Blogging Tips Lifestyle

Starting a New Blog: The Real Truth on What to Expect (Month 1)

By
on
February 19, 2019

If you’re just starting a new blog, you are going to love this post!

As part of my journey as a new blogger, I’m keeping tabs on every move that I make in my blogging business in order to gauge my success and to help guide new bloggers through this complicated process.

Yes, there are multiple blogging courses that you pay for online, but my Diary of A New Blogger series is simply just free advice.

With that said, this and all of the following posts in my New Blogger Series are chronological and are written in the time frame mentioned in the post title.

Obviously, my status, earnings, and information has changed over time – and yours will too!

Be sure to follow me on social media so that you can continue to follow all of my posts in this series!

Diary: travel maps of starting a new blog
Starting A New Blog

Starting a new blog: Month 1

There is so much to consider when starting a new blog. To be completely honest, blogging is HARD WORK!

But first off, “Happy 1 month anniversary” to me.

Lil’ ol’ me.

Or at least that is how I currently view myself in the blogging world.

It has been exactly 1 month since I began writing down thoughts on my newly created WordPress dashboard.

One month since I started compiling my ideas and experiences related to family travel into tangible articles in hopes of sharing them with the world.

Likewise, it has been 3 short weeks since I really even understood what a blog was, let alone a blog that could potentially bring in financial income. Or so I’m told.

For anyone who is considering starting a WordPress blog, or to those who may just be getting started, let’s get personal and talk about what things are really like when starting a new blog.

This blog post contains affiliate links. If you decide to purchase through one of these links, I receive a commission from the sale at no additional cost to you.

(P.S. Be sure to add a similar disclaimer like this one to all of your posts once you start working with affiliates.)

First-things-first when starting a new blog

For those who are wondering, prior to starting Travel With A Plan, I had no previous writing or blogging experience.

Likewise, I didn’t prep my blog for months before launching, nor did I have any previous social media followers or an email list.

Having no prior experience before starting a blog makes a huge difference in your initial success. It is very slow going when you’re starting from scratch.

Those with blogging experience, an established social media following, and knowledge on website design and development, have a significant advantage in that they can focus solely on creating content.

I am doing all of this at the same time, perhaps like you are. And YEP, it’s a lot of hard work!

Forging ahead

Although I’m aware that the aesthetics of my blog needs work, I continue to make incremental improvements over time.

Likewise, I understand that one needs good content in order to attract the right audience, which is why I am primarily focused on writing good posts at this point.

Thanks to the amazing writing tool Grammarly, I am able to put my thoughts into words and ensure that my content is readable to others.

Grammarly instantly notifies me of grammatical mistakes as well as immediately offers and places the correction with one easy click.

This online grammar and spell checker, as well as a plagiarism detector, has significantly increased my confidence as a writer.

If you are new (or old) to blogging and don’t have it, this tool is a must-have!

Download Grammarly for free today!

Determine your niche before starting a new blog

So, the very first thing that is recommended when once you decide to start a blogging website is to determine a very specific niche. This is your audience and what your entire blogging website will be based off.

By definition a ‘niche’ is:

adjective:
niche 1.  denoting or relating to products, services, or interests that appeal to a small, specialized section of the population.

For me, I knew my niche even before I decided to start a blog. My passion for my niche is what drove me to look into writing about it in the first place.

My niche is ‘family travel’, and/or ‘traveling with kids’.

When thinking about where I am at in life, and what I specifically plan to write about, I can even narrow it down so far as to say that my niche is: ‘family travel with school-age kids’. Not babies. Not young adults.

Yet.

Question: What is your niche? Can you make it more specific?

questions sign

Start the search

One thing that I found incredibly helpful prior to even opening WordPress was to search the web and visit other sites of bloggers in your niche by performing a simple Google search.

When visiting other sites, see what stands out to you in both good, and perhaps not-so-good ways.

What homepage layout do you find attractive?

What colors catch your eye?

Is there specific content on the header, sidebars, and footer?

In which way do you visualize the site’s blog posts: a grid, a scrolling grid, or a static list?

Ask yourself what you like, or don’t like, about the sites that you have viewed.

From there, start daydreaming about how you want your site to look.

Your site appearance will change over time, but you need a vision as to its initial impression.

Setting up WordPress and hosting when starting a new blog

There are literally a gazillion articles on the web that discuss how to start a travel blog or how to start a blog in general.

They literally walk you through every single step.

For those of you who are like me and didn’t even know what “WordPress” was, this is incredibly helpful. (Hint: study and learn blogging terminology as you’re getting started.)

Narrow down your options and work off of 1 or 2 guideposts on how to start a blog.

Personally, I followed Lauren’s article from Never Ending Footsteps titled How to Start A Successful Travel Blog From Scratch.  

I took Lauren’s advice by purchasing the basic Bluehost package for $3.95/month, and categorized my site as a “travel blogging business”.

After that, I read Nomadic Matt’s How to Start a Travel Blog in 2019 and took bits from there as well.

By combining the advice from each of these posts, the lil’ ol’ me I mentioned earlier had a REAL website.

This is starting to feel good.

Lesson Learned

WordPress hosting was a little scary for me because it was the first monthly payment that I was committing to regarding my new blogging business.

To be honest, I really didn’t even know what ‘hosting’ was and if it were truly necessary.

After digging deeper, it because clear as to what, and how important WordPress hosting is in order to run a successful blog.

In simple terms, “When you want to start a business in the real world, you need a physical location to set up, store, and sell your products. And the same rules apply in the digital world.
When you pay a web hosting company, you are simply renting storage space on the internet — just like you would rent a physical store for your business.

Megan, Bluehost agent

Bluehost account set-up was easy and took less than 10 minutes. In addition, Bluehost is by far the most affordable hosting option that I have found.

Perhaps the best feature to me as a new blogger is the 24/7 U.S. based customer support line.

Without any previous web development or design experience, I have had to contact their technical support line several different times already.

With each and every one of my phone calls, there has been little to no wait time. Likewise, each technician has treated me with patience and respect, as well as has remedied every issue within minutes.

I have never second-guessed my decision to go Bluehost and they have been absolutely amazing to work with.

Lock into this offer here today and enjoy the luxury of worry-free web hosting!

Mountain photography of starting a new blog

Choosing a theme for your new blog

Now the proud owner of a WordPress travel blog, it became time to pick a theme.

A theme controls how your website will look. It is how you make your site look pretty.

For the first two weeks, I installed and played around on several different free themes. I really wanted to make one work because I didn’t want to spend money when I had not yet earned any.

In all honesty, I found all of the free templates to be way too limiting in the ways that I wanted to customize my site. I wanted certain fonts, colors, and layouts that weren’t available for free.

Like every other site mentions, I too ended up purchasing a premium theme.

I Googled phrases like “best themes for travel bloggers” and “best WordPress themes for beginners”.

Eventually, I decided to purchase the Journey 5.0 theme by Themeforest. for $49.

I have enjoyed the color palette and the amount of customizing that is allowed on this theme.

I, however, haven’t found the theme author to be helpful in answering questions and his response times are a minimum or 2-3 days. It is very frustrating to be held up by unanswered questions when you are brand new to blogging and your enthusiasm is at its peak.

In hindsight, I cannot stress enough how important is to take your time in choosing a theme.

Read its reviews. Read the author’s bio. Consider if you are comfortable with its price.

Lesson learned: If you are serious about starting a blogging business, purchase a premium theme.

Make sure it is highly customizable and is advertised as being ‘responsive’. In other words, able to be viewed on multiple devices and screen sizes.

Plug-ins

A plug-in is a software that can add functionality or new features to a WordPress website.

Plug-ins can be your best friend and can quickly become your worst enemy, so they should be uploaded with caution.

Here’s how it all panned out:

  • I started off by adding the 4 plug-ins that are listed as required for my theme. This information is found on the dashboard homepage.
  • I then installed the plugins that are recommended in the two start-up blogs that I listed previously. These include Akismet and Yoast SEO.
  • As I continued to work on my site I found that if I wanted pages to look or function a certain way, I needed to install a new plug-in to make that happen.
  • I determined which plug-ins I ‘thought’ that I needed by Googling how to obtain the desired effect that I was in search of. I set up each plug-in’s functionality by watching YouTube videos on how to configure them.
  • Some of my additional plug-ins include: Insert Headers and Footers, OptinForms, and Social Warfare.

Before I knew it, I had 30 plug-ins installed.

Days later, my site became glitch-y, and eventually broke. That was a sad day.

Simply put, plug-ins are not error-free.

Too many plug-ins slow your site down. Different combinations of plug-ins don’t gel together and plug-in software is frequently in need of updates that you get stuck keeping track of.

In conclusion, be sure to think through each plug-in before you install it and determine if it’s absolutely necessary.

A good rule of thumb is to only install the plug-ins that you truly need. Likewise, uninstall plug-ins that you no longer need or use.

Lessons learned: Come to find out, the more plug-ins you have, the slower your site will be and the more glitch-y it can become.

A slow site is not good and will cause visitors to abandon your site. Check your site’s load speed on Pingdom or Google PageSpeed Insights.

boating in mountains, photo of starting a new blog

Adding images to your blog

Photography is not my strong suit. I tend to live more in the moment versus capture every memory by photo.

That will likely change now that I want to highlight locations for my readers to the absolute best of my ability.

With that said, there is a lot to know about image optimization as you get started in the blogging world. Image data is larger than plain text which means they take longer to load and can slow down your site.

To improve your WordPress website speed, you need to optimize your images for the web.

This can be done by using one of these five free recommended plug-ins. I am currently using Compress JPEG and PNG images, though I think I will switch to reSmush.it.

Lesson learned:  Not only do image sizes need to be optimized, but their file names do to. I did not learn this until after I had already uploaded and installed multiple images throughout my site.

If I had to go back and start all over again, I would make sure that my images were optimized from the get-go (before applying them to my site).

Hitting “Launch your site

I knew ahead of time that I would not launch my blog until I had all of the ‘bones’ of the site in place.

For me, this meant having a theme and layout that I loved, a functional navigation bar with active pages, and 4 kick-butt blog posts.

I wanted to have enough content that would make people stick around and hopefully bring them back again.

Once I felt confident about my site’s look and initial content, I hit “Launch my site” from the Bluehost dashboard.

It is not until then that your website can be viewed by the general public.

Just to be sure, I exited out of my admin dashboard and typed my website address into the navigation bar.

Yep, after 2 1/2 weeks of hard work, Travel With A Plan was finally live!

Taking photos in snow

The first week after launch

After I launched my site, and up until the time of writing this post, I haven’t advertised my site to my friends and family.

I want to give the site time to be out in the real world to be sure that it won’t break, and that I still love its functionality and flow.

I have read a lot of advice suggesting to have an email sign-up form available right away so the first week after launch, I installed an email form via the plug-in Optin Forms and a set up a Mailchimp account.

Finally, I have begun to set up affiliate marketing accounts as well.

I started with the free version of Amazon Affiliates and Agoda. Both of these affiliate companies are very user-friendly and easy to activate as a beginner.

I am still waiting to hear back from GoogleAdsense, TripAdvisor, and Skyscanner.

Side note: 3 months after writing this post, I am now a Google Adsense, Amazon, Booking.com, Bluehost, and Grammarly affiliate. You have to play around with affiliates and see which ones your readers enjoy.

Pinterest

If you remember reading earlier, I mentioned that I did not have any social media accounts prior to starting my blog.

Knowing that I cannot figure out the ins-and-outs of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest all at once, I decided just to focus on Pinterest for now.

I’m sure I will have much more to write about the ins-and-outs of Pinterest one I get more established.

In the meantime, I would absolutely love it if you followed me, and I’ll follow you back!

Where I’m at after month 1 of starting a new blog:

  • I have received 1 post comment (from my husband), and zero email subscriptions.
  • Most of my posts have had 2 views, while one of them has had 12 views (yeah baby!)
  • I have generated $0 from my affiliate links.
  • I have 29 Pinterest followers.

In summary, Month 1 is hard work and you may be tempted to give up.

Seeing your blog online for the first time is exciting yet you will now have a never-ending to-do-list that circles throughout your mind.

Social media followings come in slowly, and blog income is nonexistent at this point.

Hang on though, and keep your eye on your ultimate goals! You’ll be thrilled when you make your first $700 as I did!

Month 2 goals:

  • Hold a launch party. Inform my family and friends about my site and encourage them to visit.
  • Work on optimizing my site speed. (Currently 3.36 sec on Pingdom)
  • Reach out to other bloggers to start creating back links between our sites.
  • Work on creating email response templates through Mailchimp.
  • Join Tailwind and Tailwind Tribes to broaden my Pinterest horizon.
  • Start writing detailed trip itineraries.

I hope that this post has given you a good insight into the first month of blogging.

I have been working on my site like crazy, however, I clearly have a long way to go.

Rest assured, I am motivated and excited to continue learning and growing as a travel blogger. I am in this for the long haul and look forward to the simple success of more visitors and page clicks.

Good luck in your blogging endeavors, and please visit my contact page if you want to collaborate, backlink, or form a Pinterest group board. I would love to hear from you!

Stick around and read the next articles in the series!

Do you have any awesome tips for those starting a new blog? I’d love for you to comment below!

Jen
Pin it!
Join other new bloggers in following top US family travel blog, Travel With A Plan, detail all about starting a new blog!  Learn what the first month of blogging is really like!  #startinganewblog #howtostartablog #howtostartablogandmakemoney #startingablogin2020
Learn the best new blogger tips from an actual blogger!  I'll give you great tips on how to blog step-by-step as well as move into how to blog and make money.  My simple, free advice is just what you need to start a new blog and fuel your passion to be the best blogger than you can be!  #NewBloggertips #NewBloggerchecklist #Bloggingforbeginners #Howtoblogandmakemoney #Blogincomereport #howtostartablog
Join other new bloggers in following top US family travel blog, Travel With A Plan, detail all about starting a new blog!  Learn what the first month of blogging is really like!  #startinganewblog #howtostartablog #howtostartablogandmakemoney #startingablogin2020
Learn the best new blogger tips from an actual blogger!  I'll give you great tips on how to blog step-by-step as well as move into how to blog and make money.  My simple, free advice is just what you need to start a new blog and fuel your passion to be the best blogger than you can be!  #NewBloggertips #NewBloggerchecklist #Bloggingforbeginners #Howtoblogandmakemoney #Blogincomereport #howtostartablog
Learn the best new blogger tips from an actual blogger!  I'll give you great tips on how to blog step-by-step as well as move into how to blog and make money.  My simple, free advice is just what you need to start a new blog and fuel your passion to be the best blogger than you can be!  #NewBloggertips #NewBloggerchecklist #Bloggingforbeginners #Howtoblogandmakemoney #Blogincomereport #howtostartablog
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10 Comments
  1. Reply

    Ronnie Arnett

    April 16, 2020

    This is nice information Good Job appreciate it

    • Reply

      Jen

      April 18, 2020

      Thanks Ronnie! I appreciate the positive feedback!

  2. Reply

    Kara

    September 27, 2019

    Thank you so much for honest post! This weekend marks 1 month blogging for me. I had no experience writing, blogging, or website design either. This is definitely encouraging and realistic, which I really appreciate. It helps keep up the motivation. Thanks!

    • Reply

      Jen

      September 29, 2019

      Thanks for the great feedback! I’m glad that you can relate to this post! Be sure to read my other posts as time goes on for I will keep you posted on how things continue to go for me 🙂

  3. Reply

    Becky S

    February 23, 2019

    I am so amazed with everything you have gotten done in a month! I don’t think people realize how much time and effort goes into blogging! And your site looks amazing! It’s easy to navigate and looks beautiful!

    • Reply

      admin

      February 23, 2019

      Thank you! It has been so much fun! Now only if I could edit and post amazing photos like you….!

  4. Reply

    EverythingMouse

    February 22, 2019

    I wish you all the best with your blogging journey. You have made a great start!

    • Reply

      admin

      February 23, 2019

      Thanks SO MUCH! I really appreciate your feedback! I am greatly inspired by amazing sites like yours!

  5. Reply

    Lisa Ress

    February 20, 2019

    After reading this article on setting up a blog, I can tell you are most certainly dedicated. Looks like a lot of hard work and many hours spent getting it just right. I think you are off to a great start!

    Lisa

    • Reply

      admin

      February 20, 2019

      Thanks Lisa! I have been so excited about this; it is fun to finally share it with everyone!

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Hi, I’m Jen!  Welcome to Travel With A Plan!

I’m an avid adventurer who is always planning the next family vacation for my husband and I, and our three boys!

As an advocate for family travel with kids of all ages, I am a firm believer that traveling together helps keep families healthy and happy at home!

Here is where I share our best family vacation itineraries, resort reviews, and family travel tips (incuding Disney!).

Let’s go on an adventure! -Jen

TMOM Travel Writer
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