Dec 3 10
by cara
at 9:58 PM
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Tips for New Bloggers: Blogging Q & A

I’ve been getting lots of emails lately with questions about blogging, so I thought it might be a good idea to answer some of those questions here!

Why did you start blogging?

During The Littlest Apple’s first few months of life we spent most of our time at home  Born a low birth-weight (4 pounds 9 oz) at 36 weeks, he wasn’t really supposed to go out much, especially during flu season.  So we stayed home.  And I was nursing every two hours for months and months on end to help him gain weight, and I often used that time to surf the net.  I started reading blogs.  Two of the first blogs I discovered were The Pioneer Woman and Dooce.  As the months passed, I found more and more blogs, and got particularly interested in the world of food blogs.  I love to cook and bake and love to write, so I thought I might just have something to share too.  The Picky Apple was born!

How did you get started?

Honestly?  I told my husband that I wanted to start a blog, and he set it up for me and showed me how to edit and publish posts and to upload and share pictures, how to add links, etc.  He’s a programmer.  Not very helpful to you, right?

I’ve heard that Blogger is the easiest blogging platform (aka content management system) for new bloggers to use, especially when they don’t have a programming background.  My blog is WordPress platform, hosted separately.  But other bloggers also use Typepad, free version of what I’m using), Gawker, Blogsmith, etc.   I know there are LOTS of great tutorials out there on how to get started and which platform is best for you.

Here are some links that might be of use:

The blog platforms of choice among the top 100 blogs @ pingdom

Choosing a Blogging Platform @ Blogging Basics 101

I thought this was a food blog.  Why did you change your content?

Those of you that have been following me since the beginning (January 2008) know that this used to be food blog.  I changed my content because I felt like there was so much more I wanted to share.  And honestly, I was getting bored just talking about food all the time.

Here’s my first post explaining The NEW Picky Apple.

How much does it cost to start a blog?

You can start for free using Blogger, WordPress, or some of the other blogging platforms mentioned above, but if you have any desire to be a long-term blogger, you should purchase a domain name (mine is and a hosting package.  We use Dreamhost (my husband already had it) and the cost is $8.95 per month.

Who designed your blog?

Again, my husband gets all the credit.  He took a WordPress theme (and there are so many themes to choose from, some free, some cost money) and customized it.  He also designed my header and blog button.   He’s pretty amazing.  But again, if you don’t have people in your life to help you, you can either use a ready-made theme or hire a blog designer.

How much time does blogging take?

That’s a tricky question.  It can take as much time as you want it to take.

Don’t you hate those kinds of answers?!

It is one of those experiences where the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.  As you’ll see below, there’s so much more to blogging than just publishing posts with words and photos.  There’s participation in the “community” of the blogging world, responding to comments, linky parties, visiting other blogs, etc.

The more honest answer is that I spend at least an hour on my blog day.  Three years in, it still takes me forever to edit my posts, add photos, and get my content ready for publishing.  And those LONG spirited child posts?  Those take at least several hours, which is why I’m only doing them every other week.

Then there is the time spent responding to comments, participating in linky parties, updating sidebars, and Facebook Fan Page.

When do you find the time in your day to blog?

I usually blog in the evening after The Littlest Apple goes to bed or during the day on Wednesdays and Fridays when he is in preschool.  I respond to comments and do other blog related things throughout the day as time and The Littlest Apple permit.

How do I get people to read my blog?

How to get more readers for your blog…that’s the million dollar question indeed.  Here are my thoughts….

First of all, step away from Google Analytics and stop checking to see how many Google Followers you have!  It’s so easy to get obsessed and frustrated with statistics!

One main way to get people to read your blog is to comment on other blogs that you like (with more than just “great post!”)  Leave thoughtful comments, and other bloggers will be likely to reciprocate (assuming that they aren’t the big huge blogs that get thousands of comments daily).  Make sure that your Blogger/Wordpress/Google ID is set up with your blog address, so they can find you. I think that’s how my first non-family non-friend IRL comment originated and it was the coolest thing ever.

Another great way is to participate in linky parties and memes.  For my blog this means participating regularly in parties/carnivals to share recipes, crafts, preschool activities and mommy stories, usually following whatever the “theme” of the linky party is (Halloween, pumpkin, funny things your kids says, etc).  There are MANY linky parties out there, including some that are weekly writing prompts, things about you, etc.  There are tons of Christmas linky parties right now about recipes, traditions, crafts, mantle decor, show off your tree, etc.  If that’s your blogging niche, now is a GREAT time to get started!! A Google search for blog carnivals or linky parties or blog memes should yield some that you might be interested in.  When and if you DO participate in these types of things, be sure to visit the other participants and comment on their posts.  And be sure to thank the host for starting the party.  (It all comes back to comments!)  These have been KEY in getting my blog out there, increasing my readership, and also getting some major spotlights on big blogs that saw my stuff and featured me.

Create a blogroll in your blog’s sidebar.  You can let other bloggers know that you think their blog is great and that you’ve included them on your blogroll, but don’t expect them to reciprocate.  A blogroll should be about what YOU like, not just a list of reciprocal links.  Update your blog roll every few months, as your favorite blogs will change over time.  I need to do this!!

Once your blog makes its way to someone ELSE’s blogroll (also a cool feeling, the first time it happens!), their readers will click through and it will just multiply from there.

If one of your posts generates more comments than usual, then do a follow up post, or a post on a similar topic.  That being said, I think it is more important to stay true to yourself, true to your voice than to cater to your audience too much.  I’ve seen advice all over the place recommending that you pick a “niche” and stick to it.  My blog is much more widely read now, even though I jump from food to spirited children to crafts to DIY.  I think your authentic voice is the most important thing.

No one is commenting!  How do I encourage comments?

This is still something I really struggle with.  I’ve got lots of readers, but not very many comments.

Leave comments on other blogs, as I mentioned above!

In addition to leaving comments, I frequently use email to correspond with bloggers, and that helps you stand out from the crowd.  I try to respond with a nice little “thank you” email whenever someone comments on my blog for the first time (though this is getting harder and harder for me as my readership grows).  I also send notes to bloggers when I read something or know of something that they might be interested in, or when I just have something more to say.  (for instance…”Hey! I just found your blog and saw on Your about page that you went to UT.  I did too!  Graduated in 2001, and I miss Austin.  When were you there?”)  That can start a great dialogue and encourage them to follow your blog.  I was on the receiving end of a few of these emails from people who saw the gastroparesis feature on The Today Show and emailed me to see if I saw it.  That meant a lot to me, coming from complete strangers, and you can bet I immediately went and checked out their blogs and commented.

Edited to add: Do as I say, not as I do!  Right now I’m at least a few weeks behind in responding to blog comments and emails that don’t require immediate attention.  I’d also advise you respond to comments and blog related emails every day or every other day so they don’t pile up on you!  Some days it’s all I can do to get a blog post up, but I try to make time to respond to comments and visit other blogs.

End your blog posts with a question to engage your readers.  This is something I’ve been working on lately too, to encourage all of those lurkers to comment!  Sometimes it works better than others.

Are you making any money from your blog?

It’s really not about the money.  When I started blogging, I never intended to generate income from my blog.

But to answer your question, YES, I’m starting to make money from my blog.  My hubs won’t be quitting his day job anytime soon though.

I’ve earned a little money from the Amazon Affiliates program, but I don’t go out of my way to push Amazon products.  I’ll link to them if I’m discussing books or toys, but I never do it just to earn referral fees.

As you’ve noticed, I’ve recently started accepting sponsorships for my blog.  My readership has grown to a point where this is completely feasible, so I’m seeking out mom owned small business and other companies that I like.  Advertising of my own choosing, not some annoying flashing add at the bottom or side of the screen for who knows what.

I don’t want to be the kind of blog that is always peddling something.  My eyes just glaze over when I see blogs like that that just seem to be one big ad or one giveaway after another.  But you will see an occasional sponsor post here and there from sponsors that I think might be a good fit for me or my readers.  My blog is NOT about selling products, reviewing products, and giveaways, and I plan to keep it that way!  (Though I do like the occasional, straightforward giveaway as a thanks for reading…another one coming soon!!)

Do you have any other tips or advice for new bloggers?

  • Include photos or illustrations.  (Again, do as I say, not as I do with this photoless post!)
  • Don’t let blogging take over your real life.
  • Don’t feel pressured to post every single day, unless you really want to.
  • Take occasional breaks.
  • Don’t put music on your blog.
  • Don’t push flashing things on your blog.
  • Don’t share info about family and friends without getting their permission first.
  • Get feedback from family and friends (and other bloggers).
  • Keep going!  It takes a while to find your voice, and the longer you stick with it, the easier it will get.
  • Plan ahead.  Create a blogging schedule for yourself with a topic for each day.

I could go on and on and on!  If you want additional information about starting a blog, here are some resources for you:

Bloggertunity: A Mom’s Guide to Blogging (an ebook) @ Metropolitan Mama

Blogging in Pink: A Woman’s Guide (free ebook) @ Scribbit

Blogging Basics 101

Simple Blogging (an ebook)


Blogging has become such a passion of mine!  I’ve made lots of new friends, found amazing sources of information and inspiration, and rediscovered interests and dreams long forgotten.  If you are considering starting a new blog, go for it!  And if you’ve just started, you may feel like you are just talking to yourself (and maybe your mom).  Stick with it, and you’ll be amazed at all that blogging has to offer.

Do you have a blog?  How long have you been blogging?

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  1. charlotte permalink

    Thanks for this post it was very helpful and inspiring it makes me want to start tonight. However I won’t keeping track of my four kids ( one of which I lost 2 times today) and getting through Christmas is about all I can handle. I do enjoy your blog, you have great ideas and is a reminder that my younger children need the same experinces my older 2 got.

  2. Thanks for the post and all of the advice for us new bloggers. I just recently starting blogging. I first would follow my sisters blog and found out that there was a blog for anything and everything. Since I’m crafty and love anything handmade, I found some blogs out there and became addicted to them. I couldn’t wait for their next blog. I decided to start my own and you’re right, it takes time! Just wanted to thank you for the inspiration :o)


  3. What a really helpful post, Cara. I’ve been asked these questions, too, and I think I am just going to take the easy way out and send everyone a link to this post!

    Being a somewhat seasoned blogger myself (started in Aug. 2008), I definitely agree with your suggestions and “don’ts”. And I can remember back when I was overly conscious of statistics and comments, too. It’s easy to do when you first start out because you quickly begin to wonder if anyone is really “listening” to you. I never got into Google Analytics because I think – no, I KNOW – I’d end up obsessing too much about which posts were popular and then I’d likely adjust my future posts accordingly. I had enough trouble doing that without the facts… I used to maintain an internal battle with what I WANT to post about versus what I think other would enjoy reading. It’s easy to get caught up in your fanbase and to give people what they want. Especially if you’re a “people pleaser” like me. 🙂

    I think you’re doing an amazing job with your blog and, as you know, I’ve been following you for some time now. I love the variety – your authentic voice – and I look forward to your posts. Admittedly, I’m not very good about commenting here anymore (or anywhere for that matter – something just had to give!), but know that I totally support you and that I think The Picky Apple ROCKS! 🙂


  4. this post was super timely and helpful… I’ve had some private blogs for years now but I just started a public blog recently and I’m still figuring out how it all works, the best way to do things, etc. Definitely going to check out those links!

  5. Ross Boss permalink

    Cara – really helpful post! I have been loosely considering blogging, just about food and crafts, but it still seems a little overwhelming. I will definitely check out all of your recommended spots and see if it eases my thoughts. 🙂

  6. Shannon Boozer permalink

    Thank you for the amazing advice!!! I appreciated your email a few weeks ago as well. I love following your blog and the variety of content it shares. Keep up the good work! Much thanks:)

  7. Thanks for this blog post! Exactly wahat I needed to read today…….I’m just starting out and have been wondering about a lot of these things – I appreciate you talking the time to post about these things 🙂

  8. I’ve been blogging since July and I basically learned everything from Cara and The Picky Apple. Thanks!

    My advice would be to “just do it.” I felt silly about writing a blog before I started, but I find it’s very cathartic now. It’s a cool feeling to know your friends and family are reading… eventually strangers will find it.

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