Tips To Help Grow Your Blog

GrowYourBlog
Image Source: http://www.skipprichard.com

When I started blogging, I just knew that I wanted to write.

With sites like WordPress and Blogspot, it’s easy.

Create an account, log in, and start blogging!

Then, like everything else, it turns out there’s actually work involved.  -.-

I don’t only have to worry about topics to write about and writing well, I have to worry about adding images, sizing images, page load times, increasing traffic, links, pingbacks, SEO, alt tags, descriptions, categories, tags, slugs – the list is endless.

It’s all a little overwhelming when you first start.

Thankfully, you don’t have to know everything. 😀

A few months ago, Becky over at SL Blogger Support started writing a series of articles aimed at helping bloggers to become better at blogging.

Many of the steps I already knew, but I had gotten lazy and wasn’t paying attention.

Niche

The first article was about finding a ‘niche’ for your blog.

There are literally millions of blogs, so finding that niche can help you find readers.

I’m still in the process of defining and refining my niche – just asking some very basic questions about my blog made me realize that I had wandered from my original purpose.

My blog is like me – it changes and grows.

As I learn about new things, I want to share what I learn.

So although my original audience was people interested in dance, I have expanded to include photography, art, and sometimes fashion.

(Maybe ‘style’ is a better word than fashion – I’m not always on top of the latest trends, but I know what I like. 😀 )

SEO

The next article was about SEO – what it is and how to use it for good. 😛

This one made me a bit angry with myself – some of these were very simple things that I knew and should have been doing, but wasn’t.

Grrr.

I made a few changes to my blog – I changed my tagline to reflect the added topics, and I changed my theme to one that offered better formatting/readability options than my previous one.

I am still debating whether it’s worth it to me to pay for a domain name or if I should just continue with the free WordPress option.

I know a fellow blogger had issues when changing over from the free WP site to a paid domain, and I don’t want to make extra headaches for myself.

While my dream is to someday get paid to write, I’m not there yet.

With only one income and lots of expenses (college tuition, anyone?), sometimes it’s hard to justify any extra spent on ‘frivolous’ purchases. 😦

As I was debating domains and upgrades, I came across a post from another blogger – Do I REALLY need to pay for that?

Sometimes it’s hard to know if you’re making the right decisions.

It’s nice to see that I’m not the only one who’s trying to figure it all out. 🙂

I did take Becky’s advice and I signed up for Google’s Webmaster Tools.

However, I don’t find using said tools to be intuitive in any way whatsoever, so I’ve decided to ignore them for now, and concentrate on things I do understand.

My SEO Changes

I have been paying attention to my post titles and changing the slugs to help with searches.

My LOTD posts are numbered, but since they are not my primary focus for the blog, I’m not too concerned with them.

When I started the LOTD posts, I was taking the photos in-world and saving them as .png files to preserve details.

However, .png files load more slowly.

Slow loading times can kill your traffic – because it needs to be instant on the internet. 😛

So I have begun resizing my images when I edit them and I save them as .jpegs rather than .pngs.

There is some loss in quality, but the faster load times are worth it.

What I wasn’t doing was giving my images (LOTD and others) meaningful titles.

Nor was I filling in the alt tags.

I make sure that I am doing both of those now.

Buffer has a great post on how to optimize images for blogs and social media.

I also have begun breaking up text-heavy posts (like this one!) with subheadings to help with readability.

Growing Your Blog

One of the things Becky mentioned is feeds and that if you are on feeds, search engines may see your blog as ‘duplicate content,’ which can hurt your search rankings.

For many SL fashion bloggers, being on feeds is a must.

You can, as Becky suggests, set it up so that your posts only show as excerpts so that readers have to click through to your blog to read the entire post.

However, some feeds specifically say that you must not show excerpts only – so what to do?

You would think that being on feeds would get you more traffic, but it turns out that isn’t always the case.

Becky’s latest post was one that really got me thinking.

I actually printed it out and made notes on it as I read through it.  (Nerd? Me? Noooo!)

Again, much of what she writes are things I knew, but wasn’t using to my advantage.

Having taught journalism, I knew about headlines, subheads, pull quotes, etc.

(Side note: Pull quotes and other cool options are sometimes only available with WordPress.org.  Rather frustrating when you are using WordPress.com – another item to weigh when deciding whether to pay or use the free version of WP.)

When you teach literature, however, the writing style rules are different.

Some things are too ingrained for me to change (like double spacing after a period), but I certainly need to be more aware of my writing style if I want my blog to grow.

It also made me go back through my blog and look at what people were actually reading, not what I thought they were. 😀

Social Media

In addition to your blog itself, tying into social media is almost a must these days.

But with so many platforms available, which one(s) do you choose?

For me, it’s been trial and error.

I loathe Facebook, so even though I could probably benefit from using it, I won’t.

I have found a nice alternative on Avatar Social Network, and I am having a good time using it.

I joined Twitter and found that I really like it.

I have started using TweetDeck and following various topics of interest – I’ve found it extremely useful.

I also learned about Twitter Cards – if you don’t have one, get one!

I’m on Google+, but I don’t have a page as yet.

Plus (no pun intended), Google has been making some changes, so I’m waiting to see what happens there for a bit before I jump in.

I joined Reddit, but I haven’t found it particularly useful or busy.

I was told the SL Universe Forums were another popular place – I joined, and for now I’m lurking while I figure it out. 😛

I joined Plurk a few days ago, and I must say, I like it a lot.

I’ve always heard it was full of drama, but I haven’t found that to be true (yet).

There was a hilarious thread about someone squatting on someone else’s sim (I’m still laughing), so while I feel like a complete noob using it, I’m having a good time!

I’m also on Ello, but the last time I checked, it wasn’t very active, so I’m holding off on that one for a while as well.

Photography

Since I’ve fallen in love with taking photos in-world, I’ve joined KoinUp and Flickr.

The KoinUp interface is kind of ‘old-school,’ but there are a lot of great artists there, and I’m slowly learning my way around.

I’m still trying to figure out how to add a widget for my KoinUp photos, so if you know how – help a girl out!

KoinUp also lets you cross-post to Flickr and you can email snapshots directly to your KoinUp if you want.

I haven’t done either of those yet, but options are always nice. 🙂

Flickr, I’m finding, is an entirely different ball of wax.

I found some terrific artists and photographers to follow and I started uploading my own photos.

Then I had to learn about licensing, groups, tags, etc.

Just when I thought I had a handle on how folks use Flickr, I came across a post about Flickr advice.

I realized I wasn’t adding enough tags to my photos and that I should be adding my photos to more groups if I want more views (and hopefully more readers).

I’d been adding my photos to 5-10 groups and feeling slightly guilty for adding them to so many.

The guilt evaporated after learning that many people are adding their photos to 200+ groups – no wonder they were getting so many views!

In one of my in-world blogger groups, there was a discussion about people ‘reposting’ pictures on Flickr as a way to get more views.

(A certain number of views per photo on Flickr are required on some blogger applications for SL creators.)

I didn’t even know you could ‘repost’ a photo. 😛

Summary

There’s a wealth of information out there about how to grow your blog.

Use it!

  • Know who you’re writing for.
  • Learn to write better headlines.
  • Format your content for easier reading and optimize your images for faster loading.
  • Use social media to interact with others and gain followers/readers.

Above all, don’t forget to have fun!

I Think I Sprained My Brain . . .

brain_sprain
Image Source: injury.research.chop.edu

The last few days have been kind of a blur.

I spent most of the last three days taking a Photoshop class, and I learned enough to make my head spin.

I took a ton of notes and saved a bunch of examples of techniques that I hope to incorporate into my Photoshop repertoire.

But WOW was it a lot of information!

I’ve been experimenting with masks and filters on my own; however, the class gave me much better (and faster) tools for working in Photoshop.

I can’t wait to try out some of the cool things I learned.

Shifting Focus

I’ve been spending more and more time with photography and learning everything I can.

I started out with the LOTD posts for fun (and to clean up my crazy inventory!), but it’s become something I really love doing.

I get stuck sometimes, though, because there is a fine line between showing an outfit to you ‘as is’ so you know what it looks like, versus some of the heavy ‘post-processing’ I want to do on some of the photos.

So, I’ve decided to kind of shift some of my focus to photography.

I want to spend some more time taking ‘travel’ photos in SL.

I spend way too much time alone on my platform – it’ll be good for me to get out and about and explore and work on my photography skills at the same time. 😀

I will still be doing the LOTD posts – I do enjoy them, and I’m getting a kick out of coming up with little stories to tell with them.

Always Learning

As I said before, I am always learning.

Yesterday Becky published a post on SEO and blogging.

I’ve used both WordPress.org and WordPress.com, and I’m familiar with many of the concepts she mentions.

However, I have been kind of lax about paying attention to that sort of thing with my blog, so it was a good reminder.

I knew I could change the slugs on my posts, but I wasn’t really paying much attention to them before.

I will be making some small changes here and there to see if I can increase my traffic.

(I don’t want to say what changes I’ll be making, since I read an article the other day that said if you share your goals/intentions with others, you’re less likely to accomplish them.)

It’s another area where there is a lot of information to digest, so I’ll be referring back to the article, I’m sure.

Social Media

Along with the changes here on the blog, I am trying to educate myself further about social media.

I often am reluctant to share what little I know (mostly because I assume everyone knows it), but after doing some research, many of my questions have yet to yield any easy answers.

When using social media, I am usually left with the feeling that I don’t know enough about the platform to make good use of it.

I decided to do some research on the various platforms I use to see what I could learn.

I started with Twitter, since that seemed like the simplest platform.

As I learn and I discover, I hope to share with you any helpful tips and tricks I come across.

If you have any, feel free to send them my way! 😛

I think ‘networking’ is one of those topics that everyone would like to know more about.

Finding Inspiration

Over the last month or so, I was debating whether I wanted (or needed) to take a hiatus from SL and blogging to recharge my batteries.

I found myself struggling with writer’s block and despairing over finding my ‘muse’ again.

And then – serendipity. 🙂

Ailsa announced her weekly ‘theme’ exhibitions, I took a few classes, read a few blog posts, and now I am feeling energized and inspired.

It could also just be that school is out next week and my children’s joy is infectious. 😛

Either way, I’m looking forward to learning and creating.

“Learn as if you were to live forever.” ~ Ghandi

Is Anyone Listening?

Black HoleIn previous posts, I’ve asked for information about feeds and readers.

I’ve talked about stats before and how I try not to look at them too often.

However, after reading a post by Nalates Urriah today, I’m wondering how much longer I will be able to view my stats.

Everyone knows that stats are important when it comes to the internet.

As a blogger, you have stats that tell you many things – the number of followers, how many times a post was viewed, how many times someone visited your site, the country of origin for your readers, etc.

If people find your blog via a search engine, there is a place for you to see what search terms brought them to your blog.

Lately, when I look at that stat for my blog, it says ‘unknown search terms.’

WordPress tells you ‘some search engines don’t reveal search terms for privacy reasons.  That’s why we don’t always know which search terms were used by visitors who arrived at your site from a search engine.  When we don’t know the search terms, we show them as “Unknown search terms”.’

Since Google is now encrypting more and more searches, it’s that much harder for WP to tell me how people are finding my blog.

According to Nalates’ post, there is a possibility of finding out more information using Google’s Webmaster tools.

However, using these tools is confusing (at least to me), if you are not a techy person (which I am not).

So I rely on WP to provide my stats (because they employ very techy people).

I also came across another issue that concerns bloggers when it comes to feeds/readers.

I set up a Feedly account so that I could keep up with all the blogs I follow.

In doing research on different readers, I saw a question about views.

It seems that if you view a blog post in a reader, it does not count as a view for that blog – unless you actually click through to that website (to ‘like’ or perhaps post a comment).

That’s frustrating, since views and followers are essential for successful blogging.

Often blogging can feel like you are screaming into a giant black hole.

You wonder if anyone is listening.