Apr 29, 2016

How to Generate and Submit a Site Map for a Blogspot Blog

How To Generate A Sitemap and Submit It To Google
A question I get from a lot from bloggers is “How do I know that Google sees my site?” And the short answer is: as long as you have the privacy settings set correctly (In your Blogger Dashboard under Settings >> Basic) Google can find you.Privacy
The long answer, however, is a little more complicated.

Apr 22, 2016

Get Rid of The Blogspot: How to Setup a Custom Blogger Domain on GoDaddy

Step by step tutorial on how to set up a blogger custom domain redirect on godaddy and get rid of the .blogspot in your blog URL

One of the biggest perks with using the Blogger platform for your blog is that is is 100% FREE.  You don’t have to pay to be ‘self-hosted’ like other blogging platforms.  (While I’m on it, the term ’self-hosted' is a misnomer actually.. unless you have a server in your garage, you aren’t self-hosted, you are paying for a hosting service.. you aren’t actually hosting your own content. It should be called “privately-hosted” or “third party-hosted” or something.)

In the case of Blogger blogs, our host is Google.. which is a pretty sweet deal!  Like any other hosting company (Bluehost, HostGator, FatCow, DreamHost..) Google DOES NOT own your content, the same way any other hosting company doesn’t own their client’s content.  (That is another big misconception about Blogger.) Hosts (even Google) are just ‘holding’ it for you and displaying it on your little corner of the internet, it is still YOURS and cannot be taken away from you. The biggest difference between Google-hosting an other privately-hosted blogs, is that Google holds our content for free, and without any bandwidth limitations or a big monthly bill!

5 Easy SEO Tips Everyone on Blogger Should Be Using

I could have titled this post  “SEO Optimization 101” because this is an extremely basic tutorial on optimizing your Blogger blog content.  Lucky for bloggers on Blogger/Blogspot, Google has made it super easy to manage your SEO settings within the Blogger dashboard. These five small changes will give you the most SEO bang for your buck.

If you are an advanced blogger you may already do some (if not most) of these things and you are well aware that this is only the tip of SEO iceberg.   I could (and may) write an entire series on optimizing your SEO on Blogger but we are going to start with these baby steps since they are the low hanging fruit.

In other words, if you don’t do ANYTHING else to optimize your SEO, at least you should be doing these 5 things.   

I want to assure everyone that NONE OF THESE TIPS ARE DIFFICULT.  They don't involve any type of HTML or messing with your template.  No matter how much experience you have using the Blogger platform, you can do this! 

The Top 5 Things Every Blogger Blogger Should Be Doing Improve Their SEO

No Follow Vs. Do Follow Links: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Follow vs no follow links
If you have been blogging for any length of time, especially if you have done any sort of sponsored content or affiliate marketing, you probably have heard of “No Follow Links.”   You may even have a pretty good understanding of what they are and how they work, but there are still probably a few things about follow and no follow links you may not have heard about, especially when it comes to the long term SEO impact they have on your site.

And even if you are using no follow links whenever brands and networks ask you to, and anywhere you are earning revenue, you still may not realize just how frequently you should be using no follow links when it comes to other content.  There are many many many black hat SEO companies out there who rely on site owners not realizing when and where they should be using no follow links.  They are able to sneak backlinks onto hundreds (if not thousands) of sites in order to suck up Google juice from naive bloggers the way a hungry leach sucks blood from unsuspecting hosts.

How to Remove, Rewrite and Republish Old Content and Optimize SEO on Blogger

How to correctly delete, rewrite and republish old posts for SEO Opimization on blogger.  No broken links or duplicate content
With the start of the New Year, many bloggers are cleaning house.. both literally and on their blogs.  One question I get all the time when I talk about SEO is “How can I optimize old content?”

We all have those old posts that have great content, but not the best photography or that we haven’t optimized correctly.  Often they are posts that we would love to share with our current readers, but we aren’t sure the best way to do it.  We worry about what we will ‘mess up’ if we change them.

We also have posts that are just TERRIBLE and we want to remove them all together.  Posts that are either no longer relevant or are no longer trafficked.  People often ask “Can I just go back and delete old content?” and the answer is “It depends.”  (I know.. not the most straight forward answer.)

So today I’m going to show you a variety of situations that you may run into that involve either deleting, rewriting, republishing or changing the date of old content to keep your blog evergreen and to optimize SEO as well.  The specifics of this tutorial will focus on Google’s Blogger platform (since that is my favorite) but the tips apply to other platforms as well.. but you may need to adjust the method for editing/changing/dating posts.  (Tips for Wordpress users will be in RED)

Apr 21, 2016

How to Add Twitter Cards to Your Blogger Blog

How to install Twitter Cards On Blogger Blog
If you are a frequent user of Twitter, you may have noticed that some tweets containing URLs have a lot of extra information associated with them.

This is what a typical tweet looks like:

But did you know your tweet could look like this (without actually changing your tweet at all)? 
Tweet with twitter card

These expanded tweets are called “Twitter Cards” and if you are a blogger they are a great way of getting you blog post tweets a little more exposure. When you have the Twitter cards code installed on your blog, any tweets with your blog's URL will also contain this extra image, title and summary.

They are sorta like Pinterest’s “Rich Pins” but for tweets.  (If you don’t have rich pins I also have a tutorial on how to install them)

To add them it is simple copy and pasting of some HTML code.  (Even a rookie blogger should be able to do this! Don't panic because it is HTML!)

How to Turn Your Blogger Posts into Rich Pins on Pinterest

In case you didn't realize it, I do 100% of my own blog formatting and HTML programming.   That is the big reason I am still using Blogger (instead of Wordpress) and why my blog layout/template never changes.  If it ain't broke.. (since I'm the one who will have to fix it!)

The truth is that I have ZERO computer programming experience, I just spend a lot of my time pounding my head into my keyboard and using google to try to figure out how to make my blog do what I want.  I am sure there are some really weird things going on in my code but, eh,  it just has to look okay to the average reader. 

What Does It Really Cost To Run A Blog?

How much money do I spend running my blog?  Hosting, social media, legal and financial expenses answer the question "What Does It Cost To Blog?"

I am constantly asked about what types of resources I use when I blog.  My blog is a little unusual because I am self-hosted on Google and thus my blogging expenses are vastly different from many other mid-sized bloggers who are self-hosted on Wordpress. So for fun I thought I would create a quick guide to all my favorite blogging tools and how much I spend on them every month.
This post will include my ENTIRE OVERHEAD (other than supplies I use in the posts themselves) for my blog. Hopefully this will give non-bloggers (and even fellow bloggers) and idea of what it costs to run a successful blog.   And in case you are wondering, right now my blog gets between 250,000 and 300,000 page views a month.   That is about 300% more than it was a year ago, when I was averaging only 100,000.

I know for sure that investing in the resources I will talk about below is one of the reasons I have seen that growth.   It wasn’t until I started really INVESTING in my blog and treating it as a business did I earn a full time income, since now my monthly revenue is significantly more than these expenses.

I Have A Big Announcement! (And Why I Love Blogger!)

So in the interest of keeping it real, I want to tell you that originally I had planned to post about K-cups (yes.. those coffee cup things I messed around with at Halloween) today.  I wanted to hold off this announcement until later next week, when I had all the kinks worked out, but I ended up spending so much time working on this exciting rollout, I just didn't have it in me to churn out a second post.

Seriously.. my kitchen floor currently looks like this since the baby thought unloading every thing out of my purse would be fun, while the girls played wiffle ball in the house:
I can't face writing about KCups right now. I just can't.

So instead.. you all get to hear my big news a week early!

Are you ready for it?  Well if not, too bad.. here it is:

Why do I blog on Blogger?

I've been blogging since 2005 on the Blogger platform. Over time, as my blog grew to multi-million pageviews and earned tens of thousands of dollars, I heard over and over "Why haven't you moved to Wordpress?" and "You will never be a 'big' blogger or be taken seriously if you stay on Blogger."  But based on my own success, I wasn't convinced.  So I did my own research and stopped listening to rumors.  And this is what I realized:  Blogger blogs can be customized and optimized for increased search traffic, revenue generation and viewability. They are a completely viable blogging option.


If you host with Blogger, you don't own your own content:  FALSE

Here is a great post about that myth.. but don't take his word for it.  Read the Google Terms of Service yourself.  Your blog is YOURS. 

You can't drive as much traffic as you can with Wordpress:  FALSE

SEO optimization works exactly the same way with Blogspot-hosted blogs as it does with self-hosted blogs on the Wordpress platform. Google has actually installed easily customizable ways to optimize SEO without expensive plug-ins or extensive knowledge of html.  It is also common knowledge that G+ engagement is weighted heavily in google search rankings and helps build SEO.  But did you know that when a Blogger blog is linked with a G+ profile, blog views also count as G+ profile views?  Additionally, if host your photos though Google, your image SEO is amplified via your Google+ galleries by amplifying a G+ profile's weight in the search rankings. Only Blogspot-hosted blogs have this benefit.  All those Blogger linked G+ pages with millions of page views have a CLEAR advantage in Google search results.  There has always been a (supposed) 'myth' that Google ranks their own blogger blogs higher in search results, and this bias in pageviews on your G+ profile page views may explain exactly why that myth is actually true.  Google may actually PREFER Blogspot blogs because of Google+. 

Blogger blogs aren't customizable:  FALSE

I'm actually not even sure why this is a myth.  Sure, there are many blogs that keep the standard blogger template, but that is also true with other blogging platforms.  There are a lot of Blogger blogs you wouldn't recognize as a standard Blogspot blog.  Customization is all about how much work you are willing to put into your template.  Blogger offers numerous 'outside of the box' templates, and all for FREE!  It isnt' about how much money you spend. 

You can't make money if you are on Blogger:  FALSE

Once again, this myth is pretty random but easily dispelled.  Many large blogs still use the Blogger platform and they make plenty of money!  For example, PostSecret (a blogger hosted blog) has had more than 700 million visitors since it first hit the web, all without leaving Blogger.  

The biggest problem with blogger has always been lack of support for anyone who isn't very tech savvy.  Most bloggers on Blogger either begin with programming skills or they have to be self taught. I am the latter, and I remember how frustrating it was to learn things on Blogger that should have been straight forward.  That is why I am offering blog support specifically for the Blogger platform.  It can be a great platform (maybe even superior to Wordpress) once you know how to use it.    And for that.. I am here to help!

Apr 19, 2016

Time Management for Bloggers: Managing Family and your Blog

If I had a penny for every time someone has asked me “How do you do it?”  well.. I would have a lot of pennies.  People, especially other moms of young kids, always want to know where I find time to run a blog, remodel my house, and decorate for every holiday.

And the truth is that it has taken me a lot of trial and error to find the right balance.. and it is still a work-in-progress. As the kids grow up and their needs change, so does the way I deal with balancing home improvement, craft projects, my blog and my family.  But over the five+ years I’ve written this blog, I have learned a lot of tricks for finding where the balance lies, what works and what doesn’t (at least for me) and by now I’m acutely aware of the pitfalls to watch out for.

If you have children at home and just can’t figure out how to get any crafting, decorating or DIY projects done I want to share some advice with you.  Since you don’t need to put off DIY projects until your kids are “older.”  You may not be as efficient as someone without little ones under foot, but you still *CAN* accomplish a lot, with these strategies.

5 Do’s and Don’ts for Balancing Family and Blogging

Home depot kids projects


1. DO set boundaries:  
Consider your project a ‘job’ and set a work schedule. It is so easy to get distracted by things around the house, but you need to remind yourself that laundry or the dishes can wait.  If you are determined to paint your bathroom, don't get distracted by a pair of shoes that need to be put away on your way to the garage.  Picking up those shoes, and making a extra trip to the closet will most likely lead to another chore.. and another and another..  The shoes will be there when the paint is drying.  Focus on what you are doing.  Set a time frame and say “From 1-4 I am painting my bathroom.”  Don’t take a break to check Facebook, stop to grab a coffee or stick a load of dishes in the dishwasher.   If you are setting aside 3 hours for a project, take that time to DO THE PROJECT.
Your kids will find ways to entertain themselves (even if they aren’t always pretty.. like emptying 500 tissues from the box one-by-one) but they won’t be irreconcilably damaged because you asked them to find something to do on their own for two hours.
Baby emptying tissues
On the other hand, setting boundaries doesn’t mean that you completely ignore your kids and let them wreck havoc. You still need to keep an eye on them to make sure they are safe. I use a Levana video monitor to watch not only my 18 month old, but also my 5 and 9 year olds.
Levana baby monitorBeing able to look up and immediately see what they are doing, takes a load off my mind and makes it easier to focus on whatever project I’m working on.  Without a monitor I would have to constantly go check on them or worry about what may be happening somewhere I cannot see. Knowing your kids are fine, makes it a lot easy to tell them to “go back and play while Mommy finishes painting!”

2. DO deliver what you promise but be realistic:
This is an addendum to #1.  When you set boundaries, you have to follow though on what you are actually promising. If you tell your kids you need an hour to work on something, don’t spend three hours working on it.  When you say “I need 20 minutes to paint this” your kids are hearing “I’ll be able to play with you in 20 minutes.”  They are expecting you to ‘clock out’ of DIY duty and back into mommy mode.  Make sure whenever you set aside time for a project, you take into account the prep and cleanup and the possibility of it taking longer than you think it should.  Your family doesn’t really care that you had trouble getting your mitered corners to line up and so it is taking longer than you predicted.  They only see that you said you would be an hour ago, and you are now taking away from time you promised to spend with them.

If you want your family to respect the boundaries of “work time” you need to respect the time you have dedicated to them.  When you promise to take the kids to the park after you finish fixing the toilet, don’t backtrack and tell them that you’re too tired and you’ll have to skip it. Every time you break a promise, they will be that much less willing to cooperate with you next time.  There have been many times when I’ve regretted telling my kids at the start of a project  “when mommy is done we’ll go get ice cream” since by the time it is finished I”m dirty, tired and just want to sit down or take a shower.  But I still suck it up and take them to the ice cream shop, sawdust and all. I gave them my word and they delivered on their end of the deal. Boundaries only work if both sides agree to live with them. If you find yourself over promising, then make sure in the future you are setting realistic expectations (of yourself and your kids). Since once you lose the trust of your kids, it is hard to earn it back.
Taking care of baby
What is realistic? Well, it really depends on you and your family.  If you have a typical daily routine, you want to keep it in tact if you can.  Don’t say “I’m going to paint the bathroom from 10-2” when you know that the kids eat lunch at 11:30.  Otherwise you are setting yourself up for failure and resentment.  If you have small children, do projects that require the most attention during nap times or when you have help (my older kids are great with the baby so I do a lot of work when they are there to help watch him).  Don’t start working on a drywall project with hot mud that needs to be applied in less than 30 minutes, right before nap time. Since when the baby starts melting down, you are going to have step away from the project, and now you have a big mess on your hands.
 I try to do projects that require my undivided attention when my husband is home (nights and weekends) or while the baby is sleeping.  When I’m alone with the baby, I focus on small projects that can be completed quickly, or I work on the computer.  Since those are typically not time-critical.  And an outing to the home improvement store can actually be an adventure when you’re 2!

3. DO Keep an eye on them:
Because I don’t have help during the day, (I have the baby with me 24/7 and the older kids are with me when they aren’t in school) I use a second pair of eyes.  Even if I am engrossed in a project, I need to be ‘watching’ the little ones the whole time, even when I’m not in the room.  Your kids health and safety should NEVER come at the expense of something you are working on.  

4.  Involve the kids and reward them for being team players:
Some projects are easy and safe enough to involve your kids in. Nothing makes your kids feel more special then asking them to be involved in a project with you. I personally love teaching my girls how to work with their hands, and the sense of empowerment it gives them.  Often when I am working on crafts or holiday decor I let my kids put in their two cents.  Children are remarkably creative, and I have been surprised at what great ideas my kids have come up with.  On the flip side, if you kids are NOT interested in a project, don’t force them. The goal is to make them feel good about themselves.. not drag them kicking and screaming into the garage to paint a birdhouse. Child setting up vignette
If a DIY project is not suitable for kids you can still reward them for the part they ARE contributing.  Make sure to point out how much you appreciate the fact they played nicely when they do, and if your promised them a reward, make sure you deliver.  If your kids can see a payoff for letting you get your work done, they are more likely to to want to do it again.  There is a fine line between bribery and earned rewards.  I don’t mind pushing that boundary.
Baby with cake

5. Take time to get away from it all
One of the biggest side effects you get from all this DIY-family balancing act is burnout.  It can me mentally and physically draining to always try to keep all those balls in the air.  And so I think it is essential that you set aside time that is just for you.  Take time to take care of yourself and do something you love.  If a project is frustrating and overwhelming, step back, treat yourself to some “me” time and reset.
Coffee and computer
I personally set aside every Sunday morning, and I head to Starbucks, get a coffee and a spend a few hours in peace and quiet.  It really does set up my outlook for the whole week.  Things always look brighter after some coffee and a little time to yourself.

So now that I have set you on the road for a successful balance between DIYing and your family, what are some of the traps you want to avoid that will derail all your hard work.


1. DON'T Be a perfectionist:
Seriously people. Life is just too short to worry about every.single.detail.  Especially on projects where I let my kids help, there are always going to be tiny flaws in things, and that is okay.  I’d still rather get something done with a slight imperfection, than not get it done at all.
Girl with silhouette suppliesI have ‘eyeballed’ hanging photos more times that you could count because I didn’t have the time (or desire) to run out the garage and find a tape measure and level.  And you know what?  It the big scheme of things, eyeballing is usually good enough.  I didn’t measure a single thing for my gallery walls and I live with any slight imperfections.  If it bugs you, you can always fix it down the line, but in reality.. you will probably end up letting it go and living with it.  Since the fact you have installed a gallery wall at all, outweighs the cons of a slightly crooked frame.

2. DON'T Feel Guilty:
This is a big one. When I’m in the middle of a project typically the dishes don’t get done, the laundry piles up and my house can get to be a disaster.  I choose to let things slide for the sake of my DIY projects, but I have stopped feeling bad about it.   Eventually the dishes get washed, and the laundry put away.  Maybe it isn’t as quick as it would have been if I wasn’t DIYing and blogging, but I don’t really care.  I am one of those people who never makes their bed, it isn’t a priority to me.  Something has to give.  What that is ultimately comes down to you.. YOU decide what to push off until another day, but whatever it is don’t feel guilty about it.
Baby with mantel
Maybe your kitchen remodel means that your kids watch a movie one afternoon instead of going to the library.  Or maybe it means that you take a few hours out of every weeknight to install crown molding in your living room, so you have to buy cupcakes for the school bake sale.  Don’t feel guilty about it, or let someone else make you feel guilty.  That other mom at the PTA fundraiser who looking down her nose at your pre-packaged cupcakes, will be the same person oohing an ahhing at your crown molding and saying  “I don’t know do you do it!” Mark my words.  

3. DON’T Forget what your priorities really are
This may seem contradictory to the rest of this list, but it is all about moderation.  Sometimes you need to know when enough is enough.  I do believe that taking time for yourself to do things you love and to model empowering behavior for you kids is important. But you need to listen closely to your family and know when to take a break from DIY.   It is easy to get wrapped up in a project (especially long drawn up renovations where you just want to get it done) but always try to remember WHY you are doing it. You are making your home a better place for your family.  Pay close attention to the mood of your family.Kids
Your kids will only be little for so long, so take time to enjoy them.  Spend some time playing Chutes and Ladders and hanging out at the playground.  Since one day they won’t be underfoot, and then you can DIY your heart out, but you’ll miss them.  That doesn’t mean your world needs to revolve around them 24/7, but they also need to know they are THE most important thing in your life.  No matter what.  Be careful to never lose sight of that.

4. DON’T be afraid to ask for help
I don’t currently have a house cleaner or nanny or any paid help, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get help in other ways.  My husband is really supportive of my projects and is great about not saying anything when dinner is frozen pizza or I tell him to get take out yet again.  He doesn’t roll his eyes when I tell him he’ll have to dig out his blue shirt form the bottom of the clean laundry basket or when he steps in the door and I immediately run out for something at the Home Improvement store.  If you feel like you are overwhelmed, you should ask for help.   If that means getting someone to help clean your house, of bringing in a mother’s helper or just asking your husband to put the kids to bed one night so you can get a jump start on something you want to do.. just ask.  Nobody (not even me) is Superwoman.
Super hero kids
5. DON'T compare yourself to anyone else
Comparison is the thief of joy.  The DIY world is a small one.  It always feels like nothing is new.  You are working on a project you love, and the next day you see in on Pinterest done bigger and better.  That can take all the wind out of your sails.  You finally put up the Chevron curtains you always loved and then log into Facebook to read Better Homes and Gardens has told you that chevron is “the one design mistake everyone is making.”

Don’t sweat it.  You shouldn’t be working on DIY projects just to keep up with the Joneses.  You should be doing it because you love doing it.  It brings you joy and makes you happy.  There is something satisfying about working on a project with your own two hands.  Standing back and saying “I made that!”  Even if it means you are doing it differently than everyone else.
There is nothing wrong with marching to the beat of a different drum.
IMG 2549
Home depot kids projects

Why Do I Write Sponsored Posts?

Before I even start this post I want to premise it by saying that 100% of this post is *MY* real life experience.  Not every blogger feels the same way about sponsored posts and their experiences may be very different from mine.  But since this is MY blog, I am of course going to share MY thoughts and opinions.. the good, the bad and the ugly.  This post is not passing judgement of any other specific blogger and/or their sponsored posts..  nor is it a ‘call to action’ for other bloggers to change the way they write their sponsored content.  Every blogger must make their own decisions when it comes to working with brands.  I feel very strongly about the way I handle sponsored posts on my blog and this post solely reflects those feelings towards my own content.
How do sponsored posts work? How much do I make? And why I think the content matters.
As any long term reader may have noticed, in the past year or so my blog has become peppered with sponsored content. I have always monetized my blog with display ads, but beginning in March of 2014 I started writing sponsored content as another revenue stream.  (For my rationale see number 5.)  

This post about a stacked pot planter was my first EVER sponsored post.  
As a blog reader, I admit, I never really liked sponsored content. Blogs I had read for a long time, were suddenly filled with posts that began with “this post brought to you by..” or EVEN WORSE bloggers I trusted would post projects full of stuff they clearly received for free, but they hid their disclosures somewhere out of the way, so when I had finally read to the end I realized it was just a pitch for some product all along.  I felt like I was being TRICKED.   And I hated it.  

What is Haven? What Makes It Special?

 Phew.. I have finally returned from my extended Haven vacation, and in my typical style I'm late getting my recap post up.   We decided to take a few extra days sightseeing in Washington DC and so I am only getting home now.  Originally I was going to write up my recap earlier, but another experience got in the way (and I'm glad it did.)

SNAP 2015 (and Notes from my Blogger Roundtable)

Snap logo
I wasn’t actually going to do a SNAP recap post this year but when I asked on my Facebook page if people wanted one, the majority said yes.. so here it is.  (Bet you didn’t realize the content of this blog was reader-interactive.. did ya? Well, if you aren’t following my Facebook page, you aren’t getting a vote!)


Apr 18, 2016

What I've Learned By Hitting (and Missing) My Blogging Goals: January In Review

January was a whirlwind month for me.  I am going to do a round up of all my projects at the end of this post.. so if you are looking for projects, feel free to scroll on down.  But first I wanted to take a little time to write about some things that have been weighing on me lately.

Earlier in the year, I set out some goals for myself (both for the blog and personally) and I wanted to use this time to reflect on how well things are going and if I need to make changes.  I found that looking back on what I set out for myself not even 30 days ago has really opened my eyes to things I like and don't like about my blog and how it is influencing both my personal and online life. 
First, on the blogging side:
  1. Find my voice
Ironically this post is actually in response to this exact goal.  Normally I would never have written this out for you to read.  I always have focused on PROJECTS PROJECTS PROJECTS (since hey.. this isn't Dr. Phil) but since my new goal is to be more real, I decided to share my feelings with you.
The blog community is changing, and not 100% for the better (in my opinion.) I feel like there is a lot of great chatter out there, but unfortunately, it is all getting eaten up by the fast frenzy that is social media and Pinterest.  It is starting to feel like you are only as good as you latest and greatest project.  You can have a post go viral, and have thousands of views, and dozens of new facebook fans.. Your instagram account may blow up.. but in a flash it is over.  Everyone moves on to the next great project.. and you are left feeling (I don't know a better word): used. 
And I will admit, I am just as guilty of it as anyone else.  I have hundreds of blogs in my reader.  I get notified of at least 100-150 new posts EVERY.DAY.  And of course I don't read them all.. I skim the titles, maybe join a linky party or two, stop by a couple which catch my eye, pin a few projects, mark the rest as read.. and move on.
And it seems like a lot of blogs are going that way.  With readers picking out the highlights, and not really developing a 'relationship' with bloggers like we would have before.  Jennifer at Rambling Rennovater said it best in her epic ode to blogging:
There is a lot of noise in my life that detracts from the joy of blogging. Each new person I follow on Twitter or Instagram, each blog that I add to my reader, deflects my attention from what is already there. We live in a society where more is better. Where more subscribers makes you a more successful blogger and more Facebook fans makes you more influential.

But we know the numbers are not the whole truth - even if the social media marketers and brand sponsors try to convince us otherwise.
That is why I think a post like this is important even though it is never going to make it to Pinterest. (Heck, it probably will barely get read), but it shows you the 'real' me.  I am more than just my projects.. My blog can't be boiled down to one pretty picture on a Pinterest board.  There is someone behind it, who struggles to keep a good balance.  

I often find myself falling into the trap of spending more time promoting my content, than actually working on my content.. and often that is to the detriment of my family.  In the struggle to make myself heard, I am spending time away from the things I should be focusing on.

Heather Lynne from Raising Memories really struck a nerve with me when she re-focused her blog and re-prioritized her blogging career. She wanted to limit the amount of time she was spending on her blog vs. spending with her family... and I definitely understand that. Ultimately, Heather Lynne didn't feel successful, and decided to completely step away from her blog for the month of February.  (A move I completely understand and respect. I applaud her for doing it, since it is quite courageous to do so.)  She took drastic action in hopes of getting a dramatic result and I truly hope that it works for her and she can come back to find the right balance.

I have begun to find that my blog is defining me.  I look at the world though the lens of my blog.. "Wow! That would be a great project for the blog" or "This recipe is really good, I wonder if I should blog about it.."  I see something cool and immediately take a photo for instagram, or tweet about it.  People are now immediately associating me with my blog.  My friends and family are constantly giving me ideas, and I love to share my successes with them.

But when is it all too much?  When do you start losing who you are and start being nothing but "that blogger"? That is a hard line to define sometimes, which is why I am in awe of Heather Lynne and  her ability to pull the plug and step away.  I feel like if I did that, I would be missing an actual piece of myself.  But I do think I need to work on my moderation.  I know like I am constantly saying that (and have been since 2010) but I still haven't gotten a handle on it.

Which leads me to:
2. Get more organized with my social media
Notice I didn't say "Spend more time on social media"? Since that is definitely NOT the goal.  I want to work smarter not harder.  I won't lie.. I want my blog to be successful, so I will have to play the 'social media game', but I have to always remember that my job is not social media.. my job is BLOGGING.  

Ironically, I do think I have been doing much better with this goal this month.  I am engaging with a lot of people (especially on Facebook.)  The problem with the book of face, is how it screens out what people see.  So although I love being myself over there and sharing things with everyone, it is still hard to get to 'know' everybody like I wish I could. 
I have been having a little more fun on Instagram, and of course twitter (which comes in fits and spurts) and I am finally dipping my toes into the waters of Google+.   I also have been much better about using Pinterest more consistently.  
All of this 'promotion' must be working because I had more pageviews in the month of January than I have ever had (since moving to my thekimsixfix.com URL.) 

I want to tell you that I am using some social media scheduling apps to make this a lot easier on myself.  I do go through and manually check all my notifications so if you do respond or ask me a question, send me a PM or email I will eventually get back to you.  But understand how I am not always immediately available, even if it seems like I'm tweeting, posting or pinning!

3. Attend Haven and BlogHer 2014
As of now, this is still the plan. I have my tickets for BlogHer.. and am trying to plan my trip to Atlanta for Haven, but there is no big rush.. yet.

4. Introduce Flashback Fridays
I hope you all are enjoying this series. I have been having a blast looking through my old photos when I'm preparing the new posts. I find pictures like this, which melt my heart and remind me of how fast the time is going.  
E: Dec 2009
J: Nov 2009
Baby J: Jun 2013
It brings up the same sentiment that I talked about earlier.  And can be summarized best with a quote from my favorite 1980s bad boy: 

Those kids are barely recognizable now.  They have grown up so fast.  I want to make sure I am enjoying them in every stage, since one day it will all be over.

What Does It Take To Write A Blog Post?

Actually happns
I recently wrote about my experiences with sponsored posts and why I think it is so important to make sure that the content within them is always worth reading.  I was actually surprised by how much traffic (and feedback) that post received.  Based on the majority of the responses to that piece (both on the post itself and on social media) I am clearly not the only one who feels that way.

It isn’t that I believe most bloggers set out with the goal of “write crappy sponsored posts and annoy my readers,” but sometimes that just happens.  Creating high quality sponsored posts usually means a lot more work than just regurgitating the sales pitch you are told to give.  Even with the best intentions, not every post will be a winner. Sometimes posts just don’t turn out like you envisioned. I admit that I have had that happen to me.

Good posts (sponsored or otherwise) are hard work..  and LOTS OF IT.  Most bloggers are already keenly aware of this, but a non-blogger may not realize what it actually takes get a post written and published. So today (and since I am tapped out of new projects to share.. #KeepingItReal) I am going to show you what it takes for me to create a post.

Apr 14, 2016

The 2014 BlogHer Conference Awards

BlogHer Conference Awards
So, if you follow me anywhere on social media (you know.. like here, or here, or here) , you are well aware I just spent my weekend at the 2014 BlogHer Conference in San Jose.

Normally I would not attend this mega-conference, but because it was right in my backyard this year I thought I would swing by. (I drove in every day, I didn’t need a hotel or anything.)  It was an.. say we say.. interesting.. experience.  After coming from the Haven Conference just 2 short weeks ago, I will admit that BlogHer had a lot to live up to.

I doubt I will ever attend another BlogHer conference unless it is in the Bay Area again, just because it was really NOT focused on experienced bloggers or anything to do with DIY.  It would be a great conference for a new blogger or anyone who blogs about women, kids, family, current events or lifestyle.  That is what the sessions and sponsors were focused on.

It isn’t that I had a bad time.. It was really quite fun, but I just didn’t feel like I could connect with a lot of the other attendees.  It was pretty much the polar opposite of my 2014 Haven experience, which was ALL about connecting with like-minded, similarly niched bloggers. I enjoyed many of the featured speakers and Voices of the Year, but I didn't feel like I got a lot out of the blogging sessions.  It was a lot more about 'entertainment' than it was about 'education' for me.

Okay.. enough of the negative!  I’ve learned that you don’t get anywhere by focusing on the negative, so instead of further discussion of why BlogHer wasn’t a great fit for me, I thought I would instead feature the stuff I DID love.  Without further ado, here are the:

2014 BlogHer Conference Awards  

Congrats to all the winners.. your checks are in the mail* 




Most Touching Moment:  Thank You Montage for Katherine Stone of PostparturmProgress

Apr 6, 2016

A Non-Professional's Experience at BlogHerPRO 2013

I just got back from an intense few days at the BlogHerPRO conference which was held in Silicon Valley this year.

Let me explain: I do NOT consider myself a "Professional Blogger" by any means.  
If I had to survive on my income from blogging to feed my family, we couldn't even afford Ramen. Blogging still has to fall into the "pastime" category for me.

I will confess, the only reason I attended was because I live in the Bay Area and it was going to be an "easy commute" over to the venue.  The reason I have "easy commute" in quotes is that anyone who lives around San Francisco/Silicon Valley can testify that there is no such thing as an easy commute.  On a good day I was facing at least an hour in traffic, but I had an unforseen complication of a public transportation strike to make it even more exciting.  I ended up staying in a hotel close to the venue to save myself the headache and turned the two days into a mini-vacation for myself. BEST.DECISION.EVER!

Not only did I learn quite a bit at the conference, but I also came home refreshed.   Check out the venue for the opening night's cocktail mixer:

One other cool thing about this specific conference (vs, say Haven for example) is that the participants were very different.  There were hardly any DIY bloggers there (I may even say there were NO other DIY bloggers there.. at least that I met), and I only recognized a handful of blog names.  I did however meet a TON of local bloggers whose blog topics ran the gamut from MommyBloggers to FoodBloggers, Self-HelpBloggers, TechBloggers and even a few people who blogged professionally about things like Medical Care, Law, and Business Development.   

There were a lot of bloggers at this conference with tens hundreds of thousands of followers and millions billions of pageviews and it would have been easy to be intimidated, but most people were super nice and easy to talk to;  Regular ol' people with regular ol' lives.  Even though I am a tiny blogger, I could actually relate to a lot of the "big guys."  In fact,  Britt Reints  (who spoke about Pivoting your Brand) even gave me a little shout out, after hearing my story of re-branding my blog earlier this year.
It was fascinating really (at least to me, who doesn't really run in non-DIY blog circles) to hear about other people's motivations for blogging and how they have found success.  (Pinterest isn't exactly a big traffic driver if you are blogging about Medicare or Binding Legal Contracts!)

And even though was quite a bit of information in the sessions that didn't (and probably won't ever) apply to me (like turning your blog into a marketable physical product,) the message of "You don't have to be perfect!" "Give yourself a break and just do the best that you can." and "Don't compare yourself to others!" still resonated.

All these (now) big professional bloggers had to start somewhere.  It struck me when keynote speaker Porter Gale said: "Miracles and success are an accumulation of small steps.  Baby steps still mean you are making progress!" (Totally random anecdote: She and I actually had a discussion about how the houses on Houzz are insanely large and over-the-top and just how fun that makes them to look at! See.. I told you.. regular ol' people! )

If you are interested in the information presented in any of the sessions, you should peruse though the Virtual Conference Blog Posts.  I promise, if you are a blogger, big or little, you will learn something.  
The final highlight of the whole event was the announcement that the next BlogHer conference (you know, the "BIG ONE!')  is going to be in San Jose!  My backyard!!  I hope that I will get to see a few of favorite fellow BlogHer Sponsored DIY bloggers there!
 I'm going to BlogHerPRO '13!