On How to Grow Your Blog...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Alt Summit was amazing. I can say with 100% honesty, it is so, SO worth the investment if you are interested in monetizing your blog or if you just want to be inspired to be a better blogger. Really - for the job opportunities alone. There was major networking happening all over.

Plus! It was SO fun to finally meet almost all of my blogging friends in real life. If you're on the fence about going next January, shoot me an email and I'll do my best to pressure you further!

All images courtesy of the Alt 2011 Flickr stream

Lots of you asked for a recap on my presentation. I know not all of you readers are bloggers, and as I learned from my survey, only 2% of you have blogs that make you money. So, I apologize if the following is not very interesting. Come back tomorrow for a great post about using sheets as curtains! You're in for a treat.

I spoke about building a blogging community on a panel with Meg from A Practical Wedding, Danielle from The Jealous Curator and Sarah from Babble. It was such a fun group of ladies. We all have very different blog communities and goals, so it was cool to learn from each other and to be able to speak from unique vantage points.


Sarah, Meg, me, and Danielle

It would take forever to write out everything I talked about in my presentation, but here's an outline (still very long) of what I discussed for building traffic or developing a deeper more meaningful community on your blog. Kindly note that I do not consider myself an expert on building a blogging community. I developed the following ideas from talking with other bloggers, reading your survey responses and also a bit from my own adventures in blogging, which started in late 2007.

1. Preliminary idea: Set goals and maintain the right prospective. What is the end goal for writing a blog? The most traffic possible? A book deal? New friendships? New clients? Build your blog and develop your posts with your end goal in mind. Reevaluate often. "Am I getting closer to or further away from my goal?"

2. Part 1: Capture new readers

a) Most of you found my blog through a blog roll! So great! Let's all share the blog love and keep up blog rolls of our own. If you are intimidated by the sheer number of people who want to be on your blog roll, consider having two - a favorites and a rotating (monthly or quarterly) list of new to you blogs.

b) Make your content buzzworthy so that other bloggers will want to share. What do I mean by buzzworthy?

i) Truly original content (try to post something completely yours at least once a week). Or at least put a really unique spin on the same photos that get recycled on blogs.

ii) Think about common problems (something someone would google to find out) and find solutions to those problems through your blog. "How to paint vintage furniture" or "How to sew pinch pleat drapes" or "How to shop at a flea market" etc.

iii) Start a conversation that other bloggers will want to continue. The two examples I used were Lauren's Design Price Points post and Chelsea's idea to stop complaining.

c) Get posted on a bigger blog. It's hard to get a more golden ticket than that. A HUGE stream of traffic is your big chance. Submit never-before-seen projects to Design*Sponge or Apartment Therapy and see what happens. If they don't bite, choose a big blog with your same aesthetic. Chances are, their readers will love your blog, too. Some words of wisdom though, from a gal who gets dozens of emails about this very thing every day:

i) If you're using comments/tweets to get a blogger's attention, make sure you have an interesting and unique sign-in name. And make your comments funny and sweet. Just be thoughtful.

ii) Try to network offline. Go to blogger parties or conventions. Be friendly and pass out your business card!

iii) Speaking for myself, I would skip the urge to send an email to your favorite blogger just introducing yourself and your blog. Try to only email if you have something specific to share (like a post idea) or a question to ask. Use the blogger's actual name, spelled correctly, and make the email as personal as possible. Don't say:

"To whom it may concern,
Please post about my crocheted baby diaper covers available for sale in my etsy shop. I read your blog from start to finish so you owe me one. I can offer a give away for free shipping to one lucky shopper?
Let me know by noon. Thanks."

Flattery (as long as it is sincere) gets you everywhere. I asked Joanna for a quote on this subject and she said the exact same thing! We also agreed that submissions should be more subtle. Don't ask a blogger outright to post something.

Do say:

"Dear Jenny,
I love your blog. I open up LGN first thing in the morning every day. And I cried when I read the post about Evie's birth! What a touching story.
I just wanted to share a project with you that I recently finished. I thought it would be right up your alley since I know how much you love ikat. Here's a link to my Flickr stream.
Thanks for all the inspiration!
Love,
Kate."

Nice, right? That would probably be my favorite email of the day! Remember that you catch more flies with honey...


Interviewing with a local SLC news channel, we talked a little about my new entry.

d) Consider guest posting on a complimentary blog (like, maybe I would post a flower arranging tutorial on a wedding blog). You're capturing like-minded readers.

e) Keep the new readers on your site for a long first stay. Try to link back to old posts often. Put up your most successful posts in your side bar. Add a Link Within widget to the bottom of your posts. Expose the new readers to as much of your blog that first visit as possible so they can get a real vibe for your voice and your style.

f) Other things to consider: Don't get too personal, but also don't be too private. Readers want to know about your life within the context of your blog, no more, no less. Also, post as consistently as possible. I try my best to post Monday through Friday, with posts going live at 5:30 am EST. Also, try hard to avoid spelling and grammatical errors. None of us are perfect, but a little effort goes a long way here.

3. Part 2: Make those readers want to come back!

a) Understand your readers:

i) Who are your readers? What kind of content do they especially love? Or hate? When do they read your blog (morning? night? at the office?)? How did they find your blog? How many posts do they want to read per day?
Do a survey to answer these questions! Thousands of you filled out my survey and it was SO helpful and informative! If you're just wanting basics though, you can find out the demographics of your readership on Alexa. My readers, not surprisingly, are mostly women, between the ages of 28 and 34, with children and with college educations.

b) Read other design blogs with your aesthetic to make sure you're not overlapping on post ideas. There are so so many design blogs these days, I'm finding it's easy to post about the same things, even if you're trying to be original.

c) My husband and I talk about the idea of Blogger Capital a lot. If you think about your blog posting schedule as a bank account, and your posts as deposits and withdrawals, try your hardest to keep a positive balance on the account. For example, a post with 100% original content would be a major deposit. A post about a new sponsor could be a pretty big withdrawal if it wasn't presented right, with no new take away information for your readers.


4. Finally, remember that blogging can sometimes get a little old. Life gets in the way. Or you're simply feeling uninspired. Things that help me more forward:

a) My mantra is 'I can't do it all, but I can do a lot.' I know I say this all of the time, but it makes me feel better every time I get overwhelmed with commitments (which, sadly, is a lot of the time. Don't judge.). And actually, I'm most productive on the days I remind myself of my motto!

b) Focus back on those goals we already talked about. Want to know one of my big goals? I would love to write a big ol' FAT book about decorating a house, from start to finish, top to bottom. Scrapbook style.

c) Celebrate what you've built! Remember when your blog readership consisted of you, your husband and your mom and dad? I sure do. It's amazing how technology is providing a way for us to communicate with so many people every single day.

d) Remember what inspired you originally. I love interiors!! I always will. I still get all giddy when I flip through a new Elle Decor or when I walk in to a thrift store I haven't visited in a while. Get back to basics and post about that common passion you share with your readers.

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