10 tips for getting started in blogging
Despite being around for more than 25 years, blogging is still alive and flourishing. According to the latest blogging statistics, there were 31.7 million bloggers in the United States alone in 2020, with users of popular blogging platform WordPress producing around 70 million new posts each month.
I officially launched my blog in February 2021 as a space to write about the things I find interesting and to promote my freelance writing and editing services. In just five months, I have discovered quite a bit about the world of blogging and picked up a few tips along the way.
So, if you’re thinking about starting a blog and wondering where to begin- or if you’re simply looking to grow your existing website – read on to discover my 10 top tips for getting started in blogging.
What is a blog?
If you’re thinking about starting a blog, you probably have a good idea about what one looks like. You’re reading one right now! You might have also ended up on a blog when searching for a recipe, looking up travel tips or seeking some advice on what to wear to a wedding.
A blog is defined by marketing platform Hubspot as ‘a regularly updated website or web page, and can either be used for personal use or to fulfil a business need’. It is typically a section of a business website that gets regularly updated, but it can also be a personal project, such as a travel blog.
A blog post usually takes a look into a particular sub-topic of your website. For example, if your business is selling cakes, you might have a subsection of your blog entitled ‘baking tips’. They also typically include keywords to increase your company or website’s ranking on search engines. So, for the baking example, you may wish to weave specific keywords such as ‘cakes’ or ‘cake recipes’ into the copy, to enable your business to rank on Google.
Lifestyle blogs usually cover the interest, hobbies or skills of the writer instead of focussing on a single topic. Many lifestyle blogs contain sections for travel, fashion, health or relationships, and are usually highly personalised.
Why should you create a blog?
A blog is one of the best ways to drive traffic to your website and raise the profile of your business or service. But if you’re thinking about starting a lifestyle blog, what are the benefits?
People start blogs for all sorts of reasons. Some write blogs to educate others about a particular subject, others start blogs to share their passion for a hobby, such as photography or cooking. Blogging can also help to establish yourself as an authority in a particular subject – for example, podcasters may use this technique to expand their overall reach.
A huge benefit of blogging is being able to learn new things. While you might write a post to inform and educate others, the research process may also teach you something new about the subject. There’s also much to learn about online marketing, WordPress and social media – you will need to understand all of these to drive traffic to your blog.
Blogging can also improve your writing skills, help you connect with people you wouldn’t have met otherwise and helps to establish your online identity.
Creating your blog
Whether you’re going travelling and want to share updates with family, or you simply want to increase traffic to your existing website, it’s easy to start a blog for free. In my opinion, two of the best free-to-use blogging platforms are Wix (a website builder) and WordPress (a content management platform).
Out of the two platforms, Wix is easier to use as it allows the user to design their website from a selection of pre-made templates. Its intuitive drag-and-drop system also means that users can add personal touches to their templates without leaving the front page.
WordPress is slightly different in that users need to build the site themselves, but they don’t need to learn any fancy code. It comes with a WordPress block editor that lets the user edit pages and view them in a live preview.
There are blocks for headings, images, buttons, backgrounds, and more. WordPress also provides access to thousands of themes (website templates), which are fully customisable.
Clarawrites.co.uk underwent multiple design changes until I was happy with its appearance. Initially, I wanted the main focus of my website to be the blog, with all my latest posts featuring on the front page. Later, I decided that I also wanted to promote my proofreading and editing services, so I felt that a more paired-back professional-looking design was more fitting to the audience I was trying to attract.
The blog moved to a simple drop-down menu, and my home page became a simple, clean design stating who I was and what my website offered. I took inspiration from a host of other websites, including magazines I enjoyed, bloggers I followed, and WordPress themes that stood out to me.
Launching my blog
Before telling anybody about my blog, I decided to soft launch it first. A soft launch is where the user publishes the website but doesn’t promote that it has gone live. This delay gave me time to come to terms with my content being live and see how it would grow organically without any input from me. I quickly realised that to attract readers and make it worth writing content, I needed to tell others about what I was doing.
My first step towards this was creating my Twitter account. Twitter seemed an ideal platform as it would enable me to post short snippets of my writing, with the full article available at the click of a button. Having used social media for some time, I understand the importance of hashtags and images and posting them at appropriate times to gain the most retweets and likes.
I also decided to create a business Pinterest account – this is highly recommended for bloggers because it enables you to post Pinterest pins that link back to your website. Not only does this increase your brand awareness, but it also drives people back to your site when people click your pins. I plan to write another article soon on how to use Pinterest to drive traffic to your blog.
My experience of blogging
So far, I have enjoyed blogging, and I am using every post as a chance to learn something new about the craft. I still have so far to go and know that my blog is still in its infancy with regards to visitor numbers, SEO rankings and content.
There is also so much to learn about SEO, Google Analytics and social media. One of the most important things I have discovered is to keep myself up to date with the changing world of online marketing and blogging. The virtual world and its expectations of a good blog post change almost daily, and it seems that if you don’t keep up with the industry, you will quickly fall behind.
The biggest blogging mistake I’ve made so far is assuming that when a blog post goes live it will naturally get visitors. I soon realised that to build any kind of audience I would need to be active on social media and do some shameless self-promotion. This sort of thing doesn’t come easy to me, but the more I am putting content out there, the easier it is getting.
I would also say that it has been a mistake to cover so many topics in one blog. While I enjoy writing about many different things, this certainly makes it harder to build up a following on social media. As time goes on, I hope to work out what topics are of most interest to my audience – and which topics I enjoy writing about most – so that I can streamline the subjects I write on.
Tips for new bloggers
Below I have listed my top 10 tips for getting started in the world of blogging. However, if there’s one thing that I would like you to take from this article, it is to be patient. Blogging isn’t easy, but as long as you continue to enjoy what you are doing, it’ll never be a chore!
- Have content ready in advance. You don’t want to start building your blog having nothing to post to it. Equally, you don’t want to publish your blog without any content. As a general rule, have five posts published, five that are ready to go, and at least 10 ideas drafted on paper.
- Use free stock image websites such as FreePik or Pixabay to illustrate your posts. Unless you’re a skilled photographer with plenty of time to create imagery for your blog, stock photos are the way to go. They can boost your website’s appearance and draw more attention to your Twitter posts.
- Be patient. clarawrites.co.uk has only been ‘live’ for a few months, and I’m under no illusion that it will take lots of hard work to get it to a point where I have regular readers. Set yourself small, measurable goals, and you will succeed.
- Create a social media calendar. Decide how often you want to post when you want to post. At first, this might be a case of trial and error – I am certainly in that stage now, trying to figure out what is best to post and when for the most engagement. Write a month-by-month plan for what you want to post and when. Having a plan will help you stick to a schedule and ensure you never forget to publish a post.
- Keep learning. Never assume that once your blog is live that the work is over. There is so much to learn about SEO, Google Analytics, and ways to engage with your audience. Keep reading up on blogging and learning from other bloggers about what does and doesn’t work for them.
- Long posts are better for SEO. This blog post is my first that hits the alleged ‘sweet spot’ that pages should have for SEO purposes – between 2,250 and 2,500 words (according to Hubspot). A higher word count helps Google to understand what your blog post is about.
- Keep your readership in mind at all times and ensure that no matter what you post, it is engaging, readable and clear. While long blog posts are better, if you are rambling for the sake of it, your reader won’t go far beyond the first few paragraphs. We’ve all seen those recipes that begin with the author’s life story! Try to avoid that if you can.
- Think about accessibility, such as adding Alt Text to your images. Alt Text (alternative text) is the text read aloud to blind users of your website who are using a screen-reader. There is a special box for you to type into when you upload the image to WordPress and Twitter. You don’t need to be too specific here, but provide enough detail about what the user is looking at so they build a picture in their mind. A good tip is to include the information you might relay to another person over the telephone, keeping it to no more than 125 characters long.
- Change the dates on your blog posts. If you have been writing and uploading blog posts to your site long before you decide to announce your project, you may wish to go back and alter the publication dates of your posts. You can also use this method to backdate your blog posts or even schedule them to publish in the future. If you are using WordPress, click on ‘quick edit’ under the blog you want to amend and change the date.
- Tweet your blog post more than once. There are no hard and fast rules about how often a new blogger should be tweeting – one quick Google search for the answer will deliver an array of different opinions. The best thing I have found is to test the water and see what works for you. When a blog post goes live, I write 3-5 separate tweets that I schedule using Tweetdeck to appear throughout the following 24 hours. I make sure these all have different snippets of copy and, if possible, another image. This method works because only a minority of your followers will see your tweet.
- Ok, so this is a bonus one, but I feel that it’s important to say that you should only write when the feeling takes you. Sometimes you don’t feel like writing, and that’s okay. There are good days and bad days, and it’s important not to beat yourself up if you don’t feel like you can write a blog. It is supposed to be something fun after all!
I would love to hear from you if you’re a new blogger or if you are thinking about getting started in blogging. What tips do you have to share with other readers, or what questions do you have about blogging? Let me know in the comments section below!