I remember how excited I was when I first started blogging. I had been a writer since I was a little girl and to be able to mix writing with my love of graphics was a match made in Heaven. I started ORMG back in the early 2000s and it was very successful. It ran for three years and opened many doors for me. After my career change, I knew I wanted to expand my writing to incorporate not just recipes but crafting as well.
I made a boat load of mistakes and at one time I had separate blogs for desserts, cooking, crafting, lifestyle, and fashion. Well, that is just plain crazy! But, I knew very little about blogging at the time so I muzzled through until finally I bought kimmcdougal.com. I knew that having my own name, I could grow the brand, change my content to a lifestyle blog writing about everything I love. I still struggled with some things and unfortunately I learned the lessons on the job.
If I had to do it all over again with the knowledge I have now, I would make some changes. It’s really important to know the purpose of blogging, is it really something you want to do? It is a labor of love, it requires time, patience, commitment and it will push your skills to the max. Even with all that, I wanted to be a blogger and hope that one day it will be a full time venture.
So, what would have helped me to know three years ago?
- Taking more time to know my content. Really important to not be in a hurry to launch a blog. I was so excited that I didn’t take enough time to write down topic ideas and actually plan ahead a year of posts so that I wouldn’t run out things to write about. I write and try to publish everyday which is actually a lot for a blog. But I know myself well. If I’m not writing everyday, I become less motivated. I didn’t do a year’s writing plan but I do a week’s worth which is very helpful because I know I have new content going up everyday.
- Knowing my design style. Sometimes, you don’t know this upfront and you run with what you have. When I began studying other similar blog styles as well as design trends, I found my own style but it also meant changing my theme which meant taking my blog offline for awhile to make changes. Changing a few fonts here and there or re-ordering sidebar elements are okay, but when you change the whole look, it’s a lot like changing your logo that visitors have become accustomed to seeing. I’ll talk more about themes in point #4.
- Using the right platform. I started using self-hosted WordPress, but after about a year I began to have some serious issues and decided to move to Blogger. It took a lot of research on how to do it successfully without losing comments, Google rankings, and media.
- Choosing the right theme the first time. Blogger comes with its own set of themes but I knew I wanted a customized look so it meant researching to find the appropriate one. The theme is the heart of a blog and it needs to be an extension of the blogger’s personal style. The theme you see on this blog is actually my second one. I love it and won’t change it, at least not for awhile!, but choosing the right theme and even testing it before launch could have saved me a lot of time in the long run.
- Choosing the right widgets. Widgets or gadgets, as they’re called in Blogger, are designed to enhance a blog that help the visitor’s experience be more engaging. These can be customized with third party coding which I’ve done with a couple of my sidebar widgets: “popular posts and latest lifestyle articles”. Also, my theme came with custom widgets such as my Instagram feed at the bottom of the blog and my social share tools that appear under each post.
I’ve learned a lot since making the changes to have the feminine look I wanted. The next step is increasing readership and of course that takes a lot of time and patience. I spend several hours each night reading other blog posts for inspiration and advice. When I’m preparing a new post, I take my time to choose just the right photos and I don’t accept just any advertisement. This is part of building a brand that I’m proud to put my name on.
So though I let my excitement push me to start my blog sooner than I should have, I don’t regret it at all! I’m proud to see how I’ve grown and how kimmcdougal.com has evolved. I learn something new everyday. And as long as I’m a blogger, I’ll always work to improve my content, design, and functionality. My main goal is to have a visually-pleasing and easy to navigate experience for you so you’ll come back everyday!