Blogging is hard. I’m just going to say it. It’s a full-time job without pay, and if you commit to it, you had better be in for the love. Friends interested in blogging have asked me how to get started, so I’m going to share some blogging tips and lessons learned and put it all out there.
I started Pura Vida. Sometimes. (PVS) for a few reasons. After I left my last job in integrative medicine, I missed it. For more than 7 years, I had the opportunity to learn from healers and thought leaders like Drs. Andrew Weil, Tieraona Low Dog, Robert Lustig, and Sanjay Gupta, as well as Michael Pollan, Rick Bayless, and many more. When I moved into B2B supply management, I didn’t want to distance myself entirely from that space, and I wanted to share what I had learned from some of the world’s best. The subtext of this is that I also wanted to be able to get into events and on a press pass, but to do so, you need to reach a certain critical mass – become an “influencer” – so for now, I’m paying for my own damn tickets.
Secondly, as a marketer, I’m used to writing about a product or service, tailored to the needs (and sometimes whims) of my supervisors, focused on a certain call-to-action. During grad school, I did some writing for our campus paper that people really enjoyed, but in the last decade, I had lost my voice, so this blog was a chance to rediscover it.
Lastly, I had the idea that becoming a blogger would make me a better marketer. Boy, was that an understatement. As time goes by, I fall deeper down the rabbit hole of digital marketing and realize how much I didn’t know about this new frontier at the crossroads of communication and technology. I feel PVS has made me a better, more adaptable writer and it has challenged me to write to a different sort of demand, but – as a career marketer and beginning blogger – I still have a lot to learn about marketing in the blogosphere. There are so many people out there with beautiful photos, solid writing, a grasp of consumer demand, and they have the promotional and digital science pieces locked down, and I’ve become their student.
So where do you start?
- Have a clear idea of why you want a blog. I hope someday you’ll (and I’ll) be wildly successful, but in the meantime, you’ll need something to remind you why you got started and renew your enthusiasm when times get tough, or you get busy. Define your motivators, write them down, and stick to them. For me, my “why” is that I love to write, I love what I write about, and I love marketing.
- Have a clear idea of your brand. What do you want to call your blog? What are your colors? What sort of imagery is acceptable and attractive to you? What will your voice be? Who are you writing for and what do they like? How will your blog be different from competitors’? Anyone can start a blog, and there are a whole lot of them, so how will yours be unique? It may seem preemptive, but it’s easier to think this out before you start rather than correcting course 6 months in.
- Figure out what your platform will be. Social sites like Medium and LinkedIn have great blog functionality and built-networks hosted on their domains – a great place to start if you want to establish your professional authority or if you have good writing to share and don’t want to get bogged down by technology; however, if you want your own domain, look and feel, and site structure, you’re probably looking at WordPress or Blogger. I went with Blogger because I didn’t want to pay hosting fees, but WordPress is more universal, robust, and scalable, in case you want to turn your hustle into a legit business.
- Set your site up. Get a domain name from GoDaddy (which has a lot of options for business users) or Google (which is cheaper and easier) – I’ve done both. You can get someone with skillz to build a site for you, or you can buy a template and learn the HTML you need as you go, like I did. You can surprisingly learn most things through Google search. Make sure your site is responsive because we live in a mobile world and Google has prioritized it – desktop computers come second now.
- Start posting. It’s helpful to have some sort of editorial calendar with ideas, holidays, events, dates, etc., to map out your posts, and then be consistent. I know…do as I say – not as I do. Decide whether you’ll post once a month, once a week, twice a week. Add images (especially a header photo and something pinnable/shareable), and if you can, video and multimedia because people have gnats’ patience lately – make it easy to watch or read.
- Promote the hell out of the blog. Go to town with Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest – put your posts out to the world everywhere possible as often as possible to the point it feels annoying to you, because even then, people won’t see it. The average tweet has a feed life of 90 minutes and Facebook only a few hours. Post natively – post to FB from Facebook, Instagram from Instagram. Be very, very social. No matter how good your blog, if you don’t hustle, it will never be seen by anyone besides your mom and her friends. Hi, Mom!
How do you turn up the strategy once you get going?
- Monetize. Early on, I set up some affiliate agreements with Amazon, Target – the two stores where I spend my paychecks – and Share-a-Sale, which has a really good list of brands and shops. It’s relatively easy to become an affiliate – much harder to actually make money, and once you have the agreements in place, you can start to (try to) make some money. Before you start using affiliate links, however, research Federal Trade Commission requirements and make sure you’re compliant. Plus, I must warn you, until you have a critical mass of visitors (and people that actually click and buy), you won’t make much – for me, $11 to-date. Eleven blessed dollars, for which I am very grateful, whoever you are that clicked and purchased.
- Build a list. Once you have a certain amount of followers on social media and in your own mailing list, you get perks that come with the influencer or microinfluencer status. I’m obviously not there yet. Bloglovin’ is a great site for following blogs and building a following. You can also use really helpful tools like Sumo for list building tools and other handy widgets. One challenge is that, per CANN-SPAM and Canada’s CASL, you must have your address in emails you send out to your list to be legally compliant. I’m not going to send from my home address and I’m not investing in a P. O. Box until I’m making money, so I apologize if you’re on my list and only hear crickets. Someday I’ll deservedly return the appreciation.
- Become metric-driven. Set up a Google Analytics account so you can track what kind of traffic you’re getting, when visitors are more likely to come to your site, what your visitors are interested in, and tailor your actions accordingly. For example, I know that I do well on Saturday and Sunday mornings (around when I usually post) and Wednesday mornings for God knows why, and that my visitors are interested in travel, career, and pop culture/current events. So you won’t see me posting about Sports on a Thursday morning. As if.
- SEO. I don’t even know how to begin explaining this behemoth topic, so I’ll start with a story. I love the Grammarly plug-in for Google Chrome and I linked to it from one of my more frequented blog posts. Well someone at Grammarly saying they were trying to boost their rankings, and would I please remove my link to them. Suffice it to say, I love the plug-in a little less now. Weeks later at an SEO lecture, I was sitting next to a nice person from Vertical Measures and divulged my Grammarly drama. She told me about domain authority – I need to establish my authority by getting other sites to link to me and other sites look for links from high domain authority. Working on it – tell your friends. But also, if your blog posts have titles that answer common Google queries, or if they have numbered lists, or use certain keywords, and have clean hyperlinks, among other things, you’ll have better SEO. Seems like it should be another blog post once I get going because the topic is vast, but in the meantime, the Vertical Measures and HubSpot blogs are great resources.
I’m a delinquent blogger, true to form in most other things in my life, but I do love it. I’m able to do most of what I set out to do. However, when life gets crazy, my family and full-time (paying) job take precedence and my blog ethic suffers. I think I’ve got the artistry of blogging down, but there’s a whole science yet to be explored.
If you have a top-rated site and would love to link to me, we’ll be BFFs but for now, I’m grateful for your readership, your comments, and positive thoughts. If you’re crazy like me and believe in something so strongly you’re willing to forego sleep and social activity, I wish you the best of luck on your blog baby – don’t forget me when you’re famous.