25 Thing I wish I had known before starting a blog

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

It's no secret that when this blog first started I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Not even the foggiest wisp of a glimmer of a plan. I didn't follow or even read any blogs, and had barely stumbled across a craft blog or two before proclaiming "I could totally do that!" Like so many other stay at home moms, things around the house were getting a bit dull, and it began to feel like I was losing myself. There was a desperate need for something that could be "mine" and I had always been pretty darn crafty. So why not give it a try?

Most of you won't remember this, but when I originally started blogging, the plan was to make 365 craft projects over the course of a year. Yeah, I know. It still makes me cringe a little when I think about it. There's no explanation for my special brand of lunacy. Saying that I tend to be overly ambitious is kinda an understatement, but if I'm going to learn something new I'm jumping in blindly and with both feet. 

Needless to say there have been lots of changes around here, and I have done tons of research since those early days. I've learned so much over the last two years, and am still learning things every day that highlight my glaring inadequacies as a blogger. So this is a list of a few of the things I wish I had known before I started blogging. Hopefully someone else will be able to learn from my mistakes. 
There are definitely plenty to choose from!

25 things I wish I had know before starting a blog.

1. The pictures you share are just as important as the words that you type. Be honest, how many times have you scrolled through a post looking at the pictures and not reading anything but the title and captions. You don't have to have a fancy camera, but spend some time learning how to use an editing program like Picmonkey, ipiccy, or Photoshop. It's fun and completely worth it.

2. Choose your blog's name carefully. I thought I had done my research, but I've learned of a few blogs with names very similar to mine. It makes me feel bad they might think I copied them even though I'd never knew they existed. Also, keep it short. You'll be typing it A LOT.

3. Html isn't as scary as you think. Learning only a few easy tricks will make a big difference!

4. Stick to your theme. Choose something that represents your personality and stick to it. Have you ever noticed how most of the things on my blog are shades of green, pink, and teal? Nothing is more distracting than seeing 200 different colors and patterns on a single page. (Unless of course you're fabric shopping)

5. Make a posting schedule, but be realistic about it. I am so terrible at this! I sit and plan out a post for every single day, and by day three I've fallen off the wagon. Posting only once or twice a week doesn't make your projects any less awesome!

6. Quality vs. Quantity. You've probably seen this mentioned before but it's true. I love you, but no one wants to read about how you unclogged your toilet this morning. Unless of course your sharing cleaning tips. Then you might be ok...maybe.

A screen shot of some of Sugar Tart Crafts' pinterest boards.

7. There are always more projects you want to try than you'll ever actually have the time to make. That's just the reality of being a creative person, but it can be extremely overwhelming at times. Thanks a lot Pinterest! So find a way to pair it down to things you'll actually love or use. You don't need to make something just because everyone else is doing it.

8. Blogging isn't a competition. At least it's not supposed to be. There is room for everybody.

9. Those bloggers that you love and secretly stalk a little are really nice! Don't be afraid to ask them questions. Even the ones that you think are perfect probably have goldfish crackers lost in their couch cushions too. They might not admit it, but they do. 

10. Getting traffic to your site is more important than counting your followers. I know in the beginning we all watch the number and get really excited when it starts to rise, but if no one is visiting who's going to follow along? Join linky parties, add keywords, sign up for guest posts, and comment as much as you can.

11. Try to use at least one internal link in each of your posts. Internal links help new visitors find more of your awesomeness.
More posts viewed = a better first impression = more followers!

12. Try to use at least one external link in each of your posts. Don't force it, but if you used someone's tutorial, or just adore a certain blogger spread the word! Others will probably enjoy them just as much as you do and thank you for sharing.

a row of social media buttons: facebook, pinterest, google+, twitter, youtube, rss, and flicker.

13. Social Media is important and even a bit overwhelming. I've warmed up to it very slowly, but now I wish I had started from the beginning. Lately, I've practically been begging for a device that supports instagram. Pictures would be my favorite way to network!

14. There are tons of numbers to figure out. Unique visits, bounce rates, page views, load times, picture resolution, image sizes, visit duration, etc. Sign up for Google Analytics and get a little confused. It'll be a big help . . . eventually.

15. Keywords are important if you want to get your post to the top of the search results. Use a program like Google's Keyword Tool to see what people are searching for. Adding keywords to your title, post body, and alt text can help you get more traffic to your site.

16.  Leave comments. Lots of comments! I bet you knew this one was somewhere on the list. Set a number of how many you'd like to leave each day, and make em' good. None of that "cute", "good job", "so pretty" single word type stuff. This should be a real and relevant comment. You know, something you actually had to think about. 

17. Make it easy for people to contact you and for heaven's sake make sure you aren't a no-reply blogger! Even if you've changed it before, check your settings again. When I switched over to the Google + profile, it undid all my edits. Nothing is more annoying than trying reply to a commenter's question when you have no way to get in touch.

18. Check for broken links every once in awhile and make sure you fix them. Having too many will hurt your pages chances with the search engine robots. I started with this checker, but there are many others you can try.

Aurelia and Toni sliding down one of the giant slides at Cox Farms.

19. Have a life outside of blogging! It's far too easy to get sucked into what you "need' to do for your blog and forget to go out and have some fun with your family. Get away from the computer and get those kids outside. Maybe they'll burn off enough energy to take a nap so you can get more done. Hey, A mom can dream right?

20. Linky Parties will get you noticed, but they can also take over. You don't have to be part of every single party out there. Pick a few of your favorites, and build a relationship with those bloggers. Remember that the larger blogs get more visitors, but the smaller sites are more likely to feature your projects. Try to participate in a nice assortment of both.

21. Your biggest supporters might not be your family. My dad and grandparents don't even have internet, and my husband tries, but just doesn't always "get it". That's ok. Make friends with other bloggers who will know exactly what you're going through. 

22. What your write is permanent, and people might not always like what you have to say. 

23. Be yourself. Pretending to be something you're not will drive you crazy, and it won't make you any real friends anyway. 

24. Some days you will feel like quitting. You'll get frustrated and think no one is listening and it's just not worth it. We all do it. A lot! Take a week or two and re-evaluate why you're blogging and what you want to get out of it. Chances are you just need a break. 

25. Don't do it if you don't love it! Writing just a single post is a lot of work, and putting together a tutorial takes even longer. Make sure you know what you're getting into before you begin, and don't feel bad if blogging just isn't for you. Maybe you could start an etsy shop or a sewing circle instead as a way to unleash your creativity. 

I know there are plenty that I've missed, but this post could go on for ages.
What do you wish you had know before you started blogging?

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103 comments :

  1. Fantastic post! Growing a thick skin when people leave rude comments has (and continues to be) tough. Oddly it's always on posts that I think in no way shape or form could ever be controversial!

    KK

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    1. That's so true! I think "This is such a cute idea. Everyone will love it!", and the next thing I know I'm under fire. I know it makes no sense, but I'll still fume about it for days before I remember that some folks are just crazy! lol

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  2. Awesome post! You nailed it--these are all things I've thought myself. (And I adore you, too--even more now that you didn't laugh at me for scarfing down half a pizza in front of you.)

    My personal favorite is the last one: don't do it if you don't love it. I can't tell you how many times I've had people tell me they feel like they should start a blog (either because they want to open a shop and feel like you HAVE to have a blog to go with it, or because they are creative and feel like being creative means you're supposed to have a blog, or whatever other reason). I always tell them, geez, you don't HAVE to have a blog, and if that's the way you think about it, you'll probably hate blogging and give it up in a month! I only do it because it's fun for me, and the second it stops being fun, I'll shut it down. What's the point of giving yourself another item on your to-do list if it isn't something you honestly enjoy doing and want to do! It takes way too much time and work if it's not something you like to do and would probably do even if no one was reading it.

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    1. That's exactly how I feel about it. I would still be sewing things and making craft messes even if no one was around to care but the kids, but there is a special satisfaction that comes from blogging about my stuff. And it doesn't hurt that you meet some really cool people. ;D

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  3. Such great tips! I've only been blogging for 4 months, so these are so nice to know early on. Thanks so much for sharing your advice! Enjoy your day!

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    1. Thanks Brooke, I'm glad to help reduce the number of "duh moments" for other bloggers if I can! You're doing an impressive job with your images for someone who just started blogging. Great job!

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  4. I agree with pretty much all of these! I will also admit to skimming the post and only reading the first few lines of each point :) But hey, you still love me right? x

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    1. You know I do. Cuz if you read every word of every single post, I would think you were a little bonkers! lol

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  5. Great tips! I definitely wish I'd known these when I first started out. I'm still a work in progress and learned something new from your post. Thanks :)

    I'd be thrilled if you'd link up at this week's Off the Hook!

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    1. Hi Lauren. Thanks so much for visiting and inviting me to your party. You little crochet hats are just adorable!

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  6. Thanks for the great tips! One of my new goals is to work on my internal links, I didn't realize how important that was until I started noticing it more on other blogs.

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    1. Hi Laura, That's a great goal to focus on. I've definitely noticed a difference in my traffic flow since I started add them more consistently.

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  7. I really appreciate your help in the advice for new bloggers! Didn't know there was even something like a keyword tool or link checker! Thank you!

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    1. Now problem Danielle. I'm just glad I can help. I didn't know about either of those tools until recently either, and felt like a total loser as I sat fixing the 80+ dead links I had. No Fun!

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  8. Thank you so much for these tips. I'm just getting started blogging and it gets very overwhelming at times! I appreciate your tips and hope to learn from them and use them.

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    1. You're very welcome Danielle. It takes a little while to find your blogger "voice" but once you catch on it can be pretty awesome. Good Luck, and don't forget to ask other bloggers if you have any questions!

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  9. Hi there! Thanks for your post (I found it on GingerSnaps' linky party this week!)....I'm trying to be much better about commenting and have really noticed a difference! And your tip to include links to other blogs was spot-on as well! Those track backs have gotten me some of my more loyal readers!

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    1. I'm trying to work on commenting more lately too. It's so easy to forget, so I try to keep reminding myself how much I love getting those little notes in my e-mail!

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  10. It is so true about the family not being your biggest supporters. My hubby almost never reads my blog, so I have to remember not to rely on him for a pat on the back that I want sometimes. Thanks for the reminder so I can keep pressing on. :)

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    1. Same here. I'm lucky if my husband reads mine once a month, but then he washes the dishes and I forgive him. ;D

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  11. Great list! It's so easy to get competitive or jealous of other bloggers. I'm so glad it's fun too!

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    1. That's been a difficult one for me too. I've always been very competitive and sometimes it's hard to remember that a lot of these bloggers started YEARS ago. But I'm sure they've all worked through the same problems when they were beginners. Gotta start somewhere!

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  12. love #5 - (which contradicts most advice out there that hammers home "often & consistent posting") Thank you for alleviating some guilt, it takes the edge off #24! :o)

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    1. You're absolutely right. "often and consistent" is pounded into our brains again and again, but for me that's one of the things that make blogging less fun. I don't want to post something just because it's "that day". Sick kids and last minute errands don't seen to care what day it is.

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  13. Thanks for this~ I started blogging almost a year ago and I find myself in so many of these. I am glad I am learning these quickly! :)

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  14. This is awesome! I started a blog about 2 months ago. I needed to see these; they are a great help. I'm pinning this for future reference!

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  15. Found your link on "So You Think You're Crafty" Very informative article. Thank you for sharing the information. Sure don't want to have to reinvent the wheel.

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  16. This is a great post. I like your honesty and your tips really are useful. I pinned it. :-)
    Thanks!
    Monica
    PS I do a Friday Linky party w/400 visitors if you want to link up!
    http://happyandblessedhome.com/category/family-fun/

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  17. What an insightful post! I started blogging almost a year ago, and made it my goal to "just try things out." Now that I have gotten my feet wet, I am ready to step it up some. Thank you for posting this list- I am actually going to use it as a checklist to progress forward.
    Thanks again!

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    1. Glad I could help! Blogging does kinda have a way of becoming addicting doesn't it?

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  18. What a simple, great summary of blogging tips. Enjoyed this post! Thanks :)
    - Lora

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  19. Awesome post! Thanks for sharing. :)

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  20. Wonderful tips, I've been blogging for less than a year and find getting in to a routine to be difficult, making a schedule has never been easy for me. That's been the hardest thing and I'm working on it :)

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    1. I know right! There are bloggers who say they have upward of a hundred posts in draft and I'm thinkin' "umm...I have 3. And those have been in there for about a month!" lol

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  21. Awesome post. I have only been blogging for 6 months, but have already taken quite a few breaks. Life just gets in the way!

    I host a weekly link-up party on Fridays and I would LOVE it if you would share this post sometime, or any others!
    http://www.parloandlogi.com/f-it-friday-round-14/

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  22. This is a great post! In June I will have been blogging for 5 years, but there are things on your list that I hadn't even thought about, so thank you. I'm checking out a couple of the links now. :)
    Thanks for the post! Visiting from TT&J.

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    1. Thanks for visiting Amy. It just seems like there is a never-ending list of things to learn about blogging doesn't it?

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  23. Great tips! I'm happy to blog when I can, but I definitely feel like I'm supposed to be doing more at times. Thanks for sharing.
    Melissa
    www.lovebugliving.com

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    1. I just keep pretending I'll do better when the kids finally go to school. Luckily I've got plenty of time between now & then to come up with a new excuse for when that day actually comes! ;D

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  24. Thank you for this real, down to earth advice. I just started blogging, and I need every tip I can get. I love that you shared all of these resources. Thanks. Also, what a great reminder to not get so caught up in blogging that the family becomes a lower priority. I appreciate your post and pinned it!

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    1. Happy to help, and good luck with your new blog. It looks like you're off to a great start!

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  25. Good stuff Toni! I didn't know about the broken link site and found I have some on my blog. Thank you!

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    1. It's a neat tool isn't it? The one I shared will only scan through a certain number of pages, so if you have a really large blog you might need a different site. They are easy to find with a bit of Googling though.

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  26. Great tips... exactly what I have been looking for. I am in the process of getting a blog started but really have no idea what direction I am going in yet! But I am taking a lot of notes along the way. Thanks for giving me somewhere to start!

    Katie

    Facebook.com/katiekelnterphotography

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    1. The best thing you can do is look at as many other blogs before you start your own. Then when you sit down to start designing your site you'll know what you like and don't like. Good Luck!

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  27. Cute!

    Just kidding! ;) I definitely agree with you on that one {number 16}! And numbers 5 and 6 are music to my ears. I'll take quality over quantity any day! It's so refreshing to hear {or see} another blogger say that. I've been blogging a little less than a year, and have finally been able to let the pressure of posting go. I feel free as a bird! :)

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    1. There's nothing worse than blogging because you feel like you "have" to. It's much more fun to work on amazing projects and feel like you "need" to share your awesomeness! Amazing photographs btw!

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  28. These are such great tips! As a pretty new blogger (well, new to taking it seriously anyway), I am so glad I found this post. I wouldn't have thought of several of these, and I want to print it out and stick it to the bulletin at my desk, right in front of my face! Thank you for the great insight.

    Oh, and I found you at the linkup at Ladybird Ln. :-)

    www.noodlesandnuggets.com

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    1. I love the "new to taking it seriously". That describes me perfectly too! Glad I could help.

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  29. I've been blogging for years and you did a fine job covering all the bases. Well done.

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  30. This is a fabulous post. Thank you so much for this. It is good to take a look at what I am doing it, why I am doing it and see what I can do to improve. I appreciate you words of advice! I'm glad I found you! Krista @ A Handful of Everything

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  31. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. I've been blogging for a few years but still have much to learn - I'll be referring to your list and helpful suggestions. This list has the most useful information in a concise form that I've yet seen.

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  32. Great info. I have been blogging for almost a year and sometimes feel like I still don't know what I am doing. It is good to hear that other bloggers feel the same way I do sometimes. Thanks for the info.

    http://www.ifitsnotbaroquedesignblog.blogspot.com

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    1. You definitely aren't the only one. I'm not sure that I ever know what I'm doing!

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  33. Great ideas! I am definitely going to work on a few of those ideas!

    Sarah

    http://lifewithleahy.blogspot.com

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  34. Thanks so much for sharing this. I've just started blogging and this list is a great resource!

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  35. Thank you for sharing this information. Glad to know about the broken link checker.

    We may have met by chance...but we become friends by choice.
    http://simpleesue.com/try-one-new-recipe-a-week-hamburger-and-baked-bean-casserole/

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  36. Thanks for all these tips. I just barely made my blog public and they are really helpful.

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  37. SUCH great tips! I wish I'd done #2 also. I kick myself ALL the time for not getting a more descriptive name. Thanks for sharing this at Monday Funday!

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  38. This is a good article. Thank you for sharing. I am pinning it.

    http://www.curiositaellya.blogspot.com/

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  39. Thank you so much for this list, Toni! As a new blogger, this insight is like gold. I'm always trying to pick up any new info or tips that I can, so this was really, really helpful. I found you at Crafty Confessions-- thanks for sharing!

    ~Abby =)

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  40. Hi Toni, Thanks for all of the insights. I was wondering how you get the signature at the end of your post. Sonja @ practical-stewardship.com

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  41. Seriously awesome tips! Thanks so much!

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  42. Thanks for sharing your experiences about blogging. I am definitely going to check out the “Broken Link Checker”, I had no idea that website even existed. Thanks Again! ;o)

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  43. Such good advice! Thank you. I am checking for broken links right now. Pinning!

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  44. Great list. I like the practicality of your suggestions.

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  45. Hey Toni, That is a great list, what a lot of thoughts in one post! Very helpful and down to earth, I wish I woul have done more research when I started blogging!

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  46. Hey Toni! I found you link on Sugar Bee Crafts today! I really love all this info..some of it I already knew but there is always something more I can discover (which is why I LOVE blogging!) Thanks so much for the info! Come by Home | Styled anytime and follow me if you see something you like!
    www.home-styled.blogspot.com

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  47. Great tips! I have been doing this for a while and there are always new things to learn ;) In fact, I am pretty sure I have that "no reply" thing going on...

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  48. Great advice! Thanks so much for sharing! :)

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  49. Great points.

    In #6, you touched on "Know your Niche". I don't write about crafts or baking because I can't do either very well. Funny enough, I DO blog about unclogging my toilet. At least I think it's funny and like you said (#25) you gotta love it :)

    New follower via Twitter (https://twitter.com/zoojourneys) and Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/journeyofthezoo). Having problems adding you to Google+ (https://plus.google.com/117146120519608211142/posts, my new love).

    Besos, Sarah
    Blogger at Journeys of The Zoo
    journeysofthezoo at hotmail dot com


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    1. Oh Sarah, this made me giggle. I knew right away that you must have toddlers!

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  50. These are great tips! So pinning!  I'd  love to have you link this to Titus 2 Tuesday this week on Cornerstone Confessions.. I hope to see you there. 
    Kathy

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  51. I love those tips because they are basics that happen to many bloggers. I know that I am guilty of sometimes wanting to stay on the computer working on posts instead of going out with the kids! Winter time is a good time for me to get a few extra posts and projects done so I can use them for those summer days when I need a good post, but need to be outside!

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    1. That's a great idea Marie! I wish I got more done during those days that we are locked inside, but the kids usually seem to be under foot all. day. long! lol

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  52. I am still new to the blogging world, and this helps so much!
    Thanks!

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  53. Although I've been blogging privately for friends and family for eight years, I've only been really serious about blogging for less than 2 years. It's been a steep learning curve and I wish that I had known some of these things when I was getting started too. Blogging is a lot of work but I love what it has brought into my life, especially the blogging friends, some of whom have become friends in real life too! Thanks for your article...I am pinning it in the hopes that newer bloggers will find it and not repeat some of the early mistakes I made!

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  54. GREAT ARTICLE!!! Thanks for sharing. I just started a new craft blog at NightOwlCorner.com and you have so many good tips. I definitely need to narrow down my link party participation before it gets out of control.

    Linda

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  55. This article was extremly helpful. As a new blogger there were many things I didn't know that I should be doing. Thanks for the helpful hints.
    Would love for you stop by my blog anytime.
    mommy-on-demand.blogspot.com

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  56. Thanks for this list! #24 really struck a nerve as I have been feeling like that for a couple weeks now. Maybe I just need a break. :)

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  57. What a great post! I will definitely be referencing back to his. I am sure this will be a huge help for new (and old) bloggers!

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  58. I needed this list today. I started a blog for lent and lost my way, but I am back at it and I really do love having the writing outlet. Wish though I would have thought of a better name ;)
    eatingmywaythrulife.blogspot.com

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  59. A great list, thanks, it helps me – just a newbie to blogging. Now I know where to start in some respects. It can be disheartening when lots of time is spent on making blog posts, not to mention creating the crafts, to get a grand total of 2 hits in a day. I bought an e-book that actually said to make 2 posts per day for the first 2 months! That's overwhelming, but 2 per week sounds much more doable.

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    1. 2 posts a day?! Sorry, but I'd much rather have a life. I've always heard that posting too often is as bad as too infrequently. If you posted twice a day everyday, I'd feel completely overwhelmed, like I could never even keep up with your projects let alone my own!

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  60. Good post! I learned being myself (which was scary and did turn a few people away) has made me more friends and opened more doors than censoring myself and being someone I'm not. My blog finally feels like "home"... I'm sure you know what I mean :) A real portrait of who I am!

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  61. Thanks so much for posting these. I've just started my blog, and these are excellent tips. I need to work on my comments and links. =]

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  62. I found your tips really great! I wish I would have know them when I started. I did not know about the internal link! So see you learn something new every day!

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  63. Thank you for sharing! I'v been blogging for a few years now and I've been hoping to be more successful this year. I stink at "making friends"! This might just help. Thanks
    getyourcraptogether.blogspot.com

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    1. I know exactly what you mean! I'm a pretty shy blogger. (you know, for someone who shares their life on the internet ;D) It really helps me to just focus on one person at a time. Choose a blog you love and focus on connecting with that writer. Then once you feel like you guys are pretty solid move on to another person. I know it's much slower than commenting on as many people as you can, but it works better for me.

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  64. Great post!
    Clear, concise and to the point!
    I only found out about internal links recently....Even though, in hindsight, it's just common sense....

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    1. Thanks! I felt that way about many of these. All of a sudden you smack your self in the head and think "Well Duh, That makes sense!"

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  65. Just wanted to say thanks for this no-nonsense help. I have read this post several times. I keep working on one thing at a time. I am terrified I am a no-reply blogger, though. Would you mind letting me know? I will subscribe to the comments so that if I am you can just notify me here. Thanks a bunch, Amy

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  66. Oops-- didn't leave my email just in case... amyepatton@comcast.net

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  67. thanks tony, it's all that I try to find. I interested to start blogging. nice share

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  68. I'm sorry about wrong spelling of your name, Toni.

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  69. Thank you so much Toni, this is exactly what I needed to read right now, especially the part about the numbers, Im slightly obsessed with that right now. After thinking about a blog for a number of years Ive finally just started my craft blog, EskdaleGifts.blogspot and Im still working thinks out

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  70. Thank you for this wonderful insight! I found this on Pinterest and thought that sounds exactly like something I should know. I've recently been thinking of starting a blog and you've provided information that is great to know before jumping in with both feet and never looking back :)

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    1. You're very welcome Nikky! I'm actually working on a "25 MORE things" post right now, so be sure to follow along or stop back soon for even more blogging tips!

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  71. This is totally awesome post and made me wonder if I REALLY want to start a blog and CONTINUE to do it or if I'm just bored! I guess I can take my time n reevaluate lol
    I adore ur blog and always look forward to new posts! U r as much to blame for me getting inspired as my boredom lol lets see how it goes!
    I wish wait for ur 25 more things post!
    Cheers!

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    1. That's so sweet! Thank you so much Kay! Blogging has definitely been a huge trial and error process for me, and it's always nice to know that someone is actually listening on the other end. Luckily as a blogger (unlike most "real jobs") if you get in over your head or just need to take a break, most everyone understands and supports you. I never hurts to give it a try! Good Luck!

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  72. I just started my blog today! :D I honestly wasn't even sure what my first post should be about, but I finally landed on just a personal life experience of moving from Florida to Texas and ending up living in an apartment. I feel like my blog was a bit more "rambling about nothing" than it should have been, but it's my first try! Thank you for posting things like this so people like me feel like they have a shot out there in the Blog-Universe! You're an inspiration!

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    1. Congratulations Brandy! Welcome to the blogging world! I'm pretty sure my whole first year was all "rambling about nothing". It takes a little while to find your writer's voice, and sometimes even longer to find something that you're passionate about writing. Good Luck!

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