Starting a blog for the first time is an amazing, yet intimidating experience.
Thinking that people are actually going to read – and even share – something you wrote. It’s unlike any other feeling I can describe.
But it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. Starting a blog is hard work, and there are a lot of pitfalls along the way. Especially if it’s your first time.
So many pitfalls, in fact, that we’ve come up with a full list of 45 things we wish we knew before starting our first blogs. That way, you don’t have to make these mistakes yourself!
But who are “we” exactly, right? Well, this post is a group effort. It features three bloggers chipping in and sharing their best advice on the topic.
So grab a coffee and get cozy, we’re about to review everything we’ve learned in the past 6+ years. Enjoy!
But before we begin; if you’re interested in a full, no-holding-back guide on how to start a blog then we have that for you.
It’s a complete walk-through from nothing to a live blog that’s optimized, secure, and ready to welcome your readers.
The guide was written based on our experience growing this very blog (which now has more than 100,000+ monthly readers). And it’s 100% free. Click here.
1. Go for quality over quantity
This is a lesson I’ve learned in my study of SEO, and in blogging in general. Quality always beats quantity when it comes to blog posts.
Pushing out daily or even weekly posts simply isn’t necessary. If you do things right, once a month is plenty. That gives you the whole month to spend on promotion.
Google used to give some merit to sites with fresh content.
Then sites started abusing that and pushing out a dozen crappy articles a day. It worked for a little bit, but then Google laid down the ban hammer. Now those sites are extinct.
Besides, would you rather have ten OK posts on your blog, or two really great ones? I’d rather have the two great ones. Especially because, as those high-quality articles gather backlinks, they have more authority and increase the value of internal links (which I’ll talk about next).
2. Guest blog for more traffic, better SEO, and brand awareness
Guest blogging is a strategy for getting backlinks and traffic to your site. You’re essentially borrowing (stealing?) another authoritative blog’s traffic.
You’ve probably seen or heard of this before. It works like this:
First, you have to find a blog you’d like to write for. (If you’ve been blogging for awhile, you probably already have some in mind.) Look for the people who are industry leaders in your niche or a very related niche.
For example, I’m a content marketer. So I read blogs about content marketing, like Content Marketing Institute, who has over 100,000 email subscribers and a domain authority (DA) of 85.
(Note: Domain authority is a rank on a scale of 1-100 that shows how authoritative a site is. It’s based on their link profile, age, and a ton of other factors. Higher is better because it gives you a bigger SEO boost.)
Speaking of attractive blog posts, we’ll talk about formatting another time.
3. Format your blog post to make you look like an expert
Just like beautiful images increase reader’s time on page and engagement, so does a well-formatted piece.
Let’s face it: People don’t read everything word-for-word anymore. The average internet reader today skims. There’s just too much content and too little time to do anything else.
That’s where formatting comes in. A well-formatted post makes it easy for your readers to skim (to see if the post is worth their time), then dive in if they feel it is.
So how do you go about formatting?
Here are some pointers:
- Divide long text with headers and subheaders
- Use bulleted and numbered lists to point out key information
- Bold and italicize key points (but don’t use both at the same time)
- Add quality images (rule of thumb is to use one every 300 words or so)
- Use short paragraphs (no more than 3 to 5 lines at most – this helps with skimming and mobile reading)
4. Use content upgrades for 785% more conversions
I’m sure you’ve heard of a lead magnet. It’s basically something you offer your audience for free in exchange for their email, like an eBook, checklist, or worksheet.
A content upgrade is like a lead magnet on steroids. They’re created for one specific blog post and highly related to that post.
For example, when you visited this blog post you probably encountered my content upgrade that looks like following:
This upgrade converts for me at around 10% – much higher than a typical lead magnet.
But, if you really want to see success, you should offer additional bonus content, like Brian Dean’s checklist offerings:
Content upgrades work so well because they’re created to help someone achieve the exact objective they came to your page to achieve.
If you’re writing about Facebook ads, a content upgrade on Facebook ads is way more likely to convert than a lead magnet on general marketing.
The key with content upgrades is to offer them from day one when starting a blog.
5. Add call to actions to get the most from your audience
Not leveraging call to actions (CTAs) on my blog was a major mistake.
A CTA is anything you want for your customers to take action on. It could be subscribing to a newsletter, reading another blog post, or making a purchase. A content upgrade is an example of a CTA.
Every single one of your posts – and especially when starting a blog for the first time – should have a CTA of some kind. Whether it’s as simple as a request for a share or a comment, or as big as making a purchase, every post should have an outcome.
If your post doesn’t have a CTA, you’re missing out on tons of potential sales, leads, and traffic generation opportunities.
I’m not saying every post needs to sell something. It just needs to give your reader a “next step”.
For example, if you’re enjoying this post so far, would you mind taking a second to share it with your audience? That’s me calling you to take action. Just one click:
Yes, it benefits us by improving our reach. But it also benefits you by showing off helpful content on your social media channels. People will see you as someone to go to for good information.
6. Always be networking. Always.
The more your network grows, the easier it becomes to promote your work, and the more opportunities naturally come your way.
Prime example: My freelance writing career took a massive upswing this past January. I was able to get into a Slack group consisting of some of the most well-known marketers and writers on the web.
My income tripled almost overnight. They gave me opportunities I never would have dreamed of. Their influence got me in doors, and they’re marketing expertise almost 10x’d my ability to promote my posts.
Once that happened, my eyes were open. Networking went from an afterthought to one of my main priorities. I truly believe that, with the right network, anything is possible.
Some quick tips for developing your network:
- Always look for ways you can help people. Share other bloggers content, comment on their blog posts, follow them on social media, and send links and people their way.
- Join groups and forums around your interests. I’m in Facebook groups around content marketing, SEO, and full-time RVing. They’re interesting, and I always find myself learning and meeting new people.
- Take online courses. Many of them have private communities you can become a part of. This opens the door to plenty of like-minded people. Plus you get to learn whatever the course teaches.
One last tip: Don’t let relationships fade. Make it a point to reach out to your new network at least once or twice a month. Shoot them an email with a cool article, or tag them in something interesting on social media.
7. Build an email list from the start, and don’t forget to send them stuff
Over time, your email list will become your biggest source of traffic – and sales – if you treat it right.
You wake up, excited for the day. You put on a pot of coffee. While you’re waiting for it to brew, you head into your home office to check your email.
There’s over $1000 in sales from the email campaign you sent last night.
You grab the coffee, and while you’re drinking it, write up another email to be sent out on schedule. Then you go off and do whatever you want – your work is done for the day.
Basically, your life becomes a typical stock-photo scenario. Like this one:
Some people really do have it that good. An email list makes that possible. Of course, you’ll still have to write blog posts and run your business (unless you hire those out), but your work load can be seriously reduced.
Building an email list should be a priority when starting a blog and even before you write your first blog post. But if it wasn’t, that’s OK – make it a priority today.
- Get an email marketing platform like Mailchimp, SendinBlue, or Convert Kit, if you don’t already have one. I use Convert Kit because it’s easy to use and it works.
- Add exit-intent and on-scroll popups using a tool like Sumo. This is where you can offer your content upgrade or lead magnet.
- Place in-line opt-in forms like Brian Dean’s or Formilla’s. You can offer your content upgrade, lead magnet, or simply give users the option to subscribe.
- Use a tool like LeadPages to create strong landing pages for your offers.
This post has been a lot! In fact, you’ve just read through 2,000 words of advice on starting a blog. Thanks for still being here!
In the end, running a blog is one of those things that seems simple in itself, but the gap between just doing it and doing it to its fullest potential is actually huge. There’s just so many moving parts! There’s WordPress itself, writing content, editing, formatting, hosting, SEO, link building, social media, email lists, networking, and on and on and on.
I hope this list has been insightful, and that it’s going to help you avoid some of the early mistakes that most bloggers make. If you want us to expand on any of the points discussed here, feel free to submit your questions below.
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