What I Learned My First Year of Blogging

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What I Learned My First Year of Blogging

Welcome back readers, so good to see you. This post comes slightly pre-anniversary – I actually launched my Midwest Bliss blog the first week of May 2017. However, it seemed like a great time for me to share some of my lessons with you just ahead of my one year anniversary.

So, I want to confess that I thought starting a blog would be fairly easy. I’ll apologize now to all the folks out there that really know how hard it is and how much work goes into maintaining a blog or site. I am learning my lessons the hard way.

Readership

The first hard lesson I learned is that readers do not just show up just because you started your blog. You actually have to work to get readers to show up to the party – Who knew.

When I launched my blog, I created a few posts, made some mistakes, learned a lot about content, and started to get a few readers. I did a little, and when I say a little, I really mean a little, research on creating and running a blog, but nowhere did anyone talk about getting readers.

One day I discovered the “Reader” section of my WordPress Editor page. Wow, that day changed my whole view of blogging. I came across a blog whose author was more than willing to share some pointers on how to get people to come to your site. So, I’m going to Pay it Forward with a few of those tips and some of my own. The number one tip should always be Create Great Content.

  • Read other blogs as often as you can. If you are not reading, liking, and commenting on other blogs, you will struggle.
  • Find other blogs with content or “niches” similar to your own. See what they are doing that is working or not working.
  • Keep your page easy to use and compelling.
  • Photos and/or text – this one is very debatable and varies widely. I prefer to keep my posts under 1,000 words and use good photos and graphics to keep the reader interested. For me, long posts with few or no photos are just getting skimmed.

Getting readers is a process that requires a little work. I spend more time now reading, commenting, looking for other sites, and just being a good blogger. But, remember, Content is king.

Content

Did I mention content is king? You have to put information out there that people might be interested in reading.

I have seen many different approaches to blogging, and I don’t think there is a “one size fits all” format or type of post that works for all. However, what I have seen is that very long posts that are one-sided, meaning all about the writer and not about useful content, have very few followers with very few likes or comments on their posts.

Provide something to readers that is useful. Teach readers something or serve a need. For my blog, I use several different categories. My “niche” so to speak, is Midwest travel and lifestyle, however, I did not want to just write about one specialized thing. Midwest Travel and Lifestyle is my “teaching” or “useful” post category. In addition to my primary category, I write on a couple other topics that I enjoy and have received some good feedback on.

In addition to well-written content, use good photos. Humans are visual creatures and most of us love a good photo. That does not mean you have to be a professional photographer, but at least learn how to take decent photos.

Content is king – Did I mention that?

Failures

We all have failures; that’s what helps us learn.

I started out with the wrong approach to blogging. I knew what I wanted but I really didn’t know how to get there. When I started to conceptualize my blog I knew what I wanted to focus on primarily – Midwest Lifestyle and Travel. I had some things in mind about visiting parks, campgrounds, great Midwest destinations, and writing about those places. What that meant was I would have to travel to these locations, find interesting things about each of these, and turn that into compelling content. It is harder than it looks.

My failures have been that I started off with an “idea” but did not have the task part well thought out before I just launched my site. I really got off to a pretty slow start.

If you are thinking of starting a blog, or have been struggling with yours, maybe you need to rethink your approach. Get some guidance from someone who is succeeding.

Another failure is thinking I could make money from my site right away.

It is a goal to monetize my site, and I have done that to a much lesser degree than I originally planned to do. I don’t want anyone being misguided about my intentions for my blog – it is ultimately to monetize and grow my site to provide some secondary income streams. However, I have changed my views on it slightly.

It is very difficult to monetize a blog – I am not really selling a product. I started out thinking I could do product reviews and refer readers to products that they would love and ultimately buy. Nope, that didn’t happen. The problem with that is that you have to have the visitor traffic to get those referrals and purchases. A new blog will likely not get sales in this manner for quite some time. Therefore, I have re-evaluated my approach to monetizing and plan to relaunch that sometime in the future. I do still have a few product links listed on my blog that do go to the actual product, but I am no longer an Amazon Affiliate.

So, my biggest failure in blogging – expecting too much with too little effort. Nothing good really comes easy.

Tips

What tips can I offer to aspiring bloggers? After only a year of blogging, I’m afraid not much really.

I can offer a few things that, if you are thinking of starting a blog, can help you NOT make the same mistakes I made.

  1. Make sure you have a clear direction for your blog. Starting off with only an idea of “I’d like to start a blog” will only lead to frustration and make writing that much more difficult.
  2. Narrow down your niche – Really. I saw this in almost every book, blog, email, post, everywhere. Being too general makes it that much harder to generate ideas for posts. For example, let’s say you want to start a blog about Clothing or Fashion. Those are too general. Narrow that down to a few of your favorites; Men’s Business Casual or Women’s Business Casual fashion. Once you are good at those, then maybe you can branch out and do a “feature” post for something like “Friday: From the Office to Date Night”. That might even be a post I would read.
  3. Do not be in a rush to monetize. Get the traffic first. It may take some time to accomplish. Unless you already have an established brand, getting readers to buy from you will take a little time. Create great content, bring the traffic in, build trust, then think about monetizing.
  4. Read other peoples’ blogs. Interact with others; like posts, comment on good content, link to great content on your site – that helps you by helping others. There are really numerous ways to interact.
  5. Learn or get help with your photos, graphics, and images. People will not spend time on a site with terrible photos and images. You don’t have to be a pro but you should be using some good photos or graphics. There are countless resources out there, so using poor quality images should not really be an issue.

There you have it, my friends. My five minute take on my First Anniversary of blogging. I have learned way more than I put in this post, but most of those lessons or tasks are well documented by so many other bloggers with so much more experience than I.

One of my favorites and you really should go check this site out. BeautyBeyondBones – a great blog by an incredibly inspiring young lady. She is getting it right – with about 40,000 followers, that is a successful blog. Head over to her site and show her some love.

If you are interested, you can check out a couple of my most successful posts here: Cedar Falls, Iowa – A Microcation  –  Best Chicken Noodle Soup  – Three days in the Shawnee Forest

Enjoy and feel free to get in touch if you are struggling with your blog, or if you just want to reach out with a question or comment – I’m always here for the readers.

 

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17 comments

    1. Thank you. It’s been hard work and ideas for me just do not come naturally. It has really forced me out of my comfort zone. Looking forward to growing my site and adding new and fun things. Thanks for stopping by.

  1. I think the biggest mistake people make with blogging is commenting and asking people to follow their blog, not reading others blog genuinely but looking for a follow, or just looking to become commercialized.
    So many people are just becoming ads instead of a great read!

    1. Great comments. For sure, if you are truly reading and participating in the blogging experience, you should always read and leave genuine comments. There are so many different blogging approaches though – for example, I follow a couple Food/Recipe blogs that never read my blog and almost never respond to feedback. But, I don’t view that negatively because that is what they do – they run a blog to get traffic and sell products and/or services. That’s what is so great about the blog experience, you really can do just about any type of format you want and that serves your need. It’s great. Thanks for reading and thanks for the great comments

  2. Congrats on the milestone and thanks for your tips! Where I struggle is with photos, so I rely on stock, some, but that lack also led me to connect with photographers, who I’ve featured. So maybe that’s playing to my weaknesses?? Anyway, you’ve got a great site. Can’t wait to read what’s next!

    1. Thank you Rebecca – I’m actually trying to enhance my photography skills, so hope to take it to the next level. I love your site for all the great writing tips. Thanks for reading.

  3. Excellent points. I think the blogs that make the most money are the ones that talk about ‘how to make money blogging’… ‘buy my course, my book, and you too can make money’. Oh well, I blog because I enjoy chronicling our travels and sharing my photos. If I make a little spending money via ads or affiliates, I’m happy, but I’d be even happier if I could make a living from it 😉

    1. For sure – that market seems saturated to me though. I think there are still great ways to earn a little money from our efforts. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Great post!

    I, too, have been blogging (seriously) for about a year now. I learned many of the same lessons you did the hard way. I wish I’d had your advice a year ago! I think one of the most jarring lessons that most bloggers learn the hard way (myself included), is that, as you pointed out, simply starting a blog will not have readers beating a path to your door. It takes a lot of work. It takes consistency (both in content and in how frequently one posts). People are busy and there are a million other blogs out there, so why should they read any particular blog? Well, bloggers have to give them a reason to with good and frequent content.

    I’m still a long, long, long way from being where I want to be, but with good advice like yours, perhaps I’ll make it yet. 🙂

    1. Yep – great points. I have a long way to go too and learning lots as well. Thanks for stopping by

  5. Congratulations on your first year of blogging! I agree with you. It is hard to build and maintain a blog. Some days I get lost in the reader and forget to create posts of my own.

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