One of the topics I get asked the most about is blogging. So, today I thought I would share 10 of the tips that have helped me grow this blog over the past 3 years. I started this blog in January 2012, having absolutely no idea what I was doing (imagine an amoeba with a laptop), and since then it's grown to getting nearly 2 million pageviews each month, way beyond my wildest expectations.
So, here are some of the things that have helped me the most during my 3 year journey. I hope you'll find something in this post that helps you along your own path! Enjoy!
1. You don't need to be an expert to start a blog.
Taking that first step into the unknown is the most difficult. You're probably going to feel really overwhelmed and discouraged, especially if you start comparing yourself to blogs who've been around for awhile. So, let me make things easier on you. Your blog isn't going to be all that great at first, and that's okay. My blog was terrible when I first started. My photography was awful, my writing was obnoxious, and my projects and decor left a lot to be desired. But, the thing about being good at something is that you never start out that way. It takes a lot of practice and a lot of mistakes, and slowly over time you will begin to improve at whatever it is you're trying to do. The key is to make sure this is something you're passionate about. If you are passionate about being a blogger, then you'll have the stamina and work ethic to push through all of the walls that you'll inevitably face as you're figuring out your new skill set.
2. Create your own content.
The #1 best way to grow your blog is to create your own content. In my experience, your own quality content will do much better things for your blog then recycled content ever will. Creating your own content will be a lot more work than rounding up a bunch of content from your peers, but it will be SO worth the extra effort. And don't worry if your unique content isn't all that great at first...that's the way it's supposed to be.
You've got to do the work to get better at it.
3. Quality over quantity.
One of the biggest lessons I've learned is that it doesn't really matter how many posts you write. What matters is the quality of the posts you do write. In my experience, I've found that one really great post will get you way more traffic (and loyal, engaged readers) than fifty average posts ever will.
I've only written about 200 posts over the course of 3 years. Mostly because it takes me a lot of time and energy to put together one really great post that I know my readers will enjoy. There are some bloggers that have the ability to write great posts 7 days a week. And that's amazing. But if you find that that's not a reality for you, don't be discouraged. Just focus on writing the best content you can, and over time your blog WILL grow.
4. Optimize your photography.
A great photo or graphic can help grow your blog like nothing else can. I spend a huge chunk of time taking pictures, experimenting with composition, and editing/making graphics for each post. Having a great graphic for a post is incredibly instrumental for bringing traffic to your blog.
Here are a few tips on optimizing the images on your blog:
- If you're not familiar with Photoshop, you can use Picmonkey to edit your photos and add eye-catching graphics. That's what I've used since I started blogging. I also use Ipiccy on occasion, but I prefer Picmonkey because of the ability to add text overlays. I also usually crop, adjust the brightness, and sharpen my images.
I'll be the first to admit that I should probably sharpen my skill set and learn to use Photoshop, but I think it's helpful to know that you can not only get by, but be successful without being an expert at everything. Progress over perfection.
- Make sure that the file name of your picture contains key phrases. For example name your picture 'bloggingtips.jpg' rather than 'DSC1045.jpg' (the name your computer will automatically give your image...like a jerk). This will help people find your blog posts when searching Google and Pinterest.
- Fill in the description of your image on your blog. It should be a keyword rich explanation of the photo you've posted. On Blogger all you have to do is right click on the image, click 'Properties' and type your description in the 'title text' box. That way, when people pin from your site, your description will be readily available for them to use.
- A note on equipment: I blogged for nearly 2 years before I was able to afford a DSLR camera. Before that time, I made do with a $75 Sony Cybershot. My pictures were terrible, but it was the best I could do at the time, and in the end it didn't really matter...it was okay to start out with crappy equipment. Eventually, I was able to upgrade to a DSLR. I currently use a Nikon D3100 with either the kit lens or my 50mm. Still nothing fancy, but way better than what I started with. Then, I spent some time learning to use it. I'm far from being great, but I've come a long way in just a year's time. Something that helped me tremendously was taking the Photography 101 & 102 course from Shoot Fly Shoot. I'm not an affiliate. I just think it's great.
Again, I'm average at best, but photos do make a difference. Here's a photo of the dining room from the first year of my blog back when I was using my
evil trusty Cybershot. The photo was lopsided, blurry, and definitely taken with a flash.
And here's a photo taken in the last year using my DSLR...crisp, bright, and taken on manual settings. Obviously, the dining room itself is an improvement, but I'd like to think my photography skills are slightly less horrendous. :)
5. Use Pinterest.
Pinterest is the most effective form of social media when it comes to increasing your traffic and growing your readership. More than half of all my traffic comes from there.
Here are some tips to help you make the most of Pinterest.
- Develop your own following on Pinterest by pinning interesting images. Pay attention to the organization of your own boards, and make them pretty. Make sure you have a board dedicated to your own blog, and put it right up front where it's easy to find. Take the time to write your own descriptions of each pin. You can check my boards out here.
- Join Pinterest group boards and pin your content to drive traffic to your posts. Once your blog grows to a certain point, you'll find that you won't need to do this as much, but in the beginning, it can really help drive traffic and grow your blog.
- Pin during peak times of the day to optimize repins. I get the best results on weekdays between 8-10pm and on Saturday and Sunday morning between 8-10am.
6. Optimize old content.
In the age of Pinterest, you never know how someone is going to find your blog. The first thing they see might be a post you did three years ago. So, take the time to go back to all of your old posts and see if there's any way you can improve them. I go back and look at my old posts about once or twice a year, and each time I find so much stuff that I can improve upon. Don't let all that old content go to waste.
Here are just a few of the ways you can improve old content:
- Improve your photos and graphics if necessary. This may mean re-editing the original photos or taking entirely new photos. It just depends on the situation/project. My first 40 or so posts never had a graphic, just unedited pictures taken straight out of my camera. I always save all of my original photos on dropbox, so I was able to go back, edit them, add text overlays when needed, and re-insert them into my posts. Doing this ended up driving a lot of traffic to all of those old posts that never got any traffic when they were first published.
- Insert links to other relevant posts within your blog. This can help direct readers to other posts they might enjoy.
- Include your social media buttons and email signup in the bottom of each post. Make it as easy as possible for your readers to find and connect with you, using the method of their choice.
- Re-name your old pictures using targeted keywords. This really helps with SEO, and allows Google to be able to find your pictures as well as your posts. (And while you're at it, make sure you're using keywords in your post title, too. This is important for both Pinterest and Google.)
7. Focus on what matters.
I say no to a lot of things. Because I know that if I say yes to every opportunity that comes my way, I won't have the time or energy to do the work that makes my blog successful.
I've opted out of hosting link parties, doing tons of sponsored content, and publishing roundups of other people's content because it takes me away from creating the content that I feel is most valuable to the long term growth of my blog.
Every blog is different, and different things will work for different blogs. I spent about a year floundering about, trying out ALL the things and figuring out what worked for me. The key is that when you do figure out what works for your blog, focus on that, and don't get distracted by everything else.
8. Be yourself.
Being yourself is the most important thing you can do for the success of your blog. You'll have your strengths, and you'll have your weaknesses, and in the end you'll discover that it won't really matter, as long as you're being true to yourself.
I started out only being able to be my true self in snippets of tiny italicized text.
You'll eventually find your groove. :)
9. Don't be afraid to share your mistakes.
I think there is a tremendous amount of value in sharing your mistakes on your blog. It's absolutely terrifying sometimes, because you feel like everyone is going to judge you, and that's a feeling we'd all like to avoid. But, here's a little secret: People are going to judge you either way. But, I've found that being a normal, imperfect human makes you more relatable and makes your blog that much more fun to read.
So, it's okay to share the real stuff alongside the pretty stuff. You don't have to live inside of a magazine to be a successful blogger.
10. Stick with it.
There will be hard times. Your energy and creativity will ebb and flow. This has happened to me at least 10 times over the course of three years, and it always passes. As many of you know, I'm going through one of those phases now, as I'm a little over 6 months pregnant, and feeling like a sloth who just wants to nap and eat and cry all the time. But, I don't stress about it because I know that this too shall pass. I think the key is to just do the best you can at any given moment, and keep on keepin' on. What's meant to be will always find a way.
That's all for today, ya'll! Thanks so much for being here!