Are you thinking of starting a blog? Whether it’s a travel blog, a lifestyle blog, a cooking blog, or a fashion blog, there are a few things to keep in mind. When I started my blog back in 2016, I had no idea what the heck I was doing — thus, I did a few things WRONG! Here are tips for starting a blog and what not to do to make it easy.
Psst. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.
It’s 2016. I’ve just booked a trip to Greece and I’m damn near close to booking my first ever solo backpacking trip to Bali, Indonesia…
So, to stay connected with travelers and inspire others, I decide to start a travel blog.
After scouring the internet on tips for starting a travel blog, it was nearly up and running…
And yet, it didn’t exactly go as planned. Isn’t that always how it goes?
For example, who knew I’d have to shovel over a couple hundy to just get my self-hosting set up? Or that it’s damn hard to customize a free blog theme to make my site stand out?
Not me. That’s who.
Thus, I’m putting together a list of 10 things I did wrong when starting a blog — so you can do the opposite!
Starting a travel blog (or starting any type of blog, really) shouldn’t be hard. And yet, I made it way harder than it needed to be!
After reading these things I did WRONG, you’ll know exactly what to do RIGHT.
Table of Contents
- 1 10 Things I Did WRONG When Starting a Blog
- 1.1 Thinking SEO is for the Big Dogs
- 1.2 Skipping Out on Affiliate Marketing
- 1.3 Not Starting an Email List
- 1.4 Not Buying a Premium Theme Right Off the Bat
- 1.5 Not Deleting the JetPack Plugin
- 1.6 Believing the Green Light on Yoast was Good Enough
- 1.7 Not Participating in Blog Collaborations
- 1.8 Thinking of My Blog as a Hobby, Rather than a Business
- 1.9 Focusing on Quantity, Rather than Quality
- 1.10 Forgetting (or Foregoing) to Back Up My Site
- 2 3 Things I Did RIGHT When Starting a Blog
10 Things I Did WRONG When Starting a Blog
Thinking SEO is for the Big Dogs
Or thinking SEO doesn’t matter and my site is too small to get a piece of the traffic pie…
Oh boy, was I wrong!
It’s been nearly two years of me having my blog, writing countless posts, and I’m just now really thinking and implementing SEO strategies.
Seriously, if you’re starting a blog or thinking of starting a blog, start putting together a search engine optimization strategy right away!
I cannot stress this enough — there’s more than enough search engine traffic for everyone! Including your little blog. Plus, as your domain gets stronger and higher, it’ll continue to rise up in Google pages.
One of my favorite bloggers, Sharon Gourlay, is a wizard with SEO and has great tips on her website: Digital Nomad Wannabe.
Another tip would be to invest in a handy dandy SEO tool, like Keysearch! (More on that below).
Skipping Out on Affiliate Marketing
With a lot of bloggers out there in the world, affiliate marketing is one of the many ways they create their own income. And holy moly, it can be a BIG chunk of the money they make!
So, with that said, the best way to really get your foot in the door with affiliate marketing is to start right away. Sign up for affiliate marketing sites like Rakuten, ShareASale, or CJ Publisher — even if you have a rather small number of page views each month.
A lot of the time, an affiliate program will accept you even if you have peanuts for page views because they see the potential in how a blog grows! Plus, what business wants to miss out on money, right?
PSSSTTT… I upleveled my affiliate game with one affordable course: Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing!
Michelle earns over $50,000 a month through affiliate marketing, and she shares all of my best tips in this course.
In this course, there are 6 modules, over 30 lessons, over 20 worksheets, bonuses, an extremely helpful exclusive Facebook group, and she goes through everything when it comes to affiliate marketing, such as:
- What affiliate marketing is and how it works
- Why affiliate marketing is great
- The exact steps she’s taken to earn over $300,000 from a single blog post
- The one major tool you need for affiliate marketing
- Different strategies to use to promote your affiliate products
- And more…
Not Starting an Email List
Ugh. One of the worst things not to do when creating a blog.
Every blogger I follow or have talked to either wish they started an email list right away or did start an email list right away and are growing it like crazy!
One of the best part of an email list is that subscribers literally opt-in to hear from you; they want you to talk to them!
Which is one of the best ways to effectively make money from your email list in the future. And who doesn’t love making money doing something you love, right?
By starting an email list ASAP, you can jump right into the deep end of email marketing and growing your target audience.
So, in regards to an email list, sign up with email marketing platform like MailChimp or ConvertKit. The latter is a bit more expensive, whereas MailChimp is free for the first 2,000 subscribers. Although, with both you’ll have the ability to integrate it throughout your website; add in sign-up forms, pop-up forms, and more.
The best part about ConvertKit, even though it is more expensive, is that it’s like MailChimp — but on steroids. You can create landing pages, you don’t have to create a variety of email lists (there’s only one — unlike MailChimp), creating multiple forms is a breeze, automations are super duper easy to set up, and more. Click here to sign up for ConvertKit.
Not Buying a Premium Theme Right Off the Bat
One of my biggest mistakes when starting a blog? Not buying a premium theme right off the bat.
While saving a few dollars by going with a free theme sounds great, not investing in a great theme can bite you in the butt later in the game.
Why? Because premium themes offer a lot more in terms of overall value.
With a free theme, it can be super duper hard to customize it. Not word of lie, I was in tears after trying for hours to get my theme like I wanted. And I can wholeheartedly say, it’s not worth the tears or the stress.
Thus, do yourself a favor and buy a premium theme right at the beginning of the blogging game.
But… where to get a premium theme, you ask?
Here are a few websites I recommend for premium blog themes:
- Bluehost offers thousands of premium themes to get you started (as well as a very affordable self-hosting plan! Which I happen to use and love). Sign up for Bluehost here!
- StudioPress/Genesis is a website with powerful premium themes. The Genesis framework and theme is possibly one of the most efficient and customizable WordPress themes out there! Check it out by clicking here.
- ThemeIsle — which offers a TON of premium themes (including blog themes, responsive themes, business themes, Ecommerce themes, and more) for one low price. Click to check out ThemeIsle!
Not Deleting the JetPack Plugin
One of the great things about choosing WordPress as the basis for your blog is that it comes with hundreds of thousands of incredibly helpful plugins!
And yet, one of those plugins is completely useless: Jetpack.
While Jetpack is great for seeing your page views (although there’s GA for that), it’s not so great for page speed — which is huge for SEO.
Page speed or website speed is the rate your website loads at. Having a very low page speed, meaning your site loads just about as fast as a snail in molasses, is no benefit to either you or your readers.
In fact, if your website takes longer than three seconds to load, you could be losing nearly half of your visitors, according to data from Akamai. Not cool, right?
With that said, deleting Jetpack is one of the best ways to boost page speed. For some reason, this little plugin — which has hardly any benefits — sucks up your page speed like no other. And for some other reason, it’s one of the few plugins already downloaded to your site when starting up on WordPress.
I swear, after removing the Jetpack plugin, my page speed increased by like 4 seconds (which is really remarkable!).
Another tip: delete another useless plugin called Hello Dolly. The only reason it’s downloaded to your WordPress site is because it’s the longest living plugin. Not really a valid reason to keep it around, eh?
Believing the Green Light on Yoast was Good Enough
Similar to the tip up above about getting into SEO early, learn early on that the green light on the Yoast SEO plugin is useless. Seriously, it’s BS.
While it may be helpful right at the beginning if you absolutely have no idea what SEO is, after you learn just a smidge about search engine optimization, you’ll understand that little green light means damn near nothing!
With that said, use a little SEO keyword checklist instead. And invest in a keyword researcher like Keysearch to help you out! I just invested into Keysearch a few months ago and holy moly, this super duper affordable online tool is a game-changer. And it’s under $20 a month! Totally worth it.
Plus, if you want to get 20% off, bringing it down to under $15 a month, use my code “KSDISC”!
Not Participating in Blog Collaborations
Typically, this isn’t on the “to-do” list of many new bloggers but I wish I would have participated in blog collaborations more often at the beginning!
Particularly because it’s super helpful in increasing your DA (domain authority). Why? Because SEO, duh.
There’s that pesky little acronym again… SEO. Search engine optimization.
One major thing behind SEO and building up your rankings in search engines is by accumulating quality backlinks to your website. A strategic way to do this is by participating in blog collaborations!
Such as participating in a blog collaboration on “X free things to do in XXX” or “top X gadgets for traveling.” And this is better than just doing link swaps (which are important, too) because you aren’t required to give a link back. You just get a direct link to your website or a relevant article! Cool, right?
A few handy dandy Facebook groups that focus on blog collaborations and link swapping are:
Thinking of My Blog as a Hobby, Rather than a Business
It’s been nearly two years and I’m just now thinking of my blog as a business… which is not cool. If I would have thought of my blog as a business right from the get go, I think things would be very different.
While two years isn’t enough time to become majorly successful, it’s enough time to totally get things off the ground up and running.
Realistically, if I would have thought of my business as a blog, rather than a hobby, I’d likely have more page views, a bigger audience, more income, and more sponsorship, collaboration, and press trip opportunities.
This is a huge blogging tip I wish I would have learned at the beginning because not thinking or believing that my blog is a business was most definitely one of the things I did very wrong.
Focusing on Quantity, Rather than Quality
One key thing to remember when starting a blog: quality over quantity.
While getting a good number of blog posts out there is good for indexing (aka Google recognizing your blog is refreshed), it shouldn’t be dinky little posts or posts that aren’t actually benefiting your readers.
Instead, stick with quality content that has a chance to rank or that your readers will truly love.
Remember — think of your blog as a business, not as a hobby.
Forgetting (or Foregoing) to Back Up My Site
Oh man, oh man.
This could have really bit me in the butt.
For the longest time (I’m talking like about a year after starting my blog), I didn’t back it up whatsoever.
Which is a seriously risky move on my part!
Just think about it: what if my blog went down? What if WordPress crashed? What if my blog was hacked?
All of my hard work and effort would have been lost forever.
Nowadays, I backup my blog every three weeks or so to keep things updated. This is something I should have started right at the beginning because there’s absolutely no downfall to backing up a blog, but there’s a major risk in not backing it up.
My choice of backup solution is a plugin called Updraft Plus. You can link it to an external account of your choosing, such as a Google Drive account or Dropbox account.
3 Things I Did RIGHT When Starting a Blog
Now that we’ve gotten what I did wrong when starting a blog out of the way, let’s talk about what I did right! Because creating and writing a blog should be easy, yeah? Well, to make it easier on yourself, do the opposite of what I said above and follow what I did right. 👍🏼
Going with Bluehost for Self-Hosting
One of the best decisions I made when putting together a blog was (1) going with self-hosted instead of a free blogging account, and (2) going with Bluehost for self-hosting.
When you’re first deciding on how you’re going to set up your blog, you’re faced with two options:
1. Go with a free blogging account, such as WordPress.com or Blogger.
2. Go with a paid blogging account with self-hosting.
No doubt, going self-hosted is the remarkably better option.
With a self-hosted website you have sooooo much more control over how your blog looks, how it feels, what vibe it gives off, how readers navigate it, SEO options, choosing plugins, and more.
So, with that said, what’s the best choice for a self-hosting platform?
I recommend choosing Bluehost.
Not only is Bluehost recommended by WordPress, it also has:
- Exceptional customer service (I’ve always been helped in a matter of minutes).
- Easy to use control panel.
- One-click WordPress installation.
- Technical support 24/7.
- SUPER affordable (like, extremely affordable. Less than a cup of coffee a day.)
- You can set up your domain, website, and website email all in one place.
- Sign up is super easy.
- Buying a premium theme is simple through the MOJO Marketplace.
Self-hosting is a crucial step in creating the dream blog you’ve always wanted. But it doesn’t have to be expensive! With Bluehost, you can get a fully self-hosted website with a great domain name for only $3.95/month.
Creating a Google Analytics Account
Setting up and creating a Google Analytics account for my blog right when I put it together was a top notch decision on my part!
Even though I was getting pathetic page views at the beginning, Google Analytics is crucial in getting accurate information about both your website and your website visitors.
For example, with Google Analytics you can figure out:
- Where your traffic is coming from (i.e. Pinterest, Instagram, Google, etc.).
- Where your visitors are located.
- How long your visitors are staying on your website.
- What pages or posts they’re visiting most.
- How many visitors are new visitors and how many are returning.
- What devices your visitors are using (mobile, tablet, desktop).
- And more…
Seriously, having an up and running Google Analytics account is essential in getting a firsthand look into your audience, as well as seeing how many page views you have. And, once your page views increase, you can start approaching brands to work with them!
Setting Up Blog Social Media Accounts (Even If I Didn’t Use Them)
Okay, so this might seem a bit weird, but setting up my blog’s social media accounts, even if I wasn’t planning on using them, was something I was really happy with when starting my blog!
Because it allowed me to claim the accounts and names, just in case I somehow make it big in the future (LOL) and don’t have to buy them from anyone else.
Setting up social accounts for my website allowed me to get strong backlinks from the social platforms. For example, the strong backlink from Facebook (through The Wanderful Me’s Facebook page) accounts for more link juice than a wimpy little backlink from another smaller website.
Thus, another helpful step when starting a blog is to claim your blog’s social accounts (to keep things consistent) and get that essential backlink juice to help raise your DA faster!
While starting a blog may seem daunting at the beginning, it’s so much easier than you can imagine! I mean, I started my blog by sitting on my butt in my parent’s living room. And if I can do it, albeit only somewhat right, you can do it, too.
Make sure to just do the complete opposite of what I did wrong and follow the steps of what I did right! By doing so, your blog will be looking fab and feeling great in no time.
Are you thinking about starting a blog? Or have you started a blog? How did it go? Let me know in the comments!