Guest post: 10 things I’d wish I’d known about blogging when I started

So many people start blogs thinking that blogging represents a quick dash from rags to riches.

Hands up – do you?

Squirm. I did.

The truth is though that successful blogs are those that are worked at constantly and consistently, often over years. They stand the course of time because they are run by committed people who are willing to learn and embrace new media and also engage in the opportunities that stem from it.

These people put big chunks of hours and overtime minutes into blogging, both blogging and learning about it – I kid you not. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Attending blogging conferences like Blogopolis (pictured) and ProBlogger is important

Attending blogging conferences like Blogopolis (pictured) and ProBlogger is important. Photo: Nuffnang

Have you got it in you?

There are many things I’d wish I’d known when I’d begun, and things I wish I’d implemented right from the start . Blogging is addictive and if you are passionate about it you’ll probably find it will try to consume you, so to begin with pay heed.

Don’t try and exist on coffee all day, do get out and exercise, don’t become so distracted that you forget to buy necessary household items, and don’t spend all your social time on the internet.

Believe me, it’s easy to fall prey to things which in the end cause self-destruction rather than success.

Apart from staying clear of negatives, what positive steps should you be taking?

1. Make your readers feel something.

I wish I’d known that no one really cares about your writing or how well you write. “They only care about how your writing makes them feel,” says Adam Costa over at the Travel Blogging Academy.

You need to make your readers feel something as they’re reading your post. Will they be happy, sad, thoughtful, inspired or full of passion when they’ve read it – and importantly will it spur them to take action?

Action? Well, perhaps they’ll write a comment in the reply box, or be so moved that they’ll subscribe to your blog, or buy a product from you.

I wish I’d known that I should endeavour to,“Write content that will make people break down in tears,” as Jon Morrow told me during a conference call.

Eden Riley at Edenland does this so well.

2. Write from personal experience

I wish I’d known that it’s important to write from your own personal experience. To tell you the truth, right at the beginning I started off writing from the heart, and then got waylaid, thinking that I should be more like the print press – informative, newsy, impersonal. But now I know that the most successful blogs are those that are written from the heart. Don’t be afraid, just delve deep and do it.

Caz Makepeace at Mojito Mother achieves this perfectly without being soppy.

3. Focus on readers

I wish I’d known that the focus of my blog should be on my READERS. About their problems, their hopes, dreams and desires – not mine. Further on from that I wish I’d got it into my thick skull earlier on that I needed to help them, you know write posts from which they could actually learn something. Not posts that would entertain me (and possibly my mother).

And if I couldn’t do that, then I should have known I needed to be wildly entertaining – give them belly laughs.

Woogsworld does this so well.

4. Spend time creating relationships

I wish I’d known that I should think less about SEO and finding ways to optimise my site for Google, Alexa and domain authority. I wish I’d wasted less time trying to make sense of statistics trying to get a better ranking, and more time on creating relationships, engaging my audience and growing my subscriber list.

It’s hard to get traffic to your blog with SEO traffic and the general advice is that traffic is 90% about links and 10% everything else. So you need to get links, and the best way to do this is by Guest Posting on blogs which have both credibility and traffic.

Yes, even the greats like Brian Clark from Copyblogger have done it. He was a guest blogger at ProBlogger long before he became famous.

Guest Blogging has been described by Jon Morrow as, “Like being the opening act for a famous rock band,” and not something which my freelance-journo self thought was just ‘giving away content for free.’

Just think – if you were opening for Lady Gaga, what might happen to your own record sales?

5. Make a profile of your ideal reader

I wish I’d known much earlier on just who my ideal reader is. Danny at Firepole Marketing, created a great check list that could help you identify him/her.

When you know who you are writing for it becomes so much easier. Isn’t it easier to write a letter or an email to Mum or your Best Friend, but much more difficult to write a round robin newsletter starting with, ‘Dear Friends’? You know, the personal aspect disappears from your voice, so too do the small intimate details that make something enticing to read.

6. Grow an email list

I wish I’d known how important an email list is and I wish I’d known how much people value their privacy. It’s hard to get subscribers to your blog, but creating a great giveaway, an information product that your ideal blog reader would love to get their hands on for free in return for being added to your newsletter or update list, is time and money well spent.

7. Own your domain and host your site

I did know, but maybe you don’t, that it’s important to own your own domain and get your blog hosted, if you want to be taken seriously and/or make a business out of it. It’s a bit harder, but it’s worth it. If you can, then head the WordPress.org way rather than WordPress.com or Blogger.

Annabel Candy at Successful Blogging can help you with technical help and blogging advice.

8. Learn about Twitter and Facebook pages

I wish I’d known that if I use the # tag on twitter, I could find other people to connect to in my niche.

I wish I’d read “7 Twitter Strategies for growing a great following” and known about Social Media Examiner.

I wish I’d set up a Facebook Page for my blog earlier on but most of all that I had been smart enough to keep all my social media accounts under my blog name, with one Avatar (pic of me) across the board. (It saves a lot of time later on).

For all things about blog marketing and social media, I wish I’d known about Kristi Hines at Kilolani.

9. Be open to opportunities

The top bloggers understand this. Very few people make money entirely from blogging. Most successful blogs which are run as businesses, are run by people who are open to everything – from writing eBooks, to making videos and podcasts, to speaking at conferences, to mentoring, writing for the print media and consulting.

PR Warrior, Trevor Young has written a free downloadable E-Book called The Micro Maven Manifesto about “How creative entrepreneurs are using the social web to build mini-business empires around their personal brands.” Read it and find out what it takes.

10. Connect, don’t compete

I wish I’d known that by connecting to other people in my niche, instead of avoiding them as competition that I would make valuable relationships and find people who would support and encourage me, rather than thinking that they would instead just try to out-run me.

In my neck of the woods (Western Australia) Jenny at A Taste of Travel Blog and Amanda Kendle at NotaBallerina have been a point in case.

And my bonus tip?

I wish I hadn’t started out looking at blogging as a race to be run, but rather as a journey to be enjoyed.

My goodness – what a lot I’ve done wrong along the way!

How about you?

Johanna Castro is a freelance writer and travel expert. Her Travel and Lifestyle blog “ZIGAZAG” encourages people to “Live for the Moment, Love Adventure and Do Something Awesome.” To learn more about How to be a Well Fed blogger download her free E-book. Jo’s written for 40+ print publications, has self published a children’s novel for charity, lived in 11 different countries, is married to a gorgeous geologist and has two well travelled, grown up children.

 

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Saturday blogging linky

Thanks so much to everyone who played along with my Saturday blogging linky last week. Sharing your blogging knowledge with other bloggers and potential bloggers really is how this blogging world best goes round.

Remember if you want to join in and have blogged about blogging in the past week, just add your link below. Please fill in the box where it says “name” like this - STYLING YOU: A blog post. That way your blog gets a plug and if you include the title of your post, you’ll attract readers interested in the topic.


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  • http://www.yTravelBlog.com/ yTravelBlog

    Great post Jo! I agree with all of these and thank you so much for referencing what I do at Mojito Mother. I am stoked and its so wonderful to hear because most of the time I feel I don’t know what I am doing.
    I think you are doing an amazing job with your blogging!

    • http://twitter.com/JohannaACastro Johanna Castro

      Thanks for your kind words, Caz. I’m chuffed that you enjoyed the post because I hold both your blogs in high regard and am always learning from you too.

  • http://twitter.com/JohannaACastro Johanna Castro

    Thank you to Nikki for allowing me to guest post on Styling You. I loved writing this post and I’m glad that so many people have either found it useful or started a conversation about one or more of the points. The blogging community is great :). I’ve been slow to reply to comments because we’ve been away for the weekend and without cell phone reception (WA has some seriously remote places). Although I’ve had a lovely time away, is it really bad of me to say that I’ve been itching to get home so that I can reconnect with the blogging community? !!

  • hereiamloulou

    Hello Nikki

    thank you for having such a great guest post to share.
    this was well worth the read.
    wishing you every bit of your expectations to be fulfilled in NYC

    best wishes
    Loulou

    PS: no.5 is an absolute must – everyone must know their ideal customer avatar or reader.
    Can you imagine a fashion designer for example with no idea of who their purchaser is.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      I will have a ball … soaking it all up like a giant sponge!! And I totally agree, without knowing your reader, you’re only guessing what they might want or need.

  • http://www.inspiredwish.com/ Jeanie

    #10 makes my heart sing. I love seeing bloggers unite! Even if it’s just to support and encourage each other. Connection with other bloggers is just as important as connecting with your readers… well it certainly makes the ride more enjoyable if you’re sharing it (the business/how-to side of it). A reader won’t want to high five you on reaching a page view goal, but fellow bloggers who are rallying in your corner will.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      The blogging community MAKES blogging. I’ve never experienced anything like it before and it certainly makes doing what I do a joy!

    • http://twitter.com/JohannaACastro Johanna Castro

      Totally agree, Jeanne and Nikki. The blogging community is awesome and once you’ve connected with other bloggers an amazing friendship group opens up – people who are cheering you on from the sidelines.

  • Scarlett Vespa

    That was such great information AND so true! I’ve been blogging for a nearly a year and it’s been quite a journey…and as you said the words s’till have a life’ my heart sank as the truth vibrates through my cells! Thanks for that and love your website!
    Scarlett

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      I think it’s the same with any work or hobby – the elusive balance is something we all need to work on. x

    • http://twitter.com/JohannaACastro Johanna Castro

      Thanks Scarlett, glad you liked it. Keep going, the blogging journey is as rewarding as the destination.

  • Debyl1

    Once again you have a wonderfully written post that helps others.
    Just want to say how much respect I have for you and the way you run your blog.
    You are so generous with your knowledge and your time.
    Thankyou beautiful lady.xx

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Hi Deby, thanks so much – Jo did a wonderful job!

      • Debyl1

        Jo did a brilliant job I should have said first and Nikki wonderful to help others with your site as you always do, you lovely giving lady.
        Big hugsXx

    • http://twitter.com/JohannaACastro Johanna Castro

      Thanks Deby and Nikki. I loved guest posting on Nikki’s blog and it was a really interesting post to write.

  • http://www.wanderlustlust.com/ Wanderlust

    This is a great, thorough post. I couldn’t agree more that blogging well is a time consuming pursuit (it could easily be much more than full-time). I’ve been at it for just under 3 years and there is still so much I’ve yet to learn. Sometimes I feel like it’s the worlds longest uphill climb, but it’s one I enjoy immensely.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      I think if you’re not loving it than it’s not for you … hope you are well my lovely x

    • http://twitter.com/JohannaACastro Johanna Castro

      Thanks for your kind comments, and I agree that blogging can be an upward climb, with lots of obstacles and set backs along the way. I think we just have to remember why we started and sometimes rely or fall back on friends in the blogging community to give us a bit of support when we need it. Keep going!

  • http://www.sugercoatit.com/ Melissa Walker Horn

    A considered guest post. Lots of blog love linking going on there.

    Sure, if you want a blog that is a business, then you definitely have to focus on the readers, what they want and need from you. But seriously, I can’t help but roll my eyes every time someone says ‘My readers would love this’ or ‘My readers expect that’. It just seems like a bit of a wank. That said, I’m as guilty as anyone. I do surveys every 6 months to check in. But it comes down to what I want to write. My readers {gag} wanted more recipes. Turns out, they’ll have to get them somewhere else. And I’m ok with that.

    Thanks for sharing. The one thing I wish I’D known when I started is that you have to crawl before you walk, and walk before you run. Everything in it’s time and that’s ok.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      I’m pretty sure that’s what Jo is talking about Melissa … blogging for business, in which case building your readership is essential to that business. It might seem like a bit of wank to talk about your readers in those terms but I’m very much guilty of it. Without my readers I don’t have a blog. I just have a broadcast tool. Readers make it a blog because they interact with you. I listen to what they have to say; I watch what they most like on my blog and I frame my content from there with my style on things on top. At the heart of it is me having fun!

      • http://www.sugercoatit.com/ Melissa Walker Horn

        Absolutely. I just reread my comment and it’s a little direct. In no way did I mean to undermine the value of having readers. Of my readers in particular. It was just a comment on the way the phrase gets thrown around.At the same time recipes got the axe, my outfit posts got doubled because of the survey. Because that fits with me and I’m happy to provide that. Like you said, because at the heart of it is me having fun!

        Right. Clarification over. :)

        • http://twitter.com/JohannaACastro Johanna Castro

          Just read your clarification … Oh :) point taken – seems like your surveys are a great way of leading you forward in the right direction … and yes, I do know what you mean, the phrase “my readers” sounds awfully pretentious – as if bloggers own them. We need to uncover a less ‘wankish’ way of saying it!

      • http://twitter.com/JohannaACastro Johanna Castro

        Yes, very much. I think blogging for business is different to blogging for personal pleasure, although having said that I don’t see why the two can’t co-exist and cross over in places. But if you really want to have a business case, then I guess it does have to be about readers and what they want because without them you’re just a loudspeaker, “Come get your sausage sizzle” rather than “Here’s a sausage sizzle, what do you think of it?” If you’ve reached the stage, Melissa ,where you can keep readers and still write what you want to, then that’s great – your readers obviously come back for more than the recipes.

  • http://www.kellyexeter.com.au/ Kelly Exeter

    Jo! What a great post! The only thing I would say is yes, write to help your readers, but if you’re writing ONLY for your readers and never for yourself, the passion will go out of your blogging very fast :)

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Writing for yourself with your readers at the forefront of your mind is a good formula for building readership of any medium. As a journo we were taught “Readers First” as the most important way to frame how we approached the type of stories we wrote and how we wrote those stories. With blogging (if you’re blogging as a business) this is just as important – but framed within the “voice” of your blog.

      • http://twitter.com/JohannaACastro Johanna Castro

        So well put, Nikki.

    • http://twitter.com/JohannaACastro Johanna Castro

      Thank you Kelly! It’s great to know that a post like this has been well received :) Yes, point taken – you do need to keep the passion alive, and as you say there is a fine line between writing only for your readers (business) and never for yourself (pleasure). I guess keeping that balance is crucial if you’re going to be in it for the long haul, and perhaps it’s the very thing that defines the most successful bloggers.

  • http://www.successfulblogging.com/ Annabel Candy

    Hi Johanna and Nikki,

    And of course stick at it! Yes, it’s a journey to be enjoyed and so much more run when you have some good blogging buddies to share it with.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      The community around blogging has been like finding my tribe … it completely makes it for me!

      • http://twitter.com/JohannaACastro Johanna Castro

        As a global nomad, I thought my tribe was fellow expats – and I began to mourn the loss of them now that we are not living that life anymore. But I agree Nikki … I’m finding a tribe I can equally well connect to via blogging, and they’re a wonderful sub-culture of people with similar aims and values.

    • http://twitter.com/JohannaACastro Johanna Castro

      Yes, stick at it even when you lose the will to blog! I agree, the building of blogging relationships is as fun, interesting and rewarding as meeting people in real life. Although as bloggers, it’s great that we can make blogging buddies via the internet and then cement those relationships when we meet up at conferences etc.How times have changed. Not long ago doing things this way round would have been considered a little creepy, now it’s almost the way of the world.

  • Janelle@AWhiteFarm

    Thanks for those suggestions, I’m always on the lookout for more helpful advice about this amazing blogging world! But more importantly, Nikki more pics of the new fringe please!??!! x

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Post coming on Monday Janelle ;)

    • http://twitter.com/JohannaACastro Johanna Castro

      It is an amazing blogging world. Glad you liked the suggestions :) New fringe, Nikki? Scrolling down it looks like I’d better check in tomorrow then!

  • Mummaducka

    Lots of great stuff there Johanna and Nikki. Mine is personal so I don’t need to worry about much of this. But I am all for the best technical stuff. I am going to investigate swapping from blogger, simply as I want to add in slide shows and I can’t see how to do it in blogger.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      There is greater functionality with WordPress Jodie but some of the biggest bloggers are very happy on Blogger!

    • http://twitter.com/JohannaACastro Johanna Castro

      Glad that you found some it useful :) Sometimes it’s best to stick with what you know and as Nikki says, lots of the big bloggers do very well with Blogger.

  • Jenna

    This was a wonderful post, super inspiring and thought provoking. Thanks Johanna and Nikki for sharing :-)

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Thanks Jenna x

    • http://twitter.com/JohannaACastro Johanna Castro

      Thanks Jenna :) I hope you can apply some of the tips along your blogging journey too.

  • Sharlee

    I really disagree with point #3

    “I wish I’d known that the focus of my blog should be on my READERS.
    About their problems, their hopes, dreams and desires – not mine.”

    Seriously? Yes it’s important that your readers CONNECT with what you’re writing about and can relate/identify with your stories, thoughts etc but YOUR blog should not be about someone else hopes, dreams or desires, it should be about YOURS and written in a way that your readers can relate to them and then be inspired to share THEIR hopes, dreams or desires WITH you.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      I think what Jo is saying is that you are not resonating with your readers problems, hopes, dreams and desires then they will not connect with you and become regular readers. Also, not all blogs are personal and if you are a business blog you need to tell your stories framed in a way to offer solutions and advice for your readers.

      • Sharlee

        Which is exactly what I just said. They need to relate to what you’re writing but it shouldn’t be about them as such.

        • http://twitter.com/JohannaACastro Johanna Castro

          Yes …as long as your writing is helping to solve their problems and reach out to their dreams.

      • Mummaducka

        I get this Nikki, you have no business without clients or customers.

        • http://twitter.com/JohannaACastro Johanna Castro

          Absolutely. And if you’re trying to turn a blog into a paying business, your clients and customers become a crucial point. But if you are blogging as a creative outlet for yourself, then you don’t really have to worry about retaining readers (customers).

    • http://twitter.com/JohannaACastro Johanna Castro

      Thanks for your thoughts Sharlee. Yes, I get what you’re saying and I think Nikki has clarified below what I meant to say. You are quite right that it should be Your Blog and written about your hopes and dreams too, but in a way that your readers can relate to it, but that’s the crux … writing in a way that readers relate to what you have to say, which invariably means you are touching on their hopes, dreams and desires and offering advice or useful information for them too. Perhaps some of this gets done invisibly, it’s just inherent in the writing and what’s being said, but sometimes I, for one, need to pull myself back from just talking about myself and ‘me me me’ sort of thing.

  • http://twitter.com/bbeingcool B

    What a great post. I am going to have to come back to this again and again. I have added it to my reading list. There are so many things I want to do better with my blog and this is a great place to start. I think when you get a certain way down the road {with anything} it is good to go back to basics and make sure that those are done. Great tips. Thanks!

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      There is always something to learn B. Always!

    • http://twitter.com/JohannaACastro Johanna Castro

      I’m really happy that you found the post useful, thank you :) I hope these points help you into the future and that your blog grows and grows.