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8 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Blogging

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Can you believe I’ve been blogging on Love Swah for nearly 5 years now? That sure is a long time! 5 years ago the blogosphere was an entirely different space. There wasn’t a million blogger courses readily available to learn from, monetising wasn’t in the forefront of many blogger’s minds and things were a lot.. simpler. But after spending several hours on the weekend updating the featured images on every single post in my archives, I thought I’d share all the things I wish I knew when I started blogging to help save you from any possible heartache or frustration.

Whether you’re a beginner blogger, or a seasoned blogger with some bad habits, I am sure at least some of these points will help!

♥ Always set a Featured Image

I never really got the point of a featured image. I used to just upload my photos and insert them into my post, that’s all you need to do, right? Wrong! A huge amount of plugins that offer services such as related posts or popular posts will pull in the featured image, and if you don’t have one set, you’re left with a blank thumbnail. Not a good look. In my case, I installed a new theme which now displays excerpts of my posts and feature image in a grid format, so I had to fix that pronto! (See image below, this is what my homepage looked liked when I hadn’t added a Featured Image to the donut post).

feature-image

 

♥ Backup your blog religiously

I have a confession. I didn’t back up my blog for the first 2 years of my blogging journey. That’s 2 years of blood, sweat and tears that I could have lost. What was my wakeup call? I got hacked! I was in disbelief that hackers wanted to take control of my small-time dessert blog, but there you go. I fortunately had a super talented computer security friend who saved Love Swah and I’ve been backing up ever since. I now use Backup Buddy to backup all my posts, images and files.

♥ Install a security plugin

Further to backing up your blog, you’d be surprised how often people will try and hack into your account. Once I installed the security plugin Wordfence you’ll quickly realise how many failed login attempts you receive. Not only is this plugin free, it’s an extra layer of protection for your blog.

♥ Learn the difference between categories and tags

Can you believe when I first started blogging I didn’t know the difference between categories and tags? Dumb, I know. I never used tags and instead had like a billion categories (food! cupcakes! travel! cats! chocolate!). Honestly, my category list was embarrassingly long. I have now culled my categories down to my main topics – design, food, inspiration, lifestyle, recipes and travel. THEN I use the tags for details, such as I would put a cake recipe in the “food” and “recipe” categories, and then add related tags such as chocolate, strawberries, gluten-free etc etc.

♥ Start your mailing list from day 1

I’ve got to say my number 1 regret (and the number 1 regret of a LOT of bloggers) is not understanding the importance of a mailing list and starting it from day 1. I’ve only been building my list since Problogger last year, and the Hello Bar has been a great asset in building my list. You can customise the colours to suit your design (see image below) and it’s not too “in your face”. And once they have subscribed, the bar goes away! I am still on the fence with popup subscriptions boxes. Whilst I hear they are highly effective at building subscriptions lists, I find them pretty annoying.

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 2.00.59 pm

♥ Have a social media plan

I’m not going to lie, I STRUGGLE with juggling multiple social media accounts. Some days I wouldn’t say a thing on the Love Swah Facebook page and some days I’d post 5 times if I have lots of things to share. I find the easiest thing to do is at the start of each week, set aside an hour and schedule away! There are a lot of free and paid apps available to schedule, including Co-Schedule, HootSuite, TailWind and many more. At the moment I am keeping it simple – I schedule Facebook direct, Instagram with Latergramme and manually do Pinterest (I aim to pin for 5 minutes a day). I am not a big user of Twitter.

♥ Treat your blog as a business

For the first few years my blog was a hobby and I treated it that way. It was a place where I could post poorly-taken photos of my desserts I created and share my travel stories. Mainly my Mum and friends read it. Because I didn’t treat it as a business I would sometimes not post on the blog for weeks on end, post dark and grainy personal photos on the Love Swah Instagram page, and didn’t even THINK of putting ads on the blog until last year. It was basically a time-consuming hobby. I see new bloggers appearing every day with highly curated Instagram feeds, business plans, you name it!

♥ Have a content schedule, and stick to it

I’ve only started sticking to a schedule in the past year, and gosh it’s made things easier. Not only does a blogging schedule keep you accountable, it’s a useful tool for setting up regular segments on your blog (like my Creative Fridays series, for example) and makes planning the upcoming month for Love Swah a lot easier. And if the content schedule isn’t working for you? Change it up! Experiment! I was blogging 3 times a week for 6 months and along with my part-time job and running my own freelance business, the schedule was killing me. After a big think, I have changed to blogging twice a week (a food article weekly, and alternating between travel and design on the other day). This revised schedule has ensured that the quality of my posts weren’t sacrificed for quantity.

Have you been guilty of any of these things as a blogger? Do you have any other tips to add? I’d love to hear!

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17 Comments

  • Reply Yana July 17, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    Thank you for this post, all great points. I’m kinda doing all of these, but need to step up my game. Do you use any tool for your editorial schedule?

  • Reply Daiva July 17, 2015 at 6:57 pm

    Dear Swah, your tips are great both for beginners and for pro’s too. Nearly everybody can find themselves in your place :) I like your honest voice in this post. Keep on expanding this theme – with five years experience I believe you have much more to share, don’t you?

  • Reply Nicole July 18, 2015 at 8:58 am

    This is sooooo enlightening. Currently overwhelmed with the whole blog/website I so need to get organised this will really help me I really will take your points on board. Need to reassess my biz plan pronto.. Thanks for inspiring me xx

  • Reply Gourmet Getaways July 18, 2015 at 3:14 pm

    Such a well-thought of, organised list. New bloggers must find this very helpful. While this is an awesome reminder to us “seasoned ones”. Thanks for sharing, Swah! And happy 5th year!!

    Julie & Alesah
    Gourmet Getaways xx

    • Reply Swah August 3, 2015 at 1:07 pm

      Thanks so much girls, I love sharing what I’ve learnt from my mistakes (and also gently reminding myself to keep doing those things mentioned above!) xx

  • Reply Lucy @ Bake Play Smile July 20, 2015 at 8:34 am

    Oh I couldn’t agree more with all of these! It was so great to hear you talking yesterday – I learnt so much! And yep, I only started building my mail list a few months ago and I wish I’d started from Day 1!!!

    • Reply Swah August 3, 2015 at 1:09 pm

      Ah the mailing list thing is SUCH a pain isn’t it. Oh well, at least we’ve started now! So glad you enjoyed the talk :)

  • Reply Kim @ Land of Zonkt July 20, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    I couldn’t agree more (says the newbie blogger).
    I’ve only been going 1 yr and my site already been hacked and I’m still cleaning out the mess. Spent a lot on security on the host end to prevent and backups daily… phew.
    I do worry about the image size though as any creative blog food or other or both (like me) you share lots of images and the space dwindles so quickly. I’m sure I’ll be tackling that issue before I know it.

    What I have found is being many posts in advanced. I post 4 times a week and it’s not easy to keep on top, but it’s consistent and thats what continues momentum it seems.
    I have a pop-up subscription for when people go to leave, I hope it’s not annoying, I tried to make it light hearted and not in your face as you come in but more when you go to leave…
    All these tips and tricks make it so much easier for us newbies, although if I had started when I was originally thinking I’d be another year under my belt… lol

    Thank you. x

    • Reply Swah August 3, 2015 at 1:13 pm

      Ah Kim you poor thing! It’s completely devastating when all your hard work gets messed up by an evil hacker :( but I guess it’s the best way to learn and appreciate the importance of security!

      I wish I could get ahead like you and have several posts lined up in advance, I am still trying to find the time to just churn out like 10 posts in a week so I can at least feel more organised and not that I am working on a week-by-week basis!

      And I just checked out your pop-up subscription, it’s actually really clever that it only pops up when you are about to click away from your site! I might even consider giving it a go too :)

      xx

  • Reply Sian @ The Blonde Tourist July 20, 2015 at 9:44 pm

    Love this list as I start to take the blogging game more serious with my freelance travel writing! Already signed up for Wordfence for some extra security ;)

    • Reply Swah August 3, 2015 at 1:16 pm

      So exciting you’re taking your blogging to the next week! Go girl! x

  • Reply Nicole - Champagne and Chips July 26, 2015 at 9:54 am

    Great post Swah. So useful. I do many of these things but struggle with social media and well, I’m just generally struggling with blogging (time!) at the moment.
    I would love to put ads on my blog but don’t know where to start. Do you have any suggestions of some good services or even wrap up posts explaining the differences between the companies?

    • Reply Swah August 3, 2015 at 1:20 pm

      So glad you found it useful Nicole! And I feel your pain, I constantly feel like I am struggling with time for blogging. Argh!!

      As for ad networks, I would highly suggest experimenting with a few different networks and see what works best for you. I suggest adding in a Google Adsense space, a Nuffnang space and also look into Gourmet Ads. See what converts more! Good luck xx

  • Reply Bec July 26, 2015 at 7:28 pm

    Some great tips there.. I haven’t been putting much effort in building my list and I don’t even want to think about what would happen if I got hacked!!!

    • Reply Swah August 3, 2015 at 1:29 pm

      I must admit I so far only have the Hello Bar and a widget in my sidebar to build my list… I definitely need to put more effort it! Like offering a free ebook if people subscribe or something. It’s been on my to-do list for like, a year ;)

  • Reply stephanie July 30, 2015 at 7:56 am

    Hi Swah,

    Great post! Thanks so much for showing a little #LaterLove we really appreciate the feedback from users – especially bloggers who create so much content.

    Stephanie Trembath | Latergramme Community Manager

    • Reply Swah August 3, 2015 at 11:10 am

      You are very welcome Stephanie! I’m a big Latergramme fan!

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