Blog advice - First Blog Posts, Wordpress.com and How Much to Invest in Blog Design

Blog Advice on Writing the First Post, WordPress.com and Design Costs (Q&AA)

Looking for blogging advice? Here’s a new addition to Successful Blogging in which you get to quiz me about anything you like and star on the blog  if you wish.

Q&AA stand for Question and Annabel’s Answers. I don’t know everything but if you have a blog problem, idea or query and would like advice just leave a question below in the comments and I’ll answer it next time.

If you have a burning question but don’t want to star on the blog just send me an email and ask me not to use your real name. That’s fine too.

So let’s dive in with our first three blog questions on Q&AA and the advice.

1. What to write in your first blog post

How honest can I be in my first few blogs? I wanted to add some humour (my dry sarcastic) and admit my nervousness about writing a blog and engage readers who might also be going to through the same process, good idea or not?
Tara Gloor

Hi Tara,

That is such a great question. In brief my advice is:

  • Be totally honest.
  • Humour is great.
  • Maybe don’t admit the nerves unless it’s a post about something like overcoming blogging fear or it helps the reader. They are there to be entertained and informed so unless your topic is writing then it’s probably not relevant and will detract from their reading experience. Remember, they don’t care about you yet, they want to know what they’re going to get out of reading your blog.
  • Also probably no one will be reading your first blog post anyway so run with it and forget your nerves. I don’t say that to be mean, I hope you can find readers fast but I also want to liberate you from pressurising yourself.

Have fun. That’s the most important thing or you’ll never stick with blogging.

2. Can I sell advertising when I have a WordPress.com blog and am not self-hosted with my own blog address?

I follow your posts on Get In the Hotspot & Successful Blogging and over the year and a half I’ve been building my own blog, you’ve been a welcome and reliable source of info, entertainment and advice (and now and again, the odd twinge of envy!)

I have a question that can be answered easily and quickly with a direct email so you were the obvious choice. My blog is with Wordpress.com, so it’s not self-hosted. I keep getting requests for sponsored blog posts – ones written by someone else to be featured on my blog.

I’ve followed some of your advice and in my response I make it clear I prefer to write my own, but in the event of something having relevance for my readers I’ll consider it subject to certain conditions (limited term, set no. of links, final say over content, etc.) I’m thinking of starting a parent page which could feature this additional info from external sources.

Can you tell me where I stand with regard to WordPress on this? Would it be illegal because I’ve been paid for the posts? Or is it a private matter?
Aisha

Hi Aisha,

Loved hearing from you and please don’t feel envious of me. That’s a GREAT blog you have there. I love your story and the pic of you on your wedding day. Lots of comments and engagement too so not surprised advertisers want to work with you.

I can’t answer that legal question but my advice is that you self host, get your own domain name and run with it. Then you can sell sponsored posts without worrying.

I use Godaddy for registering domain names. All domain name registering services want to host your site as that’s how they earn money. They may offer cheap hosting but generally it’s not good and while that may be fine when you have few visitors and it doesn’t matter if your site goes down it may cause problems in the long run.

I recommend you use WP Engine for hosting as they’re the BEST for WP sites. As web designers we only host sites we’ve designed but after having probs with hosting my growing blogs last year we’re now using WPEngine to host both blogs. They specialise in WordPress hosting and are great.

That’s an aff link above so if you sign up I get $150 (evil laugh)  It’s a bit pricier than poor quality other hosting services but worth it if you have a growing blog and are professional.On the WP Engine site Under Service, FAQ & Support there’s a link to Domain Names and within that info about how to configure for Go Daddy. They have great support so I’m sure will be able to help you.

If you get stuck with anything WordPress blog design related my husband Rich would probably be able to help out. He sometimes does a few hours for people who need a hand but not the whole site design. Either way you ask can ask me for advice any time. I like giving blogging advice and helping other small business owners, consultants and freelancers.

3. How much money should I invest in my new blog and business?

When you start a business you invest a few thousand pounds be it in infrastructure or products. But it strikes me that when bloggers are starting out it takes so much longer because they try to grow organically investing the minimal amount into their “brand” and waiting for it to pick up.

Do you know of any instances where people have essentially backed themselves as the business and brand, taken that view, invested the money and then fast tracked to a position of making money?

So in my situation the end goal is to establish myself as a vegan kid’s meal expert with books, classes and guest demonstrations. Do you see an opportunity for me to invest the money in books, printing, website, PR etc to get that business up and running?

If I had the right SEO and PR in place could that be enough to push your brand into public awareness?

I ran a fashion company before having children and after working in the City. I had a PR and fancy website and had 200,000 clicks a day. Things have changed a lot since then so I’d appreciate your insight.
Nicole Bremner

Hi Nicole,

You ask some good and hard questions! My thoughts:

1. Yes, I think most bloggers shoot themselves in the foot by not investing in good branding and blog design. Having an amateur looking site will hold you back and having a great brand will give you instant credibility. When I say most bloggers that’s not an exaggeration. There are millions of blogs out there but only a handful are well known and 99.9% of those have a strong brand and professional blog design.

2. Andrea at Fox in Flats is a good example of someone who invested in great branding and design.  I met her last year, a lovely lady who told me she intentionally set up her blog to make money and has now got advertisers and sponsors. It’s obvious that she stands out in a crowded market because of her design and by committing to looking professional from the beginning rather than just dabbling in blogging to see how it goes.

3. I’m can’t give you commercial advice but here’s my take. Before starting a business you need to work out how much you can earn from your products (books, classes and guest demonstrations) in year one, two, three etc. Of course you can only make an estimated guess. Then you can gauge how much to invest up front.

If I was you I’d want a great blog design and a great book design. Then you can invest in PR/blog Sarch Engine Optimisation (SEO) as you start to get an income or earlier if you’re confident. If the blog is set up right you should be able to get the SEO organised from the beginning and my husband Rich can take care of that if we do your web design.

The best way to grow your blog is guest blogging and you need to make time to do that yourself. You could hire a virtual assistant (or real one) to take care of the admin so you have more time for blog writing. You need time to make contacts but everything is easier if people can see a great blog design to begin with. That creates the good first impression and makes them want to work with you and support you.

SEO will take time – allow 6 to 12 months with a new site. PR and guest posting will work faster to boost traffic as will social media marketing (Twitter, Facebook etc). Paid online advertising is another option you can experiment with if you wish. Eg. Google or Facebook ads.

200,000 clicks a day sounds amazing. I’m not sure a vegan kids site would be as popular but Google adwords says 18,000+ people search for that each month and with targeted traffic you have a much better chance of converting them into buyers – you don’t need millions of readers to have a viable business. It’s better to have fewer readers who really want the information you have and are prepared to pay for it. For example, according to Google adwords 8,000+ people search for “vegan kids recipes” each month. I think that’s promising.

Here’s some advice and recommendations:

  • Invest the amount you’re comfortable with in blog and ebook design. Launch them both together and get to market fast. Don’t over think, you can tweak and improve in time. Your aim is to test the market.
  • Keep in mind your aim is to sell books and any other products you can get out there. Be strongly commercial.
  • Bear in mind you won’t sell much to begin with but sales should grow over time.
  • After 6-12 months you should be able to assess how well you’re doing and how viable the business is. Then if you want you can spend more on improved blog design/functionality/advertising/PR etc you can.
  • If you spend US$3,000-5,000 (around GBP 2,000-3000) to begin with on blog design you shouldn’t need to spend more on that for years apart from hosting fees and possible small updates. You want a clean simple blog that can grow with you and you should be able to create a strong brand and design within that budget.

Thank you Tara, Aisha and Nicole for emailing me these questions and inspiring me to create a new blog advice section so we can share them on the blog.

I know if one person has a blogging problem other people are probably wondering the same thing too so I’m excited about sharing more Successful Blogging reader questions here.

Got a question about blogging, business or online marketing? Ask in the comments or drop me an email if you’d like my advice.

Got more blog advice to add to the mix? Please share in the comments we’d love to hear from you.

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Need Help with Blog Design?

For help with blog design or updates email me now to get the conversation started - I’ve been helping creatives and small business owners set up effective websites for 17 years and I’d love to help you too.

Author: Annabel Candy

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Seana - Sydney Kids Food + Travel March 14, 2013 at 8:24 am

Nice idea Annabel, these are all good questions and will be useful for lots of us.

My question is…. the more people read my blog, the higher the bounce rate gets and I don’t like it!! Does bounce rate matter and what can I do? Feeling a bit used and abused by people who spend time reading once post then go. They love me then leave me!!

Reply

Annabel Candy March 14, 2013 at 9:16 am

Hi Seana,

Lol, well that’s no good, I don’t want you to feel abused! You have to accept that a lot of search engine traffic and traffic from places like StumbleUpon won’t stick around.

I recommend you optimise popular landing pages by linking to other similar pages and encouraging people to subscribe there.

Thanks for the question! I’d better write about it in more details in another post :)

Reply

Aisha from Expatlogue March 14, 2013 at 10:26 am

Hi Annabel – great post. I hope it helps others join me on the path to dominion over the World-Wide-Web, muaha-ha-ha-ha-ha-haaaa!!!
Thanks for all your help and sage advice.

Reply

Annabel Candy March 15, 2013 at 11:25 am

Hi Aisha,

Lol, you’re welcome. I know you’ll use that power for good ;)

Reply

Judy Hackett March 15, 2013 at 6:57 am

Hi Annabel
As always lots of great advice and tips from you. I’ve been setting up and researching how to set up my blog now for a few years. Yes, years. I am now quite close to ‘the big day’ but do have a question.
I am also working on an ebook to compliment my site, bring in some income and encourage and help people in my particular niche. Should I wait untilI finish my blog or publish my ebook first? Going by my track record I am worried I still won’t have my blog active and will be finished my ebook.
Would you consider doing a blogging series on self publishing as I am struggling to find any clear and simple directions to do so. Does anyone else need some information on self publishing?
Love your blog and look forward to reading it each week.

Reply

Annabel Candy March 15, 2013 at 11:33 am

Hi Judy,

Looking forward to helping you with that blog so you can hit publish soon!

That depends where you’re going to publish the ebook. Often people sell and market books through their blogs so with no blog you’ll find it hard to sell books and may get disappointed.

The whole self-publishing process is far too complicated. I’m still learning it myself but I recommend CreateSpace to create print books and Kindles which you can sell on Amazon. You probably need to talk to someone who understands all the options (ebook versus Kindle) so you can make the right choice for you but really you just need to hit publish and print your book. I’d love to help you with a consultation on it all if you want more details. I’ll probably share my self-publishing story here at a later date when I’ve seen how it goes with my new Kindle version of Successful Blogging.

But whatever you decide to do (book or blog first) know that you can do it. No one expects perfection first time, the important thing is to get them both out there as fast as you can and we are here to support you.

Reply

Chris Mayhew March 15, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Thanks for the great blogging advice. There are a lot of posts out there that tell you how to blog well but none that give so much in depth information about the whole process and how to make money from it. Blogging is now a viable way to create an income and with this advice more people can do just that.

Reply

Prakash March 28, 2013 at 4:43 am

I think whatever you write in your first blog post in that topic you should have a compete knowledge. When you will be writing the post, your mind should be full of ideas about that topic. That will make a great blog post.

Reply

Valerie July 7, 2013 at 7:54 am

Hey! Do you know if they make any plugins to help with SEO?

I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I’m not seeing very good results.

If you know of any please share. Kudos!

Reply

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