Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Blog: What I Learned My First Year of Blogging

Beginners Guide to Blogging : What I Learned My First Year of Blogging

This post contains affiliate links, which can lead to compensation at no cost to my viewers. All opinions are my own.  

Background

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been blogging for well over a year now. I first started my blog, Our Wandering Mind, when I was studying abroad in Australia. While being abroad, I was always on Pinterest and other blogs looking for new places to go, things to do, and where to eat. This made me think that writing about my favorite restaurant or a new private spot that I found would benefit someone else visiting the same area and therefore finally gave me the push to start my own blog!

I always enjoyed having a creative outlet. During middle school, I started a YouTube channel and would post beauty, fashion, and college related videos. At the time, I loved it, but then I slowly started losing motivation. Blogging is the perfect creative outlet for me. I’m able to blog anywhere in the world, at any time of the day.

Enough with my story about how I got started with my blog, now I’ll get into the important information, things that I learned my first year of blogging, essentially, a beginner’s guide to blogging. Before I started blogging I did a lot of research. Blogging is hard work, don’t let anyone tell you it’s not! I went through different hosts, different templates, and so many different plugins, and I’m still learning today.

I hope that this post will cut down your time researching the same things that I researched and just give you the straight up best of the best when it comes to blogging. That being said, I know that this blog post is pretty long, (believe me, I know!) It took me a long time to write because I wanted to make sure that this was the perfect, ultimate guide that beginner bloggers could look at and immediately know how to start their blog. I wanted something that simply laid everything out that one would need to know without any confusing words, terms, and all the extras. I hope that you find this post easy to understand and straight to the point and ultimately help you start your own blog!

Domain and Hosting

If you want a custom domain (such as mine at www.ourwanderingmind.com), you need to pay for a domain name. I personally registered my domain at Go Daddy. The process itself was pretty straight forward and easy, once I figured out my blog name that is! The thing is, if you’re looking to eventually make money off of your blog or use it professionally, you’re going to have to invest some money. If you’re not interested in doing that, you can sign up with multiple servers like Weebly, WordPress.com, Squarespace etc. However, if you do that, the web address would be www.ourwanderingmind.weebly.com. It really depends on what you want to do!

I knew that I wanted to use WordPress for my website since it’s so customizable and I could add plugins to really make my website exactly what I wanted. There’s WordPress.com which is a free service where you can’t download plugins and you have a lot of limitations. WordPress.org is a file that you download, but you can access and edit your blog anywhere in the world, confusing, I know!

After switching around my hosting a couple of times, I’ve landed with Bluehost. Not going to lie, I’ve had some problems with Bluehost. There have been times that my blog was down for a little bit and I needed to upgrade to more space. However since I’ve upgraded months ago, I haven’t had a problem since. What I do like about Bluehost is that the user page is very user-friendly and it’s only $3.95 a month and that includes your domain name free for a year! Such a budget friendly option when starting your blog! I can easily find what I’m looking for and if I ever had a problem, they have customer service chat available, which I’ve used many times.

Design

I am not a tech-savvy person. With watching videos and looking at blogs, I’m able to figure out how to do quite a bit with my blog. However, website design is not something that I want to mess with which is why I opted for a pre-made template for my blog. There are many templates for WordPress. I simply googled “WordPress Templates” and found a whole plethora of templates for any type of website. I personally choose to pay a little bit for a theme that I loved, however, there are many free themes for you to choose from. My theme is Sachiko Theme by Youxi Themes. I really recommend Youxi Themes. Not only was the template beautiful, but if I had a question about anything I was able to message the creator and get almost an immediate response. If you’re looking for a different style theme, I highly recommend checking out Envato Market.

Tips on Blogging

The number one tip I have when it comes to blogging is consistency. I, myself, struggle with this aspect of blogging, but it’s so important. Consistency will not only bring you steady views to your blog if you’re making great content, but it will let your readers know when to expect a new post from you, make you seem reliable, and therefore make people want to subscribe to your blog!

I highly recommend stocking up on not so time-sensitive blog posts (i.e. not holiday posts, monthly favorites, seasonal posts etc.). Before you even launch your blog, have at least 5 posts stocked up. This way you’re almost ahead of the game and can truly put out your best work instead of just throwing together posts daily because you feel like you need to post every single day.

With that being said, you also need to come up with a schedule. How often do you want to post? I’ve seen people say they recommend posting every single day, multiple times a day, once a week, or a few times a week. For me, I feel like I can make quality content and post 2-3 times a week, so that’s what I aim to do.

Having stock posts is perfect for times when you are taking longer on other posts (this post, for example, took more time to write compared to an Outfit of the Day post). However, having stock posts are also perfect when you just don’t have time. If you’re starting a blog, chances are you’re not a full-time blogger yet. This means you have other priorities as well. For me, I was a full-time student, working 25-30 hours a week, had an internship, and was involved on campus, needless to say, I was extremely busy. However, with stock posts, I was able to post 3 times a week last semester. However, when graduation rolled around, I moved out of my apartment and back home, that’s where I got off track. If I had planned ahead and had more stock posts, I could have easily maintained the 3 posts a week.

How to Get Money

Probably the #1 searched topic when it comes to blogging is how to make money off of blogging. However, I added this section towards the end because I feel like you should have a steady structure for your blog before you try adding ads and affiliate marketing. I personally didn’t look into adding advertisements or affiliate marketing until I had my blog for about 3 months. This gave me time to get settled in, have a routine, and figure things out. Adding advertisements later on, as opposed to right, in the beginning, doesn’t make you seem like your money hungry. However, if you’re looking to start making money from the beginning, more power to you!

There are so many different ways to make money when it comes to blogging, I’m still figuring out new ways to this day.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is probably the most popular way other than sponsored posts to make money while blogging. How affiliate marketing works is pretty simple. Essentially, you become an “affiliate” with a company, you get a special link or code and if people click on that link, purchase items from that link, or use your coupon code, you get a profit with no cost to the viewer. The profit from each affiliate is completely different. Some companies offer you straight up cash like $20 for each person who signs up with your code and others may offer you a percentage of what the viewer spent, it all depends on the company.

I personally haven’t gotten too far into affiliate marketing yet, but it’s something that I definitely want to start getting into more. The great thing about affiliate marketing is chances are a product or brand that you already love and use has an affiliate program. That means that products or companies that you were already going to mention on your blog allow you to sign up to become an affiliate with them and potentially make some money.

There are a few extremely popular affiliate programs out there. Amazon is one of the most popular affiliate programs. Simply apply to become an affiliate and link almost any product on Amazon. Your viewers don’t even need to purchase that specific product, but if they buy anything using your Amazon link, you get a percentage of the purchase!

Ebates is another one of my favorite affiliate programs. Ebates is something that I personally use every time I online shop. If you don’t know what Ebates is, it’s pretty simple. It’s an online market that pays you to shop! Just go to the Ebates web page before online shopping, search the store you want to shop at, and Ebates will redirect you to the store and you’ll get cash back on your purchases. I especially love using Ebates around the holiday season when I’m doing a lot of online shopping. Not only is Ebates great for consumers, but for bloggers as well. Earn $5 for every person that signs up using your link and earn $40 when two people use your link and make purchases. Super easy cash!

If you love traveling like I do, another affiliate program that’s perfect for you is with Airbnb. Airbnb is extremely popular and for good reason. With Airbnb, you’re able to search for a private room, an apartment, mansion, or even a castle for your trip. This service not only makes your trip have more of a homey feel, but most of the time it’s cheaper than staying at a hotel. Airbnb is also great to bloggers and social media influencers with a great affiliate deal. Although you’re not getting cash straight up, you’re getting $200 for every viewer you get to book their first trip with Airbnb. The amazing incentive is with clicking on your referral link, that person is getting $40 off their first stay, it’s a win-win for everyone!

If you’re interested in trying out free products, Brandbacker is the affiliate program for you. I’ve had great success with Brandbacker, even with just starting out. I’ve tried out a handful of different products that I’ve fallen in love with that I wouldn’t have tried otherwise thanks to Brandbacker. I’ve worked with Derma-E, Hask, Finesse, and Vanity Planet. Brandbacker is an affiliate program, which means they act as a middle-man between you and the brand. There are some pros and cons to affiliate networks. A pro would be the affiliate program basically does all the work for you, other than writing and creating the content of course! They give you the requirements, supply you with social media links, and give you step-by-step instructions throughout your campaign which I like. However, with using a middleman you’re not able to build a personal relationship with the company which many bloggers strive for, for future campaigns and networking purposes. Also with an affiliate program, the middle-man is taking some of the profit away from the blogger.

Personally, on Brandbacker I haven’t received any compensation other than products, but I know some bloggers with more views have received both money and products for campaigns, just depends on what you pitch and your stats. There are a few other affiliate programs out there that I’ve experimented with a little bit such as Social Fabric.

Sponsored Posts

Sponsored posts are basically posts where a company sponsors you. This means that you are getting some kind of compensation for blogging about their product or service. Whether it be a free product, getting paid, or getting a couple of nights stay at their hotel, if you have an agreement with a company and you’re getting compensated, that means that your post is sponsored. Campaigns that you participate in affiliate programs like Brandbacker are sponsored posts. However, you can get sponsored posts pretty easily without the middleman.

Using Facebook groups like That Pitch Life to get company contacts or looking directly on a company’s website to contact them directly and pitch them your idea is a great way to get sponsorships. I’ve reached out to so many different companies and have heard back from a few, but in the end, only a couple of companies agreed to my terms and conditions when it comes to my blog and sponsored posts. So far with direct pitching, I was able to get a free tw0-night stay at the beautiful 250 Main hotel in Rockland, Maine and be able to test out Smile Brilliant’s At-Home Custom Teeth Whitening Set and host a giveaway for my viewers!

You may get a lot of ‘nos’ or no responses at all. You may also get responses, but you don’t like the terms and conditions of it. I personally recommend to stick with your gut, know your worth, and don’t settle for anything. I’ve learned from other bloggers that a lot of companies may try to take advantage of bloggers and truly don’t know the worth of blogging. At the end of the day, don’t get frustrated and keep trying. If you’re pitching great ideas, you’ll eventually get an offer!

Disclosure

One of the things that are so vital when doing sponsored posts or affiliate links is stating that the post contains affiliate links or is a sponsored post. If you don’t state it correctly or try to hide it you can get in huge trouble with the FTC. There are many different ways to state that the content is sponsored without turning away viewers. On the side of my blog, I have a little paragraph stating “Our Wandering Mind contains affiliate links, which can lead to compensation. All opinions are honest and my own and sponsored blog posts will be stated as such.”  As the paragraph states, if my post is sponsored I also mention that the company sent me the products for an honest review or simply say “this post is sponsored by ____.” You definitely want to make sponsored posts known so you don’t get in trouble later on. If you’re creating great, honest content, your viewers shouldn’t care if you’re getting compensated for a blog post or not.

Ads

Ads are another way to get some income on your blog. Most say that ads don’t really do much compensation wise since you’ll need a lot of views in order to make a small amount of money. Regardless, I do have Adsense from Google on my blog in a few different spaces. I personally didn’t want my blog full of ads, I don’t like the look and I want my blog to feel more genuine. The nice thing about Google Adsense is that you’re able to pick what type of ad you want and where you want to put them, so it’s easily customizable. To get paid on Google, you need to reach the $100 threshold, which I finally just reached! That being said, clearly, it can take a while!

Another form of ads that are more high paying is finding a company and advertising for them without the middleman like Google. A lot of bloggers and myself offer the option for a company to place an ad on the blog for a given amount of time. You’re able to set your own price and time frame for the ad. I personally haven’t had many companies reach out to me about advertising, but it’s something that I definitely have as an option and list it on my media kit.

How to Get Views

SEO is the key to getting views on your blog. SEO can be super confusing and complicated, but it really doesn’t have to be. Plugins such as SEO Yoast is perfect at giving you a step-by-step guide on getting the perfect SEO for every blog post.

SEO stands for search engine optimization. This essentially means how well you rank on Google. Websites that are on the first page when you search something have a great ranking verse websites that are on page eight or nine. To get a ranking on the first page you need to use key words that would be searched for and incorporate them into your post in a non-spammy way. With Yoast, it lets you know how your key word ranks and if there are any changes you need to make.

Social Media

Facebook is a great source of traffic along with other social media sites. I recommend setting up social media sites for your blog specifically such as a professional Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Even if you don’t plan on using a social media site definitely still create one in the beginning so you can claim your user name and don’t have to worry about someone already taking your name. I personally kept my personal Twitter and Instagram and changed it to a more professional site since I already had a following on both and my user name was simply just my first and last name which was fitting for my blog.

Facebook Groups & Networks

Facebook groups have supplied me with a huge source of traffic and information. As mentioned above, That Pitch Life is a great resource for finding brand contacts but there are many Facebook groups for bloggers specifically where you can exchange blogging insight, social media pages, and new blog posts. My favorite Facebook groups include Boost your Blog, Girl Boss Bloggers, and The Influenceher Collective.

Most Facebook groups are as simple as requesting to join. However, if you want to be apart of something with little more benefits, blogging networks are perfect. I’m personally a part of The Influencers Collective. With this network, I participate in the Facebook group, the Pinterest board, I get offered different sponsored post opportunities, and there are different means of exposure. Basically, it’s a really involved community. Most networks have an application process and certain requirements such as how long you must have your blog running before applying.

Pinterest

Pinterest gets its own section because that’s how important it is. The biggest driver of traffic for most blogs is Pinterest. If you’re not utilizing Pinterest, you definitely need to be. Pinterest images have a long shelf life which means your images and posts can be resurfaced over and over again. Pinterest rewards active member so make sure you’re pinning every day or using a scheduler like HootSuite to do the work for you. Just like Facebook, there’s group Pinterest boards, that you’ll definitely want to be apart of. Group boards allow your pins to be noticed and potentially repined by more people. You can join my Pinterest board, Our Wandering Mind Bloggers, by clicking here. A few of my other favorite Pinterest boards include The Influenceher Collective, Lovely Bloggers, Traveler’s Corner, and Lifestyle Bloggers Keeping It Real.

Educate Yourself

Lastly, what I’ve learned from a little over a year of blogging is to constantly educate yourself. There’s always new affiliate markets, Instagram techniques, ways to pitch companies, or different ways to market your blog. Learning from other bloggers by simply searching a question on Pinterest or watching videos on email marketing on Skillshare. I’m constantly looking at other bloggers for inspiration and searching the Internet for ways to improve my blogging.

Other Favorite Resources and Plugins

Grammarly: Grammarly is an awesome plugin that goes straight on your Internet browser. If you’re not a perfect speller or grammars not your thing, Grammarly is a must. Grammarly edits your writing better than any other app that I have ever used from anything from your blog posts, an email, or even a Facebook comment. Not only will it make sure you have the proper spelling, but Grammarly will make sure that you’re using the right word and ensure that your sentence is making sense. Seriously it’s a game changer!

Canva: Canva is like Photoshop but free and user-friendly. You can make Pinterest images and blog images along with anything from social media images, email headers, or PDF flyers in minutes using Canva. I’ve not only used Canva for blogging purposes, but I use it daily for other aspects of my life as well.

Revive Old Posts: This plugin is one of the ones that do it for you. By just simply pressing a button this random generator picks a random blog post and posts it on your Twitter. It’s easily customizable and allows you to keep your older posts still active.

Pinterest Pin it Button: As I mentioned, Pinterest is the number one driver for most blogs. This plugin adds a little “pin it” button when hovering over images on your blog. This allows viewers to easily pin your photos on your blog which will drive more traffic to your blog.

Google Analytics: Google Analytics is something that you definitely want to set up. It allows you to accurately keep track of your viewer count, demographics, and what your blog’s overall stats are. This is important not only for your own insight but a lot of networks and companies will ask for this information so it’s important to have it all set up and figured out beforehand.

Bloglovin‘: Bloglovin‘ is a web page that allows you to follow all your favorite bloggers in one place along with finding other new blogs. I definitely recommend being apart of Bloglovin’ because you don’t want to miss out on this source of traffic.

As I mentioned, I’m always learning new things when it comes to blogging. I hope in the future to do an updated guide since the blogging world is constantly changing. That being said, if I found a blog post that laid everything out like this, it would have saved me a lot of time and money! I hope that you found this post helpful and ultimately helped you start your own blog!

If you have any tips, favorite affiliate markets, or any questions, please leave them in the comments down below!

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