I said I'd be sharing a bit of a blog-iversary retrospective and there you have it. These two collages represent the first 2-3 months or so of blogging. Feast your eyes. While I am proud that I launched myself whole-heartedly into blogging, I do have some questions for 23-year-old-me regarding her makeup, clothing, and shoe choices for some of these looks. Also I apparently really needed a haircut in some of these photos. Hello, dull, lifeless hair!
I thought that today, in looking fondly (?) back at my blogging past, I'd share some of my tips for creating a blog that others will be drawn toward. I'm by no means an expert and find myself constantly in the process of improving my blog by learning from other more successful bloggers, but I do have some tidbits of wisdom I picked up along this journey.
1. The golden rule of blogging: You have to create consistent (and engaging) content. An all-text post once every month is not going to keep readers rapt. I shot for an outfit post Monday through Saturday, with an inspiration post on Sundays, during my initial endeavor (exhausting). I now am down to probably 4-6 posts a week. I'd not suggest dropping under 1-2 posts a week unless you're a famous blogger who already has the following to sustain sporadic posts. Know that this is not easy and takes an insane amount of time and inspiration. Keep a blogging calendar and create "series" (style inspiration, cooking, photo of the day, Instagram update, etc.) to keep yourself on track.
2. Start posting, then work on your theme. When I first started out, I picked a generic theme and then started posting content. It wasn't until months later that I started thinking about a custom/updated theme that reflected the blog's personality. You need to feel out your own style, your target audience, and your content before your embark on making that into a branded message. That being said, don't underestimate the power of a good blog design to draw readers in. When I updated from my old, less navigable design, my readership and page views magically shot up and my bounce rate decreased.
3. You have to engage with other bloggers and your blogging community. There is nothing people like about those that ask for visits, reads, comments, and feedback without contributing back. You should be reading some blogs and commenting on them regularly. You need to respond to readers questions either via email or comment. You should interact with others on social media rather than using it as a venue only for your content. This can be tough and again, takes ages, but it not only drives traffic back to your blog, but gets you engaged in an awesome community of people.
4. The money, sponsorship, full-time blogging gig isn't necessarily going to come easy, or at all. If you start your blog attempting to emulate the giant bloggers (think Kayture, Blonde Salad, Song of Style, etc.), you're going to be sorely disappointed. Unless, of course, you're a rich European model with a great photographer (and then hey, have at it, it's your birthright). It takes a lot of time and effort to build up sponsorships, to create content that a brand wants to reward, and it takes some business skills to put yourself out there and pitch yourself as a brand.
5. Learn how to take and edit great photos. You don't need a DSLR to blog, but it certainly helps. However, you do need to edit your photos. If you're posting un-edited, dull photography, it's unlikely readers will be engaged and stick around to scroll. My favorite blogs usually have great layouts and really great photography. It's a feast for the eyes and a great break from an otherwise dull, dreary world. I'd highly recommend buying something from the Photoshop line-up (Lightroom if you have $200+, the entire suite if you have a college that has a license and you can use it, or Elements if you're poor like me at $70), but if you need to get by on a free editing program, at least use iPhoto.
6. Make sure there is an element that's uniquely you on your blog. Readers want real. They want to read a story, learn about a person, and follow them through their journey. It's like a free memoir on the web. Make sure you're sharing something about yourself (it doesn't need to be revealing about your location, occupation, deepest secrets). It could be through a funny writing style, a style of photos, your personal style, your home decor, your awesome photos of your kids. Just make sure there's something honest on your blog that draws people in to what is special about you.