Hey guys! I'm coming up on two years of blogging! Yay! I've had some time to play around with blogging, writing style, my voice, layouts, visual aesthetics, and more. Along the way, I've learned so many valuable lessons. But I learned them the old fashioned, hard way. With lots of mistakes. But hey, I'm okay with that. It's been a journey, and a fun one at that.
I'm not a blogging expert, I'm only speaking from my personal experience. That's not to say, you won't learn something new today by reading this post. I hope you do take away something- something that could be helpful, something that prompts an "a-ha" moment, or maybe even something you can relate to.
One of the first things I invested in was a DSLR camera when I got the idea to create my own website. Having never picked up one before, I was faced with a steep learning curve. I am self-taught in many aspects of blogging, including Photoshop and Lightroom. But regarding photography, it really just takes time and practice. I'm not kidding- lots and lots of it.
My biggest piece of advice is to learn the light of your space and when it's best. Natural light is everything! When I first started blogging, I was taking photos whenever I had the time. Mistake. Carve out room in your schedule to take photos in natural, preferably morning light. At my house, I know my photos look best when taken around 9:45-10:00 in the morning. It took me a year to figure this out, really with trial and error. Had I known this sooner, I would have saved myself so much time editing and frustration. It's not easy to make a mediocre, yellow, or dark image look fabulous, light and bright. I liken photographs to recipes- start with great ingredients and the final product will undoubtedly taste delicious. A well lit space at the right time of day is the star ingredient of a beautiful photo.
Just get out there, start shooting (in manual), and learn your space’s lighting. Once you find that sweet spot, stick to it- like a formula. And keep taking lots and lots of photos. You only need a few great shots- not all photos need to be winners.
Now I have a lot more confidence behind the lens and my aesthetic is more developed. As a result, I feel my blog is a lot more streamlined and my photos are more polished. In fact, I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback about my photography in the last few months- thanks guys!
*A note about paying for a "DSLR Basics" type courses online: personally, it was a waste of $75. Contained was information I could have acquired for free with some creative Googling and a few hours spent on YouTube. Oh well, you live and learn.
Okay, I’m still a work in progress in this department. But I am much improved, thank goodness. When I first began blogging, I was so intent on creating my own content; I had no time to comment on other blogs. Well, I didn’t make time- that’s the truth. I had tunnel vision- it was all about me, me and me! Blogging is about community and discussion- I knew this but didn't act on it.
Not until recently, like this year recently, did I start engaging with fellow bloggers by leaving comments and getting chatty on social media. This is such a silly mistake, please don't make it. Start commenting now on other blogs. Get to know your peers- the Internet is a small place. I was discovered by a fellow blogger and asked to guest post on her site after I left a comment on her blog (find out more about that below!)
Another tipoff that I was lacking in the engagement area was that I wasn't receiving comments here on Leigh Clair. As a blogger, you want other people to enjoy what your putting out there and vice versa. You also want to include and ask your readers what they think at the end of your post. It's a two way street.
It’s easy to hide behind the computer and not put yourself out there, especially when you’re shy like me. So, don't be shy! What's more, regular commenting is great for your blog’s rank. The more sites you comment on, the more links are out there linking to your blog. Plus you're building relationships with your fellow bloggers. And who knows, maybe one day you’ll get to meet in real life.
These days I try to dedicate one day of my week to leaving comments, usually Wednesday. At one point, I was spending 2 hours a day leaving comments on other blogs, which was great for ranking and sites linking back to Leigh Clair but terrible for my own content creation. My time was seriously mismanaged.
I’m still trying to find the right balance of time spent on my stuff and time spent reaching out to others. What's important is to actually read the entire post you're commenting on and leave a thoughtful, genuine response. It shows, trust me. And although it may take time crafting a nice comment, chances are the author of the blog is more likely to respond and visit your blog in return. Two way street, remember?
Let me share with you a little secret: your blog won’t be more successful if you post every day. It’s the truth! Don’t believe me? Perhaps this guy will convince you.
In the beginning of your blogging career, chances are you will feel a lot of pressure to post 5 times a week. Content is not king. Promotion and consistency are. Unfortunately, I didn’t take stock in that idea until this year. When I finally got the hang of blogging (a few months in) I was posting 5 days a week. Then it went down to 3, then dwindled to 2, and now I’m down to posting once a week. Now, my readers know and expect a fresh new blog post each Wednesday. And I feel my voice and niche are stronger than ever.
How did I know I was on to something? When people started noticing. Tristan of Besotted Blog- someone I’ve admired for a long time, wrote me, telling me to keep up the great work. It was a pinch me moment because I have been a loyal reader of Besotted for years. Seriously, it's a favorite of mine- so beautiful and valuable! Around this time, I was also asked to guest post on a blog called Elana Lyn, a wonderful career and lifestyle blog for the modern day, driven woman. Elana wrote to me, telling me she loved my content (I was so flattered!) and that she'd love for me to guest post on her site! This would have never happened if I was spitting out recycled content I was't passionate about!
When I was creating true to me, thoughtful content once a week, everything started to fall into place. I hope the trend for bloggers is to create original content and not feel the pressure to post daily about random things that don't resonate with their readers. Quality trumps quantity, especially in the blogosphere.
Another important lesson: promotion is everything!
I’ve gotten the most traffic on Leigh Clair when I’ve been featured somewhere else. Since I’m no overnight success, (hey let’s face it) I need the help of other sites with a larger audience to drive traffic to my site. Their readers flock to Leigh Clair after I’ve been featured, re-pinned, or have written a guest post.
Case in point: Pinterest is my biggest referrer. The growth of a pin is exponential. My most popular posts are the ones that have gone viral. Here they are:
- Elizabeth Dehn and One Love Organics re-pinned one of my first ever blog posts and photos (wish I wasn't such a novice with the camera, ha!)
- Lauren Santo Domingo pinned this from Leigh Clair (another pinch me moment- she's a goddess!)
- This pin from my smoothie post was featured in a Pinterest newsletter.
Another way to increase promotion is participating in something called a blog linkup. For the last few months, I, along with a bunch of other bloggers, write about the same topic on the same day, as prompted by the lovely ladies at the B Bar. This is probably the most fun type of promotion because some really great conversations take place, I find new blogs and bloggers, and I get to see things in a different light. Wanna participate? Check out the B Bar for June’s Linkup Topic- they're announcing the topic today!
Ah, and there you have them- the 3 biggest mistakes and lessons I've learned blogging. If you've made it this far, congrats- it was a lengthy post. I think I need a cocktail. Kidding... sort of!
Can any of you relate? And tell me, what are some other lessons you've learned through blogging? I'm sure I'm forgetting lots of things. There's always room for improvement- we can change and adapt as we see fit (I love that aspect of this whole thing!) Blogging is an evolution and journey and I'm glad to be on board! As always, thanks for reading.