Happy First Anniversary to my blog, Go – Gather – Grow!
What a year this has been! I have some tidbits and lessons to share with you from my first year of blogging concerning the techie side of blogging. Let’s go!
The Call and the Audience
From the time God laid it on my heart to start a blog, through to today, it has been an adventure. All believers know that when God places a ministry call on your heart, you must obey and follow through with the call no matter what it is.
My ministry is teaching and for 30+ years, I focused on teaching the Word of God to children and teens and sometimes adults.
In the stage of life I am in now, my audience has changed from teaching children to teaching women. I would never have thought that the medium would be blogging. I love it! Blogging is the platform for my ministry to women around the world!
When I first started blogging, I had this idea that I would write and God would do all the rest of it. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that it doesn’t work that way. I have my part to do while God does His part.
I wrote a post about my audience of One when I realized that though I am writing TO YOU, I write FOR HIM! I find that encouraging and to remind myself of it, I have a note on my monitor that reads “I write for My Audience of One and Whomever He Invites.”
So, I have The Call and I have The Audience and now let’s talk about the Blog Focus.
When I started blogging, I was simply writing my life experiences and how the Word helped me grow. However, as I prayed for my blog and its direction, God laid it on my heart to teach women how to study His Word using the Inductive Bible Study Method. This is quite a challenge to teach it online and not sit at the table with you. However, it can be done.
My blog focuses on two main areas that you’ll find on my menu: Bible Studies and Faith from the Word. The Word teaches us all about God, His character, His standard, His holiness and it teaches us how we ought to live and worship Him with our whole being.
My goal is to help women learn the Word for themselves so they may apply it in their everyday living. I would love to be with each of you, sitting with you at your table, showing you spiritual truths. I hope, through these studies, you get that sense that I’m right there with you.
You can read more about my blog purpose on my Hello! page.
But, what about you? Have you figured out what He wants you to write about?
5 Things I Learned in My First Year of Blogging
This first year of blogging has been filled with learning. Here are some things I want to pass on to you.
1. Blogging is hard work
There is so much to learn about the mechanics of blogging. From finding the best self-hosted platform to the best host, and buying a theme that suits your needs. You may change your mind along the way and try something else and that’s okay.
There’s much to learn. Structural items such as categories, tags, menu structure, your blog’s purpose, developing a blog tagline, even researching for the right blog name is hard work.
Then there are plugins, not the air freshener kind, but the ones that help your blog. For example, if you use WordPress dot org, you definitely need to have WordFence. That’s a must in my opinion as it is your protection against cyber threats as well as performs site scans. Social Warfare is a great one for sharing social media but I know there are other plugins for this purpose as well.
Writing is hard work. Not just writing style but coming up with post ideas can be difficult, depending on your niche. My niche is Bible Study. While I can set up an editorial calendar for a year in advance, I may not follow that as I sense the leading of the Lord to write something different. That’s the norm for me though as I hear from Spirit to write what He wants me to share with you.
Then there’s the social media aspect. Sharing your posts on Instagram, Twitter, Google+, Facebook or any other number of social media platforms. That means designing graphics in particular dimensions for each. And that means using online design programs or your own if you have them.
My trick, though, is I use one size in my blog posts that fit Pinterest while my post feature image size fits nicely in Facebook, Google+ and Instagram so I’m not playing with several different templates. Another tip is my templates contain my brand colour strips and text layers along with my blog URL at the bottom. Makes designing new graphics easy.
2. Blogging is Time-Consuming
While I love blogging, my first year of blogging has been time-consuming! Deadlines are self-imposed as are your goals.
Sitting in front of the computer also means you are designing graphics, pinning your post images to Pinterest, designing printables, opt-ins or even sharing on social media platforms. Don’t forget you are also taking online courses or doing a host of other things to improve your blog. Your first year of blogging will be filled with improvements as they seem to never end.
Somewhere along the line, you are going to revamp your older posts, especially if they were written poorly or are not getting the traction you thought they would. Maybe you need to refresh the graphics. All of this is time-consuming and part of the hard work.
3. Taking Credible Courses is Important
There are many credible bloggers who offer free and paid courses. But who are they and how do you know they are credible when you’re just starting out? Sometimes it is trial and error, but here are some of my favourites to help you get started in your first year of blogging:
1. Carmen Brown has a great eBook called By His Grace We Blog: The Perfect Resource for the Christian Blogger. Once you have your blog site up and running, you can request to join her Facebook group, By His Grace Bloggers to get connected with a great group of bloggers.
2. Ruth Soukup is the guru behind Elite Blog Academy (EBA). This is an intense course that you can pursue at your own pace. Consider this an investment in your blog, whether you monetize or not. If you’re not ready to invest right now, consider being on her email list for the next time the door opens to the academy. In the meantime, you’ll get tons of help through her free products and emails!
3. Kate Ahl from Simple Pin Media is the one you want to learn from about Pinterest.
4. Rosemarie Groner from The Busy Budgeter teaches the basics of blogging and has excellent freebies to sign-up for. She also has a great email course called Date Your List and an excellent time management course called 10-Hour Time Block Strategy.
5. Lena Gott from What Mommy Does also teaches the basics of blogging as well as how to grow your Pinterest traffic.
6. Grayson Bell runs iMark Interactive and has an excellent FREE course to learn the basics of WordPress dot org. Once you enroll in his course, you can sign up to join his Facebook group where you can ask tech-related questions and learn from others.
There are others, like Sarah Mueller from Early Bird Mom, (Inbox Invitation) and Jennifer Maker from List Love Master Course: List Building for Bloggers, (subscriber list) and Connie Bartlett from Grace Clicks (SEO Basics). There are so MANY MORE great resources but this is a good list to start with.
4. Blogging Will Improve Your Writing
As I rewrite older posts to bring them to the standard set in the EBA course for both the content and graphic images, I see a huge improvement in my writing style. While I thought it was okay to write as I thought, I have since learned that readers prefer a more polished writing style. As you develop your style, keep in mind that a level of professionalism is best.
For example, when I see blog posts that have huge paragraphs, my eyes glaze over. Too many words to read. It’s best to break up large paragraphs into several small ones. Like this one. It was part of the above paragraph but I made it its own paragraph and now it is easier to read.
The same with long sentences. Find the break, cut it down. Make it easy to read. Another tip is to add Pinterest-ready graphics to break up the text.
Most important thing…proofread. Over and over and over again! Then one more time!
Don’t take offense when someone gently corrects you but rather use it as a learning opportunity.
5. The Importance of Setting Goals
In your first year of blogging, you will want to set goals for yourself or you will find yourself floundering. A great book about goals is by Bryan P. Moran called The 12 Week Year. Many bloggers are reading this and incorporating this strategy of getting more work done in 12 weeks than you would in 12 months.
Along with this book, you can also incorporate time management strategy from Rosemarie Groner in her gold mine course, 10-Hour Time Block Strategy. Use the strategies from these two sources together and you’re on your way to achieving your goals!
A Few Other Tidbits
- Don’t compare yourself to other bloggers. They worked hard to get to where they are and have been through the struggles of the early blogging days. Comparing yourself sets you up for discouragement.
- Don’t delete anything from your blog, ie, your categories, tags, old posts, old images, etc, especially if they’ve been on your blog for any length of time. If you have Google Analytics set up, chances are the little robot txt files have crawled through your site and know these things exist.
- By deleting them, you will then get what’s called ‘crawl errors’. You don’t want crawl errors. Also, it’s not good for SEO as Google doesn’t like broken links. If you already have deleted blog structure items, you’re in good company. So have I but going forward, no more deleting!
- It’s vital to develop a subscriber list. The thought is, if your blog went down, you’d still have your email list and can contact your subscribers through email. Offer great opt-ins that add value to your readers such as eBooks, courses, organizational plans, etc. There are a lot of ideas out there waiting to be discovered by you.
- Network with other bloggers. There are many great Facebook groups to join where you can develop friendships and participate in their daily threads. Also, look for Mastermind groups for your niche as well.
- Are you looking for bloggers to meet up with? Check out my post called 15 Christian Women Bloggers at the Table. You’ll love meeting up with like-minded women!
Wrapping it Up
For Christian bloggers, it is important to remain close to Father as you grow in your ministry. Pray, study the Word, read your Bible. Stay in tune with Holy Spirit and walk in obedience. If you slip, pick yourself back up. If you get discouraged, catch it and then encourage yourself in your faith. Stay true to God and He will help you succeed in the way He has planned for you.
And most of all, stretch and grow. Try new things. Just don’t delete anything from your structure! Yes, I learned the hard way and have those pesky little crawl errors now. I don’t want that for you!
Grow your email list, offer true value to your readers. Engage with them. Pray for them. Bless them.
I’ve been wanting to share these tidbits on the techie side of blogging with you for awhile. I hope you have learned a few things from my first year of blogging that will help you develop your blog.
Well, sweet friends, learning from others has always been helpful to me and I hope it has been for you as well. I would love to hear your thoughts on this.