Blogging 101 Life & Love

4 Things I Did to Change & Grow My Blog

Hello my little honey bees! Happy Thursday to each and every one of you.  {Friday is around the corner, can’t you feel it?!} I had a great time yesterday posting about Google Analytics, with such wonderful feedback that I can’t wait to do another post for you.  Be on the lookout, probably early next week!

My blog’s first birthday is coming up next month, which has me feeling very sentimental going through previous posts and such.  But before I move any further, I do have to note that it really isn’t my blog’s first birthday.  I’ve been blogging since 2009 but I was hacked August 2012 and everything was lost.  Everything.  Pre-wedding posts, meeting Neal posts, travel posts… all gone in a blink of an eye.  It was devastating and I had to start all over from scratch.  {That alone should scare you enough to backup and backup often.}

So my new blog’s birthday is August, meaning I have been thinking about the journey I have taken in blogging over the past year and where it has taken me.  {Should I wait to share these insights until my blog’s actual birthday month? Probably, but I get really excited sometimes and can’t wait.  Besides, I like to bend the rules every once in a while.}  Sounds silly to any non-blogger out there, my blog has given me more in the past year than I could have ever imagined.  And it is constantly evolving and changing, as a creative space which is a challenge that I am hoping to meet.

In one year, four factors happened to change and grow my blog to an entirely new place.  A space I am proud of and happy of and that I completely cherish. Ready? Here we go:

#1: I Stopped Worrying About What Everyone Thought & Started Being Honest

I can pinpoint the moment {the actual post} when my blog completely changed.  It was the post “An Honest Expat Moment” where I revealed that up to that point, I had been essentially lying to my readers about how adjusted and happy I was feeling as an expat.  That was the moment and that was the post, when I resolved to never do that again.

Before that post, I was writing happy go lucky posts about life in the UK.  I never talked about being homesick to the point where I didn’t want to get out of bed.  I never talked about feeling lonely or disconnected from family and friends back home.  I didn’t write about that, because I didn’t want for my “real life” people to worry about me.  Well, keep it bottled inside wasn’t helping either…

Lesson Learned: The minute I began be honest and write in my true voice, my blog opened up as my space rather than being for someone else.  To me, that is more powerful beyond words.

 #2: I Stopped Comparing and Started Networking

I will admit it, for the longest time the only blog I read was my own.  {I cringe even as I type that.}  I just didn’t understand the idea of networking with fellow bloggers.  What was the point? What was the benefit?  I just didn’t get it.  But at the same time, I was comparing my readership stats to those bloggers saying, “If they can grow their blog to those amazing readership numbers, then why can’t I?”  I got irritated, and felt as if I was standing in a big crowded room shouting, “Hello!! Here I am! I have this little blog in Wales!”

And then, I came across Chelsea’s expat perspective series through Rachel {two of my fave blogs} and I was too tempted not to ask to be included.  Would she say yes? Would I be laughed at? Just the opposite.  Chelsea welcomed me with open arms, posted my story and from that point I was hooked.  I began swapping buttons with bloggers, volunteered for guest posts and commented where/when I could.

Now, I love, love, love working with other bloggers. I love collaborating and networking, the relationship building side to blogging has been inspiring and motivating.

Lesson Learned:  Blogging is a creative and supportive community.  No matter how big of a blogger you are, networking with fellow bloggers is good karma, builds relationships and adds tremendous value to your experience.  I wish I learned this lesson sooner.

{Sidenote: Feel free to e-mail me belinda@foundlovenowwhat.com if you have a collaborative project you’d like me to be a part of.  I’d love to help if I can!}

#3: I Started Investing in My Blog

Blogging is one of my biggest hobbies, along with travel and photography.  With travel or photography,  I don’t hesitate to buy a new SD card or a guide book for a trip since it is an investment.  Then why-oh-why, did I look at blogging differently? Thinking about it, I believe it is because blogging is not a tangible hobby, you can’t touch a great design or hold a sponsored ad in your hand.

As I mentioned above, I began swapping buttons in January and I started purchasing sponsorships in March.  I was very careful about where I had sponsored ads {and I still am} but I had unrealistic expectations to start with.  How much traffic can you really expect for sitting on a sidebar for 30 days? I was expected a flood of new visitors from various sponsorships, and it never happened.  Again, I was a bit frustrated {not at the blogs that I sponsored with} but frustrated in myself.  I needed to remember that it takes time to build a readership base, beyond 30 days, and it is worth the long-term investment.

{Tip from me to you: That’s why bundled packages are a great way to maintain visibility on a blog for a continued period of time.}

Lesson Learned:  Set a budget, with a little wiggle room {in case there is a great opportunity you can’t pass up} and sponsor with different blogs to test results.

#4: I Started to Take it Seriously

Before my “Honest Expat Post” I was writing inconsistently, without adding stories or content for my readers to sink their teeth into.  I would post a paragraph and a single image hoping that it would be enough… well, it isn’t. {Not in my opinion.}  The positive response from my honest expat post had me writing and sharing more, rather than holding back.  I began writing consistently, on topics that I cared about: being a new wife & expat, travel, life in Wales, photography and more.  I became more selective on the linkups I participate in, adjusting and testing as I went.  Keeping the linkups that engaged readers, and leaving the linkups that just created more work for me.

This goes hand in hand with the #3, about making an investment in your blog.  Sometimes we think an investment is only financial, but you also have to consider time.  I easily invest 20 hours per week on my blog. From writing posts, working with sponsors, replying to comments and e-mails and networking with bloggers… It is all an investment in my blog that I oh-so-cherish.

The minute that I started to take blogging seriously, I believe that my readers sat up, took notice and became engaged and involved with what I am about.

Lesson Learned: When you are committed to your blog, your readers will be too.

Whew. What are your thoughts on this? Did you discover any ah-ha moments while developing and growing your blog? I’d love to hear them!

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And now, let me introduce you to the fun and spunky Jordan from All the Small Things! She is new to the blogging world everyone, so let’s give her some little love! To get know her even better, here are some of her fave posts:

Here are a few of my faves:

With that, take it away Jordan!

Hi! I’m Jordan, and I own the blog all the small things… I’m new to the blog world, so I’m still trying to figure out how the whole thing works! I write about my life, what I love, and my general pursuit of happiness in my life. I started my blog because I want to make some new friends and get to know other women, maybe even find some camaraderie with women who might be experiencing some of the same things I am! I love reading mysteries, drinking coffee with unhealthy amounts of flavored creamer, going out to dinner, watching movies, and spending time with my friends and family. I love drinking red wine, and I absolutely adore Marilyn Monroe.  I’d love to get to know you, so stop on over, say hi, and let’s be friends!

200x300 In the Cocoon image
Jordan, if you had to pick one place in your town to bring a tourist, where would you go? 

I live in a pretty blasé town in Minnesota, so there’s not a lot of interesting places to go here. I’d probably take a visitor up to the Twin Cities, and wander around there. We’d go to the Sculpture Garden, and see the Spoon and Cherry sculpture. We’d visit the awesome fountain at Peavey Plaza (my favorite place in all of the Cities), and then grab a drink and go lawn bowling at Brit’s Pub.

Bloglovin’ // Twitter // Facebook

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  • Loved this Belinda! I loved that your “how to grow your blog” suggestions were totally about BLOGGING. Not the stats, numbers, whatever. Just about loving your hobby and doing it with your whole heart. Awesome post! 🙂

    • FoundLove_Blog

      Hi lady! THANK YOU for your sweet comment! I started thinking about how I adjusted my outlook to blogging and like you said… now doing it with my whole heart. It is great! Just wan to pass that along to others!

  • gladleynet

    Your first point is so true, especially for expat bloggers. I too shied away from admitting that I was horribly homesick to my ‘real life’ friends for fear that it would burst their idea of me running off into the sunset to be happy with my American husband. It’s strange that I didn’t want to disappoint them!

    • FoundLove_Blog

      I found that part to be so tricky, because it is what you want to write about the most, but you are held back because of what everyone back home will think. I was so worried about making other worried that it stressed me out!

  • Megan

    What a great post, Belinda! I’m definitely bookmarking for use later.

    • FoundLove_Blog

      Thanks Megan! I hope some of my tips can be helpful to other bloggers!

  • this is a fantastic post, Belinda! I love how honest it is. Thanks for sharing! Do you find blogging to be more fun since you’ve made these changes?

    • FoundLove_Blog

      Hi Nicole! You know what, yes it is more fun! I feel like I have more support and more of a community, rather than floating in the blogging world alone. Sure I have plenty to do with the blog, I still have places to take it and things to grown into, but I have found that it just gets better and better! =)

  • Casey

    Great post… you are totally right… blogging is an investment and making connections and investing financially is part of growing your blog. But I think the most important is that we love doing it, so at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter how many followers we have, it matters if we enjoy what we do and are true to who we are.

    • FoundLove_Blog

      Thanks Casey for your comment! When you look at blogging as an investment rather than something to do, it is a joy and it totally pays off. I am blown away by the connections I have made through blogging, all of the support and words of wisdom. Rather than a chore its an adventure!

  • Sarah Beth

    Loved this, I know I still struggle with the spending money part and that is mostly just to the fact that I am very financially stable right now, but if you want something to work then you have to work for it. Congrats on your almost-1 year blogiversary 🙂

    • FoundLove_Blog

      Sarah Beth,

      Thank you for your comment! Growing and adjusting your blog is a constant struggle a little bit of a tug of war. If you would like, e-mail me for my swap code and you can hang out on my sidebar for a month! {No strings attached!} 🙂

      • Sarah Beth

        E-mailing straight away! Thank you so much for the boost of help, my blog and I both greatly appreciate it 🙂

        • FoundLove_Blog

          No problem!! I am excited to have you on my sidebar!

  • Melanie Fontaine

    Such a great post! I have had my blog for a while now too, but it was only a couple of weeks ago that I started to realize that this was something that could really bring me a lot of joy and from that moment on, I began myself to throw into it. The biggest thing for me was to start getting more personal – I’ve also been afraid of opening myself up too much. I actually still am a bit, but the wonderful response I’ve received ever since I stopped worrying about what other people would be thinking, has really shown me that this is the way to go.

    Since then, I’ve started networking and while I haven’t received a huge boost in traffic, my blogging experience has become so much valuable because I’m actually making connections with people and that’s worth so much more than only having an increasing amount of random visits. It’s a circle: By making more connections with other bloggers/readers, I get super excited about blogging and want to keep on creating content that is interesting which in turn helps me connect to people more. And I’m excited to see how this will go on! 🙂

    Good luck with your blog – it’s honestly one of my favorites and I’m not lying when I’m saying that your blog is part of the reason for my ‘blogging revelation’! 🙂 Please keep on doing what you’re doing!

    xx
    Melanie

    • FoundLove_Blog

      Melanie,

      It’s comments like this that fill my blogging heart so much, I can’t begin to thank you for your kind words of support. And I will tell you, opening up emotionally is when your blog will open up to you. I have been so humbled by the response from fellow bloggers anytime I share an emotionally charged post, that as you mentioned I am motivated to share and write more. I am constantly inspired by my readers like you….

      Thank you!

      • Melanie Fontaine

        I’m so glad that I could make your blogging heart flutter! 🙂 Opening up personally is something I try to do not only on my blog, but especially when connecting to other people – strangely enough, these are things much easier communicated through writing for me… In a way, it’s easier to be personal online, but also scarier! 🙂

        • FoundLove_Blog

          Hi Melanie! You totally did….and gave me a little boost for finishing the week strong! Have a wonderful weekend!

  • That cringe-worthy moment you have? Yes. I’ve had it too! I’ve been trying to reach out and read as many blogs as I can…but I follow over 350 blogs on Bloglovin! Yikes!

    • FoundLove_Blog

      350 blogs? Holy smokes lady! I can’t imagine following that many blogs! Whew…

  • I am so inspired by you right now and mainly for reason 1. Luckily I had a bloggy mentor who gave me a heads up about things like networking etc so I managed to bypass those minefields. what I didn’t do though was give myself the freedom to write what I wanted. Every now and again I do open up a bit but then I get emotional responses (usually from my normally non-emotional mum) and I feel guilty and don’t do it again. I think, like you, I want to sugar coat my expat life so others don’t worry. I really opened up on a draft post yesterday about things I don’t miss about England (I wrote it as a bit of expat therapy) I haven’t published it yet but you have given me the inspiration to do so. I try to keep my blog up beat and cheerful because I think people wouldn’t read it otherwise but you are so right I am not being honest to them or me. Since reading read your ‘honest expat post’ I am getting sentences popping into my brain for a similar post of my own. I’m off to write, Thank you, Thank you Thank you 😀

    • FoundLove_Blog

      Your comment is a perfect example for why I blog. I am so humbled by the idea that this little blogger can inspire another blogger, thank you for telling me your story. It is scary sharing and opening up on such a public space…. but when you do you will find support and an accepting community. Go on and write lady!! I cannot wait to read what is on your expat mind!!

      Thank you again for all your support, I truly appreciate my readers like yourself….

  • I love this post and thank you for writing it! I always enjoy reading about how bloggers grew their blogs. I find it so interesting because everyone has a different experience. I find it scary to open up on your blog and I feel like with more blog experience and life experiences, it’ll come a little more naturally. I really like when bloggers express their feelings because you’re able to identify with them better. You know that you’re not the only one going through certain things. Another thing I find scary is networking! Ah! In person or online, it takes a lot for me to approach a person. Sending an email can be a scary thing, especially if it’s something to just say hi and that I want to be friends haha. I feel like that that is really weird. Actually, one of the reasons why I started a blog was to meet more people with the same interests as me, so I should step outside my comfort zone and network!

    • FoundLove_Blog

      Hello Mallory! Good to hear from you! I am blown away by the response of this post… this little blogger sharing her thoughts on making it in the blogger world. Once you get past the first initial set of fears, opening up on your blog {really opening up} is a turning point. I hope you can find your way to being open on your blog in your own time. Networking is a scary idea too, but it pays off…ten fold! Most of the time, actually all of the time, I have had amazingly positive feedback from fellow bloggers! Let me know if you would like the swap code for my free sidebar ad space, Fish & Chips. I’d love to have you hangout on my blog for a bit and start networking! =)

  • Katelyn Brown

    This post is really helpful! These tips are going to be so useful for the future of my blog and blogging! Thanks for the share and being so real. It sure can be frustrating trying to build my blog, but it’s so true that I really need to start to take it seriously and invest in it 🙂

    • FoundLove_Blog

      Hi Katelyn,

      Thank you for your comment! I am glad some of my perspective and thoughts on growing a blog can be helpful! Once you start investing, it begins paying off in ten fold. Let me know if you would like to have the code for my free sidebar space to get you started with swapping and sponsoring! I’d love to have you!

  • awe i’m so glad that you reached out! otherwise i wouldn’t have been able to get know know such an awesome fellow expat! i loved being able to put your story up on my blog. and i think that’s the best way to really get out there and get connected. we have all had to take risks and reach out to people. sometimes it doesn’t work but when it does, it’s so amazing!

    • FoundLove_Blog

      I am so glad I reached out to you! It was the launch of networking and connecting with amazing bloggers like yourself! I totally agree with you and taking risks, because you never know how things will develop. It’s great building a blogging relationship that turn into blogging friendships!

  • These are AWESOME tips and you are so right about honesty being the key to making your blog truly YOUR space, and great advise on the investment/networking aspect of blogging. Blogging is all about the community and if you aren’t in it then blogging alone can be a lonely and frustrating experience.

    • FoundLove_Blog

      Hi Crystal!

      This was a post that had been brewing in my head for quite sometime and just threw these thoughts into the blogging world. I love how it has been received by fellow bloggers. The minute I started writing and blogging for myself is the minute it opened up to me… and the community came along. I am so happy I am the adjustments that I did to grow to where I am…and will be!

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  • FoundLove_Blog

    Hi Yaya! Always good to hear from you! =) I am going to give you the same advice: write as if no one is going to read it. {Just like the saying “Dance like no one is watching”} When you let you heart take over in the writing, rather than your head, you write more honestly and more openly. I 100% agree with you that it is a scary idea, but once you get past that hump.. your blog will open up to you in a totally new way!

  • Here from A Compass Rose. What great tips to grow your blog. I especially resonate with the networking part because I used to write and then expect people to show up on my blog. It wasn’t until I started cross-posting on BlogHer and joining Blog Hops that I got anyone reading and leaving comments. However, my big a-ha moment was when I started commenting on others’ blogs. I had always just been a reader but when I left that first comment, it was my ticket to more readers and better than that, genuine relationships with bloggers! I seriously can’t imagine leaving blogging now because I just want to stay connected with all those people.

  • Wow, I think I’ve said this before, but this is one of my favorite posts so far! I’m so glad I found you! I can relate to everything you’ve written here (except for getting hacked and losing everything, omg you poor thing!!!) But I think I’m still in the earlier processes (even though I’ve been blogging since 2006) of trying to discover what I want my blog to be, and how much I want to share there. I would love to be more open and honest, but I really need to sit down and think about my voice, style, etc. I need to carve out some time for that (as well as a blog re-design!) Thanks for all the advice girlie!

    • FoundLove_Blog

      I know… Gettting hacked was sort of like the worst moment for this blogger. It was sort of the worst… backing up is key there!

      Developing your voice can take time, I know that I am not done figuring it out myself! Making the adjustments and audits to the blog is a fun part of the process! {Time consuming, but fun!}

  • FoundLove_Blog

    You are welcome Erika! Thank you for your sweet comment! Each time I go to your blog I am always so impressed with the amount of original content you are writing! Well done… I think you have more blogging confidence that you realize! 😉

    • Aww, thanks Belinda! *blushes*

  • FoundLove_Blog

    So true! Networking can be a challenge, but worth it in the end!

  • FoundLove_Blog

    Yes! I love guest posts! When you can write a guest post, you are allowed to be exposed to a whole new base of readership which is awesome. Some bloggers offer guest posts when they are out of the blogging office or are part of sponsorships. The other great part of about guest posts? It helps your blog become more validated to Google as it as external links to your blog…. Good stuff all around!

  • FoundLove_Blog

    I completely agree with you! Look for the bright side to the positive and grow from the negative. Thank you for popping over to my blog and leaving a comment!

  • Carly Parrott

    I just love your blog first of all! But secondly, this is a great post for me since I’m still pretty new to this. I find it hard to be open and honest in general. But your post has inspired me to be more open an honest! So thank you 🙂

  • Kayli Schattner

    Loved this post- such great tips for a new blogger like me! And how do you back up a blog?? I seriously need to! You have officially scared me in!haha.

  • oh man I know I’m late to the party but I love this! the part that I’m having the most trouble with is where #3 and #4 intersect, which I guess could be summed up by “I started to create a strategy.” I know that I’ve run into problems when I’ve been like OH I NEED TO THROW MONEY AT THIS and then I ended up with an awful design or OH I NEED TO BLOG ABOUT THIS OR THIS EVERY DAY and then I ended up with posts that totally lacked inspiration or passion. I feel like it can be hard to strategize about your blog – especially for the long-term – when it’s not your job (and you don’t want it to be your job, which I don’t) while keeping it a hobby. Or is that just me?

  • FoundLove_Blog

    Hi Annalee,

    Thank you for your comment! I am glad that this post was helpful to you as you begin growing your blog! Having a blog takes commitment and consistency, but you get the investment back for sure!

    I have a post coming this week, about questions to ask when looking into sponsors. Hope that helps too!

  • Glad you included this post in your best of 2013 because I just found your blog! These are such great tips. I have been working on my goals for my blog going into 2014 and I need to be better at all 4 of these tips.

  • Thanks so much for this post! I’ve been following your blog for a few months now and stumbled upon this one earlier today – it’s made me believe that I can grow my blog too! I’ve been thinking about it for a few weeks now and this has kind of given me the kick in the butt that I CAN do it! Fingers crossed my blog grows just as much as yours has! Love your blog by the way!! Keep up the good work!

    Rachel xx

  • This is great. This was our first post of yours – we love meeting American expats mainly cuz we admire the lifestyle and see ourselves eventually settling abroad (we’ve studied abroad five times, so I mean, c’mon now…it’s pretty obvious what will happen!). We like the bit about investing in your blog. The day we finally decided to invest in our blog was the day our stats started booming. After all, if you want to become a blogger who gets paid, ya gotta spend money to make money! Happy to have found you! And Jordan!