“I’ve decided I wanted to start a travel blog”. I received this text from a friend who was in Croatia and wanted to just inform me about this. What I heard: “Caroline, spring into action. Throw ALL your tips at her. Buy your favorite blog book and get it delivered to her through same day shipping. And ask her if her blog is live every day. And make sure she installs the right plugins and did she know how important page speed is?” I get carried away sometimes. Especially when people talk to me about blogging.

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Getting excited about blogging

I spoke to her again today and asked her how her blog was coming along. It’s been two weeks since she notified me of the idea and I thought I’d been fairly good about it. Turned out she’s still at the same spot as she was two weeks ago. The only progress she’s made, is that she made a list of some ideas, that she decided she wanted to have some blog posts in advance and she’s done research.

If she continues like that, she hasn’t even gone live by the time I reach 100k visitors a month.

I’m known to get enthusiastic way too fast, jump into things without thinking through all the possibilities, and just go with it. Some call it impulsive. I call it excitement. The blogging world excites me, and when people show interest in it, I always think they are as eager as I am to jump in. I definitely do not understand why my friend is chilling at the beach right now instead of writing some articles, but that’s because I am not at that point where she is anymore.

Yes, I said ‘not anymore’. Because there was a time, I would tell my spouse that I’d just ‘work on my blog later’ and later never happened. There were moments when I dreamed of my goals but did nothing to achieve them. When I let fear get the best of me, and I used the ‘no time’ excuse to no end.

You have time – it’s your priorities that you need to set straight

It’s a bold statement, I know. But you do have time for your blog. You choose to use your time differently. I sincerely hope you do not take this the wrong way and will flood me with comments about how I don’t know how it is to live your life, that you have a 40 hour or maybe even 60 hour work week, that you have a household to run, you have a toddler, or maybe multiple toddlers that never sleep, a spouse that demands attention and you also have that gym membership that you already never use. Oh, and you want to prep healthy meals, too. So, who am I to tell you you do have time?

I’m the same as you. If I want to, I never have time for anything. Because I’m so busy worrying about life, busy with my family, with my job here at Yoast, with my commute and the horrible traffic jams, the laundry that just stacks up, et cetera. To conclude: I’m very busy being busy.

But I want to fit my blog in my schedule as well. Because it’s important to me. I love to write and I love the blogging atmosphere. This means that, just as any other task I have to do in life, this needs to become a priority too. So, if you’re struggling with the ‘I have no time’ excuse, read up to see my answers to all of your excuses for not making time for your blog.

Excuse 1: It’s easy for you to say, you just write opinions, I write fact stated articles

You need to do research for each and every article you write. Whether it’s focus keyword research, audience research or a full on article research, because you happen to write about a very specific location in the middle of the Atlantic ocean that no one has ever visited yet, except for that one person you hate very much. Odds are, that if you want to write about it, you already know something. Write that article as if you know everything already, type it all out, and revise and do your research afterwards. If I want to make sure I don’t publish half-finished articles, I put my notes between brackets and in capitals. That means that when an article is in draft and I need to revisit something, I’ll write: [CHECK IF SMALL DESERTED ISLAND IN ATLANTIC OCEAN EXISTS]. I’ll leave this note here, because I didn’t check.

Excuse 2: I literally do not have time

You might say that, but if you text me about how busy you are and you continue to text for over an hour, that’s one or two articles you could’ve written. Two articles? That many? Yes. That many. If you have an idea for the blog post, set a timer for 25 minutes, also known as the Pomodoro technique, remove all distractions, tell everyone in your household to shut up for 25 minutes, and just type away. And if you don’t have 25 minutes, then take 15 minutes. And if you don’t have 15 minutes, tell your spouse you’re going to do the laundry. With your laptop and your research books and claim the load was just really heavy.
Dear husband, if you read this, this is not what I do. I might check my blog statistics during this time, though.

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Excuse 3: But I’m not good enough

See article: Why you should quit your blog now and also read up on How to kill that inner critic.

Excuse 4: My family doesn’t understand me

They might not. And they may think it’s strange that you have the ambition to reach thousands of people. And you might tell them that it’s their fault that you couldn’t write that article you wanted to write. But the moment you start to take your blog more seriously, your family will do too. After dinner, my husband will ask me: “So, what’s your planning tonight? Blogging?” And that stems from the fact that I spent a lot of weeks working on my blog every night after our toddler went to bed. When I used my spare time for my blog, other people started to realize I was serious about it. And of course, you may need to discuss this with your family if this means you need time on, for example, Saturday mornings to work on your blog without being disturbed.

Remember: no one will take you seriously if you don’t take it seriously yourself first.

Any other excuse

If you have any other excuse other than the three I mentioned above, then you might want to reconsider if you even want to blog. I don’t want you to quit, absolutely not. I’ll be your cheerleader if you need one. But if your blog is giving you this much stress and you keep finding excuses not to do it, then maybe it’s time to look at why you started at first.

My friend just proofread this blog post, and she wanted me to let you know that she did way more than I claimed. She also found a theme for her website. The next time we meet, she’ll probably hurl the book I gave her at my head.

Read more: Blogging: The ultimate guide »

The post Caroline’s Corner: How to make time for your blog when you have no time appeared first on Yoast.

I don’t know what the weather is like where you’re from, but we’re currently in the middle of a so-called heat wave. With temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius (or 86 degrees Fahrenheit), more people are found in pools and at their summer destinations. You might have the feeling that no one is online to read your blog post. Or perhaps you’re rather hanging out at the pool yourself. So why would you spend your summer blogging? And should you even be spending your time typing away? I don’t have the definite answer for you, but there are various things you could do this summer to still maintain a growing blog!

Keep posting as if the entire country isn’t at the beach

This is my plan for the summer: just keep posting as if it’s winter when everyone’s inside with their laptop or tablet surfing around. If your biggest competitors are currently on a summer blogging break, that means it’s easier for you to get the public’s attention. And if they do not read it now, they might read it later. So you can focus on writing evergreen posts, so you will rank higher in Google.

I’ll give you a quick peek into my planning. I’ve looked at my Google Search Console and found that a blog post I’ve written in March is getting a lot of clicks through Google since the summer began. How come? The blog post is about precision waxing. The blog post focuses on waxing your eyebrows, and I guess a lot of people apparently need this for summer. What does this mean? I’m going to write more summer related blog posts.

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Optimize old posts

If you don’t want to spend your time writing blog posts, might not have the inspiration, or don’t want to market everything like crazy during the summer, you might want to spend time optimizing your older blog posts. Revisit them, look at your orphaned blog posts, or try to see what your competitors rank for. Create small challenges in your mind and decide what you want to focus on. Do you want to have a more solid website? Perhaps a structured navigation or a faster website? Or do you want your posts to rank on the first page of Google? Whatever your goal is, you can spend time on it now! You can do it much more in chunks than you can do blog writing.

Write in advance

You might not want to publish this summer, or perhaps you just want to publish less. This doesn’t mean you should stop writing altogether. Now might be the best time to work on your Halloween or Christmas DIYs, so you don’t feel the pressure of competing at the beginning of the season. Just don’t expect to find any Halloween decorations or pumpkins in store just yet. Meal prepping might be a task you can acquire, but the same goes for blog prepping. Nothing is better than to enjoy the nice weather knowing you’ve written (and planned) enough blogs in advance.

Take a break

I’m in a few blogger groups on Facebook and I’ve seen the discussion multiple times: a summer break. Bloggers ask each other whether they should take a break or post less and how they should address that. Because let’s face it: keeping up a blog is hard work. It might be your full-time job, or it might be a project that you take on next to your paid job. You might need a break from it. But preferably without losing all your followers and visitors.

If you want to take a (partial) break, you do want to keep your social media profiles active. You could schedule older posts, funny quotes or questions to your audience. But if you want to republish old content, how do you go about that? First, make sure that the content you share, is still relevant. Next, write a compelling text to go on social media and then schedule your post.

Should you write that it’s a repost? I would advise against it. Would you click on a link if the company or blogger wrote that it’s an old post? Probably not. Your best bet is to just post it. Unless you’re reposting blog posts you’ve just put up last week.

Communicate about you summer schedule?

Do you communicate about your summer schedule? I’ve seen bloggers ask this question as well. The real question is: ‘Do my followers want to know that I’m not posting as frequently as before?’ and to answer this, you have to know your audience. Perhaps your audience is very loyal and might think something terrible has happened to you if you’re offline for a bit and will start an online – or worse: an offline – search for you. Before you know it, there’ll be tweets claiming they found you with an adjoining picture of you running screaming after your toddler, or downing three ice creams and some french fries while you have the perfect image online of a healthy calm mom blogger. There goes your reputation.

I know my following doesn’t care if I blog daily, blog once a month, or blog twice a year. Why? Because I am nowhere big enough for them to even notice. The only people who might notice, are my close friends.

Know your audience

I’m just a small fish in a big pond. They’ll just go to another blogger. So I could write a lengthy blog post about how I’m going to enjoy my summer, because I deserve it, because I work hard, because yadda yadda ya, but the truth is: my audience doesn’t care. Neither does your audience, most likely. Your audience wants a laugh, perhaps a DIY, or information about a certain lipstick, or a Lego project. No one will look on Google for: ‘Will [blog name] be blogging less this summer?’ And if you, for any reason, do decide that your followers need to know that you won’t be blogging today, but will send out an update on Saturday instead and you need to write a blog post for it, then please set it to noindex. Unless you can explain the value of letting this get indexed by Google to me. I, for one, do not want anyone to Google my blog name and have the first result be one where I’m announcing a temporary hiatus.

Whatever your plan is, keep yourself – and your audience – in mind. I’m hoping to jump in on the fact that my biggest competitors will have a summer schedule, perhaps that’ll bring me more visitors. And if not, I might just write a post next year about my summer plans and then close off my blog for an entire month ;)

I’m curious to hear what your thoughts are on this matter and if you’ve noticed a certain trend on blogs? Let me know how you combine the summer heat and blogging!

Read more: Blogging: the ultimate guide »

The post Blogging during summer appeared first on Yoast.

My very first blog post here on Yoast.com was about why you should focus on SEO as a blogger. That post was one of the hardest posts I’ve ever written, as I was not focussing on SEO at all back then. I honestly didn’t want to spend time doing keyword research and research my audience. Now, almost four months later, I’m having fun with optimizing my blog posts and am creating a routine in this. And with success, my average position in Google is rising, along with the total impressions and total clicks. Today, I will share why and how I’m optimizing my blog posts. 

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SEO for bloggers

In the beginning of June I was at a conference for Dutch speaking bloggers. I gave a talk about SEO for bloggers and attended several talks myself. One of the talks I saw was by the owner of a big mom blog in the Netherlands. When the audience asked her how she managed to grow, she explained it was a combination of writing a lot, using Google Search Console and using Yoast SEO Premium.

“Anyone could do it,” she told the audience.

Challenge accepted.

The day after the conference, I started optimizing my blog posts. And with success. Where my average organic growth was around 10 percent per month from the start of this year, it was a whopping 86% in June compared to May. Turns out that the SEO tips we give at Yoast, even work for bloggers! Who knew?

Well, probably everyone knew. At least at Yoast. But I’m stubborn and always used the ‘that won’t work for me’ card. But really, as I wrote before, I didn’t want to focus on SEO. I’m a blogger. Who needs SEO?

How to rise in Google

The process of rising to the first page or even the top three result is a long one. You need the right tools and you need the right plan. You need patience and you need to be able to analyze your current data.

To rise in Google, I use two tools:
Google Search Console and Yoast SEO Premium.

Google Search Console is a great tool to see what keywords people use, what the click through rate to your website is and what position you are. You can compare your data as well. The newest data unfortunately is 3 days old, so you need patience with growing.

While you can do this all without our SEO plugin, I can’t live without our premium plugin anymore. I use the premium plugin to check my internal linking structure and use the link suggestions to make sure I am linking to all relevant posts on my website.

It’s hard to decide which blog posts to optimize. I found out my blog post about a lipstick review I did last year, still generates a lot of traffic. I’m not a beauty blogger, but apparently the post hit home. But posts I wanted to rank, weren’t ranking at all. I picked one of those blog posts and started to optimize it. You can do this by completely rereading the text, checking the bullets of our content analysis and adding relevant links to other blog posts – the internal linking tool helps with that, and to link from other relevant posts to this post. Orphaned content – content that’s not linked to – is horrible and it’s something you need to fix as soon as possible if you want to rank. 

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How to optimize without spending all day optimizing

I want to write. I want to blog. The last thing I want to do, is work on optimizing my blog posts for Google, Pinterest  or Facebook.

As I won’t go viral after I hit that publish button and I won’t get millions of hits after I shouted out that I blogged, I need to optimize the posts. I do this right after I finished a blog post. I reread it, go through all the bullets of the plugin and determine if I want to change its suggestions, or just ignore those stupid red and orange bullets that are out there to make my life miserable. The one thing I do check for every time, are internal links and a proper meta description. While writing meta descriptions are my nightmare, they are important in getting people to actually click that link.

Checklist

I’ve created my own checklist before I publish a post. While I sometimes go back to a blog post to create new links if I published new blogs, I make sure all my new posts at least check off the following:

  • There are at least 3 links to other blog posts I’ve written that are relevant to the topic. If there are no relevant links, I need to either create more content or perhaps remove the blog post altogether.
  • There is at least one relevant high quality image and it has the focus keyword in its alt description.
  • I’ve written a compelling meta description.
  • My readability is green. And if it’s not, the feedback it gave me was something I chose to deliberately ignore.
  • My SEO analysis is green. And if it’s not, the feedback it gave me was something I chose to deliberately ignore.
  • I’ve checked old blog posts to see if I can link to this new blog post.

Routine

It’s important to create your own routine in this. While in the beginning it might feel as if you’re messing around and it won’t have any use, if you continue to do the steps above, you will see improved results in Google and Google Search Console.

I’m curious how and if you are incorporating SEO tactics in your blogging. Please let me know, because I’m eager to learn from you too!

Read on: Site structure: the ultimate guide »

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If there’s one thing I’m known for among my colleagues, it’s for my obsession with notebooks and planners. I have not one, but a total of three planners in my bag. Three, ladies and gentlemen. Is this insane? Yes, it is. Is it too much? No, you can never have too many planners. And oh my gosh, did they launch new bullet journals? Because I swear, I need a new one, even though my old one isn’t half filled yet. Today, I’ll fill you in on my blog planning habits.

My struggles and habits

I love planners. So it’s only natural I get asked a lot what my blog planning looks like. There are weeks that I answer: ‘I post daily in this exact order’ and there are weeks that my answer is: ‘Planning? Pff, who needs planners!’ while looking at the stack of papers on my desk. Today, it’s time to say: I’m still figuring it out. I want to share my struggles and my habits that come with growing your blog and this little thing they named ‘blog planning.’ Quick fun fact: I wrote this post exactly an hour before it was due. Another quick fun fact: this probably isn’t as fun for my colleagues from the blog team. I’m sorry.

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Update whenever I want or plan my posts?

For a long time, I’ve been blogging whenever I wanted to. I had weeks where I posted daily, and months where I published only one or two posts. You can imagine that it shows in my statistics. As you get more serious about blogging, you might want to become more serious about upping your frequency as well. I’m always an all or nothing kind of person. So when I decided I wanted to grow big, I decided I wanted to post daily. Seven times a week. It went well for two weeks. And then I didn’t blog for a few days, because my toddler decided that he only wanted to nap for 20 minutes and I decided I’d rather watch Pitch Perfect than work on my blog in the evenings.

Priorities: check.

As I’m in a competitive niche, apparently everyone owns a mommy blog nowadays (just kidding) and have insane goals to reach; I want to update frequently. I decided I wanted to publish a post every weekday, so that’s Monday through Friday. During the weekends, I usually write my posts for Monday and Tuesday. My Wednesday post is written during the toddler’s nap, as I’m not in the office on Wednesdays. On Wednesday night I write and schedule my post for Thursday. Usually, I get cranky doing so, as the lighting is never right for photos. And on Thursday I either finish my post for Friday or manage to squeeze one out right after dinner time. Did you get dizzy following my sort of schedule? I got a headache too. It’s driving me insane. I need planning. And more hours in a day, please!

Planning a blog

I’m currently struggling to find the perfect post schedule. As many of my fellow bloggers out there probably already know, there are days where you can write five perfectly good posts. But there are also days where you cannot get even one remotely good post. You don’t want your readers to know your struggle, so ideally you might even want to have around ten posts that are ready to be scheduled for those off days.

And then there’s a thing called balance. I might have seven posts ready about Disneyland Paris, but my readers who don’t like Disney (the horror) might not visit my blog for a week or decide to ditch visiting altogether. So I made Mondays my Disneyland Paris and travel related posts. On Fridays, I post recipes and the other days I go by YOLO! Or is there another new buzzword, because YOLO is already outdated again?

Balance is key. Structure as well. But you might not get happy doing a travel post every Monday, a DIY post on Tuesdays, a personal post on Wednesdays, a shoplog on Thursdays and recipes on Fridays. If that’s your thing: go for it, but I know for one I don’t thrive on strict rules I’ve set myself.

My conclusion? Every blog planning is personal. You need to figure out for yourself what you and your visitors expect from you. You might be one of the few that gets tons of hits because you write an epic, 5000-word post every month. Or you might be the one that updates twice or even three times a day.

I know what I’m missing right now. I need a proper editorial calendar. I’ve tried Trello, and I’ve tried various editorial plugins, but none worked for me. So I’ll be signing off now to go to the nearest stationery store.

I need a new paper planner for my blog.

Read on: ‘Blogging: the ultimate guide’ »

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I love to look at my statistics in Google Analytics. I like to watch the numbers creep up slowly towards the goal I’ve set for this month, and I love to see my hard work paysoff. But there’s one thing I like even more than looking at my numbers: looking at the stats of the competitors in my niche. Today, however, instead of lurking on other people’s blogs, looking for their numbers, I’ll share my goals and statistics.

Pinterest must know my behavior, as my feed is filled with bloggers who show off their numbers and how they did it, claiming overnight success and going viral with easy steps. I’ve not been able to implement their tips for overnight success. This might have to do with certain circumstances or niches, but something tells me I’m spending too much time on reading how others do it than focusing on my growth.

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Setting goals

In March, I started to get more serious about my blog. This is, quite coincidentally, the same time I started blogging for Yoast.com. I wanted to blog more and grow as well — both as a human as well as a blogger. I’ll be honest: I want to be the best. I’m competitive like that. But I know that won’t happen. Or at least, I won’t become big with just waiting; I have to work for it.

You’ve heard me say it in my previous blogs: I’m a small blogger. But how small is small? There are bloggers out there who claim they are small when they have 5000 visitors a month. There are also bloggers out there who feel like they own the world with 1000 pageviews in half a year. Your definition can differ from someone else’s — and that’s okay.

Without further ado, I present to you, my monthly users in March 2018 on my blog about motherhood:

257.

No. You’re not missing a ‘K’ or a few zeroes after that number. It’s 257. That’s not whopping. And you’re getting blogging advice from me. Hah, got you there! Don’t worry though; I’ve been lazy up until then. And I’ve learned that when you go for it, you can see tremendous growth.

I decided that I wanted to double my users in April. I tried to reach 500 users and 1000 page views.

On May 1st, I checked my analytics to see if I made my goal. Just kidding, I already knew I made it. I’m addicted to Google Analytics. I have the app installed on my phone. And whenever I have my phone in my hand, my husband doesn’t ask me if I’m reading the news or received a message. He asks me if I’m rechecking my stats. I spam my blogger friends with my stats as well. Yep, guilty of obsessing over my goals and statistics. But hey, it works for me because I reached my goals in April! I had 505 users and 1088 page views. Nailed it, I’d say!

I set new goals on May 1st for my blog. I wanted to reach 1000 users and 1500 pageviews. Again, this is doubling my goal of last month. I can say that I’ve achieved both my goals this month.

As I’ve reached both goals the past months, you’re probably wondering what my new goal will be. But I have to admit: I’m not sure. The increasing numbers feel amazing, but aiming for something high, makes my inner critic take over again.

One of my colleagues pointed out that if my growth continued like this, I would break the 100k mark in December. I scoffed and said: ‘yes, well, that would be highly unlikely.’ He shrugged, asked me: ‘why?’ and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Because why would it be highly unlikely? It’s an insane number, that’s why. But I can try. Dream big. Aim high, shoot low. Aim for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars. And whatever motivational words there are out there.

So my new goal will be 2000 users in June and 3000 pageviews, doubling last month’s goal. And I’ll continue like that. In December, I’ll write an update to let you know if I reached the 100k.

How to reach these goals

You’re probably wondering how I nearly doubled my traffic two months in a row. As I explained in my Pinterest post, most of my traffic comes from Facebook. This hasn’t changed yet.

My top three sources of traffic are Facebook, Google, and Pinterest. I’ve been focusing a lot on Facebook and Pinterest lately, though I am not a fan of the new Facebook algorithm either. I reached most of my visitors through Facebook advertising.

My biggest advice for reaching these goals is not Facebook advertising. It’s not focusing on organic growth, and it’s not concentrating on Pinterest either. It’s writing your goals down in a notebook. Look at it often and think of a strategy how to reach this. For me, it’s a combination of a daily blog post, one or two sponsored posts on Facebook and heavily obsessing over my stats.

As I’m writing this, I’ve got my analytics open and am refreshing it every once in a while. This is an obsession, I know, and it’s not something I would recommend. I might need to write a blog post on how to stop checking my stats every second of every day. Whatever you do and whatever your goals are: set them, create a plan and work for it.

Overnight success hardly ever happens.

Read more: ‘SEO copywriting: the ultimate guide’ »

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I bet you’ve reread the title at least several times. Did I really just announce a blog post on why you should quit your blog? Yes. Yes, I did. Who am I to tell you to quit blogging? And before you tell me that I should be the one to quit my blog, let me tell you: no, I’m not. In this post, I will share five reasons why you should quit blogging.

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Reason number 1: You can’t write

You think that you are a terrible writer. No one wants to read your blogs, and if you look at the blog posts you wrote a few months ago, you cringe. You have convinced yourself you absolutely cannot write. So put yourself (and all your readers, they’ll thank you) out of their misery. Just quit.

Unless…

… you love to write. Unless it’s just your inner critic talking. In most cases, it’s just not true. And even if it’s true, how can you grow to be a great writer if you don’t try? We somehow have forgotten that to learn, we have to try. We have to fall and stand up again. No child ever just stopped trying to get up after it fell again and again. It just got back up to try again. The first baby steps couldn’t have been successful if the child thought it couldn’t do it after failing the first time. So grab your notebook or your laptop and get to it. Make mistakes. And then find a way to do it right and improve.

Reason number 2: You don’t have an audience

Who are you writing for if you don’t have any visitors? Honestly, what a waste of time. You could spend your time doing something useful, such as making money by getting a real job. Maybe you should do chores around the house, get the groceries or do some cleaning.

I hope you’re writing for yourself. I hope you’re writing to ease the writer inside of you. And I hope you write because you have a story to get out of there. Above all, I hope you realize that if you keep your writings to yourself, no one will ever read it. And if you don’t have an audience yet, you could try and work on your SEO. Whatever the reason is you do not have many visitors just yet, find out what it is and get that audience.

Even more important: cherish the small audience you might have right now. If it’s your spouse, your mother, your best friend or someone you don’t know: if they take the time to tell you they like it, you’ve got an audience. It starts with just one reader.

Reason 3: There are a lot of blogs already, yours is nothing new

My younger sister told me this when I started my blog about life as a mother. She said: ‘Aren’t there already a lot of blogs like yours out there? Why do you think you’re so special?’ She hadn’t even seen my blog yet, hadn’t even read my articles. And I doubt she even remembers she told me this because last week she told me: ‘Oh, I read this and that on your blog. That’s insane!’

I remember feeling insecure when she told me I wasn’t unique, but I continued to blog anyway. I told her she knew nothing. And no, I’m not the biggest blogger out there (if only), I’m not even mildly average. My blog isn’t even big enough to be considered for so-called ‘influencer programs.’ And although I have goals to become big, my goal to be authentic is bigger. So my blog is something new because it’s mine. Your blog is just as special and authentic.

Reason 4: It’s lonely

You’re just sitting there, behind your computer, writing stuff no one reads for a blog that makes no money. You must be so incredibly lonely.

I’ve met a lot of bloggers the past year. On blogger conferences, through Twitter, through Facebook groups, through Pinterest and blogs of bloggers I admire. If you feel alone as a blogger, find a local (WordPress) meetup, join Facebook groups, Twitter discussions or just send an email to a blogger you admire. Writing can be a lonely hobby, but it’s not necessary.

Reason 5: You’re giving away your information. For free

Are you out of your mind, or what? Are you just giving all your information away, for free? How will you make money? I mean, why would you give stuff away for free?

I don’t know why we do this either. It must be in our nature to help people.

And if you didn’t already know, bloggers can surely monetize their blog.

I love to write. I write a lot. Therefore I am a writer. I’m not making money with my blog. I’m losing money on advertising, hosting, a theme and premium plugins, but I don’t care for now. It’s my hobby. It’s almost volunteering, but on my terms.

Honestly, did you think I was serious about quitting blogging? I’ve started this series to encourage you to pick up blogging too. I’m encouraging friends to start blogs and we have written guides how to start or continue blogging. So, if anyone ever tells you again you should quit blogging, tell them: Nope. And throw this page in their face.

Read more: ‘Caroline’s Corner: Finding inspiration for your next blog post’ »

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A little over a month ago I started looking at my Pinterest profile more seriously in regards to my blog. I didn’t use Pinterest for my blog yet and never even thought of pinning my blog posts to Pinterest. I used the website to keep my wishlist up to date and had tons of hidden boards full of inspiration for future projects that I would probably never do.

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Facebook is my biggest source of traffic currently, but with Facebook’s announcement on the new algorithm, I want to rely less on Facebook. Or spread my traffic source at least. At the end of March, I received a newsletter from a blogger I follow. She claimed she receives over 15,000 visitors from Pinterest every month. She started blogging last year and hasn’t written a new blog post since January. Yet her blog is ever growing, and so is her bank account. 15k for a website that’s not regularly updated raised one main question with me: HOW?

We emailed for a while and she explained she started to treat Pinterest as a search engine instead of a social medium. People are not on Pinterest to see what their friends like, they are looking for a solution for a problem they have. The difference with Google? You have a personal feed when you open Pinterest. And it is visual.

Skepticism

I was skeptical. I don’t like promoting my website, due to my inner critic who thinks it’s necessary to tell me no one wants to read my blog posts and I should not be bothering them on Facebook or anywhere else. Also, I dislike scheduling my social media to promote my blog and I definitely do not like to make the graphics for my blog. I am a writer, but as a blogger you have to be all-round, unless you’re as lucky as me and you can blog for Yoast where there’s an entire team who will create graphics and do the promotion for you. Unfortunately, they won’t do promotion for my personal blog. I should’ve negotiated that at the beginning of my contract.

Still skeptical about Pinterest, I walked into Joost’s office last month and asked him what he knew about Pinterest. He explained to me that there are mom blogs, especially in the US, that get ten thousands of visitors through Pinterest. The statistics can get bizarre. He told me I was definitely in the right niche to grow through Pinterest and should give it a go.

That night I sat down and started creating graphics for my blog. Pinterest suggests vertical pins instead of the horizontal scaled images for Facebook.

What Pinterest did to my statistics

I would love to say that I woke up the next morning, opened Pinterest and saw that my pins went viral. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. Your exposure will slowly climb and the more active you are on Pinterest, the faster you will get rewarded.

If you have a business account with Pinterest, you can look at your statistics. I saw that one of my pins had been shown over 400 times in just a few days. So I squealed and told everyone how amazing Pinterest was. I then showed my statistics to everyone who wanted to see, and even those who didn’t know they wanted to see.

But out of those 400 impressions on Pinterest, not one person had repinned my pin. And no one had clicked the link. Facebook advertising sounded a lot more appealing right now. And less work. And easier to understand.

It took me a week to understand and find the mix that started getting me visitors. I can now say that after one month, 10% of my traffic to my blog is Pinterest. 10% in just one month! My stats are surprising me each and every day and I actually love looking at Google Analytics and my Pinterest statistics. I’ve created a board for my blog and created boards that are close to my niche. I’ve repinned pins from others and pinned my own blog posts.

How you can start to grow

To start growing, the first important step is that your image should be appealing and of high quality. Pins with the message in bold letters across the image, work wonders. People want to know what your post is about in one glance. Writing compelling titles is already important for SEO, so dust up those skills and get them to use for Pinterest!

Another important factor of getting seen is collaborating with others in group boards. By pinning your content to group boards, your content will be seen by the others who contribute to the board.

But balance is key: don’t just pin from your own website. Repin as well. Don’t be afraid to repin a blog post from a competitor if it fits one of your boards. For example: one of my best performing boards is about self-care. I have only written two blog posts on this subject yet, but funny enough, these two blog posts generate the most traffic to my blog.

There’s no easy fix to gain visitors fast. It’s much like Google, Facebook or your other sources of traffic: you need to solve a problem for you visitor by creating content your visitors are looking for.

Read more: ‘Blogging: the ultimate guide’ »

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In my previous blog post, I wrote that the only way you could fail to write all those posts you had in mind was with the wrong planning. But, I knew already that I left out one tiny detail. While in theory, you’ll only need a site, ideas and inspiration to write your posts, there could be another factor you didn’t take into consideration: your inner critic.

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Your inner critic or inner editor is best described as a subpersonality that judges you and your abilities as you are working hard on reaching your goals. It’s often mean and can get you downright insecure.

Constant struggle

I started writing in my early teens and became an active writer during November, better known as National Novel Writing Month — NaNoWriMo for short. In this month, it’s your goal to write a novel of at least 50,000 words. 50k is a lot, especially if your inner critic should’ve been cast in Mean Girls as Regina George’s evil stepsister. I learned about the inner critic principle during this month back in 2006. Since then I’ve known when my inner critic is talking.

I’ve struggled with my inner critic for a long time and we still don’t always get along. I found that I could have the perfect blog planning, the most brilliant ideas and an incredible amount of time, but still didn’t get started, or didn’t finish. I have 36 posts as a draft for my blog and a lot of them won’t ever see the light of day. It’s not that they are awful. Others might even think they’re good enough or funny enough and that I should just hit the publish button. My inner critic disagrees though, and that’s what’s keeping me in the past from updating my blog frequently.

Befriend your inner critic so you can silence it when it’s needed

After I learned about the inner critic, I taught myself to treat it as an enemy that should be locked up. During a NaNoWriMo event, we created an inner critic puppet and locked it up in a makeshift cage or tied it down. Whatever we did, we did it with the intention to shut it up.

I developed another strategy two years ago when I found that treating my critic as an enemy, was blocking me altogether. While it worked for almost ten years, I came to a point where I didn’t want to write anymore because of my inner critic. No matter what the people around me told me, I convinced myself that I was the worst writer ever. Now, I’ve befriended my inner critic so I can tell him to shut up — kindly.

I know this might sound strange, but I started visualizing my inner critic. Two years ago I talked to a haptonomist and she asked me why I wasn’t writing anymore. When I explained my fears and the principle of the inner critic, she asked me what it looked like and where it lived. My inner critic is big, blue and lives in a forest. It chews on and spits out whatever it finds on its path. I dubbed him my woolly monster. As I’m writing this, my inner critic, or the woolly monster, is telling me the readers might think I’m off my head. It also says I probably shouldn’t be writing this down. But if I don’t write this down, there won’t be a useful post today.

I kindly tell myself (or my woolly monster) that while I appreciate the feedback, it’s not the right time right now. It can come out after I’ve finished the draft of my blog post and am ready for editing. After that, I calmly remind it that one of my colleagues is reviewing and editing, if necessary, my writing as well. There’s no need for my inner critic to sabotage me because that’s what it can be doing.

What blogging for Yoast brought me

When I started my blog series over a month ago here on Yoast.com, I was excited to start. As I was struggling to get that first post written, Marieke told me to stop my perfectionism from ruling me. “There’s a blog team that will edit your posts if necessary,” she told me. And she was right. We have an amazing blog team and I’ve become a frequent visitor to their office the last few weeks. I meet with them to brainstorm, to explain my struggles or to ask for help. This collaboration led me to a big change for my personal blog as well: I now have my blog team.

Create a blog team

That’s right; I’ve created my a blog team. Sounds pretty professional, right? I didn’t do it on purpose by the way, but that sounds less professional. I’ve acquired people around me without them actively knowing I consider them a member of my blog team.

One of the most important members is my husband: he proofreads all my blog posts before I consider them finished. If he smiles or chuckles, I know I did a good job. And if he doesn’t like it or I face insecurities, he’s the first to provide honest feedback. The other members of my team are my close friends who have told me they love reading my posts. Sometimes I send them a draft and request feedback. Other times they send me messages telling me what they thought of my latest blog post. No matter the type of feedback I receive or request, it’s valuable to me. Not an entirely unimportant side-effect of this team: it satisfies my inner critic more and more each day.

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After (re)defining the niche of my blog and creating a proper site structure with the needed categories, I felt as if I had reinvented my blog. I decided I wanted to publish at least three articles each week. This meant I would have to write 156 blog posts a year. That number sounds extremely daunting, as there have been times the past year I was struggling to come up with just a single blog post idea. How would I ever come up with enough ideas for cool blog posts? It’s all about finding inspiration. Today, I want to share my best tips so you can keep generating useful ideas.

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Tips and tricks for finding inspiration

I’m always amazed at bloggers who have a few hundreds or thousands of blog posts on their site. Where do they get their inspiration? How do they know what to write? I dove in, had a lot of fun, worried about my niche again, worried about the health of the people who inserted certain search queries and ended up with a list of blog post ideas. Let me show you how I did that.

Performance report in Google Search Console

Google Search Console shows you more than your crawl errors. Only recently I learned about the Performance report in GSC. It was once again my coworker Patrick who showed me this, although I could’ve known, as we have blog posts on this very subject. No wonder I heard my colleagues laugh when I kept staring at my screen in amazement and uttering: ‘Wow, this is so cool. This is awesome. I had no idea. This is brilliant! Thank you!’

The Performance report shows you the search queries people use that your site ranks on. There could be queries on the list that you have never even thought about writing about.

After looking at my list, I saw someone searched for [milkshake during pregnancy]. I’ve written about pregnancy and milkshakes, but not in that combination yet. This means that an article on milkshake recipes you can make at home that are safe to consume during your pregnancy could be a good idea. Another search result is [time capsule baby]. I don’t even know what it is. It got me worried at first, but now I’m excited to find out what it is. I’m sure the person who searched for this, didn’t want to put a baby inside a time capsule because that’s weird.

Content Idea Generator

Content Idea Generator won’t give you ready to go article ideas. At best it will point you in the right direction, at worst it will provide you with a few laughs. For example, I entered the term [baby]. As a mom, this is something that’s apparently on my mind all day — it’s not, by the way. The subject most on my mind is probably sleeping. And wine. Content Idea Generator gave me the following title: ‘Why babies are scarier than dating Taylor Swift’. I’m not sure what dating Taylor Swift is like, but I do know babies can be quite scary.

A content idea about [wine] gave me ’17 unexpected uses for wine’. I’d think it’s to drink, all other 16 uses would be a waste of good wine to me, but what do I know? Perhaps there are other ways than just to drink it!

Entering the [sleep] subject just left me kind of sad, because I ended up with ‘Why you’ll never succeed at sleep’. That’s disappointing. And accurate at the moment.

While the Content Idea Generator won’t give you immediately what you want, it’s sure to get your creativity flowing. If we take the last subject I entered, which is [sleep], I ended up with the following blog ideas in under two minutes:

  • How to fall asleep faster.
  • How to sleep like a baby — hah, see what I did there? I combined two subjects!
  • The definite guide to get your baby to sleep through the night — oh yeah, did it again!
  • Sleep problems? Try these six tips – and perhaps combine this with wine and link this to the ’17 unexpected uses for wine’. Double win!

Days Of The Year

I am in love with Days Of The Year. This site collects all the funny, bizarre and nice holidays the world has. Browsing their calendar gave me a list of close to thirty post ideas and that was only because I was being extremely picky. For example, today, April 5, is both caramel and deep dish pizza day. I didn’t even know deep dish pizza was a thing.

It’s also ‘Tell a lie day’ today. I could twist this one into a blog post for my niche and could write an article about all the lies I tell my son each day, or the lies I tell myself. You can easily lose a couple of hours while scrolling through that site. Keep your pen and notepad at hand, though, because it is bound to give you tons of inspiration. There are days available for every niche. Are you a fan of mythical creatures? April 9th is unicorn day. There’s also a leprechaun day and a howl at the moon day.

May 25th is towel day, which can give travel bloggers and lifestyle bloggers ideas for posts. Think of blog posts such as: ‘How to keep your towels soft’ or ‘With this information you will never buy the wrong towel again’. Or throw the word [towel] in the Content Idea Generator I described above, which will lead to hilarious posts such as: ’17 facts about towels that will impress your friends’. Or this one: ’18 things Spock would say about towels’; brilliant, as Towel Day is on the same day as Geek Pride Day.

Pinterest

Pinterest is a beautiful source of inspiration, especially for bloggers! I rediscovered Pinterest a few weeks ago. I had abandoned my account for quite some time, but after I read article after article about why Pinterest is important to bloggers, I got active again. I’ll cover my journey on Pinterest in another blog post, as I’m still trying a lot of things to see what it can do for me as a blogger.

Pinterest can help you find enough input for your next subjects. Search for keywords such as [blog post ideas], [blog ideas], or [what to blog about]. To get even more inspiration fast, include your niche in the search results. For example: [blog post ideas for moms], or [blog post ideas for lifestyle bloggers]. Bloggers like you and me write these guides, so often you can learn what works and what doesn’t. But please, be cautious as well. In my opinion, Pinterest is clickbait heaven. Falling into the trap of quantity over quality is easy. Keep your focus or you’ll lose track of time.

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Other ways to generate ideas

This is not the definitive list for generating ideas of course. There are a lot more ways to find inspiration, for example:

  • Find bloggers that inspire you. Make sure you do not copy their ideas, though. And give credit where credit is due.
  • Join Facebook groups that are related to your niche.
  • Join Facebook groups for bloggers.
  • Follow the ideas described in these posts:

What’s next?

With the above lists, I generated over 70 blog post ideas, and it took me only ten minutes of brainstorming. While not all of them are ready to turn into blog posts just yet as I need to do research, the goal to write at least three blog posts a week won’t be dependent on lack of ideas. The only way this could fail, is with the wrong planning.

Read more: ‘Why a blogger should focus on SEO’ »

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As I wrote in my previous post, I blog about life as a mother. Did you notice that I never mentioned that it is ‘a blog about motherhood’ or ‘a mom blog’? It’s not that I don’t know the existence of these words in the English language: they simply don’t describe my blog. In this second post in my series on blogging, I’ll explain how to find the perfect niche for a blog.

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Starting out

The blog you own now probably isn’t the blog you started out with at first. When I started my — mom — blog, I thought I could fill my blog with articles about pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood. My categories were: ‘pregnancy’, ‘childbirth’ and ‘motherhood’.

Within a month of blogging, I noticed I had ten blog posts in the category ‘motherhood’, two in ‘pregnancy’ and one in ‘childbirth’. Continuing that way would make my site extremely unbalanced. Facing this SEO disaster waiting to happen, I displayed the best behavior I could: I stuck my head in the sand. Ostriches suddenly saw me as one of their own. This continued for another five months and until I gradually lost my joy in blogging.

I kept ignoring my site structure, as I didn’t believe this was my problem, even though there’s plenty of proof I was wrong. I went to a blogger conference, bought books about blogging and visited websites about blogging. Every time my enthusiasm spiked again, and I was ready to start. Ideas started to form, and I began to write, only to find out that during the writing process, my posts didn’t belong in any of the predefined categories. So, I created new categories for my new posts. A month later, I found that these new categories were, again, unbalanced.

Do you see the pattern I only came to see two months ago? My problem wasn’t that I didn’t know what I wanted to write about. I had tons of inspiration. My problem was that I kept thinking inside the box. The mom blog box to be precise.

Taking a step back

I sat down with my notebook and wrote down what kind of blog I wanted to write. Yes, I wanted to write about motherhood, but I also wanted to share quick recipes for parents who hate to cook, as I do. I wanted to write about personal experiences. But I also wanted to write about self-care and planners, because I love planners and notebooks. I wanted to write about so many things, that my head was exploding with ideas. I just wanted to start. The only problem was that my blog didn’t feel mine anymore. I feared I had to create a new blog with a new name, a new theme, and new business cards.

I then talked to my colleague Patrick. Patrick is one of the SEO experts within Yoast. He answers a lot of SEO questions for our Yoast SEO Premium users — and our developers as well. I explained to him that I owned a mom blog, but wanted to write about more subjects. I wanted a lifestyle blog but focused on motherhood. As we talked, I had a newfound enthusiasm for my blog. I realized there’s one thing I had forgotten to do the past year: to step out of the box I created for myself. I still thought I had to blog about what I initially thought I wanted to blog about. Instead, I could stretch my niche as far as I could in the way I wanted to.

Stretching your niche within your current site

As I talked with Patrick, he told me that what I wanted, could very well be done. As my blog is still relatively small, there wasn’t a reason not to write about what I wanted to write about; unless I wanted to write about shovel machines all of a sudden. You would have to twist that subject really good to link it with family life as to not confuse your visitors and Google, unless you live in a shovel machine and bring the tiny house trend to a whole new level. If that’s the case, please drop your link in the comment. I would love to see those decorating tips.

With renewed energy, I faced the next concern. My blog name is a pun that could be linked to motherhood and has a spelling mistake by design. I worried that Google might not favor my articles over the articles of someone with the name ‘mom’ in their domain name. Or that Google already understood the joke hidden in my blog name and linked it to a mom blog forever. Fortunately, I didn’t have to ask this question at work and perhaps make a fool out of myself, as we already wrote articles about domain names — thank you Michiel for this one, you saved me from asking if Google is capable of getting jokes and puns.

It’s a relief that Google doesn’t rank based on domain names. But visitors do. If your domain name doesn’t match what your site is about, they might not visit again. If you have a really obscure name and tld, visitors might not even understand it is a valid URL. And if you have a site name or branding that doesn’t match your content at all, your visitors might not understand your site, and you will lose them.

Changing things around

As I’m still working on redefining my niche by writing down everything I want to write about and the corresponding categories that I might need, my site structure is rapidly changing. I switched blog posts from one category to another to see what structure worked best. My permalink structure was set up to display ‘category/post-name’ and let me tell you; I created 404 errors faster than you could say ‘Google Search Console.’ I cried, created redirects and visited the permalinks tab in my dashboard.

With fear for even more 404s, I changed my permalink structure from ‘category/post-name’ to just ‘post-name.’ I hid underneath my desk, muttered an uh-oh and carefully visited a blog post with the old structure. I expected a 404. I found that WordPress redirected this permalink structure without any problems at all.

My entire adventure of a wrongly structured site, 404 errors, permalink changes and feelings of uh oh and trying to understand Google led to finding my niche. I hope not everyone has to go through this fear. If there’s one lesson to be learned from my adventure: get your blog’s focus clear and then sit down for the right site structure. And whatever you do: don’t play with ostriches.

Keep reading: ‘Blog SEO: How to start a blog’ »

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