Today marks the four year anniversary of Suzie Speaks.
Four years, 838 posts (if you don’t count the hundreds that I’ve deleted), a collective following of nearly 19,000 people, nearly 780,000 views, the biggest blogging hashtag of the weekend, an amazing Facebook group and three awards.
Since starting the blog I have quit my job, got engaged, gained a brother-in-law and gorgeous squidgy niece, travelled, attended events, reviewed everything from restaurants and cocktail bars to theatre shows, hotels and products, made a whole bunch of new friends and experienced things that I could only have dreamed of in what I consider to be my previous life. What an unbelievable journey.
The blog began as a simple online journal – an outlet to try and calm the stress and anxieties I was experiencing at the time. There were no expectations or dreams, just a desire to write. However, as my blogging knowledge grew, I found a community, started to develop promotional strategies, learned a great deal about social media and, as a result, now have a whole list of things that, if I could go back and start again (not that I would want to, mind you), I would do differently.
Of course, there are no specific rules and regulations when it comes to starting and marketing a blog. However, here are a few things that have learned in my time spent in the blogosphere.
1. Social media accounts are as important as your blog if you want to grow your traffic. It took me eighteen months to start my Twitter account, two years to develop my Facebook page, two-and-a-half years to start my Stumble Upon, three years to start a Pinterest page and only discovered Flipboard a few months ago. 75% of my views now come from social media and I always wonder how many views I missed out on.
2. Your blog name needs to be something that you like right from the beginning. In my eagerness to start writing, I hastily chose a name, Suzie81blog, which was my first name and the year I was born. Consequently, when I decided to purchase my own domain name a year later, I had to choose ‘Suzie Speaks’ so as not to confuse my followers. I hate it, but unless I want to completely rebrand then I’m stuck with it.
3. A niche is not necessary to be successful. A particular layout for your web design is not necessary to be successful. If you like it, stick with it and avoid comparing yourself to other blogs – half the blogs I’ve seen appear in the last year or so all look pretty much the same anyway. You can’t be anyone other than yourself.
4. A willingness to follow and interact with someone shouldn’t be based solely on numbers. A following doesn’t equate to views or quality eg. I’ve got only 4,000 people on my Pinterest page and yet have received 28,000 referrals from there since January, even with the massive changes that Pinterest have been making over the last few months. Are their posts actually worth reading? I’ve read posts that have been shared thousands of times that are utterly pointless and posts that have only been shared a few times that are brilliant. Do they reply to your comments, even if (like myself) it takes several days or even a week? Follow what you genuinely enjoy reading and be open to newcomers.
5. Blog envy is a waste of time. Try to avoid getting involved in the whole blog envy thing, which I appreciate is easier said than done. What other bloggers are doing is nothing to do with your own blogging journey. It’s your space – get your head down and create something that you’re proud of. Ultimately, remember that there is an audience for everything.
6. It’s important to be as polite and respectful as possible, but remember that you don’t owe anyone in the blogging community anything just because you have a blog. Of course, your posts are more likely to be shared if you regularly promote those of others, but you don’t have to (although, I would advise that if you join in a link-up you at least make a bit of an effort). Inevitably, bloggers will only show you what they want you to see and there are indeed those who aren’t as authentic in their activities as they claim to be. They will buy followers, use bots, spam your pages, repeatedly follow then unfollow (Instagram is THE WORST for this), make aggressive demands on others to share their stuff, steal ideas and in some cases, directly copy and paste posts from other blogs and claim them as their own. Ignore, block, report and then move on. Indeed, I’ve had people steal posts, leave nasty comments (note: insulting Justin Bieber is not a good idea), send nasty emails and passive aggressive messages when I haven’t followed them back or promoted them, or people who have requested interviews but then haven’t published it when I told them I wasn’t able to reblog them for a while because of my schedule. I made the mistake of challenging people on a few occasions and trust me, it’s not worth it. A large percentage of this is part of a massive numbers game and some genuinely get a kick out of confrontation – it’s not a fight you’re ever going to win.
7. The community – the RIGHT community for you – will be the best, most supportive group of people you will ever meet.
Blogging is the most exhilarating, exciting, time-consuming, frustrating and sometimes heartbreaking thing I’ve ever done. I’ve had sleepless nights when my stats have rocketed and more sleepless nights when they have tanked. I’ve experienced sometimes week-long periods of the dreaded bloggers block, followed by days where I can’t stop writing. Even four years later, I still get a huge buzz when I create a post that I’m genuinely proud of. I’ve met people in person from all over the world who have become trusted friends. And even better, I NEVER get bored – it’s gone from a passion to a profession and it has changed my life for the better in so many ways.
Thank you for all of your support – here’s to the next four!
You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog, and don’t forget to follow my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks, my Pinterest page http://www.pinterest.com/suzie81speaks and my Instagram page http://www.instagram.com/suzie81speaks