Get to the Correct Blogging MindsetJanne Kemppainen |
This post is part of the Blog with Hugo series.
In this series of been talking about really technical topics.This is going to be a softer post where I’m going to talk about what is and what is not important when you are starting a brand new blog. I hope this post will inspire you to get going and keep going!
The absolute first thing I want you to understand is this: When you’re starting out it doesn’t matter what your blog looks like. You are not going to have many visitors in the beginning so it is much more important to create good quality content to get your site ranking. Just get started.
“Content is king” seems such an overused term nowadays but the message is still valid.
Since you are reading this series you have probably already decided that you want to be using Hugo for your blog. This means that you are writing your content in Markdown. This puts you in a good position since you are not bound by the technologies that you can use. Migrating to other static site generators or even WordPress is always a possibility.
It is a huge benefit especially in the beginning since you don’t really have to care about formatting. Markdown is all about the content and it's your site's theme that decides how it should be displayed.
So don't worry about having a professionally made logo or fancy features. Start with a simple layout and make sure that the content is readable on all devices. You can tweak the look and feel of your blog later on when it actually matters.
You should aim to provide value to your readers as early as possible!
Stick to it
At the start of your blogging journey you are going to see a ghost town. It can be really demotivating to keep writing when nobody visits your site. Especially if you don't have an existing social media following to get the initial audience.
Use this time to your advantage. Try out different things and different layouts for your site. Try to see what looks good and what doesn’t.
The important thing is to get your content ranking as soon as possible. It can take months or even a year for your posts to reach their highest rank. No matter how good your content is it wont get to the first page of search engine results overnight.
This image is from my Google Search Console showing all the clicks and impressions my site got during the first twelve months. Growth takes time.
My site is still not huge, far from it. Last month I finally got to one thousand unique visitors. But the direction is right and when the growth starts to happen it can be super inspiring. Take advantage of that feeling to ride the wave!
Every site is unique and the results will vary. If you publish more often than me you're probably going to see results faster. My figures are just anecdotal evidence, many people do way better, many may never gain any traction.
I want you to promise to yourself that you'll commit to this for at least one year.
If you can't do that then there's really no point even starting. Go do something else because blogging requires a lot of effort and if you're not willing to go all the way through you could be wasting your time.
You need to be consistent so make sure that you work on your blog for at least fifteen minutes each day. It may sound like a small amount but it will help you build a habit. Try it for one week, then one month.
But how to get your creative juices flowing?
I haven't been strictly consistent. There's been a month that I didn't write a single blog post. Sometimes I struggle to come up with ideas. Sometimes I have self-doubt and feel my content ideas are rubbish. These things can slow you down.
Trying to force yourself to do things can be tough. Make sure that you also allocate time to other activities than blogging so that it doesn't totally consume you. Do something physical as regular exercise can improve your memory and thinking skills.
Go outside, take a walk, pick up your phone and start dictating your ideas to a notes app. Voice dictation works quite well nowadays so you can just speak your thoughts out loud to your phone. Don’t care about the mistakes that much but try to capture your thinking process down. Only fix those parts that you wouldn’t understand at all later because you’re going to be rewriting it anyway.
Walking can be a great way to get you in the correct state of mind to produce ideas. But don’t stress about it! Just be ready to take your phone out and make notes of the ideas when they appear.
When you get back to your computer to start the actual writing process make sure that your writing spot is comfortable and ergonomic. Make a cup of tea or coffee and get rid of any distractions. Get ready to concentrate with one goal in mind: getting the work done. If you find it difficult to cocentrate you can try using a pomodoro timer and focus for 25 minutes at a time.
You should also choose a topic that you know well or are passionate about. It shouldn’t feel forced and you should enjoy what you’re writing. Having the wrong topic can be disastrous for your inspiration even if your site becomes successful. Eventually you'll just start hating what you're doing.
Do keyword research
If you want to get noticed by Google you'll have to write searchable content. People google lots of things but they are not going to do a search about your daily life unless you're already popular. The same is true with personal vlogs.
When I say do keyword research I don't mean that you should try to cram those exact keywords to your posts. Rather look at the meaning of the search phrase and think what content would serve the search intent. Search engines have become quite good at guessing what the user wants so you should try to satisfy the users’ needs first and foremost.
The Google search bar is your best keyword tool. You can start writing a search phrase and Google will give you automatic suggestions. These are the queries that users are actually searching for. You can also try out different letters after a base query to find more long-tail keywords that you might've otherwise not thought of.
At the bottom of each search results page there are also suggested searches so remember to check those out too! In the beginning you should opt for less competitive keywords and go for the bigger fish when your site has gained some authority.
You also have to trust your own domain knowledge. Maybe something doesn't seem to be popular on search engines but you know that it is fundamental information. Write the post anyway, you might be surprised by the amount of people you're going to reach.
You could also see what the other people in your niche are doing. Maybe you'll find out that someone has made a great resource about thing A but there's not that much information about thing B available. Could you be the one to fill that space?
Plan your content
Is there anything worse than staring at an empty editor without an idea for your next post? Probably yes, but the frustration levels from writer's block rank quite high.
Now that you know how to get inspired and how to find search friendly topics it's time to start planning your content so that you'll always have something to write about.
There are two ways that you can approach this:
- Create a content calendar with planned topics
- Create a list of topics that you can choose from whenever you start writing
The first option is the stricter one. With the calendar method you commit to releasing that exact article on its planned release day, no matter what. You can for example choose to release an article every Monday and then fill the next eight Mondays with the topics that you're going to write about. If you want to publish twice a week you could then fill the next eight Thursdays too.
This gives you a clear view of the near future of your blog. You should schedule your content for at least two months in advance, or even longer.
With the second option you'll have a hitlist of topics that you'll eventually want to write about. Then when you start writing you just choose one of the topics on that list and start working on that.
This way of working is not as organized but can also work nicely, and nothing prevents you from committing to a set publishing schedule. You just haven't selected what to publish beforehand.
A drawback of this method could be the temptation to only choose the “fun and easy” topics from the list. On the other hand if you see one topic never being picked up maybe the idea wasn't that good in the first place!
Tip: If you feel really productive on one day try to write multiple blog posts and schedule them to be released in the future. This can take away some pressure from the days that you don't feel as productive.
Spend time where it matters
I admit it, I'm often guilty of procrastinating. I'm checking Google Analytics when I should be planning for more content and browsing Twitter instead of actually writing. Remember that social media is not the only time sink.
You should concentrate on the things that give you the biggest benefits. Do you think that spending hours to send emails to people asking them to link to your site improves your site or gives value to your readers? What about writing a whole article as a guest post on someone else's website?
Yes, link building and guest posting can improve your traffic. But why would you create awesome content for someone else when you could have it on your own website? Every piece of content on your site has the potential to bring new users and the more content you have the more chances there will be.
Do the work that benefits you, spend time producing your content
Where does social media land on this?
If it is Facebook, you should probably just skip it as they like to keep people on their site. For some niches Pinterest can be a huge source of traffic, especially those that interest women since the majority of Pinterest users are female.
Twitter can be a hit or miss as you're goig to have to tweet a lot to gain followers. Of course there is always a chance that a post goes viral. I've chosen to have a Twitter presence so that I have a channel where I can potentially communicate with my readers but I'm not trying too hard to increase my follower count there.
YouTube might be the best “social media” for your blog. Pairing your blog posts with informative videos can increase the perceived value of your site and keep the visitors there for longer. At the same time you'll be building a following on YouTube. Creating videos requires quite a lot of additional work and some skill so it isn't everyone.
You will get better at writing
Maybe your first posts suck. And if you do videos maybe they suck twice as much! But the fact is the more you practice the better you'll eventually get. Don't be afraid to get out there and show what you do even if it feels terrifying at first. Remember that you'll have a very small audience in the beginning.
If you had travelled back in time to show me this post a year ago would I have believed that it was written by me? Probably not. But writing is a skill that can be improved by writing. And when you gain enough perspective you can go back to your old posts, see what's wrong with them and fix them.
The same applies to performing on camera. I'm not a native English speaker so will people make fun of me because I make mistakes or have a foreign accent? I hope not. So far I've only published two videos on YouTube but I'd like to get better and learn more.
Becoming a better writer could even be your only reason to have a blog. After all it is a very valuable skill to learn.
Don't get burned out
Blogging can be exciting. You might be so pumped that you think about it day and night. While it is important that you feel inspired and productive you have to be careful not to exhaust yourself.
Blogger burnout is a real issue. Don't force yourself to to post every day if it makes you struggle. And if you already have a job and do blogging on the side don't compare your output to someone who is a full time blogger.
Allocate time to relax and do something totally different. Make sure to spend some time with friends and family.
If you stay authentic, focused and consistent you should have a good chance of making it with your blog. Remember that it takes time and hard work before you start seeing results.
I wish you good luck in your blogging yourney!
Read next in the Blog with Hugo series.