Firstly where has the time gone? I've been blogging for half a year, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to stick to it but I'm so pleased I did as I've thoroughly enjoyed every second of it! It's become part of my day to day life. Sometimes I feel like I focus too much on my blog, but at the end of the day I just want my little blog to be the best that I can possibly make it. Yes there are blogs that are designed better than mine, have clearer pictures than mine, bloggers who can write better than me BUT one of the reasons I called my blog JustJulie was because it's just me, a work in progress, not without flaws, perfect at being imperfect and always room for improvement... JustJulie is a true reflection of little old me.
A little under a month into Blogging I hit 100 followers on Bloglovin, I was sooo overwhelmed, it was a milestone I didn't think I'd reach in less than a month and that milestone pushed me to want to drive my blog further. 6 months on I'm now sitting on just over 1500 followers on Bloglovin and last week my Twitter account hit 1000 followers, collectively I have over 4300 followers across my social media platforms! It's not all about followers though, my views have risen massively, from less than a 1000 views in my first month of blogging to achieving just over 10,000 views during the month of June. But followers and views doesn't mean anything if people aren't interacting with your blog, which is the most important thing for me and I'm pleased that I've seen an increase of comments left on each and every post. Every view, follow and comment drives me to improve and grow my blog even further.
Tips and what I've learnt about Blogging
- Blog Layout: The first thing I did before I pressed publish on my first blog post was to make sure that my blog layout was clear, easy to navigate and not too cluttered. I also made sure that my width of my blog and side bar were the right size. There is nothing worse than reading a blog where half of the posts merge into the side bar. Regardless of how old or young a blog is, if the layout isn't up to scratch people wont want to stay long. We as bloggers want people to not just read one post but to read several, so adding a Blog Archive and Popular Posts widget is key to making people want to stay and read on (obviously well written, catchy content is a must!) I later went on to install a popular widget called nrelate which adds at the bottom of each post related posts based on keywords.
- Blog Design: I have changed my blog design numerous times, there's no rule to say you can't BUT as your blog grows and your followers increase it can become a little trickier, especially if you want to change the main logo, which is of course your brand. People begin to recognise your blog for it's logo, so I personally wouldn't make any drastic changes to your logo once you have built a substantial amount of followers, unless of course you're completely re-branding. Tweeks here and there are fine though. My point is your design doesn't have to be perfect from the get go, when you're new or have a smaller following you have the time to make any drastic changes you want, until you're happy with it. Also you don't need to pay top dollar for someone to design it for you, there are people who can design everything on your blog for a reasonable price OR you can do what I did and design it yourself! I'm no designer but everything on this blog from the header, to the read more button under each post to the, categories and subheadings in the sidebar were 110% designed by little old me! I used a free of charge website called ipiccy to design everything with a little help from my best mate.... google! If you have the time and really want to make your blog your own then there is a world of amazing content out there that can help you design anything you desire! Pop over to Xomisse.com where Ellie has literally a ton of posts to help you create pretty much anything you want, and it's pretty easy to follow too!
- Blogger Stats aren't real: I hate to break it to anyone on Blogger (not sure about other blogging platforms) but your Blogger stats are not real. Blogger includes views from web crawlers and bots, which are basically just computer programs crawling websites gathering information from your website. It's not necessarily a bad thing, google and other search engines use this so that they can index your site, so that when someone googles something that you have written a blog post on, your blog will come up in the search engine, which will result in more hits on your blog, but don't be mistake these are not real people who have just stumbled across your blog, it's just a computer program doing it's job. There are also bots who crawl websites so that they can leave spam in your comments, which most of the time can contain nasty viruses.
- Google Analytics: As your Blogger stats aren't real, you are going to need someway of tracking your views, that's where you're going to need Google Analytics. Installing Google Analytics into your blog is super easy, but there's a guide on How to Install Google Analytics if you need some help. Google Analytics tracks real time views, it tracks their entry link, referral links, gender, age, how long people stayed for, what pages they went to next, page views (how many times each page was loaded) unique visitors, returning visitors, literally everything! If and when you want to start working with companies and brands, a lot of the time they will want to know what your Google Analytics stats are, normally monthly page views and unique visitors, so it's important to get this installed ASAP.
- Scheduling and drafting posts: Scheduling posts is something I discovered by accident, you can schedule your posts to publish all by it's lonesome! This is perfect for when I'm at work, on a day off and want a lay in or away from home, this way I know my blog will never suffer with, well general life! Which leads me on to my next part. Drafting posts. Working full time can mean that I don't get as much time as I'd like to devote to my blog. I tend to spend one of my days off (where possible) and one or two evenings a week drafting up posts. I plan two weeks in advance (or more, sometimes less) so that I always have posts ready just in case I can't get to my laptop and write up posts. I also think having a schedule of posting days (Sunday, Tuesday and Fridays) helps me to stick to planning and writing and also my followers know when to come back and check out my blog. I also tend to publish my posts in the morning, as some people check their feeds on the way to work or on their lunch breaks. I've personally found posting between 10am and 1pm gives me the best views and comments compared to posting later in the day.
- Social Media: Along with writing great content, social media is one of the most important ways to help drive traffic to your blog. Twitter, Facebook, Bloglovin, Instagram, Pinterest and Google + are must haves. I was a little late to jump on to some of these, so I do recommend getting these set up straight away. I have also decided to keep my personal social media platforms separate to my blog and created social media under my blogs name. If you have a spat with someone on Twitter, do you really want PRs to see that? I know I don't especially as I have quite a strong opinion and am very outspoken, I'd rather not put off anyone wanting to work with me in the future. Also another thing to do is join in on Twitter chats, you can find a full up to date list just HERE you literally just type in the hashtag in the search bar, like #bbloggers and the full feed of every tweet containing that hashtag will be there, it's a great way to network with other bloggers. My favourite chats are #bbloggers and #bloghour
- Visit Blogs, comment and linkies: Visiting other blogs and leaving a comment is a great way to build up a relationship with fellow bloggers, make sure you leave a link to your blog, because a lot of people like to return the favour by visiting your blog and doing the same. Join in on linkies, a lot of people have weekly linkies where you can link up your blog posts, these are normally topic related, but this enables others to visit your blog and also gives you back links to your blog, Blog hops work the same way, these are generally where you just link up your blog and not a post and then go and visit a few blogs and leave a comment. It's a great way to network, discover new blogs and drive traffic to your blog.
- Use your on photos: Did you know that if you find a photo online that you like, credit the person who's photo it was you're actually guilty of copyright theft? The person who owns that photo can take a lawsuit against you and sue you for copyright infringement, in which case you would legally have to pay the owner, potentially a large sum of money. There's been cases where someone had to pay a sum of $4000 for the use of just one photo.You may think that it won't happen to you, but you will be surprised how many people have thought that and then got stung with a hefty bill to pay. If you want to use a photo, email and ask for permission or you can find websites which have photos available for free. PR images are fine to use though, as they are sent out to so many people for public use.
So those are the main things that have helped me with my blog. There are loads more but it's different for everyone, what works for one person doesn't always work for you but I do think the 8 points/tips listed above can help most people when they first start out in the blogging world.
In the next 6 months there are a few things I want to improve on, which I think will make a huge difference
- Invest in a ring light/light box: The lighting at mine sucks, I do have an umbrella light, which I picked up on Ebay, but it's not the best so I really need to invest in some good lighting soon.
- Invest in a DSLR camera: I bought a new digital camera BUT due to the lighting at mine, it doesn't photograph too well all of the time, once I get some decent lighting I may not need to buy a new camera straight away but I plan on buying a DSLR at some point, as I'd also like to start YouTube eventually (where I'll find the time I don't know) Due to my dental fees the two above have been put on hold for the time being. But photography is high on the list of improvements.
- Fully understand SEO: SEO (search engine optimization) is one of the most important things for any blog. Learning SEO will mean that my blog will organically grow and appear more visible in search engines. How many times do you Google something? You want to be one of the top few websites listed in the search engine? Understanding and learning SEO will improve my chances. Of course, quality content helps you stay there.
- Work with more Brands: I have worked with two brands so far, I've received numerous opportunities but aside from two of them, none of them have fitted in with my blog, so I declined. I would love to have the opportunity to work with more brands, especially brands that I have a huge love for. Don't get me wrong, I'm not in this to just get freebies BUT anyone would be lying if they said they didn't want to get a little something back from all the hours they have put into their blog!
- Go to events and blogger meets: I've yet to go to any events yet, I've been invited to a few but the timing has never been right and I've either been working or have plans already. This is high on my list and goes hand in hand with meeting bloggers. I'd love to meet and mingle with some of you lovely folk and get to know the person behind the blog!
So that's what I've learnt during my 6 months of blogging, hopefully some helpful tips from what I've learnt along the way and some goals for me to try to do over the next 6 months or so! I didn't mean this to be as long as it was, but once I get typing there is no stopping me!!! It's been a great 6 months, so here's to the next :)
I'd love to know what the most useful thing you have learnt since you started blogging and what your blog goals are for the future.