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Now that school is back in session, it seems like a good time for this post I’vebeen wanting to write for months and months. There are a few questions that pop up in our inbox over and over and over again, and among all the requests for red velvet cake and macaroni and cheese are a mound of questions like, “So…I started a blog. How do I make it big and huge and awesome?” or “I’m so excited! I quit my job to be a blogger! Now what?” (Let’s get one thing out of the way: never, ever, ever quit your job to start a blog. Period.) But really, we get so many questions from people out in the world wanting to jump into this blogging thing and simply wanting tips and advice to make it the most successful it can be and that’s what I want to address. As women who have been successful in turning a small hobby blog into a thriving business with a large and loyal following (muah!), we can just tell you what’s worked for us. There is no magic formula in blogging. There are literally hundreds of thousands out there and everyone wants theirs to be successful, but how do you make it stand out? How do you get people to read it? How do you earn money from it? How do you keep readers around once you get them?
Last spring, Kate and I spoke at the annual business summit at Brigham Young University. We addressed students about developing web-based business strategy and really, it could have been called “Blogging 101.” There is a LOT to cover on this topic, so much that it’s overwhelming for me to think about. So maybe in the future we’ll extend this into a series and have the posts build upon each other, but today we’re just starting with the very basics. Here are 4 points that we feel are instrumental is setting up the groundwork for a successful blog.
When we started Our Best Bites we had no intentions of one day becoming “Professional Bloggers” (yes, that’s a real term!) We now earn a respectable living by writing this blog and that has been an incredible blessing that we’re very grateful for, but it certainly didn’t start out that way and we feel that is one of the keys to this blog’s success. We started this site simply as a fun hobby because we had a passion for cooking and entertaining. Whether you want to start a blog in hopes of earning money, or you want to do it simply for a hobby, our best advice is to do it because you love it. Do it because you’re good at whatever it is you’re writing about. Don’t set out to make money from the get-go. Don’t write about what you think you’re supposed to be writing about because everyone else is. Don’t try to copy someone else’s successful blog idea, be true to your own voice. Having an authentic voice is something that can set you apart from the thousands of other blogs on the internet and help you gain a loyal following. If you want to be a blogger, you need to start out being completely okay blogging with absolutely no one (but maybe your Mom) reading it!
Design and Branding
You know the saying, “Never judge a book by it’s cover”? Well it’s crap. Okay, okay, I get it. Trust me, there are days when I certainly hope people don’t judge me by my cover (maybe every day.) But there’s a reason why books hire professional designers to design their covers, and why you take a shower and put on your nicest outfit for a job interview, and why stores spend hundreds of thousands of dollars designing window displays and creating interior ambiance. It’s because the reality is that everyone judges books by their covers. So think of your blog as a store- it doesn’t mean you have spend a ton of money on a professional design, but try to make it as crisp, clean, and as easy to navigate as possible. Develop a concept for a “look” and stick with it. It doesn’t mean your design and concept can’t change at all, most major brands do, but try to be consistent. For example, our site started out very, very basic. Just a homemade little template and over the past 4 years we’ve changed our look 3 times, but each of those times we’ve kept the same citrus theme and a similar color theme. Try not to switch gears too drastically, or too often, or each time you do, chances are you’ll lose some of your audience.
Consistency and Quality
With very few exceptions, we’ve posted on this site every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for 4 1/2 years now. When we go on vacations, have babies, move across the country, posts still go up and we plan it that way. If you want to have a loyal following, they need to know when and what to expect. They deserve that. If you are erratic, chances are your audience will be too. Pick a schedule that works for you and strive to deliver content on a regular basis. Even more importantly, make sure it’s quality content. There’s a reason why on this site we don’t post the recipes that turn out so-so in our own homes. You can have the best looking site in the world, but if it’s filled with fluffy content, people probably aren’t going to keep coming back to read it.
Outreach and Networking
This topic could fill a whole post of its own, but we’ll keep it simple today. Best advice: develop genuine friendships within the blogging and professional community. One of the best ways to get your name out there is to connect with other people with similar interests, but there’s a big difference is developing those genuine friendships and kissing up and trying to ride someone else’s wave. Don’t try to connect with people because you want something in return, don’t go plaster your blog address on other people’s facebook pages or in their comment sections. Just take an interest in others and chances are they will take an interest in you. The blogging world really is a big community, and getting involved is one of the best ways to get your name out there and bring new people to your blog.
As I mentioned before, this is a huuuge topic. We could talk about ad networks, how to earn revenue, working with PR companies, building an audience, etc. If you have questions, please feel free to ask, or if there’s a specific follow-up topic you’d like to see, just let us know!