Since launching Blogging For Keeps almost a YEAR ago (WHAT?!) we’ve received questions on hundreds of blogging topics. But one thing all of these questions have in common? At the end of the day, everyone wants to know–what is going to make the most impact? What are the most important things to have to make your blog successful?
Of course, Blair and I are still asking these questions ourselves! No matter where you’re at with your blog, you always want to know how to grow faster, how to improve, and how to continue to make it the best it can be.
We don’t know everything there is to know–not even close! But, between us, we have more than 6 years of blogging experience under our belts, and can confidently say that these 5 factors really made the difference in taking our blogs from “OK” to where they are today.
Keep in mind, these five points are extremely broad, but we hope that they’ll be a road map to guide you in prioritizing your goals over the next year! When we made these shifts in our blogs–that’s when we started to see real growth.
Let’s jump in, yes?
Refining your focus
I’ve heard this piece of advice over, and over, and OVER again. I looked at my favorite blogs who covered tons and tons of topics and thought, “why can’t I be that way? I love this and this and this and this and this and I’m going to write about ALL of it!”
The truth is, if you’re covering too many subjects, this doesn’t just make it harder for you to focus as a blogger, but it makes it hard to grow your audience. Think of it like this–you’re one little fish in 15 big ponds. How are you going to focus on growing your audience size when you have 15 different lakes to keep an eye on?
But what about one fish in one pond? That’s much easier to grow then, isn’t it? Because you don’t have 15 things to focus on.
Plus, another thing to consider–if you cover 15 different topics, and someone clicks through Pinterest on say, a healthy food recipe pin, and they get to your site, and find a style post, a shopping post, and a career post, but no food post on your home page, they’re going to leave, because your site lacks focus–it isn’t that relevant to that particular person.
If they click through and see 5 other healthy food posts full of recipes they want to try out, they’re most likely going to sign up for your news letter, follow you on Instagram and be your new biggest fan.
Does this mean you can’t cover multiple topics? Of course not! Blair and I do! But you do need to do some thinking to define what your common thread is going to be throughout all of them. What lens are you going to look at these topics through?
Some examples: Perhaps advice for a budget-conscious life that include the topics of style, cooking, traveling and entertaining, all on a budget? A classic style blog for moms and kids? An everyday, attainable, style-focused lifestyle blog that twenty and thirty-something women can go to for everyday inspiration? (Can you guys who the last one pertains to ;-))
Basically, like anything, you want to have a common theme for your brand. This helps not only build a loyal audience who knows they can rely on you to produce content that they want to see, but it also makes it much easier for you to figure out what your brand does and doesn’t represent.
Now, I want to throw out this caveat–sometimes, this can take time. It took us both quite a bit to figure this out, to narrow our focus. This might take some trial and error, so don’t be hard on yourself if this process is a little tricky for you in the beginning.
Learning to be yourself
This is hard for any blogger, especially when you’re first starting out–but this, out of every other tactic listed in this post, is what has allowed me to build a loyal audience. This might not be as effective in getting new people to your site (like catchy post titles and pretty pictures will do!) but it’s the best thing you can do to keep your readers coming back for more.
I just conducted a reader survey (you can learn how to do that in this post!) and the #1 reaction I got from people? They keep coming back because they feel like they know me as a person. (Which, by the way, is the nicest thing I’ve ever heard, and still boggles me.) I even asked my readers what other blogs they like to follow, and the vast majority listed sites that were similar to mine, because they liked the bloggers voice and they felt a personal connection to them.
So, although it might be really hard to put yourself out there on the internet for everyone to judge, it’s what is going to make your audience feel connected to you!
Really learning photography
You’re rolling your eyes at me. “Really learning photography”–really? Just listed as a checkbox that is so easy to check off.
Believe me, it’s not. Photography is still my biggest struggle as a blogger. I am constantly asking my other blog friends questions like, “does this look good?” and “how should I be editing this photo”?
So, out of everyone–I get it. It’s hard, and it’s a constant learning curve. But the more you practice, the better you’ll get.
However, it was when I really started to learn how to use my camera, when I learned Lightroom, and when I continued to invest in better equipment as I went–that I really started seeing a difference in my traffic, specifically through Pinterest and on Instagram.
The sad truth: If your pictures aren’t pretty–people are going to click away. That’s just the long and the short of it. So, if you’re asking “Do I need a DSLR camera?” and “Do I need to invest in that better lens?” and “Do I really need to buy Lightroom?”
Yes, you do. And it’s not enough to just have the camera–you need to learn how to use it, too! Shooting in manual mode is a must. Using the right editing software is a must. It makes a huge difference.
Using the right tools
This brings me to my next point–there were certain tools that really made a difference in our blogs. Here are the biggest ones that stand out, and where I would recommend focusing first.
You saw us write about that in this post on how to skyrocket your Pinterest traffic. I’m still shocked at how many people still ask us, “but do I REALLY need Tailwind?”
YES! It has made such a difference in my traffic. Like, insane. Pinterest is my biggest source of referral traffic and it has increased ten fold since I signed up for Tailwind–I know Blair echoes the same sentiments! I think this is the quickest way to up your blog traffic, in my personal opinion.
Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop:
Another one we get a lot of eye rolling at. Do you have to pay $9.99 per month (the equivalent of two Starbucks lattes?) for the Adobe photography package that includes Lightroom and Photoshop?
No! Of course not. It’s a free country. But if your blog isn’t worth two Starbucks lattes to you, and you’re sitting there wondering why why it isn’t taking off….?
You catch my drift, right?
Lightroom is what we used to edit all of our blog photos, and Photoshop for creating collages and graphics. There’s really nothing that touches them in terms of quality–no ifs, ands, or buts!
VSCO app filters & Lightroom presets:
You’re probably familiar with the VSCO editing app (which we both use) but did you know they also have Lightroom presets? We both started using these awhile back, and they’ve really allowed us to create our own unique aesthetic!
If you’ve been reading this site for awhile, you know that WordPress.org (NOT .com!) is our #1 recommended website platform. If you want to learn more about the benefits of WordPress vs other platforms, you can read our comparison right here. We also have a whole online course about building and growing an awesome blog on WordPress, called “Hobby to Hustle.”
When I first started out, I didn’t want to pay for WordPress, so I started on Blogger. Then, I knew I needed a better design, but the process of creating my site on WordPress was too daunting (I don’t know anything about coding! What is hosting?!) so I moved to Squarespace. Months later, I knew it still looked like an amateur blog, but waited a year to finally make the move.
If I would’ve started on WordPress at the beginning, it would’ve been so. Much. Easier. If you’re not on WordPress, but you’re thinking of making the switch, do it sooner rather than later. The longer you wait, the more complicated it gets!
WordPress really took my blog to the next level aesthetically.
If you want to get started on WordPress, but aren’t sure how, see this post, which walks you through how to set everything up!
Having the right mindset
Like anything, the biggest obstacle in your way is likely you.
When we start anything new and unknown, we make up excuses as to why we will fail, why we aren’t good enough, and we play the comparison game over, and over, and over. We hinder our growth, and give up before we even get started. Do you know anyone who succeeded in anything with that mindset? I certainly don’t!
The sooner you stop believing the excuses and lies you’re telling yourself–the faster you’ll be able to get your blog to a place you’re really, really proud of! (By the way we wrote a whole post on the lies you need to stop believing right here!) Own it! You can do this, I promise.
Additionally, part of having the right mindset is being proactive with a plan. If you want your blog to be more than just a hobby, then don’t treat it like one. Treat it like a business. Create goals, and stick to them. Map out a plan for how you’ll get from point A and point B! If you haven’t set your goals for 2017 yet, check out this blog post, where we discuss how to set yourself up for success in your goal-setting!