Looking to up your blogging game? Well, hello there, my fantabulous fanatical friend.
I don’t normally talk about blogging, as it’s honestly not the most interesting subject to write about (let’s face it: talking about waterfalls and glaciers in Iceland and road tripping down the California coast is more my thing). But you spoke and I listened – alas, my best tips for new bloggers, coming right up!
Want to guest post for A Passion and A Passport? Click Here.
These days, new blogs are popping up faster than I can down an ice cream cone (and that’s fast). Probably every few minutes or so! The internet is over-saturated with content, and then some! And because of this, you want to make sure you start your blog off on the right foot and with some sound advice.
You may be asking, “Who am I to give out such advice?” I don’t blame you. Not only have I learned how to braid my hair while traveling (a big triumph for me) and not scare away the sea turtles (I’m mildly obsessed with them), I’ve started making some decent money off this little “hobby” I call blogging. Decent is a relative term, but I can now afford $1 frosties from Wendy’s without feeling too guilty. It’s the little things in life, am I right?
Ok, so I do a little more than decent – I made over $70k alone in 2018 just from my blog, all while holding (another) typical M-F full-time job! Now that’s a lot of frosties.
And while I’m here to say that you definitely shouldn’t start a blog with the intention of purely making money, let’s face it – blogging takes a LOT longer than anyone realizes, and does come along with some unforeseeable costs, so if you do by chance end up making a bit of money, I’m sure you’ll be totally fine with that 😉
Want to learn how I made $30,000+ in my First Year with Mediavine? Click here and check that stuff out.
What about how I made $70k+ blogging in 2018 with a full time job? Yes, it’s possible!
This little baby of mine has been cooking for over 5 years, and I’ve definitely learned a few things the hard way. I reached 100K+ page views per month in June 2017, and it’s only gone up ever since! (I now average 185k per month 🙂 ). Yes, I’ve made plenty of beginner-blogger mistakes. Like that time I once spent an exorbitant amount of money and time switching platforms only to have the guy leave me in the middle of the process. And yes, I started my email list 3 and a half years too late and haven’t been sending out regular updates since. (Whoops – We all have things we need to improve on). Let my mishaps be lessons for you. 🙂
I can go on and on with information (and my personal blogging mistakes), but let’s start with the top 25, most important (and beneficial), in my opinion, tips for all you new bloggers out there. Happy Blogging!
- Have a killer (short and sweet) about me page (which is easily visible on your home page). Readers want to know the face behind all this awesome (free) content you’re providing, and they want to relate to you. Be relateable by being yourself – it’s really that easy. Make your personality shine especially on your About Me page. Find mine here– And note how I specifically give out little tidbits of personal information (any other Nutella addicts out there?)
- Design and branding is more important than you realize (find a stunning theme on Themeforest – there’s heaps of low cost options!) Users who stumble upon your blog will decide in a second or less whether they want to continue scrolling – and a lot of that is dependent on the design and overall aesthetics. You’ll want to keep your colors, font, and graphics consistent across your blog, and across all social media channels as well. You want people to instantly recognize your work as soon as they see it! You work hard for it baby, make it yours!
- Plug-ins are your friend (but don’t overuse them as they can easily slow your site down – which we definitely don’t want!) A few I recommend and use:
- Yoast for SEO
- Askimet Anti-spam
- Interactive World Maps
- J Query Pin It Button
- BJ Lazy Load
- Write. A LOT! While practice doesn’t make perfect in this case (writing styles are so subjective it’s hard to define what’s “correct”), you need a bunch of useful/interesting/fun articles in order to get your blog up and running. This book is an interesting read and useful for anyone looking to hone in on their writing.
- Your posts should either be informative and educational, or entertaining and laugh out loud funny. If someone’s not learning or laughing, what’s the point to your post? Ask yourself that before writing anything. No one wants to hear about your crazy night out in Ibiza (unless it’s unbelievably fall-on-the-floor funny or has tons of useful information about Ibiza nightlife). I’ll say it again because it’s just that important: Make each post either hysterically funny or insanely useful.
- Spell check, spell check, spell check. And give each piece a proper and thorough edit. Again, no one wants to (nor will) read through articles with tons of grammar and spelling mistakes. It’s just not acceptable anymore. If you’ve chosen to write in a language that is not your first, get an editor. Friends will suffice at first when you haven’t got the budget. I’ve stopped reading blogs because of the horrible grammar-filled writing. For real. And it’s a real shame because many of these bloggers have awesome content- I just can’t bare to read through careless errors. It’s like chalk squeeking on a blackboard for me. Psst – if you ever find grammar errors on my site – please let me know! 🙂
- Keep an organized list of ideas you have, and keep them in one place. When writer’s block eventually hits, you’ll always have specific topics to draft. I’ve been loving Google Docs lately, which is editable on both the computer and phone, and syncs up automatically. My best ideas usually happen in the shower, so I make sure to write them down ASAP. I used to have random post it’s/napkins/receipts (true story) with post ideas and lost so many of those tiny pieces of paper. Do yourself a favor and stay organized from the very beginning.
- Content is king, but so is photography! We are visual people by nature, and compelling photographs go a very (very!) long way! If you aren’t comfortable using a DSLR, there are other options available, including my latest purchase and absolute love, the Olympus Pen, which is not only SUPER stylish but so much lighter than any DSLR you’ll find out there. (Full review here).
- Learn the basics of photography, like the Rule of Thirds, optimal lighting conditions, and other composition tricks. These three things will go a very long way.
- Edit your photos. I can’t stress this enough. A few simple tweaks can drastically change and improve a photo. And please oh please do not post dark photos- it takes less than a minute to lighten and brighten them up. If you’re used to editing with Snapseed on your phone, I highly suggest you check out Adobe Lightroom, which has many of the same controls plus much much more (and not as scary as Photoshop, I promise)! I also recommend Touch Retouch for eliminating pesky objects and lines when editing on your phone.
- Don’t have high quality profesh looking photographs of your own? Consider using pixaby.com and unsplash.com, 2 very useful FREE websites with photos you can use without attribution (crediting the photographer). Flickr Creative Commons is wonderful as well, but be sure to look at the copyright notes and always abide by them.
- Do not import your photos directly from your camera. You’ll need to optimize these (aka make the images smaller) in order to minimize page loading speeds. A few easy ways to do this: export as a different file size in your editing software (I can do a whole batch in under 30 seconds in Lightroom), right click on the photo on your desktop and press “compress”, or use a free image optimizer such as this one.
SEO (search engine optimization)
- Yes, I know, SEO’s not fast and it’s definitely not sexy. But it’s absolutely imperative you learn some SEO tactics from the very beginning, before you even publish your first post. Don’t worry – if you’ve already started your blog you can always go back and put what you’ve learned into old posts. Download the Yoast plugin and focus on SEO and long tail keywords from the very beginning. You’ll be glad you did this later. A key SEO strategy will bring you passive traffic for years to come.
- OMG you guys. Get Keysearch, like ASAP. If you don’t have this magical power just yet, you’re 110% missing out on SO many potential page views. Keysearch is a very necessary tool that helps you find exaaaactly what people are looking for on search engines, and just how difficult it will be to rank. Check it out here, and sign up with my discount code for $$$ off. I wouldn’t get 175k+ page views each and every month without Keysearch. It’ll change your life (for just about $15 a month), you’ll see.
- GUEST POST, GUEST POST, GUEST POST. The more high-quality sites you can get your link on (those with a higher Domain Authority than yours), the better. You’ll rank higher in search engines, meaning more page views, which will eventually mean more brand partnerships/collaborations, and money. If you’d like to guest post on my site, check out my guest post guidelines and feel free to contact me.
- Befriend others who are starting out too (look for them in Facebook groups). You’ll want to have some blogger friends to share all your wins and questions with. The general population (aka non-blogger friends and family) won’t understand why you’re doing a happy dance once your DA goes up a notch or 2. We’ve gotta stick together, blogging pals!
- Guest post, guest post, guest post! Yes, I said it again! Not only is guest posting wonderful for your SEO, but by guest posting on blogs with similar niches, you’ll reach a wider audience of those potentially interested in your site as well. And therefore potentially gain new readers!
- Please oh please don’t expect to start making money right away (and don’t get discouraged if you don’t make your first dollar after a year). There’s no “get rich quick” scheme in blogging- and that I can promise you! However, in order to set yourself up to make the big bucks as soon as possible, I highly advise you to enroll in the e-course “Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing“. I made the money back spent on the course in no time, and it really goes through affiliate marketing step-by-step from the very beginning. No prior knowledge necessary!
- Be aware for lots of spammy emails offering you money to post casino links/have you work for them for “exposure”. Yes, they may offer you some money which at first definitely sounds super exciting, but be wary of these as too many can hurt your DA and relationship with Google (not a good thing…).
- If you’re wondering how I make the bulk of my blogging money (roughly 50% or so), it’s with Mediavine. I’m obsessed. Once you reach 25k sessions, apply to Mediavine right away. Learn all my tactics for reaching those 25k sessions faster righttttt over here!
- Be active // present on social media. This goes without saying, but in order to move on up in the social media ladder, you need to make your presence known. That means actual engagement from you- no bots, automations, gaming the system. Advertisers and folks from tourism boards/brands are starting to recognize those who use these automatic controls – and they don’t like them.
- Before picking a blog name/URL, make sure the social media handles are still available. It’s best to use the same name (or slightly different variations) across all social media. And even if you don’t plan on using all from the very start, best to lock in your social media handles now before anyone else snatches them up!
- Design a media kit, press page, and work with me page right away. You’ll be adding to it all the time and it’s a great way to keep track of your accomplishments!
- With that being said, if you want to be proactive in your partnerships with brands, reach out to hotels, activity/tour companies, restaurants, and/or tourism boards in your local area. Get your foot in the door and on their radar, even if it’s just to say something along the lines of: “Hi, I live in your area and recently started a travel blog focusing on XYZ. I’d love to work together sometime in the future!”. It’s all about those relationships, people.
- Don’t expect to get “free stuff” right away (hint – they’re never “free” anyways – you’re working for it)! Or even within the first year. Brands really value ROI (return on investment), so be sure you are able to provide them with such before reaching out. There is no special number of page views or social media followers, but you’ll need to show them you have some authority and your followers really value what you have to say/promote! If you propose a collaboration, be prepared for a lot of no’s- it comes with the territory. Don’t get upset or take it personally. Even the big guys still get some no’s even after years and years of blogging.
- Give credit where credit is due: SO IMPORTANT! If you use images, wording, videos, music, (basically anything) that isn’t yours, you could potentially receive a hefty fine if you don’t use accreditation properly.
- If you plan to use any affiliate networks, be sure to disclose your involvement on each and every post above the links you provide. Make sure to read each network’s policies about proper use of links as well so you don’t get penalized.
OTHER THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
- Be cognizant of your blog name/url, and take the time to choose one wisely. These should obviously match, and be able to withstand any changes down the road. For example, if you’re on the fence about becoming vegan, don’t plan out your entire blog with that in mind. What if you decide to eat meat/eggs/dairy again in a few months/year?
- Use wordpress from the very beginning. Trust me, while a switch from another platform is possible, its not ideal nor my idea of fun for a month of Saturday nights. (My life back in 2012…)
- On another note, I recommend using BlueHost in the beginning of your blogging career. Sign up now for only $3.95 a month, this price really can’t be beat. You can switch to a more powerful (aka expensive) hosting provider should you need it in the future. Most offer moves for free so there’s no need to fret about spending way more than you should now.
- Read. A LOT! Read articles and magazines of well-established authors in your niche. Not only will it eventually improve your own writing style, but you’ll learn what you like (and don’t like) in terms of writing/ready style.
Don’t compare your chapter 1 to someone else’s chapter 56. We all start at the beginning, and there’s no reason to get down on yourself if you aren’t quite where others are just yet. Focus on building your site and the opportunities will come.