Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Lessons Learned During My First Year of Blogging

In June 2016, I made it through my first year of blogging.   And, man, have I learned a LOT and made SO many mistakes.    Still, it's been so much fun and I can't believe it took me so long to do it.

These are the main lessons I've learned:

Spellcheck Doesn't Pick Up Bad Grammar:
Running spellcheck over your post will NOT pick up the time your iPhone types 'is' instead of 'it' or autocorrects a word that really doesn't fit in the post.   You have to read through your posts (I usually do it in preview mode to see what it'll look like to readers) before you hit publish.

It can also be a good idea, if possible, to get someone else to cast an eye over posts.   I can't count the number of times I've missed something because I know the post off by heart and have gone blind.

Scheduling Isn't Always a Great Idea:
I admit it; the amount of times I've half written a post and scheduled it for a month in advance, *certain* I'd have completed it, only to realise it was still part done four weeks later, is alarming.

It also does nothing for my readers.  Who wants to come back and look at a blog with a half written story on it?  

This has happened a few times over my first year of blogging and I've taken to saving everything that's missing text or photos as a draft.   I simply cannot be trusted to return to a post when I initially think I will. 

Saving as a draft also lets me continue to amend posts on my Blogger app for iPhone, so that helps me write when I have a spare 5 mins during lunch or if I'm being forced to visit B&Q on a weekend.  


Lessons Learned During My First Year of Blogging


Choose Your Platform Wisely:
In the very beginning, I signed up to a company to host my site.   I spent almost two months designing the site and trying desperatley to learn how to use it (it's not something I ever had experience of before).   After that time, I realised that the site didn't have an RSS feed which meant I couldn't link to Bloglovin'.

Don't get me wrong, the majority of my traffic doesn't come from Bloglovin' anyway, but I did want to at least have a presence there.

I then scrapped the site I'd spent time and money on and moved over to Blogger.  

On the whole, I like it, but I do find that just because my post looks a certain way when I type it up, doesn't necessarily mean it'll look that way when published.  Blogger has an extremely annoying habit of creating double lines spacing, which drives me to distraction some days.   

I know Wordpress users and hear great things about it, but feel I'm too familiar with Blogger's quirks to cope with changing now.

You Don't Have To Use All Social Media:
When I first started I discovered social media that I didn't even know existed.   I signed up for IT ALL.

I then spent so much time trying to link accounts; work out what the benefits of each was and, generally, still trying to hold down a full time job.

In the end, I stopped stressing myself out and opted to use Facebook, Twitter, Instgram and Pinterest.   I use the first three on a daily basis.   Pinterest, I tend to update every few weeks when I get some time.

I figured if I could properly manage these channels, I could introduce others once I'd worked out what the hell I was doing.

For instance, after a year, I signed up for Snapchat (ascotinnthwales).  I have a personal account, so I know what I'm doing (mostly) and thought it was time to branch out.

Obviously, the more channels you use, the wider the audience you'll have the chance to reach, but you may also end up running poorly managed accounts because, time wise, you've spread yourself too thin.  


Lessons Learned During My First Year of Blogging


You Will Have To Put Yourself Out There:
I am notorious for hiding away at home and being a total introvert, so when I published my first post, I didn't tell anyone about it.

This made it a wee bit difficult to get people to come and read it, but I was so nervous about the whole thing 

I have no issue writing even really personal stuff and publishing it, but I do worry about what people make of it.   It helps me to explain things and I find it excellent therapy, so it's been great for me on a personal level, even if no one else likes it.  

I now have various social media channels and I publish everything to each of them. I find I pretty much do it automatically without thinking about it.  

I am always slightly nervous about getting mean feedback (my first ever Internet trolling happened just a few weeks ago, but I responded in a sarcastic but not nasty manner and instantly blocked the account on Twitter).  

Life is WAY too short for that shit and who needs nasty comments from random strangers, anyway?  Nice ones, yes.   Shitty ones; not so much.   The positive feedback, tweets, shares and general traffic throws it into the shade anyway.

My first North Wales Hour on Twitter made me so nervous.  All these amazing businesses from across the region get together every Thursday between 8-9pm to chat, network and promote ourselves and the area, and I had this tiny little blog that I was sure wouldn't really fit.

As it happens, the group is absolutely brilliant and I've come to enjoy the hour instead of being worried about promoting a new post.  After all, I do write a lot about North Wales and love it like home. Obvs it IS home now, but you know what I mean.  

You Realise That People Are Basically Decent:
On the days when I've written something really personal and worked hard on it and it doesn't attract much traffic, I can get a bit worried that my writing is terrible.

Other days, I'll publish something that doesn't really even interest me that much, and it does really well.   You can just never seem to be able judge it.  Or I can't, anyway.

I've had so many lovely comments and interactions for people that I know, as well as people I don't and it really does make a huge difference when you're an anxious little bunny like me.

One of the biggest compliments I've received was from a friend who was going through a tough time and told me that reading my posts on depression had really helped her realise that she wasn't alone.   If you told me at the start that ANYONE would ever say that to me; I'd have bitten your hand off.    

I know my blog isn't for everyone; no one's is, so it's about finding your audience and interacting with the lovely people of the Internet.   


Lessons Learned During My First Year of Blogging
nothing beats a Sunday coffee and this site. 

Read Other Blogs:
I found this to be very difficult at first as I had barely had time to write my own posts, never mind read anyone else's.   

Then I remembered that one of the reasons I even *started* my blog was because I loved reading Forever Amber (and still do).    Tbh, at first, Amber's blog was the only one I read and, with my first blog being dedicated to travel and Amber's not being, it made sense for me to widen my reading to include some travellers on my regular reading list.

Not only do I get to see the angles that writers use to promote places, but it also keeps me up to are with new tourism trends and up and coming destinations.   I'm not saying this impacts on my own blog because I've never been interested in what's considered 'cool' or 'trendy' anyway.    In fact, I'm more likely NOT to go somewhere that carries that tag.  But reading other blogs does benefit my overall knowledge of what's happening in the travel industry.  

It also gives me the chance to network and build up contacts.  Which is perfect for me as it means I don't actually have to meet anyone (see previous comments about my social anxiety).     

My friendliness only reaches as far as my laptop.    

You Don't HAVE to Post on a Regular Schedule:
It helps, don't get me wrong, but it's not imperative they you always post on a Monday as 8:30am.   It's highly unlikely that anyone will strop and decide never to visit again if you don't.   And if they do, then, that's their loss, isn't it?

I TRY to post to both blogs 3 times each week but, with a full time job and a life, this isn't always possible every week.   Initially I got really stressed out when I couldn't stick to this but, over time I realised I was the only person who was getting upset.

I now loosely stick to a schedule, but if I can't post one day, so be it.  I can always post the next day.   Or even the one after that.  

I read several blogs on a regular basis, but I have absolutely no idea of they post on specific days or times.  This is mainly because I have other things to do and I'm not sat at my laptop stalking anyone. I like to think that everyone else is the same.

Writing Is Only A Small Aspect of Blogging:
It doesn't matter how long I spent writing, it's only a tiny part of what I need to do.

Once a post is finished, I then need to match it up with photos; schedule the post; design a title photo on Canva; think of a title: put in my links (if any), and generally, do a bit of research on hash tags, keywords, description text for Blogger.    Only THEN can I slope off and have a coffee (and by this I obviously mean wine).  

I had absolutely no idea just how much work was involved in the process of publishing a single blog post.   I now have even more respect for bloggers than even before.


Lessons Learned During My First Year of Blogging


You Can Confuse Your Audience:
I love writing about my travels, but soon realised that I had stuff to say about other topics (sorry about that).   

I started by adding a new heading tab to Sightseeingshoes and started a lifestyle section.   However, I soon realised that it wasn't going very well.

After a few months, it occurred to me that I was running a travel blog where people expected, you know...travel blogs.  

This led to the creation of a second site (this one, as it happens) and is a veritable minefield of random stuff from my brain.   It also confuses people, but not quite in the same way...

Both blogs now have their own readers and I know that not everyone is interested in both topics.   It just made sense to split them both.   One of the good things about this is that there are still a number of posts that are relevant to both sites.    This can reduce my workload on a particularly busy week and this makes me a very happy bunny.

If your blog promises posts about specifics topics, your readers will not be expecting you to chat about your anxiety issues when they're interested in things to do in Great Yarmouth on a bank holiday weekend.*
All in all, it's been a very steep learning curve and I'm still picking up new tips and making changes all the time.  At the end of the day, as long as I enjoy blogging, it shouldn't be something that stresses me out too much.  Otherwise, what's the point?   As I hear said so often in blogging advice posts: write for YOU.  

The biggest thing I've picked up over the past year is that I need to write in my own style.  At first, I thought my tendency to write everything with a silly sense of humour would put some people off.  And it probably does for some, but that's OK.  The world would be a pretty dull place if we were all the same, no? 

Do you have any valuable lessons learned during your first year(s) of blogging to share?


Suz x

*I absolutely cannot help with this.   On either site.


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