How To Have A Blog And A Life

 

I believe that the day a person starts a blog, their life changes.

They may not realize it at first, but over time they will.

Blogs are like children. Constantly needed our attention and weighing on our minds at all hours of the day.

Some can’t handle the pressure and they quit. Others love it and can go far in the blogosphere.

In my opinion, the ones who blog for the long haul are the ones who understand how to find balance between blogging and life outside the computer screen.

Some of you might be laughing at the word balance. I know, some days it feels like balance is part of a fairy tale land where unicorns run through fields filled with pots of gold.

Oh how I would love to live there. I would call my unicorn Princess and…

Sorry, I got distracted. Back to my point….so maybe balance isn’t always achieved with blogging and life but the long term bloggers at least figure out how to juggle it all.

So, today I thought I would share a few tips with you on how to have a blog and a life.

Because after all…if you don’t have a life, you won’t have much to blog about.

And instead of me spouting off words of wisdom I’ve learned in the past almost 2 years, I went to my online friends for their advice.

The question on my Facebook page was “What is your best tip for balancing having a life and a blog?”

Some of the answers:

Leigh Ann Torres over at Genie In A Blog says “Remember that life comes first. The blog will still be there after you play LEGO with your kids.”

Lauren Weber at Mrs. Weber’s Neighborhood says “Remember it takes great memories to make great blog posts, so people first, blog second.”

The Koala Bear Writer says “Scribble ideas when they come to you…. Write fast. Prioritize what needs to be done.”

Katie Sluiter at Sluiter Nation says “Quit sleeping. Just Kidding. Sort of.” oh and “I set aside a block of time since I work full-time as well”

And because I just have to share some of my own advice:

Use some type of editorial calendar to help you stay organized.

Follow the tips in this post on how to not lose your awesome blog post ideas.

Close Facebook, Twitter, and your email when you are working on your blog. It’s distracting to have all of these sites open when trying to write. This one might take some getting used to but I promise it will help you manage your time better.

What tips would YOU add to this list?  

How To Make Your Site User Friendly {Part 3}

In the first two posts I wrote in this series, I gave you design tips for a user-friendly blog as well as tips on how to make your blog easy for people to use.

Now it’s time to move beyond the computer screen and switch our focus to the realm of handheld devices.

Have you ever used your cell phone to read a blog post?

Have you ever used your cell phone to leave a comment on a blog post?

Have you ever been so frustrated trying to do something on a blog from your phone that you closed the web browser app and swore to never visit that site again?

Do you spend more time on your phone than you do on your computer?

My guess is, if you are a blogger, you answered yes to at least 2 of these questions (I answered yes to all 4, what does that say about me? Nevermind, I don’t want to know the answer).

It’s no secret that mobile devices such as iPhones and Androids are taking over the world and that people are more likely to have a cell phone glued to their hand than to be staring at a laptop screen.

What does this mean for you as a blogger? Well…it means that you need to pay attention to your mobile audience and how your site looks when they click on that Twitter link you sent out for your latest post.

WordPress.org Blogs

Responsive Themes

For those of you that have not heard of a responsive theme, it can be defined as “a flexible foundation with fluid grid system that adapts your website to any mobile devices and the desktop or any other viewing environment” according to WordPress.org.

That boring definition is basically saying that a responsive theme will automatically adjust your site based on what the reader is using to view your site. So, if they are on a computer they will see the full site. If they are on a cell phone, the site will automatically adjust to a mobile-friendly version.

Here are some examples of responsive themes so you can see how they work and this is a good article about mobile responsive design from StudioPress.

Mobile Plugins

If your theme isn’t responsive or you don’t want to be troubled with figuring it out, there is (thankfully) another option with mobile plugins.

To see what a mobile plugin does to a site you can pull up my blog, My Time as Mom, on your computer and on your phone. Do you see the difference using a mobile plugin? (Fingers crossed you say yes).

The two mobile plugins for WordPress.org that I have used are WP Touch and WP Mobile Detector.  Of course, there are more out there that you can look into if desired but I liked both of these.

WordPress.com

If you have a free site at WordPress.com, it should already be mobile friendly thanks to WordPress (isn’t that nice?). Pull it up on your phone just to be sure.

Blogger

I have never owned or used a Blogger blog so instead of trying to tell you something I know nothing about, I’m going to direct you to this tutorial on how to mobilize your Blogger blog.

The directions seem easy to follow but I’ll let you be the judge of that.

So, what are you waiting for? Optimize your site for mobile viewing right now and make your readers very happy because we all want happy readers who are so happy they send you freshly baked chocolate chip cookies with no nuts (hint, hint). 

How To Make Your Site User Friendly {Part 2}

Now that your site has a design that is friendly for readers to look at, it’s time to move onto the next step…

Keeping It Easy.

You want your readers to be able to immediately find out more about you, connect with you, to search your site, and more with just a click or two.

Don’t make them play the “find the email address” game because most won’t. They will give up, move on, and you will have lost the chance to make that important connection with a reader (or a brand).

So, here are 5 (ish) tips to help you keep your site easy (because easy is good).

 

Navigation

Since there is no way to have GPS tell us directions to the pages on your blog, you need some sort of navigation for your readers. Luckily, there are these things called navigation bars that are perfect for this. You can add pages to them, create drop down menus (if needed), and give people access to many pages with just a few clicks.

Reminder, make sure the fonts and colors used in your nav bar are easy for people to read.

Also, make sure that your navigation bar doesn’t get people lost. If I click the home tab, it better take me to the home page.

Search

Every site should have search options, at the very least a search box. I would recommend also using a tag cloud or a list of categories along with a drop down selection of your archived posts.

About

Speaking of searching, don’t make me scour your site to find an about page. Put it in your nav bar so that I can immediately find it when I want to know more about you. (If you aren’t sure what to put on your about page, check out this post on how to make your about page awesome.)

Contact / Connect

I found this great blog, I want to connect with the blogger on Twitter and send them an email. Wait, I can’t find their email address or any connect buttons. Oh well, guess I’ll go somewhere else.

No one wants that to happen. Have social media icons on your home page and put links to connect with you on your about page and your contact page (that’s right, you should have a contact page and of course I have tips for creating a contact page).

Also, have your email address available for people so that they can send you an email anytime they have something to say.

Share

As I tell my kids all the time, sharing is caring. Make it easy for me to share your posts and I will.

Have at least Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Google + and Pinterest (if your site is Pinterest friendly) share buttons on posts.

For the Twitter button, add your Twitter handle in the settings (if possible for your blog) so that when someone tweets out your posts you are notified and can thank them.

Bonus – Word Verification

I couldn’t leave this post without mentioning word verification. There is nothing easy about having to figure out what those squiggly letters are, especially when I’m on a mobile device. Turn off the captcha and make your readers happy to leave a comment.

There you have it folks. Follow these tips and you are well on your way to having a site that readers will love to visit.

How To Make Your Site User Friendly {Part 1}

Bloggers, I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

Ready?

Your site is no good UNLESS it is friendly for your readers to both look at and to use.

It’s not all about those posts that you put your heart and soul into.

Yes, those posts are extremely important and you should continue to put your all into them. But you also need to step back sometimes and look at your site from the point of view of your readers.

So, I’m here to give you some tips on how to make your sites user friendly for your readers starting with today’s post, which is all about design.

You’re welcome.

When it comes to the design of your site, you want it to be inviting for visitors, to reflect you and your brand, as well as direct people to what you want them to focus on (your blog posts, products you are selling, etc.)

The possibilities really are endless when it comes to blog designs but here are a few things to keep in mind when designing your site so that it is friendly for your readers:

Colors

There are millions of colors to choose from on the color wheel and some are good for web design and others, well they look better on the color wheel.

Light and bright colors aren’t always the best because they can be hard to read. Please pay attention to this for your hyperlink color. I see so many that are difficult to read and it takes away from your writing and hurts your chances of getting people to read your past posts.

Same with white font on black backgrounds (seriously, don’t ever do that. I’ll leave your site in an instant because it hurts my eyes).

Some color examples…

Can you read this? 

Or is this better? 

How about this one?

Or do your eyes like this better? 

Lesson learned, pick colors that don’t hurt your readers eyes.

Fonts

I am an admitted font junkie. I love downloading new fonts to my computer and confusing myself as I look through them all trying to find one font for a picture.

But, let’s be honest, some fonts just don’t belong on websites. Some are too pixely (is that a word? whatever, it is now), some are too loopy, and some are just too ugly (maybe that’s too honest).

To see some font examples click on the links (they will open in a new page, so don’t worry):

This font will be too pixely in a header image.

This font is way too loopy to be readable.

And this font, um…what were they thinking?

Lesson learned, have fun with fonts on your site but make sure people can read the words.

Header Image

The very first thing people usually notice on blog sites is the header image. This is your chance to wow people and to draw them in immediately but your header should NOT be so large that it consumes the whole computer screen and requires a person to scroll down to find your posts.

Try to keep the header image size to 300 pixels or less for height whenever possible and be sure to use all of the space in your header image (if you have blank space, maybe you can make the header image smaller).

Free from distractions

This one is easy…

No Music.

Also, try not to have too many rotating ads and/or images on your site. It really draws attention away from your posts and it can be annoying.

So, there you have it. 4 design tips on how to make your blog site user friendly.

Stay tuned next week for the second post in this series on how to keep your site easy for readers to use.

5 Tips For Your Blogroll Page

So far, I’ve written tips on how to make your About page awesome and what you should have on your blog’s contact page.

The next page on your blog I want to talk about is the blogroll, or the list of your favorite blogs to read.

A blogroll page is a good idea to have because it tells your readers who you like to read and it also gives SEO link love to your favorite blogs.

In order to make your blogroll user friendly for your readers, here are a few ideas for you.

Keep it short

Keep the list of blogs to 10 or less. I know you probably read way more blogs than this but pick out your top 10 favorite blogs and only link to those. Anymore than 10 blogs and it can be overwhelming for people to go through your blogroll.

Categorize the blogs

If you notice that some of the blogs are similar in terms of what they write about then you can categorize them. For example. if you have 3 or 4 blogs that are funny, put a header title saying “The Funny” or “Be Prepared to Laugh” and then list the humor blogs under that category.

Tell why

In one to two sentences tell your readers what you love about each blog on your blogroll. Whether it’s the photography, the recipes, the words, etc. explain why you think others should also visit the blog.

Link to your favorite post

Find that blog post from each site that really drew you in and made you fall in love with the blog and put a link to it on your blogroll. This not only helps that blogger with SEO but it will also help showcase what you enjoy about the blog.

Add a picture or a button

For each blog, either put that blogger’s profile picture or their blog button on your blogroll page. Images help draw people in and they will help break up the text on your blogroll page.

Be sure to update your blogroll every few weeks or so as blog’s change and so does your list of top 10.

 

What To Put On Your Blog's Contact Page

In addition to an About page on your blog, you should also have a Contact page.

While it might seem redundant to have social icons in your sidebar, contact info on your About page, and a Contact page, it is not. The easier you make it for people to connect with you, the better it is for everyone.

A link to your About page

A link to your About page at the top of the contact page makes it easy for people to learn more about you before contacting. This is helpful for PR people who are wondering whether or not you will be a good fit for their product.

Guidelines you follow

On your Contact page, tell people what you will and will not do in terms of guest posting on your site, writing guest posts for other sites, and product reviews/giveaways/advertising. This will save time for all involved.

Contact links

Hyperlink all of your contact information so that the user only has to click the link to connect with you. Be sure that the link opens in a new tab. Include links for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, SU, Pinterest, and any other social networking site you actively use. For your email address, write it out like this Jessica{at}mytimeasmom{dot}com to prevent spammers from sending you emails.

Optional: Contact Form

Some bloggers like to use contact forms, which is fine. If you are going to use a contact form, be sure to also include your email address on the contact page. Not all people like to use contact forms so by including your email address and the contact form, you give your readers options to reach out in whatever manner is easiest for them.

Have you created your contact page?

transitioning from blog to business

I was asked by Christina at A Closet Writer to participate in a series of blogging-related posts.

I blog!

Oh, and then she gave me a title, Blogging Maven.

Of course!

This is a portion of the last article in that series.  Please stop by Christina’s blog to be introduced to the other amazing participants.

Today I want to talk about transitioning a blog into a business.  Here is the background information on how my personal blog has grown into four websites over the last 3 years:

I started my blog 3 years ago before reading a blog.   For a year or so before, a friend and I had been emailing each other long emails every Saturday morning.  She suggested that we both start blogs and continue the conversation there.  I logged into blogger, chose the name June Cleaver Nirvana and wrote my first post.

Holly Homer's June Cleaver Nirvana

About three weeks later I got my first comment.

Comment?

Other people blog?

That comment started me on a chain reaction of discovery.  I loved the new world I had found.  I started writing more, commenting more and immersing myself in the blogging universe.

I knew that my mom, my great aunt and a few other bloggers read my blog, but didn’t really know the extent of my reach.  I hadn’t really considered my blog a platform for information because I didn’t write about anything in particular.  I write about my life.

One of the things I wrote about was how I (a very low maintenance girl) found a new hair salon that didn’t make me feel stupid.  Awhile after that post, the salon owner approached me about potentially advertising on my blog…really? I didn’t know how many people in the area were in my audience.  She said she was having difficulty finding local places online to advertise and that I should do something about that.

Within an hour of that conversation, I had purchased 10 website addresses to start a local website for moms in the Dallas area.  I found two partners and within 3 months we had Burb Mom publishing daily.  At first it was what we wrote, but as time went on and I searched out more and more bloggers in the area we found people willing to “donate” content to our cause.  Burb Mom has been running for almost 2 years now.  We publish 3 times a day and over 60 DFW bloggers contributed content last year.  It is truly a place where moms tell a story about what is happening in their community.

We loved the community that was growing around Burb Mom, but with a name like Burb Mom, it was a little…exclusive!  Shauna and I started a simple blogroll website called DFW Bloggers a year ago just to find and keep in contact with ALL Dallas area bloggers.  It allows bloggers to find each other, companies who are looking for local bloggers often click through our blogroll, and we send out occasional newsletters of area blogger events.

After I had been blogging about a year, I started getting an occasional email pitch:

Dear June,

We know that your readers will want to know about XYZ product.  Please write about XYZ product!  We will even send XYZ product to you.

Sincerely,  XYZ Company

First, MY NAME IS NOT JUNE!

Second, thanks for thinking of me, but NO my readers are not interested in XYZ product!

Even though my readers weren’t into XYZ didn’t mean that other blogger’s readers weren’t, so I started forwarding the opportunities to some of the bloggers I thought might be interested.

I started getting more and more emails and found that it took too much time to forward them on.

SOMEONE SHOULD ORGANIZE ALL THIS!

I decided it should be me and I bought the URL, Business2Blogger.com.

I just didn’t have time to do it so the idea sat on the back of my brain for awhile until I ran into Jay 9 months later and told him about it.  He loved the idea and convinced me that he would help.  Shauna has to do all this because she is my BFF.  In February of 2010 we launched Business 2 Blogger.

We started it with the idea of cutting and pasting email opportunities, but grew so rapidly that we took on a partner that could build us a suitable data base.  The general blogging opportunities have lead to very specific blogger opportunities and I now spend the majority of my B2B time blogger head-hunting for companies who are looking for a blogger with a particular location, genre or even pregnancy status!

business 2 blogger dfw bloggers and burb mom websites

So, let me address the question that everyone who is looking to turn their online hobby into a business is asking…

Is she making any money?

Oh!  For the rest of this post, please click over to June Cleaver Nirvana on Saturday.  It will explain it all…

Guest Blogging 101 Series – Purchasing Your URL

I suggest purchasing your URL.  If you use blogger you can use a free URL that contains blogspot.com however you do not own that URL until you purchase it.  It is very important to create a unique URL that is easy to remember and that is catchy.  If you chose a URL that no one knows what it means then you can create a tag line that explains your URL.  For example our URL is StockpilingMoms.com and our tag line is “A guide to frugal living”.

If you use blogger you can purchase your URL through blogger for $10.  This removes the blogspot.com out of your URL and changes it to a .com, .net or other choice available.  I suggest searching for available URL’s before you create your blog name.  You want your URL and blog name to match and you want to own the URL before you launch your site.  I also suggest purchasing variations of and mispellings of your name including a variety of .com, .net and other versions of the URL.  These can all be forwarded to your main URL.  You don’t want someone to purchase your URL and try to piggyback off of your success by pointing a variation of your URL to their site.

Melissa has been blogging since 2008. She taught Family and Consumer Science (Home Economics) on the high school level for 11 years before becoming a mom. In June 2005 after her son came home from Guatemala, she made the decision to leave her career and become a SAHM. In order to achieve this goal and live on one income, her family had to make some drastic changes in their lifestyle.  In 2009 she saved $3600.00 through stockpiling. Her hope is through Stockpiling Moms, she will be able to help others join her on the journey to frugal living.

I joined the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Challenge

Take the Problogger Challenge with SITS and BlogFrog
I have been blogging for more than 3 years.  I have rotated through seasons of blog growth and audience dwindling.

Yes, there has definitely been dwindlage.

When I started blogging my life was very different.  I had a baby.  A baby who slept 2 naps a day.  I had a toddler in preschool for several hours several times a week.  Everyone went to bed at 7 pm.  When added up, there were several hours of time I could be online and not disrupt my family or neglect my house.

I spent that time visiting other blogs, chatting on twitter and being generally social online.

Now I have three boys.  None even would consider a nap.  It is summer and the camps are infrequent.  No one considers 7 pm an age-appropriate bedtime.  When added up, there are several spare moments throughout the day I can be online and every night after the boys get to bed I frantically do what I NEED to do online.

There is NO leisurely visiting, chatting or being social.

I hate that.

I miss it.

I also hate that my blog has been neglected.  I slap posts up if time allows and tweet their existence in a plea for traffic…

Not exactly a plan for success.

I have heard about the ProBlogger 31 Days to Build a Better Blog and almost purchased it several times.  Today I was over at Blog Frog and found out that the SITS girls are conducting a Summer Challenge for 31DBBB.

It starts tomorrow.

I am signed up.

Wanna join me?

Here are the steps to get involved:

I will be periodically writing about my experience with the 31DBBB Summer Challenge here at the B2B blog.

I hope you will join me!

Holly is a founder of Business 2 Blogger and writes June Cleaver Nirvana.  She tweets as @Texasholly.

Guest Post: Mistakes Of a First Year Blogger

We are thrilled to feature your tips & tools here at Business 2 Blogger so that we can better equip our readers to be some of the best bloggers out there.  Kristen from Making Cents Out of Life has graciously offered up some details of her 1st year of blogging in hopes you can find her mistakes to be useful tips!

I recently came upon the end of my first year of blogging, and I have to say that I am proud of myself. Blogging was something I started out of boredom yet also out of the need to do something with my life that might help someone else. But with no special skills, I had no idea what it was going to be. My first year of blogging was chock full of mistakes and bad choices, or at the very least things that I should have done in a different order. I started out looking at how-to articles and got quickly overwhelmed so I did what I typically do when I begin a new project- I jumped in head first! My blog was never meant to be a source of income because, quite frankly, I was unaware that there was money to be made in blogging. My hope was to do product reviews and giveaways which would lead to freelance writing later on, which would be the source of income I’d hoped to obtain for my efforts. I had a lot of misconceptions, made a lot of mistakes, and, well, was just wrong about a lot.

I thought I’d share with you some mistakes I made, and how I’m trying to overcome them.

  1. I did not set any kind of goals. Yes, I wanted to gain some freelance writing but I didn’t see this as goal because I didn’t yet know how that worked, wht I’d do or how long it took. I should have set goals such as “Have 100 e-mail subscribers by such and such date”. Setting small goals and seeing myself hit them would have been a wonderful sense of accomplishment for me.
  2. I didn’t make my blog a priority. I never set aside a specific time or amount of time each day to work on my blog so some days, a LOT of days, it did not get done. it showed, really badly, after not too long because it’s a new site.
  3. I had no blogging schedule. When readers visit a site, they like to know what they’re going to see. Or perhaps it’s better to say that they like knowing when certain topcs will be posted so they can make a point of visiting then.. Remember that their lives are at least as busy as yours. Most of the time. So if you do coupon matches for Publix, do them on specific day of the week and stick to it. Depending on the type of blog you have, that one does not always matter but for deal/personal finance blogs like mine, it does.
  4. I didn’t prioritize my time online. It’s very easy to get caught up on Faceboook or Twitter, and that is just reading! When you start to contribute your own stuff, another world opens up that’s so easy to become immersed inside, and one can quickly get lost. I set a timer for 0 or 30 minutes each day and when it’s up,it’s up unless I’m taking a day off from posting. Those days I’ll give myself some leeway because Twitter and Facebook are two awesome ways to generate blog traffic!

This barely scratches the surface on my mistakes as a 1st year blogger but these are the mistakes I consider most crucial. Prioritizing and making the most use of the time that I have are the most important things I can do no matter what project i do!

Kristen - thanks so much for your honesty and tips here!! We appreciate it!
The B2B Team