What did a new blogger learn in 12 months?

teamoyeniyiby Guest Author Team Oyeniyi

October 2010: I had never blogged at all.  I knew nothing about the platforms available or that anyone might actually read anything I wrote!  My daughter introduced me to blogging as a possible way of dealing with a particularly stressful time in my life.  Love versus Goliath: The Book is a good place to start if you wonder about where the stress was coming from. It seemed as reasonable a suggestion as anything else and it was free, something that was very attractive at the time.  The other personal benefit was I could write about how I was feeling without boring my friends and family to death.

I started on an Australian blogging platform which drove me insane with software bugs.  Half the time, and I DO mean half the time, users couldn’t even log in.  I have not once experienced such an issue with WordPress.  The first lesson I learnt was look for a reliable platform with responsive support personnel.

Frustrated with my local provider, I Googled for something better and found Blogger.  My daughter was adamant, “Please just try WordPress” she said.  So on a mother and daughter night she convinced me to import my work to date to WordPress.  I admit I have an advantage over many bloggers as I am an information technology professional: I do know the odd thing or two about software applications so manage to find my way around most of the technical aspects reasonably well.

The next thing I learnt was to use the excellent WordPress forums.  There I found help, advice and people like TimeThief who had seemingly endless patience when it came to sharing their skills and knowledge.  I reasoned that anything I wanted to do had been done before and rather than reinvent the wheel, I’d ask those with experience in this strange new world.

At first I used a standard default theme but one thing drove me nuts: the fonts of the headings and body text were not the same.  Call me pedantic if you will, but I like consistency in my fonts! I also prefer sans serif fonts so I was spending time I really didn’t want to spend in the HTML edit window adding font specifications.  Some of my older posts still contain those font codes and one day I may go back and remove them.  I know nothing about CSS and wasn’t about to learn. I searched the  available free themes and nothing really was exactly what I wanted (there were not as many back then).  I caved in and purchased the premium theme I still use.  By this stage my blog had developed into more than just a way of expressing my anger and frustration so I set about learning ways I could make it more appealing and more meaningful.  Besides, I’d paid $68 , I wanted a return on my investment!

Now I had something I’d parted with cold hard cash for, I experimented with everything.  The slider, page templates without the side bar, creating a Contact Us page using the shortcode.  Having found that, I then experimented with the Archive Page template of the theme and the shortcode.  In short, I played with the functionality and learnt as I went.

The more tag was something I struggled with.  Not how to use it, but when to use it!  Opinion in the blogging community seems to be divided.  Some love it because it reduces scrolling, others dislike having to click into an article to read the rest of the article.  At first I left new articles on the Home Page in their full glory, adding the more tag to previous posts.   Now I use it on most articles unless they are short and sweet.  I figure I can’t please all of the people all the time!

Another debatable feature is the slider.  I know TimeThief doesn’t particularly like sliders.  I’ve taken my off at times, added it back on, changed the feature posts around.  The jury is still out and I’m still running the slider for better or for worse.

I set about learning about Custom Menus.  Now I have Pages, Categories, sub-menus and links to pages external to my blog on the menus. I read both WordPress support documents and One Cool Site Blogging Tips, absorbing like a sponge.

Google Page Rank baffled me for days!  Everyone was talking about this miraculous measure of “something” (I had no idea what) and I couldn’t for the life of me find out how I could find out if I had one, let alone what it was if I did have one! I asked in the forums but clearly I didn’t ask the question the right way because despite answers from wonderfully patient people, I still didn’t “get it”. Of course, what I learnt was I should have Googled it much sooner!  Suddenly the light dawned and I felt decidedly stupid.  Not only that, my rank was 0/10.  Being a glass half-full type of person, I decided this was much better than “This page is not ranked by Google” – at least Google knew I was alive with a rank of 0/10.

I tried various widgets and discarded many.  I had a BlogRoll widget for a while, but it was getting WAY too long, so I set up a “Sites I Visit” page.  The same with a widget displaying awards from other bloggers:  that also morphed into an Awards page.

Next was SEO. In plain English, Search Engine Optimisation or how to help Google and other search engines find your work.   What a minefield!  I read TimeThief’s articles on the topic, I read other’s opinions, I read several threads on the Forums.  I still probably break most of the rules but at least I know I’m breaking the rules.   Out of that learning exercise came the idea of my own domain.  So http://teamoyeniyi.com was born, dropping the “wordpress” from the URL.  This was a HUGE learning curve as I think I did everything wrong as far as the redirection was concerned.  I discovered later had I just WAITED a few hours, Google and Bing and Yahoo would have automatically changed everything over.  I got myself in knots with two Google Webmaster accounts and all sorts of complications I won’t go into!  My advice: get your own domain but let the system do what the system does and wait for the redirections to happen automatically and everything will be cool!

I read Google likes domains that are not going to expire within 12 months.  Too many domains are set up as short term domains for spamming and other nefarious purposes.  So I renewed my domain name registration out into the future.

During a particular period of danger to my husband, I had hidden (made private) a number of posts that could have identified his location.  Once he and the children were on the plane home, I wanted to make those visible again, but I wanted a table to list the articles and the original dates of publication.  TimeThief’s articles to the rescue again, with How to make HTML tables for your WordPress blog. I learnt how to make HTML tables.

When my family arrived home, I added Users and an Author widget so all could contribute to the site.  I still do the bulk of the writing, but my family do chime in from time to time!

To summarise, in 12 months I came from a place of knowing absolutely nothing about blogging or blogging software to a place where I have followers who have supported us through good times and bad, a Google Page Rank greater than 0/10 and daily page views are 500+.  I’ve learnt not only about WordPress, SEO and blogging software generally.  I’ve learnt that people care.  That was probably the best lesson of them all!

The one thing I haven’t figured out yet is statistics!  Maybe I will sometime during the next twelve months.  To all new bloggers, keep at it.  Ask questions.  Read everything you can.  Learn a bit at a time, don’t try to learn everything at once.  It all comes together and there are great people out there willing to help and share their knowledge.

24 thoughts on “What did a new blogger learn in 12 months?

  1. My brain hurts from reading all your comments and worse, I realise how much more there is still to learn. Glad someone’s got a grip on it. Onwards and upwards! (what are the benfits of using HTML anyone?)

    1. Hello there,
      There isn’t an “anyone” here. This is a blog and I’m the only one who has acces to it. lol :D
      Also I can’t answer your question until you state learly what you mean by it.
      Using HTML where? Using HTML for what purpose?

  2. In the above article I said I HOPED to get to grips with stats in the next 12 months! At the time I wrote this post, I was having 500+ page views a day and I did for about 11 days! Now it is back to around 160 a day! I just wanted to come back and update the state of the nation.

    Understanding stats continues to elude me! :lol:

  3. @Team Oyeniyi
    I wanted to comment earlier but a huge wind storm took out our power for 2 days and I couldn’t. I apologize for the delay. Thanks so much for your guest post. I have enjoyed watching you and your blog evolve.

    1. Seems a few up your way have been experiencing storms of late! Glad to see you back and thanks for the compliment! :)

      Hopefully the outage hasn’t disrupted preparations too much!

      1. We are equipped to deal with power outages which are not all that rare where I live in December, January and February. However, the timing of this one in November was a supreme disruption. SIGH … many events had to canceled and that meant all our preparations were time wasted. :( Now we are playing catch-up.

  4. This was an excellent read! I learned a lot & I am only a few months with wordpress.com & I am still learning. I had a blog before on blogspot & found it much easier to use. But because my old blog ‘s RSS didn’t worked anymore , I made the switch but I am still not convinced. I still have to learn a lot though. I love this blog a lot because I learn a lot everytime I come here! thanks! ;)

  5. Great article. You’ve done really well with your blog. Mine’s a bit different from the average in that I don’t run it with any SEO stuff at all, and in fact it’s not even open to search engines. But I’ve had the blog (the main one, I’ve actually got several) for just over two years and my stats are on the increase daily. I put that down, mostly, to my personal approach to most people who comment in my blog and the fact that I seek out a lot of new blogs on a fairly regular basis.

    I also ‘help out’ on the forums and I have some free guides on how to do stuff on WordPress in my blog. The first has helped a few people find my blog, the second has helped keep them reading it!

    I also fly against the wind by not sticking to one topic… I find that if I vary topics then it attracts people with many different types of interest.

    My blog is still evolving. It’s a journey really.

    1. Yes, Val, I agree totally it is a journey. Mine is a different sort of journey, but still a journey.

      I hope you continue to enjoy your journey and flying against the wind – we need all sorts of different work to read!

  6. lst decide which photos will be static and which photos will be just in the slideshow in the same blog post.

    1. The upload your photos in the MEDIA LIBRARY.
    2. With each photo in media library, type in some info. at least in the title.
    3. Highlight and copy the URL of the photo.

    4. Then go to your blog post in Edit mode. Insert by using the insert photo’s URL by choosing insert photo button and click on URL. Fill in caption info. and Save.

    5. Then go back to Media Library and do the same for 2nd static photo.

    66. Make sure you SAVE your draft blog post.

    7. For slideshow insertion, position your mouse cursor where you want it and upload several photos in one sweep. You then can type in caption information for each photo. The photos require “NONE” for alignment. Save whole string of photos.

    And choose Insert SLIDESHOW and save your blog post. Then you can preview for results.

    I have a

    1. I have to try that! There have been several times I’ve wanted static photos at the top of a post, then a slideshow excluding the static photos.

      Do you find this works in all browsers, or just a particular one? I have learnt something work in Chrome, for instance, but not in IE or visa versa.

      Thanks for the tip!

  7. Thank you Jean for sharing your experiences! Now, I could use the static photo plus slideshow tip if you can share it! I’m sure others would be keen to know too!

    You have certainly learned a lot in your time too. Great fun, isn’t it!

  8. Oyeniyi, great to share your experiences very frankly but positively!
    Despite nurturing, feedng and caring for 3 different blogs, I still haven’t learned CSS. But no matter, it’s not critical for what I managed to create in the end. At this time, each blog uses a different WordPress theme template. And each have a customized header for unique branding.

    The first month in Dec. 2009 was a major learning curve for me but if anyone has designed complex databases in the past, then learning WordPress.com is ….actually simply. The more complicated stuff is the visual presentation and using all its features plus embedding neat-o widgets. I was working myself against a self-imposed deadline to learn as much as I could about WordPress.com, because I wanted to blog the once-in-a-lifetime experience of living in a city with the 2010 Winter Olympics, which happened in Feb. 2010.

    We live near several Winter Olympics sites..so really it’s hard NOT to blog about this. But it’s over and onto other adventures in my blogs. :)

    I am so grateful for timetheif, panos, and other support volunteers on wordpress.com forums.

    It took me awhile to figure out the easiest method to embed static photos plus a self-running slideshow in 1 blog post. But it is worth the effort if one has a good set of personal photos to illustrate the blog post’s content.

    I also appreciate panos’ wordpress tips on how to use gigya coding to embed YouTube videoclips in a widget.

    Also RSS category feed to have a roll of blog posts on a similar subject. Very handy.

    I have not moved to facebook for my blogs because frankly I don’t have time to respond to FB when I have a full time job outside of blogging!

    Oyeniyi, appreciated the advice about redirecting to new blog address..whenever I get there.

    More than I realized, blogging can release a person’s creativity and self in ways, I didn’t quite expect.

    NB.: One of my blogs is on wordpress.org which I don’t like as much as wordpress.com (it’s finicky) but it does have some corporate sponsorship so I’m just doing my duty to observe the law of wordpress. :)

  9. PS I just checked out your site ( should have done it before my reply).

    Now I’m REALLY jealous – lovely layout and design.
    I’ll catch up on the content later, but on first glance, I can understand the outline of your problems.

    My partner’s son emigrated to Australia so I have an inkling of what’s involved with Australian Immigration Bureaucracy.

  10. I found your experiences fascinating. I’m a REALLY new blogger – 3 months from zero, Knowing less than nothing but also starting for a similar reason. And I’m not in IT so the technical aspect is still mind blowing and frightening.

    On the other hand I also do what you did vis-a-vis the forums, and especially Timethief.

    Actually I feel embarrassed to impose on her time, so I keep it to the bare minimum, resisting the temptation to indulge myself in her wonderful advice and service.

    I don’t think I’m anywhere in Google rankings and until 2 weeks ago felt happy if views on my site got into double figures daily.I’m still struggling to understand what does Webmaster tools do and how can I use them to improve my site ranking. I did buy my own domain through WordPress but it was probably more for ego than practical benefit at this stage.

    2 weeks ago I shared a post on Reddit which in a few hours registered nearly 300 views, and over 100 the next day. You might imagine that I was really blown away. Then I shared 3 more posts in the last 3 days which gave me almost 600 views on each of the first 2 days and almost 400 so far today. The problem is that sets a standard that I will now be distraught about if I don’t maintain it.

    What I don’t understand is- why? and why now? I always share my posts with the usual sites
    ( Facebook.Twitter, Digg, Reddit and Stumbleupon) but almost all the hits come through Reddit. A few from Stumbleupon and Facebook, none from any of the others, and a few direct from search engines. Any ideas? I would appreciate some professional feedback!

    What is your experience in trying to develop an audience for your site and have you used these or other social networks?

    I must say my site has somewhat limited appeal dealing with a narrow framework of subjects. Mainly political – what I call commentary, and others call rants- to do mainly with the Middle East so I didn’t expect too much; after all it’s not cooking or travel!

    Anyway, glad to hear you’re doing so well, and good luck in the future.

    Andyboy

    1. Andy, the sharing is something I never understand either! Sometimes I share other blogger’s articles on StumbleUpon and the article I share scores hundreds of hits – recetnly I’ve shared about 15 which registered not one hit per StumbleUpon!

      I think I tried Reddit once and got 2 hits. You must have the magic touch with Reddit!

      Do not worry about being in a specific niche – let’s face it, so am I in a specific niche. Keep writing and the readers will come.

      I’ve recently jumped from say 180 – 200 views a day to between 500 and 600 a day after 12 months. I don’t know if the timeframe has anything to do with it or not, but gradually your readship expands.

      Good luck!

      1. I think one thing I learned from Reddit is that you must target a specific sub – Reddit related to your post. I didn’t do that in the beginning and nothing happened. And if you don’t find an applicable sub Reddit, i think you can always start your own, dealing with your niche subject.

        I think think that’s how it works but I am not an expert.

        The problem with Digg is that the groups are too limited – and Stumbleupon remains a total mystery!

  11. That’s an awesome story.
    Let me share mine in short:
    When I came to wordpress.com (from a WPMU hosted free blog), I was a splogger more than just a blogger. I didn’t know use of even simple HTML. I was nil in imagination. Thanks to WordPress.com Support doc, I realized how good is blogging. I learned how to use HTML. How to write (in poor english) by heart and brain. I learned how to use resources, from Lorelle, WPBTips and OneCoolSiteBloggingTips. I learned how to blog about math from Terry Tao’s blog. I learned about LaTeX, using themes and SEO.
    After few months (and few hundred readings at onecoolsitebloggingtips.com), I became a WordPress.com expert and estabilished myself as a part-time volunteer at WP.COM forums.

    1. Thank you Gaurav. I’m glad you learnt a lot in a short time too. I don’t volunteer, although I do answer a few questions from time to time. I think I still ask more questions than I answer!

      It is good to hear your imagination is no longer “nil”! :)

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