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Three months ago I gave you guys a brutally honest peek behind the scenes of my blog life. I committed to doing quarterly recaps for my first year so I wouldn’t forget all the things I’m learning and I can give a real-time picture of the pace it takes to grow a blog. So here’s the culmination of my first 6 months blogging.
These last three months have brought changes in my life that were totally unexpected and crazy. From starting a writing internship at The Penny Hoarder, getting kicked out of our duplex, and buying a house in record time, it’s been a crazy season.
But I’ve been so excited to write this post for you guys. I’ve learned so much through all of it and I want to share info with you that I hope you’ll find valuable.
1. Learn for Free
As a new blogger, I made it my mission to learn something new every week, but courses are expensive and eBooks add up. There’s no shortage of freebie opt-ins for bloggers, a 5-day course on Pinterest here, 7 days to grow your list there. That stuff is great but most of it is the same info wrapped in different packages.
People say you get what you pay for but honestly, you don’t have to pay big bucks to get quality information that will grow your online presence. The secret is podcasts. I’ve gleaned so many great tips from experts in my car or while making dinner it’s amazing. Here are some of my favs:
- Online Marketing Made Easy with Amy Porterfield
- Pro Blogger by Darren Rowse
- The Smart Passive Income Podcast by Pat Flynn
- The Side Hustle Show by Nick Loper
I highly recommend listening to podcasts to help grow your blog and business. Whether you’re new or seasoned there’s always someone who knows more than you willing to share his or her wisdom!
2. Respond to Everyone
I’ve always responded to post comments and I’ve recently made it a rule that I’ll respond to every genuine email and social media response I get as well. I’ve noticed as I’ve reached out to influencers in my niche the one I like are the ones who reply to me, not even in depth but just give me the time of day.
I want to respond to everyone because I want to be known as someone who’s available and real. Of course there will come a day where I can’t manage this but for now, making connections with people is a small thing I can do to become the type of blogger I want to be long-term.
3. Be Selective in Guest & Sponsored Posts
In recent weeks requests for guest and sponsored posts on Saving with Spunk have blown up. It’s hard to turn down easy money, and I don’t directly, but I want to make sure the content and voice align with my site.
I’m straight forward in telling PR people the topics I don’t want on my blog and that all links are “nofollow.” Truthfully, any link tied to monetization should be nofollow. It’s good to allow your blog to make money but don’t compromise your baby for that dollar!
Help a Reporter Out is a site where journalists can go to source experts for their articles. Ever wonder how popular bloggers are “as seen on”? It can be as simple as responding to a request on HARO. I’ve been seen on Citi and had a full feature on Student Loan Hero thanks to HARO (and Twitter.)
5. Pictures Matter
I get it, it’s hard enough to write great content, promote it and now you have to find pictures for your post and social media share. I’m guilty of throwing up a random photo into WordPress and being done with it. But here’s why you should care about your photos: SEO.
Google looks at the file name, alt title, and description when people do an image search. The size of the image impacts your page speed and a slower page lowers your Google juice. So take time to change the size and file name of your images and give them appropriate descriptions when you upload. You’ll be glad you did!
6. Care About Yoast, But Not Too Much
When I started blogging I had no clue how to use Yoast, I was just excited to make it turn green when I filled everything in right. I’ve since learned that you can take that green light with a grain of salt. Yoast is great but sometimes it wants you to over-optimize to please it. That being said I can tell you a few key features that are worth pay attention to.
Keywords are important if you want to rank in Google. Starting out there’s no way I’m going to rank for “how to budget” but I might rank for “how to budget while in school.” Not as many people search that specific so not as many people will write about it. They’re called long tail keywords and they are a new blogger’s friend.
SEO Title is the title Google cares about. It’s more important you have your keyword in there than your post title, and yes they can be different. I often have a pithy title for a post that doesn’t contain my keywords, plugging an SEO title in Yoast allows me to use both.
Google doesn’t care about you Meta Description. It’s simply a feature to make your article sound more tantalizing in a search so people click on it. Make it clickable but don’t worry too much about keywords on this one.
7. Think Long Term
Long term I want to use my blog as a portfolio of my work to land enough writing clients to work from home. I want to build affiliate income so I can have cushion in the unpredictable world of freelancing. Since I have a long-term goal I want everything I do and learn to get me closer to it.
What’s your long-term goal? The Internet is huge and there are no limits on what can be done on here. Having a goal is as important as having a purpose or theme for your blog. And while the goal can change over time you’ll always be going in the general right direction if you have one.
8. Nurture Your List
I’ve learned that your list is the only marketing that you have full control over. So it makes sense that if you eventually want to sell to your list you should be nurturing them. Your emails should contain valuable information to build trust and likeability (and remind them why they subscribed).
And be consistent, if you’re wondering how often to email, it’s weekly. Ask questions and engage every week, find out who your followers are, why they follow you, and what they need. So when you finally get to the point you’re promoting something, you know your faithful email friends will want it.
9. Refresh AP Style & Grammar
Do you remember learning AP style in school? I remember but not well obviously because when I started working with professional editors I saw more red than black on my returned articles.
While it’s not imperative you use perfect grammar and AP style in conversational writing it’s something I now see immense value in. Things as simple as consistent tense in headlines and writing out numbers under 10 are easy refinements that make your work look polished and trustworthy.
Here’s a free course from the Poynter Institute if you’re interested in taking your writing game next level.
10. Outline First, Research Second, Write Third
I’ve finally found the method that works for me when writing a post. I’m the type of writer who’ll pour out all the thoughts then organize them, then rewrite, then edit. Then probably rearrange again.
I’ve needed more efficiency in writing and I’ve found this method to accomplish that. I think it also makes the content more understandable for the reader which is always welcomed.
11. Follow Formats, Innovate Content
When I started out I used this system and I’m glad to say it’s worked for me. I look at how other people are formatting their sites, content, and monetization and replicate it. When I write, I write what I like and do my best to make sure it’s different from what else is out there.
Like with my post of 20 Things we did to Pay off $53K of Student Loans, I know big numbers and lists are popular with readers but I didn’t see a good list post of actual “X number of things to do” to accomplish big numbers, so I made one.
On the Horizon:
I didn’t achieve any of the goals I set 3 months ago but for understandable reasons. My goals for the next three months are totally attainable.
The top ranking posts on Google are over 1500 words with pictures, headlines, and lots of backlinks. I’m hovering at an average of 800-900 words so I definitely want to include a few long posts every month when I’m back at full speed.
7 Simple Steps to Pay Off Your Loans Faster
This is my new free guide that I’ll be offering subscribers. I’m super excited about it. I should have it finished, edited, and pretty for an early May release. You can check back then or join the list now and get the free download before anyone else!
Start a Blog Page
I’ve been approached by Bluehost to partner on a “Start a Blog” Page. I’m not going to start blogging about blogging but I am an advocate for having a blog so I’m excited to have a resource for others to help them get started on a path that’s been a really cool experience for me.
Starting in May I’ll be doing weekly Facebook Live broadcasts. I will shower, put makeup on, and talk to you on the interwebz. Every week I’ll chat about a relevant topic to help you with your money. If you have any suggestions let me know in the comments!
I’m going to invest more in Facebook ads this year. While it’s not cheap it’s definitely effective. After listening to episode 86 of Perpetual Traffic they suggest getting the most out of buying ads by running Facebook live and using the views from that to target your audience. Hence why weekly Facebook lives are a goal.
Can’t wait to come back at 9 months and let you all know how it’s going!