Welcome to Sparkles and Shoes
700th 723rd post. I had every intention of publishing this post as my 700th blog post and a few of you even got a taste of it over Thanksgiving when it was live for a few hours (don’t you hate when WordPress does that?). It is a bit late because I had a handful of wonderful opportunities to work with sponsors and I wanted to make sure this post was perfect beforeI finally hit publish for real. I did think about waiting until my 800th post and to make it 8 tips after 800 blog posts, but I have seven thoughts I wanted to share now, so here we go!
I love when people reach out to me for restaurant recommendations, leave long comments on posts with follow up inquiries, and more recently, ask questions about blogging. After Sparkles & Shoes second birthday in August I seem to have passed some invisible barrier I did not know existed and suddenly I am now a seasoned blogger, go figure? In all honestly though, it is on my 101 in 1001 list to reach one million page views and one thousands posts but of which, it seems, are not too far off! The first goal is set to happen in the next few days if things keep going the way they are going, eek, so exciting! But until then, I wanted to share seven blogging tips I have compiled after publishing 700 posts:
It is fine to wet your toes, in fact I encourage it, but once you realize this is for you, take the plunge. Whether that is wading in to waist deep or catapulting off the 3-meter board, that is for you to decide. You do not have to do it all at once but if you are going to blog, commit. As I shared in June, there have been seven versions in the evolution of Sparkles and Shoes over the course of the 29 months it has been around. I have changed my mind countless times and gone in a variety of directions (does anyone remember Tuesday Trends and Thursday Trend posts that shared accessories and fashion favorites for the majority of 2013?) but finally I have found my grove. I have decided Sparkles and Shoes is a lifestyle blog focused on fashion and on giving readers a glimpse into my life while writing about the things that inspire, intrigue, and amuse me.
When you first start a blog, my advice is focus on the blog and only your blog, but to create a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest profile. (In case you have not seen my post on why Google+ is important, make sure you read it). Once those channels are established, which I wish I had done in the first month of blogging, you should put the icons on your blog, link to the pages, and if people like the content, they will follow along on these social media platforms. Posting on them to promote your latest post does take extra effort after you pushed publish but it really does pay off.
While an 140-character Tweet may seem silly, especially for a girl who likes to talk, an considering you just wrote a 500-word blog post, each channel really does have it’s benefit. As I have learned, there will be people who may only follow you on one channel, so don’t leave them in the dark. Once you feel like you have found your niche promote the heck out of your blog posts – wish lists can be pinned, you can share giveaways on Facebook, and go ahead and tag brands, celebs, and other bloggers on Twitter and Instagram. Seven hundred posts have taught me that it is your space on the world-wide-web and as Whitney says, don’t be afraid to be the Beyonce of your own blog. Unless they stumbled across it by accident (which you can very easily tell from the bounce rate) people are reading your blog for a reason and they want to hear from you.
(3) Always Have a Picture
I would have never admitted it years ago, but I like words and I like writing. With an average of 412 words per post I have published nearly 300,000 words on this blog, which is crazy to think about, but with all those words you need images to break it up. With fashion posts, especially red carpet recaps or features of new trends, I will not publish a blog post with less than a dozen photos, but some posts just don’t lend themselves well to images. For my transition to WordPress post I did not have any great images so I used a shot of a butterfly I took and the thing happened with my poem about achieving greatness, I used a photo from my swimming days. I have learned people like something to look at, even when you comment that it is unrelated to the post. Plus, without an image you are left with that awkward grey square on BlogLovin, no bueno.
(4) Be Consistent
I post Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday without fail. I have been doing it for the last two years and, from what I have come to learn, people expect it. Every workday at 7am there will be a new blog post on Sparkles & Shoes. What it is going to be about? Well, that is up to me and while I like to keep my readers guessing, there will definitely be a post. This does not mean you need to post every day to be consistent, but find a pattern that works for you and stick with it. Are you a once every-other-week blogger? A M/W/F blogger? I want to know so I can plan how often to check back with you.
This is a personal preference, but after an email from one of my cousin’s, I decided to standardize my blog posts with little tweaks that I think add up. In every post on this blog, the images are 700 pixels wide regardless of orientation, the font is always the same size, except for headers, and content is left-justified. No, none of these things are game changers but when scrolling through posts I like the consistency and would like to think my readers appreciate it as well.
(5) Stay Organized
As your blog grows there will be more and more juggling balls and the way to keep them from falling varies from each person. I have blogging friends who swear by their blogging day planners and others who hit publish as soon as they are done with a post. For me, it is a two-fold process. First, every new idea for a blog post goes down in a draft – currently there are 74 – some of which could be published right now, some are 60% done, and some just have a title. This is a way for me to keep track of my ideas and I use the WordPress app on my phone for these drafts when I am on the go.
Second, I have my blog email firstname.lastname@example.org feed into my personal Gmail so there is only one Inbox to check. I read mail morning, mid-afternoon, and evening and use the wonderful star feature for things I need to follow up on. I have made it a general best practice to not respond to any email that begins with “Dear Blogger” or “Hello Sir/Madam” but if someone takes the time to write me a note, especially when they mention a recent post they liked or are asking for blogging tips, I will respond in a timely manner.
(6) Don’t Ignore SEO
When I started blogging, fresh out of college, SEO was something that had been mentioned in a few courses but not something I knew much about. After almost two and a half years of blogging and working in advertising I now swear by Search Engine Optimization. In a very, very watered down format, SEO is the things you do to the front end (the part you can see and interact with / what you are reading right now) and backend of your blog to increase and enhance your site’s visibility in unpaid search engine results.
If you are on WordPress, and it is one of the reasons I switched from Blogger, WordPress SEO by Yoast is the best plugin ever. It gives you very easy fields to fill out at the bottom of each blog post so you can set your focus keyword, SEO title, and meta description. Once these are filled in all you have to do is hit refresh and it will give you an SEO score; poor, okay, or good, based on a variety of factors like your keywords density (it should be between 2.0% and 5.0%), alt tags, the number of characters in your page title, your copy score on the Flesch Reading Ease test, the number of outbound links (you should have at least one), the number of words in the body copy (you should try and always have at least 300 words per blog post), and a variety of other metrics. If you achieve a “good” rating the amount of people who find your post organically usually triples! Let me know if this is something you would be reading a post or two about.
(7) Be Vulnerable
People read your blog for a variety of reasons – if you are lifestyle blogger, people want to read a story of something awful that happened once in a while, life isn’t perfect all the time, or if you are a fashion blogger, I really appreciate just one shot of you not looking glammed to the 9’s – we all have photos where we weren’t quite ready or the wind suddenly blew hair in your face or your jumping picture did not turned out at all how you planned (you get the drift).
And while you are being vulnerable, you are going to have to deal with criticism and negatively. You are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. I have been slammed before by people who hated something I wrote, and it hurt. It hurt a lot. To such an extent I thought about not only deleting my blog post but deleting my blog all together. A year and a half later I am so glad someone (cough, thanks P) talked me down from that proverbial ledge. It is the same with girls that bullied me in the fifth grade, I needed to grow a thicker skin and move on. Speaking of being vulnerable, I have been working on a post for a few months now and I am nearing completion and it has been something I have been scared to put out there, my experience with online dating. Get ready!
There you go, my seven blogging tips!