To celebrate our Blogiversary this week I am writing a series of special posts about blogging.
This post is about the things I wish I had known BEFORE I started blogging.
If you are a blogger then hopefully this will give you a laugh, some advice and some sympathy. If you are considering starting a blog, read this carefully and take it all in……and then start a blog anyway!
Here are my Top 10 Things I Wish I Had Known:
1) What I was getting into
One year ago I didn’t even know what a blog was! I’m serious! I had read a few, but was by no means an avid blog follower. I didn’t even know HOW to start writing a blog…I literally Googled it! I was a bored housewife, sat at home all day, newly married, in a new area, away from my friends and former volunteer work, waiting for my visa process to complete so I could legally work. Captain America was out at work all day and I was going crazy in our 900 square-foot apartment.
Months earlier, a friend had suggested I start a blog, and I laughed at her saying “I don’t write status updates on Facebook because I have nothing interesting to say, why would I write a blog!”. Somewhere that thought had lodged itself, and I was reminded of it, so then I looked into it….for all of 10 seconds (I am not the researching, patient kind!) Here was a window of
opportunity stupidity, and I was going to take it!
I literally had NO IDEA WHAT I WAS DOING and so began the constant, uphill struggle of learning to blog!
2) How much time it would take?
At first, this didn’t matter at all…….remember I was bored out of my mind so I didn’t care that it took me 2 hours to write one blog post or that I would lose at least 4 hours trying to figure out how to move one box or format one picture – time was flying by and I was happy and busy!
Fast forward a few months and now I am hooked, I love it! I’m seeing more and more readers each day, I remember the day my first post hit 50 views (I was so proud!) and I was learning new and exciting things each day! So we bought our domain name and signed up for self-hosting (way before I should or needed to btw!), I moved the blog to WordPress and now I was spending 8+ hours a day designing, learning HTML, googling EVERYTHING I didn’t know how to do, and only understanding about 10% of anything I read – which lead to horrible back and neck pain, hours and hours of frustration, hitting my head against any and every technological brick wall, eye-strain, feeling like a failure, and to top it off I gained weight because I was sitting ALL DAY!
HOW MY BLOGGING BUBBLE BURST…….but you see I also have a stubborn side and I was determined to keep moving forward!
3) What HTML, SEO and widgets are?
I would tell you….but I still don’t really know! I think my SEO is average-ish, but like everything to do wiiht blogging there is always room for improvement! I can edit some HTML but only if I know EXACTLY what to write and where to insert it in the code, or I can find someone else online to show me how, and widgets are really cool and do lots of fun stuff to make your blog look better and become more user friendly.
4) That I was a writer
Many people start blogging as an outlet for their ‘writing bug’. As we have well established, I did not have that bug – at all! I still don’t really consider myself ‘A Writer’, but many people have told me that I am skilled at it and can convey who I really am in my writing – which is important to me. This blog is about my life after all – so it should be my voice!
I have also come to appreciate the value in having ‘a voice’, however small it may be – it gives me a chance to share what I believe is important and give a voice to the things that need to be heard. I greatly value that opportunity and do not take it lightly.
5) A Growing Social Media Presence: How it works and Why it is important
Social Media Presence is as obnoxious as it sounds! There I said it! In order to have a ‘successful’ blog I have to have a good and growing social media presence, which means that a Facebook Page, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google + accounts are a minimum. Instagram is good if you use a lot of pictures and Bloglovin is the new blog ‘Reader’ so you need an account there too. There are literally hundreds of other social media sites that people use, and new ones being developed everyday, each one claiming to be “the one you need”.
Not only do you have to have these accounts but you have to use them regularly, more than once a day, ideally every few hours. Then you have to learn how to optimize your use of all of these sites, each has their own systems which change frequently, you have to keep up to date with all the changes, understand how and why they work and use them to your advantage! I have now discovered that there is a blogging world just designed for this alone, along with many ‘social media specialists’ who help/advise/confuse you.
I do not do this….I have accounts, I understand about 10% of their capacity at best, I do not use any of them to the best of my ability, if I think about any of them for too long I get overwhelmed and want to hide!
I still don’t understand Twitter and I don’t think I ever will!
I have drawn a line with social media for my own sanity, I choose to ignore most of it most of the time – and I am happy with that even if it means I will never have the world’s most successful blog!
6) Pinterest – it’s so much more than a dream board!
Pinterest is the only social media that I have actually found useful. For the first few months I didn’t understand why I kept finding articles written by other bloggers saying that Pinterest was the most important social media site you could have. They were telling me Pinterest will “drive traffic” to your blog and how I needed to pay close attention to it. I didn’t understand. When I pinned blog pictures nothing happened, I would gain a few pageviews, but that was it. I would repin other people’s pictures and they would be repinned hundreds of times…..but not my pictures 😦 Then, another blogger pinned one of my pictures – I had the highest number of pageviews ever on my blog, in fact that recipe is in my Top 5 Blog Posts BECAUSE OF THAT REPIN it still drives traffic DAILY to my blog because it has been repinned so many times.
Let me explain: When a picture is posted on Pinterest from your blog, it creates a link. If someone then sees that picture, and repins it, it creates a second version of that picture but keeps the link to your blog, now there are two versions of that picture going around Pinterest for people to see and repin. Every time someone clicks on any one of those two pictures they come direct to that page on your blog, creating ‘traffic’ and pageviews.
7) What “Driving Traffic” really means?
Driving Traffic has nothing to do with cars! It is about using that wonderful social media presence you have created to ‘make’ people come and look at your site. It’s important and yet you can’t really control it – whatever any social media expert may tell you!
8) That I have been on the biggest uphill learning curve ever!
Blogging is hands down the biggest uphill learning curve I have ever been on! There is not a week (or day) that goes by that I don’t discover something new, or something I should be doing. I didn’t realize how much I knew about blogging until recently when we had a handover meeting with our church website designer – I was the only one in the room who knew what he as talking about. I must admit that made me feel better about all this time and effort I have put into the blog this past year.
9) Comparison is you best friend and worst enemy
Don’t compare your blog! This is almost impossible to do, but try or it will destroy you!
I can’t look at another blog and wonder why they have this much advertising, or why their blog is seemingly more successful than mine. My blog is my blog and your blog is your blog! Yes, I can take tips and advice and learn from other more experienced bloggers – that has been invaluable to me and something I strongly recommend you do. However, I have to set boundaries for myself – if your blog is growing (even slightly) you are doing a great thing!
10) That it is satisfying, rewarding and beneficial
Having said all of that……I LOVE IT! I have made ‘blogging friends’ (something Captain America laughs at all the time), I have networks of other bloggers who I can talk to and get advice from. I have made some money from it……very little, but some. I have some fabulous comments on posts I have written, people share their hearts and lives with me and I with them. I have a space to speak into about the things that matter to me. I have an outlet for my creativity. I am now more tech-y than I ever thought possible. I have a growing blog, something I created from scratch that evolves and develops and changes. I have something to be proud of.