Adventures In Guest Blogging: a one year experiment

About a year ago, I resolved to do more guest blogging than I currently was, which was zero. In the year that has passed, I have learned a few things. For those of you who also have craft blogs and are thinking about this, here are my insights. Remember, this is entirely my own experience and your mileage may vary.

 

  • I built up valuable backlinks. This alone is a good reason to do guest blogging. Backlinks bring traffic, so long as they are relevant and useful. A guest blog about a free Hallowe’en pattern may not do much for your site traffic year round, but come September, it may cause a spike for a few weeks. A tutorial for a popular technique may cause a steady trickle or stream of traffic all year long that may peak in late fall as people start making Christmas presents.
  • I built relationships. I got to know other crochet bloggers as a result of this experiment. This is probably the most important thing that I took away from my year of guest blogging. For all the hype about SEO and other assorted Internet gobbledegook, relationship building has returned (or perhaps it never left the room) as one of the most effective means of promotion. By guest blogging, I was forced out of my introvert shell and out of my comfort zone. I had to start interacting in Facebook groups and talking to other designers. When things went South in my personal life and I reached out, I realized that these weren’t just bloggers with whom I had contracts, they were colleagues and friends. I have received unsolicited offers of deadline extensions, hooks and yarn, commiseration, and even a couple of offers of lodging if I needed it.
  • I learned to make viable projects. I like creating artsy-fartsy pretty things with lines and texture. This is great, but not everyone else wants to do that, not everyone has months to work on something, and sometimes those items unintentionally put people off. By paying attention to other crochet bloggers and what was popular, I was able to create Tunisian crochet designs that were instructional, less intimidating, and appealed to a wider range of people.
  • I learned to step up my game. My layout and format improved. My organization improved. I started to rethink things like photography and photo editing to the extent that I am now saving up for a fancy little camera and investing in a small scale photography studio. I have been teaching myself to use software so that I can make pattern schematics. I am slowly but surely learning more about social media and software apps that will help improve my reach.
  • I have figured out how to better structure my own blogsite as a result. Since I started guest blogging, my own site has been slowly evolving to accommodate the guest posts. The vast majority of my free patterns are now housed on other websites, with the majority of the tutorial work, technique articles, and my more complex free-form projects residing here with me. At this moment, that is working for me.
  • I have realized that there is a difference between being an crafter/artist/designer Blogger or an artist/designer/crafter with a blog. There is a huge difference. MASSIVE DIFFERENCE. I am an indie designer with a blog but I am not a Blogger with a capital B. At this point in my life I know I won’t be committing the energy that it takes to become a successful craft blogger. Folks, if you don’t have a blog, you have no idea how much energy these folks put into their sites. The sharing, the creating of graphics, the social media overload – these crafters (mostly mothers of young children) are putting in several hours each day. I want to be a power blogger like some of these other designers I have gotten to know, but other things have to be made priorities first.
  • I don’t have to sign up for every little thing. This year I said yes to all sorts of opportunities because I didn’t have two clues which ones would work and which ones would flop. I’m still not done saying yes, this will be a perpetually unfolding experience, however, now that I have cut some teeth I have a better idea of where I should be guest blogging. What surprised me was that the ones I wasn’t sure about turned out to be great and the ones I was convinced would drive TONNES! OF! TRAFFIC! did not.
  • I need to guard against becoming repetitive. When you start hitting creative deadlines, especially when Life Happens, there is a temptation to start constantly drawing on the easiest or fastest things that you know. I have caught myself doing this on a couple of occasions. I have learned that when this happens it is probably because I am overcommitted and I need to pull back. Even when I put out beginner level content, which is what many of my guest blogs are, I still want to put out things that are fun or pretty to look at, or not boring to make.
  • I’ve learned how to make the most of a few really good posts that I can recycle over and over again. Derek Halpern of SocialTriggers teaches a blogging course that I highly recommend. One thing that I took away from his teaching was instead of churning out blog posts that start to read as contrived because I feel like I have to post something, to put out a few quality posts that are relevant to what people want and then exploit the hell out of them. My Sunrise Mandala has turned into just such a post. I created it because I wanted to show how I made a mandala but it turned out to be a great teaching tool for Tunisian entrelac because almost everything you need to know is contained within that one project. I will also link one guest blog to another if they are relevant (because one explains something that is done in another, for example).

The Verdict:

For me, guest blogging is a great way to create some exposure for myself. The backlinks keep me on the radar when I’m not doing anything productive with crochet, although my site traffic will still suffer. Guest blogging has also opened me up to the possibilities of experimenting with paid advertising for a year. Now that I know where I get the most traffic, I am going to invest in paid advertising on those sites. I’ve also learned how to look at my site stats, and I’ve been successful at making some predictions based on those numbers. Guest blogging is not something that I would rely solely on, because Internet algorithms can change and make certain strategies useless in a heartbeat, but it is definitely an extremely important aspect of my online presence.

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