Starting a blog for the first time is a very exciting experience. Yet, it’s also very daunting especially if it’s your first time.
BY BRIGHT OCHUKO
You think about many things. First, you think about what you are going to write about in the blog. You also think about the platform you’re going to use to create the blog.
You think about the design you’re going to use, how you’re going to get traffic or people to visit your blog, you think about how you’re going to manage social media for that blog, and you wonder if you’re really going to be a successful blogger.
All these thoughts flow through your mind, yet you’re excited at the possibilities that your blog can help you achieve.
Maybe you want to grow your business with it, share your ideas to more people or even generate passive income to support yourself and your family, and maybe quit your job in the long run as your blog kicks-off.
The possibilities makes you look forward to it, yet the challenges you may face intimidates you. Well, you’re not alone in this.
When I started my first blog, I knew very little about blogging. I didn’t even know what WordPress is at that time.
I faced many challenges along the way, made a lot of mistakes and learnt a lot along the way. Lessons I wish I knew before I started.These are the lessons I want to share with you in this post. 16 lessons I which I’ve learned before starting my first blog.
1. Blogs that make money solve problems
Funny enough, my first blog was about football. I still find myself giggling and sometimes having a good laugh whenever I think of it. (I’m giggling right now).
What the heck! Football? I hardly play the fxucking thing!!!
I named it sportspy24. I tried a little bit with the name though. I followed football a little bit, but I was not even a huge fan of any club. I just thought I could write about football.
I can’t remember my first post, but I think it was about Rolnaldo or one other player, maybe Messi. Most of the time, I just visited some of these sports website and rewrite any news that interests me and publish it on my blog.
Everything about that blog was just pure “waste of time”.
A blog should be about solving a particular problem. Before starting a blog, you should think about a problem you can solve.
Each of your blog post should solve one or some part of that problem. That way, you can attract people (traffic) who have that problem or challenge to your blog.
With sportspy24, I wasn’t even thinking about solving any problem when I started sportspy24. So, I could not attract anyone to the blog.
I just wanted to write about something. I even though I’d make money from it. I’ve never been so wrong.
So here is the lesson. If you want to start a blog, first find a niche. Find a problem you can solve. You don’t have to solve world problems like hunger or housing.Then write about the challenges people with that problem face, and the solutions. When you write about that in your blog, people facing that problem or challenge will find your blog very useful, and they’ll become your raving fans.
2. Find your passion
You’ve probably heard this before. Find your passion. Yes, you should write about something that you’re passionate about.
That way, you can find the drive to write about it during those early months when your blog is still finding its roots.
If you’re not passionate about the niche or topic you choose to write about, you’re going to get bored in the middle of writing a post.
Writing about that topic will be painful. You’ll look forward to when it’s going to end. If you find yourself grumbling and grunting whenever you’re writing a blog post, then that most definitely is not something you’re passionate about.
So, look for something you really like a lot. A problem or challenge that people face, that you know how to solve or know a lot about. Then write about it.
You’ll see that you’ll always find yourself looking forward to writing the next blog post.
3. Don't let competition scare you
You finally figure out a niche you really know a lot about. Maybe it’s dating, or fitness, and you go out there online and you discover that there are already hundreds of thousands of blogs already talking about it.
Then you get scared. How am I going to be noticed? You wonder.
Well, you shouldn’t be scared of competition. If there are hundreds of thousands of bloggers or blogs already in that niche then it’s a good sign that that niche is a very profitable niche.
It’s means a lot of people are interested in it. It means there’s a large audience or market for that niche. That’s why there are hundreds of thousands of bloggers in it.
Here’s another thing you should know. There is something known as choice. Some people will choose to listen to me and become my raving fans just because they like the way I write or talk.
Others won’t listen to me or become a fan of mine simply because they don’t like the way I write, talk or maybe they don’t get the message I’m trying to pass.
So, here is the thing, when you start a blog in a popular niche, you don’t have to be scared of the competition.
There are millions or even billions of people in that niche, and some will fall in love with you just because of the way you write in your blog. They will choose you.
Again, here is another thing you should know. It’s better for 50 people to share a very big pie, than for 5 people to share a very small tiny pie. Each of the 50 persons will have very large pies to themselves after the big pie is shared.
Whereas, each of the 5 persons sharing the very small tiny pie will even get smaller pieces of pie after the small pie is shared.
A competitive niche is similar. The market or audience for a competitive niche is very big, that is why many bloggers go into it. And believe me, each of them will get their own big piece from the market. Each of them will get their own large piece of pie.
One blogger cannot carter for it, and each person gets his fill.
On the other hand, going into a very tiny niche will not benefit you because you have a very tiny audience to talk to and sell to.
So, don’t worry about competition from other bloggers in your niche. Worry about the size of the niche, how large is the market?
4. Don't spread yourself too thin
When starting your first blog, it’s very easy to spread yourself too thin by starting other blogs along the way. Yes, that’s very possible.
Maybe you started a blog about weight loss today. Tomorrow, you may think, “Oh, I think I still know a lot about dating, I think I should start a blog about dating and romance”.
If you do that, you’re spreading yourself too thin and diluting your effort.
Focus on one blog at a time. Don’t start multiple blogs at ones especially if you’re a newbie. Even an experience blogger finds it difficult to juggle the workload of several blogs at the same time without help from other, not to speak of a total newbie.
So, start with one blog, with the purpose of helping people solve one problem. Taste success with that one, and that will motivate you to start other blogs in the future.
5. Choose a good domain name
The domain name you choose for your blog is very important. You have to choose it carefully because you only have to do it ones.
Changing your domain name later is going to affect you adversely, so you have to make sure you choose a good one when starting for the first time.
Note that I said, a good domain name, not a perfect one. Don’t spend weeks and months trying to come up with a perfect domain name.
However, try to choose a good domain name that rolls off the tongue easily and brandable.
Personally, I think a good domain name is short, easy to pronounce, and easy to spell. Someone should not bite their tongue trying to pronounce your domain name.
It should be short. Thebestandmostaffordablefitnesscenterinwestvirginia.com is a crazy domain name. Who’s ready to type that. No one cares if your fitness center is the best and most affordable in West Virginia.
Choose a short domain name that’s easy to pronounce, and easy to spell, so that someone who comes to your blog for the first time can easily remember it, and come another time.So, when starting a new blog, pay attention to the domain name you choose, as it can either make or break your blog.
6. Choose a good blogging platform
Now, it’s time to talk about the blogging platform you choose. Remember what I said earlier about the blogging platform I chose when I started my first blog? I started with Blogger, which my present self thinks is very crude.
You can’t do anything with it. Customizing it is a pain in the behind. It’s just not usable for someone who really wants to start a professional blog.
There are several blogging platforms out there which you can choose from when starting your first blog. You’re going to come across some or most of them.
There’s wix, joomla, blogger, wordpress, tumblr, squarespace and a whole lot more.
Personally, I think you should choose the one that has the following characteristics.
i. Easy to customize
As your blog grows, you’re going to want to customize your blog to suit your needs.
If you choose a free platform like blogger, then you’re in for some real headache.
On the other hand, with a platform like wordpress, you can customize the shit out of your blog.
I think you should choose a platform that majority of people are using because majority can’t be wrong in this case.
Secondly, the more people use a platform, the easier it is for you to find the solution to a problem if you ever encounter one while using that platform because a lot of people are using that platform already.
So, someone must have come across that same problem, and someone must have written about it. Thus, you’ll find it very easy to find the solution to the problems you encounter while using a popular platform.
WordPress is that type of platform. More than 30 percent of all the websites in the world are powered by wordpress.
So, I’d advise you go with the crowd on this one. If you’re a newbie, choose wordpress.
When you use free blogging platforms, the blog you have there is not actually yours. You can be shut down at anytime if they think you violate any of their Terms and conditions.
So, you don’t want to be saving your eggs in another mans basket.
Use a platform where you own the content. This also brings me back to wordpress. You should purchase a domain name and hosting, install wordpress and create your blog with it.
When you do that, you have peace of mind, knowing you’re never going to be shut down, and you can do anything you fancy with your blog, because it’s yours.
7. Don't waste time on design
Almost every new blogger I’ve seen is guilty of this. They want to get the perfect blog design.
They want to have the awesome looking blog that they spend weeks trying to come up with the perfect design, when they haven’t even created their first blog post.
I was guilty of this. Maybe you reading this post is also guilty of it. People give little to no shit about your design. Some of the most successful blogs I’ve seen have shitty designs.
So, what is it that’s making them successful? Great content. Awesome content. Not awesome design. Haven’t you heard the phrase that “content is king”? Content is really King, not design.
So please, don’t spend weeks or months trying to design the perfect blog. No one is going to visit your blog and come back because you have the perfect design, but shitty content.
Create good content. Content that solves problems, when your blog kicks-off for good, then you can care about design later.
First, pay more time to content.
8. You're going to spend some money
I like using myself as an example. When I started blogging, I didn’t want to spend a dime. I wanted everything for free.
I was always looking for Free ways to do things. Though part of the reason then was that I didn’t have enough money for myself then, and I was still in school.
So, I was always trying to look for the free way, the free method and all that. I guess that’s why I used Blogger to create my first blog.
But the thing I finally realized is that, for you to really create a professional blog, for you to create a successful blog, you’re going to have to spend money.
Blogging is a huge business, one of the most profitable business you can start alone. And every business needs money to be profitable.
You can’t start a business for free, you need to spend some money to get it off the ground. Now, when it’s off the ground, then the blog can start cartaring for itself and for you.
So, if you’re really interested in starting a blog, be prepared to spend some money. It’s necessary for growth.
To start a blog, you need a domain name, you need a hosting account, and though not necessary, you also need a premium wordpress theme.
You also need an email service provider like Aweber (which I use) to collect emails. All these things require you to spend money to get them.
So, banish that thought of starting a blog for free, and get ready to spend some money to kickstart a real business online that’s going to give you the freedom you’ve always wanted.
9. Guest posting is crucial
I’m sure you’ve probably heard of guest posting before and you know what it means. But if you don’t, guest posting is simply the act of writing a post or posts for other blogs in your niche.
So, if you have a blog about blogging, you can approach me and request to write a post for bloggerstream.com. If I find your post to be relevant to my blog audience, then I’ll accept your post and post it in my blog.
Of course, your name will be there as the author of the post not mine.
So, what is the purpose of guest posting. It’s important for several reasons.
First, it helps drive traffic to your blog. When looking for guest posting opportunities, you should go for already established blogs with a large audience and readership.
When you have a really informative and helpful post there, with a link or links back to your site, that established blog’s readers will find you back to your site, and may even subscribe to your email list.Secondly, it adds social proof, and credibility to your blog or brand. When you visit popular blogs, you find something like the image below.
You’ll see something like “As Featured In Forbes, Copyblogger, Entrepreneur Magazine and so on”. Those names you see there are blogs where they have guest posts on.
So, it kind of tells your readers that the popular blogs in your niche recognize you as an expert in that niche, and it will make your readers trust you more.
Thirdly, guest posts are source of backlinks. The number and quality of backlinks you have are major factors that determine how well you rank in the search engines.
Guest posting also allow you to build backlinks by inserting relevant links back to your blog in the sites where you have guest posts, through the author bio or the main post body.
So, when starting your blog, don’t ignore guest posts. It’s one of the best ways to grow a new blog.
10. Don't forget branding
How do you feel the day you open Facebook, and you see that the blue is no longer there? Instead of the blue header and white Facebook logo, you see a red header and green Facebook logo.
You know what I’ll do if I see that? I’ll check if I typed the right URL in my browser, just to be sure that I’m on the real Facebook. I’m sure most people will do that too.
Facebook is blue and white, not red and green. That is branding for you. Every time you see that white Facebook logo and blue background, you’re sure you’re on Facebook.
That is what you also have to do for your blog. Your blog is a business that needs to be branded using colors, logos and favicons.
Choose a color for your blog, create a fitting logo and stick with them. So that as time goes on, your fans and readers will be able to recognize your brand just by seeing the colors or the logo.
11. Have a well thought-out plan
Okay, you’ve decided that you want to start a blog. So, how do you go about it? What is your plan to achieve the purpose of starting that blog?
What are you going to be doing every day after building the blog to achieve that aim or purpose? You need a well-thought-out-plan if you want to start a successful blog.
You need to know things like:
The niche you’re going to be writing about. You need to really determine what you can write about.
The domain name you’re going to use.
A schedule of your blog posts for (6 months or even a year).
The hosting you’re going to use.
The email service provider you’ll make use of. I use Aweber.
And a plan for monetization. Are you going to be selling your own services or are you going to be referring affiliate products.
You need to put all these into consideration.
That is why I created the eBook: 8 Steps to Start and Grow a Blog from $0 to $1000 per Month. It kind of shows you what goes into creating a successful blog, the steps you have to take.
12. Schedule or plan your content beforehand
Here’s what most new bloggers do. They create a blog, then anytime they want to create a post, they start thinking about what to write about. Then they finally choose a topic, and they start writing about it.
That’s totally wrong. You’ll waste too much time doing that. Instead, before you even install wordpress or do anything, schedule the posts you want to create for the next 6 months or even a year.
Write all the topics you want to write about down. Write one or two posts a week. Schedule one or two posts per week.
Then make a schedule for one year.
When you finally create your blog, and you’re ready to write posts, you’ll find it very easy. You don’t have to crack your head trying to remember topics or post titles.
You just pick the one you’ve scheduled or planned for that week and write about it. Simple. You’ll save a lot of time.
13. Take as much time to promote your content
Most newbies go into a marathon of blog posts when they start their blog.
Immediately they finish publishing the first post, they move on to the next, and then to the next, and next, and next post, without promoting the ones they’ve already published.
After publishing a post, you should take as much time it took you to write and publish that post to also promote that post on social media, and through other influencers in your niche.
Even use more time to promote your post. No one is going to find your content if you don’t promote it.
So, publish one or two posts per week and use the remaining time in that week to promote the post.
14. Optimize your content for search engines
By all means your content should be people focused, but you must learn basic on-page SEO and optimize your content for search engines.
That will allow the search engines to understand what your post or content is all about.
Then they’ll push it up the SERPS so that people searching for that type of content can find it easily.
15. Build an email list
Do you want to make money from your blog? If you answered yes, then building an email list is not an option. It’s a must.
You must build an email list if you really want to build a real business with your blog. Each person that comes to your blog is a potential customer. Someone you can help solve his/her problems.
If you don’t get his contact details (email address), how are you going to reach him or her again? Do you know if he’s ever going to come back to your site again?
So, find a way to collect the emails of the people that come to your site, so that you’ll have ample time and opportunity to help them solve their problems, while you also have the means to sell your product or services to them.
16. Blogging success isn't overnight
I guess I’ve said this several times. If you’ve read my eBook: 8 Steps to Start and Grow a Blog from $0 to $1000 per Month, then you already know this.
Blogging is not going to get you overnight success. I guess when I started blogging for the first time, that was what I thought. I thought my bank account is going to get flooded with money in a week.
Unfortunately, it didn’t happen because my thinking was wrong. I had to change my thinking and realize that blogging is a real business, not some get-rich-quick scheme.
Like every other business, you need time to set it up, and it needs some time to grow before you can make any money with it.
If you’ve been thinking that you’ll make millions overnight, then you’re clearly wrong. But you shouldn’t be discouraged because of that.
Blogging is one of the most lucrative businesses you can single-handedly embark on, because you can do it right from the comfort of your home, and you can work on it anytime you want.
17. Stay consistent
Consistency. This is very important. It’s very easy to lose focus especially during the early days, weeks and months of starting your blog.
But consistency is key to every successful blog. I wish I knew this when I started newly as a blogger.
Even if you’re in the perfect niche, but you’re not consistent, you might end up abandoning the blog and failing to achieve your aim.
On the other hand, consistency will help you achieve success faster even if you’re in a crowded or not-so-perfect niche.
The more consistent you are, the more reliable you look both to your site visitors, and even search engines. Yes, you get higher rankings, the more consistent you post to your blog.
18. You're going to make mistakes, but that's fine
We all make mistakes in every part of our lives, and if you’re going to start a new blog, you’re probably going to make some mistakes too along the way.
But that’s fine. The truth is those mistakes will make you a better blogger. You’ll learn from them and maybe have a good laugh about them later.
Take me as an example, when I started blogging for the first time, my writing really socked. Though it’s not perfect now, but I’ve actually improved a lot from practice.
I've not failed from making mistakes in my blogging journey, but I've actually gotten better with every mistake I made.
You don't fail by making mistakes, you fail by quitting or never trying in the first place.
So, if you make some mistakes today while starting or growing your blog, continue making more mistakes. You'll eventually become a master as time goes on.
Remember, smooth seas never made any good sailor.
Those are the 18 things I wish I knew before I started my first blog.
Assuming I knew these things, it wouldn’t have taken me long to achieve success as a blogger.