In the late summer of 2017 I decided I would start writing a book.
Since then, that project has been an on-again/off-again project, but in the process, I read that all authors should first start with a blog (evidently writing books is more about marketing than it is the actual writing).
Taking the newly acquired advice I had received, I decided to start a blog – Money Life And The Whole Ball of Wax.
The title was a mouthful, and to make matters worse that was also my domain name. However, luckily I somewhat of a quick learner and by the end of September 2017, I had already re-branded to what you're currently reading – Money Life Wax.
That being said, 30 months into my blogging journey/business I can tell you my crappy domain name wasn't the only mistake I made.
In fact, it was just the first of many… which leads me to this epic article today. “Josh, if you could start again or you could give advice to a new blogger, what would you say?”
My answer: Read this entire article.
Keep reading so you can learn how to:
- Avoid the blogging pitfalls I made
- Learn what you SHOULD and SHOULDN'T focus on
- Read about how I got burned by a VA, and
- How to make $500-$1,000 per month with your blog in a matter of months (Not years).
7 Blogging Pitfalls to Avoid
After blogging for 30 months, here are the biggest pitfalls I made early on with Money Life Wax. For each, I included what you SHOULD do instead.
If you're new to blogging, get my Keys to Blogging checklist here:
1. Writing for your avatar.
I am not talking about Zoe Saldana, even though whenever I write “Avatar” I imagine blue people running around. So naturally, when I started MLW I had no clue what an avatar even was.
That being said, in blogging your avatar is the person you picture (Real or Pretend) in your head when writing your content. According to Pro Blogger, your avatar is vital to identify so you can:
- Making blogging relevant and personal
- Informing your writing
- Connecting with readers
So whatever you do, nail down your reader avatar, and do it ASAP.
Simply take out a piece of paper and start jotting down the demographics of your ideal reader. Include things like:
- Age range
- Income level
- Education level
- Potential views
Your avatar should guide your content, not the other way around. This was a huge pitfall I made early and often when I first started my blog.
For example, I would write an article about budgeting, another about frugality, then an article about weddings. While they all were loosely related (money) they were not designed for a specific avatar.
Similar to avoiding spraying your money, don't spray your content to reach multiple avatars, do your best to be specific and target YOUR AVATAR.
Then you can write high-quality content targeted towards your newly created avatar!
2. Your voice mixed into quality content
If I had to go back and do it all again, I would use a content calendar, I would create strategies behind my content, and I would make sure all posts were at least 1200+ words with evenly distributed headlines (H2) throughout.
I wouldn't spend hours formatting my posts, I would instead make sure I wrote at least 8 high-quality posts per month, with at least one that is over 2,000 words.
For content, here is what I would do differently:
First, I would start by first getting a content calendar and planning out content for the next 8-12 weeks. Here is what I use:
Next, it's important to just write. I personally like using Google Docs because they transfer over well with H2 headings and I am less distracted and caught up with formatting!
When I write, I usually do this:
- Take my idea and write it down on a Google Doc
- Write about the idea
- Plan out H2 headings
- Do some research
- Write more & edit
- Go back and analyze the heading with Coschedules tool
- Import to Wordpress
- Format, add photos, re-read, plan post for auto-schedule
While this flow is what personally helps me, everyone is different. However, the goal is to avoid bouncing around doing a million other things. The average blog post takes a few hours, so my goal is to avoid wasting time on social media, ESPN, and my cell phone!
What about SEO content?
With regards to writing for SEO, going back I would make sure I:
- had a target keyword in mind
- shortened my meta tags
- didn't use the same focus keywords all the time (I used student loans almost every time)
- correct alt image tags
SEO is fickle. If you write for SEO your content is often dry (IMO) and is almost always some sort of list. It's hard to gain “Loyal” readers if you constantly roll out articles like “9 Personal Finance Books to Read” or “8 Budgeting Tips.”
They are both necessary, but the pizza delivery tip is written specifically for people in need of that information. The first article about our $300,000 student loan issue is written for our readers/avatar!
That being said, to rank on Google (forget the other search engines) you will need to have some guide or step by step articles, so mix them in. However, don't go heavy SEO focus out the jump.
The reason being, SEO takes time (like a year) and it will eventually come as you build links, market your blog and as your domain name matures. Instead of writing only for SEO, instead, write for your avatar and be yourself!
SEO is more about marketing than writing PERFECT content!
(I personally write my best posts when they come from me and I don't write about the 18 steps to saving money, I just write)
3. More Link Building & Marketing
Perhaps the biggest blogging pitfall or blogging mistake I have made is that I focused on almost all of my time on content and making sure 100 friends on Facebook saw my post.
While I needed quality content and a social media presence, I was confusing myself as to what blog marketing truly was.
The more I read about blogging, all the top dogs were saying spend 80% marketing, 20% on content. I quickly realize they were right.
Here I was spending two hours reformatting a blog post to promote on my social media feeds for hopefully 50 people to read instead of marketing my best posts.
It's easy to think formatting and editing is work when in reality the true work is in link building and marketing!
So if I started a new blog today, here is what I would do:
- Write 10 high-quality amazing posts
- Join an insiders blogging group like the Money Mix Insiders
- Spend 30 minutes every other today on HARO
- Follow journalists on Twitter and like their stuff so they know who you are! Plant little seeds that will grow later!
The Money Mix Insiders is a blogging group that has been a huge reason why my domain authority has gone from 26 to 48 in the last 5 months. Sure, I had a solid social media presence and a very solid blog with over 200 articles.
What I didn't have was the link-building and marketing strategies. Luckily, I had created some income with my blogging skills through digital marketing (more on that later) and I took the leap of faith to join TMM Insiders and it has been 100% worth it.
Not to mention I have now made more income with sponsored content through the group (more on that later too). If you have been blogging for a year or more, seriously consider the group!
4. Don't kill yourself with social media!
Truth be told, for a full-time employee with a marketing company AND a blog, to do things the correct way it can be a lot! That being said, while challenging at times it's not impossible.
One of the biggest blogging mistakes I have made is spending WAY too much time on social media and telling myself I am growing my blog.
Social media is a rabbit hole. It's a necessary evil, but like my friend Kelan said in this interview about his $250,000 blogging business – it's a highlight reel.
For bloggers, we can sometimes think we need to be an expert on every social media channel:
- Others: LinkedIn, Snapchat, TikTok, YouTube
However, what I would do is focus on just one social media channel!
You can have all of them for your blog (and I do) but I spend most of my time marketing my content in other ways now. Each social media platform has different goals for their platform, so thinking you can master all of them and blog is insanity.
If you're looking for traffic – use Pinterest.
If you want engagement and people to hear about your blog – use Facebook, but plan to pay in some way.
If you want to learn from others – get on Twitter.
If you want to me mainstream – go all in on Instagram.
If you notice, I am very active on Facebook, not so much on Instagram. For Twitter I check 1-2x per day. Pinterest, well that is just something I can't focus on right now and give it the time it requires (yet)!
5. Focus on Email and use ConvertKit
There is money in your email list.
I/you hear that statement all the time. And it's 100% true. However, before you can ever monotize your email list, you first need to create enticing offers, solid guides, email sequences and use the right freaking email platform!
For the longest time I stumbled through Mailchimp with little success because it was…FREE. However, it delayed so much blog growth because I was cheap instead of viewing my blog as a business.
In 2019 I finally made the switch to ConvertKit and I had to spend time basically redoing everything. Luckily, at the start of 2020 ConvertKit rolled out a free version!
Thank god! Seriously, it's been a game-changer using ConvertKit and a huge focus for MLW in 2020 is to nail down this whole email thing!
6. Use Virtual Assistants to Delegate.
I will make this quick, sweet and to the point.
Every dollar you make blogging (or using your blogging skills on the side like I do) should go back into your blog.
These dollars can be used for marketing, ads, tools AND virtual assistants. It's important to keep in mind, blogging mistake #1 is trying to do too much. Learning to delegate is key to early blogging success.
My trust in delegating hasn't been my biggest pitfall, but it is something I can get better at. Currently I have someone who handles social media and someone who helps with content from time to time.
It's a win-win and I use the Eisenhower chart to help me decide what to do and what to delegate. Hence, why I sub out my social media. That being said do your research, because you can get burned.
Be wise with you who you work with…
This is not to scare you, because it's my fault, it's to help you.
In July of 2019 paid a Pinterest VA who was referred to me that was supposed to be amazing. Truth be told she sucked.
My impressions went down, my clicks went down and her pin designs were awful. The red flag should have been the fact she cut her initial price 66% to get my business.
The first three months she did clean up some things, but I had already done most of the grunt work in hindsight. She told me it was all strategy. Because I was paying her for “Her Services” and didn't really pay attention to Pinterest, I trusted her (I am easily trusting).
After three months she said thing were looking great and if I signed on for three more months (at my super low rate of $489) I would see amazing results.
She was gone. I never heard from her again and her website, Facebook, and contact information had all disappeared. Like a ghost.
The Scientrest went out of business.
I disputed her charges with my bank and got my money back luckily, but had I done my research, I would have realized she had formed her LLC in June of 2019.
It was a huge blogging pitfall I made to not follow up with her and to think she had it all handled. The verdict is simple – if you hire people, it's YOUR JOB to make sure they do things right.
7. Do reserach on blogging
I am really impatient, which can be good when it comes to starting things like my first blog.
My belief too is that you can know everything and never do anything. That being said, I could have saved time and money before starting my blog had I just done some research.
If I could do it again I would:
- Find one blogger and follow their stuff, join their groups and learn from them (I actually did do this with a group that is now gone and it's why I am where I am at now, waiting 4 months was my pitfall).
- Take an SEO course like Stupid Simple SEO if you're serious about blogging so you can learn early.
- Join mastermind groups like TMM and learn from bloggers who have already created blogging success
Most of this might go without saying, but content requires you to do research, reading and watching. But most of your “Research” should be for becoming a better blogger!
And of course, all of this is for on reason: To grow a profitable blog.
Which is why if you follow these tips, you can make money faster with your blog, here is how I would do it (if I could again).
Make money faster with your blog.
Sponsored content, display ads, digital marketing clients, affiliate marketing, courses, and products are just a few ways to make money with blogging.
However, there are some that make sense and some that don't depending on what stage of blogging you're at! I aim to share my perspective on making money with your blog and what you should and shouldn't focus on!
Display Ads for new bloggers.
On Twitter one time, a new blogger message me and asked me “How can I get ads fro my blog?”
I asked him how many views per month he was getting, his answer was 700.
I told him to not even think about ads until he is up around 15,000 page views per month and here is why I said that:
Display ads don't bring in much money early on and can do more harm than good.
The number one focus for all new bloggers should be readership and engagement, not making $5 off ads per month. There are other ways to make money blogging and one awesome affiliate post could bring in more revenue than some display ads if you don't have the views.
So to avoid this common blogging pitfall here it is: Don't worry about ads until you have 15,000 views!
You will only make around $100 give or take at 15,000 page views. There are better ways to make money with your blog that don't ruin reader experience!
Once you hit 15,000 page views, I would apply to Monumetric. While companies like Adthrive are solid, they require more page views. On the other hand – Adsense should be avoided! They pay outs are low and customzing is challening.
Display ads with Monumetric pay well, but they also work with you in placing the ads and are very responsive.
I think affiliate marketing is a great way to make money with your blog, but that doesn't mean it is easy.
Most bloggers need lots of traffic or high-quality partnerships to really gain traction with affiliate marketing. That being said, it's never to early to start using affiliate links with your blog (<—I just linked to a blogging plugin affiliate).
Here are some quick tips for affiliate marketing for new bloggers:
- Don't jam your affiliates in every post like I used to. A post about meal prepping doesn't need an affiliate link for student loan refinancing.
- Make sure you like the company
- Write a review and throw your links in there
- Test and find out
- Be sure to stay legal, use a hook or code like this for every post:
Lastly, make sure you're just always adding value! Think of your avatar (not to be redundant).
Use Digital Marketing as a Side Hustle
Ok you want to make money with your blog, right?
Who said it has to be with your actual blog? Why can't you just use your blogging skills?
That is exactly what I did when I realized I didn't want to stunt the growth of my blog with quick, short term money. So I started a digital marketing company and simply sold my blogging services to small business owners.
The result? I made lot's of money to reinvest into my blog and pay down my student loan debt! My blogging skills only got better and I was able to learn how to delegate even better.
Digital marketing is basically:
- SEO help (Content, alt tags, geo tag images, meta tags)
- Social Media (Facebook and Instagram)
- Email Copy (writing emails)
- Web Design
- Any other BS they need
For example, someone needed a landing page in a hurry. I took some code I had, copied it, charged them $100 and made a landing page for them in their WordPress. That $100 went to Facebook ads.
As of 2020, Money Life Wax is averaging $400 per month in sponsored content… and we are just getting started!
I didn't land my first piece of sponsored content until July 2019. Now, that being said MLW wasn't the best year one and I really didn't start hitting mt stride until the spring of 2019.
That being said, when it comes to sponsored content, just follow one simple rule:
Does this content/company fall in line with my readers?
Your litmus test should always be your readers. Additionally, landing sponsored content doesn't mean sitting on your butt and waiting for it. You can start by simply making a Google Sheet and listing some companies you like.
Then reach out and inquire about sponsored content. Even if you don't land a paid writing opportunity, you can always write a review and use it to practice/drive traffic to your blog.
Don't worry if you're like me. You can always go back and fix your mistakes if you're already in your blogging journey. But if you're new or considering starting a blog – take this stuff to heart.
Since I started blogging in 2017, I have learned an exponential amount of vital blogging knowledge. That being said, the coolest thing about blogging as a business is you OWN it!
I have spent countless late nights formatting my web design, fixing over 100 articles where I wrote “Payoff Student Loans” instead of the grammatically correct “Pay Off Student Loans,” and wasting my time going down endless rabbit holes.
But in the end, the biggest take away from some of my blogging pitfalls/mistakes/goofs – whatever you want to call them – is that I learned.
Learning is key!
When you take action you will fail, but you will also always learn.
So I hope this article helps you avoid some of the pitfalls I made early on so you can grow your blog quicker than I did! If you have a question feel free to reach out here and share your blog in the comments below!!!
Josh writes about ways to make money, pay off debt, and improve yourself. After paying off $300,000 in student loans with his wife in less than five years, Josh started Money Life Wax and has been featured on Forbes, Business Insider, Huffington Post, and more! In addition to being a life-long entrepreneur, Josh and his wife enjoy spending time with their chocolate lab named Morgan, working out, being outside, traveling, and helping others with their finances! I got serious with money when I used Personal Capital to track my finances.