Thursday 19 May 2016

10 things I've learned in my first year of blogging

things I learned in my first year blogging

By some miracle I started this blog more than a year ago, and instead of my usual "think it's the best thing ever for a month and then drop it like a hot snot" approach to hobbies*, this one has stuck. If anything my interest has only grown, and the more I get to know about the ins and outs of running a blog the more into it I get. 

*"Hobby" really feels like the wrong word, but I can't think what else to call it. Sideline? Venture? What I want to do when I'm a grown-up? That thing I neglect my family for? Answers on a postcard please.

If only money weren't an issue!

So here I am, one year down the road, still getting a serious buzz from planning a new project and putting a post together. I started out knowing nothing about blogging, programming, or any of that stuff. I'm someone who used a computer for email and facebook stalking so the learning curve was steep! And I thought maybe you lot would be interested in what I've learned over the past year. 

So here you go, the top 10 things I learned that have helped me get my blog to where it is...

1) Google can show you how to do anything. Literally ANYTHING!

And I say "show", not "teach", because I could not re-do anything involved in the setting up of the blog now if my life depended on it. However, I did manage to buy and install (is that even the right word?!! I. Don't. Know!!!!) my domain name from the I started with, change my blog "theme" (i.e what it looks like), add little Facebook and Instagram widgets (look at me, throwing the word "widget" around like I didn't just learn what it meant), and generally make it look like something more professional than the hobby-blog it is.

2) Image is important.

Related to the first point, how your blog looks is important. There are a lot (a LOT) of blogs out there, and if yours looks like a computer illiterate mom made it no-one is going to want to read it. Spend some time getting your blog to look professional, and while you're at it make sure you have quite a few posts already up there before you launch it (that is, beg all your fb friends to like and share it). There's nothing worse than coming across a great new blog and realising that they only have two posts. I want to binge dammit, BINGE!!!

3) Good photography is sooooo important.

In my opinion each post needs to have several photos, and they need to be bright and clear, as well as being relevant. You can get by with a good smartphone depending on the lighting and the apps you use to edit, but if you're serious about your blog a dslr camera is something you should think about investing in. It doesn't have to be top of the range. I use a Nikon d3300 and love it.

4) Find YOUR voice.

I think this is especially difficult if you read a lot of blogs and were inspired to start one of your own by some of your best-loved ones. It's easy to fall into the trap of trying to emulate your favourites a bit too closely and it might take a while to really sound like "you" in your posts, but it's important to keep at it until you do. 

I find that writing posts in stages helps, coming back to it several times and re-reading with fresh eyes, but I find this hard to do myself as I rarely get the time to write this way. Usually it's all done in a rush when the kids are asleep and I find myself with enough energy to write something!But I know that this isn't the best way to go about it and sometimes I read back over something after I've posted it and cringe over something very un-me that I've written! I'd love to get a few daytime hours a week child-free to dedicate to blogging. Maybe when Em starts preschool in September!


5) You don't ask, you don't get.

If you're sitting around waiting for opportunities to fall into your lap, you'll be waiting a while! There are so many successful blogs out there that if you want to get noticed by brands/publications/other bloggers you're going to have to approach them. Email magazines, submit pieces to websites, the worst they can do is say no!

6) You don't have to spend a lot of money.

I bought my domain name and a theme for the blog for a grand total of €20. I use blogger, which is free. I've never paid for Facebook promotions, SEO, any of that stuff. If your writing is good people will read it. It might take longer for your readership to grow, but the readers you do get will be real followers who will come back again and again, not ones that will click through once and never return.

7) Always reply to comments if possible.

This is just good manners. If you're just starting out like I am then you are not too busy to reply to your readers, even if it's just with a "thanks". As a reader of blogs for a long time before I started my own I know what it's like to follow someone and feel like you know them, only to have them ignore you when you comment on a post. 

Also, bloggers comment on blogs. You never know who you will get friendly with through the comments section, and what opportunities it might lead to. So be conscientious with your replies, and comment on other bloggers posts when you can. I love when people comment, I'm sure other bloggers do too. It's nice to hear from the people you are writing for!

8) Quality over quantity.

I could post three times a week, it just wouldn't be very good! This isn't my job, it's something I love to do, so I feel like I should only post when I really have something to say. When blogs I follow regularly put up what I would consider "filler" posts it really puts me off. At the moment I just don't have time to come up with a quality post more than about once a week, but I'm sure my readers would rather that than be disappointed with a lack of quality content. If I'm wrong about that let me know!

9) Pinterest is your friend.

Most of my traffic comes from pinterest, and I try and make sure to come up with an eye-catching, pinterest worthy image with the post title in a text overlay for every post. I also use a pinning service to make sure I hit the right boards at the right times. I could write a whole post about pinterest really...and maybe I will! Any interest? 

10) Lastly, and in my opinion most importantly, be honest.

This is a biggy. I can smell an exaggerated sponsored post a mile off. I may work with certain brands, but only ever if i can give my honest opinion, and I will always tell you when I've been approached to review something.

Also, I feel like I've gotten some of my best reactions when I've talked about things that went wrong, and shown the less instagram-ready pictures of my house. I know I love to see my favourite bloggers being "real", I think everyone wants to feel like the things they see on blogs are actually attainable. 


So that's it, the top ten thing's I've learned over the past year. I'm not saying I know it all, far from it! In fact I've been approved for adsense for months now and I still can't figure out why the ads won't show! But I do know that there must be plenty of you out there dying to start a blog but thinking you can't because you don't know enough to get started. 

So I'm just saying, if I can do it, anyone can do it! My blog may never be one of the biggest, it may never earn me any real bloody money, but the satisfaction I get from putting a post together and seeing people read it totally makes it worth all the faffing about! 

Are you inspired? Are there going to be more blogs popping up that I need to read?! Did I miss anything that you would add? Talk to me! D:)


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