Monday, January 27, 2014

You are Five Steps From an Exceptional Blog

You've started a blog and now you're wondering how to bring it to its fullest potential. Let's start by being completely honest with ourselves, we care what people think. And you should! You want people to want to read your blog. You want people to return to your blog time and again. It brings a blogger great joy to receive comments on a blog post. After all, we work so hard on them. But what makes a reader want to comment on them? Or, better yet, what makes a reader want to return to your blog at all?

Welcome to Exceptional Blogging!

1. Invest
When you begin your blog, you need to be prepared to invest in it. Even if you don't intend to monetize your blog and make money off of it, you still need to put money into it. This starts with your URL. I recommend purchasing a URL through GoDaddy. It's very inexpensive and their customer support is phenomenal! The reason I say get a URL isn't because it's "more professional," but because it makes it easier for me to find you. There are a lot of blogs out there, on both Blogger and Wordpress platforms. Don't make me have to wonder which yours is and whether or not you have a or attached to your URL. 

Next is your blogs layout. Invest in a layout that portrays professionalism. This tells me you care about your blog, you want it pleasing to me, the reader, and it will set you apart from any other ordinary-looking blog. Begin with a brand style in mind, and build from there. If you want a custom design, you need to be prepared to spend at least $300, depending on your blogging platform. For many, this is not feasible when you are just starting out, so invest in a premade Blogger or Wordpress template. Many are customizable to fit your branding needs. 

Purchase a custom logo! Again, you want to stand out. You want to treat your blog like a business, and businesses need individuality. If you are not a web or graphic designer, don't pretend to be by creating your own mediocre logo. Purchase a custom logo!

Lastly, there is advertising. You have to get your blog name out there. I once read in a business article, "If you build it, they won't come." Never forget this. The world doesn't know you exist. It's the WORLD WIDE WEB. You are one among millions. You have to tell people you're here, and, no, this isn't necessarily free to do. So paid advertising is almost always a must for any blog with a desire to grow. But choose wisely. If you operate a food blog, it may not do you well to advertise on a blog centered around web design. If one food blog has 1,000 blog followers who consistently return for daily recipes, odds are those readers might like to check out your recipes too. Perhaps one of those readers, a bread lover, has recently learned they are allergic to gluten, and they don't know where to start because everything has gluten in it, and how can they part with a slice of garlic bread at dinner each night? But low and behold, you posted a recipe for gluten free garlic bread. You just made their day! A web design enthusiast isn't going to care about your gluten free garlic bread. But that one reader not only doesn't feel alone in a gluten-wild society, but now knows where to start, and where to continue to go for more gluten free recipes.

2. Connect
Connect with like-minded bloggers by joining communities. Twitter is one of the best communities to join for this. It took me a long time to transition from Facebook to Twitter. I was used to Facebook. But the fact was, it was taking me no where. So I bit the bullet, put the Twitter app on my phone, and now I have made some phenomenal connections. The next community to join is The Sits Girls. It is a community specifically for bloggers looking to connect with other bloggers. They talk about the success to blogging is in building your tribe, connecting with others. Become a SitsGirl, you'll be glad you did. There are many other communities you can join, designed to help you do this, like Bloggy Moms, Southern Blog Society, The Charlotte Social, and more. Do some research, find communities in your area. Just get connecting!

3. Useful Content
Create useful content. Give readers a reason to need to come back to your blog. In doing this, your content needs to be unique. There are many recipes out there, but what is going to make yours memorable when thousands of others have already shared the same thing? There is nothing wrong with sharing your own take on a recipe, just be sure yours stands out in some way. Continue to provide posts with useful content so that I will need to come back and reference said post. Don't make post after post a constant stream of Instagram photos of what you did over the weekend. Tell me to follow you on Instagram, I'll follow and see them then. Keep enticing me, continue giving me reasons to need to come back to you. 

4. Eye Catching Images
One of the best things I can tell you is to learn Photoshop. This is another investment into your blog. You're serious, you've purchased a DSLR camera, now take it a step further and invest in Photoshop. Learn it. Take your dark images and turn them into beacons of beauty readers can admire. You can follow the Photoshop tutorials here on NewlyMynted. 

Other ways to get eye-catching photos is to browse the Creative Commons section of Flickr. This is a great resource for share-alike images. Be sure the photo in question has a share-alike attribution. If you find an image on Pinterest or Tumblr that you enjoy, send the owner an email, ask if they mind if you use theirs. Be sure to let them know if you intend to use adaptions. And always source others' images. Not only is it law, it's common courtesy. 

Use your Photoshop skills to do some minor graphic design to create Pinnable images for your now useful post. The majority of my blog views come from Pinterest, people looking for specific content. The above image is bright, it has a dash of loveliness yet still applies to this post, and it tells people exactly what they're going to find beyond it.

5. Engage
My final tip on today's Exceptional Blogging series is to engage with your readership. Remember, readers don't just come to you. They come by you putting yourself out there. And they stay by you acknowledging them. Be consistent in replying to comments. Get on your Twitter account and throw out a useful question to begin a conversation. If they retweet you, like their RT. Reply to other users tweets or RT them. Pop into your tribe members blogs and comment on a recent post. Not just a thanks-for-sharing kind of comment, but a genuine make-a-reference-to-a-sentence-in-the-post kind of comment. Sign it, as if you were signing off a letter or an email, and leave a link to your URL. Browse the forums on The Sits Girls site. Whatever you need to do, be consistent in engaging with your community. 

Image SOURCE|| Graphic design by NewlyMynted

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