Laughter and Tears: a Newbie’s Key Blogging Tips Learned

Hello, my dear readers! Although I have been writing and publishing little pieces sporadically ever since I was a little child, it is only in the past few months that I can label myself as a blogger. Truth be told, blogging is quite different from what I initially thought before I actually started this site. I thought it might be interesting to share with all of you the top 10 tips I have learned so far in my blogging journey. Let’s check them out!

Blogging is a lot more than just writing content

Before I started, I genuinely (and mistakenly, as I soon found out) believed that blogging = writing. Although this equation may hold true if you only write for yourself or close family and friends, it is most certainly not accurate if you are a blogger with the ambition of driving traffic to your site. What I have realized is that writing really is only a small portion of blogging. Guess what, if people don’t know about your blog, it doesn’t really matter how great and how often you write!

There is so much to learn about blogging

There is so much to learn. Below is a list of basic things that I have learned to take into consideration so people can reach my blog and my articles:

Social media

This one is one of those no-brain blogging tips in this day and age. Your presence on social media is critical for self-promotion and brand (should I say blog?) awareness. I have set up accounts across all major social media platforms, including TwitterPinterestInstagram, or Facebook.

Of course, all social media platforms are a little different, and you may find yourself gravitate towards specific ones. If you are more into images, Pinterest and Instagram may be the best platforms for you. If you are more into group collaborations, Facebook may be the best for you. Twitter is great for short posts throughout the day (I tend to think of Twitter as a microblog). You can leverage one or two as your main platforms, but I still recommend that you have a presence on them all. This is because your readers can have a diverse range of preferences, and you can learn best practices from each one of the platforms.

Web Design

Although I was vaguely aware of the importance of social media, web design was something that didn’t even occur to me, until I struggled to find a wordPress theme that fit 100% of my needs. I spent hours trying to find something that was exactly what I wanted, but there were always little things here and there, like spacing, font colour and size, that I wanted to change. Thankfully I took some courses in css when I was in school, so I was still able to add my own customized css in a relatively short period of time.

I have also learned that website design, in addition to making my site nice to look at, is also important for optimizing my blog for speed. Why do you need a fast website? Here are the two main reasons:

  • We are living in an increasingly impatient world.
    • How many times have you closed a page because it loads too slowly? It has happened to me more than once. If you want to grab a reader’s attention, you’d better make sure that you at least present your content to him/her before he/she loses patience!
  • Google loves sites that are fast. If your website is optimized, your blog may show up more often in a search. More appearance in Google, more traffic for you!

Optimizing my site for page speed is still work in progress for me. One tool I find helpful is PageSpeed Insights. Enter the URL of your blog, and the tool will provide you with a score of your speed, and suggestions on how to make your site faster.

Search Engine Optimization

Making sure that my website runs fast is an important step in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), but SEO encompasses a lot more than page speed.

For bloggers like myself, the ultimate goal of SEO is to make sure that our articles show up in Google. For example, if you have a brilliant post about how to get free drinks at Starbucks, what can yo do so that when someone actually types into Google “free drinks at Starbucks”, your article shows up?

Here is a list of factors that impact SEO:

  • Authority of your site (domain authority)
  • Keyword optimization
  • Page speed
  • The age of the post
  • Meta description of your page
  • Number and quality of backlinks
  • Etc. etc.

Of course, if you have the money to spend on ads, you may be able to pay to get your articles in front of readers very quickly. But to keep the spot, you either have to keep spending money, make sure that the post generates organic searches by optimizing it for all the above factors.

WordPress Plugins

There is literally an ocean of plugins available to help you accomplish little things here and there, which, of course, I didn’t even know existed! Here are a few that I personally use and recommend:

  • Easy Table of Contents
  • Jetpack
  • Shareaholic
  • WP-PageNavi
  • Simple Author Box
  • Yoast SEO

Of course, there are most certainly many other plugins that are waiting for me to discover. If you have any recommendations, leave a comment down below!

You still need to have high-quality content to attract readers

I had talked at length about how writing content is only a small piece of the blogging puzzle, but I still want to emphasize that it is an important piece. Although bloggers quite often have to wear a marketer’s hat, we are, at our core, content generators. Great content is how we initially attract the readers’ attention and how we maintain their interest.

So yes, spend the time writing and polishing your articles. Make sure you blog posts have:

  • Good grammar (you can use Grammarly to check your grammar and tone)
  • Interesting topics
  • High-quality insights
  • Authoritative external links to back up your claims

I personally like to read my blog post out loud before publishing to make sure all sentences make sense. I have definitely caught a few mistakes this way!

You need to have readers in mind when you are writing

This is such a fundamental shift in my approach to blogging. I used to think that owning a blog means that I should write about whatever I want to talk about, because I should “respect my creative juice”. However, I have soon realized that, if I continue to take this approach, I may be at risk of descending into rambling on my own. This is because it is not a customer-centric approach, and I need to put the readers first.

In order to be a successful blogger, not only do you need to maintain your individuality (that’s the same reason why people love Jennifer Lawrence or Jim Carrey), you also need to be able to anticipate and address your readers’ needs. Understanding your readers’ behaviours is critical for your success.

A key step to understand your readers’ bahaviours is through keyword research.

Keyword research helps you understand how readers ask questions on Google. Even small tweaks in your articles can have HUGE impacts on how likely your post can reach the audience. Let me give you an example.

Example: Little vs. Small

I was interested in writing an article on the lovely little luxuries that deserve a place in your budget. A quick keyword research shows that “little luxuries” returns 1300 searches in Google in the US, whereas “small luxuries” returns only 90. “Little” and “small” are synonyms, so my content is basically the same. However, by optimizing my content to rank for “little luxuries” rather than “small luxuries”, I am increasing the relevancy of my article for more readers.

Such an example above is when you already have an idea. But if you don’t have an idea, there are numerous tools, such as Ubersuggest and Moz, that can help you identify keywords to write about.

While I love keyword research, I have to admit that sometimes, I still want to just write about a topic that I am passionate about without worrying about ranking, or making all of my Yoast SEO bullets green. The freedom I have with blogging is not something I want to give up on. However, I do make sure that I don’t just ramble along, and that my posts at least have a central theme.

Shamelessly self-promote, but still follow the rules. Don’t be like me.

There is nothing wrong about self-promotion. After all, I love my posts (and you do love yours, too). I think (and I hope you agree) I write well, and I want people to read about what I have to say.

However, just because you think you write well and you want people to come read your articles, doesn’t mean that you should promote your content everywhere and disregard all rules and internet etiquettes.

I made a really bad mistake with Reddit.

A few days ago, I posted in subreddit an article I thought was quite relevant to the forum. I neglected to check the rules that specifically state that this subreddit doesn’t allow links to articles of your own. The post got down-voted like crazy literally within one minute. Never before had I seen my karma disappearing so quickly, and I ended up having to delete the post to prevent further damage. I could feel people screaming on the other side of the screen, “Why aren’t you following the rules?” It was so embarrassing.

Don’t be like me.

There is such a supportive community of bloggers who help one another

As you can see, there is so much to learn about blogging. I bet that you are feeling overwhelmed at this point. But don’t worry. Nobody is able to build a blog over night. Take it step by step, improve your blog little by little, and eventually you will have a site that you are proud of.

One thing I didn’t expect is that there is such a supportive community of bloggers who are willing to help one another. For example, quite a few of the plugins I mentioned are recommendations from fellow bloggers that I met on Twitter, and my blog posts have been re-tweeted and re-shared by other bloggers literally hundreds of times by now.

I remember when I first signed up for my Twitter account and had only 5 followers, one fellow blogger comforted me on Twitter. “Don’t worry, soon enough you will find your community.” I am so glad to say that today, I have found my community amongst a handful of bloggers and writers across the world. I am incredibly grateful for all of your support.

Of course, I am still looking to expand my circle, so join in and let’s grow together!

Learn from others

In addition to speaking to bloggers individually, you can also read about other bloggers’ experiences. There are many bloggers out there who openly and generously share their insights and blogging tips, either on their blogs, or on their social media platforms. Their tips and tricks can cover a wide range of blogging topics, from content writing, to keyword research, to finding out how you can improve your ranking, what social media platforms to use, etc.

I highly recommend that you read what they have to say. Don’t be skeptical and think that they may just want to sell you their products (though sometimes it is true). More often than not, their advice is genuinely helpful.

Read the tips and tricks shared by other bloggers. They can prevent you from going down the wrong paths, and they can save you a ton of time. Don’t waste your energy overcoming obstacles other bloggers have already provided solutions for. Knowledge is valuable.

But don’t blindly follow other people’s advice

This is a direct by-product of the previous lesson. Does it contradict what I just said? No, I don’t think so.

Bloggers like to talk about what works for them and what does not. Adhering to other people’s suggestions 100% may not yield the best result for you, because everybody is different. For example, if one blogger swears by having a YouTube channel, but you are uncomfortable with the idea of talking in front of a camera and having your face on the Internet, chances are, you would feel miserable if you followed her advice. Two bloggers can even offer drastically different suggestions on the same topic.

A blogger’s suggestion may work for her, but not for you.

Take me as an example. I have read so many times that in order to drive traffic by Pinterest, you need to re-pin others’ pins multiple times throughout the day to relevant boards. Unfortunately for me, this strategy has not yielded any significant results, even though multiple bloggers highly recommend it. It is possible that Pinterest has updated its algorithm to favour fresh pins vs. re-pin, but it is also possible that I am doing it wrong. Regardless, it was still an experiment worth trying, and I had no regrets.

All suggestions or recommendations are valuable, but unlike Newton’s Laws of Motion, they are malleable. I recommend that you experiment with as many blogging tips you come across as possible, but if you meet a dead-end, or if something really goes against your preferences, then feel free to ditch that piece of advice and look for something else. If you are persistent, you will find a few things that work well for you. You may even be able to become the person that shares his/her success with the rest of the world!

Enjoy the creative blogging process

At the end of the day, blogging is fun for me. If it is turning into a job that you don’t look forward to, then it may not be the most suitable hobby for you. There will be days when nobody comes to your site, or when people leave negative feedback, but you got to keep going. The only way you can support yourself through those dark moments is to lean on that fire of passion within you.

Have discipline

Yes, blogging is a hobby and you should enjoy the creative process. But if you are motivated to turn this hobby into a legitimate side-hustle, and even a multi-million-dollar empire, you need to put in the work. You need to have the time management skills to write, update, and improve your blog consistently, and you need to learn how not to procrastinate so you can finish all the tasks on time. There is a lot of work involved, and you need to be willing to do the work and be disciplined before you can even see the shadow of benefit.

Final words

There you have it – my top 10 tips learned as a newbie in the blogging world! For the established bloggers, how many of these can you relate to? For people who are thinking about blogging, I hope you find these tips useful! You may also want to read more about my experience as I reflect on my first year of blogging!

Let us all remember, for established, new, and aspiring bloggers alike, that there are 4.57 billion active internet users as of July 2020, and the number is still climbing. This means that we have a vast market of potential readers out there waiting to discover our blogs. For those of us who love writing, blogging a very worthwhile endeavour to share with the rest of the world your points of view, your life journey, and almost anything and everything.

If you are a blogger who is generating income, #1, congratulations! #2, don’t forget to pay taxes! You may want to bookmark my tax tips for bloggers so you can refer to them during tax season!

Interested in learning more about other bloggers’ perspectives? Check out some additional tips from Alice!

4 thoughts on “Laughter and Tears: a Newbie’s Key Blogging Tips Learned”

  1. Like it. As a fellow newbie blogger, it’s been amazing how much I’ve learned over the first couple of months! And you are right, the community support is fantastic.
    I’m pretty rubbish at self-promoting but I can do the basics now without blushing too much. Mostly 😉
    I like the balance of trying things out but then stopping if they aren’t working for you. As a hobby, if I’m not enjoying it, I’ll stop at the end of day. It’s been a lot of fun learning again though.
    Congrats on your progress – great to see 🙂

    Reply
  2. I can relate to all of this, especially the technical stuff. I had no idea what I was doing when I started my blog – I thought engaging content was enough and didn’t pay much attention to the format and look of it. I asked one of my fellow karateka (she’s a web developer) to help me. Best decision ever!

    Sending good vibes all the way from South Africa. Michelle (michellesclutterbox.com)

    Reply

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