Wow, 2018 sure whizzed by didn’t it? To round off 2018, I have put together a list of 18 things I learned about blogging in 2018.
While this particular blog is only a few weeks old (I call it my wee baby blog), I have another website that I work hard on as well and have been blogging since 2015 when I first went overseas. It’s wonderful fun though. Marvellous fun, in fact.
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1. Investing in tools
I’m part Dutch so that side of me never wants to spend money. Sometimes though you have to spend money to make money. If you want a professional looking website then you are going to need to invest in some resources to help you. Once you are up and running like a well-oiled machine, the payouts will be tenfold.
At the very least, if you want to make a proper go at this online business biz then you will need to invest in:
- Website hosting. I use Siteground for my web hosting. They are a really reliable website hosting service that I have had no trouble with them in the years that I have been with Siteground.
- Tailwind Pinterest scheduler. Tailwind for me is a no-brainer. It allows me to pin all day every day without being on Pinterest. I use the Smart Loop which pins my own pins to group boards so my pins are always being seen and I also use the Tribes which allows me to find pins in my own niche to schedule as well as add my own pins to the tribes. Pinterest is my main source of traffic apart from search engines so for me, the expense is worth it.
- A theme. I use the Bluchic Isabelle theme. A paid theme is always a great investment. It makes your site look more professional, they are more responsive and they tend to be faster than free themes.
Related Post: Siteground vs Bluehost, who comes out on top?
2. Learning is Lifelong
I love learning. In fact, I love learning so much that a lot of my free time is spent learning new skills, hobbies or facts. Documentaries feature heavily on my Netflix watch list.
One of the biggest takeaways from this year is that there is always something new to learn. Especially in the blogging world. Algorithms change, WordPress updates are thrown at us (Gutenburg anyone?) and platforms introduce new features.
If you don’t embrace and accept these changes your growth will be stagnant. With every curve these platforms, algorithms and new features throw us we need to be flexible enough to incorporate them. There is no point getting upset and cursing the changes.
Things are always going to change. Do something about it. Learn to use it to your advantage.
Flexibility and growth is the name of the game here.
Learning I have invested in this year:
Related Post: Dare to Conquer Review
3. Consistency is Key
It doesn’t matter whether you post three times a week or once a fortnight. What matters is that you are consistent with it. Chopping and changing confuses your audience. Consistency is key with your regular blogging to-do’s. It is much harder to play catch up than it is to be in maintenance mode.
I will admit that I took a 2-month break from all my websites over spring. I had a lot going on in my personal life and my websites were at the bottom of the to-do list. As a result, I have had to work extra hard to get them up to scratch again. Though, this task wasn’t as hard as it would have been a year ago. A good Pinterest strategy and SEO meant that they managed to not be hit too hard.
All the same, it was hard for me to get back into the swing of things. Now that I have been back into it for a couple of months it is easier to keep on top of tasks rather than letting them slide and forever playing catch up
Try to be consistent with:
- Your blog post schedule
- Social media strategy
- Email marketing
- Writing daily
If you are consistent with all of the above you will make a nice wee routine for yourself.
Related Post: Creating your online business action plan
4. Having Good Time Management Skills is Essential
This is one I struggle with. I get distracted easily or start procrastinating and soon realise that it is bedtime (how the heck did that happen so quickly?!). Can anyone else relate?
However, I have learned to be tough on myself and schedule my day according to the relevant tasks that I need to do. I write everything down (including what time I have to shower!) in my planner and work through it during the day.
A good method for time management is working out what tasks should take priority. Those tasks should be scheduled first.
I always do the least fun tasks before anything else. If I don’t, I sit and procrastinate then nothing gets done. Plus, it feels so good when it is out the way and the fun things can start.
Resources I use to help manage my time:
- Tomato Timer – This is the best thing to help my easily distracted self. I find that if I set a timer and not allow myself to deviate from my task I can focus much more easily. Annnd I get a 5-minute break at the end of each 25 minute Pomodoro.
- Evernote – Essential! Evernote syncs all your notes to each of your devices. If you are out running errands and something pops into your mind, type it into your Evernote and it will be on your computer or tablet when you get home. Ta da! Best of all, it’s free.
5. The Importance of a Content Calendar
Ah, I love my editorial calendar plugin. It makes me feel so organised and clear headed.
It is one of my favourite plugins for a very simple reason: it allows me to plan my content easily in advance and see what my month is going to look like at a glance. Yes, you can use WordPress to schedule posts but you can’t see your month planned out.
Reasons why you need to have a content calendar/schedule/plan:
- It makes it easier to batch tasks. If you know what is coming up you can easily batch your tasks such as creating pins, doing keyword research, designing opt-ins and more
- You can see at a glance what your writing will look like for the month/week/quarter
- It helps you stay consistent
- Holidays, events and special dates won’t zoom by you so quickly
- It helps you stay sane!
- You have time to think about what you are going to create in advance rather than just winging it week to week
- An editorial calendar will allow you to plan your marketing around upcoming content. For example, if you have a course launch coming up later in the month, you can start creating content that will build your launch
- You can have a cohesive plan across all your social media platforms as well as your blog
- You will feel much more organised and in control
- An editorial calendar can save you a crap tonne of time (huzzah!)
- You will also be more strategic in your content creation
Related Resouce: How to create a kick-ass content calendar
6. How to Avoid Shiny Object Syndrome
Oh boy, this one took a while to learn! Who else here can relate to shiny object syndrome?
If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s when a new idea/course/etc captures your imagination and attention in such a way that you get distracted from the bigger picture and go off on tangents instead of remaining focused on the goal. Shiny object syndrome often gets shortened to SOS (sounds appropriate, right?!)
I have fallen into this trap So. Many. Times. that it’s actually embarrassing.
Now, I have a set of questions I ask myself before I fall into the trap:
If it doesn’t benefit my business, I have a similar product or it isn’t in line with my goals, it’s a no go.
- How will this benefit my business?
- Is this in line with my goals?
- Do I have the necessary skills to pull it off?
- Does it fit my niche?
- How will my readers/customers benefit from this?
- Do I really need it?
- What will happen if I go without? (No, the world won’t explode)
- Do I already have something similar that I can use instead?
- How will this benefit my learning/personal growth/business?
- Do I really need it?
- Will it help me achieve my goals?
- Is there another product that does the same that is cheaper?
For a time I didn’t allow myself to read any emails that would lead me into the trap of shiny object syndrome. I weaned myself off. Luckily there were no withdrawals and the only side effect was that my credit card stayed above the line.
Setting goals has helped me overcome SOS. No tangents for this gal. Focus, baby!
Related Post: How to set goals and actually achieve them
7. Be Yourself
Always, always be yourself. I can’t stress this enough. There is no one else out there like you and that is pretty choice. No one has your unique voice, your unique skills, your beliefs. Own it! If people don’t like it, they aren’t your ideal audience.
Why? Because people love authenticity, realness and people who they can relate to.
If you try and copy someone, you are not being true to you.
My writing style and personality doesn’t suit everyone. That’s ok.
8. Have Fun
If you ain’t having fun, what’s the point? Plus, if you don’t enjoy what you are doing, it comes through in your content, writing and website.
Don’t stress too much over numbers and what other people are doing. It will all start to click soon enough. The main thing is that you enjoy it.
Sure, there are always going to be the tasks that you don’t like doing, but as long as you enjoy the majority then you are doing what you are meant to be doing.
Have fun experimenting, finding your voice and your style.
9. Styled-Stock Photography
This was a game changer for me. This was the year that I discovered styled stock photos. I mean, I always knew they existed but I didn’t use them a lot. I was too scared that they would look the same as everyone else’s.
After doing some research I found some styled stock photo sites and fell in love. My poor ole computer storage took a beating that week. The upshot (sorry, computer) was that I now have a brand that I am proud of and social media graphics that I love and look professional.
The benefits of using stock photos
Your website and social media platforms look much more professional if you aren’t confident behind the camera.
Stock photos save a crap tonne of time. No need to spend hours crouched over the ground taking photos of random objects arranged in a random but not random way. No need to swear at photoshop when you can’t get your photos to look like you want them to.
You have an unlimited supply at your demand. Once you have downloaded the ones you want and put them in appropriate folders so you can always find them (totally what I did….. kind of) all you need to do is find them then put them in the appropriate blog post, Pinterest pin, featured image or social media post. Boom!
Some great free and paid stock photo websites
- Oh Tilly – Oh Tilly is the badass of styled stock photo sites. They are feminine but not super girly, coz let’s face it, not all of us are girly girls, amirite?
- Pixistock – This is a membership site but with a difference. Pixistocks point of difference is their templates. Gain access to Canva templates for your Pinterest, blog and social media and delve into the social media quotes. Winning!
- Ivory Mix – Ivory Mix is my favourite styled stock photo site. While it is a paid membership site, you can gain access to over 550 photos plus other resources when you sign up for the newsletter. Annnd get more free photos delivered into your inbox every month.
- Styled Stock Society –
- Unsplash – This free stock photo site has a range of photos including landscapes, blogging and people. The thing I love best about unsplash is that they represent a variety of people – not just Instagram models
- Pexels – This is a popular stock photo site, dig deep into the archives with Pexels to get the more unique ones *wink*
- Pixabay – Another free stock photo site with a range of photos from landscapes to people to blogging
Related Post: The best styled stock photo websites (+ tips on how to use your images)
10. Go out of your comfort zone
Sometimes, the best learning comes after the hardest lesson. That was pretty zen, wasn’t it? But no matter how cheesy it sounds, it’s true.
Every now and then go out of your comfort zone and push yourself. You won’t ever know what you are capable of until you try.
If it doesn’t work out, you have learned an important lesson. If it does, well! The sky is the limit for you.
This coming year I am going to go completely out of my comfort zone (watch this space). I dipped my toes in the outskirts of my comfort zone in 2018, but this year the whole body is going to follow the toe.
11. Be patient
Blogging is not an instant get rich quick scheme. Nuh uh. Not even close.
It takes time to build your brand. Time to get search engines to trust your website. Time to gain traffic and get followers.
You will never know everything straight away so take baby steps, concrete one area of learning before moving onto the next. It is surprising how much there is to learn when it comes to blogging. When I first started I thought it was just a matter of writing something and push publish. If only it was that easy!
You will get there, don’t worry. Just keep working on building your skills and your brand.
Related Post: Things to remember as a brand new blogger
12. You get out what you put in
This goes for most things really.
Put in the hard work. Do the learning, research new strategies and skills, listen to podcasts, watch webinars. Soak up the information and put it into action. There is no point in doing all the learning to let it sit there gathering dust.
It may mean you have to get up an hour earlier or go to bed an hour later. But this will all pay off in due course.
You can’t complain that you aren’t getting the results you want if you aren’t putting in the work required. That’s just simple maths really.
13. Blogging is hard work
And while we are on the topic. Blogging is hard work. It isn’t just putting up pretty pictures and writing a few words then pushing publish. Imagine if it was!
Right, back to reality.
I have spent hours making Pinterest pins, researching technical issues when something doesn’t work like it should (a few sweary words may or may not have been involved), learning new skills, experimenting with strategies and nearly thrown my computer against the wall. More than once.
It’s tough. I get it. But the rewards are worth it. It’s like seeing your baby grow up (only less smelly). There is a sense of pride at what you have made from scratch and how much they have grown.
Related Post: 5 common newbie blogger concerns. Solved!
14. SEO is key
The dreaded SEO. Dun dun duunnnn!
Love it or hate it, you kinda gotta know what the deal is here.
I have worked hard on SEO for my sites this year and the upshot was, when I took a break for a couple of months, my websites didn’t crash and burn. They did take a tumble, but not a big of a tumble had I not worked so hard on my SEO. Huzzah! That’s when I knew that everything was starting to turn around for me. That everything was starting to make sense.
Quickfire SEO tips:
- Research your keywords and be strategic. Choose a keyword with a low(ish) competition and high search count. Not the other way around
- Place your keywords in the title of your post, introduction, a few subheadings and sprinkle it gently throughout your content. Not as much as a 4 year old sprinkles glitter on a cake – that’s overdoing it, but a light dusting, if you will
- Links! Make sure you have both internal and outbound links in your content. Internal links are the ones that direct readers around your site, outbound links send them somewhere else. Yes, you do actually want to do this.
- Write a good juice meta description (the little bit in Google where it tells you what the post is about)
- SEO your images as well. Google doesn’t know what your images are of unless you tell it.
Related Post: SEO for beginners | The ultimate SEO guide
15. Pinterest is also pretty choice
Pinterest is a bloggers dream. It sends traffic to your website. For free. Whaat?!
My Pinterest got a bit more strategic this year. Instead of having a million different boards on a million different topics and just pinning willy nilly then hoping for the best, I used a real-life strategy. How grown up am I?!
A quick rundown of my strategy:
First thing I did was converted my Pinterest account to a business account then applied for rich pins.
Theeeen I signed up for Tailwind and learned how to navigate the darn beast.
Next, I read the She Approach to making Pinterest possible (great book, just sayin’).
I set up daily tasks, weekly tasks and monthly tasks.
I do a mixture of manual pinning, Tailwind, Tailwind Tribes and Smart Queue.
Daily: pin 5-10 pins manually, I usually do this while I am eating brekkie, from a mixture of the home feed, followers feed and group boards.
Weekly: Follow 10-20 new accounts – sometimes I will break this up and follow a few accounts a day instead of all at once. Add new pins from recently published posts to my Smart Queue and add them to my Tailwind queue using the interval schedule. Apply for new group boards.
Monthly: Add pins to my Tailwind queue for the following month from Pinterest, go through my Tailwind Tribes and add pins to queue, do maintenance on my boards – update SEO etc, create new boards in my niche as necessary. Create new pins for old posts and add them to my Tailwind queue.
Related Post: How to set up a Pinterest business account
16. You can’t do all the things
So don’t even try. Focus on what you can do and do it well.
I tried to do all the things and burned out. Hence my blogging break. It wasn’t pretty and it didn’t make me feel good. What it did do though, was teach me that I am only human, to slow down and to not try and do everything all at once.
Since I have come back my mind has been clearer and focus more defined. It gave me a renewed purpose and passion.
Network with other bloggers, make some buddies. Join some Facebook Groups ask questions, answer others if you know the answer, collaborate, learn and grow with your fellow bloggers.
Blogging can be a lonely journey but there are others out there. Also hiding inside with a cup of tea behind the computer. You may not see them (sometimes for weeks at a time) but they are there.
18. Don’t be too hard on yourself
I am incredibly hard on myself and have had to learn to be a bit more lenient. We wouldn’t talk to our friends the way that we talk to ourselves, would we?
Be kind to yourself. Learn to rest if you need it.
I was so hard on myself on my break. I felt guilty and like I failed. But hey! I got back up again. Sometimes we just need to slow down.
If your blog isn’t where you want it to be, that’s ok. No one is perfect. Do some learning, implement new strategies and keep on at it. You got this (insert fist pump here).
Blogging is a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Just when you think you’ve conquered something, something else crops up. The blogging world is made up of resilient people.
If you are feeling discouraged, take some baby steps.
Blogging, though a rollercoaster, is fun, rewarding and exciting. The first time I saw my website on the first page of Google when I was searching for something I actually took a screenshot and sent it to all my friends. The same happened when I made my first 12 cents from Amazon. The little rewards slowly turn into bigger rewards but never forget the joy of those first triumphs.
Motivational speech over and out.
What did you learn in 2018?
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