Happy New Year! 🙂 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! 🙂
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 gotten 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, but 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 recently 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.
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! 🙂
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 🙂
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 8×10 framed photograph to anywhere in the continental United States. Or if you’re in Philly, I can hand deliver it to you!
This giveaway will be open for one week 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! You may only enter each part once, and I will check that everyone who participates follows the rules to make it fair for everyone. 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!
What exciting plans or resolutions do you have for 2017? Comment below! 🙂