Gaining views – Part 1: Link Parties
Hello! Last week I started a series called How to Start a Blog, to chronicle my experience from starting a blog so far. Last week focused on actually starting your blog and the technical aspects of beginning a website. It is a good idea to start from that page first. Today I will start the discussion about how to gain views. This post will focus on promoting your blog through link parties and how to optimize your photos for them.
Promoting Your Blog
From the very beginning, I think it is really important to immediately establish why you want to start a blog and what your expectations are. I wanted to start a blog because I love all things DIY and crafty, and I love sharing what I know with others. I wanted to be able to share my tutorials and learn from other blogs as well. When I started, I knew that blogging would take up a lot of time, but I didn’t realize how much time it would really take and how you actually use your time. I imagined that I would be spending most of my time thinking up of new projects and filming/photographing the process. I guess my thinking process was that I just needed to focus on my content, and if I made a cute and useful tutorial, someone would eventually like it and share with their friends and it would gain views as people continued to share. I quickly learned that this “If you build it, they will come” mentality just doesn’t work, unless you happen to get very lucky and go viral. The internet is just chock full of information and websites, and chances are, nobody will accidentally stumble upon your site. Unfortunately, even if you had the greatest tutorial on the cutest project ever, if you don’t spend time promoting your site, nobody will see it.
I actually read and researched a lot about starting a blog prior to blogging, so I knew from the beginning that I had to do at least a little promoting, but I didn’t understand how hard it is to actually get traffic to your site. I made YouTube videos of my tutorials, hoping someone would see it under “new videos”. I even had this great idea of doing a small giveaway for my first YouTube tutorial. Then I learned that giveaways don’t work if no one sees your video! I tried to submit pictures of my projects to sites like Reddit. I only had a little luck within the small subreddit r/Crafts, and gained a couple of YouTube subscribers and some page views. I also tried to get my projects on CraftGawker, then quickly learned that they’re really strict about the projects they approve and that photos are a key part of this.
So, of course I felt more than a little discouraged. I wasn’t getting any visits on my site. CraftGawker rejected my photos as too dull. Nobody was watching my videos on Youtube. Nobody wanted to subscribe to my channel even though I offered something free. I was writing my posts and making videos for nobody! But then one day I posted a needle felting project on Reddit that they really liked (probably because it was of a cat). It wasn’t something I posted on my site, nor was it on YouTube, but I posted on there just because I was proud of what I made. I offered to give away the needle felting kits that I originally intended for my YouTube giveaway, and explained my YouTube giveaway failure. A lot of the people on the subreddit were really nice and encouraged me to keep trying, and I realized it was too early to give up. Blogging and growing an audience takes time! You’ll have to spend a lot of time promoting your blog, but you also have to give your blog time to grow as well!
One of the first blog promoting methods I learned about were link parties/blog hops. A link party is when one or a few website will “host” a link up. You go to their site on a designated day and add a link or two to posts you recently made. Then you explore the other submissions by other bloggers, leave some nice comments, and pin your favorites. I know that there are many craft link parties and blog hops, and I have seen some related to food, mommy/lifestyle, and fashion. I’m not sure of their existence in other niches, so this may not exist within your niche.
Link parties are a great way to find some new blogs and blogger friends as well as be inspired by the work of others. It is also a great way for bloggers to discover your blog. You’ll find that a lot of bloggers are also blog readers, and many of your visitors will have blogs of their own.
Because some blog parties can have hundreds of links, try to show up very early, to give your post some more exposure time. Another important factor in gaining exposure is having the right thumbnail. Because people select the links they want to visit based off of the title and a tiny thumbnail, so make sure you have a good title and an eye-catching thumbnail.
For your link up thumbnail, create an image that is square, so you don’t need to worry about cropping later.
Here is an image I took of this awesome golden pear. It is straight from my camera, unedited besides the cropping, taken indoors on an overcast day. Not too bad, right? But there are ways to improve your photo so that it is more eye-catching. This includes making sure that your photo is the star of the photo. In this case, the pear is set against a white background, so it isn’t fighting for attention. Make sure the background isn’t too busy, and if there is something in the background, it should not compete with the main subject. You also need to make your photos bright and clear. If you’re lucky enough to get great lighting in your room and you’re always able to shoot during the day, you may not even need to edit your photo. However, sometimes your schedule or the weather just doesn’t cooperate. This is where artificial lighting and editing software comes in. I will not be using any artificial lightning in this tutorial, but I will show you how to edit your photos to be brighter. I personally use Photoshop, but there are free editing programs out there such as GIMP and PicMonkey.
Here is a side-by-side comparision of a very quick editing job in Photoshop. I increased the brightness and contrast of the photo. I also adjusted the “levels” in Photoshop. This will adjust the midtones, highlights and shadows of your photo. In this case, I made the midtones and highlights brighter while making shadows a little bit darker. Although the original photo doesn’t seem too bad on its own, the edited version really brings out the golden tone of the pear, and is definitely more eye-catching than the original.
However, I know that Photoshop can be expensive and difficult to learn to use. Above is an editing job I did using PicMonkey and their free fonts. I went to Exposure and adjusted the Brightness, Highlights, Shadows, and Contrast. I increased the brightness, but not by too much or the photo will look washed out. I increased the highlight by a lot, so that the photo would be brighter, but just increased the shadow by one. I also increased the contrast of the photo a little. To give this a try for yourself, save my unedited pear photo from above and play around with the settings until you get something you like.
Once you start attending link parties with your eye-catching thumbnails, you’ll start to get the occasional visitor who will stop by after seeing your submission on a link party page. Because there are so many submissions, you may not get a ton of visitors directly from the link party page, but you do gain exposure. Some of the bloggers who visit your site may end up including your post in a round-up on their blog, some hosts pin or tweet all submissions, or a link party host may decide to feature your submission the following week. When this happens, you will start to see more visits. Hopefully, these visitors also look at your other pages and become followers! Because you can gain visitors indirectly from the link parties, you shouldn’t write off smaller parties. I’ve found that sometimes the smaller parties can have more active attendees, your chance of being seen may be higher, and the host has more time to view all the submissions, increasing your chance of being featured.
If you have a craft/DIY blog, you can check out my Blog Links page to see where I link up. There are so many out there, you don’t have to join them all, but it is a good idea to link up to a few every day. Make sure you don’t overwhelm yourself with too many parties, and allot time for visiting links from each party as well. When you visit other blogs and leave a nice comment, you may find that the blog owner will sometimes visit your blog as well! Each party has their own set of rules so please be sure to read them before linking up.
UPDATE: I was ask by a reader to add a part on grabbing a button from link parties.
Below is a screenshot of the the Treasure Box Tuesday link party that I grabbed from http://www.yesterfood.blogspot.com.
In order to grab that button, all you need to do is highlight and copy the text in the gray box below the button. Make sure you copy everything. Now go back to your website and paste this wherever you want it so show, whether it is your post page or a party page. Make sure to paste it where HTML goes. If you’re using WordPress, in your post editing screen, you should see two tabs in the upper right hand corner: VISUAL and TEXT. Click on the TEXT tab and then paste it there.
Another way you can grab the button is to just save the image onto your computer and add it onto your page like any normal image. Then insert a link into the photo so it links back to the link party.
If you need more detailed help on this, please let me know! You can always leave me a comment or go to my Contact Me page. It would also help if you tell me what platform you use (WordPress, Blogger, etc).
I hope you enjoyed today’s post and hope it was helpful. My next few posts will be on gaining followers and viewers through social media, my advertising experiments, and how to optimize your blog photos.