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10 Important Lessons I Learned in My First Year Blogging

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Hi there. I’m Jen and I am a new blogger on the scene. I started blogging in August 2013, so the title of this post is a little misleading. I haven’t even celebrated my first “Blogiversary” yet.

Although I’m still very green, I have learned a ton of stuff about blogging already, which I’d like to share. If you are new to blogging or thinking of starting a blog (DO IT!) I want you to know that although there is an overwhelming amount of information out there, you can harness it and pluck out the things you need for your blog.

One way to do this is to create a Blogging board on Pinterest and pin all the most useful articles and advice you find there. That way you can save the things you want to learn but aren’t quite ready yet. There are tons of things on mine that I haven’t read yet, and another ton that have helped me immensely already.

It was hard to narrow this list down to ten. As a result I’ve started a Monday Blogging Basics series on my blog. This is my list of what I think is my most important advice for bloggers just starting out.

10. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a great looking blog.

I started up on Blogger and almost instantly wished I’d bought my own domain name and built my blog on WordPress, which is much more customizable than Blogger. It was only a month later that I did get my own domain and make the switch. The domain name and web hosting doesn’t cost a lot. There are different packages for hosting and a lot of different hosting services which means competitive pricing – shop around for the best deal.

You may be tempted to hire a blog designer, and by all means do so if money is no object for you. If you are working on a budget there are an abundance of free themes you can customize to show off your style. I have wrestled with blog design over the past 8 months. I’ve read so many things about having a clean look, using white space, etc. I spent a lot of time doubting my own design and feeling like I need a more professional and cleaner looking blog. I’ve considered hiring a designer. I’ve used a theme test drive plug-in to experiment with dozens of other themes. What I learned is that while a white blog and simple logo looks fantastic, it’s not my style. My style is all over my blog. I’ve designed it myself and customized my theme to look the way I want it to look, and I’m finally able to confidently say I love it. And it was free.

9. You don’t have to have a niche to be successful in blogging

What is your niche? I struggled with this question a lot in my first couple months. You will read a lot of articles that talk about staying in your niche. I never really had one. I started blogging because I love writing and I needed a creative outlet. My blog is what’s known as a “lifestyle” blog, meaning I talk about anything and everything under the sun. After I kept at blogging for a few months I could see that my blog wasn’t a niche blog, it was a blog about me. My personality and style is my niche. Whatever I am into at any given moment is my niche, and I love that. It amazes me, but I have readers that love it too.

“You don’t have to have a niche to be successful in blogging!” Tweet This!

8. Social media is your blog’s best friend

I’ve learned to be diligent about sharing my blog posts on social media. Most of my blog’s traffic comes from social media. These are the basics every blogger needs.

  • Facebook – Create a Facebook page specifically for your blog.
  • Twitter – A Twitter account for your blog is a must. Use hashtags when you share your posts to attract readers who are interested in your subject matter.
  • Pinterest – A good amount of my traffic comes from Pinterest. If you have great photos and graphics on your blog you have pinnable material already. If your blog doesn’t land in what you think is Pinterest territory, try creating a board just for your blog posts to share with your Pinterest followers.
  • Google Plus – I’m still learning about Google Plus myself, but it is the social media account of mine that’s experienced the fastest growth. It’s a good place to connect with other bloggers and people with the same interests. There are communities you can join for just about anything you can think of.
  • Instagram – I don’t have a large following on Instagram. I’ve always had it for personal use and fun, and I’m just now learning that you can use it to spark interest in your blog, and connect with other bloggers on a more personal level.

 

7. Join in the community

One of the greatest things about blogging is connecting with other bloggers. The blogging community is very warm and welcoming. My interactions with fellow bloggers have been 99% positive. I’ve had big bloggers take me under their wing, give me great advice and even use their blogs to feature my work and my blog button to bring me more traffic. Recently a small blogger like myself nominated me for a Liebster Award, which is an award new bloggers give one another. The friendships I’ve forged over the past year are wonderful. I am hoping to attend my first blogging conference this year to meet up in person with some of my blogging friends and mentors.

6. Edit your photos

Maybe you are a great photographer. I am definitely not. Getting beautiful images on my blog is something I’m still struggling with and learning about. The writing comes easy for me – the photography not so much. Luckily there are some resources on the web for less than perfect photographers. The one I use is PicMonkey. It’s a photo editing site that has all the tools you need to tweak your photos and make them much more blog ready. You can also create collages and design your own graphics. This has probably been the single most useful tool I’ve found yet. Not only has photo editing drastically improved the look of my blog, PicMonkey is so easy to use a trained monkey could do it. Maybe that’s where the name comes from.

5. Stay true to you

This one may sound cliche, but it’s a biggie. You may be tempted to emulate other blogs you like to read. You may think other blogs are better than yours. Do NOT judge your blog against another’s. Your blog is your own. If you focus on that you will attract readers who will become fans. They will read your blog because they like YOU.

4. Establish yourself as an Influencer

Your blog is going to have an audience so, yes you are an influencer. Between your blog and social media following chances are you will have the power to reach a lot of potential customers for brands. There are a lot of brands out there who realize this and are eager to work with bloggers to market their products and services. There are several sites I’d recommend signing up with as soon as you get your blog off the ground. You will link up your blog and social media and they will give you a score or rating based on your numbers and your activity in their community. Once you start growing, offers and advertising campaigns will start coming your way and you can start using that influence to make yourself some money. A few sites I recommend are Sverve, Influenster and iSway. I’ve been working on my influencer status for months and finally offers are starting to present themselves, which leads me to my next lesson.

3. Don’t rush it

If you have goals for your blog, that’s fantastic. Do not get discouraged if you don’t make a dime in your first year blogging. You need to put the time in. You need to have lots of great content. You need to make your mark and show people who you are. In time you will be able to monetize your blog if you are willing to work for it. I’ve seen some talented bloggers turn to product reviews to make quick money and in doing so cheapened their own blog. If you have a product review blog you don’t need this advice but if you want your own voice to be heard and you want to create a quality blog, take the time to showcase your talents, hone your skills and build up viewership. Other opportunities will come in time and you will have a blog you’re proud of.

2. The stuff you love writing will be your most popular

This one kind of surprised me, and goes hand in hand with my lesson #9 about not needing a niche. You may think your readers want to see something specific from you, and they may, but when you have fun writing a post it shows through and people love that. I always felt that my readers wanted to see me do more DIY projects and tutorials, but after blogging for 8 months and looking at my stats, these are the topics of my three most viewed posts: my friends’ wedding, a furniture refinishing project and my Pinterest party. Number 4 on the list is a random post I wrote about spending a lazy Sunday at home and making tacos with leftover chicken. I loved writing all these posts and my readers saw that and responded to it.

1. I LOVE BLOGGING

I really do. I feel like, at the age of 42, I finally know what I want to be when I grow up. I have tried other creative pursuits in the past but I’ve never been so committed to creating something every day. My family sometimes gets annoyed with me because I spend so much time working on my blog, so I am still trying to find a balance that works. I know I will figure it all out in time and I am fairly certain that 10 years from now I’ll still be blogging.

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About the Author

Jen Leeman is a working mom whose passion is writing. She lives at the Jersey Shore with her husband, daughter, 2 dogs and a cat. She writes about her love of family, home and garden, casual entertaining and shore living at her blog Driftwood Gardens.

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15 Responses to '10 Important Lessons I Learned in My First Year Blogging'

  1. Dean Saliba says:

    I am pleased to hear that you have learnt those lessons in your first year, some of those it took me a little bit longer to learn.

    The biggest thing I learnt in my first year was “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”, something I still see many people do and then they are up a creek without a paddle when Adsense (or another company) kicks them out.

    • Lisha says:

      That’s a great tip, Dean. I agree that it’s a good idea to have more control over your income and create multiple income streams from your blogging and online business efforts ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Susan says:

    Hi! I am in about month 6 of my blog and enjoyed your post! I will definitely check out PicMonkey as I have been looking for ways to be a little more professional with photo editing. A lot of your other points ring true for me too. I subscribed so I can be sure to get your future posts. Cheers!

    • Lisha says:

      Hey Susan, I too got the PicMonkey tip from Jen’s article. Seems like a cool tool ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for subscribing!

  3. Jen says:

    That’s a good one, Dean. I haven’t put too many ads on my blog yet so I think that will be great advice for me as I enter my second year!
    Jen

  4. WoW, you’ve been busy and you’ve learnt SO much in such a short space of time.

    Just like Dean, it took me years to learn and fully understand the importance of the points you’ve covered in this post.

    And I love the Pinterest idea btw. Very cool ๐Ÿ™‚

    Keep up the good work!
    Kerry

  5. Nicole says:

    Great post Jen! Some really good advice here! I feel the same way as you! I finally know what I want to be when I grow up! And I am 43. I know what you mean about finding a balance. Being a good blogger takes lots of time, and not just in working on your posts, but in doing the needed research you need to do to learn how to have a better blog. Sometimes my family gets annoyed to, but I remind my husband of all of the years he spent being a volunteer Firefighter, and the hours that took away from me and the kids. That shut him up!

  6. Very wise words in a short amount of time! I couldn’t agree more with all of them. Especially about staying true to yourself!

    • Lisha says:

      Hey Susie, Thanks for the comment. Jen definitely gave us all some great tips. I’m impressed, and it just goes to show that the length of time someone does something doesn’t always equate to how knowledgeable someone is in that area, and Jen was spot on with so many of her points ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Kimberly says:

    These are some great tips. I’d be interested to hear more about what you’ve learned when it comes to G+. I’ve just been putting it on the backburner because I really don’t get it at all. ๐Ÿ™‚ Sounds like you are doing great with all that you’ve learned and accomplished in just a short time. I will definitely be following the new series starting on your blog!

    • Lisha says:

      Hi Kimberly, I also haven’t really gotten onto the google+ bandwagon, but I know there are a lot of people who like the way google+ works, so I definitely think it’s a good idea… just gotta get around to it ๐Ÿ˜‰

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