Starting a bargain blog: steps I took to prepare

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As you know, this month marks one year since I launched my blog. In the past few months, I've gotten a few emails from folks interested in starting blogs for their local areas. Responding to such emails takes quite a bit of time because there is a LOT to learn, so I've decided to give some practical, basic, and most important, honest advice about how to get started in a new series of five posts. I hope my fellow bloggers will feel encouraged and welcome to jump in and fill out the advice I share in the comment section.

To get started, today I'm going to simply talk about the steps I took. Then, over the next few days, I'll be spending some time discussing the steps I think you should take as you plan your blog.

One of my resolutions for 2009 was to start a blog. I knew I wanted it to be about couponing and I knew I wanted it to be a quality site with well-written content. So here are some of the things I did BEFORE launching my site.

1. Read up on other sites! Spend some time reviewing other bargain blogs – read lots of 'em too. Which ones are you drawn to, and why? Which ones do you feel are less effective? What kind of topics do you see covered? Can you identify any topics that aren't currently being fully explored? 

2. Consider your blogging service. I use TypePad; it was the first service I looked at, and it seemed like a good fit at the time. I'd also read a positive review about it in a "learn to blog" book. However, I also pay a $14.95 fee and there are some features I'm less than keen on about it. Needless to say, next month I'll be making the switch to WordPress and I've had to hire professional services to help with the migration. Many bloggers use Google-based Blogger, mainly because it's free and easy to use. I run my 26 Pounds 26 Miles blog from Blogger. However, if you want to fully customize your site and enjoy more freedom in how your site looks and feels, you might consider moving to WordPress. I'm losing count of how many former Blogger bloggers have migrated to WordPress. Something to think about. Email other bloggers and see what they have to say. It's easier to start with the service you want than have to switch later. 

3. Think long and hard about your brand FIRST. Oh please whatever you do, do not just come up with a cute or witty name, slap up a site, and go for it. Remember, those early posts are PIVOTAL. You want to have your best foot forward. You wouldn't show up the first day on the job wearing sweats would you? Spend some time thinking about your name. Make it memorable, easy, and make it clear what you're about. Again, there are LOTS of bargain bloggers out there and this one is going to take some time. When I initially thought of this blog, I thought it would be fun to come up with a cute name like "Angela Clips Coupons" but in the end, I ditched cuteness for professionalism. I also pitched my friends a few blog name ideas and The Coupon Project was favored time and again. I also chose my name because it was important to me to have a gender-neutral title. In thinking about your name, think about your blog. What will you strive to do better or different? This is challenging given the sheer volume of other blogs out there. Do your homework. 

4. Seek out other bloggers. Not knowing what I was fully doing, I decided to contact more successful bloggers. I found these bloggers to be so encouraging and helpful as I began to start out. I've also reached out to local bloggers for guidance. I had thought all these other bloggers were my competition, boy was I wrong! I'll say it once and I'll say it again, you NEED other bloggers to learn and to grow your own blog's traffic. This is a community you must learn to become a part of. (And it's a great one, too!).

5. Read up on blogging. I went to the library and read for a few weeks before typing my first post. However, most of the books at my library turned out to be way out-dated…and they were only a couple years old! A couple of my FAVORITE blogs on blogging are ProBlogger and BlogCoach. BlogCoach (written by Angie of Baby Cheapskate) has done an excellent job of addressing common and pressing questions bloggers have, and keeps you informed of newer techniques. Check these sites out BEFORE you get started and you'll have a leg up.
  

What's next in this series?

Part 2: planning your posts and managing your time
Part 3: traffic building strategies and networking
Part 4: setting up your business and earning some income
Part 5: the pros and cons of running a bargain blog

Please let me know what specific questions you have. I've still got a LOT to learn, but as with couponing, I'm happy to have you along for the journey! 
 


Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for this post Angela. I just jumped right in without much planning, and boy was that a mistake! Now I am trying to catch up on things should have researched prior to writing my first post. I’m also at a point where I don’t know exactly where I want to go with my blog. Grow it, monetize it, or just keep it as an avocation so that I don’t feel obligated to post every day? I would recommend having a predetermined goal in mind before ever putting finger to keyboard! I look forward to the rest of your series!

  2. says

    What a great series! I just recently started blogging, and I’m looking forward to your advice. My main objective for my blog is more of an online journal to keep track of my money saving tips, recipes, successful shopping trips, and more. I hope to learn something from your series and maybe get some readers!

  3. Julie says

    This is great! I also agree with your decision to use wordpress (going forward). I use wordpress for our family blog site and it’s so flexible and easy to maintain. I will say though, you really really want to think through how you’re going to set up a blog with different pages and sections and all that because it’s hard to make changes later. I don’t like the way I did a few things on mine and now I just can’t bring myself to fix the problems and it really bugs me.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge, I’ve been playing with the idea of starting a companion blog for couponers/deal seekers so I’m eager to see what you have to say and mull over my idea some more.

  4. says

    Awesome post, I too wish I had followed your advice. I started blogging three months ago and feel the need to scrap it and start over, but I already have readers (4!!) so I don’t know that I should start over. Oh well, really looking forward tot he series! Thanks!

  5. says

    What are the rules about using deals from other bloggers – do you always reference them? do always try to link to them? DO you link to their home page or the deal page? Is it frowned upon to have a large part of your blog be deals you found on other blogs? Do you have to notify bloggers that you often borrow from of new deals?
    How exactly is the income generated? From people clicking through? Do you get money from coupon sites if people click through to them? From having sweepstakes so that you get more followers? Do you get more $ from advertisers if you have more followers?
    Is it better to target your blog to a larger audience ie. people looking for deal or smaller ie. mothers with young children.
    Why do you have two blogs?
    How much time do you spend looking for new deals? Where do you look?

  6. Tara says

    I’ve been asked by a number of friends to start my own blog re: saving money and using coupons but wasn’t sure where to start. I am looking forward to reading your series and see if it’s really something I want to do. I already have three blogs that I (unfortunately) don’t keep up on as much as I’d like to, so if I were to do a money saving focused blog, I’d definitely need a few pointers! Mainly at this point in the game, time management would be a big one. Thanks for helping us all out!

  7. Amanda says

    Thanks so much. I’ve been mulling over the idea of starting a couponing blog also, but I’ve been afraid of the time commitment it would take with two small children. I’m so far away from most of my family and I’m always calling them to brag about my shopping trips and they say you’ve got to teach me. This could be an easy way, but I don’t know much about setting up webpages so this will be helpful for me and maybe I will actually take the plunge.

  8. says

    For those not sure if they want to start a blog, you might consider other avenues for sharing what you know. When I first learned how to coupon, it was in the house of a friend over coffee. She asked us to bring a Sunday paper, and she brought out the “freebies” she’d accumulated from her pantry and receipts. It was a VERY effective way to learn how to do this. Some couponers also teach workshops – and you can definitely make a little income that way with perhaps less of an overall time commitment. If you’re not sure yet how you want to help others, you might consider some of these other ideas as well as blogging.

    I’m jotting down questions and comments and will do my best to address them in the other posts in this series. I’m not going to get into the technical side of blogging, just keep things on a high-level as best I can.

  9. julie says

    Thanks for this series. I have been teaching classes for a few months. I never really thought about starting a blog, mainly because there are so many already out there. Now, though, you’ve got me thinking . . .

  10. says

    Julie, I didn’t touch on this and am not sure if I will, but newer bloggers will have some extra work cut out for them in that there ARE many established blogs out there already. Newer bloggers will have the added work of trying to break in and do something different to contribute. This includes coming up with a different name, theme, ideas, etc. While challenging, it can be done though! I just cannot stress enough you’ll need a unique voice and perspective to gain sizeable readership given the blogs that have already been established in this arena.

  11. Tonya says

    Is there money in this? Do you get paid for everytime we visit your site, do you get paid for having amazon.com and coupons.com on your page?

  12. Theresa says

    I am tempted to create a blog and I do spend a lot of time thinking about just how I would do it. I’m concerned about all the other blogs already out there though. What can I bring different to the table. I thought of creating a blog more dedicated to my local area because most of my local grocery stores are not blogged about on any blogs. But to be honest I’m not from an area where there is many couponers. I’m also concerned about the time involved. I would love to just start off with a very small following, like just friends and neighbors, that would be fine with me.
    Thanks for covering this topic. I think it will prompt me in either direction.

  13. says

    Tonya, there is money in this, though for me so far…it’s been light. I would make more at any minimum wage job than what I do here. But, I am more passionate and fulfilled with my blog than ANYTHING I’ve done career-wise to-date. I make money anytime readers print their Coupons.com, SmartSource, or Red Plum coupons through my site (so please do!), and I also make money when readers participate in select affiliate offers I promote (with the new FTC guidelines, I’m required to disclose which ones – please read my Disclosure Policy for more info).

    It’s important for my readers to know…I have MANY offers I CAN post, but I ONLY post the ones I believe are personally of value. The Amazon deals I post – I make sure these are GOOD values first – ones I would or have done myself. And I ONLY post deals that have been rated at least 3.5 stars by reviewers. The trust my readers have in me is important and I’ve learned how to edit the affiliate offers I post to be consistent with who I am. Please let me know if an offer I post is not in alignment with that – I want to hear from you! I will be talking more about the business/income side of this a couple posts from now. Let’s just say I probably “make” more from couponing than blogging at this point.

    Theresa, if you’re in an area without many couponers…you might have an instant niche! ;) Teach them how to do it, and show them the deals. That might be a better opportunity than you realize.

  14. Heather says

    I’m getting my blog up and running and have started out on blogger because that’s what I know (my personal family blog is there). However, I know that blogger is getting a rep for shutting down what they deem to be “spamming” blogs, and so a lot of bargain bloggers are moving elsewhere. I looked into WordPress…but they say NO money-making ads/links. They say something about self-hosting? Can you maybe touch on this in your Q&A post? Also, just out of curiosity, many blogs I follow (and not just bargain blogs) require a reader to put in their name and email before leaving a comment ~ any specific reason for that? Thanks!!

  15. says

    Angela, I can not tell you how much I appreciate your post series on blogging!! I have gained more insight here than I have on the hundreds of Google searches and blogging books I have read!! THANKS!

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