Thank you so much to Stephanie of Keeper of the Home for taking the time to share her blogging tips with us. I’m so excited to be featuring several bloggers over the next few weeks – real-life successful bloggers – and hearing their thoughts and tips about blogging! So, pour yourself a cup of coffee, sit back, and be inspired!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your blog:
I’m Stephanie and I run a blog called Keeper of the Home: Naturally Inspired Living for the Christian Homemaker. Essentially, I’m a real food eating, healthy living, natural homemaking, full time homeschooling mama of four, who writes about all of the above.
Keeper of the Home was launched over 4 1/2 years ago, with the intent of being an encouraging, inspiring and Christ-centered resource for those who aspire to healthful and natural homemaking. Although the blog is now less about my own daily life, and includes the voices of 10 contributing writers, the topics and goals are still the same.
How did you get started with blogging?
About 5 years ago, my husband went through a time of serious illness, and after that stressful season of our lives, I was looking for some sort of outlet for myself. Sort of a therapeutic hobby. I had been growing in my knowledge and interest of nutrition and natural, healthier living and felt that I would love to share with others what I was learning. I stumbled upon the idea of blogging and decided to start out simply, but consistently, posting a little something every weekday.
Turned out, I loved blogging. Combining the ability to both write about topics I was passionate about, and run a business at the same time, was such an amazing win-win. And doing it from home, where I get to stay home with my four sweet children? I have the best “job” in the world!
What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started because it would have saved you so much time and energy?
I really lacked focus and professionalism when I started, and it took me a couple of years to figure it out. I regularly wish I could go back and white-out my entire first two years of blogging. Of course, those were the years where I was learning SO much about what a blog was, what it meant to connect with a community of readers, how to present information in an appealing and readable manner, and how to be consistent and purposeful in what I was sharing about. I don’t regret any of that learning, but it would have been nice to skip over it a little faster!
If I could go back 4 1/2 years, I would tell myself to slow down the train, and first figure out what I really wanted my blog to be about. How I wanted people to see it and think of it. What would make my blog stand out. I would read more blogs about blogging. Learn more about web design and editing. I would study what made the blogs that I loved great blogs, not just good blogs. In other words, I would put the time into researching and learning something about my craft before just diving in.
What is your balancing secret in managing a blog and a family?
In order to do both, I think that you have to determine two things:
- That your blog is enough of a genuine priority that you will carve out specific time for it and be intentional about it.
- That the needs of your family will always trump the needs of your blog.
I haven’t always obeyed rule #2. I have had seasons where I let the blog consume me and encroach on my ability to care for my family. It was definitely a mistake, one that I don’t intend to repeat.
But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t put your family first and still blog well. I think it comes down to rule #1, where you determine (together with your husband, if possible) what the role of your blog will be in your life, what it realistically requires of you (in terms of tasks and hours), and when you will make the time to actually do it. If you can’t carve out enough time to do all the writing/blogging work that you want to do, then you simply need to scale back your expectations of your blog and do what you can honestly do without compromising your family.
The funny thing about doing this is that once I made the firm decision to keep my family as top priority and keep my blogging time only to set days and hours that I had pre-determined, my blog began to grow more than it ever had before. I was actually working on it less than before, giving up a lot of “should do’s” in favor of what I realistically “could do” with the time that I had (ie. very little social media, less blog reading, bringing in contributing writers and posting one less day per week, etc.). It doesn’t seem like a very good strategy for helping your blog to succeed, but somehow that greater sense of balance, and perhaps an increased fervor to really work my tail off during the few precious hours I did have, brought about a greater level of success than I had known before.
What is the biggest mistake you made and how did you fix it?
I spent about two years initially using WordPress.com and then Typepad. I had heard of WordPress.org (self-hosted) back in the very beginning from a techie-friend, but it looked too complex and I didn’t grasp why it mattered. After a little over a year, I realized my mistake in not going with WordPress from the start, and tried to switch all my archives over myself, but it was a gargantuan failure and I reverted (sadly) back to Typepad for another year. Finally, I had to bite the bullet and pay someone far more knowledgeable a whole lot of money to switch my blog over to WordPress properly, without losing/messing up all of my previous content or altering my links for search engine ranking purposes. It was a costly mistake, both in money, and also in time and energy and frustration. If you’re new to blogging or thinking of starting out, I would highly recommend that you just jump right in to a self-hosted WordPress blog.
What has been your best readership building tactic?
Unfortunately, it’s starting to sound a bit cliche, but putting out excellent content is the way that I did it. Yes, I also commented on other blogs, joined in blog carnivals, responded to my reader’s comments, and all those other good things, but I don’t think that’s why my blog grew as it did.
I made it my primary goal to write often and write well, on topics that were interesting to me and that I felt would be interesting and helpful to my readers. As I went on, I focused on editing and formatting my posts as professionally as possible, including eye-catching photos and images, using plentiful links (both inbound and outbound), and clear titles with SEO-friendly words in them. Blogs that are well-written, appealing to read, and on relevant topics cannot help but grow.
As a secondary readership building tactic, guest blogging on larger blogs (give them the very best you’ve got) and volunteering for contributing writer positions on respected blogs is also incredibly valuable.
What has been your most successful way to make money?
Although it is still my goal to have a book traditionally published one day, I never anticipated just how lucrative self-publishing could be. I’ve written three ebooks to date (two of which are also available in paperback), and they have been my largest source of income overall.
It takes a lot of time and effort to write a good ebook, and there are a few up-front costs if you want to have a really solid final product (hiring an editor, having a cover designed, etc.) but each of my books have been well worth the effort and any initial investment, even back when my blog was far, far smaller.
What is one tidbit of advice that you would offer to a new blogger, just starting out?
There are so many blogs out there these days that it’s not enough anymore to just start writing and hope someone reads. If you really want to build up a readership, it’s important to come up with a blog niche or focus that is both true to who you are, and that stands out as unique.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but you do need to figure out what will make your blog different from others. Ask yourself, “If I was reading this blog, what would make it valuable to me? Why would I come back and read it again, week after week?” If you can’t truly answer that, chances are, most readers can’t either and won’t stick around.
If your’e blogging purely for the fun of it, and because you love writing, and because you’re happy to enjoy community with just a few readers, then you should absolutely blog on without any regard to anything else. But if you hope to grow your blog or to ultimately turn it into a source of income, then it’s definitely worth taking the time to determine what the value proposition of your site will be.
Still Have Questions?
Leave them in the comments below – then be sure to head over to Stephanie’s Blog!
Table of contents for Real Life Blogging Stories
- Blogging Tips From Real-Life Successful Bloggers: So, How Much Do You REALLY Make?
- Blogging Tips From A Real-Life Successful Blogger: An Interview With Stephanie @KeeperOfTheHome
- Blogging Tips From A Real-Life Successful Blogger: An Interview With Laurie Hise
- Blogging Tips From A Real-Life Successful Blogger: An Interview With Kristin @TheFrugalGirl
- Blogging Tips From A Real-Life Successful Blogger: An Interview With Angela Walker
- Blogging Tips From A Real-Life Successful Blogger: An Interview With Erika Bragdon
- How I Wrote An E-Book: An Interview With Blogger Prerna Malik
- How I Wrote An E-Book: An Interview With Blogger Liz Latham
- How To Gross Over $30,000 In Your First Year of Blogging – Or, At Least, How We Did It Here At Blogelina