I created my first blog in Livejournal in university in 2009. It was friends-only and there were only 2 or 3 readers. Once I found out I was going to Martinique in 2011, I started a blog on Blogger to let my family know what I was up to and well, honestly, to make my friends jealous! I didn’t write regularly and they were mostly accounts of my antics – if you go back into the archives you’ll see what those were…
One year ago this month, I returned home to Toronto unsure of what I would do with my life and uncertain about what was going to happen with my partner and me. I knew I wanted to write and I saw starting a blog – one that people could relate to and benefit from – as a way to build a portfolio and show off my creativity, self-starting nature and marketing skills.
So here we are – one year later and my blog has brought me a number of opportunities I wasn’t expecting. I write for a living, I’ve learned CSS & HTML (yes, I did this redesign myself!) and I’ve met some amazing people! So, here are the things I’ve learned over the past year:
1. I don’t have to blog every day.
When I was starting out, a lot of blogs recommended blogging regularly – 3 times a week and such. So I did. That was easy when I wasn’t working full-time writing and too exhausted to create. If you follow my blog, you may have noticed that I go weeks sometimes without updating. Occasionally it does affect my rankings, but to be honest, that’s a question of vanity. What really matters are the numbers of emails and comments I get from people telling me how much they appreciate my helpful post, or how much my blog inspired them.
2. Write what you like and like what you write.
Especially when you’re just starting. Unless you’re really lucky (or clever with SEO) no one is going to be reading your first posts besides family and friends. Don’t publish something just because you want a search engine to find it. Spend hours agonizing over every word and sentence. Hit the publish button because you’re proud of it.
3. Blogging is about more than just venting or talking about yourself.
It’s a great way for people with shared interests to find you. I’ve met a lot of really amazing people through my blog. I’ve even met up with readers visiting in London.
This blog is a way to remember what I was doing and thinking in any given time and a way to share my experiences creatively. It’s awesome.
4. As a result, people take bloggers a lot more seriously than I had thought.
I get sent press releases. I’ve been on food tours, to restaurants, hostel launches. I have a few more partnerships lined up and I may even be on a TV program with bae! There are blogger conferences, press trips, advertising, and sponsorship – all to help me create awesome content for you to read.
5. There is a huge community of bloggers – and every niche has its own community.
Working in outreach (I email bloggers to build partnerships) means I’ve had to research all sorts of bloggers. There are food bloggers, but then there are French food, food allergy, vegetarian/vegan, Paleo, gluten-free bloggers. There are beauty bloggers, but then there are budget beauty, male beauty, lifestyle beauty bloggers. It’s all very fascinating and I’ve worked with fellow bloggers on two occasions – here and here!
6. I probably should have a niche.
I’ve said before that I don’t really want a niche. By that, I mean that I don’t want to be limited to what I write about. I’m realizing now that it doesn’t have to limit you, but it certainly helps when it comes to your influence. Newspapers and journalists look for quotes, experts in different fields and such. They’ll find an influential budget traveller to talk about budget travel in an article; they’ll seek out a vegan blogger with clout to talk about vegan diets. I’m not actively defining myself, but it’s probably starting to emerge that I specialize in moving and working abroad, wouldn’t you say? If I add some more pictures of my partner, I could even be considered a couples’ travel blogger. I probably don’t even need to add more pictures…
7. SEO is actually about helping people.
At a fundamental level, good SEO helps people. Obviously, there are a lot of technical aspects to good SEO, but what you really want to do is provide readers with useful information. Be a resource to people. For that reason, it’s no surprise that my most popular article is about getting a Youth Mobility Visa for the UK. People need the information and are searching regularly for it. Satisfied readers are going to trust you and invest in your ‘product’. They may even come back multiple times!
8. SEO isn’t the be all, end all though.
Sure, it’s easy enough to get people here – but SEO isn’t going to keep people on your site. It’s also no surprise that the above article has the highest bounce rate of my blog (that is, people who read one article and leave without further interaction). They come for the information, but they stay for the person, the brand, the entertainment, the stories, and so on. I write those kinds of SEO heavy articles – especially when I can’t to write the good stuff – but I still write the good stuff, too.
9. If you really want to make a difference, help people save time, stress, or money.
In that order of importance, too. These are all things that a majority of folks in developing country want to do. We’re much more likely to spend money to save time and stress. Except me. I don’t mind losing time to save money. It’s why I’d rather spend an hour on the bus than 20 minutes on the Tube. That may have to do with stress too, though…
10. Storytelling is like making a sandwich.
This is something I learned during my internship at the Barrie Examiner. Brian Rodnick, the editor, told me “You have a fridge full of food, but you only need some of it”. There are times when I want to include every bit of detail in everything I write. I have to remind myself that no one is going to chuckle at my inside jokes; most people won’t understand why my friend’s comment was ironic, and so on. Good writing is very often about good editing.
11. I have to stay true to myself.
This one needs no explaining. I do what I want and for the most part, I don’t have to answer to anyone or explain my actions. This is my blog and no one can tell me what I’m doing is right or wrong (well, except when it is wrong. You know, in the moral sense). In most circumstances, it is what it is.
12. I really appreciate all of you.
If you’re reading this, thank you. If you’ve left a comment on my blog, I am sending you an e-hug. I’m really happy to be able to help and/or entertain people by doing something I enjoy doing. So, come back tomorrow for a big surprise!