Every week or so, I seem to receive an email from a reader asking for advice on how to start and grow a blog. While I'm certainly not an expert — there are always new exciting things to learn and ongoing ways to improve — I can speak to a handful of successful practices since beginning this blog nearly two years ago. Whether you're in the process of starting a new blog or simply wish to grow, here are 15 blogging basics to keep in mind:
1. Narrow your focus. You may be a Jack (or Jane) of all trades, but you may begin to feel overwhelmed if you blog about fashion, beauty, travel, DIY, health, photography, design, food AND fitness. Some sites seem to do it all simultaneously very well, but, as a new blogger, try narrowing your focus to 2 or 3 key areas you love most. You can certainly interject a few posts here and there outside of your concentration, but keeping your blog focused will help you keep on track and your readers engaged.
2. Define your aesthetic. For me, I knew I wanted my blog to have a certain look — defined by its layout, navigation, and use of colors and fonts. Your blog's aesthetic should be a reflection of you and what you wish to share with readers. Whether it's black and white "minimalist" or pink and green "preppy," it's important to define your blog aesthetic and retain those same design elements across social platforms.
3. Invest, where needed. Because blogging has become such a visual platform, high-quality photos are critical for success. You might consider investing in a DSLR camera, consulting with a designer on your blog's layout, or hiring a photographer to take your photos. Each of these scenarios is a considerable investment, but can help take a blog to the next level. If you don't have the means at the time, get creative! Determine what investments are most important to you now, those that can wait, and those you can learn yourself.
4. Learn HTML and SEO basics. Speaking of, learn the technical basics to customize and optimize your blog. It can be tricky at first, but it's incredibly rewarding to learn a new skill and see results. I love this site for helpful tips on photography, SEO, blog strategy, tutorials and more.
5. Engage in social media. This one is so important! Establish a presence on social media, including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Also consider a reader platform, like Bloglovin' or Feedly, so readers can subscribe to your posts. Once you're established, follow and engage with others! Use social media to build relationships by leaving a thoughtful comment, sharing a link to a post you enjoyed, or tagging a friend or brand, when relevant.
6. Develop an editorial calendar. It's a good idea to organize and plan content in advance. I aim to post two to three times a week, while you may decide four to five (or once a week) is best for you. While I keep a (loose) editorial calendar of upcoming posts and collaborations, I adjust timing and re-arrange posts as needed, if a timely topic or post idea pops up.
7. Don't be afraid to say no. It's always exciting to receive interest in my blog, whether it be from brands, PR agencies or others looking to collaborate. While I appreciate every offer, I choose to be selective about the opportunities I accept for my blog. I want each and every post to be an honest reflection of my style and taste. For those opportunities that just aren't a good fit and don't align with my blog, I politely decline. Don't be afraid to say no to offers. Your time and energy will be better spent on a project you're truly excited about — your readers will appreciate this, too!
8. Look for local opportunities. Maybe you won't be working with major brands in the beginning, but you can surely build your experience and exposure by keeping attuned to local opportunities, whether it be with a boutique, an up-and-coming designer, or your community newspaper.
9. Track your analytics. Google Analytics provide a wealth of information about your site. You can track how many readers are visiting your blog, where they're located, what other sites/platforms are driving the most traffic to your blog, and much, much more. Get started with analytics here.
10. Ask for feedback. Every so often, check in with your readers! Ask them directly what type of posts they enjoy and what type of content they'd like to see more of. Asking for feedback may seem scary at first, but it's a great way to learn what's working (and what can be improved upon).
11. Practice your 30 second pitch. Similar to a job interview when you're asked, "Tell me about yourself," explaining your blog to someone new can catch you off guard, if you're not prepared. You should be able to explain your blog's focus and purpose, what topics you blog about, and perhaps what inspires you or why you began blogging. Whatever it is, practice your "pitch" and be prepared to talk about your blog with confidence, whether it's in discussion with a brand, at an event, or simply in a casual conversation.
12. Network, network, network. As much as blogging happens behind the screen, it's also about real life interactions. Build as many friendships and networks as possible. Join a local blogging community or association. Attend events in your area. Meet with potential partners. Follow-up with thank you notes. And be nice to everyone (always).
13. Set goals. Just as you would with fitness or your career, set goals (big and small) for your blog. It could be gaining a certain amount of new followers on Instagram, coordinating an amazing giveaway, hosting a special event, or landing a collaboration with a brand you love — then determine the next steps necessary to reach those goals.
14. Celebrate the wins, learn from the misses. Not every post, project or pitch will go as planned. Learn to celebrate your blog's "little victories" each week (e.g. a new subscriber, an invitation to a local event, a retweet on Twitter, etc).
15. Be yourself! It's cliché, but true. What makes your blog unique and wonderful is YOU. Keep your own voice and try not to compare yourself to other bloggers... everyone has their own timing and strengths. It takes time, dedication and patience to grow. As long as you're true to yourself, you can't go wrong.