15 lessons from a year of blogging

I recently marked a year of blogging here at Sand In My Toes. This is actually my second stint as a blogger. The first time around, I blogged for five years before taking a hiatus. That blog, named Kreatif Online, was about anything that caught my fancy. You can still find posts from there buried in the archives of this one! I then started this blog (here's the story) and realised that being a parenting blogger is so very different from just writing a general blog. For one, there are so many other bloggers out there, and you have to be on your toes all the time to maintain readership. So, this year of blogging has been eventful and a learning experience for me. The first time around, I had no idea about stats, social media and sponsorships. The three S's of modern blogging (that I just made up!) take a lot of time to master. I have learned so much, but I am sharing fifteen important lessons from a year of blogging:

Fifteen lessons from a year of blogging at Sand In My Toes

1. Read to be read
Rather than waiting for people to just find your blog, go visit as many as you can! Follow other bloggers, leave good comments (here are some tips for commenting), and read a variety of blogs. Apart from getting you noticed, it will also motivate you, inspire new ideas, and help you understand how things works. I find RSS feeds on Feedly to be the best way of keeping myself updated on blogs I like. It doesn't clutter your inbox, and you won't miss them on Twitter and Facebook.

2. Commenting back is courteous
There's no hard and fast rule, but it's always nice to go back and visit the blogs of people who comment on yours. They will appreciate it, and you may find some good bloggers this way. I always comment back and often, I make new blog friends! To make sure people keep coming back, read Eleven reasons why I won't return to your blog.

3. Blogkeeping is continuous
It takes a lot of time to have an error-free site. In fact, it is a continuous process. Keep looking at your blog from a newcomer's eyes. Ask yourself: Is it easy to find things? Are my important posts highlighted? Is there enough information about me? Update your blog's sidebar often with your latest content. Check that all your links lead to the right place.

4. Balancing time is important
It's easy to get lost once you're online. Make a list of priorities and have it close by, so you don't spend too much time pinning when you should be writing. My formula is to spend 30 per cent of my time writing, 20 per cent commenting on other blogs, and 50 per cent on social media. I don't do this every day but try to balance my time across the week. Your break-up may depend on what your priorities are, but make a list of tasks important to you.

5. Focus on some social media sites
Which brings me to another point about organising your time - don't try to be everywhere, all the time! Each social media site is useful in its own way, but only some will bring you good returns over time. It takes time to identify what sites work best for you compared to on how much time you spend on them. I used to almost exclusively be on Twitter, but now I find Pinterest to be a good driver of traffic. I use Facebook for engagement and Google+ for some exposure. I try to focus on two channels which I use frequently.

6. Sharing other work is a good idea
Your followers and readers will appreciate it if you direct them to more good stuff to read, or to something that will be useful to them. It's always a good idea to share others' work on social media and your blog. Early on, I started doing my Bloggy Reads of the week, and it's still going strong! I also like to share on my Good Reads board on Pinterest.

7. Write for your audience 
Take time to understand the people who visit your blog. Google Analytics can give you good insights, and so can your interactions on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. Keep your audience in mind when you write. It will help you choose your topics, language, tone and style. (You can also refer to my guest post on Eight Hidden Blogging Mistakes.)

8. But maintain your own voice
Writing for others doesn't mean that you should only be a crowd-pleaser. If you want your blog to stand out, you have to be yourself. I always try to write sincerely and only choose subjects in which I either have personal experience or have a clear opinion about.

9. Organise your files
When you first start blogging, organising your posts, documents, and pictures is the last thing on your mind. But in the long run, it pays to have your files sorted into the right folders. It's a good idea to use a service like Dropbox or Google Drive to sync your files online. Also have a system in place to back up your blog (here's an article on how to do it).

10. Have a blogging calendar
I always have a notebook at hand to plan my posts and jot down my ideas. It's easy to find printable and online blogging calendars. Planning your posts also lets you see whether your posts are in line with your original theme.

11. Guest blog...lots
I have never turned down an opportunity to write for another blog. There's no downside to guest blogging, as long as what you are writing is original and meaningful. The exposure from guest posts is immense, especially for new bloggers. A word of advice: don't be too picky about where your posts are published, as long as the host sites are family-friendly!

12. SEO is important
The term 'search engine optimisation' used to scare me, but I learned that it's not as difficult as it looks. SEO is a rewarding exercise. See my SEO checklist before you publish a post for some easy tips.

13. Monetisation takes time
Making money was never one of my aims from blogging, and it was only in the past few months that I started getting offers for sponsorship. Whether you want to monetise your blog or not is up to you, but building good content takes time. And that is the basis of a marketable blog.

14. Other bloggers are good company
Whether you find them in a Facebook group, in a Tribe, or on a community website, being in the company of other bloggers is good for you. You can share your thoughts, troubleshoot problems, or ask for feedback from other bloggers. Being a part of a blogging group also keeps you going, but it can take time to find the right one for you.

15. Keep doing something new
This doesn't mean that you have to change the look of your blog often, but you can add little things, such as a new series, guest posts, or co-host a linky. When you are ready, you can even start your own blog hop.

15 lessons from a year of blogging

I'll add another to this list - The first year is always the hardest. A lot of time goes into promoting your blog, making it popular among your readers, and settling on the perfect design. The end of a blogging year is a good time to review where your blog stands and where you want it to be.

What has your experience of blogging taught you?

Do you want to start a blog? Check out this Beginner's Guide to Successful Blogging which you can also download as PDF.

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Katie @ Pick Any Two said...

I think the combination of numbers 7 and 8 is so important. There's a healthy balance between giving your audience what they want and still writing about topics and in a voice that's right for you. The best bloggers are able to accomplish both of those simultaneously!

Vinma said...

Great post TK! All of them relevant :) However, I am guilty of point#9! I am very bad in organizing. Most of the time, I have no clue where my drafts are that should be published in the coming week and I end up turning my inbox up side down looking for a crucial detail that needs to be added to a new post :( Well, I still need to work on it. Your words are encouraging. Thank you and happy blogiversary :)

Tarana Khan said...

You're right. It is important to find the right balance between the two, and it might just click with the readers!

Tarana Khan said...

Thank you! It really does save time if you organise your files :)

Dawn at Momsanity said...

Very helpful, especially since I'm in Week 3 of my new blog and my new site! I knew that I needed to have a blogging calendar and was just about to start organizing something. I had no idea that you could find a template online for that, though. I guess there's something for everyone somewhere, right? ;) Congrats on your year anniversary, btw!

Lisa Witherspoon said...

Great advice! I have been blogging for three years but just really dove into it last spring. I had no idea what all went into "making it" as a blogger. I love it, but it does take so much time. Using an editorial calendar has helped so much.

Jennifer Steck said...

I'm just a few months in, Tarana. I really appreciate all your great advice. I'm finding it difficult to keep all the balls in the air at times. You inspire me to keep moving forward and I plan to visit more often. Thank you!!

Unknown said...

Some excellent points Tarana! During a crazy January whenI had to focus on too many non-blog obligations one thing I really missed was keeping up and commenting on blogs I really enjoy...such as yours!

Tarana Khan said...

Thank you, Dawn! True, you can find a lot of resources for blogging online.

Tarana Khan said...

There is definitely a lot of work now, Lisa. At one time, all you had to do was write!

Tarana Khan said...

Thank you for your kind words, Jennifer! I'm so glad you found my tips useful.

Tarana Khan said...

Aw, thank you, Kriss! Hope everything is under control now.

MamaRabia said...

These are great tips! I have learned a lot in my blogging time and I am still learning new things every day!

Tarana Khan said...

Me too!

Unknown said...

Some Helpful Points!!! Ive had my blog live since 2012... But it was only October last year when I actually started posting etc at the minute I do find it difficult to plough 100% time into the blog and social media due to being kept on my toes with 3 kids... But im sure after some time, everything will just fit into place :) thank you x

Tarana Khan said...

Yes, it will. I'm sure you'll figure out a way to make it work!

brummymummyof2 said...

This is so so so helpful! I defo need to organise things as there's so much going on. Brilliant post thanks xxx

Anonymous said...

Thanks for putting together such a great selection of tips. I've been blogging for under a year and am sill getting the hang of certain things! #PoCoLo


Tarana Khan said...

Thanks, glad you liked the tips!

Tarana Khan said...

Thanks, Jonathan!

Unknown said...

These are all such excellent tips, Tarana, with really specific advice. You have learnt so much in such a short time - I'm quite in awe! I have never guest blogged, but will definitely jump at the opportunity if it ever arises. When I started blogging, about 8 and a half months ago, I honestly had no idea of how important social media was. I have to admit, I was disappointed to find out that it played such an enormous role because I wasn't involved in any social media platform whatsoever. All I wanted to do is write! It was really interesting reading the breakdown of how much time you estimate you spend writing, commenting and being active on social media. I think I do the first two well, but fail miserably at the last one! Thanks for compiling such an informative post. I'm going to pin your list and then go and check out your other links.

Unknown said...

What a fantastic post! I am SO with you on the commenting - and I am going to go across and look at your links to this post as well. I try and comment back where I can but PoCoLo keeps me busy and helps me to do the rounds so I guess I sort of fulfill my quota! Thanks for linking to PoCoLo x

Tarana Khan said...

I was just like you, Lizzy. All I wanted to do was write, but I realised that to reach out to a larger audience, I had to wade into the social media ocean!

Tarana Khan said...

Happy you liked my tips, Victoria!

BakedPotatoMummy said...

Great post. I've been blogging since April, so some really good tips here.
I agree with the commenting and commenting back. I try to do both as often as I can, which isn't as often as I'd like sadly. I'm just getting to grips with Pinterest too. Up until now, I've really only used Twitter and FB, with Twitter being the primary one. Now I'm getting stuck into pinning too :)

Unknown said...

Love this post, all so true!! Glad you came back to blogging. I love it when people remember to highlight the importance of being a community! xxx

Tarana Khan said...

Pinterest can be so addictive, right?

Tarana Khan said...

Thank you, Chelsea! I don't like the idea of blogging in isolation!

Rea Alducente said...

These are really good tips and reminders. I'm glad I've been doing them now and thanks for affirming through this post, at least I know I'm doing the right thing. :) SEO is something I have to work on though and I haven't tried to guest blog.. looking forward to doing them soon. Great weekend to you!

Tarana Khan said...

Happy you liked the tips, Rea. Do come back and share how SEO goes for you!

Thoughts Over Chai said...

Thank you so much for this post. I had beeb blogging before I was married which was 3-4 years back and then stopped altogether. I started blogging again to maintain my sanity while managing a house and 2 year old active toddler. 3 posts on my blog and I already feel so good! :)
The points you mentioned makes so much sense and I am going follow them to keep my blog active and going.

Tarana Khan said...

I was in the same position as you! Good luck with your blog - I'm going to check it out.

Thoughts Over Chai said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tasneem said...

Thanks for going through my blog. Just to mention, I now blog at My mistake I didnt mention it to you earlier.I am looking forward to see you there.

Paula said...

Very useful tips. I would be interested in knowing what an average growth curve is in the first year of serious blogging, in terms of visits and page views; but I imagine there is no "average." Would like to measure my progress against some appropriate standard, though. Any thoughts? Paula

Unknown said...

Great tips and I love the one about maintaining your own voice. I think its do important to step back every so often and evaluate and just make sure your blog hasn't run away in some random direction because of what may be fashionable at the time.

Tarana Khan said...

Paula, it really depends on where you're from. For instance, in Dubai, smaller numbers would be okay because it's a small country! But I remember reading in a forum that sponsors are only interested in blogs with pageviews above 20K.

Tarana Khan said...

That's right, Tas!

Palka Chopra said...

Thanks so much for this post TK!! I am also just a starter and this has given me such a heads up!! Need to get a bit more organised i guess, the time just flies when you are online.

Tarana Khan said...

Happy you liked the tips, Alka!

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