Sweet friends! Earlier this week i completed the blog survey that is going around. i shared about how this whole thing got started, what i loved about blogging, why i blog, and dated myself with song references & AIM screen names. but really, this journey has been one of my favorites that i accidentally/ on purpose fell into. i frequently get emails that ask things like “how did you get your blog to grow so big so fast?” or “how can i grow my blog as fast as you did?” and i always giggle – i have had this blog for over 4 years! yes, i know and love some blogs that were instantly hits but for most of us it is a slow growth that comes with time, determination, googling, learning, and heart. i also giggle because i wouldn’t call myself a “big blog” – but i’ll tell you one thing! i love sharing what i have learned! i answer each email with joy and passion because i once was (and still am) that girl who emails bloggers i look up to with questions, googles html, and looks for ways to make Oak + Oats better. i wanted to share with you just a couple (five to be exact) tips that will aid in your blog growth – not because they “have to” but because they want to be on your blog!
1. TURN OFF WORD VERIFICATION:
i say this with understanding and sympathy because i was once one of you who really, really, really didn’t want all those spammy emails and comments! but guess what? it is so much harder for your readers to connect with you. i know i am not the only one (or at least i hope i am not the only one) who has been branded a “computer” because i typed in the random numbers and swirly letters in wrong and they made me try again. if it happens twice, i just give up on commenting. also – they are practically impossible to do on your phone so i just sigh when i see you have word verification and just let my comment go un-posted. i know you think i should stick it out but not all your readers have the time for that. they may think you have a great point or want to let you know that your post was a blessing but be running to clean up a glass of spilled milk or in the waiting room at the doctor’s office or about to head into a meeting. save your readership and be able to interact with your readers by turning it off.
and guess what is even better than sacrificing for your readers? not having to! there are plenty of other commenting systems out there – my favorite being disqus – that have your readers sign in to comment. no spam for you. and easy commenting for them (once you sign in, always signed in!). the best part of disqus is that your response gets emailed straight to the commenter (no no-replies anymore!)… also it is free which makes it a wonderful investment!
2. HAVE A SEARCH BAR:
i cannot tell you how important this is!! put it toward the top of your sidebar too so that your readers don’t have to search for the search bar. countless times (like already at least 5 times this week) i head to a blog looking for a certain post. when they have a search bar, i find the post i am looking for and i am able to move on… when they don’t have one, i have to dig through archives and try to remember where it would be. i usually give up after 10 minutes.
now you may think “no one will need to search for my old posts so i don’t need that!” and my response to that is “why would you think that?” seriously? do you not think your blog is worth reading? do you not post things you would read or look up? do you think people forget about your blog right after they read it?…
if i am trying to plan a party and i remember that a blogger i follow talked about party planning i want to go back and reread that article! i may not have been planning a party when it was originally posted but that does not mean it will never be valuable information for me. same goes with personal stories, struggles, recipes, DIYs, book lists – you name it. if you value your blog and the content, let your readers be able to search for old posts.
3. LOOK PRETTY:
this one is pretty cliche but i think we all need the reminder. when we are on a road trip and have to pee in a sketchy, ugly, gas station bathroom we get out of there as fast as we can BUT when we are at one of those fancy hotels with lounge rooms in the bathroom, mints, full length mirrors, and free tampons we take our time. you don’t see bathrooms like this everywhere – you have to enjoy it. and maybe use there free tampon even though you have one in your purse.
now, i am not really comparing your blog to a bathroom but if i was, your blog should be the second one. it needs to be clean, interesting, welcoming, and not cluttered. there are so many flashy things will can fill our blogs with, so many ads, and so many overwhelming colors. pick a theme that fits with you and your blog and bring it to life in a way that welcomes your readers and not rushes them away.
4. READ IT:
this one goes hand in hand with #4 – read your blog. i am not just talking about proof reading your posts (which is important and i do not do nearly enough) but i am talking about reading your blog like a reader. would you read your blog if you did not write it? does your blog keep your attention? do you feel welcomed? do you enjoy the way your blog looks and feels?
if you don’t think you would read your blog, you cannot expect that other people will want to. i am not saying that you have to think you are the best thing out there, i am just asking you to consider if your blog looks pretty and has quality content. if you want to gain followers, you need to be something worth following.
5. BE REAL:
this one is the most important and that is why i put it last (i am 70% sure there is a survey out there that talks about how you should always make the most important things last in your list because that is what people remember most…) if you are honestly looking to gain a broader audience you need to be yourself! people can see when you are trying too hard to be someone else or are just doing what they think they need to do to gain followers (like too many link-ups, giveaways, comments that say “follow be back”…and no real content) you have something to offer – YOU! there are millions of blogs out there but you are the only one who writes a blog from your perspective! take advantage of that!
readers are attracted to authenticity and realness. they want to know you are a real person and your blog is written by you. that does not mean that everyone has to be a “lifestyle blogger” – you can be an authentic blogger and only post about food but the way you write and the food you talk about reflects the YOU. or a fashion blogger that post outfits and styles that are a reflection of YOU. there are so many bloggers out there that try so hard to be “perfect” that they get burnt out…they spent so much time trying to be the blog that everyone would love instead of focusing on what they had to offer and the blog they could enjoy running. your growth might be slow but there is nothing wrong with that. the tortoise did beat the hare in the end…