I have always termed myself as ‘expat blogger’ or ‘travel blogger’. Sure sometimes I blog about teaching, cultural issues, lifestyle choices and relationship matters but for the most part, travel and expat life (in the Middle East) are my areas of expertise. However, since the commencement of 2019 I have been receiving a lot of questions about BLOGGING.
That was my expression every time someone would ask me about blogging. Like… ME? I don’t have a clue!
But then I realized that I was falling into the trap that a lot of people fall into- thinking they need to be technical experts in order to help others with blogging. In fact most of the ‘how to’ blogging guides that I read in order to research for this post are written by people who are in IT/web related fields. They extoll the importance of paying money to have your own domain and a self hosted site… but the average person has no idea what that even means neither do they want to spend money to spend on something they feel uncertain about.
I’ve written this guide from the perspective of someone who first started blogging in 2012, made a ton of mistakes and then re-launched a new blog in 2017. I am not great with websites, don’t understand coding and haven’t a clue about programming. So if you’re looking for an opinion from someone who started their blog as as a hobby and then watched it steadily grow, here are the 5 things I wish I had known about blogging before I started:
Blogging is 20% technical skills and 80% content based
When you read articles about how to start a blog, its easy to get lost in the jargon. And boy is there a lot of jargon when it comes to running a website! But actually the process is EXTREMELY SIMPLE:
- Choose a platform to host your blog (WordPress, Tumblr, Wix & Blogger are the popular ones)
- Choose a website name (also called a domain)
- Choose a layout for your site from the hundreds of free ones available
- Start posting!
The platform you use will guide you through these steps. They want you to use their site and make things very easy for you to use. Of course it may take time for you to think of a blog name or to set your site up exactly the way you want it to look but essentially, it’s a quick & easy process.
Remember, you don’t have to spend money if you don’t want to. In fact I discourage it when you first start… why spend money on something you’re not sure you can even maintain in the long run? What people don’t realize is that you can always upgrade, change, create a new domain and evolve without losing all of your content. While that does require some money and technical know-how, I advise you to start simple in the beginning and expand when you’re ready.
Panda’s tip: What is critical is getting your important content out to the world in the form of your post so as soon as you are ready, start writing and publishing those posts. Remember that your readers only see what you put out there for them to see; so make sure it’s the BEST quality content that you have to offer. Double check your spelling and and ensure that your photos are of the highest quality. If they like what you show them then they are far more likely to return!
Patience is key!
A lot of people become disheartened in the blogging process after the initial high has worn off. I usually see people;
- Being really thrilled with the inception of their blog
- Sharing it everywhere and advertising it enthusiastically
- Losing interest once the blog views drop after the early wave of blog visitors
- The blog lies dormant
A huge part of blogging is actually just waiting and being patient. Its no secret that older articles dominate Google’s search results. These are usually sites that have steady visitors (notice I didn’t say a lot), detailed content and have been around for more than a year. Yes that’s at the very least- how long you need to wait before your blog can gain a following or popularity on search engines. During this waiting period, you will still need to publish posts and add in keywords (called tags) so that one day, they DO show up in Google searches.
Panda’s tip: If you are expecting a meteoric rise to fame by just publishing 1 or 2 posts, you will be bitterly disappointed. It takes a long time to establish yourself in the blogosphere and as far as I know- there are no shortcuts (this isn’t Instagram!).
Blogging is not a solo activity- social behaviour is necessary
When you think of blogging, I urge you to think beyond a solo person sitting in a dark room typing away at their laptop. Blogging actually requires you to be really social! I must admit that I struggled with this at first- more than any other aspect of blogging. At first I thought I would write these hundreds of posts and my content would be so good that Google would put me on its first page of searches and OF COURSE people would find my blog. Well that obviously didn’t happen.
So what I started to do was to center my social media around my blog and blog related topics. That’s how my Instagram account was born (yes the blog came first). I was blogging about expat life and my travels in the early days so I posted about those topics on my Instagram account, promoted my blog there and hashtagged it with appropriate hashtags. People found me there and made their way to my blog (some of them became my friends in real life but that’s another story!). It seemed weird to be commenting on stranger’s photos and interacting with people I had never met before but this is how I created a following on Instagram and subsequently- this blog.
Panda’s tip: when you first start the majority of your views will come from you promoting your blog. I suggest you pick one platform (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) and work on building a following there before spreading yourself too thin on multiple platforms. Don’t neglect your blog though… that should always be your primary focus.
Just keep going!
Perseverance is also crucial to the success of a blog. Even when it doesn’t seem worth continuing to post, you need to continue! This is where most people falter because they get disheartened when they aren’t endlessly getting a rush of blog visitors. Don’t let the stats dictate how you feel about the blog- remember why you started it and let that fuel your dedication. I started this blog to document my life abroad for those who are also considering expat life and to share my experiences as a South African traveler. Even if a consistent number of people are not always visiting my blog, it doesn’t mean that I should stop blogging or that I don’t believe that there is anyone who would find my blog useful.
I have had plenty of times when I thought about giving up with the blog altogether because I felt like I had nothing more to say or that there was no point to doing what I do. While I was going through my divorce I thought I would delete the entire blog from the internet! But I kept pushing myself to keep going and now, I am SO glad that I did!
Panda’s tip: Don’t use blog views to measure your success! Even when you have low days, don’t give up or deactivate your blog. You can always take a little break and come back when you’re inspired.
I don’t believe that blogging has to bring you anything other than a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Don’t feel pressured by others to create a blog for any other purpose at first. If you publish something that people enjoy, share and engage with, that’s simply a bonus. Later on, if you manage to make money from your blog, that’s an additional bonus! But when you first start, take small steps to find your feet in the blogosphere and don’t compare yourself with other blogs… just do you boo!
I see a lot of people waiting… waiting until the right moment to start a blog, waiting until the right moment to publish a post… waiting until they have the support of loved ones. The truth is that the right moment is NOW. No matter what you may think. That blog post isn’t permanent. It can be updated later. Your blog design will never feel good enough, but if it’s simple to use and easy on the eyes, it’s probably good enough. There’s no need to wait on the perfect post or the perfect time. Get it out there and start your journey!
This is part 1 in my series on blogging: Panda’s Blogging Bites. In my next post I will focus on the Free Tips & Tricks that Help Me Blog.
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If you’re a blogger, what are some the things you wish you knew before you started blogging? And if you want to start a blog, what is holding you back? Let me know in the comments below!