9 Things I wish I knew before starting a blog

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Blogging hell

Okay, so when it comes to the technical side of things, starting a blog is actually really straightforward. All you do is:

  1. Find a nice domain name and register it.
  2. Pick a blogging platform – most likely WordPress.
  3. Sign up for a web hosting account – most likely at Bluehost (recommend Siteground)
  4. Have WordPress installed.
  5. Pick a WordPress theme.
  6. Install a set of must-have WordPress plugins.
  7. Customize your site and fine-tune the settings.
  8. Write and publish your first blog post.However, doing all these steps – even though they might seem like a lot – is quite trivial, since you’re being taken by the hand along the way; first by your hosting company, and then by the WordPress dashboard itself.
    So instead of talking about the things that most people will figure out pretty much on their own, we’ve decided to focus on the more challenging stuff when starting a blog. We’re going to cover everything from writing to SEO, designing images, marketing, tools, security, and a lot lot more.

To start with, since it’s probably been the most important piece of many a blogging career, let’s talk SEO!
More specifically, let’s talk about how easy SEO really is, and the common mistakes people make when starting a blog.

1.Use SEO to drive tens of thousands of visitors every month

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the art of optimizing your content in order to rank for certain keywords on search results like Google.
SEO is an umbrella term including keyword research, link building (the process of acquiring links to your site from other sites to improve your search rankings; here’s a nice guide on that), and a whole slew of other actions needed for best performance.But more on that later in this guide. For now, while it may sound intimidating, it’s actually a simple process.

It works like this:
I. Find keywords with a fairly low ranking difficulty around your niche.

you can use a tool like Ahrefs, Moz, or SEMrush to see keyword search volume and difficulty. Here’s how using Ahrefs for keyword research looks:

II. Create content that’s the best on the web for the topic and keyword you’ve chosen.

Look on Google to see what’s ranking in the top 10 results, then do everything you can to make a better post. That could mean better images, more in-depth explanations, linking to more resources, or all of the above together.

III. Spend just as much time promoting that content as you did creating it. Maybe more.
That doesn’t just mean sharing it on social media, either. You should do email outreachto influencers, write guest blog posts and even consider paid promotion like Facebook ads.

And that’s for a very small niche – RVing and campervans. It’s way more impactful with bigger niches, like any kind of business, marketing, or travel.
Oh, and in case you come across it, I highly recommend white hat SEO (valid tactics according to Google’s terms of service) over black hat SEO (tactics that work, but are against Google’s policies and can penalize your site).
Now, obviously, there’s a lot more to SEO than I can explain in 250 words. But this gives you the basics, which really aren’t difficult.

2. Build links to boost your rankings

put link building right after SEO because it’s really just an extension of SEO. Backlinks to your website are one of Google’s strongest indicators for ranking a site higher.
It’s a lot of work, but isn’t necessarily difficult or complicated. It’s just a matter of networking, building strong relationships, and targeting your content to the people who can provide links.
Here’s a quick and dirty overview to link building:
First, you need high-quality content. No one is going to link to garbage.
Once you have quality content, reach out to anyone you linked to in your article. These people are the most likely to share and link to it, since they have a stake in it.
(Hint: The better you make people look, the higher the chance they’ll link to you.)
For example, here’s an email I sent out to all 30+ people who contributed to the last post on my blog:

If you want to automate this process, you can use an email outreach tool like MailShake.
This isn’t the only way to get backlinks, though.
There are tons of other backlink building techniques you can use, like resource page link building, broken link building, and getting links from people who write roundups, to name a few.

3. Go for quality over quantity

This is a lesson I’ve learned in my study of SEO, and in blogging in general. Quality always beats quantity when it comes to blog posts.
Pushing out daily or even weekly posts simply isn’t necessary. If you do things right, once a month is plenty. That gives you the whole month to spend on promotion.

Google used to give some merit to sites with fresh content.
Then sites started abusing that and pushing out a dozen crappy articles a day. It worked for a little bit, but then Google laid down the ban hammer. Now those sites are extinct.
Besides, would you rather have ten OK posts on your blog, or two really great ones? I’d rather have the two great ones. Especially because, as those high-quality articles gather backlinks, they have more authority and increase the value of internal links (which I’ll talk about next).

4. Use internal linking to help Google (and people) navigate your site

Internal links are especially important when you’re starting a blog. They’re simply links from one page on your site to another page on your site. (Where external linking is a link from a page on your site to a page on another person’s site.)

Internal linking is important for SEO, but it’s also important to help your readers get around your blog. It’s also a great way to get new readers to read old content.
Plus, when you have a blog post that ranks highly in search engines and got a lot of backlinks, any internal links from that page to your other pages helps boost those pages’ rankings.

5. Guest blog for more traffic, better SEO, and brand awareness

Guest blogging is a strategy for getting backlinks and traffic to your site. You’re essentially borrowing (stealing?) another authoritative blog’s traffic.
You’ve probably seen or heard of this before. It works like this:
First, you have to find a blog you’d like to write for. (If you’ve been blogging for awhile, you probably already have some in mind.) Look for the people who are industry leaders in your niche or a very related niche.

6. Use social media to drive thousands of converting traffic

Social media and blogging are two peas in a pod. You can’t really have one without the other.
But, there’s nothing more frustrating than spending four hours writing a blog post, only to see zero engagement. No comments, no shares, and your one like is from grandma.
That’s because most people do social media all wrong. They use it as a publishing platform where they just push out their blog posts. Social media isn’t an RSS feed!
So, how do you use social media the right way?

By networking and being social. (You’ll start to notice that almost everything in blogging revolves around networking.)
Let me give you a perfect example: I have a Facebook page for my RV travel blog. Almost everything I post gets less than 5 likes, no comments, and no shares. But then I implemented this simple strategy…

I created a high-quality post that involved over 30 other RVers – many of whom have lots of social media followers themselves.

7. Create amazing images to increase shares, backlinks, and subscribers

Creating high-quality images is not only easy, it’s also affordable and fast. And it’s a must-have in today’s highly competitive world.
If you look at the top blogs in your industry, do they use a lot of quality images? I think we both know the answer.
Images make it easier for people to read your content, keep them on your page longer, and help readers digest the information you’re giving them.

8. Format your blog post to make you look like an expert

Just like beautiful images increase reader’s time on page and engagement, so does a well-formatted piece.
Let’s face it: People don’t read everything word-for-word anymore. The average internet reader today skims. There’s just too much content and too little time to do anything else.
That’s where formatting comes in. A well-formatted post makes it easy for your readers to skim (to see if the post is worth their time), then dive in if they feel it is.
So how do you go about formatting?

Here are some pointers:

  • Divide long text with headers and subheaders
  • Use bulleted and numbered lists to point out key information
  • Bold and italicize key points (but don’t use both at the same time)
  • Add quality images (rule of thumb is to use one every 300 words or so)
  • Use short paragraphs (no more than 3 to 5 lines at most – this helps with skimming and mobile reading)

Add call to actions to get the most from your audience
Not leveraging call to actions (CTAs) on my blog was a major mistake.
A CTA is anything you want for your customers to take action on. It could be subscribing to a newsletter, reading another blog post, or making a purchase. A content upgrade is an example of a CTA.

Every single one of your posts – and especially when starting a blog for the first time – should have a CTA of some kind. Whether it’s as simple as a request for a share or a comment, or as big as making a purchase, every post should have an outcome.
If your post doesn’t have a CTA, you’re missing out on tons of potential sales, leads, and traffic generation opportunities.

I’m not saying every post needs to sell something. It just needs to give your reader a “next step”.

9. Stick to a theme for better SEO and a stronger follower base

One of the biggest mistakes I made early on, and see other bloggers making, is not sticking to a theme for your posts.
I get it – people are diverse. We all have multiple interests. You might be a photographer who also loves travel and marketing. But your blog won’t benefit from talking about all three things. Here’s why:
Finding the right readership will be difficult. How many people do you know that are travelers, photographers, and marketers? (OK maybe that’s a decent-sized niche, but you get the point.)
SEO will be more difficult. Google likes sites that are solely dedicated to a single topic because it knows exactly what that site is about.

It will be harder to monetize your blog. Money comes from direct, targeted traffic. If you’re spreading yourself too thin, you won’t get the quality traffic you need.
If you really must talk about different things, I recommend starting a blog that’s totally separate. Unless you can really find a niche audience and still have very strong posts around each topic, it’s just not worth it.

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