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Looking for bland, generic blogging tips for beginners? You're in the wrong place. I'm sure someone else has a 500-word article full of random blogging tips they overheard – but this is not that post.
Instead, we wanted to go deeper into the things David and I have learned in more than 20 years of blogging. In more than two decades (EACH), we've seen trends and traffic sources come and go, and we've failed and succeeded more times than either of us can remember at this point. Based on that experience, we've learned a lot about:
- Why blogs fail
- Why blogs succeed
- What it takes to make money with a blog
We're full-time bloggers, and we love just about everything related to the process of starting, growing, maintaining, and even selling blogs.
At any given time, you'll find us with a couple of mature blogs (like my personal pet project, I Heart British TV), a couple of growing young blogs (like Great British Book Club), and a couple of projects still in the earliest phases (which we don't generally talk about until they're off the ground).
In other words, we're not clueless newbies giving third-hand advice, and we're not out of touch celebrity bloggers who no longer do any of the things they teach. We're down in the trenches, just like you.
23 Best Blogging Tips for Newbies & Intermediate Bloggers
In the interest of passing on some of our hard-won lessons, we wanted to put together a set of tips for those who may be in earlier phases of their blogging careers.
1 | Pick the right blogging platform for your blogging goals
If your primary goal is just to have an online diary for sharing your thoughts with no one in particular, then by all means, go ahead and pick any random free blogging platform.
On the other hand, if you want to build a real blogging business that pays the bills, there's really no better place to start than with a copy of WordPress installed on your OWN hosting plan with your OWN domain.
Yes, you'll spend $10 or so on the domain and another $3-10/month on a beginner hosting package (it varies by plan and company), but it'll free you from the limits you get with free blogging platforms.
When YOU control your domain and website, you have complete control over the look of your site and the way you choose to make money on it. You can put ads where you want, use affiliate links where you want, and collect email addresses with any kind of form you want.
It's less than $10/month to start a blog the right way. I know money is tighter for some than others, but if you genuinely want to make money with your blog, find the $10 somewhere. This is not the place to cheap out.
2 | Know who you're writing for
Regardless of the size of your blogging niche, it's important to have some idea WHO you're writing for. Who would want your content? What things concern that person? You should be able to picture a typical reader.
Big companies often use this technique, even going so far as to create a fake person for each of their major categories. A shoe company might believe their target market to be two types of people:
- Debra – She's in her late 40s to early 60s, well-established in her career with loads of disposable income. She wants nice things and she's willing to pay for them – once in every color.
- Emma – She's in her 20s or 30s and while she may not necessarily have the budget, she definitely has the desire to own these shoes. For her, they're an aspirational purchase that say something about who she is.
Once you can SEE your target audience, it helps you to figure out how best to serve them – and make no mistake, whether you're blogging or running a shoe company, your goal is to serve the user (or reader). If you want to make money, anyway.
In the example above, the shoe company might decide they need a more traditional luxury line for the Debras, but a fun, bright, slightly lower-cost line for the Emmas.
They know they can reach the Debras in high-end travel magazines, established department stores, and maybe even airline magazines or AARP.
The Emmas, on the other hand, might be more more effectively reached via influencers on Instagram or storefront locations in trendy shopping areas.
Depending on the nature of your site, you may have just one main type of reader, or you may have a few. The point is that you should be thinking about them when you…
- Create content – are you answering questions and solving problems for real people?
- Choose social media channels – because Debras aren't hanging out on TikTok and SnapChat, and Emmas aren't spending much of their social media time on Facebook
- Design products – Do you plan on creating books or courses or t-shirts or printables to help supplement your blogging income? Knowing your audience and their problems will save you loads of time and energy because when you know your audience, you have fewer failed products.
Don't worry if you don't immediately know everything about your audience – but make it a priority to learn!
3 | Get comfortable with failure
Unless you're lucky enough to have been born into money and leisure, you're probably worried about spending loads of time and/or cash on something that isn't going to pan out. Nobody wants to give up all their weekends and evenings with friends and family, only to find out it was all for nothing.
The hard truth is that if you want off the average person's path, you have to accept that you may fail – once or twice or a hundred times – before you get where you want to be.
Think about it like this. Imagine that everyone is out in a forest, but 99% of people are on a slow, crowded path. There's lots of moderately good stuff on that path, and even a few really good things – but there's also a ton of competition.
By the time you get to the REALLY good stuff, someone else has used it up or taken it, and they're NOT letting go.
You're probably on the path because you know it's safe, and you know it won't suck TOO much. Some bits will even be pleasant. It won't fulfill your wildest dreams, but you probably won't get hurt, either.
Safety in numbers and all…I mean, there are bears and wolves and probably even a few crazed hunters out in that forest, right?
Then again, you KNOW there's better stuff somewhere out in the forest. You've seen people leaving the path. You've seen them later in passing – proud, happy, and victorious. They found their treasures.
If you're on the path, things are pretty straightforward. You know roughly where you're going – and if you don't, you can just look at what everyone else is doing.
Once you step off, though, you may need to try several different directions before you figure out where you need to be. There are maps, but they're not as comprehensive as the one for the trail.
When you try to earn a living for yourself – whether it's blogging or freelancing or anything else – you have to learn what you can and make your own path. You have to trust that you'll get there, even though there are fewer signs and well-worn paths on your route.
Be prepared to fail – possibly many times – before you succeed. Trust that each failure is giving you information you need to adjust your route and get moving in the right direction.
That said, there are ways to help avoid or minimize many potential failures…
4 | Learn to test
Whether you're planning a marketing campaign, starting a blog, or just trying to figure out whether your significant other would be open to something weird in the bedroom, testing the waters can help you avoid enormous, spectacular levels of failure.
Before you go big, learn to go small.
Before you invest thousands of hours in hundreds of blog posts, test a handful of posts to see if you can turn them into money. Here's our general testing process
Step One: Make 5 monetized blog posts.
Now, you may need to back up a second to figure out what that means for your blog. Will you be monetizing your posts with Amazon Associates links? Some other affiliate programs? What about banner ads? Write the posts and put those things in place.
Now, go to your social media outlet of choice. If you're targeting people over 35, that's probably going to be Facebook or Pinterest (or both, if you have the testing funds). For younger audiences, Instagram or Pinterest can be good. Set up a business account so you can advertise.
Now, spend the next week or two sending small amounts of traffic (via advertising) to your posts. The goal here is not to make a profit on the ads. The goal is to see what happens when people interested in your topic end up on your website.
Are affiliate commissions coming in? Are people commenting or responding positively on social media? How many ad impressions and clicks are you seeing?
If you spend $200-300 on various ad experiments and nothing happens, take a moment to figure out whether you really want to continue down that path. If visitors don't turn into commissions or ad clicks or email signups or even positive comments, it's a sign something's not right.
You can do the same thing for products. If you're thinking of writing a book for your blog's existing audience, consider doing pre-orders to get real data on whether anyone wants it.
People can tell you they want something all day, but will they actually get out their wallets when the time comes? All too often, the answer is no. Don't let flaky people wreck your chances of success.
You can even do this for something as simple as blog posts. Not sure whether you should spend hours writing a beefy 4000 word post on a topic? Use your social media following to test the waters. Post a quote or question or image related to the topic and see if it resonates with your audience.
5 | Build an email list
Building an email list is like saving money. You know it's good, and you know you should be doing it, but it's just not very sexy. ESPECIALLY in the beginning when your numbers are tiny.
What IS sexy, though, are the results. When you start early and grow your list steadily, you eventually get to a point where you can drive sales to products instantly, any time you want (within reason – nobody wants to get your newsletter five times daily). If you like, you can sell newsletter ads or promote affiliate products to earn extra commissions.
People on your email list get to know you. They learn to trust in you and the quality of what you're putting out. There's just no substitute for building good relationships.
Grumble a bit if you want, but don't skip this step. It's probably the number one blogger regret we hear from people.
6 | Diversify your income streams
I'm writing this roughly 2 weeks after Amazon decided to chop commission rates in the middle of a global pandemic. Yes, they made big, huge, sweeping cuts to their program at a time when many were relying on their Amazon Associates income more than ever before.
It sucks, and if we're being totally honest, we're still a little grumpy seeing how much that income stream has dropped – but it's not unexpected. Amazon has been hacking away at commission rates for some time now, and they'll probably do it again in the future.
Banner ad rates are down, too. With so many businesses closed and people out of work, companies are slashing ad budgets. Some people with travel blogs have seen their incomes drop by as much as 80-90% – partly from lower traffic, partly from lower banner ad rates, and partly because of the Amazon changes.
This kind of stuff is why diversification matters. Most of our sites were hit HARD by changes in banner ad revenue (RPMs) and Amazon commissions, but the business as a whole has stayed pretty strong because we're diversified.
Our travel sites went down, but our entertainment pages are getting more traffic than ever. It's not quite enough to balance out the low RPMS, but we're certainly better off than many.
The area that has really helped, though, is our products. Amazon can change commissions and ad rates can change, but we still have loads of high-margin products that are selling like hotcakes now that our audience has time to read/use the products.
The key to diversification is thinking about how different things could affect your blogging business, then making sure you have other things going on that could pick up the slack or balance out losses.
In the beginning, you'll want to diversify your income streams for a single blog, making sure all your money isn't coming from one place. As you grow as a blogger and build a second or third site, you'll want to think about diversification of industries or niches, too.
7 | Learn to think like a marketer
Marketing. Ugh. It's the worst.
Very few people like to think of themselves as marketers, but it's one of the most important skills you'll ever learn. A lot of life comes down to marketing.
You market yourself and your skills to potential employers. You market your mind and body and quirky sense of humor to people you want to date. You're engaging in a form of marketing every time you try to convince someone to let you have your way.
If you want people to click on your blog articles or buy the things you recommend, you need to think like a marketer – and that all comes down to two questions:
- What does my reader want?
- How can I make sure they recognize that what *I'm* suggesting will bring them closer to what they want?
Learning to think like a marketer will improve virtually everything you do with for your blog. You'll write better headlines, create better pins, and even structure your posts better. Most importantly, you'll get better at turning blog traffic into income – whether that means affiliate sales, product sales, or something else entirely.
8 | Remember: Traffic, then Readership, then Money
When you're starting a blog, you need to plan for where you're headed, then set most of it aside for a while.
You should have ideas on how you'll eventually make money – whether it's going to come from ads or affiliate links or products or a mixture of those things and more – but you also don't want to make the mistake of over-monetizing and focusing on the wrong things while you're trying to build up your traffic.
Once you've done some basic viability tests like we talked about above, turn your focus to making the kind of site people want to visit. Grow your traffic, build up a base of loyal readers (via email and social media), and THEN, start working on the money side of things.
I'm not saying you shouldn't run a few ads or put in some Amazon affiliate links. I'm referring more to the big stuff – products, courses,
9 | Don't run away from SEO
I spent more than a decade doing corporate SEO consulting, so believe me, I know it can get messy and complex and technical. Luckily, as far as blogging is concerned, you can get most of the results with just a tiny fraction of the knowledge you'd need for more complex projects.
- Learn to do keyword research. It's the single most important SEO skill for a blogger.
- Create post titles that incorporate keywords while also being really enticing so people want to click on them.
- Use your target keyword(s) throughout your posts. Don't just use the exact keyword, but also use close variations and related phrases.
- Interact with other bloggers, guest post on other blogs, and create the kind of posts and resources people like to link to. When high-quality, relevant websites link to your blog, it tells the search engines there's good stuff on your site.
- Create links on your site to other pages on your site. If you mention a topic you've covered more thoroughly in another post, link to it – and vary the anchor text (the part of the text that forms the actual link) so it's not always 100% identical.
Obviously, there's more nuance to it than this, and there are all sorts of ways to improve on the basics – but if you can master those four bullet points, you're 80% of the way there. It's plenty of SEO knowledge to get you started.
10 | Get your Analytics in place from Day 1
Either way, it shouldn't take much more than a few minutes (up to an hour if you're REALLY not tech savvy) – and the information you'll get is invaluable.
You'll be able to see how many people are visiting your site, where they're coming from, what they're doing, and so much more. If you can't examine what people are doing on your site, it's really tough to grow it effectively.
If you're hoping to join a premium ad network like MediaVine, you'll definitely need to have Google Analytics in place. They'll need proof of traffic before accepting your site into the network, so it's best to set it up early so it's there when you need it.
11 | Don't try to be everywhere
No matter what niche you're in, there will be places where “your people” hang out – and places they don't. Let's take our British TV sites as an example. Our audience is roughly 95% female, with more than 95% over the age of 40. Roughly 40% are 65+.
They're not hanging out on TikTok and Snapchat. They're on Facebook, they're on Pinterest, and a smaller percentage are on Instagram. Obviously, that's one project where it makes zero sense to waste time on Snapchat. We went with Facebook first, then Pinterest, and we may put a bit more time into Instagram in the future.
Chances are, you're either a lone blogger or a team of two. You don't have the resources to be everywhere, especially not in the beginning.
Start with the one social media channel that's most likely to drive results for you.
Get the hang of it, build an audience, and work on growing your content base. Once you aren't trying to learn so many things at once, THEN move on to test another potential source of traffic.
12 | Don't waste all your time on things that don't matter much
Most people have no idea how many different things bloggers have to do. You're basically running every aspect of a small publishing business – you're building a site, creating content, promoting it, managing the accounting, doing the social media…it's a lot.
Because there are so many possible things you could be doing, it's easy to fall down rabbit holes and waste tons of time on things that don't actually affect your bottom line.
I've seen new bloggers waste 6 months trying to get their page design just right. Others are so uptight about possible typos or grammatical errors that it takes them 3 weeks to get a new post out.
I'm not saying those things aren't important, but if you ever want to make any progress, you have to figure out where you can hurry things along.
If 100 people see your blog in a typical month, it makes no sense at all to waste months working on the design. Pick something that looks “pretty good” and revisit it later on down the road.
On the other hand, if you're selling a course on your blog and 800 people are seeing the sales page every day, it makes sense to put serious effort into testing variations of the copy and design.
Use common sense about it. In the beginning, you need to prioritize content creation and audience growth.
You need people to read your stuff, because that's the only way you can (a) make money, and (b) get the feedback and data you need to know whether you need to make some changes.
Keep in mind that wasting time on silly things can also be a subconscious way of keeping yourself from doing hard or scary things.
If you realize you're not making much REAL progress, stop yourself to ask whether you're wasting time on stuff that's not going to grow your blog in any meaningful way. Then ask yourself what you're trying to avoid.
The answer might surprise you.
13 | Focus on your audience
Earlier in the list, we talked about the importance of knowing your “average reader” – but it's not enough just to KNOW Debra or Emma or whatever you want to call your imaginary reader. You need to SERVE your readers.
Take the British TV site. I would LOVE to spend countless hours talking about all kinds of weird literary connections and filming locations and quirky historic trivia, but I don't.
While it's true that some of our readers would enjoy some of that content, my goal is to make as much money as possible from every piece of content on the site.
I want the blog posts doing double duty – appealing to our readers on social media and email while ALSO bringing in loads of juicy search engine traffic.
In the Venn diagram above, you can see three circles that represent the things I want from a post topic:
- Things people search for
- Things our existing audience will be interested in
- Things I like writing about
The best posts are the ones that meet all three criteria – but if one is getting sacrificed, it's most likely to be “things I like to write about”. I throw myself a bone once in a while, but overall, this is a business. I have to remind myself that the worst day of blogging is still 100x better than the best day I ever had in a normal day job.
And of course, if I really don't feel like writing about a topic, I can always hire someone else to do it.
14 | Invest in your blogging career
There are plenty of things you can safely go cheap on – but your business education is not one of those things.
Can you learn everything you need to know about blogging without buying any tools or courses? Definitely. Will you make more mistakes and take longer to get where you're going? It's all but guaranteed.
David and I have both purchased NUMEROUS blogging tools and courses over the years, and we continue to do so when it makes sense. We'd rather learn from someone else's mistakes and keep our costly delays and errors to a minimum.
Take, for example, two imaginary newbie bloggers.
Blogger A doesn't hesitate to invest in her blogging education. She immediately dives into a couple different introductory courses in her first two months, and she immediately learns things she uses to adjust her focus and overall strategy.
It takes a few months to get things going, but by the sixth month, she's already seeing signs that her investment has paid off. By the ninth month, she feels ready to take a more advanced course to help her learn more about growing her site. By the end of the year, she's invested $1074 in her blog hosting + education, but she's brought in $11,628 in revenue. Total profit: $10,554.
Blogger B takes a different approach. He feels like all the information is out there for the taking, and he decides not to invest in any step-by-step courses.
He definitely learns a lot, but he spends a ton of time reading different blogs, and he misses out on some important warnings that might have served him well. By the end of the year, he's starting to make money and he's spent almost $1000 less than Blogger A…but his total earnings and profit are much lower.
Both of these bloggers will eventually get where they're trying to go – but Blogger B is wasting months of precious earnings and growth. He's making all the mistakes firsthand, and he's missing out on some great opportunities.
Blogger A still makes mistakes, but not as many. While Blogger B is sitting at home scouring blogs for free info, Blogger A will be taking her family on vacation.
Bear in mind, these examples are JUST examples. We all have different backgrounds, different blog niches, different amounts of free time, and different goals. Sometimes, paid courses will have a bigger impact than what we've shown, and other times it will be smaller.
The point is that investing in your blogging education can drastically reduce the amount of time it takes to get where you're going. Whether you take our Blogging 101 Course or someone else's, we strongly encourage you to invest in yourself and your future.
15 | Put in the time
In a normal day job, you work 40 hours and then you get paid for 40 hours. You work, they pay, end of story. You don't have to put in 4 or 6 or 8 months before you start getting a paycheck
Blogging is different. You put in an obscene number of hours to get going, and for a while, you won't see much of a return. Eventually, you'll start to see a trickle of money, then a bit more…and if you're doing everything right, you'll eventually start to see a pretty good income coming in.
That initial period is really, really frustrating. It's incredibly hard to make yourself sit down at the keyboard for weeks or months before you start to see any significant reward for your effort. It has to be done, though.
Building a blog doesn't take a lot of money, but it does take time and energy. Treat your blog like a real business, and in 3 or 6 or 12 months, you'll have a real, growing business.
Over time, blogging gets a lot easier. Eventually, most blogs reach a point where you can earn the same – or even more – income with equal or less work than what was previously required.
Some of that is because things just get easier when you've done them over and over, and some of it is because you don't necessarily have to make as much content (to earn the same revenue) when your base audience is bigger.
That doesn't mean you have to back off, or that you couldn't earn even more with more effort, it's just to say that you WILL reach a point where it's not a constant, unrewarding struggle.
16 | Value your readers
This might seem like common sense, but never forget that your readers are the ultimately the ones funding your business. They shouldn't be a just a faceless mass to you. They're real people you're solving problems for.
I'm not saying you should react to every single complaint, or that you shouldn't run ads because it might scare them off – just that you should always keep them in mind and try to do right by them.
17 | Ask for what you want
If you're not a natural self-promoter, this one will feel awkward at first. It's simple, though. If you want people to do something, don't forget to ask.
Too many blogs offer up links to their social media, or forms for their email list, or links to their products…but they never just come out and say, “Follow us on Facebook HERE,” or “If you want to know more about —, buy our book HERE.”
It's simple, and it's effective – but it's also easy to forget.
18 | Give stuff away
Samples are a powerful marketing tool. If you try something and love it, you're much more likely to buy it than if you'd never sampled it at all. That's why grocery stores do it.
Blogging can be a great way to let people sample your content for free, but printables, downloadables, and free courses can be another way to take the fleeting blog connection and make it more of a permanent relationship. Every blogger who wants to sell anything should be thinking about ways to pull people further into their circle.
Don't worry that people won't need you just because you gave a bunch of stuff away. Sure, there are a few cheapskates who'll take everything free and then disappear – but they're not your customers anyway.
Your customers are reading what you give them and developing more and more faith in your paid offerings. The more you work on that relationship, the better positioned you'll be to turn them into paying customers.
19 | Remember the tortoise
You've seen the headlines…
How I Earned $1200 in My First Month Blogging
Three Months to $10k with a Brand New Blog!
How to Make Money with Your Very First Blog Post
First off, know that at least half the people writing these headlines are lying. Just plain lying. It's absolutely rampant among make money bloggers, and David and I have both seen some truly outrageous stunts designed to convince people someone was making more money than they really were – everything from rented mansions to fake watches to leased sports cars.
Once, when we had rented a penthouse for a business party, we even caught someone posting photos from the place we rented, claiming it was his hotel room. So please, make sure there's substance before you buy into the hype.
Once you rule out the half that are lying, what's left? Mostly, you're looking at people who…
- Already had a lot of experience
- Already had an audience or mailing list they could leverage
- Were already well-connected
- Had loads of time and money with few responsibilities
- Got lucky
A very small percentage of people will hit all the right notes straight out of the gate, and they'll make money quickly, but they're a small minority.
I'm not saying that to discourage you AT ALL. If anything, I'm saying it to ENCOURAGE you.
Most people won't make money immediately. Stop comparing yourself to people who claim to be overnight successes. They only distract you in your goal.
20 | Focus
Once you get a few months into your blogging journey, funny things happen.
Most people aren't seeing results by this point, and enthusiasm can start to die off. You may notice your posting frequency drop. Doubts can creep in.
At the same time, you've probably learned a TON in those first few months, so when you look back at what you've done so far, you see a lot of mistakes.
You know better now, and all you want to do is delete the old stuff and start over.
And of course, since you've been spending tons of time online, you've probably seen some success stories from other bloggers – people who blog about different topics. New topics. Strange, unfamiliar, SEXY niches.
Loads of mistakes, no results yet, and other niches turning your head…and just like that, another blog dies.
Don't quit before your site gets a fair chance. Don't be distracted by fun, new, shiny ideas.
Stay the course.
You'll get where you need to go.
21 | Be consistent
I know this list might seem like a lot, especially if you're a total beginner who's just trying to master the absolute basics of WordPress. Let me offer some reassurance, though.
If you can be consistent with your blogging efforts, you'll be ahead of 90% of all bloggers.
Do that and just two or three more items from the list above, and you're all but guaranteed to make a living at this.
You don't have to be perfect to be a successful blogger. You can start with the basics and learn as you go. The most important thing is just that you DO go, and keep going.
What are You Doing Right Now to Make Your Blogging Dreams Come True?
Let us know what you're up to in the comments – and don't forget to sign up for our email list to get more tips, tricks, and ideas for building your own blogging empire.