I started blogging in 2013, I had no idea what I was doing.
I made a lot of mistakes.
My mistakes cost me a lot of time and money, and slowed the growth of my business in ways I can’t even measure.
Last week a client asked what I would do differently if I could go back and start over… and it got me thinking.
So here are 8 things I suggest all new bloggers do to avoid my beginner mistakes.
1. Start Before You’re Ready
No matter how long you wait, how much you learn, how many checklists or spreadsheets you make, you’ll never feel ready.
The first time you hit publish is going to be scary.
Do it anyway.
Learning and growth moves much faster when you have a real, live blog. Instead of theorizing about what you need to do, you can put your ideas into practice, see what works and what doesn’t, and adapt as needed.
When I started my first blog, I hesitated to put myself out there. Even when I finally published a post I wanted to keep it to myself. I was worried about what people would think… what they would say about me…
In the end, it was no big deal. A few people said they liked my posts, some others said they were happy for me, and more often than anything else, they wanted to know how I was doing it.
Lesson: Just hit publish. You’ll never be ready.
2. Quality Over Quantity
One of the most intimidating things when you’re starting a blog is when you look at the volume of content that more established bloggers have. It’s easy to think that you need to pump out as much as possible to “catch up” with them.
Content, however, is a quality craft.
At the beginning of my blogging journey I posted a new blog post every day.
I was trying to show that I was a “real” blogger by having a library full of content to share.
What actually happened was that I started approaching burnout incredibly fast, and, even worse, my content was mediocre. I felt frustrated because I was working all the time and my posts were getting any traction.
(It’s no wonder… they weren’t that great.)
Gradually I started to slow down my content production, and spend more time on quality. I went back and upgraded some of my old, blah posts and republished them as new, too.
Lo and behold, my page views started to tick up, people started spending more time on my site, and my income went way up.
Lesson: More is not better. Put out the best content you can and don’t worry about anyone else.
3. Start Your Email List As Soon As Possible
Your email list is your most precious commodity. Period.
The sooner you start getting people to join your email list, the better.
Your email list is the best way to get in touch with your audience. (Email has an average open rate of 20%, whereas social media posts will only reach 3-5% of your followers.) So, to paraphrase a common expression, you should always be list building.
I heard this advice when I started out, and I ignored it. I thought Facebook and my daily blog posts would be enough to get people to my site.
I was wrong.
The fact is that people are busy and they won’t just go check out your site because it’s awesome. They need you not only to remind them, but to make it as easy as possible to see what you’re doing.
When I started collecting emails, and sending out weekly messages, I saw a massive jump in my page views. Readers appreciated knowing about my new posts, and I made it easy for them to get there by including a link.
ConvertKit, the email service provider I use and recommend, even has a free plan now! So there’s no excuse to put it off.
4. Stay Within Your Niche
When you start a blog it’s important to choose a niche. This clarifies the purpose of your blog to your readers and helps you stay on topic when writing your posts.
However, a common mistake new bloggers make – including yours truly – is going off topic or following a new trend that doesn’t fit your niche.
My blog was for busy moms who wanted simple ideas for things to do with their kids, meals to make for their kids, and ways to organize their lives to make them easier. But I was so excited about everything I was learning about blogging, I added a new category to my site. The posts didn’t bomb, but they also didn’t get a lot of attention. Basically, I spent a lot of time and energy on posts my audience didn’t care about.
In the best possible scenario, a blog post that doesn’t fit your niche will just sit there on your site, and no one will read it. On the other hand, random, off topic posts can tank your SEO and confuse your readers, leading them to not follow your future links because they don’t have time to go see if you’re back to giving them what they want.
Lesson: Keep giving your audience what they signed up for. Pick a niche and stick with it.
5. Engage Your Small Audience
One of the biggest benefits of having a small audience is that you can really get to know them and what they need. Oftentimes these early supporters will become your most loyal readers and devoted fans…
IF you engage with them.
When they comment on a post, respond. If they reply back to your email, consider that an invitation to continue the conversation. Ask for their opinions, then go with what they say they want.
As your blog grows, you won’t have the time to engage on this level, so take advantage of it while you can,
In my first year I was so busy creating content. Every. Single. Day. that I didn’t allow myself to talk to my followers. I know I missed out on a huge opportunity to build relationships and to develop a solid base of go-to fans that I could always rely on for support, polls, and to spread the word about my blog.
Lesson: Embrace your small audience and let them help you make your blog even better.
6. Plan Your Posts in Advance
Most blogging gurus will tell you that you should write your blog posts well in advance – many suggest batching weeks of content at once – but that advice is often unreasonable for teachers. It may even prevent some people from getting started because it seems overwhelming.
Total honesty: I’m writing this post on Saturday to be published on Sunday. That’s the life of a teacher. Sometimes I’m able to batch and get ahead. Sometimes it’s a scramble the night before.
What you should do, though, is plan your posts in advance. Knowing what you’re going to write about for the next 3-6 months is not only good practice, it makes life easier. Having a content plan enables you to make sure your posts are aligned with your business goals, and it takes the pressure off when you sit down to start writing when you know where to start.
If I had a content plan when I started blogging, I wouldn’t have started writing about blogging and business.
Lesson: Even if you don’t have time to write posts in advance, create a plan to make life easier and stay on track. Check out the 5-Day Content Challenge to get your content plan together.
7. Ignore the Haters
Trolls are a part of life on the internet. While you can use plugins like Akismet to block spam comments on your blog, there’s no way to keep 100% of haters out of your hair.
The fact is that once you put anything on the internet, someone is going to not like it, take it wrong, or just say mean things because they’re sad little people who are deeply dissatisfied with themselves.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t post.
It just means that you have to have a thick skin.
When I got my first hater, I very nearly quit blogging. They really know how to push buttons. But just like the kids in your class who say horrible things because they are so desperate for attention, I learned not to take their words personally. (And unlike the kid in my class, I don’t have to engage with trolls at all. Just delete and move on.)
Lesson: Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate. Let it go… let it go…
8. Focus on Action, Not Analytics
I believe you need to know your numbers. You need to know what posts are doing well, and which aren’t. You need to know if the action you’re taking is working.
But before you can know if what you’re doing is effective, you need to take action.
In fact, the vast majority of your time should be spent doing things that will actively grow your blog and business.
There were days in the beginning when I would just sit and hit refresh on my blog stats page. I’d go start the dishwasher. Refresh the page. I’d grade some papers. Refresh the page. It was kind of pathetic. And all that time wasn’t doing anything to grow my blog. Sure, I knew 2 more people had viewed my blog, but I hadn’t done anything to help any more people find me.
Instead, set a date on your calendar each week or month to review your key performance indicators, and stay off the stats page otherwise.
Lesson: There’s a fine line between knowing your numbers and obsessing over them.
At the end of the day, everyone is going to make mistakes along the way to becoming a blogger. It’s normal, and it’s how we grow.
But you don’t have to make all the mistakes.
Now that you know some of my biggest mistakes… go out and make your own!