By now, most of you may have heard pieces of the story before. But for those who’ve stumbled across this blog for the first time, here goes.
In late 2014, I became disappointed in my fear as a woman. I feared to go out and explore, and meet new people, see new places, and take risks, like many of my friends from around the world had done. My male friends.
At first, I reminded myself that they were men, and much less of an easy target than I would be as a woman. But that didn’t console me for long enough. After lamenting this weakness with a friend, I told her, “In 2015, I’m going to take risks – calculated risks, but risks all the same. You hold me accountable to that.”
The following March, I became really fed up with my corporate job in payroll. There were some strange transactions afoot with the accounts my team worked on, the suspicious firing of an employee in America, and then a sudden pressure on my small team to pick up the slack for responsibilities we didn’t even have proper access to carry out.
So, one by one, team members started leaving. And at the first opportunity I got, I jumped ship as well. On the day I quit my job in payroll, I was one of three employees to walk away from the company for good. We had all had enough.
A New Life
At the time, I had a time-sensitive opportunity to capitalise on, and just couldn’t pass it up for anything. I could freelance. I could travel. And more importantly, I never had to work for that company again. Hopefully.
But before I quit, I decided to tie up some unfortunate loose ends. I gave up the pets I had rescued, and re-homed them to family and friends. I gave up my apartment. I sold half my possessions, gave away most of the rest, and packed what I could into three suitcases and a laptop bag. The rest never made it further than the dumpster.
But more importantly, I also started this blog. And to ensure I wouldn’t forget it, WordPress woke me this morning with the incredible reminder that it was my blog’s first anniversary.
It has truly been an incredible year of personal and professional growth, and I would love to share some of the things I learned – specifically in blogging – with my readers. So check out the following five things I learned after running this and several other blogs on WordPress in the past year.
Build from the WordPress Community Outward
The amazing thing about using WordPress as a platform is that it already provides you with a community of wordsmiths and readers. But there were times when I was charmed by social media marketing, and forgot to continue building and growing my reader-base within the WordPress community.
During those few months, I did pay for my stupidity and negligence. Now, I’m right back to where I started. I follow thousands of blogs, and scroll through my feed each day to see what everyone else is up to. Good karma does work its way around on WordPress. Give and you shall receive.
To this end, you should make an effort to reply to the comments on your blogs, or even just like them. Replying creates a discussion, as opposed to just one-sided commentary. In addition to this, the more comments on your blog, the more it boosts your SEO ranking with Google.
Purchase your Domain
A lot of blogs on WordPress still use ‘.wordpress’ domains. This is fine if you’re still new to blogging and just looking to experiment and explore. However, if you truly want a blog that looks and sounds professional, it’s about time you bought your own domain. I’m not sure how much it costs elsewhere, but mine cost me $18 each (annually) through WordPress.
If you have a common name, or your blog’s name isn’t particularly unique, this is even more important. Why? Because by the time you finally decide to buy the domain, it is likely already gone.
Readers are also more likely to take you and your blog seriously, if you have a professional domain. All the websites I run, including the one I created for College Mate, all use professional domains which work to their credit.
Paid Advertising Works
Earlier this year, I began to experiment with paid promotions on Facebook and for my other social media pages. Facebook paid promotions brought a good 90 percent of my readership base of the blog for the first four or so months of this year, before WordPress Reader took over again. It also exposed me to an audience I might not have otherwise reached.
Through paid promotions, I was able to grow my Facebook page from 0 likes in January 2015 to more than 1500 likes. I also did the same for my client Godigio, and grew their base from maybe 10 likes to more than 600 in just 5 months of running paid promos. Now, I don’t need to promote posts on Facebook to get support from followers, because my base is strong enough.
So what’s my budget? Even $50 per month can get you where you want to be – and I actually split that $50 between two blogs.
If you’re truly passionate about your work, then you shouldn’t hesitate to invest in it.
Stay in your Lane
Usually said as an insult, staying in your lane is actually pretty good advice for bloggers. If I follow a blog, it’s usually for a specific reason, and when the blog starts posting content all over the place, then I no longer have a specific reason to go there. I’ll just drop by every once in a while, until I forget.
Alexis Chateau started off as just a travel blog, but then grew into much more than that. Over the past year, I learned that there are much tougher issues than getting people to travel or go hiking, and I have expanded into tackling those as well. Even so, my overall message in my posts have been the same from July 18 2015 to July 18 2016:
Get out there. Explore. Take control of your own life.
For other topics that have grabbed my interest, I created other blogs. For instance, I hold a pretty good place in the online college community with College Mate. It focuses entirely on the college experience and helps students (and lifelong learners) to make the best of their education – in and out of the classroom.
Know your Audience
But my venturing into social issues did not occur by chance. While I flirted with it on occasion here and there, and even completed an animal rights internship on another WordPress site, it was my audience’s eager reception of my social commentary posts that transformed my blog from just any old travel blog, to one that discussed the bigger issues.
My first post on the Black Lives Matter movement brought in 90 percent of my website traffic in the month it was posted, in spite of my unpopular opinion where it was concerned. It was second only to my blog post on being the daring woman who did the proposing in my marriage: I Proposed – We Eloped.
That was, however, until my explanation of what ‘good hair’ means within the Black community, became an editor’s pick on WordPress. It is still my most popular post to date. It was all uphill from there – in a good way.
I hope this advice helps many readers who have reached out to me in the comments and via email to ask about my blogs, and how I’ve managed to build not just an audience, but a healthy level of engagement with my readers.
I look forward to another year… another decade… another however long with you guys, and hope your blogs and other pet projects continue to grow as well!