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10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Blogging


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If I was to start a new blog now, there are so many things I would do differently. I have no doubt that I could grow a blog much quicker today than what I did when I started getting serious about travel blogging a few years ago.

Like that famous saying goes, “hindsight is 20/20”.

So what would I do differently?

Below I will describe 10 things I wish I knew when I started blogging. I also share what other bloggers said in the DNW Facebook group when I posted this question in there. I hope that by reading this, you’ll get some invaluable tips and insight if you are new to blogging (or even if you are more experienced).

10 things i wish i knew when i started blogging

You will learn...

  1. 10 things I wish I knew when I started blogging
  2. What other bloggers have to say on this topic
  3. My overall thoughts

10 things I wish I knew when I started blogging

1. I wish I knew my blog would turn into a business

I started blogging in 2005. Yep, 2005!

I had absolutely no idea that it would ever be more than an online journal so that’s what I set it up to be.

While I don’t blame myself for not realising that back then, I do wish I had started treating it like a business earlier than I did.

I kept making excuses not to take the plunge into trying to turn it into something else.

It would take too much time. I would never make enough money for it to be worthwhile. That it was a ridiculous idea.

Well stupid you, Sharon 2013. You should have stopped making excuses and started making money.

I wasted a lot of time of time doing the wrong things because, while it was my hobby, it didn’t really matter what I did. If only I had taken it more seriously earlier.

What can you learn from this?

Is your blog a hobby or a business?

Be honest with yourself. Really honest.

If you want it to only be a hobby, that is great! Enjoy blogging and steer away from anything you don’t like or don’t want to do as it should just be fun.

However, if you have a voice in the back of your head saying you do want it to be something more and you’re ignoring it (like I used to).

Stop right now.

You can be a successful blogger but you have to fully commit. And the first step of that is to allow yourself to fully commit.

Then tell the world you are going to do it! There was nothing like making the (seemingly crazy to everyone else) announcement to the world that I was going to be a professional travel blogger to get my butt into gear!

2. I wish I had picked better domain names

I hate the domain name I picked for my travel blog, Where’s Sharon. It seemed fun when I changed to that (from RoamingThePlanet.com, how I wish I kept that!), but I find it limiting now.

This is because it’s attached to my name and it doesn’t reflect what the blog is about, ie family travel.

It does have its benefits – it could move with me throughout my stages of life. It’s already been about single and couple travel and it could be about empty nester travel or retiree travel one day and the domain name could still work.

However, I feel like the blog has to be about me which is limiting and not as good now I am thinking about selling it.

Digital Nomad Wannabe is another one I might also pick differently if I was to choose today. I picked it to describe me at the time. Now I have tried to rebrand it to describe my audience but it’s not that great a description really.

What can you learn from this?

You need to think hard about your domain name. It might suit you now but will it suit you in 5 years time? 10 years time? Long

er?

It’s a huge thing to change your domain name so be sure you do think it’s great.

Some other things to consider:

  • The length. You want to keep it short and easy to remember
  • The spelling. You want something easy to spell (and spelled correctly). Someone recently posted in the DNW Facebook group how they misspelt a word in their domain as they thought it was fun at the time. Now it’s become annoying and it’s a big deal to change it. I’d also want to keep away from words that are spelt differently in American vs British English (eg traveling vs travelling)
  • The niche. It’s great if a domain explains your niche but be sure that if you do this that you won’t want to write about anything else in future where the domain might hold you back.
  • Is the .com available? I wouldn’t recommend using any other type of ending (except perhaps a country specific one like .com.au). If you do decide to go with a country specific domain, take note that you will find it much harder to rank and get traffic from other countries so be sure you are happy limiting yourself that way.
  • Is the name available on social media? It’s best to have all your accounts with the same name. This can be hard to get and it’s not the end of the world if you can’t. Where’s Sharon was already taken on Facebook and Pinterest but I have survived.

3. I wish I understood basic SEO from the beginning

Great SEO is probably the #1 best thing you can do for your blog. It’s such an easy and awesome way to get traffic once you have everything in place and working.

I wish I had understood all the elements of SEO better from the beginning. This would have got me ranking faster – I didn’t really get any traffic from Google until my 8th year of blogging!

I still made mistakes even when I focused on it. A big one was putting the category name in the URLs on Where’s Sharon.

I figured it was a great way to add extra keywords. In reality, it’s been bad for my SEO as I have ended up with duplicate posts. And it’s just too much of a risk to change now. Sigh.

What can you learn from this?

Learn about SEO right from day 1. Put social media to the background while you work out some basic strategies. I promise you that you will thank me for this!

One thing in particular that I recommend you do immediately after starting a blog is to get your permalink structure right. This is defining how links to your blog posts are formed.

By default, WordPress often puts an id as your blog post URL.

Change it so that it is the post name. This is in Settings > Permalinks. You can see it in the screenshot below.

permalink dnw

The next thing you should do is read my post here which is an introduction to SEO with many tips on how to get your blog set up right.

4. I wish I had been serious about collecting email subscribers from the beginning

So many internet marketers online talk about the money being in the list and it is true! Especially if you ever plan to build your own products.

I had a widget in my sidebar to collect email addresses from the time I started getting more serious about blogging.

However, this is not enough.

I think at the time I became more serious about list building, I was getting 50,000 page views a month and I had had 100 sign ups over the last year. Yep, the entire year!

I now have a steady stream and put a lot of effort into it, especially on this site.

On that topic, would you like to sign up for my 7 Day Link Building Challenge? 😉

What can you learn from this?

Make it a priority from day 1. It doesn’t take much time to set up an email optin offer (basically a free downloadable that you give a reader in exchange for their email addresses) and to set up a better form of email collection like pop-ups.

You can read all about how to do this here.

5. I wish I understood that content is king but marketing is queen

content is king marketing is queen

I love this saying and I love thinking about it in relation to chess pieces.fmai

You obviously need the king and you have no blog without it, but the queen is the more useful piece 😀

It’s so easy to get caught up in producing content. We are all short of time and it’s easy to feel that the limited time we have to blog should be spent on writing more.

The reality is, though, that it would probably be better spent on marketing.

To use another analogy, I see writing content as the tip of the iceberg of everything we have to do as bloggers. It’s actually only a small part.

I used to spend far too much time writing content, especially when I was working as a teacher and caring for young kids as well. I would still try to get a blog post out a week which took the majority of my available time.

Given my main aim for my blog was to be financially successful, this did not help me meet that goal at all and was not a good use of my time.

What can you learn from this?

Look at how much time you are spending writing content and really analyse if it’s too much and if you could be better off spending the time promoting your content instead.

I recommend reading this article about having a marketing plan for every single article before you even start writing.

That’s how I increased my traffic from the tens of thousands to the hundreds of thousands.

6. I wish I understood that chasing traffic for the sake of traffic is a waste of time

It sounds obvious when I write it like that. I didn’t want to have the highest number of hits on a blog ever, I wanted to earn enough money to support my family.

Yet, I still chased page views.

I see this mistake all the time with bloggers. They want to hit x page views, then it grows to y and then z. It’s a never ending game that doesn’t bring any real satisfaction.

I didn’t realise it consciously at the time, but I thought if I hit a certain number of page views that the money would come and all the effort I poured into my blog would suddenly be worth it.

Guess what?

It didn’t.

Around the time I hit 30,000 page views, which was more than I had ever imagined I would get to, I became so disillusioned with blogging exactly because it didn’t make any real difference to my life. The money hadn’t come pouring in and I was convinced blogging was a waste of time.

This is because I was chasing the wrong thing.

What can you learn from this?

This is where clear goals and a plan are absolutely essential.

They truly are the key to my success.

If your goal really is to have x page views for your blog then that is fine, but if it is not, do not have this as a goal.

If you want a financially successful blog, like me, then your goal should be around how much you want to earn and you should only work on tasks that relate to this.

Don’t chase traffic unless you are sure the traffic you are chasing will lead to your goal.

The reality is that once I became clear on this and started chasing traffic that would lead to more money (people who would buy via my affiliate links), I actually started getting more page views than I ever had before.

The best part was that this lead to more money as well.

I highly recommend you have clear goals and a clear plan of how to reach them. Feeling lost on this? Do my free 5 day Goal Setting Challenge.

7. I wish I knew I didn’t need to do everything and be everywhere

It’s so easy to get caught up on all the things others’ say you should do as a blogger rather than what you need to do for success.

When I became more serious about blogging, I thought I had to be on every form of social media. I had to master SEO. I had to write great content 3 days a week. I had to have an email list. I had to do all the share threads. I had to…

You get the picture.

All it leads to is exhaustion and discontent.

You don’t need to be everywhere and do everything to be a successful blogger. You just need to do something really well.

For me on my travel blog, this was creating detailed, fabulous content that answered all my readers’ questions and using excellent SEO to get readers there. SEO gave me traffic, it lead to income, it solved all my problems.

For this blog, it’s about providing the most honest, real and practical information on the topics I talk about (making money from blogging and niche sites) available on the internet and using a Facebook group to get my name out there as an authority.

What can you learn from this?

Please try to avoid the temptation to be everywhere and do everything.

Concentrate on what the one thing is you can do really well when it comes to your blog – whether this is sharing content on the area where you know everything, writing awesome stories or creating fabulous videos.

Then concentrate on one thing you can do very well to get people to your blog (eg SEO).

Then you can grow into other areas.

8. I wish I had been all about keywords, keywords, keywords from the beginning

SEO deserves another entry in this list because it has been so important to my success.

It’s just such a fabulous way to get targeted traffic to a blog.

I wish I had known about keywords and how to use them right from the beginning. As I said earlier, I have been blogging since 2005. If only I had started thinking about keywords then!

Instead, I only came across them at the end of 2013 and I didn’t understand them properly (using Yoast SEO is not understanding keywords!!!!) until the end of 2014.

This made a huge difference to my traffic and my earnings.

Huge.

What can you learn from this?

I highly recommend learning about and using keywords.

It won’t work for everyone – I don’t use them on this blog as the niche is far too competitive, but this is a rare exception. Most niches have lots of fabulous keywords you can rank for if you know what you are doing.

I highly recommend you steal my keyword strategy detailed here.

9. I wish I had been more discerning about whose advice I followed

Some of the biggest mistakes I have made in building my online business have simply been following the wrong advice.

This usually happened because another blogger said they were successful, I believed them and then followed advice that was rubbish and wasted my time and money.

Sometimes I think the blogger may have truly believed they were successful but they didn’t measure success in the same way I did.

This is an important distinction.

Initially, I wanted to earn $3500 a month from my blog. That was what I considered successful. Another blogger may consider earning $50 a month being a successful blogger because they earned some income. Be careful of this.

Also keep in mind that many people lie or overstate on the internet (shock!). Try to discern if the person is being honest. Look at their content, is it always surface level? Do they only make money from telling people how to make money?

Or are they writing books about making money from blogging when they make a full time income online but none of it is actually from their blog?

Have they started publishing some posts about blogging on a blog with an unrelated niche just to stick some affiliate links in?

I always try to work out what their credentials are and if they honestly are as knowledgeable in the topic I want to learn about as what they say they are.

What can you learn from this?

If all you ever want to do is earn $100 a month from your blog then following the advice of someone who does this might be fine (although I still wouldn’t recommend it, they may have just got lucky).

However, if you want your blog to become your full time job, you should listen to advice from someone who has done that and more. To not just get you to that level but to extend you past it.

Don’t just believe someone is successful because they tell you they are.

I also recommend you only take advice from people who have grown multiple successful sites online. Not just one. This proves they have a strategy that can be repeated.

And steer away from SEO advice from people who are not SEO experts. This includes other bloggers unless its their niche. It’s where I see the most errors in the content I have come across recently.

And please oh please don’t just get all your advice from Facebook groups (unless it’s the DNW one 😉 )

I rarely go into blogging Facebook groups anymore because the information in them is often terrible and it gets me worked up!

It’s frustrating to see the bad advice being handed out and to be told I’m wrong when I’m writing something I know is 100% is correct.

I relied on these groups a lot at the start as the people seemed to know what they are talking about. And some do. Unfortunately, many do not. There’s a reason why you don’t see many successful bloggers in those groups.

Unfortunately, conferences are often not much better. I used to assume that if someone was a speaker at a conference then they knew everything. They do not. Many do not even earn a full time income from blogging.

The problem is that many blogging conferences do not pay their speakers (so it’s hard to get quality) and they don’t do much due diligence to find out if the speaker knows what they are talking about.

For this reason, I would also not attend a talk at a conference without researching if the presenter was actually an expert in the topic and had the level of success that I wanted to achieve.

You need to be wary about the information you are being told online in blogging just like everything else. #RantOver

10. I wish I knew it was going to be far more work than I could imagine but it would be worth every single moment

Building a successful blog is HARD WORK.

There is no way around it. The clearer your goals and the smarter you are about your approach, the less work it will be but it’s still going to be tough.

However, it has been so worth it.

My life has been completely changed by building my business.

I’m sitting here writing this in my home office area. I’m about to have my lunch break with my kids. My husband is at home looking after them and I’ll finish work at 3:30 when my oldest finishes school so we can have some special girl time.

I booked a cruise this morning. I paid the school fees. I paid rent. I paid off the credit card and I still had plenty of money in my account to move into savings.

It may not sound like much but a few years ago when I decided to work online having a life like this was a dream.

And I am so thankful for it.

I just wish I had known that it would work out so well.

One of the hardest things I have done in my life was to keep working hard on my travel blog when there was no guarantee of success.

I was determined but it was hard to push through the doubts and reservations that I was making our family make sacrifices for a dream that would never become reality.

It would have been so much easier had I known!

What can you learn from this?

If you want to build a successful blog, it’s hard. It’s not easy. It won’t be something you can do when you feel like it while travelling the world with kids.

You have to put dedicated time into it over a long period of time.

However, once everything starts working out, it is so worth every second of hard work!

You need to be 100% committed and dedicated but, if you are, there is no reason you can’t build a successful blog.

I did! Multiple times!

What other bloggers wish they knew

The above is from my perspective. Want to hear what other bloggers think?

I asked in the DNW Facebook group (it’s free, join up here!) and you can see the responses below!

Final thoughts

Although there is a lot I would do differently, at the same time, I wouldn’t change anything. It’s got me to where I am today.

If there is one take away I would like you to have from this article, it’s to have very clear goals and to know exactly what you want to achieve. Everything else will flow from that.

You can do this via my free 5 Day Goal Setting Challenge here.

I also think that it’s important to just get stuff done!

Don’t get into an information paralysis. You’ll make mistakes and that’s fine. It’s more important to make progress than to do it 100% correct all the time.

I like the concept of taking imperfect action. If you wait until you have everything perfect to do anything in blogging then you’ll never do anything.

Take time to goal set, to educate yourself and be clear on your objectives but make sure you are always taking action.

What do you wish you knew when you started blogging? Or, if you have just started, what’s your biggest challenge?

About the Author

Sharon Gourlay is passionate about working online and helping others to follow in her footsteps. She left Australia with her young family at the end of 2014 determined to grow an online business. She succeeded and now supports her family of 5 to live their dream lifestyle.

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