how to blog, a guide for day 1
I get a lot of questions about blogging and usually the conversations begin or end with:
“I don’t know how to blog.”
"How often should I write in my blog?"
"What should I write in my blog?"
"What social media do I need to use?"
All very good questions.
And let's answer 'em right now. Blogging is a new and uncomfortable form of exposure for the average person. We’re all used to updating a Facebook status, or sending a Tweet here or there. But an actual living, breathing website is a totally different story.
Allow me to toot my own horn for a bit here: I’ve been blogging and selling online for a little over eleven years now, and I’ve learned a thing or two (or 13), it’s time for me to share some secrets.
Some tips I wish someone had told me, all those years ago.
1. Know yourself.
Are you girly and sparkly? Or are you minimalist and monochrome? What’s your sense of humor like? How do you express anger? Do you always curse, sometimes curse, or never curse? Your voice is the #1 important thing about you and your brand. It’s how your fans can tell you apart from the thousands of other bloggers out there.
2. Simplicity is key.
When you’re first starting out, don’t worry too much about sidebars and popups and footers and calls to action. Your very first order of business to provide good content (or products/services). Everything else can (and should) wait for a little while. My very first day as an Etsy seller, I listed 3 vintage dresses and promoted them everywhere. I posted strategically to Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. One of the dresses was featured on the front page of Etsy, and they all sold within 4 hours. But then my store was completely empty. I had thousands of visits to my store and nothing to sell. People clicked over to my store, then clicked right out. It was a painful lesson to learn, but one I’ll always remember: people can’t see what isn’t there.
3. Keep at it.
Make a schedule. Pick a day (or two. Or three!) of the week to publish a blog post and stick to it. A schedule manages expectations for both you and your readers. Every day around 10 a.m. and 10 p.m., Jezebel posts Dirtbag, a short synopsis of the daily celebrity gossip. Readers know what content to expect at 10 a.m., and the staff at Jezebel have a daily reliable content block. You don’t have to post twice a day, but you should have an editorial calendar at the ready. Speaking of editorial calendars...
4. Know your topics.
Pick between 5-8 topics you’ll write about that are relevant to your blog. And stick to it. If you write for parents of preschool children and you throw in a post about buying arthritis cream, your readers will be...to put it kindly, confused. If you can tie arthritis cream to your overall blog topic, go for it. And by tie, I mean tie that sucker in a double knot. No loose knots allowed. Hint: behind the scenes, how-to and product creation posts are always a good place to start.
5. Promote wisely.
Choose one, maaaaaaaaaaybe two social media outlets and that’s it. And focus all of your social media attention on them. Use tools like IFTTT, Buffer, Hootsuite and CoSchedule to autopost to other outlets, if you’d like to have a presence on other platforms. Commit to your social media for six weeks at minimum, although three months is better. Six months is the best. When I first started, I tried to be everywhere. Big mistake. Huge. I averaged about 60 followers. Total. Between all platforms. I know, I know. My focus is on Instagram and Facebook. I still have Twitter & Pinterest accounts, but those posts are automated, using the above tools. Someday I might utilize them, but not right now.
6. Overnight success is very rare. Keep at it anyway.
You’ll have to work at it for a while. Unless you have one or more of the following: a large ad budget, family or friend connections, a previous career in marketing/promotions, a lucky combination of right product/right time/right placement. It takes most blogs years to get tens of thousands of subscribers. Keep going. Hone your craft, define your voice. Do the work, so that when you get all those subscribers, they’ll have a library of fantastic content to explore .
7. Live a life worth writing about.
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made is to park myself in front of the computer (or notebook) and sit there for weeks on end. And let me make it 100% clear: you have to do the work. And the work is not always glamorous. But I wish I’d scheduled time to have fun and hang out with family. Or to attend more conferences and networking events. Live a full life, and you’ll never run out of things to write about.
8. Know it’s not all about you.
When blogs first started, bloggers could get away with writing for only for themselves. Those days are long gone. Sure, readers want to know about you and your life, but they want to know you are interest in them and their lives. That you are in some way relatable, even if it’s only by the smallest connection. Make your writing all about you, and you’ll be the only one reading it.
9. Stop comparing yourself to other bloggers.
This one is hard. As in, nearly impossible. We live in a world where bloggers share income statements, and even if they didn’t, we can see their purchases and travel. You never EVER know what happens away from their feeds. Know this: 100K followers means just that. I’ve met bloggers with 250K followers and not enough money to pay their cell phone bill. Make your craft better and try not to worry what everyone else is doing.
10. Your life, your rules.
Don’t want pop ups on your website? Don’t have pop ups on your website. Don’t want to do webinars? Don’t do webinars. Just because something works for someone else, doesn’t mean you have to do it. I used Periscope exactly three times and didn’t love it. So I’m not gonna do it, and I don’t feel bad. But I looooooooooooove Instagram. And even though it’s harder to get noticed as a writer on Instagram, I've found my tribe. I’ve met some amazing people there, and I love the platform. The only thing you should have is an email list. Which leads us to...
11. Beginning from Day One, you need to have a newsletter, darling.
Your first newsletters can be excerpts of blog posts or can be cool stuff you’ve read on the web. Or, it can be love letters that filled with encouragement and 29% sarcasm, like my newsletters are. But you have to have one. You’ll figure out lead magnets and opt in’s later, as you see what content gets the best response from your readers. Because platforms come and go and websites can crash, but a mailing list is yours forever.
12. Learn one thing at a time.
We've all done it. We've read too much, studied too hard, and then we get overloaded and afraid to make a choice. It’s called Analysis Paralysis. Here's how it works: you read a post about email lists, which leads you to an article about landing pages, which then leads you to a podcast about copywriting, which takes you to a webinar about branding. And then you’re crying and watching The Gilmore Girls on Netflix. Not that I would know...but I totally know. Similar to the social media platform advice above, give yourself a couple of months to learn about copywriting. Or take a product photography class one weekend. Whatever it is, dig deep and take notes. Have fun with it, and you’ll bring that enthusiasm to your blog.
13. Have fun.
Life is short. Tell your stories and laugh as often you can.
Have some advice you’d like to add? Drop it into the comments below.