Blog lessons – Blogging 101 “Success has to happen on purpose.”
A man who was born in Brazil in 1940, before the time of motivational posters and internet memes, once declared, “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” The man I’m referring to had already established himself as a world class athlete and would eventually claim his place in history as the greatest Soccer player (or Football player, for my non U.S. readers) of all time. I’m, of course, talking about Edson Arantes do Nascimento; better known as Pelé. If you really want to be motivated, check out the movie, “Pele: Birth of a Legend”
I bring him up because running a business requires motivation in spades and that guy was a bastion of determined will. Make no mistake, a blog is a business. Sure, this one isn’t making much money yet… or any money. In fact it’s costing money, but all business ventures start out that way. Without the right motivation, it’s easy to find yourself being chewed on by the jaws of doubt. Questions like, “Am I good enough?”, “How am I going to pay my mortgage?”, “Is this thing too much of a gamble?” all roll around in your head.
Thinking about what Pelé said, though, buttresses my own resolve. If I’m successful at running this business, it will have to be on purpose. The rest will fall into place because I do love what I’m doing and learning to do. I will make it happen!
Lessons Learned: Moves, Adds & Changes
In my December 2017 update, I talked about a slight change in direction for getNOMSblog. I spent January retooling the backend layout a little to reflect my new goals. Still learning the ins and outs of the technical side of blog and web page design, I know I still don’t have things set up right but I feel good about the direction I’m going. The next several sections talk about the changes I made, why I made them and what I learned from all of that.
The Top Menu
- Added a heading called “People”. Under that item, I added a listing for the three types of people whose stories I intend to tell on getNOMSblog: Home Cooks, Food Business Folks and Charity Workers.
- Removed the “Recipes” header and replaced it with “Noms”. I may not be posting recipes going forward, but I don’t want to throw away the few that I already have. It made sense to put those into a category with the occasional Ingredient Spotlight that I write.
- The “Resources” heading is the same, but the page you land on when you click there is different and still under construction. Rather than creating one large page filled with lists of resources, my new tactic will be to create blog posts that discuss various resources for my target audience. Those posts will be linked on the Resources page in a menu form to make them easier to find and use.
I kicked social media into high gear this month. A dedicated Facebook page was already established, so I created Twitter and Pinterest accounts. I retooled my personal LinkedIn account to reflect my work on the blog. Considering whether I should go ahead and create a business page there, I would be able to keep my personal page for my other entrepreneurial ventures like Freelance Writing. That needs a bit more planning, I think.
Social Media is vital to any small business, like this blog or like a restaurant, food truck or home-based catering company. It’s so important that I wrote this post about it. I plan to add more content on this subject as the blog grows. There’s just a lot to talk about in that area!
I have been investigating tools that could help me manage the different platforms I’m on. I’m currently using Buffer to schedule posts for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and I have a trial version of Hootsuite that I’m checking out. More experimentation is needed for me to figure out which one is better. I’m also using a trial version of Tailwind right now for Pinterest. This is something I’m going to have to get better at because Pinterest is starting to drive a good bit of the traffic I’m seeing on getNOMSblog. A lot of bloggers I’ve talked to swear by it.
I had a plugin that made the various social media buttons float in the upper-right corner of the blog. They would float down the page as you scrolled, no matter what page you were on; a cool feature. And I could color them orange to match the blog theme colors. I didn’t like them because they were just kind of… gaudy. The plugin also wasn’t very efficient, and I want all my pages to be able to load quickly. I replaced those buttons with a plugin called “AddtoAny” – I choose not to think of it as looking like everyone else. Rather, I like to think of it as more “traditional”. It isn’t necessarily a good thing to be different just for the sake of being different.
Graphics & Images
- Image Creation & Branding: The way I create and attach images hasn’t changed, but designing their look and feel is a bit of an evolving process. I started to add a small, stylized banner to the bottom of most of the images I attach to blog posts. I feel like this brands that image as mine no matter where it shows up. It looks like this:
- Optimizing for Pinterest: I’m learning that a lot of blog traffic is generated from Pinterest, so I’m trying to do a better job making sure my pictures look good when they’re pinned. I also added a “Pin It” button to the blog that makes it easy for my readers to pin any images they like. Because of that, I’ve been curating the “alt text” attribute a bit more closely in each image. That means when the image is pinned, the “comments” section of the pin gets filled in with text that I want there; text that makes the pin more searchable on Pinterest. That’s part of something we bloggers call, “SEO”, or “Search Engine Optimization.” It’s all the rage these days!
- Canva: This is the free online tool I use to design most of my images. I typically snatch the original image from one of the free online image sites like Pexels, Pixabay or Unsplash. Right now, I also use Gimp to do any further editing. It’s kind of like the poor man’s PhotoShop, and I am definitely a poor man. I mostly use it because I’m familiar with it and it gets the job done.
The first couple months, I tried to post two times per week. It was necessary to build up some content on the blog. But my posts tend to be fairly long (average 1500+ words), and have a good bit of research behind them. Because of that, I made the decision only to post once per week on Thursdays. That gives me the time I need to give each post the attention it deserves, take care of other parts of the business and maintain the tenuous hold I have on my sanity.
Newsletter & Mailing List
If you ask anyone who has been blogging successfully for any length of time, they will tell you that one of the most important parts of your blog is your mailing list. Up to this point, I had a sign up box stuck over in the sidebar on the main page where people could put in their email address and follow getNOMSblog. Whenever I would publish a new post, they would get an email with the complete contents, minus ads, of the new post. I had about 8 people on that list. Those people included my wife, son, mom and me. Two of them were friends and the rest were people who found my blog and took the time to subscribe.
Deciding it was time to invest in my email list, I spent January researching ways to do this. I boiled my options down to two services; ConvertKit and MailChimp. Ultimately, I went with MailChimp. It has enough features to do what I need to do, comes highly recommended by several other bloggers and best of all, it’s free to get started with.
One thing I’ve learned about blogging is always to try the free option first. Find out what it has to offer and how you can use it to your advantage. That will key you in to whether or not you need the premium version or if you need a different product altogether.
Now, I have a brand new sign-up form. It’s still right there in the same place as the other one; in the sidebar under the little blurb about my wife and me. Chances are, you didn’t even notice the change, but hey, I write these updates so I can look back at the blog and see what happened! I may eventually turn that form into a pop up window that happens after someone has been on the blog for a few minutes. I’m told it will increase my mailing list sign up a bunch, but I really hate pop ups. I’ll have to give this one some real thought.
There’s also this handy link that I can add to social media that will allow people to sign up for the newsletter without going to the blog first. Click here to check that out. While you have that window open, go ahead and sign up! It’s free.
Advertisements and Affiliates
If you came here last month, you may have noticed an Amazon ad running along the right side of the page. You may have seen a Google ad running in the top or bottom part of the home page. Well, I took them away. They were ugly and I didn’t like them. Sure, I want to monetize the blog at least enough so that it will pay for itself, but I haven’t settled on whether ad placement like that is the right way to make this happen.
Taking a look at some of my posts, you’ll see ads for some Amazon books that I recommend. I like those because I can recommend books that I’ve read or that are on my ‘To Read’ list. I’ve linked to a few that have simply been recommended to me as suggested reading. If you click on any of those links and buy one of those books, I receive a small commision from Amazon. In fact, if you click on one of those links and buy anything from Amazon, they will show me a little love just for sending them the traffic. Please make it a point to do that and support my cause! I would sure appreciate it. Those ads look something like this:
I have been investigating other affiliate programs as well. Before I post any of them, though, I want to make sure they offer quality products that I can stand behind. I couldn’t live with myself if I knew I was promoting bad products/services, or supporting a company that had poor values.
One last thing about using affiliates – I just learned that I have to post a disclaimer on the blog stating that I promote them to make money. I added that to the right side of the page under my newsletter sign up. I went a step further and created a whole page that details the legal rules as well as my rules for using affiliates, and I will be keeping a running list of all affiliate programs I’m a member of there. So if you feel like helping me out, you can go there and make a purchase from one of those companies!
Scheduling & Time Management
This isn’t something a reader of getNOMSblog might see, but it’s a fairly big deal to me. You can’t run a business successfully and be disorganized. I’ve quickly learned that working for yourself isn’t like working for someone else where you’re given directions for a task, a deadline to keep or a vision to follow. You have to provide those things for yourself!
There are dozens of time-consuming things to do in order to build and operate a blog. If you don’t pick out a logical and reasonable order to do those things in, then figure out a way to organize your thoughts around that list, then you’ll find yourself trying to do all the things all the time and all at once. You’ll reach the end of the day and wonder how in the hell you were so busy and still got so little done.
I could write an entire post about this (heck, there have been entire books written about this!) but I’ll keep it condensed for now and just talk about what I did to get organized.
- Created a calendar for the business and added a dedicated sub calendar for each category of tasks. These include:
- Blog Post Schedule: I have scheduled my next several blog posts – all the way up through the end of May, in fact. It’s good to know what you’re going to be working on and to have a posting strategy
- Bills and Subscriptions: Everything from my web hosting, to plugins to productivity software is listed along with when the payments are due and how much they are. I have a recurring quarterly task to audit all subscriptions. That’s when I make sure I have everything recorded properly and that I’m still using the things I’m paying for. If there’s a plugin or something I’m not using, this stands as a reminder for me to cull that from my expenses.
- Communication and Collaboration: I’m always open to this, but I set aside time on Tuesdays specifically to look for new people to work with or to follow up with people who may owe me a reply to something or vice versa. I call this my “Touch Base Tuesday”.
- Social Media Schedule: I use this to schedule when I will post, repost and curate my blog articles to various social media accounts. You can’t just Tweet out your blog post once and hope people see it. Studies show that it’s best to Tweet your new blog post when you publish it, then retweet two hours later. Then you should Tweet it the next day, then again next week, then in a couple weeks, in a month and in a couple months! I mean, holy cow! Those “optimal” post times and schedules are different for every social platform. So once you get a handful of blog posts going like that between Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest, I would lose my mind trying to keep track. So I use my calendar to track things long term, and a scheduling tool to schedule a week at a time for each platform.
Side Note: I’m working on cleaning up my post schedule and plan to put it into a nice spreadsheet format to share with my readers; maybe offer it as a free download to anyone who signs up for my newsletter.
- Daily Hustle: I use this calendar to give myself time frames when I will work on specific things. For example:
- There’s time each morning set aside for writing. As a blogger, it’s important to write something every day.
- Each day has a couple hours dedicated to business and productivity. I will do things like manage my calendar, contacts, affiliates and clean up my notes.
- I give myself an hour per day to interact with blogging and writing groups on social media. Networking with like-minded folks to learn and share is important. However, I found out quickly that if I don’t reserve a special slot for this and stay uber disciplined to that, I’ll spend way too much time on it.
- On Thursdays, I reserve a large chunk of time to tinker with the technology and complicated bits of the blog. Again, if I don’t set aside a calendar block to do this, I’ll gravitate toward it and end up ONLY doing this. I’m one of those geeky, computer types who will forget that the rest of the world exists for hours on end while playing around with features and code.
- Fridays are set aside to do graphics. This is when I create Pins, optimize my images, and have a little fun. It’s Friday! To a tech junkie like me, on the Fun Factor Scale it’s not far removed from handing a child a coloring book and a box of crayons.
I started off using Microsoft Office 365 because I’m very familiar with those tools and it was comfortable. However, there are downsides. It’s a little more expensive than what I cared to pay, and I kept having technical difficulties. Since I’m not really a slouch in the tech department, I know it wasn’t user error or a problem with my hardware. So I decided to investigate other options. I landed on G Suite by Google. It’s cheaper, has all the functionality I needed and practically none of the problems associated with Microsoft Office. I won’t get into a big comparison of the two here; maybe another post.
Goals for February & Beyond
- Get better at writing headlines – There is an art to this. A good headline doesn’t only help with SEO. It can capture the attention of the people I want reading my posts.
- Work with Me – I want to replace the “About” header on the main menu with “Work with Me”. There’s a little blurb right there on the front page where you can read about Rebecca and me if you’re interested. There’s no point in having the same thing under an “About” header. A “Work with Me” page, though, would describe ways someone could actually collaborate with me on a blog post (like guest blogging or sponsored posts), freelance writing or social media projects. It would also detail how they may hire me, what services I offer and how to contact me for all of those things.
- Product/Service Development: This, of course, goes along with the Work with Me header. I’ve been picking up Freelance writing gigs for a short while now. That’s pretty straight-forward work, but I want to combine that with a service to help small food businesses manage their social media. My goal by the end of February is to have market research complete for that and at least have the first draft of a business plan put together to support it. I know there are large PR and marketing firms out there that live in this world, but I believe I can bring a personal touch to small business owners and be able to understand their brand voice on a more intuitive level by getting to know them. I believe I can also be a bit more affordable for them while offering the same level of professional service they need to help grow their business.
- Post series: I currently have two long-term series going. “How to Create a Business Plan” and “Small Business Resources”. I turned these each into a series because of the massive amount of information within each of them. When I hit 7000 words on my first Business Resources post, I knew it was time to break that bad boy into chunks. Currently, I have these scheduled to wrap up toward the end of May. I know I will push them out, though, to make room for People-focused stories. I just finished an interview with a Food Truck owner and I have 3 small business owners and 1 charity lined up to interview. I’m excited to have so many stories to tell!
- Build Traffic: I honestly don’t know what a reasonable goal for traffic would be. I would like to hit the 1000 readers per day mark by the end of 2018 though.
- Monetization: Long term, I want the blog to be my full time job. I’m treating it like a business, and I know it can sustain my family. It’s not a matter of “IF” I can pull this off. It’s a matter of “When” because it WILL happen. I love writing. I love helping people. And I have a deep respect for the people I’m trying to help with this blog; the people who love to feed people.
I would love to hear from you!
Are you a blogger that has advice for me? If you read through this post and you’re thinking, “This poor sap has a lot to to learn!” please feel free to send me your tips and tricks. I’m always learning! I agree. This poor sap DOES have a lot to learn.
Are you a brand new blogger and something in all of this helped you or gave you inspiration? Please let me know. I love that type of encouragement! If I can help you at all, I’m more than happy to do so.
Are you a small food business owner, home cook or charity worker who feeds people? If getNOMSblog helps you at all, I’d love to hear from you. If there are topics you would like to see me address, ping me with them.
Are you anyone else who just enjoys the content I have here or who has questions? Feel free to comment below or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jan 2018 Statistics Report
- October: 41 site views
- Avg daily views: 1
- November: 140 site views
- Avg daily views: 6
- December: 689 site views
- Avg daily views: 22
- January: 444 site views
- Avg daily views: 14
- Email: 10
- Twitter: 164
- Facebook: 81
Total Blog Posts: 15 (4 new in January)
Total Blog Pages: 8 (-3 since December)
According to hyperstat.com: getnomsblog.com is worth $18.34 with a yearly potential revenue of $14.60
Check out some of my other updates, full of mistakes, lessons learned and random thoughts about the life of a blogger
Affiliates linked on this Post