October 22nd was my first anniversary in blogging! This past year has been a complete learning experience, but I’ve enjoyed my first year as an “official” blogger. I’ve learned so much in the past year and I look forward to continuing that education! Everyone’s journey is different, but to celebrate I’m sharing 10 lessons for blogging beginners that I learned during my first year.
I share the following information, not as someone who started their blog, quit their job, and picked up a ton of brand deals in her first year. I am 100% still learning and figuring things out. But, I hope that someone out there finds my examples helpful and might be able to learn from my experience!
1. Plan your blog posts ahead of time and expect the unexpected.
If blogging is a side interest that you are picking up in addition to full-time (or part-time) work/life responsibilities, I cannot stress enough how important it is to plan your blog posts ahead of time. Consistency is key for building a following and driving traffic. Planning your posts before their scheduled launch date will save you from missing post deadlines. This is honestly where I struggled the most as I tried to create content week-to-week. You know how sometimes you have weeks that are just so busy or overwhelming that you fall off track with your regular routines and schedules? That’s when your content will suffer. Plan ahead of time and batch some posts in advance. You’ll thank yourself later! The Thrive Blogger Podcast has several great episodes about managing your time and how to batch your work. Check them out!
Also, expect the unexpected. I write this fresh off of an almost 2 week period during which I had no access to edit my website due to a theme error and terrible customer support. Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches! Planning will help you during crisis times, but sometimes even that won’t be enough!
2. Driving blog traffic takes time
One of the most surprising lessons that I’ve learned is just how long it might take for your blog post to drive traffic. For example, some holiday posts that I created last year are finally experiencing a mini-boom in traffic. Why? Because people are searching for them seasonally! Don’t lose faith if you feel like no one is reading a post you just knew was going to send people flocking to your site. Your gratification might just be delayed a bit! On a recent podcast that I listened to, the hosts shared that it can take between three to six months for your post to begin driving traffic. This statement feels like a pretty accurate assessment. It can be a bit disappointing when you finish a blog post that you’ve poured your time into and nobody reads it! Don’t stress though, blogging is a marathon, not a sprint.
3. Monetizing your blog takes even longer!
Truthfully, I am still figuring this one out, but I still remember the feeling of logging in to see that my first affiliate sale went through. To be honest, I’m still not making money aside from some pocket change. Monetizing your blog doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a while before you’ll even qualify for most revenue-driving programs like affiliates and ads. I wish I had focused more on SEO in the beginning, as this is the key to getting the stats that will help you qualify for money-making programs, but it feels like there is SO much to do when you begin your blog. This brings me to…
4. Learn about SEO as soon as possible.
SEO is the name of the game. Now that I’m wrapping up my first year in blogging, my goal for my second year is to invest in SEO education. SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the key to helping readers find your site. You could have the world’s most interesting article, but without SEO no one will ever find it! Do yourself a favor and begin educating yourself on best practices as early as possible.
5. Find a trusted resource for help.
There are a ton of free resources out there that will help you along the way. If you are working on something that you aren’t comfortable with, look up tutorials or take a course! I took Shannon Mattern’s Free 5 Day Website Challenge months into my blogging and I wish I had done it on day 1. I have no affiliation with Shannon, but I recommend this course wholeheartedly if you are working to build your blog from the ground up. Shannon provides tons of great tips, plug-ins, and website basics. It may take five days to work through but it will save you so much time in the long run! I recently moved my hosting to SiteGround after some customer support issues with my previous host. I plan to work my way through Shannon’s challenge again now that I have transferred my domain and launched a new theme to make sure everything is working the way it should. It’s that good!
6. Your creative energy will ebb and flow.
When I began my blog, it felt like I had ideas for posts every five minutes. I was jotting down notes in my car at random times, and I felt like I had an endless. But recently, work and my personal life were very busy and my free time was spent recovering. Things are starting to slow down and I’m beginning to have more creativity and time again. Capitalize on the times when you’re highly motivated and creative. Utilize tip #1 and plan for the times when life is busy. It will happen! Build up a reserve of blog posts that you can share on your scheduled post time at a moment’s notice.
7. Promote yourself…but expect that everyone will not be receptive or excited for you.
When I get excited about something, it’s easy for me to go on and on about it. (Makes a bit more sense why I started a blog, eh?) Overwhelmingly, most people I’ve shared my blog with have been pretty positive even if they don’t understand it or why I would want to do it. Don’t be afraid to promote yourself. The positive responses have far outweighed any negativity that has come my way. You’ll be surprised by people who will support you and become loyal readers. And you’ll be able to gauge those who aren’t your folks. You aren’t doing this for everyone, you’re doing it for those who get it.
8. Utilize the programs that are available to you.
There are tons of resources and affordable products available to make your life as a blogger a little bit easier. One of my personal favorites is Canva. I use Canva every single day in my day job as a communications director. Its scheduling feature makes it easy to post directly to sites like Pinterest but remains super affordable and accessible for beginners. There are tons of stock images, graphics, and fonts available. It makes graphic design accessible and near dummy-proof. There are tons of tutorials and walk-throughs available if you aren’t sure where to begin!
Also, don’t underestimate the power of Pinterest. A large segment of my blog traffic comes to me from Pinterest. Take the time to research your pins. A Pinterest business account will give you access to search trends and other helpful data. It doesn’t necessarily offer the immediate gratification that you get from social networks like Instagram, but Pinterest is a key avenue for reaching people who are actively searching for your blog topics.
9. Don’t take on too much too soon.
When you are first starting your blog it can feel like there is this urgent need to do everything. Every podcast, blog, or networking group will tell you why you *must* promote your work on Pinterest, Instagram reels, Instagram Live, Clubhouse, email lists, Facebook, TikTok, etc., etc. My advice is to pick one, maybe two, platforms to promote your content and to get very comfortable with them. My top pick is Pinterest, followed by Instagram. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best for you. Do what feels achievable and build from there. Focus on creating quality content on one or two platforms with plans to grow in the future.
10. Write about what brings you joy.
My final point is to write about what brings you joy. This is especially important if your blog is something you began in your spare time to maybe rake in a little extra money on the side. If the goal is to eventually own your own business, don’t you want to eventually do what you love? Is that not the goal for most bloggers? Maybe I’m being a bit idealistic, but if I ever manage to quit my day job for a self-started career, I hope it’s doing something I love. That might be a hot-take for the many gurus who will tell you how to make your website profitable. But, for me, it’s a labor of love. I also feel like your work will reflect your feelings towards a topic if you aren’t super invested. Your readers will know if you aren’t into your blog focus and your work will suffer because of it.
If you are just starting, I hope this list gives you a few ideas for your blog. My experience has been exciting and rewarding, but also, sometimes frustrating! When it feels a bit lonely, just remember that everyone who has a blog started somewhere. Even the best weren’t born with the knowledge of how to do everything. Stick with it during the frustrating times and give yourself some grace! You’re learning!