I started Swoon Worthy back in July of 2010. At that time, aside from a few of the big ‘power blogs’ like Design Sponge, Decor8 and Young House Love, I didn’t even know you could make a career out of blogging. It was just something fun to do, something that would connect me to like-minded folks and a creative outlet. Blogging as a ‘career’ wasn’t even really a THING. Oh how times have changed.
It wasn’t until 2 or 3 years later that I realised my blog could be so much more than just a fun hobby. It could actually be the start of a new career path but by that point, I’d done so many things that I would have never done now – things I had no idea about because no one else did either and there wasn’t a wealth of information available as there are to those starting blogs today. It grew and developed into what you see here today and whilst I’ve made a myriad of adjustments and tweaks to it over the years, there are plenty of things I’d do differently had I known what Swoon Worthy would become.
So today, I thought I’d share some of things that knowing what I know now, I would have done different back in 2010 when I started my blog.
I would have purchased my own domain
When I started blogging, my actual URL was ridiculously long and complicated – it was gettingitswoonworthy.blogspot.com – I MEAN WHAT. Having ‘blogspot’ as part of my blog address made my blog look amateurish – because it was. I didn’t know that having your own URL would be seen as more professional back then. I finally made the change a few years later and I think it now costs something like £6/year to own my own domain. How silly of me to wait years as it could have saved me the hassle of having to redirect the old name to the new when I finally changed over.
Don’t wait. Just choose your blog name, make sure it’s available and start straight away. It literally should only cost a few pounds and you can start your blog off professionally. Don’t let your URL get in the way of anyone taking you seriously. If you are committed to making a go of blogging – even if you are still learning the ropes – you should have your own domain.
Bonus tip: If your own personal name is available as a domain name, buy that one too. If you ever want to use your own name as part of your portfolio or business or if your name starts to get recognised in its own right, then you might as well buy it as well. At the moment, I also own kimberlyduran.com – go ahead and click on that link and you’ll see at the moment, it redirects to my own blog. In the future, who knows what it’ll be used for but at least I know no one else can use it.
I would have claimed all my social media handles straight away
Here was another big ‘how-could-i-have-been-so-stupid’ realisations. Again, when I first started back 2010, social media wasn’t anywhere near as big of a deal back then as it is now (Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest didn’t even exist!!). My social handles were all @Redlilocks because that’s the username I’d had since about 1997. It wasn’t even that I was ignorant – I don’t think anyone back then understood the importance of a connection between your blog and your social media so I just used my personal handles for everything. It was only this year (I know, I know!) that I finally decided to painfully change all my social profiles to match my blog’s name. It was getting too confusing for people to even find me on social media and it made no sense to continue using redlilocks as a handle.
I should have saved myself the trouble and claimed @swoonworthyblog for all my social platforms straight off the bat so that there was a distinct and easy connection between my presence on social and my presence on my blog. When you decide on a blog name, you’ll want to first check the URL is available and then after that, make sure the same name is available on all the social media platforms you plan to use and then don’t wait. Claim them while they are still around.
I would have started off on WordPress
I know there are always questions about what platform to use when you first start blogging. I started off on Blogger which was a quick and easy way to start blogging immediately. However, if you are serious about making a go of your blog, then starting off on these fire-up-and-go platforms will be great to start off with but you’ll find you quickly outgrow them. When I did outgrow Blogger, changing to a different platform was a complete pain in the backside which took me hours upon hours of my life that I’ll never get back. Was it worthwhile? Yep. Do I wish I’d saved myself the pain and just gone on WordPress right away when I started? Yep. The learning curve is a lot steeper but the design capabilities and personalisation options are just so much better.
Bonus tip: If you are deciding between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, I’d always encourage you to go for WordPress.org – yes they are different but the .org platform allows for so much more customisation than its .com counterpart. You will have to purchase your own hosting which is a sticking point for a lot of new bloggers but think about it this way: Most people will invest in their hobbies – they will buy shoes for running, brushes for painting, gear for golfing, etc. Why should this be any different? You can get hosting for less than $10 a month. It’s not a huge commitment and it’ll pay off in the long run.
I might go more into this in a future post but if you plan to blog as just a hobby, then Blogger is absolutely fine but if you want your blog to allow for growth and evolution to become so much more, start with a nice-looking low-cost template for WordPress (there are loads available on Creative Market and Etsy) and start as you mean to go on.
I would have invested in a decent camera sooner
Oh, how I cringe when I look at old photos on my blog! The truth is that pictures weren’t all that important way-back-when. They helped to tell a story but they didn’t need to be perfect at that point. It was okay if they were a bit dark and a bit wonky and generally not great quality. Now? You have got to have gorgeous images if you want to stand out in the blogging world as it becomes more and more visually-driven. And while your phone will be fine when you first start (after all, they’ve come a long way in the last 7 years), moving onto a decent DSLR camera and learning how to use photo editing software was a big part of the reason why my blog started to grow. It took me a little while to learn how to use my camera properly as well and I’m still learning but the investment in the camera I use now (a Canon 70D*) has been worth every single penny.
I would have thought more about my branding
The ridiculous thing was that I worked in marketing for years before starting my blog. I understood entirely the concept of branding and creating a consistency across every touchpoint that a customer has with a product or service that someone is selling. And yet, it took years before I made the connection between my own blog and my brand.
Before I applied those learnings to what I was doing, I was afraid it would make me feel like some kind of ‘big company’ and that I’d lose the more ‘grass-roots’ appeal of what I was doing – after all, I wasn’t actually selling anything at all – my blog was just me. But I slowly realised that Swoon Worthy was indeed my personal brand and using consistency across everything I did – from the colours, the lighting, the fonts I chose, the images I captured – made it more recognisable. The truth was, it didn’t make it more impersonal as I’d feared, it simply strengthened my message and made me think more closely about what I wanted Swoon Worthy to really be about and what I wanted my readers to recognise as my own signature style. It made my blog stand out more across a sea of other bloggers. Pinpointing my own unique brand and playing to my strengths didn’t depersonalise anything – it simply made me more unique.
I would have learned more about SEO
You mention the word ‘SEO’ to a group of bloggers and you’ll see a flicker of horror go across their faces. Luckily, I’d worked in the SEO arena for my day job before I went freelance so I had a rough idea of how it all worked. The thing is, as uncomfortable as it can be to keep up with, it’s so important to optimise your site for search. If you use WordPress, then the Yoast plugin makes things a lot easier. When I first started off, however, I didn’t understand how it worked and I didn’t understand it’s importance and I avoided it as long as I could – big mistake.
It’s not about stuffing keywords and making your blog sound like a robot put it together but being considered about how Google sees content and the weight it places on things like external and internal linking as well as the way it understands keywords is paramount to getting your blog higher up in search results.
I’ll do a future post around SEO but understanding some key basics from the start is good practice and will ensure your blog posts are being seen by a greater audience.
I could probably name 100 more things that I didn’t know when I first started out but these are the big stand-out ones to me when I look back. Are you a new blogger? Or perhaps you’ve been blogging for a while now? What things do you wish you knew when you first started out? Let me know in the comments!