I receive a lot of questions in my e-mail box from beginning bloggers asking me for my “beginner’s tips.”
So, today, I’d like to address some of their most common questions all in one spot.
Here we go:
“Hey, Ollin, I’m a beginning blogger.”
Awesome! Welcome to the blogging community. You’ll soon find that all the myths about blogging are wrong: it’s not just filled with people who rant about conspiracy theories (or post pictures of their cats in bonnets) but it’s a world filled with fascinating trailblazers who will, quite literally, change your life for the better.
“Is there anything I should do as a beginning blogger that you wish you should have done?”
Oh my. Yes. Yes. Yes.
1. Know what you’re getting into. Blogging is hard. No, seriously. It’s a WHOLE LOT OF FRAKING WORK. Test yourself before you seriously commit yourself to this thing. See if you can write 500-1,000 words articles three days a week on a consistent basis. See if you can generate at least 12 really great blog post ideas every month. If you can, then you’re good. If you have a lot of trouble, then you might need to reconsider the whole blogging thing.
2. Solve people’s problems. This is the golden rule I wish I knew from the very beginning: I would suggest not writing anything that doesn’t solve a problem your readers have. You might want to start by solving your own problems and then sharing the solutions to those problems on your blog. Then, once you start getting reader feedback, you can start asking your readers what problems they have and start finding solutions to their problems, too.
3. Focus on providing value. Forget fame. Don’t make the mistake of begging people to promote you, tweet you, share you, link you, etc. Most likely, they will not respond to you. The best strategy is to provide valuable posts. Create great content and create it on a consistent basis and people will start to notice you. When you provide value, your popularity will come as a result.
4. Have a strategy. You should really have a strategy for your blog. Sit down and really think about what the theme of your blog is gonna be, who your target audience is, what you’re going to keep private and what you’re willing to reveal, how much detail you plan on giving about real life people who turn up on your blog, how you plan on growing your blog, what kind of reader interaction you want, etc.
The more you think out your blog strategy, the better. Once you have a strategy all plotted out, implement it. (But make sure you adapt it along the way.)
5. Put yourself in a position to get noticed. The thing I should have done right away when I started blogging was to start guest posting on other blogs, sharing other people’s posts, and reading other people’s blogs, and commenting on their blogs. This is really how you start getting noticed (without having to beg for it.) There were so many times that I left a comment on a blog and that comment left such a strong impression that it earned me a guest post on a big name blog–or a fan for life. And guess what? I didn’t have to beg to get noticed, I got noticed because I put my best self out there.
6. Don’t waste your time in a niche that doesn’t care about what you’re providing. Probably the biggest mistake I made starting out was interacting with blogs and making relationships with people who were really never going to share what I wrote on my blog–not because I wasn’t a good writer, or because they didn’t like me, but because my content simply didn’t match what their niche was interested in. So, for instance, if your blog is about being a 20-something vegan and you start leaving comments on blogs written by 50 year-old motorcycle enthusiasts, chances are those “50-year-old motorcycle enthusiasts” won’t be checking out your blog and sharing you with their readers. So don’t waste your time on a niche that is not interested in the kind of content you’re providing on your blog.
7. Finally: Study, study, study: Like any kind of writing, blogging’s an art form. It is a style. There are certain aspects of blogging that do not pertain to any other style, but that you MUST learn in order for your blog to succeed. I studied blogging pretty early on in my blogging career, but I wish I would have started several months before I launched my blog. The sooner you study blogging technique the better your blog will do. I recommend reading WriteToDone, Copyblogger, Problogger, and Successful Blogging. These blogs are great starts for studying and mastering the art of successful blogging.
“Should I self-host my blog and buy a domain name? Or should I just have a site hosted by WordPress/Blogger/Etc.?”
Personally, it hasn’t hindered my success having a blog hosted by WordPress. It has saved me a lot of time and money. Plus, there are great benefits to being part of the WordPress community. (For instance, I’m a lot more integrated into their network and there’s a free community forum and a free support staff that is really helpful whenever I have technical problems I need solving.) But there are also big drawbacks like glitches and sudden changes that you have no control over–and that will make you want to pull your eyeballs out (and then fling them at your computer screen).
No matter what route you go, everything will be a give and take.
With this kind of thing it really is about your personal preference. In the end, if you decide to be hosted, you should try out all the different host sites and see which works best for you.
For a great breakdown of pros and cons to self-hosting vs. being hosted, read Roz Morris’ recent post Blogging: Should Authors Go Self-Hosted Or Not? Part 1 (and, subsequently, Part 2) over at Nail Your Novel.
“How do I get more blog readers?”
You should start by asking yourself:
WHY should I get more readers?
You need to ask yourself “why” before you ask yourself “how.” I’m not trying to be philosophical or flippant here. I’m being practical. Answering your “why” for blogging will lead you to answering your “how” for blogging. Please read: Why Answering This One Simple Question Will Get Your Blog Read By More People.
“Can you point me toward your best posts for beginning bloggers?”
“I already have my ‘why.’ But I still want to know: how I can promote my blog so I can get more readers?”
Let’s get your head out of “promotion-mode” for a moment.
Now, get yourself into “help-mode.”
Ask yourself how you can help other bloggers. Ask yourself how you can help the community. Ask yourself how you can help your readers. Then, once you’ve figured out how you can help others, offer your help.
When you help others, others will reciprocate and help you in return.
As a result, your blog will be promoted–not because you asked to be promoted, but because you asked: “How can I help?”
“How can I help YOU?”
Ah. You’re fast learner.
Well, if you found this post helpful, you can help me by sharing this post with your friends.
However, if this post wasn’t helpful to you, and it didn’t answer some of your important questions, let me know in the comments below.
I appreciate your feedback. I am always looking to find the best way to help my readers succeed.
much “How can I help?”
If you’re a beginning blogger, are there are any questions you have for me that I didn’t answer here?
If you’re not a beginner, what’s YOUR best advice for beginning bloggers? Please share your wisdom with us in the comments below!
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