Blogging: The Second Year
Coucou! À La Prochaine (ALP) is celebrating its SECOND birthday this week! Two years of French culture by way of fun adventures across New England. Have you enjoyed the ride? I hope so! Every anniversary, I like to briefly stray from the usual francophile musings and reflect solely on blogging. Since ALP came into fruition, followers connect with me because they too would like to start a blog, and they’d like some insight. I always find myself befuddled to advise because there’s so much that goes into blogging. Content. Engagement. Domains. Images. Posts. Outreach. Schedules. Where does one even begin? Regardless, a good blog requires time, and À La Prochaine is my unpaid second-full time job. With that sort of commitment comes a lot of success and failure. Failure gets a bad reputation. Mistakes can be good. They are opportunities for learning and improvement, right?
Thus, I’m reflecting on all those blogging lessons in year two of ALP:
- Image maintenance is CRITICAL. Last summer, I started receiving alerts that my site’s memory was nearly at capacity. What?! My site took a painstaking minute to load, which is a snail’s pace in the internet world. Any time I tried to load an image into my site’s WordPress media library, I’d receive an HTTP error and the image wouldn’t load. This was infuriating. Images are essential supplements to a post, and without them, even the most entertaining post is bland. After months of research, I discovered that the image sizes in my media library were humungous and devouring all of the site’s memory. Oops! Resolving this required weeding through fifty older posts, saving the images, resizing them in Adobe Photoshop, reloading them in the media library, and finally reposting the smaller images in their original posts. I also cleaned my media library, deleting images that weren’t attached to anything. Yes, it was as tedious as it sounds. My tip- shrink your images prior to loading them into the media library for site optimization. A great image size for a blog post is 600×800 pixels. I have access to Adobe Photoshop, and I prefer that tool for image sizing, but there are helpful applications out there such as WP Smush and Image Shrinker.
- Posts don’t have to be the long to be good. I love writing. I’m no Kerouac or Brontë sister, but I really enjoy publishing my thoughts. Sometimes, I forget that this is a blog and not the New Yorker. On the whole, blogs tend to be less wordy and more casual. There was a point I’d often find myself spending hours crafting the perfect sentence or quadruple checking grammar on a 1,200 word post. Exhausting! This intense editorial ritual kept me from publishing more content. After a day at the office in my regular job and then corralling an infant and two cats at home, the mental energy bank was depleted. Upon the advice of a fellow blogger friend, I started to shorten my posts to between 500-600 words, and spent no more than an hour writing, editing, and review them. Voila! The content started to pour! The best part? Followers still loved my posts. I didn’t have to be Gustave Flaubert after all!
- Gaining followers and engagement organically is tough- try not to take it personally. Engagement, that’s a real goal. I’m going to go on the assumption that most bloggers blog because they have a passion they want to share with the world. Regardless of whether or not they’re paid, they have something to say, or something valuable to add to a conversation. Getting that message out… easy, right? Social media is both a great and frustrating tool. Great because it creates a global pathway directly to your content with capabilities of a vast reach. Frustrating because social media makes it tough to reach unless you pay. During the first year of ALP, aside from wonderfully supportive personal friends, I’d be lucky if I got one organic follower per month. I did everything feasible to establish a heartier following. I printed business cards and distributed them all over to local businesses. I contacted other bloggers asking to help and share my content. I sent post reviews directly to event coordinators, vendors, and business owners asking for a social media shout out or share. I brazenly begged for likes and shares all over the place. Rarely were those efforts met with any sort of response. That still holds true. The rejection stings, but it is not in any way an indicator of your blog’s worth. Keep moving forward, keep posting!
- Burnout happens, and that’s okay! In my personal life, 2017 was total chaos. Lots of happy times, and lots of challenges. I became a new parent in April to the infamous petit garçon. Adjusting to that magnificent role is still new and exhausting. During my summer maternity leave, my sleep-deprived, postpartum brain didn’t have the capacity to compare and contrast macaron flavors or talk about the latest French film in depth. Shortly after maternity leave, my family faced some serious medical drama, and then I found myself briefly hospitalized only a few weeks ago. Everything is going much better, so worry not. At the time, I was irrationally hard on myself for losing blog interest and momentum. My point is, sometimes life happens, and we burn out. If you need to take a break, then take a break.
ALP has evolved and transformed so much already in two years that I’m looking forward to year three. Thank you all again for your continued support in following along. If you’re starting your own blog, bon courage! Blogs are fun. Blogs are challenging. Most importantly, blogs can keep you engaged in your interests.
À La Prochaine!