Just like everyone else tooling around with blogs these days, I’m learning as I go. I am by no means a blogging expert. But over the last year or so I’ve picked up a few blogging lessons along the way. If you’ve been blogging you probably already know all of this, but maybe not. Sometimes just hearing stuff you already know can validate your feelings. I’m also hoping this post can help someone who’s just starting out!
1. I wish I had started sooner.
I toyed around with blog ideas for about 10 years. My ideas would come and go in waves, but I was scared to get things rolling. Blogging seemed like a pipe dream that wouldn’t become a reality. Would anyone take me seriously? How much work is really involved? Plus it seemed like a ton of work to get a site up and running.
A year later I’m still learning about the logistics and functionality of running a website. But I keep thinking how much farther along in this journey I would be if I had started sooner. And domain age matters to Google when it comes to showing your content in searches.
Just. Get. Started.
You’ll learn as you go. Looking at older posts from other bloggers will remind you of that. No one starts out with their best content. (Have you seen my early posts?)
2. Persistence is key.
After about a year of blogging, I’m starting to see page views become consistent and slowly increase. I’m sure there are bloggers out there who are instantly popular, but that’s not true for most folks. When people tell you it takes time, they aren’t lying. Smarty pants me thought I might be the exception to that. I mean I’m really good at everything, so why wouldn’t this be instantly successful? Which leads me to…
3. Pageviews don’t just appear.
Google, Instagram, Pinterest, & Facebook all can lead viewers to your posts. (Go follow along if you want!) They all work off algorithms and it takes time and consistency to get those platforms to payoff and lead viewers to you. I’ve had more success on Instagram with recipe posts than anything else. On Pinterest once my account had a larger volume of pins I started getting more repins and blog traffic from it. On all platforms posting regularly is to your benefit. I’m still working to increase traffic, but I’m starting to see the fruits of my labors.
I didn’t tell anyone in my personal life that I created a blog until about a month ago. I wanted to have a body of work to share first. Also, I didn’t want family and friends to be inflating my statistics. I needed to see that I could do this on my own. BUT realize that your family and friends can be supportive of you when you’re starting out. Chances are they will enjoy what you have to say and can help you share your ideas.
4. Blogging is fun.
I enjoy being inventive and creative. I like to learn new things. A productive level of stress motivates me. And if you’re reading this, some of those things describe you too. I wasn’t sure when I started if I would be able to maintain it. Would it eventually be a drain? Would I get bogged down with my self induced list of things to do? Well yes. Sometimes. See #5. But overall I enjoy creating content and the ability to do whatever I want.
5. Sometimes getting content out is overwhelming.
I told myself when I started that I was going to post once a week and for the most part I’ve stuck to that. BUT it wasn’t easy. Working full time means there’s an ebb and flow of stress levels, available time, and content inspiration. Some weeks stuff comes to you, and others you’re pulling teeth to come up with content. There are weeks you have an Instagram post planned for each day, and others you realize you haven’t posted in 5 days. Sometimes you have a zillion ideas during your commute to work, but no time to execute them.
Those people that say “enjoy what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life” have it all wrong IMO. I think that pressures you to think that everything must be awesome all the time. While overall you may enjoy something, you won’t always want to do it. There are days here and there where you’re just not feeling it. It’s human nature and that’s ok. You’re creating something from scratch while working full time. You’re bound to feel drained now and then. Go drink a beer and veg out.
6. Write down EVERYTHING.
No matter how good your memory is, if you get stressed or take too long to circle back to that idea, it’s going to disappear from your brain. Ideas for posts or Instagram captions will come to you randomly. I keep a note on my phone for things like that. If those ideas come when I can’t write them down, like while driving or showering, I repeat them to myself until I can record them. I also have random slips of paper with ideas and work in progress recipes. I make sure to keep all of the slips in the same place so I can find them. And there’s several half written draft posts online too.
You never know when you’ll need something so write it down! Having a resource of ideas helps when I have no clue what to write about. It also helps me come up with a plan for scheduling posts. While it’s currently July there’s a pumpkin cheesecake in my fridge from working up and photographing that recipe. I’ve found I produce better content when I work ahead because I’m less stressed.
7. Posts may not perform how you think.
The internet can surprise you. I was convinced that my post about building a travel map would be a huge success. No one else was using magnets. They all used pins that left holes in your map. I still think my map is pretty ingenious, but it hasn’t taken off like I thought it would.
Conversely, I whipped up the recipe for this corn dip post on a whim. Occasionally I’ll mix up some corn dip on a weekend afternoon when we’re feeling super lazy. I thought I’d churn out a post on it so I’d have a post that week. It’s my best performing post by far. Who would have thought?
8. Photographing takes trial & error. And patience.
I have a nice camera, but I’ve never properly learned how to use it. Good shots are usually something I luck in to. I do have plans to take a photography class, but here’s what I’ve concluded so far:
Yellow is really hard to photograph. I cringe when I look at the pictures of my potato pancakes. I want to go back and reshoot those pictures. Also, our regular dinner plates are yellow and can be a pain to take pictures of, so I find myself using other dishes or putting stuff directly onto wooden cutting boards.
Natural light is best.Not the beer.That beer is the worst. Light that comes from the sun is what I’m talking about. It can even make yellow things look good. When you’re working full time it might be hard to photograph with natural light because your only time is in the evenings. The lighting for my Christmas card pictures was crap. It was winter and the sun had basically set by the time I got home from work. I’m trying to do a better job planning so I can take pictures when the sun is out. I read this from another blogger: she takes her food to her front step to get the last rays of sunshine when going by a window just isn’t enough. (Thank you whoever you are, I can’t remember where I found your post.)
Garnish your food. I don’t think to garnish my food when I’m eating it, but it can make your food look more appetizing in photos. Cracked pepper and basil help make mac & cheese pictures pop by adding some visual interest. (They were also taken on my back deck in the late afternoon sun.) If you’re not a food blogger you can still jazz up your pictures. For a post on summer reads, I added sandals, a bathing suit and sunglasses to the books in the ‘flat lay’ to add the summer feel I was aiming for. I also opened the blinds to let in some light.
Underexposed is better. Exposure is the only photography term I know. At least conceptually. It’s how bright your picture is. Having the picture darker, is better than having it too bright. You can easily brighten up a picture using something like the Adobe Lightroom App. But it’s hard to fix a picture that’s overexposed (they usually have a bright white spot somewhere).
I hope some of these 8 blogging lessons are helpful to you. Or at least validate some of your current struggles. It always makes me feel better when I realize the things I’m struggling with are tripping up other folks too.