Starting a Blog Cheat Sheet





Disclaimer: The very first thing to acknowledge when starting a blog is that building a successful one isn't easy. While people used to be plucked from obscurity to fame just from having a simple day-to-day blog, that isn't the case any more. Gaining readership isn't easy and people aren't just waiting to hear what you have to say. If you want a blog that does well, you must be willing to put in the time and hard work. 

Also, please be aware that this list is by no means exhaustive and that this page is live--meaning I'm always changing when I figure out new tips that are helpful to myself and my readers.

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It may seem like a no-brainer, but when you're starting out, try and figure out what you'll be blogging about. Although it is okay to veer off-topic (as I do often!), you don't want to over do it so that you lose your audience. Visualize your audience and what it is they want from coming to your blog and/or what they can gain from their experience. Lifestyle blogs can be tricky, because while your life may be really interesting to you, it isn't always to everyone who stops by. If you're hoping to make money from your blog and/or gain a large amount of traffic, you need to figure out what's in it for your readers. In other words, why would someone want to read your blog? 

Study other successful blogs in the lifestyle/beauty community, especially ones you admire. How do they format their posts? What do they write about? How do they address the needs of their readers and why do people want to read what they have to say? Keeping in mind that many top bloggers have management teams, however it doesn't mean you can't model yourself off of them. Modeling, however, is different from copying. While bloggers may borrow general ideas and formulas for one another, it is important to remember that intellectual property rules are still to be respected in cyberspace. Bloggers and YouTubers that have been caught copying from others have a tarnished reputation forever, honestly. It just isn't worth it.

Hosting

"Wordpress or Blogger?" is likely the first thing you'll be asking if you starting a blog. Personally, I use blogger because of its ease of use and functionality. Blogger, I believe, is best for a beginner who doesn't have much programming knowledge. You can quickly and easily adjust the theme, or hire someone to do it for you. And even if you've hired someone out, as I have, you can still adjust the look of your page without much coding fuss. To do more advanced things with your blog, you will need to know a fair bit of coding and CSS, but Blogger is pretty straightforward and recommended for an absolute beginner.

Wordpress, however, is favored by many for a variety of reasons. Their default layouts are often cleaner than Blogger's, giving you a more professional look right off the bat (however, some people find it confusing to navigate). Wordpress also integrates better SEO into your blog, instantly giving you more traffic. Wordpress blogs are also self-hosted and are integrated into Bluehost*, which many bloggers are huge fans of. Although I don't have a plan to switch as of yet, I am still seeing lots of people raving about it all over the blogging community. Don't worry though, if you pick one, you can still switch to the other later on by either hiring a professional to migrate your content or doing it yourself. Nothing is set in stone. 

Domains


When picking a domain name, pick one that both means something to you and one you think you will be using for a long time. Domain names typically aren't expensive, but you also don't want to be switching it up constantly and confusing your readership. Pick something that has to do with your blog topic, your name, or something that means a lot to you. I picked Anna in Wonderland because Alice in Wonderland has a lot of meaning to me and it is one of my favorite stories. The key, my site's symbol, is integrated into that.





As far as hosting a domain, it can seem complicated to get your blog hosted on one, but it is relatively easy. Bluehost* will do most of it for you, including integrating your Wordpress blog in one place and give you unlimited space. You can purchase your domain directly from the website. Plans start as low as $3.95 per month, however you have to pay a year's worth upfront. Most people say that this is totally worth it. They also offer a migration service for $100 (moving your website onto their server) or a service for a 1-on-1 consultation with a Bluehost* expert for $30.



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The other competitive option is www.GoDaddy.com*. They offer cheap domain hosting (often as low as a couple dollars for domain contracts for a couple of years, depending on the name you want). You will need to figure out how to place your blog in the domain name, but it really isn't difficult. It may take a little while to get the hang of it, but most people can. Although it does offer email, it doesn't offer unlimited web hosting, migration service, or any of that good stuffBluehost does. I don't hear rave reviews about it the way I do with Bluehost, but I also don't hear complaints.




Gaining Traffic

There are many ways for your blog to gain traffic. Here are just a few I have found the most useful, and are not exhaustive. I am almost experimenting with these, and with anything, they take work. Don't expect any one of them to be a magic button solution. There is no simple answer to blogging--unless you're already BFF with a world-famous blogger or YouTuber, then it might get a little easier!

1. Advertising
Have you ever heard the saying, "You have to spend money to make money"? That is definitely true with blogging, especially if you are looking at it from a business standpoint and to turn a profit. Advertise on high traffic blogs within your niche. My top recommendations in the Lifestyle/Beauty category are The Freckled FoxSprinkle of Glitter and My So-Called Chaos. The first two blogs are extremely high traffic, so the fact that the bloggers even mention you gives you a giant leg-up. My So-Called Chaos doesn't have quite the following of the other two, but the owner of the site does work hard for her sponsors and has a loyal following who will check you out if she features you. Another place to find blogs to sponsor is Passionfruit Ads. There, you can browse blogs by category and pick the best one for your site.

2. Participating in Giveaways/Hosting Your Own Giveaways--I wouldn't recommend doing this overly often, however. 
Giveaways are a fantastic way to bring attention to your site, especially if you participate in ones with high traffic bloggers. When you host your own, you can post them on giveaway subreddits on Reddit or Money Saving Expert Forums. Although many people feel like this is a cheap way to get followers, I found it increases my readership and drives quite a bit of traffic my way. When I have participated in these, there are some sites I unfollow after the entry period, but often I find great content I wouldn't have otherwise found. Yeah, you may get a few uninterested followers, but you will also find readers genuinely interested in what you have to say.

3. Guest Posting
I am just now getting on the guest posting band wagon, but it is a viable tool. Some sites allow you to pay for a guest posting spot (which is worth it in many cases), whilst other bloggers you can just approach and ask to guest post after you've established your blog. When doing a guest post, it is important to hook the reader so that they are interested in visiting your site and actually seeing what you have to say. For more on guest posting, visit Jon Morrow's guest posting cheat sheet. He runs a rather expensive mentorship program for guest posting (which I am a member of), but if you can't afford it, you can find out a lot about the idea just by reading his blog. He's made millions off of blogging, so he's definitely someone to listen to!

4. Building Up a Social Media Following, Specifically Bloglovin'
A large number of my visitors come from Bloglovin'. This was a direct result in participating in giveaways and advertising and working on building my Bloglovin' following. Facebook and twitter are also useful to build up, but Facebook and Twitter posts are often overlooked as people aren't specifically coming to them to see blog posts. However, people ARE coming to Bloglovin' to do just that. 


5. Social Bookmarking Sites

StumbleUpon and Digg give me a fair amount of traffic, as do groups on Facebook dedicated to blog promotion. These are certainly useful tools when touting your latest post. However, one very powerful tool is Reddit, but it must be played carefully.


Reddit has the power to make something go viral, but you can also very easily see your post get downvoted or relegated to the clutter. The key with Reddit is that most folks there hate anything that looks like self-promotion or drives the reader to a blog in order to read the full article (unless it is a blog promotion subreddit). Instead, post the entire article you're looking to share on Reddit with a link to your blog at the bottom. That way, if readers are interested in what you have to say, they can choose to come to your blog or not. 

Things to Consider

1. Are You Writing About What You Love?
If the answer is no, then abandon your blog immediately. Readers must see that you have a passion for what you are writing about. If you don't, no one is going to care about what you're writing about, either. You may think you're fooling people, but your apathy will show through. If you're blogging to make a quick buck, find something else to do. Yes, top lifestyle and beauty bloggers make a killing, but they didn't get there overnight. And they love what they do enough to maintain it. 

2. Think Like a Businesswoman 
If you're looking to turn a profit with your blog, take it seriously. Invest time and money in your blog as you would any small business. Obviously, don't go into a huge amount of debt over your blog, but don't think you can spend $0 and run a successful blog. It may be possible, but it would take years and years of networking and guest posting. You should also realize that 2 hours a week on your blog may work as a hobby, but if you're seriously looking to turn a profit, you're looking at 20 hours plus a week between promoting, designing and networking. Which brings me back to point #1--you'd better like it!


My Experiments

Currently, there are a few things I'm doing to boost traffic. I'll change this every so often to keep it up-to-date. 

As of September 7, 2014, I am:
1. Taking Jon Morrow's guest blogging course--As of August 29, 2017, I DO NOT recommend this. 
2. Throwing monthly giveaways.--As of August 29, 2017, I also DO NOT recommend doing this too often. 
3. Using social media and bookmarking sites to promote my content. STILL GOOD
4. Guest blogging for a variety of bloggers. STILL GOOD


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