12 Dos and Don’ts to Make Your Blog Legitimate

12 Dos and Don'ts to Make Your Blog Legit #HE

The Difference Between Good Enough and Great

It’s easy to let little details slip by without caring, or sometimes without even noticing. But perfecting the things that most people don’t take the time to do or learn about is ultimately what gets an individual ahead of everyone else.

Don’ts

Pop-ups. They can be okay for a short period of time if you’re really trying to promote something major, but not permanently. And if you are going to have a temporary pop-up, wait 20-30 seconds before having it pop-up on your reader so they can at least get into your blog before being bombarded.

When I go to a site and the first thing that I see is a pop-up before I even have the chance to view the landing page, my next move is often times just to exit out of the page completely. This is because 1. I’m annoyed and 2. You haven’t even given me the chance to see your website yet before you’re asking me for something–I have no reason to stay.

Captchas. I understand if you’re a legitimate website, and even if you’re not, you’re probably going to get spammers, but the large majority of web hosts have some sort of spam filter in place already. Captchas are often frustrating to readers because they don’t work correctly a large percentage of the time, which makes commenting really difficult. On top of that, in several instances, captcha won’t work correctly with a smartphone or mobile device, which is a major problem when 80% of consumers now use smartphones to surf the web. Another flaw is that some captchas require the reader to scroll back down to the bottom of your page and press “comment” a second time; while a lot of times, people don’t realize that, which means you’re losing comments and engagement.

More times than not, when I’m trying to comment from my phone on a blog that has captcha, something goes wrong with it, which frustrates me enough to not even comment anymore.

Too many ads. I understand we all want to get paid, but at the cost of losing readers, you have to ask yourself if it’s really worth it. Without a solid following, no one’s going to want to advertise with you. So, it’s important to find a good balance, advertise things that make sense with your blog and have a layout that keeps everything from looking too busy and cluttered.

Let me put it to you this way: if t.v. shows were 3 minutes of show and 10 minutes of advertisement, I wouldn’t watch. Unless it was Game of Thrones, and then, maybe, I’d consider it. 

Too many sponsored posts. A good, general rule of thumb is to have no more than 1 sponsored post for every–at least–3 unsponsored posts. Otherwise, your blog just begins to feel like a giant sales pitch.

A handful of blogs I enjoyed have gained traction and when they started receiving more offers, the sponsored posts began to take over. When that happens, I generally become uninterested and stop following or checking up on the blog. 

Inconsistency. This primarily includes fonts, image sizes and colors. Keep all of these consistent. I’m not saying don’t add variety, but there can be variety in the consistency. For example, if you like changing up fonts, use a specific font for your header, a different font for subheadings and another for main text. Same goes for images–if you don’t want to stick with just one uniform image size, at least have image layouts and sizes that you stick to or alternate between throughout your blog.

When a post starts in one font and ends in another or has images scattered throughout without any sort of consistency, it’s really just displeasing to the eye and often makes me feel like the blog isn’t good or professional–even though it really has nothing to do with the actual content.

Going overboard with design. You know the person who puts stripes with polka dots, and hearts and circles and rainbows and really anything they see. It’s too much. Having too many things going on at once can really hurt a blog’s appearance. Pick a few key elements, designs, colors and stick with them. Don’t go with something so crazy that it completely distracts from what you’re trying to do.

When I go to a blog, for example, with a really crazy, ridiculous font or colors everywhere, it distracts me from what I’m trying to read, and I can’t focus on anything else except trying to figure out why all these words are in this unreadable post.

Dos

Have a .com. Or .org or .net. Just avoid having, for example, name.wordpress.com or name.squarespace.com. Basically, I’m telling you that you need to purchase your domain name. I know, *sigh*, spending money sucks, but honestly, it’s the number one step to legitimatizing your blog. Are there some blogs that are doing okay and haven’t purchased their own domain name? Yes, but they generally can’t do much of their own design on their actual site pages, it’s difficult to advertise, and you’re not going to get near as many people who want to work with your blog simply because it doesn’t appear that you’ve gotten serious about your blog to have enough legitimacy to purchase your own domain name.

A consistent image or logo across your blog and all your social media platforms. In other words (or–er–word), branding. You want a primary, go-to image that people will see every time they visit your blog and SM sites. It’s cool, it gives people something to associate with you specifically, and if they happen to stumble across it somewhere else, they know exactly whose it is and where it’s from. Exploding fist<recognition<branding.

Make sure your site, design and images appear correctly across all devices, whether that be mobile or computer. Cross-device usage is now–67% of users move between devices while online. People switch from their phone to their laptop to their tablet without blinking an eye, and if your website isn’t accessible or viewable across all devices, people are going to get frustrated and stop viewing it.

Consistent fonts and sizes + quality images. Being consistent is talked about above, but it’s worth mentioning again because so many people overlook it and don’t think it’s a big deal. Basically what it boils down to is appearing professional or appearing unprofessional. Every single one of our blogs is interviewing for each reader that stops by, and if you’re the interviewer, I’m willing to bet you choose the person who comes in a pantsuit over the person who shows up in ripped jeans and a halter type every time. Beyond consistency, it’s SO important to have quality, especially with images. If you don’t have the time or skill to design a quality image, it’s unbelievably easy (and free) to find them, meaning there’s no excuse! Olyvia.co is my favorite go-to for a spectacular list of free, quality stock photo sites.

Make your site easy to maneuver. Whether that be searching for something, sharing a post or seeing your other platforms. If people have to spend more than a few seconds searching for something, more often than not they give up or get distracted and move on.

Maintain a theme. Or something recurring that’s unique to you. For readers, it’s nice and it’s clever to see some sort personal touch that remains present throughout your blog. It’s kind of a level-up for people to be able to associate something specific with you.

Ultimately, if you’re blogging professionally or even just to gain a personal following, your blog is your business. Represent and treat it as such. Put the extra time and effort in to perfect your blog and take it above and beyond, because truly, people will notice and often remember their first impression upon entering your website.

EDIT:

Bonus Tip

When linking to other sites, make sure your link is set to open in a separate tab. If your links don’t open in separate tabs, it makes it easy for readers to lose your page if they’re trying to view your links while reading through, or it allows readers to get distracted by your link and forget to come back to your page.

#OctoberScopers and Navigating Periscope

I don’t generally jump on the new social media bandwagons very fast. As a matter of fact, I’m generally the one dragging myself onto the platform months later, attempting to figure out how it works while everyone else enjoys themselves freely.

BUT there’s a new thing everyone is flocking towards called Periscope, and for the first time, I don’t think I’m late to the party. I can also say, for the first time, I’m obsessed with some new, shiny, trendy thing because I’ve been obsessed with Periscope the past week or two.

What Exactly is Periscope?

Periscope is an interactive app where yourself or other users create live video that people can join in to watch while also commenting. The person creating the video can then respond to comments and interact with other users that way. Yes, there’s also a way to limit who can watch your videos–don’t worry!

If you don’t catch a video live, you can always watch the replay, which will be listed on your main screen (or by clicking the bottom, left button that looks like a television).

Users are also able to tap the screen, giving hearts during live video or replays. These hearts essentially equate to your popularity count (much like followers on Facebook or Twitter) on Periscope.

Videos are viewable for 24 hours if you allow them to be.

When you’re watching someone’s video, you can swipe right to view their profile and follow them. You can also swipe up to share their live broadcast via Twitter or Facebook.

Setting Up Periscope

I can’t say I’m an expert–yet–but I can tell you downloading and catching onto Periscope basics aren’t too difficult.

  1. Download the Periscope app.
  2. Follow the prompts, connect through Twitter and that will be your Periscope handle. (Twitter created Periscope).
  3. For this app, I highly suggest you allow the push notifications through. Never do I ever for any apps except my email and Facebook, but Periscope is a platform where you want to catch people live. You can only catch people live if you get a notification that someone you’re following is Periscope-ing live. It’s not super annoying like most push notifications–to me, it’s the equivalent of a text or Facebook notification.
  4. Follow people or brands you know and like. There’s a search friends button in the bottom right of the app that looks like three people from the shoulders up. It gives suggestions or allows you to search people you know.
  5. After that, all that’s left to do is catch people live or make a live video yourself.

#OctoberScopers

October Scopers is an awesome Periscope group that started last month (#SeptemberScopers). It creates a prompt each day for those involved to Periscope about, and everyone can share the love, watch each other and just have great time diving into Periscope and getting to know others.

For Those Participating

  • Include the #OctoberScopers hashtag in your title and share it on twitter. That’s how others participating can find you!
  • If you don’t follow prompts perfectly, we’ll all survive–it’s not a big deal.
  • Do your best to get to everyone and catch replays when you can!
  • Don’t be stingy with the hearts–because, who doesn’t like hearts?

To connect with everyone taking part in the challenge, we have created a Facebook group called Scoper Support. The group is set to private, but anyone can join! My Periscope handle is @HomemadeExp.

october scopers

 

8 Blogging Gurus That Will Help You Become An Expert

8 blogging gurus

When I first entered into the blogging world, I was like an innocent doe–wide-eyed and bushy-tailed–with very little idea of what the heck I was doing. I just wanted to write stuff people could relate to and gain a following I could interact with just from being awesome.

About three years later, I realized I wanted to become seriously serious about this whole blogging thing because I enjoy it, and although it’s a lot of work, it’s fulfilling to me. So, I finally purchased my domain name [homemadeexperience.com] and amateurly continued stumbling along.

Turns out, blogging isn’t just throwing words onto a screen and hitting publish. It’s actually very intricate and time consuming if you want to do it right. Aside from the actual writing, I have an email account I spend a good portion of my day sifting through, a calendar and apps I use to organize and schedule posts and reviews, subpar photography skills that must be utilized for each post’s photos and just enough background in design and html to scrape by with my branding and blog layout. Throw in promoting your blog daily and keeping up on just about every social media platform in existence and you just might have a full-time job … no, seriously, people really make a substantial full-time job out of blogging.

So, in order to sharpen my professional edge and climb up to the next level, I believe it’s important to build a solid platform by researching and learning from those who have been and are currently successful in the areas I strive to be, which in this instance is blogging professionally.

By creating that knowledgable platform and continuing to devour tips and tricks from those around me who are successful, it allows me the opportunity to take my creativity, ideas and personal uniqueness, confidently, to the next level.

With that in mind, here are 8 blogging gurus whom I admire and am constantly striving to learn from:

Chic Geek Academy A great resource for taking the basics that every brand and blog needs and making them as powerful and useful for your blog as possible. For those who are trying to become successful in the blogging world, or simply just level up in some areas, Dre offers some great tutorials and simple step-by-step advice. She’s also pointed me in the direction of several of my other blogging gurus.

Rebekah Radice The all-encompassing social media guru. Rebekah offers tips and tricks on how to navigate and market using the major social media platforms, engagement, visual content and various other clever tricks.

Peg Fitzpatrick Another great social media expert. Peg, however, is primarily geared towards marketing and appearance, which is also insanely important and helpful. She gives GREAT tips and very specific step-by-step advice on branding your stuff for social media with some great techniques that can easily step-up your blog game.

Anna C. Bennett | White Glove Social Media Your absolute go-to for becoming a Pinterest queen, or king. Anna gives great step-by-step guides on how to market yourself on Pinterest and use Pinterest to better your business, image and following. She has an awesome Pinterest marketing video and online course, and really, if there’s absolutely anything you can think of that’s Pinterest related–and probably 100 other things you haven’t thought of–Anna covers it. Great resource to strengthen your blog on that social media platform.

Regina Anaejionu | By Regina Regina offers awesome advice and tools on how to blog efficiently. Whether that means utilizing your blog budget to its fullest, gaining paying clients or simply how to write, her blog and published works are a great go-to. She offers superb advice on how to be creative and organized, along with great worksheets and resources to do so.

Elle & Company A seriously amazing resource all around. Elle & Co. offers an entire library of worksheets, files and templates, archives with over 100 tutorials, tips and how-tos, e-courses and weekly posts on general blogging, professionalism and design. Very organized and easy to find exactly what you’re looking for to help boost your skills or organize yourself.

Pauline Cabrera | Twelveskip Pauline is all about strategy, numbers and getting noticed based on your technical and branding abilities. She specializes on how to present your blog/yourself, website and graphic design, website review, website marketing and content marketing. Pauline also gives great advice on how to generate more traffic, plan ahead and several of the other little tips that make blogging easier and more efficient.

Copyblogger Founded by Brian Clark, Copyblogger covers the tech-y tech side of blogging, because it truly does make a difference. The information this site provides–that a lot of others don’t– is primarily over SEO, email marketing, keyword research, landing pages, etc. I’m sure there are several successful bloggers that aren’t huge into the tech side of their websites but knowing more about the technical aspects of blogging can really be the cherry on top and the thing that puts your blog one step ahead.

Craft Alliance Makers Ball

Just a few days ago, there was a wonderful event held in St. Louis called Makers Ball. This was an evening from Craft Alliance Center for Art + Design that celebrated makers and the power of craft. One reason I’m such a huge advocate of Craft Alliance is because they support the arts … which is too quickly disappearing in the educational world our children are raised in today. The proceeds from this event helped support the exhibition series and education programs at Craft Alliance and in turn, helps give new life to the crafters and arts in the communities around us.

Craft Alliance’s mission is to provide education and inspiration to a community of artists, student, collectors and overall art enthusiasts, nationally. They do so by offering free classes for both children and parents, supporting and showcasing artists’ work and encouraging those who collect art.

I’m lucky enough to be a few blocks away from one of Craft Alliance’s locations on the Delmar Loop in STL and think it’s a great opportunity for those anywhere, but especially in the STL area, to get involved creatively.

Makers Ball was just one event–there are so many other fun and crafty ways to ignite your creative juices with Craft Alliance. Here are some of the awesome highlights and best dressed from Makers Ball.

Best Dressed

Abida Farooqui & Yasmin Hakim

Abida Farooqui & Yasmin Hakim

Grace

Grace Kubilius, Craft Alliance Fiber Artist-in-Residence posing in front of her interactive panel weaving for auction at Makers Ball.

Jackie Chambers

Jackie Chambers, Craft Alliance Director of Development and Communications

Makers Ball Highlights

Grace & I

I was able to take on Grace Kubilius’s interactive weaving up for auction.

Featured Artist

Featuring handmade art, glass blowing.

Featured Artist

Craft Alliance featured artist, creating pottery.

Makers Ball

Shots of a packed house at #MakersBallSTL this year

Makers Mark

Bartender displaying Makers Mark, an event sponsor

From her collection, "Oh How I Love You," Grace Kubilius showcases her wearable arts of love at Makers Ball

From her collection, “Oh How I Love You,” Grace Kubilius showcases her wearable arts of love at Makers Ball

If you were unable to attend Makers Ball, you can donate here or sign up for a class here!

Afterwards, the husband and I were able to enjoy one of our favorites in STL, Central Table in the central west end. We got to enjoy their outside patio this time in the perfect, evening weather! A few foodie shots from our dinner as well:

Central Table

Central Table

Clover Sushi Roll

We started off with the Clover Sushi Roll

Lamb

Lamb Tortellini

Pork

Ginger Crusted Pork

Patio Seating

Visit Central Table on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook at @CentralTableSTL

#HE is proud to team up with ALIVE Magazine to promote Craft Alliance Makers Ball and Central Table.

23 Tax Day Deals and Freebies in STL

Today, tax season is finally over, and to celebrate all the monies and stress relief that (hopefully) comes your way, grab a free bite or service in STL!

Taxes

Photo credit of Tax Credits

1. You know that stress relief I mentioned? Well, fast track it with a free massage at Hydro Massage.

2. Fellow mamas, or papas, can get $8 off a value box of Huggies or Pampers at Babies R’ Us.

3. Now that you’re done reading through all the meticulous tax information, grab a book to read from Barnes and Noble website at 20% off. [coupon code X8W8L3A]

4. Shred your annoying paperwork away at Office Depot for free.

5. Let it out with a song and a free meal at Hard Rock Cafe’s “Sing for your Supper” event.

6. Don’t even get out of your car. Just drive through a McDonald’s or Burger King for a buy-one, get-one on Big Macs, Quarter Pounders or Whoppers.

7. Grab a bite at Outback Steakhouse for 15% off.

8. Get $6 off a dinner for two at Oliver Garden

9. Another buy-one, get-one deal is available at Boston Market.

10. Along with getting your taxes back, get a chance to win a pizza back with Pizza Hut’s “Pizza Return.”

11. Indulge in a warm, gooey sugar cookie from Great American Cookies for free.

12. With the phrase “mid-week buddy pass” enjoy a buy-one, get-one Bacon Jalapeno Queso Burrito at Qdoba.

13. White Castle is offering a 15% discount on all orders.

14. Kona Ice will be at Western County St. Charles Chamber of Commerce with free cups of tropical shaved ice and Hawaiian leis until 1:30pm.

15. With the purchase of a 32-ounce drink and bag of chips, get a free, small “The Original” sandwich at Schlotzsky’s.

16. Tell the cashier, “Taxes Schmaxes” at California Tortilla for a free helping of queso and chips!

17. If you dine at Tony Roma’s today, you can get a coupon for a free red velvet cake dessert next time you head in during April.

18. Free potato cakes and curly fries all day via an Arby’s near you in STL!

19. Two free Cinnabon bites today from 6–8pm at Cinnabon.

20. All-night happy hour specials and reduced prices on appetizers at McCormick & Schmick’s!

21. All day happy hour at Sonic–woot, woot!

22. Head over to Sweet Tomatoes for a buy-one, get-one meal deal.

23. At Mr. Goodcents, grab a complete meal (sandwich, drink and chips or cookies) for $4 and some change.

 

 

 

Help Me Become The Official #ExploreStLouis Ambassador

EDIT: The winners have been announced and although Homemade Experience is not one of them this year, I’m so happy for the 5 who’ve qualified to move forward! Congratulations to…

People’s Choice Winner
Jillian Pye, ALittleSliceofPye.com

Judge’s Choice Winners
Carmen Boeser, TheRubyZipper.com
Jill Firns, StilettosOnSundayMorning.com
Amy Latta, AmyLatta.com
Denise Bertacchi, STLMotherhood.com
__________________________________________

Calling all the lovely St. Louisians and beyond! I need your help becoming the next St. Louis Ambassador of 2015 with Explore St. Louis!

As a part of a new and exciting year, Explore St. Louis is hosting an awesome event on April 30. During the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission’s annual Be A Tourist In Your Own Town event, you can come and see why St. Louis is such an amazing city to live and enjoy. From 10am–2pm at Ballpark Village, come enjoy refreshments, prizes, music and so much more!

How can you participate? Well, this year Explore Saint Louis–along with KDSK, ALIVE Magazine and the Midwest Influencer Network–has put together a cool competition that allows a select amount of people to try their best to show what St. Louis is all about. The “Official Explore St. Louis Summer Ambassador Search,” as it’s called, is a competition that will allow you and select others to decide who best represents St. Louis and the idea of being a tourist in your own city. Some of the applicants videos are available for the people’s choice vote, and . . .

You can vote for me by clicking here and scrolling to the “Official Ballot” at the bottom!

You can also share the word about the next St. Louis Ambassador and check out Explore St. Louis to find out more about this lovely city.

I believe Homemade Experience represents so many aspects of St. Louis. I, personally, am a creator and writer who strives to tap into the creative flow of the city by checking out local crafts, artists and music at places like COCA, The Pageant and the Peabody Opera House–just to name a few. My husband and I love to eat, drink and have a good time with friends around the city; some of our favorite places include Blueberry Hill, Bailey’s Range, Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Ballpark Village/Busch Stadium. Beyond that, I have a family with two young children, so we’re constantly parading around STL checking out the best kid-friendly and family-loving attractions like the Saint Louis Zoo, museums, Forest Park and so much more. While enjoying my city, I love to share my experiences and write about them here, which is why I would be so honored and overjoyed to represent St. Louis!

I have to be honest, though–there is absolutely NO way I can fit everything that I love about my beautiful city in the 20 second video above. So, here are just a few more reasons I’m a huge advocate for STL along with some of the attractions and reasons you can enjoy it too!

267990_10150690540475220_1596838_n

Of course, St. Louis wouldn’t be complete without the Gateway Arch.

 

MWINetwork

The Midwest Influencer Network is a seriously great network to be a part of as a St. Louis–or any area–blogger looking to learn and connect. Check it out!

Plowsharing Crafts

All the local crafts and beautiful makers that are part of St. Louis. This is from Plowsharing Crafts on The Loop.

Photo

The GORGEOUS architecture, buildings and photo opportunities throughout this wonderful city.

Elephant

The captivating animals at the well-known and free Saint Louis Zoo.

Easter

Eckert’s Country Store and Farms just outside of St. Louis, and their lovely Easter Egg-citement event each year.

Click any of the photos above to visit the attraction’s website. And don’t forget to share, like and chat about my post!

 

 

Go Blog Social: Three Things I Learned

1. I’m a true awkward loner when not accompanied by a comrade, and nothing brings it out like networking. I think Zooey Deschanel “Jess” in this clip encompasses me fairly well…

I just do not possess the personality or vibe that draws people in. I’ve got to try–really hard, and that’s okay. I like a challenge, and as one of our awesome speakers pointed out, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

2. I need to invest in a jean jack. Seriously. I think at least half of the people I saw had some sort of jean jacket on during the two day event.

3. There are some amazing bloggers and experts out there and so many of them shared their success tidbits in Kansas City this weekend. I learned more than I could have ever imagined from being able to attend Go Blog Social. Keep scrolling to learn all about it!

Sign

“Go Blog Social ahead”

This past weekend, I had the awesome opportunity to attend the Go Blog Social conference in Kansas City via Visit KC and the Midwest Influencer Network.

Inspiration

Creators and inspirers behind Go Blog Social. Pictured above (from left to right) are Katelyn Herlein, Samantha McClelland, Sarah Ruhlman and Kathryn Snellen.

Go Blog Social is a conference created and put into action by six lovely ladies–four of whom are pictured above–who’ve designed the conference to “inform, educate and inspire” by bringing together bloggers and brands along with social media and business experts to share their expertise.

Day one speakers

Day one speakers included Alissa Circle of Diary of an Addict (top left), Andra Barkey and Kelly Zugay of With Grace and Gold (bottom left), Alea Bębenek of Alea Lovely (bottom middle), Kilee Nickels of One Little Momma and Nickel & Suede (bottom right) and Laurie Davis of eFlirt Expert (top right).

Day one included five wonderful presentations from Alissa Circle, Andra Barkey & Kelly Zugay, Alea Bębenek, Kilee Nickels and Laurie Davis. Each one of these women talked about their personal story in the blogging/career world and what it takes to be noticed. Mostly, be authentic. There may be thousands of bloggers and creatives out there, but there’s only one you. People can appreciate that.

Day two speakers

Day two speakers included Mandy Beveler of Sugar Bee Crafts (top left), Enza Ketcham of Enza’s Bargains (bottom left), Landon & Meggan Wood of Lily Jade (bottom right) and Callie England of Rawxies (top right).

Day two included more amazing tips but with an emphasis on personal businesses. Speakers included Mandy Beveler, Enza Ketcham, Landon & Meggan Wood and Callie England sharing their inspiring stories on persistence and passion.

The Crowd

Socializing at Go Blog Social

I left this conference feeling empowered and happy to be on the right track. So many people think blogging is simple–like we sign on whenever we feel like it and spend five minutes throwing together a post–but the truth is it takes a lot of time and a ton of effort. Whether that time and effort be from taking photos, talking to people, researching, linking, social media-ing, being consistent, interacting, the list goes on and on. Blogging is a full time job for many. I hear you non-bloggers snickering and rolling your eyes, but really, it’s an investment to create something–truly–and do it well, whether it be writing, designing, taking photos or having an online presence, and blogging encompasses them all.

GBS

Stay connected at #GBS2015 #goblogsocial #MWINetwork or @VisitKC

During and after the two-day Go Blog Social event, I was able to bask in the wonder that is my home town. Yes, that’s right, I’m a KC lady at heart. Here are some of the LOVEly places I was able to enjoy while at home:

P&L

Always a little too much fun had at Kansas City’s Power & Light District.

Ambassador Hotel

A gorgeous and relaxing place to rest my head at night with Ambassador Hotel–courtesy of Visit KC.

Royals

Seated at Kauffman Stadium watching my boys in blue [Royals] win, yet again.

 #HE is proud to team up with MWIN in promotion of Go Blog Social!