Monday, September 29

Cheat Sheet for Starting a Blog | a guest post + giveaway!

Hey you guys! Well Monday Monday... Monday's on TFF (I'm cool enough that I can refer to my blog with an acronym I guess:)) are for posts that make a big bang to help us start the week off right, and for today's post I have a special guest stepping in to not only help me answer a very frequently asked question, but to also share a really awesome giveaway!
Follow alongBlog | YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Bloglovin'
NovelsUnravelled by Anna Scanlon | Children of the Most High by Anna Scanlon | The Remnants by Anna Scanlon
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Anna is an American living in the UK with her boyfriend Luke and her adorable shih tzu Eugene, and is pursuing a PhD in History. She's a university lecturer/professor, a published novelist, an arts and education consultant, and a freelance writer who has been published numerous places. Most importantly though, Anna is extremely hard-working and driven, and has such a great way of making you feel like you've known her for ages! I'm so glad that we've gottent o know each other, and I'm SO glad that she's agreed to do this post for you guys today! Here's Anna:
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. 
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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.
"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.
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.

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 stuff Bluehost does. I don't hear rave reviews about it the way I do with Bluehost, but I also don't hear complaints.
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
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. Also, remember to always post in the appropriate subreddit...although sadly I do not recommend feminist related articles (unless you are in the subreddit twoxchromosomes, although there are still anti-feminist trolls out there) as this puts you at risk for some serious trolling. You can read about my experience with this here.
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!
Currently, there are a few things I'm doing to boost traffic. As of September 7, 2014, I am:
1. Taking Jon Morrow's guest blogging course
2. Throwing monthly giveaways.
3. Sponsoring three blogs and participating in their giveaways
4. Using social media and bookmarking sites to promote my content.
5. Guest blogging for a variety of bloggers.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
And that's that folks! I hope this post has given you a lot to think about and maybe answered some of your questions, but of course both Anna and I would love to hear any you may have on the topic in the comments! Now on to the giveaway:
Thanks so much for visiting, and I hope to see you back here every day this week for more fun posts!
facebook  instagram ♥ youtube ♥ twitter ♥ pinterest ♥ rss ♥ bloglovin

55 comments:

  1. Such great tips! I used Tumblr before and moved to Wordpress. It's the best decision I've done. Blogger is also great and you can find many cute free themes online! :)

    http://thewallflowersecrets.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'd use it to get an iPod! I've been saving up for a while and this would really help! :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. This was so helpful, and I'm not even a new blogger. Thanks for the tips!

    www.madeintheshadeblog.com

    ReplyDelete
  4. Super informative post for someone who's just starting out, thank you! So inspiring to see 2 lovely ladies team up like this, love it!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm an apple head (i pad, i phone, i mac x 2 because my husband has the same stuff) so I'd get accessories and/or i tunes!! : )

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm just a dreamer - love the blogging tips. You really inspire to want to start (over) one on the lifestyle/fashion end. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  7. i would definitely buy some business apps.....and maybe a book or two

    ReplyDelete
  8. Fantastic article! Thanks for the tips Anna.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for these incredible tips & for hosting such an incredible giveaway!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Great tips, thank you! I'm still in the beginning stages of my blog, so the more help the better! :)

    Dani
    http://danidearest.wordpress.com/

    ReplyDelete
  11. This is absolutely fantastic and you made it so simple to follow. I am planning on getting my own domain and then working from there. Thanks for the info!

    ReplyDelete
  12. wow, thanks for the post! I recently started to blog out of hobby but have been loving it so far :)

    www.whatajoyfulday.com

    ReplyDelete
  13. These tips are great for a new blogger - and for people who are already blogging!! :)


    http://www.jacklyn-lee.com/

    ReplyDelete
  14. I would save it because I want to eventually get a Macbook for blogging! It's not necessary but I really want to switch over...probably not for a long while though.

    Thanks so much for this giveaway!

    Every Day In Grace

    ReplyDelete
  15. Thanks for the great tips and giveaway!

    xo,
    Allie
    http://lunavida23.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  16. Oh, and I'd use the gift card to get Apple TV :)

    xo,
    Allie
    http://lunavida23.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  17. cool giveaway! I'd love to use it for purchasing more praise music and dance music for the parties I have with my cousins. :)

    Callie

    ReplyDelete
  18. Just the info I was looking for, thank u

    ReplyDelete
  19. Just the info I was looking for, thank u

    ReplyDelete
  20. This was really helpful!! I find myself struggling at the moment, dedicating many hours to the content of my blog, but not really focusing on marketing it. Thank you so much for all of your tips. I pinned the article to refer back to. One of the tips I would share is having a 'pin it' button. I feel like Pinterest is a really powerful tool these days! Thanks so much again for sharing!

    xo

    Kels
    www.excusemyblog.com

    ReplyDelete
  21. I would put it towards an ipod touch :)

    ReplyDelete
  22. Awesome info. Thank you for posting these tips.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I'd get a case for my phone and apps. I am obsessed with apps and in-app purchases!

    ReplyDelete
  24. more memory for my apple electronics !

    ReplyDelete
  25. looking to get a new phone ASAP!! I'd love to hear more about actually building a bloglovin audience. I get that its important but how to do it, would be helpful!

    oursweetthingcalledlife.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  26. always considered starting a blog thanks for the great tips!

    ReplyDelete
  27. i would love to get a cover for my new mac! and use the remaining for some new music! thanks fot the tips!!

    ReplyDelete
  28. These are great tips for those starting out in the blogging world! Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  29. I'd love to use the card to buy music. It's nice to change it around while working out. One can't ever have too much music.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Tip - remembering to take a breath and step back and take some time for yourself to come up with new topics is great. I'd use the card to purchase an ipod. I've never had one and I love music.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Great article! I'm just getting started and really appreciate the tips. I've been using weebly but really thinking about moving over to wordpress. Does anyone have experience moving content over from weebly?

    www.ourlittlenook.weebly.com

    ReplyDelete
  32. I only just found your blog and I loved this post!

    ReplyDelete
  33. Great tips! I'm thinking about moving to Wordpress, but am kind of pleased with Blogger so I'm not sure whether I should make the jump?

    http://brilliantbookshelftheblog.blogspot.nl/

    ReplyDelete
  34. I was hoping you might explain a bit more what a domain does for someone already blogging via Wordpress or Blogger...

    ReplyDelete
  35. I would love to get some new accessories for my Apple products :)

    ReplyDelete
  36. Thanks for this post and the giveaway, it was very informative!

    ReplyDelete
  37. hmm... still thinking about it. Also I forgot im Hollie Figueroa on here ^_^ not holliebuckets

    ReplyDelete
  38. I would use it to get some stuff for my grand-daughter. So many great learning apps out there!

    ReplyDelete
  39. This was so helpful - thankyou for writing, think I'll come back to this at a later time for reference. I'm still pretty new to the blogging game and I'm learning things all the time. I must admit it's a little overwhelming reading all the suggestions but definitely helpful :)
    - Georgia

    ReplyDelete
  40. Looks like a great blog! I look forward to reading it.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Great post! Can't wait to see more! xo

    heartoffnowhere.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  42. I would put it toward either a new ipad mini since the one me and my 8 yr old share is broken. or I would get an itunes card for her for christmas.
    Also these tips are great. I started a blog about a year ago and i am not where i'd like to be. I have come a long way but still ... I just need a photographer or a better camera/tripod and some picture lessons....these tips are great tho!

    ReplyDelete
  43. Apps is what I'd use mine for!

    ReplyDelete
  44. I love apps, but music is the bomb too!

    ReplyDelete
  45. There a few apps I need to buy yet.. this would be perfect for that.

    ReplyDelete
  46. This was incredibly helpful-- thanks for posting!!


    www.withloveandbeer.com

    ReplyDelete
  47. LOVE all the tips! thank you so much!

    ReplyDelete
  48. I need a new iPhone charger! I would get that if I won.

    ReplyDelete
  49. Thanks for sharing! I would love to see more info on how you both stay creative with content as well as photography tips. And I would LOVE to buy a new phone case and arm band from Apple, along with some tunes to help keep me smiling while I exercise :)

    ReplyDelete
  50. I would use it towards an ipad.

    rounder9834 @yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete