It’s always hard to predict the future. And much more easy to understand what to do once something has already happened.
Through this post, I would like to write about the things I wish I knew when I started my blogging journey. Knowing these beforehand would have saved me tons of money, time and efforts.
Without further ado, let’s get started!
1. Do not get caught with trivial things, Do what is more important.
It’s easy to get taken away by trivial things in blogging that we forget to do what is important. The first time I created a blog, I spent weeks and months designing the logo, searching for themes, perfecting each and every aspect of my blog.
I didn’t know it was more important to craft cornerstone content, build backlinks and work on getting more traffic to my blog. I was mostly focusing on the design and planning aspect and was not doing what was important.
In my opinion, it’s more important to work on content and traffic than on perfecting your blog while starting out. Of course, it’s important to have a good-looking blog that’s carefully planned and designed. But, what use is there in having such a blog when no one is visiting it?
As someone starting out, it’s more important to craft content, build links, and work on increasing the traffic. And of course, my first blog failed.
My Learnings: Work on crafting new content, building backlinks, improving SEO, and getting more traffic to your blog. Design and planning can be done once people start visiting the blog. Get traffic and feedback from the initial visitors and improve as you go along.
2. Passion doesn't necessarily translate to success always.
The most popular blogging advice on the internet is to blog about topics you are passionate about. Well, I can’t say it’s completely wrong. But I can’t say it’s fully right either.
Choose a niche that you are passionate about and have the potential to make money at the same time. These two things are equally important.
Being passionate about something doesn’t necessarily translate to success. It’s important to treat it as a business and choose an area that has the most earning potential and at the same time, you are interested enough not to stop writing after a month.
There are few evergreen industries that had continued to be full of money-making opportunities for many years. They include:
I have also created a post curating 301 highly profitable niches that are ripe for starting a blog. You can read it here: 301 Profitable Niche Ideas To Start A Blog On
My Learnings: Choose a topic that has good earning potential. Just because you are passionate about a topic and can churn out blog posts one after the other, you wouldn’t make money. It’s important to treat your blog as a business and choose a topic that has high earning potential as well. Moreover, once the money starts coming in, you are highly likely to keep working on it.
3. SEO is more important than you think
The one most important thing all successful blogs value is search engine optimization. Of course, it’s possible to drive fast traffic through social media. Pinterest is one such social media for driving huge amounts of fast traffic. But it’s important not to get short-sighted.
Our aim is to build a passive income stream that keeps on making us money for the years to come. And for that, gaining organic traffic is the key.
And organic traffic comes through search engine optimization. Building backlinks from authority sites are much more important than you think. Finding the best keywords and guest blogging has a huge impact on the long-term success of your blog.
As a new blogger, one must target keywords that are less competitive and have a decent monthly search volume in a few thousands. Once the keywords are found, we can publish comprehensive how-to guides on the topic. And then create a list post with affiliate links comparing the best products relating to that keyword.
Through this combination of how-to guides and affiliate comparison posts, we will be able to provide quality content to the readers as well as profit when they buy through our affiliate links.
My Learnings: SEO is much more important than we think. Focus on creating search engine optimized content from day 1. Because the long-term success of our blogs depends on SEO and organic traffic. Finding the best keywords and building backlinks from the beginning are crucial for the success of all blogs. Social media traffic might bring short-term success, but SEO is the key to long-term success.
4. Focus on a niche
When I started my first blog, I was pretty confused about what to write about. I wanted my blog to be about trading and finance, but I was new and reading about stories of how ViralNova was sold for $100 million to Zealot Networks, TreeHugger acquisition by Discovery for $10 million, and Huffington Post sold for $315 million to AOL. They all started out as small websites and blogs and were sold for millions. I would get so confused if I should also target to create a general blog than just focusing on trading alone.
But what is important is that the entire blogging ecosystem has changed now. That doesn’t mean a new blog won’t emerge to be the next Huffington Post. But, with much more activity going on in the blogging and content marketing landscape, it’s hard to compete in a broad category.
It is much easier to pick a small niche, establish our authority in it and then slowly start expanding our reach. Just because we start small doesn’t mean we will fail or that we will succeed because we are appealing to a bigger audience. In fact, it’s much much easier to establish authority in a more narrow niche.
My Learnings: Focus on a particular niche while beginning and build authority first. Once the blog has enough traffic and reputation in the niche, we can slowly start branching out to related topics. Covering a wide range of topics would be asking for more competition, that too from media giants and making our life difficult all by ourselves. It’s very important to focus the blog on topics we have a subject matter expertise in and has profit potential
5. When something is working, focus more on it and let the streak continue
After publish a few posts, we will start to notice that posts about a certain topic are doing well compared to others. What it means is that Google has associated our site to be of authority for keywords relating to the topic. In the eyes of Google, we are a subject matter expert for those keywords.
If that happens, for the next few weeks or months, focus writing and publishing more posts about those topics we are doing well in. It so happens that we just attribute a spike in engagement to luck, but usually, the reality may not be the same. When something is working, focus more on that and let it run as much as it can. Focus the next few posts creating how-to guides and review posts about products on that topic. This brings us to the next important learning.
My Learnings: When something is working for you, do not stop it there. Add more fuel to it, maximize the result and let it run as much as possible.
6. Give enough room to shift the focus of your blog while choosing the domain name
As we discussed in the last learning, sometimes some topics click and we have to focus more on them. Let us assume a hypothetical situation to understand this.
Suppose you started a blog focusing on the topic of keto diet and named it with keto as the primary domain word, say (some word) keto (some word). And after publishing twenty posts, you found that your posts that have vegetarianism as a keyword tend to be doing much better than the other posts. In such a case, ideally, you should focus on churning more content on the topic of vegetarianism because that’s what Google’s Search Algorithm recognizes you as an authority at.
It’s a limitation if you have a domain name that is too narrow like (something) keto (something). Hence, when you are starting out itself, make sure that you choose the domain name and niche such that you have the flexibility to pivot whenever you want. Had the blog name be something broader and related to food or health, it would have been fine to shift the focus of the blog entirely to vegetarianism.
Having general words and your own name as the blog name comes in handy in situations like these. They provide the flexibility for shifting the focus of the blog.
My Learnings: Make sure to choose a domain name and niche that is not too narrow. In case we want to shift the focus of the blog in future, we must have enough flexibility to do that without endangering the work we have done till that point.
7. Start building an email list from Day 1
One of the most important things we overlook as beginner bloggers are the importance of building an email list.
According to this post from Mckinsey & Company, email is nearly 40 times more effective in acquiring customers than Facebook and Twitter combined.
According to the 2018 email marketing industry report from Campaign Monitor, 59% of marketers see the most ROI from email.
We can quite understand the importance of email marketing from the above statistics. And hence, it’s extremely important to build an email list from the day of starting.
Things to know while strategizing:
When you are planning on establishing the email marketing strategies, please keep these points in mind:
- Provide extremely high-quality content to your customers in exchange for their email. Understand that it is a two-way process and both parties should benefit from the exchange. Moreover, this helps them subconsciously respect your website and turn into a long-term customer and follower.
- Experiment with multiple marketing strategies. Do not focus solely on collecting email through a newsletter form at the sidebar. Experiment with exit-intent popups, fixed-time pop-ups, and more. Make sure that you don’t bombard the visitors with popups though as this could result in angry readers leaving the site.
- Make maximum use of analytics and find which strategy is working the best. Once you monitor the pop-up experimentations you run for a few weeks, you will understand which type of pop-up works the best, when is the best time to show it to readers and where is the best location to show them. Make maximum use of analytics in improving your results.
Also, once you are sending out emails to your readers, try to have catchy headlines, include smileys in them, and personalize them (According to Optin Monster, these are known to increase the open rates).
Also, do not feel disheartened if you are tight on funds for setting up an autoresponder service and pop-up plugins. There are always free versions available. For example, ConvertKit, Mail Chimp, Get Response, Aweber all provide a good free trial service for the first few hundred email subscribers.
My Learnings: Start capturing emails from day 1. Experiment with different pop-up methods and find out which strategy works best in capturing email and employ that. Email marketing is the most powerful strategy as the Returns on Investment for email marketing are much higher than other methods.
8. Learn to outsource
If the true aim of starting a blog is to generate consistent passive income, then you have to actually treat it as a business. For example, you can either write and publish 5 quality posts a month by yourself or you can outsource writing to 20 different writers and publish 20 posts without any work. Ideally, you have to find a balance between outsourcing the work and writing yourself.
Let’s see some results of a study conducted by SEMrush before we talk more about the effectiveness of outsourcing.
According to this post from SEMRush, 81% of businesses outsource content writing as of 2020, more than double that of any other service including graphic design, animation/video design, etc. Also, 47% of the respondents of the same survey spend more than $10k on their annual content marketing output. These statistics show how much businesses value content marketing and inbound traffic and how effective it is to outsource content creation.
Mostly, when you outsource writing, the work you receive tends not to be of the highest quality. So, there will still be some work pending from your side to edit and improve the posts before publishing them. Do keep this in mind.
But there is no faster way to grow than hire writers to create content for you. The only thing stopping you from outsourcing content writing would be the funds. And with Fiverr taking the center stage in finding Gig workers, we can now get posts written for as low as five dollars. Finding writers is no longer a problem, the only trouble is in finding a good writer from among hundreds.
Know that doing everything all by yourself takes time. Of course, it can be done and there are thousands of successful bloggers who have done everything all by themselves before they became successful. But then, outsourcing helps reduce that time taken to achieve success and fast-track your blog in getting more visitors. Depending on your funds, you can decide whether to outsource or not.
It is always more efficient to outsource work like content writing. This helps us publish more content fast. If we are actually treating our blogs like a business, then the fastest way to boosting our business is to outsource work and get things done faster.
9. Structure your content correctly
One of the factors that Google looks for while ranking posts is how structured your content is. Make sure that you have structured your content well, use the right fonts, images, and use an optimal number of keywords at important places.
For example, make sure that your post headings are clearly separated using H2, H3 headings. Use the keyword in the URL slug, titles, and content. This makes it easy for Google to identify the keyword.
You can use plugins like Yoast SEO which can help you give output on the readability analysis of your blog post. This is one of my key learnings over the years. It’s very easy to write content and publish them. But we mostly miss minor details like formatting the blog posts correctly which could have a huge positive impact on rankings.
My Learnings: Make sure to format the posts correctly. The content should be readable and structured correctly.
10. Write as much guest posts as possible, especially during the first year.
Guest posts can really help improve your domain authority score and get backlinks. It might seem ironic to publish content for others when we are just getting started with our blogs. But for each post you publish, you will be getting a backlink from the site you publish the posts on. And Google loves blogs that have incoming links from popular websites.
Say you publish posts on Forbes and Bloomberg blogs as a guest contributor and got backlinks from those websites to your blog. In the eyes of Google, Forbes and Bloomberg are referring to your blog, which should mean that your site probably has some good content for them to link to.
Apart from getting backlinks, you are also improving your authority and reputation in your niche. More people will recognize you once you have guest posts published on popular websites.
Obviously, it’s not as easy to get a guest post published. We will have to find popular and highly ranked websites, reach out to the owners via email, pitch them about your interest in publishing a guest post and about the topics you would like to write on. Once you guys agree on the topic, word counts, and other necessary details, you can start writing the content. Never let the quality slip when you are publishing guest posts.
In fact, write the best post possible when you are publishing on popular websites. Because thousands or even millions of eyeballs will fall on your content instantly and one quality post can tag you as an expert in the niche. So, make sure to write the best post possible while guest blogging. Do not write short 500-1000 word posts. Target around 2000 words at least. The more the better.
Once you have provided the sample content, then usually the owner will suggest some formatting and editing and once that is finished, you will have your guest post published. It’s much easier if you mention the topics you would like to write on, the word limit, and attach a basic outline of the content in 100-250 words so that you can eliminate many back and forth email communication.
Do not forget to add links back to your blog in your guest post. If possible, ask the owner of the website if they are comfortable with adding your author profile as well along with the post. It helps improve your visibility.
You can find the reach-out scripts and a quick list of popular blogs that accept guest posts through a simple google search. Also, make sure to add links to their site from yours in any of your posts thereby providing them with a backlink and make you look more serious and authentic.
My Learnings: Guest posts works like a charm in getting backlinks from authority sites and improving the blog ranking fast. Do not think of guest posts as helping competitors, but as growing mutually. It’s a positive-sum game. And when you are writing guest posts, make sure to create high-quality long-form content because your post will now be reaching hundreds of thousands of readers instantly.
11. Track your domain authority score from beginning
Moz provides us with a free domain SEO analysis tool. Through this tool, we can find our domain authority score, find top pages by links, find top linking domains, discover lost links, and find the best keywords. In short, we can get a quick SEO report of our website using this free tool.
The higher the domain authority we have, the more are our chances of ranking higher on search results. Hence, publishing 50 posts doesn’t make you an expert or your blog a reputed one. You also have to track your domain authority score as well. Having fifty posts and a DA score of five will not help. Irrespective of what stage you are in your blogging career, work on increasing the DA score. Try to get it to 60 or above at least.
Getting backlinks, more traffic, and more engagement in your blog will translate to a higher domain authority score. Thus, this is one of the simplest metrics you can use to figure out the basic value of your blog. Track it continuously and try to keep improving your score.
My Learnings: We must always track what we are doing. Doing a lot doesn’t always mean we are doing a good job. Make sure that we objectively see where our blog stands and domain authority is one of the simplest and free metrics to do that.
12. It doesn't help much by bragging about your new blog to everyone you know
We might think letting our friends and family know about the new blog and sending out links to them is a fast way to get some initial traffic and engagements in the blog. But more often than not, it turns out to be a problem than an asset.
Creating a successful blog requires time. A lot of time actually. The beginning stages most usually are extremely dull. You will be writing content and doing things when there is literally no one visiting your blog.
And once you have made a big announcement to literally everyone you know, it is expected that they ask us how things are going the next time we meet. And most often, the answer will be pretty bad. Not because blogging is hard or you are doing a poor job at it, but because blogging requires time. Just because you have published a ton of posts or received many backlinks fast doesn’t necessarily make you an expert in Google’s eyes.
Yes, traffic and backlinks do help improve your rankings temporarily. But you will have to keep at it. Once Google knows that you have been producing quality content consistently, people visiting your blog are actually spending a lot of time there, reading more related posts and engaging with your content, over time Google will start recognizing you as an authority in the niche.
And all this takes time. Probably around a year to be frank. It’s not a hard number, there are blogs that start making thousands of dollars monthly in 3 months and there are blogs that take two or three years as well. But in my opinion, one year is a good number to envision reaching a $1000/month stage.
Basically, when they ask you how it’s going, your answer will be okay when in reality it is bad. I personally hate having to say that. The first time I made a blog, I told it to a few friends. Having to reply to how my new blog was doing actually made me pretty depressed. And when that blog failed, it was even more depressing and I wondered why I ever told my friends in the first place. You can build a blog to hundreds of thousands of dollars per month stage and still keep it a secret. It’s one of the best things about blogging. You can decide whether to take the limelight or not.
In my opinion, it’s better not to make a big thing out of starting a blog. When your blog starts making a few thousand dollars per month, you can let everyone know because you have actually achieved something by then. It’s better not to get demotivated by friends asking you how it’s going at the beginning.
My Learnings: Do not make a big thing out of starting a blog. Starting a blog is easy and anyone can do it. Creating a successful money-making blog is hard. It’s better to keep shut while starting out and let everyone know once the blogging venture is successful. This way, you will not get disheartened having to answer everyone how you are doing in the initial stages of your blogging journey.
13. Taxes are applicable to bloggers too
It doesn’t matter if you are making money from your salaried job or a blog, taxes are applicable to you.
And what does this mean?
Well, make sure your finances are in order from the beginning.
It’s better to have money coming into and out of one single account and have a detailed list and receipts of all the transactions. This might not seem so important at first when you hardly have ten people visiting your blog in the first month. But as time passes, more people will start visiting and your blog will start making money.
And it’s for the best if you have your finances sorted at that stage. That way, you can avoid having to run around finding receipts and where the money went and came from. Be organized from the very beginning in terms of finances.
My Learnings: Be financially organized from the very beginning. Know where the money came from, where it went, what you brought using that money and keep receipts of all these transactions.
14. Affiliate marketing is powerful, but not so much at beginning
One of the most effective and fast methods to make money from your blog is affiliate marketing. It pays much more than running display advertisements in your blog.
Does that mean we should focus on affiliate marketing from day 1?
No, that is not the best of ideas. There are many other things we can focus on rather than affiliate marketing at beginning.
Affiliate marketing requires us to join tens or even hundreds of affiliate program in order to start making tons of money. But more important than that, you need loyal readers and many of them in order to start seeing conversions. It’s better not to waste time joining affiliate programs, adding affiliate links in your blog posts, and around your blog when you are not getting many visitors.
Content, SEO, and backlinks are more important when we are starting out. It’s best to focus on them and not so much on affiliate marketing, creating our own products and courses etc. These strategies pay well once you have a reputed site with enough traffic. So, it’s better not to join a hundred affiliate programs at the beginning. Once you have enough readers and you know which blog posts are performing well, you can start joining affiliate programs and add affiliate links to those well-performing posts.
This is especially applicable to comparison and product list posts. When writing such posts, we are tempted to add affiliate links to each and every product before publishing. That requires a lot of time and we do not know how well the post is going to do. It’s always better to see the performance of a post and then add affiliate links to it than adding at the beginning.
My Learnings: It’s better to wait and see how well your blog posts are doing and then add affiliate links to the best-performing ones. Joining hundreds of affiliate programs at the start of your blogging journey and expecting to make money when few people visit your site isn’t the wisest decision.
15. Quality over quantity
Yet another mistake that many beginner bloggers bloggers make is to write several small blog posts to increase the post count. It does not matter whether you have 20 blog posts or 100 blog posts, the traffic you receive and how well you are monetizing your website decides the earning capacity of your blog. Always try to write long form engaging and useful content. It helps boost SEO and provides value to readers.
For example, this post is of several thousand words. I could have split this to a series. But I monetize this single post much better than I could have if I went for 2-3 smaller posts. Know that there are several blogs that makes thousands of dollars monthly with around 20 blog posts. And there are several one page blogs also that makes thousands of dollars every month. It does not depend on how many posts you write, it depends on how engaging and valuable your content is, and how well you have optimized your traffic and monetization channels like Pinterest, Affiliate Channels etc.
My Learnings: A 5000 word high-quality and explanatory post beats five 1000 word general posts any day. For long-term, long form content performs much better than short form content.
16. Always write what the readers want
When you are running a blog, one of the most important rules to follow is that the content is solely based on what your followers want to hear, rather than what you want to write about. Often perform a competitor review to decide which kind of posts and topics offer the most value to readers, and then provide them with the best possible guide on that subject. When it comes to blogging, it’s all about what helps our readers, not what is easy for us to write about.
This learning also goes along somewhat similarly with learning five. In that, I mentioned that when something is working, focus more on those. The same applies here. More engagements and visitors to your posts mean your readers are liking what you are writing. When that’s happening, give them more content on those topics that they are engaging with. Thus your readers get updated content on topics they follow and you get loyal followers who are engaging with your content through comments and shares.
My Learnings: If your readers are constantly requesting posts on a particular topic, write more on those topics. If your readers are engaging highly on certain topics, write more content on those topics because that’s the content that your true readers visit your blog for.
Bonus Tip: Never Be In a Hurry
One of the most important qualities required for blogging is to ensure that you are not in a hurry. Always be patient.
You might not see results fast, it might take you weeks to finish some posts, it might be hard to decide on the niche or the domain name of your blog, SEO-optimizing your posts might be time-consuming, there are thousand such things that can make you impatient.
And we all know what happens when we get impatient and go for shortcuts. They often fail.
Be patient. In blogging, everything takes time. Building a blog, growing a blog, and scaling a blog all takes time. Maybe a few years even before you see great returns. Never be in a hurry and do things you are not supposed to be doing. Be calm and patient.
This applies especially while choosing your niche and domain name. You might be excited to start your blog and want to set everything up quickly. But what’s more important is understanding what kind of blog you want to start and strategically choosing a good niche and domain name for it.
Same goes with monetization as well. We all want to make money fast. But when we don’t see any returns in the initial few months, we often try doing stupid things that will only hurt our rankings. Simply stick to SEO, Google display ads, and affiliate marketing in the beginning stages. Try ignoring all other monetization strategies you come upon while starting out.
My Learnings: Like all other things in life, starting a successful blog also takes a fair amount of time. If you can be patient and take the time to think through each step, you will be able to succeed in the game of blogging.
These are a few important takeaways I have had from my blogging experience. I hope you had some good takeaways and these learnings help you in your blogging journey as well.