Today we’ll dive into talking about a few things you need to know before you start a blog.
These are experiences I’ve had over the last few years from launching a few blogs from writing entertainment reviews to lifestyle blogging with an emphasis on Asian/Korean skin care.
I’ll be talking about some basic things such as why you should get self-hosted from the get-go. That way you won’t waste time dealing with migration tech issues only to save a couple of dollars each month. Totally not worth it.
Then I’ll go deeper into talking about why you have to give up something whether you go the free organic traffic route or paid ads route.
Sounds like something you want to know?
#1 Before you start a blog, you need a traffic channel.
This is just the truth. If you want an audience, you’ll to need to find a traffic acquisition channel where most of your readers are going to come from.
Should you be the “jack of all trades” or the master of one?
As much as I like being the “jack of all trades”, be the master of one.
I started with Twitter, but quickly realized that Facebook and Pinterest is where most of my people are on. It’s okay to play around with a few channels for a while and see where your people are on and respond best.
In the beginning, it was evenly split between Facebook groups and Pinterest for me. As I spent more time creating content, testing pins and group boards, Pinterest is a more reliable traffic source when it comes to traffic.
I have to be active on Facebook groups’ threads to promote my stuff. And for the time that I’m active on it, I can’t use it to do anything else in my blog. Also, I scaled back my time on it after realizing the amount of drama FB groups can have.
#2 Focus on driving traffic to your content over perfecting every blog post and image.
Many bloggers are guilty of spending more time on creation over promotion. I’m one of them and probably will always be. Shrugs, I’m an introvert. Promotion just isn’t me.
But really, if you can’t perfect your traffic acquisition channel, nothing else will matter. I actually wrote a “very helpful” blog post on why you should put more work into your crafting a headline because it’s going to be your bread and butter.
By the way, I put that in quotation marks because that’s what one of my readers have said. (Oh hey, this is promotional Judy here.)
My point is, if you can’t master and understand how your traffic channel works, all the time you spend into creating valuable content won’t matter. No one will ever find it. That’s just a truth bomb I had to swallow early on.
#3 Don’t focus too heavily on social media. Pick one traffic channel and focus on maximizing and mastering it.
I never really understood the hype of social media really. Again, introvert Judy talking here.
Okay, I’ll admit that I was addicted to Instagram and it’s picture-perfect lifestyle photos a few years ago. That’s when I had a lifestyle blog and reviewed skincare products. I can say I haven’t touched my personal IG and FB for almost a year now. For the most part, I find social media a waste of time today. I will only use Facebook groups because there are actually real people and active threads discussing “real things.”
In one of my previous blogs in a much smaller niche, Twitter can be a reliable way to connect with my audience and let them know when I had a new post up. But for heyjudess, it’s lucky if I get three people to click-through a day. In my last blog, I can tweet something once and 10% of my followers will click through to read it. For this blog, even with a larger following, I don’t even get 1% on some days.
So know where to focus your efforts over time.
#4 There really is a price to pay even for free organic traffic. You either pay for ads or pay for your own time.
A year or so ago, I remember someone outrageously claim, “I took a course and that person suggested that we use paid ads!”
Now that statement wouldn’t have sounded that outrageous if I hadn’t worked in business and startups myself. Time is money. Also, I’m also in a position where I can afford to play around with some paid ads if I wanted to. If you’re not, that’s totally understandable.
The truth is, you’ll end up paying for ads or for your own time. That’s what I learned. You can spend a year writing tens and hundreds of blog posts for Google SEO or Pinterest, but it will take time and effort to work through those channels and optimize each blog post. Yes, each blog post. If you’re in popular niches like wealth, health, and relationships, you’re who I’m talking to.
It can take up to a year to grow your website on Google SEO. A few months at least if you’re in a not so crowded space.
And if you’re using free Pinterest organic traffic? There’s a few things you need to carve out time for:
- Creating your business account (setting up your profile and rich pins)
- Researching and joining group boards
- Scheduling your content on Boardbooster or Tailwind each week or month
- Creating and A/B testing pins to see which ones convert better
- Continue to pin content manually because Pinterest loves that
That’s only a handful of the things you’ll need to do if you were using organic “free” traffic from Pinterest?
Why did I put “free” in quotes? Because technically, it’s not free despite what many people think. You are paying for two things:
Your own time (that you will never get back once it’s gone)
Your scheduling tool (they have cheap plans and it’s much cheaper than paying for ads each month)
Am I saying that paid ads are better than organic traffic? Nope.
Am I saying that organic traffic is better than paid ads? That’s not the case either.
There is an honest price to pay for both.
So it just depends on what your situation is.
#5 Paid traffic will help you build your email list faster.
At the beginning of last month, I started to get very frustrated with my organic growth. But something that was itching me even more was how paid traffic was going to perform in comparison to organic traffic.
I tested out both FB ads and promoted pins, but now that I look back at it I thought it was crazy to play with both of them at once. Well, technically not at the same time. I tried them out back-to-back.
I didn’t do that well on FB ads. In fact, the results were so different from what I expected even though I did get a handful of leads.
Promoted pins, on the other arm, performed much better. I wish Pinterest analytics can give me more info on which search terms perform better without having to download a csv file each time.
With promoted pins, I was able to grow my email list 4-7x faster than when I only focused on organic traffic. Again, there are perks to using paid traffic.
During this time when I was focused on promoted pins, I didn’t get to post much at all on my blog. So you might ask, “do I even need a blog to build an email list? I want an email list for sure because they say that’s where the money is.”
The answer is you don’t. But we’ll explore that question for another day.
#6 Invest in a good WordPress theme, it’s not optional.
Not purchasing a paid theme is such a decision of last decade. If you’re blogging for fun, that’s totally fine. But if you’re pro blogging, getting a WordPress theme should be the next thing you get after getting self-hosting.
I remember helping out someone in a Facebook group to customize her theme only to realize she didn’t have a paid theme altogether. She wasn’t able to customize her blog fonts, colors, headers, etc. She knew that, but she still refused to get one. People will only want to invest so much time in you if you’ll invest in yourself.
If you’re on the fence about getting a theme because you don’t know how serious you are about blogging, don’t start a blog just yet. Instead, write and test your blog posts on Google docs and find real life or virtual friends to read it. You can also test how interested you are with your topic and niche before you really start.
But Google docs have no design?
Here’s the truth. People hardly come back to a website because the design is pretty. Unless you’re web designer and selling design services, most people are looking for helpful tips and tactics when they come to your blog. Not pretty designs.
#7 If you have been a writer at any point, you will have an unfair advantage.
I’ll be honest. If you write for your personal life, you’ll have a leg up in this.
Many people talk about “content is king”, “publish consistently, and “write content for others and not yourself”, but you also can’t underestimate the power of a good writer.
And to me, being a good writer has little to do with doing well in English class. Okay, fine I was that nerd that who actually looked forward to writing persuasive essays. But that’s only because I’ve first-hand witnessed how powerful words can be when they come out of someone who “knows how to talk.” They can persuade someone to think a certain way, but most importantly, to take action. In fact, looking back, this friend did have some influence on what I like to do.
So how do I become a better writer? This leads me to my next point.
#8 People don’t just want information, they want to hear amazing stories!
That’s it. That’s the secret. Do you know why Disney movies are always such a huge deal?
It’s because they know how to tell stories — and most of them ends with giving the viewer hope.
I’m not saying to structure all your stories around the theme of “hope”, but you do want to stay positive in your writing. Even if your stories start out with something less than ideal, you want to end it with a solution or steps people can take to relieve their situation. This is where you add value.
Let’s face it. Most of what you’re writing about is going to be the same as what other people are writing about in your niche. There’s billions of people on this planet and there just aren’t enough popular and profitable topics to go around. Ever wonder why you hear that every other blogger is a “lifestyle blogger?”
So what’s going to make you unique is how you tell your own stories in relation to your niche topics. That’s the only way to have a different perspective when everyone is a “lifestyle blogger.”
A few people who I find good at storytelling are:
- Neville from Kopywriting Kourse
- Derek Halpern
- Melyssa Griffin
A few YouTubers I love for storytelling are:
- Aileen from Lavendarie
- Claire from HeyClaire
#9 If you don’t like writing, consider a podcast or YouTube as an option.
If you don’t like writing, writing will be a chore to you.
Let’s face it. “Starting a blog” can be such a cliche. And frankly speaking, if writing isn’t your jam, you can consider other forms of content like a podcast or a YouTube channel.
I know some YouTubers who don’t make great bloggers (though they can be better writers if they tried). Meanwhile, there are some bloggers who are afraid of getting on video. We just have our own talents.
#10 Finding a niche that you love to talk about, that people love to come to you for, and that’s profitable is a priority. But it’s also a constantly evolving task.
I use to think niching down was a one-time, forever-done type of thing. I know, so silly when I go back and laugh at myself.
It’s not about having the one brainstorming session, fill out a couple worksheets and never go back to it. Along the path of niching down, you’ll realize that you might like another sub-topic more or your audience responds to another sub-topic better. You pivot. And find the harmony circle that works for both of you.
#11 Don’t be a perfectionist. Start early.
I remember hearing about this one person who said she wanted to “learn everything” before she starts. Hate to break your bubble, but that just won’t happen.
This is especially true if you’re in niches and industries that move very fast like Internet marketing.
“I barely learned about email funnels today and now I have to master live streams too?! What the… Funyuns!”
#12 Take everything with a grain of salt. Be open-minded, test the heck out of things, stay focused, but also be curious.
Online marketing tactics and platforms come and go quickly. Don’t get too attached to one strategy if it works for someone else, but not for you. There are so many factors that goes into a successful blog so just because something worked for one person doesn’t mean it’ll have the exact same impact on you.
For example, some bloggers believe in pinning other people’s content to group boards. They have seen results and an increase in their own traffic when they do that. For me, I have to disagree. I tested both out and when I only pin my own content to group boards, I see an increase in traffic to my website.
Your Action Steps Today:
If you don’t know what niche you’re tackling, open up a Google doc and start writing about your favorite topics.
If you can’t churn out 5 blog posts on that subject, you’re not that passionate about it.
If you pass the “5 blog post test”, then start worrying about hosting, WordPress theme and all the tech things that will hold your mind hostage.
Chat soon + keep in touch,