Remember the day when you got yourself a domain name and a WordPress account, activated your web hosting, and then thought, Oh no — now what?!
For some of us, those memories are all too fresh in our minds. Being a rookie blogger is like signing up for an expedition to Everest; exciting, exhilarating, scary as hell, and plagued with doubt as you embark on a journey fraught with obstacles like SEO, image optimization, and website speed. Like climbing a mountain, blogging requires endless training in multiple skills, but when you reach the summit, surely the pain will be soon be forgotten?
My Rookie Introduction
I started blogging in April, 2015. Eight months later, I’m amazed at how many obstacles I have overcome, yet how many still remain to be conquered.
These four rookie problems have caused me no end of grief, so I’m hoping that if you are currently taking your first wobbly steps into the blogging world, some of the things I have learned will help make your life a little easier.
Sourcing and Optimizing Images
Images have been my number one headache. Everyone says a picture tells a thousand stories and words are meaningless without good pictures. No pressure there!
Worse still, that image you need of a hot air balloon, or snow covered mountain top is not one you have in your arsenal! Maybe you also struggle with displaying images and even uploading them to WordPress.
Please don’t do what I did and upload huge, non-compressed files straight into WordPress. Even if you manage to avoid the dreaded http error, and successfully bank it in your media library, it will make your page size big and slow.
After much trial and error, I have found these tools invaluable when it comes to images.
Image Sourcing: Flickr Creative Commons, Pixabay, Unsplash, and Stocksnap are free to use and offer a repository of images for you to choose from. Please ensure you appropriately credit any photos, as failure to do so could get you into hot water. (Although some websites, like Unsplash, do not require attribution.)
This list from Canva offers 73 sites with free stock photos.
Image Sizing: Bulk resize (free) and Lightroom (subscription) allow you to set a uniform width and compress images before uploading. By then cropping images to the same height in WordPress, I achieve a neat, uniform look which is much more attractive to readers.
SMUSH is a free plugin that I also use to further compress uploaded files.
Crafting a Good Headline
Crafting a good headline is essential if you want people to read the amazing content you are producing. It doesn’t matter how good the content if no one feels sufficiently intrigued to take the plunge and click on the link to your page.
Both Pat Flynn and Blog Tyrant offer advice on this subject, but for rookie bloggers, this deluge of reading and learning can quickly fry your brain. No matter how much we’re told that headlines are important, crafting that catchy headline is still a challenge!
A simple alternative to help craft your headlines is the Co-Schedule Headline Analyser which I use to mould headlines before writing the post. You simply pop in your proposed title and it gives you a grade and percentage score out of 100. Anything 70 plus gets you a green light and it lists all the options you have tried so you can see which is likely to be the most engaging.
You also get a grading and personally I quite like an A+, so it can be motivating and fun at the same time!
Additionally, don’t underestimate the power of the traditional brainstorm. Try writing 10-20 headlines down on paper before deciding on one. We often come up with our best ideas when we’re forced to produce more than we think we’re capable of. So crank out some options, even if they seem ridiculous. The perfect headline might just show itself!
Driving More Traffic
Ever sat at your keyboard, waiting for someone to visit your site, follow you on Twitter, or comment on your Facebook page? I have, and it can be soul destroying.
Figuring out the best way to drive traffic to your site can be a source of immeasurable frustration but here’s a few things which are working for me.
Data Analysis: Analyze the sources of your traffic by referring to Google Analytics to see where most of your traffic is coming from. By tracking this data, you can identify successful activities and ineffective time sapping activities. Simply do more of the successful stuff and avoid the time wasting (even if it’s fun).
For me, that means less Instagram and more Pinterest!
Even if you are a wallflower, trust me this is worth the effort. Since joining Travel Blog Success, I have participated in a number of collaborative group posts. Not only is it great fun, but it’s allowed me to build relationships with other bloggers, find more travel inspiration, and help others and myself increase our traffic naturally.
Schedule Your Social
How social can someone be? Even a natural social butterfly can’t be constantly active on the many different social sites. The number of platforms is frankly mind boggling and as a rookie, it’s overwhelming. From Pinterest to Reddit, Instagram to Facebook, and Twitter to Stumbleupon, social media can be a full-time job in itself.
To make your social media responsibilities more manageable, I recommend selecting just a few to focus on at the outset and using Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule content across multiple platforms. (They both have free options.) By using a scheduling platform, you can post at prime traffic times, even if you happen to be at the dentist or working on something else. You can also spread out your posting to avoid overwhelming your followers.
Please don’t do as I did at the outset, and put your own posts on endless repeat. How dull is that for someone viewing your Twitter or Facebook feed? A better idea is to share posts from other bloggers which resonate with your brand, any news or special offers that might interest your audience, and anything which relates to your niche which is proving popular.
Buzzsumo is a great way to identify popular posts.
I’ve found Website Grader to be a great tool for quick feedback, providing an assessment of your site, along with helpful advice to improve your site’s score. Most of it is easy enough to do and can make a huge difference to your user experience.
Plugins are often the culprit of slow load times on your website, which you’ll only discover after downloading the many tempting plugin options. Rather than deactivating and reactivating each of your many plugins, try the Plugin Performance Profiler to identify which ones are slowing your site down.
So there you have it, four big issues which kept me awake in the early months of blogging, along with relatively simple ways to remedy them. I hope you find these pointers helpful.
Rest assured, no matter how steep that mountain may seem, in just a few short months you will consider it a mere hill!
I’m Anne, a not-thirty-something blogger on TravelTheGlobe4Less, a site dedicated to sharing travel hacking tips and ideas for ways to travel without spending a fortune. Feel free to connect with me on TravelTheGlobe4Less, or Twitter.