Sunday, December 29, 2013

{Sunday Seven} 7 Lessons I Learned About Blogging

2013 was the year I grew my blog. I had started this blog back in 2005 but for 7 years I treated it as a diary and wrote as if I was the only one reading it, which was what happened most of the time.

Late last year I lost my will to blog and thought I'd just write at least one blog post a month because I had never missed a month since I started it. So I did that obligatory post in January of this year and wasn't even sure I could do it for February.

Then something happened. A couple of my best friends decided they wanted to start their own blog with their sisters. So I helped them to set it up, and in the midst of playing the role of their help desk and #1 fan, my passion for blogging got reignited.

Then, for the first time ever, I got interested in growing my blog. So I did some research and found these to work:

(1) Read other blogs.





Don't give me that, Sherlock. I know this makes me sound like an idiot, but I never used to read other blogs except those of real life friends or the few readers who left so many comments that I got curious about them.

The thing about finding readers is that it's just like finding friends in real life. If you want to make new friends, you won't do it by being a wallflower, hanging out by yourself in one dark corner, hoping somebody notices you. If people don't find you, you have to go and find them.

So how do you go about finding good blogs to read? My first successful venture was by joining blog hops. I joined one of the biggest ones out there, the A-Z Challenge. It was a month-long challenge that involved almost 2000 bloggers. I made new blog friends here and discovered how fun it was! How could I have gone through all these years without doing this? I'm an idiot.


Later on, I discovered Bloglovin and Imotiv and it's a lot easier to follow blogs on there.


(2) Comment.


These next few lines are ones I wrote for Kate's Grow Your Blog Baby series.

Someone once said that comments are the currency of the blogging world. So you should definitely utilize these if you want to move up in the blogging world.

I used to never leave comments on the blogs that I stalk read because I thought these bloggers didn't really want to hear from lil ole me. This is wrong, of course. Bloggers love comments! It is a source of affirmation, so the more, the merrier (well except of course the spam and the mean ones).

When I joined A-Z Challenge, one of the rules, aside from sticking to the theme, was to comment on as many blogs as possible. So I commented away and to my surprise, some of them returned the favor and the next thing you know – boom! New friends.

That being said, make it easy to be able to connect with you. If you’re using a Blogger account to comment, don’t be a no-reply-comment blogger. Don’t know what that means? I didn’t too. Luckily I found this tutorial to help me out. Now Blogger bloggers (seriously, how redundant does that sound?) can respond to your comments via email, and you'll make more connections! Isn't that exciting?

Meanwhile, if you use Disqus, make sure to update your profile to show your blog link so that people can find it in case they want to return the love, like so:


To encourage people to comment on your own blogs, don’t make it difficult for them to do so. That means do away with the annoying captcha if you have them because it deters not just spam bots but real commenters as well. I find that if I have to jump through hoops, shed blood, and offer a sacrificial virgin before I can leave a comment on a blog that I am not so inclined to do so anymore.

Make sure to reply to people to people who leave comments, especially those who obviously put in effort in their genuine comments and those who have questions. It’s preferable to do this by replying to them by email so it will get delivered to their inbox, because few people go back to a blog they commented on to check if they had gotten a reply there. I installed Disqus commenting system because responding there sends an email to the commenter informing them of my response, so it’s both on my website AND in their inbox. Win-win!

I would like to point out that I've been really crappy at the whole commenting game lately thanks to IOS7. I do a lot of my blog reading on my phone, so I if I can't leave a comment, I just try to remember that I need to do so later on when I'm on my laptop or I just leave a like via Bloglovin.


(3) Utilize social media.


Display your social media accounts on your side bar so readers can easily follow you. I have always been a social media nut but I never linked them to my blog before. Huge mistake.



Promote your blog posts through all of these. Use Buffer or Hootsuite to schedule Twitter and Facebook posts. Engage with your readers through social media.



(4) Put Importance on Aesthetics.


People are visual creatures, so make sure that your blog does not only have pretty words, but is visually aesthetically appealing as well.

Make sure your fonts and colors do not hurt the eyes. I personally click away from blogs that make my head hurt with all the awful fonts and color combinations.

White space is your friend. Break your long paragraphs into short ones to give your readers' eyes a break. It is preferable to stick to short posts, so if you have a long story to tell, break them down into 2 or 3 parts.

Use pictures to help tell your story, and make them as big and beautiful as possible. I now use the largest size for my pictures and wish I can edit all past posts! I also love to use Picmonkey, a free online picture editing software, especially for when I want to make collages or put text on pictures.

It also couldn't hurt to have a pretty blog design, so try to invest in a professionally made one. There are lots of cheap pre-made ones available on Etsy. I had mine done by another blogger, Call Me Sassafras. She's just starting out so her services are cheap but she did a great job, don't you think? Go check her out!



(5) Sponsor other blogs.


There's a reason why companies pay for advertising - because it works. Same goes for your blog. If you want to get your name and face out there, sometimes you have to pay money money to get the other bigger blogs to do it for you.

If you're interested in dipping your toe in sponsorship and don't quite know where to begin, well there's me! Look at my sponsorship page! LOL.

Seriously, though - sponsor blogs which are similar to yours and would have readers who would likely like yours too. And choose ones that offer more than just a sidebar ad option, like social media promotions, sponsor spotlights, or giveaways.


(6) Write a lot.


I used to write whenever inspiration hit me, because I was only writing for myself anyway. I've since then realized that wasn't the way to run a blog.

If you don't want readers to go "who is this blogger again?" and ignore your posts because they had forgotten who you are and are not invested in you, you need to constantly churn up fresh posts and throw yourself at their faces.

I now try to write as often as I can, and even had a 3-month streak back in March to May of this year when I blogged every single day. I don't do that now because it's too taxing, but I do try to keep a schedule, and stick to it, like this "Sunday Seven" series which has been on a roll since I started it in September. I do hope I can continue it for as long as possible.


(7) Write well.


But it's not just the frequency of your updates that is important, but their quality as well. Make sure to write posts that other people would like to read, like interesting, informative, or funny topics that they can relate to.

This doesn't mean that you should lose your voice, though, or that you should stop writing about what makes you happy. By all means, write your "life lately" posts, people do want to be updated about your life, but as Sherlock would say, don't be boring!

Write for an audience, not just for yourself. Always assume that there are other people aside from your friends who will read, and pretty soon, you'll be surprised that there will be. :)


Let's connect!
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27 comments:

  1. Thanks, Dee! Great tips. I'm always pleased to get some advice on growing my blog because basically.. it's difficult. I'm just about to have a huge overhaul of my design and have been thinking about sponsoring a few of my favourite blogs, so I'm glad to see they are on the list! :)

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  2. Yes, definitely sponsor your favourite blogs! I love doing that because it makes me feel better about parting with my money because it's supporting them, kind of like giving gifts to friends, if you may. In case you don't know who to sponsor and would like to get idea, feel free to email me and I'd gladly tell you who my favorites are.


    I'd love to see your new design! Who would you be hiring to do it, any idea?

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  3. Great tips Dee! I am so pleased 2013 was your blogging year as it was mine too ;).

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  4. Thanks, Kate the great! High five! :D

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  5. Great tips Dee! <3 I guess one of the greatest rules or ways in blogging is doing what you want others to do to you too (yeah thats the golden rule)- reading blogs and leaving comments. 2013 was a bit of my year as well because I had grown in number of readers as well as friends! Cheers to the wonderful things and wishing us all more wonderful blogging years to come! :)

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  6. Yes, exactly - the golden rule! The blog hop rule was actually "comment on those who comment unto you." It's actually a tough rule to observe, but it pays off in terms of genuine blog relationships.


    Thanks, and congrats and cheers to you too!

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  7. comment on those who comment unto you - i love the sound of that! It does take time but it really does pay-off. :D

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  8. Thank you! Very helpful...

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  9. These tips are great. I think a clear look is so darn important , plus sponsoring relevant blogs is always so beneficial .

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  10. I do not respond back to comments by email. Thanks for letting us know to install disque. I'll look into it.

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  11. Thanks writing these great tips! I am starting to enjoy blogging more and more, if only I could sort out my current technical difficulties! Once I fix the problem and get back to blogging I want to install disqus and take part in some blog hops after reading this post.

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  12. Did we "meet" during the A-Z challenge? Isn't it funny- I just can't remember!

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  13. Yes we did! I found your A post, I think, wasn't it about your April fool's birthday? Or was that somebody else? LOL.

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  14. You're welcome!

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  15. Thanks! Yes, definitely beneficial!

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  16. I also didn't know about the comments thing at the start! I just read about it on someone's blog, just like you did it here! It's pretty simple to install. :)

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  17. Ah yes, the photos issue. Hope you sort it out soon! Disqus is really great and you might want to watch out for the A-Z challenge in April. You can start signing up for it in Feb or March, I think.

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  18. Maria Cristina Cruz2:51 AM

    I should overhaul my blog design now. And your post has me excited about the A-Z challenge. ��

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  19. I agree! Read other blogs and your design DOES matter!

    xx
    Kelly
    Sparkles and Shoes

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  20. Rachel Palof11:46 AM

    Love this post (and the Sherlock references!) This year I want to be more serious about blogging, and the tips you shared are all great ways to start. :D

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  21. Approve—
    Dee | adeecodedlife.com

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  22. Glad you agree! xx

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  23. Ooh, it's always fun to meet fellow Sherlockians! :D
    Good luck and hope the tips help!

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  24. Yes, do that! I'd love to see your new design soon!
    Are you gonna join the A-Z Challenge this year?

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  25. Maria Cristina Cruz11:24 PM

    I want to! Been racking my brain for themes/topics. I just hope work doesn't get in the way. Or maybe I'll line up posts. Are you joining this year?

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  26. You can start queueing posts as early as now! I might join too!

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