6th of April is my blog birthday – the main one. Actually there are several important anniversary dates but 6th April is the day that means most to me. It’s the anniversary of the day I bought my own domain name and went (as they call it) “self-hosted”. Happy blog birthday to me! It’s been two years as Falcondale Life. A little known fact is that I had a previous photography blog in 2013. I also blogged on the baby centre website in 2001 and prior to that I wrote my own travel photo blog from scratch in html code in 1999. I wish I could remember the web address of that one as it’s still out there somewhere on a freenet server. In truth I was not doing blogging wholeheartedly until this day two years ago.
Here is a scratch list of the discoveries I have made as a blogger.
1. WordPress is a wonderful platform.
It gives me so much freedom to shape my website any way I want, and there is a host of free plugins and free advice.
2. My favourite plugin is Yoast.
It helps me optimise my blog posts to be found by people using Google. The name of this witchcraft is SEO, and I don’t really understand it, but thankfully Yoast is idiot-proof. There’s a lot more to SEO but it’s a good place to start. It means lots of people find my blog with search engines.
3. Small investment = big difference.
The best £40 I spent at the start was on a WordPress theme from Pipdig. A theme is a kind of layout for a website, it makes it easy to navigate and makes it pretty and professional looking too.
4. A good web host is vital.
I was lucky to go straight to Siteground for my hosting. Hosting means the place where my website is stored on a server. It’s so important to get a good, reliable host as they will keep your website running through thick and thin. With all the pings I get from Russian web bots, having a big, safe host is vital. Use my referral link to get your website onto Siteground. My tip is to buy your upgrades when they are on sale e.g. Black Friday and some other bank holidays when the discounts are huge.
5. Social media is my office space.
Sharing on social media is both a great way to get blog readers. I have never really understood how to actively build readers followers but I just keep plugging away and showing up. Now by my second blog birthday 4000 people follow me which is not too shabby. It’s also been great to find networks of like-minded bloggers. It is a really supportive virtual workplace full of people I truly like and admire.
6. Facebook is the pits.
Small businesses, freelancers and bloggers are marginalized by a deliberate Facebook policy. Pages for businesses and organisations are now suppressed and partially hidden by Facebook, to make the page owners spend money on advertising. You might think this is fair enough, but unfortunately the returns on advertising are often low, and always hit and miss. That’s not good business. If Facebook was not huge, it would be dying a commercial death. I keep my Facebook page going but in common with other bloggers I am concentrating my efforts elsewhere.
7. I love my Twitter account!
It’s essentially micro-blogging so I guess I was always bound to love being on Twitter. The site is famous for extreme and passionate views but mostly it brings out the very best in people and is a nice place.
8. Instagram is exhausting.
It does take a lot of effort to produce good quality Instagram content which I try to do six days a week. The whole world is on there so if I don’t like someone’s feed of selfies, I can choose to follow a feed of flowers instead. There’s something for every taste.
9. Pinterest is not what it used to be.
I joined Pinterest years ago when it was still in Beta testing. I love to bookmark all my thoughts and dreams on the site but now I have a pinboard for my blog too. I have a verfied site and rich pins, which every blogger needs. As an early adopter I will love it forever but I struggle to get to grips with the changes.
10. I’ve left some blogging subjects behind.
People call that “finding your niche”. I used to write about beauty, running, craft, dieting, current affairs, accessories, clothes and art. If you know me personally you will know those subjects don’t suit me. Now my blog theme is clearly Photography, Travel and Family Life with Teenagers. There’s plenty of scope in there for a good range, and secretly there’s a minor category on beer and booze too!
11. My writing style has changed slowly.
I should get it to change more quickly. For the first year I did not realize that I needed to find my voice and allow my personality to show. Writing a blog is not like other content writing or journalism. The reader needs to connect with the person behind the blog, and it can’t be sanitized like a report or newspaper column.
12. My photos have a new purpose.
I fell out with photography when I had to abandon my plans to turn it into a business. Blogs need photos and so I’ve had to reconnect with my camera. This has been so good for me. Blogging has saved this important part of who I am.
13. My life’s career path has come full circle.
I first trained in media but graduated into a recession. After working briefly in magazine advertising, PR, the music business, trades unions (swerve!) and HR, I am finally using all but one of the skills from my media training. The exception is video. I am going to bite the bullet and get content onto YouTube before my next blog birthday. Keep following me to find out how rusty I am!
14. My blog is primarily my blessing.
It is my creative outlet but it’s not much of an income yet. In fact my first aim is to break even. After so many months of working on it for 15 to 20 hours a week, my blog has a commercial value. It has a solid place on the web and a good audience. I’ve attracted some sponsorship but only recently. It is my small business and I value all your support as it grows. Blogging is not for the fainthearted!
15. I still find it hard to accept praise.
If I go back over my blog posts I can see some great comments from readers with lots to say and warm words. I am always, ALWAYS surprised if anyone wants to follow my blog or say something positive. I also get lovely emails from brands and PR companies about the work I have done for them. I try to delight, and it pays off. I need to file all my compliments in one place to read next time I have personal doubts.
16. It’s hard work, not freebies.
Some people think bloggers receive products, treats and tickets for free. This is so untrue. Nothing is free. An exchange of services is not “free”. For example, you give me theme park tickets, I give you a lifetime’s page of advertising and publicity and plugs on my website and social media. For a really big campaign you are looking at a variety of promotional services adding up to maybe 40 hours work. The blog will then sit on my site as an advert for years to come. This website already has 2000 hours of work invested in it to get it where it is today. What is that worth? More than I actually charge!
17. I am a slow learner.
I hold myself back which is a confidence issue as I know lots of bloggers who have started after me and overtaken me in reach and popularity. However a blog is personal thing, and slow is my personal pace. This is authentic, and I can’t be anything else.
18. Reader feedback is so valuable
Feedback helps me know what topics to cover and what kind of things readers enjoy. So as a blog birthday gift to me, please complete 4 short questions in the anonymous survey below. I’d be really grateful and it will help me plan future content to keep you happy!