Do you have things you wish you would have known before you started your blog? Or if you haven’t started a blog yet, do you ever wonder what seasoned bloggers wish they would’ve known before starting their blog? Sometimes I look back and laugh at what I didn’t know and wish I had more insight when I first started out.
Starting a blog for the first time is always a dream come through for most budding bloggers. It could be amazingly intimidating experience considering the thought that people are actually going to read and even share what you wrote. It’s unlike any other feeling I can describe. When I first started blogging, I didn’t know too much about it. In fact, I didn’t even know people were making money through their blogs.
But it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. Starting a blog is hard work, and there are a lot of pitfalls along the way especially if it’s your first time.
So many pitfalls, in fact, that we’ve come up with a full list of 30 things we wish we knew before starting our first blogs. That way, you don’t have to make these mistakes yourself! We shall be posting them 5things in six(6) series starting with this post which is the first in the series.
If I was to start a new blog now, there are so many things I would do differently. I have no doubt that I could grow a blog much quicker today than what I did when I started getting serious about blogging a few years ago. Here they are:
1. Self-Hosted WordPress.org is Better than Free Hosted WordPress.com
If your blog is just a hobby, and you’ve no intention of making money from it, or using it to support your business, then of course you can blog on WordPress.com – or Blogger, or any other platform of your choice.
But if you want to monetize your blog, you should really be using self-hosted WordPress. That means buying your own domain name and paying for space with a web hosting company. Getting this setup might sound a little daunting – the truth is that there are plenty of great web hosting companies that make the process very straightforward with a “one-click installation”. You need to read Self Hosted WordPress vs Free WordPress.com
If you’ve started blogging elsewhere, and you’ve only written a few posts, the easiest way to switch to a new platform such as self hosted wordpress is to simply set up your blog afresh and copy the posts over. If you’ve got an established blog with a number of posts and comments, check out our guide on How to Perfectly Move Your Blog from WordPress.com to WordPress.org.
2. Build Your Email List from Day One
Undoubtedly, RSS subscribers and social media followers are great, but what really matters is how many email subscribers you have. So how do you go about building your email list?
One great starting point is to create an incentive otherwise called Lead Magnet— a reason for someone to subscribe. You need to give them a compelling reason to hand over their email address – and a portion of their attention.
These incentives are called lead magnets. A few example of lead magnets can be:
- A short pdf guide or ebook.
- A “cheatsheet”, checklist, poster or other quick-to-use resource.
- An audio recording or video that isn’t available to the general public.
- A short online course that teaches them something.
You can go even further and create a number of different incentives, tailored to different pieces of content on your blog. These are called “content upgrades” and they’re very effective leadmagnets because they offer more content on something that the reader is already engaged with.
Once you’ve got your incentive in place, make sure people know about it!
Hopefully you’ve already got a sign-up form in your blog’s sidebar – but how many people actually notice that?
You’ll want to consider using:
- After post forms – great for catching people’s attention when they’ve enjoyed a piece of content and they’re deciding what to do next.
- Slide-ins – because they move, these are more eye-catching than a form that just sits in your sidebar or footer.
- Floating header and footer bars – these scroll along with the user, so they’re always visible on their screen (without covering up your great content).
- Pop-ups – although some bloggers are reluctant to use these because they think they’ll annoy readers, pop-ups can be extremely effective at increasing your email sign-ups. Don’t use it on mobile.
- Welcome gates – these take over the whole screen when a user first arrives on your site: a sure-fire way to provide a warm welcome and to get attention.
- Contact forms – you can add a check box to your contact form to let people sign up for your email list, and/or add a check box for this when they leave a comment.
3. Security Should Be Utmost Important
If you’ve only recently started blogging, you probably feel almost invincible. Hardly anyone knows your blog exists (though you wish they would). It might seem laughable to think that your blog could be hacked – why would a hacker even try?
Hacking attempts are often automated, though. Your blog could get hacked regardless of how new and obscure it is … unless you’ve taken active steps to protect it.
The best way to keep your blog safe is to use Sucuri: they keep your website safe, and if it does get infected with malware, they’ll clean it up. I use Sucuri on my website.
4. You Can’t Do Without Backups
Have you ever had a friend or fellow blogger tell you to backup – right now? Chances are, they’ve just suffered a catastrophic loss … and they really wish they’d kept frequent backups. Don’t make the same mistake.
“Backup my blog” is the sort of task that sits on to-do lists for ages, especially if you’re not quite sure how to go about it. Promise yourself that you’ll back it up today – or at least this week. The easiest way to backup your blog is to use best wordpress backup plugins.
Store your backed-up files in the cloud, so that if your computer dies – or if you’re away from home when your site suffers a catastrophic failure – you’ll be able to retrieve them easily.
5. It Matters To Choose A Good Web Host
Don’t just choose a web host because a friend’s using it – or because you’ve got a coupon code. Do a bit of research and make sure you’re choosing a host that’s right for you and your blog. (This probably won’t be the very cheapest web host you can find.)
I’ve seen bloggers suffer serious problems because of choosing a poor hosting company. Their blogs go through frequent periods of downtime, the response time from technical support is abysmal, and inevitably, their traffic nosedives.
No hosting company is perfect, and you’ll find that everyone has negative reviews. Here are some recommended WordPress hosting companies here.
If you’re not happy with your current web host, switching might be less of a pain than you think. Most WordPress hosting companies offer free migration services – just ask the support team for your host, if you’re not sure! If they can’t help you, here’s a guide on moving your WordPress site yourself with no downtime.
Hopefully, you can avoid the mistakes I made when I first started blogging. I would hate for you to repeat my mistakes as they hindered my growth.
So, what other blogging mistakes should you avoid? Watch out for part 2 of this series.