I can’t believe I’ve already written over 100 blog posts here at I Spy Fabulous.
What started as a creative impulse has flourished into a growing community. While the process of starting a blog on a whim and learning as I go has not been easy – or cheap – it’s been an invaluable learning experience for me.
I thought after years of freelance writing – and blogging – for other companies all over the world, running my own blog would be easy.
Cue laugh track now.
But, learning experiences are humbling and challenging. There’s the occasional thrill in there, too, when you hack something new, like switching themes or getting to work with cool brands like Box of Style and Fotor.
If you’ve ever considered starting a blog or are just voyeuristic and want to see what it’s like behind the scenes – here are the invaluable lessons I have learned in the process of writing over 100 blog posts.
Oh, and some of these links are affiliate links, which means I’ll earn a very small commission at no cost to you if you click them. Just keeping it real.
1. Start Right – with Self-Hosted WordPress
I did not do this. That’s why I write about it in my post on the blogging mistakes I made. When I started, I literally bought a domain on Weebly, found some stock photos online, picked up a pre-made logo on Etsy and started writing.
Now I know the importance of having the right foundation. Because a couple months in I had to pay someone to help me fix that.
After that, I did a ton of research on hosting and now this blog is hosted on BigScoots, and I am thrilled with the speed, quality, and customer service.
Seriously, they respond to my (many, many) pleas for help at all hours of the day, night and weekend. I don’t think they ever sleep over there. Thank God for that. Highly recommend BigScoots.
Also, I have read a lot of amazing things about WP Engine. If I were looking for a new host right now, I would be moving over to them.
For your site, invest in the one-time purchase of a Genesis Framework to give your blog the legs it needs to support plug-ins, any monetization efforts, and basically grow wherever you want it to grow.
A premium theme sits on top of the Genesis framework and gives you lots of cool widgets and stylistic options. Here are a few places to get very highly rated, super mobile responsive, chic AF WordPress themes:
2. Write Evergreen Content
I learned this the hard way. You won’t – because you’re smarter than me.
When you are starting out and building readership, don’t waste your posts on sales that are going to end, products that won’t be for sale in a few months, or other transient subject matter that will date quickly.
Focus at least you first 20-30 posts on content that is going to last a long time. Preferably, years. You want those early posts to really hold the blog down for you and eventually bring consistent traffic month to month.
Because I originally had the idea to write about great deals for the modern woman, my early posts were all obsolete before many people found them.
One of my first posts is on a store that no longer exists! Super fun.
Write evergreen content as much as possible for as long as possible.
3. Promote Posts More Than One Time
I would write something, post it online, and move on. There are so many things to learn with blogging – who has time for anything else?
Because you know that 80% of your post success is not how great it is, how well researched it is, or how pretty the pictures are.
You know now that the success of that post is in the marketing.
So, share it multiple times a week, every week, for a few months. There are some cool posting schedules out there by big bloggers that break it down for you better than I could, since I am still really learning how to create a posting schedule that continues to promote my posts long-term.
But, posting tools make it easy for anyone to recycle their content on autopilot.
On that note…
4. Invest In Posting Tools
I know you don’t want to spend a lot of money. I didn’t either.
There are a couple of tools I did invest in and I am so glad I did.
There is one tool I just recently invested in an I am KICKING myself that I waited so long.
Tailwind for Pinterest:
The first one is Tailwind. It’s the only Pinterest approved scheduling tool and it offers you the ability to post your pins to multiple boards, schedule them on an interval, loop them for repeat on SmartLoop, and add them to Tailwind Tribes.
Tailwind Tribes are groups of pinners who pin on similar subjects. You pin your pin to the group and others will repin it to their boards. Then, you reciprocate by sharing their pins on your boards. Etc. Etc. It’s similar to how group boards work on Pinterest, but they are much easier to join – and in my opinion – much more active and beneficial.
You can get a free trial to test it out. Then, I bet you’ll pay for it. It really helps.
If you decide to invest beyond the basic package – take my advice and put your money towards having more pins per month. I always run out of pins before the month is even halfway over now. Boo.
Tailwind for Instagram:
I also use Tailwind to schedule Instagram posts, because they make it really easy to find relevant hashtags. Plus, you can save lists that you create to use again – for example, I have hashtag lists for clean beauty, another one for mom posts, etc. You can get a free trail for Tailwind by clicking here.
SmarterQueue for Reposting:
The second tool I just recently decided to join is SmarterQueue.
I wish I had signed up for it earlier on and here’s why:
SmarterQueue lets you set up your posts for multiple social media platforms and then save them to recycle and reuse again later. You won’t have to go dig up that picture and come up with all those hashtags again.
Nope, SmarterQueue allows you to create a queue of all your posts to go back to anytime you want.
And, since most of your readers or social media followers will only see a very small percentage of what you post, you won’t have to worry about spamming them when you recycle a post days or weeks later.
In addition to the queue feature, SmarterQueue also makes it easy to organize your content into different buckets of content (you can create your own or use their own).
Then, with each post you select which bucket it goes into and then SmarterQueue organizes them to be posted at peak times for that social media platform and rotates between the buckets to keep your viewers engaged.
And, all of these posts are saved and you can recycle whenever you want. Since you’ll want to continue recycling posts and pins regularly, this makes that task so, so much easier.
5. Edit & Add Pinterest Pins
Your first few pins are going to suck.
Okay, more than your first few pins.
Don’t be sad – it’s true for everybody.
That’s why you’ll make 3-5 pins per post, or at least routinely go back to old posts and add more pins for those posts.
I also just recently learned an important point from a blogging course I took where she doesn’t post all her pins on the same day. She spaces them out.
This makes sense – you don’t want to compete with yourself. You want your pins to get in front of as many people as possible.
For me, I was making pins and posting them all together to get it off my list. Now, I realize, some of those pins were sinking simply because of saturation.
So, create multiple pins per post, space out when you post them, and go back and edit and add new pins to old posts to get a lift.
6. Use Stock Photos
When I first started out, I was trying to take all my own pictures because I was going to be Super Authentic! Yes, with capital letters!
Then, you spend three hours on one photo shoot and realize – this ain’t gonna work.
Mama don’t got no time for that.
So, do yourself a favor and download free, beautiful images on stock photo sites.
Make sure it’s a legal site and you follow the rules – bloggers have been sued for using photos they thought were free on Google images or something.
Here are a few places I get my images:
- Freebies or packages from Ivory Mix
- Freebies or packages from Shay Cochrane
- Stock photo packages included in the Genius Blogger’s Toolkit (best investment I made in education courses for blogging)
7. Shrink Those Images!
In my early days blogging, I read somewhere to shrink images. I literally LAUGHED OUT LOUD.
Do people really DO this kind of thing?!!
Then, I VERY, VERY quickly used up all the room on my host plan and had to upgrade.
The reason? My gigantic images were eating up all the room.
So, I figured out real quick how to shrink those images – turns out, it’s super fast, easy, and FREE.
FINALLY, something is free – am I right?
- Tinypng.com – Just bookmark this site. You can upload up to 20 at a time for free. Then, download and upload to your blog. Easy.
- WP Smush – Download this free plug-in on your blog to smush them all again.
Image reduction is one of the easiest ways you can optimize your site while you’re still learning all of the other things that blogging requires.
Shrink it. Shrink it real good.
8. Join Affiliate Networks Right Away
This is one of the only things I didn’t royally screw up in the beginning.
As soon as I got a few posts up, I started applying to affiliate networks to monetize all the time I was investing in my blog.
The commissions are suuuuuuuper low, so set your expectations. You can sell hundreds of dollars in merch and only take home a few bucks.
Except, you can’t take it home, because it’ll sit there until you hit a threshold.
Which brings me to my next point – look through these options and find the affiliate network that has the most merchants you are interested in using.
Then, only apply to a couple at first. Here’s why: If you make $10 on FlexOffers and $10 on Share-a-Sale and $10 on Rakuten, you won’t be able to cash any of that out, because you won’t meet any individual networks threshold.
So, join Amazon Associates, for sure, and then pick another one. Personally, my favorite is Viglink.
Viglink is unique in that you only have to get accepted to Viglink and then you are automatically accepted to the brands on Viglink.
Other networks require you to join individual programs for each brand you want to promote on your blog. This is very time consuming and you will get rejected from a fair amount in the beginning.
Viglink is really fast and easy to use, plus they will automatically reroute any links to higher paying stores for you, maximizing those small commissions.
You can join any of those networks by clicking on the name of the network.
Make that money, honey.
9. Easy Keyword Research
This one turned my stomach a bit at first, because I started the blog for creative freedom. I monetized it simply to cover the expenses of starting and running the blog.
But, having to plan my posts based on tons of keyword research?
However, there are only so many hours you can spend writing posts and hitting publish, only to hear crickets on the other end.
That gets old REAL fast.
So, you start to do some research. You hear less crickets. Everybody is happy.
I keep this to a real minimum, using easy, free tools that make it a pretty fast exercise.
Other bloggers are much more into this than I am – and their traffic is probably better, too, but here are the easy, free keyword research tools that I use:
Download this totally free keyword research tool and turn every google search into a learning experience.
You’ll immediately see how many people have searched that term, as well as options in the sidebar for related searches.
Very, very easily you can test out blog post ideas that you have and see what words you need to use to make the title reach the most people.
My posts have done much better since installing this free tool.
Okay, this one is really cool and you only have to do it maybe once a month or so.
You get 5 free searches a day. I use them to spy on my competition.
Just search for the names of blogs that are in or similar to your niche.
You’ll immediately see their most searched, shared blog posts.
This gives you an idea of what posts are trending for other bloggers out there.
I always find this really interesting and, usually, surprising.
Be careful, though. Just because that meal plan post was huge for The Everygirl, it doesn’t mean yours will take off like it’s on fire. Find Buzzsumo here.
C. Good Ol’ Google:
Sometimes I like to let Google help me out.
I’ll start to type a subject into the search bar and wait for Google to finish my sentence.
This will give you a few more ideas for that post, another post, or even how you title a post.
Very easy. Very quick. Very free.
10. Set Reasonable Expectations
Listen, we are all narcissists at heart. We all want to believe that we’ll hit publish on our first post and wake up in the morning to our site having crashed from ALL THE TRAFFIC.
But, that’s not realistic.
Even the pins you see on Pinterest of bloggers having overnight success and making $10,000 a month their first 6 months blogging are probably not telling you the whole story.
Many of those bloggers started several failed blogs before that one that was a success or they did months and months of research before starting.
Or, my personal favorite, people who leverage a huge personal network and their friends and family ruthlessly share and promote it for them.
Sure, that would be so great if that happened for everyone – but we all come to the starting block from a different place, with different experiences and knowledge, so our outcomes will be different, too.
Some of the ways you can help yourself stay positive and grounded when the insecurity starts to sink in (it will), is to reach out to other bloggers and ask questions, or join Facebook groups of bloggers to talk with people who get it. I’ve joined quite a few and my favorite is BTOP – Breaking The One Percent.
The member are so kind, many are very successful bloggers, but a fair share are brand new and working hard to grow their blogs. In fact, the guys who run it spent an entire year blogging making absolutely no money until they really started figuring out what to do. Now they make 6-figures a month.
I mean, can you even imagine?
This would be me:
Honestly, starting a blog is a really exciting, challenging, nerve-wracking, somewhat expensive learning experience.
Most of the time I enjoy it; other days I don’t. If you’re a new blogger and want to chat, please reach out. I’d love to answer any questions you might have or help you with the limited knowledge I have accrued so far.
One thing is for sure – now that you’ve read this list, you’ll be better off than I was when I started.
Just make sure you let us all know the name of your new blog in the comments below. We’d all love to see what you’ve started and support you along the way.
Have a fabulous day,