…And this day has come: this month, Vegan Runner Eats blog is officially celebrating its first anniversary! To celebrate, I decided to share with you 10 things I’ve learned about blogging in the last year as a part of What I’ve Learned monthly series. In case you have a blog of your own, or if you’ve ever wondered what blogging is like, I’m going to show you what it’s been like for me in the past year.
(Why a post about blogging, and not about vegan diet to celebrate Vegan Runner Eats’ first birthday? I wrote about veganism and changes in my health recently: see this post about five physical improvements, and this post about ten changes in my mindset since I went vegan. Also, here’s a post celebrating my blog’s 6 months of existence with summing up some vegan wisdom.)
The truth is, blogging is way more than just sitting down in front of your computer every once in a while to write about how your last weekend went in the hopes that somehow lots of people find your writing delightful and make your post go viral (although it does happen). It’s also not a guarantee that shortly after you start your blog, you’ll magically start making money with it in amounts that’ll allow you to wave your day job good bye (although this happens too). I don’t consider myself a blogging expert, but in the past year I’ve definitely learned quite a bit about it – enough to share with you today.
Ten Blogging Lessons I’ve Learned the Hard Way
1. Blogging can be puzzling. For a while when I started my blog, I felt like I had way more questions about blogging than I could find answers. How often should I write? How can I attract people to come to my blog? What should I do to avoid making my posts sound ‘spammy’? Thankfully, Internet has lots and lots of information on just about any topic we’re interested in, so eventually I found answers to most of my blogging questions. However, more and more questions are popping up as I dig deeper, but at least I know where to look for answers.
2. Blogging is time-consuming. It often takes me a few days to write and edit a single post, find or take pictures for it and edit them, tinker with search engine optimization (or SEO – a very important thing that often gets overlooked by newbie bloggers), write a personalized email to my subscribers inviting them to be the first to check out the new post – and that’s before I even start promoting that post on social media after it was published! Of course, I used to have more time to devote to all of that before I started a full-time job a couple months ago, but the attention I pay to each post remains the same.
3. It’s important to listen to the experts. There are a lot of blogs about blogging on the internet these days, and to ignore their existence means having to take a loooong time to figure something out on your own instead of learning everything about it within a few hours of doing research. Even if you don’t have obsessive dreams about dominating the blogosphere with your blog one day, it’s still worth reading those blogs regularly to keep up with the latest knowledge. Plus, they often give us that very important kick in the butt when we’re THISCLOSE to getting discouraged and quitting blogging forever.
4. Less is more. It makes infinitely more sense to put together one better-researched, relevant post on a less frequent basis that people will be reading months later than churn out five short posts a week with hardly any information useful for your potential readers. That is, of course, if you’re running your blog entirely by yourself. If you are able to employ an army of talented writers and IT experts, then, by all means, post as often as you wish!
5. Pictures are important. From a reader’s standpoint, it’s easier to ‘digest’ a blog post if there are at least some pictures in it. Pictures have to be relevant to the topic of the post – slapping in something random is going to be puzzling to readers as they’ll keep guessing why that picture is even there. There are a few online sources of free pictures that I use every now and then if I don’t have a relevant picture of my own, MorgueFile and Unsplash are among my favorites. When it comes to picture editing, PicMonkey and LunaPic are great in case you don’t have access or knowledge of Photoshop or similar programs.
6. Also important: making your blog user-friendly. Want your site’s visitors to stick around longer and read more of your awesome content? Make your site’s navigation easy for them! Let them easily find all of the awesome posts you may have written some time ago, even if they have long since disappeared from your blog’s home page (that’s why I have buttons for various series of posts in the sidebar, plus the navigation bar just below the header to lead the site’s visitors to topics they may be interested in). One of my pet peeves when I visit other blogs is not being able to locate social media sharing buttons for each post: say, if I want to quickly pin an awesome recipe to my Pinterest board, but can’t find a button for it. I can’t say this enough: social sharing buttons for each post ARE IMPORTANT, and go way further than just buttons leading to your blog’s Facebook or Pinterest page.
7. Social media promotion. Speaking of social media… there are as many opinions on how to handle it as they are people with heads on their shoulders (read: a lot). From my experience, I’ve come to a conclusion that it’s important for me to do some promoting of my blog posts on social media as opposed to just publishing a post and then hoping that people will stumble upon my blog and share the heck out of it on Facebook. If I believe that I’ve written something valuable to my potential readers, it’s only logical for me to go to places where they hang out (read: Facebook groups, Pinterest group boards, Google+ communities, etc.) and let them know about the existence of my valuable post. Of course, there is a fine line between doing it in moderation and getting ‘spammy’, but every blogger figures it out for themselves.
8. Guest posting rocks! Trouble with most new blogs – even the ones with great content! – is that they still have a long way to go before (and if) they get noticed by the audience they are targeted at. Search engines take time to be convinced that your blog is here to stay, so they tend to show newer blogs much lower in search results than the well-established blogs with lots of following. Solution: guest posting! It’ll take much more than one paragraph to explain the HOW, but the WHY is obvious: when a popular blogger graciously allows us to write a post for their blog, all of their audience finds out about us, and at least some of them will go to check out our blog, and possibly stick around and ‘like’/share/subscribe. In case you find writing a brand-new post for some other blog too much trouble, you can search for the so-called ‘Linky Parties’ on some blogs (note: not all types of blogs may have those, but food-related ones tend to have quite a few). The idea here is that you write a post that meets certain criteria of a ‘Linky Party’ you’re interested in – say, a new recipe every Wednesday – and then add a link to the blog that’s hosting the party through a special tool provided. The readers of the party hosting blog may stop by your post later if they like what you’ve contributed.
9. Earning money with your blog is not easy. That’s one lesson I’ve learned THE HARDEST way… In lessons #1 and #3 above, I’ve mentioned how beneficial it is to search for answers and listen to experts. It’s all well and good, but it also may lead you into a trap of thinking that striking gold with your blog is easy. Unfortunately, it is not… While it took me months and months of applying various techniques to finally see the first dollar roll into my bank account, I’ll readily admit that it happened largely because I had an opportunity to devote a full-time-job amount of time to working on my blog for most of the time I’ve had it. I simply (or not so simply, to think about it) put in a lot of effort into researching the subject, listening to podcasts and webinars, applying to various programs that gave me a money-making opportunity, etc. If I was to start all of this over today, I would simply have no time to do all of this. Which makes me forever grateful for all of the opportunities and ‘blessings in disguise’ my life has given me.
10. Blogging is rewarding. As much as it is complicated, time-consuming, and sleep-depriving, I’ll readily admit that few things bring me more joy than receiving a great comment from a reader about how valuable and/or enjoyable reading my blog has been for them, or getting an email from a giveaway winner saying that my message to them about winning a prize has made their day. Vegan Runner Eats blog may have been the hardest job I’ve ever had (when measured on ‘time spent/money earned’ scale), but it’s hands-down the most rewarding one.
All right, I think this is a pretty fair outline of what my blogging experience has been like so far. I could go in more detail about any of the points above if you guys are interested, so let me know 🙂 In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts: are you a blogger yourself who’s learned something I haven’t mentioned above? Do you enjoy reading other blogs and have some thoughts on what bloggers often miss? Please let us all know in the comments!