Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Fifty Two Shades of Shay: Blogging

People.  You better pay attention.  This blog post is probably one of the most important posts I've ever done...not because of what I have to say...but because it's going to include blogging advice from the absolute best bloggers out there.  Period.  I am sooooo excited!  Let's get started...

I began blogging on August 3, 2007.  That was a really awful summer...by August 3, I had been trying to get pregnant for a year, I had already had one miscarriage and two failed IUIs.  I was hormonal (thanks to all of the infertility drugs) and cranky.  So, what did I decide to do?  Blog.  I knew I would never be one of those people to scrapbook.  I don't like glue, glitter, cutting out paper, and trying to make things look creative.  I decided that if I ever wanted to look back on my life, I needed an easy way to do so...thus, my online scrapbook (a.k.a. the blog) was born.  

I remember the day I named it...shullfamily.blogspot.com.  It was wishful thinking.  I wasn't sure if Andrew and I qualified as a "family" but I had hopes and prayers that one day, we would add a little one to the group and make it a family.  And so, almost 6 years later, here you are reading that little online scrapbook created by a cranky, infertile girl.  Thank you.

I get asked at least 5 times a day about blogging.  How I do it?  How I make it successful?  How I draw an audience?  How I plan it?  How I network?  It is such a common topic but more importantly, such an important part of my life, that I knew it needed to be a Shade of Shay.

Most of you know two of my besties, Sheaffer (from Pinterest Told Me To) and Andrea (from Slightly Askew Designs)...well, the three of us talk about this topic all of the time because people ask all three of us the same blogging questions.  Andrea is a blog designer, so I'm always amused at the questions and comments she gets...so often, she says women email her wanting to start a blog for a career, they want to be big and famous and really important in the blogging world (their words).  Somehow, people have lost the idea that blogging is a hobby and automatically turned it into a career change.  

So...I set out to ask the world's best bloggers for their advice on starting a blog, growing a blog audience or making an existing blog better.  This is the best blogging advice you will ever find...

Sophie Hudson from BooMama Blog

Be yourself!  Write in a voice that's uniquely yours, and don't feel like you have to have the same writing style as somebody else.  Focus on building relationships, not traffic, because a genuine sense of community with your bloggy people makes the whole process so much more rewarding.  Have fun!

Erin from Blue Eyed Bride

I think the keys to building a great blog are authenticity, community, and a genuine love for sharing your story. You have to do it because it's fun first, and then focus on growing it second. No "big blogs" got that way overnight. And the fastest and most organic way to grow it is by building a community. Reading other blogs, engaging your readers, and being someone that they can trust. Just be yourself, enjoy doing it, and the rest will fall into place.

Kelly Stamps from Kelly's Korner

My biggest advice for blogging is to blog for YOURSELF first. Blog because you enjoy it. Never let it become a "chore" or a "job".  Write about things you love and don't ever worry about stats or how many readers you have or how many comments you get.  Don't compare yourself to other bloggers.  Blogging is such a personal thing and can be such an expression of who you are - don't let your identity or worth get tied up in how successful your blog is.  Just blog for fun and to make memories! 

Beth Jones from B. Jones Style

In any blog genre, it's always important to build relationships with other bloggers. Do collaborations together.. whether it is swapping recipes, clothes, or shooting something together. You can cross-promote each other and also build a fun friendship.

Make a general plan for each week. Do you want to post 3 times or 5 times a week. What will those posts be about. I usually do about 3 personal style posts, 1 fit and fabulous post, and 1 What Would Carrie Wear post. 

Have fun with your blog, and let your voice shine through!

Cassie from Hi Sugarplum!

The most important thing, is to actually love blogging. Most people don't realize how consuming it is, and if you're approaching it as a job, or just a way to generate income, that will come across to your readers...and be a total turn-off! If you're not willing to blog for free, don't do it.

Also, your blog can evolve and include a broader scope of topics, but always maintain your own voice. Readers like you for you, so don't change that as your blog grows. And I treat my readers just as I would real-life friends, by responding to questions and emails, and engaging with them. Making new friends that share the same interests as you, is the best thing about being part of the blogging community!

Melanie Shankle from Big Mama

I guess I'd say to make sure you connect with your audience.  Every now and then people like to have some input or give advice or share their thoughts on something.  It makes them feel connected to what you're doing and writing.

Sheaffer from Pinterest Told Me To

If you want to grow your blog quickly,  my number 1 piece of advice:  Be bff with The Bachelor's Sister.  :)  Oh, I'm just kidding.  Except that I'm not.  :)  Seriously y'all.  Being friends with Shay helped me grow my blog more quickly than I ever could have imagined.  Shay is always so willing to link to me and throw people my way, which has obviously helped me grow my readership!

If you don't happen to have access to The Bachelor's sister, then there is one main thing you can do to grow your blog:  Put out good material on a consistent basis. 

That's my big advice.  It sounds simple, because it is.  Just put out good material.  Good material will not only make readers come back again and again, but it will also make them tell their friends about you.  Word of mouth is a powerful thing, and you will see your blog start to grow!

Dana Weiss from Possessionista

Don't write to make money. If you blog solely to monetize, it will be obvious to your readers.
Be original. Create something that you want or need that isn't currently available.
Listen to your readers. Even though sometimes criticism is hard, get to the kernel of what they're looking for.
Be open to criticism. Blogging is an organic process, so let your blog (and your interests) evolve.

I think the best piece of advice I could give is to be true to who you are.  Don't blog for anyone but yourself.  Blog in your own voice...about your own experiences...your own likes/dislikes...just be YOU.    And it's okay to be vulnerable...no one is perfect :)  Vulnerability is endearing.  And SO relatable!  I guess momma knew exactly what she was talking about when she said "just be who God made you." :)   The quote that keeps coming to mind is "Don't be a watered down version of someone else." :)

Mel Larson from The Larson Lingo

My advice is this:
Don't try and be like "this" blogger or "that" blogger. 
Blog for YOU not for anyone else.
If you are blogging to make other people happy, then the point is missed.
You cannot write/blog for everyone.  It's just like life. Some people will like you, others will not. You can't make everyone happy.
Blog about what makes YOU happy.
Blog about what YOU love. Write with YOUR voice.
We are all unique, our blogs should be as well!
The blogs I love are where the blogger shares a lot of herself.
Let your readers get to know you. Get personal. Be vulnerable.
You don't need to be a complete open book, but it is important to be open.
As scary as that can be, I am learning that the more you are open, the more you realize you are not alone. That is the beauty of the blogging community.

Alison from Get Your Pretty On

One key element to successful blogging is to always write about and create what YOU like instead of trying to write for an audience.  Trust your own voice and uniqueness and know that there is an audience out there waiting for exactly what you have to offer.

The sisters from Six Sisters Stuff

Use social media such as Pinterest, Twitter and Face Book.  Participate and host in linky parties, connect with other bloggers, be consistent, write quality posts and stand out from the rest.

Mandy Rose from House of Rose

I think one of the main reasons that blogs fail is because people give up. So many bloggers starting out want to see instant results. They want instant readers, instant comments, followers, subscribers, etc. The key is to be consistent and keep going {even when you feel like it's going nowhere}. I can not tell you how many times I got discouraged because I wasn't "growing". But I quickly realized? Growing takes time. It's not something that happens overnight. You have to push through those times.

It's pretty hard to stand out in a blog world of over 165 million blogs. It's safe to say that the Internet is saturated with blogs, right? One thing you MUST do as a blog creator is HAVE A VOICE. If you are simply writing about what everyone else is writing about or not speaking from your heart because you are afraid you may offend someone...then you will just blend in with the rest of the blogs out there that are going nowhere. Blending in does not get you noticed. For example: If you are writing about fashion then don't just post about "fashion" in general. Be specific and write about "How to Dress in Style After Having Three Kids and No Time To Shower". Or if you are writing about fitness don't just write "How to Stay Fit". Instead write about "How To Kick the Last Few Pregnancy Pounds Doing Crossfit". 

And...you need to check out Mandy and her husband Jeff's other blog called Dollars and Roses...it's about how they both quit their jobs and blog full-time for a living.

I really don't have to say much after that, do I?  That is the most valuable blogging advice you will ever see in one place.  Thanks to all of my friends who gave me their best advice.  I adore each of you!

Not that you need anything else...but here are my best blogging tips...

1. Be yourself
2. Blog as a hobby (if money comes, great...but always think of it as a hobby)
3. Always tell the truth on your blog
4. Don't try and compare yourself or your numbers to anyone else
5. Network with other bloggers
6. Be real...don't be fake.  People can spot a fake blogger (I know several of them).
7. Give credit and/or ideas you use back to the source. If you love something another blogger is doing (a recipe, outfit, blog topic...) give them their credit on your blog.
8. Use photos, pictures, graphics...make it visual.
9. Be organized and consistent
10. Have boundaries for some parts of your life but be authentic and genuine with what you do share
11. Engage and interact with your readers.  Reply to comments and emails...let them know you are having a conversation with them.
12. Keep your voice but don't be afraid to branch out and let your blog change over the years.  It might organically morph into something new...that's ok.  As long as it's the direction you want to head, go with it.
13. Use other forms of social media to draw people to your blog (Twitter, Face Book, Instagram, Pinterest).
14. Have fun.  And if you stop having fun, stop blogging.

Again, a heartfelt thanks to my sweet contributors.  I read each and every one of their blogs every single day.  Much love!

And don't forget, check out my other Shades of Shay by clicking here.  

If you're not sure what you're going to make tonight for dinner tonight, I have the perfect suggestion!

My Buffalo Chicken Tostadas!  And they're so simple too!  Check out my foodie blog for the recipe.

My Origami Owl giveaway ends Wednesday evening.  Click here to enter.
Have a great day!

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  1. This is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO good! Everything written in this post is so true and so so good! Love that you took the time to contact everybody and compile it all. I feel so blessed to be doing this little bloggy thing with you!
    love you!
    me :)

  2. Thanks for sharing such great advice! btw, I made your baked spaghetti last night - It has become one of our favorites :)

  3. I agree with all the advice!
    AND I just founds some great new blogs to check out!! SO FUN!!!! :-)

    LOVING this series!!!

  4. Shay - this is such good advice! I love how so many of the bloggers said to use your own voice. Can't wait to check out all of the other blogs too. :)

  5. Great advice! I wish I had time to read more blogs!

  6. Such great advice!! The blogging world is so fun and I love that genuine friendships can be born of us sharing little bits of ourselves in this way!! =)

  7. Great post and I loved all the advice, since I am a blogger!! I think the most important thing is to have your own voice and not to compare.

    One question for you- how do you have time to read all your comments and emails? Do you set time aside for that or do you do that throughout the day? Sometimes I find it hard to respond to comments/emails so I wondered if you had advice. Thanks again for this wonderful series!

  8. What great advice! Exactly what I needed! Thanks for taking the time and contacting all of these fun bloggers and getting their insight and perspective on blogging! I can't wait to check out some new blogs too! Have a great day!!

  9. About Sheaffer's advice, while it may be true that I found your blog and her's because of the bachelor, I stayed for the content. That is how you get real readers and not just ones that want to follow to win a giveaway or something. Great advice from all the bloggers!

  10. Thank you for this post! Wonderful advice for a newbie like myself :-)


  11. Awesome advice. I'm thinking of starting a blog but don't know much about blogging, and didn't know you can make money?? How?

  12. Love all of the advice! This was a great idea for a post and super helpful! Plus, I am excited to read some of these blogs you linked to! Thanks for including mine Shay! I always look forward to your content {and recipes - hehe!}.

  13. Great advice all in one spot!!! Loved it!!! Thanks for sharing!

  14. This is such a good post! I started my blog to document my family and to share my business/crafts.... I don't have a lot of followers, and i've realized it's okay! I want to do it more for myself and sometimes I still feel like it's a struglge but it's so worth it. I want my daughters to be able to look back at what our life was like when they were young and to know what my interests are! I think networking is probably the hardest part for me. Thanks for all of your tips!

  15. all such great advice...and funny how we all had advice along the same lines...being yourself and having fun!!!

    Thanks for rounding all these up, and introducing me to some new blogs!

    and ps...so funny...the google ad under the post when I was reading, was a People mag with your brother on it!!

  16. Wow! What a great post and round up from so many different bloggers. The one main theme it seems is to be yourself. It can't be more true. Also I agree, blogging should be fun, not a chore. Very nice post! Heather

  17. Love all the advice here! I would say that blog has changed organically, I started with one idea in mind and I found it went another direction. "Go with flow" and have fun is how I am approaching it. I blog with all of my family and it has become a great way to stay connected with teenagers! :) pippa

  18. good tips- i totally agree with all of them! congrats on keeping up with your blog for 6 years!


  19. Such great advice! I've been blogging just since January and am really enjoying it but don't think I'll ever want it as a career - I don't want to feel obligated to blog when I don't feel like it. I'm hoping it's just an easy way for family, friends, and whoever else wants to follow me to see what is going on with my family. Love 52 Shades of Shay!


  20. Thanks for some great advice. I follow both of your blogs and started my own blog a few weeks ago. You do a great job! If anyone wants to check out my blog I would love that. www.happierhappenings.blogspot.com

  21. Thanks so much for compiling all these great tips from the best bloggers!! I found it all extremely useful and can’t wait to check out some new blogs now!

  22. I am loving everyone's advice... Mostly because it shows we're all on the same page! Have fun, be yourself, make friends... That's what I love about blogging. :) I'm excited that I found some other new blogs today, too. And yours is in my top 5 favorites, Shay! Love it! And you know 52 Shades of Shay is my fave.

  23. Such a fantastic post! I started blogging in 2008 and it's so awesome to be able to look back and see how your voice (and life!) has changed since then! I'm visiting from Mandy's blog (love her and Erin!) and I'm so excited to have found some new blogs to read in addition! Thanks for this!

  24. Great advice! Be yourself, be authentic, be true...I love ALL that everyone had to share. Thanks for posting! :-)


  25. I love that almost all of them said "be yourself." What a valuable piece of advice, not just for blogging but for life in general. So many people get wrapped up in trying to be somebody else, and it will always, always fail.

  26. wonderful blog post. It's great to hear confirmation again and again to just be yourself. It is SO EASY to compare yourself to other bloggers.

  27. I'm LOVING your 50 Shades of Shay :) TOO fun!! Loved reading everyone's advice...it's so fun to see how we all said something along the same line! HA!!

    And I LOVE all these new blogs I'll be following now! Just another excuse to stink at my domestic duties ;)

  28. Fantastic advice for new blogger, as well as a refresher for those who have been out there for a while! My favorite is to blog for you and not for the money! :)

  29. Great post Shay! Thanks so much for including me in this list of fabulous women! You are such a great, inspiring woman and mom.

  30. Thanks for all the advice!!! I need as much as I can get. I've been wanting a new hobby so I decided to start blogging so we'll see how it goes!

  31. I loved reading all of their advice. They all had such a common theme about being authentic. As I read over that, it occurred to me that is why I follow most of the blogs I read...because they are real people with honest advice and stories I can relate to! My favorite part of blogging is getting to know people from all over the place who have the same interests as me. It is so much fun!

  32. Thanks for having me be a part of this, Shay! SO, so, so, glad we found eachother's blogs. Honored to be a part of this series, and more importantly, so glad we have become friends. Love you!

  33. Shay, I had to let you know that I am one of your newest followers and absolutely love (both) of your blogs! You are so real, down to earth and genuine...These are the main reasons I keep coming back! I just started my own blog last month and have been struggling with where I want to take it...enter this post: a light bulb went off!! This was exactly what I needed to hear right now! I need to be true to myself and not compare myself to anyone else! Thank you so much for inspiring me to be a better blogger!!


  34. Great advice and wish I would have known more years ago when I started a blog for my young girls. Let it go when I thought it was too boring for others to read! Love reading yours and others now.

    Question for you Shay: Do any of your blogger friends write about their children who have allergies, food and/or environmental? My sister has two with such allergies. She is always looking for advice and a place to share her experiences. Maybe she should start a blog?! Thanks!

  35. As a newbie blogger since Dec. 2012, this post is coming at the right time!! Thanks much and if it matters, I love your blog, lady!

    Definitely check mine out if you get a chance!!! iadorewhatilove.com

    Dana :)

  36. Hi Shay! Loved reading all the advice from some of my already favorite bloggers and now many new ones as well. Thanks for rounding these up!

  37. I loved this. Cassie is my girl so i had to head over. Great to read all of this and it reminds me why I love blogging so much. I agree with all the girls about always finding your own voice. Thanks for a fun post. Happy Mother's day weekend!

  38. I'm a new blogger and I've been so caught up making my blog look good that this really brought me back to the reason I started blogging in the first place. All wise ladies and it was really great to hear recurring themes. Thanks for compiling this Shay!

  39. love this...thanks for sharing! xo

  40. Thank you so much for this. So happy I found your blog and this :)

  41. WOW! This is so good and so helpful!! Thanks so much for taking the time to do it. :) I just found your blog and love it!

  42. I came to your blog when I first found out about it on the bachelor but unfortunately had forgotten what your name was. So glad I found you again! I'm following you on Twitter now so that I won't make that mistake again. I just launched a new blog after blogging for 4 years with a partner and am glad to see all this advice. Thanks for the encouragement.
    Heather at MyLifeWellLoved.com

  43. This was so great to read! I just started a blog, its just so nice to be able to share little bits of my everyday even if just a few people see it every day.
    I've loved reading through all of your blogs!


  44. Hey Shay,
    I am so inspired by you and Sheaffer that I am ready to begin blogging. I have said this for years but I finally think the time is right. This blog really helped me to see that its okay to be myself and do it for the fun of it. I definitely would love to change careers by blogging so I am going to go back and read John and Kelly's blog. I am so glad I stumbled on your blog a few years back when Sean was on the Bachelorette and I was so devastated that he got sent home. It has been so fun to enjoy the journey with your entire family. I even gained new friend's through this experience.

  45. This was perfect for me to read! Super helpful! Thanks so much, Shay!

  46. Your initial success with blogging obviously came from being the Bachelor's sister. However, your continued success doesn't have anything to do with your brother. (Even though he's a great guy.) I think its due to the fact that you are so organized and you seem to have such a great life and you put really interesting stuff out there about you your life your family, helpful tips, inspiring info, yummy recipes etc. I just love your blog!


If you have any specific questions, feel free to email me at mixandmatchmama@yahoo.com. xoxo

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