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).
♥ 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.
♥ 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!