6 Mistakes I Made As A New Blogger And How I Corrected Them
Some Links In This Post Are Affiliate Links, See Disclosure For More Details
For the last several years I have wanted to start a blog because I enjoy writing, photography and just plain creativity. Well recently I decided it was now or never, and I dove right in. I had NO IDEA the amount of time it would consume, nor the vast amount of knowledge I would need to learn. But nonetheless I decided to give it a true, concerted effort for one year and see where this blog goes. So I am now a little over two months in and I will say the amount of things I have learned is staggering, and this coming from a doctor LOL. I thought it would be great to share with you some of the most important things I have learned, which have actually come through my blogging mistakes. I figured if I could impart even a little bit of knowledge to anyone in the same boat as me, then this post will serve its purpose. If you find this information useful then be sure to check out my Recommendations Page for more resources that I have found helpful through my journey thus far. And now here we go with my 6 biggest mistakes thus far (I am sure there will be more to come LOL).
Mistake #1: Not Using Affiliate Links Correctly
So in my first two weeks I had a post go viral- now when I say this it sounds awesome and dramatic but let me stop and say a few things first. The first thing I should say is that the term "viral" is relative. We are not talking millions of visitors to my blog, but more like 10,000 views on this one post alone and about 3,000 views in one day. This is all with no blog marketing and a blog that was about 14 days old. No other post of mine has come close to matching these numbers.
The second thing I will say is that I was totally not prepared for this in any way, shape, or form so I did not benefit a whole lot other than getting my name and blog out into the world! One of the biggest ways I was unprepared was the fact that I did not know how to use Amazon affiliate links correctly. Now, to some this was likely a very silly mistake on my part, but to me I had no idea. I was under the impression that once I registered for Amazon affiliates and registered my website with them, I could simply copy and paste the web address for a product I was wanting and link that on my post. I figured they would see visitors to Amazon came from my website so I would get the credit. After a few weeks I started to wonder why, after 10,00 visitors, not a single person clicked on any of the links according to my affilaite dashboard.
What I did not know was that under your Amazon affiliate account you had special tags that need to be added to your link and that you could obtain those specific links with your tag already embedded for the product you want straight through your affiliate dashboard. Furthermore, you can use the link checker provided under the tools section to make sure that you are using a valid URL that tags to your account. I owe this discovery to Michelle's Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing class, which is one of the only blogging courses I have taken thus far. I signed up for the class after I had no success with conversions and after reading glowing reviews of the course from so many other bloggers. I quickly learned a wealth of information, the most important piece of information however was the fact that I was using my links incorrectly. This simple realization paid for the class in itself. Once I made the change I immediately started seeing income (although small) from this affiliate relationship. This was a good month after I had first posted my viral post so this means that I likely missed out on a tremendous amount of conversions without knowing it and that's why this will go down as my number one mistake thus far.
I will tell you though that I am truly not blogging for money, it is more of a hobby for me, yet a hobby that is extrememly time consuming. The way I see it is that some extra money would definitely make me feel a little less guilty about all the time blogging eats away at my day and also helps offset the expenses that occur when I take courses, buy stock photos, etc. So the fact that I missed out on some of this income was a bummer but certainly not the end of the world! You live and learn right?? Better to know now rather than six months from now!
Mistake #2: Not Realizing The Importance Of Photos
This one actually surprised me a little when I finally discovered that it was a mistake I was making. I have always loved photography and that is one of the reasons why I started the blog, so I had a reason to take more pictures! I had all these visions in my head of the gorgeous photos I would take and display in my posts to coincide with amazingly written posts. Fast forward to actually going live with my blog and I realized that it took a lot of time to be an amazing writer, photographer and administrator of my blog all at the same time. I let the photography take a back seat and they were the last thing I did and thought about prior to hitting publish on a post.
Now my photography was not bad by any means, but it was not stellar either. Once I realized this I started really putting more of an effort into my photos and subsequently started changing out old photos with new ones on older posts. This dramatically increased the look and feel of my blog for the better. I also signed up for a stock photo membership for the times when I really want stellar photos but run out of time to take my own. This leaves me with no excuse to have great photos and thus the total package! Ivory Mix's photos are very nice quality and you can chose to buy single images or a premium membership with access to the full library of photos. If you are looking to save money as you start your blogging adventure, paying as you go would be a good option that way you are only paying for what you truly use. Either way, trust me when I say focus on the photos, they can truly take a blog from medicocre to stellar. After all, when you are reading blogs or researching on the internet, aren't you much more drawn to the visually appealing websites? This is what you want for your blog!
Mistake #3: Not Taking Time Off To Recharge
So here's the deal, I have learned that most blogs take on average 2 years until they really gain a true audience and financial gains. Therefore, you really need to ask yourself, can I keep the pace I am starting out with for two years? Likely you can not. And this burn out can lead to poorer quality posts and lessening engagement across the board. This is not good for your blog or for you. Take a break, your blog will still be there when you get back, and as long as you didn't take an extra long hiatus, so will your audience.
I learned this mistake merely by chance as I came home one day to our internet line being severed which took over a week to repair. I took that week as a forced, but much needed, downtime away from the blog. During that time I also came up with new ideas for the blog and was excited and ready to hit the ground running once my forced break was over. If you are ever feeling burnt out or if you find yourself losing your creative juices take a few days or even a few weeks away and this could make all the difference.
Mistake #4: Not Writing Down All Of My Ideas
Another lesson learned the hard way was not writing down my ideas for blog posts and blog improvements as they came to my mind. You see, blogging information is like a black hole, you start researching topics and reading articles and one takes you to the next, and the next, and so forth. You come across ideas and tips and you think, yes I have got to remember that. By the time you are done reading the last article you have likely forgotten half of those good ideas!
So what did I do to correct this? I went to Home Goods (aka My Happy Place) and bought as many cute and colorful notebooks as I could get my hands on. They are now stashed around my house and purse and serve not only as cute decoration but are there to quickly grab and write in when an idea comes to mind. Win-Win!
Mistake #5: Not Pre Loading My Blog
As I have been preparing to go on vacation I have been writing up posts and taking images like crazy so that I can continue publishing new things to the blog even while I am laying on the beach! So this got me thinking, man if I would have done this prior to having my blog go live, I would have likely had a lot more engagement on my blog. You see, when people stop by your blog they will read what they came for, but then if they see some other interesting articles they will likely stick around for those too! Think about it, wouldn't you rather go to a blog that had a wealth of information already and looks well established rather than a blog with one or two posts? Easy answer, right? With me I like to just jump right in and get started with things and this is exactly what I did on the blog, but just this once it probably would have worked more in my favor to bide my time and start with a fully stocked blog!
Mistake #6: Not Asking Permission
This my friends is a big one, and perhaps even a controversial topic, although I am not sure that there is true controversy as there is a pretty clear cut answer. So you know all of the "round up" posts you see on blogs and all over Pinterest. Well I love them and I even have some myself as well. As a blogger I love these types of posts as it lets you link arms with other bloggers to promote the best of the best on a certain topic rather than trying to out compete everyone in the same niche. As a consumer I love these types of posts because it is a One Stop Shop for whatever topic you are interested in.
Well one thing I learned after my first such post was that you MUST ask permission to use a photo from someone else's blog. Even if it is posted on Pinterest or another social media outlet, it is still copyrighted by them and legally, you can not use it on your blog without permission. I came across an article about this soon after my first round up post and I thought, oh my goodness, why didn't I think of that? I will tell you why, because everyone does it (uses other people's photos)! It is so commonplace to just hit "save image" on you phone or computer and it's done. People don't really think of image copyrights with the explosion of Pinterest and other social media outlets these days because images are everywhere. And don't get me wrong, some people absolutely are aware of this and do ask permission, but I know a lot of people that don't.
So what did I do? Well after reading this article I felt awful and went back and emailed everyone apologizing and asking permission to use their photo. Everyone that responded was so gracious and said no problem! There are a few that have yet to respond and I simply plan to remove their features from my post if I do not hear back from them. Moving forward a tip I learned is that if you read closely on others blogs under the privacy or disclosure sections they may mention if they are okay with you using a photo, if it does not explicitly say I always contact them now prior to such a post. I let them know that I will include both a photo link and text link that go directly to their post and that I will not use the recipe or detailed information, just a short description. I have had a few people say no to me and I am totally fine with that, I am glad I know before I post rather than deal with them being upset if they saw it being used without me asking. I have also had several people that are appreciative and supportive of what I am doing and have shared my post that they are featured in on some of their social media outlets. So really, if you do not contact to ask for permission not only are you violating copyright laws but you are also missing out on valuable opportunities to connect and network!
And that's it! Those are my mistakes so far but I am sure there will be more to come! If you look at mistakes as an opportunity to learn and grow then your blog will benefit fully from any wrong turns. Please feel free to contact me or comment with any questions you have, I will be happy to help in any way I can! And also feel free to leave your website in the comments below, I would love to check it out! And remember, if you found this information useful, be sure to check out my Recommendations Page for more resources I have found helpful in my blogging journey!