I started my first blog back in 2007, before the entire world was blogging. Before most people knew what a blog was. Before I myself fully understood what a blog was (I remember being confused about the fact that my latest post was always displayed first – I think I kind of wanted my blog to be read in chronological order, from first published post to last).
With 13 years of experience, I’d do things very differently if I was starting my first blog in 2020. Here’s how I’d do it.
I’d start it on WordPress
Instead of Blogger. To be fair, when I started my first blog in 2007 everybody I knew was using Blogger. It was incredibly user friendly if you weren’t very tech savvy (and most people weren’t). WordPress seemed much more professional and I still suffered from imposter syndrome, so I didn’t want people to think I was trying to look too professional (crazy thinking, I know).
These days it takes about 10 minutes to set up a blog on WordPress (find out how in my step-by-step tutorial). And it costs around $5 a month for hosting (you can find out about my favorite hosting company, here). I’d start off on WordPress if I were setting up a blog today, with my own domain name and all the benefits of one of the most powerful and versatile blogging platforms on the market.
I’d have a grand plan
When I started my first blog, I had a plan, but it wasn’t very grand. It mostly revolved around getting my writing ‘out there’ and getting free travel. It definitely got my writing out there, and I even received some free tickets to local attractions, in return for writing about them. But there was no real plan. I didn’t know enough about blogging to even know I needed a plan.
Over the years my blogs have helped me make money (though things like affiliate marketing and sponsored posts), get new clients (because they found a post they liked and clicked through my work with me page), and write books (I compiled a couple of the Kindle books I’ve published almost exclusively by editing together blog posts I’d already written). If I were starting a blog in 2020, I’d know in advance what my aims were, and have a well thought out, but very simple, business plan written up in advance.
I’d learn about affiliate marketing, as a top priority
I stumbled into affiliate marketing long after my first blog was up and running, which is a shame, as affiliate marketing can make money for bloggers, almost from day one, if they know what they’re doing. I learned pretty much everything I needed to know about affiliate marketing from the amazing and very comprehensive Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course, which wasn’t around in 2007, but if I were staring out today, that would be the very first course I’d study, before even starting my blog.
I’d learn about SEO, as a second priority
I’m still no SEO guru, but I know 100% more about SEO than I did when I started. Oh wait, that’s not true. 100% of nothing is still nothing right? I didn’t really start learning about SEO until I started writing for clients and they required me to take care of the on-page SEO, so I had to learn fast. It probably took me about another year to realise I should be applying SEO techniques to my own blog. In my defence I was a busy, working, side hustling mom (who’d taken the rash step of going back to school as well at this point) and barely had time to think. If I were starting now, I’d be using basic SEO techniques from the very first post I wrote.
I’d believe people who told me the money’s in the list
I kind of believed it back then, but I was I writer and I was stubborn. I wanted to write articles, not emails. So I blogged away, hoping people would find my blog posts and buy what I was offering. Sometimes they did, but mostly they didn’t.
I’ve learned since then that the people on your email list are the ones most likely to support your efforts, read your work, buy your products, buy products from others that you sincerely recommend, share your blog posts, and generally be interested in both what you have to say and what you have to sell.
If I launch a new product, not everyone on my email list will buy it (and I wouldn’t expect them to) but the first few sales of any new product are always the people on my list. That’s my community, and the people in it are interested in what I create for them.
I’d develop my own products sooner
Affiliate marketing is great, but so is creating something and selling it and getting notes from satisfied customers. It took me ages to write my ebooks, create my success kits, and develop my digital planners and journals. If I were starting now, I’d be developing new products alongside my new blog.
I’d keep my design simple
My first blog was a hot mess. A very basic free theme and a mix of colours and fonts that didn’t go together and made no sense, along with cliché stock photos and any old image that I thought I needed in the sidebar. Since then I’ve learned basic design principles and fully embraced the most important principle of all… Keep it simple. I try and keep everything fairly clean and uncluttered, use professional images, and a very simple colour palette.
I’d use Medium
Not an option in 2007, as it didn’t exist. But definitely something I would (and will) do in 2020. Medium allows you to build an audience and an email list, drive traffic to your blog, and build quality backlinks to your posts. I’ve written more about how to use Medium as a blogger in this article, so feel free to take a look and see if Medium is an option that would fit into your blog building plans for the coming year.
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