6 Things to Check When Editing Your Archives

Over the last couple of months, I’ve started working on editing old blog posts in order to liven up my archives. I want to be able to share old posts in order to bring them back to life and in order to do that, I need to make sure they meet the same standards I have for my more recent posts. It’s not a tried and true method and it’s definitely more time consuming than this particular blogger would like, but having a list of things I want to get done on each post makes the process go a lot more quickly.

edit archives
Death to the Stock Photo

Font

One of the most noticeable changes I’ve been making to my old posts is the fonts – both the body font, and the font I used on my photos. When I switched from Blogger to WordPress in the fall, the fonts didn’t convert because I wasn’t using the default one in Blogger. And as far as photos went, there was a while where I switched up the font on each blog post’s photo – and it was always something cursive and vaguely difficult to read.

Looking back through my archives now, I want these things to be streamlined – and in the last several months especially, I’ve worked on making sure all of my blog photos use one of two fonts: Ariel or Modern No. 20 (I love Modern No. 20, but it doesn’t have a bold or italic and for certain posts, I need those features). So the first thing I do when I edit a blog post is to highlight the post, and clear formatting (if you use WordPress, this is the eraser on your toolbar).

Photos

It would be an understatement to say that when I first started blogging I didn’t realize how important photography was to the whole thing. That was five years ago, and even just last year when I started this blog I wasn’t paying that much attention to it.

Going back through my archives now, I have a checklist I go through for all of my blog photos:

  • Quality To be honest, this means that most of my photos come from a free stock source like Unsplash. I love photography, but I’m not that great at it and I’d rather use a free stock photo that’s higher quality than one of my own.
  • Size The first thing I do when I open up a photo in PicMonkey is resize it to match the width of my paragraphs. It’s something I never would have thought of on my own, but a while back when I worked with Kenzie on a blog consult, she mentioned that it looks a lot more pleasing to the eyes to have the photos match your text in width.
  • Formatting With any photo that I put text on, I use a transparent overlay to make the text more visible. When I first started doing this, I varied the sizes and shapes a lot, trying to figure out which I liked better. So now, going back through my archives, I try to make sure they all match with the box shape I use now.
  • Text I mentioned above that I like to make sure the text on all my photos is either Modern No. 2 or Ariel, so when I’m editing old graphics or creating new ones now, this is one of the things I make sure to do.

Layout

Another thing I’ve noticed has changed with the switch from Blogger to WordPress is the format on some of my older posts. For whatever reason (probably because I was always messing with fonts and sizes) the spacing on some posts is a little off.

I don’t know about Blogger (I can’t remember the formatting features they have), but on WordPress this is another thing that the Clear Formatting tool seems to fix. Although I did spend a lot of time retyping entire posts because I didn’t realize this was an option…Oops.

SEO

One of my favorite things about WordPress is the ability to use plugins for so many different things, and one of those plugins that I love is Yoast. I’m learning more about SEO now, but having a checklist of things to run through helps a lot in making sure that my posts are search engine friendly.

If you don’t know what Yoast is, it’s a plugin available with WordPress that allows you to enter a focus keyword or phrase and then tells you what steps to take to better your SEO on that post. A few things are making sure the keyword pops up in your title, page URL, throughout the post, and on your photos’ alt tag, and making sure to include photos and links in your post.

Tags and Categories

I’ll be honest: for a long time I paid absolutely no attention to the tags on my posts. Once again though, when I switched to WordPress I started paying attention and trying to keep my posts organized. Tags and categories are how I’m able to list a categories tab on my blog, and how I can direct people to posts they might enjoy based on other posts they’ve enjoyed.

Going back through my archives, I try to fit older posts into categories and tags I’ve started using in the last few months in a way that streamlines my content.

Grammar

I’ll be the first to admit that I can be pretty bad about this. I love editing other people’s writing and picking out grammar mistakes I find there. With my own writing though, I’m really terrible about finding my own mistakes. For whatever reason, I can read through something three times and still miss the same misplaced comma I did the first two times.

Sometimes the best thing for this though is time and distance. Going through old posts, I’m more likely to see the mistakes I might have made a few months ago that I couldn’t see then, and correcting these makes my blog look a lot more professional.

So what about you? Do you edit old posts and if you do, do you have anything specific you look for to update? 

Basic Blogging Etiquette for Your Website

From the time we’re young, we’re taught the socially acceptable way to behave in public: don’t speak with food in your mouth, don’t interrupt someone when they are speaking, look at a person when they’re speaking to you (at least in Western cultures), and so on.  When you start blogging, the set of rules changes because suddenly, you’re not interacting face-to-face anymore.  It can be a tough set of rules to understand and get used to, and it took me years before I started understanding most of them.  So today, I want to talk about a few “blogging etiquette” rules that would have made my life a whole lot easier if I’d known them sooner.

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Comment Links

I can remember leaving comments on all my favorite blogs, always trailed with “stop by my blog!” and a link.  It never occurred to me that this was anything but friendly in the blogging world. Somewhere along the line though, I learned that this crossed the line from friendly marketing to being pushy.

Commenting on other blogs is one of the best ways to get your name out there and to find new blogging friends, so it makes sense that we would leave our link for others to follow, like a breadcrumb trail back to our house. If your commenting system is set up correctly though, whether it’s Disqus, WordPress, or Blogger, your username will link to your blog anyway; so that if someone wants to check out your blog they know how to. Leaving a direct link on top of that gets a little bit repetitive and starts to seem like you’re not commenting for genuine conversation, but for page views.

Sourcing

When it comes to textbooks and research papers, we all know how important it is to cite our sources because every teacher since the first grade has been telling us. With blogging though, it’s a bit more of a gray area of when do you just happen to have a similar idea, and when are you genuinely using someone else’s work.

It should go without saying that if you share a person’s photos or words, you absolutely need to link back, and should probably ask their permission as well. But when it comes to using someone’s idea to spark your own, it gets a little more fuzzy. My rule of thumb is that if you’re reading someone’s post and think hey, that seems like a cool topic – let me expand on it – you should reference that person when you write your post. Aside from being good manners (and a great way to avoid a summons in your mailbox for plagiarism), linking back to the person you got your idea from or who you’re referring to in a post can be a great way to make new blogging friends!

Inspiration

I mentioned above that it can be great to get a blog post idea of your own from someone else’s posts, and it is! One of my favorite parts of this blogging community is that we all draw inspiration from one another, and as long as you’re linking back there’s nothing wrong with that.

The problem comes in though when you don’t put your own twist on an idea you got from one of your favorite bloggers. If someone you admire writes a really great post and it’s something you’d like to write too, that can be a lot of fun and a great way to connect. But it’s equally important to make sure you’re making the post your own, and not just writing exactly what that other blogger already wrote with small changes here and there to make it “yours”.

Tagging

I’ve mentioned before that one of my favorite things about social media is the chance to tag people in your posts, especially on Twitter. It’s a great way to connect with other bloggers outside of commenting, and can actually be more fun because it lends itself to a more immediate response.

In the same way that leaving your direct link in a blog post comment can seem pushy and insincere though, tagging a person on social media can too when it’s not relevant. For example, if you’re writing a round-up type of post like my weekly Friday Favorites posts or Crystal’s Currently Loving Link-Up, then linking to the people you referenced in your post is great! It lets them know you loved their post enough to share it and gives your followers a way to find them. Linking to someone because you want them to read your post, whether or not it has anything to do with them though, can be a problem because similarly to linking in a comment, you’re targeting them directly in your advertisement. It would be sort of like a Geico commercial that showed up to your doorstep and said “KIERSTEN!! SAVE $100 IN 15 MINUTES OR LESS!”

Sponsorships

We all love getting sponsored content offers, because it means that all the work we’re putting in here is paying off – and God knows we work hard enough on our blogs! Companies love these types of programs too because blog readers are a loyal group and tend to take the advice of their favorite bloggers. If someone like Erin from Living in Yellow suggests a favorite brand, you can bet that brand is seeing hundreds of sales coming directly from her page. So it’s a win-win-win situation when bloggers get to talk about products they love and that their readers will love.

That trust doesn’t come from nowhere though – it’s the result of honest blogging, and your readers will quickly stop trusting your suggestions if they can’t figure out what’s a genuine suggestion and what’s being paid for. I actually think this may be some sort of law, but even if it’s not: if you’re writing about a product or service in exchange for free product or payment, you should be disclosing that in your post.

So tell me – what are some rules of blogging etiquette that I didn’t mention here?

Breaking the Blogging Mold

I always struggle with introducing my blog because there’s not quite a category I fit into.  I don’t know the first thing about fashion or makeup, my DIY’s aren’t anything anyone would want to duplicate, I can’t cook much more than mac n’ cheese and bang bang cauliflower, and HTML is a foreign language I don’t even know how to say “hello” in.  So when I read that we’re supposed to have an elevator pitch for our blog – what we’re about and why – I struggle.

Generally speaking, I guess you’d call me a lifestyle blogger, but  I try not to write too much about my life just for the sake of writing about it.  You’ll probably never find an “if we had coffee” post here, but what you will find are feminist articles, personal essays, creative writing, and thoughtful discussions about inspiration and current events.  And if this mixed bunch of writing that I don’t know how to classify says anything about blogging, it’s that there’s room for everyone in the blogging world.

blogging mold
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Be Yourself

This is advice you hear a lot in the blogging community, but that’s because it’s important.  Most of us ended up here, writing a blog, because it’s something we wanted to do; whether because we love writing, want to connect with other people, or because we feel we have something to share.  Don’t forget about that once you’ve been blogging for a while and have found a ton of really successful blogs out there.  Don’t let your reasons for being here change because someone else’s reasons have gotten results.

Blog What You Know

If you aren’t into fashion, and cooking a delicious three-course meal is the last thing on your mind, don’t blog about those things just because other bloggers do.  Blog about what makes sense to you, and what you enjoy talking about – I bet there are other people out there who like the same things, and would love to read a blog post about them.

If what you know is how to take care of birds, then that’s what you should blog about.  Or if you’re more well-versed in politics, then there are plenty of uninformed voters out there who would love to hear what you have to say about the candidates.  Maybe what you know the most about is something we’ve never even heard of, and that’s all the more reason you should write about it.

We Don’t All Fit Into a Mold

There are all kinds of blogs out there: fashion, design, travel, marriage, gourmet cooking… But we don’t all fit into those specific categories.  Even “lifestyle” can be restrictive if what you have to offer isn’t funny stories about your day-to-day life.

But the great thing about blogging is that you don’t have to fit into a mold.  There’s space for everyone, and if what you have to say doesn’t fit into a category, then make your own and figure out what you want to say and how you want to say it!

Get Good at Knowing What You Write

If you don’t fit into a category that most people know, that makes it harder to tell potential new readers why they should stop by.  Know what it is that you love talking about, and get good at telling people about that!  If you were talking to your best friend or your mom, what would you tell them your blog is about?  How would you describe it?  Figure that out and remember it for the next time you get asked what your blog is about.

This post first appeared as a guest post on The Charming.

Friday Favorites: What I’m Loving this Week

Friday Favorites

It’s the end of the blogging week around here, and that means time for one of my favorite posts to write – Friday Favorites, where I tell you all the things and links I’ve been loving this week!

// The fact that I’m finally able to join (what seems like) the rest of blogland in using Plugins, now that I have WordPress.   If it’s a switch you’re considering making, I 110% suggest hiring Lisette to do it for you.  There is no way I could have made this transfer by myself without losing basically my entire blog in the process, and Lisette was amazing to work with.                         And speaking of Plugins…what are some of your favorites?

//I absolutely LOVED this post Whitney wrote on the type of friend she wants to be.  These are all qualities I’d hope that my friends could say I have, and which I look for in my friends.

// This really important reminder from Katie.  It’s so easy in blogging to get wrapped up in the success your favorite bloggers seem to be experiencing, especially if one of those bloggers is someone who started at the same time as you and seems to have SO many more followers.  But this isn’t a competition, and another blogger’s success is not your failure – instead, it is a chance to congratulate a friend who is doing great, and to set goals for yourself and your blog.

// Pumpkin spice hot chocolate.  I know you’re all probably so sick of hearing about pumpkin spice lattes, but that’s why I’m not bringing those up (well, that and I don’t drink coffee).  A couple of weeks ago, my roommate told me I could have the barista at Starbucks put pumpkin spice into whatever drink I wanted.  Cue my new love affair with pumpkin spice hot chocolate.

pumpkin spice
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// Today is my last day at my current (part-time) job, which means that starting Monday I’ll be working full-time in the city! This is something I’ve held off on sharing, because I didn’t want to talk about it online too much before I was finished with my current job.                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I was so lucky to find a job that I loved right out of college, but unfortunately it was only part-time, and once I stopped waitressing about a month ago I knew it was time to find something with more hours.  I couldn’t be more excited about this new position – everyone I’ve met is so nice, and it’s a career (paralegal work) I’m really excited to be getting into!  Wish me luck?

 

So what about you? What are your Friday Favorites this week?

5 Ways to Use Your Twitter Account to Build a Community

twitter for your blog
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When I first started blogging, social media didn’t even factor into my plan.  They seemed like two completely different subjects, and the latter was one I had no interest in.  And the most ridiculous, at least in my opinion, was Twitter.  In fact, my friend and I who co-wrote my first blog regularly made fun of it – “I’m getting in the shower, I’m drying off, I’m brushing my teeth…” we’d joke with one another.  Little did I know that in a few years, Twitter would be my favorite social media site, and the number-one traffic source for my blog.

Over the last few years since I made my first Twitter account, I’ve learned a few things that got me to the point where I check it throughout the day and even have met some of my favorite bloggers through tweets. So today, here are some of the things I’ve done that have made Twitter work for me!

Variety

I’ve already mentioned that when Twitter first debuted in the social media world, I thought it was a joke. We were connected enough already – I didn’t feel like I needed to know any more about your day-to-day business.  But the more I use Twitter, the more I realize that personal posts are some of my favorites. Especially in lifestyle blogging, we all want to know more about the person behind the screen.

But it’s not just that – Twitter is a tool, and one that I use often. Most of what I post are links not to my own posts, but to other blogs I love, articles relating to things I blog about, quotes that resonate with me, and information I think would be useful to my followers.

Suffice to say, posts advertising my own blog are a very small portion of what I have to say on Twitter. It is an amazing resource for new blogs, articles, and information, and making yourself a part of that is a big part of gaining new readers.

Interaction

We all talk about how important community is to our blogs, and that doesn’t end with the .com.  In fact, I sometimes think that social media is a much bigger part of that community than your blog is, and Twitter is one of my favorite ways to get that interaction.

A sixth type of Tweet I didn’t mention in the last section are questions. Each day, I think of the questions I love being asked about blogging: what other people are doing differently, how other bloggers feel about controversial topics in the field, and even some other questions not related to blogging.

This has been one of the best things I’ve done for my Twitter account and subsequently for my blog. Through the questions I’ve posed on Twitter, I’ve started some great conversations, learned that I’m not alone in how I blog, and found new blogs I really enjoy reading – win/win/win, right?

Tag It

Okay, I know that tags can be intimidating, especially when you see posts built entirely out of them, but hashtags are the sliced bread of social media.  Especially when you first start out on Twitter, and have a following built entirely of your roommate, your high-school best friend, and your cousin’s friend’s boyfriend, hashtags expand your reach.  Another type of tagging I suggest is that of tagging other people who may have written a post you’re sharing, or in response to something they’ve tweeted.

My number one piece of advice here though: make sure your hashtags are relevant.  Nothing makes me crazier than a post with 20 different tags, half of which have nothing to do with the post, and it’s not going to get you any real followers or readers.

Regularity

For me, one of the most difficult parts of learning to use Twitter was figuring out how often I should post. I’ve read before that the average “life” of a tweet is less than 20 minutes, meaning that by the time your post has been up for half an hour it’s already disappeared into the abyss of your follower’s news feeds. The tips above can help to prolong your tweet’s life, but not forever and not always.

I’ve heard that posting every 15 minutes is optimal, but something about that seems way too often for me. I do make sure to post twice an hour though, so that my little mini-face is never far from the top of your news feed.

Posting this often can get hard though, especially if you have a life that involves not staring at a computer screen all day, but thankfully sites like Buffer and Hootsuite have made the impossible not only possible, but ridiculously easy.

At the beginning of each day (or the night before, if I’m feeling proactive), I take about 20 minutes to schedule out my tweets for the day: a variety of quotes I find all over the Internet, blog posts I loved reading and think might be useful for my readers, sponsored posts, relevant and timely articles, questions, and of course links to my own posts, both new and archived.  This means that for the rest of the day, it’s much easier to share snippets of my life and things I find funny rather than worrying about when the last time I posted was.

Archive

Everyone’s first thought when they publish a new post is to share it everywhere, but what about in three months? How about a year from now?

Sometimes, the posts that get the most responses are the ones you wrote forever ago and almost forgot about.  Maybe when you wrote it, you didn’t have a big following.  Maybe you didn’t advertise it well.  Or maybe just freshening it up will bring new readers over to your blog.  Whatever it is, you’ll never know if you don’t give your posts another shot at life.

5 Lessons I’ve Learned From 5 Years of Blogging

When you first start blogging, everything’s a mystery.  At least for me it was.  When I wrote my very first blog post on my very first blog, I had no idea the massive amount of work and learning that was ahead of me.  Fast forward five years, and I’d like to think I’ve picked up a few things here and there.

5 blogging lessons
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Photography

We all know that blogging is about the writing, and of course that’s important.  But if there’s only one thing I’ve learned in the last five years, it’s that you need to have a photo in every post.  People’s attention is drawn to visuals, and blocks of text with no interruption can be pretty intimidating.  That said, the photos need to be relevant.  Nothing drives me more nuts than reading a post about blogging with a random picture of the author smiling at the camera.

If you’re not really into photography, there are some great websites with free stock photos that you can do whatever you want with.  I use Unsplash when I don’t have my own photos for a post.

No-Reply Commenter

There have been plenty of great posts written about this already, so I won’t add to it except to say that I had when I get a really awesome comment, and I want to have a conversation with the blogger but when I do, I get a little message back saying my message couldn’t be sent.  It’s so disappointing, and I’m sure I missed out on plenty of awesome friendships by being a no-reply commenter myself at one time.

About Me

It took my until about my third blog to figure this out, but if someone’s reading your lifestyle blog, they want to know more about you.  When I check out a new blog, after reading the most recent post, the first thing I do is look for an about me page so I can learn more about the person who’s “talking” to me.

Social Media

This one took me seriously years to figure out.  Now that I am using it though, I can tell how important it is.  Every day, Twitter is the second biggest reference to my site (Bloglovin’ being the first), with Facebook and Pinterest close behind. Blogging is all about engaging with your readers, and social media is the best way to do that outside of daily posts.

Basic Design

I’m the last person to preach HTML and design because trust me, I don’t know any of it.  What I can do though is make a blog button, working social media buttons, put Passionfruit ads on my site, and Google basic HTML that I need to make my blog work the way I want it to.

Unless you feel like paying a designer every time something on your site quirks or you want to add a new line of code (to introduce blog advertisements into your sidebar, for example), it can be helpful to learn a few of the basics.