9 Things I Learned My First Year of Blogging + a Giveaway!



Happy New Year! πŸ™‚ I can’t believe I started my blog a year ago! 2016 really flew by, and I’m looking forward to what 2017 will bring (I’ll have some exciting news to announce soon!). So since I’ve been blogging for a whole year now, I thought I would put a post together with everything I’ve learned to help newbie bloggers, since I pretty much jumped into blogging blindly. There are many more things I could add to this list, but here are 9 things to know before starting a blog! And since I’m celebrating my blogiversary, I’m also including a giveaway! πŸ™‚Β 

things to know before starting a blog

1. The blogging community is amazing

I didn’t know any bloggers when I first started my blog, but having a community for help and feedback is amazing! I’ve made so many friends through the PHLbloggers group here in Philly, and I’ve made lots of virtual friends through Twitter chats and Facebook groups. My favorite Twitter chat is #createlounge on Wednesdays, and I can recommend some Facebook groups if anyone is interested. I’ve gotten so much advice and help with my blog, and I’ve connected with some pretty inspiring people.

2. Google Analytics is your best friend

I still don’t know as much about the technological side of blogging as I should, so I came to the Google Analytics game a little late. But once you get it connected with your blog, you get access to all kinds of helpful data, from which countries your blog is reaching to what other interests your audience has. You can also see where your audience is finding your blog, so you can see which social media outlets are working well for you. The only thing I haven’t figured out is which keywords are working well for SEO (can anyone help a girl out?).

3. Growth may be slow

Very few bloggers are going to get 10,000 page views their first month of blogging, and that’s ok. I still haven’t gottenΒ 10,000 page views in a month after a year of blogging, but I’m gradually getting there. It takes a lot of work to establish an audience and increase page views, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t have a huge audience right off the bat.

4. You may have to choose between quality and quantity page views

Page views isn’t the only important stat on Google Analytics; a lot of bloggers also talk about the importance of bounce rate, which basically shows how many people read more than just one page of your blog (the real explanation is a lot more detailed and you can read more about it here). I kept hearing from bloggers that they use Stumble Upon to promote their blogs, so I finally gave it a try and my page views that day skyrocketed! BUT, my bounce rate and average session duration plummeted because the audience on Stumble Upon was only looking at one page of my blog and didn’t click around. Personally, I prefer quality page views and getting interactions from my audience (comments make my day!), so I haven’t used Stumble Upon again. Some people are able to get Stumble Upon and sites like it to work well for their blogs and if you want to use Stumble Upon, that’s great, just know that you’re getting a higher quantity of page views over a quality audience.

5. Do your research before starting a blog

I did a little research before I started my blog and found that some people were recommending BlueHost as a website host, but I didn’t do enough research. Turns out that a lot of bloggers make a pretty penny recommending BlueHost, but even more bloggers have had issues with them. I could tell you some horror stories that I’ve heard and I had some issues this year that took forever to be fixed, so I just switched to Siteground and their customer service has already been amazing for me. So dig in and do actual research before making big decisions about your blog. I also should have done more research on the technological side of blogging and SEO, and there are tons of articles and blogging courses out there to help you.

6. You’re not going to make money immediately

If you’re serious about blogging, it’s actually going to cost you money, at least to start out with. You have to consider the cost of buying your domain name, your host, blog templates. any social media schedulers, any blogging courses or conferences, a nice camera and/or stock photos (which I’ll actually start selling soon!), and the list goes on and on. There are ways to make money directly from your blog, like having affiliate links or sponsored posts, butΒ it may be a while before you make money from those. I just recently started making money off of my blog, but it’s actually been through clients who need freelance photo editing work or a photoshoot (you can check out my services on my Work with Me page). Jessica Lawlor, a Philly blogger, actually recentlyΒ made a career out of the freelance work she was able to get from her blog (and she has lots of helpful posts on how she did it). So if you do want to monetize your blog, look into all the different ways you can make money and know it isn’t going to happen overnight.

7. You don’t need to be technologically inclined, but it helps

I know absolutely NO coding and basically any piece of technology I touch breaks, so if I can have a blog, anyone can! I will say that I struggled with some things when I started my blog (I had no idea what plugins were used for) so having at least a little background in coding or SEO or anything would help.Β 

8. It’s ok if your blog changes direction

When I first started my blog, I had decided that it was going to be a black-and-white street photography blog about Philadelphia with only a few posts in color. But if you’ve seen my blog lately, you’ve seen that I actually don’t do black-and-white street photography posts very often anymore (I did do one recently for Christmas though!). My blog has gradually evolved to include a lot of travel posts in color (my posts on my trip to Mexico are coming next, I promise!), so going forward, I’ve decided that this will be a photography and travel blog. And I’m excited about it because I LOVE traveling (as you may have read in my About Me page), and I’m looking forward to sharing all my travel adventures with you all! I’ll still be including some black-and-white posts because I do love the classic look of black-and-white photography, but I’ll probably be doing a lot more photography tips posts and colorful travel posts! πŸ™‚Β 

9. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it

From planning out posts to taking and editing photos to writing posts to scheduling social media, blogging takes a lot of time! And that’s just a small piece of blogging! I would say that putting out a post with photos and promoting on social media alone takes me 3-5 hours a week, and my posts aren’t that lengthy compared to a lot of bloggers. But with all the fun experiences I’ve had and the amazing people I’ve met, blogging is definitely worth it to me πŸ™‚

I hope these 9 things to know before starting a blog help! And to celebrate my first year of blogging, I’m giving away one of my most popular photographs from this year of Boathouse Row!


The winner could also choose any other photograph from my blog! I will send the winner the 8Γ—10 framed photograph to anywhere in the continental United States. Or if you’re in Philly, I can hand deliver it to you!Β 

This giveaway will be open for one weekΒ starting today. The way it works is you get more entries for more items that you participate in. The more entries you have, the more likely you are to win! Even entering your name gives you an entry!Β You may only enter each part once, and I will check that everyone who participates follows the rules to make it fair for everyone.Β If you don’t win and want to buy this photograph or any other photograph on this blog, you can contact me for pricing! And don’t forget that I also have an Etsy shop!

Good luck everyone! ? And let me know if you have any questions!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What exciting plans or resolutions do you have for 2017? Comment below! πŸ™‚Β 

Blog, Photography, Photography Tips

  1. Great post! As an old-school blogger, stumbling around learning the new school ways, I found this post helpful, enjoyable–and relatable. I’ll be following you!

  2. Katie says:

    Great read! As someone who is just starting out in the blogging world, i’m looking around for some tips and inspirations.

    Katie x

  3. Nikki O. says:

    I have Google analytics installed on my blog but I have no idea how to read the data ?
    Do you think you can write a post explaining how to read & understand Google analytics?
    Loved your post!


    • Julia says:

      Thank you! I wouldn’t be the best person to write a post on it, but I can try to answer any questions you have!

  4. Sandy says:

    Love this, congrats on making it to a year! <3

  5. Lindsey says:

    This was a fantastic post, Julia! Congratulations on your first year of blogging – you’ve been doing an amazing job! Hope you have many more wonderful blogging years to come. πŸ™‚


  6. Kate says:

    This was so helpful! I agree I also need to learn keywords for SEO, I also still need to understand SEO properly,I still can’t get my head around it!
    I’ve decided to pin this to refer back to because I find it so useful for me to keep referring back to so thanks for sharing this πŸ˜€


  7. Kristen says:

    Saved as a favorite, I love your blog!

  8. Chrystina says:

    What an awesome post. And I’m seriously impressed how much you learned in your first year. I think most of those things took me at least 3 years to learn, my how times change. So glad to have you as part of PHLbloggers!

  9. Alex Cote says:

    This is so accurate! I actually just started writing a post about the life lessons I learned in my first 6 months of blogging, and a lot of my insights are the same as well.

    I really like what you said about it’s okay if the direction of your blog changes and that quality views matter more than quantity. Great post!

  10. Samantha says:

    Happy New Year !!!! Loved these tips !!! Such great reminders . I really need to utilize google analytics more . And remember that it’s okay if my blog changes directions !!!!!

  11. What a great post! I just launched my blog last May and these tips would have helped me out a lot! I agree that quality is better than quantity. Congrats on your first year of blogging!

  12. Kimba says:

    I totally see where you’re coming from, even though I’ve only been blogging for a few months. I had the same exact experience with StumbleUpon and have been working to get traffic in other ways. Happy blogiversary!

  13. Rebecca says:

    Great post! I use the WordPress plug in Seo yoast which summerises the seo at the bottom of every draft post so you can make changes before posting!

    Rebecca x


  14. Staci says:

    Love to read other people’s stories of blogging – congrats with everything and all the best of success in the future! Xx

  15. Rebecca says:

    I’ve just started blogging, so it’s really intriguing to see what someone else has learnt from it x


  16. I remember my first year of blogging too. The learning curve was steep! But it gets better! And that’s what I love about what we do – it’s always changing and there are new ways to grow your brand and your followers.

    P.S. I’m also addicted to Google Analytics – it’s so cool to be able to see how your blog is doing. But try not to focus too much on the tiny details because it can take over your life and might cause your husband to call you an obsessive mess! #speakingfromexperience. Haha.

    Luci’s Morsels | fashion. food. frivolity.

    • Julia says:

      Yes I’m loving all the growth opportunities! I’ve definitely gone down the Google Analytics rabbit hole sometimes, too πŸ™‚

  17. Happy blogiversary!! I’m new to blogging, only roughly a month in now and it’s all so overwhelming but yet fun. These tips are really useful, and I’d never actually thought about using google analytics although i’ve just tried to set it up and I can’t seem to get past the terms and conditions hahaha. I would be really grateful for any more tips and advice, my blog is http://nicolejayepenn.com

    Nicole Jaye Penn

    • Julia says:

      Congrats on starting a blog! I really like the way your blog is set up! Google Anayltics is confusing for me too, but there are lots of articles out there that have advice.

  18. Google analytics is your best friend. Still working on SEO though.

  19. Kallsy says:

    Such terrific advice for new and for seasoned bloggers! You’re right – blogging can definitely be challenging but so many aspects make it worth it! Thankful for so many in the blogging community.

    Side note: That photo is completely stunning!

  20. Michele Cupp says:

    My resolution is to be a more understanding, less impatient, Mom to my teenager πŸ™‚ So hard! Love your art!

  21. Great post and congratulations on your blog-iversary! I’ve had great luck with stumbleupon, in terms of UMV, but I’ve also noticed that they don’t stick around as long. My bounce rate is still pretty low though so I think it all balances out. I love that you said it’s a lot of work but it’s worth it. I completely agree!

  22. Such awesome tips! And I’m glad I’m not the only one who changed direction. It helps me feel better, haha ?

  23. I love the new direction of your blog! Can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store!

    xo, Nicole @ http://simply-nicole.com

  24. Hanani says:

    Great post, Julia! I’m gonna share this on my blog’s FB page πŸ™‚

  25. Robin says:

    Congratulations on your blogiversary!! (I kind of hate that I said that, but I’m leaving it there.) These tips are awesome and make me feel a lot better about how far I’ve gotten in 4 months, and the difficulties I’m still figuring out. Also, SO interesting to hear about BlueHost – I remember seeing so many big-name bloggers talking about them, but hadn’t put two and two together to realize they were getting paid for it! Luckily, I didn’t go with them, but sorry to hear you had to overcome that! Cheers to Year 2!!

    • Julia says:

      Thank you! πŸ™‚ I hope these tips help! Yeah, I didn’t know about BlueHost until recently! I’m glad I was able to switch to Siteground!

  26. My blog is constantly evolving as I try to figure out what I want to focus on as well. Changing direction is natural when you’re starting out and pretty nice to keep things from getting stale.

  27. Kendall says:

    Congrats on your 1 year blogiversary! I’m so glad we connected through PHLBloggers. Your photos are just so beautiful and I can’t wait to see more this year. Hope to see you soon!

  28. Jess says:

    Happy New Year Julia! It’s been great watching your blog and photography evolve over the past year, and I hope 2017 is everything you want it to be and more! Looking forward to more of your beautiful photography πŸ™‚

  29. Alana says:

    No exciting plans – I hope to be able to progress in learning photography with my iPhone SE. So many features I still know nothing about.

  30. Rebekah says:

    Great article! I recently did a “re-vamp” of my blog to take it in a different direction. xo

  31. Rachel says:

    I’ve been blogging since 2010. I started just to write for fun while I was a SAHM. Now I blog more seriously and my topic is much more refined. It’s been an interesting journey to say the least!

  32. Cristina says:

    I couldn’t agree more!
    Throughout my blogging experience I’ve learnt so, so many things. If I would start a new blog from scratch, I would do thing very differently, for sure.

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