Happy Birthday, Sass & Shamrocks! The blog is one year old today! A whole year of consistent blogging, I can’t believe I did it! I wish I could say it’s been a consistently wonderful experience. It’s been rather stressful at times but it has been a profound and steep learning curve where I’ve learned lessons not only about blogging but about other people and myself.
The blogging world is simultaneously simple and extremely complex. I jumped in head first and definitely felt like I was drowning very quickly. I don’t think it’s ever possible to learn it all when it comes to the internet, blogging and social media. The whole environment transforms so rapidly that every day there is something new to learn.
While I learned many complex lessons (the hard way), here are some of the more basic things I have come to realize which may help those those new to blogging or those considering set up a website for the first time.
12 Lessons In 12 Months
- Choose your host wisely. This is something I pondered for a while before purchasing my domain. I researched online and read horror stories of transferring domain names to different hosting platforms which involved losing all content and subscribers. From the start I chose to go with Bluehost. Of course you don’t have to purchase a domain name at all. You can use any amount of free platforms to host your blog. However, if you plan to monetize your blog through ads or affiliates then many of the free options will not allow you to do that. Make sure you know what’s what.
- You are your brand. The way you communicate and let your personality shine through to your website will end up being your brand. Think about this especially if you are using your blog to promote your business. You may be extremely witty, opinionated or curse like a sailor but will this hurt your brand? That being said you must stay true to who you are and be honest in order to gain your readers trust and build a genuine following – maybe just save the F-bombs for your off-screen life.
- Screw niche blogging. While some bloggers have a blatant niche by default (travel, food, fashion, technology etc.) I don’t believe that every blog requires such strict boundaries. Most bloggers label their site ‘lifestyle’, inc. me for descriptive reasons. I don’t necessarily stick to this. Your blog will evolve just as much as you will as a person. I started mine to write about the trials and tribulations of adapting to a new life in the US, the challenges of being a military spouse and talking about my home in Ireland. Since then I have given into my creative side and posted many recipes, DIYs and started to pursue a potential photography career. Towards the end of the year my blog took a rapid swing toward pregnancy and parenting with the impending arrival of my first baby. Next year I hope to add photography to my categories and maybe even offer services in that field which will see the blog take more of a business oriented turn. In particular if you are blogging for fun, do not be bound by ‘rules’. It’s your blog. There are none!
- Keep it simple. I’m more drawn to clean, crisp layouts with easily readable font that aren’t flooded with ads and pop-ups. A fussy, cluttered site doesn’t encourage viewers to stay let alone read your content.
- Connect with like-minded people. For business, this is really important. You must have a target audience and know where to seek them out and connect. Don’t waste too much of your time promoting to the wrong people. For-fun blogging is different, while you may have the most in common with bloggers in your ‘niche’ (I am trying to use the term loosely) there’s no harm in connecting with others too.
- Don’t be a selfish group member. Blog groups are a great way to connect with other bloggers, seek advice and promote your blog. Many of these groups offer promotion threads where you can leave a link to be viewed/commented on/shared etc. In return, you must do the same for X amount of other links. These groups have been invaluable to me for getting my blog out there and for making new friends. However, there are a vast number of people who drop their links, do not reciprocate, do not follow any of the rules and even refer to the threads as ‘chore’ threads (HA!). Unfortunately you can’t do anything about others’ lack of integrity. You will come to recognize the bad apples’ pattern and not waste your time, instead giving your time and connection to worthy, honest group members.
- You can get what you want, if you’re willing to work for it. If your blog is for fun, you can have immense fun blogging. If your blog is to impact change, you can impact change. If your blog is monetized through ads and sponsored posts then you can work with brands. If your blog is for your business, you can promote your business. Obvious, right? Well it all ties in with my last point. If you are hard working, honest and build the right network all of these individual goals are achievable. I personally know people who have reeled in a steady income from two months of blogging, people who have used their blogs to get into a position to fulfill a personal goal of theirs (eg, writing/publishing a book, selling a physical product they have created or simply sending out a message for nothing in return). I blog predominantly for fun although I have made money through ads, working with brands and posted affiliate links on occasion. In general I do not seek sponsorship but will collaborate if I like the brand. I have turned down many sponsored opportunities because I didn’t like the product/brand. I won’t post about things I do not like, use or have any interest in because they offer me cash.
- Get creative. I have always been creative but in recent years I spent so much time up to my eyes in technological academia that I didn’t allow myself a creative outlet. Since launching my blog I have embraced arts, crafts, cooking etc. more than I ever have. Other bloggers have been more inspirational to me than I realized. My creative side seeping out through little projects for my blog has in turn reignited my love for photography (that I knew nothing about). I am just about finished a year long professional course and am in the process of signing up for more advanced modules to see where the future takes me with that. I aim to be less lazy with my images and ditch the ‘iPhonography’ I’ve been habitually posting as my blog graphics and use my brand new Canon more and more. It’s amazing what avenues a blog is capable of taking you down, embrace them. You may very well find yourself doing something unexpected and realizing it’s your calling!
- Know your copyright rights. I have had many cases of suspiciously similar posts popping up days after posting mine but twice this year I had incidents of word-for-word plagiarism. It is so disheartening as well as infuriating that people just steal your work from under you. Sometimes it’s also comical the way they utterly deny it despite time stamps and well…logic. Have a copyright statement on your content. It helps to know the legal protocol and who to contact if you are being ripped off.
- Get to know social media trends. This was my biggest mountain to ascend. I have a love/hate relationship with social media and unfortunately you cannot get away from it when blogging. I have come to love Pinterest the most. Not only is it my biggest traffic driver and largest social following but it feeds my creative side and aids my photography/blog skills. Facebook is my enemy. Reach is poor no matter how strategically you play the game and I’ve known some bloggers to lose their pages without any explanation. I use it a couple of times a week but it isn’t my be all and end all. I love Instagram, obviously, because photography is a big hobby of mine but when it comes to the blog I am wary of it. The vast majority of IG followers only follow to gain a follower themselves. Shortly after, they may unfollow! I personally follow accounts of profiles I genuinely like or resonate with. Otherwise, I do not see a point. There are strategic times to post on various SM platforms, your insights will show you what your followers like and when they like to see it. Keep your content true to you but give it to them when they want it.
- Time doesn’t have to be your enemy. Don’t be afraid to take a break! I was totally overwhelmed with blogging at the beginning. What I did know is that I wanted to post consistently so I posted three times per week but I wasn’t happy. I had zero time and my content was crappy. I cut one post and started putting out two and have since whittled it down to just once per week. On occasion I will post twice. Read here to see how posting less actually benefited my blog and increased my traffic! If you are in the blogging biz and have to be connected at all times then you should consider paid scheduling services or even hiring a virtual assistant.
- Embrace change. Your blog changes on your terms but sometimes external factors change it for you. Example, my pregnancy gave a new avenue to travel down. If you are unwilling to budge or be diverse with content, your readers will get bored and disengage. Don’t be afraid of trying something new. If it doesn’t work, try something else!
So here’s to another year, a new baby and seeing where this blogging journey continues to take me!