10 Lessons Learned My First Year Blogging

10 Lessons Learned My First Year Blogging

Can you believe that Bitz & Giggles is celebrating its one-year blogiversary this month? The time has absolutely flown by, it’s true.

And today, I’m feeling a bit like this:

Birthday I didn’t bake myself a cake or buy myself any gifts for this special occasion, but I am taking time today to reminisce and share with you what I’ve learned over the past 12 months. I’ve made some mistakes, I’ve claimed some victories – all in all, I’ve discovered that blogging is something that I truly have a passion for and it’s been a combination of hard work and luck that has gotten me where I am today (wherever that truly is). I have a lot yet to learn (I learn new things every day!) and am excited about the months ahead. Every day is a new adventure! Here are 10 Lessons Learned My First Year Blogging!

So, first thing’s first. How did I even think to start a blog?

The concept for my blog was born in a fishing boat out on a lake when my husband and I were celebrating our 12-year wedding anniversary at our cabin up north last year. I was looking for a hobby outside of my professional career in Marketing. Something to focus on and enjoy in the evenings when my husband was traveling for work and the kids were in bed. What I knew of blogs came from my B2B marketing experience in my professional career, but beyond that, I knew nothing. My interest in starting my own blog grew out of my love and addiction to Pinterest.

pinterest girl

Source Unknown

And since it’s my birthday (well, my blog’s birthday) I have no shame putting a plug in here about following my boards! I’d love to share with you what I find on Pinterest! I’m on there ALL THE TIME! So. . .

PLEASE JOIN ME IN MY PINNING OBSESSION!

My entire life up until 12 months ago was spent writing in journals, trying to come up with new activities for the kids, dabbling in photography, thumbing through magazines, surfing the internet, and watching more than my fair share of HGTV and cooking shows. Little did I know I was already doing many of the things necessary to become a successful blogger.

Start blogging for the RIGHT reasons.
If you’re looking to get into blogging to make money, just stop right there. Can you make money blogging? Yes, absolutely. But you know what? When I started blogging, I had no idea you could make money off of it. And I’m so happy I went into blogging with that mindset. I started blogging because of all of those things I had listed above that I enjoyed before I started Bitz & Giggles. Once I got my blog off the ground, I knew it was the right fit for me. It was challenging, it played off of many of my passions like photography, creativity, marketing, entrepreneurship. It was the start of something really important to me and something I never dreamed would turn into what it has.

My advice to anyone looking to start a blog is be prepared. Be prepared to invest some money (it’s not cheap to start and grow a blog), research and learn daily, work HARD, push yourself, surround yourself with positivity and pick yourself back up after you’ve fallen. Because you WILL fall and you WILL fail – but there’s always room for redemption. That’s how you will grow to be the best that you can be.

If you are very serious about blogging, start your blog on WordPress.
Anyone wanting to get into blogging needs to make a decision on which platform to start out on. After purchasing my domain and researching several different platforms, I narrowed down my list to Blogger and WordPress. I KNEW that WordPress was the Cadillac of blogging.

I read about the hosting expenses and the fact that it was a bit less user-friendly than the Blogger platform. I also read that it was more powerful, would offer me more options and put ME in control of my blog (not Google). I weighed the pros and cons. I was still on-the-fence regarding jumping in with two feet right away. I didn’t want to make a big investment up-front and I wasn’t completely sure I would love blogging. I wanted to. . . try it out. Thankfully, in my research I also found out that I could transfer my Blogger blog to WordPress later on if I wanted to. That was a big deal to me, and it was that fact that pushed me down what I deemed to be the “safer” path with Blogger.

I stayed on Blogger for 7 months. In my 8th month I started feeling the pressure to move off of Blogger onto WordPress. I can’t describe it any better than it just being a “feeling.” The number of visitors to my blog was growing every day, my posts were popping up on bigger bloggers’ feature boards, I had started networking with other bloggers and I had published over 100 posts. I felt like I needed to move. I knew the blog was something I wanted to continue and I knew I needed to get on the WordPress train.

If you’re not a total tech whiz, ask for help.
When it came time to move from Blogger to WordPress I asked myself whether or not I should attempt it on my own. The answer was an easy one. I needed help. Between my full-time job, my family at home and now this little blog, I was running out of free-time and, although I have functioned on a few hours of sleep, I don’t prefer doing it regularly. One day when I was doing my link-ups (more explanation on this later) I came across Ellie from Creative Geekery and saw that she helps set up hosting for you when you switch from Blogger to WordPress. I contacted her (holding my breath) and we hit it off right away. She set up my hosting for me and then introduced me to Janine from Confessions of a Mommyaholic who also owns J9 Designs.

Janine took things from there and worked with me to get me switched over to WordPress. Would I recommend her? Absolutely! And I do! Check out her page of testimonials – you’ll see one from me in there, too! She transitioned me in a matter of days and successfully kept my existing Blogger blog up and running until I transitioned fully. I still go to Janine with technical questions today (just talked to her yesterday!) as well as small projects I don’t have time to tackle on my own. Her rates are fair, she is super responsive,  and I consider her a part of the Bitz & Giggles team.

Set up Google Analytics right away.
Here’s where I messed up. Learn from me so you don’t make the same mistake. Most blogging platforms have a dashboard built right in that includes performance analytics of your site – how many visitors are coming to your site, how long do they stay, where are they coming from, etc. You NEED to pay attention. Well, I was paying attention. I was looking at my analytics every day. The problem was, I shouldn’t have relied on the dashboard in Blogger.

As soon as you set up your blogging domain, I HIGHLY recommend you connect Google Analytics to your blog immediately. I finally set up Google Analytics when I switched from Blogger to WordPress. In doing so, I lost all of the analytics I had for the past 7 months because they were housed in a platform I was moving away from. And as far as myself or anyone I talked to knows, those analytics can’t be moved out of Blogger into Google Analytics. They were gone forever.

I also had to wait almost a full month before I was able to place any Google ads on my site because they require a view into your Google Analytics. Affiliate companies that connect bloggers with brands (more about this later) also require you to hook your Google Analytics up to your accounts with them before they’ll begin working with you. This was a set-back and one that made me go, “Oh, crap.”

Start monetizing your blog in the first few months.
As I said before, I didn’t start my blog to make money, but there is expense involved in keeping a blog up and running. So, it’s better to think about this sooner rather than later. There are several ways to make money off of your blog: ads, sponsored posts, product reviews, e-books, freelance writing, selling services/products, etc. I started monetizing with Google AdSense and Amazon Affiliates about 8 months in. They’re easy to sign up with and it’s a good way to get your feet wet at the beginning. About a month later I partnered with an actual ad network.

I also started signing up with sponsored post companies like Pollinate, IZEA and others. You can start doing this about 3-4 months in. Many companies require you to have been blogging for at least three months before applying. Companies like Weave will accept submissions from bloggers who have at least 7,500 page views per month on their blog. This list of sponsored post companies from Britni at Play. Party. Pin is a great resource if you’re looking for more information!

Link parties are a great way to socialize in Blogland.
Link parties are an opportunity to keep a pulse on the blogging community and share your posts for the week with others. You don’t NEED to participate in link parties, but I would highly recommend it as you’re working to grow your blog. While I don’t have a specific list of the link parties I attend each week (I link up to between 30-40 link parties each week), I will offer you some best practices around linking up:

DO:

  • Participate in link parties where the hosts feature bloggers’ posts
  • Link up your best posts with beautiful photos and catchy headlines
  • Comment often and thank the hosts for the party
  • Find the parties that you enjoy the most and return to those each week

DON’T:

  • Just link and run – make sure to visit a few other posts in the link-up
  • Link up old posts that you’ve linked up previously unless if the host is asking for specific recipes, etc.
  • Get so caught up in link parties that you don’t have time to create new content – manage your time wisely!

When it comes to social media, diversify – but then focus on 2-3 channels you really love.
One of the mistakes I made when I started blogging is that I poured my heart and soul into Pinterest and Pinterest only. I realized when I wanted to start monetizing my blog that I needed to be active in multiple social networks in order for brands to begin working with me. So, while I got a slower start on the other platforms, today I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram, in addition to Pinterest.

Signing up is the easy part. Working each platform is difficult and can get quite overwhelming. While you should be signed up on multiple platforms, you’ll probably find yourself gravitating towards 2 or 3. I spend most of my time on Pinterest, Facebook and Google+. I use Twitter mostly to connect with brands and share my sponsored content and I use Instagram as more of a “behind the scenes” view into Bitz & Giggles as well as my personal life.

Invest in a high-quality DSLR camera, if you can.
Before I started blogging, I had a passion for photography so I already did have a pretty nice DSLR camera. That didn’t mean I knew how to use it. I didn’t.

In the past 12 months I’ve read more photography tutorials than you would believe and I’ve had my camera in my hand almost every day whether it’s for my blog or just taking pictures of my family. I moved from shooting in Auto to Manual and it made all the difference in the world. I ended up purchasing a macro lens and filters for my camera which also contributed to better pictures. For food blogging, photos are EVERYTHING, so is editing. For editing my photos I use a combination of Photoshop and Picmonkey. All I can say is practice, practice, practice, research and read! It is definitely paying off for me.

Below you can see a photo I had taken back in August 2013.

Guacamole

August 2013

I’m happy to say I’ve learned a thing or two since then.

Avocado Salsa - Bitz & Giggles

August 2014

Build a support network comprised of other bloggers.
Why? Because they’re the only ones who will understand what you’re going through whether it’s happiness or frustration. Early on I began reaching out to other bloggers with questions or just to say hello. Surrounding yourself with other bloggers who are positive and supportive is SO important. I highly recommend you become part of a blogging tribe or join a blogging Facebook group for additional motivation and support.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to those who inspire you, but at the same time, make sure you’re not being a nuisance. Sometimes it’s a fine line you’ll need to walk. There are so many WONDERFUL bloggers out there. Get out there and say hello, otherwise Blogland is going to be a very lonely place for you. One other VERY important thing to keep in mind:

middle Every blogger has a different story, a different journey. Don’t compare yourself to someone who has been blogging for three years and has thousands of social followers. Focus on your blog and your work. Don’t worry about comparing numbers. The success will come, but it takes a lot of heads down hard work AND lots of support from other bloggers. So get networking!

Your blog can easily consume you and drive your family nuts.
I work full-time during the day so I have specific times throughout the day and evening where I focus on my blog. Weekends are key for my photography. I have to plan ahead and will often shoot all of my photos over the weekend and work on writing my posts and sharing on social media in the evenings. All in all, I probably put 20-30 hours into my blog in addition to my full-time marketing career. Let’s just say I’ve learned to get by with less sleep. 🙂

Once you get into blogging, you get “sucked” in. My blog drives my family nuts. They follow me around the house chanting, “Blog, blog, blog, blog, pin, pin, tweet, like.” My 2-year-old daughter often knocks over props in my photo shoots on purpose, I won’t lie. You will need to devote many, many hours to your blog in the beginning to get things up and running. Content is king so you need to continue to create and post each and every week.

Have I ever been concerned that my blog is taking over my life? Yes. And that’s when I stepped back and started recognizing what was really happening. It’s SO very important to keep a healthy work/life balance. It’s also very important that your family supports your blog. It doesn’t mean they need to like it, but they need to support your efforts. Today, even though I try to still sneak my photography in, I limit the amount of time I work on my blog on the weekends (especially in the summer) and try to do most of my work in the evenings after everyone else is asleep. I do this because I love it. There’s a fire inside that just keeps pushing me forward. There’s no pressure that my family will starve if I were to walk away from my blog tomorrow. . . but I won’t walk away. Because. . .

“I don’t blog for the money,
I blog because I want to.”

CONNECT WITH ME HERE:

TwitterInstagram | Pinterest | Google+ | Facebook | Bloglovin’

Comments

  1. You truly said a mouthful here and gave some great advice to those first starting out or contemplating blogging. I think you definitely learned some great lessons over your first year and can tell you I am so happy that I have indeed gotten to know and work with you here on your blog. Thank you Sara for your kind words and friendship, too!!! 🙂

    • I really did draw it out, didn’t I Janine! I have SO much to say and I could have kept writing. I enjoyed it so much I think I’m going to do some more posts like this. Thanks for always being there for me and for helping me build my blog. I enjoy our friendship, too!

  2. I found this via a link Janine shared on Facebook. I am less than one month in to my own blog (always late to the party, what can I say?) and found this post to be interesting and helpful. I am impressed by your “before and after” photos. Are there any particular tutorials or other resources you would recommend for learning how to take better photos, especially food photos? Thanks for the good info.

    • Deb, congrats on the beginning of your blog! I’m so glad you found the post to be helpful. I felt like I could have gone on forever. If you’re looking for free resources, do some searching on Pinterest and you’ll find many bloggers sharing their tips and tricks for beautiful photography. If you’re willing to invest a little, Plate to Pixel by Helene Dujardin is a great read! Good luck to you!

  3. Happy 1 year blogging! I loved this post. As I have myself just started blogging. Thank you for sharing your journey and a few tips with us. I have a DSLR and have been taking it with me quite a few places to learn how to use it better. While I have learned a few tricks I have a long way to go. I was just so happy I learned how to make the background in my pictures blurry, lol. Wishing you continued success on your blog.

    • Thank you so much, Latoya and best of luck to you! Learning and researching to me is half the fun! Is that weird? Best of luck to you on your blogging journey!

  4. Hi, Sara,
    enjoyed your post. I can sooo relate to your statement
    “Once you get into blogging, you get “sucked” in. ”
    I had no idea. I intended to start blogging for, you know – for an hour per week or so. Hehe 🙂 Time just flows when you love doing something. Thanks for sharing,

    • I know, right? It’s so easy to get swept up and carried away. Time management has become so important now for me. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

  5. This was a great post! It was really insightful and I took away some great tips. I’ve been blogging off and on for the past two years. The “off and on” is because I needed to focus on school or I felt like I put too much pressure on myself with blogging. In the “off” stages I found myself missing it and would be like ok let’s try this again. I’m now in an “on” stage and I’m really enjoying it again. I think I’ve found a way that I can blog and enjoy life. Thanks for sharing your first year of blogging experience 🙂

    • Katrina, thank you so much! I’m glad the post was helpful. As bloggers we have to always remember that WE are in control. If you start feeling overwhelmed, take a break. The blog will always be there. The fact that you’ve gone back to blogging after being away from it means a lot. Good luck and I wish you the very best!

  6. Love this! It is true. Blogging is so much more work and effort than I ever imagined (and certainly more than anyone who doesn’t blog knows…) but if I do it because I love it, then it will pay off. I am having a slow start, but i can’t just look at the numbers. I have to look at why I blog. Thanks. Pinning.

    • Elizabeth, good for you! Keep going! And no, don’t look at the numbers. Focus on your content, sharing your content and networking. The numbers will naturally come. For many months I felt like I was out there talking to myself and then things started taking off.

  7. Hi! Found this on “Tater Tots ‘N Jello’s” party 🙂 Thanks for sharing your experience and great tips for others. A lot resonated with me as I approach this same point on Blogging. Yes, it has taken over an immense part of my life (I now have the last couple years separated into “Before the Blog,” and “Since the Blog” in my head. I love how it combines my love of writing, art, cooking and researching. It has become an enormous creative outlet for me. We definitely have to do it because we love it or it is just an insane waste of time. 😉

    • Rebecca, I totally agree. I took time to stop by your blog and read your post on Blogger Burn Out. What a fantastic post and I could relate all the way through! Especially your profile of bloggers – it was SPOT ON for me! I am your newest follower! Great work!

  8. I love to blog and to read so many of the wonderful ones out there. I am still learning the tech stuff…I find it overwhelming. Thanks for including the links. Have a good day! Linda

  9. Congrats on your first year blogging! I could relate to so much of your post. I wish I’d read something helpful like this when I started blogging ’cause I’ve learned a lot the hard way. Great tips here for new bloggers!

  10. Love this post!!! You covered so much and shared awesome advice. I can’t wait to share this one with future bloggers. Happy Anniversary to you & thank you for documenting and sharing your ups & downs of the first year. Here’s to a fantastic year two!!!

    • Thanks so much for your kind words, Trish! I appreciate you sharing the post with other future bloggers who may find it helpful, too! Have a great week!

  11. Wonderful read, Sara! Helpful info, great insight and some lessons learned that will help new and old bloggers alike 🙂 I really enjoyed this and will use some of your resources as well. Thanks so much. It’s so great to be part of a supportive blogging community.
    Congrats on your anniversary!

    • Thank you so much, Robyn! I appreciate your kind words. I’m so excited to be a part of the blogging community and can’t wait to see what’s in store for the future. I’m so glad we’ve been able to connect!

  12. Great post Sara!! I also have a full-time day job and have to fit my blogging in on evenings and weekends which means I’ve had to give up on “rest” and cut back on social activities. My husband definitely points out from time to time that my blog is taking over my life and I need to take time off, which I’ve gotten a little better about doing. 🙂 But, it’s good to hear from someone who’s been successful while also working full-time!

    • Michelle, thank you! We definitely need to chat more and share some time management tips! So happy to have met you and look forward to connecting more in the future!

  13. Great advice Sara! So happy to have connected with you. I’ve been blogging for about 3 years and you are right it can be time consuming, but I love it as well. I also started on blogger and moved to wordpress. You must be a great time manager. I don’t work full time and still have a hard time balancing my family life with blogging. My kids are teenagers, but they get tired of hearing about my blog as well 🙂 It’s nice to be able to connect with other bloggers who share your passion. There is always something new to learn and I love the creative outlet it gives me. Congrats on your first year and to many more!

    • Dawn, I’m so happy we connected, too! Time management is definitely so important! Every day I learn something new, and that’s what I love about blogging. And it’s so true, only other bloggers truly know what’s all involved! Thank you for your friendship! Hugs!

  14. Thank you so much for sharing such great insight! I am wanting to start my own blog and have wanted to for quite some time. Your advice was really helpful for me! Best wishes for continued success for you and your blog!

  15. I love this post, it is so helpful! I am going to pin for later… and I followed your pinterest page! 🙂

  16. Thanks so much for including a link to my list of sponsored post companies! Glad you found it to be a helpful resource.

  17. Hi Sara,
    Thank you so much for posting this blog about how much changed for you in just one year. As i finally started my blog a few weeks ago, I was so excited to now have a chance to work on something I was only talking about doing for so long. When I signed up for wordpress–and began ordering blogging books on my kindle, it became increasingly apparent that this hobby was more than meets the eye. Just tonight I was talking on the phone with my mom discussing how deep the blogging world goes and how much goes into your own website. While I scrolled through pinterest I found this post of yours –go figure right!? ;)– You have really given me some confidence back as well as excitement to start making my blog something wonderful. Right off the bat when you mentioned that you should have the right mind set–blogging for the love of writing– is when I knew this path was right for me and you would now be my fairy blogmother. I look forward to checking back on your blog and watching you continue to grow.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences and wisdom in such a clear and humble tone. I invite for you to check out my blog as well…but please bare with me as it currently looks more like a Fisher-Price “My first blog” page. Writing has always been my passion and i look forward to joining you in the blogosphere. Thank you again!

    • Janell – Congrats on the beginning of your blogging adventure! There truly is SO much to the ins and outs of blogging. Continue to research like you’re doing to learn about what it takes to run a successful blog, start putting together a list of other bloggers whose content is similar to what you would like to blog about and reach out to connect and say hi. Good luck to you and I hope you enjoy this adventure! Be ready for the ups and downs – don’t let the downs get you down! You can do it!

  18. These are *really* great tips! I have been blogging for 8 months now and am in that frustration/ how do I take this to the next level phase. This helps put a few things in order on the priority list. Thank you so much!

    • That frustration continues, Ashley. As bloggers I think we’re always trying to take things to the next level, but you’re so right – we need to prioritize. Best of luck to you in your venture. Just work hard and only compare yourself to YOU! My best advice would be to join a bloggers FB group for more insights and inspiration. They have been so helpful for me!

  19. Hi I am totally new to blogging first post went up in May. Still learning html and css. Frustrated with building readership… and found out the hard way that blogging annoys my family as well; some friends, too. On FB I have run into a number of groups that expect pay to join. Is this usual. Can you recommend groups. Thanks for an honest list of dos that work.

    • Elizabeth, you shouldn’t have to be paying to join blogging groups on FB. Search FB Groups for “blogging,” and a ton of different groups will come up. Try out a few and settle on the ones you feel will be most valuable to you. Also, try and seek out other bloggers that have a similar niche as you or are also just starting out. The biggest advice I can give you is you can’t go at this alone. You will need support. That’s what we bloggers do – we support each other. You may want to consider attending a virtual blogging conference like OBC (http://onlineblogcon.com). Soak up information like a sponge and take it all in. You will grow as you learn – and remember – this isn’t a competition – this is your own journey. Good luck!

Speak Your Mind

*