If you’re here, you probably have a blog. Not only that, you’re probably looking for blog ideas and ways to build a better blog and grow your influence. A few months ago, I shared a post on how to start a blog, and it resonated with so many of you who want to begin blogging, but weren’t sure how.
In this two part series, I’ll share over 30 of my favorite tips, blog ideas and tricks on how to build a better blog, to hopefully encourage those of you who have started blogging, but are now looking to grow.
Several years ago, I went to a party a friend of mine was hosting that, for reasons I can’t remember now, I didn’t really want to attend. I tend to be a stickler regarding RSVP etiquette, so, since I said I’d attend (I think I was responsible for a side dish, another reason to make an appearance), I decided to show up. I didn’t know very many people there, but started the small talk chit-chat with a girl who would later become one of my very dearest friends. I think back to how close I was to staying home and hanging out with a movie and a bag of chocolate, and missing out on this potential connection.
I feel the same way, to a great extent, about my blog. It was a supplement to my new Etsy shop, an afterthought, really. A way, seven years ago, to stay on a creative path while staying at home with a newborn. It wasn’t the main event, by any means, and I figured maybe it would be a place where I can check in one a month or so and post about whatever was new in my Etsy shop, maybe a quick DIY, maybe even whatever I happened to be bingeing on on Netflix. Who knew, really?
Point is, I planned to get somewhere in the neighborhood of “not much” and “barely worth the time” out of the blogging experience, but ended up falling in love the experience. Blogging is my passion, and, if you’re reading this post, I believe it just may be yours, too.
I’m a craft blogger. It’s part of my identity, as much as being a mom, wife, friend, Etsy shop owner, coffee lover and DIYer are parts of my existence. It’s part of my past, and hopefully will continue to be a part of my future. Of all the labels attached to my being, none garner as many questions, exclamations, or commentary than “blogger”. People are curious, and have questions about the process, the whys and hows, and, everyone’s favorite, how I get paid.
Maybe you’re in the same boat, wondering about blogging, and not quite sure where to begin. Maybe you have a blog, but just haven’t had the time, energy or know-how to build it up to what you’d like it to be, or maybe you’re a long-time blogger, looking for some pointers on how to take your blog to the next level. No matter the circumstances, if you feel stuck in your blog, and not sure where to go next, this is for you.
This series will be broken up into 2 posts, each with small, actionable steps and blog ideas to take to help you move forward on this journey. Not looking to start a craft blog specifically? That’s fine! These tips will help you no matter what niche you decide to pursue.
Section 1: Passions, Needs & The Very Beginning
“The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.” —Neil Gaiman
1. Find your blogging passion. Want to blog, but not sure what to blog about? Are you currently blogging and feel a disconnect to your topic and/or audience? Let’s take a moment to narrow down what you really want to blog about. To do this, begin by thinking about and following your curiosities. What are you curious about? What interests you? What do you do in your free time? What did you enjoy doing when you were younger? Simple questions, but powerful ones in helping you narrow down where your passions lie.
Action step: Brainstorm your passions. Take out a piece of paper and jot down anything that comes to mind that could be your potential passion and blogging topic. Ask your friends, take a look at your DVD’s, books, or anything else that could point you in the right direction. Cast your net widely; this is just an exploratory exercise to get you thinking about the things you love! If something jumps out at you and feels right, explore it further. You may have just found your passion!
2. Discover the world’s need. Once you have an idea of your blogging topic, it’s smart to look at whether your blogging topic fits a need in the world or solves a problem. In other words, your blog needs an audience. Your focus is finding that sweet spot where your blog and the world’s needs intersect.
Action step: How to do this? Talk to people. Otherwise known as market research, talk to people who are your blog’s target audience and ask them about the problems they need solved and services they may need that you can offer. If you already have a blog that you’re looking to grow, ask your current readers for their candid feedback and reactions to your blog.
A final note on passions: Many people view “finding their passion”; as a complex question that has one right answer. Your passions can definitely change and evolve as your grow. The passion you pick now may just be your passion for this year, this five-year period, this decade (and, okay, maybe this life). Point being, your passions can change. Also, most people have more than one passion, and this is a wonderful thing. Not every passion of yours may make a great blog, some will make a better blog than others.
3. Related to the last point, it’s important to identify your reasons for blogging. Obviously you’re in it to share your passion, whether it’s crafting, fitness, food, books, etc., but what are your personal goals? Is it to inspire and encourage others? Learn new skills? Earn an income? As much as blogging is about helping and informing others, it’s also a valuable tool in growing your own abilities and reaching your personal goals.
Action Step: Think about what’s in it for you. Are you trying to open doors and get your writing, art etc. seen by a larger audience? Do you want to become a better writer, listener or speaker? Are you looking to blog mainly for fun or do you want to earn an income? Thinking about these reasons will help you down the road when decisions need to be made and you need to decide whether something is a good fit for your blog or not.
4. Choose your blog name. This one can be HARD, folks. It’s like naming your firstborn child, though I’ve heard it’s easier to rename your child than your blog. Just kidding, of course, but choosing your blog’s name (which ideally should also be your domain name) can be a big deal. Action Step: By now, you probably have an idea of your blog’s topics, also consider your blog’s target audience, the aesthetic of your blog (bright and cheery! simple and minimalist!), and begin brainstorming. Write down words that describe your topics, your audience, and anything else that comes to mind.
I used alliteration and the plus sign for my blog name, “burlap+blue”, and later, my second Etsy shop, “paper+palette”, because I thought the alliteration added a bit of catchiness and memorability to the names. Also, try not to box yourself in with a very specific name. Don’t call your blog “Paper Projects & Crafts” if you think there’s a chance you’ll want to branch out to other mediums at some point. Also, stay away from anything too trendy. “The Chevron Blog” may sound on-point now, but may seem dated when chevron falls out of fashion. GoDaddy has an easy tool to check the availability of your desired domain name.
5. Choose your hosting and platform. I started out with a blogger blog (it’ll have “.blogspot.com” after your chosen domain name), but after a couple of years hired someone to transfer my blog to wordpress.org. I recommend just buying your domain name and choosing wordpress.org from the get-go. It’s more professional, easily customizable and owned by you (instead of Google).
Currently, I use BigScoots for my hosting. They’re affordable, but most importantly, have amazing and very quick customer service. There’s nothing worse than your blog being down and you can’t get in contact with your hosting company. I’ve been through 3 or 4 hosts with my blog, and I’m fairly certain I’ll be with BigScoots for the long haul.
Action Step: Decide on your hosting and platform. If you already have a blog, make sure you’re happy with both and, if not, use this time to make a change.
Section 2: You Have a Blog, Now What?
“Developing your blog is a balancing act between appeasing current readers and reaching out to new ones.” ― Scribendi, How to Write a Blog
6. Make sure your blog’s aesthetic aligns with your goals. If you have a blog on living a minimalist lifestyle, an overly-styled blog with bright colors and bold graphics may not be the best place to start. If you have a party planning/celebratory blog, on the other hand, some bright colors and fun fonts may be just the thing to connect with your audience. I personally use and love the Foodie Pro theme, but there are a lot of free themes if you’re just getting started and don’t want to invest a lot.
Action Step: Choose three adjectives to describe your what you want your blog to convey and how you want it to look (cheerful, bright, colorful? simple, neutral, lots of white space? creative, impactful, fun?) Take an honest look at it (a few honest friends are good for this) and make sure your blog’s aesthetic matches your goals.
7. Choose a consistent posting schedule. This can be hard, I know. All kinds of important stuff can get in the way, kids, illness, your family’s desire to eat regularly and wear clean clothes, the new season of your favorite TV show, but regardless, a consistent schedule will help set you apart as a blogger who is serious about blogging. I’ve done everything from posting once/week, to posting five times/week, and all points in between. Currently, I post about three times/week, and it seems to be a good balance between wanting to post as often as possible and maintaining my sanity.
Action Step: Decide on your blogging schedule. I do recommend at least once a week, preferably 2-3 if you think you can manage it. Consistently blogging once or twice a week is better than trying to blog five times a week, getting burned out after week two, and not blogging at all for the next couple of weeks.
8. Take advantage of awesome plugins that do the work for you. Plugins are, in short, software you can upload to increase the functionality of your blog. There is a plugin for almost anything you want to do with your blog. wpbeginner has this great list of must-have plugins, wpmudev has another list of (I have the first four on the list). Here are some of my favorite plug-ins and their uses:
Comment Reply Notification-When you reply to a comment that someone leaves on one of your posts, this plugin sends them an email letting them know they have a reply. A great way to increase engagement and encourage conversation on your blog.
Insert Post Ads-Want ads within your blog posts? This plugin allows you to insert code and chose where in your blog post you’d like your ad. Easily disabled for sponsored content or other blog posts where you do not want any in-post ads.
Pin it Button for Images-Easily add a pin-it button over your blog images so readers can add to Pinterest.
Yoast SEO-We’ll discuss SEO in more detail later in this book, but this plug-in is a must-have for increasing your search engine rank.
9. Writer longer blog posts (or not). General consensus is that longer blog posts (500-3000 words) are ideal. My Yoast SEO plugin fusses at me if my word count isn’t at least 300. There’s a good amount of debate on whether longer blog posts really are better for SEO (Search Engine Optimization). My posts tend to be picture heavy, word light. I’ll probably never write a 3000 word post, and I know that may hurt my SEO a bit. In general, though, my philosophy is this: as a blogger, my goal is to convey useful information, not aim to hit an arbitrary word count. Don’t attempt to write a 2000 word post if you only have 500 words worth of useful things to say. Action Step: Look at the word count of your most popular and highest quality posts. This is most likely the sweet spot for your post length.
10. Increase the emotional value of your post titles. Emotional headlines get shared more on social media. The Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer is a great addition to your blogging toolbox for helping you create highly sharable headlines. Copy and paste your headline into the box and it will give you a calculated score of your headline’s EMV (Emotional Marketing Value) score. The higher the score, the better the EMV (aim for 30+). Need some help increasing the emotional value of your posts? SmartBlogger shares 317 power words to make you a better writer. On average, positive emotional headlines tend to encourage sharing more so than negative ones.
Action Step: For your next post, type in your title to the EMV Analyzer. Play with your headline to try the up the EMV score. Replace a word, add in an emotional power word, or even just rearrange the words to see if you can increase your score.
11. Do your keyword research. Keywords are the backbone of good SEO, and are essential for search engines to figure out what your post is about. If you’re not familiar with Google’s Keyword Planner, you should be. Enter a term under “Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category,” and a list of potential keyword ideas will pop up. For example, if you enter the keyword “healthy living”, the planner generates a list of potential keyword groups. Click on a group for even more keyword ideas. Take a look at the “average monthly searches” (number times in the last month someone entered that search term) and “competition” (number of potential advertisers that already pop up when that term is searched).
Ideally, you’re finding the sweet spot where a term has a high number of monthly searches, but low/medium competition. When you see something that also fits your niche, you have a potential blog post!
Action Step: Spend a few minutes playing with the Keyword Planner. Enter a keyword term, take a look at the ideas generated, and see if you come up with a few blog post ideas to fit the keywords shown.
12. Install and use the Yoast SEO plugin. This may be my favorite plugin around, because it takes the hard work of SEO and does it for you. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great starting point for improving your SEO. For every blog post you draft, you’ll have an option to enter your Focus Keyword, edit the Snippet that will show up on search results, and you’ll get a list of what the post does right, could do better, and should be fixed.
Your post will get a red, orange or green light, green being the best, red being the worst. I aim for green, but, depending on the post content, it isn’t always easy to do. Action Step: Install Yoast SEO, and, as you draft new posts, enter your Focus Keyword for the post, see how Yoast rates the post (green, orange or red), and see if you can improve the rating by following some of the suggestions, such as editing the length of the post, adding the focus keyword to the title of the post, adding the focus keyword to the first paragraph of the post, etc.
13.. Avoid “keyword stuffing.” Aim for quality posts over posts filled with endless keywords. Spread keywords out throughout your post, naturally, and remember to always draft your post with your readers in mind first, NOT search engines. A great SEO strategy isn’t worth much if you don’t have quality posts. Action Step:
Read your latest blog post out loud. If it sounds like it’s written for people, great. If it sounds as if you’re writing for a better SEO rating, go back and edit it so it sounds more natural. Here’s an example for the keyword “wedding centerpiece”:
Keyword stuffed: “Read on for wedding centerpiece ideas to DIY your own wedding centerpieces for the best frugal wedding centerpieces ideas.”
Much better: “Read on for my favorite wedding centerpiece ideas to add a personal and beautiful touch to your wedding celebration.”
14. Improve your SEO with quality backlinks. Backlinks, also known as Inbound Links, are links that are directed towards your blog. The number of backlinks your site has is an indication of the popularity of your site. Backlinks are important for SEO because search engines will give more credit to websites that have a good number of quality backlinks, and will consider those websites more relevant than others in their results pages for a search query.
The best way to get quality backlinks to your blog is by creating quality content that others will want to link to and share on their own blogs. Guest posting is another good way to get quality backlinks. Action Step: Find a fellow blogger with a similar niche as yours, and ask if they’ll consider letting you guest post on their blog.
That’s it for part 1! Hope you found some useful blog ideas to implement to better your own blog.
When you’re ready for more blog ideas, click here for part 2 on how to build your craft blog!
Thanks for reading!