As I write this, 2014 is quickly coming to a close, and I have achieved my goal of publishing 52 posts in 2014. Of course, my original goal was to publish one post each week, but life outside of cyberspace interfered with my plans. As a result, I was 3 posts from achieving my goal when I woke up this morning. I looked through the unfinished drafts waiting for me to complete them and selected two. I knew that this would be the subject of my final post for the year.
I want use this opportunity to share a few of the things that I have learned and observed during my first year as a blogger. Some of these things I have learned through personal experience. Other things I have learned from friends who are also bloggers. This isn”t rocket science, merely observations I though I should share.
1. BLOGGERS NEED TO BLOG: I know this may seem obvious, but I know two ladies who were talking about blogging for longer than I have been blogging. One of them has a website, but keeps adjusting the colors and fonts and has yet to publish a single post. Another paid someone $1,000 to have a website built for their blog, but it has been sitting with an “under construction” sign on it for over two years because she doesn’t know what color scheme would work best. Whatever your goals for your blog, you can’t achieve them if you’re not blogging.
2. KNOW WHAT YOUR NICHE IS: Have a definite plan for what type of content you will be providing, and know where you want to take your blog. Patty Cake’s Pantry is a food and kitchen blog. I may blog about gardening, canning, budgeting, and other things that relate to what goes on in my kitchen, but I won’t begin blogging about fashion just because it’s a hot topic that might draw more traffic. Fashion is not what my blog is about. Some blogs I visit are very disjointed, and confusing. Before you begin, have a plan, and make that plan work for you.
3. SET GOALS FOR YOUR BLOG: It is important to have goals and actively work toward them. If you someday hope to make money from your blog, you must treat it as a job. No more excuses for why you don’t have time to blog. If you don’t create content, you won’t get traffic. If you don’t get traffic, you’ll never make any money from your blog. According to psychologists, people make time for what is important to them. If you’re not making time to blog then you need to look at how important it is to you. Can you give up an hour of television a couple of nights per week to devote to your writing?
4. MANAGE SPAM COMMENTS: When I first started blogging, I longed for a comment on my site. I got one, and I was ecstatic. Suddenly, I was getting lots of them. Unfortunately, they were spam. You absolutely must have a plug in on your site to block spam comments. Without it, all of your time will be spent deleting spam, and you will have no time to blog. Seriously, I was getting tons of spam comments. I guess the positive side was that I was getting visitors to my site. Unfortunately, I don’t want spam–unless, of course, I’m using it in the kitchen.
5. EXPECT THINGS TO NOT WORK RIGHT: The second part of this would be to not let it get you down. If you look at any recipe published on my site since I installed the easy recipe plug-in, you will notice that all of the ingredients on the list are preceded by that subsection symbol and the numbers in the instructions are listed twice. This has something to do with how the code in my theme interacts with the code in the easy recipe plug in. I have tried unsuccessfully to fix it, but have been unsuccessful. Instead of stopping, I have continues to post recipes while I look for a fix.
6. CONNECT TO A BLOGGING MEETUP GROUP OR NETWORK: A blogging network or meetup group can be helpful with keeping you focused on your goals as well as helping you learn the latest trends in search engine optimization, or SEO. It was through a local meet up group that I learned a great deal about blogging, SEO, and using social media.
7. BECOME PART OF AN ONLINE COMMUNITY: Develop relationships with other bloggers who have similar interests to yours. Visit and comment on their sites and give honest feedback. On your own site, be receptive to constructive criticism. When someone comments on your site, respond. If they have their own blog, pay them a visit and leave relevant and edifying comments.
8. DON’T JUST DELETE ALL NEGATIVE COMMENTS: If someone calls you a doo doo head, or something nastier, by all means delete their comment. Rudeness doesn’t need to be acknowledged or reinforced. If, however, someone says that you have too many carbs in your diet, or that you use too much cilantro, acknowledge their comment and respond to it. I know a blogger who automatically deletes any comment that isn’t 100% positive. If you aren’t open to other people’s opinions, you may miss opportunities to grow and learn.
9. FIND A GOOD MENTOR: Ideally, you want to find a mentor who is successful at blogging and shares some of your same values. Obviously, an atheist wouldn’t make a good mentor for a fundamentalist Christian. Once you select a mentor, follow their recommendations for improving your blog. I know a woman who spends a great deal of money to learn how to do things the way one mentor recommends. Yet, before she has even begun to implement the teachings of the first mentor, she spends money to learn from a second one. This pattern continues, but she never incorporates any of the things she has learned into her daily activities. She’s spending money but not reaping any rewards.
10. KNOW HOW MUCH MONEY YOU CAN AFFORD TO SPEND TO BUILD YOUR BLOGGING BUSINESS: It’s easy to spend a lot of money on domain names, website hosting, themes, and plug-ins for your blog. If you don’t have a lot of money, don’t go into debt to build your blog. In the beginning, your main objective is to get readers to your blog. Until people are visiting your blog and reading your content, nothing else really matters. It’s a simple matter to start your blog on one of the free sites (wordpress.com, blogspot, typepad, etc.) Once you’re getting a considerable amount of traffic, you can switch over to a page that you are paying to host.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of everything I have learned over the past year. For that matter, I’m definitely not an expert of any kind. My Google page rank for this site is still a zero. This is just a few of the things that I felt were worthy of sharing. I hope you found them helpful.