Guest Post | Best Plugins for WordPress

blogger lauren jane on talentedtalkers.com

One of the main motivators for moving my blog to Word Press was the extensive range of plugins available.  The plugins I use either optimise my site or make my life easier.  I work full time and blog as a hobby, therefore anything to help me improve things quickly, is a winner in my book.  In this post I want to share four of my favourite plugins with you.

  1. Yoast SEO

I am by no means an expert in SEO, and can use all the help I can get.  Yoast SEO is a brilliant plugin that analyses your blog posts.  Yoast analyses the focus keyword you set for your post and provides you with a traffic light report of your post.  Tips on your meta description, word count, SEO title, links and more are given.  The plugin also analyses the readability of your content, as well as suggesting improvements.  Now before I post any blog post, I try to ensure my analysis is flagged green.  You can upgrade to a premium version of the plugin, but for now I’m happy using the free version.

  1. Askimet Anti-Spam

If you’ve been blogging for any amount of time, I’m sure spam comments will have been the bane of your life at one point or another.  Askimet is a great plugin that saves me a lot of time.  Askimet moves all comments flagged as spam into a separate folder.  You can either simply delete all comments marked as spam, or review them yourself.  I find 99% of the time, the comments flagged as spam are indeed spam.  I personally prefer using Askimet to asking my readers to complete a captcha, as I find they sometimes put people off from commenting.

  1. Compress JPEG & PNG images

We’re told site speed impacts how Google ranks our blogs.  You’re likely to include a lot of imagery in your blog posts, which are going to slow down your site if you don’t compress.  Many people compress their images prior to uploading, or host on third party sites.  Personally, I don’t as I’m always short on time, and therefore I use Compress JPEG & PNG images.  I use the free version of this plugin which allows me to compress around 100 images per month.  I don’t upload anywhere near 100 new images per month, therefore running the free version allows me to compress older images as well.  In time I’ll have compressed all my images for free. You can of course pay to optimize all of your images.

  1. Title and Nofollow For Links

It is against Google’s terms to include paid of follow links in your blog posts.  There is a lot of conversation out there in the blogosphere about this topic, as many people do not follow the guidelines set out by Google.  I’m sure you, like I, have been turned down for opportunities simply for refusing to do so.  In order to make marking links as ‘no follow’ as simple as possible, I use the plugin Title and Nofollow For Links.  This plugin adds a checkbox to the ‘Insert/edit link’ pop up, and you simply check the box to mark it as Nofollow.

Are there any plugins that you find make your life easier?  I’d love to try them if I’m not already.  Get in touch either via my blog, Instagram or Twitter.

This week’s Guest Post comes from Lauren, from www.bylaurenjane.co.uk. If you’re interested in writing a guest post for us, drop us a line at chat@talentedtalkers.com or tweet us @talentedtalkers. 

What it’s like being a Prince’s Trust Digital Ambassador | Laura Ferry

What it’s like being a Prince’s Trust Digital Ambassador | Laura Ferry

What is your involvement with The Prince’s Trust?

I work with The Prince’s Trust as a Digital Ambassador, using my platforms as a blogger on social media to share the positive ways that they impact the lives of young people, many of which are vulnerable, by giving them support, life skills and the confidence needed for further education, the workplace and beyond.  I love to shout about the free courses that they offer to those under 30.

Why did you choose The Trust as your charity of choice?

I am really proud to call the North East my home but it is usually considered to be a low socioeconomic area and there’s loads of kids here who grow up thinking that they’re not going to amount to anything when they’re older.  This happens all over the country but to counter that, the work of The Prince’s Trust reaches nationwide too.  I have seen first hand the impact that one of The Prince’s Trust courses had on someone that I know and they were able to really kick start their career as a result of completing one of their courses.  I’m really passionate about young having an equal start to succeed in life but often mainstream school takes a one size fits all approach and when difficulties occur in life, its hard for children to access the right support and get back on track.  I love that The Prince’s Trust are completely none judgmental and will help regardless of background, hardships and vulnerability, they help to give young people the skills and increase in self esteem to reach their potential.

Despite facing my own set backs in life, increasing my self esteem and confidence has had such a positive impact on my career and life in general and as well as promoting the courses that The Prince’s Trust offer, I want to share the experiences and knowledge that have helped me with the young people, along with generating discussions around wellbeing and mental health, in the hope of inspiring and helping them on their journey.

What would you say to other bloggers wanting to reach out and help The Trust?

If you’re passionate about the lives and success of young people and want to use your voice in a positive way, then get in touch with The Prince’s Trust.  They’re great to work with and open to ideas so that they can reach as many young people as possible.

To learn more about The Prince’s Trust, visit their website.

We Explain | Traveling Hard on a 9-5

We Explain | Traveling Hard on a 9-5

One of the things I get asked a lot – like, every time I have to decline someone’s flat warming or baby shower or birthday drinks because of it, is: how do you get to travel so much? That’s usually always followed by: how do you *afford* to travel so much? Which, honestly is an entirely different blog post so for the sake of keeping things simple, let’s tackle the first question first.

I *get* to travel so much, because it’s my passion. It’s what makes me happy, it’s where I find my creativity, my hunger for culture, my – well, *actual* hunger too (I have definitely travelled for food), so for me, travel is my hobby. Some people like dancing in ridiculously high shoes until athe early hours of the morning, overpriced drink in hand; I don’t. Some people have houses they fill with plants and prints and soft furnishings; I don’t. Some people have expensive gym memberships, or kids (human or otherwise), or a real passion for spending their weekends in bed; I don’t. Well, except for that last thing, which I kind of do, too, but you know what I mean.

Travel is my hobby. And I doubt I spend any more time on my hobby than others do theirs, the only difference is that I record my hobby online, too. Yes, my blog is also my job (not in the way I will ever earn enough to run it without having to work in a *real job* too, but in the way that I work hard, dedicate hours, and am afforded opportunities through it) and I take care of it and it brings me joy, and so the two things combined are really when I am at my happiest.

I think it was Richard Branson who said that “clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients”, and the best way to take care of your employees is to allow for and maintain a work/life balance. I have that in spades, luckily, and that definitely helps with being able to travel so much. It’s not unusual for me to have one or two Mondays or Fridays off a month because I’m off exploring another city for a long weekend, because I try to make the most of my annual leave like that. I rarely take chunks of time off, and when I do, it’s for long-haul trips that deserve the dedicated time.

https://unsplash.com/photos/VVgVlH1D10U

Which brings me to some points:

Be creative with your time off

Taking a Monday or Friday off is great if you want a long weekend, but you’ll often find that Tuesdays and Thursdays are when the flights are the cheapest, and Wednesdays is when you will find all the sales start. Why? Hump Day mentality, I think, but whatever the case, don’t do your travel bookings on a Monday. And, always clear your cache before you do as that way you’ll get the very best deal.

Be open minded with your destination

The “search everywhere” function on Skyscanner is one of the best things to have been invented, as it will literally search every single airport and airline in the UK for the lowest fare to everywhere that planes fly to. It’s great, and it’s how 50% of my destinations are decided.

Be prepared to not stop all weekend

If you don’t have a lot of time off, then you do really need to make the most of your trip. Trip Advisor and the local Time Out page will offer you the best 10 things to do in any given city, so have a look through, see what appeals, and plan your days accordingly. For me that means hitting everything in one area first, then move back towards wherever I’m staying. I will always be a little flexible with that, as you never know what you’ll discover along the way, and often there will be hidden gems for you to uncover yourself, too.

Be ready to be shattered

I make no secret of how tiring travelling can be. Last year I did 18 trips in total, including one two-week stint in Japan. That’s a lot of not-being-home, and so from the minute I finished work I’d be heading home back to bed. Honestly, catching up with sleep was like my second favourite thing to do last year (after eating), and over Christmas I literally stayed inside my house for almost a week; as much as travelling makes me happy, it really can be a little exhausting.

This year I promised myself more slow travel, and – as of this week have only had/booked seven trips for this year. Two of those are big ones (to NYC for a week over my birthday, and NZ for Christmas), and the others all being in and around Europe/Mediterranean, and…I feel better for it. I’m spending more time at home, with friends, in London – and that makes me just as happy as travel does. I’m certainly not *done* with travelling so much, but I’m certainly going to be more sensible about it from now on.

Up next: a long weekend in Luxembourg at the end of May. Where are you heading next?

Erica is head of digital promotions at Talented Talkers, and also runs a travel and lifestyle blog at imbeingerica.com

Blogging Tips | Blogging Alongside a Full Time Job

Blogging Tips | Blogging Alongside a Full Time Job

Balancing blogging and a fulltime job can be tough. Throw in the keeping fit, events, life admin (cleaning, and all that other boring stuff), and socialising, and 24 hours does not feel long enough. I couldn’t tell you how many tweets I’ve seen highlighting the constant (losing) battle. So, we wanted to gather a few tips and ideas from different bloggers themselves, to help you feel a little more on top of it, more motivated, and mostly so you can keep enjoying it – or at the very least so you don’t feel alone.

“Take some time out if you need it – working AND blogging is hard on the brain, and it’s better to post less but higher quality content than to churn out a post when you’re not feeling it because you feel like you *have* to. The blogging part should be FUN!” – Milly @ mini-adventures.com

“Take your full lunch break! It’s amazing how much you can get done in an hour :)” – Natalie @ hellocuppies.com

“In lifestyle posts, don’t be afraid to use stock images – credited properly or use from a website like pixabay” – Bonnie @ bonnieinwonderland.wordpress.com

“Always keep a note pad handy to note down ideas when you’re out and about or at work as you never know when inspiration will call” – Kathy @ glitzandglamourmakeup.co.uk

“Write about your passions and what you want to…Don’t be hard on yourself” – Afshan @ afshanesque.co.uk

“I find it good to have some ‘spare’ photos ready to post to social media on days where you may not be able to get pictures” – Daniella @ myspiritualvibes.com

“I’ve found dictation very useful. It’s great to just talk into my phone when an idea comes into my head. It saves time typing it all out and I have something to edit later” – Victoria @ Thegrowingmum.com

“It’s important not to use all of your free time to do your blog, it will only get too much for you and you’ll find that you may just produce something you aren’t happy with” – Emma @ carpediememmie.co.uk

“As a new blogger, it’s easy to get distracted and overwhelmed with everything you need to do. The physical act of writing a list with pen and paper is a lifesaver, as well as being oddly therapeutic!” – Terri @ musingsonmidlife.com

“Have a plan, that’s flexible and find what works for you in terms of posting schedule and content creation, but most importantly still find time to have fun blogging” – Stephanie @ lifeat139a.com

“Get a tweet scheduler to take some of the work out for you, there’s nothing worse than coming home and having to worry about promotion on top of writing” – Kariss @ shystrangemanic.com

“I use apps that sync from my phone to my laptop. That way I can write on the go and all my notes are up to date and in one place” – Rosie @ damzelinthisdress.com

“Be nice to yourself and do not compare your blog to someone who blogs full time – at some points you might find yourself trying to reach their levels of productivity and time dedication and it will do more bad than good. Instead, congratulate yourself for doing the things you do and allow yourself all the breaks and time you need” – Kamila @ kamzonline.com

“Wherever I am, if any content inspiration hits me, I’ll always note it down in my phone’s notes. I could be on the tube heading to work and an idea will hit me but rather than let it pass and forget it, I’ll always write it down and come back to it when I have time to pursue it” – Leigh @ foxandfeatherblog.com

“I personally use my lunchtime to listen to podcasts and audiobooks which is where I get a lot of my inspiration from. I’ll often be out on a walk while I do as I tend to get my best ideas then. I’ll make notes on my phone for blog post and promotion ideas, drafting in bullet-points that I then turn into posts in my evenings and weekends” – Lee @  quitefranklee.com

“Most importantly, you should remember that not blogging if you are busy is okay! Make sure you are having fun and don’t see your blog as a chore”. Viki @ vikibell.com

“My best tip – don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If you don’t have time, don’t force yourself to produce blog posts filled with substandard content – only publish posts you are proud of – if you don’t have time, cut back on how often you post” – Lucy @ absolutelylucy.com

“Write from your heart. Don’t write for writings sake. These are the posts that make the most difference!” – Becci @ swordsandsnoodles.co.uk

“Write when it feels right and don’t push it when you’re not feeling it – it might not be that it’s a bad topic your brain might just be needing a break since you’ve been at work all day/week” – Kirsty @ kirstythroughthelookingglass.com

We hope you found these tips helpful. But as always, feel free to tweet us/comment below with any questions, or any more you think will help others.

Have a fab week!

Chloe is a digital promotions exec at Talented Talkers, and runs a lifestyle blog at lashesoflifestyle.
Find out more about the #TalentedTalkers team here, and don’t forget to use the hashtag if you found this post helpful!

We Explain | SEO Basics

We Explain | SEO Basics

‘SEO’ (Search Engine Optimisation) is something that gets mentioned a tonne in the Blogosphere, but it can be a little intimidating whether you’re just starting out as a blogger, or you’re an old pro – but, not to fear, I’ve been working in SEO for a good few years now (what? But Fran, you almost never mention it?!), so I’ve got you covered with some SEO basics to get you started!

Work out your keywords

SEO is basically all about your search rankings – which basically means where you end up on Google when people search for certain words – otherwise known as ‘keywords’. So, before you get started with optimising your blog, you really have to work out what keywords you want your blog to rank well for – the more specific, the better. Terms like ‘lifestyle blog’ or ‘travel blog’ are pretty generic, so it’ll be pretty hard to get on the first page of search results for, but more specific keywords, like ‘London-based student lifestyle blog’ or ‘budget travel blog based in the UK’ will be easier to get a good search engine placement with, although they won’t be as commonly searched. It’s all about balancing out keywords that people are searching for, but don’t have tonnes of competition. That’s where keyword tools, like Google’s Keyword Planner, come in – they’ll help you really find the right balance…and once you’ve settled on a couple of key phrases, it’s time to optimise your blog!

Sort out your meta tags

You’ve probably heard this phrase floating around a lot in the Blogosphere, but what does it even mean? Meta tags are basically words that describe your blog content to search engines, so they get a better idea of your content – and they’re also the text that shows up on a Google page underneath the link, so potential readers will see it, too. This is a really important place to include your chosen keyword(s), as well as a little basic info about your blog – factors like where you’re based, your name, and how long you’ve been blogging for can all be really valuable in your meta tags.
Whilst you can add your meta tags with HTML, if you’re not 100% confident with that, most blogging platforms also let you do it on the interface, so no worries if you’re not a coding whiz!

Add some image info

You’ve probably seen, when uploading an image on your blog, the options to add ‘alt text’ to them…but what does that mean? Alt image text is basically a short sentence that describes the content of your image to a search engine, so people can find it easier if they’re looking for a specific picture. For instance, if you’ve got a great blog post with swatches of an entire new range of products, adding alt image text to those swatches – ‘swatches from the new X range by Y brand’ – will mean that it’ll rank better in an image search if someone’s looking.
The other use of alt image text is that it’s great for accessibility – people who are partially sighted or blind are able to enjoy photographs a lot more when they have descriptive text attached.

Get rid of broken links

Broken links are awful for SEO, as they stop the search engine’s crawlers from being able to index your page properly, and lower your domain authority, too. It can be a mammoth job, finding all the broken links in your archives, but thankfully, there are tonnes of online broken link checkers online to help you out, so you can find them directly. Depending on how many there are, it can be a couple of hours’ work, but it can make a huge difference to your SEO and DA.

Use your No Follow links

If you’ve done sponsored content before, you probably know your way around a ‘no-follow’ link: it’s basically an attribute you can add to a link that tells a search engine that you don’t endorse that link; that you’re not vouching for it in any way. Any time you’re linking to something you genuinely like or find valuable and think your followers should check out, you’re free to leave it as a ‘do-follow’ link, though.

I hope you found that helpful, but as always, drop us an email at chat@talentedtalkers.com, or tweet us @talentedtalkers if you have any questions!

We Explain | Simple Food Photography Tips

We Explain | Simple Food Photography Tips

I’m pretty sure we’ve all been there – we’ve been out for an incredible meal or made a superb dinner and yet just can’t get THAT shot. The lighting is poor. The presentation of the dish doesn’t correctly represent how good it tastes. Knowing which angle to shoot or how busy the shot should be is a huge internal debate. By the time you get to eat, your food is just warm and you still haven’t got a shot good enough to justify it.

Simple Food Photography Tips

Sometimes this still happens to the best photographers – you can’t always be in control of every situation (I know that’s difficult to hear for some of us control freaks). To hopefully help make those times fewer and far between and make nailing those food shots come more naturally (it all takes practise), I’ve compiled a list of helpful, simple tips from my own photography experience shooting for food clients and my blog to share with you. So, here you go! Simple food photography tips!

Presentation: 

We all know presentation is important. If you’re cooking at home, it can be a tiny bit easier to correct presentation as you have an array of tools at your disposal. Some key things I’ve found useful for home-cooked dishes are:

  • Plates look better with food stacked, rather than spread across the plate – think height
  • Make sure your plates are perfectly clean and smear free – remove any liquid/crumbs which have come into place from serving the food unless of course, they add to the effect you want to achieve. A good camera will pick these up, and it’s harder to remove with editing than wiping them off in the first place!
  • Longer vegetables, such as Tenderstem or baby corn, work better as sides, than peas or sweetcorn
  • Think about all the colours – Home-cooked roasts are regularly classed as one of the most unattractive food posts, and this is often because it’s pretty beige. Consider the colours in your dish, and try to add extra colourful ingredients where possible
  • If all else fails, a sprinkle of herbs on top of a dish can add colour and do wonders for the overall appearance

Simple Food Photography Tips

If you’re out for a meal, most chefs will have the presentation in mind, especially in the age of Instagram. However, there might be the odd time when you need to smarten the dish up. Don’t be afraid to do so.

  • Ask for extra napkins and wipe the edges of plates – just like if you were at home
  • Make the most of any additional props you have on the table, or can pick up from different stations around the restaurant i.e. sauces
  • Move parts of the meal (the bits you can) – i.e. straighten burger buns and position gherkins, place sides which arrive separately close by or position on the plate

Simple Food Photography Tips

If the dish itself is pretty beige, then think about how else you can add colour to the shot – perhaps there are colourful napkins, tea towels, bright drinks, table decorations, or a colourful wall in the restaurant you could use as the background –  take a few shots and see which works best.

Simple Food Photography Tips

Lighting: 

This is a constant bugbear of many, especially in the winter when the sun is lower and daylight hours are limited. Not everyone has fancy lighting they carry around, and when out for dinner taking a speed-light flash unit is not appropriate so we have to work with what we have. For these quite infuriating times:

  • Use the aperture priority setting, set the ISO to auto, and use the lowest aperture to get the fastest shutter speed. This does mean you won’t get a very wide depth of shot (the background will be blurred out), but the main focal point should be good enough quality to be able to edit
  • Use another light – e.g. another phone light. Play with the angle of the lighting and even try and cover the phone light with a napkin/tissue to give it a more natural feel. You might get shadows with this method, so it does take a few shots to see where is best for the light to be positioned to minimise this
  • Have a go using custom white balance. Katy English has written a great post on this here.

Simple Food Photography Tips

Angles/Composition:

This is another key aspect that can make or break a photo – think about it…a simple pastry can look pretty superior when photographed along with a swirly flat white, on a marble tabletop, accompanied by a handbag/scarf/colourful book/diary, taken at a height.  Here are some points to consider/do:

  • Do your research – Spend some time on Instagram looking at similar dishes/foods and how they’re shot. Get a feel for the best angles and compositions and take notes for future shots
  • Turn plates around and experiment with different directions – the compositions of two or more plates can interact with one another, so take a few photos with plates in different directions
  • Take photos of different angles (flat lays and from the side), so you can look back later when editing to decide which works best for what you want to achieve – you might change your mind later
  • Again, think about any other props you can possibly use, and play around with including them in the frame, whether all in or only part featured

Simple Food Photography Tips

Editing:

There are a number of editing tools/programs which can be used, and it’s really all about finding the best for you. Lightroom is a fab photo editing product, and I will go into this in a later post. However you don’t need to pay lots to be able to get great quality food photos – I used to edit my blog photos through Instagram, playing with the manual tools. It’s all about finding something which works for you.

I will mention here though, the one big faux pas I’ve seen in edited photos is the images being made too warm due to being oversaturated. Be careful – saturating images is great in making colours like greens and reds pop, but it can add extra warmth to the image. Be sure to counteract the increased saturation with a reduction in warmth. Look at any white space in the image, and use this as a gauge – does it look true white?

Simple Food Photography Tips

Practice:

I know it’s annoying to hear, but it really is all about practice. Get the camera out and shoot everything you eat, experimenting with the presentation of the dish, lighting, angles and composition. You’ll start to get used to what works for what type of food/dish.

Simple Food Photography Tips

Scroll through Instagram and build a bank of ideas for future shots, and try them out. This is one of the best tools for photography ideas, with 95 million photos and videos posted each day, so make sure you utilise it.

Any questions, leave us a comment or come say hi on Twitter/Instagram!

Discover your own strength in five minutes + a giveaway! – Sally Bibb (Author)

Discover your own strength in five minutes + a giveaway! – Sally Bibb (Author)

It’s human nature to focus more on our weaknesses because we are programmed to be alert to risks in our environment. We end up focusing on what isn’t working, often overshadowing all the positives. But what if you focused on and played to your strengths instead?

 

I (author Sally Bibb) have recently released The Strength Book, a practical and succinct book aims to revolutionise your life by helping you to identify what exactly makes you happy so that you will make the right choices; decide whether a job, activity or course is right for you; and understand why things seem to flow with some activities and some people, and not others. Knowing these things about yourself, and spending more time on what really energises and fulfills you – your strengths – will ultimately lead to a happier and more successful life.

 

Have you ever thought about why you are how you are, why certain things excite you and others drain you, even why you thrive on being a free thinking blogger type? Most people don’t really think about these things. But this insight can make a massive difference to your enjoyment, success and confidence.

 

Let me explain.

 

We know from neurobiology that we are who we are by the time we’re in our teens. After that we don’t change that much. So, for example, if you love connecting with people chances are that gives you a buzz and you’re good at it. On the other hand, if you’re not competitive but end up in a sales job you are never going to be great at it and it will likely drain you.

 

Sadly, some people end up drifting into careers they don’t really love and end of trying to make themselves into something they’re not. So, knowing your strengths is really important if you’re to find something you really love. Also, once you know your strengths you can use them more consciously and more often. This means you will be even better at what you do!

 

What do I mean by a strength? It’s something you’re naturally good at, love doing and energised by. Try this five minute exercise to discover yours: answer these three questions as honestly as you can:

 

1.     What did I do last week that I really love doing and energises me? List as many of the activities you can remember, however short

 

I had a great call with a new client about a blog post I’m writing for him, he loved some new ideas I’d shown him. I punched the air afterwards!

 

2.     What is it about me that meant I loved those things so much?

 

I like sharing my creative ideas and seeing my followers excited about them.
I like collaborating to spark new ideas.
I like knowing what the next step will be because it feels like progress is being made.
I like feeling I’m doing a good job and that my creative work is appreciated.

 

3.     Now list all the strengths you used in the above activities and highlight the three that give you the biggest buzz:

 

I’m good at explaining/communicating/sharing/teaching my ideas.
I’m creative.
I energise people and projects, my projects make progress (unless there is a factor outside my control!)
People often feel motivated and excited after talking to me about a project. I inspire people.
I encourage ideas generation – I make ‘two heads are better than one’ happen! People often say, you made me think of something new, or I always feel better/clearer/more on it after a call with you.
I understand quickly what people need/want to showcase online and can make it happen.
I’m good at keeping projects on track because I’m organised and conscientious
OR
If you’re a more visual person, draw this or make a collage with images that fit.
OR
If you’re more auditory, record yourself talking about this or speak to a friend or colleague about it.
OR
If you’re a very physical person imagine three large squares on the ground, each representing one of the three questions. Stand in each square as you answer each question. Then in the third square (the three strengths that give you the biggest buzz), strike a pose that represents the things that give you a great buzz.


In honour of the release, I’m giving away 2 copies of The Strengths Book to 2 Talented Talkers readers! Head over to their Instagram account to find out more!

We Explain | How to Beat the Latest Instagram Algorithm

We Explain | How to Beat the Latest Instagram Algorithm

Instagram: it’s the platform we all love to hate, right? Especially now that the Instagram algorithm changes are no longer published on their blog, meaning that you have to dig through their help section for details on all the changes.

What was once the fastest-growing and most engaging social media for most of us has, after one-too-many algorithm changes, quickly become a source of stress and far too many rules for almost every type of blogger or influencer.
And, January marks yet another update, with more and more rumours circling of what is and isn’t likely to get your engagement up, how to avoid shadow-bans, and whether your followers are even able to see your posts…so, it’s Fran here, and I’m rounding up the best tips and tricks for the latest updates, as well as some general ways to improve your engagement.macbook and iphone sit on a white fluffy blanket, with Instagram open on the iphone's screen

1. Use those stories

One of the biggest changes Instagram have made lately is the changes to how stories are displayed in your feed, with story suggestions not only being much larger than they were previously, but are also now showing up mid-feed. What does this mean for you? There’s now even more reason to add to your stories and keep them updated! Instagram counts story views as engagement in their algorithm, meaning that if someone watches your story often, your posts also show up higher in their feed – win/win!

2. Hashtag wherever you want – but do it fast

There’s a lot of debate all over the web as to where you should hashtag – in your caption or in the comments – but the truth is, the actual location of the tags doesn’t matter as much as how quickly you do it. The reason some people prefer to hashtag in their caption is because it means that your post appears in the hashtag feed, at the top, as soon as you post it, whereas if you post in the comments, you’ll appear in the feed, but your order in the results will depend on when you posted the picture, not when you added the hashtag (source: adweek). That means, if you post a picture at 6pm, then don’t hashtag it until 7pm, you’ll show up in the hashtag behind all the other people who have posted their photo in the hashtag in the last hour – not great if you’re posting in a packed hashtag, as it means you’ll spend no time at the top of the tag page.
If you’re posting your picture and then commenting straight away with the hashtags, however, it probably won’t make a massive difference.

3. Respond to your comments

If you’re anything like me, you probably forget to reply to Instagram comments all the time occasionally, but that could be why your engagement is suffering. The more likes and comments you get on a post, the more your followers are likely to see it in their feed – so if you’re getting one comment, that’s great – but if you’re getting that comment, responding, then getting a conversation going, your post is doing even better by the Instagram algorithm standards…! Get chatting!

4. Get yourself a business account

We’ve already covered the benefits of your Instagram business account on the blog before, so we won’t bore you with too many details if you’ve already read it – but if you haven’t, or if you’ve got a business account and aren’t sure if you’re using it as well as you could, have a read – you’d be seriously surprised how much having all those extra stats and analytics can help your engagement sore, weird Instagram algorithm or not.

5. Stop spamming

Okay, so that’s a little harsh – we’re sure you’re not actually spamming anyone…at least not deliberately. It’s a not-very-well-kept ‘secret’ that Instagram’s algorithm tends to view any comments under 3 words as spam – meaning not only does it flag your account if you’re leaving comments like ‘so pretty!’ or ‘that’s cute’, but it also doesn’t count them towards your engagement if you’re receiving comments like that. Your best bet is to leave slightly longer, more specific comments on others’ posts, and hopefully get some in return.

Bonus: have fun!

Whilst there are definitely a few tips to take on board to help defend your feed against the Instagram algorithm changes, everyone knows that engagement is hard to get – brands aren’t necessarily all caught up in the numbers when they’re looking for influencers and bloggers to work with, and as long as you’re producing great content and having authentic conversations, you shouldn’t be, either. Don’t let the algorithm get you down!

We Explain: How to use Pinterest to boost your blog posts

We Explain: How to use Pinterest to boost your blog posts

When we think of social media, Pinterest is always included on that list. That said, it’s a bit of a weird social media. You tend to have people either SUPER into Pinterest but not totally sure how it relates to their blog, or people who avoid the platform all together ‘cause it’s a bit confusing. (and of course, the people who smash it out). So, I want in this little article to explain why you should be using Pinterest, then a few quick tasks to get you started.

So, why as a blogger should you be focussing on Pinterest?

If we look at Twitter, an average post lasts about 30 minutes. In Instagram, you’re talking 1-3 days that people are actually seeing your content. This means that if you’re promoting your posts there, you only have a limited amount of time where people will click through. However, with Pinterest, that isn’t the case.

When you add something as a pin, that pin has a life of years. For example, I’ll write one tweet and get about 10 views to my blog in the following hour or so. I added one pin to Pinterest 22 months ago and I get 100+ views to my blog every single day.

This means, if you really want to increase your page views and get more people reading your blog, then Pinterest is a fabulous platform to really focus on and grow. Other socials are about community, Pinterest is different, it’s basically a giant visual search engine, and one we can really utilise.

 

What are the basics to using Pinterest?

If you’ve not used Pinterest before, then it’s basically a giant pin board. You see lots of nice pins, and ones which you may want to look at later, you add to a board. For example, I have a travel board for quite a few countries, when I see a blog post I like on that country, I pop it on the board. Then when I’m holiday planning I have a great resource to use.

So, the basics to get your Pinterest set up includes:

  • Setting up a business profile – so that you can show the link to your blog. Pop in an interesting bio about you too.
  • Creating boards around your target reader – it’s good to have boards in the niche that you blog about, for example, if you’re a travel blogger then lots of boards on different countries is great. That said, think about your target reader – they may like travel but they probably also like cooking or other related things. So, you don’t need to keep your boards super niched.
  • Get pinning – this is the most important bit. You should be pinning every day, a range of content that isn’t yours and some from your own blog too. Ideally, you love Pinterest so that this doesn’t turn into a chore! If you struggle with consistent pinning then consider using a schedule tool like Tailwind or Boardbooster, these allow you to sit and pin for an hour or so and they will the spread your pins throughout the week.

So, your Pinterest profile is set up, what do you need to do now to get your pins moving and people heading to your profile?

Some quick tasks you can do to help get your Pins moving

  • Create some optimised graphics with Canva – when you go to Canva you can select Pinterest and it will give you the optimum size for your pin. The best pins have text on them, so pop some text on there to encourage more repins.
  • Add a ‘pin it’ hover on your blog – encourage people who visit your blog to add your images to pinterest easily. You can do this through a plug in.
  • Join some group boards – group boards basically mean you pair up with some other people and when you pin to the board it goes to all the contributor’s followers. They are a handy way to help grow your profile and have your pins seen by more people. You can find group Pinterest boards through blogging facebook groups or having a search on Pingroupie.
  • Try some promoted pins – you can promote on Pinterest which helps your important pins get more of a boost. Good thing is that you can spend as little as £5 and that still gives it a decent boost.

There we have it, as with any social media, you need to spend time on Pinterest for it to really grow and flourish. But if you need to pick any social to get your head around and start using more, then Pinterest is most definitely the one which will give you the best returns!

What tips do you have for Pinterest?


By Jasmin Charlotte – follow her on Pinterest here!
(Jasmin is a lifestyle blogger and blogging coach at jasmincharlotte.com. She writes loads of tips to help you grow your blog and social media, plus understand the more techy bits of the blogging world. She offers blog coaching which includes Pinterest if you need tailored advice!).

Behind the Blog | Dalton Banks

Behind the Blog | Dalton Banks

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your blog? How did you first get into blogging?

I’m behind the blog that is Dalton-Banks which is a place for food and travel lovers. I share recipes that I love to make, where to eat in my hometown, London, and travel tips and advice about the places I’ve been lucky enough to visit. I started my blog to initially share recipes and to showcase my interest in food as that was the industry I wanted to work in. It paid off – I love my job and I still get to blog about the things I love!

You’ve had some fab opportunities through blogging – what’s been the best opportunity you’ve had so far?

I’ve been very lucky to eat some incredible meals. I think one of the best meals I’ve been invited to was a very recent one showcasing two of my favourite ingredients: Parmesan and Balsamic Vinegar. It was at one of my favourite local restaurants in London, Sager and Wilde. There was a 6 course tasting menu using the ingredients beautifully. It was delicious!

What do you think is the best “service” a blogger can provide their audience?

Providing authentic information. People read your blog because they want to hear what you have to say. But it’s only usefully if it’s honest. Whether that’s a review of some kind, a press trip or even a recipe. One of my most popular blog posts is where I talk about a not-so-great brunch that everyone raves about. My readers can trust what I write, which I think is really important.

Do you have a full-time job as well? How do you find the time to run your blog so professionally?

I’ve recently moved to working just 4 days a week in the hope I can focus more on my blog and a couple of other business interests coming out of my blog. I’m hoping there’s something delicious brewing for 2018 so watch this space! I am the biggest procrastinator and spend far too much time reading about how to be more organised and efficient than actually being it! But, I’m an early riser and get most of it done before the rest of London rises at the weekend.

How has your blog changed since you first started it, to now? What was your first post about?

My first post was for a sea bass ceviche recipe – I’d never made it before but thought it would ‘look good’ and like I was a good cook if I did. My blog has changed SO MUCH since then. Firstly I don’t share recipes half as much as I’d like to, as the photography side of things doesn’t come naturally to me and it takes me a while to produce the quality of post I want in my head. I share a real mix of food and travel as they go hand in hand for me. And now I write about food I actually cook, and cooked it lots before I share it, and it seems to be getting great feedback!

Do you have a favourite post that you’ve written? Does it differ from your most popular post?

I loved writing a recent post about things to see and do in Seville. I approached it thinking about ‘what would I like to read?’. I didn’t think about what I should be writing about, which has been written one hundred times before, I thought about the little things that I would find useful to know before a trip, like how early you actually have to join the queue for a popular tourist attraction. My most popular posts are my travel itineraries, which are also quite fun to write as I get to re-live my trips!

What’s been the best thing about your blogging journey?

The people! Which, if you’d asked me before I had even written my first blog post, would have been the last answer I thought I would give. I’ve met so many different people through blogging. Obviously there are the bloggers, but also I have loved meeting restaurants owners, interesting suppliers, hotel owners and event organisers to name just a few! I’ve made some life-long friends through blogging which has just been incredible. Also, it’s definitely given me a confidence in myself I never had before. Which is a nice feeling.

We all know you’re an incredible food blogger, but if you could do it all again, would you choose a different style? Why/why not?

I honestly don’t think I would change it! Food and travel are what I love. I just wish I’d started blogging sooner!

A lot of people think that blogging is an easy way to make money, but we all know it’s not that easy. What advice would you give new bloggers?

I think you should start out writing about what you love and everything around it. People will see your passion and your in-depth knowledge about subject and want to come and work with you and opportunities will begin to arise.

And finally, we want to share the love, so who would you like to see us interview in the next newsletter?

Many of my faves have already graced the blog walls but I’d love to hear more from Charlie or Eppie if we haven’t already!

 

If you have something else you’d like to ask Vicky, pop over to Twitter now for a chat!

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