Blogging Tips To Survive The First Two Years
You’ve heard by now of the blogging journey, right? It’s not a cliché; it’s reality. Professional bloggers who ride the crests and lows through trial and tribulation for more than three years realize the value blogging brings to brand and the Holy Grail – monetization.
There are people who start blogging hoping to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Guess what? There isn’t one. Blogging is a never-ending quest for the treasure; yet, every day the gold coins stack up little by little until finally half the pot is filled. What’s elusive is the other half.
The other half of the pot of blogging gold can only be earned with commitment to community, content, and creativity every single day.
This timeline is based fully on my own professional blogging experience as a hybrid public relations professional blending content strategy and marketing, digital marketing, business, and social media. I try to share what you can expect on the blogging journey before month one and through month 48. I squeeze in some tips in addition to some expectations along the way.
If you have an addition to make or disagree, please do so in comments. Everyone’s experience may not be the same; however, the milestones should be about right for most.
Pre-Launch – Month 1
• Brand your blog. This is the most important thing you get to do as a blogger – to name your blog! Ensure its relevant for a long time, and that it fits with your purpose and the content you’ll write. Take time with this; don’t haphazardly brand the blog without consideration of who reads, what topics you’re writing about, and goals.
• Set goals. This always sounds superfluous; however, goal setting is an absolute must. These goals should stay the same for about two years, and then you can adjust them with a look to the future as you advance through your timeline.
• Determine content and topics. What are you going to write about? It’s important to know! There are so many topics, and if you’re covering too many, your words will lack luster. Readers will sense it, too.
• Editorial calendar. These work! If you develop an ed cal, you’ll stay on task and target for topics. This is a good way to plan out your first six months.
• Hosting. Self-host or rent a host? If you’re unsure you’re going to stay the course as a blogger, then by all means hit up WordPress.com or Blogger or BlogSpot or Tumblr. Get your feet wet, but also be aware these platforms do not belong to you. The copy you write resides and is stored on someone else’s server and it’s their house! Remember Posterous? Anyone who wrote and posted there lost all their content because that platform died. Understand that if you do want to migrate to a self-hosted platform, you may struggle with many tech issues during the times you would rather be blogging and building identity.
• Design. You’ve made the decision to self-host your blog,you’ll need a mobile responsive design. Your blog and website must work on smart devices. When visitors hit your site, it needs to have a vertical appearance for smartphones with buttons and calls to action on top, or a nice framed presentation for tablets. No scrolling to navigate!
• Select your Team. I haven’t met a blogger yet who can go it alone. You will need an accomplished designer, programmer, and developer (perhaps they’re rolled into one) to guide you on setting up the API of the blog (that’s the back end).
Launch – Months 1 – 3
• Write! There is nothing to do in the first three months except to write. The first months are the most nerve-wracking. Who’s reading? What are you writing? Is it relevant? Are there comments? Keep your goals in mind at all times.
• Select a comment system and social sharing tool. These are critical additions to the professionalism of a blog. Find those with solid tech support and visit each tool’s Facebook page to see what’s being said. Check out the Twitter streams for each tool and see what complaints they’re getting. Ask bloggers you follow which solution they prefer; everyone has a favorite. Do get away from native comment systems on your blog, as these do nothing to bring people to the site. For share bars, check load times and how the buttons look. Ensure you’re not using vertical share bars that disappear on mobile devices.
• Analytics. Pick one or two analytics programs to see what your traffic looks like. Get familiar with who’s coming to your blog, why they’re coming, how they’re coming, and how frequently and in what quantity. Don’t get too bent out of shape about these numbers; you can look at them until you’re blue in the face and you’re likely not to fully understand the data until later in your blogging life.
• Confidence. Begin to earn confidence as a writer. You won’t be at the top of your game at this point, but you can feel yourself getting comfortable.
• Community. By now, you should be attracting readers to your blog. How do you engage them? Are you welcoming and do they come back to reply to your comments? Do you get a sense they are reading more than just once in a while? Figure out how to promote community engagement; this is critical for your blogging future.
• Build your email list. Many bloggers forget to care about this. Building a list of subscribers and those who are eager to never miss a post is important for your future as a blogger.
• RSS Feed. Align with a company the likes of FeedBlitz. It has a solid support team, manages RSS feeds, enables email marketing and list building along with newsletters, too. Your RSS feed is important and should be reliable.
• Voice. By now your voice should be 80 percent finely tuned. You should be having some fun with tone and presentation of content. If you’re unsure what voice is, then perhaps you’ve not acquired it. In a nutshell, voice as a blogger means your comfort, personality, presentation, and manner of speaking with words – all rolled into one.
• Writing. You should have honed your topics and themes well by now. You know what you prefer to write about, and your focus is on creating ever better content that is NOT part of the echo chamber. To get readers to stick around, you have to twist the angles to be unique. There are too many bloggers writing the same things; think about how you can differentiate.
• Community. Building community is critical. In the beginning building a community is a challenge as there is so much to accomplish. In the first year, you should be able to recognize who your support system is and who frequently comments on the blog.
• Design. Change up the design of your blog. At month 12,you’ll have a really good sense of what you prefer and what you want your site to look like. Use professionals who can take you to the next level as first impression is so critical.
• Posting Frequency. In year one, you should strive for three posts weekly. Remember, the more content you post, the more traffic and SEO juice you’ll get.
• Digital Marketing. Your blog needs calls to action in the sidebar to invite people to subscribe and also for lead generation. You need to develop free content at the top of the funnel to keep people interested in what you have to say. Landing pages are also necessary to further explain your content or product.
• Email Software. Select and experiment with email list management solutions, e.g. Mail Chimp, Constant Contact, AWeber, or others. Learn what features they have and even consider becoming a certified solutions consultant with any of these companies. Certification means you have a subject matter expertise, and this is important to building your brand.
• Guest Post. Don’t let anyone tell you that guest posting is not important — the best way to build community and lure new readers to your site is to guest post. Be generous with your time and writing. It will come back to you in spades.
• Invite Authors to Your House. Likewise, there are writers seeking opportunities to earn traction all the time. Ensure you know who they are, preferably from your community, and give them a chance to share an opinion.
• Adopt a Cause. It’s time in year two to adopt a cause or theme and run a few posts oriented to that organization or issue. Be careful which issue you select as labeling yourself this early in the game can be detrimental.
• Boost the Brand. Find a way to amplify your voice and power up your brand. Select topics that help you stick your neck out and twist some opinions. If you want to get noticed as a professional blogger, you have to churn it up. Staying safe is not the way to go in blogging; unless of course, that’s your goal at the outset.
• Writing. You should be a solid teacher by now, sharing your learnings about blogging and helping others with tips of the trade. It seems that bloggers love to write about blogging. I know it was always my favorite topic during the first three years of writing. How to posts and 10 tips to success are common topics in year two. As a result, I wrote my first book, Writing With Verve on the Blogging Journey, which is a collection of blog posts about blogging, actually. available at You can grab it from Amazon right here.
• Always Avoid the Echo Chamber. It’s difficult to write fresh; however, it’s necessary. If you expect readers to keep coming back, you have to give them something they want or need. Think of new ways to write about old topics. As many advanced bloggers will inform you, there’s nothing new to write about, so it’s up to you to make the corners curve.
• Photo Library. The best way to illustrate a blog is to take your own pictures. With your smart phone, take images when you’re out and about and on holiday. You never know when an image will come in handy; sometimes you can even develop blog fodder around solid and entertaining images. Copyright issues require this; you don’t want to get in trouble using another’s image without permission.
• Posting Frequency. Want to be considered as a serious blogger? Then you have to post more to get noticed. Three times weekly is a solid schedule; don’t write less than that.
For more content creation advice, download Cision’s 10 Tips for Creating Great Content. To hear more insight from Soulati, get a copy of Message Mapping: How to Sizzle External Communication with a #RockHot Tool for Leaders or Writing with Verve on the Blogging Journey.
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