Image of a desk with a pennant and books

Welcome to Blog 101, session four is focusing on free or low cost photo editing and image creator apps.

I can and do regularly use Photoshop in my day job for quick tweaks to artwork (I am not a designer at all!) but I don’t have the application at home and neither the advance skills needed to make use of the program. Here are four tried and tested programs that are free that I use.

Canva

This is my favourite program for creating social media images for my posts. The templates are wide and varied from social media images to adverts to printed media or you can create your own custom dimensions. The templates make it very easy to upload your images and overlay them onto your template. Canva gives you great design ideas and tonnes of different fonts and you can get a precise colour by typing in the hexcodes.  If you are creating a poster using canva and wondering if it prints well, my previous manager has created a 60×40 inch poster before and it has printed fine.

Picmonkey

I often resize my photos using Picmonkey. Again this program is easy to use with its resize, text overlay and has templates like Canva. You can add more effects with the photographs itself such as light effects. Less tools seem to be available free unlike Canva.

Fotojet*

I was recently contacted by Fotojet to try out there online graphic design maker. It very much reminded me of Canva albeit a more stripped down version. Again there are lots of functions such as templates to create social media images, create your own custom templates and background. I will write a more comprehensive post about this program separately. It does what it says on the tin, you can edit and create images and the program is easy to use however I think if I had to choose either Canva or Fotojet I would choose Canva as there are more design options.

VSCO

VSCO is an mobile phone app where if you are a bit bored of the Instagram filters and want to move up in the world it is the equivalent of the cooler older brother or sister. I mainly use VSCO for the filters and to resize images normally to put straight on Insta or Twitter. Favourite filters include HB1 and HB2, X1 and A6. A while ago it underwent a massive redesign and it looks pants now and I feel made the app harder to navigate.

Which low cost image and design programs do you use and recommend? Let me know in the comments below!

 

How to grow and maintain a blog

Your blog is up and running, well done! Now you just need to maintain and grow your blog to help you achieve success. This is how you can do it:

Take part in Twitter chats

Being a massive twitter fan anyway, I love twitter chats. I have been part of some great conversations, spoken to some lovely people on Twitter and it has been a great way to push people to your profile, obtain followers, gain new ideas for posts and find some new bloggers yourself.

It can be daunting at first taking part in chats, especially if you are hosting one (read more about my tips on hosting a Twitter chat here). If you join chats based on your blog topic this will push more interest to your site then say your location as it is reaching those with the same interests.

Read more:

Creating a movement online – my recent twitter chat

How to #win at a Twitter chat

Using hashtags and pages that retweet your blog on twitter

By promoting your post using popular, relevant hashtags this can push your blog out to an audience that may not have come across your site otherwise. Sites such as hashtagify.me can help you easily see how popular the hashtag you want to use is and other relevant tags. By adding the handles of twitter pages that retweet your blog as well may mean a retweet out to a large audience. Bare in mind, however, to only add one twitter page handle per post. If you don’t then you are less likely to be retweeted as those pages are not going to retweet their competitors as well.

The Twitter pages that retweet your blog

Facebook Fan Page

Like what I said with the Twitter chats below, you could create your own Facebook page promoting your blog or you join ready made communities tailored to your blog topic, region or interest. I am part of several blogging groups in the West Midlands because I live in the region and like to see what local bloggers are writing about (I have some fab new restaurant places I want to try out!), and blogger opportunities are also posted on there too.

Instagram

If your blog is very aesthetically pleasing, then Instagram is the place to flog your posts. Engagement on Instagram is high because it people are more willing to double tap a image to give it some love. If your Instagram is themed then likes are more likely. Evidence as shown that those Instagram pages that have a theme are more likely to get likes than those that are not. Again using hashtags for people to find your images is key. I use tagblender for easy copy and pasting lots of hashtags. Just remember Instagram only allows a certain number of hashtags and if you go over then it will post without the tags and that can be frustrating.

Creating a blogging schedule and sticking to it

I firmly believe that to really maintain a blog you need to regularly post. If you consistently times a week you are more likely to have followers keep returning to your site for more.

How is your blog going? Leave me your links below as I am always on the look out for new blogs to read!

 

 

How to write a blog post

Hopefully you have read my first post ‘4 questions to ask yourself before you start a blog‘ and have decided to go ahead and create one yourself. Well done! Now is to set about writing your content.

There are many ways to write a blog post and I am not saying I am an expert in the slightest but writing a blog post is a craft and as they say content is king. The benefits of good content is clear, you will gain more in engagement and followers.

So what is needed to write a good blog post?

Strong topic

Your post needs to have a clear subject, if you are writing for the sake of writing people will see this and just click off.

Clear structure

Your English teacher was right, your writing needs an introduction, middle and end. The best way to do this is to plan what you are going to write before you write it. It really helps make sure your writing is heading in the right direction. For more information on planning a post read my post on ‘How to plan a successful blog posthere.

Ideal blog post length

The jury is out on this one! This does very much depend on the topic you are writing about, Yoast recommends your post length to at least be 300 words long. Yoast goes on to mention that longer posts are more likely to be ranked higher because there are more opportunities through text, images and links to include your keyword. Researching further, digitalmarketingpro.net recommends to Google blog posts of a similar type that you want to write and seeing how many words were written in the top five ranking posts.

Consistency

I should really practice what I preach on this point! All the headings should be the same size, font and style. I am still experimenting with mine, but as soon as I have a style nailed I will update everything else.

Images and all the little things that make a huge difference

Images are so important to add on a blog post. Think about how many blog posts that do not have an image or graphic of some kind. Not many! Images help reinforce and explain a point, help people make an emotional connection and even persuade them to make a purchase! People are more likely to share a post if it contains an awesome image.

It helps with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) as when you save your image you should name the image properly and use the alt tag function and description. It also helps those with e-readers who cannot see the image know what the image is as the e-reader picks up the alt tag.

Comment

Unless it is something very sensitive your posts should contain a comment section and make sure to respond to people’s comments! They have taken the time to written, you should take the time to respond.

Make sure you add your relevant pages and social media links

After writing your blog post make sure your social media links are there so people can pin the image, tweet and Facebook it. The more chances you give them to be shared the better. Also if you have written relevant blog posts in the past, make sure you add those links in the text too as it pushes people to look at that content which means extra views to your posts.

I hope you enjoyed my Blog 101! Are you finding these tips useful?

 

 

 

 

Grey shirt and pink adidas sport trainers

I love fitness and have almost by not thinking about it maintained a level of fitness since my school days. It can be hard however, these days with work to keep on top of it. Especially as you don’t want it to seem like a chore. Here is my little fitness history, routine and some lovely kit I have brought recently.

Fitness History

Sport for me growing up I was indifferent really. I wasn’t the best but wasn’t the worse either. I played in the school netball team at primary school (I still kept my winners medal!), competed in cross-country for my school at 12 and just did the usual PE lessons until 16 when I joined my school’s cross country club. 18-21 I played lacrosse for my University team, an highlight being going to Salou in Spain and playing mixed lacrosse in the National Lacrosse Championships.

Parkrun

I am not a runner AT ALL. As a dedicated cyclist of about five years. Pounding the pavements does not float my boat, however I love Parkrun. I got into Parkrun through my friends and for those of you that don’t know, it is a free timed 5k run. There is no time limit – you just run at your pace. I run it, normally, in about 32 minutes, I do hate running around the route (even though it is beautiful Cannock Chase) and do wonder to myself when is it going to end. However, it gives me a good start to the weekend and I love seeing if I have smashed a PB and where everyone has come in the run.

Circuit Training

Circuit training is the one thing that I keep going back to time and time again. I started circuits after finishing University. I love the variety of changing workout’s every minute. When I moved to where I live now (near Stafford) I go to the sessions run by G Force. G Force is great because each circuit session is slightly different. Not only this but they have started to add tabata training (an high intensity interval training (HIIT) workout) on Sunday’s which I love. There is also Vibe cycle where you essentially cycle to the beat of the music. I have only been to one vibe session which I enjoyed and would go to more but cannot get over from work in time! Each circuit training session is £3 so money is not an excuse. I just love the feeling exercise gives me afterwards.

Cycling

Ahh my biggest love. If you ask anybody who knows me they know I love cycling. I started just after the mighty trio which is Laura Trott, Dani King and Joanna Rowsell- Shand won the team pursuit in the 2012 olympics. Inspired, I dragged my bike down to the local outdoor velodrome and went from there. These days I take my road or mountain bike out. As I live close to Cannock Chase I am very comfortable with the blue and red trails and off trail biking. I love being out in the fresh air and the views of the chase are stunning.

My top tips of getting fit

Get Some Nice Fitness Gear

I have steadily built up a collection of fitness gear throughout the five years since I have finished Uni. Lots of people use old shirts etc but I like to look nice and feel comfortable. You need to be motivated to get fit! I do however hate people that spends loads on kit and then never wear it. I set myself targets such as going mountain biking six times in a row to buy some new mtb trousers etc.

Go With A Friend

It is really daunting at times going along to a session on your own. If you can go with a friend, you can help each other out and not feel as intimidated.

Think Of The Mental High When Things Get Tough

A lot of my fitness isn’t about getting fit physically but it does help my mind. My mind is busy working all of the time so a circuit class or mtb trail is the great way to take my mind off thinking for an hour or two! It can be hard to get motivated at times – but when I think of the natural mental high I get at the end – it is well worth it!

I would love to read your fitness tips and experiences. Leave your comments below x

I really enjoy Twitter chats, I take part in them and I have hosted them as well.

I recently hosted an #lbloggers chat with my topic about ‘Creating a movement on the internet’. It was a topic that I hadn’t really seen much written about online so I was excited to see everyone’s thoughts.

My first question was:

Do you feel that blogs have empowered people to create their own movements or join one?

What was interesting with this was I saw a movement as something such as feminism however a lot of Twitter users saw it as building their own communities.

In addition twitter users that took part in the conversation as a whole felt that blogs helped people connect with other like-minded people and increase the confidence in expressing themselves.

 

Do you think the internet can be a more effective way to support causes from behind a screen rather than being out there?

Twitter users found that starting from behind a screen can be a brilliant way to dip your toes in activism and then as confidence grows and physically getting out there seems possible.

A Twitter conversation regarding activismOne twitter user bought up the very valid point that it depends on the blog and the blogger and I whole heartily agree.

My blog is less likely to get people involved or support a cause compared to a blog with millions of followers.

Are you involved in activism?

I am not involved in activism myself at all other than the odd retweet and reading Lenny Letter (a feminist newsletter). I was interested to see if other people were. Jasiminne Yip from Posh, Broke and Bored wrote about her experiences volunteering with the Greyhound Trust and Crisis UK. One twitter user pointed out that mental health issues was widely being recognised.

Lauren from Blonde Vision has done volunteering for the Race for Life, packing Christmas presents for children in Ghana.

A Twitter user, Ada Lovelace said that she volunteers at the local library and donates to charity. Another user said that she speaks up for small indie businesses.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.