blogging wisdom

Blogging-Wisdom

I’m still a pretty new blogger myself, but thought I’d share some of the blogging tips and resources that I’ve picked up along the way. I’m all about encouraging others to hop on this blogging thing, and if even one person finds something on this list helpful, I’ll be happy. 

{Domain Name}
I’m a firm believer in the importance of a real-deal domain name. Mine brings me a sense of legitimacy and ownership way more valuable than the $10 a year (sometimes even cheaper if you find a coupon) that I have to pay to keep it up. If you haven’t already, you’ll be much happier once you’ve dropped the .wordpress or .blogspot from your web address. Believe me. So pull the trigger and go! Check out GoDaddy to see if your dream domain is available.

{Hosting}
Once you have your domain name, the next step is hosting. Hosting your site will give you more stylistic freedom. I use Just Host for my hosting needs. It’s nothing fancy, but I like it because the WordPress setup takes only a few steps, it’s cheap and doesn’t compromise on customer service. If I ever get a bigger following (fingers crossed), I might need to switch to something else, but Just Host is great for now. They’re constantly offering special deals, so make sure you check RetailMeNot for coupon codes before you purchase anything.

{Design}
I’m a big proponent of a custom design too. If you like what you see here, you can thank my dear friend Megan Reddish for her stellar design skills.

Megan is a designer by trade, a really great one, but web development and programming are not her fortes. One can only be excellent at so many things. So I took her hard work and found a developer over on Etsy to install the theme to WordPress. If you prefer a one-stop-shop, there are plenty of Etsiers out there who offer custom design and development packages. I just knew that Megan would give me her best work and went with her even if it did end up costing me a little more. Money well spent.

{Suggested Reading}
If blogging is something that really interests you, I highly recommend Blog, Inc. It’s a blog how-to book written by the incredibly talented Joy Cho from the Oh Joy! blog, a personal favorite of mine. The book covers all the basics on how to get started, and includes dozens of interviews with seasoned bloggers. I love this book so much that I’ve bought it six times and counting. Once for me and five times for friends. I firmly believe blogging is the answer to all of our problems. 

The last bit of reading I’m going to recommend for now is Pinch of Yum. Not only is it one of the best written and best photographed food blogs out there, but its writer Lindsey and her husband Bjork are true advocates for budding young bloggers. They’ve got all kinds of helpful resources, offer great insights into the business of blogging with their monthly traffic and income reports, and you can sign up for their weekly blogging tips email. It’s a lifesaver. 

{Recipe Sharing Sites}
As with all beginner blogging, the biggest challenge is always traffic. Luckily for us food bloggers, there are plenty of curated recipe galleries out there to cater to our food-porn needs. So many. We’re an obsessive bunch aren’t we?

I regularly submit my recipe posts to the sites listed below. They’re great for driving traffic and are great places to draw inspiration from. 

  • Foodgawker – Hands down the best for driving traffic. It also happens to be the most selective. My heart sinks every time I read an “Unfortunately, “XX” was not accepted” email. I need to step up my photo game. 
  • Tastespotting – Another one of the recipe-aggregator greats
  • CookieHound – Just for cookies, CookieHound is a newer recipe site. They’re great about tweeting out new additions to their page and will even include shoutouts to the authors.
  • Others: TasteologieSerious Eats, & FoodEpix

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty more options like the ones on this list here. I’ll be adding a few of these to my usual routine. 

{Wordpress Plugins}
WordPress is an incredible thing, and I am so very grateful for the crazy smart developers who make it possible. It’s thanks to their hard work that a html-clueless girl like me can operate a functional website.

I’ve added a dozen or so plugins to my dashboard. I’ll get to all of them eventually, but here are some of the standouts:

  • Akismet – New to blogging? This is the first plugin you should install. It won’t make your page pretty the way an Instagram widget will, but it’s a real lifesaver that will keep your blog clean of spam. You won’t believe the flood of junk comments you’ll have to field without it.
  • Limit Login Attempts – I picked this one up from the good people over at Pinch of Yum. As advertised, the plugin limits the number of tries that someone can take logging into your site. Better safe than sorry.
  • Optimize Data After Deleting Revisions – Every time you upload a new photo, and every time you hit the ‘Save’ or ‘Update’ buttons in WordPress, you’re creating yet another piece of internet evidence that slows down your site. This widget helps delete some of those old revisions to restore some much needed speed. It’s easy to install, customizable and works great on auto-pilot so you can keep your blog slim without lifting a finger. 
  • Instagram for WordPress – Anyone with an Instagram account should add this widget to their sidebar, because it’s just about the easiest way to add a little bit of flair to your site. Follow the easy step-by-step instructions for linking your profile, pick a size for the display, number of latest photos to rotate through, picture duration, and you’ll be good to go.
  • Related Posts Thumbnails – Once you get a reader to your blog, the next challenge is getting them to stay. For that I rely on the Related Posts Thumbnails plugin. Organized by tags, the plugin takes out all of the guesswork and displays relevant posts for you. Like these fried pickle chips? Perhaps you’ll like these fried risotto balls too. Bonus: plenty of different ways to customize the plugin to work for you.
  • Recipe Card – Recipe Card is what I use to display my recipes. There are so many other options out there, but this one worked best for my aesthetic, because the look is fully customizable. The best part is it requires absolutely no knowledge of coding, and with all of the different fonts, layouts and color options the possibilities are endless.

{Custom Sidebar Buttons}
If you take a look at my sidebar, you’ll notice clickable images that will take you to my Bloglovin’, Vimeo, and this very own Blogging Wisdom page. If you’re an avid blog reader, you’ve probably also noticed the standard Bloglovin’ button all over the place and how very boring and generic it is. If you’d like to create your own pretty sidebar buttons, I recommend using the Text Widget which comes standard on your Widgets page. Here’s how you do it.

  • To start, go to Appearance > Widgets and add the Text Widget to your sidebar placing it wherever you like.
  • Copy in the following text: <a href=”DESIREDLINKTOPAGEEURL“target=”_self”><img src=”IMAGEURL“></a> 
  • Next, save your desired image to the width of your sidebar and upload it to your Media Library like you would any picture.
  • Then, go into your Media Library, click on the image and copy the File URL.
  • Paste that link into the Text Widget box, replacing the IMAGEURL placeholder text.
  • Replace DESIREDLINKTOPAGEEURL with the URL of where you’d like that image to direct to.
  • Set the target to “_self” if you want the page to load within the same tab, or “blank” if you’d like the link to open in a new page.
  • Hit the Save button and you should have your own customized sidebar button.

And a few extra thoughts:

  • Upload pictures to full width of posts – This seems to be the “industry” standard. Blogs are a very visual medium and look best when pictures and text align. Plus, if you’re taking nice pictures, show them off! If your pictures aren’t taking up the full width, consider testing it out and see the difference for yourself.
  • Remove hyperlinks from pictures – We humans like to click things. So when presented with the option of the little white hand, chances are we’ll take the click. One of my pet peeves is when the click leads to nothing but the picture. Who needs it? So if you can avoid it, remove hyperlinks from pictures as they often upload with the link as the default. This avoids any unnecessary hitting of the ‘back’ button. 
  • Link to post in first picture – Another tip on that note, do make sure you link the first picture of any post to the post itself. Since I participate in the “read more,” “after the jump” style of blogging, I like to make the first picture of each post clickable to give readers more options to see the full post. 
  • Schedule your tweets in advance – I have a pathetically small number of Twitter followers, but I keep up with the daily post tweeting, because it’s just one of those things that you’re supposed to do in this day and age. For scheduling my tweets in advance, I use Bitly to shorten my links and track click-throughs, and use Tweetdeck to schedule. They say the afternoons are best for tweeting. Set it and forget it. 

I hope you’ve found this to be somewhat helpful. Check back again soon.