24th April 2019

Blogging, and What it Means to Me

My Blogging Journey

Questions I often get asked are, “Why do you blog?”, “How did you start blogging?” “How many views do you get a month?” or “What do you blog about?” I then explain to people how I started, how you actually can potentially earn a little bit of money from doing it and what I love about it, but I very rarely actually talk about it on here, with you.

This post has been rolling around in my head for a few weeks now since I realised its been just over six years since I decided to set up a blog. In the beginning, I didn’t even have a name for my blog for months. Steve actually came up with ‘Hello Cuppies’ and I loved it immediately. It made sense, and as I’d originally planned to only blog about baking and cake decorating it kept a link between my cake company with Cuppies ‘n’ Cream too.

Plus, I thought it would be a cool way to show my family and friends back home in York what I was getting up to on the other side of the country.

Blogging, and What it Means to Me

In the beginning

I had no coding, CSS or WordPress experience whatsoever and the basic templates I used were extremely limiting, but I carried on regardless. Googling, reading SEO blogs and watching various videos on YouTube about the editing side helped lots. I pick up new systems and techniques quite quickly and have also taken a few courses through work which has helped but even now I get stuck with certain things and have to Google or email a developer friend for the answers.

Consequently, my first ever post is cringe-worthy, to say the least. Adopting a ‘winging it’ style attitude that wasn’t really getting me anywhere, I didn’t realise at the time that my blog was going to be such a big part of my life or be something that I would love so much.

Oh, and I’ve deleted a lot of my old stuff and revamped others so don’t go looking. 😉

Why did I keep going?

I can’t remember ever thinking that Hello Cuppies would be of interest to anyone, never mind that people would subscribe and engage with what I was writing. I began with just sharing recipes and cake related posts linked from owning Cuppies ‘n’ Cream and the feedback and sharing of what I was doing became addictive.

Blogging, and What it Means to Me

Quickly realising that what I found most rewarding from writing my blog was the feeling that people liked what I was doing. My focus was never to be paid for anything, I have a career already so didn’t need the cash. It was more about having an impact on other people and making a difference.

The people that do read, engage, comment and send me lovely messages is what this is ultimately all about. Those are the reasons that help me to keep blogging and give me the desire to improve and get better at what I do. I’ll never be the best writer, nor the best photographer. But I do genuinely love it and I guess that’s why every year I feel like my blog gets better, it grows and I see the numbers and page views increasing monthly.

Blogging, and What it Means to Me

Email Marketing

When GDPR came in last year I had to delete my whole subscriber list which was heartbreaking. All those contacts were completely gone! All that hard work. But I quickly moved on, installed a new pop-up (the only one you’ll ever see on my site) and this time collected emails in a far more organised way. Within 3 months I had over 800 email subscribers and I can remember seeing familiar names pop up from my previous list and realising that these people came back to re-subscribe. Now, I get new subscribers daily and I’m currently working on segmenting according to what each subscriber reads and prefers. It’s where so many of my views come from and if you’ve got a website of any form, I’d highly recommend starting a mailing list. Especially if you’re a small business.

I work in marketing in my ‘normal’ job and I live and breath it daily. I work with other businesses, help them run their social accounts, create strategies and websites and I’m all about the data and the analytics. For me, I couldn’t imagine how my blog would work without having this knowledge. It’s incredibly important to keep with trends and changes in the industry too.

Which leads to…

Complete transparency. I’ve always promised myself that I’ll be loyal to my readers as ultimately you’re the reason for my blog being successful. I do accept sponsored posts and I’ll always be upfront and honest about this. At one point I remember feeling disheartened when I saw ‘bigger’ more successful bloggers not adding disclosures to their posts even before the ASA guidelines were introduced. I felt confused about why they didn’t? I still can’t answer this one but I have chosen to not focus on it and ignore their choices.

I’ll never have pop-ups or ads on my blog, I just don’t like the look of them and don’t think the money you can earn is worth it. But I do use affiliate links and will always disclose when they’re there. I have a disclaimer page which explains everything and I’ve always thought this is important for readers if they want to understand where you earn your money.

Blogging, and What it Means to Me

Just Starting Out

If you’re just starting out blogging then don’t worry about the collaborative stuff yet, just blog for you. I didn’t accept anything for over two years. You need to be able to build an audience and for them to trust your opinion and views before you start accepting them. How can anyone really value what you’re saying without getting to know you first? Blogging friends are fantastic, they’re supportive, they get what you do, but think about who your target audience is too.

Eating out and supporting local businesses is something I’ve always enjoyed doing. I’m one of those people that will share all my coffee and food shots on Instagram and Twitter so it was only natural that I started to write about this. Which is why I now also accept invites to restaurants (on top of independent reviews) and whilst some people may not think you can ever write a true review when accepting these, I think it’s possible if you set yourself some ground rules:

My ground rules are:

  1. Don’t accept everything. I’ve turned down lots of chain restaurants in my local town and London as I just wouldn’t ever eat there. I only ever say yes to places that I’ve already eaten and paid at, OR know that I’d go to and try independently too. It’s important to have principles.
  2. I don’t accept any restaurant invites that aren’t vegetarian-friendly. Which means I also turn down steakhouses and fish places. I may be able to share what I think about the pretty decor and banging cocktails, but that’s not really what a food review is about, so I have to politely decline.
  3. Make each post different, share the good AND the bad. Try to review it as naturally as possible and if you can get the PR firm to book you in anonymously, then do it.
  4. Also, if possible don’t go in the opening week. I just don’t think it’s fair and I’ll always ask for a later date. Most PR’s are ok with this and will sometimes ask for a paid social share when it does open. Just because all of your other blogging friends are going doesn’t mean you can’t try to do it a little differently.
  5. Once you’ve been accepting collaborations for a while don’t be scared to ask for a fee as well as just visiting. But only if you can truly provide a solid return on investment. I have a media kit for different industries and for example, with Reading and London opportunities, I break down my readership and social following locations and I provide information on the results for other reviews I’ve done. Be as professional as you can about it, the PR’s will remember you for that.

Inspiring Others

I hate the label ‘Influencer’ and I don’t like the negative connotations it brings with it. I’d never call myself one either. I’m a blogger and this is my main platform. I control it, I build it and it’s 100% mine. Social media influencers don’t often have blogs, it’s totally different. For me my social accounts are just a back-up for my blog. Somewhere to ramble and share photos. But ultimately, if one of them was to shut down or disappear, I’d be happy with that because I have my blog.

And don’t get me wrong I get lots of referrals from Pinterest and Twitter, but the majority of my traffic comes from organic searches. Like I said earlier, I love SEO and I love building my blog so that I come up where I should when people search.

I’ve recently been speaking to a couple of friends who have started their own blogs and they told me that I’d inspired them. In the last year, I’ve helped other bloggers get going, offered advice on SEO, built a couple of websites from scratch and have shared techniques that have worked for me. Whilst I’m no expert I do enjoy sharing what I have learned so far and it feels amazing to talk to other bloggers who just ‘get it‘!

The Haters

You’re always going to get them. It’s unavoidable and sometimes heartbreaking. My heart still drops when I see someone sub-tweeting me, twisting what I’ve said or frowning on what I do. But it really doesn’t matter. You’re never going to be everyone’s cup of tea and you’re going to see things you don’t like either, just keep quiet about it. Stay classy. Stay polite and rise above it.

The nastiness of the online world can be incredibly depressing and there is always someone that thinks their opinions are more valid than yours. They’ll be that one blogger who loves to insult you on Twitter, that one that even suggests you change your blog name to something pathetic and even insults your personal choices. But ignore them, they’ll move on to someone else and they’ll eventually be remembered for the wrong things. I would imagine they’ve probably got their own battle to fight and really, you’re just something to occupy them whilst they’re bored.

Focus on the positive readers and followers, they’re the ones that truly matter.

All change in 2017

Taking the step to introduce travel seemed obvious once I did it. I travel a lot, and I’ve been lucky enough to visit some amazing places along the way. From my perfect family holiday in Mexico to my Mum and son break in Croatia, many many trips around Italy and a quick pit stop in Salou you all get to see and read about my life.

Hello Cuppies - uk travel blogger

Writing about travel has opened up some incredible opportunities for me and I’m feeling very excited, optimistic and if I’m honest…quite proud. I’ve worked with the Post Office on a Foodie trip to Rome, Jet2 in Madeira, CityPass in New York and with Clickstay on numerous occasions now. I’ve got a press trip in September to plan for and I adore being part of this industry and feeling like I have a place in the blogging world.

It’s rare that I share the real personal stuff but the more confident I’ve become with my blog, the more I find I want to write about. Well aware of the fact that blogging can sometimes appear that life is perfect – we all know it’s not, I feel that a few more chatty lifestyle, parenting and personal posts help keep the balance. I remember writing about the time I was body shamed and I just wanted to run and hide after publishing. I do have my limits about what I do share though and I think it’s important for everyone to have boundaries. I never write about mental-health stuff, relationships or my childhood and family problems (aside from teenage dramas) are all off limits for me.

Wise Words

Spend less time worrying about what others are doing and stay focused on figuring out what works best for you. Everyone has their own story – tell it! Don’t compare yourself to others, it’s the worst!

Don’t be afraid to open up and bare a little bit of your soul. What’s the worst that can happen? Sometimes I just bash a post out with no planning and write the first thing that comes to my mind. Those posts tend to be my best ones. I think it’s because they’re more natural, show a little personality and become more relatable.

And STOP checking stats all the time – easier said than done, I know.

SEO tips

Speaking of what works, I have managed to filter a few things out that I have learnt when it comes to blogging and whilst I’ll never truly understand the whole SEO world and what it really takes to get noticed, I do have some tips and handy hints I’d like to share.

A catchy headline is better than writing an SEO headline. The chances of ranking high in search terms on Google is pretty unlikely right now. Trust me, I’ve tried. My most successful posts, where I’ve had the most traffic and what stay ‘evergreen’, are the ones where I’ve really focused on my content and keywords. Ever heard the phrase ‘Content is King’? It’s totally relevant and the key to writing a successful blog post. I always write over 1200 words too.

Link back to previous posts. About six months ago I read that we should all be doing this. Why? Not gonna lie, I’m not 100% sure but I have noticed it keeps a reader on your blog for longer. Of course, making sure the links are totally relevant to your post is key, it helps with navigation and creates a map helping search engines crawl and index your site. External links to reliable relevant content are good too.

Make sure your content is readable.  By this, I’m mostly referring to the layout. Break up long paragraphs, use a heading structure and STOP USING EXCLAMATION MARKS. I’m totally guilty of the last one. Once a post is drafted I nearly always have to go back and remove about a hundred of them. Your words should be strong enough and interesting enough to not need them.

Shorter paragraphs are easier to digest and your readers are less likely to skip sections. Break up with photos making sure you always use ALT tags and META descriptions.

The Speed of your site is really important too. Clear out memory, photos should be compressed, old blog versions deleted, unused plugins and themes need to be gone. If there was only one thing I could work on a day it would be site speed and I use Google or GTMetrix to help with this. The Blog Genie has some fab tips on this and can provide extra help if needed.

Wrap it Up

My one giant piece of advice for any blogger is to stay true to who you are. If you do start to make money from your blog think carefully about the opportunities you accept. Only work with brands you truly relate to and always be honest when you do work with them. Unfortunately, there are some PR’s out there that will try to bend the rules a little but stay true and stand your ground.

I’m certainly not a great writer. With no formal training, my spelling and punctuation sometimes leave a lot to be desired, but I do think I have my own kind of style and nothing beats experience. Keep going, keep writing, be you and remember, and I’ve said this before, nobody else can write as you can. You’re unique.

If you’re new here I hope you stick around and enjoy reading my blog. If you’re a regular or a subscriber – thank you! If you don’t want to miss any new posts subscribe using the pop-up you should have seen by now. Nudge, nudge! 😉

26 responses to “Blogging, and What it Means to Me”

  1. This is amazing! I am about 6 months into my real blogging (I tried Blogger a few times and in late May started a WordPress blog and it was the best decision I have ever made with blogging). I am always looking for helpers (very guilty of the exclamation point thing…oops) so this is very helpful. Thanks so much 🙂

    • hellocuppies says:

      Hi Megan, ‘real’ blogging – I love that! I know exactly what you mean. My previous attitude was “are you even a blogger if you don’t use exclamation marks”!! very welcome, look forward to reading your blog x

  2. Rachel Bradley says:

    Love this….I need to get a wriggle on with my website + blog. I. My usual style VERY late to the party. But seriously, great post.

  3. It is great to read another bloggers story, I have been blogging nearly 4 years and have just started to link back to my own content more and rarely look at stats as I just blog for me and if others read it that is a bonus!

  4. Laura Dove says:

    I really enjoyed reading this, you are doing so well! I TOTALLY agree about catchy headlines over SEO headlines, I don’t actually do SEO because I feel it takes away from my writing style. I LOVE your blog by the way!

    • hellocuppies says:

      Ahh thank you Laura, I really appreciate that. I know exactly what you mean. I used to try so hard with making posts as SEO friendly as I could but then started to dislike my actually post! Wasn’t good. X

  5. I love reading about how people started blogging and why. I don’t do SEO either and go with what I like and feels right. I also have a love of Italy and hope to see more of it next year. x

  6. LovelyLu says:

    I love this post. It’s really helpful too, as I haven’t been blogging a terribly long time (unless you could the blog I had almost 20 years ago…). This is such an honest and heartfelt read. Thank you x

  7. Thanks for sharing this beaut,
    I’m struggling lately with mine & have fallen out with it. I was obsessed with tots stats & other stats. I’ve since stopped even batting an eyelid an them.

    You’ve done so well, I love your blog & especially your images.
    <3 So proud of you.

  8. This was such a useful and interesting post. I love hearing how people got started on their blogging journey. I love your travel posts, great knowledge and fantastic photography. Your advice on ‘spend less time worrying about what others are doing, and stay focused on figuring out what works best for you’ is so true and something I have to remind myself of lots! X

  9. katykicker says:

    Some great advice here. I’m 3 years in to my blogging journey and always changing and growing!

  10. This is a great read! Thanks for sharing your blogging journey!

  11. Juanna Mi says:

    It always inspires me to just keep my blog running when I read blogging journey stories like this. Thank you for sharing, hun!

  12. Such awesome wisdom — thank you for sharing your journey!

  13. I still struggle with blogging so it’s always great to read others’ struggles and successes. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  14. This so insightful. I love reading how blogs started. I wrote a similar post at the beginning of the year and have just followed up that post with a new one. xx

  15. This is such a well written post! I love reading other peoples blogging journey as everyones experience is so different. I totally get the point about other not understanding what blogging is, it can be so difficult to explain to someone who doesn’t know!

  16. Ahh I love reading chatty posts like this one. Hearing how other people started blogging and what they’re planning for the future is really cool.

  17. This is a great post, I love reading these sorts of chatty, honest posts! I am terrible with exclamation marks too! x

  18. Bloger says:

    A magnetic article .Thank you!

  19. Caterina / 35mminstyle says:

    I learn something new everyday with blogging – that is why I love it so much. It is always changing!

  20. Love this – and I totally agree about disclosing ads and never understood why people didn’t, for me, I’m super chuffed with myself when someone wants to work with me. Especially if they want to pay me! So I don’t want to ignore that. Thanks for writing up all this info, I’m totally useless at all the SEO techie sides of things but link backs is probably something even I could manage and should look into haha.

    Gemma

    • hellocuppies says:

      Hi Gemma, thanks for commenting! SEO is so tricky, it’s literally a never-ending task and I’m constantly reading about new things we should/shouldn’t be doing!

  21. Cheryl says:

    I always love reading about someone blogging journey. This post was inspiring and informative. And just plain down to earth. Many thanks!

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