Happy Monday! A while back I wrote a longgg post about blogging, and you all responded so well to it! It feels like a lot has changed in just six or seven months so today I thought I would write another one. I put out a call for questions, and you guys had some good ones! So, without further adieu we will jump right on in!
This was the question I got asked most about. I got a lot of questions about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and to be honest I am SO not an SEO expert. But I have been working hard at this over the past two years as when I rebranded from Stripes & Sequins to The Stripe, Google stopped recognizing me as a reputable website and my traffic took a huge beating. If you are considering changing the name of your site, think hard before you do it as this will happen. You’ll get your traffic back but it will be a process. I am so glad I rebranded, but it was a really frustrating experience.
So for SEO, I use the Joast Plugin. It’s really very easy. You start by picking the keyword you want to target. I pick my keywords a few different ways… first, something I know people will be looking for… for example: “Away Luggage Review,” or “Honest Neulash Review” (those are two of my most trafficked posts). Or, I will (in the case of the example below) pick the product/item name…. so that readers who are looking to see how an item looks on a regular person will see my post when they search for it. If I can’t think of something like either of the above, I will choose something more generic like “easy summer outfit ideas.” Lists also do well with SEO… think “top 10 face masks,” etc!
Once you’ve chosena keyword, there are three important fields to edit. The SEO title (this won’t change your title… for example, the title of the below post was Floaty Summer Midi Dress, but I made the SEO title the product name), the Slug (the URL), and the meta description. Be sure that the the keyword is in all three of those spots. This is pretty basic and I probably could be doing more but like I said, I am not an expert!
The plugin is also great as it tells you things you can do to get your SEO ranking up (write a longer post, include internal links, etc).
I will also name all of my images the keyword (i.e. misa-elodie-dress-1.jpg), and go in and edit the Alt text to also include the keyword. You want to put the keyword in as many places as possible. Thrifts & Threads has some really great SEO posts… I highly recommend reading through all of them if you are looking to work on your own SEO this year!
What are the tools/plugins you can’t live without?
- Planoly – app that helps me plan my instagram feeed.
- Joast SEO – discussed above.
- Snapseed – general photo editing for Instagram, love the brush and selective settings for when I want to touch up a specific area.
- Airbrush – There is a button called “beauty magic” on this app and it makes you look so glowy and pretty!
- Dropbox – I use it for everything – on my phone, on my desktop, on my laptop. I don’t really save anything to my hard drives anymore… it’s all in Dropbox which is great as I work off two different computers.
- Metaremove – lets you remove metadata from your photos so that you can post older photos/blog content to your instagram story.
- Flywheel – My hosting company – LOVE their platform, my site used to crash and have issues. This is seamless and easy.
What platform do you use for web hosting?
After moving around a lot, I settled on Flywheel. LOVE their service.
What are the things that bloggers/aspiring bloggers do/mistakes they make that you think should be avoided?
I kinda hate questions like this as who am I to tell you what to do, and I certainly don’t want to get preachy! So the biggest thing I would say is don’t try to be anyone but yourself. If you are really serious about blogging it will just become way too much work to be anyone but yourself. I will never be a “cool blogger.” I smile in all of my photos as I look mean otherwise, and I’m okay with that. There is room for everyone in this space, so be YOU! And don’t cheat. Buying followers/likes, doing Instagram loop giveaways may seem like a quick way to grow but cheating is just lame. Read my original post about blogging as there’s a lot more advice there. Also, don’t get frustrated. It was over two years before I made a dime from my blog. Your heart has to be in it and you have to really love it or you will probably end up quitting… whereas if it feels fun, you will want to do it anyway.
Do you have any tips and tricks for networking?
Honestly I am the worst person to ask about this. I hate networking, and I hate the word networking! I would just say to be authentic! Think of it more as making friends as opposed to networking. When you are looking at relationships as “what can I get out if this,” that’s a little yucky. When I go to events I always try to talk to at least one new person (which still to this day makes me so nervous). Striking up a conversation with a stranger can be intimidating but starting with a compliment really helps. I also always make sure I read the news and/or Us Weekly before an event and try to think of 3-4 interesting things to talk about so that I don’t end up looking at my phone/shoes the whole time.
How do you schedule your posts?
I have an editorial calendar (which we reviewed in the last post), and I try to schedule my posts in WordPress a few days out. Morning posts are scheduled for 6am EST and afternoon posts go up at 2pm EST. There is no specific rhyme or reason to this other than common sense (I figure you guys want to read a new post first thing in the morning and then maybe come back later in the afternoon if you’re having an afternoon slump). For every blog post I will make a square graphic and schedule that in Facebook for the day of the post, usually somewhere between 9-10am EST. And then when it’s live, I’ll also put the post on Instagram stories and twitter.
What is your advice on pitching brands, and how do you ask brands for money?
I talked about this a bit in my first post but please don’t upfront ask a brand for money.. unless they ask you for a specific service. I have a manager who negotiates my bigger deals for me but I also think it helps to have a nicely designed media kit. I had my designer make me one and it has been really helpful. If a brand says, “Hi Grace, we want to send you this product in exchange for an instagram post,” I will reply nicely, letting them know I don’t trade product for post, but that my rates are all outlined in the kit. I tell them they are welcome to send the product anyway, but I can’t guarantee I’ll cover it.
If you are pitching a brand yourself, just reach out and start a conversation, maybe do a trade, or ask them if they have a media discount…when you are the one reaching out, asking for money (to me), feels a bit tacky. (If the brand is coming directly to you, that’s totally different but in my opinion, when you pitch a brand that should be more about starting a relationship.
What do you do if a brand sends you something you don’t like?
First of all, I make it very clear to brands from our first conversation that I can’t guarantee that I will write about any samples sent my way. Samples are sent strictly for editorial consideration. Sponsored posts are a different beast; I will ask the brand for a week or two to test the product before committing to the project/signing contracts. Only about 25% of the products sent my way (maybe less?) make it onto the blog. I work really hard to keep my relationships with the brands I work with strong so that we always have an honest dialogue. If I don’t like the product I’ll usually just be upfront and say something like, “To be honest, I didn’t love this one! I’m sorry, it just didn’t work for me (it made my hair crunchy/it didn’t take all my makeup off, etc.) so I’m not planning any coverage for this product. I love the brand though so please keep me posted on upcoming launches.” The publicist always appreciates my honesty, and they know that when I do feature something, it’s because I really did love it.
I will also say that I don’t do negative reviews over here. I don’t really see the point. If a brand is nice enough to send me something and I don’t like it, I won’t talk about it… but no need to get nasty! Every now and then on Instagram stories I will post a review of something I bought and don’t like (cough cough, Diptyque set from the Nordstrom Sale) but that’s different…
What do you do with leftover items you don’t have room for or items you don’t like?
Haha, this is probably the question I get asked the most. I’m really, really organized. I have to be. The beauty items just roll in… oftentimes without any notice. I think a lot of brands are more used to working with beauty editors who have giant beauty closets as opposed to influencers who have small apartments! I have a few big hat boxes under my TV stand and whenever friends + family come over they raid it. I also regularly make up bags for my cleaning lady and cat sitter, and anytime I have a party I bring the hostess a bag of treats I think she will like.
Two or three times a year I will more or less fill an uber with products to donate to First Step (a program that helps homeless women get back on their feet). It’s an incredible organization… they do great work and actually really help people. The women in the program sent photos of themselves with the products and wrote me a thank you note which made me cry. One woman told me that the suitcase I donated helped her pack to move as she didn’t have anything for her stuff and another wrote telling me that the products made her feel beautiful again.
How do you maintain a blog/life balance?
This is tricky and I think it’s really a good question for anyone self employed, not just bloggers. I try to keep regular working hours, stay off my computer on weekends, take breaks and non-blog related vacations (like this past weekend’s trip to Charleston) and keep the phone out of site when I’m at meals/spending time with loved ones. I don’t go to very many events or take very many meetings as I hate wasting time and would rather get my work done and then hang out with friends/be a regular person at the end of my day. When I first started blogging full time I would fill my day with meetings and events and not get anything done. And then I would be up until 2am trying to get my post for the next day written. I live and die by the “most meetings can be phone calls” mantra. It’s a little ruthless but it’s helped me so much with maintaining a work/life balance.