I celebrated my 3rd blogiversary a few weeks ago, so I thought it was time to write a new blogging tips post. I love receiving emails from people who read my blog, and lately I’ve been receiving quite a few emails and tweets from people asking when my next blogging tips post will be up. Well, today is your lucky day! If you’re a new reader, and you’re interested in taking a look at my previous blogging tips blog posts, then I will link them for you below:
Let’s get to the good stuff, below are tips I’ve written to answer some of the most frequently asked blogging related questions I receive. As always, these tips are NOT just for beauty bloggers – they are for ALL bloggers. And remember, take my tips with a pinch of salt – we all have very different opinions and different ways of doing things.
♥ Whether you just started a blog, or you’ve been blogging for years – it’s always good to take a step back and think about your target audience. Who is your blog aimed at? This will determine the content you produce i.e. if you want to connect with teenagers and students, then write about more affordable options (whether it’s fashion, lifestyle or beauty). If your target audience is women aged 25+, then you might want to look at featuring anti-ageing products, healthy lifestyle options and more mature fashion pieces. It’s also important to consider your audience / readers when choosing your style of writing, blog layout / theme, and overall vibe of your blog.
♥ When you’re a blogger, reader engagement means everything to you. Scrap that…I can’t speak for every single blogger, so I should rather say I’m the type of blogger who loves to engage with my readers – not only on the blog, but also via my social media accounts i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & YouTube. A while back Facebook updated their newsfeed algorithm and the same has now happened with Instagram (as Instagram was acquired by Facebook a while ago). For smaller blogger type pages, this has had a HUGE impact. I won’t go into too much detail about what an algorithm is, because to be honest, it will put both of us to sleep. *snores* In layman’s terms, the Facebook / Instagram algorithm is a type of programming language that FILTERS and prioritises what each of us sees on Facebook and Instagram based on previous behaviour. For example, if the algorithm sees that you constantly ‘like’ certain posts or images from your favourite pages, then it will ensure that those pages’ posts will ALWAYS show up first on your newsfeed. The opposite is also true – if you follow blogger / brand pages but you don’t engage with some of them (whether it’s commenting on a photo, liking a post or sharing their content) then eventually none of those page’s posts will feature on your news feed. The whole ‘switch your Instagram notifications on’ thing didn’t work for me, because I received constant updates every few minutes – it chowed my battery, and it started getting a bit annoying. Make it your goal to create unique content that gets people involved and interested, make it easy for them to ‘like’ or comment on that special photo. This new algorithm change has forced smaller bloggers (and businesses) to up their game in order to stay towards the top of their followers’ newsfeeds.
♥ Speaking of social media – I’ve received a few emails from fellow bloggers asking how one gets those social media sharing buttons at the bottom of every blog post. Now, the ones I currently have on my new blog theme were built-in social media sharing buttons. BUT when I had my previous theme I inserted those buttons (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr etc) using a plugin called ‘JP Sharing’ from Jetpack (it’s free). It’s simple and best of all, it’s not heavy on your website. Keep in mind, I have a WordPress.org (self hosted) website. I don’t know whether this plugin will work with Blogger or WordPress.com sites. To install the plugin: Download ‘JP Sharing’ here, log on to your blog’s admin site, click on the ‘Plugins’ button in the bar on the left, and then click on ‘Add New’. Once you have installed the plugin, you need to go activate it on your ‘Installed Plugins’ page. It’s easy to set up, just follow the steps – if I can do it (without the help of Neal), then you can definitely do it. P.S. When you go to download the latest version, you’ll see a notification that says: “Retired on June 2015 – JP plugins are no longer frequently maintained since the end of June 2015.” Don’t worry, the plugin still works perfectly fine (the developers are just not maintaining it anymore).
♥ There are a few different ways to collaborate with brands – they can send you product(s) for review, you can write a sponsored blog post for them (and they will pay you in actual money), brand ambassadorships and affiliate programmes. The latter two are not that popular in South Africa, and I’m not sure why because influential bloggers can definitely drive product sales. Receiving free products doesn’t happen the day after your first blog post, and I’ve said it before: Freebies shouldn’t be your most important reason for blogging. It’s very obvious when a blogger only blogs for free products, and believe me: Brands, PR (public relations) folks and most importantly YOUR READERS can spot it a mile away. People will question your honesty, your morals, and your ethics. Because, what’s stopping you from giving each and every single product you receive a positive review just because you don’t want brands to stop sending you stuff?
♥ If you want to up your blogging game, then I suggest you check out Melyssa Griffin’s website. Her site, The Nectar Collective, is basically a library of information, and tips & tricks to grow your readership, plan your content, make your blog more interactive, and perhaps one day even make money from blogging. She hosts a lot of free webinars (almost like video conference training sessions) and whenever I have some free time available, I try to sign up for them and watch them. Definitely check her out!
♥ Speaking of helpful resources – if you are looking for stock images that are both pretty and FREE – then head over to City Girl Searching. Roxy recently broadened her horizons, and started #CGScreative – this is a online library where you can access free stock images, printable worksheets & checklists, and even sign up for her #BeautifyYourBlog e-course. If you’ve been feeling a bit ‘meh’ about your blog lately, then I highly recommend signing up for the e-course (email course). It’s FREE, and you will definitely benefit from it.
♥ And speaking of stock images – sometimes you either just don’t have the time to spend 30 minutes to an hour taking photos for a blog post (yes, that’s how long it sometimes takes me to get those 4 or 5 special photos), OR you don’t have the décor / equipment to take a photo for a specific blog post. That’s where stock photos come in – they are a great way to take the stress and pressure off when you need to. Please note: 99% of the photos on Pink Peonies are taken by me, in my beauty room, with my camera, and have been edited by moi as well. But on the odd occasion I also like to use stock photos – for example in this blog post. The photo you see above is a stock photo – I don’t own a Macbook but I really wanted to make this blog post pop, so I chose a photo that features a laptop (because we all use either a laptop or PC to blog) and some bright pink colours (because ya’ll know I love me some pink). I usually search for pretty stock images on Etsy, Bloguettes, Creative Market, and I recently discovered Dear Miss Modern. Good quality stock images can be quite pricey, so you have to ask yourself whether you think using the photo for a specific blog post is worth it (and if you are able to use the same image in other blog posts as well). Stock photos can be used by foodie bloggers, mommy bloggers, lifestyle bloggers, and beauty bloggers (you just have to find the right sellers). The sellers I feature below have a wide range of different stock photographs for sale i.e. desktops, kitchen baking, stationery, flowers, arts & crafts, fashion, makeup etc.
My personal favourites stock photo sellers on Etsy:
♥ Made By Kasia Shop (beautiful photos, and very affordable)
My personal favourites stock photo sellers on Creative Market:
♥ Rosemary Watson Productions (her photos are a bit more affordable)
♥ White Hart Design Co (another affordable option)
♥ Little Sparrow Shop (also affordable)
Always make sure you read the stock photography seller’s terms & conditioners for use before you start posting their photos (they usually have T&Cs with regards to commercial use). And if it’s someone who is providing the image for free, then credit them in the blog post (it’s the right thing to do). These days I always watermark the stock photos that I have purchased, because I’ve had a few occasions in the past where people have taken / downloaded my images without asking for permission (and without crediting me). If you’ve paid for the stock image with your hard-earned money, then you definitely have the right to protect it. Obviously you don’t have to watermark your images (I usually add my blog URL or social media handle) but I recommend doing this to save you possible frustration in the future.
♥ So, you sent a brand an introduction email and you don’t receive a reply…what now? Always remember brands and PR get inundated with blogger requests (tweets, DMs, emails, and comments) and have to be quite picky about who they work with. Just because they decided to go with someone else, doesn’t mean they decided to go AGAINST you. Who knows, maybe next time they’ll pick you to work with them on a project or campaign.
♥ Don’t waste time worrying about what everyone else is doing. Do you. Remember, you could be spending that time creating better content, thinking of unique ideas for blog posts or videos, and upping your photography game. It’s great to get inspiration from others, but don’t try to be them, and definitely don’t let their success bring you down. If you don’t like the way your blog is going, change it. Only YOU have to power to do something about it.
♥ It’s a great idea to create a blogging schedule – it keeps you on track, and serves as a reminder of all the tasks you still need to tackle in order to publish that special blog post. I see my blog planner as a type of strategy that keeps me alert and on top of things. In case you didn’t know, I have a monthly blog planner FREEBIE that I post at the end of each month (for the following month). If you are interested in planning out your blog posts in advance, then I suggest you check out my free printable monthly blog planners here.
♥ It’s great to work towards collaborating with brands, it’s a blogging goal most of us want to achieve when we first start blogging. But there is a right, and a not-so-right way to go about getting noticed by your favourite brands. Here’s what I suggest: Learn about the brands on your own first, do your own fair share of product reviews before you even start to think about contacting them. Buy the products yourself, and write honest reviews. Show the brands and PR people that you’re not just in it for the potential freebies.
♥ Most (if not all) brands will want to know whether you’re a true influencer, and how far your blog reach will be. If they ‘invest’ products / time / money in you, then it’s only fair for them to make sure it isn’t a waste. Never EVER lie about your blog statistics. They will find out, and you will have a bad reputation for a very long time. Trust me, I have friends who are in PR (local and international) – there are websites and special programmes that can tell them what your organic reach is, what your website ranking is, and even what your true blog stats are.
♥ So, a brand sends you a product for review and you end up not liking it at all. Don’t be a sell-out just to please the brand. What I mean by this is: Don’t lie to your readers, don’t tell them the product is amazing just because you are scared the brand might remove you from their media list. At the end of the day, you’re not blogging for brands – you are blogging for your readers. These are the people who support your blog and often spend a chunk of their salary on YOUR product recommendations. I can’t tell you how many products I’ve bought / have been sent to me over the years that turned out to be complete duds. I’m very honest when it comes to reviewing products – if it didn’t work out for me (for whatever reason), then I will tell my readers. If you decide to review a product didn’t work for your skin type or hair type, be sure to also mention that it might work for people with ‘X’ skin type or ‘Y’ hair type.
♥ Word-of-mouth is still one of the most valuable tools in getting your content out there. You spend so much time and effort creating your own unique content for your little space on the internet. Always make sure you are happy with the blog post you are about to publish – and before you hit that ‘Publish’ button, ask yourself whether your readers will find it informative or interesting. Make it easy for your readers to send your blog posts to others, and that’s where the social media sharing button mentioned I mentioned earlier come in to play.
♥ Always remember: Good things come to those who wait, you have to work really hard for a long time to establish yourself as a blogger. Be consistent with your blog posts – publishing 1 blog post every 2 weeks just isn’t going to cut it. Why would people want to return to your blog if it looks like you’re not really making an effort. I speak from personal experience (not as a blogger, but as a blog reader) in that if a blogger only posts once every few weeks, I usually lose interest in the blog.
I know it can be tough sometimes, but it’s all worth it in the end when you start forming relationships with your readers. To me, it really does feel like we’re all just a huge group of friends – my readers, my fellow bloggers…everyone!
And then one last thing – I want to start a conversation at the end of each ‘Blogging Tips’ blog post. Each time there will be a different topic up for discussion, it’s a way for us bloggers to get to know each other a little bit better and to voice your opinion on a specific subject. Today I want to chat about ‘Sponsored Content’…dun-duun-duuuun! I’m starting out with a rather controversial topic – go big, or go home…right? Here are a few things I’d like to hear your thoughts on (leave a comment below):
♥ What is your opinion on bloggers getting paid to feature products on their blogs, social media platforms, and / or YouTube channel?
♥ Do you think a blogger should disclose when a blog post / video / social media post is paid for by a brand?
♥ Do you think South Africa is warming up to the whole idea of sponsored content?
I know some of my readers (who are not bloggers) also read these ‘Blogging Tips’ blog posts – so even if you are NOT a blogger, I would really love to hear your thoughts on the above subject. I’ll be sure to give you my opinion on this as well.
Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you have a lovely weekend!