I launched the DominiqueBennett.com blog on January 3, 2014
I did so with the intent of documenting my journey after graduating from a university program that I had been warned would soon be out of business. Do you still watch cable television as much as you watch Netflix or stream online? – I rest my case.
A year later, I have a job within a completely new field that didn’t exist when I first started school. I’m recently married (as recently as 4 days ago), and I’m considering a job offer overseas. I don’t say any of this to brag, because I truly didn’t think that this is where I’d end up a year ago.
I was scared, broke, and really disappointed in myself.
If you read my 2014 Reverse Bucket List post you know that at the time that I started this blog I was preparing to move across the country to be with my then boyfriend-now husband (holy shit. yeah I just typed that) who had graduated from the same program, in the same year and was getting a jump start at his career. As proud of him as I was, I was embarrassed. Everyone kept asking me – but what about you? What will you be doing? And truthfully I had on clue. I just knew that whatever it was, I was going to be really fucking incredible at it.
Starting this blog was a way for me to prove to myself and to other recent grads that it was possible, stay accountable and track the process.
Blogging during this time kept me sane. I was living in a town of 12,000 people. I was 1 of 12 black people in the entire town. And I was very, very alone. My blog became my outlet to express myself, remind myself of how much I had/have to offer and spark my creativity.
I still have quite a ways to go in terms of the goals that I have for this blog, but this being my 100th post! (cue the fireworks) and my one year anniversary of the website, I’m ready to share all that I’ve learned from the past year of blogging.
What I’ve learned from 1 Year of Blogging
1. Your Friends are Not Your Fans
I heard this quote when I attended a panel discussion on Secrets of a Side Hustler. It has been one of the realest lessons I’ve learned through blogging thus far. Your friends may read your posts, and they may not read your posts. At the end of the day they aren’t your audience. Blogging is a platform for reaching a larger audience, if I wanted to stick to speaking directly too my friends I stick to writing statuses on Facebook or texting them.
I’ve had to learn to stop catching feelings every time that my sister, or best friend asked me about my website rather than actually reading it. It wasn’t built for them – My blog has a larger purpose and audience to fulfil!
2. PINTEREST IS LIFE
Do I really need to elaborate? Fine.
After 1 year of blogging Pinterest has become my best friend! (I should feel really sad admitting this… but I’m not!) The easiest way to drive traffic to your site (Pinterest has surpassed Facebook traffic to my blog) and the easiest way to collect inspiration for content and updates. I use my own personal board Better Blogging to collect resources on how to better my site, and have joined multiple group boards including The Blogging Collective, Toronto Bloggers and Better Blogging Tips to share my own posts with the right demographic.
3. When You’re Brave Enough to Share Your Personal Story, Readers Take Notice
To this day, my top viewed post is ‘Why The Hell Did You Leave Toronto?‘ which was written back in February… a month after the blog actually launched.
Easily one of the most vulnerable posts I’ve shared, I was actually quite scared of posting it while feeling like it was absolutely necessary that I did. In this post I explain why I moved across the country and described exactly how I felt. It was written a quarter out of anger, and a quarter out of desperation for the questions to end, and half of out of complete excitement for what was ahead, and to be able to look back and remember how I felt at that exact moment.
I use this post as proof that audiences will typically come in when you open up and invite them to experience life with you. – Tweet This!
The same can be said for my post Pardon My Ovaries
4. You DON’T Need to Use ALL of the Social Networks
I’m still too embarrassed to admit it.
Do you guys remember that time I attempted to launch a facebook page for myself? Yeah… most people don’t. I wish I didn’t either.
I’m a digital strategist by profession, so essentially I manage facebook pages, blogs for a living. So you would think that making my own would be a breeze right? Nah. It wasn’t time. I didn’t have the audience yet. Remember what I said about your friends not being your fans. Well I didn’t have enough genuine and consistent blog readers outside of my group of friends just yet, and my fan page included 32 likes from friends who felt sorry for me! LOL
That being said, trial and error is really the only recipe for social media. Try out different platforms, see what does and doesn’t work for you, and then downsize to focus on what does work.
5. Find a Free Downloadable Blog Planner
Don’t let people convince you that you need to invest into fancy and expensive tools to run a blog. I’ve purchased expensive DSLR cameras, lenses, flashes, photo editing software, video editing software, a custom blog panner from Etsy, WordPress themes and even apps.
At the end of the day, my pen, paper, and free Evernote app see the most action. If I could go back in time, the number one piece of advice I would give myself is; KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID.
I keep my ideas, inspiration, posts and schedules organized in my blog binder which is made up of free downloadable prints that I found on Pinterest from fellow bloggers. The great part is that I’m able to choose the pages that work for my, and choose not to download the pages that I know I won’t use – unlike the planner that I paid for.
6. Leave Genuine Comments to Get Genuine Comments
A trick that a lot of bloggers like to use is leaving comments on popular blogs, or posts that discuss a similar topic, just to leave a link back to their blog. Easy traffic. In reality, it’s spam.
“Nice Post. – Check out ThirstyBeggingForViews.Blogspot.com” is not a worthwhile comment.
Leave comments that add value. Ask questions, compliment a specific part of the post. You can even come right out and tell that that you love their blog and ask them to check out your blog because you respect their opinion. Be genuine in order to build a genuine audience.
7. Don’t Even Bother – Just Use Canva for Graphics
I can’t even BEGIN to describe the types of BOTCHED photoshop jobs this blog started out with. I’m still improving my graphics, and working on a solid style guide in terms of imagery, but LORDT, if I haven’t improved!
Canva.com has become my right hand-bietchh (no these are not spelling mistakes people.. Lordt.) Canva has templates for popular social media graphics (Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) and even helps you with blog graphics.
Save yourself the time! Follow the professionals! Plus, it’s free and easy.
8. Have Inspiration Arrive in Your Inbox Everyday
Over the past year I have subscribed to some great blogs. ByRegina.com has a great enewsletter that shares inspiration and challenges to take on to improve on creativity (and that isn’t annoyingly frequent). Heartifb has a great roundup of blog posts specifically for bloggers looking for inspiration and resources. Danielle Laporte has amazing weekly motivational emails that encourage creatives to go deeper and share their truth. I also get a daily roundup of all the latest posts from blogs that I follow on BlogLovin.
9. Good SEO brings in the Readers, Great Content Builds Relationships
You’ve probably heard this a million times- SEO is a crucial element in blogging! For a very long time I tried to avoid learning whatever the hell SEO meant, it just all seemed too complicated for me. Truth is, get a good SEO plugin if you use WordPress, and FORGET ABOUT IT! SEO (search engine optimization) helps you to be found in Google and therefore build a larger audience and attract the right readers based on what they’re searching for. I use the WordPress SEO by Yoast to choose my focus keyword and the plugin automatically tells me if my SEO is good and how to improve it.
Attracting a new reader is one thing though. Don’t let your focus on SEO take away from your content. Write meaningful, and purpose driven content that people will want to return to read again and again. No pressure. Challenge yourself to be yourself and build your readership based on that – Tweet This!
10. Don’t Just Post for the Sake of Consistency
Ask any blogger who makes a profit from their blog what the key to their success is ,and they’ll tell you – consistency. Post at least 3 times a week. Post everyday if you can! Keep an editorial calendar. Schedule your posts. Post! Post! Post!
Here’s my motto: If you don’t have something productive to say – just STFU.
At the end of the day it’s not the volume of the posts that you produce that is going to bring in devoted readers. It’s your quality. Take time on your post. Read your content over and over before hitting publish. Have a process that works and assures quality – write out your inspiration, create a draft, write drunk, edit sober, take pictures, take selfies, buy a timer remote, grab a friend, edit on Canva, learn photoshop, damn it – use paint!
Above all, ask yourself “would I read this?” If the answer is yes, hit publish! If not, take a break and come back with a fresh perspective. Edit and ask yourself again.
Unless you keep a hard-news blog and work for TMZ or CNN your story can probably wait to be published until your satisfied and proud of your work.
11. Find Blogger Friends
Remember when I said your friends are not your fans, find a group of friends who can actually be both! Blogger Friends, Blogger BFFs, BBFFs – whatever you wanna call them – are people who are in the same boat as you. They understand the time and effort that you put into your blog, appreciate it, share their opinions through comments on your blog, you do the same on theirs, and you even collaborate on posts/contests/giveaways/linkups etc
I made a few blogger friends through the year, and I’m still learning to take my own advice and take full advantage of having a network of fellow bloggers. You can find Blogger Friends on blog forums like 20 Something Bloggers, Group Pinterest Boards like Digital Nomad, linkup parties hosted on blogs like F-Word, and by simply connecting with some of your favourite blogger via social media or email.
It’s been an incredible year thus far and I’m excited to bring even greater content in 2015! Some of my blog goals for this year include:
+ Finally sending out my new Media Kit and connecting with millennial specific brands for useful giveaways, contest, and post inspiration
+ Posting a new YouTube video every week – more specifically launching the Crap After the Cap & Gown video series to highlight powerful career woman and their paths to success
+ Collaborating with other 20-something bloggers to allow them to share their stories
+Hosting my own Link-up party
+Start a monthly newsletter
What have been some of the Biggest Lessons You’ve Learned?