I have been blogging for around 4 years now and it’s only been in the last 2 years that I have really taken my blog seriously.
Coming from an IT background, how to start a blog and make money is what I was interested in, to begin with. I was fascinated with what made blogs work and how you could grow them into a brand.
However, I fell into a social media trap and for the first 2 years, I didn’t really concentrate on blogging. I would publish a post every so often and didn’t take SEO, email marketing or promoting my blog seriously.
I quickly got exasperated with social media and in particular, Instagram. I didn’t like the fact you had no control over it.
It didn’t matter how hard you worked, how creative your content was or how often you posted, there was no correlation between working hard and seeing results.
I believe that Instagram really is a popularity game, and it is extremely hard to keep up with.
In 2020, I decided to solely concentrate on blogging and started reading a lot of beginner blogging tips. I had a complete website redesign, I moved from Squarespace to WordPress and I taught myself the basics of SEO.
The results were amazing! My blog grew quickly from around 6,000 page views a month to just over 40,000 a month over several weeks.
I was able to apply for Mediavine (a full-service ad management system) and start monetising my blog.
Are you thinking of starting a blog? Have you read lots of blogging for beginner’s information and still don’t know where to start? Or are you already blogging but don’t seem to be growing your traffic or monetising your website?
Here are 20 things I wish I had known when starting a blog which should help you on your way…
1. Find your niche
We all have several interests and I bet you want to start blogging about all of them! I fell into my niche of interiors as I was renovating our home at the time and decided to write about it.
However, I was also interested in arts and crafts, books and literature and travel. I probably could have ended up writing about any of these things, but I decided to stick to blogging about Interiors.
Over time, I niched it down to DIY, Renovating and Biophilic design. I find that the more you niche down in your area, the more people will understand what you have to offer and you can become an expert in this area.
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2. Go Self-Hosted from the beginning
There is so much information out there for starting a blog and I read plenty of blogging for beginners articles.
One thing I wish I had taken notice of was starting with a self-hosted site from the beginning.
I started my blog on Squarespace which is brilliant! As a new blogger, it was extremely easy to use, they had plenty of templates to choose from and all I really needed to do was write my content and publish it.
However, you are limited to what Squarespace have to offer. If you self-host and use a website like wordpress.org, you have access to tens of thousands of plug-ins so your website can become truly unique.
This in turn helps you monetise your blog better and you have more control over your blog.
3. Make sure you get a good domain name
This is so important! One of the first things you need to do is create a name for your business when starting a blog.
This name will stick with you throughout its entirety and you will use it on social media for any correspondence relating to your blog.
What makes a good domain name?
- The name describes your niche or has a word relative to the niche you write about
- Keep it simple so that people remember it
- Make sure it is easy to spell. If you come up with a complicated name, people may not be able to look for it on Google.
- Check to see what is already out there. You don’t want your name to be like a big brand or blogger that has a huge following
- Brainstorm. Come up with several names that you love and sleep on them. You might find that your best domain name is a mash-up of ideas from brainstorming
- Make sure it is available! Not just as a domain name, but on social media too.
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4. Start publishing content. Now!
My biggest problem when I decided to start blogging was finding the perfect design, layout, template, colour palette and fonts.
I spent months designing a logo, deciding on colours, creating ideas for content and researching how to start a blog and make money.
That was months wasted in not getting my content out there.
One of the best ways for your blog to grow is to be “recognised” by Google. The general consensus is that it will take around a year (or 50 blog posts) for Google to figure out what your website is about and start showing your website in search results.
Don’t worry about what your blog looks like from the beginning.
The most important piece of advice I can give you is to start creating content NOW and publishing it. As your blog fills up with content, you can start to get a good feel for the web design layout and colours and change it as you go on.
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5. Learn Basic SEO
One of the most important beginner blogging tips I can give you is to learn SEO!
I’ll admit, SEO (search engine optimisation) was a little scary, to begin with. Starting a blog from scratch meant I knew nothing about SEO and didn’t realise how hugely important it was in getting your blog seen!
Forget social media or Pinterest, SEO is the no. 1 priority in driving traffic to your blog. After 2 years of blogging and not really getting a lot of traffic, I had my website redesigned and the web designer suggested I install the Rank Math plug-in for WordPress.
Rank Math has been instrumental in sorting out my SEO and pushing my blog posts into the 1st and 2nd pages of Google.
Yoast is also a fabulous SEO tool that can help you with your website optimisation with its widely used SEO software.
Basic SEO is simple, and anyone can teach themselves how to optimise their website.
I am constantly learning more about SEO every week and having to implement it into my blog. However, I see results quickly even with the smallest of tweaks.
The best advice I can give you is to try not to get overwhelmed by it, it is a continuous process. Implement what you can when you learn more about SEO and eventually it will come naturally on all blog posts.
More on SEO >>>
6. Headlines are hugely important!
Headlines were probably the last thing I thought about when I wrote a blog post. I would come up with an idea, create blog content and then basically describe what the post was about in around 5 to 6 words.
Blog titles are extremely important and should be part of your SEO strategy. For starters, your Headline should be at least 8 – 12 words long.
There are great headline analysers out there that will help you come up with the best titles for your blog, breaking your headline down into things like word count, visibility, and readability, and suggesting different words for you to use.
I love CoSchedule’s Headline analyser and use it for every blog post.
7. Always be on the lookout for Inspiration
Inspiration is everywhere, I was really rubbish at capturing it and turning it into trending blogs and articles people wanted to read, to begin with.
Early on, I made the mistake of writing blog posts that I wanted to read and telling stories that only my family and friends would be interested in.
I paid no attention to what the current home décor trends were or what people were searching for on Google. I basically wrote what came into my head a few days before I was due to publish and hoped for the best.
The trends are out there, whether you see them on social media, in other blogs, in magazines, or on TV.
Try and get into the habit of being aware of what’s trending around you and make a note of it.
Your blog SEO will thank you for it.
8. Keyword Research
This leads me to keyword research! This is such a blog biggie; it needs several blog posts of its own.
What is keyword research? It is the process of finding and analysing search terms that people enter on search engines.
This data can then be used in your content and marketing strategy. It makes sure you are writing blog posts and articles that people are searching for on Google and will help drive more traffic to your blog.
I have only started using a keyword research strategy over the last few months and the results have already been encouraging.
It makes sense really.
If no one is entering your keyword for your blog post into a search engine, how is your blog post going to show up on the search engine results page (SERP) and drive traffic to your blog?
Do your keyword research!
9. Plan your blog content
Another thing I’ve only just started doing recently is planning my blog content.
Before, I would just think up a blog idea every Monday, write it during the week and publish it on Sunday.
There was no real thought into the blog post, I would write about what I loved, or what project I was doing at that moment in time.
Again, this didn’t work for SEO. I would be blogging about installing a biofuel burner in March when everyone was looking to revamp their gardens. I was writing about gardens in late September when everyone had packed away their garden furniture for the weekend.
Planning your content isn’t just about coming up with blog post ideas. It’s about doing keyword research, finding out what people are searching for on Google, and making sure your blog posts are relevant to the time of year.
10. Concentrate on blogging content, not the design
A bit like “Just start writing”, concentrating on blog content and getting as many blog posts published, to begin with, is so much more important than worrying about what your blog design looks like.
This is what you should really be thinking about when starting a blog.
I spent so many months wasting time and effort trying to come up with the best design for this website and researching how to start a blog and make money.
I could have been publishing content and getting to that all-important 12 months or 50 blog posts quota to be recognised by Google.
Also, you can’t really get a feel for how your blog is going to look until you get a lot of content on there.
You can tweak your website design as you go along, but you cannot get back the months of opportunity to write blog posts.
More on Branding >>>
11. Create a “Start Here” page
A lot of your visitors will come from places like search engines and Pinterest and won’t really know what your business or blog is about.
Blogs can be messy beasts and navigating around them can quickly turn people off.
If you create a start here page and make it prominent on your home page, people can quickly find out what your blog or business is about and follow a path to get the information that they need.
12. Social media isn’t a priority, starting a blog is
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said don’t concentrate on social media alone, especially Instagram! It’s important but it’s not yours.
You have absolutely no control over these channels and if they were to disappear tomorrow, all your efforts (and possible income streams) would disappear with it.
Instagram has been increasingly difficult recently, following has slowed for many and engagement has tanked. A lot of people are switching to TikTok, and we all know the stories of channels such as MySpace and Bebo.
This probably won’t happen to Instagram, but we still have no control over our content on these platforms.
Your blog is yours, it will always be yours. You decide every little detail about what goes on your blog and how you market it.
Blogs will always be around. I have recently found that more brands are looking to promote their products on my blog.
Social media channels have become saturated and it is getting increasingly difficult to be seen.
More on Social Media >>>
13. Email Marketing Strategy
I wish I had sorted out my email marketing strategy from the beginning. I currently have a large number of email subscribers, but I do not send them any emails or let them know when I have new blog posts.
I now realise how reckless this is and in the next couple of weeks will concentrate on getting an email marketing strategy in place.
Why? If visitors to your website like your content enough to give you their email addresses, they are potential subscribers that could come back to your website consistently.
However, I am not sending them any prompts or information to let them know I am still around. It helps increase your brand awareness and drives traffic to your blog.
14. Your blog will not be an overnight success
Unless you write like Stephen King, it will take at least a year or two for your blog to start pulling in lots of traffic and making money.
It is estimated that over 2.5 billion blog posts are published every year, but 90% of bloggers give up after 12 months of blogging.
You will not see instant success. If you have a huge social media following before you start blogging, this might help. But, blogging takes hard work and patience and a great understanding of SEO, marketing and writing what people want to read.
I almost gave up after around 18 months of blogging as I was spending at least 8 hours a week writing content and not getting anything in return.
But I persevered and now make a decent living from my blog.
15. Treat it like a business
This goes back to how I used to blog in the beginning. I would write about what I wanted to read and had no thought as to what people were searching for on search engines.
I was basically blogging for myself and not optimising my blog to increase traffic and make money from it.
Unless your blog is merely a hobby, you need to treat it like a business.
Starting a blog takes time and commitment so you need a strategy from the beginning.
You need to set up a blogging schedule and stick to it. You need to do your keyword research to find answers to people’s questions and write a blog post around it. You need to monetise your blog by building up your traffic, joining an ad management service and using affiliate links.
Not many people have the time to dedicate hours each week to blogging and do not see any reward or return.
Read more on how to start a blog and make money here!
16. It’s a full-time job
This is why you need to treat blogging like a business!
If we could all write one blog post a week, publish it and not have to do any marketing, promoting on social media or building up a following and still make a decent wage from it, we’d all be doing it!
This is why over 90% of people give up on blogging after 12 months. It is time-consuming, demanding and sometimes a hard slog.
I spend time during the week planning and pulling together my blog post and most of my Saturday morning writing my blog posts ready to be published.
During the week, I plan and create content for my social media channels and probably work upwards of 60+ hours a week!
17. Hire help
I’ll confess, I am terrible at delegating jobs or tasks to other people. I tend to do it all myself and I am not very good at accepting help.
When I tried to redesign my website myself, it became so time-consuming, that I eventually swallowed my pride and admitted I needed someone to help me do it. I paid for someone to host my www.melaniejadedesign.com website and completely redesign it for me.
It was worth every penny; I saw huge results not long after I published my new look blog and I learnt a lot about the basics of SEO which saw my monthly views skyrocket.
I am now looking at other ways to outsource tasks that take a lot of time but anyone can do. Hopefully, this will free up a bit more time so I can concentrate on blogging.
18. Don’t obsess over the figures
This is something I am completely guilty of. I have always been fascinated by numbers and statistics and love to analyse my figures, whether that be on social media or on my blog.
However, looking at my follower count and google analytics was becoming a bit of a daily obsession and I would lose around an hour a day just playing around with statistics, and insights and comparing myself to others.
This was such a waste of my time! The only way to can increase your figures is by writing amazing and interesting blogs and creating fabulous content for your social media.
Staring at your insights day in, day out, is not really going to do anything. Now, I check all my insights and statistics on a Monday and quickly move on with my life.
19. Update old content
This is such an important subject although I never gave any thought to it when starting a blog.
Think about it, websites come and go, and you may be linking to pages that no longer exist. Your old blog posts might be out of date and publishing information that is no longer true. Or, you might have learnt a lot more when it comes to SEO and need to go back and update each blog post to optimise them.
Here’s a good example of how to update old content –
- Go to your Google Analytics and create a list of your top 10 most visited posts.
- Update these posts by checking on all the links and improving the SEO
- Do this once a month as your list will more than likely change
- If the list stays the same, expand the list to your most visited 30 – 50 posts and do the same
- Use third-party software like Ahrefs or Semrush to check all the links on your blog posts
20. Repurpose old content
I always thought I had to write every single blog post from scratch or people would get bored of the repetitiveness.
I also thought the same about social media but if one of my Reels goes viral, I can post the same Reel again a couple of months later and it makes no difference. People still like it and comment.
If the content is well received and written, why not publish it again? There are approximately 409 million people who view more than 20 billion blog pages every month! That is a lot of eyes eager to read blog posts and 99.9% of potential readers have not read your blog post before.
Surprisingly, a lot of my top-performing blog posts on Melanie Jade Design are garden related!
I make sure all my garden blog posts are optimised and every year I’ll either rewrite a newer version of my garden blog posts or tweak them and publish them again.
The most important thing you can take away from this blog post about starting a blog is to just start blogging!
Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity, the perfect blog design or the perfect blog strategy. Blogging is best done on the job, you learn as you go on and get better over time.
So, start your blog today!