Five years ago today I decided to start a blog, millions of visits later and a whole lot of mistakes I wanted to share 50 things that you should know before starting a blog.
My goal is to help you start a blog with the best foot forward by sharing my mistakes and lessons.
If you are reading this and thinking about starting a blog I recommend Bluehost! They have great support and are extremely affordable. Sign up here with my affiliate link(I get a small commision for referring you at no extra cost to you. Good luck starting your blog!). It is also a great place to start and over 2+ million people use them.
I have also just created this Facebook group for starting a blog, see you there.
Okay, enough talk lets begin your journey to start a blog:
50 Things everyone should know before you start a blog:
- Success doesn’t happen overnight – Becoming a good blogger doesn’t happen overnight, it is a skill just like driving, skiing or surfing. If you want to be successful, you have to put the time in to learn the skill.
- Start one blog – Don’t start with 20 different niche blogs focus on one blog that you are passionate about, a topic you are interested in or something you know very well.
- Be your audience – If you can, be your audience. Solve problems that you have yourself. While you can do all the research you want for a low competition keyword about “office furniture” you ultimately know the problems that you have as your audience.
- Tell your story – It is hard to compete in a lot of niches such as travel, health, online business but by telling your story you create something that nobody can copy. Just keep it real, and you will shine through.
- Write great fricken content – Don’t go out and copy and paste articles and “spin them” so you might rank in Google. Write unique, great content that you are proud of. I made this mistake and got nowhere for years. There is a great quote “Cover bands don’t change the world.”
- Write as if you are speaking to someone – Don’t write as if you are writing an essay in English class. Write as if you are speaking to someone, just like I am.
- Stick to a .com domain name, it can be easy to get these crazy extensions like .rocks, .biz, .co etc. Dot com is a brand in and of itself. The only exception would be if you are extremely location specific then I would get the .com and the country URL. Eg. .com.au .co.uk .ie and so on. Lean domain search is a great free tool for finding awesome domain names.
- Don’t be afraid to invest in your blog – I am all for free themes, plugins and email accounts, but don’t hesitate to spend the $5 a month for your own Gmail for the business website or buying a year of hosting for $4.95 p/m from Bluehost. Free website and domains and the likes will only slow you down in the long run.
- Blogging is hard – while many people dream of becoming successful bloggers and travelling the world, many don’t realise how hard it is.
- Nobody is going to care about “you” – when you publish that first post the world is probably not going to care so don’t be afraid and “just publish it.”
- Be consistent – Writing a blog post every six months or every so often will not build you any momentum. Ideally, the more regular you publish a post, the better. I am guilty of this but am always working on staying consistent.
- Keep going – Those first 10 – 20 visits, 5 Facebook likes it can seem like you are going nowhere! But I promise to keep going, and you will get through it. So don’t quit, keep going. We all started a blog with that one fan, the one like and the one page-view.
- Be helpful to your audience rather than just try and make money. I learnt this from Pat Flynn, and once you bring value, the money will follow. My first three blogs was just designed to make me money and guess what I never did, apart from about $50 here and there lol
- Blogging is a lot of work – All a lot of people see is the finished product, but it takes time to write the content, edit it, optimise it and get it out there.
- Grow your email list – Growing an email list is by far one of the most neglected things new bloggers do. It took me years before I realised the importance and power of an email list. Tools like SumoMe are perfect for collecting email subscribers. For starting an email list I would recommend the following Mailchimp(Free for up to 2000 email subscribers) then move to Aweber or ConvertKit and pay for the service.
- Long content wins over short content – I think I have written over 1000 blog posts in the last five years and the longer content nearly always outranks shorter content. It just takes longer for the long content to rank. You can do some short posts but ideally 1000 – 3000+ words would be ideal.
- Do “some” keyword research – A lot of people do keyword research and use 100s of tools! Personally, I just use Google AdWords for a brief look and Google a few of the terms that I will be writing about. If you write an article that is higher quality than what is already out there you will rank higher, just don’t expect it to happen overnight.
- Don’t be afraid to niche down and niche down again – “The riches are in the niches”. This statement couldn’t be more true. I made double my full-time income from a blog about Irish people in Australia. If I had just focused on people moving to Australia, I am 100% sure I would not even be writing this post or even have managed to quit my job. Just a word of warning, don’t niche down to low when you start a blog.
- You can always expand outside of your niche – my first article that went viral was about the most powerful passports. Not the most related topic to my niche but it got over 1 million views in a day or two; you can listen to the story here.
- Be passionate about your blog – The most important thing is that you are passionate about your niche. I was helping people but also helping myself by finding out the information. In 6 months time when you are doing keyword research about some boring topic, how do you expect to move forward? So the bottom line is pick something you are passionate about.
- Don’t expect to become a millionaire overnight – Sorry but making money online takes time and a LOT of work. Those that promise you that you can “earn $24’786 in 3 weeks with my secret method” are bullshit. Excuse the language but don’t be fooled by these guys. Even with all my experience I still can’t just make a blog and earn 10k in one month. The internet is improving but if you do want to become rich from blogging, be patient. :)
- Email other bloggers and reach out – one of the best ways you can grow your blog is by partnering with other bloggers in or similar to your niche. Contrary to popular belief a lot of other popular bloggers are just ordinary people like you and me. Don’t be afraid to say hi.
- Blogging is not free – Yes you can get free WordPress sites and the likes, but realistically the minimum it will cost you is $60 – $100+ per year. It only gets more expensive as you learn about new tools such as Leadpages, Grammarly Pro(I have this, and it rocks!) and many of the other paid tools out there. Invest in these tools when the need arises but don’t go crazy and spend 1000’s of dollars without realising why you need them.
- Spend time learning how to write good copy – As a blogger; your words are what will keep your readers reading. Headlines, intros and your text will define if you will be successful or not. I learnt a lot from Kopywriting Course by Neville Medhora(Thanks Nev!).
- Learn the basics of SEO. If you are using WordPress, install Yoast SEO plugin. It has become the industry standard, and I use it(plus it is free!).
- Permalinks – WTF is a permalink you might be saying. Basically, it is the URL structure of a blog. For example this article is /start-a-blog. Don’t do what I did and install WordPress on /blog/date/long ass URL name. Keep it simple yourwebsite.com/your-keyword. Keep this 1 – 4 words long.
- Install WordPress on the root directory – In old blogs I made the mistake of installing WordPress on the /blog which was fine, but I had essentially no home page. So I installed another version of WordPress on the home page(Fail). So my advice Install WordPress on your home directory.
- Install Pretty Link plugin – This is free and lets you set custom URL redirects for your domain. You can make yourwebsite.com/whateverthebeepyouwant, and it even allows you to track clicks although it can be a little bit inaccurate. I use this for affiliate links all the time, e.g., Start your blog for only $4.95 using this link(Nichearound.com/bluehost)
- Don’t worry about SEO – Too many bloggers get obsessed with SEO and forget to just write content. SEO is important, but when you focus on quality content, Google will love you for it. Just remember that it takes a lot longer than you think to rank in Google. Keep going, creating and promoting your blog.
- Register your website on all the leading social media platforms – Hopefully you have picked a unique domain name now go and register on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat(@Nichearound), Youtube and anywhere else your audience might be. It will take you about an hour to do this, but it will be worth it in the long run. I am @NicheAround on all these platforms(except Youtube which requires a certain number of subscribers before you can create a custom domain, subscribe to me here. Don’t get overwhelmed but do focus on one main platform first.
- Make a Pinterest image for each blog post – it takes time, but it is worth it in the long term. I use Canva after discovering that it is free for the majority of templates. Or splash out and pay the $1 ;)
- Have sharing buttons on each blog post – at the top, bottom and side. I use SumoMe for this takes 5 minutes to install.
- Use WordPress – If you use free blogs like Tumblr, Blogger, WordPress and the likes ditch them for a real WordPress website. It is great to have a presence there but firstly you never own these. The platform owns you, so I would not recommend staying on these if you have any blogging goals at all.
- You don’t have to be an amazing writer – When I go to back to my original blog posts I shiver in disgust. We all suck when we start, but again it is a skill, and it will come with time. The best way to become a better blogger is just to write more.
- Listen to Podcasts – Podcasts took me from $2k per month to $5k in less than a month. No joke, keep in mind I had just quit my job, and I had an extra 4-5 hours+ time to listen to podcasts. I highly recommend EOFire, Smart Passive Income, ASK Pat, The Art Of Paid Traffic(the best Facebook ads podcast ever), The Niche Around Podcast(Shameless plug) and ProBlogger(Love this). That should get you started there is a LOT more just hit search in Itunes or Stitcher
- Read/Listen to business books – It was only when I started listening to Podcasts that I ever thought or even heard about some of the books that shaped my life. I moved to Audible(audio books) where I get an audio book every month, and it keeps me in check. Some books I would recommend(all links go to Amazon) you start with are The 4 hour work week, Miracle Morning, Think and grow rich, magic of thinking big(love this!), Will It Fly, Rich Dad Poor Dad, #AskGaryVee, How to win friends and influence people(Unreal).
- Take action – this leads me perfectly onto this point. If you read a book and it tells you how to become a millionaire and if you don’t actually try what they are telling then you might as well not even read it or listen to it. It is so important to try, test and implement the strategies in these books and podcasts. These are people who have done it and just like I have done it in the past. You can learn from me but if you don’t take action nothing will happen.
- Get traffic – You could have the best restaurant and the best damn chef in the world but if nobody comes to eat you are not going to be successful no matter how many meals you make. Now just replace meals with content and guests with traffic, and you see what I mean. Promote your great content, then promote it some more and some more. As Derek Halpern says, focus on promoting 80% of the time and 20% creating the content. You don’t need five blog posts a day; you need one and to spend time promoting it. Personally, I am more of a 70/30 guy, but you get the point ;)
- But how do I promote it – This is something I didn’t understand when I first read Derek’s blog post. “Wtf does he mean do 80% of the time; I’ve already shared it like a million times on Facebook!?” I thought. There are so many more ways to promote content. If you do create excellent unique content, then think firstly about repurposing that content. I will be turning part of this into a podcast episode later, writing a mini version on Medium, republishing it on Linkedin. I will also be emailing everyone mentioned in this blog post and let them know I have featured them in the blog post. Then I will be sharing on social media, tagging a lot of people mentioned on Twitter, Facebook, sharing in groups.. blah blah blah. So you see if you create great content then promotion is easy.
- Subscribe to other people in your blog/niche – Provided you have started your blog and you know roughly what your niche is. Then go out and join every single email list of related blogs, podcasts, Facebook pages, Instagram and other mediums that they are on. This will give you an excellent idea of what is out there and where you can bring your own personal value to the niche. If you haven’t started your blog, get set up with Blue Host for only $4.95 per month which includes your domain name.
- Give your blog a different look – I learnt this from Derek Halpern as well(Thanks Derek!). Don’t just use the same boring link colour(blue), change it up to make it purple, red, yellow heck whatever your brand colours are. Don’t have brand colours? Get some. You will see I went with a predominantly red link colour. While this might not give you more clicks etc. it will make you different and different is good. Also, have a different colour background. Do you know how many blogs have a white background? A lot, you will notice mine is a bit grey, again different.
- Use tools for writing better blog posts – I did a whole video/podcast on this topic and tools really will help you write a better blog post.
- Join MeetUp groups and go meet people – MeetUp is an excellent app, and there is nothing better than meeting like minded people. I used to live in Melbourne and attended some awesome meetups. Now I am in Vancouver and regularly attend meetups. They don’t have to be directly blog related, for example, Toastmasters, Entrepreneur meetups, etc. Meeting others who have done it is one of the best ways to learn and grow your blog. Most of them are free as well.
- How much money can I make from Google ads? – If you want to make money from blogging, there is plenty of ways to do so. But you have to have an audience before any of that happens. So build that audience, give value and then look at monetizing your blog. To give you an idea of how much you could make 1 million page views on Google Adsense can be roughly anywhere from $3000 – $7000+ depending on your keywords, clicks, CTR, etc. So those 10000 visits you worked so hard to get is not exactly going to let you quit your job.
- Can I quit my job and blog? If you get to the stage where you want to quit your job and live the “dot com lifestyle” make sure you have enough for at least three months to support yourself. Also ideally if you are making 50-70% of your current income I would consider it safe to quit your job. BUT it is a risk, and risk comes with great rewards and great challenges. I was making 1-2k$ per month when I quit my job and one month later went up to 5k just because I implemented what I learnt from podcasts, books and fellow bloggers.
- Keep your blog theme clean – It can be easy to load up that sidebar with banner ads, affiliate links, related posts and who knows what else people put in there. The more options you give people, the less likely they will take action. Let’s say I asked you would you like an ice cream, chocolate or cake; the choice is pretty easy to make. But if I was to say would you like an ice cream or an ice cream from across the street or a muffin of maybe a muffin from this section or we have the best cholate, but we also have the best chocolate chip cookies. You get overloaded which is why I would recommend just sticking to 1-3 items on the side bar. I would also like to note that with the increase in mobile barely anyone even sees your sidebar so if you do want to promote something stick it in the content(I mean the great content) you write.
- Okay, I feel that you know a lot more than I did when I started my blog. Most importantly buy your own domain, hosting and use WordPress(sign up with Bluehost here). You will own your platform versus using Tumblr or one of these. It will be yours and holds a lot more authority.
- Don’t forget to set up your email list from day 1 – Do it now with MailChimp it is free for the first 2000 subscribers.
- How much will this all cost per year to start a blog? Anywhere from $100 – whatever your budget is. I started with just some simple hosting and a domain name now I spend about 10K per year on online services, but I also make about 100k+, so things certainly take care of themselves.
- Stick with it! You will doubt yourself over and over! I still do! Don’t give up on blogging you will get there it just takes hard work and perseverance. Be sure to sign up for my free training on the 7th November 2016, I’ll be teaching you how to start a blog and get 1000 visitors in 10 days!
- Bonus: learn to back up your blog – Make sure that you find out how to backup and restore your blog. When you start a blog, I can guarantee that something will go wrong at some stage and if you don’t have it backed up it is one of the worst feelings in the world. I use a plugin called Updraft and backup each of my blogs to Dropbox.
- Bonus: Your health is reflected in your blog – As I discussed in my previous article, I learnt a great lesson from Darren Rowse’s podcast, Think about it; a blog is a direct reflection of you. If you are not performing then neither will you blog.Darren asks the question: “how are you?”. Not your blog, not your business, but you?The benefit of looking after your health will have a direct reflection on you if you do or do not become a successful blogger.
Woah, okay I hope you enjoyed this post. Please share it with someone who needs it and of course someone who is starting a blog. If you have a Pinterest board, pin the image below to your Pinterest board.
Wish you the best of luck when you start your blog, comment if this has helped you and join the new Facebook group I have made.
P.S I will be updating this article as comments come in. So if there is something you wish you had known before you started your blog comment below and I might include you in the article. Thanks!
P.P.S If you want to start a blog go now and get set up with Bluehost for only 4.95 per month!