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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tips for Bloggers

In Jennifer Lopez's defense I don't think that is her real but, if it is, you go girl! Sorry for the silly pic, I always like to have at least one picture in my post, I had nothing for what follows, so I created this fun graphic on Picnik.

I received an email letter recently from the lovely Rose at A Rosie Sweet Home.  She had a few questions about blogging.  She is not alone, I receive requests for tips on blogging often (not sure why, I am by no means an expert) but I have learned some things along the way.  So I thought I would answer the questions she had for me in a post, so that others can benefit.  Seriously I had no clue what I was doing when I first started blogging.  However there are a few things I know now that I wish I had known when I started out.  My blog grew very slowly the first 6 months or so of blogging because like I said, I was clueless.  Let's see what I have learned along the way.  Below are Rose's great questions and my answers:

 Rose:What do you think it takes to have a successful blog? 

Me: I really think there are a lot of things that contribute to having a successful blog.  Things that I think are important are solid content, honesty,making a connection, reliability, humor, and standing out.  Let me dig deeper into each of these. Solid content, share things that will be useful to your audience.  If you are primarily a craft blog, then share great craft ideas or tutorials.  If your blog is humorous, and your readers come for a good laugh, then give them what they want. Let's face it, there are a bazillion blogs out there, and your content is what will bring folks your way.  If you are constantly sharing tutorials that have been seen a thousand times in blog land already, why would folks need to see another one again.  Share solid content, and as they would say on American Idol, "put your own spin on it".
Honesty, I really noticed my blog improving when I was more open about my life and struggles.  I think it's important for folks to feel like they know you and your personality.  This isn't always easy.  It took me over a year to share pics of me before my drastic weight loss.  My stomach twisted in knots as I hit the "publish" button.  However after I did, I not only felt like I was being more open and honest with my audience but that they could connect with me on a more intimate level.  Now I know that this isn't always easy, and no I am not saying share all of your deepest and darkest secrets.  Lord knows I have a few things I have not shared on Bacon Time yet, and may never.  Honesty isn't always easy, but take baby steps towards building real friendships.
Making connections, I am going to be completely honest, I do not have time to respond to every comment I receive on Bacon Time.  As your blog grows, this will be more and more of a challenge for you.  However if I notice a question, or receive an email I always respond.  Let your audience know that you are listening. If you are not taking the opportunity to make not only followers but real friends, I think you are missing out.  I know as a full time work at home mom, and one that moved to a town where she new absolutely no one, the main reason  I started blogging was to have a little adult conversation during the day, and have friends that are only a click away.  
Reliability, do you need to post 7 days a week, no you don't. However I think posting at least 3 times a week is a good idea.  If you decide to host a linky, first try to find a way to make it your own, and not a linky that already exists.  For example I decided that my Anything Goes Linky would be open to all links, even shops and giveaways.  I don't have any rules besides no pornography, and I have never had an issue with there being any, knock on wood. If you are telling your followers you are hosting a weekly linky, then try to be reliable about when you post.  If folks know that they can come to your site every Monday for a great new recipe, then do your best to be there for them.  Now this is not easy, especially when you are starting out, and figuring out what will work for you.  I know I had huge intentions of hosting a monthly linky called "Desperate 4 Date Night".  I have only hosted one, and at the moment that linky/meme as they are also called, has been put on hold, if not cancelled all together.  I realized I was biting off more then I could chew. It wasn't going to be something I could commit to posting reliably so I had to reevaluate what content I would post regularly and reliably. For me what I have found works is posting at least one new craft  or recipe project each week, some weeks I share more then that, but that is my goal.  I also share one fashion what I wore post each week. I typically have a new giveaway each week.  Every Thursday I share features from the linky.  Then I end my week on Friday with our Anything Goes linky
Humor, no you don't need to be a stand up comedian, I think the most important thing is to stay positive.  If you appear that blogging is a chore, and you rather be doing something else, then your readers will notice, and well maybe you should be doing something else.  I blog because I love it, and I hope that my readers can see that.
Standing Out, I have touched on this already, but to expand, make your blog unique.  Ask yourself is the name of your blog similar to a million other blogs. Is it catchy?  Is your backdrop or banner almost exactly like your neighbors?  Do you have a memorable look?  When coming up with my blog name, I looked around to see if there were any similar first.  When choosing my design, you know it's changed a lot, but I have always tried to be unique, and not an eye sore, as I know it has been at times. For me the look of my blog is one of the most challenging things. I am one of those people that like to move my furniture around often and play with design.  This is also true of my blog, I get board with the look easily and want to change it up. I currently have a banner that is unique and designed by me, and my background is a picture of a ring I made, so I know it's unique.  I have the urge everyday to change it again, but I know that some folks hate change, so I am trying to keep it the same.  I think the most important thing is to keep it easy to navigate so folks can find what they are looking for, and to keep it unique, so they remember you in the sea of blogs. I also thing it is important to choose your sponsors wisely.  Don't shove a bunch of adds on your blog, unless they are making you a money, and they are a product you would use yourself.  

Rose: How long have you been blogging?

Me: About a year and a half. This coming September 19th will be my two year blogiversary. 

Rose: Did it take a long time to build up all those followers? 
Me: As I mentioned above, I was clueless when I started blogging.  I was brand spanking new to the world of blogland, so I had no contacts or friendships already established, and really had no idea what I was doing.  I didn't even know what a linky was.  Because of this, my blog grew very slowly for the first six months or more, until I started learning how to promote it in a positive way.  At first I joined a bunch of hops, where the primary reason you link up is to make new followers.  Do I recommend this, to be honest yes and know.  I really think when you are first starting out the drive to get a bunch of followers is strong. What I have found from experience is that hops can get you more followers, but not necessarily a substantial amount of traffic.  I adore my followers, don't get me wrong, but I want followers that read and visit my blog regularly not ones that just want to stop by once to say "follow me back".  Yes I was guilty myself of doing this in the beginning.  When I first started out like I said I joined hops thinking this is how I will build up a following, and would leave comments of "follow me back" on other blogs.  Now I want to state that I do not leave comments anymore saying "follow me back"  I find them to be rude. I only would consider leaving such comments if you came to that persons blog through a hop where the idea is to gain more followers. Then I would let them know that you found them on that particular hop before leaving such a comment.  I personally don't join any hops on a regular basis anymore.  Now I recently hosted a Pinterest linky.  However I follow everyone that links up, and I visit Pinterest weekly, OK daily, and feel that I am building a substantial following by participating in such a hop.  I really think in general you will find participating in craft, fashion, and recipe linkies, although they might not raise your following # as much, they will increase your traffic substantially more then a hop would.  

Rose:How much time did you have to spend on your blog to get it to a place where it seems self sustaining?

Me: I am embarrassed to say how much time I have put into building up Bacon Time over the first year and a half.  Much of that time, could have been saved, if I knew then what I know now, and am sharing with you today.  I think this number will be different for everyone.  First if you work outside of your home, and your blog is a hobby, or only a small way to earn a little extra cash, then you will not be able to spend as much time on it as I would a full time blogger.  Will it grow as quickly, probably not, but then it's not your primary concern.  Since deciding to quit my day job, and work full time at home, as a mother, blogger, and Etsy shop owner, I put in regular hours each day to those tasks.  It is a constant balancing act trying to find time for my kids, husband, home, blog, and shop.  I admit that I am still searching for balance, and my home has actually been less organized from both the blog and shop.  I tend to be a workaholic.  I actually went to school to be a teacher, and found I was not able to separate work from home well.  I would bring papers home to grade, even though I believe that time should be for family.  I still have that problem, and I think it's one that many folks with drive, who are self employed will struggle with.  There are always things I think I should be doing to improve my shop and blog.  I am working on making them both more self sustaining.  I try to limit myself to four hours every morning improving them both, by visiting and participating in linkies, visiting and commenting on other blogs,  keeping Bacon Time's pages and layout updated, writing new posts, and taking new pics for my shop.  The rest of my day I spend crafting, cooking, and caring for my family.  I think you need to give yourself this time, to find your creativity.  If I didn't step away from the computer for a few hours each day, I wouldn't have anything to post on.  I need to craft, cook, and get dressed up at least once a week for balance, and to create solid content for my readers.
Rose:   Did you  leave a lot of comments on other blogs inviting them to your blog? 
Me: Yes, before I started my first linky, I invited probably 300 or more people!  If you are going to have a party, you need to send out invitations right? I did so though in a polite manner, or at least I tried to.  I didn't just leave an invite without commenting on the post that I was leaving it on.
For example, "beautiful wreath, love the polka dots!  Your pictures are really beautiful. What a great deal on ribbon you found. You are very talented, if you would like another place to link to, and share that talent, visit Bacon Time on Friday for our linky party."
Do your best to show them you actually read and looked at their post is all I am saying. When you invite folks to your blog, I suggest using other linky parties to find folks.  That way you know they are open to linking up, and visiting other sites.  Some of the larger bloggers are not going to participate in linkies other then their own, and are not going to visit you back, so it's pointless to ask.  Again I don't really like to participate in hops so much anymore, but if you have a recipe, craft, or fashion linky you want to promote and invite me and others too, you can add it to my newly Spring cleaned "LINKY LOVE" page and I will be sure to join.  Do I invite 300 hundred people at a time to my linky party now, no that was just to kick it off with a bang.  I think if a party starts out sort of slow, folks might be less likely to continue coming.  So if you do decide to host one, put forth a substantial amount of effort into it.  I also do my best to visit the blogs that link up.  I don't always have time to visit and comment on  them all.  However I try to show my appreciation by having a large feature post each week.  

Rose:Do you pay for advertising space on other sights?  If so is it worth it?
I have paid for advertising in the past on Someday Crafts and for giveaways and group events I host, at Giveaway Promote. I have found both to be affordable places to advertise and the bloggers easy to work with.  I also sponsor several giveaways from my shop at other blogs all the time.  Do they all bring me a bunch more followers and traffic, to be honest no, but I enjoy bringing my followers free giveaways from my shop.  I think before you advertise anywhere you should make sure you trust that blogger. Do they respond to your emails in a timely manner.  Are they polite and easy to work with?  If you are asking to advertise on their blog, and they are not getting back to you, chances are once they have your money, they are going to be even harder to get a hold of.  A little shameless self promotion, but Bacon Time has add space available, and for the money, I think you will find it hard if not impossible to find the same value at other blogs with similar traffic.  I am also offering advertising in the form of a post dedicated to you, your shop, blog, linky, giveaways, whatever, for only $30.  I personally feel that single posts can often get you more traffic then an add button up for months. Check out my PR page for stats, testimonials, and advertising fees.
It is hard to answer the question if it is worth it or not.  Until you advertise on a particular site you will not know if your traffic substantially increases from that particular traffic source.  You in away have to take the plunge and try first.  The wonderful thing is, it's not like signing a two year contract for cable or your phone, you can usually buy 3 or 4 months of advertising at a time. For Giveaway promote you buy a week at a time.  

Rose:  What do you think brings you the most followers? 
Me: Again I want to stress I think you should be less concerned with the number of followers you have  and more concerned with your traffic.  That being said, giveaways are a great way to bring both traffic and new followers to your blog.  However you need to promote those giveaways, just like you would your blog, to make them successful. You will probably notice in more of the giveaways I do, I never require folks to follow, I will give entries for them viewing my shop, and letting me know what item they like the best. I would rather earn a sale from folks actually visiting my shop and seeing my great deals and pretty jewelry, as opposed to them "hearting" my shop and never really checking it out.  The same applies to my blog, I would rather them take the time to leave a comment for entry, then hit the follow button, and never return again.  I suggest when you do a giveaway, not to make the follow mandatory.  I think more folks will enter, and your traffic will increase, which is what advertisers care about.  I am happy to say that my advertisers have often been repeat customers, so I feel they are getting their bang for their buck, why else would they return.

Rose: Dose the way your blog look make a difference? 
Me: I have had some mean and nasty comments about my blogs appearance in the past.  So I would say yes it does matter to some folks. Everyone is different, just like every one's home has a different style, some folks like a nice clean sleek blog look, others like ones with bright colors, and lots of things to look at. I try to stick towards the middle rode and make Bacon Time not too obnoxious yet not dull either.  I want to stress I think leaving rude comments about someones blog look is ridiculous.  If you don't like how it looks, subscribe via email, and view it in a different format. Remember your blog is an online journal, and you should feel the liberty to design it how you want.


Well Rose I hope you and everyone reading found these tips helpful.  I sure wish I had read a post like this when I was first starting out, I think it would have saved me about 6 months of work. If you  have any other tips to add, or found this helpful, please feel free to share it on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter,  and leave a comment below.

Linking up here and at the other fabulous parties on my LINKY LOVE page.

44 comments:

  1. WOW! Love this- and loved all the questions and answers! Awesome Post right here! Lots of useful information so thank you Rose and Mindie!

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  2. Thank you for taking the time to write these tips! So helpful. I love being a new blogger, and the challenge of learning to navigate the world of blogging is my favorite part:0)

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  3. Mindie, this is great. I wished I would have known a lot of this stiff in the beginning too. Now that I've learned a lot of this stuff my blog is growing more quickly. It's still slow going, but that's due to the amount of time and effort I put in. I really appreciate your remark about not going to blogs and leaving a comment just to ask them to follow you. People do this on my blog all of the time and it really bothers me. Many of these blogs don't have content I am interested in and if I follow them it adds them to my blog list and I have to scroll though dozens of posts a day when I check up on the blogs I read. Sometimes I miss the stuff I am interested in because I have to sift through so much stuff. By all means if you are new follower tell me so. I will check out your blog and if I like it I will follow, but I'm not going to follow a boring blog just because you asked me to.

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  4. Thank you for this! I am so flattered, and impressed that you took the time to respond to my questions and to mention me on your blog. You have defiantly solidified your place as my favorite blogger. It relay means a lot to me that you value your readers. I'm so excited about this.
    Thanks,
    Rose

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    1. You are most welcome, you asked some great questions, and I am sure folks appreciate that you asked. Thank you for your kind words. Always happy to make real friends in blogland.

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  5. I Love these types of posts. It's great to learn about new things in this game. Thanks
    Carolyn

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  6. Thanks for linking to my blog! You are awesome!

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  7. Thanks so much for this post! I have been wondering many of the same things, and today, I actually get one stop shopping! Gotta love that!!

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  8. Any input on blogging is always appreciated. This is a great post with really helpful hints. Thanks for the insight!!

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  9. Wow Mindie! What an insightful post! I learned so much! I have been blogging a tad over 6 months and still have soooo much to learn! Thanks for taking the time to answer Rosie's questions.

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  10. I've been trying to figure out how to get more traffic...it's taken me a while to realize the number of followers isn't that important.

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  11. Thanks Mindie, you've been helpful to me since I started blogging and I always appreciate what you have to say!

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  12. Great post Mindie! Can you follow me back now? hehe, just kidding!!! Great advice here!!

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    1. LOL Aimee I already follow you on GFC, Facebook, and Pinterest, I know you are joking though, thanks for the laugh.

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  13. Now, this post took you a while to write! Very interesting and helpful.
    Thanks for replying to Rose in a post, so we could all see the answers.

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  14. Thanks for the mention, Mindie!

    You've helped out a lot of bloggers with this post.

    You're definitely right-on with the giveaway follows. A huge chunk of giveaway traffic may never return to your site (until they stumble across your next giveaway!) so your idea of having them take a look at your shop is a great one. They are much more likely to remember you by doing that!

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  15. Excellent advice! Sometimes it's hard not to get caught up in the numbers but you're absolutely right, you want to make connections with people who really care/like what you're doing, not just there to enter a giveaway and never return. Thanks so much for sharing your insights~

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  16. Wow! Thanks for the info. I've been blogging about a year and still I'm not sure how to drive up more traffic. I posted a video hoping it would help since I was receiving so many emails about a craft/decorating project.

    http://alapinlife.blogspot.com/2012/03/woodworkers-transfer-tool-video.html

    Dee

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  17. Thanks for the insight! And you are right about wanting people to become a reader and not just a click to join only never to return again. Even if I think just one person is actually reading my blog I feel a responsibility to put something out there that they can either use or relate to! I am a new follower for all of the right reasons!!

    P.S....love the J-Lo pic...too funny. It's what got me here to read your interview in the first place!
    Have a great week!!!

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  18. Definitely helpful info. It's so good to hear that it takes time. I struggle with patience sometimes.:)

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  19. Awesome post!

    Mrs. Delightful
    www.ourdelightfulhome.blogspot.com

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  20. This was a really nice post. I liked your answers. I have been blogging for a bit and don't really have the time to really grow it, but in the future if I want, these tips will really help.

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  21. It's always so great to read about how other bloggers "made it". Great when bloggers let us in on their journeys : )

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  22. As a baby blogger, this is so helpful. I was drawn to the post from the Somewhat Simple link party. I, too, am trying to find a balance. You have such great advice here. I haven't tried to start making money from this yet, but I'm trying to build up my audience first. I appreciate all the work you put into the post. It was really helpful.

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  23. Oh yeah, come follow me @...just kidding.

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  24. great tips- so glad I found this post!

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  25. Great tips! I found them very helpful :)

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  26. I really really really appreciated this post. I've been blogging for 6 months and it wasn't until recently that I've let go of the constant search for followers. I would be bummed for days if people unfollowed me. Now I've just let it go. I think the number of followers you have is becoming less and less important with pinterest. I like to look at google analytics to give me an idea of how I'm doing- I can look at how long people have been on each page and how many people are returning to my blog. It's hard to not care about how many followers I have since EVERYONE can see that number. Also, I can't stand it when people say, I followed you, now come follow me. It makes me feel so obligated to return the "favor". Oh my word- this is long. In a nutshell- thank!

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  27. What a great post! Thanks so much for that, well written and thought provoking.
    love
    jutta

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  28. Thank you, Mindie! You answered some of the queations I've been thinking about, too.

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  29. Those are all such wonderful tips and are really helpful. Thanks for taking the time to answer them all!

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  30. These are really helpful tips! Thank you for sharing them. I'm very new and very green at blogging, but I'm just doing it to have fun!

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  31. These are great helpful tips! I'm a new blogger so they help me out a lot! Thanks for sharing!

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  32. Came over from Show and Tell Saturdays. You've got some real helpful information here. I've only started getting serious about my blog in the last few months and am trying to sift through information to help it be better. Thanks for the info!


    -Amber
    http://creativeideas2day.blogspot.com/

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  33. What a thoughtful post! Great tips, Mindie.

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  34. Great tips thanks for sharing them. I have to agree about staying true to the content of your blog and spending time on the quality instead of quantity of posts. I always appreciate a good blog with good pictures and valuable content.

    http://fitcraftystylishandhappy.blogspot.com/

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  35. Good information here. Thank you so much for sharing it.

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  36. Rose is a good friend of mine, she told me tonight at dinner that she had emailed you and that this post was about the questions she had asked.
    I loved everything I just read. Very Very Very helpful information! I have pinned this hoping it will get other bloggers out there the help that they need. I sure just learned a lot. I really appreciate you taking the time to help us all.
    Thanks so much!
    xoxo
    Heather

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  37. Gave this post a shout out!

    http://4you-withlove.blogspot.com/2012/04/blogging-tips-6.html

    Marilyn

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  38. Mindy, this post is incredibly informative. Lots to reflect on. Thanks SO much for sharing it at the Blog Tips Cafe linky party over at I Gotta Create! I think it will be helpful to so many bloggers.
    All the best to you,
    Christina
    http://igottacreate.blogspot.com

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  39. You're a STAR at I Gotta Create! I'm featuring you today <3
    http://igottacreate.blogspot.com/2012/04/blog-tips-cafe-feature-6.html

    Thanks so much for linking up!

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  40. Thank you fo this! I was hopping around to blog tips posts and I found yours particularly easy to read, maybe it's the Q&A format?

    Jessica
    stayathomeista.com

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Mathew 7:12
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.