Your FREE Comprehensive Guide to
Starting a Blog and Being Successful in 2020
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Welcome to TheCraftMills.com where we talk about how to craft a life you love and build a creative business you can be proud of.
Today we’re talking about blogging and how you can start a successful blog in 2020.
Now, fair warning, this is a long post, so buckle up and enjoy the ride.
Starting a blog from nothing is hard. It takes dedication, and more than that, it takes passion.
So be ready to fight through the writer’s block, and fight through the days where you’re not motivated because this business has the potential to give you everything you ever wanted if you give it your all, so go for it!
And if you need help along the way, reach out to me at and I’ll be happy to help you.
In the meantime, here’s a list of things that you can do to start building a successful blog on your own.
1. Think About What Kind of Blog You Want to Start
AKA. Pick a Niche - or Don't, That's Okay Too
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For a lot of bloggers, they’ll jump right in and tell you to it’s time to start naming your blog, but I’m going to be real with you - you could have the most awesome blog name known to human creation, but if the content on your blog drives readers away, your totally awesome name will become synonymous with the back button, and nobody wants that.
Now, you may be thinking, “but Marissa, I already think I know what I want to blog about” and that’s great, but consider this… You think you know. You think you can write great content about building a home, or what it takes to make denim on denim look good. You think you can create those really simple graphics you see on social media.
Now, in case my font didn’t come across in the way that I hoped on your device, I’m going to say it one more time; you THINK, you do not KNOW. You will only know if you try and write that awesome blog about “The 8 neat things you HAVE to do when building your 1st home”.
So go on, give it a go. Pick a topic and start writing right now… I’ll be right here waiting when you’re ready.
Did you write your sample post? Yes? Awesome!! Now let’s talk about it a little bit.
Was it easy to come up with a topic or did you struggle?
What about the writing, did it come naturally to you or did you wind up stopping before you finished and you ended up back here anyway?
When you look at your writing are there sentences you’re particularly fond of that you would use to advertise the blog or would you have to draft additional text?
What about a header? Can you come up with a header that tells your target audience why they need to click into your content?
Now last, but not least, did you enjoy writing about this topic? If you did, you may have just found your niche, and you can move on to learning how to do all of the above things.
If you didn’t like your topic, don’t give up, just try again. I know you have something important to say, it’s just about finding the right opportunities for your voice to shine.
And if you need a little help, you can check out this post where I give you 10 different topic ideas for 6 different niches, totaling 60 FREE blog topic ideas, and see if you can’t rock out an article or two.
2. Do Your Research
Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m a planner. I plan, and I plan, and I plan, until that moment where my whole body protests to the idea of planning anymore and my brain says it’s either time to get on with it or it’s time to drop the idea all together. This planning almost always pays off, and it all comes down to the research.
Research gives you a foothold into the world you want to be a part of, and obviously you know this if you’re reading this post, so I’m not going to dive into a whole lot of specifics here, but if you want to know how to blog the right way, the best material out there is for you to read about how other bloggers manage their own business.
Read their most recent income reports and read their past income reports. Are you seeing an increase or a decrease in their revenue? What are they doing to get there? What can you do better?
Read about their business goals for this year, and then go back to their first year or first month. How do they compare? Are they goals you think you’d set for yourself? If they are, check out the content in the middle and figure out how you can apply these techniques in your own way to your blog. If what they’re doing isn’t your style, make a note and move on.
Do you find yourself pinning a particular looking set of Pins? Think about what makes you click on them.
Do you follow anyone? If you do, what makes you follow them?
Do you ever click through certain Pins to read the content? If you do, compare it to the ones you didn’t click through and make a note about what triggered your brain to click the graphic.
The last thing here that I want to talk about specifically, though we’ve touched on it briefly, is marketing. Marketing research is key because you could have that stellar blog name with really awesome content hiding out on your website, but if no one knows about it, your blog will fail.
So pay attention to what kind of readers are on the blogs you’re visiting and trying to emulate. Pay attention to what you have searched, or are currently searching for. Use this information to build your arsenal of marketing weaponry and make the systems work for you.
Now, I could go on and on about marketing, but for the purposes of this blog post, I’ll leave it at that.
3. Come Up with a Business Name
Now for the fun - and kind of scary - part! We’re going to talk about how to come up with the perfect name for your blog/business.
To start, think about what kind of blog you’re building. Is it fashion related? Lifestyle related? Are you building an entire brand? Are you focusing on homes and interior design? What about food?
Think about how you can make your readers realize what kind of blog you are just by reading your business name.
For instance, are you a lifestyle blog writing about the milestones in life? Did you grow up in the south? What about CharmandFlourish.com? Charm drives home those southern roots, and flourish relates to the growth you go through in life.
P.S. CharmandFlourish.com was the name of my first failed blog back in 2014 so don’t feel like this will make or break your blog. You can always change a name, but maybe try and get it right the first time so you don’t have to worry about changes down the road.
Or maybe you’re a kick-butt baker who specializes in all things decadent. How about DecadentDaily.com, a blog showcasing all the beautiful and rich cakes that you teach others how to make?
Either way, no matter your niche, you need to make sure that first and foremost your name is something you can be proud of and happy with because you’ll be saying it a lot. In your head, out loud, writing it down... If you’re serious, it will be everywhere.
Make sure it represents YOU.
And when you’ve picked your name, you may need to do a few things:
Register it with your state
Trademark it if you don’t want anyone else to be able to use it in the same capacity in your state
Purchase your domain name - I used Google Domains to do this
Now, if you want a few more tips and tricks to creating a great name that stands out and drives home your value to the consumer, you’re not going to want to miss this post where we take an in depth look at successful naming techniques so you can create a blog/business name you that you won’t regret later.
4. Get Your Legal Ducks in a Row
So lovelies, this is the part we all dread - the law - but stick with me because I promise you that this is the most important part about running a business.
If you want to run a successful AND legitimate business, you need to get your legal ducks in a row so that you, your assets, and your business are protected.
If you decide to run a business and you don’t get your legal ducks in a row just because you’re too intimidated to figure out what those are, I can almost guarantee you’ll wind up in some kind of legal trouble.
So let’s be smart, and let’s get started talking about what you need to do to protect your livelihood.
First, if you are running a blog and you plan on making money with that blog, you need to realize that you are a business and businesses must operate by following the standards set forth by the governing body of the location they are operating within.
If you live in the U.S. I highly recommend talking to your local representative from the Small Business Administration (SBA) before getting started. Their services are free, and they can generally guide you in the right direction about what type of business entity you should be and what the process will be once you file. Plus, some of your tax dollars go to supporting the SBA, so since you’re putting your money here anyway, you may as well reap the benefits.
Additionally, they can recommend certain tools and connections to help you grow your business, including a network of people who may be able to help you on your journey, such as attorneys, accountants, web designers, other fellows in your industry, etc.
I know that without speaking to the SBA, I probably never would have started my business because I was too afraid of failure, so I cannot say enough good things about the support they can offer you. You can check them out here.
Now, the next bit of advice I have is to get an accountant if you’re not comfortable with taxes because as a business, you are responsible for paying taxes. And it all depends on the type of business entity you are as to when and how much you pay.
And don’t think that because you’re just a small blog this doesn’t apply to you. The moment you make money blogging, you need to start accounting for it.
Now, in this last section, we’re going to talk about the things you need to legally have on your website.
This policy is legally required by state and federal law if you are collecting information from visitors to your website (and almost all sites are). The reason for this, is that the information you are collecting belongs to the visitor, so they have every right to know how and why you are collecting this information and what you are using it for.
They also have every right to ask you to remove their information from your site and this is the place you need to tell them how they may do so.
Next is the Disclaimer -
The disclaimer serves as notice to your readers that you are providing them with educational services, and none of what you say is to be taken as professional advice of any kind.
Additionally a disclaimer indicates up front if you have third party links on your site and if you are making money through these links.
It also serves to indicate what the users of your website can and cannot do with your intellectual property and protects you from potential lawsuits regarding earnings, product results, and a plethora of other things.
Third are the Terms and Conditions -
No matter how they’re named though, they all do the same thing.
They dictate to your users the rules you have set for your blog, such as intended age restrictions, how your content may be used to prevent copyright infringement, what your refund policies and exchange policies are, and so many other things that are based on how you want to run your site and protect your business.
My favorite thing about the Terms and Conditions though, is that it limits your liability should you make any errors or omit information on your website.
It also takes care of ironing out how disputes must be resolved which can be helpful. It is especially helpful as it should state that resolutions must be taken care of in the state in which you reside; which can both deter legal action, and save money in travel expenses if someone does decide to pursue legal action.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. This seems like a lot, and if you’re anything like me, you probably can’t afford an attorney who can draft these for you right out of the gate. But don’t worry, there are other options.
You can attempt to write in legalese yourself, but I do not recommend this. Especially if you are not a lawyer or other legal professional as you will ultimately have no idea whether what you’re writing encompasses everything you need, or if how you wrote it will legally protect you in court. And do you really want to start questioning whether you’re covered when it matters?
Another option is to use free template generators. But the problem with these is that you have no idea if they were written by a lawyer or a 16 year old who just likes to do his research and makes it look legitimate. Additionally, a lot of these free template generators do not encompass what you need to fully comply with the law such as the GDPR compliance. Most of the time you’re going to need to pay for these upgrades. And if you do pay for the upgrades, you won’t know if it was money well spent, so why risk your money on something that’s not a sure thing?
The last option, and my personal favorite, is to purchase your legal templates from lawyers who run their own blogs. The reason I prefer this method is because these lawyers had to make their own website legal, meaning they’re familiar with the process and you can compare what they provide you with, to what they use. They also have a more in-depth knowledge of the industry than say your mom and dad or grandma and grandpa’s attorney.
I personally recommend Amira from aselfguru.com as hers are the templates we use here on The Craft Mills.
Amira has been a lawyer for more than 9 years, and she has a passion for the industry that stems from wanting to help others. Because of her drive, she’s been able to produce more than 16 comprehensive legal templates to help you protect and navigate your blog from the start. And what’s better is she actually makes the templates affordable and easy to use!
And if you’re still questioning it and want to learn more, check out Amira’s website here.
Oh, and one last thing.
There are no safety nets for those who are negligent, so I say it one more time, be smart and protect yourself before you need it, not after.
5. Build Your Brand
Next up is a discussion about branding… If you’re artistically inclined, this might be your favorite part. If you’re a perfectionist, this might be your least favorite part.
So, first, what is branding?
Personally, I like to think of branding as the personality your blog/business takes on as you build it.
It encompasses everything from your customer service, to your tone of voice in content, to frequently used colors, fonts, and image styles (including your logo). And honestly, it’s a whole plethora of other things, too.
A good place to start, though, is by defining your target customer. You can do this by thinking about who you will be talking to while you write your blog...
What gender do they identify with?
How old are they?
What level is their education?
Are they casual or professional?
Are they married or single?
Do they have kids?
Are they spiritual or religious?
What are they interested in?
What kind of residence do they live in?
How do they stay informed?
What questions does this person have?
What are they drawn to aesthetically?
And any other question you think will help you nail down your customer.
Once you’ve identified your ideal customer, think about how you can be helpful to them and how you can differentiate yourself from your fellow bloggers.
After that, it’s time to start working on your aesthetic.
A lot of people like to create mood boards in order to do this. They cut out colors, fonts, looks and quotes from magazines, photo albums, and definitely from Pinterest, and they use this board to get inspiration for how they want their brand to come across to their customer. If this is something that speaks to you, definitely give it a go. Personally though, I forego the actual board and just use Pinterest for my mood boards.
After you have an idea of what you want, it’s time to get started building your brand.
I also have one more tip for you before I give you a bunch of tools to help you build your brand:
When it comes to your brand, it has to be inherently you with no outside factors influencing you.
You do not want to copy another blogger’s brand for several reasons:
It’s uncool. You’re both unique and you have unique views. Show yours off and be proud of it.
It could be illegal based on what and how much you’re copying.
These other bloggers are your people, you don’t want to insult them by stealing their hard work.
And now that we’ve covered that, here are a few helpful tools for you to build your ideal brand.
Canva Pro - This is the best tool I can recommend for you. It is a great graphic design software that you can use to easily create your logo and other media such as social posts, business cards, letterhead, etc. It uses a simple drag and drop platform and it’s great for beginners. And if you need help figuring out how to use it, you can check out this Canva Pro for Beginners Workshop.
The Chrome extension called Eye Dropper - I used this tool to pick colors on images that I really liked to see what I wanted to use for my brand colors.
For fonts, it’s less of a tool and more of a tip - make sure they’re easy to read and if you use more than one, make sure the font types compliment one another.
99 Designs Color Theory - If you’re considering using colors in your logo, make sure you reference color theories to see what reactions the colors incite in readers.
My last nugget of wisdom for you here, is to be timeless. Use simple designs that can integrate well with all the hopes and goals you have for the future of your business. Don’t follow a design trend that will fly out the window in a month.
6. Create Business Accounts on Social Media
This one is pretty self explanatory. We all know we need to be on social media nowadays to get the word out there about our blogs/businesses, but it’s also important to utilize these tools before you’re even up and running to create a hype around what you’re doing.
You’ll also want to make sure you focus on a few platforms at a time. This is important because you want to get the most out of each platform. You do not want to split your focus across multiple platforms too soon or else you may not realize the full potential of what each platform has to offer because you’re spreading yourself too thin.
I personally recommend Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook because they tend to have the best exposure rates.
Additionally, this will be your first opportunity to introduce your brand, so make sure you’re addressing everything professionally.
And if you need help putting together a content plan, check out this FREE 30 Day Content Planner.
7. Building Your Website
After you’ve finished all of the above, it’s time to get busy working on your actual website, and for this, I recommend Wix.
Wix is an easy to use website building platform that allows you to create a professional and stunning website with just a few simple clicks of the mouse.
Now something important to note here is that Wix offers you the ability to start and host a blog as well as purchase your domain, so if you like to keep things simple, Wix is one of the few platforms that allows you to do all these things in one place.
And in case you’re wondering what any of these things are, here’s a quick run down.
A web host owns space on the world wide web and in turn you rent this space from them to house your website. If you’re unsure of what I mean here, think about it in terms of renting a home. The person who owns the home maintains it, but you get to live there and make cosmetic changes for a fee. If you’re a bit more familiar with technology, a web host is the company you rent server space from.
Now, in order to have a place on the web, you need a domain. This domain will act as your address on the web and will help people to find you.
There are two options for domains:
The least ideal option: You can use a free domain assigned to you within your website building platform, (think name.com) but this will mean you do not own any of the content on your blog and all your hard work can disappear at the drop of a hat if the website building platform deems it so.
The best option: You can buy your domain and this will give you the ability to protect your copyrights as well as provide you with a source of credibility among your readers and search engines.
A building platform is the software you use to make the cosmetic changes and make your domain function as a live website.
Knowing this information, it is crucial to pick a company you’re comfortable with as you may have to troubleshoot your website from time to time.
Personally I love Wix because they host my website, operate a drag and drop website building platform, have wonderful and timely customer service, and they provide a SSL certificate which lets people know your website is safe. Most other websites make you pay extra for a SSL certificate.
And in case you’re wondering, I have used other platforms, including the more popular ones that a lot of other bloggers will recommend, but the learning curve for most of these sites are quite large and unless you know how to code, you can’t customize it. Instead you’re stuck with generic templates or purchasing custom templates that a lot of other bloggers are using. Or the even more expensive option, paying for a designer to customize your website and then paying them again when you want edits.
Wix, however, affords you the opportunity to create a completely custom design without having to know code, pay for a designer, or pay someone to maintain it, so your site is completely your own.
If you’d like to get started building your website, check out what Wix has to offer here.
No matter what website builder or host you choose though, as you build, you’ll want to keep in mind this one very important question: What’s In It For Me, or WIIFM for short.
This question is what people are looking for the answer to when they visit your website, so make sure you hook them in less than 8 seconds.
And if you’re wondering why 8 seconds, fun fact, it’s because the average human attention span is now less than that of a goldfish, which is 8 seconds.
So be smart, and start off on the right foot by drawing the reader in and hooking them with a beautiful and functioning website.
To start, you’ll need several basic pages, and you want to make sure they’re functional, clean, professional, and 100% a representation of your unique brand.
The homepage, if they click into it, should sell them on clicking around the rest of the site, not tell them your whole life story.
The About Page
This page should be equal parts fun fluff about the people behind the business, how the business got started, and what the business can do for the people visiting it.
This is where you’ll showcase all your posts. Showcasing pairings like personal posts, monetary, marketing, lifestyle and other posts will help readers find their desired content.
Landing Pages are informative pages dedicated to promoting one specific product or service.
The Contact Page
The contact page does just as it says; it provides users with one or more ways of contacting you.
Many blogs also have a shop page where you can find all the products and services that they have to offer.
If, as you’re building these pages, however, you have doubts about what the structure of your website should be, I recommend looking at the sitemaps of other bloggers. This is a great way to see what they are offering and how they have their website designed and you can then use this information as inspiration for your own site.
Now, once you’ve got your basic pages created, you’ll want to make sure your site runs efficiently, so you’ll want to test your website speed.
Most sites recommend a loading speed of less than 2 seconds so if you’re ever higher than this, you’ll want to rethink how your site is structured.
8. Create Your Content
Now that you’ve got your website started, (and kudos to you for this achievement by the way) you’ll want to get started really rocking out that content that we discussed at the beginning of this post.
And if you’re having trouble coming up with ideas for posts, check out this post where we talk about easy ways of coming up with topic ideas.
Oh, and don’t forget, all of your posts should include SEO, which we’ll dive into in item #10.
I recommend having at least 6 blog posts before launching so you look a bit more established when people start clicking into your live website. If you only have one or two posts, the people who do visit your site will be less likely to return and you’ll lose out on the potential to expose your future products to these visitors.
Another thing to keep in mind when creating your content is displaying it in a manner that makes the reader want to scroll through the whole thing.
A pet peeve of mine is if I go to someone’s website, their post loads, and then less than 5 seconds later they have a pop up asking if I want to opt in to something.
10 out of 10 times I’ll turn right back around and never visit again. If you’re going to use pop-ups, at least let the reader see what you’re offering before asking them to give something up to get something.
Additionally, you want to make sure your layout is clear. Use fonts that are easily read and colors that stand out on the screen (think back to our discussion about branding). Remember, less is more here.
Lastly, another great method to clean up your blog is the use of sub-headers as a way to break up blocks of text. Alternatively you can use images, and this, my dears, is the segway into the next section.
9. Create Graphics to Accompany Your Content
Do you remember when you were little and you picked a book out based on the cover? Well most readers (even though they’re adults) choose what content they click into the same way. So it becomes very important to create graphics that hook the reader so they become leads (people who buy the things you’re selling).
The software that I recommend in order to create amazing content quickly and easily is without a doubt Canva, which we talked about earlier. I’ve used Canva for over a year now at my day job, and now I use it for The Craft Mills and I have yet to be disappointed.
I’ve even worked with Photoshop, Paintshop, and Adobe Illustrator in my past and Canva is still my go to for all things social and Pinterest related.
I like it so much I even created a Canva Pro Course for Beginners, available here, where we talk about how to use the software and creating an image for your content.
10. Focus on Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Once you’ve created content and images, it’s time to make those things visible to Google and other search engines.
This process is called Search Engine Optimization and uses things like long-tail and short-tail keywords to help Google register what your blog is about.
Now, short-tail and long-tail keywords are not equal. What you want to focus on are long-tail keywords, but for the sake of knowledge, let’s quickly introduce you to short-tail keywords so you know what we’re talking about.
Short-tail keywords are the generic or broad terms associated with a topic. For instance, let’s say you have a blog about blogging, you’d want to include the word ‘blog’ in your text so Google knows what you’re about. Other short-tail keywords you may be familiar with are ‘decor’, ‘lifestyle’, ‘business’, ‘beauty’ and that’s just to name a few.
But the problem with these generic short-tail keywords is that while they’re great to expose your product, they’re quite awful for bringing in quality traffic, and quality traffic is what we want to focus on when building a blog.
So, how do you get quality traffic you may be wondering? Well, long-tail keywords of course! Long-tail keywords are strings of words that reference a problem your consumer or reader is having.
By using these long-tail keywords, you’re targeting a market that is actively looking for an answer to a specific question and will be more inclined to take advantage of what you’re offering. In fact, the title of this post (How to Start a Successful Blog in 2020) is a long-tail keyword.
The explanation behind this is that when someone is trying to learn how to do something, they often type the words ‘how to’. By filling in more words about a specific topic after this initial query, you now have a topic of interest for a specific market, such as “how to start a blog”.
Of course, ‘how to’ isn’t the only option for long tail keywords. It can be anything of substance. For instance, if I have chicken in my freezer and want to find a meal to make that is both easy and quick, I would search “quick and easy chicken dinners”. In turn, the person who is trying to get my traffic and pique my interest, would use “quick and easy chicken dinners” in their text to get me to click into their site for their recipe.
Now, these long-tail keywords often encompass short tail keywords, such as “chicken” so you will show up in both searches. However, by using a long tail keyword, you’re able to target people looking for exactly what you’re offering, whereas with short-tail keywords, you’re lost among the masses and you may or may not get clicks and you may or may not be offering what they’re looking for.
So, if as you’re writing, you’re struggling to come up with keywords, think about how people search for that topic and include those key phrases in your content somehow.
A great way of doing this is by going to Pinterest and searching for it yourself and using the phrases that pop up. You can also use Google Trends to search for what words and phrases are trending so you can use them in your content as well. But don’t forget, the bigger the crowd of people looking for the answer, the bigger the crowd of people trying to answer.
You’ll also want to remember that consumers search for things in layman's terms, not by using professional jargon that they’ve probably never heard of, so use that to your advantage.
11. Create a Marketing Strategy
Since you’ve officially put together a decent blog, at this point you’ll want to look at what content you have to promote and create a marketing strategy.
This strategy is what you’ll use to expose your business to the public and create hype around what you’re doing and offering.
The most popular and recommended methods of doing this are:
Email Marketing Campaigns - AKA building an email list
Pinterest (not to be confused with social media)
And something of interest to note is that there was a study done a little while ago that talked about how people need to see something at least seven times in order to remember it, so think about marketing as your way of putting your name in front of them so they remember you when they need the product or service you have to offer.
Content calendars are great ways of getting inspiration about how and what to market and when, so I recommend looking at as many as you can and building off of those.
12. Make Money Blogging
Now for the part you’ve been eagerly waiting for, we’re going to talk about some of the best ways that you can make money blogging.
Sell Your Own Product/Service -
Through the use of an e-commerce platform or application, you can sell your own products and services to your customer.
There’s no better way of making money blogging than by selling your own products or services because 100% of the profit is yours.
So long as you don’t use services that cost money that is.
Here are a few examples of popular products and services for blogging:
Note: This list can also be used as great ideas for opt-ins when you start building your email list.
Affiliate Marketing -
The recommending of companies, products, and services that you personally use and believe in, to your readers through the use of links in your content.
When a consumer clicks your links, they will be redirected to the website you’ve partnered with and if they make a purchase in the time allotted by the company, you earn a percentage of that sale, also known as a commission, at no extra cost to them.
This method can be the second most profitable option for making money on your site, but this is all based on the percentages offered for commission on each product you recommend.
Popular affiliate marketing programs are:
Your Website Host
A bunch of others
Now two things about affiliate marketing -
1. Some companies require a certain amount of traffic before you can apply and only allow you to apply once, so make sure to do your research.
2. If you like a product or company and you aren’t sure if they offer an affiliate program, just email them and ask. The least that can happen is they say no and you can move on. The best that can happen is they say yes, you sign up, and you make money.
Display Advertising -
The placement of advertisements for outside companies and products on your website that redirect your traffic away from your website and to the website of the company whose ad you have posted.
When a visitor clicks on one of these ads you will make the amount of money indicated in the policies you agreed to in posting the ad.
This is usually the least profitable way to make money on your site but can be beneficial if the ads are placed in opportune locations and used sparingly.
Even though the above three things are the most common methods, there are other opportunities like sponsored or guest posting. But most times those opportunities are better suited for established blogs, so when you’re ready give them a go as well.
And lastly for this section, if you want to make money blogging, know that whether you make money blogging is all dependent upon your dedication and knowledge of how it all works.
So take courses if you’re serious, and know that the best courses aren’t cheap, but they’re an investment, and they’re worth it.
13. Time to Launch
Woohoo! You made it! It’s launch time! The only thing I have to say here is take a moment and enjoy what you accomplished. And send me a link so I can celebrate with you by showing your blog some love!
14. Connect Your Domain Name
Last but not least, you can only register your domain with certain platforms once your website is live, so don’t forget to do so (especially for Pinterest) so you don’t lose out on all the opportunities these platforms can offer you.
& that’s it - keep up the good work and don’t forget to connect with other bloggers so you build relationships and a foundation for potential partnerships.