I have thought long and hard about actually posting this after I wrote it. It is, in all honesty, a little bit of a rant but I hope it actually might give you a greater insight into my world. As I hope most of you know, I put a lot of work into running Rock n Roll Bride. When I’m at home I’m on my computer pretty much from 10am to at least 10/11 pm past midnight working on posts, running up new ideas and keeping in touch with people. It’s no longer just a hobby for me, and weird as it feels to say this, it is now my business and one I work very hard on. Anyway…
This is a bit of a random post, but I think it’s something that needs to be said. I hope in sharing this I won’t p*** anyone off and if anything I hope it might be able to give you, my loyal readers an small insight into how I view the blog in terms of advertising and sponsorships.
I love my sponsors. Every single one of them. I never take offers of sponsorship from companies who I deem to be spammy or not right to recommend for my readers. It would horrify me to think I’d ‘recommended’ anyone to be involved in your wedding that was unreliable or shady just because they were paying me to. I have and will continue to turn down these kind of sponsorship offers.
Similarly I often (like on a daily basis) receive emails from companies and individuals wanting product mentions or reviews…and don’t want to pay for it. “Sure, I say, I love your product, here are my rates” I’ll be honest here, in about 95% of these emails I am fully aware that these companies are wanting free coverage, as if I’m some kind of platform for them to get free advertising. The response is usually something along the lines of “erm…thanks but we don’t have any budget for advertising, we were thinking something more along the lines of an editorial mention, in exchange we’ll give you a link back to your site from ours/we’ll send you something for free/we’ll think you’re really really cool.” Oh reeeeeally?
FYI – in my book the definition of editorial is something I make my own editorial decision on, something that I blog because I love it. If in your book editorial means free advertising, well in the nicest possible way. F-Off!
I’m not being funny (well maybe I am) but FFS a) this is my job. This is how I make my living and I am not going to apologise for making money from advertising and b) Where exactly would I draw the line with these ‘free’ mentions? What would Rock n Roll Bride become? A place for companies to freely spam you with their products? Well I wouldn’t have many readers left would I? Who wants to read that?!
I need some advice. I live in Virginia, but all of my family lives back on the west coast. (I’m from Arizona) We decided that we would get married in Vegas this year so my family would be able to come (mainly my grandparents since they refuse to fly) They agreed to come and everyone seemed really excited about it. Then, I sent my mom pictures of what we’ll be wearing. She hasn’t shown my grandma yet, but she told her basically what they look like. When I called my grandma to talk to her about when we’ll be flying into Tucson, she started lecturing me. She said it’s “not a clown thing” and went on to say that if that’s what I’m going to wear, she won’t be able to come. Apparently, my clothing (which fits my personality very well) is making a mockery of marriage and weddings. I’m very upset about this, since she’s as close to me as my own mom. I don’t know what to tell her to convince her to come. Even my mother in law (who is extremely conservative) loves the outfit and thinks she’s being ridiculous. Have you known anyone to have problems like this?
(There’s pictures of our outfits attached if you’d like to see what the big deal is)
Thank you for your time.
Eugh Alison I feel for you, what a horrible situation to be in! So from what I gather it’s just your grandmother who has a problem with your wedding style? I can only imagine that weddings were very different in her day and so she has (unlike us!) never been exposed to anything other than an uber traditional wedding. My advice to you would be to write her a letter (grandmother’s LOVE to get real life letters) and explain to her your reasons for wanting to dress in an non traditional way – ie that this is how you dress all the time (surely she knows this already) and that you and your fiancé want your wedding to be a perfect reflection of who you are as a couple. Tell her how upset you are at the thought of her not being there and that you hope she will reconsider. The fashion and style of the wedding is all aesthetics at the end of the day and without her there it wouldn’t be right. Your wedding is the most important day of your life and it means a hell of a lot to you and your fiancé that all your family attend.
With the New Year upon us, I thought it apt to begin thinking about where I want Rock n Roll Bride to go in the next 12 months. I downloaded Gala Darling’s ‘Love & Sequins’ #7 podcast, in which the crazy-inspiring writer/blogger/international playgirl imparted all her blogging, writing and general career awesomeness on to us mere wannabe blogging gurus. It really gave me a much needed boot up the arse and go me a-thinking about the year ahead (note: if you are a blogger yourself you need to download this think – it freakin’ rocks) My mind is now fit to bursting with new ideas and directions for the site, but to ease you in gently, here’s diversion numero uno.
Now don’t you worry, there will still be just as much real wedding goodness this year (how could I possibly stop) but with the success of the ‘How to Blog’ series still ringing in my ears I thought it a great idea to expand on the idea and reach out and help all of my readers in one way or another.
The ‘How to…’ series will be vast. It will be diverse. It will mould and shape itself in to a sequined glitter ball of knowledge and inspiration in no time at all and I need your help. What do you want help with? What can I write about to help you? Planning your wedding? Building your blog? Expanding your business? How to dye your hair pink!?…anything. I have a crack team of experts behind me who I plan to call upon whenever I need them (although most of them actually don’t know this yet!)
So, without further ado, here we go with an email I received just the other day.
Hi…i am desperate…my lil man and i are planning a wedding but it has to be done ASAP!!! i am getting shipped out soon. he has a pretty serious medical condition and may not be with me long…like he may pass why i am deployed…we don’t have a ton of money but we NEED to do this for us..any suggestions. i am VERY crafty and open to suggestions. birds, skulls, and stars are a pretty big deal for us…thanks for the thoughts and help!!! Love riotgrrrl
Planning a wedding in a short time frame is certainly possible – in fact bar the venue, photographer and maybe the dress, everything can be done last minute (note: I actually think you can get these 3 things pretty last minute too, they can easily be got around with a bit of creative thinking) You haven’t said exactly how soon the wedding needs to be, but I’ve heard of people planning gorgeous weddings in just a few short weeks so let’s work with that timeframe. You just need to be organised, you need to be fit to bursting with ideas and you need to ask for help. Your wedding will be perfect I’m sure, but here are a few tips and tricks that I hope will help your planning run a bit smother.
Credit: Lisa Welge Photography & Design ps thank you to everyone on Twitter, Facebook & the SWPB Flickr group who sent me photos to include in this post. There were over 100 images submitted in the end which made it very difficult to choose the final one! Wish I could have picked more than just one to feature and I will certainly be saving the rest for future posts.
First up, a little sorrrrieeee from me. With the Rock n Roll Bride machine pretty much taking flight over the last few months the ‘How to Blog’ series appears to have fallen to the wayside. Unfortunately whilst still holding down a full time job (where I work nights!) there are only so many hours in the day to catch up on such things.
Anyway, due to the number of emails and questions I’ve received asking blogging questions recently, I thought I would try and address as many queries in one hit as possible with a bumper Q&A session. As always, I love feedback so feel free to comment below or drop me an email if you’ve got anything to say! If you still have any burning blogging questions that you need answered then please feel free to drop me an email and I’ll try to work it into Part 4.
I’ve received a number of questions regarding search engine optimisation (SEO) recently so I thought part two of the ‘How to Blog’ series should be devoted to the idea of, in my experience, making Google your friend. This is long I warn you. I’d suggest grabbing a cup of tea and a cupcake before you start on this bad boy!
For those of your blissfully unaware, search engine optimisation is the process of customising your blog or blogging style in order to impress Google and therefore make him rank you higher in any given search. Not wanting to conform to well, pretty much anything, I personally have never purposely written a blog post or re-arranged my site in order to succeed in the Google race.
So, you’re probably now thinking ‘what the hell? Why should I keep reading then?’ Well I want to tell you my own ideas and know-how in the area, which are mainly all self researched and practiced. If you want to learn traditional SEO methods then you’ve come to the wrong place.
SEO is an enormous area and many before me have written about the subject – in fact many have even made a career out of ‘helping’ people optimise their sites. This makes me wonder however, if their methods really did work like they said they did, wouldn’t everybody have a fantastically popular and successful website? The whole idea reminds me of those ‘amazing, life changing diet pills’ – if they really worked, wouldn’t we all be thin? Seriously, type ‘SEO Blogging’ into You Tube and see how many people you come across who claim to have the answers!
With this article I am simply going to give you a brief overview of my own personal experiences when it comes to making a successful blog. If you are interested in more ‘traditional’ SEO methods, then you should check Tim Ferriss and Andrew Hansen. They are pretty clued up in their own special ways and are good for learning a few basics ideas. Just take it all with a pinch of salt though and don’t go overboard!
I’ve read articles on SEO that told me such gems as to make sure I mentioned key words 5 times in each paragraph and to put them in bold so Google will find them easier. Yes, maybe he will but think about this – how is your post going to look to a reader when every time you mention alternative wedding (for example) it is in bold? The answer is crap. It will be pretty clear to your readers that you care more about Google more than them. Don’t forget to remember your current readers when it comes to optimising your blog. You could spend 80% of your blogging time trying to optimise and write for SEO…how good is your writing/blogging going be then I ask you? Content is king!
I started my blog as a way to diarise my online findings. I love looking at pretty pretty pictures and I wanted to put them all in one place in the hope that others might see them and like them too. I had no clue what SEO even meant and even now I way-to-often accidently refer to it a CEO! However below are a few things I’ve learnt and found useful. Maybe you can take something away from this…
Write it and they will come OK so this isn’t going to happen overnight, but before you begin a blog or blog post remember this key point. Good copy will attract readers. Bad, SEO obvious copy will turn people off. As I mentioned in part one of this series, Google likes original content. Be original with your opinions and what you write and the rest will fall into place.
Key Words – Pah!
As I’ve mentioned briefly above, I personally don’t find key words to be the be all and end all of blogging success. Of course if you are writing about a cowboy style wedding then you are going to use word and phrases such as cowboy boot, cow, horse, ranch etc and Google will read and take note of them without you even thinking about it. If you are obsessed with mentioning the phrase ‘cowboy style wedding’ over and over then it will soon enough become pretty obvious to your readers what you’re up to or at the very least, will just read badly.
Link Love is your friend I mentioned this in depth in part one, but making connections is probably my number one tip to help with SEO and lead to blogging success. It sounds pretty obvious, but the more people you know and who know about you, the more people will visit your blog.
With every article I write I send a trackback (if using WordPress) to the photographer’s blog whose images illustrate the post. Most of them will then blog that they have been featured on Rock n Roll Bride and will send a trackback to me. By doing this I am not only generating more traffic towards my site (as everyone who visits that photographer’s site now has the potential to click towards mine) but I am creating a new link between Rock n Roll Bride and the photographer. Making connections and friendships in blog-land will guarantee you a better chance of success. Think of your blog as the centre of a big spider diagram. The more links you have going out and coming into your blog, the more popular you appear to Google and the higher up in a search you will be placed.
This is a pretty obvious one but again, the more you are known on other blogs the better chance you have of getting people to come and look at your site. Word of warning – Be careful not to sound spammy or shamelessly self-promoting with your comments. A boring non-descript comment saying ‘great!’ followed by a link to your own website is a pretty low way of trying to get traffic to your site and will most probably end up getting deleted by the site moderator anyway. Be cautious and interesting with what you say in response to blog posts. Comments like this are more likely to get a positive reaction and maybe even a click through.
Stand Out and Be Heard (i.e have a voice)
One of the most important things I’ve found which have attributed to my success is by standing out and being distinctive. I started Rock n Roll Bride because I was sick of the same old same old on every single wedding blog I visited. Don’t get me wrong I loved (and still love) looking a beautifully crafted Martha Stewart style weddings but that’s just not my style. I am much more excited by brides riddled with tattoos, unconventional fashion and pageboys with Mohawks.
When beginning your blog think about what you want to achieve and what you want to say. What is the point of your blog? If your idea is to re-hash what every other blog writes and re-post the same images then forget it. If your idea is because you want to make money then forget it. These motivations will never push you to work as hard as you need to make a blog a success. If you are not head over heels obsessional about what you’re writing about then you will never put the work in required to make your project successful. Find your own writing style and don’t be afraid to stick to it.
A Rose By Any Other Name… Food for thought – Is your blog name distinctive? Is it easy to spell? Is it obvious what you’re doing from the name alone? Is the text on your site easy to read? Is the colour scheme complimentary and attractive? Is the site easy to navigate? If you’ve answered ‘no’ to any of these things then turn around and start again. If someone misspells your blog name when searching for you then Google isn’t going to magically know who they’re hunting for.
I received an email recently from a good photographer friend of mine. I’m thinking she may not be the only one wondering this so I thought it worth a share…
Friend: I remember a little while ago you went through your blog and re-did the tags and categories – is that correct?
I want to add some Categories to mine like “Jewish Wedding Photography” and “Asian Wedding Photography” is it ok to do that and change a blog post from just “Weddings” to one of those new ones? Does Google just go through them again and re list?
Moi: Yeah and I’m still in the process of doing it! I’ve probably got to page 50 of 80 so far! phew…If you re-categorise or re-tag something then yes Google will find it. It will scan your site and find them no problem. Try not to worry too much about Google. Google will always try and do what is best for the end user. So, if you having something tagged ‘Asian weddings’ and someone Googles ‘Asian weddings’ it will find you.
When establishing the categories on your blog think about how you would like people to see your site. Seriously forget Google, he can take care of himself. If you blog a lot about Centrepieces and think people would benefit from seeing them all together then make Centrepieces a category, if you’re a photographer and are loving using Tilt-shift right now, then make ‘Tilt-shift’ or ‘Unusual Techniques’ a category.
If you don’t know the importance of social networking already then you are clearly in the wrong place. I have had people ask me about blogging stuff before, like how to get into it etc and they’re not even on Facebook! The person in question actually said ‘oh I hate that kind of stuff’ Fair enough but if you want to make a successful blog then I’d say about 50% of it is ‘that kind of stuff!’ If you haven’t already then watch this video (which I found out about myself through a friend of mine tweeting about it) and if you’re not convinced then you might as well stop reading now!
We all know Facebook, Twitter, Bebo (if you’re a teenager) or MySpace (if you’re in a band) are invaluable tools when it comes to networking and making connections. There really is no point me telling to how to use these tools (as again there are plenty of other guides out there for this.) My only nugget of advice on this matter is try not to over-indulge. Although it is fantastic for chatting and meeting people (I am a complete Twitter convert and addict) my one word of caution is to not give away the whole farm for free. Make sure you’re still giving potential readers a reason to come to your site. Ensure your updates and tweets are inviting and intriguing so to drive people to your blog. In the case of Flickr (which I also completely ♥) don’t upload every single photograph you’ve ever taken to every single group you are a member of. If you do that then what’s the point of them visiting your flickrstream or clicking through to your site?
Think outside the box when it comes to social networking as well. One of my favourite haunts for finding amazing images to blog is photographers’ forums. Not only have I made friends with a number of amazing people though these groups but I’ve found some fantastic photographic gems that I certainly wouldn’t have if I’d just been using other wedding blog as my source.
Some of my best online friends are not at all wedding related, don’t restrict yourself to people in your own field as you never know what might come of a friend with completely different talents and interests from you.
HTML is Scary Yes, yes it is. I agree with you. Apart from a few very basic functions my coding ability is slim to none. A lot of SEO recourses will bamboozle you with acronyms and technical jargon which is, to us non-IT nerds, a very terrifying concept. They might as well be speaking in a completely different language (well in fact they are!). Think of it like this – HTML is the bricks and mortar of a house – the structure and the architecture. The blog content (ie text and pretty pictures) is the interior design – the expensive wallpaper, the gorgeous antique chair and the pictures hanging on the wall. One without the other is futile. Without the bricks and mortar there is no point to the prettiness and without the prettiness the most structurally sound building would be a wreck inside.
If you’re using a blogging platform like WordPress then you’ve just bought yourself a new build house – the bricks and mortar are already completed and all you need to do is add a splash of personality to the plain, boring, decorated-to-sell interior. Fret not. If you’ve got a lot of cash to splash then hire an architect (read: SEO expert) to build you a swanky, expensive, once in a lifetime pad. What makes the most impact when you walk into a house? Is it the brickwork, the double glazing, the foundations!? Hell no – it’s the wallpaper, the furniture, the pictures on the wall. Bring a splash of individuality to your home and people will always be impressed.
For a while now I have had a little nugget of an idea floating around my head, a teeny tiny musing that could turn into something if nurtured. I have been thinking of starting a mini series about ‘How to Blog’. I’d love to be able to share my experiences and hopefully impart some wisdom on others wanting to expand their blogging success. I’m primarily thinking about those who want to blog in order to share other people’s work and inspiration.
For this first instalment I want to draw attention to a small part of the whole affair that I feel is quite an important one. I am making reference to bloggers and photographers solely because this is what I know and this is the circle I move in, yet I hope the basic ideas can be transferred to your own preferred network. Let me know what you think…
Maybe you visit other blogs for inspiration for your own blog. Maybe you take daily trips around blog-land to network with other bloggers or hell, maybe you even sneak into other places to take weddings and images for your own blog. The internet is a big old vast universe and policing it is pretty much futile, but in my (relatively short) time as an online writer I have come to witness and be annoyed by the same thing over and over.
So here’s the story – photographer shoots a kick ass wedding. Photographer blogs said kick ass wedding. Blogger A picks up on the wedding and steals (because however you sugar coat it that is essentially what you’re doing) the images and posts them on their own blog, which is then seen by blogger B who steal the images from blogger A to put on their own website.
On the flipside we have scenario two – photographer shoots and blogs the kick ass wedding. Blogger A picks up on the wedding and emails the photographer asking permission to use the images on their site, with the appropriate credit of course. Photographer says they’d be delighted and sends the images over right away.
The difference? In scenario two a connection is established between the photographer and the blogger. This is social networking after all. For me, my blog has become more than just a place to post pretty pictures, it is a vehicle to connect with like minded individuals, to have a voice and to feel like my opinion is being heard and respected.
To others it may be a place where they want to show ‘the best of the best’ the most beautiful or the most sought after (in my case) weddings and photography for some kind of kudos. But by doing this you are essentially missing out the very best part of being a blogger. I’m not trying to come across all ‘peace and love’ but would my site be where it is today without making those vital connections with others online? The simple answer is ‘no’.
Sure, I could regurgitate what every other website or blog includes and have a very pretty site with all the most sought after weddings on, but would I have the loyal following I have today with such a method? I would not be distinctive, I would not have the online companionship and I would not have respect. I would not only be a carbon copy of everyone else but a lonely one at that. If Blog A is already doing something, why would anybody visit Blog B if all they did was re-post the same images?
A crude example but think of it like this. Jordan was a phenomenally successful glamour model over here in the UK. She made a fortune by taking her clothes off and being photographed falling out of clubs. In 2002 a TV show was broadcast called ‘Essex Wives’. The ‘star’ of the show was Jodie Marsh – an over the top, Jordon wannabe with big boobs and skimpy outfits. She prided herself on being new and different. She had real boobs whereas Jordon’s were fake after all! However essentially she was a complete carbon copy of the original.
Jodie had some fame and made some money being Jordon’s rival, but let’s look at them now. Jordon has a massively popular TV show, is breaking America and makes millions every minute with her various perfume, home ware, book and equestrian (I kid you not) lines whereas poor little Jodie did a series on MTV to find her a husband (which later was exposed to be a set up) and continues to desperately cling to fame with various stunts – her most recent being her new found lesbianism.
As I said before, a crude example yes but if you had to, who would you be? The original or the copycat?
The moral of the story? Be different, stand out, find your voice and make the connection!
If you like what you’ve read I’d love to continue with this series. Why not drop me an email with any questions you might have and I’ll try to work the answers into the next issue.
Edit: For some reason, I feel the need to justify myself to some particular people who think they have the right to come onto my site and slate me. If only these people would comment with real email addresses I could speak to them directly but I guess that’s just not their style. I am well aware that some people would rather hide behind a computer than make an actual connection.
Anyway…I hope that I have not come across here like I’m perfect or a know-it-all when it comes to how to make the best of blogging. I simply want to share my experiences as a blogger to hopefully impart whatever small wisdom I have on simple ideas. Yes, I will openly admit that in the past I have blogged things without speaking to photographers first. Back when I began Rock n Roll Bride I had no idea about etiquette or the ‘right’ way to credit or link to people. However since learning a little bit more and reaching out to people my relationship with others online has grown immensely, isn’t that what blogging is all about after all? My only wish with this post was to maybe help some other newbie bloggers along so they don’t make the same mistakes I did.
As I have said before there are no rules. If you want to carry on and blog without getting consent, be my guest, but I promise you, you will be pretty lonely in blog-land.