The best blogging tips of the year….

Posted By: Alexandra Campbell On: December 10th, 2017 In: Writing & blogging help

What are your best blogging tips of the year? I’ll tell you mine, if you tell me yours.

Britmums is a blogging collective. Although it’s mainly for parenting bloggers, it has some great resources and a fab BML (BritMumsLive) conference every year. I find that most of the advice given by panellists is appropriate to all lifestyle blogs. Currently Britmums have a linky running where you can share your post on the best blogging tips of the year.

If you’re wondering what a ‘linky’ is, it’s a series of linked posts, usually on a single topic, from lots of different blogs. You can submit your own post, and it’s a way of promoting your blog to people who wouldn’t normally see it. And it’s a way of finding interesting posts, you yourself wouldn’t otherwise see.

 Blogging is ‘back’

2017 was the year that blogging ‘came back’ in a big way. A few years ago, people said that ‘blogging was dead’ because people were moving to Instagram, Pinterest and more.

As indeed, they did. But all the social media channels do suddenly change the rules. Instagrammers and Pinners suddenly noticed that they’d lost a big chunk of their audience, apparently overnight, due to an ‘algorithm change’. It’s Instagram or Pinterest’s platform. Their territory, their rules.

But your blog (if you own the domain name and pay for hosting) is your very own. No-one can take you down unless you break the law. If you have a free blog, it belongs to the company that hosts it, such as WordPress, Wix or Blogger (Google) but they don’t seem to change the rules in quite the same way that Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram and others do. If you’ve got X hundred people on your mailing list, they are your readers. It’s between you and them.

Get to grips with Google Analytics

If you have a website or a blog, you need to find out what works and what doesn’t with Google Analytics.

I was in the bottom division in Maths at school. The Maths teacher told me that if there was a division below that, I would have been there. In those days it was called Maths O level and I struggled to pass it. I am not being cute about this. Now that we have established that I am neither numerically literate nor young – if I can understand Google Analytics, anyone can.

Google runs free online Google Analytics courses. But if the sight of any sum in double figures throws you into a panic, then invest in some personal tuition (not from your son/nephew etc). Find a professional who is Google Certified.

I had a one-to-one session of Google Analytics from Mark Jennings at Stormchasers Digital in Rochester. I also won a place at one of their all-day workshops, when I was a finalist in the Kent Creative Live awards, which they sponsor.

Mark explains things very clearly (he needs to, with me). And actually, it’s fascinating. One of the best blogging tips he gave me was to highlight my links in a stronger contrast colour. This immediately increased the number of people reading more than one post.

What does Google Analytics do?

Google Analytics shows you how many readers visited your pages, so I can see that the Middlesized Garden has had just over half a million page views since this time last year.

It also shows where they came from -most Middlesized Garden readers come from search engines or are subscribers, but I get nearly 20,000 page views a year from Pinterest. But only 64 views a year from Instagram! Do I up my Instagram game or spend less time on it?

By the way, if you’d like to improve your use of Pinterest, Jen Stanbrook on Love Chic Living does a very good free online course and other Pinterest training. I’ve learned lots from her.

Analytics can also show you where readers go after they’ve read one post. This is interesting because some posts are successful and people go on to read more posts. Others may be equally popular but don’t seem to inspire readers to go any further.

Analytics tell you how long your pages take to load, what other interests your readers have (homes, interiors, travel, food in my case) and more.

If you’re already using Google Analytics but don’t know where to go after seeing how many people have read your blog this week, go to Behaviour/Site Content/Content Drilldown to find your posts listed in order of popularity. My favourite page.

Stormchasers Digital’s one day courses are £395. They are running some shorter, affordable introductory workshops in 2018, and they have an online video course for £20 a month.

Interact with other bloggers

This is another trend that has ‘come back.’ When blogging started, part of the excitement was the interaction between bloggers. Bloggers quoted each other, commented on each other’s posts and recommended lists of other blogs to follow. It was part of getting your own blog noticed.

Then, as blogging became a business, bloggers started to be more competitive. Why, after all, should you mention and link to another blog? Won’t your readers just go off and read that blog instead? Won’t it be like when your best friend dropped you in Year 8, and became Maisie’s best friend instead?

Well, Google likes to see you link out to other sites, if they’re good, reputable ones. It calculates that it makes you more useful to people.

Then there’s karma. The more you give, the more you get. Bloggers that share on social media are more likely to get shared back.

And when you’re not yourself writing a post, you’ve still got something to offer your social media followers. I actively look for other bloggers’ posts and tweets that I think Middlesized Garden readers would enjoy – and I find interesting things to read in the process. Win, win. (I think most garden blogger interaction is probably on Twitter rather than as comments on blogs…what do you think?)

And there’s being stronger together. Many bloggers are approached by PR companies for reviews or collaborations. What or when should we charge? How should we disclose our fees? And what about when someone steals your posts and puts them up on their own blog? It is all so much easier when bloggers share information or act together when necessary.

Fiskars launch

At the Fiskars’ Make a Terrarium Day with James Wong. Everyone was doing Instagram stories….

Also, you can learn a lot from other bloggers. That doesn’t mean copying them, it means picking up ideas and doing them in your own way. For example, at the Monty Don book launch, we were all taking photographs of the canapes, then Instagramming them. One clever blogger (sorry, can’t remember who, excellent cocktails) Instagrammed us all photographing the canapes. Nice twist – I’ll try to remember to take  more ‘behind the scenes’ pix, too in future.

And when I noticed that the other bloggers at a Fiskars’ How to Make a Terrarium workshop were all doing Instagram stories, I tried it too. I’m not very good at it, though, so follow Hannah Bullivant’s Instagram  Arianna Trapani (Arianna’s Daily) or Julia Rebaudo on Stylonylon to see it done well.

Canapes at Monty Don launch

Canapes at the Ham Yard Hotel for the Monty Don Down to Earth book launch. But the Instagram shot of us all photographing the canapes was much more fun!

Above all, it’s enormous fun to talk to people who do the things you do, and who understand the frustrations you may have.

Do joined-up social media thinking

Connect your social media channels and your blog in a joined-up way. Because we’re all so busy, that means working out a formula so that you don’t forget anything. It helps enormously if your blog name is also your Twitter name, the name of your Facebook Page, your Pinterest Page and so on. It should all lead back to your blog, and your blog should connect out to your social media wherever possible.

So every post gets a Pin (made with Canva.com). I also now include a YouTube video, where relevant. I’ll tweet the post several times, and put it on the Middlesized Garden Facebook Page once. I don’t personally find Instagram gets me a lot of readers, but I know other garden bloggers do. For successful Instagrammers, look at the Anxious GardenerHiggledygarden,  Mr Plant Geek

I looked at lots of other blogs to see how they were positioning their Pins. Some bloggers were putting a Pin near the beginning of the post, with the words ‘No time to read now? Pin for later.’

This seemed like good advice, but a bit distracting. I imagined everyone pinning for later and never reading the post. Then I spotted that Catherine from Growing Family puts her ‘Pin for later’ at the end of the post, which seemed to make much more sense.  So I do that now, although I call it ‘Pin for reference’ as that’s how I think of Pins. Thank you, Catherine.

Best blogging tips – always enter awards

If you’re not in it, you can’t win it. Don’t wait for the perfect post or the magic number of readers. Just do it. The fact is that most people who enter awards don’t win, however wonderful they or their blogs are. Never enter an award with any expectation of winning. But, suddenly, you’ll find yourself short-listed when you least expect it.

Property Press Awards Garden Journalist of the Year

From right: Garden Journalist of the Year 2017 finalists: Nick Bailey (winner), Annie Green-Armytage, me, Stephanie Mahon (Property Trade Press finalist) and Barbara Segall

This year, I was a finalist in the Property Press Awards Garden Journalist of the Year. As the other finalists were Monty Don, Joe Swift, Caroline Donald, Nick Bailey, Veronica Peerless, Annie Green Armytage and Barbara Segall, I didn’t expect to win, but it was huge fun to be short-listed alongside such names. Nick Bailey won it, and we all had another glass of champagne.

I did win one award this year, though, The Kent Creative Live Award for publishing, which I co-won with Faversham Life, a beautiful online magazine about Faversham.

And I’m nominated for UK Blog Awards 2018, so if you could bear to vote for me, I’d be extremely grateful. It’s in the Lifestyle section, which is usually dominated by homes and interiors blogs, so it would be great to see gardening get something. You could vote for Agents of Field, too, who are also nominated. Let’s get two gardening blogs up there! I’m tired of gardening playing second fiddle to homes/interiors/fashion.

Practice video…

All the pundits say that video is going to get bigger and bigger. Like many people, I’ve never been comfortable with seeing myself in photos or on screen, so initially I thought this would stop me vlogging (video blogging).

However, as with everything, it’s just a matter of practice. I’ve been working on the Middlesized Garden’s YouTube channel this year. Video definitely does offer an extra dimension to blogging. And the only way to get over feeling self-conscious in photos and video is try, try and try again. YouTube have lots of excellent video-making advice available free on YouTube Creator Academy.

And when I went to Britmums BML17, there was an excellent session given by YouTube experts. One of their best blogging tips was to do a video ‘challenge’, such as Vlogmas. Vlogmas means uploading a video every day in December, or until Christmas. I’m doing Vlogmas this year, and it’s very time-consuming. But it’s also exciting, and I’m learning so much. The videos are far from perfect, but that’s the whole point. See below for the latest one!

Vlogmas 8 – turn your photos into Christmas cards…

So what are your best blogging tips from the year? Let me know, either in the comments below or on Twitter or Facebook.

Pin for reference:

best blogging tips this year

 

 

 


2 comments on "The best blogging tips of the year…."

  1. Jen says:

    Great post Alexandra, and thanks so much for including me as a best tip. It’s interesting, the point you make about blogging coming back, I hope you’re right 😉

    1. Me, too. And thanks for all your great tips on Pinterest.

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