Tips for Starting a Blog

Tips for Starting a Blog

What We Learned in our First Year of Blogging

Wouldn’t it be fun to start a Blog? Easy–make a dish once a week, snap an iPhone pic, type the recipe. We thought finding an extra half hour a week to slap together a blog post would be simple, but boy were we naive. If we then knew about blogging what we know now, would we have even started our so-much-more-than-30-min-a-week blog? Absolutely definitely one hundred times yes. Starting a blog last year has been an incredible experience. 

Plating the Chocolate Truffles
Judge the truffles, not the manicure.

We have loved spending hours per post–making, remaking and perfecting recipes we think are worthy of sharing. Talking about our blog rather than diapers, ear infections, and teething has been a mind/life saver. But starting a blog has been so much more than making a recipe and slapping together some quick pictures. So we decided to slap together a list of the top ten things that we learned in our first year of blogging.

1. We can’t compare our blog to other blogs or ourselves to other bloggers. We had a tough time this year finding the line between being inspired by and being jealous of other bloggers. It turns out it takes more than a year to be as good as we want to be. We can’t help but notice that our most successful posts have been when we stuck to our brand and our goals instead of trying to keep up with other blogs. We tried some Instant Pot posts, cause that’s what everyone was doing. But it wasn’t our thing. What turned out to be a thing? Random cookie week in the middle of April. We felt it so we went with it. And people liked it!

2. If we are not excited about our post, our readers won’t be either. We heard that it is important to be consistent and post at the same time each week. Makes sense. But not when you are overwhelmed by the other 6000 things demanding your time. When we just slapped things together to stick to our schedule, we didn’t get many views, and we would have been better off saving our energy for a good post the following week.

Lemon curd from Granny's Recipe Box Blog Not ready to post
Granny’s Lemon Curd recipe is amazing. The post? Not so much – yet!

3. Writing about something other than the main focus of our blog will attract a new group of readers–who might just stick around for the recipes. Anne felt really strongly about posting something about her experience with loss during national pregnancy loss awareness month, and it was a hit. We weren’t sure if our food blog was the right platform, but many readers who wouldn’t normally have found themselves reading about Granny’s recipes were clicking around our about page and some of our recipes.

Angel Baby for Loss-Granny's Recipe Box Blog
Anne’s peek-a-boo angel outside my kitchen window for Rex

4. We can’t just write, post, and be done. It is a week long social media marketing campaign to get people to the actual blog post. We are still struggling with this. A lot. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest. Not to mention Instagram TV, YouTube, and Reddit, which we haven’t even investigated. When we devote energy to Instagram and Pinterest, our views increase. And when we take a break from interacting on social media, the whole blog suffers. We need to continue to work on the social media piece–any advice?

Our Instagram feed

5.Figuring out the types of recipes and the timing of posts to maximize readership. At first we posted once a week. But we were so excited, we started posting twice. We figured out that people read their email and click around on their phones before they get out of bed and before they turn off the lights at night. So we started posting really early. But what about the rest of the world? Their early morning is before our part of the world goes to bed. So we adjusted. And our views have increased.

6. Not everyone is going to get what we are trying to do. For Maddy, being a stay-at-home mom makes having a blog her “job,” so when someone asks what she does and the response is “I’m starting a blog,” sometimes she’ll get a halfhearted “oh that’s neat,” or a “oh it seems like everyone thinks they can have a blog these days.” More often than not people are interested and ask questions about it. But not everyone will be interested or care. And that’s ok! I’m sure that’s how I’d react if someone told me they had a podcast about March Madness (no offense to those of you who love March Madness).

7. We have wanted to quit. Often. Thank heavens we were doing this blog together or we would have quit within 6 weeks. Each post takes so much time, and sometimes hardly anyone comes to see it. When we get discouraged, there are a couple things that have helped us. Reaching out to other bloggers about how they handle that feeling of wanting to quit has been useful. (Something else we have learned is that the blogging community is SO supportive!). Another idea is to look at the calendar and re-strategize. Take things off your plate and change things around. We call this a “rejuve.” Or find someone to share your goals with, and set up regular check-ins with them. It helps to feel accountable to someone.

Haluska was a recipe that I was so excited about, but that not many came to see.

8. We have questioned who we are and what our blog is. As we mentioned before, it’s easy to try to do something that you think other people want to read. But if it’s not true to your “brand,” it won’t feel genuine. And things get even worse when you pay attention to your analytics. We definitely feel better about ourselves when we pay attention to our own feelings about our recipes and posts instead of hitting refresh on the statistics page.

Knox Blox and kid friendly foods from Granny's Recipe Box Blog

9. Bloggers need to be photographers. In the beginning we thought we could just snap a picture with our iPhone. Not so much. And snapping a pic of food on your dinner plate under yellow kitchen lighting isn’t going to make people want to scroll to the recipe. Food styling is as important as the actual recipe. Maddy bought a DSLR camera which drastically helped. Beautiful pictures keep people scrolling through to the bottom of the post.

10. We need to put ourselves out there. This is not something that comes naturally to us, but it is so important. Whether it is signing up for classes, blogging conferences or emailing a blogger you admire, the only way people will know who you are is if you make yourself known. This is also done through social media – interacting with other blog posts and blogger’s accounts. Social media is not a part of your blog but a separate entity and requires just as much attention, if not more, than your actual blog. We touched on this above, but if you’re not willing to join social media and put forth the effort, no one will come to your blog. Networking and social media are more important to your blog than your blog is to your blog.

We learned a ton from starting a blog this year.  Although daunting, we loved sharing ourselves and our recipes with all of you. Here’s to the next year! Maybe our photos will get better, maybe we will have more social media energy, and maybe more readers can enjoy our recipes.  And maybe our experiences and thoughts for the future will encourage you to start your own blog, too.

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