Tag Archives: blogging tips

Prep Series: Food Post

Earlier this month, we covered how to prep for an outfit post– check it out if you missed it– and now we’ve got Alyssa from Runway Chef giving us a lesson in how to prep for a food post. Take it away, Alyssa!

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Way back when I first started blogging, my food posts went a little something like this: open the fridge, see what I’ve got to work with, throw something together, snap a couple of photos and voilá. Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with throwing together a meal from whatever is in your kitchen (I still do it all the time), but as far as food blogging is concerned, it doesn’t make the most appetizing or SEO-friendly posts. Now, my process includes a bit more planning and organization and looks like this:

Plan

I loosely plan my editorial calendar about a month out. To decide what to make, I first, always look to see if there are any holidays coming up (i.e. Cinco de Mayo in May), as certain things (like tacos) will be more popular around those times. I also make note of things that have caught my eye in magazines, on other blogs, on Pinterest, out at restaurants or on a trip to use as inspiration. Another thing that I do is keep a Google doc going at all times so that anytime an idea pops into my head, I can add it to the doc. I’m then able to easily reference my ideas when I sit down to plan my monthly calendar.  Using all of those things combined, I then write out a list of all the recipes, flavor combinations, ingredients I want to use or ideas that I have for the month, see which I think would do best and then cross the rest out/save them for a later date. When I’m planning, I also make note of recipes that need to be tested so I can schedule those into the calendar.
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Prep

I typically shoot my food on Thursdays or Fridays, but I meal plan and grocery shop on the weekends (unless there’s an emergency/I forget something/run out of something, which happens more frequently than I’d like). I try to work whatever I’m making on the blog into our meal plan so as not to be wasteful. I then make a checklist of everything I need for the week’s blog recipes. I cross of anything I already have or anything I’m getting for our other meals, and add whatever is left to the grocery list.
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Shoot Day

I like to start with a clean kitchen before pulling out all of my ingredients, the utensils I need, my notebook where I write my recipes, and the items I think I might like to use to style the recipe. I shoot my photos in another room so I also like to get that all set-up with my camera, reflector, backdrop and step stool. I usually do a few test shots with different dishes and towels to see what pairings I like, as well as to test the lighting and camera settings. Additionally, I’ll pull out a few other tools depending on what I’m shooting. For example, if I know I’m shooting produce, I like to have cooking spray on hand as a light misting of it can help make produce pop. If I’m shooting something that involves sauce, I’ll have q-tips handy to make it easier to clean up the edge of a bowl or plate.

 

After that, it’s time to cook, style, shoot and, my favorite part, eat the goods! After all, hard work needs to be rewarded, right?!

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Alyssa blogs at Runway Chef and is a member of The Blogger Collective.

How Personal Should You Get On Your Blog?

It’s your blog, your space, your little corner of the web. But how personal should you get? How much of your real life do your reveal?

We’ve polled three of our ambassadors who take three different approaches: open, middle of the road, and private.

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Open: From Sarah
I’ve spent far more time than I care to admit debating on just how personal to get on my blog. I like to tell stories; I like to share stories. And I find that by sharing my story, I get to hear my readers’ stories.

However, there are lines I don’t like to cross. In the past, I’ve been known to blog about the dates I’ve been on, for example. I’ve more or less stopped sharing those details, as it’s really not fair to the other person, particularly if the date was less than wonderful. That’s my golden rule when sharing personal stories: Is there anyone in the story that wouldn’t want that info shared? I also think, “Would I want my parents/grandparents/future employers to read this?”

Getting personal is cathartic for me, but it does come with both a sense of vulnerability and a responsibility to decide what lines you are and aren’t willing to cross.

Middle of the Road: From Nikki
I tend to take a middle of the road approach when it comes to sharing personal things on the blog. I share funny stories when I have them, especially when they involve the hubs or the dogs. I share some personal updates (like when the hubs graduated from law school and when we celebrated our 5 year anniversary). But I don’t share it all, and I wait until the time is right. For example, I have had a lot going on in my personal life, but I haven’t shared any of it on my blog. When the time is right, I will mention it. But that time isn’t now.

I like when other bloggers share personal things; it makes me feel like I know them better. So I like to offer the same for my readers, in measured doses.

Private: From Ashley
I’m naturally a pretty private person. I have a small circle of friends who know everything from my celebrity crush to the date of my last menstrual cycle (kidding, but you get the point). For the most part, however, I play things close to the vest.

I don’t include personal photos of me + my friends, or my family, or the boyfriend. I keep non-fashion opinions to a minimum. I hit the highlights of blog-related stuff my readers might care about: when I’m going to Fashion Week, including a link to segments when I do a spot on Better KC, etc. I keep the writing short + sweet; subscribing to the idea that my readers are mostly here for the photos and a bit of how-to-style advice.

This is not to say aforementioned personal photos and non-fashion opinions aren’t out there in the Web Universe. my social accounts aren’t nearly as private, and you can find weekend snaps of me and my pals on Insta or a rant (with expletives, sorry Mom) about KU basketball on Twitter. I just keep the content on Le Stylo Rouge more streamlined.

This also doesn’t mean I’m not me on my blog. I’m super sarcastic and have a bit of a try-anything-once attitude when it comes to fashion, and these bits shine through on Le Stylo Rouge. But as much as I love my blog, it’s become a business and a brand. For me, I keep the goal in the forefront: visually deliver my personal style + take on trends to my readers.

Blogger U: Tackling a Re-brand

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Sarah from Back Home Blue has been through a major re-branding of her blog, something many bloggers experience as they grow + shift focus over time. She’s here sharing some knowledge about some tips ‘n tricks she learned along the road to re-brand.

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I spent most of this past summer– well, most of the 2015– working on re-branding the company I work for. I’m beginning to think I come with a bit of a “re-brand curse.” I’ve worked for three companies since I graduated from college, and all three of them have re-branded.

Funny enough, I’m in the midst of re-branding my own blog, as well.

Companies re-brand for a number of reasons. My current company did it to unify our brand. We went from having countless product lines to having 5 or 6, depending on who you ask. Bloggers also re-brand for a number of reasons. Perhaps they named their blogs something like “Puppies and Kitties and Rainbows” when they started out, and now realize that isn’t the best name for their slice of the internet. Or perhaps they started off a fashion blogger, but ended up a travel blogger.

Personally, I’m re-branding to become a bit more professional. My blog has cycled through a few identities over the years. It was “Wears Inappropriate Shoes” in college, “Music City Sarah” during my days in the Nashville music business, and currently, it’s “Back Home Blue” as an ode to the time I decided to leave the music biz and move back home. But now, my professional goals and my blog have crossed paths, and I want it to reflect me. As in, Me. I want it to reflect my name and my work.

And so, let the re-branding begin.

Re-branding isn’t an easy process, but here are five steps to get you started– steps to take before you even think about re-directing domains and all that technical stuff that’s so important to SEO.

1. Do you really want to re-brand?

Before you jump off the re-brand deep end, take a moment to think about it. Is re-branding what you really want to do? The bigger your audience, the more there is to consider. Will you alienate your readers by re-branding? Or will it help build your community? Also, do you have the time and resources to undertake a re-brand? Are you able to handle the whole project, or do you need help?

Take some time to make a pro/con list before you pull the re-brand trigger. If you decide re-branding is definitely for you, then go for it!

2. What is your look?

So you have decided to move forward and re-brand your blog. Awesome! Now comes the fun (usually) part. How do you want your new brand to look? Feel? Are you building it yourself? Hiring someone to do it for you? Build a mood board. Pin blogs and websites you like. Figure out what color scheme you want to work with (Design Seeds is my favorite place to find color palettes, by the way). I recommend dreaming big to start, then narrowing down your likes and dislikes as your vision becomes clearer.

3. Are your categories and tags right?

I’m in the middle of this step right now. Many bloggers, myself included, categorize and tag the heck out of things. Use your re-brand as an opportunity to re-evaluate how you’re tagging and categorizing your site. For instance, maybe you have the tag “holiday” and “holidays.” You don’t need two tags for the same thing, plural or otherwise.

As a refresher, categories are meant for a broad grouping of your posts, while tags are more specific. For example, my “travel” category has tags that include things like “London,” “Paris,” and “Prague.” With my re-brand, I’m going through and re-aligning my categories and tags in a way that’s much cleaner. It feels like spring cleaning!

4. What platform do you want to use?

Re-branding is a great time to consider what platform you want to use. Happy with Blogger? Awesome. No work required on this point. But, if you’ve been considering switching to WordPress or another CMS (content management system), re-branding is your chance to do it. Again, think before you make the leap. Do you have the technical knowledge to do it yourself? Or will you need some help? I moved from Blogger to WordPress two years ago. It was messy. I had the technical skills to do it myself, but it definitely consumed a weekend.

5. Is your new domain available?

Finally, is your new domain available? Take a look, and, even if you’re not ready to re-direct everything yet, snatch it up before someone else does. If its not available, you have time to come up with an alternative.

That’s just the tip of the re-branding iceberg, but its a good place to start. Things can start getting technical from here, but we’ll save that for another day!

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Sarah blogs at Back Home Blue and is an ambassador of The Blogger Collective. 

Blogger U: The Importance of Original Content

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Laurel from THE HIVE is preaching about how (and why!) original content is a blogging best practice.

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I’m excited to talk about something I think is really important when it comes to blogging: original content. The value of having original content on your blog is paramount in establishing your credibility as an independent blogger.

Why, you ask? Allow me to explain.

Speaking from personal experience (and I know I’m not alone!), before I had my own blog, I checked and followed tons of other blogs. There would be times I’d spend hours after work surfing from blog to blog just seeing what all was out there. But not all of the blogs I read hooked + interested me enough to come back time after time or to subscribe to them (even if they were really pretty).

After asking myself what made me want to follow certain blogs and not others, the answer boiled down to these two words: original content.

I was interested in seeing pictures and reading text I couldn’t read or view anywhere else. I wanted to get to know individual bloggers through what they posted. I was not interested in scrolling through a post about fall fashion inspiration that was just a collection of 10 pictures I’d already seen circulating the Pinterest world. If I’m on Katie’s blog, I want to see how Katie styled this or that for fall; not what pictures she thought looked cool. As a reader, and also as a person whose time has become more and more limited the older I get, I have to be stingy with my time. Which means I want to invest it in reading something unique!

From the blogger side of things… I know it takes more time and more forethought to publish original content regularly, but I do believe it is well worth the effort put in.

For those of us who have jobs in addition to managing blogs, pre-planning is key. But if you start an editorial calendar, set aside a few hours a week, invest in a decent camera, set a standing date with another blogger buddy or photographer friend/invest in a tripod (if your blog is mainly pictures of you), you can learn how to really maximize the time set aside to create + optimize that original content.

Since I have started keeping my blog at roughly 90% original content, I have seen my site traffic jump, my Pinterest click-through rate skyrocket, my social media following grow, and collaboration requests grow from almost none to at least a few per month! I can only attribute this to the effort I’ve put in to maximize the amount of original content I’m churning out; the value it adds to my blog returns on the investment of time (and money) I have invested.

I know I have a looong way to go as a blogger, and I’m not saying every single post you put up has to be 100% original, but I can tell you one thing: keeping things unique on my blog have noticeably helped my opportunities grow, and I know they will for you, too.

A quick side note to share in closing: always link back to the source. Let’s say you happen to be running low on original post ideas, so you put together a quick, “rooms that inspire our upcoming remodel” post with pictures you found from various sources. Be sure to link back to the source for each image you repurpose!

As the manager of a blog for a high-end design firm, I cannot tell you how upsetting it is to see photos of our original work posted on other blogs without any sort of link back to our company’s site/blog. There is an unspoken code of ethics in the blogosphere, and one of the biggest issues is linking back to the original source if you are borrowing content. You wouldn’t want people “stealing” your original content, so be sure to treat others like you’d want to be treated! 😉

I hope you guys find that keeping your blog unique and, well, you is rewarding. People read your blog because they like you! You are what keep them coming back, so give the people what they want! 😉 Give them original glimpses into your personal style, your kitchen, your closet, etc., and they’re more likely to keep coming back for more. Promise!

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Laurel blogs at THE HIVE and is an ambassador for The Blogger Collective.

TBC Collaborates: Blogging During the Holidays

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The holiday season is here… Believe it or not! What is your holiday strategy for your blog; do you go all out with gift guides and holiday-themed recipes, or do you take a bit of a break? We polled the ambassadors to find out how they tackle blogging during the holiday season.

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From Sarah
I like to focus my holiday content on things like traditions and recipes, maybe even a DIY if I get around to one. I also try to write and schedule a few posts ahead of time, but I don’t stress about it. It’s the holidays– it’s family time. If my blog doesn’t get updated the week of Christmas, that’s okay!

From Ashley
I start thinking gift guides in mid-November (as I make my own wishlists + start shopping for friends and fam), and begin tacking those to the end of outfit posts in late November and early December. Important: I check and re-checks linked items in those gift guides in the following weeks; stuff sells out quickly, so updates are usually needed. I will also schedule more promo (and for a longer time period) to put those guides back in front of my social media audiences (another reason to re-check links).

Lastly, I start pulling out more sparkly + girly pieces to create outfits with, as the holiday season calls for a bit of glitz (a break from my normal Tough Girl Ash routine). Everyone needs a few solid holiday party outfit ideas.

From Shannon
I just love getting into the holiday season, especially when it comes to my blog! If you belong to any affiliate programs, be sure to take advantage of the busiest shopping season of the year and bring in those sales. I love making gift guides, styling holiday outfit ideas, and making wishlists. Also, keep in mind everyone is looking for a way to save some money while buying gifts, so be sure to let your readers + social media followers know when the best sales are happening! Have fun with it and happy holidays!

From Nikki
The only way I can get through the holidays is by working ahead. Things get so busy, and I don’t have time to post every single day if I haven’t pre-written and scheduled posts. I even try to have a back-up post (or two!) that I can publish in case something else doesn’t work out the way I need it to.

Gift guides are a great way to engage your readers and generate revenue during this time, but they can be really time consuming. Your best bet to is to work ahead! Get started early, before the holiday rush really starts.

From Laurel
Planning ahead is my main strategy when preparing for the holidays on my blog. I keep up with my editorial calendar via Google drive (which I have an app for on my phone, so any time a good idea for a post comes to mind, I stick it in the calendar no matter where I am and it gets saved for later).

I try to knock out as many posts as I can in just a couple of afternoons and schedule them out so I can relax a little more and have more time to do fun Christmass-y things as the holiday approaches! Although the afternoons of photographing, editing, and writing are a bit hectic, I find it to be a great trade-off for a little extra down time during the most wonderful time of the year! 🙂

From Rachelle
My holiday content is pretty simple: I focus mostly on gift guides and outfit planning for holiday parties and such. I make my guides stand out by curating them really carefully and I always make sure to provide different price points.

One tip is that throughout November and beginning of December I update my guides and put out a daily reminder for my readers. I report all the various holiday sales, but most importantly create a very detailed pre-selected holiday list of gifts for my readers, as I believe we probably gravitate toward the same type of items. I don’t just advertise a bunch of random pieces.

I always post in a timely manner, so a reader has the time to place an online order if needed. For example, if I want my users to be able to shop my Thanksgiving outfit in time for actual Thanksgiving, I need to post weeks (not days) in advance to give them time to shop + have items shipped.

From Angela
I like to switch things up a little bit on my blog during the holiday season by featuring holiday gift guides for both women and men on a budget. I also love featuring holiday entertaining blog posts, such as the Christmas tea party I host every year (so much fun!). The holiday season is a great time to feature new and special content!

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What are your holiday + blogging strategies, TBC?

 

How to Blog + Travel

Wonder how bloggers keep up with the pace of their blogs while traveling? We asked travel expert + globe trotter Melanie from me & mr to give you a few tips on making sure your blog stays relevant, even as you travel for work + play.

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Over the past year, I have constantly been on the move. I have flown over 170 hours, traveled to 9 different countries, and have moved 4 different times– all between now and last October! It can be thrilling and exhausting, both at the same time. I have learned a thing or to about blogging on the go and I’m excited to share some helpful tips with you.

1. Enjoy your trip + queue your posts.

Stay 2 weeks ahead on content prior to leaving for your trip. This enables you to continue posting the entire time you are on the road. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel the need to write, edit photos, and create new content when traveling.

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2. Instagram during the trip.

Instagram is your friend! But instead of sharing pictures throughout the day, considering waiting until the end of the night and pick one photo to share. I like doing this because my followers can get one quality shot and don’t feel bombarded by my feed.

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3. Write posts and edit photos on the go during longer travel stints.

If you are traveling for long stretches of time and your 2-week queue runs low, edit photos while traveling on a plan, boat, or in a car. Once you connect to Wi-Fi again, all you have to do is upload the pictures and copy and paste the text. This method helps me stay efficient with travel time so I don’t spend more time than necessary on a computer.

If you want to read more about my travels, you can find me at me & mr.

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Mel blogs at me & mr and is a member of The Blogger Collective.

TBC Collaborates: Biggest Blogging Blunder

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We all make mistakes– we’re human, after all. Blogging is no exception; mistakes happen here, too! The ambassadors of The Blogger Collective have collaborated again to share some of our biggest blogging mistakes thus far. Maybe you can learn from our moments of “oops!” and avoid making the same mistakes we did.

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From Angela
One of my blogging mistakes was letting a negative comment get to me. I remember a couple years ago, I got my first negative comment. This of course made me angry, and I decided I needed to respond to the comment. It’s important to realize that while everyone has their own opinion, you should ignore the negative ones and not let it get to you.

From Rachelle
My biggest blogging mistake so far was to try and blog every single day, or 5 times a week. It was really hard for me to keep up with that; once I reduced my number of posts per week I enjoyed blogging a lot more and got extra time to focus on the quality on my posts. It’s all about balance!

From Sarah
I would say the biggest blogging blunder I have made is not having a plan. My blog has been around for years, but for a long (long) time it was just me popping in when I felt like it and writing a few paragraphs about my latest college excursion– usually a football game or a sorority function. Sometimes, I feel frustrated that I have years of this type of content and I didn’t use it. I’ve been working more and more to have a real blogging plan now, which includes an editorial calendar and using WordPress to the fullest of its capabilities. I’m also experimenting with ways to re-purpose that old content!

From Ashley
My biggest mistake? Not having a media kit that outlined my sponsored content policy before starting to work with brands. This meant when a brand went shifty on me (asking me to compromise my content and deliberately mislead my readers), I had to end the relationship and fully refund the sponsorship fee. All that work I did on the post that never saw the light of day? Uncompensated. Now a small portion of my sponsorship fee is non-refundable, so if a brand wants to get shady, they’re going to pay for it. Never mishandle the trust your readers have in you; it’s not worth it!

From Nikki
SO many mistakes, it is hard to pick just one. I think not making my blog more like a business earlier on would be my biggest mistake. But, I was just learning, so how was I to know? If you want your blog to really grow, you have to treat it more like a business, and I absolutely didn’t do that.

From Shannon
One mistake I always make is not responding to emails in a timely manner– and then they get lost in the sea of emails! I have missed out on some great collaborations with not being on top of emails! I have since then made an email folder that “Need to be responded to” so I can stay organized and not make those mistakes again!