30 April 2014

One Day. My Top 10 Blogging Tips

Pearls is now approaching its 2nd birthday and I can tell you it certainly has been a whirlwind of a time. Back in 2012, in my final year of my journalism degree, I thought it was time to start self-publishing my own work and so I dove into the world of blogging. Looking back I was such a rookie, aside from my love of writing, there were so many things I didn't know about blogging. I really had thrown myself in the deep end. But I certainly feel I have far more knowledge about this fickle world of blogging now and a great many more lovely readers to go with it!

I thought I'd share with you my top 10 tips for creating and maintaining a successful blog. Some are simple and some more complex but they are all helpful hints that I have learnt along the way and wish someone had told me on Day 1. Enjoy.

1. Have a strong, identifiable voice. Pick your niche and stick to it. Readers like to know what to expect when they come to your blog, if you provide them with great focused content you will come to have loyal readers.

2. Have a post schedule and stick to it. Again this is all about reliability. I post 3 times a week; on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. My readers know to expect new content on those days and thus my visits always spike [forgive last week's indiscretion of Tuesday & Thursday; Easter threw me out of whack!]. Having a post schedule also assists with search rankings, it will help sites like Google to trawl your site more efficiently and thus get you a better place in search rankings.

3. I'm not so sure the saying "build it and they will come" applies to blogging, I'd say it's more like "build it and promote it like crazy and if they like it they will come". So get your blog out there. Search other blogs you love and comment, comment, comment with your blog name in the signature. The more links you have out there, the more likely people will click on them and visit. You can't beat extensive exposure. Note: make sure you aren't just spamming other people's blogs as that definitely won't work in your favour, make sure you're making a valuable contribution to the blogging community with thoughtful comments. It's all about a positive image.

4. Build your social media networks. You need to have Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter pages for your blog. The power of these technological tools can't be underestimated, they will be your most helpful ally in the world of blogging. Find like-minded bloggers and check out who is in their audience and follow some of their followers, if they like your stuff, which I'm sure they will, they will follow you in return.

5. Use Google Analytics to monitor your blog's statistics. Don't go off the built-in statistics in blogger or wordpress because unfortunately they are never correct and will give you a false idea of success. They actually count all the search engine computers trawling sites as part of your visits and this number can often be double the real accurate one. Google Analytics provides great statistics so you can see your visits, what posts your audience is liking, where your audience is based in the world and how they reached your site. This information is really valuable and can help you optimise your blog content to make it bigger and better.

6. Ensure any images you have in your posts are named well. For instance if your post is about your trip along the great ocean road, make sure your images are renamed when you upload them to reflect the topic. Don't just leave them as "IMG_726" give them a name like "great_ocean_road_travel1" etc. It takes a little more time but you'll be amazed how much traffic comes from Google image searches. It all results in more readers!

7. Set goals and work towards them. How many visits do you want by when? Do you want to aim for sponsors or product endorsement? Do you want to earn money from advertising? Map out a timeline for key goals and it will inspire you to work towards them.

8. Try and aim for an even breakdown of traffic; you'll find there are three main sources: direct (those who reach your site by typing in the web address), organic (those who reach your site through search engine links) and referral (those who reach your site through links you have embedded around the web, whether it's from social media, your comments on other blogs or press links to your site). If you can nail this as a 33% split you will have the optimal audience.

9. Host a giveaway! This is probably not the best thing to do in the first 6 months, but after that, once you've gained a little traction, hosting a giveaway is a great way to expand your ever-growing audience. Get a prize pack together either by creating it yourself or approaching sponsors and seeing if they'd like to donate product in exchange for exposure. Then you can use Rafflecopter (which is a nifty, free application that you can embed in your blog to host the raffle) to obtain your entries. Ask your audience to like your social pages, comment or follow your blog as their way of obtaining entries. Then announce your winner!

10. Finally, give it time. There are very few success stories that happen overnight. Most blogs grow organically with lots of hard work and persistence. Recognition takes time. You really need to love blogging and your primary goal should be doing it for yourself, if that's your true motivation then the rest will fall into place.

Photos via Pinterest.