Back in the summer, when I lay awake one night imagining all the things I’d blog about, I didn’t really comprehend all that there is to creating and maintaining a blog.
It’s more technical than I imagined. It’s more about reading than writing. It’s more about looking outwards, connecting with people, than an isolated exercise of regurgitating your own thoughts and feelings on to paper. (Sorry, screen.)
4 weeks in, I reflected on what I’d learnt. As I approach 6 months of blogging, I wanted to take another gate review, and share some of the things I’ve learnt along the way – particularly for any new bloggers reading this.
1. Pinnable images.
Never underestimate the strength of a strong image. It’ll be how your post ‘attracts’ views on linkies, it will be used if your post is pinned to pinterest, and will be visible via linked tweets. I try and stick to squares, as they are insta-friendly. Try and use my own where possible (to avoid any sticky rules on licensing) and use the same recognisable font. Oh, and of course, include your blog url. I did this from the start, but I didn’t realise how important it would be.
2. Social Media.
Love it or hate it, generally, people won’t ‘stumble’ across your blog on the internet. You need to put it some where people are going to see it. I use mainly twitter, with a dabbling in pinterest, google plus and instagram. Not facebook, for reasons I shared here. I’m sticking with that decision for now – I find twitter sucks up alot of my time already so that’s enough for me, at the mo.
With twitter, instagram…Use hashtags as often as possible so people ‘find’ you – tricks include use of trending hashtags (#xfactor on a saturday night, #kidsofinstagram, or #pbloggers, #mbloggers at every opportunity). Also make good use of follow friday #FF, #mondayblogshare, #sundayblogshare etc etc. Just remember…there is a real world to live in outside twitter too 😉
An amazing and essential part of getting your blog out there and meeting ‘the community’. There are so many great ones to join in with – several every day in fact. You will find the ones you love, then new ones will appear, from bloggers you love. Hell you may even start your own. My advice is this: join in when you can, when you feel like it, when you want to. There is no rule that says you need to be there every week – this is fun remember? If you’re busy, don’t sweat it. There will be another linky, or ten, tomorrow. I have a few favourites which I try and make it to – but we are all human and we all understand we have busy lives. The linking is the easy bit…it’s easy to run out of time with the reading, which in some link ups is highly frowned upon!
So you’ve joined several linkies. It looks like fun, all the good blogs will come to you? I can do that can’t I?! Yes, true. But, as a fantastic blogger warned me – starting a link up will be a lot of work. Prep, promoting, retweeting, reading, commenting. I didn’t think I needed a co-host at first…but Talya basically saved me from drowning a little in the reading on a Thursday for #coolmumclub. I do however love the feeling that I have created something special – a community of like minded women (and one man, once) who enjoy a good laugh and haven’t given up on themselves. No regrets here.
4. Going self hosted.
Should probably have done that before starting a linky…but anyway…two weeks in to #coolmumclub launching, I took my usual approach of just jumping right in. Why? Because I had read that wordpress.com, my previous platform had limits and boundaries with where you could take your blog (i.e. monetising) and there were certain elements I couldn’t use (like an embedded thumbnail linky) which reall really bugged me. I used TSOHost as a third party server provider – for a few pounds a month, and they migrated my site. Word of warning – it doesn’t mean you end up with the exact same site, on a SH platform…you will need to redesign the blog using wordpress.org which works differently to wordpress.com. It’s obviously do-able (I did it) but expect a steep learning curve, choose a time your life isn’t already manic, and be prepared to cry over the laptop. Once it was mastered, there was no looking back. Instead of widgets, you will learn all about plug-ins. And I’m not talking the ones that make your room smell nice.
First lesson, only write what you are happy to be read. Obvious right? But it’s so easy to get carried away on that keyboard. Even if you are anonymous, people you know might, will, have read your blog. I try to always bear that in mind so rants about who may have wound me up that day are definitely not blog material.
Some guidelines say the best blogs are all positive and nicey, but some of my favourite blogs are all about the nitty gritty reality of parenting – so I don’t buy into that theory. Keep it real, true to yourself. That is what makes your blog yours. People might love it, people might hate it. Don’t worry, variety is the spice of life.
If you aren’t feeling like writing…remember you are the boss of you. The beauty of blogging is that you are driving this thing. Don’t want to write? Then don’t. Fancy a night in front of the TV? Do it. Got a busy week? Forget the laptop. You choose to write when suits you…try not to let it overwhelm you.
6. Start a series.
I have a few, #coolmumclub, #hidethebags, our big build, quotes from the G-unit. They will keep you on the blogging straight and narrow if you’re having a blank moment. I have to admit, some of mine aren’t all that popular (like quotes from the G-unit) but I love capturing the gorgeous things my kids have said – so I don’t care! I’m sticking with it.
7. Hosting a guest series.
A little like #6, but this time you are sharing the limelight with other bloggers. This advice was passed on to me by my lovely co-host Talya who loves a guest series. Be warned though…this isn’t a case of just letting someone else do all the work! It’s no easy ride…You need to reach out to bloggers, chase them up, edit, prepare posts, pinnable images, promote as usual…but I have to say I have loved kicking off #coolmumclub;meetthemembers. Seeing my featured bloggers connecting with dozens of other bloggers through #coolmumclub makes me feel a little bit warm and fuzzy. Like I did something good today.
8. Blog bucket list
Try and think about small blog goals – where are you going? What do you hope to achieve? Who would you love to work with, be it other bloggers or brands? Write it down. You could even share it, like I did here. I can’t believe how much of this I have actually achieved in such a short space of time. With a bit of tenacity, a little bit of help from some amazing bloggers and a lot of support and understanding from an incredible husband.
9. Blog design.
I had the perfect opportunity to redesign my blog when I went self hosted. But, in a way it was too much to do all in one go. I also kind of like my little corner of the internet as it is? For now…I guess one day I’d like something more proffessional, maybe some images that connect my header with parenting, coolmumclub..make it instantly recognisable. But it says alot about me. Nature, blue skies, the sea, Kent. I really really love some blog designs like The Twinkle Diaries , Running in Lavender and Hello Archie. One day, I hope I’ll be as slick and beautiful on screen as they are.
10. Being anonymous.
I’m in the middle of writing a post about this, so will keep this short, But, I’m still anonymous for the most part. I’ve shared my blog with more friends and family than I initially thought I would, but still only a select few. For me it’s not about telling people I know, how I feel, it’s about reaching out to Mums, parents, who feel the same way I do. Offering support, a giggle, a knowing virtual hug. I guess that’s my blog voice – and I don’t think you need to see my face to hear me.
N.B. Twitter does weird things where it finds your contact lists and sends invites to people you know. If you’re seriously wanting to be 100% anonymous, bear that in mind! I was pretty shocked the first time people I knew followed me on twitter or told me they liked my blog. But stick with the first rule in point 5, and you’ll be fine.
11. Monetising the blog.
Focus on making your blog the best it can be, and it will (might?) come. Or so I believe. If you really want this – go self hosted. If and when you are approached, consider carefully what you say yes to, and don’t be afraid to ask for payment. Or more payment. Create a work with me page on your menu. And a disclosure statement. Don’t expect to get rich quick, but don’t give up either. Do reviews JFF (just for fun) to showcase your work. Accept reviews of random stuff for free for the same reason. Think about what you want to achieve, and go for it. It may be you can use your blog to support another good cause, or raise awareness for something you are passionate about?
11. Be gracious.
The blogging community are pretty lovely. I cannot recommend this more, but get out there, find your favourite blogs – be they huge pro-bloggers or tiny little baby ones just starting out. Read, comment, read some more, share, pin, tweet and read some more. Be nice, you will be overwhelmed by the comments and niceness that comes back your way. Like I have been. Thank you to those of you who know who you are. x x x
It’s not all been a bed of roses. The blog has been really hard work, consumed a lot of my energy, and I have definitely had days I wonder WTF I am doing, what is it all for, and had major panic over why I am sharing these thoughts with…well…I don’t know who. But I have also had comments and compliments that have made me feel that I have created something special, that gives me the drive to keep going, for now.
I don’t know what the future holds for me, and the blog; but I look forward to finding out.