New Blogger Tips

Once upon a time I had a page like this. Then I revamped my site and I deleted it, I’m not sure why. I was likely in one of my “decluttering” phases. Lately, new bloggers asked for advice very frequently. I try to answer everyone, but since I feel like I forget to tell some people different things, or I just don’t have time to write a book. (I have a new baby… I work full time as a doctor… I have my blog… Somewhere in there I need time to have a life!)

So, I’ve decided to rewrite this page and include all of my advice in one spot. If you asked for advice and I directed you here, don’t feel slighted please. Again, I need to have a life and simply can’t send long emails to everyone.

How/Why I Started Blogging
I started this blog in January 2007. I was in my training for pediatric critical care at the time, and it was simply emotionally overwhelming to spend all day with critically ill and dying children. I needed to come home to decompress and do something “fluffy”. I was reading different beauty blogs, and soon was leaving long and detailed comments in reply to other readers. Explaining things like why your pores don’t open and close. My husband thought I should consolidate my time going to all of the various blogs and posts by starting my own site. So I did.

Find your own voice and keep writing!
The biggest advice that I can give a blogger is to find what makes you a little different than other bloggers in your area and develop that. And then keep with it. Beauty blogging was exploding when I started my site, but most of them didn’t even last a few months.

If you go back and read my first few posts you’ll see that they’re very different from my posts today. I’m the only MD that I know blogging directly about beauty products such as mascara and shampoo. I know dermatologists that blog about the skin, but they usually don’t cover the stuff I do. So, I decided to concentrate on that. Over time my style has changed some I’m sure, but it sure is more interesting to read my unique take on things than just another beauty blog with pictures of eye shadow looks you can’t do at home, isn’t it?

Free Stuff
About 90% of the questions that I get from new bloggers have to do with PR reps and samples. How and when do they come? How to get more? Can you get them from XX brand? Will I give you my list of reps I work with?

First, no one should be blogging to get free stuff! If you’re doing that, you should stop blogging now. You should blog because it is fun and you enjoy it. I would be buying most of this stuff (or at least standing at the MAC counter at length to play with it) anyways, and then I’d be talking about it like crazy on Facebook and with all of my friends. I’d be more active on Makeup Alley. All of those things without my blog. Because that’s what I did before I had my blog. My blog just spreads that to more people. I write about this stuff because I love trying new stuff and writing about it.

Personally, I don’t contact PR reps for the first time myself. I was blogging for about 6 months before the first rep emailed me, and slowly more started emailing me and wanting to send me stuff. Currently I can’t even answer all of my PR rep emails. I basically need an intern it’s so crazy. I only say yes to a small percentage of people that want to send me free stuff. (I say yes to sending stuff I would have been interested in and gone out to buy anyways. This just saves me gas driving around town.)

Second, I’m not going to share my PR rep info with anyone. This is seen as tacky in the blogging world, and I kind of agree. Put your email address on your blog and they’ll find you. Giving everyone the name and email address of the MAC or OPI rep will make the rep mad at me as they’ll be overwhelmed with requests for free stuff from people.

Third, if you do accept any free stuff don’t forget in the US you will need to comply with the FTC’s disclosure policy. I put a logo at the bottom of each post, some people just have a general disclaimer. You need to make it easy to find.

The moral of the story is blog, blog, blog. Create an interesting and high quality blog and the PR reps will soon be writing you. And you too will not want all of the stuff they offer to send you.

Getting Readers
The main thing is to do everything I’ve already mentioned. No one will come to read your site (or reread it later) if you are boring and have nothing unique to say.

The best ways to find readers:
• Join blog networks or weekly link exchanges with similar blogs
• Exchange blog roll links with similar blogs. I’ve gotten a lot of requests to do so from other bloggers and while I now have criteria for a link (you can see this on my contact page, I just get too many requests, my list would be hundreds long!), most bloggers will just exchange links. You should feel free to email your favorite blogs. The worst that can happen is they’ll say no, right?
• Social networking! Being active on Twitter and Facebook will likely earn you some loyal readers.
• Learn about (and utilize) SEO. It’s too involved to get into here, but good SEO can result in a ton of hits from Google and other search engines.

Things I personally wouldn’t do:
• Pay to be listed on any website
• Pay to advertise on other sites to get traffic
• Participate in 3 way (or more) link exchanges with sketchy sites

Blogging Logistics
A few misc. questions I answer about blogging a lot:
• What blogging platform should I use: I’m on blogger, but I just picked that because my favorite blogs were on it at the time. I’d also check out WordPress and OnSugar if I was starting now, go with the one that makes the most sense to you. Definitely go with a free platform to begin with.

• Should I register a custom domain: Do it after you’ve been blogging for a little bit. Know that you’ll be sticking with blogging. But, don’t wait for years! Do it relatively early so it’s already in place when your blog is growing. I waited too long and the last I checked someone else had already registered my .com choice. Bastard.

• Where should I store my images: I keep mine over on Photobucket since I get pretty much unlimited storage and bandwidth. Don’t forget to downsize to 72 dpi, resize and watermark your original images! There are a lot of free websites that will help you watermark. My watermark is very subtle (it’s my site name and address in whatever font my photoshop is set to at the time, then opacified so you can barely read it), but it’s on all the pictures that I take.

• How do you get advertising: I joined an ad network and they handle everything for me. I simply collect checks once a month. I don’t make much, only a few hundred bucks. This money pays for my image hosting and my monthly Sephora visits, that’s about it. I could make more by selling text links, other ads and doing affiliate deals. I just don’t want to invest the time to generate these income sources.

• How did you draw your header: The girl at the top of my page is an image from iStockPhoto. I think she cost me a whopping $14 for the file. I then customized her using Photoshop.

• Do I use a PO Box for shipments: I get too many packages and don’t have time in the day to go and pick them up elsewhere. So, I’m selective about which PR reps get my address and I certainly don’t post it on my blog like some people do.

• What other things should I do for my website:
-You will eventually have some one ask how many visitors you get to your site. Pick one stat counter and stick with it. Then add on Google Analytics, they have something called Absolute Unique Visitors that you might be asked for.

Other Sites with Blogging Tips
I’ve found a few great posts with tips for bloggers over the years, I’ll start adding my favorites here.
Young House Love: I’m a bit obsessed with this home improvement blog (I check it multiple times a day, I’m imitating their weekly baby pics, I want them to design my whole home, etc, etc). This post has a lot of nitty gritty details about becoming a pro blogger, like web site hosting, taxes, etc. I’m not to this point yet, and likely never will be, but it’s good info. They also have a post about how their blog grew.
I am Style-ish: This is my daily fashion read. I would love to be Tiffany. If only I didn’t get so cold in skirts and could afford her shoes! She has some great blogging tips as well.