So it’s actually been about a month and a half …
In hindsight, I should’ve started this list waaay sooner.
There are tons of things I’ve learned through trial and error, which seemed totally monumental at the time. But once you get over that so-called mountain, all of the angst and frustration disappears and you move on to the next thing.
Regardless, here is what I’ve learned during my first month blogging — which, let me tell you, doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface.
Although I do feel it’s important to document some of the basics (which I’m sure will seem extremely obvious to most seasoned bloggers.)
But some of these were “ah-ha” moments for me, that I really wish I’d known when first starting out.
And for any other newbies out there, I’m sharing some of these tips that I’ve discovered. Maybe it will help you out, or maybe you already know this stuff.
(Don’t even get me started on what I found out about Pinterest today — meaning, what I’ve been doing just wrong for the past few weeks … We’ll save that gem for another post, possibly Month Two.)
But I also wanted to document all of these “starting out” details — so maybe way, way in the future, once I’m an “expert” (haha), I’ll have something to look back on.
And then at that point I can say “Wow, was I pretty clueless, or what??”
But then I can also say “Holy cannoli, look at all this stuff I’ve learned about blogging!”
And then be really proud of what I’ve created.
So here’s my list….from Month One (and-a-half) … of Do’s and Don’ts when you’re just starting out as a new blogger.
- Change your author/post name from “admin” to something else (your name, your blog name, or something fun that you’d like people to refer to you as).When you publish a new post, you don’t want it to say “Posted by admin” at the top. That’s just very informal, and makes you sound like a robot or something. Not a real warm & fuzzy person, who the reader can relate to.
- Change your WordPress login page from “wp-admin” to something else — this will help keep hackers at bay. It’ll be harder for them to break into your site if they don’t know where to find your login page. There are plugins that will help you to rename it. You can choose a more random word or phrase or letters/numbers to add to your url, and that will be your new login page.
- To go along with the above, make sure you also set a randomly generated, way difficult to guess password for your wordpress admin site. Don’t use your name, your kid’s name, your pet’s name, or “password” — bad idea.Use something that can’t be guessed and doesn’t exist in any dictionary. Then commit it to memory, write it down in your diary, or tattoo it to your inner thigh. In other words, put it someplace where no one else can get at it (without your express permission.)
- Invest in a decent theme so you can fully customize your site to reflect your own personal style. A lot of the free themes are somewhat limited, and you can generally tell when someone else is using one of them. If you want to go long-term with this, get a theme that you can call your own. They’re not expensive at all. And it’s totally worth it.
- Start looking into affiliate relationships at the get-go. This may be a controversial statement, but this is how I feel. If you ever want to monetize your blog, it’s best to get that ball rolling sooner rather than later.Figure that it will take time to build up traffic to your site. So if you start putting ads on there, it’s not like anyone’s going to see them and be offended.(Gasp! You have ads and you’ve only been blogging for a month! How dare you!)
If you want to monetize, prepare for it early so you’re not scrambling to figure it all out once your blog actually has some traffic. There’s no harm in setting up relationships in the beginning. Of course, some affiliates may not want to accept you into their program until you have some traffic. So that’s why you start small, with simpler programs like Google AdSense, WordAds or Media.net.Remember not to go crazy by slapping ads on your site left and right. But do start dipping your toes in the water, to learn what the deal is & how to get started. Then once the traffic does start coming in, you’ll be more than ready.
- Start learning about SEO, if you haven’t already. Search Engine Optimization will really help you get your blog out there. Think of all the questions and phrases that people type into search engines every day. If you word your content to be optimized for SEO, you can grab the attention of people who are searching for the topics you write about.It takes time to build up though — (something about indexing, web crawlers, spiders — BLEHH!!)
So the sooner you get started, the better. There is definitely a learning curve to this — I was lost for quite some time, trying to figure out the difference between focus keyword, SEO title and meta description. (I actually googled that very phrase…)Just find a couple of really good books or articles, and download an SEO plugin (like Yoast, which is what I use.) Once you get the hang of it, writing a focus keyword optimized post will be like second nature.
- Get familiar with Pinterest. If you’ve never used it on a personal level, start to — that way you’ll understand the mindset of the average Pinterest user. Then, create a business account for your blog. There is a benefit to this – Rich Pins, which are not available on regular personal accounts.Rich Pins make your pins stand out more, and increase the searchability, thereby giving you more exposure (when inserting the right keywords.)
Yes, Pinterest uses SEO too. A lot of people assume Pinterest is a social media app, but it’s definitely more of a search engine — with pictures. Kind of the best of both worlds — a visual search engine, if you will. At any rate — Learn It — Pinterest is HUGE!!
- Don’t build your blog on the free wordpress hosting platform — it’s not worth it. You can’t control the ads that are placed there, and have less creative control. And you can’t use plugins. Also, people take you more seriously when you are on a self-hosted platform. Plus there’s the possibility that they can shut your blog down at any point in time, without even letting you know.
So why in the world would you want that, after all of your hard work? Pay for the self-hosting — it’s really not that bad, especially if you sign up long-term. The deal you get for 3 years is like 5000% better than paying monthly. (Disclaimer: I’m not a mathematician, and cannot vouch for the accuracy of that equation.)
- Don’t pay to have someone else install or setup your theme for you — you are more than capable of doing this yourself! There are so many helpful articles out there, plus YouTube videos and step-by-step tutorials. You don’t need to pay someone to do this. Save the money, or use it to sign up for a great blogging course instead.
Quick anecdote — I purchased a premium theme, and added the service to have someone set it up for me to look just like the demo. They ran into problems, and sent me back to my hosting service. After a lot of back and forth, my host tweaked whatever setting needed tweaking, and then…nothing. The developer stopped responding to my messages. I was left in the lurch for almost two weeks.
So I turned to Google, YouTube and a couple of how-to blogs, and figured out how to install the theme myself. (And got a prompt refund for the amount I paid for the installation.)
- Don’t install and activate every single plugin that is available to you. They slow down your site, are sometimes buggy, and you don’t need them all. (Especially not in the beginning.) If you want to try something new, make sure you backup your site first, just in case. And experiment with them one at a time, so you can pinpoint the likely culprit in the case that your site becomes unresponsive or crashes.
- Don’t activate all the bells and whistles until you’re pretty sure how to use them. For example, having email subscriber pop-ups appear on every single page, from the top, bottom, left and right, is going to scare away any potential subscribers from your site. Start out small, and then build up from there. Oftentimes, you will find that less is more. The busier-looking your site is, the more distracting (and less professional) it may appear.
- Don’t get discouraged if you get stuck, frustrated or overwhelmed.
We’ve all been there. Heck, I’m still there at least 12 times a week. But soon that will only be 10, and then 8, and then … well, you get the picture.
The point is, DON’T GIVE UP.
If you really want this, it will take hard work, dedication, learning and a fairly decent amount of flexibility. Pretty much anything can be learned, if you give it enough time.
And there are so many fantastic resources on the internet — you can literally search for any topic, technical or otherwise, and find tons of answers.
Yes, it can be overwhelming. Just take it in small bites instead of huge gulps.
Then get going, one step at a time.
And when you are a month or two down the road — take a quick look back. Back to when you started your journey.
Holy cannoli, just look at what you’ve learned!
Until next time —
Robin is a full-time business professional who has worked in the insurance industry for over 20 years. She is also a personal finance blogger who shares her first hand experience with the struggles of money and debt. On Mastering the Side Jam, she focuses on ways to maximize efficiencies to make & save money, pay off debt, and live your best life.
She has been been featured on The Money Mix, Rockstar Finance, The Financial Diet and Women’s Money Talk, and has been quoted in various online publications.