Cracking retirement blogging lessons

Blogging – It’s a Dark Art

If I have learnt anything over the past few months, it is that Blogging is not totally straightforward. Some days it is two steps forward and three back. Other days, I have a wee breakthrough, and I am sitting at my desk, bouncing up and down on my chair with delight.

I love sharing information, and I find it easy to write, so that has proven to be the easy bit. In the spirit of sharing my learnings to date, I thought I would spend a bit of time documenting my path.

I got interested in blogging some months ago, when my son introduced me to Mr Money Mustache, and J Money at Budgets are sexy which started me on a fascinating journey. Many of the blogs I read, particularly in the Personal Finance area were aimed at Millennials and Generation X. I felt there was a niche for those like me, who had either retired or were approaching retirement, who were interested in Personal Finance.

While I am more than comfortable with my current income, I decided that it would do no harm to investigate whether I could get any interest in my blog, and possibly once I was established in my niche, to try and supplement my pension income while doing something I enjoy. So off I went.

I suspect, like me, you have read many articles titled – set up your blog in 15 minutes. I am not saying they lie, but they are being a little economical with the truth. Yes you can set up your blog in 15 minutes, but it takes a lot longer to know your way around. I am several months in, and I haven’t really got to grips with it yet. I can format and publish posts. However there is so much functionality, I havent even looked at yet.

Starting Out

Every article I read said, if you might want to make a business out of it, invest in your own brand. I toyed with several names, and finally settled on Cracking Retirement.

Many bloggers have a standard link to Bluehost. So I picked up one of those, acquired my website CrackingRetirement, followed all the instructions and within 30 minutes I had my own WordPress site. Yippee. (Note: I am not particularly advocating Bluehost, I don’t know enough about the competition, so I cant really say whether they are good value. I went with them, because several fellow bloggers thoughtfully posted step by step instructions that I could follow. They get paid a fee for that! )

Then the fun really started.

Stage 2 – Get Blogging

Where did I start? How did it all work? What were Themes? Plug-ins? Widgets. My goodness me! I hesitate to admit this, but I have a degree in Computer Programming, I have coded for a living in several different languages, on several different platforms, so I am reasonably technical, but boy was I on a learning curve. The more I dug into it, the more I felt like I was at Hogwarts taking the Dark Arts class.

My initial questions were

  1. What did I need to do on the Bluehost platform, and what did I do on the WordPress platform? For me, at this beginner stage in my blogging life, I only use Bluehost for my email. I’m sure there are lots of things I could be doing, but just now I don’t seem to need them.
  2. How did I choose a theme, there were so many to choose from? As I am just in a start-up phase, I am resisting spending any more money than absolutely necessary. I selected a theme. I don’t remember which it was. I have moved through about seventeen since, and I suspect you will too. Will this be my final one (Metro, if you’re interested), probably not.
  3. What was the difference between Posts and Pages. Answer – Pages are pretty static, and are used for information about you, your site etc. Posts are the day to day topics that you write about.

So several posts later, I had worked out how to add pictures to my post, tags, categories etc, but how did I get the photograph at the start of my post. Answer – at the bottom right of the Edit Post screen, there is this box – marked Add Featured Image. That was a light-bulb moment! So simple..

My advice is – use the help section on WordPress, it is pretty clear.

Stage 3 – Start Adding more functionality

You’re starting to get confident now. You’re probably on a few forums by now. You’ll find some of your fellow bloggers really helpful. On my blogroll, you’ll find the ones who were kind enough to help me. However, most days, you stumble over something which makes you realise how much you still have to learn. All I can say is persevere. Each week, it all makes more sense.

One of the key bits of advice you get is to start collecting email addresses. I use MailChimp. It’s free… It will also lead you to Mailmunch, which handles the actual capture of the email addresses. You can then use Mailchimp to send emails to your subscribers.

The next challenge was working how SEO (Search Optimisation) works. I set up google analytics, as well as using the stats within WordPress. But I have a long way to go here.

My advice from a friendly expert was to get a theme that supported Footers and Breadcrumbs. What were breadcrumbs, they are used to display the path to show where you are within the blog e.g. Home>Finance>Post X.   So off I went to Appearance > Theme > Add new theme. Then I noticed a box Feature filter. I clicked all the relevant boxes, and played with the ones I wanted.

How to change the footers and the sidebars – they’re all widgets. You’ll find them in ‘customise’ under ‘Appearance’.

Stage 4 – Start trying to build your audience

That’s really the stage I am at now.

The advice I have had so far is

  • make lots of comments on sites that are in the same niche as yours. Start building a relationship with other bloggers
  • join some forums in the same niche. My interest is in Personal Finance so I joined the Rockstar Finance Forum.
  • respond to every comment that gets made on your posts
  • write some guest posts
  • Make sure you have social media buttons on your posts, so that if someone likes it, they can share it.
  • Start using Pinterest. Don’t only pin your blog posts, pin others as well. There are some buttons to allow you to have floating Pin It over your images. I have just started the plugin today.
  • Use good images, preferably your own. Up to now I have only used my own photographs, but I am now trying out using PicMonkey (see my purple text box – I have a long way to go!) I use the free version

Stage 5 – Where next

For me, I am a long way from monetizing my blog. However several bloggers do this really early on in their blogging career.

I really have to increase my following. I have had a few shout-outs (where you get mentioned in another blog), I hope for many more!

Meanwhile, I’ll just hang in there, learning more about the technicalities, reading lots, and producing quality output.

I hope you found this useful. If so, please Pin it, share it, and help me increase my audience

Cracking retirement blogging lessons

 

8 Comments

  1. I’ve been blogging just a little longer than you- since July 2016- and I can really identify with these things you’ve learned. I have found taking part in twitter chats to increase my following, and now get a few more views from twitter. There is one on a monday hosted by one of the @UKmoneybloggers, starting at 8 or half past. Quite a few join in with that. I’ve not done anything to monetise yet either. I feel I would rather focus on the content and get some people reading… At the moment, I confess there aren’t too many people to click on an affiliate link if I did have one!

    1. Hi Sarah, I’m glad I am not alone. I’ve never tried a twitter chat, so maybe I’ll give that a shot tomorrow morning.
      I can empathise with the lack of people to click a link!

    2. Hi Sarah,
      I’m glad I am not alone. I’ve never tried a twitter chat, so maybe I’ll give that a shot tomorrow morning.
      I can empathise with the lack of people to click a link!

    3. Hi Sarah
      (I have a comment reply display problem – this is the third time I have replied, but it isn’t showing so trying a different way…)
      I am glad to hear I am not the only one with a slow take-up. Thanks for the twitter link. I’m trying Pinterest a bit more too.

  2. It’s often slow going but if you stay consistent you’ll see the growth. I like how you laid out the steps you took to get started. That will be very helpful and encouraging to someone else who is just beginning.

    1. Thanks for the support Mrs Groovy.
      I was having a chat with my son about this last night, and he was saying much the same. Write good content, and keep posting….
      So that’s what I am going to do.

  3. Thank you for sharing this! I have gotten so frustrated by all the “Have a Blog with 1,000,000 Followers in 10 Minutes” posts because they mislead complete beginners about the amount of work that’s required! Seriously, coming up with fresh, new content all the time, marketing yourself in a huge space of complete strangers (especially for someone who’s a little more shy), writing in an engaging, easy-to-follow format; that’s not easy! I’ve found that blogging itself is much like creating wealth. You can either be a flash in the pan that explodes, is fun for a minute and then forgotten, or you can take it slow, generate real, solid content and followers, and have something that will eventually almost run itself, though not for several years.

    1. Hi Kyle

      I totally agree. I am aiming for the 5/15 year model rather than the 5/15 week view!

      I share your frustration. There are some ‘lucky’ blogs out there who have achieved a following really quickly, and hats off to them. However, there are hundreds of thousands of blogs out there who count their following in 10’s or 100’s (me, at the minute!), and a few who count their followers in 10.000’s and 100,000’s. I aspire to have a million followers, but realistically that is a year or two away!
      So the advice I have had, and will follow, is keep going. Good content is key. Take the opportunity to do a few guest blogs, if you get the chance. Make sure search items match your blog content. Be active on social media, if you can, but be aware, that an out-of-date page sets the wrong perception. Try and capture ‘interested’ readers.

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