Blogging ain’t for the faint of heart! I naively started this blog about three years ago without really having a plan. I knew enough to buy my domain and pick a theme on WordPress. Listen, I really thought only my mother would be reading my blog, but quickly my lack of a plan had me scrambling to catch up! So after three years in the game, there are a few things that I wish I knew way back when. Rather than watching newbie bloggers flounder like I did, I thought I would share a couple of things I wish I had known before I hit “publish” on my first post. So here are my 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting My Blog.
A not so little thing called SEO
I had no understanding of how google worked AT ALL when I started blogging. I think my first introduction to “SEO” was from the Yoast SEO plugin my cousin added to my website when she upgraded it for me. Not going to lie, I ignored that section for awhile until finally taking a elementary level class on SEO that helped me tremendously. I still have more to learn, but I saw a big difference in my views once I put some focus in this area.
WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com
Thankfully I learned this lesson pretty early on. I started with what I knew, creating a WordPress hosted blog through the .com version of WordPress. Lets call this version a website with training wheels. It is great for a beginner, but like training wheels you cannot do much with it. Thankfully, my cousin was able to switch me over. For anyone starting now though, I would suggest going through the trouble and starting with WordPress.org website and then doing your research on the best website hosts.
Website “Stuff” in General
Throughout my life I have been able to skim read things and get the basic concepts fairly quickly. The “stuff” I am referring to here, like website design and coding might as well be Chinese! Then paying someone to execute your vision is expensive! So I have to take the time to slowly digest information so that I can apply it to my website. The ideal situation would be reading all of this info before starting a blog so you are not scrambling to fix something at midnight before work the next day.
People WILL STEAL
This is still astonishing to me, but yes folks will steal your stuff! Your pictures, your blog name, your content, your ideas. There is not a line an uncreative scammer will not cross trust and believe. As I have said before, you have to protect your stuff and stay diligent in watching out for your intellectual property. Do not think you are too small to take the steps to protect your property because unfortunately, we often wait until it is too late.
Focus On What You Own
Prime example of this, before Instagram stories I shared most of my foodie adventures on Snap Chat and had a pretty decent following there. After they changed the setup, I like many others left the platform moving to Instagram Stories. Imagine if that was my only way to connect with my followers? Black Girls Who Brunch would be dead in the water. So every now and then I have to stop myself from getting super worked up over my social media accounts and circle back to what I actually own/control. My own website. My social media accounts serve as a compliment to promote those and my brand, but I never want them to consume me.
Add Some Personality
Think about some of the influencers you follow on social media and ask yourself why do you like following them. Often times you enjoy their photos or have similar interests, but you may find yourself saying things like “she is so sweet” or “he cracks me up with his captions.” That has more to do with their personality! So one of my easiest tips is to add a dab of you to your blog and watch people develop a genuine connection with you. As Wendy Williams says they become “the friend in your head” which is great because we trust our “friends” recipes, restaurant and travel recommendations!
I still struggle with this one if I am being honest. In Houston at least, once you make a few necessary connections, your email box will stay filled with blogger events with little effort on your end. That is great and all, but when you think about it, you are allowing others to dictate your content. What you share is simply based on what lands in your email box and content should be intentional based on what YOU want your brand to be. That sometimes means pitching an idea to a brand you love or visiting a place off the beaten path that is not Instagram famous. This may take more work, but the end product is worth it!
Passive Income Streams
When I say I blog, I get snarky comments like “do you make money off of that?” I take that to mean why are you wasting your time doing all of that for no money. Well for me, I started this blog as a hobby because I legit enjoyed writing and sharing my foodie experiences. Any income from it was just icing on the cake. Now, while I do not make a whole lot of coins from blogging, I make enough to have a little extra pocket change and I sho’ do appreciate it!
There are tons of ways to make money blogging, but to date my favorite has been passive income streams like affiliate marketing. If you purchase an item through a link from a blog, the blogger will receive a percentage of the proceeds at no cost to you the reader. This makes it a great way for you to support your favorite bloggers and a super easy way to make money. Once I figured this all out, I could have kicked myself not doing it sooner! To date, my most profitable blog post remains my “Diner En Blanc” series simply because of the affiliate links (read my disclaimer here). In short, passive income streams allow you to make money while you sleep!
Networking is Key
To many people, blogging is a competitive sport and honestly it should not be. I cannot tell you how many opportunities have fallen in my lap simply because another blogger shared my contact information or I got to tag along as a plus one for an event. I in turn have done the same for my blogger friends. Basically, there is no comprehensive guide for blogging so you may have to work with other folks to get ahead. Make friends not enemies!
If You Build it They MAY Come
This is probably the hardest thing. You can follow every step to create a “perfect blog” and yet not garner the following that others have. The key thing to remember is there is no perfect formula to this and even when you do EVERYTHING that others do it may not yield the same results. Some people go viral and take off in a week’s time. Others (like me) may see slow and steady growth through consistent posting and engagement. I say all this to say do not be discouraged and to circle back to the reasons you even started this when you are a funk.
So those are my ten things that I did not know when I started. What are some of the lessons you have learned? Share in the comments below!