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?

 

 

 

 

Blog 101 - image of a computer and a desk in the background

Well done on starting on your blog journey. It is exciting but also hard work. My Blog 101 series focuses on those who want to take the plunge and create a blog but don’t know or don’t have the confidence to start. Todays post focuses on the four key questions you need to ask yourself before you start a blog.

Time

Firstly do you really have the time to start and maintain your blog? If you want your blog to do well then you have to create or find the time to maintain your blog. This is something myself that I really struggle with, as you can see with my site my posts are very sporadic.

What are you creating your blog for?

If you are creating your blog just to obtain free stuff then you will not get very far. The blogs that do well have writers show real passion for their subject and craft and that is what makes them successful.

Is your blog supporting your business?

If your blog is part of a business then you will have to adopt a slightly different tone. You will have to maintain professionalism and all posts will have to be relevant to the business. You really need to be committed to your blog if you are going down this route because a out of date blog looks unprofessional and that could indirectly harm your business.

Expenses

Running and obtaining a blog does occur some expense. Blog props, Photoshop or cheaper photo editing software, taking out adverts, a custom URL, hosting, hiring a graphic designer to create graphics and having a personalised email address to name but a few all cost.

That is it, the four key questions you need to ask yourself before you start a blog. Second up in my Blog 101 series is on writing a blog post.

I would love to hear your feedback on my blog series. Let me know in the comments below 🙂

Trees in the morning sun to convey thinking about the future

I am a sucker for making resolutions, to the extent that I don’t just make them at Christmas I make them throughout the year. There is something, however, about being able to start the new year with a goal or idea that appeals to me. However I break a lot of them as well. This post details my journey of resolutions made throughout the years and which ones I stuck at but which ones I broke and why.

Writing in a diary

Back when I was in high school I had the great idea of writing in a diary for the entire year. I had tried before and failed in many aspects but this one I was determined to stick at. And I did. I stuck at it for two and a half years! I am so glad I did because these diaries have provided me with a comprehensive view of my time at high school, those thoughts, feelings and who I fancied – which I would not have had otherwise.

Learning to ride in cleats

I ride my bicycle a lot. In fact I have two bikes (a mountain and road bike) and I love cycling and am regularly on Strava and if I am not cycling I am watching cycling or talking about cycling. You get the picture. I bought cleats three years ago as I knew more cycling I knew I needed to start wearing them. I got the pedals fitted onto my bike and practised around the Uni car park and the field. I was doing pretty well with only a few accidents until I had a nasty fall down Stoke canal. Safe to say I haven’t clipped in since.

Writing more on my blog

This one makes me really sad. I really want to create a blog where I am constantly posting, have pretty pictures and create something I am proud of. I do find it hard (and I know I am certainly not alone) in having the time to create this content and keep on top of it. This has set me back in my other blog goals such as entering awards and going to blog events as I never thought my blog was established enough. This year my blog will be top priority.

A sheltie dog looking up at a tree

Partaking in more twitter chats

I really enjoy twitter chats and have hosted a few of them myself too. This year I want to partake in a few new ones and keep setting myself reminders for the others.

Going to a blogger event

As above going to a blog event will be really big for me. It will be exciting networking with other people.

Spending less time surfing the net

I am terrible at just browsing the internet whilst watching TV or to put things off. 2017 I want to spend more time on hobbies.

What are your New Year’s Resolutions?