Discussion, Tech Talks

{Tech Talk Tutorial} Blogging Tips

Blogging Tips: What I Learned in My First Year of Blogging

My goal with this post is to put together my thoughts about what I have learned in my first year of blogging, and to ask you for any other tips or tricks that you have regarding blogging that you wish your former self had known about! The major topics I will touch on are:

  • Blogging Platforms
  • Following Blogs
  • Link Parties
  • Comments
  • General Blogging Tips
  • Wrap-Up

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Before I get to the meat of my Tech Talk Tutorial today, I want to thank Stephanie @Late Night Quilter for inspiring me to sit down and put this post together. Starting today, Stephanie is going to host a weekly link up party called Tips and Tutorials Tuesdays on her blog, Late Night Quilter. I have been thinking about this post for a while but the start of her new link party was the impetus I needed to get it written up. Thanks for the nudge, Stephanie, and I hope your new linky party is a success!

Tips and Tutorials Tuesdays

Tips and Tutorials Tuesdays

Blogging Platforms

After deciding to create a blog, one of the first big decisions that will be made is where to host your blog. There are many platforms available to help you create your blog, and some of the most popular options are:

  1. WordPress.com
  2. Tubmlr
  3. Blogger

Choosing the platform that is right for you can feel light a daunting task. Even after using a platform for a number of years, sometimes a switch is necessary. To learn more about the differences between the platforms and to help you decide what might be best for you, I recommend these articles:

  • WordPress.com vs. Tumblr vs. Blogger
    • [excerpt] “…each blog is custom-tailored for a different user and audience. Whereas WordPress.com is best suited for professional users who want to outfit their blog with upgrades and plugins, Tumblr finds grounding in quick, community-driven posts usually lined with images. And Blogger walks the middle ground between the two with a sheer level of simplicity and easy-to-use use design anyone can master.”
  • Blogger vs. WordPress.org vs. Tumbler
    • [excerpt] “So you want to start a website. But which content platform best suits your needs? First off, you’ve made a good choice by comparing Blogger vs WordPress.org vs Tumblr. They’re so widely used and well developed that they have a lot of support. Use any one of these platforms and you’ll have access to rich user forums. You’ll also have clear support and guidelines for domain name mapping, as well as a rich selection of plugins.”

Once you have made your choice on a blogging platform, finding good tutorials and help might still be necessary. Here are a few resources for each of the three main platforms.

  1. WordPress
    1. How to create a website with WordPress.com
    2. Learn WordPress.com | Getting Started
  2. Tumbler
    1. The Beginner’s Guide to Tumblr
    2. Tumblr for Business: The Ultimate Guide to Getting Started
  3. Blogger
    1. Blogger Getting Started Guide
    2. How to Create a Blog in Blogger

What if you decide that you want to switch which platform you use for blogging? Here are some articles to help migrate (move) your blog from one platform to another.

  1. Migrate from Blogger to WordPress.com
  2. Migrate from Blogger to WordPress.org
  3. Migrate from Blogger to Tumblr
  4. Migrate from WordPress.com to Blogger
  5. Migrate from WordPress.com to Tumblr
  6. Migrate from Tumblr to Blogger
  7. Migrate from Tumblr to WordPress
  8. Migrate from WordPress.com to WordPress.org

In case you are wondering, as of February 2015, Quilting Jetgirl is hosted by WordPress.com and I pay $99 a year for the premium service which allows me to have my custom URL and access to more storage. I am considering a move to a self-hosted site through WordPress.org, but that decision will wait until the end of 2015.

Following Blogs

I had no idea about aggregate blog readers until the middle of 2014 (a blog aggregator is a website that collects and organizes blog sources). By offering ways for readers to follow your blog (email sign up, RSS feed, Bloglovin’, Feedly, etc.), it makes it easier for people to follow your blog. Having your own account in these aggregates also allows you to follow blogs for your own inspiration and see how your posts are showing up in other people’s feeds (I have found and fixed a problem in my WordPress.com settings because I was following my own blog – scroll to the end of this article for details!). Here are a few of the top options I have seen used for quilting blogs recently:

  1. Bloglovin
  2. Feedly

Link Parties

As you may have noticed at the beginning of this article, I joined a link party to share this post with other readers on another website hosted by Stephanie @Late Night Quilter. Link parties are an opportunity for you to share your work on other websites, and they can be a great resource for you to find new inspiration as you discover other bloggers who link up. When you visit a site that is hosting a link party that day, it is important to read the “rules” of that host. Some link parties require you to follow their blog, post their button on your site, include a link back to their post in the post you link up, comment on the two links before you, etc.  I have discovered some great blogs through link parties, and I definitely recommend visiting other bloggers and showing them some comment love.  It is a party, after all! A great resource for Quilting related link parties is QuiltAlong.net.

Are you interested in starting your own link party? I recommend checking out InLinkz and the articles below for more information on hosting a successful link party.

Comments

Comments are the currency that keeps the blog world moving. I was fortunate enough to participate in the New Quilt Blogger’s blog hop sponsored by Beth @plum and june last year, and I learned a lot from my participation. As part of the blog hop, a large email list of the participants was generated and we had some great email discussions.

One of the topics that came up is how much everyone values comments on their blog. I learned that it is proper blog etiquette to try to respond via email to the comments left on your site, and that it means a lot to the person who commented if you then visit their blog and leave a comment. I try to keep that in mind, and while I cannot always return the visit to another blog, I really believe in the value of comments. I will occasionally review and edit the list of blogs that I follow so that I feel I have the capability to each the posts and leave comments.

Another part of the discussion about comments was that people really appreciate when the comment has some meaning and shows that the person actually read the blog post. Again, the best method I have for coping with that request is making sure that I am not overwhelmed with too many posts to read. I don’t comment on every post I read, but I do aim to leave a comment on most (~75-80%).

General Blogging Tips

  1. Know your audience. Are you trying to find a community of fellow crafters or are you trying to promote a business? It takes a skillful hand to do both. Many discussions have been generated around this topic, but what I would like to encourage you to think about is why you are blogging. Personally, I blog to cultivate relationships in the sewing / quilting world. I do not have friends who live by me in my day-to-day life who sew and quilt, so this community sustains and feeds my creativity.
  2. Be consistent. Life happens, so this is not always something that is in your control. However, having a consistent posting schedule can help keep you motivated and your reading community engaged. One way I like to help with my posting consistency is to schedule my posts in advance. That way I do not feel pressure to sit down and write out a post to be published immediately. Scheduling allows me to write when I have time and save the proof-reading / editing for later if I so need.
  3. Be true to you. It is great to follow other bloggers and get ideas from them, but the content and posts that you write on your own site should be written by you, using your own unique perspective and insights. Part of the beauty about the blogging community is that it allows us to make personal connections, to it is a huge benefit to let your personality shine through. It is up to you how much personal information you are comfortable sharing (and I do urge you to consider what you want to share!). Another tip that I would add here is that because this platform can seem very impersonal, having an up-to-date “About” page can be a really nice site feature. Again, it is up to you, but sharing a current photograph of yourself can be a very nice touch, too.
  4. Consider improving your photography skills. This is definitely an area where I have huge room for improvement. The better your photography can capture and represent your work, the more engaged your readers will become. Ruth @Charly and Ben’s Crafty Corner has a great series on her blog to help improve your photography.
  5. Is your blog easy to read? Another really great aspect of the New Quilter’s Blog Hop that I participated in during 2014 was some one-on-one blog feedback. Getting feedback about your site from a friend, relative, or blogging friend can be invaluable. I have noticed that crisp, clean sites seem to attract people (white background, easy to read black text, large photographs, etc.).
  6. Look for the silver lining. I personally stop following blogs that are really negative. I completely understand that sometimes life can throw you a curve, but when the underlying message of negativity begins to permeate every post, I tend to opt out. I personally believe that it is better to promote what I love instead of focusing on bashing what I hate. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely still am susceptible to my own occasional rants… but I really do try to keep things positive. Now, that is not to say I only want to hear compliments and rainbows and unicorns as feedback in my comments! Another part of having a blog is having discussions, and I am totally open to feedback, discussion, and reader engagement!
  7. Make friends. The easiest way to do this is to respond to the comments that your readers leave you, and for you to leave comments on blog posts that inspire you, too.
  8. Don’t give up. Stick with it. Finding your writing style, improving your photography, creating a reader base… all of these things take time.
  9. Look for and cultivate your own inspiration. Make sure you are getting the inspiration you need to keep yourself excited about what you blog about. That can mean anything from following other blogs, making time for other creative outlets, or even taking a vacation.
  10. Pay attention to details. In my first months of blogging, I would write a post and hit “Publish”. Then I would proof-read the post and edit it. And edit it again. Taking my time to edit before I publish means that all my email subscribers are no longer getting really oddly formatted and poorly written posts emailed to them (oops).

Wrap-Up

These are my current (February 2015) thoughts about blogging tips I have learned over the past year. Do you have any additional tips that have benefited you and your blog? Please share them in the comments!

If you are interested in more in depth discussions about blog posts, I have a few other Tech Talk Tutorials that you might find helpful:

And if you are new to my website, please check out some of my community driven discussion articles!

32 thoughts on “{Tech Talk Tutorial} Blogging Tips

  1. Helen Coulter says:

    This arrived for me Yvonne at the right time ! I have been blogging for over a year but have a couple of techy problems . I now know forums might help sort these !

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    1. Sandy says:

      Great read thank you. FYI your link to this on your tutorial page returns as “page not found” however a search did!

  2. Hayley says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I am a new blogger and really just getting the hang of it, so loads of room for improvement! Slowly, slowly

  3. RuthB says:

    Thanks for the shoutout Yvonne. #8 on the blogging tips resonates for me. You do need to give your self time to grow into your blog, find your style and what you want to say about your projects. For me it’s sharing the links for others to make for themselves and see where the inspiration came from that is uppermost in my mind while writing a blog post.

  4. Joanna says:

    One thing that has benefitted me I think is to check out the available settings available in WP, and for my theme and to play with them. What does this function do? What does that widget do? What happens if I use this theme instead? I’ve found a lot of nifty features by just playing around, and checking out the new themes and functions whenever I see them advertised on the dash.

    I also think it’s important to know and understand how your blogging platform works, particularly in comparison to other platforms. Eg. Blogspot’s no-reply blogger business. People mention it on their giveaways and ask people to leave their email address in a comment to be eligible. This isn’t an issue on WP as we get that info in the dashboard, however I regularly see WP users specify these same terms despite it being unnecessary for us. Since the majority of quilting bloggers are on Blogspot I guess things like that end up being seen as the ‘norm’ no matter what blog platform you use but if you learn how your own platform works then you’ll be able to run your blog in a way that better suits you because you’ll have better control over it.

  5. Cindy says:

    As a new blogger I want to thank you for this great post. There is a lot of great advice. I may become a better blogger by just implementing a couple of your tips. The first will be not hitting publish until thus ending the need to edit. Thank you!

  6. sfredett says:

    I think I struggle with #2 the most… for some reason I always think that a blog post with ‘bad’ pictures is worse than no blog post at all, but waiting for opportunities to take good pictures are few and far between. Maybe scheduling some would help me out. On good photo days photograph everything I can get my hands on, then schedule posts. 🙂

    The one thing I’ve learned is to respond to comments. I know not everyone does, and I miss a few sometimes, but you can really form friendships and support networks that way. And with those bloggers that don’t reply to comments (especially the long drawn out comments, not the “I like it!” comments) I generally stopped reading. I like being talked to not talked at, but that might just be a personal preference.

    1. I do exactly as you said with photos–on a good day with good light and happy, occupied kiddos, I photograph everything I can think of. That way I have back up posts for the days on end without light/babysitter/time. As for replying to comments, I am trying to get better at that. My biggest problem is that I often read and approve comments on my phone, but want to reply in an email, which I can only really do on the computer. Then I have a tendency to “mentally reply” and forget whether I actually sent the reply or not. I’m working at getting more consistent at replying to comments, so please don’t give up on me! LOL

  7. These are all great tips. Thanks for sharing!

  8. What a great post! I have been blogging just over a year, a huge step for me. Regardless of how long you blog, it is always great to get a refresher course packed full of tips and ideas. In the beginning I was scared to death to write and publish a post. I’m not that articulate! Eventually, I decided I would write how I do, speak how I speak and do what I do! Trying to get a foot hold in the blogging world is a challenge and hard. I am thankful for each and every comment I receive and thrilled when they return! I would love to have someone evaluate my blog ~ I’m sorry I missed the Plum & June series!

    Thank you again for the post Yvonne! Timely, informative and very well written!!

  9. I needed this last year! This is so well written and great collection of information to anyone new to blogging. You are right you live and learn and see what works, but it’s nice having some solid advice. Great job.

  10. Renee says:

    I think one thing about responding to blog comments is also to do it within a week, or just skip it (unless there was a question that needs to be answered). I always find it really odd when I get a comment response to something I commented on weeks ago–especially if the response is something short. Replying to comments within a day or two is ideal, unless you’re on vacation or something else comes up.

  11. Jasmine says:

    What a great and comprehensive list, Yvonne! I wish I had learned about blog readers in the beginning. I agree that clean and easy to read blogs are my favorite. One more thing that comes to my mind is sponsors. I have no problem with blogs that have sponsors, but I really don’t like it when the ads pop up, and you have to click to close them. That is one thing which will make me stop following a blog. I have even seen some where it isn’t a sponsor thing that pops up, but a “follow me” that pops up.

  12. What a great post! I’ll offer that I’ve realized many aggregators don’t recognize a “featured image” (there’s a setting for that in my wordpress template on my blog posts, but it might not be on everyone’s). Anyway, the aggregators pick up the first picture in the blog post instead of that one I want to have featured. I’ve started to be sure that I put my best picture first so potential readers notice that instead of maybe an in-progress picture that doesn’t tell them much about what they’d see after the jump.

    1. Joanna says:

      I’ve actually been trying to figure out how this works, because I’ve noticed it’s not always the first picture in my post, it can be quite random! With the FQS blog hop this week, when my post of it ported to FB (I use the Publicise feature in the dash), the picture it chose was the back of the quilt, not the actual front which is the second or third picture in my post! So I feel like I’m missing post shares there because why would anyone share a picture of the back of the quilt when the point is the front of it? Sure I can post it all manually myself but that’s extra work when these features save time!

      I don’t want to set a featured image on my blog posts though as I don’t like how they look on my posts in my current theme, and since I just use the free version of WP I don’t want to use up all my space hosting my blog pictures (I host pics on flickr for posts).

      I’ve read there’s code (og tags – Open Graph) which is suppose to at least tell FB which image to use for posts; not sure about other sites but I tried it in a post and the code disappears when I preview so I think it’s part of the html coding WP doesn’t allow, at least for free users. I have noticed in BlogLovin, that quite often a badge/button for a linky will be what’s picked up for the post and these are generally at the end of my posts when I post them! Those images often have div tags, so I wonder if those are somehow pinging the readers to pick that image over others?

  13. Mary Ringer says:

    As far as WordPress, Blogger, and Tumbr, are they all iPad friendly? My laptop with Windows 8 (curse that operating system!) is down for the count right now.

  14. Anne Beier says:

    Happy Blogaversary!! This is a wonderful post.

    I would add that right after you take your blog “live,” check it’s formatting on all search engines on PC’s and a MAC. I realized shortly after my blog went “live” the tabs were out of whack on Internet Explorer, when it appeared on a PC. The code had to be adjusted. No big deal. But I realized it a good week after I launched.

  15. This is a great post Yvonne. I’m still in my first year of blogging and have so much to learn. Taking better pictures is on my list, as well as making sure my blog represents who I am. I agree that responding to comments is powerful and really helps a blogger connect with others. That was also one of the reasons I started blogging – to connect with other quilters who share the same interests.

    It’s also tempting, as a newbie, to want to jump in and join all the parties but it can be a bit overwhelming and add a lot of stress (for me). I’ve given myself permission to post just twice a week (Mon/Fri). I will post on other days if I have something worth sharing, but I don’t stress out if I only have two posts that week. Works for me…

    Thanks for all the great links and for sharing this information!

  16. Very handy round up Yvonne, I will definitely be checking out that Link Party for more tips!

  17. sally says:

    Lots of great advice, I think I need to follow myself and see what I look like. And I know I must get better at replying to comments, it’s just a time issue, I always go and visit blogs of commenters and take the time to comment there, which I feel is something they will appreciate maybe more, but then I seem to run out of time for replies. From the everyday life, making time for my making and then blogging, keeping up to date with other blogs and comments, it’s always the replying to my comments that is the thing to give.

  18. You know, I have been slow trying to transition over to wordpress as I like a lot more in depth now, etc. The only problem I am having it not being able to get my blog to then look like it is now… ugh! I love Blogger and its simplicity but it doesn’t give you as in depth information as WordPress and I wish I would have started with them from the beginning. This was a great read and awesome information! I like that it’s all in one place now!

  19. Vera says:

    You are so good at putting all those links and tips together! Thank you for sharing with us. I learned so much during the hop as well so I can agree with you on these.

  20. This is a wonderful and thoughtful post about blogging, I wish I had read it when I started out, it is a wonderful collection of information.

  21. Terri Ann says:

    Thanks for the QuiltAlong.net shout out Yvonne!!! I think it might be really valuable to add .com to the WordPress references. I’m a spoiled blogger myself, there has never been an option other than WordPress.org self-hosted for me and I will never look back. Of course that comes with a down-side cause more than once my blogs have been hacked and those hackings are not fun; they involve a lot of manual work editing files and database entries.

    On following blogs I’ve used Feedly and Bloglovin’ and have to say the craft/quilt niche bloggers seem to overwhelmingly prefer Bloglovin’. I recently abandoned my Feedly account to explore why other readers in my niche prefer Bloglovin’.

    Your blogging tips are great and all really spot on. I’ve been blogging on and off for over a decade now. I’ve run (and in some cases, currently maintain) a number of blogs from photography, to pet care, iPhone apps, coding and quilting. Some of them were passing fads or testing ideas I had so after a decade of blogging I have little to show. Though, I strongly value the knowledge that came from all of those experiences. I’ve started writing down all the tips I would provide to other bloggers cause recently I had the a-ha moment that I’m not eating my own dog food and following my own “best practice” rules.

    Sorry for the long comment but your post really made me stop and think and this is what my brain plopped out after that thinking 🙂

    1. These are great thoughts, Terri Ann. I will definitely go back and edit my post to site “.com” were appropriate in terms of WordPress, and I look forward to reading your own list of best practice rules. I hope that this information will be found and used by new bloggers – I would have really loved to have this as a reference when I started!

  22. One of my friends is talking about starting a blog with her sewing group tomorrow, so I have forwarded her a link to this post.

  23. This is a great compilation of info that I think new bloggers will find very helpful. Having a dialogue with fellow bloggers that you follow is so important but also very challenging for me. Like you, I also could use to improve my photography skills.

  24. This is soooo helpful. I know this will be a post that I return to again and again, and I know I’m not the only one! It is invaluable to have all of these links and ideas in one place!!! Did you send this to Beth at Plum and June? I bet she would love to recommend it to new bloggers in the future. Thank you so much for taking the time to write down these tips this week, coinciding with my first Tips and Tutorials Linky party. (By the wa, you’re leading the vote for the favorite post so far!)

  25. jifisher says:

    There is so much to think about in this post, Yvonne. There are many choices that have to be considered and mastered…photography, platform, prose, etiquette, communication, design, content AND the quilts!!! It can be overwhelming. Seeing a well organized list like this suddenly makes goal-setting seem much more doable. I know I have many improvements to make. Thanks for an inspiring post.

  26. Thank you so much for sharing your tips and all this info. I’m a pretty new blogger and am still feeling my way through trial and lots of error. There’s still a lot I don’t understand, but this will help a lot.

I really appreciate the time and thought you take to comment, and I look forward to conversing with you. :)