It has been two months since I wrote my first blog post, and it has been one heck of a learning curve. When I first decided to start my blogging journey, I never thought I would be where I am today. Was I an overnight success? Absolutely not! I feel like I have just got my feet wet, and I still have so much to learn. I have a whole new respect for the blogging community, and all the HARD work it takes to run and start a blog. Take it from me, it takes guts. You are showing a part of yourself to the universe, not knowing how the world will perceive you. That's a scary thing. I wanted to write this post for all the people out there who have just started blogging, who are thinking about starting a blog, or for people who are thinking about giving up on their blog. This post is in no way supposed to scare you away from blogging, it is a part of my life I absolutely LOVE. It is simply the truth I have learned on my journey. I am going to be open and honest about what I have learned. If you are in the beginning stages of starting your blog or are thinking about giving up, I hope this post helps you.
Start Off Right – Be Self-Hosted & Purchase Your Own Domain Name
I wish I knew this when I started out. It would have saved me so much time later down the road. Like many other beginners, I started my journey on WordPress.com (free site). I did not have a domain name and I used a free theme. I was two weeks into my blog, and I was already running into limitations on my free site. I was extremely limited when it came to customization. I found myself frustrated and beaten down. I spent so many nights trying to find solutions to the limitations or work-arounds to my problems – most of the time I just felt overwhelmed. I couldn't get my blog to look the way I wanted it to. I had this amazing picture in my head, a dream that was not achievable on WordPress.com. Here are the limitations that I ran into using the free edition on WordPress.com.
- Read: How to Start a Blog
You can't run Google AdSense or other advertising programs for ads – I have wanted to start a blog for more than 2 years. I have had a lot of time to think about why I wanted to start one. Two months in and my answer has not changed. I wanted to start a blog as an outlet for all of this knowledge I had built up inside. When I obtained my Accredited Financial Counselor® designation in August of 2015, this desire grew even more. I felt like I had these awesome ideas, and experienced a life journey that could help other people – but I had no one to share it with. This is the main reason I started The Budget Mom. I was about a month into my blogging journey when I learned about the possible income potential. If I was already spending all of this time to run my blog, why not try to monetize it in some small way? I immediately ran into problems when I tried to use Google AdSense, and later found out it was not possible on the free edition of WordPress.com. You can run an ad program called WordAds, but you must meet traffic qualifications. On top of this, you will be sharing a portion of your ad revenue with WordPress.com. My advice to you in the beginning is ask yourself why you want to start a blog. What do you want to do with your blog? If your answer is “I just want to post my thoughts, some pictures and an occasional video,” then the free edition with WordPress.com might be your answer. If your answer is “I want to do more with my blog, such as make money or build a subscriber list,” then I would tell you to start with purchasing your own domain, and become self-hosted. I ended up choosing Bluehost as my website hosting provider, and I would highly recommend them. They have always provided me with outstanding customer service. You can get website hosting for $2.95 a month and a free domain name for a year when you use my link to sign up for Bluehost.
You can not run or upload plugins – By simply having access to plugins, I was able to find a quick solution to my problems over the customization of my blog. Plugins allow you to do almost anything you want. There is literally a plugin for everything. From form builders, theme customization, and landing page design, you can literally find a plugin to achieve what you are looking for. Most of the time, it requires no website coding knowledge or advanced skills.
You are extremely limited on theme choice – With WordPress.com you can only select themes available to WordPress.com users. When you are self-hosted, you theme choice is blown right open. You are able to download free or premium themes from sources such as MOJO Themes, Themify, and WooThemes. This allows you to find a theme to fit all of your wants without having to do any coding.
Purchase the book “How To Blog For Profit: Without Selling Your Soul” – By Ruth Soukup
This book completely changed how I run my blog. The most powerful advice I got from reading this book is learning how to organize my life as a blogger. Start by creating, and deciding what you want to blog about. If you are wanting to blog about everything, keep in mind it will be hard for you to figure out who your target audience is. As the book recommends, pick out 5-6 topics that you really care about. If you want your blog to be long-term, then realize you will have to write about these topics for a very long time. When you are passionate about something, finding new things to write about is easy. Your readers will be able to tell when you write about things you really don't care about. So put a lot of thought into your main categories. As you can see on my blog, I have 6 main categories that I write about: Life advice, Frugal Living, Budgeting, Finance, Affordable Products That I Love, and Bargain Recipes. I have chosen 3-4 sub-categories under each main category to limit my options. For example: Under the Frugal Living main category, I have the sub-categories of How To Save Money, Thrifty Ideas, Simple Life, & Cost Free Options. When you limit your options, your readers will know exactly what to expect from you. You can buy the book from Amazon here: How To Blog For Profit: Without Selling Your Soul
Create Series On Specific Blog Topics
This is something I am just now learning. When you create a series from one blog topic, it allows you to have something consistent month to month or week to week. One of my blog series is my Bargain Recipe Sunday. Every Sunday I post a blog about a Bargain Recipe using ingredients you already have in your home. I have had readers subscribe to my blog just for my Bargain Recipe Sunday. It gives your readers something to look forward to.
Navigation, Navigation, Navigation
If your blog is not easy to navigate, how can you expect your readers to find what they are looking for? When I started my blog, I paid no attention to this topic. I was so concerned about making my blog look good, I was willing to sacrifice the navigation component to do it. This was a huge mistake. People are using their time to read and look at your blog. Don't expect them to stick around trying to figure out where to go or how to find things. I used to have a category widget on the sidebar of my website, but realized this was not enough. I ended up buying a premium theme with two navigation menus. This allowed me to put my Contact and About Me page on the top menu and my Categories on the main menu. Having my categories on the main menu above the fold (top portion of your website that is visible without scrolling), made it very easy for my readers to find what they were interested in very quickly.
Don't Try To Conquer All Social Media Platforms
When you first start off, focusing on your content is key. Don't waste your time trying to tackle all social media platforms at once. Pick ONE that will showcase your blog posts the best, and master it. When I first started my blog, I only utilized Pinterest to share my blog posts. I read everything I could about marketing my blog using Pinterest, and I am so glad I did. Pinterest makes up about 80% of my views, and I have experienced amazing support from my Pinterest followers. Once you have established a good presence on one social media platform, expand to another one. Once I had a good following on Pinterest, I created a Facebook page. When I did that, a lot of my Pinterest followers followed me on Facebook as well. I was able to join Facebook groups to expand the reach of my blog even further.
They Are Not Lying When They Say Content Is King
In the beginning I made the mistake of being more focused on the way my blog looked, rather than the content on it. I have never been a good writer, in fact I kinda suck at it. I am more of an artsy type person who loves to design things – so this is what I naturally focused on. No matter how good your blog looks, people will not come back if the content is not interesting, useful or meaningful. It was so hard for me to grasp this. How do you create great content if you have no idea what that means. I have learned that you need to focus on your readers. When you write a blog post, do not write it for you, or for the sole purpose of views. When I write a blog post I always ask myself 2 questions: How will this help the person reading it? Why do I care about this topic? My views naturally increased after I changed the way I think about each of my posts.
This is getting lengthy. I could literally write another 10 pages on this topic. So I will leave you with one final note. If you are thinking about giving up on your blog because it is not as successful as you want it to be, don't. If blogging brings you joy, keep at it. There were days when I was only getting 30 views a day. At first, this was heartbreaking. There were so many negative thoughts going through my head. Do people hate my content? Do they not care what I am writing about? I was really disappointed. Then I realized, 30 people viewed my blog today. That's 30 people who were interested enough to read what I had to say. That's pretty amazing. I went from not being able to share my knowledge and experiences with anyone, to sharing it with 30 people! Do not look at your views as a gauge for success. It is part of a larger equation. Overnight success is very rare, and it takes time to develop a successful blog. You have to start somewhere, and I applaud you for taking the courage to start blogging – it is not an easy task. When you are reading a blog post from one of your favorite bloggers, don't compare your success to theirs. They were once in your shoes. They stuck with it, worked hard, and achieved a dream. That dream is reachable. You can do it too!
What have you learned about blogging? Are you just starting out? Reach out to me and leave me comments below?
Carrie Bowers says
I wrote a post earlier this week about what I have learned in my first 3 months of blogging. I must say, your post puts mine to shame! Yours is much better! Your advice is great and your graphics are awesome! Good job!
kumiko Ehrmantraut says
Thanks Carrie for the kind words! I will have to hop on over and check yours out! Blogging is crazy and wonderful all the same time isn’t it? Thanks for the comment and support!
Justine Y @ Little Dove says
Oh my gosh, I so agree about navigation. I hate when I go to someone’s blog and can’t find anything. When I went through my re-brand that was something I talked to my designer about, that I wanted things to be easy to find.
I started out on Blogger but now am self-hosted WordPress. I had no idea you couldn’t run GoogleAds on the free version. I wonder why?
kumiko Ehrmantraut says
Thanks Justine for the comment. The only thing I can come up with for the ads on WordPress.com is due to commission reasons. They take part of your earnings when running WordAds, maybe they can’t for other ad platforms. I was sooo frustrated. It turns out, I am licensed in the financial industry, so I cant run affiliate ads anyways, due to be governed by FINRA. But, for all the other beginning bloggers, I know it might be an issue. I am getting my site totally redesigned (I finally pulled the trigger & hired someone), so I am really excited to see my new navigation up and running in August. Thanks for the support!
Dames in Debt says
Oh my gosh, does this resonate with me! Our 2-month blogiversary is coming up tomorrow, and we’ve already learned SO MUCH about the blogging world. Who knew any of this stuff existed?
Also, never fear, we made the free WordPress blog mistake too. 🙂
kumiko Ehrmantraut says
I never knew this stuff existed either! Thanks for the comment!
I love this! Thank you for being honest about starting a blog- especially the whole plugins and theme thing. 🙂 I’ve just started a blog this month and still feel like I’m trying to get my feet under me, so you are way ahead of me figuring all of this two months in!
kumiko Ehrmantraut says
Thanks Carina. Keep at it girl!
I’m so glad I stumbled across your blog. I myself am working on starting a blog. I am so lost!! I think I will be ok once I get past the technical stuff. Right now I can’t even get my website to be public. So I took a much needed break and found this post! This is definitely what I needed to read to keep me going! You have a great blog!