By Tim Sohn at Social Times:
Christina Hitchcock, who writes recipe blog It’s a Keeper and is a field editor for Taste of Home magazine among other roles, and Jaime Karpovich, host and writer of Save the Kales!, a blog-turned-television show about vegan cooking, provided 12 tips to make – and keep – your blogs awesome, at NEPA BlogCon, a social media and blogging conference in northeast Pennsylvania, on Oct. 5.
Here they are:
Begin with the end in mind
Envision where your blog will be in five, 10, and 20 years. Purchase all the URLs that you can think of that are related to your brand because you never know when you will want to launch another site, write a book, etc. When creating social media accounts, think about the future – will the account names be relevant down the road? Sign up for all your social media sites now, even if you’re not planning on populating them right away.
“I am currently probably on my third URL, which is probably not the best route to take, but I started off on a WordPress site, itsakeeper.wordpress.com. When I decided I wanted to be self-hosted, itsakeeper.com wasn’t available. It was some paint can contraction thing, so for whatever reason, it was probably just a late-night-sleep-deprived decision, I went with everydaytastes.com,” said Hitchcock. She added that since then she switched to itisakeeper.com: “For whatever reason I didn’t think to break that contraction up.”
Karpovich said she was named after the Bionic Woman and that when people search for her, they always spell her name wrong. So, she decided to buy several URLs, including both correct and incorrect spellings and abbreviations of her name.
Offer something valuable to your readers
Create valuable content, and it may take time to figure out what catches on with readers. Hitchcock said bloggers should figure out how people relate to you. “I find that my writers relate when I say, while I’m cooking dinner, I’ve got my son doing homework, I’ve got this going on, the dryer’s buzzing, the cat’s barfing … For some reason, people want to connect to you.”
Karpovich explained that she doesn’t post five times a week to her blog anymore. It’s OK to write less, but be consistent. Figure out features for specific days of the week.
“We also know about the Internet, you all like cats, and you all like food,” she said, adding that her friend who has a blog sees the most traffic from posts with photos of food.
Get to know your readers, and it’s OK if your blog evolves
It most likely will over time. Look at your analytics.
Good design is key
Think about what your blog design says about you. Are you fun, serious, etc…? Blogs should be easy to navigate and use good search engine optimization strategies. Also, never put a “Contact Us” form on your site – that’s impersonal. Instead, include your email address and a photo of yourself.
“Let people get to know who you are and feel like they’re connecting with an actual person,” said Hitchcock.
Follow your gut
Karpovich explained that you should stay true to why you started blogging in the first place. For example, are you trying to inform people, create a sense of community, provide people with a service, etc.?
Know what your boundaries are, and stick to them
Hitchcock explained that she uses sponsored posts on her site. One company, which makes training pants for children, wanted her to include three photos of her child in a post in the training pants.
“I really had a difficult time with that. As a mother, I’m like, I’m not putting a picture of my kid in any type of underwear-assuming attire. I’m just not putting that out there,” she said, explaining that ultimately she came to an agreement with the company that she would take a photo of her child, but in pajamas and from the shoulders down.
Promote, promote, promote
Promote your blog through social media, the local newspaper/website, writing guest posts, and commenting on other blogs. Consider how you want to be viewed in the online world — for example, are you a blogger or an online content creator?
“You can really become an expert on whatever you say you’re an expert on because no one is going to tell you you’re not if you put in the work, and you’re convincing about it,” said Karpovich.
It’s all about building relationships
Attending events (such as NEPA BlogCon) are a great opportunity to make connections with people offline.
Treat your blog like a business
Keep track of finances, and look for alternative ways of making money, such as freelancing, even if it doesn’t pay that much sometimes.
Read books, websites, blogs, anything to make your site better.
Have the right tools
Hitchcock said she uses Evernote to keep track of everything. She also has a notebook/calendar, and uses PicMonkey, an online tool to edit photos. Karpovich said she loves Instagram, and uses a point-and-shoot camera on her phone.
As long as you’re willing to change, you’ll be able to grow your blog.