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10 Things For Blogging I Highly Recommend
My favorite blogging tools and useful things I have done that have helped my blog look professional.
Celebrating my first “blogversary” this month! I officially opened my blog July of 2017, and am proud to say I have stuck with it for one year now! For this month I am sharing posts about how I blog, and what I recommend to use on your own blog. Last week’s post contained some advice for new bloggers, and my first annual blogging report. Here are 10 Things for Blogging I have tried with my own blog that have truly made a difference in appearance and traffic.
First off, myself, along with many other bloggers highly recommend Siteground for hosting your own domain. After using them this first year I have found them really easy to work with, and they do not constantly email you advertisements or updates all the time. They were good about giving a heads up when it was getting close to the time I needed to renew my domain – which was super easy to do! They are really affordable, and even have an affiliate program that is optional to join.
It took me a littler longer to get the hang of WordPress since it looks like such a blank canvas at first. I did eventually learn to love it. What helped me the most were tutorials by other bloggers. I also put in the effort researching computer coding, and adding plug-ins and tools little by little until my blog became what you now see. Creating your own blog really does take months and months of research, trial and error. I actually began looking up info about running a blog about two months before I even signed up for my own!
3. A professional, clean theme
Still trying my hardest to not spend much money running my blog, but I did actually spent money on my theme. You can easily purchase a really nice theme, and for only a few bucks! I decided on a theme from an Etsy shop, “Blog Beauty.” (It is currently on break, but hopefully will return soon!) Being a big fan of supporting Etsy shops and small businesses, this was a hard decision considering it was just one of many to choose from for a nice theme.
I believe having a theme helped me keep things organized. It definitely made WordPress easier to use in a way since my theme came with so much! Here are some of what was included: Social media buttons, Optional sticky menu – always stays at the top of the screen as you scroll down, Optional author biography and profile picture below posts, Authors page template – shows a list of all authors so readers can see just their posts, Slideshow gallery posts and video post formats – works on mobile too, Drop down multi-level menus and custom menu support, sidebar and footer widget areas – to place ads exactly where you need them, and more!
4. A Good Camera
I am in love with my new DSLR, a Canon Rebel T6. I was able to purchase a used one in like new condition that came with two lenses for a ridiculously affordable price! It really does improve lighting in photos and cuts out any “fuzziness”, plus has an awesome variety of settings to use. This was great since my old point-and-shoot could take beautiful photos outdoors, but inside was not as clean. Having a decent camera really opens up all kinds of creative possibilities, and can cut down editing time.
I LOVE Canva.com! It is FREE program you can use to make graphics, and if you want even more options there is a paid version though I never felt the need! Canva even automatically saves all your creations so you can go back and edit something and re-save if needed. It is recommended by many bloggers for it’s ease of use, and tons of options. I use it all the time, and started creating Facebook graphics for my massage business Facebook page as well.
Speaking of photography and editing, in case you want to use Cell phone pics, Snapseed is a FREE app for editing with many filters and editing options. If you like keeping your Instagram profile “themed” this app is great for that, or for just editing your photos a little more than what Instagram allows. You do have the ability to share directly from this app to more social media profiles than Instagram.
As for editing images on my laptop, I currently use a free software called “Picasa.” It is super easy to use, has some fun filter options, and keeps your photos organized.
7. A consistent presence across Social Media
Speaking of Instagram and Social Media, I found a great way to attract traffic is having several social media profiles. I am so glad I put the effort into learning to use Twitter, StumbleUpon, and some other sites once I started blogging, because they have definitely helped bring in quite a few readers. I now have profiles for this blog on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and more recently, Mix (the replacement for StumbleUpon.) Another thing you can do through social media is network with other bloggers to help promote each other. I have joined several Facebook groups and Pinterest groups full of other bloggers who help share each other’s posts and profiles.
It is important to keep up with the latest algorithm changes for social media channels so you know how best to share your brand in order to be seen by the biggest audience possible. It all takes a little extra time to learn and to use, but you could help yourself out by investing in sites that automatically post for you like Buffer or Tailwind. Because I try not to spend much on my blog, and have found manual ways to shares things that works for me to get traffic, I do not use these kinds of scheduling sites.
8. A Photography Class
Another thing that has helped my blog and social media profiles look clean and professional is the use of decent photography. This past Spring I bought my new camera, and found a great deal on LivingSocial for an online photography class that was only a month long. It provided me with a Certificate in Digital Photography, with the option to take more courses towards an Associate’s Degree in Professional Photography. I was only taking it to quickly learn how to best use the settings on my new DSLR, and ended up learning so much more! I might eventually take the classes towards the Associates, but for now I am very happy with what I learned from the certification courses.
9. Blogging Plug-ins
Plug-ins are Tools you can download to your blog (mine come right through WordPress.) They may either appear on your post or page (like my Pinterest profile box in my sidebar), or accomplish tasks behind the scenes (like Yoast SEO.)
There are tons of posts by bloggers recommending their favorite plug-ins so I am not going to bother listing all mine. Most would probably be the same, especially for SEO and Social Media. I will mention how I am glad I downloaded Yoast SEO from the start. This plug-in tells you what to fix in your post between sentence structure and headings that attract search engines and therefore, readers. You can also set Sitemaps, URLs, meta descriptions and other tasks that will help your coding and writing be search engine approved. Upgrade to paid premium membership for even more! I do seem to get a few readers every day who find my posts through search engines, so I am pretty sure this is working for me.
10. Time Management
You might be to this point in this post and thinking, “Photography, and social media, and plug-ins – Oh my!” As I mentioned in my first post for this month about blogging, you do need to put in some time to be a blogger. Between learning how to start a blog, trial and error with plug-ins and social media posts, the actual writing, photography, promotion, networking, and all else that goes into it, you really need to have the time set aside, and keep it very organized! It may take months before you have everything setup! I hear many people say writing the actual post itself is the easy part, and I agree!
Here are some tips of mine to stay focused and organized with your time:
- Put aside a set numbers of hours each day for total blogging tasks. I usually take about 2-3 hours each morning sometime between 9am-noon to write and take photography. I also take around an hour in the evening to start and finish some promotion tasks since social media is usually most active in the evenings. If I do not get everything done in the morning, I might finish up some things in this hour as well.
- Make sure you organize the time carefully around family activities and other jobs. I try to work around my job outside the home, and complete everything before my husband gets home from work so the house is still quiet for me to work.
- Print out and use charts for organizing and remembering tasks. Many bloggers offer free print-outs to help you keep tract of your blog and social media tasks for each day/week/month. I have seen some nice ones that help you keep a list of your social media groups as well. Do not make the mistake like I did of joining so many at first that you are bombarded by all their posts, and forget which threads are when!
I hope these tips and this post are helpful. For my next post I plan to talk about affiliate marketing, and what website I recommend to go through.
Thank you for reading!
Tags: advice for bloggers, blog, blogging, blogging tools, how to blog, lifestyle blog, photography, plugins, siteground, time management, wordpress