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60 days in the Blogosphere: Part I

07 March 2012

Anyone who's ever started a blog knows that you learn a lot in the first few months.  In fact, you might look back later in your blogging career and laugh at your former self.

"Did I really think that design looked good?!?"
"How did I not know about turning off word verification?"
"I cannot believe I used to spam everyone's blog begging them to Follow Me!"

For the sake of shared learnings, I'd like to document what I've learned in my first 60 days of blogging.

Blog Design
The new blogger may not be ready to fork out hard earned cash for a professional blog design.  I get that!  However, that's no excuse for an unsightly blog.

Readers will judge you based on your blog design.  It will either tell them 1) "I treat my blog in a professional way," or 2) "this is just a little hobby for me and I couldn't be bothered to spruce it up."  You might be the best writer in the world, but if your blog design is bad, people will not stick around to find out.  {And seriously, if you have music that auto-plays on your blog, you will never, ever make a single blog friend.}

So, what to do?  If you want to go the DIY route, I recommend checking out Becky's how-to guide for blog design.  It is very simple and geared toward total beginners.  {Please note the instructions are specifically for Blogger blogs.}



There are a million and one tutorials out there if you have the patience to seek them out and follow them.  For me, it made more sense to invest a {relatively} small amount of money to get a professional design.  Yes, it felt silly spending money on my blog.  But I rationalized it because I frivolously spend money on eating out, going to movies, etc. on a regular basis, and never see that money again.  At least with a blog design, I'll have it for awhile.

What I did not know is that most of the popular blog designers have a wait list.  As in, you might have to wait over a month before they begin working on your blog!  So make the decision right away, knowing you'll have to be patient.

How to choose a blog designer?  Check out some of your favorite blogs.  Almost all of them will have a graphic & link somewhere, crediting the designer.  You can follow the link to explore their prices and packages.

Setting to change, like yesterday!
Connect your E-mail
If your email address is not connected to your blog, you need to change that asap!
Otherwise, you will never receive a response to comments you leave {sad face.}

Log into your dashboard>> click edit profile>> click on privacy>> check the box that says "show my e-mail". DONE.

If your word verification is on, you need to turn it off, NOW!  Bloggers hate that crap.  They go to leave you a comment, and have to type in a nonsensical, barely readable word.  It won't take long before they abandon the comment, and your blog.  ***The thing about this is that you might not know it's on.***  So unless you're 1,000% sure, check your settings.

Here's how you turn off word verification:
1.) Click on the gear icon under your profile picture on your dashboard page, and select "Old Blogger Interface."
2.) Then go to the "Settings" page and click on the "Comment" link under the tabs. 
3.) Where you see "Show Word Verification", select NO.
4.) To get back to the newer interface, there is a link in the upper right hand corner on the older dashboard page.

I follow at least 10 blogs that have word verification on.
I'm not gonna name names...
Oh who am I kidding?
I am going to name some names.
But it's only because I love you {and I hate captcha.}

Kate @ Daffodil's
CaitEmma @ Linen & Leaves
Julie Marie @ The Funny Thing of it Is

{Okay, that's all I can think of off the top of my head.  Girls, I love you.  I want to comment on your blogs.  But please, for the love of God, turn off the word verification! And please forgive me for the public call-out.}




Comment Settings
On your own blog, the following settings are most important:
1) Turn off word verification.  Are you noticing a theme?
2) Change the setting so your comment box pops up in a separate window.  Many bloggers spend a lot of time reading blogs and commenting.  The pop-up window reduces time and hassle for readers who want to leave a comment.  They will never have to leave your main page, and will appreciate it!
{Optional} If you want threaded comments, here's how to do it.  I don't recommend it, for various reasons that I will happily explain via E-mail, but I'm showing you how nonetheless.


Button Making & Swapping
Button swapping is a great way to make blog friends and attract readers.  As you find other blogs that are similar to yours (lifestyle vs mommy vs DIY vs fashion, etc.), they will likely have a page titled "Sponsor."  Read further to see if a) they are doing free button swaps, b) what size button they request, and c) how long they will swap for {some bloggers do a perma-swap, while others make you email each month to keep it going.}  If it's a blog with more than 500 friends on Google Friend Connect, it's likely that they will charge money for sponsorship, so finding smaller blogs is key.

If you don't know how to make a button, here's an easy tutorial.  Also, once you have your photo edited, you can use THIS easy button generator to get the code.  Try your best to create a button that will be eye-catching and draw readers' attention.  Often, a picture of yourself with your blog title works best.



Making Blog Friends
This is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  Whether you know it or not, making blog friends will become the most important reason that you blog.  It's seriously amazing how many great, smart, funny women are in the blog world!  Trust me, you want to get to know them.

Follow
Follow lots of blogs.  You can refine as you go, but at the beginning, start following and reading many blogs.  It will help you develop your own voice as a writer, give you ideas, and help you make friends.

Leave a trail
Leave tons of comments.  Comment, comment, comment.  However, a word of caution.  Mean what you say when you leave a comment.  Try to show that you read the post and make a connection with the blogger.  Secondly, don't leave a link to your blog in your comment.  People know how to find your blog, but many won't go to your blog if you're constantly leaving links for it everywhere.  Childish?  Maybe so, but I didn't make the rules ;)

Size Matters
You'll naturally fantasize about starting a blog and immediately becoming BFF's with the Big Baddies {as Debbie Jo calls them.}  You'll think, "I'm going to leave the wittiest comment of all and they'll immediately start following my blog and the rest is history."  The reality is-- you may not even receive a response.  Over one-thousand people follow the Big Baddies.  And guess what?  They formed most of their strong blog friendships when they were getting started.

So what's the lesson in all this?  Follow the Big Baddies because they are awesome and you'll get enjoyment and inspiration from them.  However, try to make blog friends with smaller bloggers.  I promise, it will be more fulfilling.  And it will be fun to watch your blogs grow together!  Then someday y'all will have millions of followers, but your inner-circle will still be the bloggers you met when you were getting started.

Answer Every, Single Comment
If someone finds your blog and takes the time to leave a comment--ANSWER IT!  The best relationships will be formed via E-mail.  They will start with a single comment, and blossom into an E-mail exchange.  From there, you'll be sharing stories, personal details, and advice!  But you'll never get this opportunity if you don't respond to comments.

Street Cred
And if you don't believe me, check out the blog advice from these amazing ladies:
Jenni @ Story of My Life
Michelle @ Vintage Apple
Mrs Monologues
Debbie Jo
Kristen @ Confessions of a GDS


To Be Continued...
So as it turns out, I have a lot of unsolicited advice.  Shocker!  I seriously need to work on that.  I'm pretty sure no one likes unsolicited advice.  But in this case, I'm saving more for later {ha!}


What's your best blog advice?

25 comments:

  1. Love you Emmy June, and very proud to be your friend.... Some excellent advice to the bloggers out there. Peace out. X

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  2. Seems like posting a comment got harder in the past month. I liked the old way better!

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  3. Really good advice Em, especially about turning that darn comment verification OFF. I can't believe you've only been blogging 60 days! You are going to rock the blogosphere. Glad I met you early on ;)

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  4. I am not the best at commenting or replying back, but I wish I was better. There is just not enough hours in the day. That is why I use twitter and other social media platforms to engage more.

    Thank you so much for the shout-out! That means a lot to me!

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  5. Boom Shot. In my lingo, that means you NAILED it. Bravo on this post :-) I will have to share this for Friday's Letters :-)

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  6. Good advice from a newbie! I mean I still can't figure this blog world out. I am surprised that I have any readers at all. Dude when you are a superstar blogger - don't forget me ok?

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  7. Love love love, Em! Or shall I call you Little Miss Unsolicited? ;-)

    I also abhor word verification. Part of me wants to not comment when I know the blog has word verification, but I haven't let myself get to that point yet. Also, I need to change my blog layout stat. OBVIOUSLY.

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  8. Wow...these are amazing tips and even after being in the blog world for a year I'm still learning. You should offer blog classes...Blogging for dummies. I'd come. :)

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  9. oh DEAR lord, music on blogs is the worst. Nothing makes me want to leave a blog quicker, than when I'm jamming out to my own itunes and all of a sudden, Celine Dion starts pumping through my speakers from someone's blog.

    Great advice!

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  10. This was seriously the best blog advice ever! Thank you so much for sharing with the world. I didn't realize my word verification was on, and I absolutely HATE word verification!

    xo kay

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  11. LOVE THIS!!!!! Thank you for the tips!!!! I will have to put some of these into play asap!!!

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  12. I love this post. New follower! I definitely agree with you about music on blogs. Ugh.

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  13. I have been blogging for a while now but I just clicked on the link for this at the bottom of your recent post and omg it is so helpful!! changed my settings. Wonderful post! Really helped me (: Thanks!

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  14. hahahaha!! so funny! yep you are right. i never realized the word verification was on... and had no clue how to change the email connection thingie..(someone had mentioned that before) thanks though. this is awesome and helps alot!! p.s. please do me a favor when you have a sec.. and let me know if i fixed it all ;)

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  15. ok, so i changed to the POP UP window, as opposed to the embedded... now i cant figure out how to reply to you or anyone? what do i do, miss know it all? ;) HELP!! =)

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  17. So awesome!

    Thanks for the tips!!

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  18. Thanks for the advice! I've been blogging for almost 2 months now, so this was just what I needed to read. I actually made a few changes to my blog as I was reading :)

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  19. Awesome post, where is the rss? I cant find it!

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  20. Thank you so much for tweeting me and pointing out that my email wasn't working! I just read through this whole blog and followed every bit of advice that you had! You're awesome!!! Thanks again

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  21. hi emmy! i just stumbled upon your blog and i want to say thank you thank you thank you!! these tips were super helpful for such a newbie like me! :) i am going to work on some things tonight and try to start connecting with other newbies!! :)

    thanks a bunch!

    your newest follower :)
    - jennifer.
    onefourthreeblog@blogspot.com

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  22. thanks for your help with the email thing-was a bit confused at first, but once i changed the blogger interface to 'old' it was easy as pie. :)

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  23. Awesome advice! Thanks so much. :)

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  24. Super post! Trying to integrate all this :-)

    Many thanks from a newbie!

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  25. I enjoyed reading through that list. :) Thanks for the tips, Emily!

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Thanks for sharing your thoughts and love!
Every comment makes me smile :)

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