The Average Blogger's Guide to Blogging

I have been toying with this idea for a post for a little while (actually, it's sat in draft for about 6 months now). It is one of those topics I don't think really falls into things we usually talk about here, on my blog. I do not claim to have an awesome blog, or even an overly popular one, just your average DIY/lifestyle blog. But after nearly 5 years of blogging I have learned a few things and managed to appeal to some people (obviously, if you are reading this) so I want to pass on some of those things I've found help make a blog successful. Keep in mind these are all things that are coming from a person who has done everything on her blog by herself. I am not at all computer savvy and don't spend extra money on fancy software or designers to make my blog the way I want it. So these are simple tips for the average blogger (like me!).

If most of these seem like common sense, I apologize, but the truth is that most things in this world only take a little common sense or someone to point out the obvious! So here are my pointers, in no particular order.

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Growing up I never kept a diary. I tried, but I just didn't have any interest in writing, specially not on a regular basis. I do not feel writing is my strong suit, and do not feel that you have to be an expert writer or even an overly good one at that to be a blogger. But the only thing that will keep you coming back and working on your blog is by blogging about subjects, people or topics you are passionate about. I have seen the most successful bloggers accomplish some truly remarkable dreams, and I am sure you can agree, it is because their passion is contagious! Once it feels like a chore or a duty I can only imagine how painful it must be to force yourself to do it, so focus your energy on whatever keeps you excited, interested, involved in your blog.

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You do not have to be a professional photographer, nor do you have to take classes on the subject. But the BIGGEST thing that conveys your passion is pictures. In a way they represent you and your blog. I believe that if you are going to spend any money at all on your blog you will not regret spending it on a high quality camera (even a used one if you prefer!). I shoot all my blog photos with my 4 year old bruised and beaten Canon Rebel, which is simply an entry level DSLR camera. I would have liked to open up the box and immediately take awesome photos, but the truth is that it takes time and practice. After getting comfortable with it and continuing to learn how to improve my photos (through nothing more than trial and error) I feel that this has been the best investment in not only my blog, but in documenting and capturing memories for my family. Before we bought this camera I actually had zero interest in photography, and now it is one of my favorite hobbies.

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Social media makes it really easy and fast for a photo to take on a life of it's own, and if you took it you kinda want some credit. I have found my pre-watermarked images on everything from etsy listings to other people's blog headers, but that isn't even the main reason I watermark. When you complete a project, recipe or even just take a pretty photo that appeals to somebody it may end up on sites like Pinterest, or saved to somebody's computer. Watermarking makes it easy for people to remember where they found that great idea/photo/whatever and come back to check out your site. New readers can discover your fabulous idea on Pinterest and want to know what other gems are awaiting them on your blog if they know where to find you. I don't recommend plastering your watermark across the front and center of every image, but just in a corner or somewhere not too distracting. To add it you can go with something as simple as Microsoft paint or try photoshop if you are more experienced. I like using Photobucket's online editor when I upload my photos.

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No, I'm not talking about the content!! I mean your layout. It is easy to over crowd your sidebar and pop an ad between each post but every so often try and go through and declutter. I find that the blogs I enjoy visiting often are easy to navigate, tidy and aren't all bogged down with sidebar content. I find that I have to do this every 6 months or so and really re-evaluate what is useful or not necessary. This is totally a personal preference though, of course. I do think it can relate to your posts as well though in that a ton of sponsored posts/giveaways/freebies might be a quick way to earn some cash but can really turn off readers. FAST. It's important to evaluate who you want to partner with and think of your long term game plan. It's tempting to agree to a ton of freebies but I'd rather be selective and work with brands/partners that really bring something to my 'brand' as well when it comes to post content.

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I think this is one of the areas that I struggle with the most. Blogging by nature is all 'meeee, me, look at me' which is not really my personality in real life. But the most enjoyment I have gotten out of blogging is connecting with people. And folks tend to engage more when you share more! This can feel like a struggle when you are a naturally private person, and I am not recommending you air all your dirty laundry, but try to open up and talk about your dreams, ambitions, happy moments so people have a chance to get to know the person behind the blog.

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Does your blog have to portray you as a perfect wife/mom/human? Absolutely not! None of us are perfect, or probably even close (unless your name is Martha). But even when I'm having the crummiest of crummy days I try not to let it seep into my blog. It has nothing to do with what I want you to think about me, but why would I want to rub my crappy day off on you? The blogs I love the most are all written in a positive, fun tone, which is exactly what I want to read when I am trying to turn my day-from-hell around. If you want to share something deep or a difficult time you've had on your blog I think that it can be a great support system, not to mention therapeutic. But daily, trivial stuff really isn't worth the energy it takes to write in the grand scheme of things. Sugar coating your life? not a good idea. But I'm not really into reading or writing about toddlers melting down in a grocery store because I've been there... lots and I'm sure you have too. I'd rather show you how angelic she looks when she's napping if that's all I can take out of my day.

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If you have a great blog but don't see a lot of traffic, don't let it get you down. Stay with it, keep producing good content, interact with blogs you admire and soon enough people will recognize what you are doing. The one thing I like to remember is that I'd rather have 100 awesome readers who are genuinely interested in me (even if it is mostly family and friends) than have 100,000 readers who aren't rooting for me. All good things take time, but the most gratifying thing about blogging is being able to go back and look at a snapshot of your life just a couple years ago. A moment you may have forgotten, or a funny story you don't remember often are so wonderful to find as you go back through your archives which is why it all comes back to my first pointer (passion). Do it for you and nobody else.

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So those are my super basic take aways from the last 5 years, I hope they are helpful to somebody. Like I said, not earth-shattering or ground breaking, and definitely obvious. But if you have any additional questions about things like sponsors, photography, etc. let me know, I'd love to address any further questions in the comments.

And please chime in with any helpful blogging tips you've learned along the way as well!