When I started blogging back in 2007, blogging was relatively new in its current iteration. Blogs were often housed on other major websites and less frequently on privately owned domains. When I moved onto my Dangerous Cupcake Lifestyle blog in 2013, I was determined to leave my hobby blog days behind but I made a lot of new blogger mistakes.
Starting a blog is a whole new world, and while there are a whole lot of ways to do it differently and be successful, there are mistakes to avoid that will save you time and get your blog traffic moving higher, further, and faster. (Points to anyone who gets that quote.)
Learn from my suggestions so you can start a new blog off on the right foot!
Let’s start by talking about a myth I hear all the time: blogging is easy. But, like Loki told Thor….
My Marvel quote game is strong.
Blogging isn’t easy. I’m not saying it’s hard either, but to say it is ‘easy’ implies it isn’t work, when it’s very much work. We don’t just write and then slap it onto our website.
We research, write and tweak it to make sure it’s not only clear to read, but it’s appealing. We do SEO research to make sure Google makes it easy for you to find. We set scenes, buy photo equipment to make the lighting natural and take multiple photographs to ensure our product or environment is displayed in the best way possible.
We handle our website maintenance and design, manage the accounting, business partnerships, relationships with public relations departments and maintain an editorial calendar. We also handle our social media accounts. There is oh so much more, but I’ve had a bourbon sour as it’s Friday night and that’s all besides the point anyway. Blogging isn’t easy and there are a lot of ways to increase your chances of success early on.
So. All of that aside, blogging is about writing. Putting your heart out there in words, sentimental or informative, humorous or serious, and somehow getting people to read it. There’s way more time involved in it than this post implies, and in the rush to get things published and available, there are many things you can do right or wrong to help your cause.
Here are a few of the common new blogger mistakes made, AKA THINGS I DID WRONG.
- Pick a name that grows with you. Choose a domain that doesn’t pigeonhole you into a niche you may not want in three, five or even ten years. Why? Because permanent redirects and paying for two domains a year can be avoided, as can confusion about who you really are and any fees incurred in getting the technical aspects fixed if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself.
- Speaking of picking your domain name, say to yourself: can I fit this name into forms when I sign up for things? Because, let me say Donna @ DangerousCupcakeLifestyle.com is one loooooong email address to write when I register for something. It doesn’t easily fit on name tags. It may be catchy, but that doesn’t replace LONG.
- Learn the basics of SEO for bloggers from the beginning. Learn what a keyword is and why you need it. Find an affordable, or even better, free way to do the keyword research as you plan your post. Once a slug aka url is created, you can’t change it. Well, physically, you can, but then you create other problems. Use keywords properly from the beginning and avoid that.
- To further the SEO topic, do the work right up front. H1, title, meta description, alt text, do it all. It’s so much easier than going back and “re-SEO’ing” all your old posts.
- Pitch properly, and know your stuff when you DO pitch. Here’s my embarrassing story that I’m cringing to share, but I’m going to take one for the team and tell you so you can do better.
When I first started this blog, I was six months in — and not monetized or even focused on it yet, as I’d just completed a cross-country move — when I got laid-off from my job of almost 17 years. I needed to jump start my income and started writing pitch letters and responding to applications. Woohoo, I’ve got actual readers! My first response though was jarring. “Donna, I love your blog, and your tag line is clever, but you’ve only got 400 unique views this past 30 days. We need to know that more people are reading your site for us to invest. I give you kudos for trying, but please reapply when you’ve got a solid, consistent readership.”
I had given them access to my stats without even looking. THE HORRORS. It was a kick in the pants I needed to get my traffic back up to where it should be. It hurt a little but her honesty was so appreciated. A lot of people won’t tell you the WHY when you aren’t chosen for an opportunity, and I get that. As a brand, when representing a client in my social media agency, it’s hard to say too much as sometimes it opens a whole new can of worms, but when you learn these tidbits of info, listen. Take it to heart. Don’t let it stop you or upset you, but use it to move forward and improve.
- Which leads me to the next topic: stay on top of your analytics. Don’t fall asleep at the wheel. Some people will tell you they don’t look at their numbers and that you shouldn’t either, but Google Analytics are a wealth of helpful information. You need to know what’s working, what isn’t, trends, etc. Never apply to something without knowing where you stand.
Yes, I did all of these things. I started with one heck of an awesome name but it stopped representing me fully when I moved back to California. My current website name is one I love, and a lot of brands and people tell me that they love and can easily remember, but I’m like “I need a minute to fill out this form. Do you have a second page?” Tagging me also is a nightmare for people. I wish I’d thought of that.
I didn’t know much about SEO for bloggers initially. I knew some, as I was doing SEO at my day job, but it’s still different when doing it for a blog. I’d also been lazy.
Phew, I said it out loud. Lazy.
I was slapping up posts in a rush to publish when I had a great idea and no patience, and I didn’t realize until I did a massive site audit that I’d left out things like alt text, meta descriptions and many more things that helps Google display my site closer to the top of the search results. As in, first page. Who looks at the second page or beyond? Anyone?
It took a long time to go through all my posts and correct those omissions. (That’s a topic for a separate post, as I do offer SEO for bloggers now as a service, and it’s something I enjoy as much as I do blogging now.)
While going through those old posts, I found a number of posts less than 300 words. Whoops. Some had no featured photos. HOW in the world did I even publish them without that? What exactly did my site look like in the early days? All posts need a featured photo. I also found that some of my content stunk.
If we’re honest, all of us have that content that felt good to write but looking back, we wonder what the heck we were thinking. I’ve deleted some of that content, while repurposing and fixing others. It’s important to be critical of our own stuff and realize when it’s not working. I went through a stressful phase when planning for that cross-country move, and some of the content was mindless and without a point. Gonzo.
Last but not least, research your hosts carefully. Don’t just go for the cheapest deal. (Go, mommy, to a better host.) Did you get my hint? I chose a major provider and initially, they were fantastic. As my site and traffic grew though, they had problems keeping up. One day, my site wouldn’t load. It took an amazing IT person to fix it, but it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. That host wouldn’t give me any of my almost one year’s worth of prepaid service back, while telling me they couldn’t fix the problem.
I now pay more, but I get more. I get smooth, speedy loading, no downtime and a wonderful customer support system as well as a knowledgeable IT person to help with site fixes that are out of my realm.
That said, you don’t need to spend a lot to get a host. Don’t let cost stop you from getting a blog, but also avoid the freebie sites that add their name into your URL, because they can be hard to monetize later on.
New blogger mistakes are easy to make, so tell yourself going in that it IS going to happen. It’s impossible to do it all perfectly, and any honest blogger will tell you at least one story of something they did wrong. This list is by no means all-inclusive,