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Build a Successful Creative Blog

Lesson 4 of 26

Best Practices for Success

April Bowles-Olin

Build a Successful Creative Blog

April Bowles-Olin

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Lesson Info

4. Best Practices for Success


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
2 Know Your Ideal Reader Duration:52:03
3 Put Fun Back into Blogging Duration:35:03
4 Best Practices for Success Duration:26:50
5 Developing Your Content Plan Duration:46:24
7 Your Unique Style and Voice Duration:31:49
8 Design Tips Duration:21:38
  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Writing in Your Voice Duration:34:10
2 Exploring Different Voices Duration:28:23
3 Copywriting 101 Duration:19:45
6 Visuals For Your Blog Duration:30:04
7 Photos For Your Blog Duration:55:35
9 Promoting with Social Media Duration:39:29

Lesson Info

Best Practices for Success

We're gonna move on to some best practices for success. The best way to learn. So, the best way to learn about blogging is just to blog. Start before you're ready. We've already talked about this, but this is something that should become a mantra for you. Start before you're ready. Start before you're ready. The best way to learn how to video blog is to start making videos. The best way to start to learn how to use Twitter is to start using Twitter. So just jump in and do it. Now let's talk about a little bit of a tough one, how much to share. You have to decide how much of your life you wanna share on your blog. There are some people who decide I don't wanna share any photos of my children. There are some people who decide I don't wanna share these personal aspects about myself. And that's okay. This is a place where you have to decide what feels good for you; how open you wanna be, how much you wanna share about yourself, or your family. And then, also, when you're writing, I tend to...

think that my posts are best when I push myself a little bit past my comfort zone. It's a good sign, and not because I've shared something personal, but just because my writing has been a little bit different, or I've said something in a little bit different of a way that I'm wondering how my audience is gonna take it. Like I'm telling them this is what you need to be doing, and too bad, because I'm kind of a pushy person and I have this little bit of a power. My husband will tell you that I'm like (growling noise) and so when I put that out on to my blog sometimes I think, "Are people gonna take this the wrong way?" But I'm telling them that they absolutely can't be doing these things on social media or they're gonna look stupid silly. Are they going to take that the wrong way? But my audience usually ends up loving all of that stuff. So if I feel a little bit anxious before I hit the publish button it's actually a very good sign. If I feel safe, completely safe, it's actually a sign that things aren't going to be as successful as they normally are. So do you guys have any questions about sharing personal information or anything on those, on that level? Or have you felt like, "Should I share this?" And then you shared it and it became something amazing? Sage, did you wanna share? Yeah, I guess there's this idea that, like, life coaches are supposed to have it all together and we don't have any problems, and it took me a while, but I actually did share that I attempted suicide when I was a teenager. And after I shared that I got the most comments that I've ever received and the number of clients I got totally went up because people could actually relate to me that I wasn't perfect and that I had recovered from something. It was like the school of life. They could relate to that. Yeah, and were you really anxious before you published that? I was so anxious before I hit publish and I had people telling me that you shouldn't put that up there at all, like, you have to have the facade that everything's okay, but when I admitted that, for a while, my life wasn't okay, people loved it. People loved seeing me. Yeah, and our readers online are, our chatters online are relating, too. They're saying, first of all, how courageous to share it, and Big Apple City New York says, "I used to blog about certain topics "and avoid sharing personal stuff "or even showing my face on the blog. "A friend challenged me and I never looked back ever since. "Sharing a bit of personal stories "with still keeping the boundaries "brings me closer to my readers." Yeah, absolutely. Go ahead. I know that we had some people in the chat room earlier asking about using your own personal name, like in your URL. If you do have a lot of different topics and ideas you wanna blog about, kinda putting yourself out there and making it And I'm curious to know what you think about that. I know some of us here, yeah, Sage, you have your own website. Yeah. Is your name, right? Yeah, and that gives me the freedom to change it up whenever I want. Yeah, and I do the same thing, but when you put your voice out there, anybody who's Googling about you, they're gonna understand the full story as well. So I wanna hear your thoughts about it, too. Yeah, I think using your name as the URL is a great way to go. If I was doing things over I would've used my name as my URL instead of Blacksburg Belle if I were starting from scratch, actually. The sales of people's names is going through the roof right now Everybody is going and checking. (group laughing) It's hard My computer, like, jumped if you have a common name. You know, it can be difficult. Well and I'd like to make a comment. Like mine is sort of my name, it's so it's a combination where there was like something else, you know, cos names are names, hard to remember everybody's names at a party too, so if you can have a way to like remember somebody's website name, you know. Adding something else You know it's really special when you have your name. I had for a while and then, as a third anniversary present from my husband, he gave me a piece of paper that says, "I got .com for you." (group laughing) Oh, that is great. I said thank you, so sweet. Yeah I mean it's brutal out there. There's a lot of competition for the .com's. There is. It's not easy. Especially when it's your first name .com. Yeah, no and if you have a common name it can be difficult. Yeah. Yeah. I was gonna speak to that point. As a Jennifer Kennedy I could not find any websites for that name cos it was taken, like, many, many years ago, so I just kinda wanna encourage people to really think creatively about, maybe, a play on your name, or for me personally with Teach Good Stuff, it really came from a story from one of my students in my classrooms who stood up and said, "Ms. Kennedy you really teach some good stuff." (group laughing) And so that just came to my head and I'm like, yeah,, there it is. That's great. So I just wanted to kinda give a voice to the people who have really common names like mine to kind of think, you know, maybe personal stories or something that really resonates with you as your site as well. Yeah and Kris with a K says, "I'm lucky to have a weird last name." (group laughing) It helps. (group laughing) Jennifer do you have that story up on your site about how you came up with the name? I actually don't and someone emailed me and I think I had posted it, I can't remember, I don't know how it came, but someone asked me, "How did you get Teach Good Stuff?" and I sent it to them in an email and I realized I have not shared that on my blog at all. So that might be my first, well my second, I have a video on my blog right now, but that might be my second video. I'm coming up on my one year anniversary for my blog at the end of this month, yay, and I was gonna go do a series of posts and challenges and I think the first one was gonna be sharing that story with my readers. Yeah, and you should definitely do video because the way you tell it is great. And put it on your about page. Yeah, exactly, that's a good point. Alright. So another best practice is not to get statistic crazed, especially in the beginning. Don't check your stats every single day. Check them monthly. Don't, if you get hung up on those statistics a lot of people get discouraged, especially in the beginning. We all start with zero readers. We all start with zero. Or maybe our moms, or maybe our husbands, or our best friend, but we all start small. So don't let those numbers discourage you from moving forward. Blogging is a long-term game. It is not a short-term success story for hardly anyone. So in the beginning I told you how, in the beginning of Blacksburg Belle I was able to take that blog from 20 to 800 readers a day in the first month, however, part of that was due to the fact that I brought years of experience of blogging with my wedding planning blog to Blacksburg Belle, and if I didn't have that experience, then it wouldn't have grown so quickly. So don't get statistic crazed, but pay attention to your most popular post. When you do check your statistics, you can set up Google Analytics very easily so that you're able to check the stats of your blog, pay attention to the ones that people like the most. The ones that are getting the most clicks. And how can you kind of come up with topics to go off of that? Some subtopics to go off of that. One of my most popular posts is 50 Art Journal Prompts. That one is, for some reason, I get so many hits on that one every single day. So things that I've done for that is to try to come up with other ideas that might keep people on my site past that one post. So I put up a DIY art journal post on how to make your own art journal and so then people click from that post to the how to make your own art journal post and it keeps them on my site longer. So also pay attention to what's working and do more of it. Focus on doing your best, constantly improving, and the numbers will rise. So if you keep trying to get better, your numbers will grow organically. We had a question. People just wondering when you say stats, some people have no idea what stats even mean. You wanna just give a little more background on what to look at? Right, sure, yeah, so I check my stats with Google Analytics. It's really easy to setup if you go to Google and type in Google Analytics you'll be able to set that up for your blog. Checking how many people are viewing your blog every day, checking how many people are viewing it monthly, checking the specific posts that get the most hits. You can even see where people go. It'll show you, like, okay they started here and then they clicked on this page, and then this page, and then this page, so that you can see kind of what the flow is of your site. So your statistics are just how many people are coming, where are they landing, how long are they staying on your site? And so many times when you first set this up you'll start checking it every day. And then you'll see it only grew from five readers to six readers, oh no, I'm doing something wrong, everything is wrong, and it's not. It's just how it is in the beginning. That's why I suggest only checking them every month. Never publish a post just because you think you should publish something. And this is a big one for me and I think you'll understand why. Let's say you're reading a blog and you've read three posts and those posts really spoke to you and you really like them, and in your mind now you are a loyal fan of this blog and you think, "I have to read every time they post something." And then the blogger just posts something that's not helpful, not something that speaks to you or engages you, and then that happens again, and then again, and then this becomes a blog that you don't feel like you have to pay attention to on a regular basis. Feels like one of those blogs that you can just check in every once in a while when you have the time, and since we're all super busy, we don't really have the time. You wanna be one of those blogs that people feel like, "I'm obsessed with this blog. "I have to read every post, I have to check every post," and if you're publishing just to publish that's not gonna happen. You're gonna be a blog where people feel like, "I can check it when I have the time." It's not going to feel the same. So if you feel like you're publishing just because you think you should for your business, that one shouldn't get published. Some other basics for success. Always remember that blogging is about more than publishing. It's about engagement, sharing, and giving. And this is a big one. If you want to get, you have to give. And we are going to go into a lot of detail on relationship building and how you can do that with other bloggers, but start thinking now about the ways that you can give to other people. About the ways that you can help other bloggers. About how you can engage with the people who are reading your blog. How can you get them more involved? One of the things that I try to do is respond to comments as often as I can. And I feel that the person who's left a thoughtful comment, they've taken the time to do so, so I'm gonna try my best to reply to them in a thoughtful way. So don't just think of it as a way to promote your business or else it's not gonna be as successful. Do more of what works, and less of what doesn't. I cannot tell you how many times I will work with a creative entrepreneur and she'll say to me, "Okay, the stuff that works really well "in my business is Facebook. "Everybody loves what's happening on Facebook "and when I post updates, and also, it works really well "when I guest post on this blog, and this blog, "and it also is really good when I post "about these specific topics. "But you know what doesn't work "is Twitter doesn't work for me, "and ads on this blog that I purchased don't work for me, "and these topics that I post about don't work for me, "so that's the stuff I'm focused on. "So that's the stuff I'm trying to work on "because it's not working so I'm trying to make it better." And so, and they're telling me, "I don't have enough time. "I don't have enough time, I don't have enough time. "How do I prioritize?" And I say well cut all that stuff that isn't working. Do the stuff that is working. And I know that it's kind of built into us that we want to figure out what is the problem, why aren't my ads on this blog working? Or why aren't my tweets working and I'm not engaging people on that platform? But do the stuff that works. More of that. And we have a question about platforms. Planet Mitch says, "Bloggers must have their own domain "and control their content. "Facebook and Google are not platforms for your content." Do you agree with this? I agree that you definitely need your own online home. For sure, but I consider Facebook, and Twitter, and Pinterest, and Instagram also platforms where you can connect with other people. Okay, and if that's working, keep doing more of that. Yes, but you should absolutely have your online home that's yours, that you're building, your blog, your website, your shop, whatever it is, absolutely. Because you don't own Facebook and, like we've seen, Facebook has been changing its algorithms, and we don't get as much reach as we used to, so it's very important that you have your own online home that you control. Yeah and we had a lot of people following up questions on that. I know you mentioned WordPress earlier, and we don't need to get into the technical details of this, but people were curious to know why WordPress? I mean, have you ever looked at any of the other options, or is WordPress your suggestion for people? I have. WordPress is my go-to. It's what I have always used and recommend to other people. I will be covering that in an upcoming segment and explaining in detail, in more detail, why WordPress, but there isn't any one right answer. There are other options and you should definitely pick the one that is best for your brand and business. Great. That's great. Okay. Another basics for success is paying your dues. So I will get emails constantly that say, "I've been blogging for three months and nothing's happening yet." Blogging takes time. It really does, and if you do the work on a regular basis, you will see rewards. It just does take time. Be someone worthy of following. Worthy of fans. This is a way that I try to improve, is I try to think about the fact that people are giving me their time by coming to my blog and reading my blog and, therefore, I need to be somebody worthy of that time. Just like when I am trying to come up with content for this workshop. I'm thinking, "There are people who are taking days "out of their lives to be with me and get this information. "I have to make it the best I possibly can." It's the same with my blog, it's the same with my email newsletter, it's the same when I update social media. I am needing to be somebody worthy of that person's time. And if you think about things in that way it's going to help you become a better blogger and be somebody worthy that people are excited about and wanting to engage with, and wanting to comment on, and wanting to share your posts. So always consider that, and consider improving and getting better. What's up? Yeah you know we had more questions coming in about people using their name. Now this question comes from Moody Suzad and she says, "What if your name is hard to spell?" And looking at that name, if that is indeed her real name, it does look difficult to spell. Now she says, "Would you use easier spelling?" To try to make it more memorable... That is a tough one. That is a really tough one. Yes. It can be, if people can't remember your name or remember the domain and type it in easily, it's gonna be a problem, it's gonna be troublesome. Maybe like the phonetic spelling of it, right? So people could just read it phonetically and it's not like you're changing your name, but they can at least sound it out. Yeah. Maybe. Yeah. And I think this maybe also ties into your discussion before. You said that if you were to do it over again you would use your real name. Now I'm just curious, personally, what was your thought process when you were setting up Blacksburg Belle? Was that something that you just thought was kinda catchy? Did you have to think about your name at the time, and what made you decide not to use your name? Sure. Well I didn't think, at the time I didn't think I would, that wasn't even a possibility to me, to use my name, I wasn't even thinking that that was a possibility as a blog or a brand name. I don't know why, but it just wasn't something that was coming to me, so I came up with Blacksburg Belle because I live in Blacksburg, Virgina, and then Belle because I just liked it. There isn't really, I mean it's just because I liked the sounding of it and I thought, at the time, that it was going to be a jewelry business. I thought that it was a cute name for a jewelry business, and then when I moved out of that I still wanted to keep the same name because it doesn't really mean anything, so it was something that I was able to use going forward. Well I think it's, like, I like your name of your blog, right? And I think that you might regret using your name, but at the same time it tells somebody a little bit about yourself even in that name, you know? And even if you moved away you still have a strong identity to like, you know, that. Yeah. I mean, a Belle, everybody understands what that, Southern Belle and... (laughing) Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I get emails all the time from people that say, "Do you live in Blacksburg? "I went to Virginia Tech." And I have lots of people that I connect with on that basis because they recognize the Blacksburg part of it. So do you guys have any questions about the basics for success? I think they feel, they feel basically, like they want the success and these are encouraging tips for sure. I think that we do have a lot of people joining us that are just like you, they aren't that tech savvy, but they do have questions around that. Can we throw a few of those to you? Sure. Okay so we have several people that just wanna know what backing up means, and maybe you can share what you do to backup the site. Sure, okay, so for backing up your site you want to have everything there so that you could kind of pop it back in if someone were to hack it, you get a virus, everything gets wiped away, you still have a backup of everything that was there. All of the content, the design, everything. Now there are tons of plugins for this if you're on WordPress. There is, I wanna say one of them is just Backup WP, I'm not, if you type in, if you search in the plugins for backup you are going to come up with so many options. Just look over the reviews and pick one that works for you. You can backup to Dropbox if you have one of those accounts, you could do it to set it up on a weekly basis so that it's constantly being backed up and sent to your Dropbox account. You can back it up to your email so it's sent there. It's just actually creating a copy of what you have. Exactly. Somewhere else. It's like if you had your stuff on your computer and your computer fell into a river, (group laughing) your information is somewhere else. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Earlier you had mentioned Evernote as something that you were using to put together some things. I know a lot of people who will just write those posts in Evernote or in something like that, a Word document that's synced to Dropbox, so that you have multiple versions of it. You know it never hurts to have more than one version. Exactly. And we are talking about basics for success, maybe we'll get more into this later, probably will, but Time Capsule says, "How long is too long for a blog post?" Are we thinking in those terms yet? So it depends on your ideal reader. It really does. If your ideal reader is a busy mom that only has a couple of minutes, then you wanna keep it short and sweet and try to fit in lots of value in a short amount of time. Or you could do something like a podcast where they're able to listen to it on their own time. However if it's a written post, it really depends on your ideal reader and what you're covering. One of the things that we will talk about is breaking up some of those big topics into smaller subtopics so that you don't feel like you have to cover everything in a big topic in one blog post. And that can be really helpful not only for you, but also for your reader. There are some blogs that are very popular that have extremely long blog posts and they're packed with value. Lots of times those bloggers don't publish daily or multiple times a week, it's usually weekly or even less than that, but those posts are packed with value. So if your ideal reader is somebody who wants that value and wants that all-in-one place, a really long blog post can definitely work. Great, great. There is actually a line of conversation. Ryan B, Trig and Polished, they said that, "I had the comments open on my blog "and I was getting tons and tons of spam comments. "I'd get 50 plus a day and I just shut it off. "Is there some way to avoid the spam comments and to make it "available just for the comments I'm looking for?" Yes, spam is such a pain. If you're on WordPress there's a plugin, Akismet, and that is what I use and it clears out 99% of the spam. I still get a little bit that I have to go in and delete, but it clears out most of it and that, you definitely want something that's filtering out that spam. Awesome, and then we have another person that's actually insecure about not being a native speaker to English. Is that something they should embrace in their blog? Or should they try to fix it so that something reads more smoothly? Okay, so this is something that I know very well because I have a joint venture partner who everyone will meet in an interview coming up, her name is Mayi Carles, and English is not her first language, however, she has used her blog as a way to improve her English and her audience loves her to pieces. I mean, she is adored. And she does video posts most of the time, but she also includes lots of text. So if you're thinking, well then I'd have to do video, that's not necessarily the case. She has embraced it, and the mistakes that she makes she just lets go of, and so I think that if you are not, if English is not your first language, do your best and you're still going to be okay. And check out her blog it's Check out Mayi's blog and you will see that she makes some mistakes. However it's amazing and her fans love her. I came across a blog recently that I don't even know the name of, but it was a DIY blog and it had both English and Spanish, so that person could even do the text in whatever their second language is, cos that might be a way to, like, you know. Yeah you can use a translating plugin, something like that. Well no but I mean, like that person's second language like could get readers that speak that language too, but then also have it in English. Right.

Class Description

There are over 200 million blogs on the Internet, so how do you cut through the noise and stand out in the crowd? A quality blog boasts great content, a powerful voice, and relevant, useful information. The problem is, putting all of those pieces together, understanding how to find the right audience, and marketing your blog is no easy juggling act.

Join the founder of Blacksburg Belle and author of Marketing for Creatives April Bowles-Olin for a comprehensive course dedicated to teaching you how to write, create, and market a successful blog. Drawing on the same methods she’s used to help successful entrepreneurs around the world grow their online presence, April will teach you how to find your own voice and get more comfortable writing like yourself. You’ll learn how to develop a strong editorial strategy, attract the right readers and write engaging headlines that will drive traffic to your site. April will also explore some of the key problems that hold bloggers back -- from writer’s block to boredom to insecurity about what you’re writing -- and explain how to overcome them. Best of all, April will teach you how to save time and have fun while contributing to the success of your blog.

After just three short days with April, you’ll possess the perfect foundation for better copywriting and creating a powerful, traffic generating blog.



This course is absolutely amazing. April is so enthusiastic and inspiring. It is clear she has spent a lot of time preparing for this course with a wealth of useful information in the videos and the workbook and the resource pack. Having just launched my new photography website, I have been looking for ideas and help with the blog- a new area for me. This has made me feel excited about my business. It's helped me plan my blog posts for the coming months and highlighted the importance of a good blog for keeping a website fresh. I found myself excited for each new video and sad when it was all finished! I've purchase a few courses through Creative Live but this is my favourite so far and April has a lot to do with that.

Kristina Zambrano

Where to start? ... Um I took my blog to the groomer ha! you guys must be thinking how on earth you take a blog to the groomer pretty easy actually you just go and click where it says "Build a Successful Creative Blog with April Bowles and you are taking it to the groomer. Now leaving my pet-related talking if you are creative and have no idea where to start in blogging this is your place to start she (April) will teach you everything about the blog world with a touch of joy, fun and creativity. She will take you from Zero, Nada, Nothing to Something or better say to a brand new groomed blog. And if you need more to convince you to get this workshop you just read April Bowles "26 post you gotta read - blog tour" and if that doesn't make you get it, then you are totally not ready to Blog. Thank you so much April for everything you shared with us.


This course gave me both the impetus to begin the blog whose domain I was sitting on for nearly a year and the skills to do it well. April was - and still is - supportive and helpful to all of the people who participated in the course. It became a community of people, supporting and helping each other to follow through with the amazing instructions that she gave us during the course itself. The resources she gave us are still useful, and the connections I made on her site and the sites she pointed us to have made my blog successful in only a few months. AWESOME course!