It’s that time of the year again!! 😀 😀
Spoons is officially the big oh.two (read: it’s my two year blogiversary!!!). I published my very first [post-hiatus] post on August 27, 2012, and the rest is kind of history. And what a history it’s been! Never in a million years did I imagine that I’d end up here — starting up my very own health coaching business, going back to school for holistic nutrition (more on that soon!!), developing recipes, and making the switch from blogging as a hobby to blogging as a job. Un.real.
To say that it’s been one heck of a journey is an understatement, and to think that it’s really only just beginning blows my mind. I have no idea where I’ll be a year from now, but I finally feel like I’ve found my calling after struggling for so many years with questions of what I wanted to be “when I grew up.” I love that I wake up excited for each new day, and I love that work doesn’t actually feel like work. A year ago, I made a decision to completely change career paths, and while it was absolutely terrifying at the time, it was also one of the best decisions I ever made. I’m a firm believer in always pursuing your dreams, even if it means taking a big leap of faith to start.
But enough about that before I start getting all misty eyed! What I actually wanted to talk about today was blogging and how to take your blog to the next level. This doesn’t mean you suddenly have to start blogging full time, but every blogger knows how much time and effort gets put into blogging, and it’s always nice to get a little something back, no? So here are my top tips for how to approach blogging in a more professional and business-minded manner. Please keep in mind that I’m no expert and that these are simply things that I picked up along the way. Also, this approach won’t be for everyone, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with blogging purely as a hobby — it’s what I started out doing too!
Be self-hosted and own your own domain. When I decided to come back to blogging after my hiatus, I immediately decided to take the plunge and go self-hosted right from the start, which, in my opinion, is a huge part of the reason why I stuck with it… especially during some of those more frustrating periods where I felt like throwing in the towel. Being self-hosted not only makes your little space feel like it’s more yours and inspires you to put more time and effort into it, but it also shows other people that you’re serious about what you do — making them more likely to stick around and/or work with you. And that’s saying nothing about all the great plugins and other options that being self-hosted opens up to you.
Going self-hosted is my #1 recommendation for anyone who wants to get more serious about blogging, and if you’re unsure about what host to go with, then allow me to recommend Bluehost*. They’re one of the top hosting companies out there, and I personally just renewed my contract with them because I was that impressed with their services. If you want more information about Bluehost and self-hosting, head over to my post on how to start a blog for more details!
Use an editorial calendar. I started out blogging by the seat of my pants, and while it “worked” to some extent, it also stressed me out to the max and usually left me scrambling for content on a daily basis. I’d wake up in the morning not knowing what I was going to blog about the next day, hoping against hope that inspiration would strike and provide me with a post. If it did, great! If not, I simply wouldn’t post.
I know that kind of approach may work for some people, but I needed a little more structure. I started using a calendar to jot down ideas and plan out posts for the upcoming month, and it completely changed my blogging experience for the better. Having post ideas written out ahead of time helped me channel my thoughts into what I was planning to write about, and laying everything out on paper made it easier to see if my posts were spaced out properly so that I didn’t end up posting two of the same kind of posts back to back. I also worked out a weekly schedule where I post certain things on certain days (i.e.: ToL on Thursdays, Link Love on Sundays, recipes on Mondays & Fridays, etc.), which not only removes a lot of the guess work for me, but also lets my readers know what to expect.
Create useful & pinnable content. Using your blog as an online daily journal or sorts is great if you’re mostly doing it as a hobby, but if you want to grow your blog and attract more visitors then you need to create content that people are going to find useful in some way. Whether it’s lifehacks, workouts, or recipes, post things that people are likely to search for in Google… and make sure to always include a graphic that can be pinned to Pinterest.
Pinterest and search engines are my two biggest sources of traffic, and I saw a huge increase in visitors when I began posting more recipes. The best part is that posts like that continue to drive traffic even long after they’ve been published. I’ve had recipes that I published months and months ago suddenly pick up in popularity after getting pinned by the right person on Pinterest, and that’s saying nothing about when a site like Buzzfeed or Huffington Post features my recipe in one of their articles. A random musings post is pretty much forgotten as soon as a new post replaces it, but a post with useful information will keep working for you indefinitely. This doesn’t mean that random musings posts aren’t valuable, since they help you maintain a valuable blogger-reader connection, but try to put out a steady stream of universally useful posts as well.
Develop your own brand. This is basically just a fancy way of saying “put a personal touch on your work and keep it consistent.” You may have noticed that I use the same fonts and colour schemes in all my work. I take my photographs in a certain way and I write with a certain voice. This is my brand. This is what, hopefully, makes someone think Spoons as soon as they see it. You want your brand to be a reflection of who you are and what you’re all about. Let your personality shine through in the design you choose, the language you use, and the subjects you address so that your readers can get a better sense of who you are. Use certain catch phrases, create your own hashtags, and really take the time to come up with your own unique style.
Also, never ever endorse a product that doesn’t fit with your own brand and that you don’t support 100%. Bloggers get a lot of offers to try free products, and while it can be tempting to accept them all (especially in the beginning), you’re only doing yourself a disservice in the long run by taking away from your credibility. Your readers need to be able to trust you, and you need to earn that trust with how you handle yourself.
Get your name out there. The most common blog-related question I get is how to grow your audience and get more comments… which makes sense since no one likes to feel like they’re talking to themselves. It’s a question I always struggle with answering, though, because I feel like people are looking for some magic solution when the reality is super simple — you need to make a name for yourself, and the only way to do that is to get your name noticed.
This means visiting [lots of] other blogs and continusouly leaving comments. It means being active on social media and connecting with people via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. It means reaching out to bloggers you admire and developing relationships. It means being an active part of your niche community. In the famous words of John Donne, “no [blogger] is an island entire of itself; every [blogger] is a piece of the continent”… you need to make those connections.
Be your biggest fan. I hated the idea of self-promotion when I first started blogging. I figured that if my work was good enough, it would get noticed on its own. False, false, false. You can have the best content in the world, but if no one knows that it exists, it isn’t going to do you any good… and no one is going to know that it exists unless you market/promote the hell out of it because the internet is an ocean and your blog is only a tiny drop of water in it.
Look at it this way. If you aren’t proud enough of your own work to want to promote it, then how can you expect other people to be impressed with it? You can’t. You need to be your own cheerleader. Put out quality content that you’re proud of and share it wherever you can (social media, linkups, recipe submission sites, etc.). Not every post is going to be a huge hit, but if you continuously put out good content, then you’ll eventually strike gold with a few of them.
Be prepared to work your a** off. I’m not going to beat around the bush here — blogging takes a lot of time and a lot of work. Is it possible to become a successful blogger and make a decent income off your blog? Absolutely. Is it easy? Absolutely not. This is where passion becomes the deciding factor because if you don’t love what you do, you’ll burn out fast. You’ll burn out when posts that you put your heart and soul into barely get noticed. You’ll burn out when you put hours and hours of work in and barely see a payoff. You’ll burn out when you look at other bloggers who seem to be so much more successful than you are. You’ll burn out when you inevitably have to deal with negativity and criticism…
Blogging is fun, but it’s also frustrating and discouraging. There’ve been plenty of times where I’ve questioned the point of what I was doing and seriously considered throwing in the towel, but taking a few days off was usually enough to reignite my passion and keep me at it. Blogging is not a get-rich-quick scheme, nor is it overnight success. It’s hard work, dedication, time, and patience. It’s trying different things, making mistakes, and learning what works and what doesn’t. It’s passion, drive, and ambition. Is it possible to become a successful blogger? Absolutely… but that doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for everyone.
Bloggers: Any tips to share or questions you want addressed?
Readers: Wish Spoons a happy birthday? 🙂