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Starting a Blog – What We Wish We Knew

This is the last post in the ‘What I wish I knew when I first started Blogging’ Series. In this post I thought I’d pull together a few comments from readers which are a little more general in nature.

What intrigues me about these comments is that there are a few themes:

  • Start Now - a number of people regret spending too much time thinking about blogging and not actually blogging.
  • Plan – some regretted that they didn’t put a little more thought into their blogging before they started. This includes both strategic planning around niche and branding – but also practical things like permalink structures.

What interests me is that these two themes could almost be seen as contradictory and they sum up two types of bloggers that I come across constantly.

  • Bloggers Who Rush In
  • Bloggers Who Plan their Blog to Death

Too much planning can kill a blog (or at least can kill the opportunity for your blog to become established as first and can kill your passion for a topic) while not enough planning can lead to a blog that doesn’t reach it’s potential because it’s foundations are shaky.

Reader Comments

This list of comments has some real wisdom in it – if you’re just starting out, take note!

John Wesley writes – “I would have thought more about niche and branding. In the beginning I didn’t understand how important those things are so I had to adjust as the site developed. Having a plan from the start would have helped a lot.”

Lori writes – “I wish I would have made a plan and researched my niche before jumping right in.”

rami writes – “I’d focus on one topic only per blog.”

Gamermk writes – “I wish I’d have started my new blog that I’ve had for a couple months, a year ago. I had the expertise to do it back then as well, just not the drive. The market I’m in won’t last forever and it was a costly mistake I think.”

Vincent Ma writes – “The one thing I really, really wished I knew when I started was how important it was to carefully setup the permalink structure. I started with the default and realized I should have used something like category, postname. Saved by Dean’s Permalink Migration Plugin.”

LintCollector writes – “I wish I’d used a better permalink structure from the beginning. I accepted the WorPress defaults and have post URLs like: domainname/wordpress/archives/118 – If I were starting again, I’d set defaults to something more meaningful and search-engine friendly like: domainname/title-of-blog-post/”

Rebecca writes – “I wish I had been a blog reader before become a blogger.”

Zen Zoomie writes – “I wish that I had started earlier instead of just thinking about it. It took a swift kick in the pants to get me to finally stop thinking – start doing….”

Dean writes – “Get started…. You will learn by getting wet, you will make ‘;mistakes’ we all do, but you learn by doing. The blogosphere is quite forgiving but each day you delay you fall further behind…. Identify your niche, register an appropriate domain, self host wordpress, pin your ears back and go.”

Squib writes – “I began with too many blogs, each of which represented a component of what I enjoyed writing about. After awhile, I discovered that I was writing primarily about two things all of the time, poker and politics, so I merged my blog into a single entity and found my niche.” and “Also, it is important to know your reasons for blogging. If it is commercial, then traffic is very important, otherwise it’s nice to be read but it’s not necessary to be read by the thousands to have a successful blog.”

This ends our series of posts on ‘What We Wish We Knew When We First Started Blogging’. I’m sure there’s a lot more that we could cover and I’d invite you to continue to submit your thoughts in comments.

Thanks to everyone for your involvement in the series both in your initial comments which made up an important part of my posts but also in your continued comments.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Michael Martin says:

    It’s a shame the series has ended. This was probably my favourite set of posts yet. Great idea, and well done! :)

    I’m in the process of setting up my blog now, and I’d say I’m trying to aim for somewhere between those 2 extremes, but the hardest part is the design. I love design, and I’m working hard to make it perfect, but a perfect design can take a good long while to create. Aside from the design, I’m ready to start.

    Would it be a good idea to start up the blog with a default theme from the WP themes directory now, and start posting a lot sooner, or should I wait until the real theme is fully finished before I start? (that question has given me a headache lately, and not knowing the answer tends to be ANOTHER delay! :( )

  2. I agree with the branding issue. My blog ( http://www.cupofchai.net ) used to be very general, until I decided to focus it on students.

    When I started with b5media ( http://www.thegoodmusician.com ) I had a long-term plan and a way I was going to build my pillar posts and expand on them further.

    I think all it really needs for a blog is some core content that you can then build and expand upon – that makes the blog almost self-sustaining.

  3. Ken says:

    Darren, we wish we were reading your problogger blog early …

    anyway, we think you must be clear about why you start blogging in the first place, enjoy the growing process and be focus and stick to your action plan.

  4. Kiwipulse says:

    Building a Blog is actually a job! I would say a part time job..As a job, you want to work in a good environment that you can see yourself improving. I saw so many bloggers leaving their blog empty because they couldn’t see any improvement on what they did the past 6 months. Getting frustrated about on what you passion for, is not the best choices. My advices to any new blogger is to start slow and improve gradually their blog by adding little stuffs here and there. Too much is never enough, or else your readers could have a hard time visiting your blog! Put yourself on your reader minds, and look what your blog have to offer to them.

  5. sharon says:

    I really wanna start it but still have noe idea what i should blog @ my blogger :( but hope i can find and dig more from ur website thanks you

    http://www.cobalagi.com

  6. Niranjan says:

    Hi Darren,
    i have been wondering about those “1 site Ad only” large ads you are having at some pages in problogger. is it appearing on its own or are you having a premum adsense publisher status?..

    :)

  7. It’s very interesting how you noted that the two different sets of advice are somewhat contradictory. I’ve found this exact thing to be true with planning any business.

    I’ve worked with many small business owners who never leave the planning stage. They have so much thought about their business that they not only waste time starting but they become completely paralyzed and never start at all.

    On the other hand, I’ve also worked with other business owners who wanted to start their big ad campaign before even creating a brand or business plan.

    The path to success seems to lie somewhere in between… It’s a subject I’m going to try to approach on my website.

    Thanks for the great series,

    – Mason

  8. sandossu says:

    IMO, planning is good, as long as you follow the plan and not spend all your time making it and saying “I’ll implement it starting tomorrow”.

    And you are right, people should act, not just think and plan.

  9. Mike Goad says:

    Plan, plan, plan… and then fail to implement well is a trap I often fell into in my career. Fortunately, I was also able to improvise well when crunch time came. I usually got high marks for innovation.

    I guess it comes down to the type of person that you are whether you jump into or plan it all out first.

    Thanks from me also for this series!

  10. Grace says:

    I like to go with the wind. I wish I had a better domain name when I started.

  11. Zen Zoomie says:

    Mike, I like to call that paralysis by analysis… and you’re right on–it depends on the type of person. You can definitely over do it with too much or too little planning.
    Thanks for the shout back Darren!
    Chronicles of a (Wannabe) Pro Blogger

  12. MarkBlogger says:

    I can appreciate the way that you are representing your readers in this article, Darren, but I was also looking for YOUR PERSONAL INVOLVEMENT in the article.

    What I mean is, I was looking for YOU to explain to us what YOU did when YOU started YOUR BLOG, that would help us, your readers. The title of this article is, “Starting a Blog – What We Wish We Knew”. You did represent what your readers wished they’s know when they started a blog – but that title, together with the fact that YOU are generally considered to be an A-LIST blogger, prompted me to look for information from you about what YOU did when you started your blog.

    I would like to politely suggest that you write a nice article, just for me, MarkBlogger, and for anyone else who may be interested, telling us what you did when you started your blog – as well as what YOU wish you’d known about blogging way back when you started your blog.. Admitting there were things you did not know is what keeps your blog realistic and what helps to strengthen the relationships between you and your readers. I am one of your fans and will be forever. Yes, I do subscribe to this blog, and always will.

    One day you’ll have over 100,000 readers.
    Great work. I love reading your blog every day.

  13. I agree fully with the comments on finding a happy medium between over-planning and over-eagerness. It’s important to find a balance – blog posts shouldn’t just be “slapped on the wall”, but they’ll also never be perfect.

  14. Paul says:

    Wow what a watershed moment for me.

    I fluctuate heavily between design, planning, writing and procrastination currently.

    The permalink comment with the migration plugin were very useful. :)

    Rather than sitting in dreamweaver all day tweaking, i’m going to pull my finger out and get writing and networking!

    Cheers,
    Miyagi

    PS – Darren you should implement a ‘buy me a beer’ plugin, my only concern would be that you’d be permanently drunk with all the free beers and content might suffer…. nahh! :)

  15. Lokesh says:

    I think most of us waste time without giving their own blogging a start, I am reading about blogging and seo from long time since i entered my graduation.

    Blogging is the wonderful subject to write on, but its a too competitive niche,there are already 100′s of good blogs being written consistently,And the number of visitors is very small in this niche.Even the most liked blog (yours) in this niche gets only upto 5000 visitors a day.

    Will it be a better idea to choose another niche..?? even though we are not so interested in it but we can write effectively on.I think choosing a niche is as important as “strating now”

  16. Kim says:

    I am new to the blogging community but had someone help me get set up….I started to blog on msn last year to “just do it” and dropped it because it meant nothing…it was just a way to get my feet wet. Then I started on blogspot.com with a very well thought out strategy and niche in a way that was meant to be meaningful for me and a targeted market. Once I did that for a few weeks and spent time reading blogs like this one and others, I found someone who could get me started quickly without much hassle in a well-designed, well executed blog on wordpress with all the bells and whistles built in where all I needed to do was blog and make that part well-done once design was agreed upon and executed.

    I wish I could have done last year what I’ve done in the last month but my decisions wouldn’t have been as good…I may not have found the person to work with who has worked out so well for me and my blog would not have been nearly as well thought out and done as well as it is now. I am still learning, my blog will improve over time. And with great blogs like this one and others that have given me the insights I needed to go forward I am pretty sure this is going to work the way I want and need it to. And, I’m sufficiently hooked! I guess you can consider me blogged-in. And, I’d say I did both 1 and 2…but couldn’t do one without the other. I needed to jump in and make mistakes to understand it better and to do it better or more professionally. Thanks for the great blog and all the great comments. Yep, I’m a new subscriber.

  17. Gustav S says:

    Excellent points , but I have always thought that the problem is not to find a way to make money but the mindset of the person behind… that is the main problem.. 99% of people, lack discipline, they cannot even stick enough time to something in order to let it work. They all think that multiple sources is a good idea… all that is wrong.. you cannot even stick to one of them how will you stick to 5 of them?? if you really want to be rich or have a decent income you need to fix yourself first… you can believe me or you can just make your quest for riches longsuffering, experience will teach you what I have just said :) … you are more than welcome to visit my blog I am always updating in order to help people find the right mindset for business.

    GS

  18. EasyInternet says:

    It took me about 6 month just to select a blogging software. I compared Joomla, Drupal and WordPress, and finally I ended up with a WordPress.

    The other challenge is the content. I am trying to focus more on quality than quantity. But even posting 1 quality article a day is not an easy part time job.

    First step is to find what readers want. And then preparing the content itself takes time. I don’t just wanna add text as most blogs, but I wanted to add other media like screen shots and videos to make the posts more interesting.

    But after all, it’s an excellent experience to be able to produce content that people actually read and interact with..

    http://www.easyinternetsolutions.com

  19. Scam says:

    I really messed up my permalink structure and have no idea if it is possible to remedy the situation now without either losing backlinks I have gained or ‘breaking’ my blog.

    Fortunately, I’ve learned from that mistake and gone for much friendlier URLs in a couple of blogs that I have started since, however, it riles me that I messed it up on my favourite one :(

  20. John Hewitt says:

    I wish I’d know Just how valuable old links were. I already had a very well established site and in my haste I removed my old files and re-added the articles as blog entries. I lost a lot of traffic that way.

  21. One of the reader comments talks about permalink structure. I agree that this is definitely something you want to set up before you start, but I’d have to advise against using category/postname as suggested.

    If you’re starting a blog, be careful about using /%category%/%postname%/. Many people suggest this, but using %category% isn’t sensible unless you are very sure that your categories won’t change. If you change them as your blog matures, you break your permalinks. This can be fixed by a plugin as mentioned, but why put yourself through the hassle.

  22. I have just started blogging and I actually find this type of article quite helpful . I have planed on doing some key articles that I know will drive traffic to my blog but have not planned nothing else.

    ————
    http://difftechblog.blogspot.com/

  23. I am still confused with my blog.

    I am blogging about daily happenings. can anyone tell me about what i am blogging?

    http://www.blogtantra.com

  24. kat says:

    I wish I had started with the right platform and domain name in addition to my vision and plan, but to be honest I didn’t know what would be better without actually working with one and understanding my needs. Migration has been a big headache and I’ve lost my ranking.