12 Blogging Lessons Learned In 12 Months

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.

12 Blogging Lessons in 12 Months

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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!
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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!

12 Blogging Lessons Learned in one year

So here’s to another year, a new baby and seeing where this blogging journey continues to take me!

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What I Learned In Three Months Of Blogging

Get comfortable, you’re in this one for the long haul! Nothing could have prepared me for the world of blogging. I was under no illusion that it would be easy to consistently post to the website but starting out that was about the extent of my concern. How quickly I learned that this was not to be. Sass & Shamrocks is 3 months old today! To be 100% honest (because I don’t see the point in being any other way), thus far the negative aspects of running this blog outweigh the positives but I’m optimistic in thinking that won’t always be the case.

What I Learned in Three Months of Blogging

Blogging is EXHAUSTING, it infiltrates your entire day, consumes a great deal of your thoughts and gobbles up vast quantities of your time and energy. In the beginning when I was desperately trying to teach myself how to do everything at once, I skipped meals and hardly slept – thankfully it isn’t like that anymore. This is the number one stinger for me; I am a perfectionist. A perfectionist who is excellent at organization but terrible at time management. Instead of separating tasks and adhering to a strict schedule I like to think that I can juggle 50 things simultaneously. I always know exactly what needs to be done but do not have the patience to do them separately. I am slowly learning to complete tasks, one action at a time rather than half a**ing everything I attempt to do at once. Blogging has taught me that it takes far less time to compartmentalize than it takes to sort through a huge mass of chaos. Good old fashioned pen and paper lists have become my saviors.

Pen and paper

One of the first things you will learn about writing a blog and building a following is that you must post consistently. This does not mean that you have to post every single day to keep your viewers interested but you should post on a fairly consistent schedule. Whether it is once, twice or three times a week your subscribers will come to know your posting schedule and expect new content on those days. The key is to post according to your own capabilities, i.e. how much time you have to commit to writing, posting and promoting your work. The other and most important point here is quality. You can post every single day of the year if you wish but realistically how good or unique will those posts be? Strive to publish your best pieces and if this means only once a week then so be it. I am not claiming any expertise here and my blog is still in its infancy but I have made these mistakes and posted thrice a week only to churn out utter rubbish. I have since removed content that A) I did not put my best efforts into B) Does not fit into my niche C) Had little to no views/engagement.

Which leads me to my next point, write about what you want, using your voice/personality and what is inherently YOU. I post about my personal journey, things that interest me and that are relevant to my life. Through that I connect with like-minded people experiencing the same and building that network is a dream. I have seen blogs start around the same time as mine and have been following their blogging adventure as much as my own. I have seen some shoot to success from day one, I have seen others grow at a snail’s pace and adapt to their niche as they find their feet in the blogging world just like me. I have even seen some disappear into the internet abyss never to be heard of again but I have also seen others sell out quickly to affiliate programs and brands that seemed to be nothing to do with their overall blog mission. Monetizing your blog is possible through EXTREME hard graft. Some are lucky and soar almost directly into a financially cushy blog spot, others kill themselves for cents per month. In April I applied ads to my site but the monetization of Sass & Shamrocks was not my reason to launch. I truly write for release, fun and the connections/friendships made along the way.

Writing

Let me tell  you about some people you will endure experience on your blogging journey. People can be flippin’ terrible. It is wrong of me to tar a portion of the population with one brush so I’ll illustrate this via anecdotes about actual negative interaction on Sass & Shamrocks. Does anyone have frenemies? Y’know the ones you thought you left back in high school – the types who smile at you in the street but for some reason have an inward distaste for your existence, well if you promote your posts through your facebook page you will see that there are a few lurkers. Facebook insights are revealing. Very revealing. For example, the single person who consistently hides my posts regardless of what they are. The person who hides every post relating to my trip home to Ireland. Baffling considering they could just ‘unlike’ the page and never have to suffer such awfulness. As a side note here is why these people SHOULD unlike your facebook page by Alyssa (a gem I’ve met through this wild trip).

Following to unfollow. Frustrating and fruitless! I am not a mass follower. I follow people in stages, over time on different social media platforms because A) I like them B) They fit into my blog’s niche. If I don’t get a follow back, I still follow them – after all, I chose to follow them. If however their content no longer interests me or I realize that maybe they don’t fit into my niche as much as I thought and therefore have no engagement then I will unfollow at a later date. It’s not personal. I do not like the follow for follow mentality where I wake up to 30 new followers who unfollow within 24 hours because I haven’t returned the favor. This isn’t a game of you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. With social media’s new and complex algorithms it is not beneficial to follow and have followers who do not interact with you. It damages your reach and you will find yourself and your content buried at the bottom of the ‘popularity’ pile. More gold I have learned through this experience.

Blog comments. This s a source of contention for me for two reasons. The first being negative comments. I’m all for constructive criticism and debate on my posts but telling me I am ‘stupid’ and ‘selfish’ (yes people take the time to write and publish comments like that!) is unnecessary. Not to mention, I am not going to approve such comments and display them on my blog. The second peeve here is comment threads. I participate in forums whereby I read other bloggers’ posts and leave a comment on them. The deal is that you read the post thoroughly and leave a genuine, intelligent comment. The aim of this is to support others’ blogs, discover new bloggers and build a network. Unfortunately a large amount of participants enter these threads merely for the number of views to be gained (and I assume, money). They use it as a tactic to heighten views and you will find comments on your blog such as “great post, thanks for sharing” or “great tips” only to have spent five minutes writing an essay on theirs while it is evident they didn’t even read yours. It’s as disheartening as it is false and a big lesson through this has been learning the importance of genuine engagement on my blog. I just stumbled on this excellent article by Gary Vaynerchuk explaining why your view count and social media popularity really means crap. When I first started blogging, the stats were the be all and end all for me. Now my main aim is connection and genuine interaction. I have cut back to only viewing my stats once a week to assess where I am going wrong and work on correcting those issues.

Plagiarism. My soul hurts as much as my brain does when I see a blog post that is identical to mine days or  just hours after publishing. This has happened to me three times in these past three months. I suffer from writer’s block often. Evidently so do they since they read posts and regurgitate them on their own websites with no credit. I don’t have the energy to battle it out with these people. But one in particular was someone who had a massive following. It’s incredibly frustrating knowing hundreds of thousands of people are actually reading your content that someone else has hijacked. Where is the integrity? The blogging world is over-saturated, we all know this but I firmly believe that using our own voices, ideas, opinions etc. can result in something entirely unique. I’ve learned there will always be someone lurking, waiting to use your achievements for their own ego boost and the hard part is rising above that. If it becomes more sinister or repetitive, action may be taken and here’s how.

That is seriously enough about the negativity in blogging. I find it draining to even talk about it but these are the facts of the last three months. I need to give major props to the positive, warm people I have come to know over the last quarter. I struggle in Georgia to make friends even in a military community. Whether it be cultural differences or the limitations of my visa process, I spent a lot of time on my own. One of the reasons I launched the blog was to put myself out there and open doors to new experiences. That definitely happened and although I have come into direct contact with more negativites than positives, it is the elation of the positive experiences and words of the wonderful, supportive people out there that keep me striving towards something greater.

If you want to test out your range of emotions and experience all of them at once I recommend that you start blogging. It is fun, it is draining, it is therapeutic, it is enraging, it is amusing, it is jealous, it is liberal, it is passionate, it is ignorant – to list but a few. You are placed in a little corner of the world wide web and given a voice. You can use that voice to inform, help or upset others. You can change a life. I’m not saying I do but you are in this unique position to be heard which is sometimes difficult to achieve in ‘real’ life. Sharing this piece of myself is scary but rewarding when someone says “I get it”. You can be as transparent as you like and conversely, as private as you wish. You can be a light or you can be the dark. The most important thing is that you are you.

Embrace the Journey

Some days I still want to figuratively, flip over the table that is this blog and say F this crap! (*Amy OUT* Obama mic drop, style) other days I feel like I want to change the world. It’s only been three months. A lot has happened and lot still hasn’t. Watch this space.

 

 

 

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