I don’t often talk about the world of blogging on my website. But seeing that it’s the week of my blogiversary, I like the idea of sharing some of the things I’ve learned my first year blogging. You can check out my blogging stats and income for the year as well if you are interested. This post is really long, so I’m going to get right to it!
Knowledge is Power
You aren’t born knowing how to be a successful blogger. And you can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again and hope that one day you’ll hit it big. We are a lucky generation of bloggers who have tons of resources from other bloggers who have shared their strategies.
Read everything you possibly can about blogging, especially in the beginning. And once you are established, don’t forget to keep reading. There are so many amazing resources out there to help you grow.
For example, check out Bring Home the Bacon in 31 Days or Less by Laurie Turk of Tip Junkie, who makes $12,000 per month on Adsense alone blogging. That’s right… per MONTH. It’s expensive, but I splurged last week and purchased the workshop. I’ve only just begun, but so far it is jam packed with useful tips. I’m thinking for a busy mom like me it’s going to take closer to 31 weeks to finish, but at least I can go at my own pace.
Since I rarely like to spend money on these things, I also recommend checking out the Pinterest boards of some of your blogging friends. Most people have a “blogging” board where they share the information they have found the most helpful. I have found some amazingly useful articles through other people’s Pinterest boards!
It’s all about the photos
If you have a recipe or a craft blog, your photos need to be good. I mean REALLY good. If your photos are dark, or blurry, or gray, or any other such thing, then you are not doing yourself justice. Keep in mind that the vast majority of people probably aren’t even going to read what you write and will make a decision about you and your blog, primarily by the photos.
My biggest piece of advice is to buy a DSLR camera if you are serious about blogging. You can get amazing deals on used or last year’s models! I have a Nikon D5200 and I would be lost without it. It’s also very important that you learn how to edit your photos (with either PicMonkey or Photoshop). You can have the absolute best idea in the world and no one will ever share it if the photos are gray and unflattering.
Make yourself a light box (like here or here), buy some white bristol board to use as the background for your tutorials, and find the room in your house with the biggest windows letting in the most natural light.
Oh, and never ever ever use your camera flash. Ever. Photos rarely look good with a flash.
Oh wait, you also need great content
When I first started blogging, I was a pretty firm believer that you could post about anything as long as the photos were good. But after seeing which of my posts are successful vs which ones go unnoticed, it seems that the unique, good and helpful ideas are what do best.
If you can come up with wonderful and original ideas then you will do fantasic! If you can’t, it’s okay to use Pinterest for inspiration. If I am inspired by someone else’s idea, I always link back to them.
It’s difficult to come up with original ideas 100% of the time – It’s a big world out there and it seems like everything has already been done! I’m always sad when I come up with a good idea, only to search it and find that 5 other bloggers have already done it.
Don’t let that discourage you. If your photos are original and you add some value or insight to your post that wasn’t shared by other people who have posted about similar topics then there is plenty of value and opportunity still out there.
Cater to Google and Pinterest
We are all busy. There is no possible way we can be masters of absolutely everything. If you are going to pick the two most important things to focus your time on, choose Google and Pinterest. Google is pretty simple. Get an SEO plugin (I use WordPress SEO by Yoast) and fill in the Keyword, SEO Title and Meta Description for every post you write. If you have time, you can go back and complete it for your old posts too.
I have had some success using Adwords to determine what people are searching for on Google and then posting about it. I used to check Adwords every time I posted to determine the best title for my post. I should still be doing that, but they changed their platform a few months ago, and I haven’t had time to figure out where all the old functions are yet.
As for Pinterest, there are three words that have the most potential to increase your traffic: Pinterest Group Boards. Check out the Pinterest pages of some of your favourite bloggers, find the boards with the most pins (above 100k) and figure out how to become part of those boards. Sometimes there are instructions right on the boards and sometimes you can email someone who is in the group and they can invite you.
Group boards are POWERFUL tools to use to get you more traffic, but only if you have pin-worthy photos. Create a vertical photo or graphic for every post that clearly labels what the post is about right on the photo. (Vertical images do better than horizontal images on Pinterest). Also include a thoughful alt tag on it, so people aren’t just pinning the photo name of DSC1093.
Pin often. If you end up pinning to a group board more than once, it’s not the end of the world. No one is on Pinterest 24/7 and if it’s an active board, it’s unlikely that anyone will notice that you have posted it more than once.
I highly recommend reading the e-book How to Blog for Profit (Without Selling Your Soul) by Ruth Soukup from Living Well Spending Less. Besides being a super helpful guide and bringing back my hope when I was about to quit blogging, Ruth has some amazing Pinterest strategies that helped DOUBLE my traffic in October (again, you can see my blogging stats and income here). The e-book is listed on Amazon for less than $5 – I have made way more than that using the strategies from this book!
Get linked to as much as you can
The more links you have, the higher Google will rank you and the article that is getting the links. I’m still not 100% sure how you do this, but my approach has been to rely on link parties. Everyone says “be first to the link party so you get the most clicks”, but truthfully, life is just too busy for me to keep a link party calendar and hop on the computer the moment I know a link party is opening up. So don’t worry if you are down the link party list.
I link up to as many link parties as I can, in hopes of being featured the following week. Because being featured, means being linked to. So even if I’m two days late to the party, I still link up, because you never know which articles might get featured. As a courtesy, always follow the link party rules.
Not all blogs are created equally
The sad truth is that some blogs are more likely to make money than others, just by the topics they post about. Don’t be discouraged though. Even my little blog has one of those “less than ideal” subject matters. Just remember that hard work can accomplish a lot, it just takes time.
On One Little Project I post about all sorts of things, from recipes and crafts to cleaning tips and party planning. If I had started a blog in a niche market, about say, sewing, for example, I could have made much more money, much quicker because of the affiliate programs out there that are relevant to sewing. As my blog is now, I have to rely on ad networks to make most of my money since I haven’t found many relevant affiliates.
If you are thinking about starting a blog (or a second blog), I would recommend searching through affiliate programs (I like ShareASale, but you can try Amazon Affiliates or Commission Junction too), to see what products are out there that might work in your niche.
You can’t be perfect and make money
Do you know what the top performing ad on my site is? It’s the large rectangle text ad directly above the beginning of each post. It pained me to put it there, but it really seems to do well. No one “wants” bold and obvious ads on their site, but they are a sad fact of life if you are trying to earn an income from blogging.
Don’t put your ads in the sidebar just because that’s where other bloggers put them. Experiment with your site, and try to find the best location (test it for a few weeks). And if it ends up being right in the middle of your post, then so be it. Don’t feel bad – most of us have blinders on when it comes to ads anyway, in fact, just the other day someone told me they didn’t even notice I had ANY ads on my site.
If you aren’t willing to sacrifice the look of your website, at least a little bit, then you are going to have to accept that your ads may not perform as well as they could.
Everywhere I look people have blogging calendars, calendar plugins, calendar apps, etc. and some of them recommend that you plan every article on your blog up to 6 months in advance. I truly wish I was one of those organized people, but I’m just not. I plan my posts about a week in advance. Sometimes two weeks in advance if life is running smoothly.
While it is extremely important (and way less stressful) to know what you are going to post the following week, don’t be discouraged if you can’t plan your posts months in advance. Don’t be afraid to wing it if you have to – keep a list of at least 25 possible post ideas to fall back on if you need to.
I post 3 original projects or articles each week and for my fourth post I feature someone else’s project. I find a project from that week’s link parties or from Pinterest that I think my readers would enjoy and I post a short description and a single photo on my site directing my readers to the original poster’s article. Don’t give away all the details of their idea in your post summary – your readers need a reason to click over to their site or this just becomes stealing their ideas!
I have yet to come across another blogger who doesn’t like to be recognized for their work. Plus, another link means more love from Google and more potential traffic for them.
Another organization tip is to back up your blog. Imagine if all that hard work just got wiped out? I’d be devastated! I pay $10 a month for BlogVault. I really don’t like paying for things, but from what I’ve read, they offer the most reliable service. I like that they create an automatic backup daily and you can go in and do a test restore at any time and actually see what is being backed up. I highly recommend that you check out BlogVault’s free trial to see for yourself.
You can’t do everything
Cut yourself some slack. You can’t post on Facebook. And Google+. And Pinterest. And Twitter. And respond to your comments. And comment thoughtfully on 10 other blogs each day. And redesign your blog layout. And then go to work and come home and make dinner and whatever else you have to do each day.
Wow, it’s actually making my head spin thinking about everything that needs to get done! Work on your blog at your own pace. There is no rush. If it takes until next year before you revamp your website, then it’s going to wait until next year.
The most important thing is your blog content. Post consistently at least 3 or 4 times a week and you can worry about everything else later. But if you can’t come up with 3 quality posts a week, then it’s just fine if you need to post less than that. It may take longer to achieve your goals, but remember that it’s not a race.
Check your Google Analytics stats
Everyone seems to recommend to not waste your time checking your stats. They say to check them maybe once a week, or even once a month. I say, forget that! I LOVE checking my stats! (As I’m sure most of us do!).
So if it makes you happy to watch Google Analytics and see that there are 7 people on your page, then go right ahead and watch! Besides boosting your spirit, it is also extremely helpful to see where people are coming from, what pages they are looking at and at one time of day.
Don’t compare yourself to others
I have to remind myself not to compare myself to others… often. It’s really hard when you hear about other bloggers who started at the same time as you who are now getting 100 times the amount of traffic, have a book deal and a guest spot on their local TV channel.
Just breathe and try to let it go. We are all insecure and there are always other people who are going to appear to be doing better than us. I know it’s hard, but do your best to ignore those comparisons.
There are plenty of people who are comparing themselves to you too! We are all different and we are all on different paths. If this is important to you, then work extremely hard on your blog and don’t ever give up!
What are your blogging tips? Is there anything you wish you had known about when you started blogging?