One year ago today (ok, technically tomorrow – July 26th), I started the blog, My Heart Beets.
a very successful first year, but still a long way to go
I started this blog to help others who were also dealing with food allergies and dietary restrictions. My goal with My Heart Beets has always been to help people heal through food. I wasn’t sure if my blog would even make an impact… I remember how excited I was the day that I had 10 visitors to my website.
It feels really strange calling my blog a “success,” because the truth is that I’m still so far from where I’d like to be. I do think this was a successful first year though. I’ve had a lot of bloggers reach out to me asking how I’ve been able to grow so quickly given my newness in the blogosphere. I’ve been fortunate to have experienced bloggers give me guidance and so I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned with those of you looking to grow your blog or to start a blog of your own.
If you’re a reader, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you like/don’t like to see in a blog.
Around the same time that I started this blog, I also started a full-time job in marketing. Before that, I was a local tv reporter who knew nothing about blogging and truthfully, very little about marketing. I’m confident that if I can start a blog, you can too.
Here are my tips! Please leave yours in the comments!
Start off on the right foot
Right before starting my blog, I spent a few days doing research. I looked into the best platform to use (WordPress), what themes to purchase and what host to use. Setting up your blog for success from the start is important because that’s harder to change down the road. If you’re interested in starting a blog the right way then check out this page: How to Start a Blog. If you’re interested in food blogging, you will also want to check out Food Blogger Pro. It’s a great resource that includes video tutorials that walk you through setting up a blog, ebooks, photography, etc. You can learn more here.
Find your niche and sub-niche
Having a niche is what differentiates you from the rest of the blogs out there in the abyss that is the interwebs. Find what makes you different and focus on creating more of that type of content. The more specialized and focused your blog is, the more of an authority it will become in your niche. My niche is Paleo/Real Food which is a pretty big niche. I like to think that my sub-niches are easy flavorful recipes and Indian food.
I didn’t start My Heart Beets thinking I’d focus on Indian food. In fact, I was a little worried that by posting too many Indian recipes I’d alienate people who don’t like that type of food. However, I’ve found the opposite to be true – I get comments from people all the time telling me they’re making Indian food for the first time because my recipes look simple enough for them to make.
It’s okay to be different. In fact, it’s great. Writing and posting “different” recipes has also brought me a lot of organic traffic. I try to post stuff on my blog that you won’t find anywhere else. When everyone around me is posting recipes using watermelon, I’m posting recipes using the watermelon rind. Sure, I have a banana bread and a brownie recipe on my site because well, what food blogger doesn’t? But my readers know that I because I’m “different,” that even my “everyday” recipes will have a unique twist.
Early in my blogging journey, I was able to connect with some really fantastic bloggers who gave me plenty of advice and tips. We’ve helped each other grow and today, many of these bloggers have become friends. You don’t need special skills to network with people – you just need to be genuine.
- Apply to blogging networks within your niche (I suggest applying to networks with non-exclusive contracts). Some networks have private facebook groups where you can meet other bloggers.
- Email bloggers with books or ebooks and offer to do book reviews/giveaways.
- Instagram is a great way to connect with like-minded bloggers. I’ve gotten to know other bloggers after they’ve made my recipes and tagged me in their posts.
- Reach out to bloggers that you admire and ask if you can guest post on their blog. If your photography is good and your guest post idea is solid, chances are the blogger will say yes – because that means one less post for them to write that week. I have to admit, I haven’t written a guest post – mainly because I worry that my pictures aren’t up to par. That and I barely have the time to post on my own blog 2-3 times a week. But, if you do have the time or can make the time then I suggest it. More than providing you with exposure, guest posting allows you to form a relationship with the blogger on whose site you are posting. Chances are they’ll continue to promote your work and hopefully the two of you will form a friendship. Not currently accepting guest posts but will update this if that changes 🙂
Post Quality Content, Often
My dad is excellent at negotiating contracts and one of the many things he has taught me is that when you have to choose between quality and quantity… don’t. Don’t bother putting up an “okay” recipe just to get something up on your blog. If you consider your blog a business and you value your name, then find the motivation you need to put in the work. If you’re feeling overwhelmed then try to be more efficient (easier said than done, I know). I find that block scheduling works best for me. When I write a post, I won’t work on anything else. You know that quote, “write drunk, edit sober” – well, that’s what I do. I write out ALL of my thoughts and then later on, I’ll go back and organize them. *Just for the record, I’m not actually drunk when I write these posts… unless there’s wine (or rum) in whatever I’m cooking. Then, all bets are off.
I think part of what has helped me grow so quickly is that I put in the work – I research different topics and write relatively long posts (helps with seo). I don’t mind spending hours upon hours of my free time blogging and recipe testing because I genuinely enjoy it. Plus, my husband works allll the time and I’ve already seen most of what netflix has to offer. That said, I’m not sure I’ll always feel this way. Right now, this keeps me busy and entertained. If you’re not sure how much time you want to commit, start blogging as a hobby and see how you feel.
This is constantly a work in progress. If you’re going to invest a lot of time and money into blogging, you’d better start thinking of it as a business. Right now my income is earned through advertisements, sponsorships and affiliate programs. I hope that one day, down the line, I’ll have products like an ebook, a print book, etc. (Update, I have an eBook now!).
A note about Social Media
Advice: don’t sweat it. While I’m happy with my Facebook growth (15,574 likes in one year’s time), the truth is – barely any of my web traffic comes from there. The majority comes from organic web searches (google), pinterest, and from loyal readers who have subscribed to my mailing list. Focus on writing interesting posts, connecting with readers as well as other bloggers and making sure you have an easy way for folks to sign up for your newsletter. I’m not saying ignore social media – it’s definitely important – it just isn’t everything. If you’re brand new to blogging, there are other ways to get your name out there (see my notes on networking above). You can also try submitting your work to photo submission websites like tastespotting, foodgawker or chowstalker. If you’re a diy, fashion, art, green living or some other type of blogger – search for other marketing tools within your niche.
Thanks for reading – hopefully some of this helped you. Let us know if you have any advice or tips that you can add to this list! 🙂