My first of year of blogging & Blogging 101

It still seems so strange…I have been blogging for one year already!  A lot has changed in the past year, personally and professionally.  Can I call myself a professional blogger?  My first year of blogging…..

Ocean My first year of blogging cookingwithcurls.com

Let’s start with what I did right…..

I started on WordPress.org

To be honest, I only started my blog this way because I wanted a .com web address.  Silly right?  I have seen so many bloggers stress out over moving from Blogger to WordPress, so I am very thankful that I did it my own stubborn way.  If your goal is to have a large, successful blog and make money from it…start on WordPress.org from day one.  The longer that you are on a free site, the harder it is to move all of your content over.

Hosting with GoDaddy

I raised an awesome son that has an awesome job at GoDaddy!  This has allowed me to be on a VSP server from day one, and not have to deal with moving to a different hosting company that can handle a heavy traffic load.  Thank you Alex 🙂  I realize that this is not an option for everyone.  Choose a hosting plan that fits your budget, but be prepared to upgrade as your traffic increases.

Blog name {right} –

I chose a name for my blog that is fun, easy to remember, that fits my personality AND what I write about.  You don’t want to change your blog’s name after you have already started, so make sure you really love the name that you choose. Again, if your ultimate goal is to monetize your blog…then you need to purchase your domain name when you set up your blog, or someone else will take it!  You can purchase your domain name from your hosting company and do it all at once, or you can purchase your domain separately and take it with you if your switch hosts.

Web design

The key to a good blog design, is a clean, uncluttered design with visible social media buttons and a layout that is easy to follow.  Do not make people search your site to find what they are looking for.  If they get frustrated, they will leave…and possibly never come back.  Make it really easy and they will stick around.

I started with a free design, but it could not be customized.  Studiopress has some awesome designs that you can play with and personalize.  I am learning HTML and CSS so that I can create my own design exactly the way that I want it!!

Check out other blogs.  What catches your eye?  What do you like about it?  What don’t you like about it.  Write it all down and then choose the best way for you to achieve your perfect design.

Be Yourself

What you see on your screen, is the real me.  If we met in person, you would feel like you already know me.  I write the same way that I speak in real life, and I think that this has helped me make a lot of new friends along the way.

You have to be yourself, you cannot emulate someone else.  It will seem forced, and everyone will see right through it.

What makes you unique?  What do you have to offer that someone else doesn’t?  Don’t just follow the crowd, create your own path.

Link Parties!

I had no comments on my blog, until after I started linking up at link parties and getting out and mingling with other bloggers. That is when things really started getting fun for me. 🙂  Link up and then go check out the links that catch your eye.  Leave genuine comments and eventually they will check out your blog and leave you comments.   Leaving comments is actually hard for me.  I get involved in the recipe and pinning it to my boards, and then forget to leave a comment.  This is something that I really need to work on in my next year!

A support group

Well I actually belong to a few.   The first group that I joined, was just a bunch of bloggers that met during a giveaway last spring…and we stayed together when the giveaway ended.  I would have been lost without them!!  I love you guys, and I am so thankful to have you in my life!!  Whenever someone has a question, we post it, and someone usually has an answer or can at least point you in the right direction!  Get yourself a diverse group to help you navigate the bumpy blogging waters!!

This is my group of awesome bloggers: Julie from This Gal Cooks is the ringleader 😉 – Carrie from Frugal Foodie Mama is her partner in Spiked! Recipe Challenge crime – Claire from AlittleCLAIREification and Cindy from Little Miss Celebration that I host Best of the Weekend with.  Deb from Cooking on the Front Burner – Paula from Call Me PMc – Krista from Joyful Healthy Eats  – Gloria from Simply Gloria – Lyuba from Will Cook for Smiles  – Diane from My Life as Robin’s Wife – Andi from The Weary Chef – Tanya from lemons for lulu – Jaime from Mom’s Test Kitchen – Nina from Crazy for Cookies and More – Alyssa from What’s cooking love? –  Meghan from The Tasty Fork – Emily from it bakes me happy – Nichi from The Mandatory Mooch – Hilary from My Own Blog Review

Blogelina’s Profitable Blogging for Beginners online course

I actually took the course in June, six months after I started blogging, but it was really nice to see that I had done most things right in that first six months.  I highly recommend it for anyone that is just starting out, or anyone that has no idea how to start monetizing their blog.  It’s online, one night a week for four weeks, and you can email Tanya any of your questions that you have the day after the class.
4-Week Profitable Blogging For Beginners Class - For A Limited Time Only $5!

Now, for what I did wrong…..

Blog name {wrong} –

This isn’t necessarily wrong, but it is something that I did not realize when I chose my blog name.  I boxed myself into a corner with “Cooking” with Curls.  People follow me expecting recipes, not DIY furniture projects or craft projects.  By limiting your audience, you also limit your income possibilities.   A sponsor is not going to choose me to advertise their Ryobi Power Tools, it just doesn’t fit with the theme of my blog.  This is not a huge problem for me, but I do have other interests besides just cooking. So again, choose your blog name very carefully.  Does it represent you and your blog completely?

Wrong camera

When I got my fancy new camera 2 1/2 years ago it was a huge step up from my little point and shoot Canon Powershot.  I had no idea at the time, that I would become a food blogger and need a DSLR camera with interchangeable lenses!  I bought all of the books, and I have read all of the tutorials that have been published on how to take photos that will be accepted by Featured Sites {Foodgawker, etc.}.  None of the information can help me with my particular camera.  It is not possible to change the white balance on my camera, {this is the first thing that they tell you to change} and I cannot get below f/4.6.  That is not so great for food photos worthy of a magazine cover, lol.  Just something to keep in mind if you are looking to upgrade your current camera.

Social Media

I need to learn how to schedule my social media posts and limit the amount of time focusing on them.  Social media is mandatory if you have a blog, it is a necessary evil!  Advertising companies require you to be active on multiple social media sites…..and there are a lot of them!   I feel that I am currently loosing this battle.

Link Parties

At one point, I was linking up to 65 parties per week…..and I could not keep up.  Do not over extend yourself with link parties!  I am slowly thinning down my list of parties that I participate in…..I need time to actually cook and create posts!

Lessons learned in my first year…..

Pinterest

Most of your blog traffic, will come from pinterest!

Sign up when you start your blog.  I had never even heard of pinterest before, so I didn’t sign up until the end of April.

Put your blog boards first so they get noticed!!

Choose really good cover photos to represent your boards.  You want people to want to follow those boards!

I have a massive collection of pins on my Blogging Info Board {2,082 pins} if you would like more detailed information about blogging.  There is also a separate Pinterest Info board as well.

WordPress Plug Ins

Jetpack for WordPress.com-  Adds a widget that displays your most popular posts using Jetpack stats.

CommentLuv – I think it is cool to see what people last posted.

Comment Reply Notification – I like for people to be able to read my response to their comments. 🙂

Flare – to make it easier for people to share my posts.

GetMeCooking Recipe Template – I have the Premium plugin.

Pinterest Pin It Buttons for Images – Displays a Pin It button directly over your images.  I just liked this one the best.

Related Post by Zemanta – Quickly increase your readers’ engagement with your posts by adding Related Posts in the footer of your content.

SEO for WordPress – The first true all-in-one SEO solution for WordPress, including on-page content analysis, XML sitemaps and much more.

If you are visiting a site and you like a feature that they have, look for a clickable button that will take you to the plugin site, or ask the blogger what it is called.  They are usually more than happy to help you out!

Do not compare yourself to others!!

Have you heard the phrase, “Don’t compare your beginning, to someone else’s middle?”  You cannot start a blog and expect to have a following the size of Crazy for Crust six months later!  That is not realistic!!  It takes years, a lot of hard work, and even some luck to get to the level of The Pioneer Woman!

Have a plan – stay focused – and you will achieve your goals.  This is not a race to the finish line.  It is a journey that should be enjoyed…..each step of the way.

I have been very methodical in my approach to blogging.  I set goals, and I work towards them.  I achieve the initial goal, and I move on to the next one.

Some people think that I waited too long to add advertising to my blog.  If you don’t have a strong following, what’s the point?  I am now playing around with different ad companies to see which ones I like best.  So far I have been very happy with Riot Ad Network!   I have had absolutely not luck with Amazon, so I think they will be disappearing soon.  I will promise you this, I will never advertise something that I do not believe in…..that just isn’t who I am.

Mommy Blogger

This has been the hardest lesson learned.  I am NOT a mommy blogger.  I have two adults, I do not have children living in my home.  As soon as the question comes up in the questionnaire, I know that I have no chance of being chosen for that campaign.  This is where limiting your blog’s focus can work against you.

PicMonkey

PicMonkey is the greatest invention since sliced bread!!  I highly recommend it for all of your photo editing needs, whether you are a blogger or not.  I have the Royal membership and I couldn’t live without it!

 

Thank you so much for joining me on this awesome adventure, I couldn’t do it without all of you!  I am really excited to see what new adventures come my way during my second year of blogging!!

Lisa – xoxo

Comments

  1. says

    Lisa, happy “official” blogiversary! I am so happy that we have become friends through blogging and I hope to have that “meet in person” for real someday! Wow, I have to process all of this info, there are probably things here I’ve never truly considered! 🙂 Enjoy your day and take a break! Best wishes for many more years of blogging fun and friendship! xoxo
    Cindy Eikenberg recently posted…Santa Face Door Hanger–Reinvented!My Profile

  2. says

    Happy blogiversary, Lisa! Blogging is hard work, but you’ve done a fabulous job of making it look easy! The first two years of my blogging were more along the lines of hobby blogging, so although I celebrated my 3-year blogiversary last week, I feel like my journey has just begun.
    Keep up the great work you’re doing!
    P.S… can I join in the “cool girls” group?! ♥

  3. says

    Happy Blogiversary!! I’m going on two years and have soooo much to learn. My blog won’t be a full time endeavor until I retire (which will be a long time from now). Thank you for sharing your tips. I feel like I’m stumbling along, but it sure is a fun stumble….haha! Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving 🙂

  4. says

    Happy Blogiversary! It was so nice reading more about your start and what you have learned! I have only been blogging for about 2 months now and it was nice to hear your tips. I started a lot like you did with my own .com through wordpress.org! 🙂

  5. says

    Congratulations on your one year blogiversary, Lisa! You have some wise knowledge and tips that you’ve passed on here. I’m going on six months of blogging and I feel like I still have so much to learn…seeing what you’ve accomplished in a year gives me something to aspire to. 🙂

  6. Val in MN says

    Congrats!! I don’t remember how or when I found you but I originally followed you because you were my neighbor to the south, and your recipes and pinterest boards made me drool. I didn’t even realize you were a newer blogger.

    I also wish to start a blog once I get a decent camera, and a few more of those social media accounts, but I’m trying to learn before I jump in too deep. I’m delighted your comments about domains, hosts etc. EXACTLY mirror what my son steered me to do! I have those pieces in place!

    Keep up your great work, and good luck on your second year!

  7. says

    Great info, Lisa! Starting a blog — and keeping it up — is a lot of work. It’s fun, but it requires a lot of attention. I feel like I can barely keep up with the social media either, and I totally agree about those link parties — they’re wonderful! I need to remind myself to comment more as well. Love your blog and keep up the good work!

  8. says

    Lisa, thank you so much for this post. I’ve been blogging 4 1/2 years and still, so much of this is very helpful. I have a full time demanding job so time spent on my blog is squeezed in whenever I have the time and energy. I have just started joining in on link parties. I only participate in 3 or 4. I’m a little discouraged because I leave genuine comments on thumbnails that genuinely interest me and hardly get any of those folks to “share the love” and head over to my site. I promise I won’t give up. 🙂 Thanks for the list of plugins, I need some of those. And the monitizing class. I’ll head over and check that one out. And, lastly, bygosh, there are many things I’ve been doing right. Thanks for that confirmation. 🙂

    One question I have is the scheduling of social media posts. I really don’t understand how to do that. Are these posts different than your blog posts? I’ve seen it mentioned several times and just don’t understand.
    Lea Ann (Cooking On The Ranch) recently posted…Poached Eggs in White WineMy Profile

  9. says

    Another questions re: Pinterest Board Top DIY and Food Bloggers Share best.

    I never know how to tell who the owner of a community board is when I find it on someone else’s boards. Can you send me an invitation to join that board? Thanks so much.

  10. says

    Lisa, this is so great!! Such a good synopsis of your first year. And by the way, I would have thought that you’ve been blogging for much longer than just a year. You put out such nice work!!
    I’m about half way through my first year, and I share much of your sentiment. I will definitely be looking into the profitable blogging for beginners class that you’ve mentioned. All the best! ~Erin

  11. says

    I’m so glad to read a blog who isn’t a mommy blogger. Not to many of us around. Great advice and seems I’ve learned as you have. And OMG what a difference a good camera will do for your blog.

  12. says

    Thanks for a useful post, Lisa. I’m going to check into jet pack more closely. I’ve seen it referenced a couple of times but never pursued it.

  13. says

    Lisa, Happy Blogiversary! I LOVE reading posts like this one. You shared a lot of great information that’s so appreciated by bloggers who are just starting out like myself. I’ve only been blogging since August and I’ve been working hard at it in addition to my full-time job as a marketing professional. I’m definitely looking for a support group so if you’re accepting new members, please let me know. I’ve started out on Blogger and will most likely need to transition to WordPress eventually, but I didn’t want to dive off the deep end and find out I didn’t enjoy it. I am LOVING it. Thanks again for a great post and please let me know if your group is interested in growing by one!

  14. says

    Great helpful hints! I’ll make a note to my my blog boards to the top of Pinterest! I just bought my domain, so I will be pinning this for future reference too! Thanks!

  15. says

    Great post, Lisa. I am coming up on the end of my first year as well and reflecting back on the good and the bad! We had a lot in common! Lol! Good luck with your next year and I will be pinning this post to my blog board as the info is wonderful.

  16. Cynthia says

    Time flies huh? Gotta love wordpress! Thanks for linking to the In and Out of the Kitchen Link Party. Hope to see you next week

  17. says

    Thanks so much for sharing this post on Foodie Friday. Congrats on your first year, I honestly can’t believe you have only been blogging for 1 year you do such a fantastic job.

  18. says

    Lisa, these are some great lessons learned. I’ve been blogging for 3+ years now, and I’m still learning so much. Unfortunately I started on blogger, and it’s just too much for me to switch to wordpress now – but I sure wish I had started there.

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