101 tips for new bloggers — what I wish I’d known years ago

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A lot of new bloggers like to register with Amazon Associates straight away. Fine fine fine. The problem comes when you don’t make a sale and get kicked out. This isn’t a problem in itself — you can just reapply. The problem is that if you used the short links Amazon provides, there’s no way to bulk update your pins with new tracking code.

If you hate the way long links looks, use the Pretty Links plugin.

If you’re creating valuable, unique content that people are searching for, Google will point then at you. It may take a long time for you to prove to Google that you know everything there is to know about *insert niche here* but it will happen, if the content is good enough.

Google’s only job is to provide a website that will answer the questions people search for. It has to do that well, or people will stop using it.

No one cares about your journey — use your experiences to make your articles more interesting, and back up your points. If your blog post is something like ‘my vegan journey’ literally no one will read it. No one cares.

Make it ‘how to go vegan when you’re allergic to soya’ and you may be able to get somewhere.

You don’t need to pay anyone to make a logo. DIY it in Canva. The free version is fine. A text-only logo is fine.

You don’t need to pay for anything else — Tailwind, SEO tools or anything. I personally don’t think they’re worth it, but if you’re in a super competitive niche, maybe it’s worth it.

I would wait until your blog is making money before investing further. I’ve had two years worth of Tailwind, and trust me, it might put Pinterest on autopilot, but it’ll still take a good few hours to fill up the scheduler for a week, and still won’t guarantee decent traffic.

6. Adsense slows your site down too much — wait until you have enough traffic for a higher paying network

You may still have to apply to Adsense since a lot of ad networks require that you’ve been accepted before they’ll even consider you.

Just don’t put a load of ads on right away. Even a site that has 10K page views a month is unlikely to make more than about £50 a month, so it’s not worth it for the first few months. Your fast site speed is a big sign to Google that you’re worth ranking, so hang on to it.

They’re lower quality but less bulky.

And make sure you have lazy load activated.

One of my websites gets quite a lot of Facebook traffic. I didn’t even make a page for it, and I’ve certainly never shared any of my posts there. You concentrate on creating content for Google and leave the social media sharing to your users.

It’s no secret that GeneratePress is my favourite.

See above.

Get rid of Yoast and it’s ridiculous traffic light SEO system. Write like a normal human and let Google’s latent semantic analysis do its thing.

Google doesn’t share its data. SEMrush and Ahrefs etc are only guessing. If you want to track backlinks and all that stuff be my guest, but it is absolutely not necessary. I don’t use them, and I don’t plan to

That way you don’t have to go back and add it all back in every time the theme is updated.

You can set it to put whatever message you like in every post, page or wherever.

I can prep 30 blog posts — titles, subheadings, featured images, and Pinterest pin in a day. I can just add in the actual writing later. If I try to do everything at once I always end up forgetting to create the featured image.

Batching content like this is so much quicker than going from a blank page to a published post in once sitting.

Delete that classic WordPress editor. I promise you’ll get used to Gutenberg.

I like Google Keep because it’s free and on my phone, laptop, and tablet. It also syncs with my calendar and Google docs.

I use them for my content breaks, and on my house plant blog for plant profiles, since I always use the same subheadings.

It’s a great size for blog images and your featured images.

Search traffic is worth waiting for. I would highly recommend delaying your Pinterest strategy until you’ve created a decent amount of content.

I mean, for your entire blog. First post to the last post. It can really help you get through the Google sandbox without giving up, gives you an endpoint to work towards, and there’s nothing to stop you continuing on after. Read more about content strategy here.

Particularly cmd-K for adding links

Just leave it alone. In a couple of years time, the traffic might come pouring in.

But it’s absolutely worth it. Don’t be tempted by Squarespace or Wix — they’re fine for beginners, but once you get going, the limited functionality will be a pain in the bum, and it’s a bugger migrating them.

A blog is not a magazine. As long as your photos are clear enough to see what needs to be seen, that’s fine.

There are so many awesome FREE photos available.

Skimlinks TANKED mine.

Try the ‘just keep swimming’ mindset that Dory swears by.

A lot of SEO experts believe it’s too simplistic but if the only bit of blogging you like is the writing content part, you’ll LOVE it.

Tailwind is a very powerful tool, but it is NOT a shortcut. It’s extremely time consuming and you need a clear strategy to see quality results.

Scroll the r/explainlikeim5 subreddit to see if you know things that other people wish they knew.

It wants to find great content and give its users what they need.

Find a schedule that works for you. I only write five days a week, and I built my most successful blog whilst working a 40 hour week and only writing when I could.

If you can only write articles once a month, that’s better than none. It’ll just take longer to achieve your goals.

Just go and get hosting and make a start.

Sure, traditional journal-style blogs are hard to grow, but niche sites are doing very well.

Despite what a thousand Pinterest courses are trying to convince you

What would a complete newbie Google to learn about your niche? What have you googled about it recently? Our own search history can be a mine of information.

Posing your subheadings as questions can help

Write the article, find a bigger site with an article that mentions the keyword briefly and ask for a link

If you create high-quality content, then people will link to it.

Link to white papers, government sites, and other professional resources.

Conduct surveys in Facebook groups and create your own unique ones!

Once they get a bit of traffic, Google might be convinced to rank them more highly.

It will help you to create a lot of the right content within a certain timeframe.

You don’t want a week in bed with the flu to mess up your whole schedule.

Whilst social proof can improve SEO, it’s an optional extra. If you want to build a niche-specific Instagram or Twitter following, great, but don’t feel you need to. Only do it if you enjoy it, and don’t use it as a procrastination method to avoid writing articles.

That’s just simple maths. But more articles also help SEO massively, because they help Google decide who you are and who your site will best serve.

You need to consciously write awesome content. If the content is good, the traffic is coming, just not quite yet.

At least when it’s your first website. So no:

  • personal finance
  • news/entertainment
  • fashion/ beauty
  • diet/fitness
  • health/wellness
  • blogging

Unless you have some experience or qualification that could help you rank, I’d avoid these niches. If you choose to go for one anyway, niche waaaaaaaaay down to have a hope at ranking.

It doesn’t work like that. Pick a niche you either know, or one you want to learn about.

There are very few niches out there that can’t make at least some money. Even if the niche itself won’t make you a millionaire, the skills you’ve learned certainly can.

Not only can you make good money there, but you have a chance to see if you’re cut out or blogging.

I advise against relying on Medium as a place to host your blog because they’ve been known to change the way they pay out and people have lost all their income overnight.

You need to pay to become a Medium user, but you can post articles there for free.

If you have the time and the inclination, why not? Blogs tend to rank more quickly on Google if they only cover one topic.

I make £30 every time someone clicks on my link and buys Siteground hosting. Of course, I’m going to recommend them.

I use Siteground, and will happily acknowledge that they’re not perfect. However, they’re the best for the price point. I might prefer WP Engine, but I would never recommend that to a beginner, who, most likely, won’t make it past a year.

I couldn’t be a Tailwind or a course affiliate because I can’t guarantee your results. But I know that if you buy Siteground hosting you’ll, er, have Siteground hosting. You’ve paid for a product that I know will do what I’ve said it will.

And it’s not perfect, but if you want perfect hosting, expect to pay $100 a month. You get what you pay for. And Siteground is far and away the best of the budget options.

Trust me, I’ve been at this blogging lark for a decade. It’s taken me a lot of hosts, themes, and content strategies to be able to tell you this.

I use Updraft, because it syncs to my Google Drive — you can use Dropbox or whatever. Luckily, I’ve never had to use it. Siteground will also provide you with a back up if required.

Though I like to lurk in them and try to poach bloggers that have no idea what they’re doing and force them to learn from my mistakes

I read a lot of blogs, and I comment if I think I can be helpful — whether that’s helpful to the blog owner or helpful to other readers. Do. Not. Spam.

In order for your guest post to drive traffic, it needs to be incredible. And if it’s incredible, surely it should be on your site?

I don’t recommend guest posting a lot, especially if you’re in a fairly uncompetitive niche.

But if you’re struggling to get traction in a competitive niche, and you feel like you have value to add but don’t stand a hope of ranking on Google, guest posting is a good way to give potential users tasters of your unique approach. Think posts like ‘top 10 tips for taking care of house plants’.

Remember all those OG blogs about blogging which told you to share your post with your followers, and you slunk away with your tail between your legs. God, if I shared my blog posts on Facebook they would TANK.

You don’t need a network. You should know what you need by now (it’s content).

Before you start, go to the permalinks tab in your WordPress back end and change the settings so that the URL for your posts is the post name. Never think about it again.

If it’s too late for that, either leave, them or use Yoast or a similar redirect plugin.

I don’t use any SEO plugins. I know how to write. As long as my keyword research is good and the post is relevant, useful, and optimised for SEO (relevant subheadings, short paragraphs), it doesn’t matter how many times the exact keyword shows up.

Google will use whatever the hell it wants as the meta description. If it’s showing some random text and you want to change it, I use the very simple meta description plugin.

I changed the settings so the default meta description is the excerpt WordPress uses. You can add an excerpt if you like (it’s in the post settings on the right-hand side of the post editor) but I leave mine as whatever WordPress picks, usually the first 55 words of the post.

I used to use Jetpack, which automatically submitted site maps. Yoast does the same. Now I just let Google crawl around and that seems to be working fine.

And for that reason, you may never read this one. They’re great as guest posts though. If they’re long enough and pertinent to your niche, they might rank for some keywords you hadn’t considered

If the top ranking is ‘50 ways to entertain your tarantula’, you come up with 100. It’s worth a shot!

Pitch an authority site in an adjacent niche. For example, for my house plant website, I would pitch big home decor magazine websites.

If they reject you, pitch another. There’s no point giving your competition your best articles. If you’re giving away content, at least make sure millions of eyes will be on it.

I personally don’t use guest posting as a strategy, so don’t feel you have to.

Creating websites for money seems to blow the mind of 95% of people.

You do NOT need a thick skin to make money online. Turn off the comments and don’t link your site to your social media accounts.

If you need an excuse to turn off your comments, they actually do slow your site down.

Whilst it takes trial and error to work out which articles are being searched for, don’t worry that your whole niche isn’t worth creating a website for.

If you’re interested in something, so will other people. And if it turns out your niche is too narrow, you can always branch out later.

If you’re really into your niche, it can be hard to remember what it feels like to be a beginner. Join any relevant subreddits and see what people are asking.

In fact, find those people who are asking really stupid questions that everyone else in the subreddit ignores and ask them exactly what kind of resource they need.

See? You don’t need an audience of your own; you just need to find out where your target audience is. If they’re millennials or gen X, they’re probably on Reddit and Twitter. Gen Z is on Instagram and Tik Tok; boomers are on Facebook.

You don’t need to be active on these platforms or build a following, you just need to be an observant lurker.

Find those Youtubers demonstrating intermediate and advanced areas of your niche. There will probably be beginners in the comments asking to be spoon fed. Answer their questions until such a time that it’s easier to just…drop a link.

It makes leaving links so much spammier because it’s obvious that you’re self-promoting.

Big websites often use Spot.Im so that commenters are just out for backlinks. If someone asks for help, drop them your link with a comment like ‘this website really helped me’. If it helps the person that asked the question, they won’t care that you technically spammed them.

Once you know what you’re doing, and concentrate on creating useful content, not spreading yourself incredibly thin over every social media platform going, it’s actually easy.

The hard part is being patient and taking the time to learn how to write useful content.

76. Long content doesn’t equal great content

Almost all of my articles are 1000+ words. Any fewer than that and I try and fit them into another post.

But also, if you’re looking at a 10,000-word monster, maybe do a master post, and few other posts linking to it.

Nobody wants to read 10,000 words on watering plants. A LOT of people want to read a 3,500 article on watering plants, plus links to what kind of water to use, when to water from the bottom, and how to schedule watering your plants.

Google your keyword, and make your post a couple of hundred words longer than your competitors.

Remember, you can always go back and add information later if you forgot something.

If it turns out your audience likes an aspect of your niche you’re not that bothered about, I’d maybe take the time to get interested in that aspect.

If the audience of your pet blog loves articles about snakes but you’re scared of them, I’m afraid I’m recommending that you suck it up and write about snakes.

Upload a post once a week, every week, or publish 52 articles in January. No. One. Cares.

I post ten posts a month until I reach 100 posts and then cut down to whatever I fancy.

80. A high bounce rate isn’t a bad thing

A user may ask a question, Google shows them your blog, they click through, your article answers their question and they leave.

Google has no issue with that.

What Google will have a problem with is if someone clicks through to your site, leaves, and clicks through to the next result on the page. It’s called pogo-sticking, and it tells Google that your article doesn’t fit with the keyword the user searched for.

Bing will often take a chance on a new kid, whereas Google wants to know you’re in it for the long haul

Not on-page SEO anyway. It’s actually common sense, but only once you’ve had it pointed out to you.

Once you’ve mastered it, they change it again.

I once built a company’s website using Elementor. I started it on my Macbook, but finished it on their crappy Windows laptop. half of the functionality of Elementor wasn’t available, because the laptop wasn’t powerful enough.

Seriously, I had to finish it on my iPhone.

Pagebuilders are often slow if you’re not a designer, so still with a theme like GeneratePress.

It makes articles easy to skim

See above.

I currently don’t have time, but it’s on my list. Also, the sound of my own voice makes me want to flush myself down the toilet

In the beginning stages of a new website, I batch my post prep (images etc), write about 30 posts, publish them, and then go back and check for spelling and grammar errors.

Er, sometimes.

Often they just get caught when I’m spending the day adding internal links.

It’s a free software extension that’ll pick up any rogue effect/affect errors.

We’re all sick to the back teeth of them

Your newsletter will only feature things your target audience care about, for example, any new gear you’ve bought, new research in the industry etc. No one wants your crappy course.

Wait for your traffic to grow. Almost all forms on monetisation (including affiliate links) will slow your site to some degree. You need to have an edge over your competitors in the early stages, and often a fast website will give you one.

You’re procrastinating. Stop chasing traffic, and start creating useful content. Even Tailwind knows that Pinterest doesn’t want to be every blogger’s bitch anymore, and is moving towards Instagram.

Pin your stuff, sure. But other than that, just use Pinterest like a normal person. Don’t rely on an algorithm to give you exposure — create great content and, er, expose yourself.

You know what I mean.

If you’re having trouble standing out in your niche, narrow your niche farther.

If you don’t have time, you don’t have time — there’s not a lot you can do about that, but also using that as an excuse will not earn you a free pass from Google.

I’m meant to say something encouraging like ‘never give up!’ but if you hate your niche, move on. Often if you upgrade your hosting you can have multiple websites.

If you still want to be a blogger but want to change your niche, I advise to start a new website from scratch will a new domain. Leave your old site exactly as it was. You might come to it later, or it might just need time to rank.

But if you want to give up, go ahead. If blogging makes you miserable, try something else.

  • Fiction you’ve written
  • Personal essays you’ve written
  • Poetry you’ve written

Literally no one is going to be searching for that. How will they EVER find you?

Put that stuff on Medium.

Start a website that addresses the pain points of other fiction or poetry writers. Maybe your audience will want you to share at some point

Don’t be like the million girls that created vlogs channels, hoping to be the next Zoe Sugg. Sugg was an early adopter. She shaped the industry.

We don’t really have that luxury.

Blogs have moved on. If you’re not helping people in some way, you’ll struggle to get traffic.

There are few things as distracting as one’s own reflection. I also like to use the Flora app to keep from playing on my phone.

They probably won’t rank. I mean, who’s searching for ‘101 things some randomer wish she’d known about blogging 10 years ago’?

No one.

Still, I had some spare time, and GOD I wish someone had written this post for me.

I hope it can help you.

Originally published at https://stonecoldcontent.com on May 11, 2020.

Writer, blogger. Rabbit parent to one. Plant parent to many. Occasional runner, jigsaw puzzle enthusiast.

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