I use to look at blog reports and think, while I enjoy reading them I’ll never share that much personal info! And furthermore, they all seem to be doing better than I am, so why would I post a blog report on how slow I’m starting. No thanks.
However . . .
I’ve changed my tune and here’s why:
New bloggers raving about going from start up to 10,000 pageviews in one month are not normal, and I’m frustrated it’s made to seem like the industry average if you “put in the effort”. Most blog growth starts slow, even if you’re working hard. Blogging is not an “instant success” career path. And while I wanted to believe that in the beginning, I couldn’t wish it into happening. However, hard work and dedication plus being consistent has rewarded me with 4,000 page views in my second month. And to me, that’s pretty huge!
Here’s a breakdown of my first two months blogging: how I launched, the resources I used, including programs purchased, groups I became part of, how much I made, and the products I received in exchange for reviews. Also scattered throughout are lots of tips and resources for you to take advantage of! So grab a cup of coffee, a notepad, and read on!
First Two Month Breakdown:
Let me start by saying, this isn’t my first blog. I started two others thinking both of them would be “the one” that caught fire and got me really going in the blogging world.
Blonde Minded Brunette was my first attempt.
I was trying to be clever with the name, but really it was just hard to remember. Which you don’t want as a blogger. I had that site (I guess have technically) for going on seven years now. It was active until about June of last year when I decided I needed to rebrand myself. Eryn Whalen Fitness was born.
My issues with this was I was narrowing down my niche too much. I’m more than fitness, but by saying fitness I was turning off a lot of people who might like the other areas of my blog, such as my urban farming ventures and the DIY projects I post about. Realizing within only a few months that I had made a mistake and needed to be more broad, Eryn Whalen Online was born!
What I wished I’d done years ago: Put a little cash in the game
For most of us blogging is a side hustle at first, and we simply don’t have much money to invest in training. I figured there was a lot of free info out there, and if I looked hard enough and researched long enough I’d find everything out there is to know about blogging.
I spent SEVEN years living out this mentality and oh how I wish I had actually skipped a few coffees, skimped a little, saved, and invested in my blog. I’m a firm believer you can find the money if you truly want something bad enough. It will pay off in dividends starting right away. I’m not talking thousands of dollars here, if you have about $300 most of the time you can get a quality blog up and running, as well as some valuable training under your belt on how to start monetizing your blog and begin working with companies as an influencer. Ask for cash for your birthday, Mother’s Day, Christmas, etc. Sell something on Craigslist and make it happen!!!
1. Place your blog at WordPress.org, purchase a good theme, and you’re already leaps and bounds ahead of most bloggers!
I have a whole page dedicated to the tools to use when starting up a blog, so I’ll just hit a few high points here.
In my humble opinion, I’d suggest taking Abby’s course, Building A Framework, which at the time of writing this is only $97, before purchasing a domain, hosting, or theme. (Seriously, $97 is such a steal! I’ve taken other courses for WAY more that weren’t half as well done and informative as hers. Trust me.) She walks you through everything, things you didn’t even know you needed to know, and how to do it all correctly.
This would have saved me a lot of headache had I purchased it before starting my blog, as I had to go back and re-do things I’d already set in motion. Plus, she gives her student exclusive deals on things they have to purchase anyhow, so why not learn and save at the same time. Seriously, if there had been a course like this when I had started years ago I wonder where I’d be now. Maybe on a beach in the bahamas. 😉
2. Reach out to other bloggers and make connections!
I wished I would have reached out to other bloggers sooner! I’ve met so many amazing women (a lot through Abby’s Facebook group you get access to with her course) and have been able to network with them! They have been an amazing resource and encouragement on days I felt like my blog was failing.
I also went on to find a few other Facegroup groups that offer thread posts which essentially means we share each others content in the form of Pinterest pins, FB post shares, retweets, and more which brings traffic to our blogs and social media sites. These have been an amazing resource. I even went on to make one of my own groups! These are the top four I recommend.
-> Mom Boss Blogging Network (My personal group!)
Of course there are many more groups out there but I’d be cautious about trying to be an active part of too many. You’ll find yourself commenting, repinning, and retweeting for HOURS a day which ultimately looks great for your site, but stretches you way too thin. I suggest doing something like the following:
Monday – post to three threads in one specific group.
Tuesday – post to three threads in a different group.
And on and on for each day of the week.
Hit up each group’s Pinterest pin threads for a day, the next day post to all their tweet threads, and so on.
Whatever you do make a pattern out of it so you know when to contribute to what group and threads. This way it’s not so overwhelming. If you’re doing this Monday – Friday (I really stress taking the weekend mostly off) you’ll get pretty constant traffic.
And since we’re talking consistency: Be predictable for your readers
Start with being consistent with your posts and social media presence, and go from there. There’s no magic pill to become big right away. But, there are some things I’ve found that have dramatically changed how I blog and it’s effectiveness, consistency is one of them.
Getting into a routine gives your tribe of readers something to look forward to and let’s them know when to hit up your site! If you’re super sporadic, (hello my first few years of blogging) they are either going to not check in as often or stop checking in at all. Not okay if you’re trying hard to reach the 10,000 page view a month mark so companies will want to start working with you!
How To Blog 101
Once you’ve got your website up, your plug-in’s all installed, your genesis and child theme up and running you are ready for the fun stuff. (If everything in that sentence freaked you out, again, I stress taking Abby’s course.)
Decide on a launch date!
Some people may want to do a soft organic launch and not really have a date when they tell everyone they’re live. Instead they allow SEO, pinning, and working the group threads to grow their readership. That’s totally fine, but not my style. I wanted everyone and their mother to know I was blogging! The more people visiting my site the more it leads to others popping over and so forth. I wanted to grow big and fast, so I set a launch date and got to work.
I picked my launch date as Monday April 23rd. (The huge spike in the month pictured) It was about 30 days after purchasing Abby’s course. I’m a little obsessive and once I purchase a course, get a new book, want to learn something new, etcetera, life pretty much stops in all other areas until I finish whatever it is. Abby’s course is probably more like a month long endeavor for most, but I finished it in about a week. #obsessivepersonality #bigtime #Ididfeedmykidsandkeepthemhappy
You do have the ability to make your blog secret until you launch, but I kept mine visible. That’s why you can see some traffic before the 23rd. If I had questions while making my site I’d ask one of my FB groups and they’d go over to my site and offer advice. That’s what most of my traffic came from before my launch.
I’ll stress this: I didn’t hire anyone to touch my blog or do anything for me. This is 100% me. If I can do it, you can too! You just have to get comfortable with not freaking out when you encounter a problem and Googling the crap out of blogging! Most often you can find the answer. I also called my hosting company Siteground a couple times to resolve some issues, as well as my theme creator at Restored316 for help with aesthetics. Again, find them on my Starting A Blog page.
My second month obviously had a lot more traffic! Woohoo! I kept posts coming every wednesday, promoted them on social media and to my groups, and had an active online presence.
What do you need for a launch?
If you want to work with influencers, up your readership, and monetize your blog you need an email list. I was so not on board with this one for a long time. But, email is the way you to reach your tribe of readers when you’ve got something exciting to share, when you launch your first course or product (how HUGE!!!!!), or when you’re working with a company and want to make sure the post you wrote gets enough traffic.
The majority of people won’t sign up for your email just because, they need an incentive. Most savvy bloggers make a free opt-in. Dangling a carrot in front of your readers allows them to get something they really want for giving up their email. Most of the month before my launch was spent making my opt-in. I wanted it to be something that really provided value for my specific readers.
My hope was to develop a rapport with them. My niche readers are primarily moms wanting to live a healthier lifestyle for themselves as well as their families. But, they feel overwhelmed with life and obligations. Because of this “The Overwhelmed Mom’s Guide To Getting It All Done” was born. It was a labor of love, a 27 page binder system I created from scratch that I felt could truly help my readers, as well as myself!
Who are your readers? What is their pain point and how can you help them? It doesn’t have to be a huge binder system like mine. Are you great at Make-Up? Could you make a video tutorial to share with your email list? Think outside the box and make it something you have fun creating, and you know will benefit your reader.
What email service should you use?
If you have the cash in the beginning I’d recommend Convert Kit, they are the go-to for pro bloggers. However, they also charge $29 a month, which isn’t feasible for most start-up blogs. Instead, I use Mail Chimp. It’s free for up to 3,000 subscribers. Sweet Tea LLC has the most AMAZING tutorials on how to start using Mail Chimp. Check them out here. And when the time comes, she also shows you how to change over from Mail Chimp to Convert Kit!
Funnel everyone to your blog
Your social media presence like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest are the arms and legs leading to your body, aka blog!
These are the places your readers get to know you a little better. You don’t just share about your latest post and how they can purchase something from you, you share your life, how you relate to your followers, you show them that what you’re offering or the lifestyle you lead can benefit or provide them value. Eating healthy? Share a recipe. Into children’s fashion? Share some of your favorite brands. Give, give, and give some more! People want to know what’s in it for them. What do they get out of following you?
Unless you’re a celebrity they aren’t following you just because they think you’re cool. You need to somehow enhance their lives. I’m taking an Instagram course right now and love how she says your IG should be a beautiful magazine that takes people on a journey, not a catalog where all you do is sell sell sell. Boring!
Quality over quantity
When I was blogging at my first site, I felt like I needed to post every. stinking. day. Talk about burn out! I would post consistently for a couple weeks, then just be done and quit for a month. Not so great for building readers. Once I took a few courses I learned that many top blogs only post once or twice a week, and the rest of the time concentrate on funneling people back to their blog. How freeing! I am much better at making good content when I only have to post once a week versus five! Plus, my life is so not interesting enough for five posts!
I’m such a fly by the seat of my pants person, and you honestly can’t be that last minute when blogging. If you want to blog well that is. I have my posts planned out for the next few months, and have started several of them already. I know what I’m going to post to Instagram each week, and choose to use Sunday after church most weeks to align myself for the next seven days. This has reduced work stress SO MUCH since I know what comes next, when I do what, and what to post where. Once you find a rhythm you’ll feel in a much better place.
My Personal Blog Start-Up Costs
What does it cost to start up a blog? It can really vary depending on if you have to purchase your name from someone who’s already claimed it, etc. But for me, these were the costs when I started up:
Building A Framework Course: $97
Hover Domain Name: $11.17 (for a year)
Siteground Hosting Service: $54 (for a year)
Genesis theme: $59.95 (One time purchase)
316 Child Theme: $60.00 (One time purchase)
Mail Chimp: $10.00 (per month) Again, it’s free but I wanted some of the upgraded content.
Total first months costs: $288.12
As far as maintenance goes, I only have to pay the Mail Chimp cost of $10 a month. One of the reasons I purchased an upgrade through Mail Chimp was to do automation, which means my customers receive an email immediately once they opt-in for the free binder system. About two weeks after I purchased it though, Mail Chimp made automation part of their free package! Yeah! But, a landing page back to your site isn’t free, and I really wanted to keep that option so I’ll stick with the paid plan for now. 🙂
A note on hosting: I’ve used both HostGator and GoDaddy in the past and do not recommend either! HostGator has the worst customer service and their site is extremely hard to navigate. The last time I tried to fix something on my old site they were downright rude!
GoDaddy is okay for hosting, but don’t purchase your domain name through them. I’ve heard horror stories of them purchasing domain names before customers could renew them and then charging large amounts of money to get the name back. I’m not sure how much of this is true or false, but I know for me personally I couldn’t name my site simply “Eryn Whalen” because when I originally tried to go through GoDaddy (thankfully I changed my mind and went through Siteground instead) they said it was purchased, wouldn’t mention by whom, and wanted to charge me up the yin yang for the rights. It seemed extremely fishy.
My first two months income:
It’s not likely you’ll make your money back in the first few months, so don’t bank on it. However, I did have a company Ellie Activewear, want to work with me as an influencer for their brand. I received their June box for free in exchange for an unbiased review. The box was worth a total of $49.95
I also made $34 from a reader purchasing a product using an affiliate link from my site. Using an affiliate link costs the buyer nothing extra, but the company selling the product knows that the referral came from a specific blog because of the extra code added into the link address. The blogger then receives a small percent of the cost of the product. A lot of larger blogs make their entire income solely from sharing affiliate links for products they love and already purchase themselves. How awesome is that!?
My Last Parting Recommendation:
Take good photos!!!!!
Blogs are first and foremost visual and you’ll turn on or turn off a reader within about five seconds of your page loading just based on your sites look. That’s why a good theme and great photos are a must. I see a lot of blogs that have good writing but the photos and/or blog set-up are a complete turn off.
Photography is part of your branding. It’s okay to use stock photos every once in awhile, but overall your readers want more of you and your life. I’m not going to recommend any specific courses here, but search Pinterest for how to take photos and check out some of the resources there. Have a Cannon? Search how to use your Cannon for blogging. Have an iPhone? Search how to take blog photos with your iPhone. It’s possible! But, you have to develope an eye for it. Some catch on faster than others.
If you visited my first website my photos were embarrassingly awful! But, it is what it is. (A lot of my running posts are transplanted from my original blog and aren’t the best) They are all part of my journey though and shows just how far I’ve come. I’m not pro status by any means, but I take 98% of my own photos and feel like I’m getting the knack of it.
Okay, my REAL last parting words:
You are the CEO of your business. You can be successful or not, it’s all how persistent you are and how hard you work. With blogging there are high highs and low lows. I’ll write a post and it will catch fire and my blog will be busy for days after. I’ll write another and think it’s gold, but the engagement just it isn’t what I’d hoped for. Overall you have to listen to your readers and what they like, then give them more of it.
Also, don’t sell out for every little or big brand that want’s to work with you. Does what they sell align with your following? Would it make your readers lives better? Would you purchase the product yourself? Make sure you have a lot of posts that are simply from you, and not solely sponsored by a company paying or giving you product for free. That’s a sure fire way to irritate your following.
Okay that was really it! Have more blogging questions? Feel free to shoot me an email or comment below!
Do you blog? What was your hardest and most favorite part of starting up?