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Start a Blog: The Everything Crash Course in Blogging

When I archived the majority of old posts here on Ever Clever Mom, I started getting emails from people who couldn’t find what they were looking for. The top demands have been for posts from my blogging series, which I published a few years ago. I felt like they had hit most of the audience but apparently a lot of you go back to them again and again so I’ve condensed all eleven posts into one mega post about starting a blog as a side hustle:

This post contains affiliate links.

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Hey, you know what you could do this weekend? You could start a blog.

I get asked for blogging advice a lot. It’s not a surprise that people who know me in “real” life ask me for a little guidance when they’re thinking about starting blogs for their businesses or just because they have some ideas they’d like to get on the Internet. I’ve been blogging since forever (2001 is forever in Internet time) and I’ve been making money by blogging for the last six years, spending five of those years being a full-time blogger. So, yes, I know about the blogging.

It used to be pretty tough to really get going, but a lot of great things have happened to make blogging more accessible. Of course, there’s a lot to blogging, but if you just want to get going and be able to say, “I’m a blogger” by next Monday, you just have to follow these steps:

1 /// Decide what you want to blog about.
2 /// Choose a name.
3 /// Buy a dot com and some hosting space. (Inexpensive!)
4 /// Set up your blog.
5 /// Arrange your blog so that it looks the way you want it to. (Not hard!)
6 /// Set up a Facebook page for your blog.
7 /// Write three posts and pin them on Pinterest.
8 /// Add some ads to your sidebar.

This is not hard. If you already feel overwhelmed, breathe. This isn’t hard. If I was teaching an eight grade class about using the Internet, I would be comfortable assigning this as weekend homework. You can do this. Let’s walk through it.

1 /// Decide what you want to blog about.

This can be the easiest or the hardest thing about this process, depending on how you approach it. You probably already have a topic in mind when you think about starting your own blog, but before you commit: can you really blog about that topic? If it’s too specific (Oscar-winning movies from 1972) you’ll run out of material eventually and you won’t be able to blog that often. If it relies on other people and/or their work (cute outfits people wore around town or watercolor paintings from your favorite artist), you have to keep in mind that not everyone likes being photographed and you can’t republish other people’s work unless you have permission.

Another huge problem that I see with people who are starting blogs is that many of them are copycat blogs because you see a blogger doing something and you think, “I could do that!” A good example is food or fashion blogs. It can be tempting to start blogging all of your dinners or outfits if you see another person getting paid to eat and wear stuff, but if you aren’t truly passionate about what you’re talking about it’s not going to work. Blogging is a great way to make money if you find something you love, but it’s the absolute worst way to make money if you don’t love what you’re talking about because (A) you’ll burn out, (B) your audience won’t like your stuff because they’ll know you aren’t into it, and (C) you won’t make any money and then you’ll be frustrated because you’re doing all of it for no reason at all. I am guilty of starting blogs purely for profit and those blogs went down in flames, taking the money I spent on the dot coms with them. (insert fiery crash sound here)

When people wonder what they should blog about, I tell them to imagine going to the bookstore. Where are you going? When I walk into a bookstore, I head toward photography/fashion magazines and then I move over to cookbooks, parenting, and travel (in that order). Not surprisingly, those are exactly the things I’ve been successful at when I publish blog posts. If you can find a topic that you gravitate naturally toward, you’ll do much better as a blogger.

2 /// Choose a name.

Choosing a name for your blog is getting harder as names and dot coms get scooped up every day. I’ve run through all sorts of names (the list boggles the mind, actually) and I’ve learned that shorter is better and the dot com is often unimportant. I chose “Ever Clever Mom” on purpose because many of my favorite blogs have topic-explanatory three-word titles (A Beautiful Mess, Young House Love, Girl’s Gone Child) but other people have gone with made-up single-word blog titles and done just fine (Dooce, Bleubird,Chookooloonks).

The benefit to making something up is that you’re more likely to get a dot com that matches your blog name. I have two things to say about this. First, if it’s too crazy made up, nobody will remember it and your dot com won’t matter. Second, it doesn’t matter all that much if your dot com matches. My dot com matches and I like that, but I follow lots of blogs that are named one thing and then the dot com is something totally different (often the person’s name like “amysmomblog” because they didn’t know what the name should be). It’s fine. Yes, it helps you look professional if it matches BUT don’t decide you just shouldn’t blog because all the dot coms are taken. It will be OK.

3 /// Buy a dot com and some hosting space. (Inexpensive!)

Here is where I start to veer big time from the advice I gave on my wedding blog a million years ago when I walked everyone through blogspot. I think that people who are starting a blog today should always buy the dot com and pay for some hosting space. Why? It makes your life soooo much easier down the road if your blog gets bigger.

Blogspot (owned by Google) is very easy to use and you get a free blogspot address, so there’s little time or money commitment. Tempting, right? Yes and that’s why I was on blogspot for years. That being said, Google is tricky and they’ve been known to delete blogs with no warning since technically it’s still their space and not yours. Plus, you just can’t do as much design-wise with a blogspot blog. It ends up being a crutch that fights with you when you try to personalize it and you run the risk that it could all just *poof* disappear for no reason. In my opinion, it’s better to start with WordPress but if you want to make money then you need to host it yourself (through a hosting company) and buy a dot com.

Scared? NO. Not hard!!! You can do this! It only sounds intimidating.

I use Bluehost and you can buy space and a dot com through them directly. I used to use HostGator, but I’ve had less downtime with Bluehost and I feel like I’ve gotten a better response with their customer service. When you sign up, you have to pick between sharing a server or having a private server for a little bit more money. I’m private because I have a fair amount of traffic, but being in a shared server is cheap and easy and should be fine when you’re starting out.

So go to Bluehost and get a dot com and get on a shared server. Then…

4 /// Set up your blog.

Bluehost has a 1-click WordPress install to get you started with a WordPress blog. It’s very easy and they have articles, videos, and a customer service hotline if you need to be walked through. Don’t bother with what your blog looks like – just get it up so that when you visit the dot com you just bought, you see a WordPress blog. Really, they can walk you through all of this if you need them to. They’re very nice.

5 /// Arrange your blog so that it looks the way you want it to. (Not hard!)

Designing your WordPress blog is more hands-on, but it’s not hard. There’s a template option in your WordPress dashboard that lets you browse through and find a template (blog design) that will work for you. Most are free, but if you’re honestly serious about making a go at blogging as a way to get some income AND you aren’t that familiar with html or coding or any of that, I would consider purchasing a WordPress template from an Etsy seller. I purchased this template from a designer on Etsy and she gave a great step-by-step instruction sheet so I could install it AND she was right there via private message if I needed help. The whole thing was set up within an hour and I love it.

After you have the basic design, you can add widgets to your sidebar, which are just fun extras you want to include. I have photo links, as well as a widget for recent posts and Instagram photos. This is also how you add your search bar, etc. It’s easy, but if you’re feeling lost, check out this article on adding widgets in WordPress. Note: don’t add too many because they do slow your site down a little.

6 /// Set up a Facebook page for your blog.

Set up a fan page for your blog. It’s good to have this be ready to go so you can share new blog articles via your fan page and people can join it right away. Do not, however, ask people to join your fan page before you start blogging. They’ll be confused and you’ll get fewer fans in the long run. Just set it up and have it ready.

7 /// Write three posts and pin them on Pinterest.

I always start with at least three posts: an introduction posts and then two really good posts that people will want to share. The most shareable posts are fairly short, offer something to the reader (like tips or instructions), and have big beautiful photos. Go ahead and spend a lot of time on these two because you want to make a good impression. Do not write three posts about how you’re excited to start blogging. You are blogging. Get to it.

Once your posts are up, pin them to Pinterest, post them on Facebook (either by sharing the link or by sharing a photo with the link as the photo comment), and then share them with everyone via Facebook update, tweet, Instagram, email, etc. Don’t do huge sharing blasts everytime you blog because that gets annoying, but when it’s your blog’s big debut people give you some slack.

8 /// Add some ads to your sidebar.

This is where the money comes in. There are a lot of ways to make money blogging, but if you want to start making money this weekend you can put some Google ads in the sidebar and you’ll start to accumulate earnings with every person who visits. It takes a while, but don’t be frustrated because pretty much everyone starts out this way. Or, to bump up your income, you can add links on the sidebar to your own business, e-book, or Etsy shop if you happen to have one. Having a blog that is connected to your business can be a HUGE income boost if you do it well, because it’s publicity and a way to personalize the fact that you want these people to give you money. If they like you and they feel like your blog contributed something toward making their life better, they’re a lot more likely to buy something! At my most recent blog conference, I’d say only a third of the people I met were full-time bloggers. The rest had added blogging as a way to make a second income or recharge their business profits.

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That was, of course, the quick and painless guide to just getting yourself on the Internet. I’ll do some more posts on getting more people to read your blog and finding other ways to make money, but ultimately you just have to start blogging before you worry about any of that. You don’t have to blog all the time (many people who blog once a week end up doing fine), but if you have it in you to put quality posts up pretty often, go ahead. You’re building up your archives so new visitors have something to check out when they start to poke around.

Fact: blogging takes time to get started and you just have to sit down and do it.

Other Fact: blogging probably doesn’t take as much time as you think AND many bloggers earn a very nice second income just by blogging about things they want to be talking about anyway. Plus, they get to call themselves experts and meet other people who are into the same things. And sometimes they get to stop being attorneys and stay home with their cute kids instead. It’s kind of the best.

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Once you have a blog up, the first thing you need to think about is your content. In fact, no matter where you are in blogging, you always need to think about content first. There’s a lot of other things that go into blogging, including making money, getting more traffic, etc., but if your content isn’t good your blog won’t be successful and it won’t earn you extra income.

I have learned most of what I know about good content by writing years of really, really, really bad content. I’m a decent writer (thank you very much, B.A. in English) but I was a bad blogger for a long time. I won’t go over all of my missteps, but here’s a look at 5 really bad types of blog posts that you need to avoid:

1 /// The “Sorry I Haven’t Posted” post. I think all bloggers are guilty of doing this at some point, but when I was in law school I did it all the time. You can recognize this post because (A) it starts out with a long apology about not posting as though the lack of blog posts is severely impacting other people’s life satisfaction, (B) it moves on to some whiny explanation of how busy/tired/sick/distracted the blogger has been, and (C) at absolutely no point does it offer anything substantial for the reader to walk away with outside of a flimsy promise to be better about blogging in the future.

This is what is known as a waste of space post. You didn’t contribute anything, so why did you bother posting?

2 /// The “OMG, Pandas!!!” post. One of the easiest types of blog posts is the post where you share things that you found on the Internet. I did this for a really long time, even though that’s exactly what Facebook statuses are for, because I was a lazy blogger. The three big problems with this are: (1) your blog is supposed to be a place where you make contributions, not where you carbon copy other people’s contributions, (2) people of all sorts get mad and have the right to sue you if you repost their photos/work without permission, and (3) unless the focus of your blog is cool stuff you found on the Internet, every panda post is derailing your blog’s message and confusing your readers.

That being said, a lot of bloggers share cool stuff they found on the Internet. The secrets are that they usually do it all at once in a link round-up, they get permission before they repost anything that isn’t theirs, and they make sure the things they are sharing fit the theme of the blog. A design blogger sharing someone else’s beautiful photo (with permission!) as part of a “cool stuff of the Internet” post is good blogging. You sharing a funny cat video on your cooking blog is bad blogging.

3 /// The “Dear Diary” post. Oh, I have so many of these in the archives and 95% make me cringe. I originally started blogging as a way to keep in touch with friends and somewhere along the way that dissolved into me sharing every activity and thought that I’d had lately. This is really only interesting if you’re a celebrity. Otherwise, you need to package your posts in a way that makes them useful to the reader.

For example, let’s say you want to blog about a recent trip to the museum. Bad blogging is telling your readers that you went to the museum but you didn’t get to stay as long as you wanted because you had to come back to meet the cable guy but then he was late and you’re so annoyed so you’re eating ice cream. Good blogging is taking lots of photos of the museum, including your three favorite things about the visit, and linking to the museum website. The first post gives your readers a long story about why you’re crabby. The second post encourages your readers to explore the museum for themselves. See the difference?

4 /// The “People are Stupid / I Hate Stuff” post. These are my least favorite and I’m happy to say that I’ve only published a handful of these because even at my worst I knew better. Blogging about how much you dislike something or someone probably doesn’t add anything to the world. If the person is universally disliked, you’re preaching to the choir. If the person is popular, you’re just baiting people to come and fight with you. It’s one thing to say that you disagree with an idea and then explain your position. It’s another to just attack someone or something else as a matter of opinion about how ugly/boring/stupid/desperate they are. My opinion is that it makes you look ugly, boring, stupid, and desperate…even if you’re right.

Disclaimer: there are people who make a ton of money off of these kinds of attack blog posts because it stirs drama and people show up to watch or participate in the Internet brawl. You could do this. I cannot help you with it. I think it’s low.

5 /// The “Overshare” post. It’s a little laughable that I’m including this, since I’m a pretty open book here on the Interwebs, but you do need to keep overshare posts at bay…ESPECIALLY if you’re blogging for your business. Overshare territory is anything you wouldn’t talk about in front of…well, anyone who is on the planet. Because (hello!) people anywhere can read your posts. So leave your funky health problems off your blog unless they’re making some major contribution. Same goes with sex problems and posts where you hate your mother. Phone a friend.

So what does good content look like? Here’s a checklist of ten points you should try to hit every time:

1 /// It’s your own original content or something you’re adding to the discussion of other people’s content (reposted only with permission).

2 /// Your post fits the focus of your blog.

3 /// If a dream sponsor wanted to consider you for a marketing campaign, you’d have no problem sharing this post as an example of your work.

4 /// Your reader is leaving with something tangible they can use in their lives. (Recipes, downloads, and recommended product lists are obvious here, but this can also apply to a story that taught them something, a story they were able to relate to, or photos that stirred emotion.)

5 /// You didn’t lie at any point in your post and nobody can sue you over something you wrote/copied/posted.

6 /// Your post features big, beautiful graphics. If you don’t use your own photos, you’re using someone else’s photos with permission or you’ve created a large illustration or text image that someone could pin if they wanted to save this post.

7 /// Your title tells the reader exactly what the post is about. (Creative titles are more trouble than they’re worth and they don’t help you when it comes to Google search results.)

8 /// You care about what you just posted. If someone else posted the same article and shared it on Facebook, you’d click through to read it and you might pin it or share it with friends.

9 /// The format is appealing. Readers love short paragraphs, numbered lists/checklists, and lots of photos or illustrations to look at.

10 /// You encourage comments. Most bloggers actively encourage comments by leaving a question or two at the end of their posts, which is a great way to get people talking. Very rarely am I able to do this smoothly, so I only ask questions when I really need information. That being said, I try to encourage comments by responding to people when they leave them and censoring only the ones I find offensive. Not allowing comments, not responding to comments, or failing to remove spam comments is all going to choke the back-and-forth on your blog.

 

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Bad photos can sink your posts. Here’s an example: these are both posts about lunches I had while I was traveling (one from 2009 and one from 2013). The first is a post that I had made private, but I opened it back up to the public so you can see all the awful. See how committed I am to improving your blog skills?

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In my head, I saw a photo of a regional meal representative of my trip. The execution, of course, is a bad cell phone picture with bad lighting that makes the food look gross (ick – those fries!). The photo is also too small, off-center, and not accompanied by any text that would help anyone out. (Where did I get the food? Why am I at PDX? What magazine am I reading? WHY DID I BLOG THIS?) You can see why I made this post private. This is the kind of thing that makes your blog look bad.

Next example: another regional meal representative of my trip, this time from Napa:

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This is another cell phone picture of food, but there are a couple of big differences. For one, the lighting in this photo is a lot better because I’m outside and not under weird fluorescent airport lights.Two, my camera is better and picked up more of the detail. Also, I edited the photo with a cheap phone filter app (PicTapGo)  and when I posted it I made sure that it was 600 pixels wide so it fills up the whole blog post area. Finally, I added details like where I was, what I was eating, and other things that might actually interest/help readers.

Do you have bad photos on your blog? If you answer yes to any of these, the answer is…well…yes:
/// The photos on your blog are smaller than the width of your blog post area AND off-center. (Centered small photos are better than nothing.)
/// The photos are blurry or badly lit.
/// The photos don’t illustrate what you’re blogging about.
/// The photos include undesirable things along with your subject (such as a plate of food + your messy kitchen, your new dress + your dirty bathroom mirror, the craft you just made + all the bad versions of the craft that didn’t work out…).
/// WORST: The photos aren’t yours and you don’t have permission to have them on your blog.

The good news is that it’s not impossible to get good photos for your blog posts, even if you don’t spend a lot of money. If you look at the list of gear I use for my blog, you’ll see that I do own a big fancy camera, but I’d say that most of my blog photos are actually cell phone pictures that were edited with an app. (Check out my list of phone photo apps here.) Quick note: you want the photos to be big but you don’t want them to be TOO big or your blog will load really slow. Assuming you’re using wordpress, try a plugin like this one that resizes your images automatically when you upload them.

Here are 5 quick tips, no matter what kind of digital camera you’re using:

(1) Lighting is important and it’s the hardest thing to fix no matter how many app filters you add to your photo. The best lighting is outside when it’s cloudy or inside near sunlight coming in from a window.

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(2) Take a ton of photos of each thing you’re photographing so you can choose the best one when you’re picking illustrations for your post. This is especially true for taking pictures of kids! I have so many bad photos of the kid, you wouldn’t even believe it.

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(3) Check your background. If it’s in the shot, people will look at it, so clear away any mess or distracting junk. Even if the background isn’t messy, you might want to make it as blank as possible so people look at what you want them to look at.

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(4) The best bloggers have a fairly consistent look with their photography. I’m all for experimenting, but pay attention to the look you’re drawn to and try to stay in that general area. I could list a ton of blogs that do this well, but one that comes to mind is Bleubird. (Although she married a photographer, like a ton of other successful bloggers. If I could consider it a reasonable tip, I would have just told you to marry a photographer and this would have been a much shorter post.)

(5) Getting your blog posts pinned on Pinterest is a great way to boost traffic, so keep Pinterest in mind when you’re adding photos. Pictures that get pinned more often have a lot of red, descriptive text, and/or are slightly taller and thinner than regular photos. The pin below is one of my most popular, even though I’d pinned the photo by itself before and barely gotten any repins.

Put text on your photos to make them easier to pin.

If you really aren’t up to using your own photos, you can use Getty images. As long as you follow their rules for social media, they don’t mind if you use their pictures. They have a TON of images.

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One of the first things that people usually focus for their blog is pageviews. Seasoned bloggers will tell you that pageviews don’t matter and you should only focus on content because good content will bring people to your site. It will happen “organically” – the favorite buzzword of many a blog conference.

This advice is crap.

There are two problems with not worrying about pageviews. (1) If you don’t have anyone – absolutely anyone – reading your blog, you can create all of the beautiful posts you want and it won’t matter. You will be the tree falling in the forest with no one to hear it. (2) If you’re hoping to make money from your blog, every company who works with you is going to be interested in pageviews. One of the best things I ever heard at a conference is this: nobody is going to pay you to blog. Companies are not interested in becoming patrons to your creative side. They’re interested in eyeballs on their product and how many of those eyeballs will actually buy something. In order to be worth something to a company, you have to have an audience. So your blog is going to need some eyeballs.

Before we get into the getting of pageviews, let’s talk about the different types of blog audiences. It’s important to define your audience early, so you know who you’re talking to and whether or not you’re reaching who you want to reach. Included in the descriptions are some loose figures for unique views (the number of different computers that logged onto your site) and returning readers (how many people who visited your site had been there before). Here’s a few options:

The Large Engaged Audience: this is the holy grail of blogging – an impressive number of people who tune in all the time and leave comments because they love you so much. These people buy whatever it is you’re talking about on your blog because you’re really cool and if you like it, they like it. Companies fall over themselves to work with bloggers who have this kind of audience. Unfortunately, it usually takes years of consistent quality posting to build up this level of trust – phone it in and your audience will start to fade immediately. (100,000+ unique views per month, high rate of returning readers)

The Small Engaged Audience: this type of audience is quickly becoming just as interesting to companies looking for advertising. Here, you have lower pageviews but your audience is heavily engaged and they comment, buy things you like to buy, and have probably been reading you for years. The perk of a small engaged audience is that you most likely know (or feel like you know) a lot of your readers because it’s a manageable group. Companies like working with these blogs because they’re usually a more affordable way to still get a high rate of conversion – sales that are worth the amount they’re spending to advertise with the blogger. (50,000 – 100,000 unique views per month, high rate of returning readers)

The Large Drive-Thru Audience: this audience is made up of people who visit your site once or twice but don’t return to your site over and over. You get this kind of audience when you offer valuable content that someone would find if they were searching for a specific problem, such as “how to get rid of weeds” or “types of hypoallergenic dogs”. Companies who just want people to see their ads like working with these types of blogs because it’s easy. They can rent some space on the side of the blog or in a pop-up ad and everyone who shows up will see their ad. (100,000+ unique views per month, low rate of returning readers)

The Small Drive-Thru Audience: this is the same audience as above, but on a smaller scale. People are still finding these blogs through searching for specific topics, but in this case the blog is so focused that there aren’t that many people searching for these things (such as a blog dedicated to different types of salt). With this type of audience, the companies that would get the most out of advertising would be companies that fall into that exact niche (such as a salt seller) who want to pay to get really focused eyeballs on their ad. (20,000 – 100,000 unique views per month, low rate of returning readers)

The Large and Small “House of Mirrors” Audiences: the final type of audience I’ll talk about is the misled audience – people who end up at your site even though they didn’t want to be here. These people show up because you’ve put up a post with a catchy keyword title, but when they get to your site they realize that you don’t have any new content at all – maybe just a link to someone else’s site. Or, perhaps you posted a cute photo on your Pinterest board but when they clicked through there was nothing but ads that pay you for every person who sees them. Haha! Gotcha! This is BAD, BAD Blogging. Spammy ad companies will still pay you if you stuff your blog pages full of ads and lure people in, but they’ll never pay you enough to make it worth it and you can’t build a career this way. Don’t do it!

Now, the interesting thing is that sometimes you go for a drive-thru audience and you end up with an engaged audience of people who really feel connected to you. This happened to a friend of mine who runs a coupon website. She just intended to share sales and coupon codes to make a little money with each post (this type of blogging adds up quickly), but people were so appreciative of how good she was at sharing sales that they started wanting to know more about her. She shared more of herself little by little and now, years later, her personal weight-loss journey and her infertility struggles have created a community of readers who support her and feel like they know her. THIS is the organic part about increasing page views – quality leads to shares, which lead to more eyeballs. Very awesome.

BUT…like I said, you can’t just create beautiful posts and expect your numbers to jump up and up and up. It’s like throwing a party – you can glitter the place settings and fall over yourself creating new recipes, but if you didn’t invite any guests it’s just going to be you and a bunch of cupcakes topped with tiny plastic deer.

I put a lot of thought into the advice that I’m going to give you. I also did some experimenting with different services designed to help you with page views, so that I could report back on what worked for me.  I’m going to go through the process from start to finish, but I’m not going to cover any SEO (search engine optimization – how to get people to find you through Google search and other things like that) because I have a guest post coming from someone who is better at that than I am. So I’ll tell you about the other stuff, step by step.

Writing a Shareable Post
In order to get more page views, you need to deserve them. Phoning it in, writing posts about how you haven’t blogged in a while and you plan on blogging more, or using/linking to content from other blogs isn’t worth more page views. So let’s assume that you’ve written something that is (1) interesting, (2) helpful, (3) pretty, and/or (4) entertaining. You want to make sure the post stands on it’s own, so if you reference other things you’ve blogged about earlier, be sure to link to the previous post you’re talking about.

Also, add in a large photo or two relevant to the post. Otherwise, people won’t have anything to pin on Pinterest and when they share your link, sites like Facebook will generate whatever photo is available. That might not be the best photo to draw people in, so be mindful of the visual.

Emailing People the Link After You Hit Publish
One of the tempting things when you first start blogging is to email your friends/family with your blog posts to get them to read them. This sort of works, but it really only works once for most people because if they want to keep reading your blog they will check back. You might be bugging them, making them less likely to view/share your stuff.

You may also be tempted to email other bloggers to tell them to share your post, but unless you’ve written something specific and you are emailing them to show how it connects to something they’ve done (“I saw your recent piece on girl bullying and wanted to share my blog post about my personal story with you…”), the chances are high that the blogger will just pass over your link without looking/sharing. I know this from experience because people email me blog links all the time. I don’t have any judgment about whether or not these people are good bloggers because 98% of the time I don’t even open the link. I just don’t have time and unless I can use it, it’s not going to grab my interest while I’m trying to slog through my email. I’m MUCH more likely to click on someone’s blog post if I see it shared on Facebook or Pinterest (or in a comment on my blog) than I am if they’re filling up my already-overflowing inbox.

Sharing the Post on Facebook
Facebook is an interesting beast. If you share something on Facebook, you’re sharing it with people who have already made the active decision to be connected to you. So these people have a higher chance of clicking on your posts, but they also hold you to a higher standard. They have included you in their digital circle intentionally because you bring something to the table. Spamming Facebook friends with lots of links to your post (especially if you’re linking to the same post over and over) will either make people turn off notifications from you or just find you unfriended permanently. So will tagging everyone in your blog post links – it’s one thing to do it if you really think that particular person will find your post interesting. Tagging as a way to force your friends to see your stuff? Hello, desperate.

In my experience, the best way to share your posts is to upload a photo and then add some text and the link to your post as the photo description. Posting the link alone as a status update doesn’t get seen as much and isn’t as likely to be shared. If someone does share your link, be sure to like it or comment to say thanks. Also, be mindful of how you’re using Facebook. If you’re sharing links to your blog, be sure to add in other things like regular status updates or links to other content so you don’t look like a giant self-promoting commercial. Facebook works better if you remember to behave like a normal person.

Final note: be wary about sharing your links in groups/pages if you aren’t in charge of that group/page. It might not be allowed and it could sour your reputation or get you booted from that community.

Sharing the Post on Pinterest
Pinterest is my second biggest source of traffic across all blogs, right behind Google search and wildly ahead of Facebook. It’s turning into a commonly used search engine, so posting useful/pretty things on that site is likely to get you a lot of eyeballs in a relatively short amount of time. You also don’t need to have a lot of followers on Pinterest to get a lot of page views from it. Followers help because they’ll see your pins and you might catch their interest, but lots of people could see your pins from searching alone.

To grab that audience be sure that your pins are pretty and that it’s obvious what your pin is about. You can raise the rate of repinning if you choose pictures that are vertical (tall and thin) and pictures that have more oranges, reds, and pinks in them. Be sure the description sounds like what someone would search for (“best corn chowder recipe”, “how to iron pants”, etc.) and include the link to your post right in the description. Users can click the link when they see it, saving them a step and making it more likely that they’ll visit your blog.

You can also autoschedule pins using paid services like ViralTag if you want to pin lots of images from the same post over an extended period of time (to catch more people and to avoid flooding). I tried this service out when I was looking for things to tell you about and, although I was impressed with how easy it was to use, I only saw a minimal jump in my page views. I think pinning on your own time is just as effective.

Sharing the Post on Twitter
Twitter…blah. Some people love it, but I don’t so if you really want to use Twitter I might not be your person. I can tell you that adding an image to your tweets means more people will look at them, so the image + post link formula works. That being said, Twitter moves so fast that you usually have to time it just right and promote your blog posts a couple of times to get any real engagement. At least, that’s been my experience. I use Twitter in the hopes that people will see my tweets and visit my profile to click on my blog link, not in the hopes that they’ll click on each individual link I share. I actually turned off autotweets for my blog posts because I decided they were probably just annoying people more than anything else.

I did try HootSuite, which allowed me to schedule tweets to reach the maximum number of eyes and I can tell you that it didn’t do anything for my pageviews. Again, that could be because I’m not a power user, but if you’re just starting out you’re probably not a power user either.

Drawing People In Across the Web
Beyond the classic social media, there are a ton of ways to increase page views. Other sites like Reddit, YouTube, Digg, etc. are heavily used by lots of people to promote their blogs, but I don’t use any of them so you’ll have to learn about them somewhere else. The other things that I do include commenting on other people’s blog posts (real comments – not just links to my blog) because if you actually have a conversation with someone on their blog, they’re more likely to click through to see what your story is. I also include links to relevant posts on Amazon reviews or as answers to questions people have posted on the web. Honestly, I don’t do much beyond that because more than half of my traffic comes from Google Search and Pinterest so using up energy to spread myself all over the Internet hasn’t often paid out. My big strategy is to keep people on the blog once they click through for the first time.

Getting People to Look Around Once They Hit Your Site
This is one of the most important things you can do to increase your page views if your goal is to have an engaged audience (vs. a drive thru audience). Ideally, you want someone to go to your blog for the first time, read what they came to read, and then notice something that makes them want to explore your blog further. That includes having menus, things on the sidebar, links to related posts, and – MOST IMPORTANTLY – good content beyond that first original piece. To get people to look around on my Disney wedding blog, I set up a menu at the top that links to galleries in the hopes that they’ll explore older posts. I also have a widget on my sidebar that randomly generates photos that link to blog posts so readers might notice something else they’re interested in.

The short term goal is, of course, to get more page views out of that person on their first visit (say, 8 pages instead of 1 page) but the long term goal is to get that person to save your site somehow because they want to come back to it. That’s why it’s so important to define what your site is offering to your audience. If someone shows up at my Disney wedding site, they can scan it and see that it’s a library of pretty photos. If they’re looking for wedding inspiration, they’re in the right place. If they’re looking for cheap places to stay in Orlando, I’m not the blog for them. I could, of course, add in some random articles about cheap places to stay in the hopes that I grab that person’s attention, but it would dilute the purpose of my blog and lower the quality of the blog experience for the Disney wedding audience that actually wants to be there. Keeping it focused increases the chance that the small-but-engaged readers I’m trying to reach will come back.

Reality Check
Final thoughts on the subject: it does take time to build up page views. Some people try to get a jump on the process by posting something sensational or offensive that lots of people will tune in to see (the equivalent of a blogging train wreck) but those spikes don’t last that long so I don’t think they’re worth it. Pinterest is the best place to start if you don’t have a lot of content because you can’t tell from a pin if the blog is established or if the blogger just started the blog last week, so if you work on anything this weekend you should work on Pinterest.

Also, try not to get mad if people don’t read your blog. I know it’s frustrating when you’re watching your numbers and they don’t change, but you have to remember that people are busy and media overloaded. They also just might not be blog people – especially if you’re talking about friends/family. I can tell you with absolute certainty that 90% of my friends don’t read any of my blogs. Maybe ten of my relatives read my blogs – mostly women looking for photos of those cute babies – and none of them ever leave comments or engage in any way. It’s just not their thing and there’s no point in taking it personally. I don’t visit them at their offices either, you know?

This is a guest post by someone who knows more about SEO, which is both very important and very intimidating if you’re just starting out. I know it made my eyes glaze over for the first couple of years but it turns out that if you can get past the fact that it’s a scary-sounding acronym, it’s actually just some basic stuff you should do to help people find you out in the wide open Internet. John breaks it down very well, so you can do this! No sweat!

PS – John is also my brother-in-law. You’d like his blog.

Start a Blog: How Much SEO Should I Be Doing On My Blog?

Hello everyone. I am John Kinnear. I write Ask Your Dad, a silly little blog that, despite its name, contains no good or usable advice. I don’t recommend you visit it because it is definitely NOT funny or useful in anyway. Carly asked that I write a little bit for you about SEO. Why? Because for my day job,  I work in SEO.

Anytime my blogger friends find out what I do for a living, a couple things immediately happen. First, they assume that my blog gets a ton of SEO Traffic. It does ok, but nothing crazy. And second, they ask me how much SEO they should be doing on their own blogs. Although I generally try not to be cryptic and frustrating in my answers, to the question of “how much SEO should I doing on my blog,” I always volley back with two additional questions. “How much do you know about SEO,” and “What question do you want to be the answer to?”

Both of those questions are vital to finding out how much SEO you should be performing on your blog. Let’s start with the first question. How much do you know about SEO? Most people know very little, and like most things, there is a lot of info out there. For this article I am going to assume you probably know what the letters stand for, but just in case, SEO means Search Engine Optimization.  It is the practice of managing or “optimizing” on page and off page factors to maximize your visibility to search engines. What a lot of “how to” articles skip is the SE part of SEO. They get right to the optimization without explaining how it helps. This leads to lot of people following really bad advice because they don’t know the why, only the how. If you knew nothing about how cars worked, and someone told you that putting grape jelly in your gas tank would make your car run better, you very well may end up on the side of the road in a cloud of grape scented smoke.  Taking SEO advice without knowing at least the basics of how a search engine works can be just as damaging.

How Search Engines Work

When you type a search into Google, how does it pick which results it brings back? How does Google even know what all is out there? Does Google have a bazillion super intelligent monkeys in a bazillion warehouses, constantly reading every piece of information on the internet, ranking it according to its usefulness, and then inputting that information into an instantly accessible database? No. That is silly. They don’t have super intelligent monkeys. They have spiders.

Not real spiders of course. Software robot spiders. They’re called spiders because they crawl the web. Ha! Get it? OK, it’s not that funny, but it is a good way to remember. These software programs called spiders go out onto the web and crawl websites, gather all the data they can (what words are on which page, what the page is talking about, where that page is pointing, etc.) and then they bring all of that information back to Google. Google then takes that ridiculous amount of data, applies an ever-changing algorithm to it, and uses it to sort which pages should show up for which searches.  Here is a fun walkthrough made by Google.

There is obviously a lot more that goes into it, and this is the most simplistic version of the “how”, but it should be enough to get an SEO Novice to the second question I ask. “What question do you want to be the answer to?”

How People Use Search Engines 

Think about it. What do you go to a search engine for? You go to a search engine to ask a question and to get an answer. It could be a really broad question like “potty training” or it could be a really narrow question like “What is the best pizza place in zip code 84094.” Some people type in product names, and others just ask a question outright, “How do I tie a tie.”

The more questions you are looking to be the answer to, the more benefit you are going to get out of SEO. If you are writing anecdotal, touching, and funny stories about your kids, your time will be better invested in growing your social footprint. People aren’t going to Google to find touching stories; they are going to their social networks.  (I should clarify, I am sure there are a bunch of monthly queries for the term “touching stories” on Google. But unless you are going to be one of those people who calls their touching story a touching story, chances are you aren’t going to consistently rank for that term.)

SO GET TO THE POINT JOHN. HOW MUCH SEO SHOULD I BE DOING ON MY BLOG!!

Geeze. You don’t have to yell. I’m getting there.  Unless you are a review site that is targeting a variety of different terms or a blog with an e-commerce aspect to it, I don’t think you should EVER sit down and say “OK, now I am going to do a bunch of SEO on my site.” I think if you just work in some best practices to your writing and posting, you will find that your traffic from search will grow naturally – which is really the best way to do it. Quick gains are also quickly lost. So let’s talk about some best practices for bloggers.

Individual Posts

Title

The most important piece of your blog posts is the title. The title is the first thing Google reads when deciding what your blog is about. If you want to show up in search for a specific topic or product, the name of topic or the keyword needs to be in your title. Your title is also what will show up in search. Think about what you click on in the search results. If you ask Google a question, you click on the title that sounds like the answer you’re looking for.

Images

Input image alt text. This can be done through the HTML, or in most blogging platforms just by clicking on the image in editor. The alt text is used not only by search engines to determine what is on the page, but also by visually impaired readers who go to your site. Put a short description of the photo.

Call to Action

Call to action. End each post with some form of a call to action. Ask for comments. Mention shares. Ask a question. The point is to get people interacting with your site. When people create comments, they are creating content for you. The more content you have, the more you show up for in search.

Search Description

The search description, or Meta Description is a short overview of what your blog post is about. You can enable the ability to add a search description to each post in Slogger. Go to Settings » Search Description» Enable. This will add a field in the right column for your individual posts. For WordPress, I recommend the Yoast SE0 plug in.

Whole Site

Site Map

A site map gives search engines a complete list of all the URLs on your page. If you need help installing a site map on your blog, Google “Site map for [your blogging platform)”. There are plenty of tutorials on line. WordPress also has a myriad of plugins.

Internal Linking

You should link to previous posts when relevant within a current post. Since blogs tend to be linear, old posts get buried and are often only findable through your blog archive (you should have an archive) and through your onsite search function (you should have one of those too).

Structure

The structure of your site should make sense. Is your blog just one long list of posts? If I wanted to read your first post, how would I find it? If I wanted to read a post about potty training on your blog, how would I find it? A search, blog archive, categories, and menus are a must. Think about how you structure these as early as possible in your development process. Going back is a pain.

Social

Make sure you have your sharing widgets for social set up. People need ways to share your content, and the more people that tweet, Facebook, pin your stuff, the more chances you have for people to link to it on their web pages. Social does influence search. Whether directly or indirectly is still debatable, but optimizing your site to be shared socially only helps drive more traffic anyway. So DO IT.

Offsite SEO (Including a bit on social)

A lot of these tactics focus on link building. Remember those spiders I talked about earlier. Part of the data they are gathering are which sites are pointing which sites. If you write a site about bowties, and a lot of other sites link to your site when they are discussing bowties and bowtie news, then there is a good chance that Google is going to assume that your site that is all about bowties. The same goes for dad blogs, breast cancer blogs, the best online university and so forth.

Always remember. The best links are the ones that send traffic.

Websites

Reach Out to other bloggers that you admire. It is a really friendly community, and most of us want to be friends. Don’t ask for links or guest posts. Just introduce yourself, tell them what you like about their Blog, and introduce yours. Eventually some of them will read your blogs and the links will come naturally.

Comment

Comment on other folk’s bogs. This kind of an outdated link building strategy, but find that a funny, well thought out comment will send traffic to my site. Most comment plugins let you input your site and then they hyperlink your name.

Guest Post

If you’ve been blogging awhile, you’re probably sick of SE0 guest post requests. I am too. This is another strategy that is moving past its prime, because a bunch of us professional and “pretending to be professional” SEO’s overused it, but it can still be good for bloggers when done right. Here’s how:  Don’t randomly ask people you don’t know to guest post to game the search engines. Once you’ve networked, work with your friends to guest post on their sites with content that they like. Since people within your network write about similar topics, you are actually building the kind of links that Google AND real people like – useful ones that send traffic.

Post links in relevant locations (DON’T SPAM)

Stumble upon. Reddit, All Top, Forums. All of these places allow you to link your content. Don’t just start spamming links though. I cannot stress this more. Spamming will get you laughed at, and then banned, and then laughed at some more. Get to know these communities and post relevant links to your content. Traffic will follow.

Social

Open a twitter account and start tweeting. Don’t just post links to your blog. Talk to people. Post links to their content. Mention them when you do. Have conversations. The more your page is out there, the more people are going to link to it.

Facebook

Facebook is a tricky beast these days, but it still sends a good amount of traffic and can help build links too. Optimizing for Facebook’s Edge Rank could be an entirely different post. To save time I will say post a variety of content and keep your followers engaged.

Pinterest

Managing Pinterest board can drive a good traffic if your content is the type of content that is Pinnable, Food blogs lifestyle blogs and craft blogs work best. Links on Pinterest are open and followed by Google and they also spread your content on the web.

Want to learn more? I think that Moz probably has the best Beginners Guide to SEO on the web. It is longer than this article, but if you want to learn more it is a great place to start! Thanks for reading!

John Kinnear is a father of two tiny humans and the prodigious, world famous, authoritative author of Ask Your Dad. He also writes his own bios. John started his blog in 2012, and has since been featured on Huffington Post, Lifetime Moms, The Good Men Project, The Today Show, and his mom’s refrigerator. He tries to be funny on purpose, but most of the time it is on accident. You can find him hiding in the bathroom, or on Facebook and Twitter.

Start a Blog: Land Your First Sponsored Post

There are a lot of different ways to make money blogging. Many people start out by running ads on the sidebar of their blog. Sidebar ads can either be sold for a specific amount of time (one month, for example) or companies can choose to pay based on the number of times the ad is viewed (which is how Google ads work). Classically, this was a great option for bloggers and many bloggers still include sidebar ads as an option for advertisers. However, sidebar blindness is starting to become a problem. Blog readers are so focused on the content and so used to ads being on the sidebar, many may not even a notice the ads while they’re visiting. So, companies are beginning to pay less for sidebar ad space.

As an alternative, companies are choosing to sponsor posts, which can mean many things. Here are 5 common types of sponsorship:

1 /// Sponsored brand-created content

This option means that the company pays bloggers to cut and paste a blog entry without adding anything to it. You see this particularly on blogs that do a lot of posts about coupons and discounts, but it’s becoming more and more rare since readers don’t respond very well to heavy-handed advertising.

2 /// Sponsored brand-directed content

This means that the company directs bloggers by giving them a general topic or theme and usually adds specific elements, such as requesting that the blogger do a summer clothing roundup and then giving the blogger specific elements to include. Sometimes, just the theme is enough (often with a hashtag to connect that blog post to other posts in the campaign). This type of post is becoming more common and brands often work with affiliate networks so that many bloggers who run similar types of blogs do the same campaign in the same time period, making it easier for the brand to tell if the campaign was successful.

3 /// Product-inspired content

These blog posts are built around a specific product. This may mean that a blogger has received a product plus compensation for a blog post or it may only mean that the blogger has received the product. Sometimes, this means that the blogger reviews the product, but readers are starting to be resistant to believing sponsored reviews, so I’ve seen more brands simply ask that you include the product but leave out the word “review” and resist actually saying things like, “This did a good job of removing stains” in favor of things like “We had a lot of fun doing this thing and it was handy that we had this stain remover.” I think this might be the most popular type of sponsored post currently, especially because many bloggers starting out will do the review in exchange for the product without extra compensation (a cheaper option for the brand). This is a good type of sponsored review to start with.

4 /// Unfocused sponsored content

This is where the brand simply says that they want to sponsor some content and they trust the blogger to come up with content that would be a good fit. Often the content may have nothing to do with the brand, sort of like when you’re watching something compelling on television and it happens to be sponsored by a floor wax company. This doesn’t happen that often, mostly because a brand really has to trust the blogger to come up with something great, but I’m starting to see this more with people who have tons of traffic and long-standing blogs. Basically, the company is banking on the blogger coming up with something so great that millions of people read the whole post and then see the “This post was sponsored by X, makers of the awesome product Y, that does Z” message at the bottom. I’d consider this the holy grail of sponsored content.

5 /// Retro-sponsored content

This is another rarity, but a nice option for brands that don’t have a lot of money. Retro-sponsoring is when a company goes into a blog’s archives and finds a great post that wasn’t previously sponsored. The brand then contacts the bloggers and offers compensation to add a message to the bottom of that post. For example, if you had a post on Spring Cleaning that you did a couple of years ago and it’s still doing really well on Pinterest, it might make sense for a cleaning products company to add a brand message to the bottom of that post since a lot of people are still looking at it.

One thing to keep in mind no matter what type of sponsored content you’re talking about is that you do have to put a disclaimer in the post that your content was sponsored and you have to add the word “#ad” to any promotion you do for that blog post on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Otherwise, you might get yourself (and the brand!) in trouble with the FTC. Some brands will give you a message to put out, but otherwise you just need to include the brand and the fact that it was sponsored. You do not, however, have to be specific about compensation.

Example: “This post was sponsored by X as part of the Y campaign. All of the thoughts and opinions below are my own.” (Assuming of course that the thoughts and opinions are your own…don’t lie…)

If your blog is still pretty new, landing sponsored content can be a challenge. However, that first sponsored post is important AND a great opportunity since other companies will use your work on that post as an example of what you might do for them. So, I’d say you should overperform by 200% (300%!) for your first sponsored post and try to give 150% to each after that. Don’t phone it in with brands – they definitely notice!

My first sponsored post was on my wedding blog. I saw another blogger was hosting a bracelet giveaway for very pretty bracelets, so I emailed the company and they sent a bracelet for me and one to give away. (Note: giveaways count as sponsored posts if you receive any compensation.) At the time, I absolutely could not believe a company had just sent me jewelry just for talking about them AND they were giving me something to give away. I happy danced around our apartment and toasted the awesomeness of the Internet.

Now, I did do something wrong, which has become more wrong as the Internet has grown up. DO NOT go after a brand because you saw another blogger working with them. This is the top way that brands get targeted, but the reality is that most brands have set campaigns and when they’re done, they’re done. So if you target them, you’re (A) going after the brand who has already emptied whatever they had to give bloggers and (B) you’re now part of the annoying deluge of “gimme gimme” bloggers who are running toward the brand with their hands outstretched. Don’t be that person.

Instead, do what I did with my second sponsored post. I was in the middle of planning my wedding and had a decent number of followers who were interested in the wedding planning process. I decided to make my own invitations but needed help with the expense, so I contacted a printer company and asked if they would send me a printer and some ink in exchange for being featured in my “invitation making” post.

This was a good beginner pitch because (A) it was a specific project, (B) I asked for product without additional compensation, and (C) I could prove that I had readers who might be tackling a similar project in the near future. They happily sent the printer and I happily used it and posted about it. Bonus: since the printer company was large, other smaller companies saw that I had done sponsored content with them and it helped me land more sponsored posts for other wedding items.

Here are 7 tips for landing your first sponsored post:

1 /// Make a list of brands who would be interested in connecting with your readers, NOT necessarily brands you really want to work with. For example, you might want a Honda but if you have a cooking blog, your audience probably isn’t focused enough for Honda to be interested in you whereas Calphalon, Dole, Betty Crocker, Magic Bullet, and a thousand smaller food companies may want to send you some product to be featured.

2 /// Ask for product, not compensation, if you’ve done fewer than 5 sponsored posts. It’s cheaper for the brand and less likely to be a “no”. Be sure to keep the products reasonable, too. Don’t ask for the most expensive thing they offer. (Sidenote: if you have less than 10 blog posts ever, it’s probably too soon to ask for any sponsorship. Most brands are nervous to work with new blogs because they lose money if the blogger flakes the week after the post goes up and never blogs again.)

3 /// Come with at least two ideas for the post you’re going to do and be sure to ask them if they’re working on anything specific for the seasons that you might be able to help with. Just saying “I have a food blog” doesn’t give them as much to work with as saying, “I’m hosting a group dinner on our next camping trip and I wanted to feature Product X as a great outdoor cooking solution.”

4 /// Give them a reasonable time frame to work with you. If you’re asking a party company for supplies, contacting them a week before the party is probably too soon for them to make a decision and send you something. A month is a good cushion for most brands.

5 /// When pitching, you’re looking for the email address for the media contact person, advertiser relations, or even the company owner if it’s a small brand. Sending a pitch to the general customer service email makes it much less likely that the right people will ever see it. Also, if you’re contacting people on Etsy, be aware that it’s actually against Etsy rules to pitch the shop owners so your account might get in trouble. I still contact people occasionally through Etsy because it’s a great place to connect with artists and many people appreciate the chance to trade products for blog posts, but I don’t do it too often because I don’t want them to suspend my account.

6 /// Absolutely do not make your pitch boilerplate. You can have a general idea of what you want to say, but each pitch should include something specific you like about the company and the product. If you can, include the reason you chose to work with that company in particular. If you are contacting multiple companies in the hopes that you’ll find someone somewhere to sponsor a piece of content, space the pitches out so that there’s two days in between. It’s embarrassing to pitch an idea to two companies, get two positive reactions, and then have to tell one of them no. It’s like asking someone out and then turning down the date when they agree. Weird. Awkward.

7 /// If you don’t hear back, feel free to send a light follow up a week later within the lines of “I’m just dropping a note to see if you saw my earlier message (attached below) since I know email inboxes can get crazy!.” Keep it light, short, and MOST OF ALL do not be offended if you still never hear back. The sheer number of pitches most companies receive often makes it unmanageable to touch base with each blogger and if a company isn’t interested it may have nothing to do with you, your pitch, and your blog. All sorts of things affect whether or not a company sponsors content – budget, timeline, other projects, similar things they’ve recently sponsored, a company policy on working with bloggers, exclusivity agreements, etc. Brush it off and move forward.

My last piece of advice is this: be careful with the sponsored content because adding too much of it to your blog at once. I think readers automatically lose a little trust when a blogger is sponsored too often, because it feels like the blogger is suddenly making a sales pitch instead of talking to a friend. I try really hard to always be honest when I do sponsored posts and to keep the posts useful, interesting, and creative, but I’m still very aware of when I do too many in a row because I don’t want anyone’s eyes to glaze over. Just something to keep in mind!

PS – You might be contacted by a company who offers you money for a sponsored post but beware! Many spam offers target bloggers and offer undefined amounts if you’ll put up “quality content” that they provide – definitely not something you want to touch if it’s a company you’ve never heard of. If you think the company is reputable, but you don’t think your readers would be into it or you don’t want to do the sponsored post, don’t feel pressured just because it’s the first time you’ve gotten an offer. Taking bad sponsored posts might really hurt in the long run, so feel free to be picky from the start!

advocate

This post (came) from Las Vegas, where I (was) attending the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference. It’s my first year attending this conference and it’s been about what I would have expected. Most of the people here either have or are seriously affected by food allergies so there’s a lot of story swapping and tons of brands who cater to people with special diets have come to share their goodies with the attendees.

One of the words that I’ve heard over and over again is advocacy. That’s a hot word in the allergy community, especially among parents who use the word “advocate” to remind themselves (ourselves) that it’s their (our) job to be as crazy overprotective as they (we) are. Obviously, since this is a blogging conference we represent only a sliver of all of the allergy parents out there so there has been a lot of discussion about how important it is to get accurate allergy information out to the public and our responsibility to accurately represent the stories of allergy parents everywhere.

This got me to thinking. I’m not one of those bloggers who has a dedicated mission, like the bloggers who raise money for specific causes or the ones who work tirelessly until legislation is passed in their favor on some particular issue they feel passionate about. I just write about my life. My blog is exactly the kind of blog that people roll their eyes about and wonder (A) who would ever read that drivel and (B) why I think I’m so special that every photo of my kids needs to be shared like nobody has ever seen kids before.

I am, however, an advocate. I’m an advocate for Eva’s allergies, of course, but I’m also an advocate for people who want to blog full-time. I’m an advocate for people who are just starting to get into the habit of running. I’m an advocate for people who have strict grocery budgets but enjoy creative meals. I’m an advocate for people who forget that there are vacation destinations out there that don’t involve the Disney Dining Plan. I’m even occasionally an advocate for people who are incorrectly parenting their children.

I don’t think that my blog has made a huge impact on the world, but I do feel good about the little contributions that I’ve made in my own way. Every now and then I’ll hear from someone who connected with something I said and ended up being pushed in some new direction because of it. I know that’s happened to me often, reading the everyday stories of other people. It’s grounding to hear about the experiences of others. I, for one, would be able to navigate this world much more easily if I could read everyone like a book.

It can feel scary to share your story, but getting all of those voices out there is how we’re building communities these days. I know that people come to my blog with judgement sometimes, but there are also a lot of people who show up because we’re on the same page and they can relate to what I’m saying. I guarantee that if you start blogging, your community will find you. It’s also a safe bet that something you say will make a difference to someone, although how positive that difference is is up to you and your words. So you can blog for a noble cause and a large purpose, but don’t feel like you have to. Normalcy needs advocates, too.

Go write this weekend. It’s a good season for it.

PS – Remember that you might not know the people who will value your voice the most, so if your friends don’t follow your blog that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth reading. Not even kidding when I say my best friends haven’t been on this site in years! Keep your head up and keep blogging. 

40k

I have a book you should read!

How I Made 40K My First Year Of Blogging by Chelsea Lord

I don’t usually push individual books on blogging very much because the whole act of blogging is 10% learning from other people and 90% learning as you go. That being said, I heard about this e-book a few weeks ago from a local friend (who is much more successful at blogging than I am) and she gave it a rave review. I was surprised that she had so much praise for a book that is targeted to first year bloggers since she and I started blogging around the same time (ten years ago-ish) and passed on it at the time because I was swamped with work.

The book surfaced in conversation again three days ago, this time with a different friend who has been blogging successfully about her business for years, so I decided I should probably read it. I finished it last night and it’s my turn to rave about it!

The book is incredibly straight forward and is divided into the first twelve months of Chelsea’s blogging journey, with charts to show how much income she made each month and where that income came from. For example she made $44.47 in her first month of blogging (not bad at all), $2,081.72 her fifth month of blogging, and $7,574.81 her 11th month of blogging, which is more than I have ever made during any month in the last ten-ish years of doing this. This is not just a book for new bloggers.

The parts about how she made different streams of income were the most helpful for me, since I’m terrible about diversifying income and I’m currently relying almost completely on sponsored posts to pay our bills. There were lots of other bits of information that would be great for new bloggers, though, including step-by-step instructions on setting up social media accounts, organizing your blog work, joining ad networks, hosting giveaways, etc. She also had a lot of information about gear and photography with links to some great photography books (all of which I had read and all of which I will also vouch for). I really think she nailed the whole package when it comes to tackling the art of blogging for money.

If you’ve got some time over the holidays, I encourage you to pick up this e-book and read it cover to cover. Then, make a list of blog goals for 2015 and don’t stop yourself from dreaming big. Chelsea actually had a blog flop before she succeeded at her new one and she talks about how she was the one that was getting in her own way, thinking her writing and her photography weren’t good enough and comparing herself to bigger bloggers. I really think that goal setting and then knowing that you’re doing the very best that you can do is enough. Here’s to a great new year for our blogs!

Grab the e-book here: How I Made 40K My First Year Of Blogging by Chelsea Lord

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