Intro to the blogging & blossoming series

branch with cherry blossoms

shell_ghostcage on Pixabay

I’m a member of a newly formed group called the Best Life Collaborative.  We are a diverse group of people from all over the world who have come together with a shared mission – to help everyone live their best life. Each of us have gone through our own struggles, faced challenges that we weren’t sure we would overcome, and yet continue to work to make our lives better than we ever imagined! We want the same for each of you.

To get things rolling I’m starting a blogging & blossoming series of posts that will look at ways to nurture and grow your blog.

You can check out the series intro here.

The doofus-friendly lowdown on SEO for bloggers

I’m not ashamed to admit that I fall into the doofus category when it comes to this kind of thing, so if I can figure it out, you certainly can too.  Okay, let’s get started!

Links

Links are a good thing.  There are a few different kind of links.  One is internal links, which you create between different pages/posts on your site.  Another is external links, which you create on your blog to link to another website.  Finally, the Google gold comes from backlinks, which are links on other websites that connect back to yours.  Google’s algorithms are pretty smart, so if all of this is done in an unnatural way it may actually hurt your search rankings.  Google doesn’t publish their algorithms, so the SEO stuff you read about reflects the best that other people have been able to come up with.

Internal links help to establish that your site is well-organized.  As far as I can tell people don’t necessarily have to click on those internal links; it’s the fact that they’re there creating structure that matters.  The links should make sense, so if I was writing today about guilt I might link to a post from a couple of months ago that also talked about guilt.

For external links, from what I understand it’s most helpful if you can link in a logical way to well known sites.  For example, if you’re mentioning something you looked up on Wikipedia, include a link.  SEO aside, it’s always good practice if you’re mentioning another blogger in a post of yours to throw in a link to their post.

And that brings us to backlinks, the links that other people create on their site to connect to your site.  These are outside of your direct control, and Google takes them as a sign that other people take your site seriously.  Guest blogging can be a good way to get backlinks, especially if you’re doing a post for one of the big, well-known sites like The Mighty.

Any links that you have on your site may have worked fine when you set them up, but if you’ve come back later and changed some of your page/post names, or if other people have changed things up on their site, your links may not work anymore.  Some of the tools I mention later in this post can help you to identify  broken links so you can update them.

Slugs

What an appealing name!  Slugs are what’s used for the permalinks for your blog post.  This post of mine will be https://mentalhealthathome.org/year/month/day/slug.  Wordpress automatically sets your slug to what you’ve entered for your post’s title, but that’s not always ideal.  You can change this in the WordPress editor.  It’s over on the right-hand side under the “post settings” menu options.  It’s the last one on  the list, “more options”.  Slugs should be short and sweet but descriptive, so for this post I shortened it to “seo-for-bloggers”.  The words in your slug should be separated by dashes.

I have gotten a little better about this lately, but it does tend to slip my mind a fair bit.  Going back and changing them is an option, but that means any links, either on your site or elsewhere, that were pointing to the post with the original slug aren’t going to work any more, so it seems like making that kind of change is more bother than it’s worth.

Images

Any time you add an image to your site, you can edit the image to change the image title and enter an “alt text”, which is a brief description.  These terms are what allow search engines to know what your image represents, so make sure they’re relevant.  This can take ages to go back and do later, but it’s easy if you can stay on top of it.  Your file name matters as well, so if you’re saving images off a site like Unsplash or Pixabay to upload to your blog, save the file under a name that indicates what it’s a picture of.

Keywords

This isn’t something I pay attention to because my focus is on writing naturally.  The idea of this, though, is to identify the words people are most likely to search when looking for a page/post like yours, and make sure you include those words in your post.  It’s best to include them in the title if you can, near the beginning of the post, or in your H2 or H3 subheadings.

If you do any reading about SEO you’ll probably come across the idea of longtail keywords.  Let’s say you wanted to find out if breathing increases your risk for cancer.  If you search for the terms breathing and cancer, you’ll get a ton of results.  But let’s say instead you entered “does breathing increase cancer risk”, you’ll get a lot fewer results.  If I had a post with a heading that matched your search term, my post would rank high in the search results.  Personally I don’t care too much about this, and I’m more interested in writing what feels natural to write.

Some useful tools

Google search console gives you insights into how Google sees your site and how it’s doing in searches.  When you sign up for Google Search Console, Google needs a way of knowing that the site you’re entering is actually yours.  Wordpress helps you through that process in their Verifying your domain with Google article.  One of the things Google Search Console will ask for is a sitemap, which is a roadmap that WordPress builds for your site.  The format is (blog address)/sitemap.xml.  For me, that would be https://mentalhealthathome.org/sitemap.xml.  Make sure you include the “https”, as Google sees it as something entirely different from “http”.  Once you’re up and running, you can see how often you’re turning up in searches, and what your ranking is in search results.

Neil Patel’s site has a free SEO analyzer tool.  If you plug in your blog’s URL, it will  give you an SEO score and recommendation on how to improve your site.  Presumably his site is getting something out of doing this; I have no idea what it might be, and to be honest I can’t say that I particularly care.

Internet Marketing Ninjas has a number of free tools including a link checker that will go through all the links it can find on your site and identify any problems.  I discovered this recently, and learned from it that I had a sizeable number of broken links and redirected links that I ended up going back and fixing.

WordPress and SEO

WordPress.com has some articles pertaining to SEO, including SEO and your blog and All about SEO on WordPress.  They’re fairly basic but still useful.

If you change from a free WordPress plan to a paid plan and get your own domain name, any links to your blogname.wordpress.com pages will automatically redirect to your new site name.  However, this redirect slows things down.  Any internal links you had prior to upgrading to the new domain will result in redirects.  The user will still get to where they want to go, but Google is less keen on redirects compared to direct links.

Google analytics allows you to track a lot of information about how people use your site.  To do this, you need to including a tracking tag on your site’s pages.  With WordPress, the only way to do that is by using a plug-in that’s only available with the business plan.  The rest of us are shit outta luck.

 

So, what is the significance of all this?  For most people, probably not a whole heck of a lot, and chances are it’ll take a while for search engines to start driving much traffic to your site.  Still, a lot of these things aren’t hard to keep up on a regular basis, but they can be a pain in the butt to go back later and make changes.  If you keep on top of it, you’re more likely to end up with some new people stumbling across your fabulous blog!

 

Have you checked out my new book Psych Meds Made Simple?  It’s available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

Options to make money with blogging

Chronic illness, whether it’s mental or physical, can make it hard to hold down a full-time job, or even a job at all.  Over the last year I haven’t been able to work much, and while luckily I’ve still got a fairly substantial amount of savings, I’ve started looking at alternate ways of potentially bringing in a bit of money (and to give you an idea of what I’m aiming for, by “a bit” I’m thinking a few dollars).  I thought I’d share some of my research in case it’s relevant to other people.

Affiliate marketing

Amazon is the most popular, but there are multiple others.  Essentially the way these work is if someone clicks through from your blog to Amazon (for example) and buys a product, Amazon (or whoever) will give you a kickback.  This is already built into the price of the product on Amazon, so whether someone buys using your link or not, they’re paying the same price.  It’s also the basic idea behind rebate sites like Ebates.

I’ll talk a bit about the nuts and bolts of Amazon since it’s the one I’m familiar with.  First, you sign up with Amazon’s Associates.  It’s a separate sign-up depending on which domain you’re using: .com, .co.uk, .ca, etc.  Getting paid can get a bit more difficult if the majority of your readers are in a different country than you are.  For example, Amazon.com doesn’t do direct deposit into Canadian bank accounts, and they take a percentage cut as  processing fee if they mail you a cheque.  An alternative is to get payment loaded onto an Amazon gift card (although this is also not  transferable among different Amazon country sites).

From the Associates Central site you’re able to get unique links for Amazon products that you can use on your site.  If you’re browsing around Amazon while logged in with your affiliate account, there will be a bar at the top of the screen that will give you a ink for the particular product page you’re looking at.  Amazon requires that you explicitly state on your site that you’re using affiliate links.

Amazon also has a “bounty program”, although it’s not available for every country (.com has it, .ca doesn’t).  If someone uses your affiliate link and signs up for an Amazon service like Prime, Amazon Music, Audible, or Kindle Unlimited, then Amazon will pay you a set dollar amount (a “bounty”).  Depending on the specific bounty offer, they may pay you even if the person just signs up for a free trial.

I decided recently to incorporate Amazon affiliate marketing into my book review posts, since it seemed like a pretty natural fit, and my focus is on bounty programs that relate to books.  Will I make a dollar or two?  Maybe, maybe not, but the effort involved is pretty low, so I figured it was worth a try.

Site referrals

On some sites, if you are a member and refer someone else who becomes a member (and makes whatever is designated as a qualifying purchase), you get a bonus.  Depending on the site the person you refer may get a bonus as well.  On the rebate site Ebates, both of you  get a bonus, whereas on Groupon, just the person that makes the referral gets a bonus.  You can set up referral buttons/links on your blog.  As an example, my referral buttons from Ebates are:

Ebates.ca                ebates

On-blog advertising

With the WordPress premium and business plans there are site monetization options, including advertising or setting up a Paypal button.  I have the personal plan, so I don’t actually have experience with this myself, and therefore I can’t give you any details on the logistics.  From what I’ve read it sounds like you need pretty high traffic volumes on your site to make much money with on-page ads.  An alternative to a Paypal for getting donations is the buy a coffee sites in the next section.

Buy a coffee

Buymeacoffee.com is a way for readers to donate to your blog.  The payments go through the Buymeacoffee site, and you get a link/button that you can post on your website.   There is the option for people to donate $3, $4, or $5, and there is also an option for people to support you on a monthly basis.  Payments go through Stripe, which accepts credit cards.  Buymeacoffee takes a 5% cut of any donations you receive, and Stripe takes a small amount as well.  There is also the option to create Coffeelinks, and if someone pays the price you’ve set then they will be given a link to whatever sort of premium content that you’ve created.

Ko-fi.com is similar, but with a slightly different payment model.  Just like buymeacoffee, you get a link and buttons that you can display on your website.  Ko-fi has regular and “gold” memberships.  With regular memberships, you can only collect donations via Paypal, and these are set at $3.  Ko-fi doesn’t take a cut at all.  The gold membership is $6/month, which allows you to take donations via Paypal or Stripe (credit card) and customize the donation amount.  Ko-fi doesn’t take a cut from each transaction.  The gold membership also allows you to offer premium content with no extra fees.  A new feature with the gold plan is that you can list services that people will be able to commission you for.

Premium content

Buymeacoffee.com and Ko-fi allow you to offer some premium content, but Patreon is a site that’s entirely focused on premium content.  People can sign up for a monthly subscription and get whatever content you create for them, whether that by writing, podcasts, videos, or whatever else you can come up with.  The payments go through Patreon, and they take a 5% cut.  You can set different membership tiers.  Alternately, you can charge people only when you create content, but I’m not really sure how that works.  I’ve set up an account just to poke around on the site with, but I haven’t created any content or subscribed to anyone’s content on Patreon, so there’s not that much I’m able to say about it.

Sites that pay based on post views

I’ve published a number of posts on different Vocal.media platforms.  As long as you meet their standards, they’ll publish your post.  They won’t publish posts you’ve already published on your own blog, but you can spruce up old material.   I find I don’t get many views besides what I drive there myself via my blog, Pinterest, or Twitter.  Their algorithm for determining how much you get paid per view is secret, but it’s fractions of a cent.  There is also the opportunity for readers to leave you tips.  The amount of money I’m making is minimal.  I’ve received 3 tips, 2 of which have been from Vocal Media themselves, presumably as an encouragement to keep creating content.  One positive is that articles on their sites seem to do pretty well in Google search result rankings.

I’ve had a little more success with Medium.com‘s partnership program.  They will pay you based on how much site members (who pay a $5/month fee) interact with the posts that you designate for the partnership program.  If you have a post accepted by a Medium publication, such as Invisible Illness, you can get broader exposure than you otherwise would on your own.  It’s still not much money, but it’s something.  Medium allows you to repost things that you’ve published already, although specific publications on Medium have different preferences around that.  Invisible Illness doesn’t require original content.

Publishing ebooks

There’s no up-front cost to self-publish on Amazon, so you could publish even a few mini-ebooks and make a bit of money that way.  You can find out more about self-publishing on my post the bloggers guide to the basics of self-publishing.

 

So there you have it, this is what I’ve learned with my assorted digging around.  Making much money blogging/writing isn’t going to happen any time soon (if ever) for me, but it’s been interesting to find out some of the various ways to make a few dollars.

Are there any other possibilities that you’ve heard about or tried?

 

psych meds made simple

 

My first book, Psych Meds Made Simple: How & Why They Do What They Do, is now available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.  It’s everything you didn’t realize you wanted to know about medications!

 

 

Comment spam comedy corner

From what I understand, the goal of mass spam comments is to get people to click on their links.  The comments are written to try to convince spam detectors that they’re legit comments rather than spam.  Wordpress uses Akismet as a spam filter.  If you haven’t stumbled across your comment spam inbox yet, go to “My Site” in WordPress and then click on “Comments” in the “Manage” section.  There will be a menu bar near the top of the screen that lets you looks at all, pending, approved, spam, and trash.

In the early part of last year I found that a fair number of legit comments were getting marked as spam, but this has greatly improved over the last couple months.  The real spam comments seem to come and go in waves, and the content is variable.  Sometimes they’re clearly advertisements, sometimes they’re written like generic but legit comments, and other times they’re just plain bizarre.  I check my comment spam inbox somewhat regularly just in case some legit comments are getting captured, and it can be pretty amusing to read some of the spam.

Here are a few that caught my eye recently.

  • “A defence waving through Bayern Munichs players to score in the manner of Toytown traffic policemen.”

 

  • “Martial dinks a teasing cross from the left which Zlatan rises to meet with a firm flick of his man bun.”  I’m curious what would be involved in flicking one’s man bun… then again, maybe I’m better off not knowing.

 

  • “The results fuck established that majuscule product of Group who fighting with a practice Soup-strainer see it nasty to systematically Copse victimisation capable framework when compared to galvanic Toothbrushes.”

 

  • A comment about becoming an adult webcam model suggests: “Bright colors such as red, orange, blue, green and pink attract more customers, so you should also be matching the colors of your sheets/curtains with your clothing.”

 

  • “Right hole maintenance at the rectify experience provides us the opulence of imagination for a someone period.”

 

  • “I unremarkably reefer with my decision, but prepare digit fruit or sagaciousness disclose for the fallout of the nipper heading.”

 

  • “As semipermanent as we mollify our sprightliness for the older with recent knowledge, so our approval of Afrasian wellness habits power not be a sad attribute.”

 

  • “The recent government also gave a priority to public fettle and to issues of ?inequalities? in well-being and happiness and ?social bar?. Thus, more chlorine needs to infected birds, or droppings from infected birds.”

 

  • “So the adjacent period you experience tempted to vex that brobdingnagian gluey donut, recall almost the impression it mightiness deliver on your mind also as your embody! If you undergo you are honk much than you would ilk to be, luckily, you pot know stairs to act boosting your vector system.”

 

  • “yay google is my king assisted me to find this outstanding website !”

 

  • “I think that your web blog is rattling interesting and holds circles of great info.”  I can’t be sure if the “rattling” here is nonsense or some random British slang word… it can be hard to tell sometimes.

 

Are there any particular gems you’ve gotten on your blog?

The blogger’s guide to the basics of self-publishing

book lying on grass surrounded by leaves

I did quite a bit of research on this topic for my book that came out last week, and I’ve seen several bloggers mention that they’re also contemplating doing books at some point, so I thought I would share some of what I’ve learned.  I’m by no means an expert, but I’ve managed to get past the initial deer in the headlights phase.

Where to publish

There are multiple ways to publish a book, and you can stick to one or do a a mix of several.  Amazon is the biggest fish in the sea with their Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program.  They allow you to publish an ebook and/or paperback with no up front costs to you.  I’ll come back to them soon.

You can also publish directly through other book publishing platforms.  Apple’s iBooks is one option, and they have an iBook Author app that can help.  If you use Apple’s Pages word processing software, in your file menu there’s a “publish to Apple Books” option built right in  Apple’s market share is fairly small, so you probably won’t want that to be your only option.  Rakuten’s Kobo has a larger share of the ebook market than Apple, and their Writing Life platform can be used to prepare a manuscript to publish with Kobo.  Kobo ebooks can be read on Kobo ereaders or using the Kobo app.  You can set your ebook price, and it looks like typically royalties would be 70%

You can also publish through a distributor like Smashwords.  They will help you put together your book, and then distribute it to various booksellers including iBooks, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and a few other platforms like OverDrive that sells to public libraries.  You don’t pay an upfront fee to publish your book, but they will take a cut of sales.  Your royalty on sales would depend on where the sale was made.  Your royalties are going to end up being lower than if you dealt with each of the different selling platforms directly, but that’s the price you pay for the convenience of having Smashwords do all the work.  There are a variety of similar distributors out there, but Smashwords is the only one I’ve looked into.

Ebooks on Amazon

While you have the option of publishing your book through several platforms, simplicity can be nice, especially when you’re starting out.  Amazon has a program called KDP Select, in which you agree to publish your ebook exclusively through Amazon.  They obviously would prefer if you did this, and there are two key draws.  You have to be enrolled in KDP Select for your book to be available through Kindle Unlimited, where people pay a monthly fee and can read as many books as they want.  The royalties you would get from Kindle Unlimited would depend on how much your book was read.  The other drawing point for KDP Select is that you get higher royalties on book sales (typically 70%).

There is a Kindle Create app that will help you format your book from a Word document.  You can design your book cover using Amazon’s online Cover Creator tool, or you can make your own using a site like Canva (which is what I did).  There’s also the option of paying a designer to come up with something fancier.  KDP ebooks are formatted to be read by either Kindle ereaders or the Kindle Reader app, which can be downloaded onto your desktop/laptop or mobile device.

Paperbacks on Amazon

Amazon gives you guidance on how to format your manuscript for a paperback, and they have Microsoft Word templates that you can use.  I decided to do it without using a template, and it wasn’t particularly difficult, although I use Apple Pages rather than Microsoft Word, so it took a bit of extra time to figure out how to do some of the steps.

Amazon will print paperbacks of your book on demand, i.e. when someone orders one.  They let you know how much it will cost to print the book so your book can be priced accordingly.  Because the books are printed on-demand, you don’t have to pay money up front for them to have a supply available.  You can choose the extended distribution option to make your paperback available through retailers other than Amazon, but you get a much lower royalty for books sold that way.

Paperbacks need to have an ISBN (international standard book number); this is optional for ebooks.  KDP will give you a free ISBN, and the publisher associated with that ISBN will be listed as “independently published”.  You can also purchase your own ISBN, and this allows you to designate your own publisher name.  I haven’t been able to figure out why this would be worth paying for, but in Canada we can get free ISBNs through the government, so I was officially published by Mental Health @ Home Books.  It’s kind of fun, but not so fun that I’d be willing to cough up money for it.

The actual volume of information that KDP makes available can be a bit daunting  at first.  A good place to start is their KDP Jumpstart learning series to help you get familiar with all the different aspects of self-publishing.  It takes you through everything step by step, and I found it quite helpful.

Promotion

Publishing a book also means promoting your book.  Obviously your blog is a good place to do this, as well as social media.  There are a number of bloggers out there publishing books, so watch what they’re doing and get ideas from them.  Marketing is definitely not my forte, so it’s something I’m fumbling along with and trying to figure out as best I can.

To help potential readers get to know a bit more about you, you can create an author page on Amazon or whatever platform you publish on.  Goodreads is another good place to create an author page.  There are a variety of other book sites like AUTHORSdb and iAuthor that you can sign up with to help put your book out there to the world.  Booklife from Publisher’s Weekly has some good resources.

You can also check out Writers With Mental Illness (also on Twitter), which aims to support writers with mental illness and neurodiversity.

 

For my book I decided to go with Amazon and with KDP Select, in large part for the sake of simplicity.  My paperback will be available through extended distribution as well, only because I’m hoping my local library will pick it up as part of their local indie author program.  So far I’ve been happy with the Amazon experience, although the Kindle Create app didn’t do everything that I wanted it to do.

Are you thinking of publishing a book at some point?  Have you started researching options yet?

 

psych meds made simple

 

My first book, Psych Meds Made Simple: How & Why They Do What They Do, is now available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.  It’s everything you didn’t realize you wanted to know about medications!

 

How to build a mental health blog

It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers game, but I think what’s really important in building a high quality mental health blog is engagement with the mental health community.  This has little to do with numbers and a whole lot to do with human connection.  I’m by no means an expert on any of this, but here are some strategies I’ve stumbled across in my time blogging that hopefully you might find useful when it comes to engagement.

Interact with the blogging community

This is my biggest recommendation.  Read other blogs that are in your niche, and like and comment on those blogs.  Search in the WordPress reader for blogs in that niche that you’re not following yet.  Also, check who else is commenting on the blogs you’re following; that can be a good way to connect with some new people who are interested in the same kind of topics.  Be genuine about trying to engage, because if you get spammy about it, you’re only likely to generate eye rolls.

Make sure your gravatar is connected to your blog site.  Click on your gravatar image on the top right corner of the WordPress reader website, and scroll down to profile links.  Make sure your correct blog address is there.  Sometimes I’ll see someone has followed me and I’m interested in checking out their blog, but I can’t get to it because I get a message saying the blog no longer exists.

If you get an idea from someone else’s post for a topic you want to write about, run with it.  Just make sure to include a link to their post in your own post.  It’s a good way to show you appreciate other bloggers and are part of the community dialogue.

Make your blog easy to read

I think this is particularly important in the mental health blogging niche, since a lot of us have problems with concentration related to our illnesses.  Pay attention to the length of your paragraphs.  With really long paragraphs you run the risk that the reader (such as me) won’t be able to maintain focus through a long unbroken wall of text and will give up on reading that post.  That doesn’t mean you can’t have long posts; just break them up into smaller paragraphs, and maybe throw an image in there somewhere.

Also, think about whether your choices of font and background colours are are easy to read.  Bright colours may add visual interest, but if they’re making it harder to focus on the text readers may be less likely to finish the whole post, which means they’re not going to be interacting with what you have to say.

Include some evergreen content

Evergreen content doesn’t go out of date, and people will continue to read and engage with it well after it’s first published.  A sign that you’ve got some evergreen content is when you keep getting a trickle of views/likes/comments weeks or months after you’ve published a post.  Consider doing follow-up posts on those topics or doing similar kinds of posts every so often to get a mix of evergreen and right-now kind of content.

Use social media

I’m not on Facebook or Instagram, so I can’t comment on those.  On Twitter, you definitely get back what you put in.  I tend to find Twitter overwhelming so I’m not very active on it, and that’s reflected in the amount of traffic that it directs to my blog.

With Pinterest, I used to pin straight from my published blog posts, and got very little traffic.  At some point I started creating designs on Canva and using those to make pins connected to my blog posts.  This bumped up my traffic from Pinterest considerably.  It’s hard to say how many of those people are actually engaging with my posts, but at least there’s the possibility.

Consider SEO

I’m certainly not a search engine optimization (SEO) guru.  Wordpress doesn’t offer advanced SEO tools on the free plan, so I have no experience there, but there are still some things you can do.  I got almost no traffic from search engines in the early days, and it wasn’t until my blog had grown substantially that I started to see that it was reaching people doing mental health-related searches  Still, I think it’s worth getting a foundation of some basic SEO strategies in place right from the get-go.

Google loves external links to your site; these show that not only are you active on your blog, but you’re out there in the broader online community.  These links can be hard to accumulate, but guest posting on other sites (see the next section) can definitely help.  Internal links also matter; this refers to links you include in a post to other posts on your site.  These links can also help your readers to refer back to your other content they may have missed originally.  Google Search Console is a useful tool for keeping track of all this.

Google (and of course blog readers) pays attention to your post name and headings, so make sure those accurately reflect your content.  You can also use tags for your posts, although keep in mind WordPress allows a maximum of 15 tags, after which it will just ignore all your tags.  Making sure your tags are relevant helps people to find your posts.  Google can’t see the images on your site, but what it can see is the “alt text” for each image, so you should enter a descriptive alt text for every image you use.  This is also helpful for any of your readers who are visually impaired.

Share your story

If you share your story with popular mental health sites like Stigma Fighters and Time to Change you can reach a much broader audience, and that can bring some brand new readers back to engage with your blog.  You can find listings of a variety of sites you can submit your writing to in my posts Spreading your writing wings and Ways to share your story.

Another option is to keep an eye out for fellow bloggers looking for a guest poster, or talk to a blogger you engage with regularly about doing a collaboration.  It can help you connect with other bloggers you might not have encountered yet.

Other sources of information

There are countless sites and articles with tips about increasing blog traffic.  Probably the most useful I’ve come across is a post on Startbloggingonline.com.  It has an extensive list of options, and while some of them are more business-oriented, many are also useful for the casual blogger.  A lot of sites focus on monetization, and it’s easy to start feeling like you’re drowning in the sea of information when it comes to that.  Keep in mind whether tips on a given site are geared toward a blog with the same purpose as yours, because pushy marketing strategies are probably not going to be very successful with a smaller-scale mental health blog.

Conclusion

There is no one right way to blog.  The most important thing is that it feels right for you.  Having engagement on your blog, whether that’s 10 loyal followers or 1000, can help make the blogging experience more meaningful.

What has helped you to generate engagement on your blog?

Blogging pet peeves

cat with annoyed face

I absolutely love blogging, and I love the blogging community.  But sometimes a little bit of complaining feels good, so here are some of the things that sometimes get on my nerves.

  • Comment “like” spam (consisting of a website address typically containing the word sexy): these likes are extra annoying because, unlike comments, you can’t delete them
  • Legit comments that end up in spam
  • People who leave a comment saying I’ve followed you, please follow me back, along with a link to their blog.  But their blog has nothing even remotely to do with the topic you blog about.
  • Things that make it hard to read a post, whether that be a wild font colour or über-long paragraphs.  Sometimes I end up giving up on trying to read a post because it’s just too difficult.
  • You come across a cool blog, and you want to follow it… but you can’t for the life of you find a follow button!
  • Weird messages via the blog contact form: I like getting messages from other bloggers, but sometimes I’ll get messages from random other people that just leave me scratching my head.
  • Say you see a notification in WordPress that someone has followed you.  You want to check out their blog, so you click their site address in your notifications.  Then you get a message from WordPress saying the site doesn’t exist.  What the hell?
  • The occasional waves of blogging insecurity: It seems like for a lot of us these come along every so often, and I wish I could build a nice little mental barrier reef around my blog to keep them away.
  • Writer’s block: I have a blogging spreadsheet that includes my idea farm, so the ideas are there, but sometimes the brain is just not interested in thinking about what to do with them.
  • I have a small social media presence related to my blog.  Since it’s all blog-related I avoid some of the common pitfalls of social media, but because I’m not on there much there’s a lot of things I don’t understand, and it makes me feel old.  From made-up words I’ve never heard of to hashtags I don’t understand (I just discovered what #ff on Twitter is, which explains why occasionally I would get a large pile of notifications), it’s a regular reminder that I grew up in the days when The Oregon Trail and Super NES were cutting edge, and now I’m puzzled by the young whippersnappers these days.

 

Are there things that go along with the blogging experience that bug you sometimes?

 

Image credit: manfredrichter on Pixabay

A little reflection

castle reflected in Lake Bled

Yesterday I saw that I was only a few followers away from 1000.  And instead of feeling excited, I wasn’t feeling very good about it.  All along I’ve tried to take the approach of looking at and thinking about numbers as little as possible.  It can be hard to avoid, though.  One of those things I couldn’t help but notice is that in the month of May my number of views has gone down compared to the previous month for the first time since I started blogging.  And that is what it is, but decreased views plus increased followers is a bit of a weird combination; enough to trigger various uncertainties and self-doubt in my head that I don’t think I’d be having if it weren’t for that odd mismatch.  I’ve never intended to try to monetize my blog, so that’s not an issue.  It seems utterly ridiculous to be questioning my place in the blogging world when I’m at almost 1000 followers; how arrogant is that?  Yet if all these people are following me but only a small percentage are actually looking at what I write, does the follower number actually mean anything?  In a word – no – but throw depression into the mix and self-critical thoughts flow oh so easily.  And I guess it goes to show that insecurity is less about absolute numbers and more about how the mind twists things.

In the end, I decided to comb through and remove the followers that were clearly just link spam (male enhancement, topless waiters in Melbourne, etc.).  And, like I always try to do whenever I get mired in this particular rut, I just need to bring the focus back to the stuff that actually matters, and consider what I have (some really, really awesome followers) rather than whatever I might perceive that I don’t have.

Is there anything that tends to trigger blogging insecurity for you?  How do you overcome it?

 

Image credit: 12019 on Pixabay

Real Neat Blog Award

real-neat-blog-awardReal neat blog award

Life Is Too Short Lick the Spoon and Being Bipolar, Trying to Break the Stigma have nominated me for the Real Neat Blog Award.  Thank you so much!!!

The Rules:

  1. Put the award logo on your blog.
  2. Answer 7 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
  3. Thank the people who nominated you, linking to their blogs.
  4. Nominate any number of bloggers you like, linking to their blogs.
  5. Let them know you nominated them (by commenting on their blog etc.)

Questions from Life Is Too Short Lick the Spoon:

  1. Where do most visits to your blog come from?  The most come from the United States, but also I’ve had visitors from some rather random countries including Mongolia
  2. What is your favourite sport?  I’m not that keen on doing sports, but my favourite sport to watch is hockey.
  3. What has been a special moment for you so far in 2018?  The time I’ve spent with my Grandma, who’s 101 years old.
  4. What is your favourite quote? One of my favourites is from Nelson Mandela:“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up.”
  5. What was your favourite class when still at school? I quite liked dissecting things in high school biology, which is maybe a bit gross, but I’m a science geek.
  6. Anything you had wished to have learned earlier?  That I should not stick around when people treat me like crap.
  7. What musical instrument have you tried to play?  I tried learning the flute on my own and managed to do not too bad.  I think that wood-frame apartment/condo buildings are a very bad place to learn to play instruments… there’s been many a time when I wanted to track down whoever was learning to play the violin and smack them over the head with it!

Questions from Being Bipolar:

  1. If you only had one book that you could take with you, which one would that be?  Probably Pride and Prejudice.  I’ve read it many, many times and still enjoy each re-read.  Elizabeth Bennett is so delightfully feisty!
  2. What are the positive aspects of blogging according to you?  Blogging has given me a sense of connectedness that I haven’t been able to find in the “real world”.
  3. Do you find writing therapeutic?  Absolutely.  Preparing a post helps me to find more clarity, and I get great input from my readers.
  4. Do you believe writing is the best vector to translate your thoughts?  I express myself best when I have the time to think over what I want to say, and I’m not a visually artistic person, so yes, writing works well for me.
  5. What do you enjoy reading the most?  I like to be exposed to a variety of different ideas, experiences, and viewpoints, and I like reading things I can learn things from, whether that be factual information or personal experience.
  6. What do you wish the most to accomplish with your blog?  I don’t really have any concrete goals; mostly I just want to keep being able to interact with people in the blogging world.
  7. Besides writing, what is/are your other(s) passion(s)?  Because of my depression I have a hard time being passionate about much of anything, but travelling is something that’s always been very important to me.

My nominees:  Please don’t feel pressured to do an award post.  Mostly I just like being able to point out to people some of the cool blogs I’m following.  You can pick from among any of the questions that I was asked by Lick The Spoon and Being Bipolar.

Again, thanks so much to Life Is Too Short Lick the Spoon and Being Bipolar, Trying to Break the Stigma for the nominations.  I hope everyone will check out the blogs I’ve linked to on this post, because they’re fabulous 🙂

Liebster Award

Liebster Award nomination badge

 

I was nominated for the Liebster award by A Guy Called Bloke and Doodlepip’s AdventuresBipolar Barb, and Being Bipolar.  Yippee, it’s time to play!

 

 

Rules:  This version of the Liebster Award has five rules. They are:

  1. Acknowledge the blog who nominated you.
  2. Answer the 11 questions your nominator asked.
  3. Nominate 11 other bloggers.
  4. Ask them 11 questions.
  5. Let them know you have nominated them.

 Questions from A Guy Called Bloke round 1:

1. What breaks and never falls and what falls and never breaks? dawn and water
2. A farmer had 752 sheep and took one shot that got them all. How did he do it?  Some crazy Russian 190-proof vodka.
3. What’s your favourite morning drink?  tea with milk, no sugar
4. What is your favourite number plus 16 times 5 minus 7?  That would depend on if you do those calculations sequentially or if 16×5 is calculated first.  Ah, memories of math class…
5. Well done, you have made it onto the local baseball team, which position are you? The person drinking cider out of a water bottle in the dugout.
6. What will your favourite colour resemble once you have added pink, green and orange? I feel like I had that outfit in neon when I was a kid in the 80’s.
7. All-time favourite sweet/candy’ … why?  Reese’s peanut butter cups, and if you need to ask why then that’s just a whole other issue.
8. You are offered a meal out at a restaurant of your choice, what do you pick?  A local chain called White Spot that has yummy burgers.  Simple pleasures…
9. Who comes first? A close friend in need or a distressed family member? That wound depend on my non-existent magic eight-ball.
10. If animals could talk – who would be the rudest species?  Camels.  They’re grumpy motherfuckers.
11. Which is the best head wear style to date?  If you’re not Canadian you might have to Google this, but the combo of hockey helmet and Jaromir Jagr’s mullet.  Gets me tingly all over just thinking about it.

Questions from a Guy Called Bloke round 2:

  1. When wearing socks, which foot do you dress first?  That depends whether the foot is being dressed in slippers or sky high heels.
  2. If we count sheep to fall asleep, what do they count?  Guinea pigs.
  3. Why do we HAVE to keep up with the Joneses?  I would like to throw rubber chickens at the Jones.
  4. What is the ‘secret of success?’  Big Mac sauce.
  5. What would be better than the fountain of youth?  The fountain of chocolate.
  6. How much do you exercise and does it help?  Does lifting cup of tea to mouth count?
  7. Why do they say ‘drown your sorrows’ – what happens if they can swim?  They might be able to swim, but depending on how massive the shitstorm is, those poor buggers might not make it.
  8. How do we truly know that the world we live in is the real one and that we are NOT just the finger tip of some giant?  I’d be more inclined to think a wart on said giant’s ass.
  9. If you had one week left of life as we know it, how would you live it?  I would eat and drink the most unhealthy yummy things I could come up with.
  10. Jolly Green Giant and the Big Friendly Giant are fighting over beans, who is going to win.  The Friendly Giant.
  11. … and why?  Because he would lull the other two into such a peaceful state that they’d hand the beans right over.

Questions from Bipolar Barb:

  1. What is your favorite holiday, and why?  The one that I happen to work and get paid double time for.
  2. Do you prefer to travel or stay close to home?  These days I prefer to not leave my cave.
  3. What’s in your fridge?  Well, what’s maybe kind of gross in my fridge is fish sauce that’s been in there for a whole lotta years.  I figure there’s so much salt and chemical stuff in there that it’ll last until the end of time.
  4. How many e-mail addresses do you have? 2 work, 1 blog, 1 alumni, and 3 personal.
  5. Do you have any siblings? How many?  One younger brother.  He’s 3 years younger but he’s more millennial and I’m more gen-x (I think those are the right terms, but I’m kinda out to lunch about that sort of thing).
  6. What is one thing you cannot live without? copious amounts of water
  7. Do you like to cook? yes but I’m lazy at the same time
  8. Would you rather lose an arm or a leg?  That would depend on whether I could choose which arm
  9. What is your favorite thing about summer?  Sun, sun, and more sun!
  10. If you won $1 million playing the lottery, what would you do?  Save it.  Sounds boring, but if my genetics have anything to do with it I’m not dying anytime soon.
  11. Where did you grow up?  Oliver, a little town of around 4000 in western Canada.  Now they have good wineries there, but back in the day there was sweet bugger all.

 

Questions from Being Bipolar:

  1. If you could do it again, would you choose the same path or take another one?  I would be living in a yurt in Kyrgyzstan married to a yak.
  2. What sort of music do you like?  Mostly pop, i guess.  Although I suppose in the yurt it’ll be the snuffly noises of the yak.
  3. Do you see the glass half full or empty? It varies, but mostly empty.
  4. What is your passion? I think my passion got run over by Kim Jong Un’s secret green train.
  5. Do you have a “bucket list”?  I did, and it consisted of travel destinations.  But it will be no longer required once I’m living in yurtland.
  6. Is creating something concrete or abstract, therapeutic for you?  I think it’s most helpful when I try to fit my mental diarrhea in some sort of more concrete form.
  7. If you could take only one book with you, which one would it be?  I feel like I should pick something profound, but instead I’m going to go with Pride and Prejudice.
  8. Does the weather affect your moods?  Yes, to some extent.  When it’s dark and rainy for days on end it’s hard to see any glimmer of light.
  9. Are you more of a cat or dog person?  I am a guinea pig person!
  10. Do you have a tendency to drive fast or slow?  Fast.  I’m lucky I’ve only ever gotten a few speeding tickets.
  11. What is your most meaningful dream?  I rarely remember my dreams, so I think my most meaningful is probably locked away in my subconscious.

 

My nominees: I hope you’ll join in the fun, but no pressure!  Feel free to pick whatever questions were posed to me that grab your attention the most.

 

Thanks again to A Guy Called Bloke and Doodlepip’s Adventures, Bipolar Barb, and Being Bipolar for the nominations.  I had fun with this one 🙂

My blogging evolution

diagram of human evolution

Kyrnos on Pixabay

When I started blogging in October 2017, I had no idea what I was doing.  Yes, I’d written about my illness before, but I’d never blogged, either on the writing or reading side of things.  These last 6 months have been quite a learning experience.  My relationship with my blog and with the blogging community has evolved over that time and I’m sure will continue to evolve.  Here are some of the things I’ve observed and learned through my blogging life.

Followers and following

After the first few posts, followers gradually started trickling in, and I remember how excited I was when I hit 30 followers.  After a little while I clued in that a good way to get followers was to follow lots of other blogs, so I’d do searches in the WordPress reader to try to find blogs.  Then I discovered that blog awards posts were an even easier way to find blogs to follow, so that became my strategy of choice.

My number of followers increased more quickly once I started posting every day.  Once I hit around 400 my numbers started growing even more steadiy.  Now I get several new followers every day, although I’m not actually sure how they found me.

The number of blogs I followed was always higher than the number of people following me until I hit around 500-something.  When I get new followers I try to check out each of their blogs, but I generally only follow back if there’s some sort of mental health connection.  There’s a part of me that feels bad about that, because I’m missing out on some really good blogs, but I get overwhelmed pretty easily, so I need to keep my WordPress reader feed as focused as I can.  I generally spend several hours every day reading blogs.

Posting

When I first started blogging, I posted twice a week.  I was a bit worried about running out of ideas, and I wanted to get a better feel for what blogging was all about before I started doing a lot of writing.  As I got settled in and more comfortable with the blogging format and my blogging voice, I started posting a little more often, and for the last couple months I’ve been blogging pretty much every day.  The majority of my posts are scheduled about a week ahead of time.  There are some days I’m not writing at all, while others day I may write several posts.  I’m comfortable with the post a day pace for now, but I haven’t set any firm expectations of myself.  Sometimes I’ll post more than once a day, but usually only if I’m participating in a tag or another blogger’s challenge.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I have a blogging spreadsheet, and to be honest I have no idea how I’d keep track of anything without it.  Whenever I have an idea for a post it goes in my spreadsheet’s idea bank.  There are definitely times when the spontaneous well of ideas temporarily runs dry, but I can always draw from my idea bank.

Social media

I wasn’t on social media at all pre-blog.  I had used Facebook in the past, but then deleted my account because it just made me feel shitty about myself.  When I started blogging, I created accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest, and published my blog posts on all of them.  Initially I thought I should try to be somewhat active on social media, but I just wasn’t feeling it.  I do actually like Twitter because there’s some great content, but I find it pretty overwhelming, so I don’t spend a lot of time on it.  I occasionally use Pinterest, but I never did spend much time on Facebook and Google+.  I get a trickle of blog traffic from Pinterest and Facebook, but I’ve only ever gotten 2 blog views from Google+. Given the recent privacy issues with Facebook and the fact that I’m really not using Facebook or Google+, I recently decided to delete those two accounts.

WordPress stuff

I use the free version of WordPress.  At this point I don’t have a pressing need to go to a paid WordPress.com plan or self-hosted via WordPress.org, so I’m going to stick with free for now.

WordPress has its quirks.  Things will sometimes randomly stop working, there will be brief bursts of spam, and legit comments occasionally find their way into comment spam.  I find WordPress Reader gets bogged down periodically and I’ll need to clear my web cache to get things working smoothly again.  Sometimes the little orange dot will show up on my notifications icon right away when someone has liked/commented/etc, but other times it takes its sweet time.  And even though I’ve spent a lot of time on WordPress, there are still things that puzzle me.

Stats

I decided from the beginning that I wasn’t going to get into a habit of checking my stats, because I was concerned that could lead to a lot of self-doubt.  I’m glad I established that pattern early on, as I’ve been able to maintain it.  I see the stats that show up in my notifications, but I rarely look at my stats page.

Community

When I started blogging, I had no idea what the comment vibe was going to be like; I was just hoping not to deal with trolls.  I certainly wasn’t expecting such an amazing sense of community.  I had cut my friends out of my life and had minimal contact with my family, so I was very socially isolated and felt far removed from the “normal” world.  As I began to engage more with the WordPress community and “meet” more bloggers, I found a social support network that I just didn’t have in my “real” life.  A support network that was truly supportive.  I was never an emoji person and I doubt I’d ever used a single heart emoji before I started blogging, but on WordPress there are heart emojis flying around all over the place.  I would never have guessed that blogging would give me access to something like this.

Assorted other stuff

I started off my blogging life fumbling around trying to figure out the best place to find images.  I’ve settled on Unsplash as my first choice for photos and Pixabay as my first choice for other assorted graphics.  My free WordPress plan doesn’t let me post video files, but after a little bit of flailing I figured out how to embed Youtube videos.  I’m reasonably computer competent, but this website stuff has been brand new to me.

There was more fumbling early on in terms of looking up what you “should” do to put your blog out there to the world.  This ended up in many ways being a big time-waster because it really didn’t fit with how I was wanting to approach my blog.  What was useful was identifying a number of different places that publish mental-health related guest posts (you can find my post about that here).

Creating that internal link in the last sentence reminded me of something that puzzles me on Google Search Console.  I got set up on that in the early days of my blog, but some of the things it tells me just aren’t accurate, and I’m not sure why.  The biggest thing is that tells me that only one of my posts has internal links pointing to it; it doesn’t seem to recognize any of my other internal links.  I don’t actually care that much, but it seems odd.

 

So there you have it, my blogging evolution over the last 6 months.  Have you found that your blogging experience has evolved over time?  What are some tricks you’ve learned along the way?

 

You can also check out a follow-up to this post: How to build a mental health blog.

Mystery Blogger Award

Mystery blogger award logo

Something mysterious is in the air…  I was nominated for the Mystery Blogger Award by Midsummer DaydreamerDiscovering Your HappinessThe Colour of MadnessGirl With the Paw Print Tattoo, and A Guy Called Bloke and Doodlepip’s Adventures.  Thank you all so much! ❤️

Why Was the Mystery Blogger Award created?

“I created the award because there are a lot of amazing blogs out there that haven’t been discovered, yet. And, most of these blogs deserve recognition. For that reason, I decided to create my own award; and nominate people who can also nominate others; and so on. This is one of the best ways to create a friendly community and build a link between bloggers in the blogosphere; as everyone gets nominated and they too can spread the fun by nominating more people for the award.” – Okoto Enigma

Mystery Blogger Award Rules:

  1. Put the award logo/image on your blog
  2. List the rules.
  3. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  4. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well
  5. Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
  6. You have to nominate 10 – 20 people
  7. Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
  8. Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify)
  9. Share a link to your best post(s)

3 things about me:

  1. I have ridden several kinds of animals: horse, donkey, camel, elephant, and dolphin
  2. I have tried sky diving, bungee jumping, and parasailing.
  3. I don’t like onions, which is annoying because they’re everywhere.

Questions from Midsummer Daydreamer:

  1.  What game or movie universe would you most like to live in?  For the most part video games haven’t been my thing, but I liked playing Legend of Zelda on my brother’s Super Nintendo because I thought the Zelda universe was cool.
  2. What would be your first question after waking up from being cryogenically frozen for 100 years? Given my potty mouth, probably something along the lines of “What the fuck is going on?”
  3. What TV show or movie do you refuse to watch? My ex used to like watching the show Robot Chicken.  I found it so obnoxious I couldn’t even be in the same room it was on.
  4. What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives? Visit a foreign country.
  5. What is something that a ton of people are obsessed with but you just don’t get the point of? Snapchat.  Maybe it’s because I’m too old, but I just don’t get it.

Questions from Discovering Your Happiness:

  1. What is your 2018 goal?  I’d like to go on a trip to Europe.
  2. What is one of your biggest accomplishments?  I’m proud of getting my masters degree in psychiatric nursing.
  3. If you could pack up & move, where would you go? I’d stay in Canada, but maybe move to a farm in a rural area.
  4. Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?  I truly have no idea.  I feel like my life is too uncertain to predict that far in advance.
  5. What is one of your biggest fears?  In a physical sense spiders, and in a psychological sense bering unable to feel safe.

Questions from The Colour Of Madness:

  1. How do you see a glass, half full or half empty?  I would likely drink it very quickly, so it would be just plain empty.
  2. What do you prefer, to read a book or to listen to music?  Read a book.  I like music in the car, but otherwise prefer quiet.
  3. What do you like most about mother nature? The random assortment of amazing things all thrown in together.
  4. What is your favorite movie?  Dirty Dancing.  No one puts Baby in a corner!
  5. What do you like most about traveling?  Almost everything, so instead I’ll answer the things I don’t like: assorted nasty bathroom situations, and various intestinal beasties that necessitate frequent trips to those nasty bathrooms situations.

Questions from Girl with the Paw Print Tattoo:

  1. What actor/actress would you want to play you in a film about your life?  I’ll say Natalie Portman/Keira Knightley/Anne Hathaway.  Somehow, despite the fact that they are all 3 distinct people with very minimal resemblance to each other, in my mind they are fused into one.  And therefore I can’t pick just one.
  2. You have just woken up from being cryogenically frozen. What is your first question?  Where’s my cup of tea?
  3. What type of movie would your life be? Romance? Drama? Comedy? Horror?  I wish my life was a cheesy 80’s movie, but in reality, if I Google lists of most boring movies they’re all more interesting than my life right now.  So even though I’ve never seen it and am going entirely based on Elaine’s reaction in Seinfeld, I’ll say something along the lines of the English Patient.
  4. What TV channel doesn’t exist but really should?  The all guinea pigs all the time channel!
  5. If you were famous, what would you want to be famous for?  Kicking some serious mental health stigma ass.

Questions from A Guy Called Bloke:

  1. If you were trapped on an isolated hilltop after your plane had crashed with your family and friends, would you resort to starvation or cannibalism?  Probably starvation, not so much out of some kind of moral stance but more a matter of major ick factor.
  2. If your best friend had murdered someone would you help bury the body?  Depends on how likely I thought it would be that I’d get found out for aiding and abetting (and speaking of which, is there actually a difference between aiding and abetting?)
  3. Do you ever wonder – what next – after the end of your time? if so, what is next?  I’m hoping for nothing.  One life is plenty.
  4. You know in the movies when the victims are being chased by the terrible nasty and they hit them, and think they are dead, but look back and discover the body gone?? If this was YOU how would you ensure the thing stays dead?  I’ll go with Tesla’s death ray; I googled death ray because I thought it sounded like a thing, and turns out it (except not really).
  5. What’s the meanest thing you have ever hoped would happen to someone ……….. eh??  I feel like it might be breaking some sort of law to tell the truth on this one, so I’ll go all Ronny Jackson on y’all and plead the Fifth.

My nominees: Please don’t feel pressured to do an award post.  If you do decide to join in the fun, pick the 5 questions from among those that I was asked that grab you the most.

 

Thanks again to Midsummer DaydreamerDiscovering Your HappinessThe Colour of MadnessGirl With the Paw Print Tattoo, and A Guy Called Bloke and Doodlepip’s Adventures for nominating me. ❤️   Please check out all of the blogs I’ve linked to in this post, because they’re all well worth a read!