Friend Friday: Baby Steps to a Better Blog

More traffic. More comments. Advertisers. Money.

Most bloggers desire at least one of these things, and many are hungry for the whole buffet. But when you’re new to blogging and have almost zero experience with blogging software, Web design, and social networking applications, how do you generate readership beyond your mom and BFF?

That’s this week’s Friend Friday* topic—baby steps to a better blog.

How has your blog changed over the months/years you’ve been blogging?
It’s gone from a very personal online journal to a fashion-centered lifestyle blog. It has also gone through several design changes. I really like where I am now. This space and feeling is a lot like my favorite black patent pumps—simple, comfortable, but eye-catching.

Graphic via jollyblogger.typepad.com.

What was one thing you did wrong in the beginning and how have you changed that?
I was a little blogging island. I never read other blogs and and certainly never commented on any. My blog was actually just for me and my circle of friends.

Around the end of last year, believe it or not, is the first time I ventured outside of backyard, so-to-speak, and my blogging experience is all the better for it. I’ve made so many friends and grown my audience hundreds of times over. I visit and interact with others. The reason and the meaning of all this has finally hit me.

When you visit a blog what’s the greatest turn off? The thing that makes you close the tab?
Auto-play music. Long, verbose (and boring) narratives that aren’t presented correctly for the Web. Blogs where every other post is a giveaway of hideous stuff I’m not interested in.

How did you find your voice?
This is a fantastic question. As a writer, I wonder how one can’t? I don’t know, I just write like I think, like I speak. I’m a Southern Greek-American who is married to an Aussie, so there are nuances and colloquialisms that come out in my writing and speech that mix all that up.

I think the best way to truly find your voice as a writer is to be prolific. Write, write, write. Your writing does mature over time and you settle in. And good writers are usually avid readers.

If you had three pieces of advice to give to a new blogger what would those be?

  1. Ask yourself what your intention is with your blog, your ultimate goal.
    Once you answer this question, it becomes much easier to choreograph the steps needed to achieve it. If your goal is to become a full-time, pro blogger, your next steps will be very different from a hobby blogger. You need to invest in a professional template, domain name, etc. You need business cards and a media kit, and you need to network like crazy. Your goal is to increase traffic to increase advertiser interest. You need to approach companies you want to partner with—don’t wait for them to come knocking on your door once you have the stats. You need to understand cost per impression, what is tax-deductible, and how to sell yourself to advertisers.  
    Hobby bloggers, depending on their goals, may only want to learn more about photography or they might strive to build a close-knit relationship with just a few other bloggers through regular commenting. But until you know what you want, it’s hard to proceed. You can’t hit a target you can’t see.
  2. Offer unique, original content.
    For those who think there is no original content (I read this recently), you are dead wrong. Your perspective on everything is your original content. If you love the shows, then try to find an angle no one else is covering. Please do not post the same Givenchy 2010/11 Haute Couture images. We’ve all seen them a million other places.Here’s a tip: when the entire world media covers NY, Milan, and Paris shows, do you really think you can offer a unique perspective? Even I’ve posted favorite looks from a show, but I try to pick lesser-known designers or off-beat looks, because that is what appeals to me.
  3.  

  4. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
    New templates, a new name, a new blogging platform, whatever. Nothing will change if you don’t. So what if you’ve been on Blogger for years. If your platform is fraught with technical difficulties that affect your readers and comments, maybe it’s time to explore something else.Sometimes re-branding yourself or moving is a good thing 
    Recently, Brooke, whose blog was originally named Miss Jones & Me, renamed her blog to Brooklyn’s Britches, then moved it all to WordPress. She’s upgrading in iterations, striving for new things and a better experience. She just dove right in. Another blogger, B of Beautifully Invisible, actually reached out to me for a critique of her blog when she was still on Blogger. She not only took my advice to heart, she ran with it, moving to a self-hosted WordPress.org blog that is refined and professional. I didn’t tell her to do that. But she listened to my advice in terms of layout and her content strategy, what do you know…she’s making the IFB Weekly Roundup pretty regularly now that her stellar content is presented in a shell that says  I am serious.

    Change is scary. But if you want to grow and learn YOU have to do the work. If I actually got paid for the thousands of hours I’ve spent learning blogging and new technology on my own, I feel certain there’d be a new Birkin bag in my closet. The best way to improve is to continue to be curious, to explore, to try. You have to put in the hours. If you don’t take it seriously, no one else will.

Clearly blog improvement is something that is close to my heart, given that I just posted a virtual tome about what I learned from my reader survey. Expect to see more on blog improvement very soon.

*The Friend Friday project by Modly Chic is a way for fashion bloggers to share more about themselves and create a friendly connection with other bloggers. Join the conversation by joining the Fashion Beauty Friend Friday Google Group.

79 comments

  1. “Ask yourself what your intention is with your blog, your ultimate goal. ”

    That is a question that not only a new blogger should ask themselves, but what we all should ask ourselves periodically to make sure our blog stays within the vision of what we want it to be. If your blog isn’t living up to that vision, then, like another great thing you suggested, don’t be afraid to try something new!

    Great answers (as always! 🙂 )

    1. Thank you MJ! You make a good point….a periodic check-in IS a good thing. I don’t know why people are so worried about change. Your fans WILL follow you wherever you go, you know? That’s what a loyal following and all these hours in front of the PC are all about!

  2. Thanks for the shout out V!!! Moving my blog to wordpress was the best thing I could have done. I didn’t realize until I made the move that my fear of change was limiting my development as a blogger. I quickly realized that change is just growth in a scary disguise! Now that I’m happy with both the name of my blog and the platform that hosts it, I feel like I can put all of my effort into branding my blog, developing my voice and refining my vision.
    I’m loving these “Steps to a Better Blog” posts. They’re both informative and motivating. You’re the Queen! xx

    1. No worries, Brooke…thank you! I’m glad you mention in your comment that moving was great for you…so many of us have had the same experience going to WP.

      I realize moving may not work for everyone, but those who choose to stay on Blogger (with its comment malfunctions and quirks), will have to accept the downtime and problems as part of the package.

  3. Your advice is right on. Unique content is KEY. I don’t want to read posts about the same collection over and over. It gets annoying and repetitive. Sure, if something is inspiration, post it. But post what you DID with it like Style Underdog did last week.
    And I totally agree with figuring out your goal. If you want to write, write. If you want to make money, figure it out. Just learn what your goal is with your blog and you’ll be happy with what you figure out.

    1. Thank you Suze! I think we forget to ask ourselves what we want from our blogs. I know it took me YEARS to finally wake up and get focused. Hopefully these posts will help others get themselves together, faster.

  4. Thank you V – i’ve bookmarked this because I’m still stuck in that ‘what now, where now’ and still deciding the direction of my blog. I also once visited that blogging island too, not knowing any better! Ha!
    Have a fab weekend!
    x.o.x.o

  5. Awesome, V! Not only have I bookmarked it but I’ve also sent it as required reading to good friend and brand new baby blogger. Her stuff is hilarious, I love starting my day with her posts, I’m sure others will too!
    Happy weekend!

  6. “Don’t be afriad to try something new”

    I’m not AFRAID to try, it’s more that I am uncertain of how. How do I change to wordpress without losing my current followers? I’ve wanted to do this but I do not know if I can. Or change my name/url – this causes all of my followers to have to relink.. Can this be prevented..? HELP!

  7. As always your answers are great! I really like what you wrote about how new bloggers need to decide what their goal with their blog is. I’m still working through that, and it’s not as easy as I had thought!!
    -Tess

    1. Tess, as I wrote about, it took me YEARS to figure out what the hell I was doing! But as soon as I did, everything started to fall into place. So I know how you feel. You’ll get there.

      Thanks for your comment!

  8. And yet another essential reader for Blogger 101. I am also going to hit up all the Friend Friday posts I can find, because this is such a salient subject.

    An aside: blogger vs wordpress? WHY do you prefer wordpress so much? I was originally on wordpress, but made the swtich to Blogger last December because I didn’t have techy know how to use all the plug-ins, AND blogger is so easy to use AND 9 out of 10 of the “big time” bloggers use Blogger ie Fashion Toast, Style Rookie, The Sartorialist, Karla’s Closet, the Glamourai, the list goes on. Also, Blogger is easier to follow. How many wordpress fashion blogs have NO other way to keep track of their blog other than a “subscribe by email,” or nothing? Most, in my experience. And it’s frustrating. At this point, with so many blogs to read, I want it easy or I’m walking away. And no, I don’t want a lot of emails telling me that so and so posted. So I am not sure why you love the wordpress so much and would love to hear it from you, as I really value your perspective.

    1. Bella, I’ve found both WorPress.com and WordPress.org to have more robust comment management, better bulk post editing, and more sophisticated templates and functionality than Blogger. I see your points and understand your frustration, but having tried Blogger, OnSugar, WordPress.com and WordPress.org, I can honestly say WordPress.org (self-hosted) has been the best for me. There is the slightest learning curve, but that’s a tradeoff I was willing to make for the ability to better manage spam and for maximum customization.

      I’m not sure what you mean by “How many wordpress fashion blogs have NO other way to keep track of their blog other than a “subscribe by email,” or nothing?” WP blogs can be followed the same way, via RSS, Bloglovin’, and I believe there is a Google friend connect plugin for WP as well. I don’t follow blogs through email—my choice is Bloglovin’, and second to that is RSS through a reader. I think these two methods are the most popular. I doubt many people subscribe via email anymore.

      I just created a new Build a Better Blog page that has info and tutorials about moving from Blogger to WP:
      http://www.gritandglamour.com/build-a-better-blog/

      If you really want serious justification (better SEO, etc), you need only Google the topic. There are reams of info out there.

      As always, I value your thoughts and appreciate you asking these questions!

    1. There should be a little arrow you can click on on Comment Luv that will allow you to choose the post linked with your comment. I’ve noticed there is a little bit of a lag…it pulls info via RSS, and there is a small delay as a result.

  9. I was nodding along with every bit of this, but especially about the unique content: if I have to scroll past ONE MORE Project Runway recap (If I was that interested, I’d watch it myself!) or post containing dozens of runway images from Style.com (again, if I want to see them, I’ll just go to Style.com, I don’t need to see them on a thousand different blogs) I’ll… well, I won’t do anything, actually, but you know what I mean.

    I also hear you about the contests. I think a lot of new bloggers have jumped on the idea that “hey, if you give stuff away, you’ll get lots of comments”, and while that may be true (I don’t know, I’ve never tried it, but my instinct is that yes, it’ll get you lots of comments, but they’ll be from people who’ll never read your blog again) it becomes really dull to read, espeically when it’s every other post.

    Sorry, I’m rambling, but once again: great points, well made 🙂

  10. Music is a huge turn off for me, as well. Unless your blog is about music, I say axe the auto-play. I also concur with your emphasis on original content and developing your writing voice. It puzzles me to no end how some blogs go viral without any unique content….

  11. I couldn´t agree more with you about everything. My real turn off are the thousand of blogs talking about the latest trend, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. My favourite, the inspiring ones in my blogroll.
    You are soooooooooooo wise.
    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

  12. I started with blogger as the first thing that popped up in my search engine not really knowing what I was going to do with this blog. I’m debating about switching to WordPress, but I don’t want to loose any of my readers. Since, I’m still new I don’t know how big of a deal it would be for me

  13. Great point about not fearing change – you can tell as a reader those bloggers who have found their voice and take it seriously. The example you gave about Brooklyn’s Bitches really struck a chord; I would love to find a more dynamic name, but inspiration still hasn’t hit! Mine was only ever intended to be short-term, until I got everything established…mind you, I’m still only 6 months in.

  14. Thanks for the advice V! I like my blogger how it is at the moment, but do find it irritating that I can’t reply directly to each person like you can here on your blog!
    I also hate loud music that plays out of nowhere.. it just scares the crap out of me!! haha. Sometimes if it’s really awful music I will just click right off and probably won’t go back there again!
    Hope you have a fab weekend!
    xoxo
    Meg

  15. I was a “blogging island” for months when I started my blog, too. I think (for me, anyway) its hard to know how to get out there and become more interactive. So worthwhile once you start doing it, of course.

  16. wow, i never knew that when you first started you were just sort of blogging for yourself and your friends. that’s the exact opposite of my experience. when i started blogging i didn’t really have any real-life friends that blogged. i found out about 2 after starting mine and then a few others started blogs as well, but none of us are all that involved in each other’s blogs at all. so when i started i had this “must find people to connect with online” mentality right away and i was so scared that no one would ever care to talk to me. =P but i truly love the experience so far.

    anyway, once more you are filled with pearls of wisdom and you leave me marveling how freakin’ smart you are. =)

  17. I have to agree with the point on music; I now visit blogs with my sound turned down or I’m hit with some track I don’t want to hear.
    Re:Bella’s comment, I agree. When I visit a WordPress blog (from Blogger) I have to enter in all my details like Name, Email and Website every single time. Why is that? It ‘s a bit tedious. And correct if I’m wrong ,but I can follow a WordPress blog only on Bloglovin not from the blog itself. Which entails logging into Bloglovin (remembering one more password) then finding the blog address and so on…. Call me lazy but it’s a lot to do. Ok- that’s my rant for the week. I’ll go away now! Happy weekend.

    1. I needed to add that I wish Blogger allowed us to reply to comments like WordPress does and the fact that WordPress picks up the link to the current post on our blog is really handy. But should we judged by the platform we choose for our blog? We are judged on every other aspect of our lives, surely freedom in the blogging world is a given?

      1. You can actually use an outside comment program, like disqus, in blogger and it will allow you to do virtsually the same thing as wordpress comments. I used disqus when I was on blogger, and I actually still use it on wordpress because I like it so much. Check it out if you have a chance.

  18. Thanks V, love reading your tips on blogging. Even if I do know alot already its good to have someone remind you of what you should be doing. BTW. I’m editing leeoliveiraTV as we speak so the first video will be coming shortly. A behind the scenes look at a photo shoot I did recently. Yes, I do appear in it along with the model. When people ask me what’s the best advice I could give them about blogging I always say “original content is key” I am hopefully switching templates this weekend so let me know what you think after I am done.

    LOx

    1. Thanks Lee…cannot WAIT to see your video! Your site looks sensational. I am stunned, really at what you’ve done so quickly. You are kickin’ @ss and takin’ names!

  19. Making the leap to WP and teaching ourselves a new blogging platform was the best thing we’ve done for our little blog baby! “You can’t hit a target you can’t see.” Oh so true!

  20. Fantastic post as usual! Your advice to figure our one’s goal for the blog is essential. I’ve been thinking a lot about why I blog and what my blogging goals are. So far my answers are kind of nebulous, but hopefully the more I blog the more it will come together.
    It’s been interesting reading the comments too, especially the blogger vs. wordpress issue. I started out as a self hosted blog on wordpress, mostly because I read that that was the thing to do and it really wasn’t all that expensive, so I don’t have any hands on experience with anything else.
    Lots of food for thought!

    1. Heather, thanks for your comment! It’s probably a good thing you started self-hosted. I wish I had, but I learned a lot along the way. I think most bloggers end up going that route…it’s the only way to really tailor a blog to you. Otherwise, you’re stuck with a template. I don’t know about others, but I don’t like uniforms.

  21. “When you visit a blog what’s the greatest turn off? The thing that makes you close the tab?
    Auto-play music.”

    Oh my gosh, I could not agree more. I HATE auto-play music. It totally discourages me from visiting certain blogs, especially when it’s late at night or when it’s always the same song. It really ruins the blog for me, which is unfortunate because the content could be really worth the read!

    Your posts are always so insightful, and I find myself going YES YES YES to so many of your points.

  22. As usual, wonderful post V – and thanks for the mention. Your input was invaluable to me when I began self-critiquing my blog, and for that I will forever be grateful!

    I agree wholeheartedly about the auto-play music. I forgot to mention that on my post. Fortunately, I don’t run into that very often. My biggest turn-off is actually bad grammar! That is the one thing I can not fathom, regardless of how good a design or content may be. If you can’t write – I won’t read it!

    Actually – I agree with everything you said. Your 3 pieces of advice are right on (and mirror some of my own). “Don’t be afraid” was a theme in both of our posts!

    You should add a “build a better blog” page to your page list – you have given a ton of great advice on the subject, and that survey post really left me speechless. You are a remarkable resource for bloggers wishing to improve!

  23. I really enjoyed reading this post. I have read a few of your other articles (on IFB) all are very helpful and informative,.

    For those of us starting out, do have any additional information (articles, links etc) on the topic of hobby vs professional blogging? As a non-tech savvy person who just started a blog I have an idea of where I’d like my blog to go but there is so much information out there sifting through it and finding relevant info (like articles on your site!) is sometimes quite frustrating. Did you learn by trial and error or do you have articles that helped you along the way?

    Thanks,
    Em K

  24. Very cool. I just started doing blog design, that’s what my blog has evolved into. I worked hard on mine and people liked it, and now I do theirs, for a little side business. So, it’s really cool, I didn’t see it going this way, but it did and it’s super cool!

  25. V, thank you for another wonderful post on G&G. I am constantly impressed and feel very inspired after reading your blog! I am just in the midst of transitioning my blog to full time (God willing, we’ll see how it goes!) and am actually doing what you mentioned – name cards, etc. Great advice.

    Oh and a little off topic, but I had no idea you were part Greek! That’s so cool, I’ve always wanted to go to Greece, it looks amazing. 🙂

    Renee

    1. Wow, thank you Renee! I just created a new Build a Better Blog page that might help you:
      http://www.gritandglamour.com/build-a-better-blog/

      Good luck! I admire your courage and I’m sure you’ll do just fine. You’ve got a great blog.

      Oh, and yes, I’m not just part Greek, I’m 100% Greek, first-generation American born. Greece is lovely, but the U.S. is my home. Gorgeous to visit, though!

  26. V–Can you make a post or comment on this topic you mention briefly:

    “You need to approach companies you want to partner with—don’t wait for them to come knocking on your door once you have the stats. You need to understand cost per impression, what is tax-deductible, and how to sell yourself to advertisers.”

    1. Courtney, I’m not sure what it is you’re after when you ask me to comment on the quote above. What is it that you want to know more about?

      1. I guess my general wonderings on this topic are mostly about how you approach companies for partnerships or reviews. Can you just email their PR person? How do you seek them out? How do you approach them is basically what I want to know. Does that make it a wee bit more clear? I don’t even know what I’m talking about sometimes! LOL

        1. OK Courtney…well, since I have not monetized my blog, I’m not really the person to respond to this. There is a ton of info on IFB about this very topic, however. I’d jump over there and see. I think Kristina of Pretty Shiny Sparkly and Ashe of Dramatis Personae would be two ladies who know a lot about this subject.

  27. hey, I’ve just spent a while exploring your blog, theres some really well thought out advice on here! I loved your Mini Moo business cards and 5 things I learned about blogging posts. I’m gna go out on a limb and be a bit cheeky now – I dont suppose you could have a look at my newish blog and give me some critique like you did for B? I’d really appreciate some constructive criticism, and I like your style a lot.

    love Rio
    http://www.rioalexandra.blogspot.com
    xxx

  28. Right now I’m in the process of taking my big-fish, little-pond blog into the real, big world of fashion blogging, and I’m reading up on your huge compilation of Build a Better Blog articles… And I felt like your number 3 really hit home! I’m looking at a new site design, name, rehaul of topics, and I’m feeling daunted but determined… It is time for me to try something new and whip my complacency into shape… So thank you for your articles, they are a huge help to me! I feel like I’m getting just the buck-up, big-sister style advice I needed <3

    1. Thanks, Jenn! And welcome. Be sure to reach out if you have any questions. So many fellow bloggers are a wealth of information.

  29. Thank you for the helpful advice, I’m a bit of a struggling blogger in the wide world of beauty blogging. I really love what I do but have a hard time “finding my voice”. My focus this year is to add a bit more personal content and to engage with my audience more. Thanks again.

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