I certainly don’t profess to be a great blogger, not even a good blogger, but running InvisiblyMe has certainly been an interesting and ongoing learning curve. There are a few things I wish I knew when I first started out as they would have saved a lot of hassle. Here are just 14 tips I’d give to new bloggers or those considering giving it a go to minimise the frustration & keep the experience a positive one.
1. There’s No “Right” Way To Blog
While various websites will give tips on how to blog (a bit like this incredibly awesome post you happen to be reading now ????), there is no magic formula to blogging. There’s no “right” way to create articles, no perfect scheduling pattern, no exact time to publish a post or way to format your posts or even what font to use.
Your blog is just that. Yours. Do with it as you wish and find what works best for you. You make the decisions on your content, writing patterns and blog design, so take whatever tips work for you by all means, but leave the rest.
2. Don’t Get Hung Up On Numbers
It’s dangerously easy to start looking at your follower numbers or DA scores (domain authority), comparing them to other bloggers and feeling like you’re coming up way short.
If you do any blog collaborations or sponsored posts you might find that some brands request certain minimum subscribers and stats to be eligible to apply. You might also find companies, including third parties that act as the middle man for collaborations, have higher rates for bloggers with a higher DA. It’s unfortunate because these stats don’t always mean a heck of a lot.
There will be bloggers out there who are fantastic people, putting in a huge effort to their blog and social media channels, supporting other bloggers and gaining a genuine following because they’re so awesome. Some get huge numbers, others put in the same gigantic efforts and get nowhere close.
However, there are also many who inflate their numbers artificially in some way. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing because it’s totally up to you what you wish to do, but I’m just demonstrating that “better” stats don’t mean “better” blog, whatever “better” really means.
For instance, someone may do the “follow-unfollow” game on Twitter and Instagram, following hundreds or thousands of other accounts in the hopes they’ll follow them back, then unfollowing them once they do. They build the numbers up and get a huge following, yet only 5% of those numbers actually read their posts or engage with them in any meaningful way.
Another example is how websites pay for links. A site or blogger may spread their link around like a cat in heat, such as through buying links or doing “blog tours”. They get more links and their DA goes up, but it doesn’t have anything to do with their content being accurate, relevant or readable.
The point I’m trying to get at is that numbers don’t always equate to what we imagine they do. What’s important to you and your blog? I personally value genuine readership and interaction over big numbers. Does that mean I don’t get stressed by numbers? Of course not. I can get hugely disheartened if I happen to glance at my stats, which is why I generally prefer ignorance is bliss by not looking at them. Blog for your own purposes and enjoyment, and don’t sweat the numbers too much.
3. Choose Your Domain Name Wisely
When I signed up for my blog, I wanted a different name that wasn’t available. After trying different iterations, the closest I could get to it was InvisiblyMe. I was then able to buy the domain name with the .com extension at a decent price, but I wasn’t fully happy with it. The other problem is that the idea of what my blog would be has changed over time and it’s hard to rebrand around that name.
I should probably have taken longer trying out different brand ideas and checking web address availability before plumping for what I did. I should have got my head around what it was I wanted to achieve with the blog, but then again, it has been a process that wouldn’t have been clear from the outset, so I probably couldn’t have done it any other way.
You could, of course, start afresh if you get months or years down the line and find you’re fed up with the niche or blog name. But that may just cost you all of your hard work, subscribers, blog stats and everything else. It may be that you’re happy to do it and find it cathartic to start over, but if you want to keep your progress then changing the domain and branding could be a huge headache.
Invest a little time sketching out ideas and thoughts on what direction you want to go in with your blog. Make sure you’re happy with the website name and address before you commit to it. You may not get exactly what you want, but think through the next best option without rushing it.
If you’re either not fully sure of whether you have a defined niche or what you want your blog to be like, try to get a domain that’s flexible enough to move with any changes over time.
4. Post URLs – Dates Or No Dates?
What I didn’t realise when I started with Wordpress was that blog posts are automatically set to include the date they’re published as standard in the URL (the web address in the browser).
Having dates on all your blog posts is of course absolutely fine. If you don’t want those dates for evergreen content (essentially content that’s always relevant, that you want read regularly and doesn’t age) then you’d either have to republish it to update the date or include it as a page instead of a post on your blog.
Dates on posts can be useful, and in many cases it won’t really be an issue. However, if you wish to run your blog more like a website rather than having dated entries, then you may find yourself wanting to go without the dates.
You can change the format at any point, but doing so isn’t totally straightforward. If you’ve got backlinks on other sites, even those you’re unaware of, then the links may no longer work and that could then impact your SEO and DA.
Basically, it’s easier to make the change before you start blogging than to do it months or years down the line.
I would also ensure that if you’re publishing a post you started a while ago on WP, that it’s set for “immediate” publication. I have a feeling Wordpress have changed this, so that posts are publishing with the date they were started, not the date you actually publish it. It’s always worth double checking before you hit the red button.
5. Understand The Benefits Of Self-Hosting
Working through what you want to achieve with your blog will go some way to helping you decide whether to stay with a free Wordpress (or similar) blog, or to pay a hosting provider. You don’t need to make a decision straight away, and it’s probably a good idea not to unless you’re totally sure you want to blog, intend to keep it going, and have the ability to invest the necessary time in it. If any of those things change, you might end up paying for blog hosting or a domain name you never use, so many people just start with a free account then upgrade to self-hosted further down the line.
Why go self-hosted? There are a few benefits here, most notably the extra freedom it allow you over your blog and its content. For instance, greater bandwidth, ability to use Adsense and other adverts, access to Amazon affiliates and other such programs, to be able to buy a third party theme and customise the design and layout of your blog, etc.
You can pay Wordpress for hosting, but in my experience this appears quite pricey in comparison to other options. Or you can do what I do and use a third party host, just shop around first to compare prices, read review and search for new user discounts. Some providers will offer new user discounts, and you can save a little hassle by getting the domain name from the same provider should you wish.
For Wordpress hosting and the domain name, I currently use and would recommend HostPresto for the price and ease of use.
I’ve previously also used BlueHost. Both of these often offer pretty reasonable prices for starter packages, especially if you’re a new user.
Related Reading : What Is Blog Hosting? The Benefits & Best Sites
6. Know Your Purpose
What has brought you to start blogging? Why do you want to do it, and what do you hope to get from it? What topics do you want to cover? Is this more of a personal blog about your life, a blog for book or product reviews, or more of an informative and advisory blog?
The typical advice is to find your niche before you start blogging. This can be helpful, but don’t let it pigeon hole you into feeling like you can’t write outside of that box. It’s your blog to write as you wish.
Knowing why you’re blogging is important because if there comes a time – or numerous times – where it gets stressful or you start feeling disheartened, you’ll want to have those reasons to keep you going. If you start to change course during your time blogging, make sure to check in with yourself and see whether you’re still blogging for the “right” reasons, ie. for the reasons you want.
7. Be Part Of The Community & Support Fellow Bloggers
The blogging world is a community in itself. You may find yourself part of another community if you have a blog within a certain niche, like the chronic illness community.
I don’t interact with other bloggers in the hopes of them reciprocating, but it’s true that the interaction is a two-way street. It’s one of those unwritten moral things that you can’t expect others to support you or read your stuff if you never bother to read anyone else’s. Try to get involved in your community and support other bloggers by reading, liking, commenting and sharing their content.
You’ll find yourself learning from others, feeling more motivated, more inspired and more connected as a part of the community.
The online realm is, for many, a considerable blessing, bringing us closer to others who “get” us and allowing us to make new friends and acquaintances all over the world. I know that the community for me is perhaps the best part about blogging.
8. Consider Social Media For Post Sharing
Once you’ve written your post, how are you going to get it out into the world? Having followers on email and Wordpress is great, but if you want to branch out then the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & Pinterest can have a far wider reach.
Sharing posts on social media also strengthens the community vibe – the aforementioned point #7 – and the benefits can go beyond getting post views. You’ll discover new bloggers, friends, brands. You might learn a thing or two, pick up some tips, find writing gigs if you’re looking for them. It can connect you with others and open up new avenues of exploration.
You might want to consider joining Facebook groups where you can get to know some new bloggers and get yourself known. Many such groups also do “share threads” where you can drop a link to your latest blog post for others to read/comment/share, and in return you do the same for a few other posts in the thread.
If you are hoping to get writing gigs, sponsored guest posts or review posts, it’s worth keeping in mind that many brands prefer those with social media accounts. Again, don’t get hung up on the follower numbers because genuine engagement always means more than empty figures, regardless of what brands may be looking for.
9. Know Your Worth – Scam Emails
I’m sure many current bloggers will know what I mean when I say beware of your inbox being filled with junk related to your blog. If someone says they’ll offer you a “free” post that’s great for your site, it’s not because they’re doing it out of the goodness of their hearts. It doesn’t help you, it just helps them. They’re just after a do-follow link (a backlink to their website to help their SEO and DA). This is something they should be paying for, but they’re hoping you don’t know that.
You might want to collaborate with other brands and bloggers for free, and that’s cool. But don’t get your arm twisted if you don’t want to. Many bloggers charge a fee for hosting a post, or including a link to an existing post, on their site. If you give the emailer your price and they say they don’t have the budget for it then forget it.
You may get some not so pleasant responses if you turn down these requests – I’ve had someone come back to me after I very politely declined their “offer” to say that they thought my blog was rubbish and I was a loser, only with more colourful language. These people are simply fishing for newbie bloggers or extra kind souls to help them out for free, while giving them – ie. you – nothing in return. You’re worth more than that, so don’t fall for it.
10. Upload JPEG Media Files, Not PNG
If you’re using a free Wordpress account, you get a set amount of space for uploading images in the “media” section, though you can obtain a larger allowance for your website’s overall space if you go self-hosted.
The size of these media files add up and you might come to the point where your WP dashboard tells you that you’re reaching your limit. I’m self-hosted on a basic plan and didn’t think I overdid the media, and yet I had this warning pop up before, too.
PNG files are typically larger and will eat up space more quickly than JPEGs, so try to opt for JPEG images over PNG, at least for standard media in posts. If you want better quality, PNG files might be best saved for things like the blog header. In most cases you should be able to convert PNG to JPEG on your computer.
There are a couple of ways to do this. For instance, on Mac you can open up a JPEG saved on your computer in Preview, then go to duplicate. From there, exit out of the image and when it asks if you want to save, simply rename it and click JPEG as the file type. Alternatively, just open the image and click “export”, then rename and choose the format desired.
If you’re still short on space then there are other ways to include media, such as embedding or via a URL. You can also find ways to compress images. Another blogger, Ashley, has gone through these options where you can find more information on Wordpress media storage space.
It’s also worth trying a plug-in like Media Cleaner to remove media that’s not in use. For instance, you may have uploaded a photo you then decided not to use, or you might have deleted old blog posts without removing the media itself.
11. Get To Grips With SEO
What is SEO? It’s a world of web-based confusion you can probably do yourself a favour and ignore if you’re looking to keep your blog small and personal.
SEO (search engine optimisation) is something you’ll want to learn more about if you want to grow your brand, participate in collaborations and earn money from your site. If you want to improve your DA, work with brands, and get better visibility on Google for people to find you, then SEO is important from the get go. It’s easier to optimise your posts at the time than trawl through them months or years later (I say this from painstaking experience).
There are plug-ins you can use (see next point #12) to make this easier, like Yoast SEO. This will give you directives for each post and your blog as a whole, in a simplified, user-friendly way.
12. Utilize Tools To Your Advantage
There are numerous convenient plug-ins and tools to help your site run more efficiently and to make what you’re doing a little easier. A general Google search for Best Wordpress Plug-ins or similar should give you some ideas. If you get a plug-in then decide its not for you, just delete it afterwards.
Plug-ins may include the aforementioned Yoast SEO, Media Cleaner, Akismet Anti-Spam, WP Optimise, Jetpack, Broken Links Checker, WPS Hide Login (good for hack prevention security), and so on.
13. Create Unique Visuals
Being your own graphic designer is far easier than you may think thanks to the online tools now available. Having your own designs helps to develop your brand and set it apart from the crowd.
Canva is a fantastic free resource for creating your own blog headers, brand logo, blog post cover images, social media banners, quote posters and so on. You don’t need any software as it can be run through the web browser.
The basic Canva is free, but you might be offered a free 30 day trial of Canva Pro as a new user, which I’d recommend taking up as you can cancel at any time. It’s always worth checking if you’re eligible for a freebie trial, even if you’d had one previously.
Canva Pro gives you access to premium photos, graphics and tools, as well as the ability to upload your own fonts, which you can get for free from other sites. The price of Canva Pro per month may be a good investment if you’re looking to get serious with your blog, and you can choose to subscribe just for the month(s) you’ll get the most use from it.
14. Ensure Images Are Your Own Or Copyright-Free
To use images on your blog, you need to make sure that you have the right to use them. If you don’t, you could end up in hot water. It’s unlikely you’re going to be sued if you’re a small blogger, but it’s not worth the risk of someone getting a bee in their bonnet.
If you want to use photos, screenshots, art, film stills and such, make sure they have a licence that allows for commercial use. There are sites that offer free images, like Pixabay, so you can freely use them without concern. Other sites may have images that are free to use but come with stipulations attached, like requiring attribution. You might want to read up on the types of media licences and where you can source free photos.
You can, of course, use your own photos and get around the issues of copyright altogether. If you want to put your own stamp on your images, consider adding your blog logo or website address to them. That’ll also help prevent others using your images without permission (or at least, if they do then they’ll also be promoting your blog).
Your blog is just that. Yours. Do with it what you wish, not what you think you “should” be doing. Contrary to what you might read online, there is no “right” way to blog. Take whatever advice works and leave the rest.
Ironically, with everything being so full-on here at the moment, I’ve barely had any time or ability to blog so I’m glad I had this post previously drafted up. At this rate, the next post might involve a giant photo of a golden retriever puppy and be totally devoid of text!
Do you have any tips or thoughts on blogging that you’d like to share for new or current bloggers?