10 Steps to Take your Blog to the Next Level { Part II }

Are you ready to take your blog to the next level? Of course you are! That’s why you’ve been exhausting yourself by pouring over the successful blogs, asking all the questions in your Blogging Facebook Groups, digging through Google, and checking every nook & cranny of Pinterest, looking for that secret to a successful blog.

It seems that everyone wants to charge you for everything. Want to be an expert at Pinterest? That’ll be $57! Want to learn how to monetize your blog? I need $298 first! Want to join my Facebook & Pinterest mastermind groups? You can for the low, low cost of $964!

I just want to simplify this for you. Here’s everything I know about seriously improving a blog, for the price of free. If you haven’t already checked out Part I, do that here. Let’s get started!

Step 6: Find Beautiful Images & make the Perfect Pins for Pinterest

People are visual creatures! We love to see just as much as (if not more than) we love to read. That’s why we have photo centered social networks like Pinterest & Instagram that are so successful! Photo posts on social sites like Facebook & Twitter tend to do much better than those with only words. So obviously, your blog needs images!

Get them legally and morally

Do NOT grab random photos from google images, that is oftentimes illegal amd immoral, and it can cost you big time! Like this great blogger who made that silly little mistake herself, and it ended up costing her $7,500!

I like to source my photos from 3 different places

1) My own photo collection. I’m on the road 24/7- I might as well get some pictures!

2) PicJumbo. I’ve used this site the most I would say up until recently. I love the photo style, I love how the photos are totally free. However, the diversity in pictures is a little lacking. That’s the only drawback to this site!

3) Unsplash. This is my new favorite photo site! The diversity is awesome, the photos are huge (high quality), and I love the photo styles. Plus, it’s generated by a whole community of photographers, not just one guy! The photos are totally free to use, but it’s a super nice gesture to give credit to the free photographers whenever possible.

Use them in the right places, the right way

Your blog post needs to have at least one photo, called the header. This is what shows up on the front page of your blog’s site, and it’s sometimes what gets shared on social media too. Make sure it’s high quality and not small or grainy/pixelated!

If you have an informative or how-to post, do the thing you’re describing and take lots of high quality pictures! By high quality, I don’t necessarily mean “expensive camera” so much as I mean “well lit, clutter free, and without a crazy background”. ‘How-to’ type posts are one of the few where you should always provide your own photos!

Once your blog post is finished, you need to take your original header photo and make extra versions of it.

Instagram– a 1:1 ratio (square) photo. No text over your photo unless it’s a big deal (like you’re announcing a book, your blog is moving, etc). Share part of the blog post in the description, or even add the background information to the blog post. Leave the link in your bio, and tell your readers that. Post it on Instagram.

Twitter– 506×253 (a horizontal rectangle) photo. May or may not have text on the photo. Make sure your title is in the tweet at least. Add the link to the post in your tweet. Post it on twitter.

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Facebook– 1200×900 (a slightly vertical rectangle). May or may not have text on the photo, but if you do, make the text take up less than 20% of the photo. Make sure your title is in the post, and that you give a little bit of a teaser caption ( i.e., how to make $300 in 3 days). Add the link to the post in your update. If it’s a personal post or something you feel like your friends & family would like (I got a promotion, I bought a house, etc) post it to your personal profile. If not, only post it to your Facebook blog page or group.

Pinterest– this picture actually has to go in your blog post. I usually put mine at the bottom, but some people like to hide them in their HTML or even put them at the beginning of the post. This photo needs to be vertical, have the post title on the photo (and perhaps the caption as well), and it needs to be easy to read (I’m glaring at you, scrolly handwritten fonts). Copy the link to your blog post, and share it on Pinterest. Find your tall pin, and share it to your desired boards. Be sure you mess with the caption of the pin, it needs to have your title, your captions, and even some key words you can think of that people may search that’s relevant to your post.

Make Pretty Pins

So how do I make an attractive, clickable pin?

  • Make it tall! I like my pins to be at least 250×900, but that’s up to you really.
  • If you don’t already have a good way to make pins, use Canva. Even if you flip between a laptop, desktop, tablet, or smart phone- all your designs are saved there. You can log in online, or download the app. Best of all, you can do everything you need to with Canva for free.
  • Use easy to read fonts. If you want cursive, just make a keyword in that font, and make it a different color than the rest of your text.
  • Use partially transparent overlays over your photo, ands under your text. It makes your photo look refined, well thought out, and most importantly, easier to read.
  • Brand your pin! I normally like to put my logo & blog name at the bottom of a partially transparent overlay- but you can put yours anywhere. Some people like to “hide” it randomly in the photo, others like to put it near the title, and others put it at the top of the pin.

Step 7: Brand your Instagram & Pinterest

Instagram

You certainly don’t need to brand your Instagram, but it totally sets you apart from the competition! Brand it by making all your photos have something in common. Such as white space, a certain color, varying shades of a color, or even grids. I’ve tried a little bit of everything, if you’d like, browse through mine to see all my hits & misses when it comes to branding.

Currently, I’m trying to keep my center photos based on people & animals, while my sides are scenery.

In the past though, I’ve tried grids,

and even the Color Blue,

I just can’t pick a favorite! And even though I don’t have the right niche for it, I just love when people use whites & grays to brand themselves, like the beautiful Nadia Moore does so strikingly:

Pinterest

In my simple opinion, Pinterest is much easier to brand than Instagram. To brand, you need to do three main steps.

  1. Create a Blog Board. This board is strictly for your pins from your blog! Whatever your theme colors are, make your pins from those colors, consistently.
  2. Select Board Covers. Every board cover of yours should be themed and color coordinated. For instance, all of my pins have red in them, and so do all of my Board covers.  If you want to go a step beyond me however, you can make your own covers! For instance, your “cupcake” board cover has a white background and a pink font that simply reads “cupcakes”.
  3. Hide the irrelevant. If you blog about food and food alone for instance, you don’t want to have a board on house keeping messing up your niche. Don’t worry, you don’t have to delete your board with all the useful DIY toilet cleaner pins! Simply click on the board you want to hide, edit it, and then make it “secret”. Now only you can see it, and your readers will start seeing you as more composed and niche specific. Believe me, it does help too. I held off on this for as long as I could, but once I hid a lot of my non-niche boards, I really noticed a surge in followers! I went from getting a followed once a month, to ten times a week!
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Step 8: Promote your Blog (for free!)

Many of the top bloggers suggest the 80/20 rule when it comes to your time and promotion. 20% of your time should be dedicated to researching, writing, and preparing content. The other 80% should be pure promotion! If you’re unsure where to promote, it can be daunting &/or expensive! Don’t pay for ads, don’t pay for promotions, and don’t feel like you need to pay for courses- because you truly don’t need any of that stuff to be successful. Here are some of my favorite (FREE) places to promote my blog post after I hit publish.

  1. Facebook. Always on my blog business page, sometimes on my personal.
  2. Facebook promo/support groups. Not only do these temporarily boost your views, but they also are great ways to connect with similar bloggers to make longtime, worthwhile connections!
  3. Pinterest. Always on my “Diamonds N’ Denim” board, sometimes on other pertinent boards of mine, and sometimes on group collaboration boards.
  4. Instagram. I use my personal account, not a blogging business one- I’ve found that Instagram limits your posts as a business because they’re hoping you’ll pay to promote! Also, utilize relevant hashtags for optimal eyes on your post.
  5. Twitter. I post on my personal account, not because Twitter wants you to promote, but because my personal account is already well established and doing well.
  6. StumbleUpon. It’s a social media basically built for blogs and articles! Add your blog posts, but be sure to also upload other’s content too, otherwise you’ll be docked for being greedy.
  7. Quora. Quora is basically the yahoo answers of the 21st Century (sorry yahoo). Thoroughly answer questions relevant to your niche, and at the bottom, leave your blog link.
  8. The entire internet! Optimize your content to get picked up by search engines easier. Personally, I love YOAST SEO because it simplifies the process for me.

 

Step 9: Visually Improve your Posts

We’ve all visited an ugly website or two. Dark backgrounds, crazy colors, too small or too strange of fonts, or blocky text posts. To prevent those issues, follow these basic principles:

  • Use header text. If you’ll notice, all the steps in this post are larger than the actual body pieces of text. I do this because I know readers are pressed for time / easily bored / lazy readers. That’s okay! You just have to make the skimming process easier for them.
  • Add in bullet points, it’s a subtle organization thing that everyone really appreciates.
  • Use bold, italics, and the underlining features when necessary. It helps your main points be seen and digested easier, and it also contributes to easier skimming for your readers.
  • Make your paragraphs as succinct as possible. This one is difficult for me! Shorter paragraphs are easier on the eyes, and they contribute to additional white space, which on a blog is always great.
  • Break some grammar rules! Blogs are not your college papers, so you shouldn’t treat them like that. Write as you speak, start your sentences with ‘and’, ‘because’, ‘okay’, and ‘so’. You can’t use your voice if you’re trying to mimic the Longman Reader.
  • Also, try to make your sentences vary in length. Make some of them long, drawn out, and a full breath of air. Make others short. Have some of a medium length. It simply makes your blog read more natural. Your readers will definitely appreciate that as they read it in their heads!
  • Keep your blog posts at a minimum of 600 words. You can do less, but at that point you’re not giving out much information, and you’re making that skimming process really difficult for your readers. Truly, I don’t think there’s such thing as too long of a blog post. This one has over 2000 words.
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Step 10: Monetizing: Google Adsense, Amazon Affiliate, Merchandise/Creating your own products & Dropshipping

Now your blog is established, you’ve got a minimum of 50 blog posts, your blog is beautiful, you’re getting a little traffic, and you’re starting to feel confident in your hobby. You’re wanting to monetize. Here’s how to do that:

Google Adsense- puts advertisements on your blog posts. You get paid per click, or per thousands of visitors on your blog. If you want to do this option, see this guide.

Amazon Affiliate- if you mention a product, you can link to it on Amazon.com. If someone clicks that link and buys that product (or any product) within 48 hours of clicking your link, you make 4-6% commission of the total sale. So if they click your link and then buy $1000 camera, you can make $40-$60.  If they click and buy a $1 ink pen, you can make 4¢-6¢.

Drop Ship Merchandise- sell products you designed online, to people on your website through an outside company. Let’s say you design a tee shirt, hat, calendar, or coffee mug on a site like Merchify or Printify. You post a link for people to purchase your design. They purchase your item through the company, the printing company takes a portion of the sale to cover their costs/shipping, and they give you the remainder of the money for your cool design selling.

Sell your own product or service– Personally, I like this the best. I sell articles to other blogs, I build websites for other bloggers and small businesses, and I even sell my book on personal finance as an eBook, paperback, and an online course (that also comes with the eBook & paperback). I keep 100% of the profit in this scenario, and I like it that way!

Dropshipping- basically with this one, you find a great deal on a physical product from a wholesaler. You take that preduct, and ‘sell’ it on your own website, for 2-3 times its actual price. When someome places an order, you go to the wholesaler’s website, and place the order in your customer’s name and address. The product ships directly to your customer, and you make 100-200% profit off an item you never even touched. For the full guide on that, click here.

 

That’s it for me today! What advice would you have for other bloggers? Leave that in the comments section & be sure to leave your blog URL as well! Thanks for stopping in!