When we decided to start a blog we honestly didn’t know a damn thing about SEO. All we knew is when we Googled something, shit came up. Sadly your articles aren’t just going to show up on the first page of Google just because you posted something. The articles that appear on the first page have a significant amount of traffic and impeccable SEO. What is SEO? Search Engine Optimization. This article explains it really well.
Why is this important?
It tells Google what is on that page so when users look for that item Google can say, ‘Oh look this page has what you want!’ Without that optimization, Google won’t know and doesn’t care what is on your page.
You could be thinking, ya that’s obvious. But do you know how to properly implement successful keywords that people actually search for? We sure didn’t. And let us tell you, going back to 40 some odd posts and updating SEO is less than enjoyable.
Regardless, it’s a good idea to go back every once and a while and update that SEO to make it relevant again.
Your posts need to be indexed properly, are people more likely to search for, ‘tips for living in a campervan‘ or ‘living in a van.’ Is having that ‘camper’ in there actually significant or could it potentially hurt how many people locate your articles? The answer is, it very well could and that could change. A great resource for knowing if your keywords are good is Google Trends. You can type in what you are planning on using for keywords and compare it to another phrase. This gives you an idea of whether or not people will actually find your writing.
Another great resource to check for what people are searching when typing in a particular keyword is AnswerThePublic.com. You simply type in your keyword and they tell you what people have typed into Google. This will make it easier to create your headlines.
Now, don’t forget those keywords need to be placed within your text too, just in your title is not enough. You want them multiple times throughout the piece. It gives Google a solid idea of what your page is about and will help to rank it higher in the search engines. Traffic helps you rank too (right back to that marketing). The more traffic a page gets the more likely Google will place it higher in the engine. Google thinks this page must be relevant because it’s getting lots of traffic.
If you implement SEO from the moment you start a blog your older articles are more likely to gain traction while you continue creating new content.
4) Writer's Block Is Real
Have you ever tried to write a 2000 word essay in school and get to about 1,000 words and all of a sudden you’re like, ‘shit, now what do I write about.’ Well, sometimes blogs are like that. Articles of ours like ‘how to strengthen your relationship while traveling‘ and ‘5 ways traveling can change your life‘ were difficult for us to write and took more time than some of our other articles. Sometimes the words spew out and sometimes they don’t.
It’s not always easy coming up with articles that people are going to relate to and that read well. Especially when you first start a blog, because you don’t really know your audience fully yet. Ideas also seem to come into your head at the most random times. If you don’t stop and write that idea down somewhere to remind yourself…you will lose it.
There have been countless times were laying in bed we are thinking of the most epic article ever but don’t write it down.
Then in the morning, we forget the entire idea.
Carrying a small notepad or having a section on your phone for times you get eureka moments is a good idea. If you get stuck writing an article don’t be afraid to create a draft and just leave it sitting there for a while.
If you feel pressured to sit down and write an entire article in one go you are more than likely going to struggle with it. Have a few articles on the go that you can go back to. It will also help you from panicking when you need to post an article twice a week but have no ideas. Those backburner ideas are a good thing!
It’s also not a bad idea to write your posts in a word document and save that. Just so you don’t lose anything you’ve written in case your website crashes for some reason.
5) You Don't Need To Master Code & HTML
That being said, you should at least know a small amount of information about code before you start a blog. Yes, even if you use WordPress. If something breaks on your site you need to know WHY it broke and how to fix it or at least where to find it. You may also want to know some basics as far as customizing text like bold and italics, new paragraphs and so on. If something breaks though you’re going to have to go through some code and figure out what the hell happened. Are we saying you need to be a developer to run a website? No.
Hell, we aren’t web developers!
But it has helped us quite a bit along the way to at least have a base of knowledge about what code is and what it means. Code Conquest is a great starting point for learning code and why you should know a little about it. One of the main benefits of using WordPress and hosting through SiteGround is if you need help there are loads of forums and help desk associates who can lead in the right direction.
However, if you get help from them and they explain to you how to fix something by adding code into a snippet of your website you should probably know what the hell they’re talking about.
All else fails…Google it.
6) Don't Compare Yourself To Others
Yes, there have been tears shed on this website and some of the shit that happens within it. Not from Andrew…just from me mainly. It is not for the faint of heart running a blog! But at the end of the day if it is still your passion and your dream it’s all worth it…regardless of the endless amounts of frustration you may end up going through.
We love our little blog, whether it is extremely successful or is only enjoyed by a few people throughout its lifetime. Why? Because our blog is a reflection of us and our experiences through our lives. There’s no reason in crying over that.
7) Moving Servers Sucks
We do not (even to this day) know the full inner workings of a website. So when it came time for us to switch to a new website host…it got a bit messy. We recently switched from one popular platform to Siteground. Siteground made it fairly easy…but there was only so much they could do. Our site ended up fully crashing and was down for a full 24 hours at one point during the transition. Why? Because there was information stuck on the one host and we didn’t know how to retrieve it. Some of the changes we had made were reverted back to incredibly old back-ups and we lost a lot of great articles. Luckily, we were able to recover them. But we seriously just got lucky and it took a lot of work and a few tears (from Venessa of course).
So from the get go…PICK A GOOD HOST. Start a blog on the right foot. Like we said, we self-host with Siteground. It’s not super expensive and we always recommend starting your blog off by self-hosting. You can check out our guide on how to start a blog here or go right to Siteground by going here.
8) Don't Check Analytics Daily
It’s a very hard habit to break, so just don’t start it. We understand that when you start a blog you’re going to want to check if your views are increasing day by day. But don’t. Because some days you’ll be like WOW and some you might be like…WTF I’M DOING EVERYTHING RIGHT. Just relax, check it once a week if even that. You’re way more likely to fully see your growth by checking longer time spans. Which is going to make you feel a hell of a lot better about your page views and growth.
9) Talk In Your Own Voice
Finding your own voice is INCREDIBLY important. You’ll want to find it right away when you start a blog because it’s one of the main reasons your readers are going to stay. They want to hear what YOU have to say how you would actually say it. I (Venessa) write the majority of our articles because I love writing. It was a bit hard for me at first to find a voice that felt like mine. Until I just start typing the way I talk. One of the greatest compliments I have received regarding this blog was when a friend from University told me she enjoyed reading what I wrote because she could actually hear me saying it. That was HUGE. Because it told me that she connected with it on a more personal level instead of reading some boring novel.
Find your voice! Believe in it! Write in it!
10) The Blogging Community Is The Best
When you start a blog and continue to nourish and love it…it can be stressful. You might get anxious at times trying to impress your readers while gaining more. Fear of letting those people down can be overwhelming. But…find solace in your blogging community!
They are so charming and welcoming and will support your ups and downs. We are part of quite a few Facebook groups for bloggers who have been there no matter how ridiculous the questions are. They constantly support us and really are some of the best people. It’s also really exciting to see their growth (without comparing it to yours of course). Find a community that you love and get to know the people within it!
Here is a couple we love:
Female Travel Bloggers: https://www.facebook.com/groups/femaletravelbloggers/
Blogging 101: https://www.facebook.com/groups/blog101group/
Blogger Insights: https://www.facebook.com/groups/bloggerinsightcommunity/
Boost Your Blog: https://www.facebook.com/groups/963272083763338/
11) Be Consistent & Stay Committed
Starting a blog is just the first step in the blogging process, you have to stay consistent with posting on your various channels and continue staying committed to your blog if you want it to grow. It isn't a one and done type of thing, it takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and revision. If you make a blog with the idea that you can post once a month and our traffic will soar to 10,000 views a day, sadly you are wrong.
But don't get discouraged if you put in the time and effort and it slowly grows instead of skyrockets, because it will grow we promise you. It just takes time.
But if you don't go into starting a blog knowing that it is going to be a long-term commitment then your blog will most likely fail. That's also why it is so important to pick a topic you are truly passionate about, whether that's travel, finance, lifestyle, or fashion. Find something you know you will never get bored of and stick with it.
It's also important to stay consistent with your themes, writing style and voice, new article posts, and all your social media channels. Consistency is going to not only tell your audience you are committed to them it's going to tell Google you are committed too, which ultimately helps you rise in the search rankings. Google loves new and updated content that is relevant.
Starting a blog is just the beginning of a long journey to an unknown destination. But don't let all of these unknowns deter you from making a blog and getting your voice into the world. There is plenty of space in the world where your voice, opinion, and creative content belongs.
These are only a few of the things we wish we knew before starting a blog, but a lot of the things we have learned come with time, patience and practice. You're going to learn a lot when you make your own blog and all of these learnings will help you in various aspects of your life.
If you've gone through this and are ready to make your own blog, you can follow our guide here which will take you through 8 steps of starting a blog with SiteGround.