Blogging is hard. Like, really hard. And non-bloggers don’t really get that, because it doesn’t seem hard. But, dude, it is. And if you’re new at it, you’re probably looking around like “OMG, what do I do next?!” You need these tips for new bloggers.

Well, I have a few answers for you. Now, I could write a good-sized treatise about blog tips. So I can’t give you everything you need to know about blogging in one blog post. And honestly, if a blog post is purporting to tell you everything about a topic like this…you may want to look for another blog post.

But, I do have ten tips to get you started. If I had to pick just ten things that I wish I had known the day I started my first blog, this is it. So here you go, your Top Ten Tips for New Bloggers:

Top Ten Tips for Top New Bloggers

*This post contains affiliate links. That just means that if you click on an affiliate link and purchase the product or service, I get a small commission. There is zero extra cost to you, but it helps me fund Blog and Biz. I appreciate your support!

One. Use WordPress.ORG.

WordPress.COM and WordPress.ORG are NOT the same. I repeat, WordPress.COM and WordPress.ORG are not the same. You should be on WordPress.ORG. There are not a lot of times that I will tell you “You must do X to be successful.” But this is one of those times. WordPress.ORG gives you WAY more options. Most premium themes do not work on WordPress.COM. And almost no plugins work on WordPress.COM. So if you want your blog to look and feel professional, and you want to have basically any extra features, you need WordPress.ORG.

WordPress.ORG is free. But you will need to sign up for a hosting provider. This is not a huge deal. Plans start at like $3/month. So it’s a minor investment, with MAJOR payoffs. I use Siteground for my WordPress hosting and they have fantastic customer support. Like, really fantastic. They’ve saved me many times.

If you listen to me on one thing, listen to me on this: use WordPress.ORG instead of WordPress.COM. If you’ve already started on WordPress.COM, it’s fine. You can switch. So don’t worry.

(This tip assumes, of course, that you are on WordPress in the first place. If you’re on Squarespace, then that’s its own thing, and nevermind. If you’re on some other platform besides WordPress or Squarespace, you might want to reconsider).

Two. Put a content upgrade in every blog post.

Aside from using WordPress.ORG, this is my second best tip. You must give people value in EVERY post. You must give them value if you want their email addresses. You must give them value if you want them to come back. You must give them value if you want them to open your emails. You must give them value if you want them to purchase your products. You must give them value.

Now, a plain old blog post can absolutely have value. And it should. You should not be relying purely on content upgrades (or “lead magnets,” if you prefer) for your value. I hope that you get a ton of value just from reading this post. BUT, if you want to really jam-pack your content with extra value, use a content upgrade.

A content upgrade can be pretty much anything that you can put into an email. So, a checklist, a worksheet, a resource guide, an e-book…anything that you can PDF, can be a content upgrade.

Now, of course you want to keep it on brand (so you’re not going to see me promoting a content upgrade about a turkey casserole recipe…because that’s not what I blog about…and because boiling water is truly a little bit beyond the limits of my cooking skills). But as long as it’s within your niche, the sky’s the limit. Get creative. But always provide value. My content upgrades are going to be things like the “How to Use Leadpages Checklist” or the “Ultimate Plugin Resource Guide.” Because that’s what I blog about. But yours can be anything. If you’re a recipe blogger, maybe include a grocery list that goes along with the recipe that you’re writing about. Make someone think: “Wow, I can just download this thing and I won’t even have to think about what to pick up at [insert your local grocery store]!” And if you’re a graphic designer, or someone with some set of unique skills like that, include something even beyond a PDF. For example: Pinterest templates. I will always fall for the Pinterest templates. Because I have the design skills of a drunken squirrel. So I need them. And I’m glad to give you my email address in exchange.

Which leads me to my final point on this topic. Don’t just give it away. Make sure that people give you their email address in exchange for the content upgrade. This is the number one best way to get quality email subscribers. People like and want free stuff. They will give you their emails in exchange for a good content upgrade. They will not give you their emails just anything. A great way to do this is to use Leadboxes, a feature of Leadpages.

Here’s an example. I’d be remiss if I weren’t offering you a content upgrade with this blog post, right?

Three. Use landing pages

I’ll admit, when I started off, I had never heard the phrase “landing page.” I had probably been to a million of them, but I never knew that it was as thing. But, it is, and you should use them.

A landing page is basically a plain and simple page, separate from your blog, that asks people to do something. Sign up for your list, register for your webinar, buy your product. Whatever it is. But it asks them to do one thing and only one thing. It’s separate from your blog, so there are no distractions. They can’t get to your blog, there’s no header offering them 6 other things to click on, they can’t head over to your Twitter. It’s sign up for [my thing] or exit. And they work. Separated from distractions, people are a lot more likely to focus on your offer and sign up for whatever it is you’re asking for.

So, how do you create these magical things? I use Leadpages. Aside from figuring out what I want the copy to say, the entire creation process takes me about 3 minutes. It’s super fast, super easy, and super customizable. There are dozens of templates that you can choose from, so you’re not just starting with a blank screen. And you can customize pretty much every element. It also creates the page on its own unique URL, so you can just tweet/post/whatever that link. You can learn how to use Leadpages right here.

And there’s a plugin that actually allows you to put the URL on your own blog, so it can become something like (my Leadpage to get a free blog planner!). You can even use the plugin to make your Leadpage your homepage. So, for my course, Break Into Blogging, instead of designing an entire new website, I just bought the domain, made a Leadpage, and set it as the homepage. And voila, my very own course website.

You can also use them for extra things like thank you pages (the page someone goes to after they submit their email on the Leadpage), or even to host a webinar. So, basically for everything.

There are tons of ideas about how to use Leadpages right here.

So, if you have some kind of offer (even if it’s just trying to get people to sign up for your email), I’m a big fan of using landing pages to get it done.

Four. Create quality graphics for your blog AND social media.

This is something I skimped on majorly in the beginning. And not because I don’t like a good graphic. But because I am terrible at anything in that realm. Like, really, really bad. I have zero graphic design skills AT ALL. The idea of Photoshop terrified me. I’m just now coming around to the idea of using it.

But, having great graphics for your blog and your social media accounts is super important. People are just way more likely to click on something when there’s a good graphic to go along with it. It’s one of the easiest things you can do to boost your promotions.

One of the most effective tactics for optimizing content on social media is using images and photos. This is true, because the human brain responds to visual information 60,000x faster making it a sure fire way of improving your click-thru rate.

So, if you’re awesome and you know Photoshop or Illustrator or some other advanced tool like that, then go for it. But, if you’re on my side of the coin, I highly, highly recommend Canva. And extra points: it’s free.

Canva allows you to create pretty much any kind of graphics, and it’s super easy to use (and if I’m saying that, you can believe that it’s true…I have an advanced degree from the University of Michigan and I am a smart and successful woman…but I am not ashamed to admit that I cannot properly design any kind of graphic to save my life). I use it for almost all of my graphics: featured images for the blog, Pinterest images, Twitter posts, Facebook posts, course graphics…you name it, it was probably made on Canva. Here are just a handful of the things I’ve created on Canva, but believe me, there are about 100 more:

The other thing I love about Canva is that it automatically sizes everything for you. So you just select “Instagram post” or “Pinterest image” or “Facebook cover” and it will automatically make it the right size. One less thing to Google. Two thumbs way up for Canva.

Five. Invest in Pinterest.

When I started blogging I essentially blew off Pinterest. My memories of Pinterest dated back to when it first started, circa early 2012. I had just finished grad school and was getting ready to move to Chicago and rent my first “real apartment.” So I used Pinterest to pin stuff I “needed” like purple ottomans. Not really an essential business tool.

But, it turns out that Pinterest is CRUCIAL for blogging success nowadays. You can get more traffic from Pinterest than from just about anywhere else. Google it, and you’ll find tons of people telling you that Pinterest is far and away their number one source of traffic.

So, do not ignore Pinterest. But also, pay attention to your Pinterest strategy. Pinterest is not really like the other social networks. The point is not to get followers. And it’s really not intuitive. You can’t just sign up and get the hang of it just because you’re a millennial (and I say that as a fellow millennial… I think…the late 80s count as millennial still, right?).

Six. Have multiple opt-ins on every page.

Secret time: You should have around 5 opt-ins on your homepage. (This is not actually a secret, it’s readily available on Google). For real. I know that sounds like a huge and spammy number, but it’s true.

Here’s the thing. People will not hunt down your opt-in. even if your blog post is legitimately awesome, the next thought in your reader’s head is not “Gee, I wonder where her opt-in is, I better go find it so I can get on that newsletter.” It won’t happen. So they need to be seeing that opt-in all over the place. Use different types (welcome mats, sidebar forms, footer forms, notification bars, inline posts, etc). And put them in a variety of places.

If you have one form in your sidebar that just says “Sign up for my newsletter,” you are missing out. Very, very few people will sign up for that, if they even see it in the first place. You need to be offering them value (see Tip 2), and you need to be doing it in a variety of places.

Here are just a few examples of mine. But get creative. Use tools like SumoMe, Leadpages, OptinMonster, or Bloom. Or one of the zillion others out there. But do it, and it now. Growing your list should be one of your number one priorities, and opt-ins are essential to that strategy.

Seven. Keep your brand consistent.

Your brand is important. Really important. You may think that it’s not, because we’re talking about a blog, not a Fortune 500 company. But it still matters. People need to know what you’re about. And that means that your brand has to (a) exist and (b) be consistent. If your colors are blue and orange on Tuesday and pink and purple on Thursday, how are people going to recognize your stuff on Pinterest? And more importantly, if you’re blogging about travel hacks this week and breastfeeding tips next week, then who is it that’s supposed to read your blog?

People need to know what they’re going to get when they click on your page. Things like colors and fonts help them recognize and remember your brand. And things like tone and topic set the whole shebang up. So you need to have a brand, and it needs to be consistent.

Pick 2-3 colors and 2-3 fonts. That’s going to be your general look. But more importantly, decide on a concrete topic and a concrete tone. Your blog needs to be about something. You need a niche. So pick it, and go with it. Think about who your ideal reader is. What does she want to accomplish when she clicks on your blog?

Be consistent. It’s ok to re-brand once in a while if your brand isn’t working. But it shouldn’t be an every other week affair. People need to know what they’re going to get when they click on your blog. It’s important, and it’s why they’ll come back.

Eight. Start your email list on Day One.

When I talk about the importance of email lists, I’ve had so many people say something like “Yeah, I get it…but my blog is new/I barely get any traffic/no one is going to subscribe yet…so I’ll wait.” Guys, this is wrong. Start your email list today. I don’t care if you barely get any traffic or if you don’t think anyone will subscribe. You never know who your first/next subscriber will be. Every day that you go without having an email list set up is a missed opportunity. You do not need to be #1 on Google to have an email list. Do it today.

Your email list is crucial. There is no better way to promote your blog and your products than via email. It’s personal and it’s direct. And no one can take your list away from you. You can post something on Instagram, and no matter how dedicated Susie Q is to your blog, she just might not see it. If you send Susie an email, she will see it and if she wants to open it, she will.

So you need to set up your list and you need to get opt-ins on your site ASAP. There is no benefit to waiting. If you want to do it for free, you can. There are services like MailChimp that cost zero dollars.

So if money is the obstacle, then go with a free service. That’s ok. But, if it’s in your budget–I use ConvertKit. I wrote a whole article on it right here.

ConvertKit does all the normal mailing list stuff. You can add people to lists and send them automated emails. Any service can do that. But what really rocks my socks about ConvertKit is its “automation” features. You can set “rules” for all kinds of things and tag and segment your subscribers in so many useful ways. You can say something like “Everyone that signs up for this Pinterest course will be tagged as ‘Interest: Pinterest’ will get the course automatically” or “Everyone who clicks this particular link in an email will be tagged as ‘Interest: Instagram’ and will get special emails in the future whenever I post about something Instagram-related.” The options are endless.

It’s also super easy to set up automated emails. So, for instance, if you have an email course, like my Blog Boom Bootcamp course, you set it up one time and never touch it again. After I wrote the 11 emails for the course (the welcome email + the 10 day course), I just set up each email, told ConvertKit to send them one day apart to everyone who signs up through a particular form, and boom, that’s it. I haven’t done anything but watch my numbers go up since. Every single person on my email list has one or more (usually more) tags, telling me exactly how they signed up and what they’re interested in. And my emails go out like clockwork without me having to do anything at all after initial set up. So, thumbs up for ConvertKit.

Bottom line: Whether you use ConvertKit or some other service with fewer features, you need to set up your list ASAP. It doesn’t matter that you may only get a small number of subscribers. We all started at zero. No one will know. Don’t worry. Just do it.

Nine. Automate your social media.

Social media can be SUCH a time suck. Even if you actually enjoy it, which I sometimes do, the amount of time that it takes out of your day is ridiculous. That’s what automation tools exist, and that’s why you should be using them.

There are tons of options for pretty much any social network. But my favorites are Smarterqueue for Twitter and Facebook, Planoly for Instagram, and Tailwind for Pinterest.

Smarterqueue will take your library of tweets/posts and send them out on a set schedule. That’s not terribly exciting (although it is incredibly time-saving). What IS exciting about Smarterqueue is that it never deletes your library. So, enter a tweet/post one time, and it will cycle over and over (unless of course you choose to delete it).

This is perfect for blog posts. Every time I create a blog post, I just go into Smarterqueue and draft a tweet/post with the link. I drop it into the blog post category, and it’s there for good. Smarterqueue will cycle through every one of my blog post tweets on a schedule that I set. And when it sends out the last one, it’ll reset and go back to the first one. So I never have to redo that same promotional tweet/post again. Time-saving=huge. So much of what you can tweet/post can be repeated. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel every time. I have no idea exactly how much time Smarterqueue saves me, but I’m guessing the answer is one billion hours.

And then there’s Tailwind. Tailwind will send out your pins on a set schedule. I wrote a whole article about how to use Tailwind right here. Pin whenever you have time, but they won’t all go out in a huge chunk, they’ll be spread out throughout the day so that more people see them.

And then there’s SmartLoop. Tailwind will “loop” your pins for you, meaning that it will repin old pins from your boards over and over. So your pin from six months ago can get picked up again by someone new. It’ll also use “campaigns” to easily schedule pins to go out to group boards, so you don’t have to worry about that either.

Pinterest could easily take up hours a day if it weren’t for Tailwind.

Automation tools like these can save you so much time. And they can get your stuff in front of more people, thanks to their scheduling features. I highly recommend using automation tools like these whenever you can, instead of trying to do it all by hand.

Ten. Invest in good courses.

Online courses are it right now. And there are a million of them out there. So don’t just throw your money at whatever course you happen to run across. But, that being said, a truly good course can be a game-changer. There are a lot of things that I struggled with, that, when I finally took a course I ended up saying “Wow, this has changed everything, and why did I not just invest a little money earlier and learn this?”

I’m not saying that you can or should take a course about everything. Google is there for a reason. But it has it is limitations. You cannot learn everything you need to know on Google. And even if you could, do you really want to? The information is spread out over 2398734968 different sites. You’ll spend SO much time hunting it down. A quality, well-taught course from a good instructor who really knows his/her stuff can really be a gamechanger.

Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing is a good example. Can you Google “what is affiliate marketing” or “how to use affiliate links”? Of course you can. And you’ll get tons of results. But you’re not going to get a course with 8 modules taught by a blogger who makes over $50,000/month with affiliate links. You’re not going to get something that walks you through exactly what she does and how she does it. You’re not going to get a system and a strategy for how to utilize these methods yourself.

So, don’t go out there and buy 17 courses. But, if there are certain topics where you really do need help, look and see what kind of courses are out there. It really can be worth it. And I wish that I had realized this sooner.

So, those are my top ten, absolute best tips for top new bloggers. If I had known these ten things the day I started, I would have gotten off to a much better start.

Have more tips? Leave them in the comments!

This content was originally published here.