Blogging 101

Things I Wish I Had Known Before Starting My Blog

The blog you see now looks nothing like my original site. In fact, I cringe just thinking about my old website.

If you’re new to blogging or thinking about starting one, read this first. I really want to help you avoid the mistakes I made when I started my blog.

Know Your Niche

I started this blog because I love all things travel. I love the thrill of planning a trip, exploring new places, meeting new people and learning about the world.

However, we don’t travel as often as we used to now that we have Tristan and buckling down on getting rid of the last of our debt.

Niche is such a tough thing to pin down these days. Travel is my favorite topic in the world, but over the years since starting this blog my interests have spread to other things – especially after becoming a mom.

What was once all things strictly travel has evolved into our travel and lifestyle blog you see today.

Which leads me to choosing a name for your blog.

Pick A Blog Name You Love

Got The Travel Bug was actually the name I had for this blog when it was being hosted by Weebly and I had to use their sub domain in my website address (www.gotthetravelbugtoo.weebly.com) – no longer working by the way since I’m with Blue Host now.

I really loved that name. I felt like it described how I felt about travel. Unfortunately it wasn’t available when I was ready to buy a domain.

So choose a name that makes you feel good about the message you want to send to the world.

Choose A Blog Platform

WordPress. Please get on the WordPress platform – just do it. Your blogging would be so much easier and look better!

I regret starting on the Weebly platform. I’m not going to lie; it was such an easy platform to use (and free.) All I had to do was drag and drop elements to create my site.

But two years into blogging I wanted to really amp up the look of our site.

Weebly didn’t offer anything I had in mind for how I wanted it to the look and function. I wanted something professional and easy for readers to navigate.

Get A Website Host

Our site was being hosted by Weebly (because it was free web hosting) so for me to get on WordPress I had to change hosts.

It was not easy and here is why you should just go with WordPress.

Not only do millions of bloggers and big businesses use WordPress for their websites, but if you want a WordPress theme it is NOT compatible with Weebly or Wix.

So do you know what I had to do after transferring my domain to Blue Host so I can have a WordPress site?

I painstakingly had to redo ALL of my old site’s blog posts by copy, paste and uploading photos manually on my new WordPress site because my Weebly site could not transfer to a WordPress site.

Home office white desk with decor

For weeks last summer, I spent long hours after coming home from my full-time job to do the manual move of blog posts.

Recently I saw my co-worker/pal Carly from The Carly Collective go through the exact situation when she left her Wix site.

It is seriously not fun. You will want to give up your blog in the process and just be like, screw this!

Weebly and Wix are more simple to use than WordPress but if you use WordPress often you will get the hang of it – I promise you!

WordPress was so frustrating for me at first. It made me so angry!

I practiced by creating a free WordPress.com account and mock blog just playing around with how to create a post, etc. So I was ready when the time came to manually moving two years’ worth of blog posts.

By the way, the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org is the .com version is a free host (kind of like Weebly and Wix).

The .org can be downloaded and hosted on your own web server (or be hosted by someone else like I did using Blue Host since I’m not tech savvy.)

Buy A Domain Name

Thank the stars that Got The Travel Bug was not available as a .com when I was ready to buy a domain. We tossed around ideas like Girl Meets World, Jetsetting JaMeka, Trotting the Globe, etc.

I was bummed that someone else had Got The Travel Bug as their domain and I couldn’t use it unless it was a .org or something (which I did not want to do!)

That’s when Meshach suggested Got The Travel Bug Too. At first I thought it was weird and a mouthful but it grew on me and we bought the domain.

Adding Too into the title was kind of cool because I was not the only one in the world who had been bitten by the travel bug.

I had the travel bug too! Nice spin on it, right?

Well now I am really happy that we named it Got The Travel Bug Too because we have other interests now and still have the travel bug too!

You don’t have to spend money right away and buy a domain if you’re unsure about keeping your blog.

We didn’t buy our domain until a year into blogging when we decided to take it seriously.

I think after a couple of months of consistent blogging you might get a feel if blogging is what you like to do. Then buy your domain.

Unless you know that you love blogging then go for it! Snatch your domain name before someone else gets it!

Be Consistent

I started our blog in April 2014 and posted one post that consisted of a terrible photo and barely a full paragraph.

Then, I left the blog hanging until December 2014 where my post after a long hiatus was a travel photo and literally two sentences! I clearly did not understand that content and consistency played an important factor in blogging.

It wasn’t until January 2015 I decided to post at least once a week. My posts were once a week but they were still those barely a paragraph type of posts.

By June 2015, I slowly got the idea that my posts needed to be longer than a few sentences!

Now I try to post two or three times a week.

Get on Social Media

You can have a blog but readers aren’t going to know it exists unless you promote it. That’s when social media comes in!

Get on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube (if you also do videos), Twitter, Pinterest, Bloglovin’ and whoever else that tickles your fancy.

At first we just had Twitter but then added an Instagram and Facebook in 2016.

I think because of some Facebook changes it is really hard now to grow a Facebook audience and I am kicking myself for not starting a page early on.

I’ve had a Facebook page for almost a year and a half and its just hovering at 500+ (cue the chirping crickets.)

Our Twitter and Instagram are our two largest accounts.

Invest Your Energy into Your Blog – Not Large Publications

Yes it is a great idea to contribute to large publications like Huffington Post to get your name out there, but if you spend more time writing for large publications instead of caring about the welfare of your blog, it might bite you in the bum!

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of a former large publication called Examiner.com where they had 20 million+ unique monthly readers, but I was a travel contributor for them for almost two years.

I contributed to their site at least three times per week and just once a week on my blog. Well last year out of the blue they shut down their site.

It was also bad because majority of my work with brands were because they were being promoted on Examiner.com (like press trips, hotel reviews, etc)

I mean, sure I also published brand stuff on our blog but Examiner.com is what really helped get the opportunities because of their large readership.

I even joined Huffington Post which eventually shut me out last year and an international press trip that involved being published on Huffington Post was no longer available for me.

For some odd reason I can’t get into their platform anymore (other writers complaining as well!). Plus it was always having glitches when I was able to publish.

After Examiner.com closed and Huffington Post freezing me out of their platform I really had to rely on our blog for opportunities and growth.

Huffington Post and Examiner.com may have had the large readership – but they were not reliable like my blog.

I control everything on this blog. I can choose what type of content I want to publish and don’t have to answer to any editor or publication.

Yes, my monthly readers are way lower than Huffington Post but at least I own this website indefinitely!

Same concept for social media. It’s really good for getting eyes to your website, but we don’t have control over Facebook, Instagram or Twitter if they decide to shut down.

Looking back, I’m glad all of this happened because I probably would not have made our blog into what it is today.

I probably would be focused on getting my next article out to Huffington Post or whoever.  Also, there is no way to track how many views you get on your article there.

They can have millions of readers but for all you know only five people read your post out of the thousands that get published daily.

Living With “What ifs?”

I often wonder if I had done things right (or close to it) in the beginning, what level would our blog be at now? Would we have ten times the amount of readers and followers on social media?

I wish I had done some research before I started blogging. I wish I knew for sure back then that I wanted to take it seriously and eventually turn it into somewhat a side gig business.

Oh well, I guess I will never know.

Do you have tips for new bloggers? Comment below if you have any questions or advice. I’m not an expert but I will try to help. Also, check out my Blogging 101 section for more blog tips and share this post with your friends!

 

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6 Comments

  • Reply
    April | Minivan Adventures
    June 6, 2017 at 10:16 am

    I can relate to a couple of these… especially starting off with self-hosted WordPress to avoid the hassle of manually moving your content later and about the need to post consistently. Great post!

    • Reply
      JaMeka
      June 6, 2017 at 11:04 am

      Hi April! Thank you for reading. Yes I wish I had gone with WordPress from the start! It is a great platform, I am so glad I switched.

  • Reply
    mallory
    June 6, 2017 at 9:16 pm

    I just started my blog (plaidshirtyogapants.com) and I love what you said about picking a name you love for your blog. I had a man ask me how was he supposed to know that ‘plaid shirt yoga pants’ was about travel and it made me very nervous until my last trip where almost every female was wearing yoga pants with some sort of plaid. Guess I need to work it and promote it!

    • Reply
      JaMeka
      June 10, 2017 at 7:28 pm

      Hi Mallory! Yes you can find creative ways to work it as a travel blog. Like you said you went on a trip and everyone was wearing it haha You could even do something cool for your Instagram feed like wear a plaid shirt and yoga pants in your photos as your signature look for travel. Plus the great thing about your blog name is you can expand to other areas like a lifestyle blog and not worry about changing the name since it totally would fit! Thank you for reading and happy travels 🙂

  • Reply
    Carla (from Double Occupancy)
    June 6, 2017 at 10:29 pm

    These are great tips! I’m curious: How did you begin freelancing for Exmainer.com and Huffington Post? Did you simply reach out to them? I’m a journalist in Miami, and my boyfriend and I just launched our travel blog. I’m really interested in breaking into the travel freelance market!

    • Reply
      JaMeka
      June 10, 2017 at 7:25 pm

      Hi Carla! When Examiner.com was open, I had to complete an application and they approved it for me to become a writer for their travel section. For Huffington Post, I tracked down one of their Lifestyle editors on Twitter and emailed her saying how much I really wanted to contribute to Huff Po and included an old blog post. She loved the post and set me up with access to their writers platform which unfortunately I can no longer access. I’ve searched online to see if any other Huff Po contributors were locked out and there are tons! As I mentioned in the post, it’s really helpful to get your name out there by using large publications but don’t depend too much on it lol Thank you for reading and I hope I answered your questions 🙂

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