10 Things I Wish I’d Done When I Started My Blog

10 Things I Wish I'd Done When I Started My Blog ~ Maman Loup's Den

My pal Stefanie is in the process of starting a blog. Throughout our various late night iMessage conversations as we nurse our new babes (and future BFFs), I realized I was basically telling her all the things I wish I’d known from the day I started Maman Loup’s Den. Granted, I didn’t really know that I was going to get this far with my blogging hobby… but if only I’d done all this stuff from the start, I would have saved a lot of time backtracking and have more time to blog!

Three Things I Did Right:

I can’t claim I did these three things on purpose, but I’m glad I did.

Choose a Unique Name

I really took it for granted that there was no one else on the Interwebs with a name similar to Maman Loup. Don’t do that! Check! As I helped Stefanie come up with her blog’s name, I discovered that one of our ideas was a porn site.

Non-Limiting Name

Even though my site started with a big focus on cloth diapers, I’m glad I didn’t include the term “cloth diapers” in my blog name. What would I have done once my kids potty trained? What about all the other awesome topics I love writing about (babywearing, pregnancy, green living)? If I’m a company that doesn’t make cloth diapers, I might be apprehensive about partnering with a site that seems to only be about cloth diapers. 

Identical Social Media Profile Names

I’m very happy that I own MamanLoupsDen.com, and that all of my social media handles are MamanLoupsDen. My email, my Facebook URL, my Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and now Periscope are all identical. It makes it easy for people to find you, and unlikely you’ll be miss-tagged. I’ve miss-tagged pages before because there are many with similar or identical names.

10 Things I Wish I’d Done When I Started My Blog 

Now I’m going to tell you all of the things that I’ve had to go back and fix since my page has become successful and I’ve truly turned it into my business.

1- Use WordPress (WP) & Be Self Hosted

I first started blogging on the Blogger platform. Almost every blogger I know has eventually made the switch to WP, so, I’d say: just start there. I originally just copied and pasted my content (there wasn’t a ton) to a free WordPress.com blog. Then I learned that without being self hosted (paying a web hosting service to “house” your site), you don’t have access to many of the features that make blogging on WP so good. You cannot use JavaScript (which is what allows a site to have a Rafflecopter Widget directly on their page, and is necessary for displaying ads from ad networks) and you cannot install Google Analytics. I personally use Green Geeks {affiliate link} as my web host and definitely recommend them. When I switched from WordPress.com to WordPress.org (self hosting), I told them “Look, I have no clue what I’m doing. I just know I want my content from WordPress.com to come over here to your server and then make it so I can edit my blog again please.” I was back online in a day. (And if you just start this way, you don’t have to even go through that process.) Here’s a tutorial that shows you all the differences between using WordPress.com or Self Hosting and using WordPress.org

2- Install Google Analytics (GA)

I didn’t even know what GA was when I first started. It’s basically a service that tells you how much traffic your website gets and where it all comes from. That’s the basic function of GA, but it can do a whole lot more. I would like to state for the record that I only use it to find out what my Unique Monthly Views are (how many different people visit my site each month), and sometimes to see which posts are particularly popular. There are a LOT of other things you can do with it to maximize your site’s performance, and tons of great resources on how to do it. In terms of installation, I tried to do it on my own and failed. I gave the keys to a tech-savvy friend. Here’s a tutorial in case you don’t have one of those on retainer! 

3 – Manage images so they’re optimized for Google searches and Pinterest

Ever noticed that when you pin something from a page, sometimes the Pin already has a catchy description attached, and other times you might just see “IMG-101” in the description box? That’s because when you upload an image to WordPress, the “Alt Tag,” (which is what Pinterest uses for the Pin description) is automatically populated with the name of your image file. I admit that I am guilty of uploading my images with a name that is just a number, especially since I often upload them straight from my phone onto the WP app. At the very least, you want to make sure that, no matter what your image is called, the “Alt tag” has the text you would want to appear on Pinterest. When you upload your image, fill out the Title box on the right hand side correctly:

Set up ALT Tags on WordPress

What you type into the “Title” field is what Pinterest will use to describe your image when it is pinned. The “Alt Text” field is what will show if, for some reason, your image doesn’t load on your website. 

In an ideal world, you also want the image title to be optimized for Google Searches. If someone is looking for a picture of chocolate chip cookies, your picture of amazing cookies that is named “image-101” isn’t going to show up when it’s competing with a of bunch images called “worlds-best-chocolate-chip-cookies.” Know what I mean? I just installed a Media File Renamer to help me rename all my terribly named images thanks to the tips in this tutorial.

4 – Make nice title images

I can’t believe that when I first started blogging, I didn’t even know how to add text to an image. I still do not own any image-editing software: I edit all my images online. Using PicMonkey.com or Canva.com (and sometimes both in combination) is how I create all of my title images. That way, when readers pin, for example, a cloth diaper review, it’s clear to other users what the Pin is about, and where it comes from. If you don’t have an image to use for your post, don’t just grab one off of Google Images. Make sure you use an image that is free of any copyright. You can get free images like this on Pixabay.com. I made the title image to this post with a picture from Pixabay and Canva.

5 – Watermark all images

This was such a pain to go back and do once I realized I should be doing it. Images get “stolen” all the time on the Internet. At least if you watermark your images, people will know where they come from. Naturally, this doesn’t stop someone from cropping out your watermark, but, you do what you can! I used to watermark my images painstakingly, one by one, using Canva or Picmonkey. I also tried a plugin that watermarks your images as you upload them. I’ve finally settled on an iPhone app that batch watermarks my photos: iStamp. It cost about $2 and if I had been using it from the start I’d have saved myself a lot of time. It would have also ensured that my photos had a universal watermark. Instead, many of my posts have pictures with a variety of different versions of my “MamanLoupsDen.com.” (That’s also because I’m lazy about consistency.)

6 – Take well-lit, appealing photos

Look, I’m not about to tell you how to take gorgeous photos for your blog. Every time I read a post by Olivia at This West Coast Mommy, I think damn, that girl takes nice pictures. I take photos exclusively on my iPhone 6+, and I don’t plan on switching to a super fancy camera… ever. For me, that would take all the joy out of blogging! I want to take good pictures on my phone, photos that require little to no editing, and upload them straight to my page. While by no means magazine-worthy, my photos have vastly improved since I started shooting in natural light as much as possible, and taking advantage of outings with scenic backdrops (hello, Banff!) to do impromptu photoshoots for products. I also learned a lot from this tutorial by Nissa at Cloth Diaper Guru.

7 – Use No-Follow Links appropriately

I definitely had no clue what a “do follow” and “no follow” link were when I first started blogging. Now, I think of them as “Google juice.” When you link back to another site in a blog post, you’re giving that page “Google juice.” You’re telling Google, “Hey! Rank this page higher, it’s legit, it’s got awesome content!” If many, many blogs link back to the same site, Google interprets this to mean that that site is the popular kid in school, and should get picked first for the ball team. It wouldn’t be fair, therefore, for you to give juice to a company that is compensating you for writing about them. For example, if you are paid or given product to write a review or post about Apple, all of your links pointing back to Apple’s website should not give them any extra Google juice. Google only wants organic juice! That’s where the “no follow” tag comes in. Here’s a great post explaining when and why to use it. In a nutshell, ask yourself, “Was I compensated in any way for including this link?” If the answer is yes, use the “no follow” tag. The easiest way to do this is with the Ultimate No Follow Plugin, which makes it so that every time you add a link, you see this:                        
No Follow Plug in

That way, the “nofollow” code is automatically added for you. (I used to have to go in and type it myself. Who has time for that?) The only no-follow link in this post is to Green Geeks, since it’s an affiliate link.                                                                                                                                                8 – Make posts super easy to share

You want people to share your content, and people are lazy. Make sure you have share buttons at the top of all of your posts. Use a plugin like Click to Tweet to make neat boxes like this:

[Tweet “Starting a blog? Check out @MamanLoupsDen’s tips! https://mamanloupsden.com/?p=11301”]

I use Shareaholics for my share buttons.

9 – Search Engine Optimization

Install the Yoast plugin for your site and make sure you do your SEO for every post. I still don’t do this and I keep meaning to go back and get the little “green light” for SEO on all of my posts. Here’s a tutorial I should probably read.

10 – Network with other bloggers (find your blogging Yoda)

My blogging really took off once I joined a Facebook group for bloggers like me (cloth diaper/attachment parenting-type folks). I believe it was Suzi at Cloth Diaper Addicts who let me into that circle! My other blogging BFF is Olivia at This West Coast Mommy.  Many groups do require someone to vouch for you and/or a certain amount of “street cred” before you enter, and others do not. Within these groups, one of the most helpful thing is “chore” threads. Many groups have, for example, daily “Re-tweet” threads. So, everyone retweets eachother’s tweets, comments on eachother’s Facebook posts, pins eachother’s pins, and so on and so forth. This is a great way to increase your visibility. I have learned so much from other bloggers, and would like to underline the importance of good blogger karma! Link back to blogs you love, share each other’s posts, work together on giveaways, and just generally be supportive and it will pay off!

Other tips:

  • Make sure you have a search bar near the top of your page. 
  • Make sure you have links to all of your social media accounts near the top of your page. 
  • Have a clearly marked section about who you are and how to work with you.
  • BACK UP YOUR SITE OFTEN! I’m sorry to yell, but for the first time in the three years I’ve been doing this, I’ve had to use a back up. While I was typing THIS VERY POST, all of my blog’s content vanished. Like, it just disappeared. Thankfully, I have a subscription to a service called VaultPress, which backs up my entire site every night. MONEY WELL SPENT! 

Plugins I Love

Anti-spam (If you’ve got comments enabled, you really need something to block out the spammers.)

CoSchedule {affiliate link} (My review of CoSchedule is here. This will help you plan out and schedule your social media content as you grow.)

Facebook Like Box (Add a “Like Box” for your sponsor in your post.)

[wpdevart_like_box profile_id=”mamanloupsden” connections=”show” width=”300″ height=”175″ header=”small” cover_photo=”show” locale=”en_US”]

Revive Old Post {affiliate link} (Automatically re-post your blog post to your social media feeds. I find this saves me time scheduling content and also brings in traffic.)

Share a Draft (Allows you to share exactly what your blog post will look like with a client or other interested party before publishing.)

Simple Follow Me Social Buttons Widget (For my “Follow Me” buttons on the top right.)

SumoMe (Makes the cool “like me” bar at the top of my page and my share buttons.)

Ultimate No Follow (As discussed above.)

Yoast (Search Engine Optimization tool, as discussed above.)

What do you wish you’d done differently when you started your blog?

5 responses to “10 Things I Wish I’d Done When I Started My Blog”

  1. Stefanie S.

    This is super helpful! Thanks!

    1. Lindsay

      Considering you’re the reason I wrote this, I hope so!!! Good luck, Monarch Mommy!

  2. I’ve got a tip for watermarking images. When I had my site Retro Modern Melissa, I made an image with a transparent background of my logo. You can do that in PicMonkey when you design an image. Then I just load it up as an overlay in PicMonkey and it’s saved in Canva. Then just resize as needed. Easy peasy. I made mine on the smaller side so it wouldn’t get distorted when resizing. I did all the design and stuff on my blog, but I kept things really simple and used PicMonkey a lot. 🙂 I wish I’d started on self hosted WordPress as well! I LOVE how versatile it is.

  3. Oh, so many great suggestions! I wish I’d started with WordPress as well. I would also add that it’s worth the investment to get a logo and blog design that look professional and unique. After my last redesign, I noticed a huge increase in businesses contacting me and reading my blog. Unfortunately, blogs do get judged by their “covers.”

  4. This was super helpful! I’m planning on taking my next couple of weeks of vacation to revamp my blog. This is going to be my guide! Just wondering, how do I find a bloggers Facebook group to join? Thanks!

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Welcome to my Wolf Pack!

My name is Lindsay and I am a 40-year-old mama of four trying to live an eco-friendly, budget-friendly life! I am a substitute teacher and Child Passenger Safety technician in Calgary, Alberta. Join me on my adventures!

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