Blogging

New Year, New Blog Layout and thoughts about the New Generation of Bloggers

Yesterday, after months of debating, I went online and got myself an updated blog theme. The last time I had an update was 4 years ago so I am a bit overdue for a face lift. (Thank you Stacey for carrying me for the past 4 years with your amazing design. I will be forever grateful for all of your help.) The thing that was unusual for me about this move is that I am the type of person who agonizes over a decor or design decision. My husband will often say that I will waste more gas money going to 10 different stores to compare stuff that I want to buy than actually just buying the slightly more expensive item that I loved and found to begin with. Well I barely researched the 10000 themes out there and just went to one that caught my heart over a year ago and within 5 minutes, I bought it and went to work on the layout.

This may not seem like a big deal to most bloggers but to me this was a far bigger metaphor than you can imagine. Without getting into specifics as I don’t want that part of my private life to be up for public consumption, the past 2 years have been extremely trying and difficult for my health. So much so that I stopped writing, creating, making things and was forced to take time off, much to my immense frustration. And in that time, a lot of things changed online and within the blogging industry. Because that’s what it feels like now. An industry as opposed to a community.

A lot of new bloggers these days, particularly those in the home decor, design and fashion genre, start out with everything that us long time bloggers had to juggle and figure out over time. They launch websites that make online magazines look dated with sponsors lined up for every post. They have a queue of a dozen or more posts already written. They hire photographers to take photos of their decor, fashion and family for all forms of social media. They have scheduling programs, virtual assistants, affiliate link accounts and treat Instagram like a business marketing plan. Everything is branded and staged. Some are only in it to make money and have no qualms about telling you that.

So how does a blogger who started out with fuzzy photos on a Blackberry as a hobby and who got to meet other bloggers in their comments section before Pinterest was even around fit into this new world? Well, there is a disconnect. I feel it. Bloggers I chat with feel it. Because what happens is sometimes old bloggers look at new bloggers and think “Is this what brands want? Is this what I have to do now to maintain a blog? What happened to our community?” and sometimes new bloggers look at old timers and think “It’s not personal, it’s just business. What’s the problem?” Then I see brands and I think they’re just as confused as to what to do with all of us as our expectations are of them.

Well, I always go back to what a dear friend of mine always says and that is, “There is room for everyone on the internet.”

From my perspective (as it’s the only one I can give) there is something to be said about being able to stand back from it all and look at the Before and During and not the After. Because I don’t think we’re in the After stage of blogging, despite all the predictions of blogging being over back in 2014. Just like the next great yet to discovered social media platform, blogging is always evolving and if you do want to continue to work in this world of blogging, then you need to adapt as well. Think of it as investing into new skills to help you better run your blog.

That doesn’t mean you need to sell out or buy into an image that is not who you are or are uncomfortable with. Nor does it mean that I am somehow more real than the bloggers that hire photographers are (I stage my crafts and clean the crap out of my rooms before I take photos too). But if you’re a blogger who does make an income from their blog, you’ve probably realized that the standards for blogs are different now then they were years ago. Especially when it comes to working with brands and expectations of our social media presence.

For myself, I decided to continue this blog awhile back, after the privilege of taking it for granted was taken away from me these past while. It has also taken me a long time to reach a point where I realized that whether it’s 10 people or 10000 people reading, I have to want to do this for myself, not for anyone else. Because going down the numbers game is a very dangerous one. Your version of success has to be something you and only you are comfortable with. You cannot control Pinterest. You cannot control a post going viral. You cannot control Facebook’s next algorithm change. Another blogger being more talented at something is not going to make you more talented at the given thing.

What you can do, is write and create great content that you are best at, make sure your SEO and technical blog back end stuff is running smoothly and take those years of experience and figure out how to take advantage of all the skills and connections you made during this time to move forward. Don’t look at yourself as not enough – as I know through many conversations with blogging friends they feel like they don’t know where to fit in anymore. So many great voices and blogs have quit over the past while due to all the changes. I miss them and I wish they hadn’t stopped because I think that everything ebbs and flows and tomorrow may bring an entirely different direction.

For the new bloggers, I want to clarify, please don’t think I am generalizing here and lumping everyone into the same category. I am very well aware that not everyone starts out with a marketing plan or as a business or that you are a money hungry sell out if you do. I make money with my blog. It’s not a hobby for me anymore. They’re just overall observations that I’ve seen over the years in terms of how blogging has evolved and this post is more of a personal reflection and not an attack on anyone. Things have changed and it’s good sometimes to discuss those changes.

So what are some of my goals for the coming year on here? Well, it has taken me over half a year to get my numbers back up to where they were when I left off (so for the love of all that is good, just in case you’re wondering, blogging consistently does matter with Google) and in that time, my content has changed and how I want to go forward has definitely changed.

    • I want to write more. In a world full of You Tube videos, my passion is and always will be with writing. That’s not a bad thing. Good writers do really well with social media managing, copy writing and consulting. Just like good photographers do well on Pinterest and Instagram and personalities do great on You Tube. For those of you contemplating your skills, find the form of social media that you love the most and work on growing that.
    • Write more about blogging and social media. I’ve really grown to love talking about social media. A great deal of that is thanks to my kids, who barely acknowledge the TV anymore (unless they’re streaming You Tube) and are always up to date on the latest apps etc. I often get asked questions by other bloggers and friends and I hope to parlay that into more consistent consulting work with social media. What better place to help and talk about it all than here?
    • Continuing to blog with integrity. I know that word gets tossed around along with “authentic” when it comes to bloggers, but in recent years, it’s become much more important to me. I really and truly don’t mean for this to come across as super negative as is it not my intention, but it’s been very disappointing to see the lack of integrity being shown by other bloggers and social media influencers as of late. From buying fake followers, to schemes to increase their social media following and ranking, to stealing content and not crediting other bloggers all while making money off of their work, to say it’s not cool is an understatement. You reap what you sow and that will catch up to you.
    • Hosting more Giveaways and writing Product Reviews. I spent a lot of time looking over my stats and seeing who my audience was and why people were coming here. And to my horror and pleasant surprise, it wasn’t always what I thought. You all really like Giveaways (because who doesn’t like the chance to win cool free stuff?) and I never realized how many people need to know details about winter boots. You also really love me around Halloween, which is great because I love Halloween. Don’t expect miracles around Easter though.
    • Less crafts, more real life decor. This is kind of a big one given my project gallery but our lives here are changing. My kids are getting older and while they like making stuff, it’s not the same as it used to be. I started blogging about crafts with them because that’s what we did back then. Now they’re more interested in buying Valentine’s cards vs making them. But that again fits into the product reviews. I’m a Mom, I get that. I google for stuff all the time. Maybe I can share with you what they like and are decorating with and wearing as well. I know this may make people cry, but you don’t always have to DIY something, you can just buy it. I mean DIY it if it brings you joy, but don’t feel guilty for buying store bought Valentine’s for one second. That goes for Halloween costumes as well.
    • Long term brand ambassadorships and to cultivate one (or more) with a brands I love. This is a big one. Writing post after post for different brands is well, kinda old school and not in a good way. Audiences are savvier and smarter. I know I notice when a blogger jumps from brand to brand and that makes me trust them less and puts a bad taste in my mouth. This also has a negative impact for the brand. My hope for the future is that brands and companies develop long term working relationships with bloggers. Think of a 6 month / year long partnership rather than a one off post. Especially if it’s with the right blogger who genuinely loves their brand. This is a very important topic and one which I want to write about. It’s so much more rewarding being able to be a part of a brands family and know that stability of consistent work.
    • Stop overthinking. With post topics, with social media scheduling and other Pinterest wizardry and algorithm changes. Just write. Not everyone is going to like or read every post and that is ok.
    • Better. F**king. Pictures. Seriously. Please tell me to stop with the white backdrops. I may lose my own mind.
    • Continue to expand into other blog topics. As much as I love Home Decor and DIY there is a lot more in my life going on. Except for kitchens. I am a kitchen renovation obsessed human being. My husband wishes I wasn’t.
    • Cleaning up my blog behind the scenes. Fixing old photos, links, SEO. I have almost 5 years worth of content that I’d say 50% of is never seen due to crap photos, bad labeling and really bad SEO. That needs to change.

I realize this is a pretty heavy handed and long winded post and quite the opposite you’d expect in today’s blogging environment of light snippet paragraphs. But you know what? That’s me. I write speeches and novels and help you get through shitty morning commutes on your train or subway. Or give you something to read when you cozy up on your couch with a glass of wine in your hand after you put your kids to sleep. Whoever you are, I am thankful that you’ve taken the time to come visit this little pocket of the internet.

And no matter how ancient comment sections are these days, I really want to hear your thoughts on blogging. Whether you are an old hat blogger or a new blogger navigating everything or even if you’re an avid blog reader, I want to hear from you. How has blogging changed? How do you feel about the future of your blog? What changes, if any, would you like to see? Where do you think it will go? What do you like or dislike with them? No matter what your thoughts, let’s talk.

14 Comments

  • Reply
    Jessica
    January 7, 2017 at 9:51 pm

    As a new blogger it can be super tough because it feels like you need to start out at your absolute A game on multiple platforms or else you’ll fail miserably.

    It’s a lot of pressure.

  • Reply
    Laurie @Vin'yet Etc
    January 7, 2017 at 10:34 pm

    Standing ovation! Loved every word! And congratulations on the new look… Can’t wait to have a peek on my desk top.

  • Reply
    Susan
    January 7, 2017 at 11:48 pm

    I am a reader of blogs, not a blogger and probably never be one. I love to read and the fact that because I live in South Africa our currency is useless I can honestly say I have visited many countries from my desk. I love hearing about how bloggers live, their children and their crafts even what they eat. Pictures always grab my attention and the quality is not an issue. Pinterest is not my thing. Too many pictures are the same. I think that there are too many followers and not enough original thinkers.

  • Reply
    Jennifer Flores (@ramblingreno)
    January 7, 2017 at 11:50 pm

    ‘Old’ Alex, I’m glad you’re back and back to blogging. We’ve talked about these topics many a time so you know my thoughts. And while I do miss the early days, I’ve come to realize the things that first drew me to reading blogs – the discourse, the stories, the head-shaking, I-get-you feeling when you chance upon a like-minded blogger – they’re still there. After blogging now almost 10 years on (OMG!), I’ve learned I can’t compete with the new, shiny, better prepared and I don’t have to. I can keep my head down, focused on my own stuff, and continue to treat my own little corner of the online world as a safe and happy place. The only one stopping us is, well, ourselves. Looking forward to reading more from you this year.

    • Reply
      Alex
      January 10, 2017 at 10:30 am

      Jen! I need to let you know, I have loved your blog since day 1! It will always continue to be a source of inspiration and “safety” for me. 🙂

  • Reply
    Courtney
    January 7, 2017 at 11:51 pm

    Wow. Alex. I was introduced to your blog from Thalita/The Learner Observer and I have been following along for some time; I’m a new blogger (1 year) and am at a point where I’m feeling a bit strange and overwhelmed about it all, like I don’t know what I’m doing or where I’m going. This post is exactly what I needed right now, and if I’m being honest, I was a little nervous at the start there… (until your clarification came on the newbies!) I really appreciate your honest and thoughtful approach to this topic. Blogging is very strange – building a community of people you may never see; constantly judging and comparing yourself against others (whether they are new or expert-level); trying to build and maintain working relationships with fellow bloggers for your own sanity, and holding yourself accountable to posting quality content that sometimes you can only hope for others to read and enjoy. It feels like a crazy game sometimes, one I have no idea how to play. But through blogging, I have learned a LOT and it has brought me to the perfect place at the perfect time on many occasions – today it brought me here, to you. I respect and appreciate this post, truly. You are a gifted writer and I look forward to seeing how your blog evolves in the future …and hey, especially the parts about blogging, I would LOVE to hear more from an expert and fellow Canadian! I’m so glad I read this post until the end. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed digesting your thoughts and I thank you for having the courage to share them. All the best to you!
    xo
    Courtney

  • Reply
    Nicole Boyhouse
    January 8, 2017 at 10:05 am

    Love it. I blog just for myself, mostly. Can’t get caught up in numbers.

  • Reply
    dogsdonteatpizzakaren
    January 8, 2017 at 10:52 am

    Yes, yes, yes! Do what speaks to you and we’ll keep reading. I totally agree (as an “old” blogger!) and feel ya.

  • Reply
    Darlene
    January 8, 2017 at 12:08 pm

    Alex, I’m a daily blog reader and I follow you because you are REAL…and a fellow Canadian. I like that you spill your guts, you swear and you are, dare I say it, honest. It’s refreshing to read about everyday life, whether it’s happy or sad because it shows that you’re a real person with real feelings, values and struggles. The new look is terrific and easier on the eyes. Keep on being you because that’s who made me want to be a part of your online community even if we’ll never meet each other. Kudos to you!

  • Reply
    Cynthia
    January 8, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    Hi Alex. What a heartfelt and inspiring post. Your reflections are so important for us all to hear and learn from. Thank you for sharing so honestly.

  • Reply
    Shauna
    January 8, 2017 at 5:07 pm

    First off, the new theme looks great! You have me convinced it’s time. Have to agree with you on the evolution of blogging and finding your way back. I went through a similar experience last year and came to the realization I just have to continue being ME! Can’t wait to see what follows!

  • Reply
    Lindi
    January 8, 2017 at 5:30 pm

    Your theme looks amazing! Love it!! Also, I don’t know if I count as “old” or “new” blogger because I basically figured everything out for myself and suffered in silence for a long time, lol. This was a great read. I also love your goals – and I’m thinking that since I have the personality… maybe I should invest more in YouTube! Lol.

  • Reply
    Alex
    January 10, 2017 at 10:28 am

    Love the new theme! Black never goes outta style!

    Also, I really loved reading this. It was something I needed to see. It’s such a challenge lately…. this blogging game. Because that’s what it feels like… a game. I consider myself an old school blogger. I started before the days of wordpress and plugins. I built and coded all of my themes (like you, I have jumped on the train for a new facelift). I stopped caring this past year about numbers – because I want to blog for me, and what I like researching about. I’ll never have the thousands of followers on social media or email lists, but that’s ok.

    Thanks for writing this Alex, makes me feel more “normal” 🙂

    XO

  • Reply
    Amy @ Love On Sunday
    January 10, 2017 at 10:34 am

    I love the new theme, Alex! To be honest, I was really disappointed to find out that some of the new influencers I follow are paying to get followers. It seems like an app that automatically likes other pages (what are these things even called?!). I definitely don’t post on my blog as much as I used to, but I’m working on that. I think as long as you’re sharing something of value and you’re true to yourself, that’s all that matters at the end of it all. And you always do so I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts 🙂

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