Blogging 101: How to find success as a new blogger

So, you want to be a successful blogger. Unfortunately, you have no audience, no subscribers, no… well, anything. Although many professional bloggers will argue that content is not necessarily the most important thing, my background in writing just can’t convert to popular opinion on this one.

Yes, networking is important. Keyword research is important. Having an e-mail subscription list is important. All of these things increase your traffic and keep visitors in the loop. However, people won’t keep coming back (or continue subscribing) if your content is mediocre. There are just too many blogs out there for users to commit to reading blogs that simply aren’t up to par.

So, what can you do to keep (or get) people interested in your blog? Take a deep breath, because it isn’t going to be as hard as you think.

Be passionate. You absolutely – and I cannot stress this enough – have to care about what you are writing. Your readers will be able to tell if you aren’t giving it your all. Would I have more subscribers and views per day if I wrote about finance? Without a doubt. Would my content be anywhere near solid? Not a chance in hell. There are certain niches that are, for a number of reasons, always going to be more profitable. However, if you’re blogging for profit, you’re doing it wrong.

Which brings me to my next point:

Be realistic. You can’t go into blogging with the mindset that you’re going to be another miracle — we all read the articles.So-and-so woke up one day, realized they were living a life they hated and decided to change it. They quit their steady job and holed up at home, where they decided to start a blog and.. ta-da! Suddenly, their blog is bringing in over $40k. If you start a blog and think that that’s how your journey is going to go, think again. Blogging is like any other creative pursuit – think acting, singing, etc. – in that, although some people make it big and live the dream, most do not. It’s the cold, hard truth but the truth nonetheless.

Find your niche. This is one piece of advice that you’ll hear time and time again. It’s impossible to start a blog without a clear idea of what you want to do with it (trust me, I know… just read through my old posts. Uffda). You need to find a niche that, again, you’re passionate about and that you aren’t going to get sick of writing about. For me, writing about marketing, media and, well, writing seemed too simple. I thought that it would be boring, dull or otherwise unexciting. So, for over a year, I wrote Buzzfeed-like posts and felt the creativity slowly seep from my life. Gif-filled lists are great, don’t get me wrong. However, everyone can write a post like this one. But, after writing it, does it mean anything?

Don’t shy away from your mistakes. When I switched from WordPress.com to .org, I definitely considered wiping the slate and starting this blog from the beginning again. But then I thought about the couple hundred people who have followed me since the beginning, making my day as they liked posts and e-mailed positive feedback my way. Do I wish I’d put a little bit more effort into beefing up my content? Yes, yes I do. But there are people who read what I wrote, appreciated it and maybe even needed it at times. I’ve decided to turn this blog into one focused more on marketing, media and helping people in a different way – but that doesn’t mean I should shy away from my not-so-exciting blogger past. If nothing else, people can look back (with my help or not) on posts that aren’t exactly superb and get ideas of what not to do. I enjoyed writing content in the way that I did, but it’s time to move on.

Write catchy headlines. As a journalist, the importance of headlines was instilled in me from day one. The unfortunate part? I’m just plain rubbish at headlines. I kid you not, I’ll spend more time writing a headline than writing the post itself. However, writing catchy headlines doesn’t need to be hard – and, in the over-saturated market that is the internet, it’s more important than ever. There’s a popular theory out there that anyone can create an eye-catching, clickable headline with this formula:

Number + adjective + keyword + promise

There are a few different variations but, overall, that’s the formula recommended by writers and bloggers around the world. Sometimes, “rationale” is added between keyword and promise; however, the ideal headline is six words or less, so you don’t want to get too wordy. Spend time on your headlines, since they’re sometimes the only shot you get at drawing in readers.

Quality over quantity. Your dad or grandma probably gave you this advice in regards to friendships when you were younger. If not, you know you’ve seen it on Pinterest about a million times. The idea that quality reigns over quantity is applicable to your blog as well.

“But, wait a minute. I thought that I had to post frequently to get people to read my blog? You mean to tell me that I’ve been stressing out about posting every day for nothing?”

In a word, yes. Newbie bloggers often get stuck in the idea that, if they post five times/week, it will drive more traffic to their blog. However, studies are showing that longer form content is back with a vengeance — and that is what’s going to drive your blog traffic. Don’t stress out about writing posts every other day because, in turn, the quality of said posts will suffer. Like I said earlier, readers want to know that you care about what you’re writing — not just that you’re writing it hurriedly on your lunch break because you didn’t write yesterday. Take your time and write quality posts that other people are going to care about.

Be yourself. It’s as true in the virtual world as it is in the real world. You cannot – and should not – pretend to be someone you’re not when you blog. Putting yourself out there is scary and it opens you up to criticism, but you have to devote yourself fully to this or accept that you’re just going to dabble casually in the world of blogging. Be the funny, quirky, creative, (insert adjective here) person that you are, and people will love you for it.

Take criticism to heart – but not personally. Does that make sense? I’ll elaborate. Criticism is a part of life, especially when you’re putting your work out there for the world to see. You will get positive feedback, but you will also get negative feedback. And, sometimes, you’ll run into people who are just plain cruel. My advice? Ignore the cruelties but listen to the negative feedback – because, chances are, the person who posted/e-mailed it is just trying to help. Constructive criticism is good! Just don’t take it too personally; for example, don’t let it bring you down or discourage you. Nobody is perfect so you can’t expect to be — especially when you’re just starting out. Take in the criticism, reflect on it, become better because of it and let it back into the world.

Relax. My number one tip for you? Just relax. Remember to breath in and out, grab a glass (or bottle) of wine, and just write. You probably decided to start a blog because you love to write or because you know that you can offer something of value to the world — don’t get caught up in SEO and stats and forget why you started in the first place.

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Social media: the good, the bad, and the jealous

I know, I know. You’re thinking, “Wow, Meg, another social media rant? Really?”

And the answer is yes, really.

As a marketing consultant, I really can’t hate social media. I’m engrossed in it 24/7. I mean, I get paid to be engrossed in it. Day in and day out, I’m surrounded by tweets and Facebook posts and LinkedIn invitations. Don’t get me wrong – I love my job. But my feelings on social media (as you know) are so mixed that I’m just not sure where I stand anymore.

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The good

There are phenomenal benefits to social media. For example, it’s crucial to market your business online in today’s society (there’s a post on this coming, in case you want more info). Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. – these are the forces that make the online marketing world spin. Another amazing benefit of social media is networking, be it professional or personal. With today’s technology, we can make and maintain friendships overseas, we can connect with our favorite authors and movie stars, we can follow businesses on LinkedIn and get job alerts in seconds. Social media has provided us with the opportunity to do what we love and preach it to the masses by way of a blog, an Etsy shop or a YouTube channel.  In addition to all of that, social media has opened up the doors of social activism and conversation more than any (I hate to say it, but it’s true) print source or radio show could.

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The bad

Yes, social media has opened up gateways we never knew we could explore. But, in doing so, it has opened up the doors to cyber bullying, stalking and all that nasty stuff. It has also consumed us in ways that we might not have expected or even notice. I wrote a post about that a year ago, but I think the points still ring true. Because we are so completely dependent on social media now, it can be hard to shake that screen vision. I’ll see people walking down the street, staring at their phones and not taking in the world that’s swirling around them. Likewise, I went out to eat a few weeks ago and couldn’t help but notice – and pity – the number of couples sitting across from each other at this restaurant, both so enthralled by the screens in front of them that they weren’t appreciating each other’s company or the amazing meals being set in front of them.  Is that round of Trivia Crack really so important that you can’t sit through a single course meal without playing it? You could’ve just stayed home and saved yourselves fifty bucks.

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The jealous

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this in my posts before, but social media has been known to wreak havoc on relationships – romantic or platonic. Jealousy and trust issues are completely different topics in themselves, but often spawn from social media-related activity. When your significant other’s phone bleeps a thousand times per day, you probably wonder who they’re talking to so constantly. When they have Facebook and Twitter and e-mail and (insert any other social media platform here), it makes trusting them more difficult than it did back in the day. Remember when the only social media account you had was an AIM messenger screen name? *Sigh* Those were the days. Obviously, trusting your SO is something you need to work out for yourself. You probably have accounts on all of the same platforms, so just put it into perspective before assuming that he/she is cheating on you through a million different apps.

So, there you have it. My thoughts on the good, bad & jealous re: social media. When used correctly, social media can leave you with a wealth of friendly connections, a glowing online resume and an infinite outlet for creativity. On the flip side, though, it could kill your reputation and your relationships. My preachy advice for this post? Think before you share, peeps.yougo

A new adventure

Again.

I know, I keep saying that I’m going to try something new.

So, for years, I’ve taken photographs for friends, family and classmates. I did senior photos for people in high school and have since moved into boudoir portraits and engagement shoots. Thanks to a little encouragement, I’ve finally decided to launch my photography webpage and Facebook page.

It may be a flop. And, let’s be honest – everyone with a camera fancies themselves a photographer these days. But being behind the lens and crafting portraits of people is something that I’m passionate about. What’s the point of being alive if you aren’t going to take risks & live, right? Isn’t that what I’ve been trying to convince myself to do this entire time?

It’s time to step outside of my shell & give this thing an honest shot. It’s time to shout into the infinite abyss.

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A glass of wine and a dose of adulthood

So, it’s Day 14… And I’ve definitely only written through Day 3.

I suck. I know.

My life has been a crazy whirlwind lately and (insert excuse here).

However, I did recently turn in my notice at a job that has been causing me a lot of stress and unhappiness for one that is exactly in line with my original career path. That’s stressful, right? I haven’t started my new job yet, but I’m excited and terrified for the opportunity. Will I be in over my head and potentially ruin everything? There’s always that chance. But it’s time to dive in and start living my life. I’ve been huddled in a safe bubble of familiarity for so long that I have lost myself completely.

Meanwhile, I’m sitting at home with a glass of wine, reading beautiful words written by beautiful people across the globe. It’s intimidating to me that so many people have such a wealth of talent. Maybe because it makes me feel utterly inadequate.

Which, by the way, is something that I’ve been feeling a lot lately. There haven’t been any particular reasons or triggers — I think we all go through it at some point. Trying to find my footing in the professional world of adults is trickier than I thought. Especially because, to be honest, I have no desire to be an adult. I have no desire to take on the responsibilities and heartache that come with adulthood; the responsibilities and heartache of being a twenty-something are bad enough.

During a particularly rough lunch break, I had clicked to watch a video on YouTube and this ad popped up:

For the first time in, like, ever, I sat and watched the entire ad. The importance of the words, despite whatever product they’re selling and whatever goal they’re hoping to achieve, resonated with me. The next time you look in the mirror (and I promise I’ll try to do the same) and see all of your imperfections and insecurities laid out painfully in front of you, remind yourself that you’re more than just pretty or just smart, that you’re more than whatever labels the world has put on you — or that you have put on yourself.

It’s time to stop letting the world break you down.

Day 3

Day 3

“Helpless”

Helplessness: that dull, sick feeling of not being the one at the reins. When did you last feel like that –- and what did you do about it?

I thought that this was an ironic topic to get, given the things that I’ve been thinking about and mulling over lately. But, like I said before, I’m getting these prompts from this link, and I’m trying to write about as many of them as possible… So here goes.

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Helplessness is an interesting concept. When I read this prompt, I immediately thought about the times that I’ve felt incredibly and inexplicably helpless over the course of the last year (or, you know, the last 22 years). There have been times that you couldn’t pay me to relive or to even talk about. There have been moments that have been so messy and during which I’ve felt so helpless that I was sure I’d never recover from. But those moments have passed and, because of them, I’ve grown and changed and learned.

To be completely honest, I’m not sure when I last felt helpless and, even more than that, I couldn’t tell you what I did about it. I mean, the very idea of feeling helpless means that you are completely unaware of what to do to improve the situation, right? When you feel like nothing you can do could possibly affect a situation’s outcome, no decision is going to feel adequate.

I wish I could turn this into some sort of how-to guide, some magical post full of wisdom. Unfortunately, every single one of you — of us — is going to experience an overwhelming sense of helplessness at some point. Whether it comes in the form of something as complex as watching our loved ones die or as simple as watching our dream job flash before our eyes, we will all feel like life is completely out of our realm of control.

Is there a way to avoid this sense of helplessness? Probably not. There will always be circumstances that we can’t control. We can’t avoid that. We can just try desperately to understand what’s going on around us and adjust accordingly. In the words of some character on Grey’s Anatomy, “No one likes to lose control… It’s a sign of weakness, of not being up to the task. And still, there are times when it just gets away from you… No matter how hard you fight it, you fall.”

Time to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and carry on.

(And maybe drink a glass or six of wine while we’re at it…)

Day 2: What’s really standing between you and happiness?

You guessed it! (Or did you?) The only thing standing between you and pure, blissful happiness is you.

(Yesterday’s prompt sucked and this was on my mind today, so just count this as Day 2/361, okay? No judgement.)

Job security, socio-economic class, relationship status, education and a million other factors have been proven, time and time again, to make or break one’s happiness meter. But let’s look at the common denominator for a second. What do all of these things have in common?

Oh yeah. You. You, yourself and…you.

You get the point, right? Okay, let’s move on.

Someone who has more money than they can count, a beautiful family and a dream job could still be unhappy. Likewise, someone who’s living paycheck to paycheck and doesn’t have a family or significant other or even a cat could be the happiest clam in the ocean. So, what is it about ourselves that makes it so easy to be miserable?

I’ve been thinking about happiness and attitude a lot lately. Not because I’m necessarily unhappy, but because I don’t feel fulfilled like I used to. After some soul searching, I’ve realized that, although there are outside circumstances that I can’t control, there are so many more internal circumstances that I can control.

Being strong and validated comes from understanding and accepting who you are. At one point in my life, I swear that I was a confident, eager young woman. I knew exactly what I wanted and I was not only prepared but also willing to do whatever it took to get it.

Somewhere along the way, I lost myself. And I guess that’s probably a pretty average confession for twenty-something. I didn’t lose my values or my aspirations. No, I lost my demeanor (for lack of a better term). I lost the wide-eyed, bring-it-on attitude that I so fervently faced the world with before.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do to get myself back. I’m not sure how to erase the insecurities that I’ve allowed to burrow into my soul. But I am sure that it’s time for a change. It’s time to begin believing in myself again, the way I used to.

It’s time to let myself be genuinely, truly happy again.

Day 1

Day 1

“Call Me Ishmael”
Take the first sentence from your favorite book and make it the first sentence of your post.

It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.

I was trying to find myself, maybe. Or I was trying to find someone who would, in turn, find me. It was a silly notion, to think that escaping everything I knew would lead me to some sort of epiphany.

An old newsreel from the 80s described the Rosenberg electrocution. It showed that, although Julius Rosenberg died after the first round of electrocution, it took five rounds of electric shock to stop Ethel’s heart. To be honest, I don’t really know the truth behind the Rosenberg trial. Did they deserve the death penalty or was it all for show, as some suggested at the time?

Either way, it made me feel strange. It made me question the world, question the way we, as human beings, treated each other. Were we so eager to blame someone for the evil in the world that we would electrocute — in other words, murder — a couple just to prove a point?

Then again, they were probably 100 percent guilty and deserved every bit of electric shock.

Right?

New York was every bit as edgy and dangerous and beautiful and terrifying as everyone had told me that it would be. And I think that was the best part about it. Because, well, what’s the point of living your life if it isn’t a little bit terrifying and a little bit beautiful?