My first blogging tips blog post received a lot of great feedback & to this day I still receive the odd tweet or email thanking me for writing that blog post. You can take a look at my ‘Blogging Tips For Beginner Bloggers #1’ post for some inside info on social media, blogging platforms, photography tips etc. A few people said that the tips were not just for beginner bloggers, but that they are actually relevant to all bloggers out there. I’ve thought about it & decided to start calling the series ‘Blogging Tips For Bloggers’ as I’m sure any blogger might discover something new by reading these blog posts (even if it is just one teensy little tip or trick).
This blog post is a bit of a mix between blogging tips, and my own personal thoughts around certain topics in the blogosphere. I’m not trying to tell you what to do when it comes to your blog. If you have done something differently to how I’ve done it in the past, and you found it worked for you – good for you. This is just me, sharing my knowledge in my little corner of the world wide web. At the end of the day, I’m writing this blog post to inspire, help and in a way support my fellow bloggers.
♥ Anyone can create a blog about any topic, but the secret lies in convincing your readers to return to your blog every day or every other day. I personally prefer reading blog posts that mean something – puff pieces are exactly that, a load of nonsense. I’m by no means saying I’m an investigative journalist who writes about global warming and nuclear power plants but I do like to write blog posts that my readers will find meaningful. That’s why I like to include tips & tricks in the blog posts, and I am ALWAYS open and honest with regards to product reviews. You won’t find me writing rave reviews about every single product I test, because life just doesn’t work that way. We can’t love everything, all the time.
♥ If you want to start a blog for the sole purpose of receiving free products, don’t bother. Free products may be considered as a perk of the ‘job’ and it’s great to have the opportunity to try new things BUT for me, being a blogger isn’t about the free stuff. I like to share my opinions & experiences using beauty products with my blog readers, and that’s why I started my blog in the first place. I never expected to have brands contact me & ask if I would like to be added to their media list. It was a welcomed surprise, but it’s definitely not the be all & end all of everything in my blogging world. I’m very happy spending my money on products & brands I love. Some bloggers seem to think that PRs and brands have an endless supply of products to send their way and this simply isn’t true. There’s no magical sample closet, so try to think about the whole process from a PR’s point of view. It’s quite obvious when a blogger only blogs to receive free product – be careful, because you might just lose the respect and support of your loyal readers.
♥ I often get emails from aspiring bloggers asking how to become a successful blogger. To be quite honest, I dislike the term ‘successful blogger’, because it’s usually linked to the idea of “I hit x amount of followers recently, so I must be a popular blogger now.” That’s not how I see it at all. I know in some ways numbers do equal success (or influence) but it’s not the only thing to focus on. I’ve recently come to realise that numbers mean less and less to me. Sure, it’s nice to hit a milestone and I will always be grateful…but to me, content and improving my photography skills will always mean more to me than a number on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. That’s why I never really tweet or post about a milestone or certain amount of followers I have reached on my social media platforms.
♥ Growing a readership takes time, and it’s getting harder & harder to be heard in between all the other information that is published online every day. Even if your content and photos are fit for a magazine, the chances are high that initially your blog posts won’t even be seen by that many readers. You need to build and grow your audience, you need to show consistency and endurance so that you can build trust. All this takes time. Don’t expect huge success within weeks, or even months. When I first started blogging, the ONLY person who read my blog was my momma (and Neal occasionally) but I kept at it, because I knew that if I worked hard & persevered, my blog posts would be seen by more & more people each day.
♥ I find a good brainstorm session to be both relaxing & inspiring. I usually make myself a cup of tea (maybe add a Digestive biscuit or two to the mix), sit down with a notepad & jot down possible blog post ideas. I have a noodle brain when it comes to remembering things, so I make sure I always write down photo ideas or blog post title ideas as soon as they pop into my head. Most of the time I come up with my best ideas when I’m in the shower or right before I go to sleep at night, so make sure you have a notepad handy at all times (not in the shower, though, it could get messy).
♥ So you started your blog for yourself, there’s absolutely nothing wrong that. But if you want a targeted audience, you need to consider what your readers are interested in. Most people will only click to read the blog post they think might be relevant to their lives. In a world that is over saturated with similar content, it’s always best to create blog posts that you know your readers enjoy to read. This is where the Google Analytics app comes in. Google Analytics for iPhone (there’s an Android version too) lets users check in on their website analytics, including real-time visitor reports (it actually tells you how many users are reading your blog RIGHT NOW, plus where they’re from etc). In addition to real-time and time-based reports, the app can be used to view behaviours, conversions and more. I hardly ever check my Google Analytics on the web anymore (unless I have to send a screen shot of my GA stats to a brand or PR), now I can do it from the comfort of my own smartphone. Check your stats on a daily basis & try to see what types of blog posts receive the most views. Then keep that in mind for the next time you want to write a blog post.
♥ Keep things interesting – try various props and backgrounds for your photos. I think the easiest non-boring backgrounds are probably scrapbooking paper or wallpaper samples. The former is a bit easier to get your hands on, though. Pop in to your local stationery shop (CNA have amazing scrapbooking goodies these days) and buy 3 or 4 scrapbook papers with various designs. I like changing out the props that I use in my photos, and I’ve been really into flowers & greenery lately (I’m sure you’ve noticed too). Snapping some bath products? Use a nice towel, candle or even water droplets as props.
♥ Avoid self-pressure, because it contributes to blogger burnout. You know that feeling when you just can’t be bothered to write a new blog post or take photos for an upcoming blog post? That’s called ‘blogger burnout’. Yes, it’s real and it can mess with your mind if you don’t nip it in the bud ASAP. Here’s what I do when I struggle to take that perfect photo or when the words won’t flow – I get up & go for a walk. Get out & go shopping (even if it’s window shopping). Don’t pressure yourself to create something creative, when the inspiration just isn’t there. Because that’s when the mind starts to wander & you may start thinking worst case scenario…like quitting blogging all together. If you need to take a break for a week, then take that break. It will only do you good.
♥ Make sure you stay true to yourself. If you enjoy reading, take a couple of photos with some of your favourite books in the background. If you love a good cup of coffee, add your favourite mug as a prop in your photographs. I love Yankee Candles, and have used some of my favourite jars as props in the past. I love flowers & sometimes like to feature peonies (or other blooms) in the background of my photos to tie in with my blog name.
♥ Some bloggers avoid posting a review of a product, if a lot of other bloggers will be reviewing that same product. I’ve had a similar thought process in the past but then sat down to really think about it. Remember, your review will be read over a period of time (weeks, months and years), plus not all of your readers will see the other reviews from the other bloggers. And some of your loyal readers may just be interested in reading YOUR review.
♥ Don’t compare yourself to other bloggers. We’re all guilty of doing it at some time or another, I know I’m a huge culprit in doing this. In the beginning (back in 2013) I used to compare myself as a beginner blogger to other bloggers who had already been blogging for 2+ years. Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle, because you’ll always feel inadequate. There’s a reason why they say: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Rather compare yourself to the blogger you were yesterday, think about the things you can improve on & focus on that. You don’t have control over the actions of other people i.e. why a brand decided to collaborate with a certain blogger, or why a blogger has more followers than you, or why readers decide to comment on a fellow bloggers blog post but not on yours. Focus on the things you can change to enhance your skills & make you better than the writer or photographer you were yesterday. The race is long, and in the end it’s only with yourself (which song is that from? You win a virtual hug & cupcake if your guess is correct – no Googling!).
♥ We all have a place in the sun, and that goes for the internet too. Yes, the market is overloaded with beauty blogs now. But there really is enough space for everyone. The internet is huge and literally billions of people enjoy reading blogs, so there will always be enough readers for everyone. Just because someone reads a certain blog, doesn’t mean they can’t read another blog too. You are not losing a follower / reader because that person enjoys reading content from other bloggers as well.
♥ There is a misconception that PR samples and attending blog events will lead to making money from blogging. Yep, these are great perks for something you already love to do but blogging full-time generally can’t sustain a full income, especially in South Africa. Sponsored content opportunities are never guaranteed (they are also few & far between), and you have to work really hard to get to a level where brands are willing to pay for your time. In South Africa, I think brands are slowly warming up to the idea that bloggers actually do have an influence, and actually can drive product sales. In my blog media kit I start my readership statistics section off with: “My readers are YOUR consumers.” I probably shouldn’t have told you that, because now it won’t be my special slogan any longer… Anyway, brands and PRs are slowly but surely seeing that bloggers (with organic influence) can increase their product sales. I’m not saying blogging can’t be a full-time job but it definitely is tougher than it seems!
♥ While we’re on that subject…media kits. I don’t think a media kit is necessary if you’re a beginner blogger, it takes a lot of time to create & you might not use it in the near future. However, if you’ve been approached by a good amount of brands to do sponsorships and campaigns, having a polished & professional media kit it always nice to have on hand. As mentioned, it does take a bit of time investment to put a great-looking media kit together, but once it’s done, you’ll have it for the rest of your blogging life (all you’ll need to do is update your stats info & rate card every now and again). A media kit is also sometimes referred to as a press kit, it consists of promotional materials about you, your blog and your brand. It usually contains a headshot photo of yourself, a short bio, your blog stats, your rate card (how much you charge for sponsored blog posts etc), social media presence, media features, awards & testimonials, and a list of campaigns & sponsorships you’ve worked on. I created my media kit a couple of months ago, I sat down one Saturday, created it from scratch and worked on it until I was happy with the end-result. If you’re stuck for creative ideas, take a look at my inspiration board here.
♥ Accept that not every post is going to be your best content to date. For a good couple of months, I was constantly working towards improving my writing skills and photography skills on a daily basis. It was exhausting to say the least, and left me feeling anxious and drained. Be kind to yourself, this is your blogging JOURNEY. Relax & enjoy it!
♥ As mentioned in my previous blog post, a good photo it all about lighting – natural lighting to be exact. Pull a little table over to the biggest window you have, arrange your products there, and I promise your pictures will look much better. Play around with how you light the products too – is the light coming from the side. from behind, or from above? Generally lighting the products from above works best, but I find having a photo lit from behind with natural light can look very beautiful too. Try to balance the light sources as much as possible, if you have a lot of light coming from the left, try to balance it out by adding artificial light on the right. If you can’t use substitute artificial lighting, then move your products around or take the photo from another angle.
♥ Don’t make the same mistake I did. Up until about a year ago I used to spend hours every month deleting a never-ending stream of spam comments. I then did a little bit of research and came across a powerful anti-spam plugin called Akismet. It does all the work for you, and stops spam comments and trackbacks ensuring your blog comments section always looks clean & reader-friendly. Akismet monitors millions of blogs and forums, watching the methods and tricks used by spammers in real time. They know all about spambots, comment factories, buffer sites and social engineering tricks. You can read more about Akismet here (I’m not sure if it’s still a free plugin, but when I downloaded it last year it was free).
My last thought for this blog post: We all have enough external pressures in our daily lives, so make sure to cut yourself some slack!
If you have any blogging- or vlogging-related questions or topics you would like me to cover in my next ‘Blogging Tips’ blog post, leave a comment below. I’d be happy to look into answering those questions for you.