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“Affiliate marketing programs for beginners” refers to the post being for beginners, not the programs.

Once you start, you’re kind of just doin’ it like the rest of us. There are no networks that are better or worse for people just starting out at this. That said, there is a learning curve. But you’ll do great if you soak in all the juicy info in this post.

The Affiliate Marketing Programs for Beginners segment of Uninspired’s blogaversary (the last one!) will give you a list of affiliate networks and programs to join, everything you need in order to approach brands, and some tips for making the sale!

I’m doing this little mini-series because Uninspired has just turned a year old, and it’s been the most fun year with you guys. I’ve learned so much, and I want to share that knowledge with you so that YOU can become a blogger and make money while enjoying the things you love. So far, I’ve showed you how to create your site, design it to your taste, write your posts with SEO in mind, and then promote your posts using social media and link building. Now, we’re finally going to talk about affiliate marketing programs for beginners, or, how this all translates into money for you.

This last segment of the blogaversary series will make you FEEL like less of a beginner by showing you all the affiliate marketing programs for beginners to join, how to approach brands you love, how to create a media kit, and more!

Here’s the outline of the whole course, so you can find what you need when ya need it:

Creating Your Site

  • WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org
  • Web Hosting
  • Legal

Designing Your Site

  • Themes
  • Branding
  • Plugins and Widgets

Writing SEO-Friendly Blog Posts

  • What is SEO?
  • Anatomy of an SEO-Friendly Post
  • High Quality Photos

Promote Your Blog Post

  • Social Media
  • Pinterest (not social media!)
  • Link Building

Affiliate Marketing Programs for Beginners– YOU ARE HERE

  • What Affiliate Marketing Is & How It Works
  • Networks to Join
  • Media Kits
  • How to Approach A Brand

Don’t have time to read all five parts right now? No problem! Just download the FREE e-book so you have the whole thing in one convenient location to refer back to whenever you want! Enter your email below so I know where to send it:

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Uninspired’s Blogaversary Part V:

Affiliate Marketing Programs for Beginners

So first I guess I should start off by explaining what affiliate marketing is, and then we’ll get to the actual affiliate marketing programs for beginners thing.

Affiliate marketing is when you have a partnership with a company where you get a portion of the profit for sales you make for them. For example, I’m an affiliate for Smile Brilliant, an awesome teeth whitening company that I love to use (I drink a lotta coffee). They asked me to write a post about how awesome they are, and in exchange they’d give me a commission for any sales they get from that blog post. They also gave me the product for free so I could use it for blogging purposes.

A lot of bloggers will tell you free products don’t pay the bills, and not to accept partnerships for free product. I disagree. If you use or want the product anyway, getting it for free is just as cool as making the money you would’ve spent on it. 

Just some lingo you might want to know–

CPM, CPC and CPA. These refer to how you get paid.

CPM stands for cost per mille, and means that you get paid whenever someone sees the ad. This doesn’t happen much, because it doesn’t necessarily mean the person is going to buy the product.

CPC is cost per click, which means you get paid when someone clicks on your ad. Not many reputable companies do this either, recognizing people could just get their friends to click over and over, or go on Facebook groups and ask for clicks.

The one you’ll probably deal with most is CPA, or cost per action. You get paid when someone takes action as a result of the ad they saw on your blog.

Now, picture this scenario:

A reader clicks your affiliate link, but they close their browser to think about the purchase before buying. A few days later, they go straight back to that site, not through your link, and purchase the product. Do you lose that affiliate sale?

Not usually!

Most affiliate programs use little things called cookies. Cookies are tiny little pieces of data that store your information from one web-browsing session to another. So, if your reader views that page again and purchases something a few days later, the cookie will remember that they came from your site, and you’ll still make the sale. An average length for affiliate link cookies is 30 days.

And one more thing before I get you started–

I want to remind you about having an affiliate disclosure available on your blog. It’s just a little legal doohickey that lets people know you’re only posting about things you truly support, and you’re not just accepting every ad request for your own gain. And this should absolutely be true. If you’re not in this to help people and lend your true expertise, blogging is not the side hustle for you, friend.

Revisit Part I and scroll toward the bottom to find where we talked about affiliate disclosures, and generate one now. I’ll wait.

.

.

.

Okay, now that that’s all squared away, we’ll start talking about some affiliate marketing programs for beginners to join. I’ll start with a list of big networks you should know about.

Affiliate Marketing Programs for Beginners to Join:

There are a bunch of affiliate networks out there which partner with as many brands/affiliate programs as they can, and offer them all to you on one convenient site. You sign up for the network, and then the application process for each brand is much easier because all your information is already in the network. Here are the ones I’m a part of, and some of their partnerships.

  • Awin– Swarovski, Ferrari, FabFitFun, Moleskin, StubHub
  • Share A Sale– Wayfair, Craftsy, PopSockets, Reebok, Pura Vida
  • CJ Affiliate– Nike, Michael Kors, Vineyard Vines, Hobby Lobby
  • ShopStyle Collective– Sephora, Forever 21, Nordstrom, Saks 5th Avenue
  • Amazon Associates– gives you a small commission on anything on Amazon!
  • Google Adsense- chooses their own ads to put on your site, and gives you a commission for them.



Once you’re partnered with a brand, you get your links.

You’ll get text links or you can make deep links (I’ll explain) and you’re privy to their “creative” or their banners and sidebar/footer ads. The banners and sidebar ads can be added to your site via html. See that ad for Awin I’ve put right above this paragraph? I did that by copying the html for the ad I liked best on their “my creative” page, and pasting it in the “text” tab on my “edit post” page.

You can also add ads to your sidebar or footer. Go to your customization tab on your WP dash, choose “widgets,” and add a “custom html” widget in either your sidebar or footer. You can paste your code there, and it’ll pop right up on your site!

Links have a little more nuance. It’s cool, you got this, that’s why this is affiliate marketing programs for beginners. Some of the networks will give you links to the brands’ homepages, but they’ll also offer deep links. A deep link allows you to have an affiliate link for any page on a brand’s website. So, you go to the deep links page, enter the URL of the page you want a link to, and an affiliate link will be generated for you. Then, even if you link the reader to an informational page, you’ll still get the sale if they end up buying.

Great–you picked some brands from the affiliate networks. But what if you can’t find that one brand you’d LOVE to work with?

No problem, just approach them! Here are some tips for approaching a brand/company:

Size doesn’t matter as much as you think!

Well, not in this scenario. Just because your blog doesn’t have a lot of views yet doesn’t mean you won’t get the gig. Most brands would rather see a hundred super loyal followers than a thousand followers who never actually engage with content. That’s one of the reasons why like-for-like is a no-no. Blogging is all about building relationships. The better you are at that, the more success you’ll have on all fronts, including getting brands to connect with you.

Have a media kit.

A media kit is the resume of the blogging world. You can get great media kit templates on, you guessed it, Canva! What a lifesaver. Here are all the sections I have on mine, and what they’re all for:

About the Blogger

Should give a short, concise description of who you are and why you blog. Just like a resume, tailor it for who you’re talking to. If you’re pitching Forever 21, mention your deep love for fast fashion. If you’re pitching StubHub, it’s worth mentioning that you’ve been to thirty concerts this year. Etc.

About the Blog

This is where you pitch your blog’s purpose, and why that fits the purpose of the brand you’re pitching. This might require a little research on your part. What’s their mission statement? What are they trying to do, and how are your goals aligned?

Social Media Stats

Speaks for itself. Just be honest, because it’s easy enough to find you and check.

Services Offered

This is where you list what you offer advertisers. Do you run giveaways? Post reviews? Sell space on your sidebar? Put all of these in this section, along with your prices.

Pricing is a tricky thing for bloggers because comparatively speaking, blogging is a new profession. That, paired with how taboo it is to talk about money makes for a really difficult situation for us. But just so you know, if you’re writing a blog post for a company, $100 for every 10,000 page views per month is the generally accepted rule. 4,000 views = $40. 20,000 views = $200. You get the idea.

The PR people who contact you will try to tell you they don’t have a budget and you’re being ridiculous by asking so much, but your time and work are worth something. Don’t sell yourself short. You can certainly barter and like I said, don’t be shamed into not accepting free product if you’d use it. Just NEVER accept a “discount” on a product so you’re still paying for it AND helping that company out by reviewing it. 

Demographics

Who reads your blog? You can find this information in Google Analytics. What gender reads your blog more? How old is your average reader? Where do they live?

Contact Details

In this section, list everywhere you can be found! Your website, email, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook page, Pinterest, etc. Wherever you can be found on the web, put it here.

Send a professional and personal message.

Along with your media kit, you’ll want to send a professional message to the person receiving it. Here are some tips for that:

  • Figure out the name of the person you’re emailing. Dear sir or madam doesn’t cut it in the blogging world where personality is your greatest asset. Usually, you can find the company on social media and ask for a contact
  • In that same vein, research the specific person you should get in touch with. Don’t email Michael Kors himself and ask to be an affiliate. Find their PR person, marketing associate, brand ambassador etc.
  • Don’t send a whole cover letter in an email, because these people get hundreds of messages like your a day, but make sure you send a little paragraph that summarizes who you are, why you love their brand, and why they should work with you. One paragraph. 5-7 sentences.
  • Have a professional email signature with contact information and a blog link for easy access.

 

If you follow this advice, you’ll be golden!

Well, that’s the end of the Affiliate Marketing Programs for Beginners segment of my Blogaversary series, but it’s also the end of the series! I’ve had so much fun writing out all these tips for you. It’s been a trip down memory lane, and it’s made me excited for the future– the future of Uninspired, and the future for your new blog!

If you have any questions about anything in this segment, or any of the other Blogaversary posts, please feel free to shoot me an email at myuninspiredemail@gmail.com. Happy blogging!

This last segment of the blogaversary series will make you FEEL like less of a beginner by showing you all the affiliate marketing programs for beginners to join, how to approach brands you love, how to create a media kit, and more!

Welcome to the second to last installment of Uninspired’s anniversary series! Today we’re learning about where to promote your blog post.

Before we get into how to promote your blog post, let me be all misty-eyed and talk about my purpose and all that.

I started Uninspired to help twenty-somethings be the best versions of themselves. Adulting is hard, but I’ve got tricks up my sleeve to make it easier for you. That’s why we talk about easy and nutritious recipes (so you don’t starve when you’re off that meal plan), making and saving money (so someday you’ll be able to move out), and dating (because, well, that’s freakin’ hard).

Can you guess which of those I get the most questions about?

I’m guessing you guessed it. It’s making and saving money. So, for Uninspired’s birthday, I put together a GIGANTIC, five-part guide to using blogging for some extra money. So far, you should’ve created a site that’s compatible with your goals, made it pretty and written your first blog post, optimizing it for SEO. Now we’re gonna talk about another way to promote your blog post– spreading it all over the web.

 

The fourth installment of Uninspired's Blogaversary series is all about how to promote your blog post! You'll learn the ins and outs of all the main social media sites (and Pinterest, though it's not a social media site!) and a list of all the places you should promote that post! Happy blogging!

Here’s the outline of the series, complete with links:

Creating Your Site

  • WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org
  • Web Hosting
  • Legal

Designing Your Site

  • Themes
  • Branding
  • Plugins and Widgets

Writing SEO-Friendly Blog Posts

  • What is SEO?
  • Anatomy of an SEO-Friendly Post
  • High Quality Photos

Promote Your Blog Post– YOU ARE HERE

  • Social Media
  • Pinterest (not social media!)
  • Link Building

Affiliate Marketing

  • Disclosures
  • Approaching Brands
  • Media Kits
  • Networks to Join

If you don’t have enough time to read all this right now, that’s cool! You’ve got a lot on your plate. Just drop your email address below, and I’ll send you a gorgeous e-book with all the same information so you can save it and read it on your own time.

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Uninspired’s Blogaversary Part IV:

Promote Your Blog Post

I’ll say it flat out– my friends and family give exactly 0 fucks about Uninspired. They’re stuck on how they have one of those friends who takes lots of food pics and has a ~personal brand.~ So I’ll be the first to tell you promotion is hard, especially without a circle who understands/cares what you’re doing. That means you really need to find other bloggers to exchange ideas with. For one thing, you’ll have someone who doesn’t see this hobby as basic or nerdy. Second, blogging friends are great accountability partners, and it’s just plain friendship! No one’s in a spot to pass that up.

Now we can talk about where to promote your blog post. I’ll start with social media sites, then non-social media, and then other blogs. Enjoy!

Social Media

The most important advice I can give you about how to promote your blog post on social media is this: do not engage in like for like, follow for follow, etc. I can’t stress that enough. It’s an easy way to gain followers/likes, but they’re not real.

Example: the big scary man who runs Death To Ponies and Unicorns just liked your Facebook page, Ponies and Unicorns Unlimited hoping you’d like his back. But he’s not going to read your content, and you won’t read his. He has no reason to click your affiliate links and vice versa. You guys have nothing to offer each other.

Plus, everyone can see through the thin veil of like-for-like. When you have a million followers but only six likes on your last ten pieces of actual content, it’s clear. And that one real viewer who genuinely enjoyed your stuff will probably end up thinking you don’t care about your audience. So please, earn your numbers. You’ll feel better about yourself, and you’ll actually make a difference for your readers and yourself.

Another tip about how to promote your blog post on any social media– there are scheduling sites that allow you to set up your content ahead of time. This allows you to keep life flowing smoothly and still get posts out at high-traffic times. I use Hootsuite for this, but another popular one is Buffer. They both have free versions.

Now let’s talk specific sites.

Facebook

On Facebook, I do not suggest that your promote your blog post on your personal page. How annoying is that girl that sells protein powder or purses on her Facebook? Don’t be her. Instead, start a business page. Invite your personal friends to like it, so you know you’re only sharing your content with the friends who support your business.

A few ways to win Facebook– Only ask friends in your target audience for likes. College bloggers– don’t invite Aunt Marge, even if she’ll like every post. If Facebook sees Gen X, that’s who they’ll suggest your page to. Gen X isn’t wondering how to survive a frat party, so you’ll miss out on well-deserved traffic.

The Facebook algorithm is just general nonsense. The more likes you get, the more they’ll show your posts. But obviously, you won’t get likes if they’re not showing your post. So, it’s frustrating, but don’t be discouraged. When the likes do start rollin’ in, you’ll know they’re real and you’ll be happier because you worked so hard for ’em.

More Facebook tips– Share content 1-2 times per day. Make it a nice mixture of yours and other people’s. Engage HEAVILY in blogging Facebook groups. There are a TON of FB groups to promote your blog post, ask questions, gain followers, and more.

Here are some great FB groups you can ask to join:

Boost Your Blog– run by Helene Sula, one of my favorite bloggers. Her group is HUGE and has daily threads highly focused on real engagement rather than like-for-like.

Bloggers Share & Engage– this one doesn’t have threads, you can post anything anytime!

Make Your Blog Beautiful–  Sometimes blogger/admins get super busy and forget to post their threads, but this group has never once missed a day!

Girl Blogging Sharebears– a really close-knit group of silly, creative ladies.

Blogging Babes and Business Bosses– This group has Motivate Me Monday, where we talk about goals for the week. It’s great for accountability!

Bloggers Supporting Bloggers– These threads have hundreds of comments! It’s easy to get lost, but it’s also hundreds of opportunities to get noticed!

Twitter

I’ll be honest, people are in a fast-paced frame of mind on Twitter. They want short sentences, gifs, and memes, not a 1,000 word blog post (which is ideal, as we learned in part III). So tweets leading to long reads don’t get clicked much.

BUT– I get more engagement in general on Twitter than any other site. I have the most followers and conversations, and I feel generally closer with people. Use Twitter to build relationships. Be nice to people. Send love to their blogs and they’ll send it back.

I use Tweepi to find relevant people to follow. You get recommendations based on your audience’s hashtags and similar accounts. For example, one of the accounts I said was like mine was Common White Girl– she has a lot of twenty-something followers. Some of the hashtags I’ve put in recently were #finalsweek #avocadotoast and #freshmanatlife. I also have unfollow recommendations based on who hasn’t followed me back, doesn’t tweet often, etc.

Instagram

I don’t have Instagram for my blog for a few reasons. First, branding is like, 98% of Instagram. Now that I have a nice camera and Creative Cloud, I might think about it, but I’ve got my hands a little full with my other social medias. It’s a good idea to give your all to a couple sites, not do a shitty job juggling them all.

It also really bugs me that I can’t put a link in a caption. The photo becomes irrelevant as soon as you change the link in your bio. And Instagram is run by Facebook, so they have another ridiculous algorithm. It seems like a lot of work for little reward in my opinion. But, a lot of bloggers seem to love Instagram, so if that’s where you want to promote your blog post, here’s a link to Helene Sula’s library of Instagram growth posts. She loves Instaram, and knows it super well.

Bloglovin

Between all these different ways bloggers throw information at your face all the time, there had to be a way to just get the content straight from all the blogs you love, right to one common feed. That’s Bloglovin. Connect your site, and your posts will automatically go there! You can also get a cute little Bloglovin widget for your blog, which readers can just click to follow you!



Non-Social Media

Email List

So, what’s the difference between your email list and all these other ways to shove information down people’s throats??

You own your email list. If Zuckerberg got arrested tomorrow for selling our personal information and Facebook tanked, you’d lose all your likes. But you’d have your email list. Your email list is the only promotional tool you have that isn’t at the mercy of someone else’s algorithm. So really, really use that. You can promote your blog post on it, notify readers of sales, freebies, and more! Remember– these people signed up for your list because they wanted to hear from you. So don’t disappoint! Give them your best stuff. Reward them for being your most loyal readers.

How do you get people to join your email list, you ask? You give them a freebie!

I gotta say, I’m tired of bloggers saying you’ll get people to join your email list with a checklist or worksheet. No one’s gonna cough up their email address for a checklist of ten things you should do before bed. These are your best customers! The ones willing to give you their email address because they like what you have to say so much! Do right by them. Don’t give them a cheesy checklist. Don’t ask them to join just to be notified when you want to promote your blog post. You can do better. Give them something for free that they would gladly pay for.

In he past I’ve given my readers a recipe e-book full of like, twenty recipes that are easy, impressive looking, and nutritious. Most of these recipes aren’t on the blog, so it’s A TON of super exclusive information. Plus, even the ones that are on the blog can be printed and stored in one pretty booklet.

I could make you sign up to get a checklist with what I’m about to say next, but I won’t cause I like ya. So, to pick your freebie, you have to ask yourself these questions: what problem can I solve for my readers? What could I give them that would really show off the value of my site? Below are some popular ideas.

  • E-books– Canva has great templates
  • E-mail course– give readers information on how to do something over  5-7 days
  • Webinar- use Google Hangouts or ClickMeetin
  • A Toolkit page on your blog that’s password protected; readers get the password by signing up
  • A Content Upgrade– offer a better version of something. My offering to give you a more convenient e-book version of this mini-series when you sign-up for my email list is a content upgrade.

Now that you have these readers hooked with your freebie, you can use your email list to promote your blog post, remind them of sales at your affiliate sites, and more. Get your mailing list going for free at Mailerlite. A lot of people will tell you to go for ConvertKit or Mailchimp. I tried both– Convertkit isn’t free and Mailchip is harder to understand. Go Mailerlite for sure!

Reddit

Stuff from Reddit goes viral constantly. Memes start here. Your blog can get famous here.

There’s also a blogging subreddit, or basically a little community, where you can give and get blogging advice, and promote your blog post. You can find that here!

Reddit can also provide inspiration for posts! What’s trending? What are people reading about and talking about?

Flipboard

Sumo has provided me with a social share button for Flipboard for forever, and I had no idea what it was until very recently. Turns out, it has the power to drive a lot of traffic! It’s a news site that gathers articles from all over the web, and shows you ones you’ll like based on preferences you set. If you’re a blogger, you can add your own content so it’ll show up in people’s feeds.

Pinterest

Okay, this is a big one. Again, Pinterest is not social media. Pinterest is actually a search engine. So, how do you make the most of it to promote your blog post? Well, first you need a good, pinnable image. So, head to Canva.

Canva has pre-set sizes for ideal photos on lots of sites. They have a size for Pinterest (735 x 1102), but if you want to stand out, you actually have to go bigger. Use the “infographic,” size which is 800 x 2000. Now, choose a branded photo, and add text. When you’re finished designing and making it pretty, download it as a .jpg. Pinterest only accepts .jpg files. Then, add it to your blog post wherever you deem fit.

Now, how do you use this image to promote your blog post?! Well, if you got Sumo, which I recommend a thousand percent, you should have social share buttons on the side of our blog post. When you click the Pinterest one, all the images in your post will pop up, including that one you made. Pin it to the board you should have for your own blog posts, and any relevant group boards you’re a part of.

What’s a group board, you ask?!

Well, first let me explain boards. Each board is like a bulletin board where you’d “pin” something you like. You have different boards for different categories of things- recipes, DIY projects, home decor, outfit inspo, etc. Only you can pin to your own boards, unless you make them group boards. Then, anyone you invite can add pins. These are great for bloggers because you can show your posts to many different audiences, without having to gather all those followers yourself. I have a little over 600 followers, but I get a half a million views per month thanks to group boards. If a group board is accepting new members, instructions for joining will be in the description. Here are some that I’m a part of:

Since you can’t use Hootsuite or Buffer for Pinterest, there’s another scheduling tool you can use to schedule your pins. Tailwind saves you a ton of time and energy by queueing up all your pins, and posting them at the highest traffic times. They also have a section called Tribes, where you can share your content with other bloggers.

Now, how do you incorporate your branding on Pinterest? And how can you increase your chances of getting noticed?

Some people go aaaall out with their branding on Pinterest, only including pins in their boards that match their colors. I can’t be bothered with that, but I do brand in the sense that all my pins are interesting to twenty-somethings. For example, money saving plans, style inspiration, dating tips, mental health, and general adulting tips (like, how to jump start a car, etc.).

I also have branded board covers. Your board cover is the pin that sticks to the front of your board all the time, which you can set by clicking on the edit button that comes up when you roll your mouse over a board. Having board covers helps your page look neater and more cohesive. More branded.

The fourth installment of Uninspired's Blogaversary series is all about how to promote your blog post! You'll learn the ins and outs of all the main social media sites (and Pinterest, though it's not a social media site!) and a list of all the places you should promote that post! Happy blogging!

As far as getting noticed, there are a few ways to make sure you pop up in search results. For one thing, don’t name your boards anything clever. Name them what they are, because that’s what people search for. You can add creative text in your board covers like I did if you want! Like Google, Pinterest doesn’t see what’s in the pictures, just how you describe them.

You can also make money via Pinterest!

I’ll talk about this again next week in more detail, but you can literally make money right on Pinterest. You won’t have to rely on a reader’s commitment to go through Pinterest and then your blog and then the affiliate site– you can snag ’em right at the first step! Elise McDowell can teach you exactly how to do it with her e-book called “Make Your First Affiliate Sale in 24 Hours.” I didn’t make my first sale in 24 hours, but when I did make a sale a few days later, I got three in a row, which more than covered my investment in the book. Give it a shot!

Other Blogs (Link Building)

The last way to promote your blog post is via other blogs in a process called link building. Basically, link building is getting your blog’s link on as many other sites as possible. The more highly-ranked the site, the better it is for your ranking. Here are two tried-and-true ways to build high-quality links:

      • Guest Posting- ask to write posts on other people’s blogs! But first, check their domain authority. If theirs is lower than yours, it’s probably not worth it to write for them. You can check DA here.
      • Comment on other blogs-  genuinely! If you haven’t noticed, I’m big on that. Google is smart. It knows if you’re just posting your own blog link on a million blogs a day. Post thoughtful comments, maybe leave your blog link if it seems appropriate or maybe even helpful

    The #1 Writing Tool

Whew! Teaching you  to promote your blog post has been a mouthful. What do you still have questions about?

Let me know in the comments, or you can email me at myuninspiredemail@gmail.com. Happy blogging!

The fourth installment of Uninspired's Blogaversary series is all about how to promote your blog post! You'll learn the ins and outs of all the main social media sites (and Pinterest, though it's not a social media site!) and a list of all the places you should promote that post! Happy blogging!

Aaaand we’re back with Part II of the Ultimate Guide to Blogging for Beginners!

I’m Nicole, I’m wine-drunk, and I’ll be your host for this week’s episode. And last week’s. And next week’s. Etc. until end of Ultimate Guide to Blogging for Beginners in three more weeks. Literally don’t even worry. I know this shit like it’s my job.

It is my job. I make money from blogging.

I’m writing this mini-series in celebration of a year of writing Uninspired. Since you’re at Part II, I’ll assume you’ve read Part I or have at least been to Uninspired before. Therefore, I won’t ramble about my purpose and blaaah blah blahhhh. I will tell you about my purpose, but I won’t ramble about it. I’ll probably ramble, but not about my purpose, I promise.

I always ramble. You guys know me by now. I’m rambling now; promise kept.

So, just to keep you guys up to date, Uninspired is still a twenty-something blog, and I still help twenty-somethings balance all the parts of their life they want to enjoy now, plus future-planning. And a lot of you need a side hustle because as millennials, your main jobs that you’ve been educated four, six, eight years for aren’t going to pay you enough to survive. So, I’m teaching you how to successfully create a lucrative side hustle in blogging. You can blog about the things you love, because that’s how you make money without feeling like you’ve put any work in. That’s what you guys helped me do this year.

Sorry, there’s something in my eye. *tears*

We're in Part II of the Ultimate Guide to Blogging for Beginners, which deals with designing your site. By this point, you should have all the boring, behind-the-scenes nonsense taken care of. Check this post out to learn how to make your site look BOMB AF, or check out Part I to get your background sh*t together.

So, let’s take a look at our table of contents:

The Ultimate Guide to Blogging for Beginners has already covered all the boring, behind-the-scenes nonsense that keeps your blog safe and running smoothly. In this segment, we’re covering design.

Creating Your Site

  • WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org
  • Web Hosting
  • Legal

Designing Your Site- YOU ARE HERE

  • Themes
  • Branding
  • Plugins and Widgets

Writing SEO-Friendly Blog Posts

  • What is SEO?
  • Anatomy of an SEO-Friendly Post
  • High Quality Photos

Promoting Your Blog Posts

  • Social Media
  • Pinterest (not social media!)
  • Link Building

Affiliate Marketing Programs for Beginners

  • What Affiliate Marketing Is & How It Works
  • Networks to Join
  • Media Kits
  • How to Approach a Brand

This series is going to take us all the way through January, because classes are starting and I’ll have to plan ahead to make sure I have enough content to get us through the semester. BUT– the whole series is already ready to go! So, I did something super cool for those of you who can’t wait to get a jump start on your goals, and put the entire series in one convenient e-book that you can have, for free, today. Just sign up for my email list on the form below, and you’ll get it to your inbox within minutes!

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Alright, we in this b!tch.


The Ultimate Guide to Blogging for Beginners:

Designing Your Site

 

By this point, you should have a hosting site like SiteGround, be using WordPress.org to run your site, and you should have your five points of legal documentation. Not that anyone reads that. But they’re there if someone tries to sue you because their mille crepe cake turns out, well, like mine. Finally, it’s time to make your site look awesome. By the time you’re done, no one will ever want to leave your site because it’s just THAT aesthetically pleasing.

I’m being dramatic. It’s the wine. Truthfully, I don’t want you to focus too much on your site’s aesthetic. Trends will always change, and your personal tastes will always change. Your site will never feel perfect. Honestly, design is the hardest part of running Uninspired for me because I’m a perfectionist and I can’t make this part perfect. But if I spent all my time, energy and money on my aesthetic, I’d have nothing left for my readers, which is the important part.

I’d be pulling a classic Entertainment 720. Remember, from Parks and Rec? Tom and Jean Ralphio started this company with an amazing aesthetic, but they failed miserably because they forgot to put any effort into their actual customers. So, do a good job, but don’t obsess.

On that note, let The Ultimate Guide to Blogging for Beginners show ya what to do.

via GIPHY

1. Themes

To use that party metaphor from Part I again, your blog’s theme is just that– the theme of your party. It dictates the overall style of your site– what your pages look like, where your menus and widgets go, etc.

Like WordPress.com, the .org also offers a variety of free themes you can use, but that’s not the recommendation of the Ultimate Guide to Blogging for Beginners. One of the biggest perks of switching is that you can upload themes from anywhere and customize them 100%. You could even make a theme yourself if you wanted to. (But if you could do that, you prob wouldn’t be reading this) So if you’ve come this far, keep making good choices and get a good theme.

Let me introduce you to Themeforest.

Themeforest has over 10,000 WordPress themes. They’re not free, but like I said in Part I, you gotta spend money to make money. If you spend even just $20, you’ll have more design freedom and your site will look more professional. That’s how you get brands to work with you so you can make that money back.

My theme right now is from Themeforest, and it’s called Taste. There are some things about it that I’d like to customize, for sure. I want it to be full screen, I want the headings to be more cohesive, etc. But you know what? I want you to get what you need from Uninspired more than I want you to think it’s pretty. I’ll get to those things eventually. It’s a good exercise in calming my type A personality.

2. Branding

Now that you’ve picked the perfect theme (or at least you think you did until Millennial Pink goes out of style…shit) it’s time to work on your branding. Your theme isn’t the same as your brand. Your party might have a tea party theme, but there are lots of ways to brand that. Switching back to blogging, that tea party theme could have a Mad Hatter feel in the branding, with a cartoonish logo and green, silly fonts. Or, you could go more Downton Abbey with pastels and refined cursive.

Just a heads up: some bloggers base their whole career on helping other bloggers brand. So, The Ultimate Guide to Blogging for Beginners only has a very brief overview. I’ll break it up like this: voice, taglines, colors, fonts, logos, and photos. 

Voice

Your voice might feel like a strange thing to put first in your branding section. But it’s really important! Your voice is the tone you convey from the language you use. The best piece of advice I’ve heard about finding your voice, (and I’ve heard it everywhere!) is to write like you’re speaking directly to your ideal reader/customer. Finding your ideal reader will help you brand the rest of your site.

My ideal reader is a college-educated woman in her early twenties who lives in the US and is super motivated to go out in the world and succeed– get her first apartment, kill it at the career she loves, fall in love– but she wants some help. She likes sarcasm, floral patterns, wine and junk food. Having an ideal reader helps me hone in on Uninspired’s purpose– to help this girl get where she wants to be in life. Give her recipes so she can learn to cook in that new apartment. Show her some DIY projects so she can furnish it. Give her some dating tips and help her laugh at douchey guys instead of crying over them.

So, who is your ideal reader?

Are they male or female? How old are they? Where do they live? Are they married? Do they have kids? What are their struggles and goals? What do they like? Hate? By answering these questions, maybe even giving this person a name, you’ll decide on your voice. Did you ever read a blog and immediately get the feeling you could be their friend in real life? That’s their voice coming through! You connect with your readers through your voice. When they connect with you, they believe your advice and consequently, they take you up on your product and service recommendations.

Taglines

The next part of branding is that catchy little sentence you want people to think of when they think of your blog. Mine is “creating a thriving community of twenty-somethings.” It explains what I do, how I’ll help the reader, and it’s concise. Now that you have your ideal reader in mind, it should be a little easier to come up with a tagline that will hook them.

When I first started Uninspired, I didn’t want to come up with a tagline. It felt kind of like I was writing a cheesy commercial. But I did some research and learned why it’s necessary. People have short attention spans, especially in this instant-gratification era. So they’re not going to read my whole About page or a few of my posts before deciding if they want to hang out here. If you don’t make your point clear immediately with a tagline, readers will just leave. They don’t need to put that kind of effort in when there’s another blog doing the same thing as you, with a clearer purpose statement. Don’t lose your reader that way. That is an official decree from The Ultimate Guide to Blogging for Beginners.

Colors

Now that you know who you’re writing to, The Ultimate Guide to Blogging for Beginners wants to help you pick out the more detailed aspects of your brand, like the color scheme. Sticking with the same colors in everything you do with your blog helps people recognize your brand across social media sites.

So, are all colors created equal? Nope!

Strangely enough, color psychology exists, and it’s used heavily in marketing. Certain colors evoke certain responses from certain people, and you want to choose colors for your brand based on your audience. Now that you have your ideal audience in mind, that’s easy!

Everyone likes blue. It’s gotten a reputation as the color of trust. And that’s clear based on all the major brands using blue in their branding. Facebook, Twitter, PayPal, Venmo, LinkedIn, Pandora, Zillow…those are just the ones I could think of off the top of my head! They want you to trust them, so they subliminally message you with blue.

Uninspired is green and pink. Green evokes creativity, which I want you to feel instead of, duh, uninspired. Pink is linked to femininity, which makes sense given my ideal reader. But it’s also linked to calmness, which I want to give you while  transitioning into adulthood, and innocence, which I want you to still feel even though you’re grown up.

Also I love flowers, and flowers are green and pink. *shrugs*

Check out this post for more info about color psychology and how you can use it in your branding!

Fonts

The fonts you choose for your site should also be cohesive throughout all your posts, images, products, etc. Here’s how The Ultimate Guide to Blogging for Beginners suggests you choose them:

(PS– are you tired of me referring to this post by name as The Ultimate Guide to Blogging for Beginners?! Me too, but it’s my focus keyword. We’ll get to that in Part III.)

You should have three standard fonts. One for headings, subheadings, and body text. The ones you’ll find in my Pinterest images are Playlist Script, Lato bold, and plain Lato. I picked Playlist Script (the cursive one) because it’s fun and playful, but still readable. It characterized my site really well– fun, but has it’s shit together. I chose Lato for the subheadings and body text because it’s a good contrast from the cursive.

Is your ideal reader a burly, lumberjack kinda guy who loves hunting and fishing? Probably not if you’re reading my site. But if that was the case, you wouldn’t want to use Playlist Script on your blog. You’d want something bold!

Your body text should be plain like Times New Roman or Arial. They say serif fonts (with those little edges at the tips of the letters) are better for body text because they’re easier to read.

Logos

Now that you know who you’re writing to, what you’re trying to say, and what it’ll look like, it’s a great time to pick your logo! Your logo is, obviously, one of the first things people see when they look at your website. So choose VERY carefully. Once you put it on stuff like your header, business cards, etc., you’ll have to replace it all if you change your mind.

If you’re artistically inclined, the best way to go is to design your logo yourself. You won’t have to worry about anyone else having the same one, and you won’t have to pay for it.

If you’re well, not artistically inclined, my second best suggestion is to hire someone to make you a personalized logo. Fiverr is a great place for that because it’s super cheap. Fiverr actually has lots of services or bloggers, and they all start at just $5 (a fiver, if you will). You can hire someone for as little as $5 to make a logo that no one else will have. It’s an awesome deal that I wish I’d taken advantage of when I was looking for logos.

I got my logo from Etsy, which is another solid option. However, Etsy logos are pricier, and it’s even more expensive to get one made just for you. A lot of Etsy shops have created templates that they just plug your site’s name into, which is what I did. I love my logo, but someone else out there might have it.We're in Part II of the Ultimate Guide to Blogging for Beginners, which deals with designing your site. By this point, you should have all the boring, behind-the-scenes nonsense taken care of. Check this post out to learn how to make your site look BOMB AF, or check out Part I to get your background sh*t together.

Photos

Photography has been the bane of my existence since I started this blog. It just doesn’t come as naturally to me as writing or marketing. But I have learned a few things for the Ultimate Guide to Blogging For Beginners!

You can take decent pictures with your iPhone.  There are guides all over the internet to help you take better pictures with your phone (like this one!) so you don’t need to buy an expensive camera to look professional. However, it does help.

My wonderful parents bought me a Canon EOS Rebel T6 for Christmas, and I’ve seen a major difference in my photos. I’m obsessed with taking food photos now because seriously, the food looks clearer in the photos than it does in real life. It’s amazing.

As far as editing goes, I do suggest investing in Adobe Creative Cloud, which includes Photoshop and Lightroom. If you’re a student (or *ahem* have access to a .edu email address) you can get a student price of less than $11 per month for both.

You should also invest in Canva, a simple web-based photo editor. There’s a free version, but if you have the $12/m to spare, Canva for Business has made my life so much easier. When I edit my pictures to put them on Pinterest, I can save templates, fonts, and colors so I don’t have to start from scratch every time. When you’re posting three times week, or stockpiling posts like I like to do, it’s such a relief when my photo-editing process is simple. If you have more than one person on your blogging team, you can create a “team” so they  have access to the branding.

 

3. Plugins and Widgets

Back to the party metaphor (I know it’s a simile but you don’t just say ‘back to the party simile’ unless you’re a liiiittle pretentious, sorry), widgets and plugins are like face painters or bouncy houses. They make the party a little better. Widgets add content to the sidebars of your blog, and plugins are more like programs that you download.

So, here’s a list of the plugins and widgets I use and what they do for Uninspired.

Plugins-

Sumo– has TONS of tools to automate your site’s growth. Seriously a lifesaver. Tracks Google Analytics, helps grow your email list, has social share buttons, and more. I don’t visit my dashboard without using Sumo.

YoastSEO– tells you exactly how to make Google rank your posts higher. Another lifesaver! It tells you if your posts are easy to read, if you’re using your focus keywords enough (you know, ultimate guide to blogging for beginners), if you’re linking to the right posts so your sitemap is neat and tidy, and way more.

MiloTree– converts your visitors into social media followers via a little popup

jQuery Pin It Button– adds a button to your photos that allows readers to pin them to Pinterest right then and there

Easy Recipe– allows you to add printable recipes to your posts

Widgets-

Search– adds a search bar to your sidebar. This is actually super important. Back to that instant gratification thing– if people can’t find what they’re looking for immediately on your blog, they’ll leave.

Image– puts a picture on the sidebar– most bloggers use this as a space to add a photo of themselves, so their readers can see them without traveling the long journey to the About page.

Text– has a ton of uses! A text widget is how I’ve included that little bio on my sidebar. You can also use them to insert html for ads or other things (like Twitter, see below) you want on your sidebar.

Categories- allows your readers to see all the posts in each category you write about. For example, you can click “Mental Health Monday” in my sidebar and see all the Mental Health Monday posts.

Twitter– technically, this is another text widget, but with the code for a mini Twitter feed. My twitter is literally gold, so I don’t want you guys to miss out on any of it. To get a Twitter Widget (please say that out loud), go to your Twitter account settings, and scroll down to Widgets. Hit “create new” type in your URL, then choose the feed option. Copy the code it gives you, and paste it in your text widget. Voila!



So, was that a mouthful or what?! Part II of The Ultimate Guide to Blogging for Beginners is my longest post on Uninspired by far! Part III will be available here on Sunday, 1/21.

In the meantime, leave me any questions you have in the comments. If you’d like, you can also email me your questions at myuninspiredemail@gmail.com. Happy blogging! I know you’re going to be amazing. And don’t forget to download the e-book version of the Ultimate Guide to Blogging for Beginners!

We're in Part II of the Ultimate Guide to Blogging for Beginners, which deals with designing your site. By this point, you should have all the boring, behind-the-scenes nonsense taken care of. Check this post out to learn how to make your site look BOMB AF, or check out Part I to get your background sh*t together.

Uninspired just turned one!

That’s one year of collecting new skills and blogging tips for beginners like myself, and for the most part, it’s been amazing. I’ve learned so much about web design, coding, marketing, photography, and tons of other things that I never would have learned if not for this one idea.

I have failed at blogging twice before, as you might know if you’ve read my first post ever. (Aww, look how far we’ve come!) My first blog was a craft blog, which was a noble but futile cause. I like crafting, but I couldn’t always make time for it when the other things I was passionate about needed my attention. Then I had another blog where I gave small Etsy shops attention, but my flaw in that plan was that I didn’t know how to get myself attention. So those two things had to change if I was going to try this again.

The third idea came when I was on break from school and bored. Uninspired, if you will. I felt so empty without my work that I had to wonder: what had happened to all my other passions? When was the last time I’d gotten so excited about something that I wanted to make a whole blog dedicated to it like I had with crafting?! I couldn’t remember. So I stopped waiting for passion to hit me in the face, and took matters into my own hands.

I decided to stop living Uninspired.

I figured I wasn’t the only one who fell into this trap in her early twenties. You know, getting so wrapped up in school and work to secure a good future that you forget to revel in all the other cool parts of yourself. Turns out, TONS of you needed help striking this balance, and you guys have made Uninspired such a fulfilling project for me this year. I want to help you feel as fulfilled as you’ve made me, and I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did, so today I’m giving you the ultimate guide full of blogging tips for beginners. For free. No sales, no gimmicks, just information. I will disclose that I am an affiliate for some of the products and services mentioned, but it’s only because I would already recommend them to a friend, and just wanna make money for doing that.

Since there is LITERALLY SO MUCH to know about blogging, this Blogging Tips For Beginners extravaganza will actually be broken down into five different posts: creating your site, designing your site, writing SEO-friendly blog posts, promoting those posts, and affiliate marketing.

As a twenty-something, there are lots of reasons you might want to start a blog. You might be in it for the same reason as me– to celebrate your passions. You might also just need a really good side hustle so you can build toward your financial independence. It takes a lot of work, but if you’re blogging about things you like, it’s literally getting paid to do what you love.

This is part one of the five-part series of blogging tips for beginners! In honor of Uninspired's first birthday, I'm exposing literally EVERYTHING I've learned about blogging this year FOR FREE!

So, here’s what you’ll find in this gigantic list of blogging tips for beginners:

Creating Your Site- YOU ARE HERE

  • WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org
  • Web Hosting
  • Legal

Designing Your Site

  • Themes
  • Branding
  • Plugins and Widgets

Writing SEO-Friendly Blog Posts

  • What is SEO?
  • Anatomy of an SEO-Friendly Post
  • High Quality Photos

Promoting Your Blog Posts

  • Social Media
  • Pinterest (not social media!)
  • Link Building

Affiliate Marketing Programs for Beginners

  • What Affiliate Marketing Is & How It Works
  • Networks to Join
  • Media Kits
  • How to Approach a Brand

These posts will be rollin’ out all through January, but I always plan my content ahead! For this series, I did something super special for you guys and also made an e-book version! This way, you can download it right now and not have to wait week after week for the whole thing to come out. If you don’t have enough time to read it right now, you can also download it just so you can refer back to it whenever you want! Sign up for my email list right below to access it immediately!

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Let’s get started! This episode of blogging tips for beginners will cover all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into creating your website.


The GIGANTIC List of Blogging Tips for Beginners Part I:

Creating Your Site

There is a LOT to making the perfect website, and duh, you need to create your site before you can work on any of the other sections of the Gigantic List of Blogging Tips for Beginners! So, in this first post, we’re going to be talking about the ugly, less fun, behind-the-scenes stuff. Don’t worry though! I’m breaking each step down so it’s super simple, and so you don’t make any of the mistakes I did when starting Uninspired.

Just so you know, my blog is on WordPress, which I highly recommend over Blogger, Tumblr, etc. It’s more professional than Tumblr, so people will take you seriously, and used more widely than Blogger Squarespace, etc, so it’ll be easier to get help if you need it.

1. WordPress vs. WordPress

Umm ‘scuse me? There’s two WordPresses? Yeah, and they’re hugely different. I want to make a point of talking about this because it made my first months of blogging super annoying and it’s avoidable.

WordPress.com is hosted, and WordPress.org is self-hosted. This means there’s a major difference in what you’re allowed to do. Think of it like hosting a party– if it’s self-hosted (you’re hosting the party at your own house) you can do whatever you want. It’s your house. But if you’re at a hosted party (at someone else’s house) you have to live with the options that are given. That’s what’s going on with the WordPresses. So, you need to decide what your needs are.

Some people prefer a hosted party because they don’t like spending money on preparations or all the work beforehand. Same with WordPress. If you want minimal setup and monetary investment, the .com might be for you. But if you don’t host your own party, you won’t have all the customizations you would’ve chosen. Another host might choose cheese and crackers instead of mini hot dogs (blasphemous). WordPress.com might not have a theme that works for your needs. Self-hosting is the only way to assure you have complete control over your content, design, and especially monetization. Seriously, if you expect to monetize, you need a self-hosted blog. Think: if you ever plan on charging a cover at your party, it needs to be your party! It’s an investment because self-hosting costs money, but it’s a good one because as they say, you need to spend money to make money. 

 

2. Web Hosting

So, you’ve decided on WordPress.org because you want all that freedom. Perfect! Now we can talk about self-hosting sites. Thankfully, self-hosted doesn’t actually mean you’re responsible for all the things a hosted platform would take care of. What it means is you hire an outside company to do all that stuff for you without the trap of them owning your content and offering you minimal design freedom. So, what exactly does your host do for you? And why do you need WordPress and a host?

To continue the party metaphor: WordPress.org is like hired help (caterers, party planner), while your host is like the reception hall. (This is a really nice party we’re talkin’ here.) So, WordPress is the interface you’ll use to design your site, add plugins, etc., just like helpers at a party would decorate, serve food, etc. But in order to do any of that, you need your host.

My hosting site is called SiteGround.

Some of the things they take care of for me are as follows:

  • They provide the technology for my website to show up on the amazing interwebs
  • Transferred my site to them and WordPress.org from WordPress.com
  • Check for hackers and viruses and update me weekly
  • Keep a backup of my site in case it crashes
  • Have 24/7 chat support
  • Provide domain names
  • Offer email accounts

This is all crazy important stuff you need to make your site run!

SiteGround is literally lightyears ahead of other sites like them. For one thing, their 24/7 support is unparalleled. Honestly I’ve been ready to quit blogging because I was so frustrated with some behind-the-scenes nonsense, and they were able to either walk me through it or just do it for me! Plus, they’re unbelievably, overzealously nice. They’re also faster than almost every other major competitor and they are the most secure out of all twelve of them. All of this only costs you $3.95 per month, which is an investment worth your while if you plan to monetize. Even so, if you sign up for SiteGround and then recommend it to others, you can get your hosting for free.

If you’d still like more information before you take the plunge, you can check out this page from the SiteGround website. For a more impartial comparison to other really popular hosts, you can check out this page.

Web Hosting

3. Legal

There’s one more behind-the-scenes area we need to look into. That’s the legality of your blog. It’s one of the least glamorous parts of blogging, but it’s so necessary. #3 of your blogging tips for beginners: you need a privacy policy, disclaimer, affiliate disclosure, and a terms of use page. You also need to copyright your stuff.

Privacy Policy

A privacy policy explains how people’s personal information is used on your site. It covers when you’ll be collecting personal information on your site, what you use it for, how you plan to protect it, and more. You can generate your own policy specifically tailored to your site here.

Disclaimer

Your disclaimer protects you if someone claims that something on your blog didn’t work for them. They won’t be able to sue you if they poke themselves in the eye with a crochet needle because your craft blog didn’t tell them it was pointy. This site can generate one of those for you, also for free. You’ll likely want both the free options– the website disclaimer and the external links disclaimer. The website one covers your butt for stuff from your own site, but the external links one protects you if you link to another site that ends up screwing someone over.

Affiliate Disclosure

An affiliate disclosure is another legal document that explains the ads on your site. If you’re using affiliate marketing, which we’ll talk about toward the end of this loooong ass series, you’ll need one of these. It just tells people that you really support all the products you advertise on your site, which should absolutely be true. You can generate one of those here.

Terms of Service

Your terms of service, which you can generate here, also for free, is pretty much like a more detailed disclaimer. It protects you from getting sued if someone doesn’t like something you said on your blog. It might seem like there’s a lot of overlap in all these annoying legal things, but better safe than sorry.

Copyright

The last thing, your copyright, shows people you don’t f*ck with bitchez who steal intellectual property. Luckily, most themes you can get already include copyright in the footer (see mine) but if it doesn’t, there’s a generator for that, too.

All of this legal stuff takes MAYBE twenty minutes, and protects you so much. I highly suggest doing this before you even create any posts that can get stolen.

That covers the basics of creating your site! Part II: Designing Your Site is now available here!

If you have any questions about anything regarding blogging tips for beginners, please feel free to comment and I’ll be sure to answer! If you have a bunch of questions or don’t want to ask publicly, you can shoot me an email at myuninspiredemail@gmail.com, and I’d be happy to give you more information there. Happy blogging!

This is part one of the five-part series of blogging tips for beginners! In honor of Uninspired's first birthday, I'm exposing literally EVERYTHING I've learned about blogging this year FOR FREE!