Let me first start by saying that I am still in a big growth period in my blog. While I have been blogging since 2007- it has been just over the last couple years & most recently the last 6-8 months that I have really been more serious about the direction my blog is going. Like many people say- it doesn’t happen over night & that is true. For me- it took a while to get to know about blogging then try different niches that interested me & to then start finding my own voice before I could really start focusing on growth. I don’t claim to know everything there is to know. But this post has been a long time in the making because there are a lot of things that have been on my mind as I grow & connect with so many other bloggers at various levels.
I, like many started with blogger. It was great for getting to know the whole realm of how it all works. But once I decided to really get serious about growing my blog this past September- I made the jump to wordpress. It has amazing SEO capabilities, the plug-in’s are fabulous & I have seen my blog grow approximately 500% in 7 months. It can be complicated to make the switch to a self-hosted wordpress blog. I am an affiliate member for someone that can help you with all that if you need help with design & making the switch. You can visit her HERE. If you are good with design & just need someone to help you with the actual transfer- I highly recommend my gal Sara. She was great at helping to offer me things I didn’t know existed & making sure that I was satisfied & happy before calling it good. You can find her HERE– I don’t get any sort of affiliate payment from her. I just love what she did for me. As far as choosing a host- I use BlueHost– they have been great. Always there when I need support- any time, day or night. While I am on this topic- I must also recommend using a Genesis Theme. I love them. Sara offers that in her package – so if you use her, you will be good to go.
I am a firm believer in knowing who I am interacting with when I visit a blog. I love it when I can get a visual of who the author/creative mind is behind the ideas that brought me on over to begin with. This is why I love seeing a bio/about page or widget some place on the blog. I personally don’t like to have mine in the sidebar because I view that as some of the most valuable real estate on my little place on the web. So I added the Fancier Author Box plug-in & I have it at the bottom of each post. This way people can see my face- read what I am all about & get to know me a little more before they leave a comment. I also have a full About Me page with an image of the whole family, a snippet about who we are as a family & a way to contact me there too. Which brings me to my next topic…
Make it easy for your readers to connect with you in other places beyond your blog. You can see that I have all my links to where you can find me at the top in my header. I specifically chose my Genesis Theme- Blissful because it offered the option to put those links in that area. Like I mentioned before- the sidebar space is valuable & so I wanted those important links in a visible place- just not taking up my sidebar. I just recently changed the colors of them a bit to make them stand out a bit more. After giving my blog a good analysis of what needed to be improved I figured that they could be blending in too much to the header design & I could be missing out on some valuable connections by not having them stand out. I also think that it is an easy way to update the feel of the blog as a whole for the season changes without completely re-vamping the whole design. One other thing on this topic- give your readers the option to subscribe via email. I love this option because I can get what I am after delivered to me each morning. I don’t have to worry about missing a post or remembering to head on over when things are busy & I get forgetful. It’s there & I can connect with those I love to spend my time with. I can’t tell you how bummed I get when I find a blog I love but I can’t get it delivered via email subscription. I don’t want my readers to miss a thing- I have the place to sign up both in my sidebar & at the end of every post.
This should be something you pay close attention to. Make sure your blog is organized & neat. make sure things re easy to find. If you talk about different subjects- like recipes & crafts, at the very least, give your posts tags or categories so that people who come over & like one post can easily find others like it. I recently devoted some time to adding those categories into my menu bar with a drop down feature further grouping those sub-categories together. This way people can easily find what they are after. It can be so frustrating to want more from a blog & there is no rhyme or reason to it & I end up leaving frustrated. This is also why I finally decided to just have a linky party page of the places where I like to link up each day. I became so frustrated by having a bunch of different buttons at the bottom of each post & soon my post were being over run by all these extra images. I’m all for giving props & credit to those you link up with but at the same time you want your content to be what is noticed- not all the mis-aligned buttons all over the bottom of your post. One or two is fine- but beyond that- I encourage you to have a place where you list them all in an orderly fashion. Or you can always give a text link at the end of your post to the places where you frequently visit.
This took me a while & all the different things I did have helped me with where I am now. When I first started blogging & wanted to blog about the things I was making both with crafting & in the kitchen. I slowly moved away from that & focused on homeschooling for a bit. But really- I’m not the typical homeschooler & I found I really didn’t have all that much to say about the topic. It’s just something we do & our way of life. Not something I like to discuss with a lot of people or that I am passionate about sharing. I am passionate about my kids & their education but when I leave the classroom- I want to leave all that there. I wasn’t sharing ME. But through that I found some bloggers that were great photographers too. Which then made me realize how much I had always wanted to know how to take great photos of my kids. So I started visiting more & more photography blogs & became more & more inspired. I slowly learned everything I wanted to know through tutorials & visiting blogs & making some amazing friends that have helped me along the way. Through this I have found that I may actually go into biz 100% some day. I have had the opportunity to work on some really fun product photography projects & grow & expand the skills I have developed to help make the images I share here better. But I still kept coming back to wanting to share recipes & other things I was doing with the kids & for the home. So I started incorporating those posts back into my blog & you know what- I’m happy again. I am posting what I am passionate about, what makes me happy & I’m posting what I WANT to. Not what some link party prompt is asking of me. While I still really enjoy things like Scavenger Hunt Sunday because I really love playing outside the box with photography- my blog embodies more of who I am now. I don’t just like to take pictures but I love to sew, crochet, paint, design, bake, garden & all sorts of other things too. Find what you are passionate about- and then jump in with both feet.
While we are on the topic of photography I want to mention your images. Make them large so people can see them well. Make them as wide as your post space will allow. It draws the reader in & really gets them to interact more with your space & what you are sharing with them.
You can find the recipe for these HERE.
This is pretty obvious. If you want people to come visit- give them fresh things to look at when they do. It’s like going to a channel on T.V. hoping to see a new show but when you get there all they play is the same re-runs of the same 5 episodes. You want to see new things & if you don’t- you stop going there. Your readers will think you have abandoned your blog if you don’t post on a consistent basis. I personally like to post 7 days per week. Some people do -4 & some just take the weekends off. The key here is to be consistent because your readers notice. One time I decided to try taking Saturdays off – it wasn’t long into my Saturday morning when I started getting messages from people asking if my site had a problem or if something was wrong. They had grown to expect a post every day & when it wasn’t there- it caused them to think something was up. So that lasted for one weekend. I resumed a 7 post per week schedule & you know- I have so many ideas swimming around in my head that it’s not hard to fill up the days. In fact- I wish I had more days in a week for posts.
The whole point of blogging is to interact with your readers & share. People like to share their thoughts on things & when they leave you a comment, it’s nice when you can reply back & form a conversation about it. I used to feel I had to visit back every single person that left me a comment. Well – when you get 30-40+ comments per day, sometimes that can be a large undertaking to visit & comment & keep up on it all. I have now given myself the freedom to respond back to the comments left within a couple days at the most & then visit my favorite blogs each day. I then pay a visit to new blogs once a week as I have time. This is a lot easier with my schedule & then I don’t have 300 emails stacked up in my inbox waiting for my attention.
One of the things I find the most amazing about blogging is the bonds I have formed with a tight group of bloggers. I have “met” people that have truly been there for me when my own family wasn’t. They have done amazing things for me like forming a virtual house warming party for me through gift cards when we moved. They have put my family on prayer lists when things got tough. They have bought ad space on my blog when times were rough for us. Bottom line- they have been there for me. They are my rock. We join together to make ad campaigns successful, we work on projects together both on our blogs & outside of them. I have some that I can have 4 hour long phone conversations with- but I have never met them in person. Let me tell you- it’s an amazing feeling to know these FRIENDS are out there for you. I feel so blessed to have them in my life. I encourage you to find like minded bloggers & form that relationship with them. It’s amazing!
This really should go without saying- but I have heard horror stories & had my own issues with people STEALING from posts. I had someone taking images of my kids & using them for a fake life on Facebook. Oh yeah- I was beyond livid. But beyond that- I had a blogger tell me once that she was at a conference & struck up a convo with a gal as they were going into a session on legal stuff when it comes to blogging. The gal told her that she likes to post recipes but doesn’t take her own photos. She just searches the web for images that look like what her food should look like & then posts someone else’s image with it. NOT COOL!!! We take a lot of time, energy & financial expense to put together a beautiful image. From the classes, equipment, props & TIME- to have it stolen by someone who is too lazy to do the same AND then take credit for it as if it were their own. APPALLING. Which is why I watermark all my images too. I know there is a lot of controversy about this- but after your images are swiped- you will feel compelled to do the same.
It’s so important to be YOU when you are blogging. Don’t try to do what others are doing & don’t play the comparison game. I read someone’s post once where she was talking about this one gal who literally took each of her posts- the content was almost word for word, the image ideas were almost identical & the topic & title exactly the same. It was really sad because she had asked this gal to stop- basically said “I’m on to you” and the woman would not quit. What is wrong with people??!! The whole point is to get your own voice heard- not reiterate what others are saying. Be yourself because that is the only way you will be passionate about what you are saying. The phony speak will show through & people will get turned off & stop visiting. Everyone is at different stages in blogging- everyone has their own things that they want to talk about- that is a good thing. It’s okay to try someone else’s craft or recipe- but give them credit for it when you do. Share the love & be true to what YOU LOVE. That is your recipe for success.