I just recently celebrated the one year anniversary of Jenn’s Trends. I’m honestly shocked that a whole year has already gone by and yet it’s only been a year. When I sat down and wrote my first blog on January 19th, 2013, I had no idea what to expect and never would have predicted I’d be where I am today.
In this year I have a learned a lot about blogging. I had never blogged before I started this one and had no real concept of what was right or wrong. I read a lot and researched a lot and was determined to make this successful.
To be fair, I am a bit … tenacious, you could say. When I want something to happen, it’s gonna happen. But I still didn’t really know what to expect from this blog. However, now that I’m on the list of finalists for Social Media Examiner’s top 10 social media blogs, I must be doing something right.
So I decided to look back more seriously at what I’ve learned this last year and share these lessons with you. Here’s what I learned!
Be Passionate About Your Topic or Niche
In order to be consistent and committed to your blog, you need to be passionate about it. Your blog will not make you money right away so the motivation of getting paid to write is not there. But if you are passionate about your topic, the demand to write won’t be nearly as difficult to maintain.
In all reality, I didn’t start this blog with a direct plan to make money or grow a business. I loved social media marketing and honestly believed in its value for small business owners. I was simply looking for something more to do and a way for me to share my knowledge with others. This passion for the topic and the purpose kept me blogging repeatedly.
The best way to grow your blog is to do it consistently. This means determining a schedule that you can adhere to and sticking to it no matter what. People love consistency. They want to know when to expect the next post and how often to expect new posts. Your dedicated readers actually wait for your next post to go live so you don’t want to disappoint them by wavering on your schedule.
When I first started blogging, I had no schedule or rhythm. I just posted new articles as I wrote them. No specific times or days. It took me a little while to realize the value of a schedule but once I did, I was quickly rewarded with improved readership. Ever since, I have shared 3 blog posts a week – every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 7:00 am PST. Whether I was sick, busy, tired, out of town, or any other excuse, a new blog went live every single day as scheduled. No, it wasn’t easy. But it’s a commitment to my readers that I have promised to uphold.
Determine if Self-Hosting is Right for You
There are plenty of free platforms to start a blog. These platforms are great because you can get your feet wet without investing any cost upfront. However, if you really want to grow your blog professionally, you will want a self-hosted site which allows you so much more opportunity for growth.
When I started blogging, I set up my site on wordpress.com. It gave me the freedom to blog for free and made it easy to get started with simple themes and layouts. But I did experience many issues when I decided to roll my blog over to my own domain. I’ve written about this before and you can read this post for more of my own experiences. In all honesty, I’m glad I started on a free site but I wish I had converted to my own site sooner.
Know What Blog Style You Like
Even though the concept of blogging is pretty standard, the options are almost limitless. Determining the layout of your site, font colors, page colors, and other esthetic choices is just as important as the type of content you plan to share. You want to make sure that your site is easy to read and easy to navigate while still representing your brand.
I have to admit that as a creative person, this was not something that worried me. The moment I set up my blog, I knew exactly how I wanted it to look. Sure, I’ve made some tweaks along the way and changed themes when I went to a self-hosted domain, but the overall layout has remained the same. If you don’t know what you want, take some time to really review others’ blogs and incorporate your favorite aspects of each into your own theme and layout.
Make It Easy to Read
Not only should your blog be your style, but it should be easy to read. This means avoiding black or dark color backgrounds with white font. This means using short paragraphs and sub-titles to break up the text. It also means writing in a conversational tone. People aren’t on your blog to read a thesis dissertation so don’t write one.
We’ve all seen blogs that are too intense on our eyes or that use long-winded, run-on sentences, and page long paragraphs. I don’t read them and I doubt you do either. So keep it simple. I’ve often had single sentences stand alone as their own paragraphs. That’s ok. If it’s easy to read, people will read it.
Good Titles are Important
The only thing people often see when it comes to your post is your title. So if your title sucks, no one’s gonna read it. I’ve written a previous post on the importance of titles and how to write better ones which I encourage you to read.
It took me a while to get decent blog titles. Many of them probably still aren’t great and I’m ok with that. It’s a work in progress. But the better the title, the more readers, shares, and comments I get.
Sharing and Promoting is Important
You could write the most amazing post ever written but if no one knows about it, what good does it do you? This is why sharing your posts to social media and your email list is so important. Building readership takes time and effort on your behalf. Make sure that you have a Twitter account, a Facebook page, a Google+ profile and/or page, a LinkedIn profile, and any other relevant social media accounts to share and promote your new blog posts. Share your posts to relevant groups or start discussions. Share your posts to all of your social media profiles and pages. And, most importantly, make sure that you are encouraging people to sign up for your blog via email. This not only grows your list but ensures that they receive an email notification of all new blog posts.
When I started my blog, I only shared my posts to Twitter. I didn’t use my LinkedIn or Google+ accounts and I didn’t have a Facebook page yet. I wasn’t worried about growing a list. While I learned quickly that these things were important and I beefed up my social sharing and encouraged people to sign up for my list, I wish I had done this sooner.
Your blog represents you. There are countless blogs out there and everyone has something different to say. Don’t try to be like the others and just be yourself. The more honest and true you are with your readers, the faster and more organically you will grow your audience.
I use words like “kick-ass” or “crap” or “amaze-balls” or “gonna”. These are obviously not proper English nor grammatically correct. But I really don’t care. That’s how I talk and that’s who I am. So that’s how I write. I am honest with my readers. When I screw up, I admit to it. When I believe in something, I stand by it. I also have a wide range of emotions in my blog posts. While most of my blog posts are practical and professional, I also inject my emotions and opinions. If I’m frustrated or angry, it comes through my writing. If I have something to say that goes against what others feel, I say it anyways. This is my blog and my place to share my thoughts. And my audience has grown and supported me because of that.
Your Readers are Your Key to Success
If you want your blog to succeed, you have to respect your readers. You know how celebrities and athletes always thank their fans? Yeah, it’s cuz you got no job without them. When people comment on your blogs, respond to them! When people share your posts, thank them! Welcome them into your world and understand that they can leave you at any time if you don’t respect them. Furthermore, if you don’t know your readers, how do you know what they want to read? Get to know them, appreciate them, and grow your blog around them.
One thing that I have exhaustively committed to is responding to my readers. Whether on my blog or on social media, I try to respond to every comment, question, and individual. I know many of my readers by name and know their challenges. I ask them questions and find ways that I can help them. I know that without them, this blog is just more useless noise on the internet.
I learned a lot this year. And I’m sure I will learn a lot more this coming year. I have enjoyed all of the learning experiences – whether learned the easy way or the hard way. I hope that my lessons learned can help you learn these lessons the easy way.
And if you want to see how the blog grows this coming year, make sure you sign up for email notifications. Just fill out your email address in the section under my picture in the right side bar menu!
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