Guest Post: Written by Rebecca Viner of Autumn Leaves.
Fed up of seeing posts like "top tips for starting a blog"? Yeah, me too. Posts about how to run a successful blog are appearing here, there and everywhere nowadays, and I’m beginning to wonder whether some bloggers are just doing it to jump on the bandwagon. Blogs like mine try to banish all of that and give clarity to bloggers who really are seeking advice in a particular area. There are so many misconceptions in the blogging world compared to when I first started six years ago; these end up creating confusion, overwhelm and unnecessary pressure on bloggers who probably just started it as a hobby. Today I’m going to get real with you as I’m sharing ten things every blogger needs to know in order to stay true to themselves while they reach their goals (personal or blog/biz). We’re going to delve into trends, making things manageable and the big deal right now – whether or not you should monetise your blog.
1. THERE’S NO ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL MODEL
When we start a blog or take the next step with it, we will undoubtedly look around us to see what others have done or are doing. But if we do that, we begin to mould our path based on someone else’s results. We stop thinking outside of the box, we reduce the authenticity in what we do and we aren’t even guaranteed that it will work for us. No matter what aspect of blogging/marketing/design you’re working on, it won’t work the same as for someone else; you could have the exact same design, exact same post title, exact same image in a post, same number of followers and one could go viral while the other sits there with less than 5 shares. The sooner we accept that there’s no one size fits all model, the sooner great things can happen. We can begin to trial new strategies and learn from them, which can potentially get us even more visitors/money/opportunities. As relationship coach, Tracy McMillan says, “You can learn a lot from success but you can learn even more from failure”. You’re guaranteed to get more of a buzz from learning through your own experience rather than copying someone else’s methods. Many bloggers & consultants promise you X results and it’s absolutely okay to try them out, as long as you know that it might not work for you. You could be the anomaly to a trend, but knowing that in the beginning won’t leave you disheartened down the line.
2. YOU DON’T HAVE TO FEEL PRESSURED TO MONETISE
Since I started blogging over 6 years ago, I’ve seen a huge surge in people wanting to monetise their blog and even wanting to start a blog just for the money. While I’ve been very lucky to make the transition to full time blogger/coach (in the final stages of transitioning over the next 2-3 months), it’s not the right path for everyone. No blogger should feel that they have to have advertising on their blog, accept sponsored content or offer services. If that’s not what you want, don’t let anybody tell you, that you should! A considerable number of bloggers have been in touch with me lately saying how they miss the personal elements of blogs and don’t like how blogs are changing into businesses. I like a mix of both. While I strongly believe that no niches are saturated, I do believe that if you want to monetise then you need to be able to offer something different. That something different has to fit a need/want and if you want to use your blog as a marketing tool, then all aspects should be towards a target audience. I also don’t believe that any blogger should be judged for making money, trying to make money or not being interested in making money from their site. I think it’s fantastic that bloggers have the opportunity to do so if they wish, and that many are making way more money than in a typical 9-5 job. It’s okay to change your mind down the line either way. Blogging is a journey. If you want to monetise, do something you love. If you want to write because that’s what you love, just stick with that.
3. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE ON EVERY PLATFORM
A huge common misconception in blogging is that you need to be on every social media platform. You need to be on the new ones, you need to be on the big established ones, you need to be on the video ones. No. You need to be on the ones that suit your needs/personality (and if you’re trying to increase traffic/monetise – where you’ll find your target audience too). Me? I’m just on Pinterest and Twitter. Both of which are where I’ll find my ideal reader/client through chats, group boards and the use of optimised images, hashtags and descriptions. If you’re too busy to tweet five times per day and can only spare time to share one piece of content, then try Facebook. If you’re not into visuals, avoid Pinterest and try Reddit. If you like to be yourself and a little less formal on social media, then try Instagram over LinkedIn. If social media marketing isn’t your aim or if you’re part of a team, then there’s no reason why you can’t be on a bunch of platforms. But if your goal is to establish yourself and get your content out there, focusing on 2 or 3 (maximum) will be much more beneficial to you. Personally I use Instagram just for fun, but remember if you’re using the same or similar usernames/profile photos, it’s easy to be found and linked. Spend some time really getting to know the platforms and choose your favourites. You’ll avoid feeling overwhelmed this way and will be able to share more thought out, valuable content to your audience.
4. INVEST IN YOURSELF
While everyone has different intentions for their blogs, there’s nothing better than learning a new skill or discovering a new tool that makes life a lot easier. For too long I was reluctant to put any money into my blog/business and didn’t spend enough time on my self-development. I had a bunch of things I wanted to learn (because it’s always better if you know how to do all aspects yourself, just in case!) but I’d put it off in favour of being able to post every day. Big regret. When you invest in yourself, you’re in turn investing in more opportunities and can in fact create more content ideas. Your additional knowledge and skills can completely transform how you do things, or they can make a small difference that in the long run makes it all worthwhile. In the past year I made the switch to Squarespace, upgraded Mailchimp, Buffer (and a whole load of other seriously great tools), learnt how to use more than just the basics of Photoshop, have taken numerous e-courses and read a bunch of relevant and inspiring books. Micro investments can honestly make the world of difference, but if you can’t put money into your blog right now, that’s okay. There are plenty of free resources, tools and courses you can use. But make room in your busy schedule to invest in yourself - whatever that means to you.
5. WORKING WITH OTHERS WILL GET YOU ‘FURTHER’
Build your network! It’s so important to find your people in this huge bloggersphere, as you never know when you might need them. There are times when you don’t want to reveal everything to your readers, or have a huge project that you’re just not sure you’ll be able to get done in time, or you might even have a new product that’s about to be launched and you want to have your own affiliate program; this is when you can turn to your network who’ll help you to see things more clearly, help you to create a plan to move forward or help you to market your new offering. Your network should include people who you see as competitors too. Working with people in your industry/niche will get you further than competing against them as they have a similar audience to you – people who are already showing an interest in the sort of thing you do/offer. Team up and wonderful things can happen. Joint venture webinars are seriously popular right now, or perhaps you might co-host a Twitter chat, or even guest post on each other’s blogs. However you choose to collaborate (even if it’s just you both having a Skype call every now and again) and whatever getting ‘further’ means to you, work with people and embrace the community that the bloggersphere has to offer.
6. YOUR FOLLOWER COUNT IS THE LEAST IMPORTANT STATISTIC
The amount of followers you have does not necessarily reflect your influence on a certain platform. Your blog could have 20k unique visitors a month, but you might have less than 300 followers on Bloglovin. You might have less than 1.5k followers on Pinterest but your pins see over 100,000 viewers a month. Your follower count really is the least important statistic (and any good brand should know that). Your analytics are far more than just how many people visit your site or follow you on a platform – they can teach you how visitors use your site, where they’re from and what their interests are, how many convert to buyers of your products/services, what people are searching for to get to your content and so much more. One of the most worthwhile investments of your time is to identify what the most important aspects are of your analytics and how users are behaving. Perhaps you lose 1000+ visitors after the page they land on - so what can you do to make them stay longer? Maybe they read your post and don’t sign up to your newsletter - what can you do to encourage them to? Understanding our analytics and learning from them can help us to grow as bloggers; we can start to provide more content for our ideal readers based on what’s already popular, we can offer extra value content upgrades to encourage them to sign up to our newsletter where they’ll get even more awesome stuff from us, and we can re-design our page to make it more user friendly if we’re losing them early on. But don’t worry about how many followers you’ve got; it’s far better to have quality over quantity when it comes to followers.
7. YOU CAN AVOID BEING OVERWHELMED BY BEING PURPOSEFUL
If you often suffer with a case of blogger’s block or think your head might explode with the amount of content that’s around you to consume, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed. It’s really important (for your own sanity and quality of work) that you remain purposeful through everything you do in blogging. Perhaps that means only reading up on/taking a class or course on a specific topic you’re learning about at that time (and saving others for later), using tools to streamline your process, avoiding following people who share the same content on every platform or not storing one long list of post ideas (instead save a few, then put the others to one side for another time). There’s a bunch of things you can do to stay purposeful, but it’s about finding what that means for you. To me, that involves regularly auditing who I’m following, categorising content to read, finding what I enjoy most and prioritising that.
8. THERE’S DEFINITELY AN APP/TOOL FOR THAT
Everything you do for your blog has a process, no matter how small or simple it may be. But one thing I wish I’d known sooner is that there really is an app or a tool for every single process. Whether you want to schedule social media, create image templates, record calls, track data, share files, automate emails or pretty much anything you can think of, there’s definitely something that can streamline your process and save you a bunch of time/effort. PS, I’ve created a list of 45+ Awesome Tools to Transform Your Blog that you can get for free! (They’re all seriously good tools/apps that I love and use!)
9. HAVING GOALS WILL MAKE BLOGGING MEAN EVEN MORE TO YOU
I’m a huge believer in goal setting, even if the goal is tiny and only matters to you. With everything we do, working towards something makes it more exciting, more interesting and more purposeful. It encourages us to commit and show up to do our best – something that I strongly push my readers, my clients and myself to do. While this is a term that’s thrown around in business a lot, having SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely) goals, gives us a platform to outline what we want to achieve and keep control over how we’re getting on. So make it your mission to set goals for the rest of the year and reminders to check on how you’re getting on. If you’re ever feeling lost or stuck, look back at these to encourage you to be intentional towards achieving them.
10. AUTHENTICITY MAKES YOU RELATABLE TO YOUR AUDIENCE
While no one is saying you have to reveal everything to your audience, sharing your story and being you is what will make you more relatable and authentic to your readers. Show your personality through posts - that’s what will set you apart. Use your story to encourage others that they can achieve the same results as you. But please don’t ever be anything you’re not. "Fake it till you make it" isn’t a term that should be used or acted upon in blogging. You don’t have to be an expert; you only have to know more than the audience you’re writing for. Letting your readers into your world will help you to connect more and encourage conversation. There’s always someone else who is, has been or will be in your position – so be honest, open and yourself in everything you do. As Oscar Wilde said: "Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken."
It’s totally okay not to listen to any blogging advice or to just take in what you need to know, but always remember to consider the authenticity behind the information you’re consuming. What’s the bloggers’ experience? Are they sharing stats/relevant work to back up what they’re saying? Who are they aiming the post at? If you ever start to feel lost or overwhelmed, head back to this post and you’ll be guaranteed to feel a breath of fresh air.
Written by Rebecca Viner, a creative coach and infopreneur, helping bloggers like you to get the clarity you've been longing for by listening, serving and leading. Read her blog here.