Next month will mark my first year of blogging. I have learnt a lot of things and had a lot of fun in that time. But on the other hand, I’ve made a lot of mistakes and had some real pull-your-hair-out frustrating moments too. There are a lot of things that I really wished I’d figured out a lot earlier on to save me some headache, so I thought I’d create a post on some of my own personal experiences and tips I’ve picked up. It might be helpful for those new to the scene and for those who are more seasoned bloggers, you might be able to relate to a few of the points.
1. Tell a story through your blog
Whether you are a huge blog with millions of views every month, or a tiny blog with just a handful of readers, the secret to running a blog that resonates with people is your ability to tell a story. It might be through words or, more increasingly, through the use of striking and emotive images. Be it a travel blog, which documents your adventures around the world, or a parenting blog where you talk about your experiences as a mother, or a food blog like mine, where you share traditional recipes that you grew up with.
People want to hear about your experiences, your thoughts and your knowledge. You might think that you’re the most boring person in the world, but I guarantee that there is at least one person out there who wants to hear your story.
2. Try to post regularly
I will admit, this isn’t one that I have been successful with in the past, but I have been focusing on it a lot more now. It’s not easy, as most people when they start out blogging are doing it on the side as a hobby whilst they either work during the day or look after their families etc. But posting regularly and consistently will help you a lot more in ensuring your readership is engaged and keeps coming back.
And you’ll find that your writing, both in terms of structure and style will improve with each new post. As well as that, the more often you post, the more your blog will be out there and the greater the chance of you picking up new readers. It’s pretty obvious, but it’s easy to miss the importance.
At the minimum, post once a week (which is what I started off doing) and then try to work your way up to two or three times a week. I don’t think I’ll ever be the kind of person to be able to post every single day. It takes me a long time to take my photos, edit them and then write up a post. For some blogs, which are purely text based, or use stock photos, then it may be slightly more do-able.
3. Find your niche
Niche is a word that you will hear a lot of these days, especially as a lot more people start turning blogging into a full time profession. If you try to aim your blog at everybody, then most likely you will not get many readers at all.
When I first started my blog, I was pitching it as a food and DIY blog, but I didn’t really have a lot of time to focus on the DIY projects part, so before I exhausted myself, I decided to ditch it and focus solely on the food. Of course there are like a bazillion and one food blogs out there, so I decided to focus down a little bit more and post mainly about food from my own Bangladeshi background and Asian cuisines.
Don’t be scared to niche down. You might think that you are limiting your readership, but actually you are likely to end up with a more loyal and engaged audience and you save yourself from unnecessarily competing with a lot of larger blogs that you are unlikely to be able to match.
You might not get the same level of traffic as the big leagues, but it’s not always about the numbers. When you focus down on your niche, it will be a lot easier for you to establish yourself as an expert of that area. Your readers will be much more likely to listen and respect your opinion, and that is something that a lot of brands will take into consideration.
4. Don’t compare yourself to others
Repeat after me: do not compare yourself to others. Got it? If there’s one thing that can kill your motivation it’s comparing yourself to other blogs and bloggers. You might be feeling pleased as punch that you manged to get 500 views for your blog this month, and then you read about a blog which gets 500 views a day, makes $15K a month and suddenly you think your blog is rubbish.
The thing is, there will pretty much always be someone writing better content than you, taking better photographs than you, or getting a bigger audience than you. But you need to be able to recognise and believe in the worth and value of your blog, your writing, and images. If you are able to do that, then you will always be able to grow.
5. Make sure to keep learning
Blogging is a craft, and you need to focus on honing it. Technology is always changing, and you need to make some efforts to keep up with it.
Social media networks come and go, and you might be wasting your time on a network that no one is using these days. There’s also that finicky thing called SEO (still trying to get my head around that one). And of course, there comes learning related to your specific niche. I like to check out other food blogs for inspiration and ideas on recipes as well as things like styling and photography techniques.
6. Improve one thing at a time
A continuation from the previous point. It’s important to work on improving your blog as complacency rarely translates into success. When you first started out, your blog layout and images might have been a hot mess! But if you try to improve everything overnight, you will burn yourself out.
Instead, focus on making one change at a time on a regular basis. I had to manually transfer all my content over from blogger when I moved to self hosting and as such, a lot of my old recipes on the blog are not formatted in the same way as my new recipes on the blog. It’s something that I am slowly working on fixing, but I know if I tried to do it all at once (as well as all the other changes I want to make!) I would probably need to take a month long break.
7. Don’t get overwhelmed by social media
Everyone will tell you how important social media is to grow your blog and there’s that common ratio of spending 30% of your time creating your content and 70% of your time to promote yourself. They’ll tell you pinterest will translate into more traffic and product sales, brands like a strong instagram profile and facebook will help you to connect with everyday people.
But if you try to conquer all of the many social media networks out there, you will wear yourself out. In fact, a lot of the bigger bloggers who do dominate all of the social media networks, will either us premium services to schedule social media content or actually pay people to keep their networks updated. It’s not possible for a beginner blogger, working by themselves, to be able to have a strong presence on every single social media network.
Focus on one or two at first and really work on building a strong following and then slowly incorporate other networks after. Start off by choosing the networks that is the most appropriate for your niche. For instance, a lot of food bloggers choose to focus on the visually driven pinterest.
8. Connect with other bloggers
The great thing about starting about a blog on a topic that interests you? You get to meet a whole load of people who share a similar passion. By creating good relationships with other bloggers in your niche, you can create a stable readership.
Although it may non-bloggers who drive your traffic, I have found that it’s usually bloggers who are the ones who leaves comments. Reply to comments left by people (actually really bugs me when people don’t do this). Try to even leave a reply on one of their posts. You can learn a lot from other bloggers, the things you should be doing, and sometimes the things you really shouldn’t be doing.
You might form a spoken or unspoken agreement to promote each other’s content on social media. When it gets lonely out in the big cyber-world, it’s nice to have someone have your back and help you out from time to time. There are a lot of facebook groups out there dedicated to providing help, support and advice for bloggers that you might want to check out. They might not belong to the same niche as you, but most advice translates across.
9. Be true to yourself
A lot of people often talk about authenticity and finding your own voice, and as cheesy as it sounds, it’s true. It’s important for you to find your own style and voice. You might have a light and playful tone to your blog and images or it might be a lot more serious and contemplative. It’s ok whichever one you pick as long as it’s natural to you otherwise you will come off as sounding like a bit of a poser. Your readers will also be a lot more likely to respect you and listen to you if you sound honest and real.
For instance, I’m an amateur home cook, a lazy one at that, and if I tried to act like some gourmet food critic on my blog, I don’t think I’d be fooling anyone. Remember that also trends will come and go. So although you might think branding your blog in a certain way will appeal to people, when the trend dies down, you might just end up looking dated.
10. It’s OK to say no
Similar to staying true to yourself, is understanding that it is ok to say no. During your blogging journey, you might just be surprised by the number of different proposals people will approach you with. It could be anything from guest posting on another blog to brands asking you to review a certain product, or another large blog, offering to repost your content for exposure but no monetary compensation.
Don’t feel compelled to say yes to everyone. In fact, for the sake of your credibility, be ready to say no. If a particular brand does not fit in with your niche or your values, say no. I guarantee both you and your readers will benefit from saying no. If a brand you don’t particularly feel much passion for asks you to work for free in exchange for exposure, it’s ok to say no.Your time and work has a price value and believe me, these brands know it, otherwise they wouldn’t be asking you.
Similarly, do not just say yes to every single brand or advertiser who approaches you just because they are offering you money. I have read terrible articles recently about bloggers who were literally at the beck and call of advertisers and brands asking for this and that. It is draining on you as a blogger and a person. We might not all get to the stage where we have a multitude of brands contacting you on a daily basis, but remember that it’s totally your right to be selective about what’s best for you and your blog. Even if it means you missing out on some money in the short term, it will maintain your integrity in the long run.
11. Enjoy it
This might seem like a silly and obvious one, but trust me, we need the reminder! Most of us start out blogging seeking some kind of pleasure and enjoy the blogging process. However, as it becomes a regular, habitual thing, or something that brings in a little or lot of income, it starts to feel like a chore or laborious. It’s a strain to keep up with your posting schedule and make sure you’re on top of your social media networks, replying to the myriad of comments and emails. It’s not easy, for sure.
But just remember, amongst the occasional stress, this is something you chose to pursue because you enjoy it. You have an interest or passion that you want to share with others. And if you have to cut out on a few extra things so you can enjoy just the process of creating and writing then do that. And if you feel the need to take a short break so you can enjoy blogging again, then do that. The longevity of your blog depends on your ability to stay motivated and enjoy the process. If you start to lose enthusiasm for blogging, then take some time to reflect and give yourself some opportunity to regain that enthusiasm.
So that’s it for my tips! Do you have any other helpful tips that you would like to share?
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Stock Image from Ashley Ella Design