How to Blog – Monthly Status Report 2017-07

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Inspired by other bloggers, I’ve decided to write a monthly status report on how to blog (or how not to blog). 🙂 I started Learn to Be Great in June 2017 but didn’t promote it or track it with analytics until July 2, 2017. Therefore, I consider July 2017 to be the official birth month of Learn to Be Great.

After the first full month of blogging, I’ve learned many valuable lessons and am so grateful for finally getting out of the starting blocks.

Past Failures Lessons Learned

In 2012, I tried blogging. I can’t remember the domain name (crazy, right?) but I hosted my domain on Inmotion. I paid about $10 for the domain name and let it expire after one year. It wasn’t a website yet because I never taught myself how to set it up. I paid about $144 for 3 years of web hosting because I was seduced by the same marketing tactic everyone falls for. You know what I mean … get the best price if you pay for one or more years of service in advance.

In early 2014, I tried blogging yet again. This time, I went with Bluehost and actually set up one website on their hosting platform. I paid about $30 for 3 domain names: retiredarmyvet.com, retiredandyoung.com, and something else I can’t recall. I paid about $108 for (you guessed it) 3 years of web hosting which was a pretty good deal. After writing just two blog posts I got caught up with the technical side of running a website and quit.

In the Summer of 2014, I decided that I would start a food blog. After paying about $10 for the mancooksfood.com domain name, I bought the Genesis framework for $59, bought the Foodie Pro child theme for $25, and paid $25 for one month of FoodBloggerPro (food blogging online course). I published two or three posts but the technical side of running a website and creating logos distracted me once again. More importantly, I realized that I love talking about, looking at, smelling, and eating food more than cooking and writing about it.

Are you keeping track of how much I’ve wasted paid to learn what I didn’t want to do? I have no regrets because I’ve learned to keep searching for what’s right for me. But it sure would be nice to have that money back.

A Quality Web Host Matters

In April 2017, I tried Wealthy Affiliate for free. Since I liked what I saw, I decided to try the one-month premium membership for just $19 in May. Premium membership is normally $49 per month but is discounted at only $359 if paid for one year in advance. Obviously, I chose the latter because managed web hosting at less than $30 a month is ridiculously cheap. Site Rubix is the web hosting platform at Wealthy Affiliate.

Managed Web Hosting

These are some reasons why I decided to use Site Rubix managed web hosting:

  • Amazon c3.large hosting = faster 🙂
  • Create and manage up to 25 .siterubix.com domains
  • Host up to 25 paid domains with unlimited email accounts
  • Enterprise security & SSL is included for all my paid domains
  • Instant DNS setup & centralized access to all my domains = convenience
  • Daily backups, 30 GB of storage & up to 500K visitors per month
  • 24/7 access to server admins

I don’t expect to need 30 GB of storage and 500,000 visitors per month anytime soon, although it’s nice to dream. I’ve tried the shared hosting route in the past and actually still have Bluehost too. It’s just so much easier to use Site Rubix and the difference is night and day.

Technical Support

Site Rubix provides 24/7 technical support for premium members. In July, I had to contact technical support four times because I broke my sites went down or split personalities after changing the theme (more on that later). In most cases, technical support got my site up almost immediately. I didn’t have this type of support on Bluehost but I wasn’t paying as much either. We have to make a fair comparison, right? There’s a reason why managed web hosting costs more than cheap shared web hosting plans.

Training

There are thousands of training articles that cover almost everything I need to set up and run my blog to include SEO and social media. Additionally, there is a live weekly training webinar hosted by a professional digital marketer. I have access to all past webinars and all training. It’s almost too much, but I’m glad it’s available because it’s been extremely helpful. More importantly, I’m still here.

Built-In Community

It’s tough to gain traction when you first start a blog. I wouldn’t have known about all the other steps to run a blog like SEO or social media. On Wealthy Affiliate, I can ask community members to provide feedback and comments on my blog. This is important when starting out. It sure is lonely when you have NO comments on a blog post.

Keyword Research Tool

Before I started using Wealthy Affiliate, I had no idea how to effectively use keywords or conduct keyword research other than on Google’s Keyword Planner. Wealthy Affiliate’s keyword tool is easier to use and more useful than Keyword Planner. Again, it’s included in my premium membership so I don’t have to pay for anything else beyond my web hosting plan.


If you want to see whether or not blogging is for you, create up to two free websites on .siterubix.com and receive free training from the Wealthy Affiliate community and support from me!

This is an affiliate link. If you know of another web host that provides all the features I’ve listed above at an affordable price, please let me know and I’ll gladly change over once my premium membership expires.


Find the Right Theme

The Genesis framework is one of the most popular premium WordPress themes. Anyone who really knows how to blog seems to endorse it (usually with affiliate links). I decided to try it ($59 in 2014) and paired it with the Foodie Pro child theme ($25 in 2014). I couldn’t code well enough to figure out exactly how to make my site look right. So, I decided to try the Eleven40 child theme ($33.71 in July 2017) because I liked the look and feel. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make my site look and function the way I wanted it to (more coding required) so I continued my search for the perfect theme.

I spent days going through thousands of free themes and settled on Olsen Lite. Minimal coding required = win. I made a few changes in CSS to the default font family and font sizes (I need reading glasses for Christ’s sake).

Near the end of July 2017, I made a big mistake. I started playing around with different themes (again) and noticed that I had different versions of my site. At the time, I assumed the reason was that I hadn’t cleared my browser’s cache so didn’t think too much of it. On the 27th, I changed my theme to the free Vantage theme by Site Origin. I really do like it and would use it if I didn’t like Olsen Lite better. However, I forgot to add analytics and couldn’t figure out why I had NO traffic to my website especially when I was getting feedback from other people.

Well, I finally realized something was wrong and contacted technical support. Somehow, I had two different versions of my website. Learntobegreat.com was stuck with a theme I had abandoned earlier. My https://learntobegreat.com URL was fine but most of my backlinks were learntobegreat.com. I have no idea how many new users saw my jacked up website and bounced.

More Traffic Please

Running a blog without traffic is like talking to a brick wall. May I have some more traffic please.

Organic Searches

Until I started tracking my blog’s traffic using Google Analytics, Bing Webmaster, and Yandex Webmaster, it seemed like I was lost among the millions of blogs on the web. Things started moving along fairly smoothly until I started messing with my themes.

How to Blog - Monthly Status Report 2017-07
I was wondering why traffic started dwindling mid-month after tinkering with my themes. It took nearly two weeks to figure out my blog split into two separate http and https websites! Mon oeil!

 

 

I didn’t set up Bing or Yahoo until mid-month so I’m not sure how much traffic I received from them.

Learn to Be Great got 11 clicks from organic searches at Google, Bing, and Yahoo combined.

Comments

47 comments this month. Not a terrible first month.

On another note, a major source of my traffic has been from the backlinks I created by commenting on other people’s blogs. I follow all of them and like reading their content so my intentions are pure.

Referrals

I joined Rockstar Finance and receive a lot of traffic from other personal finance bloggers from the daily feed.  The feed brought the Financial Samurai to my blog who left a comment on one of my posts. That was pretty cool for this newbie!

Another great source of traffic has been the Wealthy Affiliate community. Many have come to my site to leave comments from the links I’ve left on my profile at Wealthy Affiliate.

Email Subscribers

4 new email subscribers. Have to send out my first monthly newsletter at a minimum and set up a free MailChimp account. I’m thinking about putting together an ebook or ultimate guide to attract more email subscribers. Hopefully, I won’t be writing this exact same paragraph next month.

Social Media 

Social media is very important and is a great way to drive traffic to a blog, especially one that’s new.

  • Facebook: 52 followers (+9), 53 likes, 2 shares – mostly friends but got a few other people to like and follow my page.
  • Twitter: 148 followers (+143), 20 link clicks, 135 tweets, 7 re-tweets, 22K impressions, 1.6K profile visits, 97 mentions, 2.2% engagement rate, 166 likes, 81 replies – It seems like this is where I can gain the most ground quickly. I’ve started branching out beyond personal finance because Learn to Be Great is about much more than that. Got some Twitter love from Doug Norman of The Military Guide and J Money of Rockstar Finance and Budgets are Sexy. I’ve been following his blog since 2014.
  • Instagram: 38 followers (+38) – haven’t figured out how to connect with this audience yet. I need to pay attention to Tim Kim of Tub of Cash.
  • Pinterest: I need to set up Pinterest. I’ll have to learn from Ms. Frugal Asian Finance to see how she’s kicking @$$ pinning.
  • Google+: 0 followers (+0) – posted most of my articles and received some traffic but haven’t figured out how to attract followers.
  • Medium: I really want to post a great article here once a month but am a bit intimidated by the quality of the best articles. Writers here know how to blog. Maybe in August…
  • Linkedin: I also want to post a great article here once a month but it’s got to be my best work because my professional reputation is on the line here. Additionally, I’m not sure if I want to promote my blog here just yet.

Summary

Blogging would be a lot easier if my intent was simply to write. I’d probably use Medium, Linkedin, WordPress.com, Blogspot.com, or a combination of them. However, I have visions of grandeur for Learn to Be Great and want it to be something much greater than just a blog.

In the meantime, it takes a hell of a lot of work to start a blog in an ocean of blogs that may be equally as good if not better. I’m sure there are many other areas I could cover but I don’t want to be writing this when it’s August. I’m still learning how to blog and publishing content is painfully slow.

Do you blog? Are you thinking about blogging?

Please share your thoughts, tactics, and tips in the comment section below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

You may also like

16 Comments

  1. Great job Darren! I like the analysis, very detailed. That’s great that your blog is off to a great start now, since you were in the process of starting a blog a few times before.

    I had a blog about 8 years ago, sold it in 2012 and started a new one (just in July of this year) and it’s very different now lol- I also feel like I am talking to a brick wall at times.

    1. Lately, I haven’t been talking to myself.:) Slowly gaining traction which I’m very grateful for. Eventually, I’ll reach beyond the PF/FI/RE community and reach the people I’d really like to positively impact.

      If you don’t mind, what was your blog? I love learning about other bloggers’ stories. Very inspiring and interesting.

      Thank you for visiting and commenting on my site. I appreciate it!

  2. Congrats Darren! It looks like you finally found the right niche and name for yourself! I’m awed by your stats tracking – I didn’t even know you could track all of that stuff in Twitter!

    Here’s to an even better August!

    1. LOL! Twitter’s got some great analytics built right in. It’s the only place I can gain any traction. I’ve got to figure out Instagram because I’d like to attract a younger audience.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, MD!

    1. Hi Ms. FAF!

      Welcome to my neck of the woods and thanks for commenting. I appreciate it!

      I think the best value I can provide others at this point is simply to share the details of what I do whether through blogging, personal finance, fitness, etc…

      Working on my food expense report (coming soon).

  3. Congrats on your progress! And nice job getting an SSL certificate. I have yet to do so because I know that a lot of stuff a break during the transition. But now that it’s the slow summer, maybe it’s time!

    The key is just to keep a schedule and keep on going for as long as possible. Eventually good things will happen.

    Sam

    1. Thank you, Sam!

      It’s tough getting into a routine but I think I have an idea. I just don’t want to write the same content that’s everywhere else.

      I didn’t realize changing themes would break my site but I lost a lot of traffic without fully realizing it. I’d like to see what kind of impact getting an SSL certificate will have on your site. I look forward to that post/tweet!

  4. Hey! First time reading one of your posts, although I’ve seen you on Twtitter for a bit now. I’m in the same boat as you with one month under the belt.

    Seems like you’re doing all the right things and it’s always great to know we have others with us living the struggle! Keep up the great work, the site looks impressive and this was well written. Keep up the good work!

    1. Hi Josh,

      Thanks for dropping by and for making this our journey. It’s ALWAYS great to connect with like-minded people. I will keep an eye out for your posts but sometimes need DMs because I can be a little obtuse at times… I read a lot of blogs so I’m always happy to consume more good content.

      Now that I’m slowly getting the hang of things, I’m amazed at how much work it takes to blog. I still need to tweak a few pages on my menu but I think my site looks about right.

      Darren

  5. Well Darren, You certainly know that perseverance pays off.

    Your constant effort towards your goal is a credit to your character. It’s almost impossible to learn to ride a bike without falling a few times and we’ve all fallen on many occasions.

    I’m happy to hear that you have finally found Wealthy Affiliate. Now you can learn the technical aspects that will turn your blog into the work of art that you want.

    Never lose sight of your dreams.

    Paul

    1. Hi Paul,

      Thanks for stopping by and I appreciate the words of encouragement. Yes, I’m here to stay for a little while at least. I enjoy this, maybe a bit too much.

      Darren

  6. You’re not talking to a wall! =) The vast majority of people visit, read, and don’t leave comments. I feel the same way. Because, relatively-speaking, the amount of traffic I get compared to comments is like 1000:1. So for every 1000 visits, I might get 1 comment. So don’t feel like you’re alone in this. People just aren’t really accustomed to leaving comments. Heck, before I started blogging, I’ve never ever left comments before (whether it’s a blog post or an article on the web). I’ve always wondered, who has the time to leave comments on news articles and blog posts? Lol. Keep it up man, you’re doing great!

    1. Thanks, Tim! I appreciate your words of encouragement. Overall, it’s been a good month and I can’t wait to see what happens in the next few months. I’d love to be able to reach more people and deliver simple messages of empowerment. I think we all have a part, in our own ways.

  7. What a great read! I just recently started blogging, something that I never thought I would be doing, and I love it! It’s challenging for me and I love a good challenge. It has also become an outlet for me to share the experiences and knowledge I’ve gained about holistic healing over my too-many, year-long battle with chronic illness.
    Wealthy Affiliate has been integral in helping me to achieve this. It’s been a great adventure so far and I’m excited to see what the future holds.
    Thanks for the update and good info!! I wish you all the best with your blogging in the coming months.

    xx

    Helen

    1. Helen,

      I’m not sure if I would have succeeded or even attempted blogging for a third, or is it fourth, time? I’ve realized that I don’t like the technical side of blogging very much but I have learned to code in CSS, HTML, and PHP a little bit.

      I’m glad you’ve found Wealthy Affiliate too. It’s a pretty neat web host. I’d love to get to the point where I exceed its capacity. We’ll see what happens then. Thanks!

      Darren

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *