Thursday, November 08, 2012

So you think you wanna be a blogger?



In August of 2011, sitting on a train in France, I had the distinct impression that I needed to start blogging consistently and with purpose.  I had always had a blog, but my postings had been sporadic at best and my audience was me and my roommate.  One day I'll tell you all about said train ride in France, but what is important is that I came home with the determination to be a "blogger."  Problem is, I had no idea where to start.  Now, a year and a half later I find myself with some idea of what I'm doing, but still lost on many things.  Lately I've gotten a surge of emails from newbie bloggers asking for blogging advice.  My first reaction is to always ask, "Who knows?!  I need all the help I can get!"  I often feel like a small fish in a big lake in the blogging world, but I guess I have figured out a thing or two about this community.  And so, I will share.  Everything I know about blogging, but please know you should take this all with a grain of salt.  I am learning here too.  Oh, and veteran bloggers, PLEASE chime in.  We would love your input and advice on everything and anything!  Also, this is the first in a two part series.  Part two cometh next week.  This girl needs to sleep tonight.

1.  Swap with other bloggers

I think the hardest stages of a blog are the 1-100 stage.  It's difficult to get most people to take you seriously as a blogger when no one is "following" you.  The best thing I did during this stage was I looked for bloggers that were similar to me.  I would find a blog with lots of buttons on the sidebar and then I would open up every single blog in a new window and spend time studying at the other blogs. I think you can learn something from every blog- either in the "what to do" department or "what not to do" department. I kept a list of the "big bloggers" that I looked up to, and I watched what they were doing and I copied the things that I thought were successful.  I also kept a list of blogs that were similar in size and audience to mine.  I would ask the bloggers if they wanted to switch blogs for a day with me- I would post on theirs, they would post on mine.  At first I was only getting one or two new followers from each post, but as my audience grew, so did the bargaining power I had with other blogs.  I remember having 50 followers and asking Eryka, a blogger with 80 followers, if she wanted to switch posts with me.  I was terrified she would say no because I was "so much" smaller than her, but I figured I had nothing to lose.  I was totally shocked when she said yes, and we both ended up with more followers because of the swap.   Two words.  Win. Win.

2.  Network, network, network!

Blogging is social, and if you're not willing to really put yourself out there, and get to know other bloggers, then you're not going to find a lot of people support you.  In September of 2011 I started blogging faithfully five times a week.  I never missed.  My posts were creative and funny and I certainly give them my all.  Only no one was reading.   The idea came to post my blog links on facebook, and so I got family and friends reading my blog.  The blog peaked, but then stayed stagnant for months.  It didn't grow because I had no blog connections.  I was blogging, but not at all involved with the blogging world.  It wasn't until I really started reading others' blogs and commenting that I realized I had been blogging completely in my own little bubble.  I hadn't been contributing at all to the blogging world, and in return, no one was reading my blog.  It dawned on me that I needed to be more actively involved with other bloggers and it wasn't until then that the blog took off.

Actively search out blogs, and if you find a blog you like, follow it.  Make sure to tell the blogger in a comment that you are a new follower.  This will often lead to curiosity from the blogger and a lot of bloggers will in turn look at your blog.  Of course, be weary of the copied and pasted "Hey I love your blog!  I am following you.  Please follow me."  That is a huge blogger no no and we all hate those people.  But, if you leave a genuine comment that you are interested in a blog, you can often expect that person to look at your blog and sometimes even follow you in return.

Blogger veterans:  What did you do to get your blog through the 1-100 follower stage?  Any suggestions to get it initially off the ground?

3.  Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.  Use em!

All of these go hand in hand with blogging.  Get a facebook page for your blog if you don't already have one and get a twitter account.  Twitter is a great platform for promoting your blog.  Link up every post you do (Heck, I even sometimes do it twice a day.  The great thing about twitter is there is no "socially unacceptable" number of times you can tweet.  You can tweet all day!)  Follow all your bloggy friends and blogs you admire on twitter.  Mention them when you like one of their posts, ask them questions via twitter, etc.  Be actively involved in the twitter world.  I know a lot of bloggers that are much better and faster about answering tweets than they are about email.  It seems less threatening and commital maybe?  You can find me on twitter here, on facebook here, on Pinterest here, and Instagram @thelifeofbon.  Come join the par-tay!

Veteran bloggers:  How do you use twitter?  Any secrets that have brought you lots of success?

4.  Karma, baby!

Most bloggers want the same thing- for other people to read their blogs.  So if you help another blogger out in her journey to more pageviews, chances are she will likely do the same.  At least once a week I try to tweet the link to a blog post of another blogger that I genuinely loved reading.  I don't ask anything back, but I always mention them so I make sure they know I was sending good karma their way. This doesn't mean you expect anything in return, it just means that you are promoting someone else completely free of charge and a lot of time the blogger will take notice and return the favor.  My advice would be to stick to bloggers who are pretty close in size to your blog.  For instance, I am madly in love with the outfit posts that Sydney does from the Daybook.  But if I mentioned that in a twitter shoutout, the chances are 99% that she would not hit me back.  Her blog's too big, she's got too much other blog stuff to worry about, and my blog is not "important" enough for her to take notice.  Maybe when I have 10,000 followers? I know it sounds harsh, but it's the reality.  Stick with blogs that reach similar sized audiences and your chances for success will be higher.

Veteran bloggers:  Do you use Instagram to promote your blog?  How so?  How about Pinterest?  I've heard Jennie say that she posted one of her blog posts on pinterest and got 25,000 hits in two days.  Tell us how!  Spill your secrets, sister!

5.  People have to connect to you


I guess old John Steinbeck knew a thing or two about writing.  I completely agree with this quote, and in fact, I kind of live by it.  In every post I write, I ask myself if I am connecting with my audience.  Do women relate to what I'm saying?  Am I making people laugh?  Or cry? Do they relate to me?  The fact is I believe we are all narcissists to some extent.  We don't want to hear about other people- we want to hear about us.  Something WE can relate to.  My sister, who isn't a blogger at all, told me she absolutely loves Nat the Fat Rat's blog because of how beautiful her birth story was.  My sister could connect to all of it.  "She hit it dead on!" my sister said, "I understood completely what she was describing."  Some blogs are aloof.  There is a disconnect from the blog and the audience.  There is no interaction.  No authenticity.  No caring.  I've read blogs where the girl goes on and on about her huge shopping spree and all the money she spent.  Or about how perfect her husband is and how they spend the whole weekend cuddling and whispering sweet nothings.  I think that's great, and I'm not saying you should take that out of your posts completely I just think bloggers should be aware that they are limiting the people that they connect to.  They are excluding people who are poor or who don't have the libery to buy anything to their heart's content or that are lonely or who have just broken up or who have never had a significant other or who fight day in and day out with their spouses.  And I will say this.  A lot of bloggers are too pretentious.  They just seem fake.  If I had one wish for the blogging world, it would be that all bloggers come down a notch and be more real.  At the end of the day, those are the blogs that I come back to every day.

6.  Encourage conversation in your posts.

Erin did something brilliant in her post yesterday, and that was she based the entire post off of comments.  She essentially let her readers write the post.  Not only did she have people clicking on her blog once that day, but she had people clicking over and over to read the comments.  (Erin, you care to share with us how many pageviews you had that day?!?)  My controversial posts are always my most commented posts, because people are encouraged to speak up.  They have a motive to leave a comment and the comments themselves attract traffic as well.  I'm not saying you have to start posting crazy, controversial stuff, but when you are writing a post, ask yourself, "If I was reading this post, would I want to comment?"  Think about your readers and if they have motivation to join the conversation.  Also, consider some kind of "reward" for commenters.  If you are small enough you can reply to every comment, but if you have a growing blog there will come a point when you just can't return every comment.  I do a "commenter of the week" where I take my favorite comment and put the comment as well as the blogsite of the blogger who left the comment.  A lot of bloggers reply right in the comment section- they participate in the conversation.  Give your readers some kind of incentive to comment.

7.  As soon as possible, start sponsoring other blogs.

Lately I feel like there has been a bit of a bad rap for sponsored blogs.  I've heard a lot of bloggers say that they "never" read sponsored posts or that they feel they wasted their money.  There have been blogs I sponsored that I didn't think were worth it, but most times I have been pleased with my sponsoring results, and I sponsor 2-4 blogs a month.  I would advise any new blogger to start sponsoring blogs as soon as they are financially able.  In my case, I didn't sponsor any blogs until I was making money on my blog because our budget didn't allow for it.  But once my blog was bringing in a little money, I could spend it.  All the money I make on my blog goes right back into it.  If you have a bit more freedom with your budget, and blogging is something you seriously want to pursue, sure spend $20 on a sponsored post and just hit the ground running.  Truth be told, it wasn't until I started sponsoring other blogs that my blog really took off.  Sponsoring is a form of advertising and of course advertising isn't 100% effective, but it does reach an audience and if you are a small blogger- that's exactly what you need.  An audience!  For more on sponsors, help yourself to this post all about sponsorship

8.  Don't be afraid to ask people to help you out.

I don't think there is anything in the world wrong with a blogger asking blogging friends to help out- as long as it not every day requests (we all know those get old) and as long as the content is actually worthy of posting.  When I posted my 21 rules for using the internet I asked all readers who agreed to repost it.  I knew I had written something a little bit above and beyond what I normally write and I wanted as many people as possible to see it.  It is one of my top ten viewed posts because of that.  You know when you've written a great post and so use those as a form of advertisement for your blog.  Lure people in with those.  Like I'm about to do right now.  If you like this post, agree with it, or know anyone that can use it, PLEASE share it.  Tweet it, link it on your blogs, or email the link.   And leave comments!  What's the most successful thing you have done for your blog?  Least successful?  This is a blogging community and as such we should all be helping each other out.  Spill your beans, girls!

You girls are the best.  I am seriously involved in a love affair with my readers.  Keep on knocking my socks off, will you?

Stay tuned for Part 2 next week.  And yah, this isn't a radio, so just pretend you can tune a blog, will ya?

74 comments:

  1. This is so great Bon! I'm only a few months old in the blogging world and I feel a lot of the time that it's trial by fire... I've definitely noticed that the more involved you are in the blog world (commenting, twitter, etc) the more fun and engaging blogging becomes. Fantastic post girl, I'll definitely pass it along :)

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  2. Love this Bon. Seriously this is great advice for all blogs big and small. Blogging is a commitment and I agree that unless you can connect with your readers, they are not going to keep reading. Thanks!

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  3. you know your stuff, girl! keep up the awesome work!

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  4. These are great tips!! I'm always wary of blogging tip posts because it can be different for everyone and sometimes bloggers just get lucky. But you pretty much said everything perfectly and I love how you weren't afraid to call certain things about the blogging world out like how people should be more real. You are awesome Bonnie! Someday I hope to be a big, awesome blogger like you :)

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  5. I really like this post and I am one of those "bloggers" that don't see myself as a "true" blogger yet. Because I've been at it for 8 months and only have 55 followers. I want to one day be in your range of followers. And every bit of advice I've realised DO help! (sorry I think I just used bad grammar) But I am afrikaans so that's my excuse! haha! I would love it if you can go look at my blog and tell me what you think - truth hurts they say.
    http://johced-ourjourneytoeverywhere.blogspot.com/
    xxx

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    1. How did you get 55? I've been at it for eight months too and just have two followers.

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  6. You are a genius. I really need to start blogging again. I have way too many things to say. Guess I'll start with the Pinterest post. ;)

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  7. Great advice! I am VERY new to the blogging world and you have some awesome tips here! Thanks for sharing and can't wait to tune in for the next installment!!

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  8. Great tips! I love blogging and I'm grateful that I caught on to these a lot in the early days of blogging for me--but what I know I still struggle with is being relatable. Because I write posts about how I really hate wearing yoga pants and how much I love Gilligan's Island when everyone else says they love yoga pants and television shows that are actually current. And I wrote about how disgusting the first and only alcoholic drink I've ever had was when I had my 21st birthday when everyone else talks about their awesome parties. :P What I find challenging is to be relatable and ME at the same time.

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  9. Thank you so much for sharing this. They are great tips and I will for sure use them. I'm very new to blogging and seem to be stuck in a rut. I will use your advice and hopefully things will get better for me in the blogging world.

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  10. Great tips!! Thank you!

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  11. Thanks for this! I have only been blogging for about a month and this was very informative.

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  12. Thanks for the tips!

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  13. What great tips....I've been blogging for a little over a 1 1/2, but went through a four month slump in the middle of it. Networking, Sponsoring ,guest posting, giveaways and finding great lady bloggers to look up to has really helped me in the past two months go from 88 followers to 238. I love your blog and find myself reading it everyday...of course i include you in my fav. lady bloggers :)

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  14. This post was so extremely helpful. Thank you so much! I ate it all up, and I plan on reading it all again tonight (you know,normal Friday night plans woooo!!!). Thanks for sharing your wisdom, Bonnie. :)

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  15. This is great--thanks for the tips! My friend and I started a blog back in August and we can't seem to make it over 25 followers ha. But we're having fun and trying to participate in fun blog things...like the ornament swap that we signed up for on Living in Yellow or Saw It. Pinned It. Did It. with Beautifull Mess and My Keep Calm and Carry On. It's been fun!! Maybe one day we'll break the 100+ mark :) Can't wait for Part 2!

    http://domesticdivasintraining.blogspot.com

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  16. This is really great advice! I am also one of those bloggers who has been stagnant for a while. I will try some of these tips. Thanks a bunch, Bonnie!

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  17. I don't agree with anything. I mean I was only under the 100 follower mark for 3 years it. That's it.

    And then once I did steps 1-8 I gained a few more in just six months... So yeah, I guess you're right.

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  18. This is a good tips post :)

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  19. I'm finally posting regularly enough that sponsoring a blog would actually be worth it. I didn't want a bunch of people to follow me, just to be like, "Ug, this chick never posts!"

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  20. You rock my face off. That is all.

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  21. This is great! I have only been at this for a couple of months and I already feel a bit lost.....

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  22. I read the post and the comments on Erin's blog and if that's the key to getting traffic on my blog, I will happily stay obscure in this little bloggy world. Ew...

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  23. Kate another blogger from "Classy Living" pointed me in your direction when I asked her questions on starting a blog. This was a great post and I cannot wait to read part 2! Thanks so much!

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  24. i should just print this post off and keep it close by. Love the advice about offering guest posts with my button sponsor ships! great idea!

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  25. thank your for the awesome tips!!

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  26. Thank you for all the great advice!! I agree the most dishearting is putting your heart into a post & only getting 10 views. I hope that the 'veteran' bloggers also answer your questions! Really enjoyed this post & it helped out a lot!

    AMY (Trials & Triumphs)

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  27. Just what I needed! I am under 100 and struggling to build my audience! Erin tweeted this and love it! Thank you! New follower for sure!

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  28. Great advice. I've been blogging for a few years now and feel like I've hit a stagnant point. I really need to get back at it. Buuuut I don't like Twitter :P

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  29. So glad Erin gave you a shout-out on Twitter so I could come across this post- its by far one of the most honest "blogging advice" posts I have seen yet!
    I am exactly in that bracket you discussed.. I started blogging a few months ago & I have 41 followers.
    There are so many new things to learn about networking with other bloggers, coming up with creative posts, etc.
    but I have to say it's so much fun, and other bloggers make it so worth it all.
    I loved your advice on whatever money you make with the blog, putting back into the blog and your encouragement for us newbies to keep going!
    My aim now is to become more real and down to earth with every post I write, it's a challenge but I know its the way to go.
    OKAY! Now that I have gone on and on.... my point is THANKS for this post!!!
    From someone who needed to hear it :)
    Angela
    XOX
    http://fashionablecents.blogspot.com

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  30. Great tips!! I'm so glad you are still bloghopping and following new people because otherwise I wouldn't have found you! And you have certainly been added to my daily reads. :)

    I, having only 14 followers officially, have NO place at all to give advice from a blogging standpoint. But I've realized as a reader, I really look for not only the relatability factor, but also substantial content. My favorite blogs are pretty broad. Some are life, "mom", design, comedy. Some are by single people, some married, with or without kids. Some are funny and some are serious. But they ALL do substantial posts with actual content.

    I've found myself following some people who basically just have link parties and socials and giveaways, which all are also good, but those just don't bring me back day after day. Just my two cents as a reader. :)

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  31. This post couldn't have come at a more perfect time! I just decided to start blogging this week and I feel so lost! So thank you, thank you, thank you :)

    itsallinthedeats.blogspot.com

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  32. What an awesome compilation! Thank you! And thank you for finding me...I appreciate having new readers/followers/FRIENDS! Have an amazing weekend!

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  33. Yes! This is exactly what I've been looking for...good, solid advice! I'm one of those beginning blogger who need all the help they can get =) Number 5 is especially dead on...more than anything else I want my blog to be real...to be a living, breathing thing...not a mask or a facade.

    Thanks for tips...I'll be coming back for round 2 =)

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  34. Wow, where was this blog when i needed it?!!! thank you so much for posting this, I'm a newbie and I'm still trying to figure all this out. You helped me out sooo much

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  35. thanks so much for posting this! I am new to the blogging community and it was definitely helpful!

    -Kasey @ barelyfabricated.blogspot.com

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  36. this is so great. I am a babyish blog and I really get this. I am also encouraged when the same peeps come back to read it. that;s how Iknow my writing actually sticks. great post

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  37. I love this! I've been reading your blog for the past two weeks or so and have to say, it's quickly becoming a fave. I'm a college student studying to become a teacher so I've really been loving your school posts. In other words, please keep writing them! :)

    I'm also stuck in that 1-100 rut so all this advice/knowledge is wonderful! And I love how you didn't point to your posts for examples, but to other bloggers instead.

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  38. Alright Bon, you inspired me... I finally caved in and created a button! I thought it was going to be a lot harder but it wasn't that bad at all. Thanks you for the kick in the butt, I mean motivation, that I needed. Let me know what you think, yeah? =]

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  39. Bon, these are great!!!!

    I have to come back and be a little more dedicated, that's for sure! More linking...more networking... ;)

    hope you have an amazing weekend love!
    Andie's Traveling Pants

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  40. THANK YOU for some wonderful advice!!

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  41. Great post, Bonnie! I've been blogging for years, and I'm most definitely as you said, "in my own little bubble."
    Time to start venturing out, seeking out new blogs to follow and commenting more on the posts I like!

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  42. New blogger here and I always appreciate advice, this is great info! Thanks Bon! :)

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  43. just found your blog, and have been cracking up ever since. ..happens to be on the new blogger post, how cliche and typical. insert cheesy music and captions here, thanks.
    looking forward to following! you'll keep me laughing, im sure :)

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  44. This is a great post! I love all of the words of advice and all of the 21 rules for the internet! They are spot on. Great blog! Thanks for stopping by :) New follower here!

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  45. Great advice! It's embarrassing how long I was blogging before I realized I actually had to go find other blogs to read/comment on...that people weren't just going to magically stumble across mine ;)

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  46. Thanks for this post! I'm in that 1-100 stage (almost out though!!) so this has been helpful. I loved reading it and am excited to learn more about you! Glad to be following you back :)

    Xoxo
    Tarole

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  47. Love this and thanks for discovering my blog so I could find you :) Happy to be a new follower for you as well!

    Chelsea
    Twitter: cpatthoff
    http://confessionsbychelsea.blogspot.com/

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  48. First of all, thanks for visiting and following over at Team Bowen! Love your advice for bloggers! Will certainly be trying to implement some of it over the next several months! Can't wait to read installment #2

    Jen
    www.goteambowen.blogspot.com

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  49. This is great, thanks! I've been blogging for a few years, but still feel I have so much to learn! I'm definitely far from tons of readers. : )

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  50. Great advice, thanks! I'm happy to note that I have been doing a few things right according to your list, but you gave me a few new ideas as well. I'm looking forward to part two!

    The Ellison Family Expansion Plan

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  51. Whoa. I learned so much from this post. I'm definitely in the 1-100 phase right now. I'm at 79 and I realized I needed to get my butt in gear. Some of the things you mentioned, like sponsoring, I've done. Plus, I realized I always enjoy when blogs do contests (not that I'm hinting away at anything, I'm certainly not!) so I decided to get some things to do a giveaway. Thanks for the great ideas, Mrs. Bonnie!

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  52. Thank you for this! It is so helpful!

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  53. I'm officially in love with you. Is that too forward...?;)

    I favorited this on twitter when Erin gave you a shout out and have read it three or four times now. I LOVE all these ideas, and I'm so excited to work them into I'll Fly Away.

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  54. Such a great post! Thank you! :)

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  55. Thank you thank you! I started a food blog and have been feeling slightly discouraged about the lack of traffic. But there's so much more I can be doing. Thanks!

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  56. Oh and PS - I'm totally following your blog now :)

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  57. Hey Bonnie! I LOVE your blog. This post is so helpful as I am in the beginning stages of growing my blog. Oh, and I'm a new follower :)

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  58. I'm pinning this series, it's very helpful. Thank you for the tips :) The 1-100 stage is tough - I'm definitely going to look into advertising and swapping.

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  59. Although I've been a blogger for 2 years, I still feel I am quite the novice. I love to write and I love to share. As you are a teacher, so am I (albeit, I am barely doing my internship). I teach history (but have a English teaching minor) and I have written a few posts about my experiences so far. I am also friends with Danica at "Black with a Chance of Cheetah." I would love to hear some teacher/English/random-happenstance blogger advice!

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  60. You had me at Steinbeck=) Great quote, thanks for following me! Following back...looking forward to reading more=)

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  61. This is an awesome post! I'm going to have to come back and stalk all your other ones, especially because you made me appreciate a Steinbeck quote - and Steinbeck and I are not friends.

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  62. I just started blogging right before the new year and its been so much fun. I humbly say tha I have 17 wonderful followers and I love to see the pageviews go up. even if only by a couple. I cant wait to start sponsoring blogs! this is gonna be great! Thank you for the tips

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  63. I had that same "sitting on a train in France" thought that I need to blog more often and come up with more interesting posts. Although mine came to me while I was sitting at work bored to death. I came across your blog through Alycia! I am SO glad I did. I love it already! Thank you for great tips that I REALLY needed!!

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  64. Bon, I know that you wrote this post a few months ago, but in my horrible blog despair I have been crawling the internet the last few days and found your blog. I have absolutely fallen in love with it! This post has been so helpful and really given me the hope that I needed to not give up! If you have time later here is a link to my blog, I would love some pointers! I feel so lost in blogland!

    Thank you for all of the information and reality that you put into your writing! It is truly inspirational!

    renovatingmyheart.blogspot.com

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  65. bonnie, thank you so much for these tips! I love reading your posts, ran across this older one, and am so glad i did. you rock :)

    samantha

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  66. Such a helpful post, loved all the tips...I should do it.
    Such a nice blog you have here, I came through Story of My Life Blog. And your underwear blog post is so hilarious. I was literarily laughing out loud in office, made my afternoon. Thanks!

    Your newest follower.

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  67. Hey Bonnie,

    Wow, I stumbled upon your blog today - haven't read through everything yet, but I am soooo stoked that I found you! The advice in this post is amazing! Happy to say that I am already doing some of the things you mentioned in order to grow my new blog, and am anxious to put the new tips I learned to good use.

    Also, I saw that you are an English teacher - awesome! I was an elementary ESL teacher in New York City for several years :)

    Can't wait to read more!

    Natalie
    www.notesbynatalie.com

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  68. Oh my lord! Thank you for the tips...I have had many blogs, but for some reason just couldn't keep with it - truth be told, I let my insecurities get the better of me - but I re-started, and now I am new again, and it feels good to have a fresh start, so thank you!!

    http://perfectingimperfectionblog.blogspot.ca/

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  69. Thank you so much for posting this. I started my blog in May and I'm in the process of working to grow it! I really appreciate the information that you gave in this post!! Love your blog!

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  70. Excellent points. I think I remember being in the 1-100 rut until I swapped with someone and was in their giveaway. That, or coordinated a giveaway back when they were about ad spaces and gift cards (as opposed to astronomical things like iPads). I'd recommend that to people just starting out!

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  71. This is a great post. I'm not a real new blogger but still learned a lot from your post.
    Thanks,
    Karissa

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  72. I am a new blogger, and this post was very helpful! I have been looking through your blog for about 45 minutes now and I am loving what I am reading! Thanks for the assistance and the inspiration! I think I am going to head to your book club posts now!

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