Blogging: Growing Your Blog
I've been asked to share some tips on how to grow your blog. Of course you could ask any blogger this, and they will probably have different viewpoints and angles and tips. These, however, are mine.
So you've set up your blog, made it look pretty, now what?
You may feel like you're on a deserted island out there, but you've got an entire community to learn from and ask questions of.
Most of you know that I have been on multiple blogging platforms. And that I spent one year on Wordpress. I'm back on Blogger and this is where I plan to stay for the foreseeable future.
Is there a place for Wordpress in the blogging world? Of course. Do you need to move your blog to WP to define yourself and play in the big leagues. A resounding NO.
I lost all my posts from April 2009-July 2013, and I'm still glad I moved back. It's easier on Blogger, someone else is at the helm providing the hosting that I don't have to deal with or pay for, and I can focus just on my blog.
Some want to go there because they feel like they own their blog content on WP. You own it as long as you pay the hosting fees every month. As soon as you stop paying that fee, your blog evaporates. So that's your call.
Wordpress is a wonderful tool. But a blogger does not need every bell and whistle out there. If you sell products and you blog about your business and all that, yes, you might need to expand to a full-blown website.
If you're just writing a blog and maybe have an Etsy shop, etc., Blogger is plenty good enough. And it's free.
Moving to a paid platform will not make you a better writer, a better photographer, a better anything. It just means you have to learn some code and pay the bill. Good luck to you on that.
I think the most important thing you can do as a newish blogger is to mingle. Which means join blog parties.
Please don't add a list a mile long of blog parties you're linking to for one post. It just looks tacky. Join up to three. That's my limit. That way you have time to go visit other linked blogs. There's no way you will do that if you join a big list, and you know it. There is blog etiquette, just like there's etiquette everywhere.
There are mommy blogs, foodie blogs, political blogs, photography blogs. Every kind of blog you could possibly think of.
So find your "place" and join link-up parties. And comment, comment, comment.
Once you start your blog, if you don't post consistently, you will not garner a following. Simple as that. If you're only going to post once a month or even once a week, don't waste your time.
Readers want consistency. You are like a column or a magazine or a TV show. They want to know when to expect you, and you'd be smart to show up. I blog every single day. That is of course not mandatory. But it keeps you up in the Google rankings and the more you post, the more opportunities you have to gain readers.
Write well. By this I mean take note of spelling and make your blog look professional by showing that you care what you put out there. Keywords? I don't worry with them.
Skip the fancy script-y fonts for your content. You want your content to be as readable as possible. Skip the tiny fonts. Skip the light-colored fonts. And skip the black backgrounds. If you want my advice, use black text on a white background. Simple but very effective.
If you love fancy fonts, save them for post titles or graphics or your blog title.
Be nice. Be helpful to other bloggers. Put your email address or contact information in an easy to find place on your blog. Make yourself available. You will make more friends this way, and you will make yourself more approachable to your readers.
Put the date on your post. This sounds so easy. But the trend now is to not put the date on your post. What this says to me is: "I could have written this post last month, and you won't know it." What do I do when I see posts without dates? I skip them altogether.
If you can't be transparent about when you are posting, then I'm not going to be a reader. Newspapers use dates, magazines use dates. Professionals use dates.
Make your blog pretty and easy to navigate. It is these blogs that will have the most visits and gain the most readers. I could tell you to just put up some background that is ultra busy and free just because it appeals to you. But you don't want it to be too busy. It's better to be somewhat generic than over the top.
You can use the Blogger Template Designer and Picmonkey and create a beautiful blog. You can also buy templates from Etsy or designers that sell premade blog templates. The one I'm currently using is by Envye.
Purchasing a template won't break the bank. We're talking anywhere from $10 to $50.
Switch the template and you have a whole new look in just a few minutes. If you choose to hire a designer and have the money to pay for it, go for it. But if you prefer to learn how to build the elements yourself, it's out there for your learning pleasure.
Just Google whatever you want to know and eventually you will stumble upon a tutorial. Keep in mind that all tutorials won't work on all blogs.
Ask questions. If you don't know how to do a permalink to join a party, email the party host. I ask questions all the time. You can't learn if you don't ask.
People email me all the time with questions. I answer them promptly. If I don't know, I try to figure it out.
I have tips on my Cozy Little House navigation bar. If you want to go to my tips blog for Blogger users, it is http://brendasblogtips.blogspot.com.
I don't keep it that up-to-date. I just casually add tips when I come upon them or think of them. It's mostly a place for me to go when I can't remember how to do something. And if I've ever looked it up, it's documented there. Like I said, all tips don't work for all blogs.
Do you need to buy a domain? Not necessarily. If you think your blog might evolve into a business, it might be a more important point to ponder.
Heard of A Cup Of Jo? Well, she's pretty famous, and she is on Blogger and the end of her blog name is not a .com. It is blogspot.com. If you want to go see for yourself, visit http://joannagoddard.blogspot.com.
Write from your heart. I don't mean tell all your secrets, although you can of course tell as much as you please. Write as if you're talking to someone. As with everything else, the more you write, the better a writer you become.
You can write in narrative, story form, tutorial-form. There are tons of ways to get your point across. I may just offer an online course on writing one of these days. I love to write. Which is why I got a degree in professional writing in college.
Learn to take good photos. In fact, keep learning until you can take GREAT photos. When I see a new blog with fantastic photos, I know that blogger was going strong right out of the gate. Photos are super important. Crisp, clear photos.
If you want to learn the manual settings, go right ahead. I choose to take photos the simple way, on automatic. No flash. NO FLASH.
You can take your photos to Picmonkey and correct them. Make them lighter, brighter, sharper. Picmonkey is my go-to place for editing photos and creating designs. I pay for the premium which is about $25 a year to get all the bells and whistles. I don't really like Photoshop. I don't find it very user-friendly. If you are comfortable on Photoshop, more power to you.
DO NOT EVER start a post with something like: "I know I haven't posted in awhile..." The death knell sounds. I know from that one sentence that you aren't really a serious blogger. And if you're not serious about your blog, why should I make it a priority to read it?
There are instances of course when there has been an illness which would explain your absence.
If you only casually blog and never plan to try and make money from it, then you set your own rules. If you want to eventually make money, you have to consistently post. Sponsors look at that kind of thing.
If you find you're not comfortable with the whole world reading, you can easily make it a private blog and invite only the readers you choose.
I visit a number of blogs every day. I try to visit new-to-me blogs each day. That's how you grow, how you learn, and find out what you like. And while you're there, you might as well read their last post and leave a comment. You might get a new reader out of it.
COMMENT, COMMENT, COMMENT. I know one very successful blogger who consistently commented with more than "I like this" or "great post." And that, my fellow bloggers, is one reason she became so successful.
Her name is Kim and her blog is Savvy Southern Style. That girl, over the years I've known her, has commented one hell of a lot. And it paid off. And continues to pay off.
Social media. I don't much care for it. I don't use anything but Pinterest. I blog because I love blogging and I need to help support myself. Not to be seen all over Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, etc. I'm not saying it won't move mountains for you. But it's a LOT of work. And subsequently, often causes burnout. It can be overwhelming.
Many go to Facebook and try to direct readers over to their blog. Why not focus on great blog posts and grow them organically? Which means to gain growth from the original source.
In fact, I don't have social media buttons on my blog at all. I do have a link to Pinterest. One blog consultant wrote that if you put social media icons on your blog, as everyone has probably told you to do, you are sending your readers away from your blog.
You want your readers to stay on your blog and explore. If you send them somewhere else, they might not come back. It's your choice.
I would burn out fast if I tried to be everywhere at once. I notice that bloggers nowadays are often paying someone else to ghost write social media for them or even make comments. To me this is ridiculous. If you can't do the job, then what on earth is the point?
I guess if you're making millions, it might be a different story. Most of us don't make millions. So it's a moot point.
You know, it's just like your friendships in the "real" world. You are there for your friend when he/she needs you. You make yourself available. You politely answer their questions. You put your best foot forward. You are authentic.
Now apply that to blogging.
This is not rocket science. Here is a simple breakdown of things I find important to do as a blogger:
1. Post consistently. If that's three days a week, then that's when your readers will expect you. Show up.
2. Join blog parties and get the word out about your blog. While I'm on that topic, it is a good idea to put your blog URL on all your email communications. Have business cards made and hand them out. Just get the word out about your blog.
3. Be available to your readers and other bloggers. If they ask you a question, don't let it sit in your inbox a week before you answer. Manners, manners, manners.
4. Make sure your blog is designed well, is clear and concise when it comes to wording, and is easy for everyone to read. This doesn't mean you have to hire a designer and pay big bucks. Simple is often quite beautiful. And easy on the eye.
5. Learn how to take great photos. Practice inside, outside. The more you practice, as with anything, the better you will be. Do not post fuzzy out-of-focus photos.
6. Comment, comment, comment on other blogs that you like to read. That are in your genre. They will eventually get curious and go see who you are.
7. You don't have to jump on the band wagon of every social media platform to be a blogger. Others may tell you different. Your time is better spent, in my opinion, right there on your blog.
8. Leave religion and politics off the table. You can cause a war in a short amount of time.
9. Write as much about yourself as you're comfortable with. We want to know you. We want to know what your surroundings look like. We want to know your own unique sense of humor. But it is up to you at what point you draw the line.
In my opinion, in this age of vast social media, it just isn't too smart to continually show children and grandchildren in your photos. There's too much ugliness out there.
It's your call, but keep in mind that you don't know who is viewing them. What their intentions might be. How dangerous they are. And if they might just find out your address.
10. Be yourself. That's what will make your blog stand out from the rest. There is no one like you. That has your unique personality, sense of humor, depth, style. Stick to being yourself and you will shine.
You. Will. Shine.
Next time in this series I'll write about ways to make money blogging.