JUST GET BLOGGING Q&A with Judith Bond

It’s that time again. We’re heading to the Conwy Golf Club next week for the most westerly gathering of Mingle for Business. It’s the perfect venue. Easy access, plenty of free parking, a spacious room and a stunning view of the estuary. Will you be there?

Last time I was at Mingle one of our regular Minglers asked me about blogging. How did I start? How do I keep coming up with ideas? How long does it take me to write a blog? I promised to sit down with her and have a good old blogging-chat.

But it got me thinking – I’m not an expert, I’ve just been doing it for a while and learnt a few tips along the way. Maybe I should share them?

So if you’re keen to start blogging or you’ve just plain run out of steam, I thought I’d do a little Q&A that might interest you.

Q1 What do you blog about?

That’s a funny one because my first ever blog post was about the Mingle for Business Launch in June 2014. I just spoke from the heart and used some professional images from Taken by Philippa. From the beginning I wanted my blog to be interesting, colourful and engaging. Before I launched my website, the blog was just a standalone WordPress page and a good place to post photographs.

I’m almost up to 300 blog posts now and has been part of the website for almost 2 years. I blog about my cakes under the series “Cake Life”, and I suppose that forms the backbone of my content. I’ve always been keen to support and encourage my local business community. I love to drink coffee – so have a series called “Coffee Break” which is a brief thought for the day. I love to check out new cafes, teashops, restaurants and food festivals. I’ve developed other ideas like “Behind the Brand” where I talk about my behind the scenes story with magazine features and awards. “Looking Back” is a new monthly series where I reflect on the highs and lows of the month just passed. “Favourite Top 10” is just a random list of things I have enjoyed doing during the month – like my favourite film, or a great handbag on sale.

More recently I have been working with a number of brands to review their products and services. You might have read me talking about Mason Cash, a fabulous kitchenware brand. I review their products, write tutorials for their website and they contribute prizes to my giveaways.

So you see it’s cakes, but so much more. It’s about figuring out who your customer is and what they’re interested in reading.

Q2 Why did you start blogging?

When I started the business 5 years ago, I attended a number of free training courses with Business Wales and Coleg Llandrillo around marketing and social media. At one of these courses, run by the fabulous Koogar we were presented with a (quite long) list of marketing tools to consider for our business. The idea was to pick out a few that appealed to us and have a go. Blogging stood out for me because it involved writing and images – 2 things I’m ok at. I loved creative writing at school and although my A level English Literature is in the dim and distant past, I was happy to revive the joy of writing. Photography has always been an interest but only recently became a (very amateur) skill and now a hobby with a huge amount of help and support from Welshot Imaging. From that day on, I put lots of energy into developing my blog and it sort of became “my thing”. So thanks Amanda, for inspiring me.

Q3 How does blogging help your business?

Good question! There are lots of clever people who could answer this question more fully than I can, but I’ll tell you why I do it.

  1. I enjoy it, but you already know that
  2. Google likes it because it shows you are posting regular and varied content.
  3. There’s lots of clever SEO reasons why you should blog
  4. It gets people from your social into your website, and hopefully they’ll have a look around.
  5. It allows your clients to get to know you and feel like part of the business “family”
  6. It gives you a chance to show off all different aspects of your business life.
  7. Although it’s not strictly a sales tool, you can promote your products / services
  8. It allows you to team up with other businesses on joint collaborations

Q4 Where do you do your writing?

My blogging life is really BM (before Mac) and AM (after Mac). Since I became the proud and very happy owner of a handbag sized MacBook Air, my blogging life has taken off. It’s powered by coffee, of course. Mainly the Heartland Coffi variety, locally roasted and served with a smile in Providero.

I write mainly at home in my office overlooking the garden, and at Providero. I find the buzz of people, the vibrant atmosphere, the smell of coffee and the sounds of beans grinding strangely inspiring. It might not be for everyone! They serve great cakes here too so if you need a sugar rush – this is the place.

If you follow my blog you’ll know that the trusty MacBook follows me everywhere. Part of the joy of foreign adventures, city breaks and country retreats is taking photographs and writing about it – all under my “Travel” series.

You might have seen me perched outside the Uffizi Gallery in Florence looking thoughtful, or tucked away in the corner of Providero typing furiously with a flat white – it’s all about the blogging.

Big thanks to Conwy Business Centre for paying for half of my little Apple friend. If you’re a small business in need of some help – check out their small business grant.

Q5 How do you come up with ideas?

It all started with a simple idea from Amanda’s training course. She gave us a sheet of paper with 12 boxes and asked us to write a blog idea in each box. We did it in pairs and helped each other as 2 heads are often better than one. When we’d finished she announced that none of us had any excuse now – we all had a blog idea for every month of the year. Taaadaa!

To be honest I’ve never really struggled for ideas. Ask Mr Bond, he’ll tell you! I see a blog in almost everything. I have more of a problem containing my ideas. I always carry a notebook, so I can jot down ideas when they pop into my head. Also I use the Notes App on my iPhone a lot.

It’s good to read what others are blogging about too. I have some favourites that I follow – some cake-related, but mostly not. No copying though! I get inspired by ideas of other bloggers but always make sure it fits with my brand and is true to my “voice”.

Q6 How many words should a blog be?

My blogs are all different lengths. I try to make sure the shorter ones are more than 300 words, because Google prefers that. So if I’m writing a quick thought, or a piece of news – it’s be short and sweet, but usually more than 300.

For the longer ones, when I’ve got a bit more to say, they usually end of around 1500 words. This is less by design and more because it’s the sort of length I like to read. In the blogging world, there is a theory that consumers prefer to read longer blogs as they perceive them to have more value and be worth the effort.

Q7 How long does it take you to write a blog?

I’m more of a “get it all down in one go” sort of girl. I’ll jot down ideas while I’m out an about, but when I sit down to write content I prefer to start and keep going until I’ve finished. This one, for example has taken about 2 hours, 40% of my macbook battery, 2 cups of coffee and a glass of water. I write a framework first with headings or bullet points and then fill it out.

I take images all the time so when I’m writing I usually have a group of images in mind that I might have taken a few weeks earlier. If not, I need to schedule some time to photograph a product or some flowers. Whatever is appropriate. I discovered Canva a few months back and love to use it to create a feature slide and maybe hi-light a quote within the blog.

My website is run on WordPress, so once the text is written, the images imported and the feature slide created it needs a little bit of top and tailing to make it SEO ready and ensure the readability score is good. Google likes headings, short sentences and the natural use of key words. I was once told I write Daily Telegraph and blogging is more about the Daily Mail. Not sure about that, but I always have to shorten my sentences as I’m clearly too long winded! Mr Bond might agree, you’ll have to ask him.

Q8 How important are images?

Images are everything. Just everything.

My advice?

1 Learn to use a camera and take your own pictures yourself

2 or, find someone that can do it for you

3 or, use stock photos that don’t look like stock photos.

Quality images speak of a quality product. If your images are rushed, blurred and a bit “homemade” people will scroll past quicker than you can say “cappuccino”

Have a look what others are doing? Keep a note of what catches your eye? What kind of images make you want to read on? And then, when you know what you like – stand out a little and make the images your own. Be distinctive and create your own style. It won’t happen overnight, but it will come if you persist. I promise.

Q9 When do you post your blogs?

This is a tricky one too. It’s kind of trial and error, and analytics. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all have their own analytics which are useful, and the Google Analytic App is a must if you have a website. You can find out when most of your readers are online and post with the masses, or you can take a risk and post “off-peak” so there’s less competition. That’s where the trial and error comes in.

I post at 2 or 3 blogs a week now so I have a schedule pinned to my office wall for the whole year. I do this not just to be organised, but to make sure that I’m putting out a variety of content from week to week. It helps to be scheduled rather than just random. Even if you just make a note in your diary, that’s a good start.

Q10 Who reads your blogs?

Well you’re reading it – so “hello”.

You might be my ideal customer, or you might not. The question I started with was “ Who is my customer?” I wrote my first blog and there was a response, of sorts. Then I wrote something else, and there was a different response. And eventually I was able to decide what works and what really doesn’t work. Trial and error, again.

It basically takes time. You need to try different subjects, styles, and images – until you find out what your customer enjoys reading, and will engage with.

I can tell you that 75% of my readers are women from the UK, but also USA and Canada, Australia, and the EU and that my best time to post is 9pm on Tuesdays! It’s be totally different for you.

So hopefully my thoughts might have given you some ideas and got your inspired. It’s really not that clever. Just get started.

And if you’d like to know more please get in touch. I’d honestly be really happy to chat with you over a cup of coffee.

Hope you see you at Mingle soon,

Judith x

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