A Beginner’s Guide To Blogging

I receive a lot of questions in my e-mail box from beginning bloggers asking me for my “beginner’s tips.”

So, today, I’d like to address some of their most common questions all in one spot.

Here we go:

“Hey, Ollin, I’m a beginning blogger.”

Awesome! Welcome to the blogging community. You’ll soon find that all the myths about blogging are wrong: it’s not just filled with people who rant about conspiracy theories (or post pictures of their cats in bonnets) but it’s a world filled with fascinating trailblazers who will, quite literally, change your life for the better.

“Is there anything I should do as a beginning blogger that you wish you should have done?”

Oh my. Yes. Yes. Yes.

1. Know what you’re getting into. Blogging is hard. No, seriously. It’s a WHOLE LOT OF FRAKING WORK. Test yourself before you seriously commit yourself to this thing. See if you can write 500-1,000 words articles three days a week on a consistent basis. See if you can generate at least 12 really great blog post ideas every month. If you can, then you’re good. If you have a lot of trouble, then you might need to reconsider the whole blogging thing.

2. Solve people’s problems. This is the golden rule I wish I knew from the very beginning: I would suggest not writing anything that doesn’t solve a problem your readers have. You might want to start by solving your own problems and then sharing the solutions to those problems on your blog. Then, once you start getting reader feedback, you can start asking your readers what problems they have and start finding solutions to their problems, too.

3. Focus on providing value. Forget fame. Don’t make the mistake of begging people to promote you, tweet you, share you, link you, etc. Most likely, they will not respond to you. The best strategy is to provide valuable posts. Create great content and create it on a consistent basis and people will start to notice you. When you provide value, your popularity will come as a result.

4. Have a strategy. You should really have a strategy for your blog. Sit down and really think about what the theme of your blog is gonna be, who your target audience is, what you’re going to keep private and what you’re willing to reveal, how much detail you plan on giving about real life people who turn up on your blog, how you plan on growing your blog, what kind of reader interaction you want, etc.

The more you think out your blog strategy, the better. Once you have a strategy all plotted out, implement it. (But make sure you adapt it along the way.)

5. Put yourself in a position to get noticed. The thing I should have done right away when I started blogging was to start guest posting on other blogs, sharing other people’s posts, and reading other people’s blogs, and commenting on their blogs. This is really how you start getting noticed (without having to beg for it.) There were so many times that I left a comment on a blog and that comment left such a strong impression that it earned me a guest post on a big name blog–or a fan for life. And guess what? I didn’t have to beg to get noticed, I got noticed because I put my best self out there.

6. Don’t waste your time in a niche that doesn’t care about what you’re providing. Probably the biggest mistake I made starting out was interacting with blogs and making relationships with people who were really never going to share what I wrote on my blog–not because I wasn’t a good writer, or because they didn’t like me, but because my content simply didn’t match what their niche was interested in. So, for instance, if your blog is about being a 20-something vegan and you start leaving comments on blogs written by 50 year-old motorcycle enthusiasts, chances are those “50-year-old motorcycle enthusiasts” won’t be checking out your blog and sharing you with their readers. So don’t waste your time on a niche that is not interested in the kind of content you’re providing on your blog.

7. Finally: Study, study, study: Like any kind of writing, blogging’s an art form. It is a style. There are certain aspects of blogging that do not pertain to any other style, but that you MUST learn in order for your blog to succeed. I studied blogging pretty early on in my blogging career, but I wish I would have started several months before I launched my blog. The sooner you study blogging technique the better your blog will do. I recommend reading WriteToDone, Copyblogger, Problogger, and Successful Blogging. These blogs are great starts for studying and mastering the art of successful blogging.

“Should I self-host my blog and buy a domain name? Or should I just have a site hosted by WordPress/Blogger/Etc.?”

Personally, it hasn’t hindered my success having a blog hosted by WordPress. It has saved me a lot of time and money. Plus, there are great benefits to being part of the WordPress community. (For instance, I’m a lot more integrated into their network and there’s a free community forum and a free support staff that is really helpful whenever I have technical problems I need solving.) But there are also big drawbacks like glitches and sudden changes that you have no control over–and that will make you want to pull your eyeballs out (and then fling them at your computer screen).

No matter what route you go, everything will be a give and take.

With this kind of thing it really is about your personal preference. In the end, if you decide to be hosted, you should try out all the different host sites and see which works best for you.

For a great breakdown of pros and cons to self-hosting vs. being hosted, read Roz Morris’ recent post Blogging: Should Authors Go Self-Hosted Or Not? Part 1 (and, subsequently, Part 2) over at Nail Your Novel.

“How do I get more blog readers?”

You should start by asking yourself:

WHY should I get more readers?

You need to ask yourself “why” before you ask yourself “how.” I’m not trying to be philosophical or flippant here. I’m being practical. Answering your “why” for blogging will lead you to answering your “how” for blogging. Please read: Why Answering This One Simple Question Will Get Your Blog Read By More People.

“Can you point me toward your best posts for beginning bloggers?”

Of course!

How To Make Your Author Blog Stand Out Among The Millions

Stop Being An “Aspiring” Writer

The Secret To How I Got 1,000+ Blog Subscribers

“I already have my ‘why.’ But I still want to know: how I can promote my blog so I can get more readers?”

Let’s get your head out of “promotion-mode” for a moment.

Now, get yourself into “help-mode.”

Ask yourself how you can help other bloggers. Ask yourself how you can help the community. Ask yourself how you can help your readers. Then, once you’ve figured out how you can help others, offer your help.

When you help others, others will reciprocate and help you in return.

As a result, your blog will be promoted–not because you asked to be promoted, but because you asked: “How can I help?”

“How can I help YOU?”

Ah. You’re fast learner.

Well, if you found this post helpful, you can help me by sharing this post with your friends.

However, if this post wasn’t helpful to you, and it didn’t answer some of your important questions, let me know in the comments below.

I appreciate your feedback. I am always looking to find the best way to help my readers succeed.

Thank you!

much “How can I help?”

Ollin

If you’re a beginning blogger, are there are any questions you have for me that I didn’t answer here?

If you’re not a beginner, what’s YOUR best advice for beginning bloggers? Please share your wisdom with us in the comments below!

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33 comments on “A Beginner’s Guide To Blogging

  1. Candice Carboo-Ofulue says:

    Hey Ollin,

    Another interesting post. So, I guess I have two practical questions:

    Firstly, I’m wondering from where you draw your inspiration for your posts. Sometimes I find that because I’m inside a lot of the time writing, my inspiration pool gets a little dry. Do you ever get this problem?

    And secondly, how do you fit in blogging, learning, writing your novel, and I guess continuously marketing yourself for other work? Can you recommend an effective routine?

    Thanks, Ollin.

    • Ollin says:

      1. I draw my inspiration from everywhere. I know it’s probably not helpful. No, I never run dry. That’s a myth. There are tons of ideas. Try always telling yourself that you’ll never run out of ideas and that it’s and impossible and that will be the truth for you. Works for me!

      Also, I would suggest you going with what moves you the most right now. My blog posts usually address the intersection between these two: what really interests me/what I’m learning right now and what interests my readers/what they need to learn right now.

      Keep one eye on you and your interests and another on your readers and their interests. Then add what would be helpful to the both of you.

      If you are really stuck, I suggest simply asking your readers what they are struggling with, what challenges them. Usually I find something that something that is challenging them is something that at one point was challenging for me but I overcame that challenge, so, now I can write a post for my readers that helps solve their problem.

      So today, try asking your readers what challenges them, and then write a post that solves their problem. You may notice it is a real success afterwards.

      2. To answer your balance question, and for everyone out there looking to find balance between all your responsibilities as a blogger, writer, lifer, etc. I recommend you read:

      The 4-Hour Novel: How To Balance Work, Life, Blogging and Your Passion
      http://mysterywritingismurder.blogspot.com/2011/10/4-hour-novel-how-to-balance-work-life.html?spref=tw

      Let me know if that helped you Candice!

  2. Jitendra says:

    How to get guest posts? Direct me through this.

  3. Great advice, Ollin. I also checked out some of the earlier posts you highlighted in this one. I agree with your comments on not defining yourself as a writer by the number of comments or subscribers you have. I’ve seen the highs and the lows, and recognize I’m just trying to improve my craft – not write to the numbers. If my writing and content pulls more folks in, that’s icing on the cake.

    • Ollin says:

      Don’t focus on the numbers, focus on creating great content and you’ll never feel like you are “failing” or not doing your best. Numbers will come and go. Better to keep yourself grounded in what you can control at all times.

  4. Coco says:

    Yep, posting consistently is one of the keys and is a challenge. When I track my stats, I can see clearly that on the days I post I get the most traffic, and in between those days I see significant dips in traffic if I don’t post again within a few days.

    My philosophy about my blog’s focus is not to specifically help others or solve anyone’s problems, but to tell my stories authentically.

    This approach gets me the most high-fives, as just being myself seems to be what resonates with my readers. It makes me feel like a million bucks when people tell me how much they love what they are reading from me (which they don’t always do via comments, but via e-mail, FB, and even in person sometimes).

    The other thing that I’ve struggled with is that I’m a private person- pretty much an introvert all the way, so I’ve had to develop a thicker skin than I was born with in order to show up, live and in person and to promote myself, too. I mean, just because I’m shy doesn’t mean I’m not filled with opinion and wit, so I’ve had to get permission from myself to open up enough to not be a wall flower of a blogger.

    So, yeah, blogging is hard work. It requires stamina, determination, and the ability to pick yourself up again and again from whatever personal challenges you have that will most definitely reveal themselves along the way.

    But without my blog, my means of being me, my way of speaking out, my connection with bunches of people I wouldn’t otherwise know, I’m kinda’ lost.

    So, to a new blogger, I say “ditto” to what Ollin says here. And I’ll add, “Be you” since people really like that, making it pretty much a win/win for your blog and your readers.

    • Ollin says:

      Love the addition Coco. Yes, please, by all means be yourself. It takes so much energy to not be yourself, and it really is such a waste. People will love you more for being you!

  5. j3ssi33ss3x says:

    Reblogged this on The Three G's and commented:
    helpful post. there are a few good references which I should check out further. Thank you.

  6. Yvette Carol says:

    I’ve been leaning towards the idea of blogging for a couple of years, but approaching it slowly. The more I learn about it, the less I want to do it. However I haven’t yet heeded that inner voice. Until now. Something about the way you put this post Ollin, has clarified the matter for me. However, I will continue building my website. That, I have juice for!

    • Ollin says:

      I’m glad I motivated you, Yvette! Good luck, let me know when your blog is up so I could be one of your first readers!

  7. Jack Dowden says:

    Ollin, new reader here, and you’ve got some great stuff. This post really helped clarify some things for me. I was going to ask about Guest Posts, but I saw someone else did, so thanks for that too. Looking forward to reading more!

  8. sorrygnat says:

    Excellent post; thanks!

  9. Katie says:

    Definitely some great pointers. I wish I would have known some of these when I first started blogging. But I do know a few people that I can email this article to, I know it will be helpful to them. And even though I’ve been blogging for a while, it was also helpful to me. Thanks!!

  10. Kate Harvey says:

    Hi Ollin,

    Thank you for this post! I’m very new to blogging and received this link from a family friend who is an experienced and wonderful blogger.

    I wanted to also say how much I like the title of your blog–it truly does take courage to create! I’ve been amazed at both the thrilling feeling I get and the exposed and vulnerable feeling I get when I put up a new post. So far the thrills have won🙂

    All the best,
    Kate
    http://something-ivory.blogspot.com/

  11. RD Meyer says:

    Great tips. I think the most important is to blog consistently. If readers think you’ll be there every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, reading you will become a habit.

    The hardest part of this is to do it when you’re tired, when you think, “The world won’t end if I don’t blog just this once.” You have to fight through that and do it, b/c one lost reader can easily start a domino effect to the bottom where you’ll have to start all over again – only this one will be harder since it’s easier to build trust than to rebuild it.

    • Ollin says:

      What a great tip, RD. And you are right. Try to post on the same days every week and your readers will know when to expect stuff from you and it becomes a habit. Yes. Oh, and you can always revise old post and repost them, I do that all the time and readers, surprisingly, appreciate it. Old readers like to revisit classics and new ones like to be shown something they’ve missed. As long as you don’t do it too often it’s a great way to keep yourself from burning out.

  12. Adam says:

    You know, you always have some of the best content about blogging out there🙂

    Not only is this great information for a new blogger, but it is a great refresher to ground us older bloggers as well. Thanks a lot!

  13. l0ve0utl0ud says:

    Hi Ollin, this is really great advice. I have been blogging for about a year and have learned a lot from it. I have not read any books about blogging, but have certainly learned from my own blogging and above all from reading a variety of very different blogs in WordPress. One thing I would add to your list is that we should blog about what we love, and, somehow, all the other elements (blogging regularly, reading other blogs etc.) falls into place.

    • Ollin says:

      Great point! I usually add that one but for some reason I forgot to mention it. Oops. Thanks for reminding me!🙂 That’s a very important point.

  14. Dahnya Och says:

    Hi Olin! First time visitor here… but I think I’ll be sticking around for a bit. This post was awesome and so very helpful… you’re such a wonderful person for sharing this information that everyone thinks should be “common sense” for newbies. Thank you!

    All of my questions (even ones I hadn’t actually wanted to ask) got answered… and the posts that you linked in your comment responses are all gems as well. Keep up the great, inspiring work! Now, excuse me while I go peruse your archives…

    • Ollin says:

      Yay! That was my intention. I’m so glad it was as clear and direct as I hoped. Thanks, and welcome to the C2C!

  15. Well done Ollin! Couple quick questions:
    1. what’s the best way to determine whether one is providing value with his/her blog?
    2. assuming the blog is providing value, what are some good ways to extend the reach so others find it?
    Kind Regards,
    Paul

    • Ollin says:

      1. When you’re starting off, you won’t have much feedback. So the best way is to find a problem you have, find the solution, and then share this solution with readers. You will know it is valuable because it was valuable to you. Then, when you start to get a following, you’ll want to pay attention to the feedback. If it gets shared a lot and if your readers tell you it was helpful then those posts were valuable.

      2. Like I said in the post: you want to guest blog. That’s the best way to drive new readers and traffic to your blog. Provide value on other people’s blogs and those readers will follow you back to your blog.

      Hope that helps Paul!

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