As a blogger, you are probably doing your best to grow your audience on a daily basis. You’re optimizing for Google, Pinterest, social media and you do your best to set up and maintain a social media strategy. But, if you want to take your blog to the next level, there’ll come a point you will need the help of your fellow bloggers. In this post, I will explain why you need a network, as well as how and where to build it.

Why you need to network as a blogger

We all know that writing is one of the most lonely professions in the world. Although blogging may not seem as lonely at first glance – you engage with your readers on a daily basis – there’s a high chance you work alone. As a writer, you often live inside your head. Your audience will only ever see your end result: a blog post or social media post. They won’t see the process of you thinking up your idea, killing your darlings or debating whether to write a certain article. You often take those decisions by yourself, or run them by your spouse or best friend. While this is a valid approach, someone who is not ‘in the business’, can only help to a certain extent. While it’s often worth it to discuss certain ideas with your personal network, you’ll probably only ever touch the surface. You might, for example, contemplate archiving your entire Instagram profile to start with a clean slate. Your best friend thinks you’re stupid, while you see bloggers around you do this and grow their following rapidly over the course of several months. And you might be left wondering if you’re cut out for this thing called ‘becoming an influencer’. If you’re at this point, you need a network of people who are like-minded.

At Yoast, I have a lot of colleagues to talk to whenever I need help. I know which person I should ask about SEO, which person knows a lot about Google Analytics and who can help me out when I broke my laptop – again. You need that kind of network for your blog as well. It’s very helpful to create a network so you can discuss certain topics: from SEO to developing websites, and from press releases to personal invitations. If you want to grow, you need a network.

How to network as a blogger

Truth be told, we’re in it for us. This means that everyone you’ll meet, is in it to gain something for themselves. This could be knowledge, reputation, information, cash, products or something else. Knowing this, you’ll understand you can’t just go to someone you don’t know and ask them for that piece of information you want. You might not get an answer or, in the unlikely chance you do get one, it probably is an evasive one. You need to adopt an open source kind of mentality while networking. This means that you’ll share your knowledge with the world and eventually will receive information in return.

I’ll take myself as an example. Although I knew quite a few bloggers online, my network didn’t really grow until I went to a Dutch blog conference last June, to speak about SEO. I told the crowd that I was going to share my secrets with them, and told them, honestly, how weird it felt to do that, because I might very well kill my own blog this way. Strangely, or perhaps not so strange at all, the opposite happened. My blog took off and with it, my network expanded tremendously. People knew where to find me, how to find me, and, also, that I was willing to help look into issues or questions. I answered each question I got, because I love helping out. Did I request favors for each question I answered? No. Was I offered help in return for answering questions or solving issues? You bet! Often, I told people not to worry about it, that I loved to help and that I’d be sure to let them know if they could help me out. And I took people up on their offer, twice now. One of them even got me an invite for a press event of the Walt Disney Company – I mean, it’s Disney!

Where to network as a blogger

You might feel very willing to network with your fellow blog-colleagues out there, but where to find them? If you’ve been on your own for a very long time, it can be tricky to get started. Don’t worry; there are various places where you can network as a blogger, both offline and online.

Online networking as a blogger

As your blog lives online, the easiest way to create a network is online as well. There are a lot of Facebook groups for bloggers in all sorts of niches and all kinds of languages. They’re created by bloggers like you and me. Try to find the groups where you can help other bloggers. I, myself, am in various groups, where I answer questions about the Yoast SEO plugins, SEO in general, WordPress or technical questions, as these are things I can help others with. In return, people help me when I have questions about Pinterest, Instagram or about certain press events that I’d like to attend.

Offline networking as a blogger

Offline networking is even more important than building a network online. While online it’s perhaps easier to mingle in discussions on forums, Facebook, or in Twitter conversations, the deeper and longer lasting connections will often start offline. Have you considered going to a local WordPress meetup, a WordCamp or a blog event in your city or country? These can be quite valuable – trust me, this is where the good stuff happens! If you’re unsure where to start, let me suggest YoastCon.

YoastCon for offline networking

YoastCon is a conference organized by Yoast. It focuses on SEO for all types of websites. I can guarantee you it will certainly focus on blogs as well! The conference will take place 7 and 8 February 2019 in the Netherlands. You’ll not only learn all there is to know about SEO from the very best in the field, there’s also plenty of networking opportunities.

Value your network!

Networking is not about transactions. It’s about building relationships, about finding the people you wish to work with and affiliate yourself with. It’s extremely valuable to invest in networking and maintaining relationships with your fellow bloggers. You never know when they’ll cross your path again or what you could mean for each other in the future. I would love to hear how you go about this, especially if it’s your fulltime job. And of course, let me know if I’ll see you at YoastCon! I would love to meet and talk in real life.

Read more: Caroline’s Corner: Work on your blog’s foundation »

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Yoast SEO Premium 9.0 fulfills a long lasting wish of many bloggers and content writers, including me. The Yoast SEO premium analysis is able to do something it has never done before: take word forms into account (amongst other things). As one of Yoast’s linguists pointed out: “Google knows word forms, so should we.”

Testing the new analysis for you!

For the people who follow Yoast, I might not be a stranger. But if you somehow stumbled upon this post by accident, or by sheer curiosity, I’ll start by introducing myself. I’m Caroline, I’ve been with Yoast for 4 years now and I’ve seen Yoast SEO and its premium version evolve into a better and friendlier product with every release.

Am I the best person to test this analysis for you? You might think not, as I’m a Yoast employee. However, as a blogger for Yoast and for my own Dutch mom blog, I’m one of the people in the company who rants and raves about the plugin out in the open. The developers know what I think of certain aspects of the plugin. Because of my work on GitHub, my blog posts on Yoast.com and my contacts with bloggers worldwide, I know exactly what the cons of the plugin are. So yes, I am the best person to test our new version!

Keyphrase recognition no matter what the order of words is

Our linguistic team worked for months on this release. They got me excited the moment they explained they were overhauling the entire way we were doing keyword recognition. If you’re unsure what this means: until now, we could only match the exact keyphrase in the SEO analysis. This means that if your keyphrase is ‘yellow chair’, we couldn’t match for [yellow chairs] or [chairs that are yellow]. Google knows that [yellow chairs] and [chairs that are yellow], is the same as [a yellow chair], but Yoast SEO did not.

Create better content more freely

In Yoast SEO the word order doesn’t matter anymore. And, in Yoast SEO Premium recognizes plurals and other word forms (for now just in English) like Google does. This means we can provide you with feedback that’s more true to how Google views your content. Not having to worry about exact matches anymore, enables you to focus on creating awesome content.

These new functionalities make sure that your old posts that were, according to us, not particularly optimized for SEO, suddenly are optimized very well. Test it yourself: there’s a huge chance that posts that scored bad or mediocre according to our plugin, now score higher than they did before.

Synonyms

Although the word form recognition only works for English – with more languages to follow soon! – this doesn’t mean the release is useless for non-English users. On the contrary: all our premium users, regardless of language, will benefit so much from this release. In a previous version we’ve introduced synonyms in the plugin. We reevaluated which checks should take synonyms into account. These checks have been completely revised and now rely on both the keyphrase and its synonyms when calculating the SEO score. This means that, despite writing in a non-English language, you can write compelling texts without worrying about the analysis not recognizing synonyms.

What does this mean for my SEO?

Considering the above, we can say for certain that the SEO score will be matching Google’s scoring algorithm more closely. Although no one knows the exact algorithm Google uses, we have come one step closer in providing you the perfect tools to optimize for Google and your visitors.

I can prove this to you by using a post I wrote on Yoast.com this summer. I wrote an article of which the keyphrase is: ‘blogging in summer’. Its score? Orange. Yet, if you Google ‘blogging in summer’, or ‘blogging during summer’ this post scores number one. With the new analysis the SEO score is green, without changing a single line of text. Is this more in line of what we see in Google? Yes, it definitely is. As you can see in the screenshot below, a lot of the checks have gone from red to orange or even green. If I change the keyphrase to ‘blogging during summer’, the analysis stays green, which reflects Google in this as well.

The old Yoast SEO Premium analysis versus the new one

The old Yoast SEO Premium analysis versus the new one

SEO analysis and non-English websites

So far it might seem this release is only interesting for the people who maintain English websites. This is not the case. This release is very interesting for non-English users as well. How so? The function words are filtered out for eight additional languages. For these languages the synonyms are taken into account as well. This results in posts receiving a higher SEO score as well, as seen in below’s print screen of one of my blog posts in Dutch:

SEO Analysis Premium 9.0 for foreign languages

SEO Analysis Premium 9.0 for foreign languages – previous release versus 9.0

Filtering out the function words works – in the free version as well – for the languages: German, Dutch, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Polish.

Synonyms work in Yoast SEO premium only, but aren’t language specific, i.e. work in every language.

Conclusion

What I think of this release? I feared, for an instant, that this release was only impacting the English sites, but I found out this works very well for other languages too. The developers definitely thought of non-English users as well. I can’t wait for the full functionality to be rolled out in all other languages!

Test the plugin yourself

If you still have questions regarding my post or still fear I am not the best person to test this plugin, then I ask you to test it yourself. Our premium plugin has a 30 day refund policy, no questions asked.

Get Yoast SEO Premium now »Only $89 $79 (ex VAT) for 1 site

The post The Yoast SEO Premium analysis: new vs old appeared first on Yoast.

I have a list of blog post ideas for my series here at Yoast.com. I have them written down in my bullet journal and refer to them whenever we’re discussing what my next blog post will be. Usually, when I’m inspired, I can finish such a blog post in about an hour. This time was different: I couldn’t get it done. I guess this happens to every blogger every now and then. So I asked myself: If I’m not up to writing new content, what can I do? So here’s my blog post idea: Focus on the improvement of your blog instead! How? Read on!

Although I still have around six ideas waiting to happen (and more to come, of course), none of them worked this time. After spending over an hour on 100 words for a future blog post, I told my colleagues I was temporarily blocked, swamped with other work and without inspiration. I voted to drop my blog post for this week and just focus on the next one due in two weeks. You can call it procrastination, and I think you’d be absolutely right. Luckily the blog team told me ‘nope’ – just kidding, they’re really understanding. So this made me think about what to do when you have a writers’ block: You can use the time you would normally reserve for a blog post, on the foundation of your blog. When your foundation is solid, you will take your blog more seriously. You can strengthen your foundation in several ways.

Write a media kit

If you wish to collaborate with companies or have the ambition to be taken more seriously to earn an income out of your blog, it’s a wise idea to have a media kit. A media kit is, usually, a PDF file that holds information about you, your blog, your statistics and possibilities to collaborate with companies. It should reflect who you are and what your blog stands for. On Pinterest, you can find a ton of Mediakit inspiration, or you can try Canva.com.

Look into your site structure

To increase the findability of your blog and to help your visitors understand your website, you should regularly review your site structure. Your site structure isn’t just about your menu, it’s about internal linking, removing duplicate content and fixing possible errors in your Google Search Console as well. You could also check, for instance, if you have orphaned content on your site and add some links to it. If you want to learn more about this, please see our ultimate guide for site structure!

Optimize for SEO

Chances are when you first started blogging; you didn’t look into SEO at all. You might get visitors now through Google, but could it be more if you optimize your blog posts properly? Do keyword research and optimize those blog posts that are important to you, for instance, your cornerstone content.

Work on your social media exposure

Your blog is more than just a place where you write; it’s your brand. This means that you need to reach people on social media as well. Creating a social media planning isn’t a bad idea at all. Every platform has its own unique power: use it to your advantage. You might want to share behind the scene photos on Facebook, a gorgeously styled feed on Instagram with relevant hashtags and witty comments on Twitter. Use it to your advantage to engage with your readers and potential readers. Often there are places where you can self-promote. Think of the numerous Facebook groups about blogging: there are often threads where you can drop your link.

Talk to and help other bloggers

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Networking is important as a blogger. It helps you to learn more about your niche, blogging, blogging culture, possible PR events and more. You have a reputation to uphold towards your readers, of course, you already knew that. But other bloggers are in a way your competition and your colleagues. You might see them during press events or blog events. Help fellow bloggers out by answering their questions on social media. If you do this often enough and consistent enough, people will know where to find you and you will become an expert on a certain subject within your network. As I answer a lot of questions about WordPress, technical issues, SEO and of course Yoast SEO, I now get tagged in questions in various groups. Annoying? Not at all. Helpful? Definitely. I’ll write about why networking is important next time, why you should do more of it and what it brought me so far.

Other ideas

Still looking for ideas what to do when you’re out of inspiration or want to quit your blog? Why not try one of our courses? Yoast offers a Free SEO training and several other trainings that will definitely help you get a better understanding of SEO, keyword research and content writing.

And if you really do not want to do any of the above things, then maybe it’s time to sit back, relax and leave your blog until the next day. Being creative is a process and today might not be your day.

Read more: Blogging: the ultimate guide »

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There have been moments in the past year that I wanted to quit my blog. My inner critic would tell me I wasn’t good enough to play with the big bloggers out there and I would tell myself over and over again the blogging world is oversaturated and in particular the mom blog niche. Instead of quitting, I took breaks, started blogging for Yoast and found my love for my blog and my writing style again. And it’s safe to say: people start to recognize my personal brand. How I did this and how you can achieve this too, is something I want to explain today. And the good news is: you do not need 10,000 followers on Instagram and 100,000 visitors on your blog!

Background and statistics

Before we dive into the world of personal branding, let’s go back to the article I wrote a few months ago about my goals and statistics. Maybe you remember me saying I wanted to reach 100K of unique visitors a month at the end of 2018. Although I still want to grow to these numbers, I am not working on growing that rapidly anymore. As a blogger, you do not (yet) need an audience that’s in the very high numbers. You need to make sure your base is strong and your engagement is high. How I came to this conclusion? Last week I was at a blogging event where I spoke to Cassandra, a blogger in my niche. She talked about micro influencing and about the importance of becoming a brand, instead of focussing on reaching the mighty and powerful 10K on Instagram ‘just’ for the swipe up function. And my head started spinning.

Personal brand – what is it?

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One of the most hyped, but also important, expressions currently is ‘personal brand’. In short, it means presenting yourself as a brand to the world. It’s what people see when they look at you, read something about you or hear from you. You want this image to be positive and true to who you are. I know that I’m seen as someone who works at Yoast, knows a lot about the plugin and SEO. But there’s more to that. As I give talks and workshops about SEO to bloggers, I’ve received comments about how people see me. And most of the time people know me for my love for Disney, my advocacy for self-care for mothers, Yoast, SEO, my sense of humor and the ability to explain things.

My personal brand is more than just my blog or my Instagram, it’s everything. On my blog, you won’t find many hints to Yoast, but on Instagram, you will. On my blog, you will find a lot of hints towards Disney, less so on my Instagram. Yet either platform is completely true to who I am. I mock motherhood and being an ‘influencer’ both on Instagram and on my blog and I definitely portray the importance of self-care on both platforms.

You should ask the same feedback from the people around you. Someone might say something you don’t particularly agree with, but it’s how they see you. Be sure to know what you want to be known for. If you do not receive that from anyone or not from everyone, then that means you’ve got work cut out for you!

Your personal brand helps you stay focused and unique

You might wonder where I’m going with my explanation about personal brand. There’s an important reason for it: knowing how the world sees you and how you want to be seen, will make sure your blog will stay or become more focused. If you know what you and your blog stand for, you know what your audience expects from you. If you, for example, wish to do a collaboration with a company, you should make sure it is in line with your brand’s values and reputation. For example, if you usually only share vegetarian dishes, it would be a bit strange to suddenly do a collaboration with a company that’s not vegetarian. Although you might still eat non-vegetarian products in your daily life, if your audience is not aware of this fact, your followers will be confused. Do this too often and you might lose your credibility.

The importance of micro influencing

I currently have a little over 700 followers on my personal Instagram. Although I too wish to grow my following, I’d find it more important to interact with my followers. My average engagement rate is 12.45%. According to Influencermarketinghub, the average engagement rate for accounts with less than 1000 followers, is 8%. I’m well above that and I take pride in this. It means my Instagram followers represent the people I wish to reach. Less is more and this is definitely the case in the world of online influencing. Although it might look awesome to have thousands upon thousands of followers, if your engagement rate is low and your following does not represent your blog’s audience, it might be even harder to be considered an influencer than someone with fewer followers, but a higher engagement rate. Because it means that the latter knows where his or her audience is ‘hiding’ and knows how to reach them.

So how would you grow?

Does it mean I don’t want to grow my blog anymore? No, not at all. I still want to reach a big audience. But I realize now that won’t last if I don’t take the route of commitment. If I don’t want to be forgotten in a few months, it means people should really feel connected to my brand: to me. By knowing what I stand for, I know how I should grow, not how I can grow. If this is a little too vague, let me make it a more clear with an explanation.

The kind of blog posts I write, are:

  • Blog posts about self-care, in particular, self-care for mothers;
  • Blog posts about motherhood with a personal twist, think of: things I can say at home, but not at work, the laws of motherhood outdoors and a tutorial on how to avoid changing diapers at all cost.
  • Blog posts about Disneyland Paris;
  • Inspiration interior blog posts, for example: Halloween decorations or an Ikea Hack;
  • Vegan recipes that are easy to make, because I hate to cook;
  • DIYs that are easy and fast done and still steal the show, in case it’s your mother in law’s birthday and you haven’t made a gift with your toddler yet.

I know I could reach a lot more visitors by competing with the bigger bloggers out there. I could write ‘how to’s’ and informational articles that have been written over and over again. This could be a business model or a part of your brand, that’s totally fine. But it’s not mine. I would lose my current following and would gain a new following. My current blog posts wouldn’t fit into that strategy and people will become confused about my personal brand.

By staying true to your brand with your articles and on social media, people will eventually recognize you and your brand. Although your biggest source of traffic might not come from Google for a very long time, your brand will be strong and depends on people rather than on algorithms.

I’m curious how you are maintaining your brand. Are you already working on your personal brand and if so, how?

Read more: Blogging: the ultimate guide »

The post Caroline’s Corner: How to stay unique despite being one of many bloggers in your niche appeared first on Yoast.

For the bloggers who started building websites in the early 00s, blogging was ‘just’ writing an update on your life or writing a tutorial. Photos were  not usual and if you had photos, you made sure the title of the blog post contained something like: ‘warning: image heavy’. Today, you cannot imagine posting a blog without an image. Your post is less likely to be picked up on Facebook, Twitter and even Google. And as we all know, even the Yoast SEO plugin tells you to use images in your post! But… why do you use those images? And where do you get them from? Fear not! I’m going to share all my secrets with you. Again!

Why you should use images in your blog posts

My most popular posts on my blog are, not quite coincidentally, posts with high-quality images. A picture is worth a thousand words. And this holds very true for bloggers in a niche that’s saturated. If a visitor has to choose which site to visit on Pinterest or Facebook, they will choose one with an image that’s compelling to them. Sure, your call to action will have to persuade them as well, but if you don’t use images, or don’t use high-quality ones, they very well might skip your blog post.

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There’s another reason why you need proper images, other than social sharing: Google images. When you have high quality and optimized images, your images could rank first when people perform a Google image search. There are several posts I actually rank first with on Google Images. And does this give me visitors? Yes, it sure does!

Before you grab your camera…

Before you fear you have to invest in photography courses, have to hire a professional photographer or you just cannot create the right photos, read on. Because I’ve got some tips and tricks for you.

Use stock photos

If you cannot create your own photo for whatever reason, there are a lot of stock photo websites you can grab images from. Do not, and I repeat, not, Google search for images and just grab them. This is stealing. The photos you are placing on your website, belong to someone else. You need to have the photographer’s permission. You don’t want to see your blog post on someone else’s blog. A photographer does not like their photo on your site without permission. You wouldn’t be the first one to get a claim from a photographer, and rightfully so.

But if you can’t just grab every image, where should you find them? Luckily, there are quite a few stock photo websites out there that have licenses that permit you to use the photos. Please always check the licenses described on the website. Because I like you and because I’m feeling very helpful today, I’ve explored the licenses on the sites below.

Unsplash.com

Unsplash is my absolute favorite. The images on here are gorgeous, the website is easy to navigate and the licensing is very clear. All photos published on Unsplash, are free for commercial and non-commercial use. You can alter the images if you wish without needing to give the photographer credit. I use this website for my personal blog quite often. Especially for blog posts about motherhood, when I don’t want to photograph my own child.

Pixabay.com

Pixabay has both paid and free images. A lot of images here do not require crediting the photographer. If you don’t have to credit and you can alter the image, you will find that the image is released under Creative Commons CC0.

Foter.com

Foter claims there are over 335 million free stock photos on its site. Just conduct a search. Each and every photo will display the license under which it’s listed. Some photos require credit to the photographer, some photos may not be altered and some may not be modified. It can be quite hard to find a picture you like here, especially if you have to make sure you comply with the licenses.

But what if my blog is about a subject I can’t find a photo for?

What if you write about blogging or programming? Or about showering, and you don’t want to have someone naked on your blog who’s enjoying their shampoo a tad too much? Be creative! You’re a blogger, a writer, you can be creative with images, can’t you? For that blogging article, use a (stock) photo of a laptop. And for that shower, use a shower head. Or just running water. Remember: the image does not replace your article, it’ll enhance it and grab your reader’s attention.

But what if you really, really, really cannot find a suitable image? Well, have you ever heard of Canva?

Canva is amazing

With Canva, you can create designs for every need in your browser. It holds a lot of free designs you can use. There are premade designs for Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, posters and more. With these designs, varying from drawings to quotes and photos, you’ll be able to find a suitable image for your blog post, I’m absolutely sure of it.

Say thanks

We’re lucky to live in a world where it’s very cheap to create your own website. Where you don’t have to pay for WordPress, you can use a lot of free plugins and become big without spending a dime on your website. You might be one of the few bloggers that make a living out of blogging. If so: that’s awesome. I have one request for you in that case: if you make money with your website and you do use stock photos, please consider thanking the photographer by donating a (small) amount to thank them for their work in making your website better. It’s up to you to decide if you wish to do this and if you have the means to do so, but I do believe ‘we bloggers’ owe quite a lot of thanks to the wonderful people out there who share their knowledge and resources for free.

Please let me know in the comments which stock photo websites you use that I haven’t heard of. Oh, and a game for you: spot the stock photos on my own personal blog ;)

Read more: Image SEO: Optimizing for search engines »

The post Blog post images: Why use them and where to get them appeared first on Yoast.

I’ve always felt lucky blogging for Yoast.com. As I wrote before, I have an entire blog team that makes sure my post gets scheduled, is free of grammar or spelling errors and they publish it on social media. So I ‘only’ had to come up with an idea, which the team often helped me with, and type the post. I decided that if I ever were to outsource things on my own blog, it would be things like promotion and social media.

My struggle with social media

And then the inevitable happened. After I finished my previous post, I got a message: “Caroline, from now on, please write your own introduction for Facebook, Twitter, and the newsletter. Here’s some information for you. If you have any questions, let us know!” Hold on! Yes, I have questions! Starting with: “How do I do this?” and: “Do you have any idea how difficult it is to write short messages? There’s a reason I’m not active on Twitter!” And, so began my struggle, and search, for the ultimate social media messages.

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Because truthfully, I’d rather type a 2000 word essay than one sentence for Facebook. When you’re reading this, I’ve already grabbed your attention. You’ve already made it down to this point in my post, which means that you want to read my message. On social media, I can’t spend over a hundred words to make my point. If I do, you might not click, you might scroll past my message and you’ll never see my post at all.

And that’s how I started my two-day research. Two days? Yes. I, of course, started rather late with this blog post and had almost no time to conduct proper research. So, all the information in this post is based on my common sense – and I’ll teach you how to use your common sense too! Oh, how amazing my job is. Truly. Well, apart from having to write my own social media messages now.

To click or not to click

When do you click on a Facebook message? When do you hit the like button? When do you leave a reply? And when do you take the effort to go to someone’s profile and visit their domain through Instagram if there’s a ‘link in bio’ message underneath a photo? Those questions were the most important for me the last few days, to figure out what the perfect message entails. To find the answer to these questions, you need to know who your audience is.

For my blog, that’s a rather easy answer: the goal audience for my blog is me! And people like me, of course. But, I started my blog because I love writing. I’m right in the middle of my audience: young mothers (and fathers, of course) who are struggling with parenthood and want reassurance that others are struggling too. I want people to laugh at my stories, but also to take their struggles and life a little less serious, in order to enjoy life more.

Experimenting on different platforms

While people who visit my blog always tell me I have a great sense of humor – except for my husband, he still claims I have no humor at all – my Facebook page didn’t reflect my blog at all and come to think of it, I didn’t even like Facebook.

I started experimenting on Instagram: my photos were more blunt, I used a lot of hashtags (thirty hashtags seems to be the maximum) and I treated Instagram as if I was talking to my best friend. Immediately, my engagement went up. People responded to my photos with more than just a heart, they actually left messages! I started to get to know my audience more and more, and then a few days ago I decided I’d use the same strategy on Facebook.

I took a notebook and wrote down when I was interested in a Facebook post from another company, and when I scrolled past. And, although this is personal (and not perfect) research, this works for me, since I am a reflection of my own audience. I made notes on the posts I clicked on: what was the message they wrote? What was the title of the post? Did the image appeal to me? And when did I decide not to click on a post?

I found out that I click the link if these three aspects: text, title, and photo of the post, appeal to me. There are messages I saw multiple times but I didn’t click them, because the Facebook image wasn’t appealing enough, or the leading text was too vague or didn’t catch my attention.

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How to find your voice on social media

It’s important your social media reflects your website. If you write for solo travelers who are 20 years old, it’d be strange if your social media posts are more appealing to people who’d rather stay in and haven’t taken a vacation in the last 20 years. Just like you once found your voice for your blog, you need to find your voice on social media too. And you’ll have to experiment before you find it. Here’s how to experiment:

Realize that your social media are part of your brand

Facebook, Instagram, and other social media are extensions of your blog. Try to find the reason why you follow someone on Instagram, hit the like button on Facebook or retweet a message on Twitter. It’s probably because you feel connected to someone or to the brand. Those social media accounts should reflect the blog, in this case.

Write different introductions

By writing and rewriting your Facebook messages a few times, you will eventually find the voice that fits your brand. You can’t be as elaborate on Facebook or Instagram as you are on your blog. You need to catch people’s attention and get them to click that link to your website.

With Facebook, you can easily re-post a post that’s a couple of months old. Check which posts performed less: you can look that up on your Facebook page under ‘Statistics’. Check the accompanying message you wrote, try to rewrite them and see if you can gain more clicks.

It’s all about strategy

As much as you need a blog planning, you also need a social media planning and a strategy. If you post on Facebook only once a week, you probably won’t reach a lot of people. However, if you post once or twice a day, you’ll see your reach going up. Those posts don’t always have to be a link to your blog, especially not when you only blog every other day or once a week. Share images, ask questions, share links to other blogs in your niche or share quotes. Look at your competition and try to find a new angle to implement on your social media profiles.

Read more: How to use social media »

And now it’s time for me to write a nice introduction for social media so you’ll actually end up clicking and reading this message. Wish me luck. Oh and please drop your tips on me as well! You have no idea how much I learn from the comments you leave on my blog posts!

Keep reading: Social media strategy: where to begin? »

 

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“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 »

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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 »

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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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