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As you all know, this blog of mine just celebrated 1 year in January. Huge milestone.
Although I've learned so much in just one year, there is still so much to learn AND improve on.
But what I have learned I would love to share with all of you! Because, what's growing if you can't help others come along for the ride?
First and foremost, I have to say that even though having and applying these "must haves" or tips have helped my blog grow so much in just one year, I still and will always give God ALL the glory for this blog's progress.
I would not have started this blog, been led to blogging helping posts and worked so diligently if it weren't for His inspiration.
With that said, I'm so thankful for all the posts that have helped me along the way. Have you read 14 Posts To Grow Your Blog In 2014?
10 MUST HAVES OF AN EFFECTIVE BLOG
Your readers click on your posts to be informed, inspired and taught. Make sure that every post you publish is top notch. Put time and effort into what you post and how you write it.
Don't rush yourself through the process just so you can have a post out on schedule. Instead, only write the posts that you can give yourself entirely to. Trust me, your readers will notice. If you're not really feeling a post, neither will they.
If it's a tutorial, take the time to clearly explain each step to the best of your ability.
You should try to post at least 2-5 times a week to keep your readers engaged. A stagnant blog is one that is quickly forgotten.
Decide how many QUALITY posts you can post per week and follow through.
For me, right now I'm only able to commit to 2-3 posts a week. But I make sure I offer something of value to my readers instead of just throwing something together just so I can have a new post.
2. Great Pictures
People are very visual, so why not grab their attention with great photos?
This isn't to say you have to have a great camera. Start off with what you have while saving for a better camera.
Right now I only have a basic Cannon digital camera, but I make the most of it by being creative with my angles and editing on PicMonkey.
Here's an example of how my pictures have improved over the course of this blog (using the same camera).
In the above photos, everything is pretty bland. On some, you can't even tell what I'm attempting to capture! These went through absolutely no editing process whatsoever and it shows.
Here are a few that are more recent:
I took the time and effort to edit the most recent pictures with PicMonkey and also used labels and different texts for interest.
Taking pictures of the subject in different angles adds interest as oppose to always shooting straight on from the front. Play around with your camera and see what a difference unexpected angles make.
And remember that natural light is best when taking pictures.
This is a BIG one! You have to be yourself and be comfortable enough to show your personality through your blog. No one wants to read a robotic post with no feeling, voice or personality.
It may take some time to find your voice, but just avoid trying to sound like someone else.
You can admire and be inspired by your favorite blogger's personality and voice but don't mimic them, this too will be detected by your readers.
Be true and stay true to who YOU are! Remember that your readers keep coming back to hear YOU, not a generic version of someone else.
4. A Sense of Community
The first thing I noticed and loved about the "blogging world" was the great sense of community. Everyone is friendly and seems to want to help fellow bloggers out.
I immediately knew this was the same vibe I wanted to create for my blog. I want my blog to be a place of inspiration, communication, feedback and connection.
How do you do this?
Reply to every comment that comes your way. Answer every question and/or concern in a genuine way and let your readers feel like you are there for them and appreciate them as a person, not just a number.
I realize that this may be harder to do when a blog is huge and gets hundreds or even thousands of comments a day. In this case, a good strategy would be to dedicate a certain amount of time (30 minutes-1 hour) in the morning and evening to only replying to comments.
You may not get to every comment, but at least your readers know you are trying and doing your best.
5. A Contact Page
I recommend setting up a contact page from day one. It makes it easy for people and businesses to contact you should they have a question or personal comment.
Set up an email address that you will only use for blogging purposes and make it easily available. That way when someone contacts you with a question or business inquiry you won't miss it.
6. An 'About Me' Page
One of the first things I do after I read an interesting post on a new blog I've come across is check out their "about me" page.
People want to know the person behind the blog, it's not a nosy thing, it's just natural to want to get to know someone a little better.
You don't have to get extremely personal. You can keep it light and fun and just share a bit about who you are, what you're about and why you started your blog.
You can even use pictures to tell your story!
However you choose to go about this, include at least one picture of yourself in your about page and also on your home page. It just adds a personal touch that blog buttons or cartoon pictures fail to deliver.
7. Non-Generic Design
When I first started blogging I just grabbed a free template and slapped it on my blog. It was pretty and I had it for a while. But as I began noticing other blogs with the same template, I decided it needed to change.
There is more than one way to go about this: you can hire a professional web designer or you can design your own blog. There are a ton of techniques and tutorials out there!
I found some awesome tutorials on designing your own header and background using PicMonkey (can you tell I really dig this editing site?) and it was relatively easy and didn't take too long.
This is the tutorial for the background, and this one is for designing your header. You can also use this tutorial and make a collage type header.
8. Social Media Buttons
So someone checks out your blog because they were intrigued by your post. Now they want to follow you in some way, but they can't find any following options. You just lost a follower.
Believe it or not, this still happens. I've come across more than a few blogs that make it hard for one to follow them. They either only have one option of following or it's like a scavenger hunt to try to find their social media buttons. Very annoying.
Everyone is busy, so you want to make it as easy as possible for someone to follow you through different outlets (not just one). This gives people choices and we all like that!
The best way to be on top of the game when it comes to giving people following options is to display your social media buttons towards the top of your page.
Go on Pinterest (another favorite of mine) and search for 'social media icons/buttons' and you will get many options for social media buttons along with tutorials and such.
9. Labels & Categories
An organized blog is one that your followers can easily navigate through and find what they're looking for.
You can create organization by labeling all your posts and displaying those labels in your sidebar. When someone clicks on a label, say "Home Decor", it takes them to all your posts labeled "Home Decor."
You can also add categories to your navigation bar. This makes it even easier for your readers to find what they're looking for because it will list ALL your projects within that category in one page. Then someone can choose which project to click on, instead of scrolling through all your posts like they would if they clicked on your labels.
I personally have both to give people options. I'm telling ya, people love options!
To display your labels in your sidebar, you simply add the widget available on blogger when you're in Layout (sorry, I'm not familiar with wordpress...yet) and choose which labels to display. You have to have all your posts labeled prior to this, of course.
The way I display my categories in my navigation bar is to create a new page for every category (Project Gallery, Organization, etc..) and manually add every post within its proper category. I add the title and one picture. Then I simply add the post link to the title.
It was work when I firs did this because I had to insert every single post, but now I just keep up with it by adding my posts to their proper category every other week or so.
10. Word Verification Set To OFF
Holy Moly! I cannot tell you how annoying it is to have to type in a blurry code of numbers and/or letters before leaving a comment on someone's blog!
And maybe it's just me, but I almost always seem to get it wrong. If it doesn't go through the first time, I'm gone.
Again, people are busy and are going out of their way to leave a comment on your posts because they liked what they read. The least we can do as bloggers is make it as easy as possible for them to do so by turning off word verification.
On blogger, you can easily change this by going to your settings and posts and comments.
I hope you're all enjoying my blogging improvement posts because I sure am enjoying writing them and making them available!
Please let me know if you are digging these type of posts and I can post one at least once a month or every other month.
For more blog improvement inspiration, visit these posts:
What I've Learned In My First Year Of Blogging
14 Posts To Grow & Improve Your Blog in 2014
Recommended reading (affiliate links):
Will be partying here: MONDAY: I Should Be Mopping The Floor, Give Me The Goods Monday, Home Coming. TUESDAY: Coastal Charm, Not Just A Housewife, Blooming Homestead, Reasons To Skip The Housework, Clean and Scentsible, Love Grows WildJust A Girl And Her Blog WEDNESDAY: The Happy Housie, My Girlish Whims,Ginger Snap Crafts . THURSDAY: House of Hepworths, Saving 4 Six, The Shabby Creek Cottage, Somewhat Simple. FRIDAY: Dear Creatives, The Best Blog Recipes, Diana Rambles, Chic On A Shoestring, Six Sisters Stuff, Liz Marie Blog, Tatertots & Jello , The Pin Junkie, Making Home Base. SATURDAY: Reasons To Skip The Housework, The Girl Creative. SUNDAY: Life On Lakeshore Drive, Suburbs Mama