9 Things I Wish I’d Known About Blogging Before I Started

Before I started writing Zena’s Suitcase I literally had no idea about blogging and what it was all about.  Mine has been a very accidental journey but I’m so glad I started it, because as all bloggers know, blogging totally rocks.  It’s a pretty influential medium now, and it’s only going to get bigger.  PR’s will have to stop saying ‘we have no budget’, as blogging opportunities become the most successful way to get their brand in front of their target audience.

Now that I’ve travelled down this path somewhat like the drunk person who covers twice as much ground as is necessary to make their way home (yes I’ve been that person), I thought I’d share with you some of the things I wish I’d of known or done before I got started.

It’s by no means definitive or exhaustive, but hopefully there’s some musings here that will help you out.

1. What Is A Blog?

Yes, I admit it!  I didn’t really understand what a blog was at all, even though I have of course read blog posts before.  I can’t be the only one right?  To help out those who are as in the dark as I was it helps to understand what a website is first.

A website tends to be for information that doesn’t change regularly.  So a retailer or bus company would be perfect examples.  Yes, there will be changes in stock or timetables, but not as regularly as a content would be added to a blog.

A website is less likely to invite reader comment and interaction, where as a blog relies on it’s readers engaging in debate.  Therefore a blog , short for web log, in contrast is a space on the internet updated by a person or group of people, regularly with new content.  Readers can usually comment on each post and interact with the blogger through various social media platforms.

2. The Blogging Community.

Each blogging genre has it’s own community where like minded people hang out on social media.  Some communities have their own blog aggregate sites, which may also facilitate meet ups and events so bloggers can network.

PR’s or other organisations with a particular interest in your field may also arrange events in an effort to engage bloggers to support a message, campaign, press event or product. Blogging is more than just an online activity, it ventures into your real life too.

3. It’s Not Just About Blogging!

I stumbled across parent & lifestyle blogging after my OH suggested I write a blog.  He’s a software engineer and reads a lot of technical blogs but he had no idea about Mummy Blogs.  If I’d have just sat and posted away, no one would know my blog now.  I spend more time on social media than I do writing posts. More time driving traffic at my pages than I do writing my content.

I enjoy all that goes with blogging now I know what a hashtag is and I’ve connected with other great bloggers online and face to face.  To be a successful blogger you need to spend twice as much time on social media and connecting with your community as you do writing great content, so go into it with your eyes open.  If you aren’t up for making friends with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc then maybe blogging isn’t for you.

4. The Blog Name And Other Handles!

This is worth spending time on.  My first blog name was completely random, clumsy and forgettable.  I had no idea how important it was to get right.  Your name, your blog and all the social media that goes with it forms apart of your blog identity and brand.

I brainstormed until I came up with the name Zena’s Suitcase and I liked that it used my (unusual) name.  I didn’t want anything that screamed Mummy Blogger as I have a teenager as well as the 2 young girls.  It also means my blog can grow and develop with me without having to launch a  new domain as my lifestyle changes.

5. Being Self Hosted Is Easy.

OK, we have are own server and my husband is a geek, but you can do it without either if these things.

Buying & hosting domains is a competitive market so you can do it pretty cheap these days with providers like Go Daddy.

6. Giveaways.  

I was a little bit scared of giveaways.  I figured they are bound to be difficult.  Truth is they are really easy.  Like most things for blogging the tools are pretty simple to use once you’ve had a bit of a play with them.

They are a great way of driving real traffic towards your blog.  Offering your readers something in exchange for popping by and reading your content is an essential part of successful blogging.

7. My Website Has Broken.  

If this happens it’s usually down to a plugin.  If something breaks on your website make sure you delete all inactive plugin’s first.  If it still doesn’t work you might have to deactivate each one until you find out what’s broken.

When you install a new plugin make sure it’s been updated recently or is still supported.  I would have saved myself a whole heap of heartache if I’d have know all this.

8. Join Facebook Groups

There are loads of blogging Facebook groups where bloggers support each other.  Make sure you join them.  Find groups that have threads that encourage engagement, for example where you can swap blog comments, retweets or shares.  This will all help to support your online presence and get you noticed by other bloggers.

9. Read Other Blogs

Perhaps I should have put this first, but seeing as I was pretty compromised by not really understanding what a blog was, reading them regularly would have been a bit of a challenge.

If I had of know about parent blogging in particular, I would have followed a few blogs and visited a few sites to get an idea of what I liked and didn’t like in terms of look, feel and content.

If you’re a blogger is there anything you wish you’d have known before you started?  If you’re thinking about starting one, do you have a burning question before you take your leap into the blogosphere?

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44 Comments

  1. November 14, 2014 / 7:05 am

    Thanks for that great post, as a newbie myself it’s great to get a feel for what I’m doing right and wrong. The feel like I’m at the bottom of a particularly huge mountain right now but I guess we all start a climb somewhere. Thanks for being an inspiration to other bloggers!

    • Zena
      November 14, 2014 / 1:19 pm

      Don’t feel like that! You are starting a journey and making new friends. It doesn’t happen over night, but you will make progress. Just get yourself out on the blogging scene Zx

  2. November 14, 2014 / 9:41 am

    That is a really useful list and I have always loved the name of your blog. Funny how you do spend more time on social media than writing – it is so much more than the actual writing #poloco

    • Zena
      November 14, 2014 / 1:20 pm

      Thanks so much! Social media takes up so much time doesn’t it! In a good way though Zx

  3. November 14, 2014 / 11:23 am

    Great list Zena – had been blogging for quite a while before I started my current blog and discovered a whole new community of mummy bloggers which has been lovely. I think the point about social media is true if you want to direct traffic to your blog but it also depends on why you are blogging. I have two other blogs which I keep updated regularly – one which provides updates on how my eldest daughter is getting on (we started it as a means of updating family and friends when she was first diagnosed) and the other a completely private one in which I record more personal updates on our family so that our children will have that to look back on if they wish. It’s only been in the last six months that I’ve been more active on social media with regards to blogging but I’ve enjoyed blogging for myself for several years before that time. I have loved discovering and reading other blogs since finding out there was a whole community of parenting bloggers though! 🙂 #PoCoLo
    Louise recently posted…The Friday Focus – 14/11/14My Profile

    • Zena
      November 14, 2014 / 1:22 pm

      I think the community is amazing. It’s full of a range of diverse and interesting people. I can’t wait to meet more of them. I have no idea how you keep all those blogs going and look after your family. I am in awe lovely Zx

  4. November 14, 2014 / 1:12 pm

    Great post! Mummy started blogging a month after you – we thought you had been blogging for so much longer! Great tips, we agree with them all! Blogging grabs you, and pulls you in! Be prepared to spend a lot of time on a laptop / iPad / phone! #PoCoLo x x
    Ickle Pickle recently posted…Planning a trip to Bristol – win a night in a TravelodgeMy Profile

    • Zena
      November 14, 2014 / 1:24 pm

      Thanks Ickle. I think it’s amazing we were on the scene at about the same time. And I’m so pleased I’ve got to meet your Mummy. Its great to hear you agree with what I’ve said. You never know if your barking up the wrong tree or not Zx

  5. November 14, 2014 / 1:13 pm

    Great tips Zena, the one thing I wish I had known before I started blogging and got hooked is the amount of time it would take up in my life, all my evenings are now spent on the internet and hubby doesn’t get a look in! #pocolo
    Loving life with little ones recently posted…Already a little reader…My Profile

  6. November 14, 2014 / 1:17 pm

    When I started blogging a few months ago, I had no idea of all the marketing and networking involved. I am now loving being part of the blogging community though and have found fellow bloggers so friendly and welcoming 🙂 x

  7. November 14, 2014 / 1:24 pm

    Great post and a lot of informative tips. I didn’t know half these things either, so this would have been so useful at the beginning. I love how the blogging community is so supportive of one another though. #PoCoLo
    Ting at My Travel Monkey recently posted…A Visit To Land’s EndMy Profile

  8. November 14, 2014 / 7:42 pm

    I agree with you on the name thing. I chose mine because I didn’t want to be limited to being seen as a mummy blogger. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the older Gwenn gets, who knows how things will pan out and I think having a name that doesn’t really mean anything (in my case) has more longevity.

    xx

    #pocolo
    Betty and the Bumps recently posted…It’s my blog and I’ll whinge if I want to!My Profile

  9. November 14, 2014 / 9:07 pm

    Great post! I’ve been blogging two years next week and it is the best thing I’ve ever done! Last Friday I started my first ever giveaway! I was terrified of running them…..I still have to pick a winner next week but it’s going well so far!
    The blogging groups are amazing and have helped me so much x
    Kim Carberry recently posted…Fit as fiddles….My Profile

  10. November 15, 2014 / 8:12 am

    Good post. I’ve been blogging myself for about a year and a half. The biggest surprises I found were the amount of time it would take to craft a high quality post as well as the amount of technical knowledge I would have to pick up along the way. Thanks for a good read.

  11. November 15, 2014 / 5:11 pm

    I wish I would have read a blog post like this before I started my blog in January. Just like you I had no idea what in the world I was doing. I accidently stumbled upon a Mommy linky and then all of a sudden found myself participating in about eight…lol Thanks for an informative and good post to read!
    xx
    Lysa
    Stopping by via #SoFoLo
    Lysa @ Welcome To My Circus recently posted…My “Blonde” Problems #2My Profile

  12. November 15, 2014 / 8:05 pm

    Great posting. I hope I can actually follow all the wonderful advice. I will be checking back to check off items!

  13. November 16, 2014 / 9:53 am

    Great post agree with them all! As a newbie still some fantastic tips for me 🙂 x
    Amy everything mummy recently posted…Sunday StarsMy Profile

  14. November 16, 2014 / 6:31 pm

    Thanks for the great tips! Newbie here, just trying to find my way! i like your suggestions.

    • Zena
      November 16, 2014 / 7:41 pm

      Thanks Pamela. Glad they’ve been useful Zx

  15. November 16, 2014 / 8:45 pm

    Is going self hosted really easy?!!! I have been wanting to do it for months now but still don’t have a clue!!!! #sundaystars
    francesca govier recently posted…My Sunday Photo 16.11.2014My Profile

  16. November 16, 2014 / 9:03 pm

    Great list! I have broken my site with bad plugins! I wish I had known about those beforehand!
    I wish I had heard of it all sooner, I feel like I have wasted so many years NOT blogging!! As you say it is getting bigger all the time, I just wish I had joined right at the beginning!
    #SundayStars
    Katy {What Katy Said} recently posted…HappyDays Linky #07My Profile

  17. November 16, 2014 / 9:28 pm

    great post. I have to say I to came to blogging more or less by accident. I was already talking to a lot of people on Twitter. Having just had the most intense experience of my life ( ivf & becoming a father as a result of that ) I thought a lot of other people are doing it so why shouldn’t i? I never thought of it as q money maker or was obsessed with stats and how many people read my blog. I just wanted a visual/written representation of my views, opinions and my life as a whole. Saying that I do find it extremely hard these days to find the time, energy and inspiration to actually blog. Being a SAHD to 3y.o. twin boys there isn’t really much time for that.
    Markus recently posted…Car troubles and the annoyances this brings with it.My Profile

  18. November 17, 2014 / 7:25 am

    This is a great list, I’ve been blogging since the summer and really appreciate tips like these. It’s still very new to me and I’m finding time is the biggest problem, I’m only now learning about Linkys. Like Vicky I spent some time over my name (well the blog name, my name was given to me yonks ago lol) I originally wanted Meals on Wheels but I’m more than happy with my choice now. I found your link via #PoCoLo
    Wheelie Good Meals recently posted…Ready Meal Monday – Bisto Minced Beef Hot PotMy Profile

  19. November 17, 2014 / 1:49 pm

    Thanks for this – I’m still very much finding my feet so do like reading all the tips!

  20. November 18, 2014 / 12:51 pm

    Fab tips! I never thought twice about my name but luckily I won’t outgrow it although people do look at me strangely when I tell them it!!
    Beth Twinderelmo recently posted…[Review] OobicooMy Profile

  21. November 18, 2014 / 2:35 pm

    Some really great tips and tricks there. I’ve only been blogging for five months and I wish I’d read this post a few months ago. I’m sure it will really help bloggers starting out right now. Interesting to read about giveaways, I’ve not done these yet but they are on my to do list!

    Thanks for linking up to #SundayStars

  22. November 19, 2014 / 2:41 am

    Cool post 😉
    I have thought of the giveaways… I should give it a try!
    Gloria R.

  23. April 29, 2015 / 6:28 pm

    Great list; the name thing is such a bug bear of mine as mine DOES scream mummy blogger & I wish it didn’t. But I’m stuck now not knowing whether to make the best of it or rebrand, rehost & start again. I wish I’d known that before I started, definitely 🙁
    amiecaitlin: bumpbabyme recently posted…Brilliance in Blogging Awards: get voting!My Profile

  24. May 6, 2015 / 7:22 am

    Hi Zena,

    Thanks for this post. I am a Newbie blogger – I’ve just completed my first month! There are a couple of things on your list that I am not doing – Facebook or Instagram. I am also lucky not to have had a broken site yet but it is only a matter of time. Your plugin tip is useful. Thanks
    Pen recently posted…Newbie Blogger: April 2015 round-upMy Profile

  25. May 6, 2015 / 9:25 pm

    A good list; different from the usual. Blogging didn’t really resonate with me until I stumbled across them whilst entering competitions during maternity leave. One of the things I wish I knew about blogging before I started is the amoutn of time it can take! My goodness, it can so time consuming; especially if you want to do well at it, and especially at the beginning of the ‘blogging climb’.

    Must be nice to have your own server! Wow.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂
    Adventures of a Novice Mum recently posted…Working Mum: My StrugglesMy Profile

  26. August 4, 2015 / 7:00 am

    Great tips, thank you. Only started blogging at the weekend and it has petrified me but
    I think your list may just calm me down. Now to master this hashing thing xxx

  27. August 4, 2015 / 7:48 am

    Actually I wish I knew how much work is involved in running a high quality blog… people think it is easy… well, it is not; it takes a lot of time, energy and creativity…
    Agata recently posted…Bean Bag Planet – Review & GiveawayMy Profile

  28. August 4, 2015 / 8:03 pm

    Brilliant post :), I have been blogging for a while now and still learning and still meeting new people via social media, So much going on in the blogosphere but fun all the same 🙂 Thanks for sharing x

  29. August 5, 2015 / 11:29 am

    These are some great tips Zena, there are a few things I wish I had know, but mainly the amount of time that can fall into the timesink that is blogging – it wouldn’t have put me off though =)
    Jenni – Odd Socks and Lollipops recently posted…A Walk in the WoodsMy Profile

  30. February 10, 2016 / 4:08 pm

    I went into blogging blindly. I like to write – so I did!

    Maybe this was not such a bad thing. I learnt from my mistakes along the way. I network with some amazing bloggers on LinkedIn, most far more experienced than I am.

    I am growing and learning. As you stated in your post, you give a lot away about yourself which brings a level of authenticity.
    Phoenicia recently posted…Humble pie – how often do you eat it?My Profile

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