Blogging 101: Blogging for Beginners

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Was one of your New Year resolutions to start a blog? Is it something you’ve always wanted to do? Well, while I can’t guarantee you a successful money maker – although I hope to goodness it will be – I can guide you in the right direction so you can finally get started on that bad boy. If you’re eager to start a blog and have no idea where to begin, just follow these steps to blogging for beginners:

CHOOSE A SUBJECT

What do you want to write about? Do you want to blog about food, travel, or just your everyday thoughts? You literally can blog about any topic that interests you even a little bit. It’s tough coming into a saturated market such a fashion, travel, or even hair, but if that’s your passion, I say go for it. You don’t have to tell me that everyone and their mother is a travel blogger of some sort, but this is my #1 passion and nothing can stop me from writing about it. Not even when I try to talk myself out of it and focus on a niche that’s not as popular. One way that I stay focused on my own work is almost never checking out the competition. I live by the saying “comparison is the thief of joy.”

If I spent my time looking at everyone else who does what I do, I’d not only be miserable, but I’d probably never feel comfortable actually hitting publish on anything. I’d be comparing my work to theirs, seeing who has more followers… I’d probably be looking at what they’re blogging about and try to mimic it because if they got successful doing it, I should too, right? Well, maybe. But there’s no exact recipe to success other than persistence and consistency. Your journey is yours and yours alone. You could be a success doing something half as good as someone who’s been doing it for years or you could fail doing the same exact thing as someone else. So do what it is that YOU want to do. Write about whatever it is that you want to write about, because if you don’t care about what you’re saying, neither will your audience. So, if you want to blog about your micro-brewery journey/experience, do you boo. Go for it, stick with it, and don’t give up.

I recommend starting off with one subject and branching out later. Once you believe you’re ready to throw in another, do it. You need to start off with a clear voice, vision, and goal. Don’t try to seem as if you know a little about everything, but rather master one topic. There are still things that I want to write about that either don’t fit in with my current brand or I believe it’s too soon to introduce them. That’s just me, but I like to think I give pretty decent advice.

DECIDE ON A NAME

Okay so you’ve decided what you want to write about, now it’s time to come up with a name. Then make sure that name is available! I’d hate for you to become invested only to find out shakeyourmoneymaker.com is already taken. Wherever you decide to purchase a name is where you can check to see if it’s available, but here’s a site that’s super helpful. I’m pretty sure I purchased mine through Bluehost so there is where I kept typing things in to see if they were available. It was a frustrating process just coming up with one and the one I originally wanted was definitely taken and barely being used.

My first website was a version of my first and middle name, because my first and last name are taken, and I was set on using a .com domain versus .net, .co, etc. I recommend you go with .com, so if it’s not available, try to have a backup plan. I used my name originally because I didn’t want to write about just one thing and I am my brand. While I am still my brand, I knew the second time around I wanted travel to be my main focus. For those who don’t know, wanderlust is the innate desire to travel the world. It’s a real thing and means so much to me that I got the word “wanderlust” tattooed on the back of my leg more than a few years ago, accompanied by an old school nautical compass. It’s crazy that this was before I was doing any “real traveling” and way before Wanderlust My Way came to fruition. I’d thought of several cute and catchier names but they weren’t available. I was also advised to have a more simple name that people could remember easily, but if you’re a traveler or wanna-be-traveler and wanderlust is in your heart, you’ll remember the name. It’s you that I write for.

WHICH PLATFORM TO CHOOSE?

I gave up on blogging for a little while because I was discouraged and letting life hit me with full force, however, I was housing some old blogs on WordPress.com because I didn’t want them to disappear into the ether for the rest of forever. Once I decided to give blogging another chance, I knew I wanted a professional looking website that would be taken as seriously as I take this job. I call it a job because that’s exactly what it is. I will never say that it isn’t hard work. The toughest decision I had to make in the beginning? Deciding on where the hell to house this bad boy. I only had to choose between two: Squarespace and WordPress. I knew I wanted to one day have ads and tweak my coding and design, and that just wasn’t possible with wordpress.com (different from wordpress.org).

Squarespace – When I started my first blog ever I decided to use Squarespace as I am pretty tech illiterate and was sold on the beautiful templates and ease of use. I just wanted to write, drag, an drop and still have a professional looking website. So I paid for a year of Squarespace and got to work. It was also nice having 24/7 customer service access for any weird questions I had. My only drawback was not having an email address for my site (this is probably being offered now) and having to upgrade my package in order to sell more than one product. While there have been major upgrades and plenty more gorgeous templates added, the price alone is why I am no longer with Squarespace and probably won’t return anytime soon. It’s a minimum of $144 a year to run a personal site and if you want to pay monthly, it’s a minimum of $192. Now some may look at that as a measly investment for peace of mind and ease of use, but for me, WordPress.org was the winner.

WordPress.org – If you just want to start off as a blog only, then maybe WordPress.com will work for you until you’re ready to upgrade. But if you plan on eventually generating an income from your website, I say go with .org. Here’s an awesome post to help distinguish the difference between the two. I searched google incessantly trying to decide and posts like this helped a ton in making my final decision. I knew for the direction I was going and what I ultimately wanted to do with my website and brand, .org was the one for me. The only thing is you need a hosting site, which is literally a few bucks a month. I was recommended using Bluehost and I’m glad I went with them as I had no idea how to choose one of the many offered. I didn’t even know what hosting was. A web host is who actually houses your website and provides storage space and access to it. Luckily, Bluehost is also recommended by WordPress itself so I know I went with the right choice. Now this is my Bluehost referral link so be sure to use it to get the sale price of $3.95 per month versus $7.95. See? Just a few bucks. They give you a FREE domain name, one click WordPress installment, and 24/7 support. For this price you can’t beat it. Just factor in the one time purchase of your template, if you don’t choose a free one, and it’s still cheaper than SS.

WordPress.org “Cons” – I don’t really want to label this as a con, but with .org you have to be willing to learn and research so that your site comes together. There’s pretty much a plug in for everything and when I am confused about something or unsure of how to do it, I google that baby. Want to add an Instagram feed to your website? There’s a plug in. Want to make your website SEO friendly? There’s a plug in for that. Even with things went wrong on my site such as photos not showing up or not showing up properly, I searched google only to see that there was a plug in for it, two plug ins I had didn’t work well together, or I was simply doing something incorrectly. I literally googled everything. Even if you don’t think much is going on with my site, know that aside from the layout, I feel like I built this kid from scratch. It’s my baby and something I’m damn proud of for figuring out on my own (with Professor Google’s assistance). It can be tough and frustrating at times but know that there’s an answer for any issue or question you come across. One option around this is hiring someone familiar with setting up these sites to get it running for you and then you take it from there. I often times consider offering this service because I swear once you get the hang of it, it’s that simple!

START WRITING

Okay so you chose a platform and/or a host. Good for you. I’m sure you put a lot of thought and effort into it. Maybe even a little sweat and tears. It was all worth it though, right? Now it’s time for you to begin writing. While this seems like the easiest part, it can be a daunting task. I know it’s hard for me to force myself to write. I usually have to be in the mood or let it happen naturally, but when you get paid for it, a deadline is a deadline is a deadline.

Content Planning and Scheduling – While I don’t think it’s necessary to write out all content days or weeks in advance and put it on a timer (shoutout to those that do), I do think it’s best to at least launch with several pieces of content. I think I had three up and ready for publishing when Wanderlust, My Way went live. If I had more material, I probably would’ve shot for ten pieces, or at least five. So prior to launching, come up with about five blogs to have ready once you hit “publish” on your website.

Outline – You may come up with a great topic to write about but have no clue where to begin. This is when we need to take it back to grade school and outline the post. You have your main topic, and all the subtopics you want to touch on. This is especially good for long form posts where there can be loads of information all over the place. I actually outlined this post prior to writing.

Make Edits & Publish – Sometimes I hate going back over posts to reread. I’m not exactly a second pair of eyes so even then it’s easy to slip-up and leave a typo in. What I hate more is actually publishing and spotting a typo or something incorrect. I’m telling you, proofread and preview the post before publishing to save your nerves and embarrassment in your own head. Either way you can always go back to edit.

WHO’S YOUR AUDIENCE?

Sometimes people create entire concepts without first figuring out who their audience is. Who did you create your product for? Who are you assisting or speaking to? These are very important questions to ask yourself and you can actually go over this before even starting your blog. Because I wanted to address my own problems and those of my peers regarding traveling, I knew I was speaking to those like myself. I ended up changing the age range of my audience because not only was I getting older, I know that these aren’t just millennial issues or questions. It’s okay to change or alter your target audience or even just decide to go after an entirely new one! Just make sure the content is relevant and geared toward them. How do they speak? Do they watch videos more than read articles? This is simple research that is imperative to the success of your brand. Create surveys and ask your friends or followers to fill them out and assist you or even go after strangers you believe would be interested in what you have to say. Be bold!

GO WHERE THEY ARE!

Now that you know your audience it’s only right to hunt them down. Sometimes this can be as simple as a google search such as “what’s the most popular social media platform for people between 25-30?” When it comes to travel, people are sold on the beautiful photos more than anything. Where can I showcase photos? Instagram of course, in addition to Pinterest. For some reason I avoid Pinterest like the plague, but it’s a great channel for driving traffic, especially photo based, to a website. I can create graphics and label them so people can not only search and find them, but click right through to my website. When you think about it, this is a lot more simple than ever changing, hashtag driven, Instagram. Now while I know these channels are best for me, Twitter may be best for you. Or possibly YouTube or Reddit. You HAVE to go where they are and showcase/market your content. And Boom. Before you know it you’re building your audience in no time.

While I just found out yesterday that Google is the #1 driver of traffic to my site, I would never rely on people to simply find me. You have to be your own PR person and biggest fan and share your content with any and everybody willing to listen. Your success depends on you. Never forget that.

I hope this was helpful. If you have ANY questions don’t hesitate to drop them below. Someone else may be wondering the same thing. 🙂

xo,

M.

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