I started this blog back in May of 2016, which means it will be turning two-years-old this spring! This blog started out as a final assignment involving a digital portfolio for my internship class in college, and from there it morphed into Haley Had a Little Blog. Slowly, my body of work fell into the background, while the blogging portion of the site took the center stage. Even though now I have branding present such as my own logo, domain name, social media pages and hashtag (#WeeklyPostWednesday), this blog started out with none of these things. My original logo was awful, I used to call the blog “The Haley Daniels Blog”, and the domain name ended in .wordpress.com since I didn’t want to pay for my own domain name back then. So believe me when I say that I learned a lot over time before this site ran smoothly. Many things I either learned the hard way or got great advice from fellow bloggers and marketers. Here’s my tips that will help you avoid any rookie blogging mistakes!
Start Small and Cheap
Everyone’s blog is different, which means that what works for my blog might be completely different than what works for your blog. Trust me, you do not want to pour money into a blog when you’re not sure what will perform better on your site yet. If you’re using a site like WordPress or Wix, I’d suggest starting off with their free packages which usually end with a .wix.com or .worpress.com. I know that looks weird at first, but you want to stick with that for the first month or two. From there you can see what site layout you like the best, what your final branding will look like (logo, slogan, colors, etc.), which topics perform better, and so much more.
Choose Your Website Theme Carefully
Themes are much more important than you’d think they’d be. Unless you can create your whole site from scratch while keeping it responsive (which I’ve done but is A LOT of work), you’ll have to pick a theme. The one thing no one tells you when picking a theme is that not all of them are created equally! Some allow you to use widgets, some allow you to display ads, and some allow you to have a portfolio feed on the front page. In the beginning we all want to have a site that is visually appealing, but many of the more modern and slick sites use high resolution images as backgrounds. If you don’t have very many high-resolution photos at the moment, you’ll either need to take some, or to choose another theme. I changed themes around the one year anniversary of my blog. Even though it’s possible to change themes, it’s a big pain in the booty. Here’s a general rule of thumb: The more content you have on your site, the higher the chance of things that won’t transfer over properly. Usually you won’t lose your content during the theme transfer process, but you will have to go back and tweak/relink pages, pictures, and hyperlinks. The earlier you can have your theme set to go the better, so make sure you really think out how your site will look AND function.
Design Your Site in a Way That’s User Friendly and Intuitive
This kind of relates to what I just said. Remember, functionality and an user-friendly interface are equally important to the aesthetic quality of your site. If your reader can’t figure out how to get back to the home page easily, there’s a problem. I personally love having a top bar menu to work with and having links open in a new tab, whenever it makes sense. If you are redirecting someone to a media file or another website, they should be able to exit out afterwords and not worry about losing their place on your site. When in doubt, I like to put myself in the shoes of the reader when I work on my site layout and then make logical decisions from there.
Your Topics Should Be Relatable to Your Target Audience
If your blog is fairly niche, chances are that your topics are going to be niche. Even if this is true, they need to be somewhat relatable. I sometimes struggle with relating to the audience, because it’s so easy to go off on a tangent about yourself or a situation in your life. Yes, your loyal readers look at you as an authoritative figure in your field, but you still need to relate your topics back to them somehow. For instance, let’s say your blog is solely about Instagram Marketing. A relatable topic would be something like, “How to Make a Boomerang Gif That Catches Your Customer’s Eye”. A not so relatable topic would be, “How to Take a Flawless Instagram Picture of Zip-Lining in Brazil”. Even if some people are interested in that, chances are most of your audience cannot relate to that at all.
Create a Community with Interactive and Engaging Elements
People like to feel appreciated and be treated as if they matter, and they do! Without your readers and followers, your blog would just be another page floating in the digital void of the Internet. It is incredibly important for you to ENGAGE YOUR FOLLOWERS. There are so many different ways to do this, and everyone has a different take on this. For me, I always make sure that my blog posts have a picture (even if I have to post it an hour later after the text has been published), a graphic/infographic of sorts, and a question of the week that relates to the topic at hand. Sometimes these elements work better on some weeks than others, but you can really tell when a reader wants to participate in the comments section.
Use A/B Testing to See What Works Better
In the digital world, it’s all about testing, testing, testing! Your common sense might tell you that, “Oh I should use blue for my branding color and make all my topics DIY videos, because that’s what’s popular right now!” Ironically after testing things over time, you might find that your audience prefers your site to be orange and is more interested in you interviewing experts in your field. You honestly never know what people want until you look at the performance stats on the back-end of your website. There have been times where I have poured my heart and soul into a blog topic and barely anyone reads it. There have also been times where I rushed a blog post, that I thought was horribly put together, and it gets triple the views and shares in the first day it was live. Sometimes you just have no clue what people like, and the only way for you to truly learn is through trial and error.
I hope these tips help you on this exciting adventure! Starting a blog can be kind of scary at first, but when you write something that truly helps someone, it’s a wonderfully fulfilling feeling. I’d like to thank all of my readers for tuning in each week. It really means the world to me!
Infographic of the Week:
Question of the Week:
Do you have a favorite “Haley Had a Little Blog” post? If so, which one is it?