A Year of Blogging on WordPress: What I Learned

laptop work desk freelance

By now, most of you may have heard pieces of the story before. But for those who’ve stumbled across this blog for the first time, here goes.

In late 2014, I became disappointed in my fear as a woman. I feared to go out and explore, and meet new people, see new places, and take risks, like many of my friends from around the world had done. My male friends.

At first, I reminded myself that they were men, and much less of an easy target than I would be as a woman. But that didn’t console me for long enough. After lamenting this weakness with a friend, I told her, “In 2015, I’m going to take risks – calculated risks, but risks all the same. You hold me accountable to that.”

The following March, I became really fed up with my corporate job in payroll. There were some strange transactions afoot with the accounts my team worked on, the suspicious firing of an employee in America, and then a sudden pressure on my small team to pick up the slack for responsibilities we didn’t even have proper access to carry out.

So, one by one, team members started leaving. And at the first opportunity I got, I jumped ship as well. On the day I quit my job in payroll, I was one of three employees to walk away from the company for good. We had all had enough.

A New Life

At the time, I had a time-sensitive opportunity to capitalise on, and just couldn’t pass it up for anything. I could freelance. I could travel. And more importantly, I never had to work for that company again. Hopefully.

But before I quit, I decided to tie up some unfortunate loose ends. I gave up the pets I had rescued, and re-homed them to family and friends. I gave up my apartment. I sold half my possessions, gave away most of the rest, and packed what I could into three suitcases and a laptop bag. The rest never made it further than the dumpster.

suitcases laptop travel

But more importantly, I also started this blog. And to ensure I wouldn’t forget it, WordPress woke me this morning with the incredible reminder that it was my blog’s first anniversary.

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It has truly been an incredible year of personal and professional growth, and I would love to share some of the things I learned – specifically in blogging – with my readers. So check out the following five things I learned after running this and several other blogs on WordPress in the past year.

Build from the WordPress Community Outward

The amazing thing about using WordPress as a platform is that it already provides you with a community of wordsmiths and readers. But there were times when I was charmed by social media marketing, and forgot to continue building and growing my reader-base within the WordPress community.

During those few months, I did pay for my stupidity and negligence. Now, I’m right back to where I started. I follow thousands of blogs, and scroll through my feed each day to see what everyone else is up to. Good karma does work its way around on WordPress. Give and you shall receive.

To this end, you should make an effort to reply to the comments on your blogs, or even just like them. Replying creates a discussion, as opposed to just one-sided commentary. In addition to this, the more comments on your blog, the more it boosts your SEO ranking with Google.

Purchase your Domain

A lot of blogs on WordPress still use ‘.wordpress’ domains. This is fine if you’re still new to blogging and just looking to experiment and explore. However, if you truly want a blog that looks and sounds professional, it’s about time you bought your own domain. I’m not sure how much it costs elsewhere, but mine cost me $18 each (annually) through WordPress.

If you have a common name, or your blog’s name isn’t particularly unique, this is even more important. Why? Because by the time you finally decide to buy the domain, it is likely already gone.

Readers are also more likely to take you and your blog seriously, if you have a professional domain. All the websites I run, including the one I created for College Mate, all use professional domains which work to their credit.

Paid Advertising Works

Earlier this year, I began to experiment with paid promotions on Facebook and for my other social media pages. Facebook paid promotions brought a good 90 percent of my readership base of the blog for the first four or so months of this year, before WordPress Reader took over again. It also exposed me to an audience I might not have otherwise reached.

Through paid promotions, I was able to grow my Facebook page from 0 likes in January 2015 to more than 1500 likes. I also did the same for my client Godigio, and grew their base from maybe 10 likes to more than 600 in just 5 months of running paid promos. Now, I don’t need to promote posts on Facebook to get support from followers, because my base is strong enough.

So what’s my budget? Even $50 per month can get you where you want to be – and I actually split that $50 between two blogs.

If you’re truly passionate about your work, then you shouldn’t hesitate to invest in it.

Stay in your Lane

Usually said as an insult, staying in your lane is actually pretty good advice for bloggers. If I follow a blog, it’s usually for a specific reason, and when the blog starts posting content all over the place, then I no longer have a specific reason to go there. I’ll just drop by every once in a while, until I forget.

Alexis Chateau started off as just a travel blog, but then grew into much more than that. Over the past year, I learned that there are much tougher issues than getting people to travel or go hiking, and I have expanded into tackling those as well. Even so, my overall message in my posts have been the same from July 18 2015 to July 18 2016:

Get out there. Explore. Take control of your own life.

For other topics that have grabbed my interest, I created other blogs. For instance, I hold a pretty good place in the online college community with College Mate. It focuses entirely on the college experience and helps students (and lifelong learners) to make the best of their education – in and out of the classroom.

Know your Audience

But my venturing into social issues did not occur by chance. While I flirted with it on occasion here and there, and even completed an animal rights internship on another WordPress site, it was my audience’s eager reception of my social commentary posts that transformed my blog from just any old travel blog, to one that discussed the bigger issues.

My first post on the Black Lives Matter movement brought in 90 percent of my website traffic in the month it was posted, in spite of my unpopular opinion where it was concerned.

That was, however, until my explanation of what ‘good hair’ means within the Black community, became an editor’s pick on WordPress. It is still my most popular post to date. It was all uphill from there – in a good way.

I hope this advice helps many readers who have reached out to me in the comments and via email to ask about my blogs, and how I’ve managed to build not just an audience, but a healthy level of engagement with my readers.

I look forward to another year… another decade… another however long with you guys, and hope your blogs and other pet projects continue to grow as well!

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132 thoughts on “A Year of Blogging on WordPress: What I Learned

  1. I really enjoyed this post and learned a lot from it. Thank you. I only started my blog a couple weeks ago and find that I have trouble ‘staying in my lane’. Observations about commuting quickly became twisted with posts on career, kids and life. Maybe that’s why there are so many generic ‘life’ blogs out there. Thanks again.

    1. Indeed. It’s hard to market blogs that people use as just journals that they’re willing to share with others.

      But if you turn your posts into informative pieces of advice, rather than just venting about something, then that usually works to your advantage.

      For instance, even my travel posts are hardly ever about just going somewhere.

      I’m glad you found this helpful!

  2. Thank you for this, as I am new to blogging I become intimidated with the World Wide Web and all that I thought I knew. I probably will be contacting to seek help if you do not mind. I enjoy reading your blog. Thank you again.

    1. No problem. I’ve been blogging for 13 years, but definitely new to WordPress. Feel free to drop any questions in the comments. I’ll try to help out as best as I can. 😄

  3. Woo hoo! Drive in many lanes – it’s good for readers to see the many facets of Alexis! And your writing is phenomenal… people will pay attention. I appreciate the responses to comments and know that I usually stop following blogs where the author ignores their readers.

    I’ve had my blog for almost 8 years now. Started it on blogger as a way to get things off my chest when my father was dying, anonymously, and talked about everything and met so many people, met some in person who I’m still in contact with to this day. Oh yeah and my husband came into my life as a reader 5 years ago:-) I moved to WordPress 3 or 4 years ago and like it much better. I tried to monetize it once on Google but I guess I curse too much for them haha..

    Anyhow, here’s to your second year and may the evolution continue!

    1. I didn’t know Google penalises people for cursing! Hahaha. And wow, your husband was once a fan! How amazing is that!

      Yes, I do believe it’s important to respond to readers. I can’t understand why an artist or writer would not. I’m always so thrilled to see comments, and to know what’s going on with others.

      And thank you! I’m excited to keep blogging. I started years ago as well, as a teenager. I believe I had my first blog at maybe 13 (which was 13 years ago) on MySpace. Then I also tried blogger, msn space, and freewebs, before finally moving to WordPress. This is the best platform of all of them, I must say.

      Thanks again! I look forward to being here as long as you!

  4. Happy Anniversary, Alexis! Beautifully written – you had me at “quit my job.” 🙂 (I’m new to wp and just left federal contracting).

    You are very generous with blogging advice. I’ll keep reading! I’m particularly interested to learn more anout tagging.

    1. Thank you! Doesn’t it feel amazing to leave that behind? I do hope you find greener pastures awaiting you.

      As far as tagging, try not to go over 15 tags per article. WordPress does penalise you for overtagging by just not showing you in the feed of the tags you chose.

      1. Ha – I thought I was overdoing it at 5! Good to know, thanks!

        And yes, I’m now on the side of the fence where the grass is greener 😀 Hallelujah!

    1. Thank you Verena! I’m glad that they do, and I hope you act on that inspiration to get out there, explore, and create the life you always dreamed of having. All the best! – come by again. 🙂

  5. Congrats on your one year anniversary Alexis. For someone who isn’t interested in getting a domain, what is your advice to grow traffic to my site. I participate in Daily Prompts and the Community Pool, as well as tag my posts. I am grateful to have 60+ followers and I want to make sure I engage with them while continuing to grow.

    1. Hi Catherine! I would suggest (1) Promoting your posts on social media (2) Following other blogs in your niche and liking and commenting on their posts (3) Posting regularly, like at least once per week (4) Don’t use more than 15 tags per post at any one time. WordPress actually penalises you for overtagging.

      I also do manage blogs for a living, but if you’re not interested in a domain, I’m guessing you’re not into hiring someone either. Those tips should work though. Feel free to come back for more!

      And thank you! I’m pretty excited about hitting my year mark.

      1. Thank you Alexis for the advice. I don’t have a specific topic of focus for my blog, I consider it a personal blog, where I talk about my life and current events mostly. With my recent uptick in followers I want to post about topics that interest me, it’s just tough to get a post started. Thanks again.

      2. It’s hard to market a blog that doesn’t have a niche, but maybe in time you’ll find your main strong point and focus on that. Once you do, it’s easier to write.

        All the best, and you’re welcome!

  6. Hi Alex! Thank you for this great post of yours. I already buy my own domain name and migrated my wordpress.com to wordpress.org but I am not still using the one I bought because I am still having a hard time choosing the theme and designing the web. I asked somebody to help me on this. Anyway, when my wordpress.org is working and add if I a post will it automatically go to my wordpress.com site? If I make a post on either of the two site will they automatically be present on both site? Thank you
    Aui

    1. Thanks for asking, but I haven’t tried that big move yet. I’m still considering the pros and cons of migrating to dot org. However, since your stuff is migrated, I would think it should go to dot org. I would suggest doing a test post to find out.

      1. Thanks I will try. Although I still at a lost for choosing themes and designing my webpage base on my purpose for the site. Anyway I will keep following yours. Thanks 🙂

      2. Experiment with the themes until you find one you really like and then stick to it. I tried about 4 or 5 before I settled on this one.

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