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Six Proven Secrets to Blogging Success

Posted By Guest Blogger 14th of July 2011 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

This guest post is by Abby Larson of Style Me Pretty: The Ultimate Wedding Blog.

I write a wedding blog. Before you start running for the hills, now that you know I focus only on girly things, know that I also happen to have a smarty pants husband who is joining me here to spread some of his crazy blogging wisdom. I started Style Me Pretty about four years ago, after I sold a wedding invitation business that I developed. My husband and I were living in Palo Alto and he had just finished up his Master’s program at Stanford in Computer Science. He was busy with his new start-up gig and I was simply bored, so I decided to take a seminar on blogging, something the rest of the creative community seemed to already know so much about.

While I don’t remember much from that seminar, one thing the lecturer said stayed with me. It changed my life. “You will most likely never make money writing a blog.” While he was right that most people don’t end up making a killing writing a blog, I took his words as a personal challenge and made the decision to prove him wrong.

Fast forward four years and here we are with Style Me Pretty. We get about 10 million pageviews a month, 680,000 unique visitors and about 35,000 RSS subscribers. We have 45,000 fans on Facebook and 35,000 on Twitter. And recently, we were featured in a CBS Sunday Morning segment about bloggers and their influence on the media and publication industries.

We’re proud to be living proof that you can make a living blogging about what you love. And although we’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way, we’re hoping that we can share some of our blogging know-how and help you avoid those same pitfalls.

Below are some of the blogging best practices we’ve honed over the years. They may seem simple but take them to heart. Follow these practices and you’ll have a much better chance of becoming a successful blogger.

1. Set yourself up right … from the beginning

This is really a two-part tip about branding and technology. Your brand and your blogging platform are hard to change later on, so get them right the first time.

First, give careful consideration to your blog name and domain. You don’t want to get two years into a blog, and then decide that the name doesn’t reflect what you do or the domain is hard to spell and should be changed. Launch your blog on a domain you own, not a subdomain of WordPress or Blogger.

Second, choose a common blogging platform. This is one decision where it’s okay to copy your friends. You want a platform that has a significant mindshare and therefore lots of plugins, themes, and competent developers that can help you. Whatever platform you start with, you’ll most likely be stuck with for a while.

Style Me Pretty was initially hosted on Typepad and moved to WordPress. While both of these platforms are popular, we felt that WordPress was easier to host ourselves, easier to customize and had more freely available plugins, so we switched. And it was painful. Migrating images, coming up with a new theme and making sure links did not break was not as straightforward as we had hoped.

2. Fill a void

Timing and topic are everything in the world of blogging. You need to either see a space for a new voice or you need to be better than the voices already out there.

When we started SMP, there wasn’t a good online source for edited, magazine-style wedding content. There were informative sites focused on the practical elements of planning a wedding, but these sites lacked inspiring wedding photography and creative event design. We saw an opportunity to do something different from our established competitors.

3. Speed is key to blogging sustainability

If your posts take hours and hours to write, edit, re-write and re-edit, you’ve got yourself a bit of a blogging problem. The faster you can get good content up, the better. Our advice? Post three hundred words of text at minimum, offer beautiful imagery if appropriate, and provide great links for readers to discover.

The majority of Style Me Pretty posts follow the same format: an edited intro, tons of gorgeous photographs, with a link to view more and a write-up from the bride. The wedding vendors provide the images. Often the bride develops those 300 words of text that we want, which saves us time on doing all the writing. By approaching content in this speedy, streamlined manner, we are able to push more out the door each day and open up new streams of content as we grow.

4. Know your audience

And know them well. Understand that as your blog evolves, so do your readers. Often times, we reach out to those readers who are totally committed, asking them for advice, for tips on how to improve, for thoughts on what their experience with SMP is, and even for initial reactions to new ideas. Even if their feedback stings, it’s a critical component to understanding how our blog is being consumed and how we can better improve.

We’ve used Facebook discussions as a means to solicit feedback, and we also recommend hosting surveys on Google Docs or Survey Monkey to help gain these valuable insights.

5. Reach out to other bloggers

When we look at blogs nowadays, we very rarely see comprehensive blogrolls. And yet the blogroll was one of the blogosphere’s features that drove our early growth. 

When Style Me Pretty was just a few months old, we’d contact other bloggers, introduce ourselves and ask if we could be included on their blogroll. It generally worked and we were instantly introduced to new crops of readers. However, we don’t suggest sending out automated emails asking for a link. This lacks a personal touch and can make a blogger distrustful of you and your site.

Email a select list of bloggers with similar sites and ask to get added to their blogroll. Blogrolls are perused by people looking for something “more” to read about. These are the very people who you want stopping by your site.

6. Involve your readers

The best part about writing a blog, rather than writing a column in a magazine, is that your readers become a part of your journey. They get their hands dirty with you and thus they become far more invested in your growth.

In our early days, we crafted inspiration boards for specific reader dilemmas, held Wedding DIY project competitions, and did periodic Q&As. These opportunities for involvement turned casual readers into loyal followers as they saw their work being incorporated into the content of our site. These readers also felt more comfortable leaving comments on posts and participating in the SMP conversation. All this contributed to making Style Me Pretty a thriving, yet intimate, online community.

What blogging success tips can you add from your own experience? We’d love to hear them!

Abby Larson is the editor of Style Me Pretty: The Ultimate Wedding Blog. Abby launched the site in January 2007 after selling her wedding invitation business as a way to stay close to the wedding industry. Today, Style Me Pretty receives over 10 million page views per month and employs six full-time writers. Abby and husband Tait also write about their lives running a blog at their behind-the-scenes blog, Backstage.

About Guest Blogger
This post was written by a guest contributor. Please see their details in the post above.
  1. Great post with very useful information. I agree with all of it, but i appreciate new tips too!

    • Which tips you like most …

      I like specially these 3 points –

      1. Set yourself up right … from the beginning
      3. Speed is key to blogging sustainability
      6. Involve your readers

      • I agree as well. I’d have to say the three tips that struck me where

        1) Involving your readers – it’s very easy to go on sites that aren’t very contact friendly or community oriented and that can help a lot when trying to grow your own blog.

        2) asking for feedback – If there is something your site can imrprove on than your visitors and customers will definitely be a great resource to pull ideas from. Afterall your site is there for them.

        3) filling a void – I think we all have the ability to create great content, but it has to fill a void for your audience. If you are targeting people that don’t care or already know what your teaching than your going to be spinning your wheels for a long time

        4) to add one more thing – as stated in the post it’s extremely helpful to reach out to other bloggers. Connections, friends, and additional insights can be invaluable.

    • I just started a blog myself, and I think your tips are excellent for a new blogger. Thanks! I’ve worked with a lot of other blogs, so I knew what platform I wanted … wordpress, and I am using Thesis as the theme, which is more to learn, but worth it, I think, as the look is completely flexible, and I won’t ever have to change a template to get the look or function I want.

  2. James Hughes says: 07/14/2011 at 6:13 am

    Hi thanks for this post.

    I especially like your point on the speed of posting.

    Nobody wants to read long winded posts, you are

    Just going to switch off.

    Best regards


  3. Wow, I think I would have taken that as a personal challenge as well. Props to your for so forcefully proving that lecturer wrong. You offer some great insight and tips and I hope to be able to incorporate your ideas into my own blog.

  4. Thanks for the post Abby.

    Since I’m in the early stages of my blog, I’ve not given much thought about getting feedback from my readers, but your ideas (5 and 6) have given me a few things to think about implementing in the next couple of months.

    I love your site by the way.

  5. I think the speed idea is debatable. Not that it isn’t working for you, but its not the only way to grow.

    Check out ViperChill. That guy puts out one badass post every two weeks are so. And they are 80,000,000 words long.

    • Yes quite agree with you Graham … but their niche is so that they need to put their details in so many words.

      Plus they do not want to leave any pebble unturned and that’s why they are using so many words.

      Included them in my weekends reading.

  6. Great tips and advice in the this article!

    I found #3 particularly useful because I’ve acquired a bit of a blogging problem that I’ve created by not blogging as much as I used to. It has increasingly become harder for me to just let it all out without spending more hours than I care to on writing a blog post.

    My solution is that I need to just write more often, make it a habit again. And not just blog posts…about anything that’ll get my creative writing juices flowing!

    Thanks for the inspiration :D


  7. I don’t know the first thing about planning a wedding but this was a genuinely helpful article, particularly the bit about period Q&A’s and sharing inspiration boards with your readers. Awsome!

  8. I love weddings and will definitely be heading over to your site! You have a great niche that will always be in demand.

    I am looking forward to getting feedback and becoming more involved with readers as traffic picks up. I need to work more on buiilding solid relationships with other bloggers. I have met some interesting people so far, and I’m hoping it will continue.

    Thanks, Kendra

    • Hey Kendra,

      I checkout your blog and it looks great. Congratulations!

      • Thanks! I have been to your site quite a few times thanks to your commenting here on problogger.

        I consider myself to be an entrepreneur and your site provides some valuable information for women like me. Thanks again,


        • Kendra,

          Stop it – you are going to make me blush.

          I’m honoured that you would drop by my site.

          I’m not the one providing the valuable information, but the successful women (and some men) I interview.

          You should see what’s coming up in the Fall ;-)

          Women Entrepreneurs HQ Show

  9. Great post! I really enjoyed your writing style. It was informative, professional, personal, and humble. A delicate balance to be sure. I just finished checking out Backstage and was very impressed. As a newbie to blogging, I plan on implementing many of your suggestions. Thanks for the inspiration and the great advice! :)

  10. I agree with the first Tip.
    There were so many times when I wanted to have a different domain name…
    But then at the same time, I like what I chose…
    Maybe I did get the Right domain in the first place ;)
    Thanks for putting this article together.

    • I know exactly how you feel. I thought about changing my domain to a more seo optimized one, but it’s only one small part of seo and has lost a lot of it’s value.

      Many websites get great results an choose domains that reflect the way they feel the site should be represented.

      To some every little bit helps, but I chose to stick with a name that is entertaining and I felt people would like.

      Besides if you write a lot of great content and fallow some basic seo on it you can rank well regardless of your domain name.

      Dont know if that’s why you thought about changing it but if you and your audience loves it than keep it. Especially if you’ve had it for awhile.

  11. I felt like you were speaking directly to me! Thanks for the great tips. I feel inspired and motivated to press on. Very helpful, thank you.

  12. Thanks for the tips! I’ve only had my blog running for about a week and I was waiting to see if anyone would actually read it before buying my own domain. But after your advice I think I’m gonna go ahead and get a .co.uk or .com. If only I could think of a name!

  13. #7 – Remain consistent and build a brand.

  14. Thanks for the tips. I know my audience because I am my audience: a startup entrepreneur using a Mac and have a written a book to boot. Would you recommend doing interviews for a blog?


  15. Great post and tips Abby, thanks for sharing and congrats on all of your blogging success. Your blog is one of the many that proofs making money via blogging takes much more dedication and hardwork. It would all pay off if we have a set of followed through guidelines – and thanks to your tips, I can see myself building a great blog as well :)

  16. Interesting post. I think you explained major and important tips in simple words and that too with your own example.

    Thanks fir sharing.

  17. I recently started my second blog and I found point #3 to be a huge advantage. If you can’t blog quickly, you’ll spend your whole life writing – and there’s so much more to blogging than just writing.

    I recently discovered a blogger that recommends that you spend at least two hours on each blog post. I’m not sure I agree.

    Keep it simple, keep it short, and keep it super-sweet. Your readers will love you and you won’t get overwhelmed as easily.

    Thanks for the great post!

  18. If you ask me, I think networking with other bloggers is the most important and the proven technique to succeed in blogging.

  19. Great steps for any blogger, whether beginning or veteran. It brought me back to the basics – I so often publish without images – those drive the “stickiness” we all desire.

    I also agree with the other commentors – your blog is very well designed and appealing to stare out. Not too much junk that confuses the “sight”.

  20. Hi Abby,

    All are solid tips. 3 and 6 are dead on.

    Keep posts short and punchy. We are busy. We like bite-sized pieces of content. The average attention span, well, it would be gone by this point, when reading my comment ;)

    Make your content usable. Readers need to be able to read it, and put it into use immediately. Like, digest it in 5 minutes, and practically apply it 1 minute later. If it isn’t usable, make it inspiring. Make people want to share your stuff on social networks. Leverage your presence by producing great, digestible, easy to spread content.

    6 makes the blog. Without engagement, you lose powerful leveraging possibilities. You need to be seen, and part of having a well read blog is having avid readers spread the word for you. We trust word of mouth advertising more than any other form of marketing. Loyal readers become loyal when their voice is heard.

    Engage your readers. Ask them questions. Provide answers. Make your blog a 2 way street.

    Thanks for sharing the helpful tips Abby. To our continued success.


  21. I have to agree that knowing where you want your blog to go before you start is so important. For me, I decided that my blog name and address would be my name. For one thing my name is quite distinctive, but also my blog is attached to my freelance writing business and I consider them to be one in the same. My intention is to build a following of me – regardless of what i choose to do. it also means I can change the theme of my blog if i wish.

    Of course the limitations of this choice are becoming obvious to me and time will tell if I will rue that decision.

    I am also guilty of not using images in my blog. I am in two minds about this. Sometimes i feel it can make a site look too busy and I wanted a clean look. However a well chosen image can sometimes sum up exactly what you are trying to say. Certainly food for thought.

    Thanks for the post and well done on your site – you are an inpsiration.

  22. I have to agree that knowing where you want your blog to go before you start is so important. For me, I decided that my blog name and address would be my name. For one thing my name is quite distinctive, but also my blog is attached to my freelance writing business and I consider them to be one in the same. My intention is to build a following of me – regardless of what i choose to do. it also means I can change the theme of my blog if i wish.

    Of course the limitations of this choice are becoming obvious to me and time will tell if I will rue that decision.

    I am also guilty of not using images in my blog. I am in two minds about this. Sometimes i feel it can make a site look too busy and I wanted a clean look. However a well chosen image can sometimes sum up exactly what you are trying to say. Certainly food for thought.

    Thanks for the post and well done on your site – you are an inspiration.

  23. One of the better posts I’ve seen about blogging secrets, Abby. Thanks for showing us that you are successful, hitting the nuts and bolts, and avoiding the motivational speaker rhetoric. Good advice and well presented. ~Vago

  24. It is true that before starting a blog it should be well thought to what is the niche to be focused and what should be the name of your blog. All the points mentioned above are true in every sense. I would like to emphasize here that one of the most important factor that most bloggers neglect or do not feel to do is respond to comments. Responding to comments reflects that you care and really appreciate those who took time to view your work and respond. After all without any of this there is no point in writing a blog.

  25. Great tips! I’m also a bit difficult on maintaining the speed of writing my new entry. Always find something to motivate me to write faster ‘sigh’

  26. First, congrats on your success Abby. I was fortunate enough to “learn and earn” early enough to raise my twins working from home. Granted, I have worked in a variety of positions from marketing and community management to creating websites that eventually evolved into creating and maintaining blogs.

    I was just speaking with my mother a couple of days ago. She has always worked with me as a writer – it’s our way of keeping close living thousands of miles apart. Feeling a little blue over the changes I’ve witnessed, I told her times have certainly changed! What worked SO easy back in 2000 doesn’t work nearly as well now. It’s a constant learning process!

    The idea of good blogrolls does seem to have died on the vine – but in my experience, it’s one of those elements that I always felt to be tried and true. The biggest problem was, bloggers would link and then remove the links without warning. That’s just rude! Bloggers should at least drop a note to say “I’m updating my blogroll and I’m no longer linking to you. Sorry.”

    These days, I do keep a tight blogroll on “some” of my blogs and make a point to visit those blogs listed at least 2x per month to drop a comment, give a tweet, stumble or like.

    It’s nice to see someone else still believes in blogrolls.

  27. Abby,

    Thank you for the sound advice. As I’m just starting out, I’ve taken to heart your info on choosing the right brand and the right platform. I’ve heard this often from many other sources.

    I think I have the brand/logo/image/name down, and I’m moving from Blogger over to WordPress using the Thesis theme within the next few weeks.


  28. Thanks for a great post – I love hearing about other bloggers success stories. Amazing….
    Ps. thanks for the great tips.

  29. Hey guys! Thanks to problogger for sharing this for us and all of you for the great comments. You know, learning how to run your blog is never an exact science. There are great tips out there that will help you, that will help me, that are tried and true. But blogging is also an evolution. As you learn what works for you, you can iterate on what you already have, making your site better and better over time.

    Feel free to ask questions here, we’ll be checking all day. And thanks again!

  30. I agree with you that speed is key to blogging sustainability. My posts are each 500 words with one or two illustrations. I’m trying to spend my blogging time 50% on content and 50% on commenting on other blogs. There seem to be so many blogs about blogging so I focus on business, energy, economics, manufacturing, and travel – to be different.

  31. Reaching out to other bloggers…I’ve really enjoyed getting to know other bloggers and learning from them. Networking and building relationships is so important.

  32. Such great advice…I always struggle with the speed aspect. It seems to take forever sometimes to get it written and edited.
    Thanks for sharing!

  33. Great tips, I always enjoy reading articles from persons who are really successful – and getting 20k visitors a day is being successful.
    I think the most important tip is #1, in particular regarding the domain name. Even though I’m not from the US and am not interested in weddings, your “Style Me Pretty” seems to be a brand or reference site in your segment. Many bloggers or affiliate marketers chose to start with a keyword-domain, which I think is a mistake. At least if you plan to evolve your site into a reference site over the next few years.

  34. Great post .. Point #1 helped me recollect the situation – Even I faced a lot of problem when migrating to wordpress from blogger.

    Truly awesome .. Thanks for the post

  35. A good post overall, but I do take exception to the third point. I don’t think there is anything wrong with taking a few hours over a post. If that long is needed, then so be it. You can’t rush quality, in my humble opinion.

    It sounds like your system works well for you (which is great!), but I don’t think the same can be said for many other niches – especially ones that aren’t so photo-heavy.

    • I agree with you Tom Ewer there are really some instances that we need to spend more time on a certain work. Indeed quality is something we have to maintain and provide to clients and if we need a longer time then so be it.

  36. wow. great points. You explained these points really well with personal examples. I take a lot of time writing and editing posts. That’s something i should improve upon i guess…

  37. wow. great points. You explained these points really well with personal examples. I take a lot of time writing and editing posts. That’s something i should improve upon i guess.

  38. Thanks again for all of the great comments! Tom, you are right. Blogging is definitely not an exact science and what works for one blogger might not be a best practice for another. We put out a ton of content every day so speed is key to the life of our blog. There are other blogs (an off the top of my head example is Young House Love, http://www.younghouselove.com/) who take great care into crafting each and every, incredibly thorough post. They generally post 1x per day so that post HAS to be awesome. It’s a formula that works for them. For us however, and many bloggers who often get “stuck” in the rut of writing and rewriting posts, speed is a very good thing.

  39. I must commend you guys for the tips you gave. They are very well received by me and I am sure to incorporate them in advertising and promoting my blogs. I know you have alot of traffic to your site and alot to read but whenever you get a chance please stop by my website and let me know what you think, i am anew blogger and would be more than happy to hear from you.

  40. since i am not doing blogging full time.. i figure out that i am already tired the moment i sit in front of my pc and to start blogging.. so technically i am unable to speed up my posting..

  41. These are some good points. I try to compare what I am doing with what is listed. I think I have 4 out of 6 of the proven secrets I really need to get to work on. Thanks again for the great information.

  42. Great advice! I´m starting with a corporate blog an this is the kind of stuff I need to do it better. Thanks!! I will follow you ;-)

  43. very helpful tips

  44. Along with the above tips, try to write a How to tutorial once a week. It will keep you search engine visitors to come again.

  45. Pretty nice blogging tips over there, I guess I have done things right till now, spend some time on deciding the name and domain of the blog. Also some on what articles should I write. The best thing is I was really able to make an article so fast that it started getting alot of views.

    Therefore I will agree on you about if you add content fast to your blog it helps alot to draw traffic.

    Thanks for other tips will try the out for sure.

  46. Just a note to let you know that I’m trying out a couple of suggestions that you made: I added a blogroll to my sidebar and I promise I will shorten my posts.

    Thank you for a thought provoking article. All the best – Chris

  47. These tips are golden, I dig ’em.

    I too agree that speed isn’t 100% set in stone, I’d say consistency outweighs speed. John Resig’s jQuery creator rarely posts and his blog most likely is popular because his name is already out there. I think the more established you are, the less faster you would need to be from some of the patterns I see. But generally, I think consistency should be placed before speed postings. A quality article is just as important, if not more in my opinion.

  48. Also, for the domain name tip, I appreciate it.

    This has been a very vexing issue for me. I’m a user interface designer/app developer (or training myself to be). I want a name that reflects that.

    Right now I got “visual-blade,” but I’m thinking I can find something more sensible. This I feel is a major slice of branding online and I want to get it right. I have more trouble with this than the design I have drafted for my website later on. lol

  49. Awesome tips! I am a big fan of SMP and love the site as it gives me great inspiration. I also love Problogger because it has such great tips and advice! So the two of you guys together just made my day!

    Thanks for having someone in the wedding industry as a guest writer! I think you may be gaining a few more fans from that industry!

  50. I think the speed idea is debatable. Not that it isn’t working for you, but its not the only way to grow.

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