The Next Eight Days…
I must confess I have fallen a little behind on the SITS 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Challenge (and I know I’m not the only one!) It is hard sometimes to find the time AND the energy AND the motivation to keep on going with the daily tasks.
But I am determined to finish the challenge and have a better understanding of blogging and a better blog to show for it! So here’s what I have done over days 9 – 16 of the challenge. You can read my re-cap of days 1 – 8 here.
Day 9 – Join a Forum and Start Participating
I am already a member of a few forums so I tried to be a bit more active on them for this challenge. Apart from SITS, I love Digital Parents Australia which is a fantastic resource for new bloggers like me and a place to ask any questions you may have about blogging.
One of the more interesting discussions I have been following there recently is the blogging for love vs blogging for money debate. I don’t go out and seek sponsorship or advertising at the moment because I am still establishing my blog and trying to gain a loyal readership and, to be honest, I’m still not sure I want to go down that road.
However reading this discussion on the forum (and contributing a comment myself) has helped me better understand this debate and will hopefully allow me to make the right decision for my blog when the time comes.
Day 10 – Set Up Alerts to Monitor What is Happening in your Niche
I had not even heard of alerts before Day 10 so this turned out to be quite an intriguing task for me. I ended up setting up 4 alerts through Google Alerts – one for autism, albinism, blog tips and one to monitor mentions of My Home Truths.
So far, I have received the alerts on a daily basis and have found some great sites to visit, mainly for my interest in autism and albinism. My site has even been mentioned a few times – yay! It will be interesting to see how much use I get out of these alerts in the long-term but I am planning on setting up a few more as I continue to refine the focus of my blog.
Day 11 – Come up with 10 Post Ideas
This exercise was to help you think about existing posts you had written and how you could expand on them and create ideas for new posts. There were a few links to mind-mapping tools (which I looked at but didn’t use) and it was quite fascinating to see how far you could take this alternate way of thinking.
I didn’t embrace the mind-mapping as I had trouble getting the programs to work on my iPad and, to be honest, I didn’t feel I needed to find more post ideas. I usually have at least 10 ideas in reserve for potential posts, but I don’t always get to these as I often get fresh ideas that I find far easier to write about – so in other words, I haven’t hit a time yet when I’ve been scratching around for ideas.
Day 12 – Develop an Editorial Calendar for Your Blog
Day 12 was all about taking the ideas you came up with the day before and developing a schedule for writing and publishing them. I found this task surprisingly hard. As I wrote above I often have heaps of ideas floating about in my brain and inspiration can come anywhere, anytime. I don’t post everyday – I can’t, I work 4 days a week and have family and social commitments that just don’t allow me the time to post on a daily basis.
I am aiming for getting out 3 posts a week but I can’t guarantee this will happen or that they will happen on a set day. So, while I have not followed through with this task yet, I will revisit it when I have a more set blogging routine and when I get around to working out how my WordPress Editorial Calendar plug-in works!
Day 13 – Take a Trip to the Mall and Improve Your Blog
I know the idea sounds crazy but Day 13 was all about leaving the computer and going out IRL (like OMG!). The point of the exercise was to find inspiration for your blog and to analyse what other people were doing there, who they were with, what they were buying, what the retailers were doing to advertise their products and what was working/not working.
I somehow convinced my husband to come to Ikea with me (we have never been and he has never been keen to go – read this for the details!) and we spent a few hours salivating over flatpacks and watching how other customers were going about their shopping.
I got a few ideas from visiting Ikea. The main one was how to guide new visitors to my blog to look at everything (old posts, special interest pages, etc) just like Ikea guides all their customers through all the departments of the store. Not sure how I can practically make this happen on the blog but I think it is certainly something to consider! I also enjoyed a yummy Thai lunch and a kid-free day out with my husband, but that’s not the point of this task…
Day 14 – Update a Key Page on Your Blog
This task centred on reviewing key pages on your blog (i.e. About page, Contact page, etc.) and improving them, making them pop and get your blog visitors to come back for more. I concentrated on these 2 pages for this task. I adjusted my About page to make the headings bolder, changing a bit of the wording and generally giving it a bit of spruce up.
I did a bit more work on the Contact page as I realised I didn’t have my Twitter details on there and it seemed a bit bland. I re-worded the welcome, made it easier for people to find various ways to contact me and also added a reminder that visitors could subscribe by email so they don’t miss a post. I think it works far better now but please feel free to check out each page and provide more feedback – I am beginning to realise that the task of improving and refining will be forever ongoing…
Day 15 – Find a Blog Buddy
We all know all those cheesy proverbs about many hands making light work and two heads are better than one, etc, etc. Well, cheesy as they are, they are true. There are many advantages to working together as bloggers – getting valuable feedback on posts before publishing, sharing link love, guest posting opportunities and shared motivation. I don’t have an official blog buddy in my niche but my husband, Nathan, fills that role for me.
Nathan blogs at nathanrussell.net and has helped me on numerous occasions to find plug-ins, help install widgets and generally guide me through the world of blogging. Check him out, he’s cool (and I’m not just saying that because he’s my husband!). He also has a facebook page, so show him some like love while you’re at it!
Day 16 – Solve a Problem: Identify 7 Ways to Solve Readers’ Problems
I know that I have solved my own problems on many occasions on my blog but I haven’t gone out of my way to look for questions in search referrals, analyse internal searches, ask readers for questions, look for problems on other sites, use social media to gather questions or ask friends and family.
So guess what I’ve been doing lately? I’ve been analysing the results from Google Analytics to see what is bringing people to my site. I have been active in forums seeing what the hot topics are right now. I’ve been re-reading comments to previous posts to see what resonated with my readers. And I have been stalking Twitter and Facebook, asking questions and “tweavesdropping” on conversations. No wonder I have fallen behind in this challenge!
I have come to the realisation that my most well-received posts are those on albinism and autism so I will be looking closer at these topics to see what else I can add. My son is currently preparing to transition from a special education setting to a mainstream class so I intend to write a series of posts on his progress throughout the transition with some tips on how to navigate the education system.
I also want to talk about his visual challenges and items that we have found to help him along (for instance, my iPad has been amazing for him).
So, that has been my experience of Days 9 – 16 of the SITS 31DBBB Challenge – I will keep you updated on the next 8 days, once I catch up some more and pry myself away from Facebook and Twitter!