I started the blog that would be known as The Happy Arkansan from my dorm room in November 2011. My blog has grown so much during those almost eight years. It's honestly amazing to think about how far I've come on my blogging journey. Now, I receive around 40,000-50,000 page views per month, but that number was not always that high. This time last year, I only had around 46,000 pageviews from January-July. So far in 2019, I've received over 300,000 views. It's insane to think about how much my blog has grown. I'm proud of the website I've built here.
Today, I wanted to share some blogging tips for new bloggers. The blogging scene has changed since I started blogging. I know I could talk about so many different topics to help new bloggers, but these tips came to mind first. If you are thinking of starting a blog, please read through these tips and use them as you grow your blog.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for supporting the companies who make The Happy Arkansan possible.
1. Consider If Blogging Is The Best Avenue For You
Is blogging honestly the best avenue for you? I've always loved writing, and I knew it'd be part of my future somehow. I also love connecting with others online, optimizing my content, reading other blogs, and getting involved in the blogging community. Here's the thing: I adore every aspect of growing my blog, and I know I couldn't be a blogger if I felt differently.
There are so many ways to make a connection online nowadays. You could start a podcast, grow a YouTube channel, create Instagram content, or even start a Facebook group. While I feel like even a YouTuber should have a website of their own, you may not need to include a blog on it.
Ask yourself this question: Can I truly see myself creating and growing a blog for the long haul? I've seen too many blogs start and flop because the author wasn't that interested in the process of it all. There are no overnight successes in blogging unless you've already built a platform on another site. We all start at zero, and that number can be daunting if you aren't excited about the work. You don't have to create written content if you were born to be in front of the camera.
Did you know we watch over 1 Billion hours of YouTube video every day? Did you know that 50% of United States homes are podcast fans? Yes, creating video/audio content is just as time-consuming as creating written content, but you'll have more fun if you are passionate about it.
What Do You Want To Suffer For?
One of my favorite life advice books is a book called “The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck” by Mark Manson. He made some interesting points in the book (check out my favorite quotes from the book). Here's a quote I think you'll find interesting:
“If suffering is inevitable, if our problems in life are unavoidable, then the question we should be asking is not ‘How do I stop suffering?’ but ‘Why am I suffering–for what purpose?“
Here is why I think this quote should resonate with you: your creative outlet will sometimes feel like a type of suffering. Whether you are blogging, podcasting, painting, et cetera–putting yourself out there is painful. If you don't like blogging, you aren't going to be willing to suffer for long.
In the book, Manson talks about how he wanted to be a rockstar. He loved seeing rockstars on stage and thought their lifestyle looked terrific. There was only one problem; he didn't enjoy the work that launched someone into that lifestyle. He didn't like practicing music, recording, promoting music, et cetera. Manson wanted the end result, not the work that led up to it. So, he found something he was willing to suffer for in writing.
What is the result you want from creating online? Can you get that better by creating another path to internet success? Think about this carefully before you dive headfirst into blogging.Your creative outlet will sometimes feel like a type of suffering. Whether you are blogging, podcasting, painting, et cetera–putting yourself out there is painful. If you don't like blogging, you aren't going to be willing to suffer for long. Click To Tweet
2. Start Where You Are
In a world where you can Amazon Prime almost any item right to your door, don't invest in everything right away.
I love sharing any of my favorite tools with you. I use a ton of random software and hardware to work on my blog and freelance business. But, I started small and worked my way up.
As a new blogger, you might not want to invest in Adobe Creative Cloud right away. I shell out $30 per month to use the software, but that doesn't mean you should.
I will say this: you can't be a successful blogger if you never invest in yourself, but don't dive in headfirst.
Let me tell you a story about me. When I was in college, I was convinced that I wanted to start making and selling jewelry on Etsy. I wanted to start my own business, so I started sourcing fun beads from Etsy and tools from Amazon. I put this on a credit card because I'm dumb and I just had this feeling that I'd be raking in the dough in no time. How hard could making a necklace or a bracelet be? It turns out very hard. I wasted all this cash, I hated making jewelry, and now I have a box full of ugly beads in my closet to ponder every few months.
Don't jump the gun, start small. If you want to:
- Tacke a new project, find out if you'll like it first.
- Buy a grammar editor like Grammarly, use the free version first.
- Start an online course with your favorite blogger's platform of choice, outline your class first.
Don't fall into a blogger's sales trap or feel like you have to buy anything right now. Make your investments wisely. Don't fall for the fast action bonuses or shiny launches. If you don't need it right now, get it later.
3. Invest In Your Space Online
Okay, I'm about to give you some seemingly contradictory advice: invest in your space online.
What do I mean by this? Get a domain name for your blog, spring for some good website hosting (I use Siteground for my WordPress site), and get a cute theme. Invest in the courses or coaching that will help you grow your blog.
Here's why this isn't a contradiction: I don't want you to do this haphazardly. I want you to make smart financial decisions that will take your blog to the next level. Investing in a domain name from a company like Namecheap, pairing it with hosting from a company like Siteground, and using Creative Market to find a good theme is the bare minimum. When you make these small investments, you can start a blog for under $150 during your first year.
Utilize any free or cheap resources you can until they are no longer helpful for you.
Some Of My Blog Investments
One of my first significant investments in my blog was a Pinterest course when I was in graduate school. I saw that Pinterest could lead to more traffic for my website, but I didn't know how to make that a reality. Eventually, I decided that I should purchase a Pinterest course that would teach me the basics and help me get a strategy started. I learned a ton in that course and still reference it from time to time. I was never able to understand Pinterest completely, but that course helped me cover the basics and bring in some consistent traffic from Pinterest.
Another big investment I made in my blog were my cameras. When I first started blogging, I didn't take any photos. Even today it's a mix between stock photos and pictures I've taken. I started with a simple point and shoot camera. Now I use a combination of my camera and my iPhone camera. Seriously, iPhone cameras have come along way and are now just as good as a basic point and shoot. Start with what you have and make smart investments when it counts.
You can also make smart financial decisions by purchasing equipment such as cameras and computers refurbished. There are a ton of companies online to purchase certified refurbished items from. I got my Canon T5i certified refurbished, I saved a ton of money, and it was like new when I received it.
4. Stop The Analysis Paralysis
We can get stuck trying to learn all the information. Blogging is complicated, and there is so much to learn if you want to build a successful blog. Where many bloggers get stuck is in the information absorption phase. They are so stuck learning that they don't have time to create and build an audience.
You can have all the knowledge in the world, but that won't matter much if no one is reading your blog.
There is nothing that teaches you more about blogging than the act of blogging itself. Many bloggers try to learn everything before they implement anything. Learning without applying is a surefire ticket to getting overwhelmed and stuck in your business.
Don't Be Afraid To Learn As You Go
Here's the best way to use the knowledge you gain about blogging: learn, implement, learn, implement, et cetera. Instead of stockpiling knowledge, utilize it as you go. Implementing as you go will help you focus on things that are truly necessary to grow your business.
In high school, I took Pre-Cal/Trigonometry during my senior year. I wasn't the best at math, but I could follow instructions and rise to the math occasion. Often I would get so frustrated in math class because I thought I grasped a topic, but the more the teacher talked about it, the less I felt I knew it. I was taking in so much information, but I didn't have a choice, I couldn't just tune out my math teacher once I got the information I needed.
You have a choice. You are actively choosing to obtain too much information. Take what you need when you need it. Instead of learning it all, practice just-in-time learning. Learn what you need to learn when you need to learn it.There is nothing that teaches you more about blogging than the act of blogging itself. Many bloggers try to learn everything before they implement anything. Learning without applying is a surefire ticket to getting overwhelmed and stuck in your… Click To Tweet
5. Focus On What Sets You Apart
In a world where there are too many bloggers that look the same, write the same, act the same, etc. be different.
Okay, let's get real. To have a successful blog, you need some amount of traffic, and you need to make money. More traffic doesn't necessarily equate to more money. I know plenty of bloggers who make more than me but get less traffic monthly. It's all about what your business objectives are and how your blog highlights those objectives.
It's hard to shine and bring in traffic when you take the same approach as everyone else does. People are always on the lookout for something that resonates with and helps them. We don't need another uninspired lifestyle blog, but that doesn't mean that the lifestyle niche is tapped out. How are you showcasing your lifestyle? How are you creating a different space for yourself?
I consider myself a lifestyle blogger. I don't consider myself just another lifestyle blogger, though. I'm passionate, helpful, and I talk about things that matter to me. You get real advice from a 20-something blogger, freelancer, and millennial each week.
Who are you trying to attract? I promise you; there is a crowd for you somewhere. You would honestly rather have 1,000 superfans than 100,000 lukewarm lurkers. I loved listening to Latasha James' podcast on the 1,000 true fans model a few weeks ago. She articulates this principle so well.
6. Don't Get Caught Up In Low-Traffic Strategies
When I first started blogging, I was obsessed with reciprocation threads inside Facebook groups. In these threads, you would share your latest post, and comment on or share at least ten other posts in the thread. Talk about time-consuming! I'd spend about an hour picking which blogs I wanted to read, reading, and commenting. Do you want to know how much traffic I got from these threads? Close to zero. I don't have time for these threads today. Occasionally I will browse them, but only when I am looking for new blogs to read.
You'll learn about a ton of strategies for getting traffic as a new blogger. Some of these strategies will be helpful; some of them won't work for you. I get most of my traffic from Google. Pinterest comes in a distant second, but I am trying to boost that by spending more time on the platform and sharing more content there. Tailwind has been a fantastic resource for me as I grow my Pinterest account.
If you've been around the blogging block, you've probably heard bloggers complain about Facebook or the Instagram algorithm. I barely get any traffic from either place if I'm honest. I have to focus my energy on what's bringing in visitors. Try all the strategies and see what works for you. If it doesn't work, don't get caught up in it. Blogs are popular. You will find your tribe where you are supposed to.
Check out my posts on search engine optimization and getting started with Pinterest for some helpful traffic-boosting strategies. Need more help? Read my post on how to reach an audience as a newbie blogger.
7. It's Okay If Your Immediate Circle Doesn't Care To Read Your Blog
Let me tell you another anecdote; this blog post is full of them. When I first started blogging, I didn't tell anyone in my immediate circle about my blog. I didn't tell my family, my sorority sisters, my friends from high school, no one knew. During my junior year of college, I decided to truly let the cat out of the bag. One night I invited a ton of my friends to like my Facebook page, and that was a big step for me. Up until that point, I hadn't really acknowledged the side project I had been building for over a year.
From that experience, I was able to increase my Facebook like count by hundreds, but I didn't gain any new readers. I'm sure my Facebook friends occasionally read my content, but they aren't superfans. I know my family members read my blog when they get the chance, but they aren't asking me about my next post date 24/7. I wouldn't expect them to, and you shouldn't expect that from your friends and family either.
Honestly, I don't know where this notion that the people in your life have to support your every decision came from. You hear this guilt trip all the time when someone is shilling their MLM products on Facebook. Here is the thing: my mom is not my ideal audience member. I love when she reads my content or comments on my Instagram posts, but I am not going to cry if she misses a blog post. My mom has a busy life, and I don't expect her to subscribe and be the first to know when I post.
I can't fault my Facebook friends for having their own lives and thinking what I do on the internet is weird. Instead of getting upset, start finding an audience outside of your immediate social circle. Your tribe is out there, trust me.I can't fault my Facebook friends for having their own lives and thinking what I do on the internet is weird. Instead of getting upset, start finding an audience outside of your immediate social circle. Your tribe is out there, trust me. Click To Tweet
8. Find Your Blogging Tribe
Blogging is not fun when you are doing it alone. It can be isolating because most people don't have a blog, even if t feels like everyone does. You have to find your blogging tribe, people you can talk to, complain to, and grow with.
When I was going into my sophomore year of college, I found a network called Her Campus Blogger Network (now called InfluenceHer Collective.) This group was everything to my college self. It was filled with bloggers my age of all success levels. I could learn from them and take my blog to the next level. I came to this group with questions, connected with other bloggers, and found people I loved talking with every day.
If you need a group, I still encourage people to sign up for InfluenceHer Collective. It's one of the best blogging decisions I've ever made.
Facebook is crawling with blogging communities. You don't have to look far to find a community to join, use the search bar.
If Facebook isn't your scene, there are other ways to make connections. Get involved on Twitter, join blogging related subreddits, or even connect with bloggers in person through a site like MeetUp.
9. Don't Let Flattery Stop You From Getting Money
Many brands are hardwired to try to get as much press as they can for free. Wouldn't you? Think about it. One of the best things to do is to get free samples at the grocery store! Are you going to buy the cheese after you sample it? Probably not.
Here's how it usually works, the community manager at some well-established brand will email newer bloggers. They'll complement your blog and share that they are looking to connect with bloggers like you on some campaign they are working on. These community managers will pitch you a topic that benefits the company they work for and share it as the perfect post for your audience. Instead of offering compensation, they'll say, “we'll be boosting our favorite posts on social media.”
Potential exposure doesn't pay your bills, but you're so flattered that a big brand would email you that you do the work anyway. You just gave that company a ton of free press, and sometimes they don't even have the courtesy to send you free product. This degrades your brand, your relationship with your audience, and it sets you up for a lifetime of free work with that brand. Once you work with a community manager once, they'll keep asking until you wise up and start charging your worth.
These companies know what they are doing. I don't want you to be so flattered that you forget to secure the bag.
Do you need some help working with brands? Check out my post sharing ten golden rules for working with brands.
10. Write Content With Readers In Mind
If you know me, you know that I love search engine optimization. As a blogger, the bulk of my traffic comes from Google, and I don't know what I'd do without that traffic.
Do you want to know a secret about Google? It analyzes how readers react to your content. Are your readers coming back to your site, bouncing off the site in frustration, or staying on the site a long time? Google is taking in all of this information and ranking your website accordingly.
Google is a business. Their business is making their customers happy so they can serve them ads and keep them coming back. If Google senses that your website could make its users wary about using their platform, they'll stop sending users your way. Eventually, you'll lose your footing, and Google will replace your link with someone else's.
What does it mean to write with readers in mind? Here are some thoughts:
- Don't be afraid of white space; too much clutter makes your content hard to read.
- Break up your text with pictures, headings, paragraphs, and bullet points. Could you imagine reading this article if it wasn't broken up?
- Make it mobile-friendly. So much traffic comes from mobile these days, and Google is actively pushing creators to make things mobile-friendly.
11. Give Yourself Some Grace If You Get Overwhelmed
It's easy to get overwhelmed as a new blogger. There is so much to do, see, and write. You may find yourself stuck on what to write or angry that you aren't growing fast enough.
New blogging overwhelm is so common that I wrote a blog post about how to fight it.
When we are overwhelmed or feel less than, we tend to find ways to make ourselves feel worse. It's like listening to sad songs when you're already sad. We don't have time to do that anymore.
Don't kick yourself when you're down; instead, pick yourself up. Instead of scolding yourself for missing a week of blog posts, start writing a new one.
The other day I posted a message about guilt on Twitter. Guilt is such a heavy feeling that can cause more harm than good. Instead of feeling guilty and low about missing a week of blog posts, own that week. Take time off for yourself unapologetically, and come back refreshed. Your audience will understand your absence.
12. Have Fun; This Probably Won't Be A Career For A While
Last, but not least, have fun and don't put too much stress on starting a blog. I didn't make any consistent monthly income on my blog for years. Now I am at the point where I make some income from this blog monthly, but it wasn't always this way.
I've seen many income reports online sharing messages like How I Made $600 On My 3rd Month Of Blogging. Kudos to those people, but you don't have to monetize right away. Maybe you never want to monetize. That is all up to you.
Don't take the fun out of blogging by getting so uptight about making all the cash right away. Relax. Build your audience, create some monetized content, and take it one step at a time. Your blog and income will grow once you implement and find your peeps.
Blogging is not a get rich quick scheme. It takes time to build your audience, create trust, and start seeing monetary benefits from what you post online.
One of my favorite ways to make money with my blog is through affiliate marketing, but this didn't happen overnight. I shared a ton of affiliate marketing tips recently with Samantha of Samanthability on her podcast Offbeat Grad. If you want to get into affiliate marketing, I think our conversation is worth listening to.
Whew! I say that at the end of a lot of blog posts, but this time, I genuinely mean it. In today's post, I shared some of my best blogging tips, anecdotes, and information. I've been blogging for so long now, and I honestly don't know what I'd do without y'all. The Happy Arkansan has changed my life for the better, and I am so proud. I hope that these tips will help any blogger thinking of leaping into creating their site. It's a wild ride that's worth taking.