I get a lot of questions about how I grew my blog and if I can share any tips. Since I'm always answering these questions, I thought I'd just make a post out of it. I want to mention that I'm certainly no "expert" at this, I haven't done my research on how to have a "popular blog" this is my experience and my take on it.
I answered this question on my formspring so I thought I'd expand on that.
1. Focus on your content
1a. Write about what you want to write, not what you think others want you to write.
A lot of questions I get are along the lines of "I'm starting a blog, what should I write about?" There is not one thing that I can tell you to write about that will instantly make readers flock to your blog. I write about what I know, I write about what I like, basically I write about whatever the heck I want to write about and just try to keep my blog as genuine as possible. Everything you read on this blog is truly me. It's not a persona I'm trying to keep up, it really is just me. People read blogs not because of the brilliant writing, (yes I do know there are some blogs with great writing but it's not the majority of blogs) seriously, I know I'm not a great writer I know you all aren't here because of that. People read blogs because of the people behind the blogs. So, the point is, just write what you are passionate about, write about what you want to write about and stop worrying about what you think other people want to read. It's not to say that you can't get feedback from your readers. I mean so many of my topics now are what my readers are requesting but to be honest, I don't post every request I get, only the ones that I think are relevant to my readers and that I want to post about. The point is, just be you and let people get to know the person behind the blog. Also, if you have an aim of blogging only for money or free stuff, it's not gonna happen. We can all tell who are those bloggers are and the thing is none of them are genuine. Did I have any clue that I would make even a cent off of blogging? Absolutely not. I had no idea that there was money even to be made! Now that I make a little bit off my blog, it's a perk but it's also not the sole reason why I continue to do it.
2. Comments are NOT the most important thing! Don't stress so much about getting comments.
2a. Install Google Analytics and Stat Counter so you can see and track your traffic.
My next question I always get is "How do I get more comments?" We will discuss how to get those in the next section but I just want to address how so many bloggers concentrate on getting those beloved comments. Sure, I like comments just as much as the next person because feedback about my posts are always great but do I write posts just to get comments? No. The focus of my posts goes to point 1 above. It's about my content not about comments. I've been tracking my traffic in Google Analytics and Stat Counter since almost the beginning of my blog and it's really helped me see how and when my blog has grown. In my opinion that's way more important than the number of comments on my post. My blog has grown a lot in the past year but the comment number stays about the same. Just this past month I had over 60,000 visitors. About a year ago, my monthly visitors were about 20,000. That's a huge jump but have my comments gone up at the same pace? No, they have stayed the same. If you are looking at getting advertisers or sponsors, nobody is going to ask you for your comment stats, everyone wants to look at these traffic stats. Comments are visible to everyone so I think that's why bloggers want more and more comments but if you truly want to grow your blog, concentrating on comments is just not the best way to go. Because of all the emails I get, I know that most of my readers are not bloggers and I don't expect them to leave comments. People that aren't bloggers are more comfortable giving feedback or asking questions privately which I think is great! Not everyone wants to put themselves out there with a blog or even their comments. Basically the group that actually comments is very very small out there compared to the actual readers of blogs. I'm not saying that comments are silly and "who cares about comments" I realize the importance of comments as it creates dialogue between bloggers and readers, so that's what we will cover in part 3.
3. Be a part of the blogging community
3a. Read other blogs that you are truly interested in, comment on them and leave meaningful comments that show that you've read the post and not just a generic comment that seems like it's been copied and pasted onto every blog.
So, you want to get comments but how do you do it? Basically, you get what you give out. If you go to 100 blogs a day and comment on them, most likely you will get quite a few comments back. Will every single blogger comment back to you? No. But a lot will and over time, you will continue trading comments back forth get to know each other through your blogs and maybe even form a great friendship. But the catch is, you can't just click on every blog and leave a comment like "Great blog! Please read mine!" It just doesn't work as it's not creating a dialogue that us bloggers enjoy. If you take the time to read the post and leave a meaningful comment than that blogger is more likely to click on over to your blog and comment on your post.
One comment that I received really sticks in my head as the person wrote something like "Your pick are just meh. I only like that one dress. Come check out my fabulous blog, it's awesome!" This was the first time that blogger commented on my blog and I mean, really, they just insulted my post and now they want me to check out their blog? hmmm... just doesn't work that way. So when I say read blogs and leave a meaningful comment I don't mean you should insult their tastes. I get a lot of comments where people like to criticize me on the very first comment they have ever left. I accept criticism fine from friends that have been commenting on my blog for awhile and that I feel like I know and trust their opinions. I don't mind if someone that I have gotten to know tells me their honest opinion, but if you've never commented on somebody's blog and you insult them right away, it's not the best way to start anything. Do you think that in real life, the first time you meet someone you would say "I don't like that shirt you are wearing." No, you wouldn't but over time if you became friends with them, you would tell them that. Obviously, not in so many words but you know what I mean. I feel like so many people throw all etiquette rules out the window in blogland but guess what, there are real people behind these blogs so treat them as you would treat people in the real world.
The best scenario I can think of is this, let's say you are at a party where there are tons of people around you chatting and having a good time. You are standing in the middle of the room thinking "I'm standing here and I'm fabulous, why aren't people talking to me?" Well, because you aren't making the effort to talk to anyone there so why would anyone even notice you? If you've got this great blog but nobody is commenting, take a step back and look at your own tactics of communicating and commenting with other bloggers. We are a community here and I've never met any blogger who refused to comment back with other bloggers. Give, give, give and you will receive, receive, receive.
I know that I've been terrible at this lately just because of my schedule, my blog reading time has been severely cut down. I can barely write a post, much less read other blogs. I truly miss reading my favorite blogs and leaving comments and I want to create more time but until my job and our business calms down, it's not happening soon. I also know that because of my lack of commenting on other people's blogs, my comments have gone down, but I'm perfectly okay with that. I know that getting comments is MY responsibility not anyone else's so if I don't make the effort than others won't either. I do my best when I have time to respond to anyone that comments on my blog, just the same with my emails. It may take me some time but I do try to get back to everyone. The point is, the only person that you can rely on to get comments is YOU.
4. Join Twitter and be active on it.
4a. Engage in conversation with people you follow, retweet others tweets that you like and share interesting content.
I have found many friends through twitter who's blogs I do not read and vice versa but I've still gotten to know them through twitter and create another sense of a community. The more people that you engage in, the more retweets you get and the more people get to know you which means more traffic to your blog. I currently have over 1500 followers on twitter. Do I know how I got that many? Truthfully I have no clue how it got to that number but I think a big part of it is that when I am on twitter I try to have a mixture of personal tweets and retweeting or spreading the word about other people's tweets and posts or even just general news stories that I think is interesting. The more I engage in other people, the more people see my name in their tweets and the more followers I get.
5. Have fun with it! I blog because I enjoy it and I wouldn't spend the amount of time that I do on it if I didn't truly love it.
I love blogging, I couldn't imagine my life without it. I've made some fantastic friends through blogging, I've gotten some of the sweetest emails in my life from readers that just makes my day, my week, my year. I have found so many woman all around the world to relate to and talk about the things that we enjoy talking about. It is an amazing sense of community and feel so lucky to have found it and be a part of it. Once this becomes a "chore" which I hope it never does I will stop, but I'm still loving every minute of it and that's the most important part.
If you want to read an article by the "experts" I highly recommend this one from copyblogger. Also a great read is Thoughts on Bogging from the brilliant Nubby Twiglet. Please also check out the new blog by my friend Ami (of Elizabeth Anne Designs/Living fame) called Edit and Post. She just started but has brilliant tips for blogging and business! I hope that helps and if anyone has other tips, please share in the comments!
I'll leave you with some pretty pictures that I took recently.
The flowers decided to bloom super early this year and I've been loving all the cherry blossoms around our place.
I recently bought a macro lens and I love it. I've always loved taking pictures of flowers and it's so much better to do with a real macro lens.
Happy Blogging everyone! :)