We’re ‘a week’ into 30 Before 30 and I am THRILLED. What a time in my life! Everyone seems reasonably amped and is enjoying the project, and I’ve even built in the scope for a day off here or there. What adult behaviour! *high five*
Today, we’re getting schooled in ‘How To Make Your Blog Successful’. Now, this is a tough question because the metrics of success look different for everyone. What even is success?
The question came to me via Instagram. Danielle, who has her own blog, got in touch. She writes:
My name is Danielle. I wrote to you on Instagram asking you if you had written a blog about how to make a successful blog?
My questions are. How did you make your blog successful?
What are you top tips for Do's and Don'ts?
If you used Instagram how did you use Instagram to help make your blog what it is? Or how did you use it to dive traffic to your website?
Do you think having a Facebook page is important?
I have a blog over at Just A Happy Mum
It is in its infancy but I am just wondering from your perspective how you did it and any tips you have :)
How To Make Your Blog Successful
Thanks for your amazing question. I’m so thrilled you decided to ask - and thank you for sharing your own blog. Being out there and creating something can be scary, and even more scary is telling other people ‘Hey! I made a thing’. It’s a question I’ve pondered lots over the last 3 years of blogging. So I hope I can help steer you in the right direction.
I’ve taken the liberty of reviewing your blog and Instagram channels. Great start - you’ve integrated your links and have got the basics more or less in place. Let’s review the checklist:
Link in bio connecting to blog from Instagram profile - tick!
Link on blog connecting your Instagram and Pintrest Account - ticket!
Easy to read navigation buttons up the top of your blog - tick!
Clear font - tick!
Use of photos - tick!
See? You’re already doing great.
You’ve asked me for some critical feedback, including Do’s and Don’ts - so that is what I’ll do. Let’s tackle the Do’s first.
1. Check your spelling!
Danielle, I personally loath checking my spelling - but it is so, so important. Yes, I don’t always get it right but you can find ways to get help for free! Grammarly is a plug-in that I use, and it picks up spelling errors and misplaced words. It auto corrects for me so I just need to accept change and move on. Unfortunately a few cheeky errors popped up when I saw your blogs - so make sure you actually consider your spelling when you next go and post.
2. Set A Regular Schedule - Even if just for you…
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again - consistency is KING when it comes to blogging. I will hammer this point until the cows come home. I don’t care if it is once a week or every day - make a regular schedule to blog. You don’t have to publish at exactly 5pm on the dot every third day, but you need to get a general rhythm going. When you’ve found that rhythm, the dance will come more easily.
If you can’t find time, think about how you can utilise a 15 minute slots during your day. Can you draft some blog ideas in your iPhone while at the park? What about writing a blog up in a word document instead of on Wordpress if you find it easier to think (I find this helps me sometimes)? You can only be a good writer if you actually WRITE. So worry less about being ‘good’ and more about getting something - ANYTHING - out there to start with. We can worry about ‘good’ later.
When it comes to time of day to post, I don’t think it matters too much for publishing a blog post. If you’re sharing it on social media, morning or after work is generally best.
3. Set Personal Goals
If your blog started, much like mine, because you want to make cool shit, then it is vital that you set yourself goals which are non-data centric. That does not mean aiming for 1000 Instagram followers. It means aiming to post every week for the whole year. It means aiming to improve your photography by researching iPhone photography, to get a friend to help you redesign the website layout (or hire someone) or buying a camera in 6 months (second hand is best in my opinion if you can - you’d be amazed how many people buy expensive cameras and then don’t use them).
My personal goals in setting the blog up were to interview a resident of Wellington every week for one year (it was a challenge but I did it), to post 2-3 times per week, to start my own hashtags and consistently post content about people I admired. I wasn’t at all focused on earning money off it (only later I introduced this when I built up my readers, as a way to make this project sustainable - bills gotta be paid, y’all).
1. Don’t be afraid to show yourself
Danielle, I’ve noticed that your blog is primarily focused on your sons. While that is great, what will attract people back to your blog over and over again isn’t your kids (although you may love them - some days!). It’s YOU! You’re entirely worthy of taking up space. Say that out loud - “I AM WORTHY OF TAKING UP SPACE ONLINE”. The internet is big enough for us all. We deserve to tell our stories honestly and be true to who we are.
2. Don’t put your hashtags in the caption box on Instagram
Put then in the first comment box and add dots like I’ve just done above to ensure it isn’t distracting.
Also, use your Instagram captions like a mini blog post. Use it to say something meaningful, and to tell a story. Think about improving your photos with filters (if that’s your style - I like the app VSCO). You can plan out your instagram with the app Mosaico to make it look more polished.
3. Don’t Compare Yourself To Others - But Use Other People’s Blogs to Inspire You
It’s a tricky line to walk but my rule of thumb is to look at bloggers who have similar values to me and read their content and study their photos. I love Lily Pebbles, The Anna Edit, Kristabel from I Want You To Know, Lucy from Shiny Thoughts, Carrie from Wish Wish Wish. I’ve been reading them for years and following these women on Instagram. I also love reading Blogosphere Magazine for inspiration generally and was lucky enough to meet the editor in London last year. Of course, most of these people are in their twenties/thirties, and don’t have children. So perhaps they’re not for you. But you should look to whoever inspires you and find your own role models to inspire you to improve on your journey.
Other Important Points
What’s Your Angle?
For any blog, you need an angle. My angle was ‘Wellington from a grass-roots perspective’. I could then expand that to be either interviews with interesting Wellingtonians or my own perspective on living here, because I myself am a born and bred Wellingtonian. This means that I am often the go-to person when it comes to getting someone to talk on social media panels in Wellington or if a brand wants to target a Wellington audience for their campaign or launch.
Danielle, I see that you’re writing about food and planning your sons lunchboxes. You’re a foodie. Brilliant. It seems to me like that’s where you’re heading (with an economical twist because you talk about buying at Countdown rather than Pak N Save).
However, it isn’t clear on your website that your blog is about your feeding your family as a busy mum. You should make that your mission statement. As it stands, being a Mum won’t give you a unique angle because it is vague. You need to be clearer about WHY you’re blog helps people.
I’d encourage you to grab a piece of paper and brainstorm. What you you dream of writing? What’s your favourite things to read about? What do you want to write? Think about what things you tend to ‘Google’; Writing blog posts based on things you think that people search often, like “Easy Meal Ideas in 10 Minutes” can be a winner and help drive traffic to your website.
My other impression is that you could be writing these pieces about food because you feel like food is a ‘safe’ topic. No one can argue with a recipe! If you’re happy, that’s brilliant. But you should make sure you let us in on your personality and life in your writing. I was intrigued that you hinted you had other things which were challenges. What things do you do as a family to connect? Are you struggling with aspects of life? What gives you joy? You don’t have to bare your soul online but we need to hear your ‘voice’ come through.
Remember, blogs should educate, inspire or entertain. Same with social media. I’d love to see more of your sense of humour and passion. You got this. We’re rooting for YOU! Let your ‘Danielle flag’ fly.
Invest in your website/layout
I use Squarespace.com because although it costs about $150 per year, it is very easy to teach yourself and does not require coding. The templates are amazing.
Be Prepared To Get Uncomfortable
Blogging is hard because it makes you vulnerable. Lean into this. Once you’ve beaten your demons, you’ll come out the other side a stronger and more confident woman.
Don’t Talk To Friend And Family About Your Blog 24/7 - They Won’t Get It
People who don’t have a passion for blogging don’t get it really. If you can find one other blogger friend, even if that person changes from one year to the next, you’ll be doing great. I don’t have a huge amount of blogger friends, but I feel like through using Instagram surveys and emails that my main relationship is with my readers and that’s why I’m here - not to look cool.
Commit to the long term. I decided I would give myself 3/4 years to see if my blog had legs. You can’t tell if something is successful unless you’ve been doing it long enough. Year one was the overture for me. There’s still so much more to go.
Writing is the Reward - If You Don’t Like It, Find Something Else
I love writing. To write is to feel the reward. When I write, I feel ‘successful’. Far more than getting invited to events or getting PR gifts. I want to write because if I don’t I go a bit batty. I need to write to have happiness and balance in my life. It’s vital. Therefore, each and every blog I publish makes me a success. Even if I never grow more than I already have, I will continue to write.
Therefore, if you don’t enjoy writing, maybe blogging isn’t for you. Try video, or stick with just Instagram. You don’t have to do it all. Personally, I don’t tweet much. I stopped making videos. I have a love/hate relationship with Instagram, just like everyone else. But my blog is the heart of everything I do. I couldn’t ever ever keep doing social media stuff if I didn’t have it. It is my home.
If you used Instagram, how did you use Instagram to help make your blog what it is? Or how did you use it to dive traffic to your website?
Since I reached 10,000 followers on Instagram two years ago, Instagram has become more important to drive traffic to my blog because of the ‘Swipe Up’ link. However, it isn’t the biggest driver of traffic to my website, and never has been. Direct Search, Google Search and Facebook have been far more potent. Instagram wants to keep people on its own platform. Lots of people just follow me on there, and never read my blog. However, I also have readers who only visit the blog and don’t use social media. It cuts both ways.
If you grow Instagram, you can get sent PR gifts and be invited to events (although the market is becoming more and more crowded and brands tend to like a very polished aesthetic which may not be your personality). You don’t need a blog to receive these outcomes if that’s what you’re seeking. However, personally, I’d rather have one true blog reader over five Instagram followers. My favourite Instagram followers are those who actually read my blog posts and engage with me in a conversation about the articles I write.
Do you think having a Facebook page is important?
Yes and No. Yes, for sharing articles on Facebook. However, it’s hard to say for sure because when I started Facebook pages felt more relevant. Today, it’s less so because fewer people are using their Facebook accounts, even compared to 2015. If you want to just do Instagram, just do Instagram. I’d say your core audience may be more active on Facebook (ie other mums).
Another idea: Why don’t focus on another platform you enjoy more? I saw you linked your Pintrest. You might do better investing time and effort in that platform because (a) you like it and want to spend time there and (b) Pintrest can connect to blog articles just as well as Facebook.
If you don’t feel overexcited by it, leave it. You can spend your time better elsewhere.
I hope you enjoyed my answers to your questions Danielle. I can’t wait to see ‘Just A Happy Mum’ go from strength to strength.