Summer 2018 marked the 8th year of WhatLauraLovesUK.com. It blows my mind to think that I have carved a career for myself out of the hobby that I started all of those years ago. I’ve had some amazing experiences and opportunities through my blog, I’ve been able to inspire and interact with so many amazing women online and my blog has enabled me to support myself financially, particularly through some difficult times.
So what advice would I offer to those starting out?
GET A PROFESSIONAL BLOG DESIGN
Starting when blogging was still very much a new industry and without management to guide me, I’ve very much had to learn on the job. I’m not particularly techy and in all honesty, I have no spare time to dedicate to learning so I’ve really had to pick up small bits of information that have a big impact on my blog, particularly in terms of SEO.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and its something that all website owners need to be tuned into in order to ensure that their content gets seen. Big companies often turn to the professionals like Click Consult to boost theirs with paid search (PPC) and industry support but even for a small website like mine, its important to use SEO to its advantage and having a blog design built for SEO makes this so much easier.
My blog design is from Phil at Pipdig who has designed my blog twice now both for the Blogger and WordPress platforms. It helps massively as not only does it look really professional, it is built for SEO which enables it to load quickly and for Google to read it in no time at all.
CHOOSE A STRAIGHT FORWARD PLATFORM- BLOGGER OR WORDPRESS
While there are other platforms are out there, Blogger and WordPress are the big ones and the two that most people deliberate over.
Up until last month, I used Blogger because it was quick and easy to set up and simple to use. It is owned by Google who ultimately own your content and after switching over to WordPress through the Pipdig WordPress Migration service and discovering how easy it is to use, I would urge those starting out to go with WordPress from the word go. They power nearly one third of all websites on the internet and using them for your blog will give you so much control over the design and functionality of your site which will ultimately make your blog look more professional.
BE EASY TO CONTACT
Its all well and good showing up in a Google search and smashing your SEO but if a brand or reader comes over to your page and wants to contact you, they need to be able to find your details easily. I have an ‘About & Contact’ section that is easy to find at the top of my page in the navigation bar and also highlighted under my header with an image to which helps to draw attention to it and to set it aside as a key bit of information, making it easy to find and more likely to be clicked on.
When writing an ‘About & Contact’ section, include key snippets of information regarding your content, who you are and how to get in touch with you; including via email and social media. If you’re a blogger, I wouldn’t suggest putting a contact telephone number or address on there as its not necessary and a risk to your safety.
KEEP YOUR RATES PRIVATE
I would also refrain from displaying your rates on your blog. Just like writing a CV for a job, your rates should very much be specific to the individual job at hand and what the brand are looking to achieve from coverage. While you might have a guide price, I’d suggest keeping this to yourself and dealing direct with a company through email to discuss this if you do decide to work on a sponsored basis for some posts; remember your blog is out there in the public domain and can be viewed by anyone. If you worked for a bank, you probably wouldn’t reveal your salary to others and it’s the same for if you’re self employed as a blogger too.
USE LARGE, CLEAR PHOTOGRAPHS
While its all well and good to be able to write a cracking blog post, images matter and that’s something that I’ve battled with for years because I’m great with English language but not so talented at taking photographs. A great camera has helped me over the years but ultimately, I’ve had to learn the very basics on how to use it and there is still so much that I don’t know. I’d love to save up and go on an actual photography course for beginners one day but until then, I shoot using my Canon 70D for beauty product imagery and give a friend a shout when I need outfit pictures taken. I have a Canon G7X Mark II that I really love as a point and shoot digital camera as it takes gorgeous photos and anyone can use it. That’s what my boyfriend used to take the photographs of me in this blog post and as you can see, even in low level lighting as it was getting dark, it has still produced some beautiful images.
Another favourite of mine is actually my iPhone 8 Plus. It takes a cracking photo and although the quality isn’t the best when its blown up, if you’re just starting out and wanting to work with what you’ve got, I’d definitely say to use your phone to take your photos. Just make sure that you have plenty of images to illustrate your post or to demonstrate what you’re talking about.
PAGE TITLS, URLs & META DESCRIPTIONS
WordPress makes getting SEO right easy with the Yoast plug in, just make sure that you always fill in the page title, URL and meta description in accordingly, including your focus keyword to allow your posts to rank in Google search engines.
ADD TAGS & CATEGORIES
Adding tags and categories to your posts will make your blog more organised and enable your readers to find your content more easily. It’s a good idea to add sub categories too, for example, under Beauty, I have Fragrance, Hair, Makeup, Skincare and so on.
ALT TEXT ON IMAGES
Something that I’ve also picked up along the way is the use of adding alt tags to images which basically is the alternative text attribute on an image tag in HTML which describes that the image actually is. This helps to make your blog more accessible for others, particularly those who are blind or visually impaired as if they are using a screen reader, it will read out what the text says so that they have an understanding of what is on the page. The text will also display within the space of where the image should be if for any reason the image cannot be displayed. It also is a great help when it comes to search engines as rather than just a random numerical and character image file name, what the image actually is of is attributed to the image which means that your image and therefore your post and blog is more likely to show up in Google Image search results.
Each blogging platform has its own system for assigning this to an image but on WordPress, when I’ve uploaded and image ill usually type something in for the title and alt title that’ll include my focus keyword which I find really helps for other people finding my blog.
Strategically placing internal links within the articles of your blog pointing to other posts you’ve written is a great technique to boost the SEO of your site and is frequently used as a content marketing strategy. It helps to define the architecture and hierarchy of a blog and distributes page authority and ranking power throughout your website but it is also brilliant from a readers perspective too. Not only does it make your website easier to navigate but it makes your website sticky too. By that I mean, if you’ve written a blog post all about Christmas party outfits, you might like to link to another post you’ve written about accessorising with pearls as those who have read the initial fashion post may be interested in out to accessorise their outfit further, therefor you’re not only being helpful to your readers but you’re keeping them consuming your blog content for longer. When I read a blog from someone whose content I trust and style I love, I want to stay on there checking out more of their content rather than having to hop from blog to blog so making it easier for your readers to stay with you is a great idea too. While internal linking is great, external linking can improve your visibility online and boost the traffic to your site. Once you start building links, you can then use this Backlink Checker to monitor and track all your links, and read more.
BLOG POST LENGTH
Theres plenty of debate out there online as to how long a blog post should be Yoast, which is the SEO tool I use as it is built into my blog design through WordPress, suggests that a blog post needs to be over 300 words for optimal SEO. By comparison, Forbes indicates that an average of 600 to 700 words per page is best and SearchEngineLand quotes longer content of an excess of 1000 words tends to help websites to show up higher in search results.
My suggestion would be to focus on the actual content rather than writing for the sake of writing. I’ve never really struggled with word count, in fact, I’m the opposite and struggle to be concise! Focus on getting all of the information that you need into the post and your opinions first and foremost because this is what will demonstrate your knowledge and integrity. Ultimately you want your readers to understand that you’re writing from an honest place and come back time and time again to consume your content. If you’re passionate about a topic, I think you’ll find that its easy to write at least 300 words about the topic and therefore I would suggest not worrying about the blog post length. Write from the heart.
Your longest posts can always become cornerstone content articles which are the important ones on your website that rank highly on Google. For me, this has been very much a learning curve and some of my most read articles have been ones that I published many years ago without really understanding what I was doing when I was writing them in terms of SEO, etc.
A great example of a cornerstone article on my blog is my Estee Lauder Double Wear Foundation Review from May 2011. The title itself is something thats really searchable on Google when people are looking for a new foundation to try but I also covered the Estee Lauder Double Wear Light Foundation in a review post and a comparison between the two in my Double Wear vs Double Wear Light blog post and linked to them from the original post. This made the initial post a cornerstone article on my blog without me even realising!
WRITE A BLOG YOU LOVE
Ultimately, writing a blog that you love and put your heart and soul into will get you far and you can learn tips and tricks with SEO and photography, etc as you go along. Always write honest content, never sell out as no freebie is worth your integrity and always remember that your words can have an impact on the reader. You can’t control who consumes your content but you can control what you say and how you say it so wherever possible be honest but fair and consider how others may feel reading it.
HARD WORK CONQUERS ALL
Blogging can bring you amazing opportunities but don’t expect it to happen over night. Work hard. Focus on the products, etc that you already have and the brands that you shop from and love. Don’t compare yourself to others and keep going even when you feel as though no one is reading. There is an audience out there for everyone and they will find their way to you.
Would you like to start a blog or do you already have one? What tips would you give to others starting out? What blog content do you love to read the most?