9 Things I’ve Learned in My First Year of Blogging


(Psssst: Did you know that I’m hosting a huge giveaway to celebrate my 1st blogging anniversary?  Click HERE to enter to win one of 2 awesome prizes through 9/14!)

First of all I have to say that there is NO way I could sum up everything I’ve learned about blogging in one post.  HTML tips, photo editing tools, social media tricks, how to run giveaways, writing guest posts, setting up ads, the list goes on and on.  It takes a ton of research (and trial-and-error) to run a blog and see some growth.  Today I’m sharing some things that everyone starting a blog really needs to know- or if they’ve been blogging a while and are feeling confused or burned out.  I hope this gives you some encouragement!

Be Patient

1. Search Engine Ranking

When I started blogging, I constantly looked up “Girl in the Garage” on Google to see if my brand new blog was the first thing listed.  I was really disappointed even after a few months when I wasn’t even listed on the first page of search results.  I had no idea how SEO (Search Engine Optimization) worked or how the folks at Google decided to rank search results.  Keep working hard and your rank will rise, but don’t expect it overnight.  (The best ways to help your rank:  Use good keywords, join and use Google+, and also guest post on other blogs – but only after you’ve started to establish yourself and proven you can create good content.)

2. Monetary Compensation

I expected to start earning money within my first few months.  Since I started blogging in September I assumed that by Christmas that I would be earning a bit of steady income from clicks on my Amazon Affiliate links.  HA!   To this day I haven’t earned a payout from Amazon (my earnings are increasing but not enough for a payout yet).  This month I will finally reach the $100 threshold for a payout from Google Adsense.  I actually didn’t start making any money from my blog until I wrote my first sponsored post for SocialSpark a few months ago.  Since then I’ve written quite a few sponsored posts and one year after starting my blog I’m finally starting to see some income.

If you’re starting out, I would recommend placing ads from a few sources since they’re passive income- Google Adsense and Amazon Affiliates are good places to start if they’re allowed in your state.  The higher the ad placement on your blog, the higher the payout will be.  Also if you’re thinking of starting to write sponsored posts, SocialSpark is a great place to start!  HERE is my affiliate link if you’d like more info.  The folks at SocialSpark also run ads through IZEA- I just started using them recently so I can’t comment on how quickly the payout accrues yet.

Reality of Blogging

3. Growth

Don’t expect to have 1,000 followers overnight unless you come from a very large family, or you’re already some kind of celebrity.  Chances are, no one will even know your blog exists until you start promoting it.  Start a Facebook page for your blog, get a Twitter account, link your Pinterest account to your blog (and don’t forget to verify it as a business page!) – and have all your social media icons visible at the top of your blog.  The best place to keep track of your stats is through Google Analytics.  Unfortunately I made a big mistake and mine wasn’t set up properly, so I don’t have any record of my traffic before February (my first 5 months)!  Once you’re set up you should track your numbers every month.  Once I installed Google Analytics properly I also created an Excel spreadsheet for keeping track of monthly pageviews, unique visitors, and followers for all my social media accounts.

Even if it doesn’t happen quickly, you want to make sure your numbers are at least increasing.  Then once you start gaining momentum it will be motivating to see how much progress you’ve made.  But some days you might find that you’ve lost a few followers, and it’s important to know that’s okay.  Don’t take it personally and just keep doing what you do best- create great content that you love, and others will inevitably see your enthusiasm and be drawn to you.

The Numbers Don't Define You

Support Networks

4. Personal

Blogging has emotional highs and lows.  Your family and friends may not “get” why you’re working so hard for little money or recognition- they won’t understand why you’re so excited when you get your first feature at a link party- and they won’t know how to help you fix your blog when you update a plugin and your sidebar disappears.  But what they will do is provide balance.

If you’re really devoted to growing your blog then you’re going to put in a LOT of time and effort, and you will likely spend a LOT of time online.  And you need a support system of people to bring you back to reality and keep you sane.  A lot of bloggers I know spend the majority of the weekend away from their computer, and some have set hours during weekdays devoted to family time.  You need time away to talk about things other than blogging, trust me on this one.

5. Blogging

You know who WILL be able to help you celebrate the highs and make it through the lows of blogging?  Other bloggers.  Chances are someone else would be thrilled to hear about your first feature, your first guest post, or your super creative project.  And if your blog crashes?  Lots of bloggers have been through that, and can probably recommend how to fix it!  Received your first negative comment?  1. Don’t take it personally, and 2. Tell some close blogging friends, they’ll make you feel better in no time!

So how do you form a support group with other bloggers?  Think about some blogs that you enjoy.  Are any of them about your size?  (Sometimes you can find this info if they have an Advertise or PR page.)  You can start by commenting on some of their posts that you enjoy, and if they respond well then you can send them an email once in a while and try to strike up a friendship.  You can share their posts on social media.  There are also lots of Facebook groups for any kind of topic you can imagine where you can meet other bloggers, or you can form your own FB group and invite people you’d like to get to know better.  Sometimes this is called a Tribe- and you can support each other, share each others’ work, and answer questions.  It’s a great way to meet other bloggers, grow your blogs together, and have a support system to keep you sane so you don’t feel alone on the web.

Blog What You Live

6.  Time

If you’ve been blogging very long you know it takes a lot of time.  Sure anyone can have a blog and post one or twice a month, but you’re probably not going to grow your blog that way.  If you want to gain readers and increase pageviews then you’ll need to search for inspiration, buy supplies (yard sales, craft stores, grocery stores, etc.), create your project/recipe, take photos of each step, edit the photos, create a pretty Pinterest-worthy image to put at the top of your post, write your post, edit your post, then once you publish it- promote like crazy on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, Dwellinggawker/Craftgawker/Foodgawker, and a hundred or so link parties.  Anyone know what I mean?  😉  And that’s just for one post!   I usually post 3 days/week but I don’t know how some people post every day.

7. Effort

Besides posting on your own blog, there are other ways to promote your work.  Submit to feature sites that will get your project (if approved) in front of thousands of people who otherwise wouldn’t have found your blog.  Guest post for other sites or become a regular monthly contributor somewhere.  You can also submit your projects/ideas to magazines in your niche to try to get published.  These things all take more time and effort than just running your own blog- but any of these steps are bound to bring you more traffic and probably gain followers.

Depending on what type of blog you have, you may also need to constantly search for inspiration.  This can be on the internet, in books, magazines, going to a park, museum, etc.  I don’t want to paint all my pieces with the same technique, so I have to look for new ways to be creative and keep my projects interesting.

8. Determination

Yes, sometimes people quit blogging.  Life happens- a loved one gets seriously ill, financial burdens hit, or maybe they’re just feeling burned out.  If you want to succeed then your determination will eventually carry you through (often with the help of your blogging friends).  Sure it’s a good idea to take a break if you have other things going on.  Vacations are inevitable too.  But if you decide to take a break then come back refreshed with a new perspective.  Your readers will appreciate your dedication and honesty.

The Path to Success

9. Expenses

You read how long it took me to start making a little money on my blog.  But you might not know how much money I’ve spent on it; and I actually don’t know either but it’s a lot.  (I will have to add all of it up for taxes though- good thing I’ve saved most of my receipts!)  I’ve paid for my domain name, web hosting, Genesis framework and WordPress theme, all the supplies I’ve purchased for my projects, Haven conference expenses (ticket, airfare, hotel, etc. but it was totally worth it), some paid advertising on bigger blogs, new camera, online course to learn how to use the new camera, etc.  I’m only saying all this because some people assume blogging is a great way to work part-time and make a lot of money- that is absolutely not true.  If you are already struggling financially, then don’t expect to jump into blogging with no upfront expenses and suddenly start raking in the cash.

Do you agree or disagree with anything I’ve said here?

If you’re a blogger, what else would you add to this list?

Jen

Miss any of my recent posts?  Catch up here:

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34 Comments on 9 Things I’ve Learned in My First Year of Blogging

  1. Laurie @ Vin'yet Etc.
    September 9, 2013 at 9:23 am (4 years ago)

    Love this post!!! I’ve pinned it to my blog-dom board, I’ll keep going back and rereading! Thanks so much for posting this!!!! xo
    Laurie @ Vin’yet Etc. recently posted…What did you do this summer?My Profile

    Reply
    • Jen
      September 9, 2013 at 10:17 am (4 years ago)

      Thanks Laurie, you’re so sweet! Your enthusiasm inspires me. 🙂 Glad you found this post helpful!

      Reply
  2. tammigirl
    September 9, 2013 at 9:30 am (4 years ago)

    I think a lot of us think you just write some stuff and people will swarm. Really, if you want to attract the swarm/money/opportunities you have to chase them, just like in any other job.

    I have had a blog since 2006 and I don’t have a swarm or money from it. But I started my blog for me, so if I find a few friends, help a few people, and enjoy it, then I’m happy.

    But I want to go to Haven next year. So much!
    tammigirl recently posted…Wadsworth Blue-Sky Drive In MoviesMy Profile

    Reply
    • Jen
      September 12, 2013 at 11:28 pm (4 years ago)

      Tammi, if you’re happy then that’s all that matters! A lot less stress. Blogging definitely is like working toward your dream job- you’re just more in control of your schedule. 🙂
      p.s. Haven is so worth it!
      Jen recently posted…Throwback Thursday #1My Profile

      Reply
  3. Kathleen
    September 9, 2013 at 9:52 am (4 years ago)

    Girrrllll!!!
    I can’t believe you’ve only been blogging for a year. I was shocked. I’ve been blogging since February of last year and my blog is Nowhere as cool and professional as yours. You have done a tremendous job. You forgot to mention that you have the CommentLuv feature, which also cost money. I just looked at that plug in – couldn’t afford it. Thanks for this post. It was very informative.
    Kathleen recently posted…Pallet Flag and Labor DayMy Profile

    Reply
    • Jen
      September 9, 2013 at 10:15 am (4 years ago)

      Thanks for the awesome compliment, Kathleen! I actually didn’t pay for CommentLuv though- maybe they’ve started charging for their plugin now. (Bummer!)

      Reply
    • Jen
      September 9, 2013 at 1:35 pm (4 years ago)

      Hi Ashley! So glad you stopped by and read my little post. 🙂 You’ve been such an inspiration to me so your kind words really mean a lot!

      Reply
  4. Shanna Gilbert
    September 9, 2013 at 11:33 am (4 years ago)

    Great post Jen! I agree with it all! I can attest to the late nights (as we so often talk at midnight) and having a hard time balancing my time. I can’t wait to see where we will be a year from now!
    Shanna Gilbert recently posted…SorrowMy Profile

    Reply
  5. Charlotte@Ciburbanity
    September 9, 2013 at 1:31 pm (4 years ago)

    Exaaaaactly. What she said. 🙂 I chuckled at your Google Ad Sense payout comment… still waiting. The first thing expert bloggers told me when I started was to make sure I LOVE it. And I do which is the most important thing, but man does it take a while to get those numbers climbing… I heard someone say they “only” had 1000+ page views the other day and I had to gulp.
    Charlotte

    Reply
    • Jen
      September 9, 2013 at 7:39 pm (4 years ago)

      I agree 100% – you have to love it! When you stop enjoying it then it feels like an obligation and that’s when people get burned out. There’s no perfect formula for blogging, it’s different for everyone. That’s why it’s also so important to just be yourself instead of trying to copy a more successful blogger.

      Reply
  6. DeDe@DesignedDecor
    September 9, 2013 at 7:10 pm (4 years ago)

    What a great post! So true! I like the family balance part, we all must just step away and take a break. I always explain to my friends that I have a Full time job, but I am just not paid for it. The blogging and social media is 40+ hours and than you add projects on top of the blogging. I think we are all crazy! But I love my crazy!
    DeDe@DesignedDecor recently posted…Crayon ArtMy Profile

    Reply
    • Jen
      September 9, 2013 at 7:35 pm (4 years ago)

      DeDe- LOL! I love my crazy too. 🙂

      Reply
  7. Abby @ Just a Girl and Her Blog
    September 9, 2013 at 7:39 pm (4 years ago)

    CONGRATS on your one year Blogiversary! So exciting! I loved reading your insight and finding out about what you’ve learned. It’s so helpful to learn from others. Thanks so much for sharing!

    ~Abby =)
    Abby @ Just a Girl and Her Blog recently posted…Get Your DIY On! {The Color Blue}My Profile

    Reply
  8. Dani @ See Hubby Cook
    September 9, 2013 at 8:05 pm (4 years ago)

    Thank you for sharing this!!! Most of my family can’t believe that after 3 months I’ve made a whopping…$2 off Google Adsense. They all thought this was a get-rich-quick career. After all, so many people do it so it must be paying! Hah!
    Now to keep on trucking until I finally hit payout (at this rate, that’ll be a few years).
    Dani @ See Hubby Cook recently posted…Butternut Squash and Sausage SoupMy Profile

    Reply
  9. Kim Gaynor
    September 9, 2013 at 10:15 pm (4 years ago)

    Your post motivated me and made me feel better. I’m also at my one year anniversary and have been trying, trying, trying to do everything I can to publicize my blog and grow devoted followers. I never knew blogging could take so much time! I’m loving it though. I’ve learned a TON since I got started. I know you’re not supposed to have regrets, but I wish I’d started years ago. I would have been a lot further along by now.

    So that’s one of the things I try not to do: compare my beginning to someone else’s middle. (I’m quoting someone, but I can’t remember who right now.)

    The only thing I don’t truly understand, and I hope you can explain a little more. Why is it necessary to convert a Pinterest account to a business account? It’s not a big deal to me one way or the other, but my current Pinterest account URL is the name of my blog and I show my business name AND my personal name.
    Kim Gaynor recently posted…House EnvyMy Profile

    Reply
  10. Emily
    September 9, 2013 at 10:26 pm (4 years ago)

    Awesome advise Jen! I’ve pinned this. It is hard to figure out how much you spend blogging because if you are redoing something because you want to do it, does it count as an business expense. I sure don’t know these things!?
    Emily recently posted…Preschool Lovey Book {For Dealing with Separation}My Profile

    Reply
    • Jen
      September 12, 2013 at 11:36 pm (4 years ago)

      Emily, if you’re blogging about something you would already be creating for personal use, then I probably wouldn’t consider it a business expense. But if you’re working on something that you otherwise wouldn’t have done if not for the blog, then it would probably be a business expense. I’m not an expert but does that help?
      Jen recently posted…Throwback Thursday #1My Profile

      Reply
    • Jen
      September 12, 2013 at 11:13 pm (4 years ago)

      I’m so glad you liked my tips, Keren – thank you for sharing!

      Reply
  11. Jane @ Cottage at the Crossroads
    September 10, 2013 at 7:41 pm (4 years ago)

    Great post Jen! You sum things up very well and when someone asks me about starting a blog, I will refer them to your post! I would like to ask you a few questions about Social Spark. We can chat tomorrow on FB if that’s alright with you.

    Oh, and I think you’ve come a long way in a year! Congratulations!
    ~Jane
    Jane @ Cottage at the Crossroads recently posted…A Burnished Fall MantelMy Profile

    Reply
    • Jen
      September 12, 2013 at 11:12 pm (4 years ago)

      Thank you so much, Jane! You can ask me questions about SocialSpark anytime. 🙂

      Reply
  12. Cindy @ diy beautify
    September 11, 2013 at 7:01 pm (4 years ago)

    This was invaluable advice!! I’m a two-week old blogger 🙂 and loving it but my gosh it is much more time-consuming than I ever envisioned.
    I just registered my domain yesterday but did it as personal rather than business. Was that a mistake?? I didn’t realize I could claim expenses…do I have to register as a business first? Sorry for all the questions!!
    Cindy @ diy beautify recently posted…Little Green WagonMy Profile

    Reply
    • Jen
      September 12, 2013 at 11:19 pm (4 years ago)

      Hi Cindy, congrats on starting your new blog! Yes it can be very time consuming. I posted pretty sporadically for the first several months until I got into a system and slowly starting posting more. Definitely don’t overdo it if you’re just starting- there is so much information to consume it can make your head spin! I did not claim anything for the blog on my taxes last year. My understanding is that you don’t have to claim any blog income unless you earn at least $600 – and between my blog and my booth space (which I registered with my state in my blog name) I should reach that by the end of the year. Of course I’ll consult a tax specialist when the time comes to make sure it’s all done correctly!

      Reply
  13. Julie
    September 13, 2013 at 8:13 pm (4 years ago)

    Hi, thanks for sharing the tips for blogging and I pinned it. I saw it on a night owl.
    Julie from julieslifestyle.blogspot.com
    Julie recently posted…Chevron Crochet DishclothMy Profile

    Reply
  14. Luci@BungalowAtHome
    September 15, 2013 at 5:25 pm (4 years ago)

    Awesome post full of great info! I’ve been blogging a little over a year and started because I wanted it to be an extension of my Staging/Decorating business not my main source of income.. For those that need it to be, I applaud you!!

    Pinning this as well!

    Reply
  15. Andrea
    May 4, 2015 at 1:24 pm (3 years ago)

    I’m so glad that I found this post! I currently just started blogging and I love it, but takes so much time away from my life since I’m working an 8-5 job. I love how you are completely honest, and remind us to put things in perspective. Thanks so much Jen!
    Andrea recently posted…Rustic Books and Berries Birthday Dessert TableMy Profile

    Reply
    • Jen
      May 6, 2015 at 10:18 pm (3 years ago)

      Thanks Andrea! I’m glad you found it helpful. Blogging is definitely tough at times but obviously I’m still here 🙂 – if you discover that it’s your passion, then you’ll keep doing it even in the little bit of spare time that you get. It has to be difficult blogging and having a full time job also! Good luck with your blog. 🙂

      Reply
  16. Mathieu
    January 30, 2017 at 5:37 am (10 months ago)

    Hello Jen,
    I found this article and I have the feeling that I could have write it. I started to blog about furniture makeover 1 year ago and each step described is so true! I have to add that as being a french blogger, great stuff like pinterest strategies, find same niche bloggers or write a guest post, is a little bit harder to put in place.But i’m tenacious and as I’m still employee, I’m not in a hurry. Continue like this I love what you do. I’m suscribing right now to your mailing list.

    Reply
    • Jen
      January 31, 2017 at 10:32 pm (10 months ago)

      Thank you, Mathieu – good luck to you! (bonne chance!)

      Reply

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