Blogging for Beginners

Blogging for Beginners //

I have taken a laid back approach to blogging over the years, making small improvements here and there as I learn more and as I have time. I've allowed myself space to develop focus and content. Beginner Beans has hit a recent growth that I am so excited about! A small part of that is record high (for this blog) views. But really, the more exciting part for me is getting closer to the brand I imagine, improving the message I feel called to write, and seeing the hard work of a beginner pay off in ways beyond money.

To celebrate I bought myself a little something called Next time you want to check out my blog or want to share the love by telling someone else to check it out, it's just a simple

I'm also celebrating this fun art/hobby/job of blogging by sharing this post to encourage other beginner bloggers.

UPDATE: This post has evolved as I learn more and add more resources that I've used to help me establish and improve my little niche in the blog world. I periodically get questions about blogging from fellow beginners, and will use this post to answer those. Be sure and save it for future reference.

1 | Before You Start Blogging

learning why, choosing topic, being unique

Know your reasons for blogging.

This makes a huge difference for everything that follows. Knowing the "why" is the first step to figuring out your personal "hows." Reasons for blogging are broad--making money, writing practice, landing a book contract, growing a business, providing a service, documenting family happenings and sharing them with loved ones far away, supporting a cause, sharing knowledge. There can be multiple motivations for blogging. Choose the main reasons for you and be honest with those efforts. Reasons for blogging will change, and along with that your tactics and methods of improving your blog will change. Reevaluate these periodically so you can be sure your "why" is motivating the rest of your blog.

Tips for Beginner Bloggers |

Determine your focus.

Figuring out your reasons for blogging should help zero in on the focus of your blog. If you blog to grow a business, then the product or process of that business would probably be the focus. If you blog to share knowledge, then whatever that knowledge is (gluten-free diet?) would be the focus. Even if you enjoy a lot of things and want to dabble in all of them, try to figure out a common tie between them or maybe a couple of those things that would have main priority. A little time and experience with blogging might help to refine the focus of your blog, so come back to this as needed.

Swimming in Great |
How to Find (or re-find) Your Passion |

Learn what you add to the blog world.

After focusing your blog, think about what you have to offer. Figure out what it is that you're good at, that will add that special, unique edge to your blog. What areas of advice do people usually ask you about? Is there something you love doing or some way you love helping others, that could contribute to making your blog special? If you struggle a little with choosing a focus for your blog, then it may take some time blogging to help figure this part out.

What to Do When You Have Too Many Ideas |
24 Questions That Will Change You and Your Brand |
What to Do When "All of the Good Ideas are Already Taken" |

2 | Set Up Your Blog

title + tagline, categories, design

Choose a title and tagline.

Your title and optional tagline should capture the heart of your focus and what you contribute to the conversation. Make it catchy, different, and personal. Even if you opt out of displaying a tagline, come up with one anyway to help you realize your blog focus. You might choose a basic temporary title ("Trina's Blog"), then update later when you've learned more about your focus and what makes you unique.

Choose your key categories.

Thinking in terms of frequently used tags or labels for your posts might help you discover your focus. These are the topics to keep writing about which will give your readers continuity and similar interests to return for.

The Strategic Way to Define Your Blog Categories |

Set up pages.

Create and improve your pages including an About page, a Start Here page, and whatever else makes sense for you. A Resources page can also be helpful for your readers. Try improving that with key words and phrases that describe the focus of your blog and those things that you will repeatedly write about. Share what you love writing about, or answer common questions from your niche. Give people a reason to return. Share about yourself, tell what your blog is all about, and showcase links to your best posts.

The Anatomy of An Unforgettable About Page |
The Hole On Most Blogs That Needs To Be Filled |

Design your blog.

I've done my own design using PicMonkey. It's taken a lot of trial and error and redesigning to land on the simple design I have today. There are some great and affordable options out there for purchase. Do a search on Google, Pinterest, or Etsy depending on what you're looking for. Also, don't rule out doing it yourself. And remember, that simple is better and whitespace is your friend. Decluttering is just as important in your blog as it is in your home!

Why Simple Websites Are Scientifically Better + Planning A Simpler Site |
31 Days to Better Branding |
Beginner Blog Design with PicMonkey |

3 | Start Posting on Your Blog

frequency, editing, photos

Choose quality over quantity.

Frequency of writing is important when establishing your blog--readers will only return for more when there is more to return for. However, don't get too caught up in keeping up with a writing schedule and lose the importance of providing quality and relevant content for your readers. Do you provide your readers with something? Resources or links to the topic you're writing about? Inspirational photos? An easy to read list or bullet points of information? A step-by-step how-to? Not every post can or needs to be this detailed and thought out. But as much as possible, provide your readers with quality information that is worth their time. If you're able to maintain that and post daily, do it! But work on your quality of posts before you worry about frequency.

7 Tips for Pinterest-Worthy Posts |
Tips for Laying Out Blog Posts |
Recurring Tasks for Bloggers |

Edit your posts.

Good news for bloggers: You don't have to be a writer to blog!
Bad news for readers: Bloggers don't have to be writers to blog.

Unless you run a blog of strictly all photos, you'll do a lot of writing (and even a photo blog has some text). Do us all a favor and edit your work. Take out the rambling that obviously doesn't fit, fix the glaring errors, use spell check, and try to follow basic grammar rules. Reference a book if you are truly clueless, or attend a workshop or take a class to improve your writing. There are sure to be typos, but make it look like you at least tried.

Ernest Hemingway's Top 5 Tips for Writing Well |
Beginner Writing for Non-Writers |

Use great photos.

I personally am thankful I don't have to be a photographer to blog. And even more thankful for free photo editing tools to save others from my obviously beginner-level photos. Photos add a lot to a post, giving a brief visual break in the midst of all text and showcasing any projects or things being blogged about. They also provide something to be "pinned" which is my personal favorite way of saving and sharing a great post. Keep these simple, too. See a few of my favorite stock photos below that are great for adding text over. And checkout my tutorials for easy photo editing and design tips for great word art.

Word Art in PicMonkey + Design 101 |
Beginner Photo Editing with PicMonkey |

checkout these photo sources:
Death to the Stock

4 | Get Your Blog Read

audience, interacting, search engine optimization

Help your audience.

Beyond close family and friends, who reads your blog? What type of person is likely to return to your blog or become a regular reader? Figuring this out will help you know how to provide your readers with relevant content. Knowing what problems you help people solve can help define your audience. Help people solve problems, and they'll likely return.

Get involved online.

Link your blog on your accounts, and be active on social media. Join a relevant forum and add your link to the signature. Read others' posts and comment when you have something to add. Pin your posts on Pinterest. See "you don't have to do it all" below. Ultimately use the social media that brings you the most value. And when you post online, stay away from the temptation to spam people. Look through your feeds. Are you only talking about your blog and sharing links to your own posts? Mix it up with photos, status updates, and promoting someone else's work. Remember to also like and comment on and share other people's posts when relevant. Be a part of the conversation and get off of yourself every now and then.

The 5 Ws of Link Curation |
Pinterest and Blogging |

Tap into the power of SEO.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not an area where beginners need to become pros, but it is absolutely worth a couple steps to tap into this tool. In a really simple nutshell, SEO is how search engines like Google choose which sites to show in search results. Even us beginners can show up on the first page. (Don't believe me? Search "PicMonkey Watermark" on Google and see who's #3.)

To do this make your titles, photo descriptions, and blog post descriptions count. First, figure out what your keywords are. There are ways to get really precise about this, but even us beginners can somewhat accurately choose keywords for a post. (For example, for my watermark tutorial, watermark, picmonkey, tutorial, were all keywords.) It also helps to do a search and see what comes up. Use those keywords in the title of the post, in the photo description, and in the blog post summary.

Bonus points if you write a post so good that it gets linked or shared by a bigger blog. SEO likes that kind of "vote" for your post. That comes later. Start with great content and good SEO.

5 | Grow and grow some more.

emailing, monetizing, learning, and more

Get real life support.

Remember that each online profile represents a real life person. There are great relationships to be had with other people doing the same thing you do online. The choices to do these are endless. Ask a more experienced person to be your mentor, start or join a mastermind group, connect with locals. Make some friends who do this too. By doing this, it's easier to feel a part of a team rather than an outsider feeling jealous of everyone else's success.

Find Your Mentor |
Make Real Life Friends Online |

Start an email list.

I use Mailchimp to send out my monthly emails. It's free if your list is under 2,000. Even if you don't plan on sending out emails right away, you can start collecting addresses now. This is a valuable tool to keep in touch with your readers.

Email Marketing Checklist |

Make an income. (Add affiliate links, ads, etc.)

Two common ways to start monetizing your blog is to add affiliate links or ads to your blog. Affiliate links are like what I use to promote Warby Parker and PicMonkey. I write helpful posts, then use the affiliate links (both of those happen to be through Share-a-Sale) that track sales and give me a commission. When it comes to ads, you can invite people to post ads on your blog with ad managers like Passionfruit. However, you generally need to have proof of a decent audience to convince people to pay you for that. You could start with offering to advertise for fellow bloggers or Etsy shop owners for free just to get better with the process and grow your blog before getting paid for it. There are other options. Read the following resources for more ideas.

10 Tips to Build a Profitable Blog You Love |
Top Affiliate Marketing Tips |
Never Start a Blog for the Money |
Blogging Taxes |
How To Really Make a Profit From Your Blog |

Guest post.

One way to keep growing and increasing your audience is to guest post. If you're brand new, you could start with inviting people to guest post for you, or connect with fellow beginner-ish bloggers and guest post for them. If you have a little experience, then jump into submitting ideas to bigger blogs, but be sure your work is polished and relevant. Start with finding their submissions page. Or connect with them in more natural ways on social media before emailing them your request.

Attend a conference or take a course.

I read a lot of "how I got started blogging" stories a few years ago, and it seems conferences were a common game-changer. I attended one in September 2012, and while it wasn't a huge turning point in my blogging, it was an awesome experience with great, inspiring speakers, and meeting lots of fellow bloggers. The year after, I opted for an online course since I couldn't make it to a conference. Whether you're a true beginner without a blog or been plugging away for a while, attending a conference or taking a course is a great way to pursue your passion even beyond blogging. For Christian women, check out Allume, Jumping Tandem, and Influence Conference. There are lots of other great ones and writing or crafting or teaching specific and more. Just start searching or asking around!

read //
Get the Most out of a Conference |

Learn from the pros.

A lot of what I do today I've learned from others. I've done lots of searching on Google and Pinterest for how to do everything from creating my social media icons to finding a conference to attend. And I've found a couple pros I return to for insight. To help you get started (or continue) in your reading and learning, here are some of my favorites:

blogs //
How to Blog: A Step-by-Step Guide |
Love Grows Design Blog
Blogging Tips You Should Know |
31 Days to Build a Better Blog |

books //
The $100 Start Up by Chris Guillebeau
Start by Jon Acuff

Bonus | Love Blogging

loving it, giving back

Love what you do, or don't do it.

Blogging is really all about doing what you love and sharing it with the world. If at some point you stop loving it, then change it or quit. In the meantime enjoy loving what you do :)

Common Blogging Mistakes That Are Wasting Your Audience's Time |

Use your influence for good.

Even if your blog stays small, you'll end up with a few readers. Use your voice and your platform for something good. Avoid diluting your message by promoting every good thing that comes your way. Think now about what you care about and what good you hope to promote with your online presence. Even without a blog, this is good for us to keep in mind on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Think about that one charity you want to tell others about or gain donations for. And think about how you can use your space to educate and encourage others in doing good.

Know your limits. You don't have to do "it all."

If something doesn't work for you, then don't do it. One of my turning points was when at a conference Allie said that ads didn't work for her so she decided to just blog for fun. Her contract work is her full time business. That's just one example. But as you dive in and try different people's recommendations, weed out the excess and choose only those things that truly work and are worth the effort for you. I don't allow comments on my blog for that very reason.

Why I'm No Longer Accepting Comments |

Find contentment and humility in all stages.

There are some ugly things to address along the blogging path: Jealousy and pride just to name a couple. Address these when they come up and choose to make it something positive. We're all in this together. And part of loving what we do is celebrating others when they love what they do.

The Truth About Christian Celebrity |

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*Note: Affiliate links used in this post. Purchases through these links could earn me a small commission with no extra cost to you. Thanks!