growyourblog

The lies I’ve told as a blogger (and why it needs to stop)

Today is one of those blog posts that came to me when I least expected it to! So, let me tell you a little story. Ages ago, I saw an Instagram ad campaign for ‘The Bold Type’ on Amazon Prime (this is not in anyway an advertisement for it, I promise!)  At the time, I thought ‘wow, it’s a bit weird that Amazon Prime need Instagram ads.’ and promptly forgot all about it. Yet today, a month or so later, I  was bored; watched one episode and I’m now hooked! So I guess influencer marketing really does work folks!

So what the bloody hell has that got to do with this blog post? Well, the show is all about those who work at a fictional magazine (and to be honest, a magazine that is probably not at all realistic) and the protagonist’s struggle to create pieces that really resonate with people instead of just social shares and traffic. It got me thinking about my purpose and my goals when it comes to blogging; and in honesty, some of the times I’m really not truthful about things.

I’m not talking about Instagram followers (those 4000 followers I’ve earnt over the last five years are all real dammit!) but the conversations I have on my blog…

I’m constantly writing about growing traffic and freelancing: giving the impression that I’ve got this shit all figured out. All of my blog posts create a narrative that you’re just one step away from tons of traffic via Pinterest-and when you do; it’ll be plain sailing and money-making from there out.

Not often do we talk honestly about blogging and what it means to us. We lie (or perhaps simply ‘present our best version of ourselves’)not only to our readers but also to ourselves. So today, I wanted to be really honest with you and make some confessions…

1. I’m sorry, but I do get unhealthily obsessed with my numbers.

I think it’s healthy to know your stats. But, to be honest, I can view my stats as a form of validation rather than a success in their own right. If they’ve dropped: I’m not interesting, I’ve got no voice and nobody cares. If they’re up? I’m an amazing success. Yet, It’s often not relative: I had so much lovely feedback from my Youtuber channel-even though I don’t have many subscribers yet.

I also recently blogged about increasing my traffic from 20,000 to 30,000 monthly views; and whilst that has led me to apply for Mediavine-it hasn’t seen any more opportunities come my way than previously. In fact, I have had more work on my blog some months, when my traffic was 1/2 the size I get now! So, I’m sorry if I present traffic as a ‘magic key’ to unlock opportunities: I do think it’s vital but after you reach a certain point, you might not find it as important as you’d think.

2.Pinterest really isn’t the be end all.

I know I’ve blogged about Pinterest a few times and I’ve had loads of people get in touch asking me to help them with it. Pinterest is great but it does have its flaws too: it’s a search engine and that means the people that find my posts are likely to click on and click off- a loyal reader they do not make. Although I am pleased that some of my pins have done amazing through Pinterest, I’m also envious of those who gain traffic through loyal, superfan readers too.

3. I compare myself a lot.

I’ll be honest, I’ve had a few moments recently when I’ve seen bloggers get campaigns I’m perfect for me (in my own head at least) and I compare myself. Am I getting as much work as them? Am I as popular? Note that actually, my worries about not receiving a campaign is not even a money thing necessarily- it’s a validation that I’m succeeding and people are interested in me.

4.I get quite bored of taking photos

Don’t get me wrong-I like taking photos but I’m not brilliant at it. Instagram natural I am not! So, I’d love to say I relish the opportunity, but most the time I want to eat or my husband is telling me to put my phone away. I seem to always attract shadows, inadvertently drop my own hair in the food, shoo the dogs away who try (and sometimes succeed) to eat the food and by the time I’ve taken it, It’s cold and I’m no longer hungry.

5.I’m really glad I don’t have an ‘Instagram husband’

What is it with all these bloggers recently sharing that they know their boyfriend is the one because they are just so invested in their Instagram feeds and celebrate their milestones?. I’d like to share the following conversation I literally just had with my husband:

Me: I’m writing a blog post, so for research purposes how many followers do you think I have on Instagram?

Him: I don’t know.

Me: Guess

Him: About 500?

Me: No!

Him: 10,000 then

Me: Err also no!

Him: I don’t even know what’s supposed to be a good number!

So, there you have it. But oh my goodness guys- it’s a bloody photo sharing app; it’s not rocket science. I understand you taking an interest in your partner’s work but it’s also very helpful to have someone to tell you to turn your phone off and not to take it so seriously;because ‘yeah, it’s Instagram!’

6. I don’t just ‘blog for me’, I blog for traffic

I think blogging for yourself is a really nice sentiment and one that I followed for many, many years. I think once you take that transition into blogging as a job (whether it’s for money or simply putting yourself out there as professional) and delve into all the stats that come with it (What’s your twitter impressions? your average comments per Instagram post? your bounce rate?)  it’s very hard to detach and blog purely for yourself. There’s some type of content I know is more relevant to my audience each time I write it, and sometimes there are occasions when I know something won’t get lots of traffic, but I’ll write it anyway.

7. I do blog for money

What is with the stigma of ‘if you’re starting a blog for money, you’re doing it wrong.’ Imagine if we said that to people studying a qualification or starting a new career. Now, when I first started out, I definitely didn’t consider blogging as an income-but my second blog (this one you’re reading), I do think about how to make it financially viable and have done since I set it up; I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

This leads me on to the next part, I think it’s really exciting to be blogging as ‘a job’ but, you do start to think about your time constantly and how you use it-and if you’re time is compensated. It can be difficult to separate things like admin time and just enjoying blogging: I can sometimes think ‘is this work?’ ‘how is it benefiting me?’ However, The Bloglancer at the moment is largely sponsored-post free and I still really enjoy it. Yet you do feel a little guilty spending time on it; since any time is essentially ‘work-time.’

8. I do feel as if it’s all falling apart

There are quiet days, weeks, months sometimes. Days where you check your inbox isn’t broken and wonder why everyone around you is getting opportunities. I’m sure there’s people who read my blog and my freelance work and think ‘where is she getting all these opportunities from too.’ I’ll mope for a while; then grab my notebook and start sending emails out again. I’m pushy I suppose: I’ll follow up emails; I’ll pick up the phone and just get going again. We don’t often talk about the wall of email silence, campaigns falling through and weighing up how long to chase again but it happens!

I hope this blog post helped-and in the interest in honesty, I’d LOVE to hear your confessions!

How I Increased my traffic by 10,000 monthly views (and hit Mediavine levels)

Hi everyone, today I wanted to do a quick post to blog about finally hitting Mediavine’s traffic requirements! Now I appreciate not everyone is into the type of posts about traffic stats, and, to be honest-they’re not my cup of tea all the time either. I don’t agree with random targets for the sake of it- but this time my goal was for a specific passive income.

For those of you who don’t know- Mediavine is an advertising networking that has strict entry requirements-25,000 sessions per month (a session is not the same as a page-view FYI); so I’d set myself this as the goal of meeting this by the end of the year on my main blog-A Balanced Belly.

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10 blogging resources I can’t live without (books, podcasts AND 2 giveaways)

Today I wanted to talk about all my favourite blogging resources-whether its books I’ve delved into, stationary I’m loving or Podcasts I can’t get enough of! I’d love to hear your favourites too-and stay tuned for information on TWO GIVEAWAYS- One on my own blog to win a copy of ‘Blogging your Way to Riches’ and another with Old English Company

just a quick reminder of my two self-published resources before I begin (I’d feel a bit silly put my own books in the top ten but they’re definitely worth a read if you haven’t got them already!)

    

        Pitching Toolkit                                        Blog Growth Toolkit

With my shameless self-promo out the way (hey! a girl’s got to eat); let’s get down to my top ten…

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7 tools for bloggers and freelancers

computer, electronics, hands

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I have already covered so many different ways for you to make money online, from your blog, or as a freelancer. As an online entrepreneur, there are plenty of things you’re going to want to consider when you first set up your business – from that initial idea through to the dreaded tax self-assessment. Along the way, you’re going to find new ways of running your online business and plenty of hacks, tricks, and tools that make your life easier. To give you a bit of a headstart, I have put together a list of tools that any new online entrepreneur may want to check out. If they make your life a little bit easier, then that has to be a good thing right?!

1. Canva

You could hire a graphic designer to make all of your imagery look beautiful (if you’ve got the money) OR you could use Canva. Use one of their templates to create an amazing blog featured image or create something unique for social media. Canva also comes in really handy for things like social media banners, Pinterest images,media kits and eBook covers!

2. MailChimp

As you may already know, offering free guides, eBooks and printables is a great way to expand your online business nowadays. MailChimp makes this super simple, by offering an easy way to set up email campaigns. Automatically send out your freebie when people sign up and also keep them in the loop with a regular email newsletter. If you don’t already have MailChimp on your blog or online business, this is a must-have.

3. Buffer

Faffing around with social media can be a real pain and take up a lot of valuable time. If you want to cut that time in half, you can use a scheduling tool like Buffer. Simply set the times you want your posts to go out, add your tweets or Facebook updates, and let it do its thing.

It’s important to note that social networks like Twitter don’t like a feed full of automation or scheduled tweets, and people don’t always interact with a scheduled post, so don’t leave the whole thing on autopilot. A few a day should keep things ticking over nicely, though.

4. Shopify

Many prominent bloggers and freelancers are expanding their source of income by selling their own merchandise. This is such a good idea, as the profit is all yours – no measly affiliate payouts. If you want to set up your own online store, then Shopify seems to be the most popular platform. There’s a huge guide and review of Shopify here  (really useful), along with how it all works, which might help you out. You can either make your own merchandise to sell or use a third-party to provide the products for your shop!

5. Google Drive

If you’re paying for something like Microsoft Office to run your business, stop now! Google has a whole suite of free tools that you can use for writing documents, creating spreadsheets, and even making presentations. Not only will these free tools save you money, but they are all stored safely in one place – your Google Drive. This means you’ll never lose anything important, as it all saves automatically. You’ll be able to do your self-assessment in Google Sheets and craft perfect blog posts in Google Docs; it really is so handy.

    6. Google Analytics

Analytics Text

Do you have Google Analytics linked up? Lots of bloggers use their own host’s stats or blogger-but these are often inaccurate! Google Analytics can seem quite tricky to get the hang of to start with, but give it time. Google also offers free courses to help you get to grips with all of the ins and outs, if you’d prefer.

 Once you have some Analytics know-how, you can monitor where your traffic comes from, what your bounce rates are like, and a whole lot more. You can then use this information to improve your marketing campaigns.

7. Trello

If you like keeping everything organised, Trello might just be the tool for you. This project management app is perfect for keeping all of your to-do lists together in a pinboard-style. It’s like Pinterest but for organising your business! You can also add team members which is handy for those who work with others, especially if your team are all over the world.

There are plenty more helpful things that online entrepreneurs may want to add to their collection of tools, but I think I have the main ones covered. Have you got any you would add to the list?

*This is a collaborative post*

10 Reasons Why I Am Not Joining Vero (And The Bloggers Who Agree With Me)

So you might have seen the new social media app that suddenly went crazy recently is Vero. I woke up one day and my twitter timeline was FULL of bloggers saying they had joined and to go follow them.

My first instinct, was just NO. But that’s pretty normal: if a bunch of big bloggers tell me to do something; I’ll pretty much do the opposite (see my terribly curated Instagram feed or the fact I think most blogging awards are shit).

 

However, once I did a little more reading; it became apparent that 99% of people we’re only joining because they were terrified of it being the next big thing. Yes, it’s annoying that nobody sees our Instagram content anymore- but if you genuinely think Vero is going to replace Instagram, I think you’re mistaken.

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Pitching, engagement and budgets: Email with Alex from CCD PR

For regular readers, you might remember when I interviewed PRs and small brands on working with bloggers. I interviewed Icelolly.com about press trips, Fran from PrezzyBox about gift guides and Sam from Socially Sam about engagement, pitching disaster and everything else PR deal with!

Today, I’m back- and interviewing the lovely Alex-Account Executive at CCD PR who look after all sorts of lovely natural health, food and wellbeing brands. Alex shares such amazing insight which I know you’ll all find so useful!

Before, I begin, just to ask if you could (if you haven’t already!) fill out my big blogging money survey-to help me share how much bloggers charge for sponsored posts.

 

Q:Hi Alexandra, thanks so much for chatting with me today! Would you mind briefly introducing yourself, your role at CCD PR and a few of the brands you represent?

I’m an Account Executive at CCD PR working across natural health, food and wellbeing brands, I work across brands such as Nairn’s, Ombar and Equinox Kombucha . As an account executive my role encapsulates everything from getting our products into the press, working with bloggers and influencers, hosting events and brainstorming campaign ideas.

 

Q: All of my favourite brands (sidenote: If you haven’t tried Ombar, please do immediately!) How much of your day-to-day work is working with bloggers?

It often depends on what we’re working on with our clients. If we’re creating campaigns with bloggers or putting together a series of blogger reviews it can be a big focus of my day-to-day work. I think the work we do with bloggers of all sizes is definitely growing and brands are increasingly open to working with them.


Q:We’ve discussed projects that would suit both my blog and the publications I write for. What are the differences between the two pieces of media do you think? What are the benefits and the drawbacks of getting something in front of bloggers instead of traditional media?

We constantly work to get our clients in the media as it lends a recognised authority that people will trust and respect, also these days a greater number media outlets now have social media with hugely influential followings, so we do have devote a lot of our time to gaining exposure through these channels.

However, working with bloggers can add a more personal touch, so we’re always on the look out for innovative bloggers and influencers to work with who will help introduce a brand to more specialised and dedicated audiences.

Times are definitely changing and I think a lot of PRs now aim to get a balance of both blogger and media exposure for their clients, as we do find that blogger exposure can have a longer-lasting impact for brands.


Q: Very true! Us bloggers are constantly told brands are looking for good engagement-but what does that really look like to a PR company?

Engagement can come in many different forms, but essentially, when I look at a blogger’s engagement it’s to make sure their following isn’t just a number but rather an audience that are genuinely receptive and involved with the content that is being published.

When I look for engagement I often look for bloggers who engage with or work with other bloggers, produce beautiful imagery, have interesting or unique angles for their blog posts, and those that evidently engage with their readers, whether this is replying to comments on their Instagram and blog posts or through Instagram stories.

I also usually look at how they’ve worked brands on previous projects, I’m always really impressed with bloggers that create multifaceted campaigns, even on a small scale, where they showcase brands on both their blog and social media in a way that is unique to them.

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10 Reasons No One Is Reading Your Blog

So, today I wanted to talk about one of the most common complaints I see bloggers talking about: why no-one is reading your blog. You might know that my latest venture is all about blogging outreach (I now run Chronic Illness Bloggers which helps connect bloggers who blog about life with an illness and brands and advertisers) as well as doing blog audits and helping bloggers with their sites. During this time, many of my conversations have been about stats and more specifically people asking: why is no one reading my blog?

Traffic is important. I know many bloggers will tell you it isn’t but most of the time we’re blogging for two reasons: a) we want people to read our words and feel inspired or informed and b) we want to be hopefully paid or compensated for our words (if that’s you, do go fill out my blogging money survey as I’m trying to keep track of how much bloggers charge- I’ll be sharing in a blog post soon!). So unless you are blogging purely for yourself, it’s ok to admit that you want people to read your blog!

After looking at a LOT of blogs this week- I wanted to share ten mistakes some bloggers are making…

1.It’s hard to navigate 

I think bloggers underestimate the attention span of an average reader at times. Often, on landing on a site it can be hard to navigate with unclear headings or no introduction to what the site is actually about. Make the purpose of your blog really clear as soon as the reader arrives on your site. One way to do this might be to have a landing page so you can send your different types of readers off in different directions.

2.You’re not offering value

One of the quickest ways to gain traffic is to offer something of value-whether it’s a free download or ten tips on something (just like I’m doing now!). If your blog is purely your own reflections an a journal for your life; that’s absolutely fine-but you might need to accept it might not be the traffic-building blog you’d like.

3.It doesn’t stand out

 

You don’t have to have a clear ‘niche’ but you do have to offer something different in my opinion. There are just so many blogs out there- why would anyone read yours over a thousand others?

4.It takes too long to load

Make a note of your google page insights to check your site speed

I’d recommend using google page speed insights to see how slow your site is to load- this can be really offputting; especially if people are scrolling on their phone.

5.You’re focussed on false engagement

Follow trains. Comment pods. Like for Like. Whatever you call them, they’re really bloody annoying. And all a bit fake. I might use one once in a blue moon-but only if I know the reader is likely to stick around afterwards.

For example, if I have an amazing post on The Bloglancer; I might use these to drive people to my site (since them being a blogger is the perfect audience) but make sure I have all the different ways to follow my blog so they’ll stick around.  I wouldn’t do this for my first blog, A Balanced Belly, however-since it’s unlikely I’d find people geniunely interested in my content.

You might spend thirty minutes of comment pods and follow trains to bring in one hundred readers one day; but it would be better spent working on Pinterest- to bring in potential one hundred readers every day.

Read it next: How I get 400 views a day from Pinterest.

6.Your sponsored content sticks out

If you’re only blogging a few times a way and have regular sponsored content, it can definitely impact your blog. So your sponsored content needs to BE BETTER than your original content, not just stuff you’ve posted and hoped nobody would read. Treat every sponsored post not just as a way to make money, but a way to get traffic. Always ask if you can offer a giveaway item (which is a very easy way to boost traffic) and always share on social media, create pins AND make it interesting (too many bloggers just don’t do this)

7.You’re not keeping people on the page

Always do your very best to keep bloggers on the page once they’ve arrived. Try to have recommended posts at the bottom of the page and interspersed throughout (either through images or links). Make sure you click the ‘open in a new window’ tab, so you don’t lose the blogger!

8.You don’t know who you’re writing for

Yes, you may have the nice template and an Instagram-worthy feed; but who is your ideal reader? What are they likely to want to know that you can help them with. Quite a few bloggers have readers surveys and they can really help get to grips with what the reader is after. Another way is to look at your stats and see which style of post is consistently popular.

9.You’re not sharing enough

Make sure you are sharing your old content as well as your new stuff. I often go through my blog and see what type of evergreen content I can reshare ( I either do this manually or use the app ‘HiPlay’ which works with Buffer). It’s also worth making sure you are continually sharing old posts around key dates- so get your Easter posts scheduled!

10.You haven’t bought my book.

Sorry guys, this wasn’t intending to be self-promotion; but I already designed my pin for ’10 tips’ and I’m having a mental block around the last one- so I thought I’d give my new ebook about building traffic a mention. If you’re looking to build your traffic, it’s got lots of practical tips and I also offer blog audits if you’d like me to take a look at your blog specifically to see where you’re going wrong?

I hope this post helped and I’ll be back with a new PR interview in a couple of days!

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10 reasons no one is reading your blog

NEW EBOOK: Everything you need to grow your blog in 2018

Today I’m back! With my second ebook finally complete. After talking about the power of ebooks in my post on passive income projects, I set about creating my second-and it’s here! The Blog Growth Toolkit!

 

What is the blog growth toolkit?

The blog growth toolkit is an ebook which is full of practical tips on…

  • Planning content people want to read and share
  • Using social media to boost traffic
  • Getting all the views on Pinterest
  • Setting up and making the most of a mailing list.
  • How to grow your blog and take it to the next level in 2018

As well as plenty of printable pages to track your stats, growth and ideas to take your blog to the next step. All this for only £5.99!

Is it Right for Me?

  • Do you already have a blog and social channels? This is not a guide for those who haven’t yet started a blog. Instead, it’s for those who have already got the basics of the blog set up, and want to take it to the next level! However, if you’re already an established full-time blogger, this might not be the best purchase for you as you may already have nailed your blog growth and traffic.

 

  • Are you cautious about spending lots of money when you’re not making very little blog income? All my ebooks are set a very reasonable rate (of £5.99) as I strongly believe growing your blog shouldn’t have to cost the world!

 

  • Do you want a steady, realistic increase in growth and NOT millions of followers? If you want to grow your blog but aren’t daydreaming of millions of followers, then this is the blog for you. I don’t have millions of followers. I hate ebooks that promise this (because I’ve read them and I still don’t have a million followers. If I did, I’d be selling toothpaste ads on Instagram instead of blogging here. Instead, this is real, practical tips to grow your blog steadily month on month.

What if I need extra help?

For the first time ever I’m offering two options for my ebook. The first option is the ebook itself but the second choice is the ebook plus a personalised blog audit! This involves…

  • You filling in a questionnaire, outlining your key goals and focuses that you need support with.
  • Within seven days, you’ll receive a detailed blog critique from me (approximately 2 pages long) via email; full of suggestions on how to grow your blog targetted advice and areas of development.
  • You’ll then have an additional seven days to send unlimited follow up questions via email to ensure you know exactly how to grow your blog.
  • This service can include me looking at your media kit and pitching emails- if one of your targets is to make money from your blog. The price of this is £31.99

Testimonials on my previous ebook: Pitching Toolkit

Steph from Colitis to Ostomy: I found the Blog to Business: Your Pitching Toolkit to be really useful and easy to understand. It has enabled me to think about how I will approach brands and how to narrow down the brands that fit my blog.My blog is written with young people having ostomies and pregnant women/new moms with an ostomy.

Becky from The Owlet: Jenna you’re amazing! Just got my first EVER sponsored post thanks to yo. Also after our conversation on Twitter, it’s really helped me come up with blog content. Thank you so much!

Laura from Mum on A Mission

This ebook has given me the confidence to start pitching as well as ideas on who to target and how to find their contact details. Since I read it I’ve successfully pitched to several clients and have recommended this guide to other bloggers too.

Where can I buy?

Buy the ‘Blog Growth Toolkit’ here.

Buy the ‘Blog Growth Toolkit+audit here.

How to network as a blogger with brands and PRs

In today’s blog, I really wanted to talk about networking. I’ve had a busy few days in London and purposely made sure I fitted in some networking opportunities around my trip (leaving my poor husband to hit the shops alone!). Networking can take many forms: meeting other bloggers, attending events, meeting with PRs and brands for coffee or simply getting linked-in savvy. But if you want to get your name out there, be on everyone’s radar and make a go of your blog, then networking is pretty vital.

This is something I didn’t take much notice of in the first few years of my blog. So it’s absolutely fine if you don’t want to jump right into to it. But since I’ve gone freelance, I’ve found networking has made a huge difference! So here’s my advice on why you need to network to grow your blog AND how to do it!

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Everything bloggers need to know about their tax self-assessment

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably left your tax self-assessment return to the very last minute. Perhaps you’re even worse than me and didn’t realise the Self Assessment submission deadline is midnight on the 31st January! But it is fast upon us and most of us avoid it until we really have to face it; last year, 33,000 people filed in the final hour, while a staggering 840,000 people missed the deadline altogether. If it’s late, HMRC delivers a straight £100 fine; with even more penalties if it continues to be missed.

You get the idea. It’s a faff but it needs to be done. To avoid getting stressed,  I’ve teamed up with SimpleTax to share lots of expert advice and tips on filling in your tax return properly as a blogger. Make sure you read to the bottom of the post so you can claim a 14 day completely free trial (bank details not needed) of SimpleTax to help you fill in your return with zero effort!

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