Blog Goals

Every now and again, it’s good to go through and reevaluate your blog, what you’d like to do with it, and how to get there. I’ve been thinking about this for my blog for the past, oh, year or so. And I’m just now getting a list going of things I’d like to accomplish here. Ideally, I’d like to get these all done by the end of the year. Let’s hope that I can stick to that.

Some of these I’ve already accomplished, but I’m putting them on this list so it will all make more sense, and so I can see some progress as well. Some are maintenance/organization goals rather and some have to do with rebuilding to a satisfying yet manageable level.

  • Clean up category list to a more manageable size
  • Make sure all posts fit into a new category and reassign “uncategorized” posts
  • Delete posts that are now irrelevant
  • Rewrite About page
  • Clean up broken links
  • Stick to a regular posting schedule for 6 months
  • Come up with social media buttons that I really like
  • Find more blogs to swap ads with

There are also some things I’d like to do that aren’t on my blog but will ultimately affect my blog, since a lot of it has to do with things I’d like to eventually blog about:

  • Clean up my browser bookmarks
  • Clean out Twitter favorites (items marked to go back to later)
  • Clean out email (more things to refer back to later)
  • Clean up my feed reader – subscriptions and starred items

I’ll update in a few weeks so we can all see how this is going.

Do you have any blog goals? Have you blogged about it? Let me know in the comments!

Writing Skills

For some time now, I’ve felt that my writing skills have been seriously lacking. I’ve been having a harder and harder time writing what I want to say the way I want to say it, and I think it’s shown on my blog. Or not shown, since I haven’t been blogging as much for the past few years. It kind of bums me out. I’ve always been a writer in some way, first journaling, then blogging. Since my blogging activity has decreased, I haven’t been writing anywhere else either.

I feel as out of shape with my writing skills as I do with my body – and currently, I can’t run down my driveway and across the street without stopping to suck air like a dying fish.

While I’m not quite ready to get off my fat ass, I will be doing something to help with my writing. I signed up for a non-credit online course through the local community college.

It’s a 6 week course that should hopefully help me redevelop the skills that I once had, and to help me find my voice again.

As for blogging, there’s a bit more to it than just skills.

I went ahead and purchased Campfire Chic’s Three Sixty-Five: Ideas for Blog Posts, Scrapbook Pages, & Art Journal Entries. It’s so simple but full of ideas of things to blog about for those who, like me, struggle to come up with ideas for nearly every post.

I need to print it out so I can start taking notes. And more important, I need to start thinking like a blogger again.

When I step away from my computer, I need to think about my adventures out in the world and how they could be turned into a blog post.

I used to do that, but somehow, somewhere, it faded away. I feel like that part of me is missing and I’m struggling to get it back again.

This is a serious case of lost mojo.

Have you lost your blogging mojo? What have you done to get it back again?

Top Posts of 2011

I’m normally not addicted to my stats, and have for the most part stopped checking them altogether, but I figured that for a good year-end roundup I would have a look at what my most popular posts were. These are the ones that were read the most. I do have some other posts above these in the stats, along with individual pages, but I wanted to keep it in 2011 so I picked the most popular posts read and written in 2011.

Also, if you’re trying to bring in more readers or get them to go deeper into your blog, review posts like this are a great way to do that!

Here’s my list:

Soda, Pop, and Tonic
I declared that I was seriously reducing my intake of soda in an effort to improve my health. Mister and I have made more changes since then, and I am feeling good. I recently went over a month without a soda of any kind, but slipped a bit during the holidays and had some Diet Coke a few days in a row. I noticed that I had joint pain in my knees and generally wasn’t feeling well, so I’m even more determined to stay off the stuff in the future. And for those of you thinking that soda made with real sugar is better – you’re still ingesting massive amounts of sugar and calories. Is it worth it?

10 Tips for Personal Bloggers
This was originally written for one of Ben Barden’s blogs, but he shut down the blog earlier this year and gave the post back to me. I had a series of personal blogging tips going for a while, but it’s such a niche-within-a-niche that it’s difficult to write for. This post sums up a lot of my personal blogging tips.

Aqua Addiction
It’s no secret that aqua is my favorite color. I geek out a bit more on the color in this post.

The T-Shirt
Mister had a few holes in one of his t-shirts. I fixed it using a needle and thread, a dash of resourcefulness and a sprinkle of mischief.

Cone of Shame
Greta hurt her foot and was sentenced to a cone of shame so that it could heal. I don’t know who was more upset by the cone – me, for having to keep it on her, or Greta for actually having to wear it.

Christmas Songs That Need to Go Away
I generally like most holiday songs, but there are a few I can’t stand. I explain my reasons in this post.

I’m an introvert, and I found a great graphic on Pinterest about caring for introverts.

The Best Friends I’ve Never Met
I’m part of a wonderful online community of women who are always there no matter what, and always willing to go above and beyond for each other despite the fact that many of us have not met face to face. I just want to dive into a big virtual hugpile with them.

I’m a Gemini. I’m borderline shy/wild (two points to anyone who knows where that is from!). I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a tattoo to represent the dual nature of my personality, and I really like the idea of a constellation tattoo. In aqua ink, of course.

And my number one most-read post of 2011…..

The Good, the Bad, and the iMac
I needed a new computer this year, and opted to go the way of the Mac. I love everything about it, and after using it for six months, I wouldn’t change anything I said in my initial assessment.

Did you do a link to your top posts of 2011? Any other year in review posts related to 2011 that I should read?

10 Tips for Personal Bloggers

This was a guest post that I originally wrote for Ben Barden’s blog Top Ten Blog Tips. I recently got an email from Ben saying that he’s consolidating everything over to his blog Quick Blog Tips, which is an excellent blog full of blogging tips for everyone. This is also the post that also saw me starting my Personal Blogging series. I hope you enjoy it!

I’ve been blogging for many years now, and in addition to finding interesting blogs to read, I’ve seen lots and lots of blogs and blog posts on how to help make your blog bigger and better. But every single one of those blogs and posts appear to be targeted towards professionals, or those who hope to become professionals and earn a ridiculous amount of money from blogging. But what if you just want to blog? What if, instead of having a blog that preaches your expertise in a subject, your niche is YOU? Here are some tips I came up with to help myself see through all the pro-blog babble and stay focused on my own little blog.

1. Why are you blogging?

If you don’t have a reason to be blogging, then you won’t find satisfaction from it. I started my blog as an extension of my journal, hoping that maybe, just maybe, someone in the great wide interwebs would see it and provide some feedback. It worked – I’ve made some great friends in the time I’ve been blogging. I started blogging because it’s therapeutic, and I continue to blog because of the relationships that I’ve made. Others I know blog to keep far-flung family and friends updated on their lives. Why are you blogging?

2. Don’t expect to make money.

In fact, don’t even try. It’s extremely rare that a personal blogger can make any money at blogging. If it happens, it usually amounts to pocket change. Don’t worry about signing up for affiliate marketing or other advertising options. If you get to a point where you have a decent number of readers and want to start sharing some favorite products through advertising, that’s great. Just don’t set out with the goal of making money, because it won’t happen.

3. Forget about the most popular tips.

SEO, Content is King, get your own domain, etc. Every pro and pro-wannabe preaches this gospel. If all you want to do is talk about your life, what does it matter where you rank in the search engines? And your content will be about your life. People will either like it or not, just like in real life. As for your own domain, this is a decision that only you can make. The free options out there are really decent options for personal blogs.

4. Don’t ignore the pro advice.

This seems to contradict tip #3, but there is a lot of advice that the pros give regarding blog design, commenting, etc that is relevant to all blogs, personal or not. You don’t have to stop listening to the pros altogether, but you also don’t need to worry about every single piece of advice they dish out. Pick and choose what’s relevant to your blog and situation, and ignore the rest.

5. Be yourself.

While the anonymity of the internet can be an opportunity to let hidden parts of your personality shine, don’t try to create a persona that is nothing like you. Unless you are extremely creative and tenacious, eventually the real you is going to want to come out and one of two things will happen – it will show on your blog, which could affect your readership, or you’ll end up abandoning your blog instead of showing your real face. Being anonymous and protecting your identity are one thing, but being fake is quite another. Be the real you on your blog, which is what people want to see on a personal blog – a real person.

6. Don’t listen to the naysayers.

There will be people out there who will tell you that personal blogging is not a worthy endeavor. Personal blogging is dead, they say. These are probably the same people who wouldn’t be caught dead in last season’s fashions. I say, if it’s something you enjoy then go for it. Because a personal blog is meant to communicate your thoughts about your own life, it’s not meant to be a trendsetting moneymaker.

7. Think like a storyteller.

Some people are natural storytellers, and a post about the most mundane things will appear as a great adventure. Other people, not so much. To make your blog more fun to read, think like a storyteller and be descriptive. Imagine you are telling your stories to a large audience (which you are, since you’re on the internet). Try to come up with some creative language to spice things up a bit. Which would you rather read?

a) I made myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

b) I realized that the absolute freshest bread is not good PB&J material. As I was spreading the peanut butter, then came apart and stuck to the PB coated knife, until the knife was covered in a giant wad of peanut butter and bread. Now onto the jelly.

8. Be careful.

I don’t think you need me to tell you how accessible the internet is to the entire world. Think hard about how much personal information you want to reveal about yourself online. I’m fine with people knowing my first name and what city I live in, but I don’t reveal my workplace and keep my family and friends way more anonymous than myself. Also be very careful if you decide to blog about your workplace or anyone you work with. You don’t want to jeopardize your job because of what you write online.

9. Get out there and make friends.

I have to admit, I’m not that great at making friends. However, I’ve found it much easier online to be social and make friends. Blogging gives others a chance to get to know you, and vice versa, before that first comment is made. By the time someone comments, you’ve said something that someone else wanted to hear or that struck a chord with them. Comment back, say hi, and visit their blog – and click on the links in their blogroll. You’ll find this is the best way to just get out there, meet people online, and make friends all over the world. That, to me, is the most fun thing about blogging.

10. Keep at it.

If you’re blogging to get out there and make friends, or just to be heard, keep at it. It will take you some time to build up a network of blogging friends, so don’t give up after the first few posts. It can be lonely when you start out, because you feel like you’re talking into a void, but sooner or later people will come across your blog, read what you’ve written, and be compelled to comment because they felt a connection. Don’t feel pressured to become something you’re not just to gain a readership (see point #5). Just tell your story, say what you’re feeling, and get it out there.

Personal blogs are extremely popular, and extremely underserved when it comes to “how-to” advice. I hope this list was helpful to all the personal bloggers out there!

What do you think? Do you have a personal blog? Do you agree with these tips? Are there any others you’d like to suggest?

How Much Social Media Is Too Much?

If you’re on the internet at all, you’ve probably heard of Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and a whole bunch of other sites whose sole purpose is to let you connect with other people. And you are probably signed up with one or more of them. I know I did.

But before I get a chance to sit down at the computer (or whip out my smartphone), I have other obligations – to my husband, my job, my dog, and everything else that comes along with real life. Which doesn’t leave a lot of time for cultivating online relationships and using social media to its fullest potential.

Everyone has Facebook account – even my technophobe Dad is on there. It’s a great tool for keeping up with people known in real life, and it has features that allow me to not only let those real life people know about my blog, but also to have a fan page, so that I don’t have to have someone on my friend list for them to keep up.

I had a fan page. Past tense. I wasn’t keeping up with it, wasn’t able to put time into developing it, and as a result only had 6 followers, including myself. So I made the decision to shut it down. I still get plenty of traffic from the people on my friend list, so it hasn’t affected my readership very much at all.

Then there’s Twitter. I’m on there as well. When I’m in a talkative mood (not often), I use it to communicate with other internet people. I also use it to publicize blog posts, since Feedburner allows you to tweet your feed, which is the set-it-and-forget-it way of letting people know when you have a new post.

I’m signed up with a bazillion other social media and blog networking sites, but honestly, I just don’t use them. The #3 site that I use is more social bookmarking – StumbleUpon – but I use it when I’m bored to find new stuff and don’t use it to its fullest potential. I just don’t have the time or energy to devote to it.

I don’t think social media is a bad thing. I don’t think that the sites I don’t use are bad – they just aren’t a good fit for me. As this post from Vandelay Design says, focus on quality over quantity. As bloggers, our first priority is blogging. The sites I do use regularly help foster relationships but don’t feel like they take much effort. If you’re blogging for the fun of it, like most personal bloggers do, the key is balance. Be out there, find what works for you and don’t overwhelm yourself trying to be everywhere.