So, we made it! We’ve kept our blog running for one whole year and we’ve learned a lot in the process. My goal was to share our story and provide helpful content and a bit of inspiration to other travelers out there. I hope we can say we’ve done that. I can’t tell you how to make a blog your full-time job or become insta-famous, because I’m not. But, there are a few things I wish I would’ve known before I started, or at least learned early on. Even if your goal isn’t money or fame, you’re most likely creating content with the purpose of sharing it with an actual audience (or maybe it’s just for you, and that’s cool too!). Here’s our blogging tips for a beginner, or what I know now that I wish I knew one year ago.
1 Build up your Blog Launch
We set up our blog and went live with one simple article, and then continued posting as often as we could. I later realized that anyone who initially landed on our page didn’t see much, and probably wasn’t likely to return.
Looking back, it would have been smart to spend some time developing our voice and style over a few articles before we posted them to our blog. I’ve seen plenty of sites that build up hype about their launch by setting up all of social media channels first and creating a countdown. Starting with a simple landing page on your website to collect email addresses for a newsletter or blog updates is a great way to start building an audience. That way, when your website goes live with a handful of articles that showcase what you’re all about, you have more people than just your Mom to share it with. (Thanks for reading, Mom!)
2 Find a Good Hosting Service
If you choose right, you won’t ever need to think about this again. When choosing a hosting provider, the key things to look at are space, bandwidth and cost per month. Solid options to host a WordPress site include InMotion Hosting and SiteGround. For a thorough review of all of the major WordPress hosting providers, check out this article.
3 Get a Template You Love
We started out with a free template that looked nice, but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. Any time I wanted to make the tiniest customization, it took me hours. I’m not a coder, and don’t pretend to be. If you can build your own website from scratch, awesome. I basically found what I was looking for in a theme by Solo Pine. I already liked how it looked, but loved it even more when I realized how easy it is to customize with simple check-the-box options or widgets. At $49, it’s well worth the cost.
4 Figure out your Niche
I struggle with finding the balance between wanting to share everything, and only including things that fit with the theme or brand we’re trying to build. It’s something that is in constant evolution, but the main thing I try to do is make sure that I’m comfortable with our content, we’re having fun, and it represents who we really are.
5 Don’t Ignore SEO
To start, use a plugin like Yoast SEO to help you with the basics. I’m still trying to wrap my head around a lot of the SEO strategy tips, but these are the main points you need to understand to move up on a search engine.
Domain Authority (DA): It’s a measure out of 100 of the power of domain name, and the higher, the better. Websites with a higher DA are more likely to come up on page one of a search engine like Google, making it easier to find. A DA of 30 is a solid goal for a blog, and producing quality content and securing strong back-links are key to getting there. You can check any website’s DA on Moz.
How to pick keywords: There’s no exact science to picking the right keyword, but the most important things to do are 1) select a phrase that people actually search, and 2) one for which your site can rank. If there’s too many big fish ahead of you, no one is ever going to make it to page 5 on their Google search to find your link. Tools like KeySearch can help take some of the mystery out of it and show you your competition. I found this video tutorial on how to use KeySearch very helpful.
6 Get Social and Make Connections
Blogging is fun by yourself, but it’s much more fun with others. You are hopefully blogging about something you’re passionate about, be it travel, knitting, or basketball. Your blog can be a great tool to connect with other people who are just as excited about it as you are.
Time is pulled in so many directions. I often times find myself spending all my hours on these social media platforms, and then run out of time to actually post to my blog, which is the whole point in the first place. I’m trying to pick one or two to concentrate on so I can spend time doing what I enjoy!
Pinterest so far has been our biggest referral source. These are the best tools I’ve found for Pinterest:
Canva – this program makes it easy to create a professional-looking pin.
Tailwind – this program lets you set up automatic scheduling so you can post regularly without always being on Pinterest. Another great (and free!) feature is something called a Tailwind Tribe. Within the program, you can form a group of people with similar interests, and easily add your pins to the shared Tribe board. I have a Tribe for Family Travel Bloggers; if you’d like to join, check it out here. And for a free month of Tailwind Plus, use our referral link here.
Join Group Boards – Group boards are another way to share your pins with a larger audience and find more quality content to pin. To find group boards in your niche, check out pingroupie.com
While the visibility for sharing our posts on Facebook is pretty small, it’s been a helpful way to connect with other travelers and bloggers to share tips about running a blog, just like I’m doing here. I was late to the Facebook group party, so much of what I’ve learned has been trial and error. Once I started joining a few Facebook groups, I saw so many others throw a question out to the crowd, and watched as people chimed in to help, sharing their personal experiences of what not to do, or how to do it better. I’ve found these groups to be the most helpful (1, 2).
The most helpful thing we’ve done to get Facebook shares is to reach out to larger Facebook pages and ask if they would like to share one of our related posts with their readers. For example, a Portugal page with over 40,000 fans recently shared one of our Portugal blog posts, which resulted in way more exposure than when we shared the post on our own Facebook page.
There’s a million things to think about with Instagram: Your caption, when to post, hashtags, engaging with other users, Instagram Stories, and of course we can’t forget the actual picture. These are a few tools that help me to create a better Instagram feed:
1 Picture: If I have time, I’ll edit a photo in Lightroom on the computer, but usually end up using an app to update a little bit more to fit in with my feed. My favorite free editing apps are VSCO, Snapseed, and for a little more fun, A Color Story.
If you don’t already have Lightroom or Photoshop, Affinity Photo is a great professional photo editing software option. It’s available for both Mac and Windows users, was named best Mac app of 2015, and it’s only $49 (to buy, no subscription). Affinity is more comparable to Photoshop, and I’m planning on making the switch to Affinity when I’m ready to upgrade from Lightroom (planning on that being soon!).
2 Planning your feed: I never thought about planning my feed until I realized a lot of people click on your profile, and decide whether to follow you from there. We may have had great individual photos, but they really didn’t flow. I’ve started using an app called Planoly so I can upload a photo before I post to see how it fits within the overall grid. I try to make sure the color and style is consistent, and that I’m not posting too much of the same thing. That way, when someone looks at my feed, it has the overall feel I’m going for and looks more like a story than a jumbled mess.
3 Analytics tool: If you’re really into metrics and tracking your stats, Iconosquare is a great option tool to see which of your posts are most engaging, your best time to post, and what hashtags are working for you. The app comes with a whole suite of analytics, so you can really delve into the detail. Get 20% off when you sign up with our referral link here.
These are a few useful tools for Twitter:
1 Tweriod: to identify best times to tweet
2 Buffer: to schedule tweets
3 IFTTT: (If This Then That) to automatically post based on other social media sharing, such as automatically tweeting your Instagram post.
— No Man Before (@nomanbefore) February 23, 2017
I am pretty new to Flipboard as a content creator, though I’ve been using it as a news source for awhile. Recently, I created a profile and my own magazine (just what they call it when you title a page and post some links). I also joined a group to share my content with others. Here’s an article to walk you through the basics.