Blogging Tips

10 Huge Things I’ve Learned During 14 Years of Blogging

Aug 08, 23
blogging tips
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When I opened my first blog back in 2009, blogging was perceived mostly as a hobby for housewives, or an outlet for journalists stirring the pot and writers saying, “Hey, it can happen. Have you watched “Julie and Julia?”.

At least from Argentina, it was not a job nor a secure path to be financially independent.

I was a bored housewife. I had developed a website in 2004 to work as a ghost writer, and I did great. But in 2009 an economic crisis hit the country and vanished all my clients. So, I thought, “I’ll give it a try with my writing at a blog”, hoping to be discovered one day and get “printed.”

With platforms such as “Blogger” and “WordPress”, there wasn’t much to do except for what we wanted: writing and hitting the “publish” button. We also had the demanding task of telling our family and friends to read our blog and leave comments, while we were praying to all religions for real comments.

Perez Hilton, one of the bloggers known for the fortune he’s made with his blog, said to Forbes that he started in 2001 because “it seemed easy”, adding that “In a couple minutes you could click a name for your blog, customize a template, and be communicating online with the rest of the world.”

Soon those platforms began growing like weed. We commenced discovering how to monetize our blogs and customize our themes. Plugins showed up to help us do more. Social media!

And, just like that, we found ourselves learning to use multiple services as we were trying desperately to write the next viral masterpiece. What it had begun as a humble hobby or dream, became a job for at least seven people.

Looking back, I am grateful for having started when I did. I grew as a blogger hand in hand with WordPress. But still, there are so many things I wish I had known…

These are my reflections after 14 years of blogging. If you are a blogger, they will hopefully help you to reflect on your craft. And if you’re seeking to become one, please do not freak out.

1. You cannot open a blog in five simple steps

Actually, you can. Open an account at WordPress, follow the steps and ta-dah. But you shouldn’t do it if blogging is something you aspire to do as a career. Why? Two very important reasons.

One. Blogging is like running a magazine, with all that it takes. Picture:

  • the building (the floor size you need, if the management offers you help; its design)
  • the printing machine (and people who know how to make it work and who’ll do the maintenance)
  • people working (writers pitching ideas, editors, photographers, a marketing department, an advertisement department, etc)
  • And the business plan! Budget, audience, topics, schedule, etc, etc.

You’ll be performing the tasks of many people who are professionals at what they do, and you’ll be doing it while you need to develop your content.

Two. If you open a blog for free, at WordPress or at any other platform, you’ll be prompted – in three to five steps – to make very important decisions that you might regret or won’t know how to take.

Opening a blog requires a business plan. And blogging for a living is no longer about writing and hitting “publish.” It is a craft you are to master and a full-time job.

2. First the Content, Then Do the SEO Twist

When “Search Engine Optimization” became a thing, I shredded more than one copy for the sake of having YOAST’s green faces or ALL IN ONE perfect score.

I was torn between having in my speech the flow I had worked so hard on, and making it to Google’s top 10. At the beginning, I honestly thought it wasn’t possible to have it both. But it is.

The trick is to know by heart all the SEO rules, as if it were the grammar of blogging, and keep it in mind as we work on our copy.

For instance, if you’ve written a poem, you won’t have an H2 element; so, rely on key phrases, the slug and title; images with alt description, the minimum length of the post, internal and outbound links, etc.

Doing the SEO twist truly matters, but for what I’ve experienced with my blogs, ranking on search engines is also about luck. For instance: if you get a lot of traffic, that will make Google think your post is awesome. (I think?)

On one occasion, at NKOTB’s blog, I wanted to share (and keep for later) an Instagram post about the band’s performance at the AMA’s with New Edition. I had no time to write a decent post, so I embedded it in an “Image Post Type”, I wrote and excerpt and a cool title. YOAST’s red faces were on fire. But still, in a single day, it began giving a huge revenue, which made me feel …

So, basically: focus on your content and how you want to deliver your message; then do the SEO twist. And for Christ sake don’t do what I did. How many readers won’t come back because they only saw an “Instagram Post” on a blog?

3. Don’t “Ever” Try Writing the Next Viral Post

Say you’ve come up with the greatest idea, one that you are sure that is going to “make a change.” Awesome. Work on it; got for it! Visualize your success! Take as much time as you need; writing is editing after all. But don’t do it thinking it is going to become the next viral post overnight because chances are it won’t, and having your masterpiece unnoticed might really hurt you.

In fact, chances are that the post you wrote in thirty minutes without giving it too much thought, is going to be your most read post.

Bottom line is you’ll never know which is the post that’s going to make an impact.

On 2020, I published at a review of a course I had taken. It was about becoming an ADHD coach. I never intended to work as one nor to be known as someone who teaches how to become one. But the post exploded, with haters in the comments’ area included. As a blogger, I felt a debt to give more on the topic. Doing this pulled me away from the schedule I had, even from the purpose I had with my blog.

Humble advice? Cue to bullets!

  • Always do your best for “you” (your purpose, what drives you to be a blogger), and then for your blog and your audience. 
  • Don’t ever expect results from anyone but you. If you are satisfied with your work, someone will too.

4. Don’t Let That “One” Comment Affect You

It’s funny how when we start blogging, we wait for comments like a kid in road trip. “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” But then, over the years, that red circle in the panel makes us feel, “Oh gosh, what did they say now.”

Some of the comments are going to boost your dopamine and make you feel “marvelous”. And others… not so much.

You’ll receive criticism: if it’s about the job you’ve done, take it and reflect on it. If it’s hateful and clearly comes from someone who didn’t click on that “About Me” page you’ve worked so hard on: move it to the trash.

And, let’s not forget that among your readers, you’ll have followers on social media; and that a lot of them, don’t read. Some people will see your social share, read only the title and then snap at you OR ask you for info you’ve written in that post they didn’t click on. (Insane, I know; clonazepam helps)

There is going to be always one comment, among a thousand, that can hurt your pride if you allow it. If you are sure that your words were your truth, one that you’d take a punch for, keep your head high and move on (sometimes you’ll need a day of junk food watching Netflix, and that’s ok. You’re human)

Know who your true readers are. Then, swipe right or left. They do it too.

5. Schedule, Schedule, Schedule

Finding loyal readers can take you years. Publishing weekly, on the same days and at the same time, is “the” advice you’ll find everywhere (which will also help you swipe right more often 😉)

But… what if you run out of ideas? What if you get sick? Your internet provider or even your host can collapse when you’re about to hit publish.

Did it happen to me? “Yes; countless times.”

And of course, you can simply get tired and crave for a very well-deserved break.

So, schedule, schedule, schedule. How many posts? Think about covering two months at least. (Yeah, sorry)

6. Get Ready for the Free Trials

Among all the planning we need to do, there is one thing I haven’t seen bloggers talk about: the free trials.

Services and tools we use on our blogs can cost a lot of money, so acquiring them must be a “business” decision, not another toy to play with. Consequently, free trials are to be taken seriously.

At WP Begginer (to name one) you’ll find plenty comparisons of plugins for WordPress; you’ll even find advice on which one of the list they have made is the best. However, you are to consider what you definitely need and – above all – how you work.

Hence, try everything and get ready for it. For every plugin or service that you want to try, mark in your calendar that you are going to devote at least a week or two making the most of the free trial.

Example of an epic failure: I wanted to develop courses, so I purchased a LearnDash license: before having created the courses, before knowing what I would need from the platform. So I found myself doing both things at once, and I drained all my dopamine. Then, I realized a Membership site would be a better option to monetize my blog, so I purchased MemberPress. And finally… Well, do you see it running at my blog? 🤦🏻‍♀️

I should have studied and tested all my options. I should have developed my content before purchasing those licenses. And, it would have been nice to have a crystal ball to see that a pandemic was about to come to take over my sanity.

Your blog is a business. Treat it as such.

7. Read the Fine Print

Every time you sign up for something, you’d be signing up a contract.

A contract. Enough said.

When I purchased the MemberPress license, I assumed I could use it even after the license’s expiration, as it happens with every plugin. The downside? No updates, but I was willing to take that risk. Then, I found out – at a forum – that if you don’t renew your license, the plugin shuts down, which means: bye bye members, students at courses and etc. (I am not happy, in case you’re wondering)

On the other hand, PayPal, MailChimp, Google, they all update their terms of service very often, and this might leave you breaking their rules.

Example with Google AdSense: I published a post about a product, a freaking lipgloss with a suggestive word in its title. Google thought I was doing nasty things, and I took the punch. No money for two weeks.

Example with PayPal: If you opened a Business account ages ago, and now they won’t give you your money, it is your fault for not having read their updates. Google about it, or read this nice piece for The Free Press. I dodged this bullet just before relaunching this blog.

Read your contract. This is the advice of a lawyer who… should have read many, more than once.

8. Updates Can Ruin Your Life. So, BackUp!

Plugins get updated on regular basis. Even WordPress. And if WP has updated the platform, surely the theme you’re using has an update too. 

At the WordPress dashboard, we have the chance to enable “auto-updates” for those plugins. Everybody will tell you to say yes to that, because when there’s an update available waiting, it consumes resources from your host (which slows down your website).

However, an update can come with a change that may affect your website. My advice? Put a pin on them, and see what they are about.

Examples you said? Two:

1. After a Twenty Twenty Theme update, the button to open links on the menus, on mobile devices, disappeared. I had applied a custom CSS snippet to one selector that changed with the update, leaving those buttons invisible. I only noticed it when a reader left me a comment giving me the heads up. Thank you reader; shame on me.

2. This one could have turn my life into a nightmare, and it happened with the MemberPress Add-on for Courses. I had developed a course and created a whole new look with CSS for the classroom mode, because by default it looks awful.

I was about to publish the course when the add-on was updated overnight. I woke up the next morning to work on the final touches, only to discover that the content of my course was practically hidden behind the sidebar.

What would have happened if I had people enrolled? I’d have woken up to a list of mails complaining: “I cannot read the content, give me my money back.”

Against what everybody says, I encourage you to not enable the auto-updates, but to check them on daily basis. Then, before running the update: create a backup, put your site on maintenance mode, update and check how everything looks like.

9. You Might Need to Get Your Hands dirty

As I mentioned at the beginning, blogging is like running a magazine. Bloggers perform the tasks of many people who are professionals in their area.

Having a great host and blogging platform, the best plugins in the market, won’t guarantee you that everything is going to work smoothly all the time. Servers go down, updates go wrong; things happen. But some of those things can be fixed with a few clicks if you know how.

Take your time to learn how a browser works; what databases are. What is PHP and CSS. Install a local host on your machine and test “everything”. Check out the documentation and support forums of all the services you’re using to see what’s new. 

Think about your blog as if it were your office: even though you know you can reach out to your landlord if the power goes out, I’d strongly suggest you to know – at the very least – where the power box is.

10. Cherish Your Readers

Writing my first blog, I started corresponding with a few bloggers. I grew to appreciate their friendship so much, that invited two of them to my wedding. That is how strong the bond with our readers can be.

But then, I lost them… for many reasons. My brain was unhealthy; I was trapped in an abusive relationship; my life was a mess. With the rise of social media, people began to engage more on Facebook and Twitter, and I didn’t like it. On top of it, I had an undiagnosed ADHD, and a PTSD of a lifetime that was about to make my brain collapse.

When we are not in a good place in our lives, having a personal blog can helps us, whether is to vent or to feel we are doing “at least something” (such as begin sharing our writing, seeing if we could help others).

However, if we truly want to this for a living, we are to be in a place good enough that will allow us to respond to our readers the way they deserve it.

I have worked on my brain health and on this blog, enough to say that I am finally in a good place. Not perfect. Not gorgeous. But one I am wonderfully grateful for. And today, I am positive it will show.

Your turn.


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