Happy 4th of July everyone!
I’m always a little jealous of the celebrations across The Pond. Here in the UK we don’t really have any annual celebrations on the same scale. We do of course roll out the fireworks each November to essentially cheer a historical act of terrorism (Guy Fawkes’ attempt to blow up our parliament some 400+ years ago) and then we store a few to let off at New Year. But beyond that, we either have to wait for a milestone birthday of our Queen, host the Olympics or declare some Irish heritage and adopt St. Paddy’s Day!
As well as the Independence Day frivolities, today is a little sparkler worthy for me too because it marks 28 days of my blog! If you’ve read my About page, you’ll know that I wasn’t all that confident of reaching this far. My magpie tendencies were sure to quell my initial enthusiasm by turning my attention to something far more worthy of my time. But so far, I haven’t forgotten my login details and I’m continuing to really enjoy uploading a load of bobbins for the world to read 🙂
A huge thank you to everyone who has checked in, liked, commented and followed – your interest and encouraging words have fuelled my desire to keep posting 🙂 I feel like I’ve more of a handle on it all now, but I still have far more ideas for things I’d like to do with the blog and equally as much to learn. But I decided today’s post would look at a few things I’ve learned (or I’m in the process of learning) so far. Perhaps it will help some other fledgling bloggers out there too.
Being never satisfied for a long period of time, I’ve played around with the theme of the blog countless times. I only focussed on the free templates out of the hundreds to choose from but even this saw me pottering around indecisively for hours and then wasting more time customising them to my own tastes. The first incarnation was frankly dire. I used an old banner I’d made for my dabblings on Etsy last year but the colour wasn’t right and worst of all, it didn’t even fit the required dimensions. Anyone clicking on that should have been met with a flashing disclaimer: WARNING. You are entering an amateur zone. We apologise for the discomfort to your eyes. But I can’t code and there wasn’t a pre-designed widget…
I tested out another theme, Sorbet. It has a retro feel about it and some quirky little buttons for menus etc. The header was recreated, with a new colour scheme and in the right size, plus I installed widgets on the sidebar that included what I felt needed to be on show for visitors without it (hopefully) looking cluttered. But then I realised that despite using the tool to view how the page looks on mobile devices, the blog didn’t behave that way in reality. The more I looked at what I’d created, the more I thought it looked clunky. I began searching for inspiration on other blogs. The ones I was drawn to visually were fresh and simple, generally with gorgeous photos to break up streams of text. Of course, that didn’t automatically transfer into me sticking around if I thought the content was poor or of no interest, but it was a reminder that the overall look can grab that important first click of a reader.
Theme change number three resulted in what I’m currently displaying to the world. From Sorbet to Sobe, I played around with this theme’s colours again, revamped the header, included a better menu section for easier navigation and matched the look on my Twitter account (something about synergy!). It’s still not as polished as the magazine worthy blogs floating around, but that’s OK because neither am I. And at the end of the day, I’d rather have something that fits my personality than try to copy others in an attempt at making the blog more popular. If others like it, that’s an added bonus 🙂
So many buttons and widgets and technical terms to get used to. I’ve had to Google many of them to ensure I don’t look stupid and use them inappropriately. Slugs and pingbacks, tags and trackbacks, there are still loads of features I’m scared to click on – I have an innate (ridiculous) fear of losing all data if I select the wrong thing! Plus, it’s remembering to fill in the boxes on every post so that it doesn’t end up in some uncategorised section of the ether. I’ve found that blogging is much more than spewing out words. I’ve also found the ‘Read More’ button, think it took me about 3 weeks…
This is super addictive to a new blogger (no, just me then?). The first two weeks, I was watching constantly, just to see if I’d had another view or comment. The validation acquired from likes and follows was an instant buzz and I’d squeal in excitement every time the results showed a new country checking in. “Ooh, I’ve got another one – Malaysia today!” I’d shout to S. His response? “It’s not Pokemon you know, you don’t have to catch them all!”
Well, I’d actually like to. Or at least see how far my words can travel. It completely fascinates me that utter strangers from across the globe are reading what I’ve got to say and then liking it too. I understand that tags are an important tool in getting your content seen, but then I’ve had people find me in other, bizarre ways. The strangest so far has to be a web search for ‘bouncing girls on hoppers’ which linked to this post. Perhaps it’s best I don’t think about why this happened too much!
The most likes and comments have come from my recipes and photography. This has really surprised me as I don’t consider myself a good cook and as much as I love photography, I’ve so far been too lazy to learn the finer workings of a ‘proper’ camera, usually opting to just grab my iPhone. But being able to display my images on a professional photographer’s site was really cool – Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness has now become one of my favourite weekly posts to read. It has encouraged me to maybe take photography more seriously over our summer break, at least increasing my familiarity with one lens!
S suggested that I should perhaps find a theme for my blog – i.e. baking or photography – as some people might not understand why I flit from one subject to another. But that’s me in life, so it has to be my persona online too. Besides, I don’t know enough about any one subject to have enough to say for more than a weekly post. There is of course the contentious issue of how many times a week you should submit content. Too much might drive people away, making them skip past your wondrous words, too little and you risk not maintaining interest and being forgotten about. I’ve now opted for 3-4 posts a week, but I do intend to organise them so that my more popular categories (gotta love them stats!) go out on the same days. But I’ll still continue to write about other bobbins and musings, if only to entertain myself!
NETWORKING AND BLOGGING ETIQUETTE
I’m still not very good at this. Ive never been very good at networking, but I’m making a conscious effort to find more exciting blogs to read and hopefully follow. The ones I currently follow feed into my interests of photography, baking, fantasy and of course Game of Thrones (Patrick’s is one of my favourites and my first follower !) But at the very beginning, I was following EVERYONE that stopped by. It looked like some needy attempt to be accepted by the other blogger. But it’s what I thought was polite. They liked me, I should follow back. But I’ve realised that this is neither practical or polite. Following for just the sake of it is pointless for both parties. If you follow but have no intention of ever reading another post then you’re an empty number on that stats page.
I still look at every blog that has stopped by mine, generally finding something to like about it and show that I’ve taken time to view what they have to say. And if there are several things I like in their posts, then I’ll follow them. I’m also trying to interact more in the way of comments – if I like a post, I am trying to at least say why. I know that comments can be a boost, especially to someone starting out, so it’s a beneficial use of my time. I signed up to Bloglovin’ last week, as I’d like to link to other blogs as well as those hosted by WordPress. I’ve yet to get to grips with it though, so this may be the next focus. So far, I keep going back to the trusty reader!
I’ll be honest, this venture has consumed me a bit and poor S has just sat back and patiently watched! But as I’ve become more organised, I’ve realised the importance of blogging off. I now try to have a few posts ready and schedule them for different times in the week. This is something else I need to play around with more, as depending on where in the world the majority of my readers are (currently the US) determines the time of the post to some extent.
But I’ve yet to turn my brain off from potential post topics. Whether we’re out for a walk, I’m driving to work or just pottering in the garden, things will trigger me into thinking ‘…that’ll make an amazing blog post!’ It probably won’t or it would but in the hands of a different writer! Nonetheless, I add it to my little list of potentials as something to flesh out in the future. I have to have some structure to prevent everything being totally incoherent. Besides all teachers like lists!
So even though it’s 28 days since outbreak, I’ve yet to go viral and my follower count is still in its infancy. But I wholeheartedly appreciate this small group of strangers who have decided to get to know me better. I’ve already written far more than I did in 3 years at university and feel the waffling could go on for a bit yet. I’m excited about keeping this going for as long as possible, but…one month at a time!
Hopefully, someone else new to blogging will find something of value in the post, if only to think ‘I’m not doing it like that!’ Enjoy whatever the 4th of July has in store for you, whether it’s with fireworks, family or friends. The next review should be 28 weeks later shouldn’t it? Now, I best go and update my About page!
Image credits: Pinterest.com