It’s been a year since I launched my blog, and I feel like I can finally call myself a “Blogger”. When I first started this project I told myself I would try it for a year and if I feel like there is even the slightest chance that I could make it as a blogger, I would keep it going.
There were a few points where I did not think I would make it to the end of this first year. For a while, I was feeling disappointed that I was not seeing the results I was expecting. Now I can say that I am finally noticing good results, and it feels great! My year is up and I’m ready to take on this blogging thing full force.
Since I’m finally seeing results from all of the hard work I have been doing I’m ready to pass on some of my knowledge to you.
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In this post, I will share some of the things I wish I had started doing earlier, some things that I couldn’t survive without, and some useful tips. When I started using these things I was noticing results not only through the numbers but my confidence and stress level as well. I’m sure if you follow this advice you will too!
Here are my 18 pieces of advice for new bloggers to survive the first year
1. Don’t let social media take over
Social media is the most important marketing tool you have as a blogger, but that doesn’t mean it should take up all of your time and distract you from more important things. Unless your number one priority is social media, don’t let it push your blog to the side.
I made this mistake and for about 3 months I was not producing much blog content or learning and advancing with blog related tasks. I was spending a lot of time and energy (plus money!) solely on Instagram. And it was stressing me out.
Once I finally snapped out of it and realized that social media is not my priority, but a tool, I knocked it off its pedestal and put my blog back on top. I choose to use social media as a supplement to my blog, and now that I’m putting my blog first, I’m seeing the results that I want to see.
2. Find your balance
One of the toughest things for me has been finding my balance between work, blog, social media, photography, travel, etc. I did not realize how much stuff there is to do as a blogger. It’s never-ending!
I work full time so it is very hard to fit everything into my schedule. Everything that I need to do for my blog has to be done after work, which doesn’t give me much time. I try to knock out the smaller tasks during the week, and leave the large projects for the weekend.
Create a schedule that works for you that will allow you to get things done without stressing you out or affecting other areas of your life. Try to complete at least 1 blog-related task per day, even if it’s something really simple.
3. Stay organized
With all the things there are to do as a blogger, staying organized is key. I love using checklists for anything I can and I use Excel to track things like analytics, milestones, hashtags, SEO, etc. I also use a weekly planner pad to keep track of my tasks for the week.
DOWNLOAD MY FREE BLOG POST CHECKLIST
My favorite tool of all and the one thing I could not live without is Trello. Trello is like my brain. I literally have every idea, goal, task, blog idea, to do-list, on my Trello boards.
Think of Trello as a vision board. You can create several vision boards (I have one for things like Blog, Social Media, Travel, and Life), and within each board you create lists. Within each list you create cards, and everything can be color-coded, you can add checklists, due dates, photos, links, all kinds of stuff! You can also add power-up options like a calendar or a map.
I also love that Trello has a web version and an app. Whenever I’m out somewhere and I have an idea, I just open my app and add the quick note!
I highly recommend using Trello, and since it is free you won’t lose anything by signing up.
4. Research courses thoroughly
I definitely recommend signing up for a course or purchasing an e-book to help you learn whatever is most important to you. Before you do, make sure you do your research.
I made the mistake of jumping on the bandwagon and signing up for one of those “grow your Instagram” courses. It was with an influencer I was following for a while, I had respect for her, and I really enjoyed her account. Plus, she had nearly a million followers, so she must have been doing something right.
Long story short, the course ended up being a failure. Some of the students were not satisfied with the content, and refunds were issued. I did not learn nearly as much as I thought I would and I expected much more for the high price I paid.
The point is to make sure you are purchasing a course that has backup and proof that it is worth your time and money. I would recommend against brand new courses just because of my experience. If you do try out a course and something doesn’t seem right, request a refund and get the heck out of there.
If you are interested in taking an Instagram course, this is the one I ended up taking after the other fiasco, and I highly recommend The IG Bootcamp by Christina Galbato. Christina is such a great teacher, and the best part of all she is actually reachable (she does live sessions every month and actually responds to questions and DM’s), plus the Facebook community is excellent.
In case you are not ready to splurge on courses just yet, here are some great book recommendations:
5. Track your analytics
You won’t know if you are improving if you don’t track your analytics, right? Every month I track all kinds of data such as page views, new users, traffic sources, website speed, and social media followers. You should track whatever numbers are important to you.
I use a basic Excel spreadsheet and I get most of my data from Google Analytics. If you don’t have this setup for your blog, get it now! I also use a few other tools which I have listed below.
I love looking at these numbers each month and seeing how much I improved. It makes me feel good, plus it helps me to figure out where I need to make improvements.
These are the websites I use to track my analytics:
- Google Analytics (data & analytics from google search)
- Bing Webmaster (data & analytics from bing & yahoo search)
- Tools.pingdom.com (website speed test)
- Thinkwithgoogle.com (test mobile speed)
- Google PageSpeed Insights (website speed and improvements)
- Moz link explorer (check domain authority)
6. Resize your images
When I first started blogging I would download my images from Lightroom using the recommended size for my theme, and after that, I would upload straight to WordPress. I have a plugin called WP Smush that reduces the size of my photos automatically. I thought I was good to go until I heard a tip that images should be resized before even uploading to WordPress. The reason being is that a plugin might not reduce the photo enough.
Sure thing that person was right. I went through every single one of my photos and resized them using this online tool, which reduced some of my photos even more than WP Smush did. I also found out that some of my photos were not even resized by my plugin at all. Since then I always send my photos through reduction before even uploading to WordPress. This keeps my images as small as possible, which keeps my blog running as smooth as possible.
7. Keep it secure
You never know if (and when) your website will be hacked, a plugin will go rogue, or some other scary security issue will occur. According to online reports, 70% of WordPress sites are vulnerable to hacker attacks. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
I recently had a major scare when a plugin I was using was hacked. Some of the links on my website were redirected to other spammy websites. When I reached out to my host they informed me that there is an issue with a plugin and that I should hire a security company to clean my website of malware. That would cost me over $300.
In the end, I found out that I only needed to deactivate the plugin and install the new version. It cost me a whole day of stress and frustration, but I am lucky it was not worse.
You should at least be using a free plugin for security (I use Wordfence and they also have a paid version). Always make backups of your site, keep plugins up to date, change passwords frequently, use 2-factor authentication, and whatever else you can do to keep your blog as secure as possible.
8. Give in to Tailwind
I always heard amazing things about Tailwind, and how I should be using it if I really want to gain traffic to my website. For the longest time, I was manually pinning to Pinterest, and I was fine with that because I didn’t feel it was necessary to pay money for something I could do myself.
After about 9 months of manually pinning and not seeing the results and website traffic I wanted, I finally decided to sign up for the free trial of Tailwind.
Results were good, but I still wasn’t convinced that this tool was really going to make my traffic explode as everyone says. After struggling to keep up with manually pinning, and desperate to get more traffic to my blog, I decided to give Tailwind a try. I signed up for an entire year, and now…
I WISH I WOULD HAVE STARTED USING TAILWIND EARLIER.
Check out my numbers:
I have also had a steady increase of followers on Pinterest and my monthly Pinterest viewers has jumped from 33k to 100k!
The results of using Tailwind have been amazing for me. Not only did Tailwind save me so much time by automatically pinning for me, but my blog traffic has also increased and so have my Pinterest viewers and re-pins. This is one tool that is well worth the money.
Please note that these are my personal results and this does not mean that you are guaranteed to get the same results. You can take a look at the typical results of Tailwind members right here.
After automating my Pinterest account by using Tailwind and saving a ton of time, I realized that investing a little bit of money is actually well worth it if it meant I was going to have extra time to work on other things.
The next thing I decided to automate was Instagram. I was to the point of literally dreading waking up early every other day to post on Instagram. The hashtags, the tags, the editing, it was all just a little too much. Instagram is not a high source of traffic for me, so was it all worth it? I needed to let go of it just a tad so I decided to upgrade to the pro version of Later to reduce the amount of time I was spending on Instagram.
Now I am pre-scheduling Instagram posts and even some stories. I have the ability to completely schedule everything, from the caption, the hashtags, the location tag, and user tags. It is a great feeling having everything pre-planned.
You can also use Later to schedule Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest! You can sign up for Later here.
For now, I have my Twitter on auto-pilot using Hootsuite, and I pre-schedule Facebook posts directly through Facebook.
Automating has given me back so much time, time that I need to focus on my blog. I highly recommend trying it!
10. Learn the basics of SEO
SEO is one of those things that everyone says you HAVE to learn because it is essential to growing your blog. At first, I was overwhelmed with SEO because so many people were talking about how important it is, so I thought it was this very technical thing that was going to take me forever to learn.
SEO actually isn’t that difficult, at least the basics. There are some technical tasks related to SEO, but if you can get the basics down you will learn those technical things as you go.
I learned the majority of my SEO abilities through the e-book Make Traffic Happen.
11. Don’t forget about Bing
Google might be the main search engine, but you should not forget about Bing/Yahoo! At the moment, Bing is my top traffic source (from search traffic). I have several posts on the first page, which is not happening yet with Google. My “5 of the Best Beaches in Puerto Vallarta” is currently on page 1 of Bing but on page 6 of Google.
Just take a look at this data:
You might think Bing is not as important as Google, but something is better than nothing. I am very happy that Bing is giving me traffic, and in the meantime, I will be working on getting better results from Google!
Similar to Google Analytics, you can setup Bing Webmaster for your blog to track all of your data.
12. Utilize Facebook Groups
Facebook Groups have helped me immensely, and at least during the beginning months as a blogger, you should definitely join a few. I use groups for several things: getting help, advice, learning new skills, social shares, gaining social media followers, growing my email list, and getting traffic to my blog.
Some groups have daily threads where you can drop your link and everyone shares your blog post, or even those “follow for follow” threads to boost your social media following. In the beginning, I was using groups to grow my Facebook and Twitter pages, but now I mainly use groups for sharing my blog posts and learning or getting help with things.
Recommended Facebook Groups:
- Grow your blog
- Travel & Lifestyle Bloggers Hub
- Boss Girl Bloggers
- Make Traffic Happen
- The Curated Chic
- Goal Digger Podcast
13. Have social sharing buttons
You want to make it easy for people to visit your blog and share your post. If you do not have social sharing buttons, your post is not going to be shared. Social sharing buttons are even required by some Facebook groups if you are participating in their daily threads.
There are a bunch of WordPress plugins to give you these buttons, and the one I have been using is Social Warfare Pro. This is actually the plugin that was recently hacked and caused some of my links to be redirected to other websites. I have not yet decided if I will continue using this plugin or not, because I do really like its functionality.
Do your research and try several options until you find the one you like.
14. Create a freebie early on
If you have ever listened to Jenna Kutcher’s Goal Digger Podcast, then you know how important it is to grow your email list. According to this post, 72% of people prefer to receive promotional content through emails rather than social media. 66% of people have purchased something directly from an email. Jenna has DRASTICALLY increased her profits via email marketing.
As soon as you have an idea for a freebie, create it and use it! There’s no point in waiting, even if you don’t currently sell a product. You might later, and that’s when you will need that email list you have been slowly growing! Time is going to pass anyway, and during that time you could be growing your list, even if it’s little by little.
A freebie could be anything from a checklist, planner printable, packing list, bucket list, email course, e-book, there are tons of ideas out there. You can add your freebie to a blog post, and even create a separate landing page for it so you can share that link directly on social media and Pinterest! You can check out my first freebie in this blog post or on this landing page.
15. Invest in tools
At some point in your blogging life, you will probably need to invest some money into more efficient tools or programs. When I first started I told myself I would only invest in the basics since I didn’t have an income from my blog. After about 8 months I realized that I needed to invest money if I expected results. They say “you have to spend money to make money” right?
When the time is right for you, just do your research before you buy. And if there is a free trial, always sign up for that first!
These are the tools and programs that I currently use and recommend:
- Later (to schedule Instagram posts and stories)
- Trello (to organize ideas, lists, plans, etc)
- Tailwind (to schedule pins and re-pins)
- Canva (to create pins and Instagram stories)
- Grammarly (to check your grammar)
- Hootsuite (to schedule tweets and re-tweets)
- MailChimp (to create and send emails)
- Google Adwords (free keyword research tool)
- Lightroom CC (for editing and storing photos)
16. Create an events calendar
I just recently realized how important an events calendar would be. For my first year as a blogger, I thought I would just blog as I go, blogging about whatever, whenever. Wrong.
Sure, you could do that, but SHOULD you? Probably not. It would probably be best to know what you are going to blog about and when. You want to make sure you are blogging about things that people care about right? Or that people want to read at that moment?
Let’s say for example you are blogging about winter activities in the middle of summer. Or talking about Coachella in the middle of October when the event is in April. Will many people read your post? Maybe not.
I think it is important to stay up to date with activities and current events. This way you are ahead of the game and ready to publish some blog posts when the time is right. If you know wildflower season in California is coming up, start writing a post early so you can publish it as soon as the season arrives!
17. Practice, Practice, Practice
The only way to get better at something is to practice. They say it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something, so it’s best to just get moving on whatever it is your are working on. Don’t wait for it to be perfect, because it’s not going to be. You will see results once you start doing it, over and over, as much as you can.
This goes for writing, taking photos, posing for photos, editing photos, creating videos, email campaigns, marketing, anything.
When I first started my photos were not that good. I was not very comfortable in front of the camera. I wasn’t very comfortable with my writing style either. It took me a long time to develop these things and start getting more confident doing them.
My tip is to follow other people you look up to. Without comparing yourself to them, notice how they do things. See how their photos look or their writing style, and use that for inspiration. Little by little you will start to notice your style getting better and better and more distinct.
18. Remember this
My husband told me this when I first started out mountain biking, and it stuck with me ever since:
“You can’t start something as a pro.”
Whenever I start comparing myself to other (larger) bloggers out there I bring myself back to this quote. This quote reminds me that it takes YEARS to become really good at something. Years to gain a large following on social media. Years to build a highly successful blog. And years to become a great photographer and writer. It simply does not happen overnight.
Don’t compare yourself to someone else who has been doing this for years. You will get there eventually, if you keep working at it. Stay focused, set your goals, learn, practice, and push through day by day to get where you want to be.
Well, this concludes my long list of advice for new bloggers out there. I hope these blogging tips help you in one way or another! Always feel free to reach out and ask me any questions you might have. Thanks for reading!