10 Important To Do When You Start a Blog (Checklist!)

starting a blog

This is definitely not a technical post on how to set up a blog. Can’t help you there! However, there are plenty of resources out there. However, this is just a short checklist for things to do once you start a blog.

Recently, I was talking to Megan, who I met on Instagram because we both have dystonia (different types). After reading her brand new blog, I had a few suggestions for her, so I thought I would come up with a quick checklist for new bloggers!

  1. Create a new email. This email should only be used for blog communications. You can list it on your blog, email other bloggers, and interact with brands through this email. Don’t mix your personal email and new blog email. I was able to set my email up through my domain (I don’t know how – my husband did it), but a simple gmail that is related to your blog’s name should suffice.
  2. Get a headshot! You will need a picture that you can use everywhere. Even if you just have a friend try to take a few flattering photos of you or crop a photo from someone’s wedding, pick a flattering photo, make any edits (the ability to make it square is important because a lot of places want square photos) is important.
  3. Limit yourself to two “usernames.” Your Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and all social media should go together. I know it’s not possible to always get the same name everywhere, but try to keep it consistent. Shorter names are better, so if you’re having a Twitter conversation, half the tweet won’t be take up with your handle. Also, use the same profile picture everywhere.
  4. Since most people already have social media accounts, decide if you’re going to incorporate your current accounts or create new ones. I never thought about this at first. After a few months of blogging, I was interested in growing my blog through my Instagram, so I started to promote it. However, later, I realized that it was kind of creepy that people could just scroll back through years of pictures. So, I created a separate account. In hindsight, I wish that I’d made my handle shorter. It’s easy to change, but that would require updating a lot of profiles.
  5. Set up a Gravatar account with your new email and new profile picture. That way, when you leave comments, which you’ll find out how important that is later, your picture will show up! Pictures will make you stand out and keep your brand consistent. This will help you when you comment on any system.
  6. If you are NOT on Blogger, read up on how NOT to be a no-reply blogger. This took me several attempts, but I finally got it. Basically, you make a fake blog (you will need a gmail address to get started, but you can use any email as your reply email later) and use your new email and picture, so when you comment on a Blogger blog, you’ll know if the person replies. Go to this post and look at the third section. The screenshots are PERFECT.
  7. Start reading blogs! You don’t have to comment, yet. You can start by reading “big” blogs. Then start checking out other commenters, people on the sidebars, etc. Over time, you’ll start to read people who you connect with. I’ll have a follow up post on this!
    >>> You don’t need to copy these blogs, but the more you read, the more ideas you’ll get. You’ll start to see what you like and don’t like.
  8. Research Link Ups. These are premade content for you, plus you’ll have a chance to find new blogs because most ask you to comment on a few others. They change a lot, based on the hosts’ schedules, but a few that I like are:
    Grateful Mondays
    Wednesday Wishes
    Weeks End (your favorite post you wrote from the last week)
    Blogger Love (share 5 favorite posts from other bloggers)
    Between the Lines (a monthly book club link up with good discussion questions)
    Top Ten Tuesdays (if you LOVE books like me, these are prompts about books. The topics are posted in advance, so you can get several ready!)
    > Basically, the link ups are endless. There are link ups for recipes, crafts, and any interest you might have. Things like Weeks End, Five on Friday, or any type of Currently or Coffee Date link up will expose you to new bloggers. You could probably have a blog of nothing but link ups, but it’s nice to mix it up.
    Here are tips on finding more!
    > Check out the top of blog pages because some people keep lists.
    > Google!
    > Check out Twitter hashtags. You might miss the first one, but you’ll know when the next one is.
    > As you read blogs, you’ll see people participating and you can put it on your calendar to participate in ones that interest you.
  9. Make sure your blog is visually appealing. Have your headshot at the top, links to social media under that, and any other things you want on your sidebar. Less is more, but don’t leave it bare. A busy blog is a blog that people don’t want to read. (I’m not kidding, I read a post about that, but only about 20% of the page was dedicated to text. The orange and blue didn’t help, either).
  10. Have fun! This is your hobby! Maybe you’ll make money. Maybe you won’t. But, if you do it right, you’ll make friends. Stay tuned for how to find your blogging community from scratch!


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Categories: blogging Tags: ,
I Increased My Twitter Followers by 30% In 45 Days

Ok, so I know I wrote a post about moderation in social media/what I learned from my social media break. I still believe that. I will be writing more about the topic of social media and the role it plays in my life, but as a blogger, I can’t get around the role that it plays in my blog. Twitter, especially.


I was always a little scared of Twitter. I didn’t create one until almost a month after I created a blog. Recently, I decided that it was probably an under-utilized networking and promotion tool (for me!). So, I made a few changes, put in a little more time, and saw some fast results. This isn’t like a humblebrag. I’m sharing these tips because if I did it, you can do it, too.

At the time of publication, 12 days after writing, my following continued to grow, and I continued to engage with my audience.


If you are already a Twitter Professional, then this probably is old information for you. However, I would always see people who were doing great at Twitter, or so I thought, but I didn’t know how to get there. I also did math for you guys. I am not saying that this is sustainable – like I’ll grow by 30% every 1.5 months forever, but as time passes, the followers that I do have will probably become more engaged followers and a better community, so to speak, on Twitter.

Honestly, I don’t know how I started with 631 followers on January 14, 2015, when I signed up for CoSchedule. I probably relied heavily on past giveaways, which I sparingly participate in now. At the time of drafting this/doing the math – yes I had to Google basic Algebra to find percentage change! – I found that between January 14 and March 1, I increased my following by 29.95%, so 30%!

In a month in a half of engaging on Twitter:

  • I had 30% more followers
  • 9.3% of my sessions (per Google Analytics) came from Twitter.
    >>>The month and a half prior to starting to CoSchedule and changing a few habits that I’ll talk about below, I only got 3.12% of my sessions from Twitter.
  • Sometime in the last month and a half, I also added a custom bit.ly link for my blog to my Twitter page to track how many people were coming straight to my homepage after finding me on Twitter instead of just clicking a link to a post. I’ve had 50 hits, which I would guess were potentially 50 new readers. (You’ll see why this is important later!)

The Tools I Used:

If you want to help people help you, check out my post on adjusting your sharing settings!

What I Did:

  • I always schedule promotions for my own post through CoSchedule.
  • As I read through Bloglovin, I use CoSchedule and Buffer to share the posts that I like. I try to spread the love around. You can read my CoSchedule tutorial here to see how I share posts WITH pictures. The statistics vary, but Tweets with pictures get more clicks.
  • Hashtags! Put hashtags that fit the posts that you are sharing, so that they will be found by new people.
  • Retweet people: I use Buffer to fill it up with retweets. So, I don’t overwhelm someone’s feed, but I do get someone else out there. I don’t like to do “RT @soandso blah blah blah” because it usually doesn’t fit, plus it shows some else’s name and face out there.
  • I searched hashtags that were relevant to my blog, so that I could retweet the authors of the posts or find the posts/articles and use CoSchedule to share them with a photo. I mostly used Buffer to space them out at intervals.
  • Share posts, articles, pictures, jokes, or thoughts related to the content that you publish.
    >>> For instance, I write a lot about books, health, and blogging. Find out what hashtags (you can Google or search around Twitter) and see what hashtags get the most attention. While “dystonia” might be the most descriptive hashtag, #spoonies reaches a lot more people. Therefore, I use that. However, you can change the hashtags if you share something more than once.
    >>> The people who find articles through hashtags might not be reading my blog, but they start to follow me when they see that I’m sharing information that they’re interested in reading.
    >>> The custom bit.ly link lets me see that if people start following me, they are clicking my blog’s homepage. That lets me differentiate between who is clicking posts that I share of my own or who is newly checking me out.
  • Twitter Parties/Chats. I read this post about How to Win at Twitter Parties, which gave me the boost to try them out. I don’t always get new followers or anything, but I do make new connections!
  • Get on Twitter! I find using my phone a little bit hard, unless I’m just scrolling through and making a quick reply to someone. Otherwise, I wait until I’m on my laptop. Sometimes I get into some pretty funny conversations that introduce me to some new people.

Other Tips:

  • Use an app to track followers. I don’t use it to track unfollowers, but rather, sometimes I have lots of conversations with a person without realizing that I’m not following them back! I don’t automatically follow people back (because some variation of Mark Twain follows me every single week). But, it lets me make sure I’m following along with Twitter friends.

Exciting News!

Twitter chats hosted by your’s truly are coming your way!

Right now, I’m working on hosting a chat about co-morbid physical and emotional illnesses with a mental health advocate. Eventually, I will be hosting chats on all sorts of chronic illness topics in order to connect advocates who have blogs with patients. There is nothing to stop a patient with a Twitter account from being an advocate.

I write a lot about health topics, but the majority of comments come from people who aren’t sick, if I get comments. However, the posts are being read. Since I started using Twitter more, though, I’ve found that people who don’t blog are more likely to reach out to me on Twitter. It’s inspirational because I feel like giving up a lot.

The reason that I like using Twitter a lot more now is that I’m finding blogs that I like, people who inspire me, and an unreached group of people: non-blogging chronically ill.

Anyway, I’m excited to use social media for good! I’ll let you know when the Twitter chats are starting. You can follow along and get news by following me on Twitter.

Also, what is your preferred time or day for a Twitter chat? I would like to hit as many time zones as possible!

Note: This post contains CoSchedule Referral links.

Please note that comments with links that are not relevant to the discussion will not be approved. Personal signatures with blog URLs will be deleted. Please use the Disqus profile to add your blog’s URL, so that I can find you.

Categories: blogging Tags: , , ,
5 Easy and Small Changes to Make Your Blog Better

As a blogger and avid blog reader, I’ve noticed a few things that are missing from even the best blogs.

Better Blog: 5 Easy & Small Changes to Make Your Blog Better {And Easier to Share!}

At first, I thought that there was a reason for things that I thought were “common sense” to be missing. Since the bloggers were much more experienced than me, I asked them about some of these things. Guess what. They hadn’t thought of it! There are so many things that go into creating a blog – past just writing posts – so even the best bloggers miss a thing or two.

I thought that I would share a few common mistakes that are easy to change because I find myself sending a quick email to a friend to remind her to that she might want to make that change. Now, I’ll just send a link 😉

Most of these tips have to do with enhancing your blog to make it easier for current readers to share or new readers to catch up! Feel free to leave your tips in the comments!

5 Easy and Small Changes for a Better Blog:

  • Add sharing buttons. There are tons and tons of ones to chose from, depending upon what platform you use, but you really need them.
  • Adjust the settings of the sharing buttons. I can’t count how many times I go to share a post through Twitter and it says “via @sharethis.” Then, I have to track down the blogger’s Twitter account, so I can give them the appropriate credit. So, I am less likely to share, especially if it is a lot of work to find your handle (see the social media button tips below!)

You can even adjust the “Tweet This” plug-in setting (I figured that out while I was writing this post!) to include your handle, too! I notice that feature is missing on a lot of people’s “Tweet This” sentences, too.

  • Since people are visual, try having a “start here” page that has your favorite posts with images (all the same size and shape) or place images that link to your favorite posts on your sidebar. These get the most clicks, especially from new visitors.
    **If people are interested, I can write a post about how I made my sidebar pictures that link to my favorite posts on my WordPress blog**
  • Keep your front page “about me” that’s under your picture short, sweet, and unique. Liking coffee isn’t unique – tell me why you blog, what you blog about, or why you show up to your blog day after day! Don’t forget to link to your longer “about me” page!
  • Finally, don’t forget to have your social media buttons at the top of your sidebar, under your picture! People may want to track you down on Twitter (like when I want to share you posts), follow you on IG (because I think you take fantastic pictures), or stalk you on Goodreads (because I love books and think you have good taste). Just make sure those buttons are there!

What easy tips would you give a new (or experienced) blogger to make their blog more easy to share or navigate? What kinds of things do you run into a lot, but wish people would fix? (Like how I wish people would not have via @sharethis)


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Worried that a Creative Title Will Hurt Your SEO?

I used to use very basic titles because I thought that they would help my SEO. They do help SEO, but they aren’t eye catching, if someone is just clicking through a feed.

Titles and SEO: You can have a creative title without hurting your SEO

However, I recently found a great free online tool to analyze my headline. That made me think about how boring mine have been. I want to have it all. I want to have a great title and good SEO.

Titles and SEO:

  • Sometimes I start with a SEO keyword in mind, but other times I write the post and then pick out the keyword later. However, once you’ve picked one, make sure you put it into you SEO checker. While you’re there, go ahead and stick the phrase at the beginning of your metadata, instead of relying on search engines to look at the first 156 characters.
    Titles and SEO
  • After I write my post, I use CoSchedule’s free headline analyzer to create the best title. These posts get way more clicks because “Worried that a Creative Title Will Hurt Your SEO?” gets more attention than “Titles and SEO.” Think about it. Which would you click?
    Titles and SEOYou can go to the headline analyzer and see how it scores your titles, plus how to improve your headline.
  • I make sure that I’ve worked my keyword in to the post a time or two. Putting it in a headline, like you see above it even more helpful.
  • For Pinterest purposes, I don’t necessarily make the title of my post match my graphic. I use the graphic to “get to the point,” when necessary. Sometimes the title and graphic can go together, but I’m showing an example of ones that don’t match today. However, today’s title with another line of text like, “here is how to make sure it won’t,” would have worked, too. I just make sure that “titles and SEO” show up in my Pinterest description. See below.
  • Make sure that your title of the graphic matches your SEO Keyword and take the time use fix the “Alt Text” because that is what will show up if someone pins the graphic. You can control the keywords for Pinterest and not rely on someone else writing the right keywords:
    Titles and SEO
  • Next up is changing the permalink for you post. I want my permalink to say “titles-and-seo” not “worried-that-a-creative-title…”
    Titles and SEO Permalink
  • Don’t forget to go back and change the titles or alt text for every image on the page.
  • Outbound links help you SEO, also, but make sure they are relevant to your post. For instance, I linked to the headline analyzer. Here, I am going to link to a post about how to write the best headlines, to give you a kickstart towards writing more eye catching titles.
  • If you’ve written about the topic before, you can easily link to your own posts, too.

That’s it! While I don’t have Titles and SEO showing up in the title of my post, my SEO checker is still showing green! I love the new flexibility in naming my posts!

Titles and SEO final results


If you are interested in trying a two week free trial of CoSchedule for your WordPress blog, to use in conjunction with your new headlines, you can use my referral code here.

Have you ever felt constrained by SEO to name your post a certain way? Even if it’s super boring?

Please note that comments with links that are not relevant to the discussion will not be approved. Personal signatures with blog URLs will be deleted. Please use the Disqus profile to add your blog’s URL, so that I can find you.

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Why I Publish Non-Dystonia Posts

So, I’ve been reflecting on why I blog. When I started blogging, I wrote a lot of reflective essays. My goal for my blog was to raise awareness for all types of dystonia, but specifically to connect with Cervical Dystonia patients. I had no idea where it was going to take me. A year ago, I never thought that it would look like it does now.

Eventually, though, I changed how and what I wrote, so that more people would read my blog. I was willing to do that because I really wanted to raise awareness for dystonia. I didn’t write paragraphs upon paragraphs anymore. I would take an essay and break it into a list. Instead of a thesis addressed by paragraphs of writing, I would “defend my thesis,” so to speak, with easy to follow bullets. I started to understand how visual people are, so I had to break things down into a few sentences at a time, which ruined my favorite part of writing – my own, unique voice and point of view.

Why I write a full lifestyle blog, instead of a singly focused Dystonia blog.

In fact, this post originally had a different title and went well over 1,000 words. So, I decided to split it into two posts and provide you with these handy bullet points. [If I could have made this a DIY post, I would have 🙂 .]

Why I Still Publish Non-Dystonia Posts:

  • There are other blogs about dystonia, but there aren’t many, especially those offering any tips that are derived from personal experience. Yet, I belong to a private Facebook group with over 2000 members who all have cervival dystonia, which is only one type of dystonia. I knew there was a void of personal experiences, and I could fill it by writing what I wanted to read when I first got diagnosed. So, I made concessions in my writing style to bring in more traffic. Traffic means that my site will be seen and noticed. In fact, I’ve had posts get picked up by Healthcare Advocacy organizations.
  • If you saw my Instagram post from Monday, you can see why I am going to continue to blog and put out the content that people want to read, in addition to the content related to dystonia. More people than just people with dystonia are suffering, so I at least want to offer a common experience, a listening ear, and maybe connect with them about some other interest because it’s miserable to think about your pain all of the time.
  • Blogging is fun because I’ve learned about photography! I am learning to play around with graphic design, which is something that I never thought that I would touch. I have always liked to paint and write, but I never thought of myself as creative until now.
  • I’ve read more blogs and learned more about different lives and viewpoints than I would have by living in my own bubble, here in South Carolina. It’s also amazing how much we all have in common, too. The human experience is amazing.
  • Blogging has made me more creative. I have more discussions. Real life conversations become blog posts.
  • Blog friends. You know who you are.

More to follow!

contact me dystonia

Please note that comments with links that are not relevant to the discussion will not be approved. Personal signatures with blog URLs will be deleted. Please use the Disqus profile to add your blog’s URL, so that I can find you.

Categories: blogging, Cervical Dystonia, life thoughts Tags: , , ,
OmmWriter: Increasing Your Productivity

A couple of weeks ago, I found out about this great program, called OmmWriter. When I read about the program, I was a little skeptical. However, for the low price of $4.11, I decided to give it a try, since it came highly recommended.

ommwriter 5

Now I don’t know how I made it through college, as an English major at a liberal arts school, who did nothing but write papers. When I was in college, I made do with Paramore and Holiday Parade while I wrote my papers, but honestly, the calming, yoga-class-like music that OmmWriter uses does promote more concentration.

omm-writer 1 resized

 This is what you see as you type.

When you pull up OmmWriter, it advises you that the program is best experienced with headphones, and I have to agree. It eliminates all distractions. You can change the music; there are seven options from which to chose. Additionally, instead of having the typical word processor background, like Word, or typing your post in WordPress, you can change the background. Not only are the backgrounds soothing, it prevents you from flipping between internet tabs while you are drafting the post.

As far as saving the documents, you can save it in a specific .omm format or in a .txt format, which will make it friendly for sending to other people.

omm-writer 2 resized

All of the options are on the right side and the word count is on the bottom.

Omm-Writer doesn’t provide any type of spell check or formatting. It’s like a really upgraded Notepad. When you are finished, you can copy+paste the text out of OmmWriter into the word processor or website of your choice because there is no formatting. Also, like Notepad, if you paste text into OmmWriter, it is stripped of all formatting.

Aside from formatting the text later and adding pictures, I have found that using Omm-Writer has cut the drafting time of my posts down considerably. I can write two or three posts in one sitting, provided that I’m inspired.

I don’t use OmmWriter if I’m writing a post that is picture heavy and word light, like a Cinnamon Cold Coffee recipe, but for something that has more words, like this post or When Life Doesn’t Feel Right. In fact, sometimes I just use OmmWriter as a type of journaling space, if I’m having a hard time handwriting that day. I don’t print them out and tape them into my journal, but maybe I should!

Do you have any “must haves,” in your writing process?

Categories: blogging Tags: , ,
5 Tips for Connecting With Your Blog Readers

how to connect with your readers infographic

I wrote a guest post for Sverve last month, which you can read here. The post has more details, of course, but I created this infographic (my FIRST infographic ever) here to help illustrate some points.

Key Points to remember:

+Sharing your struggles and not always being perfect are not necessarily the same thing. Sharing struggles means being transparent with your audience You don’t have to air all of your dirty laundry, but people will want to read your blog and understand you more, if you write about struggles with everything from a funny story about your children doing something ridiculous to something more serious, like a chronic illness.
+Not being perfect means that you should remember that social media is a way of publicizing yourself. If you want your readers to connect with you, not just adore you like celebrity (and let’s face it… most of us are not that fabulous!), you should write a little bit about your daily, real life. You may not always have to do this through your blog. There are always other forms of social media! You don’t have to be sad about it–people like a little humor!
+Reading and responding to comments is key! The more you respond, the more likely people are to return to your site. As a blog writer, you probably read even more than you write. Remember how much you like feedback on your blog? People like feedback on their feedback!

Categories: blogging Tags: , ,
Writing Under Pressure

So, several months ago, I agreed to write a guest post for the Sverve blog, which you can now read here (5 Tips to Connect with Your Blog Readers). Honestly, I had forgotten all about it. Like ALL about it.

writing under pressure

The first email that I received asked about a date in October. That seemed easy enough (to forget). What I really forgot was that the contact person followed up and switched the date to June 27. On June 25, I received an email asking for my draft by June 26.

I looked at my husband and told him that I didn’t know what to do. The post was supposed to be educational in nature and relating to blogging. Furthermore, the post needed to have a pinable picture and 500-700 words. Since my Fibromyalgia was flaring, I thought about backing out. I didn’t want to back out because I knew it would be good exposure for my blog, but I wasn’t sure that I could write about anything that anyone would care about–especially blogging tips. This little baby has only been up and running since February. I didn’t think that I could add anything to the vast body of tips relating to blogging.

Since I am a verbal processor, I started talking to my husband, who knows nothing about blogging. I told him about all the posts that I’ve seen about bloggers who either chose to write when they feel uninspired or chose not to write when they feel uninspired. Fortunately for me, I haven’t hit that yet place yet.

Since my main goal for the blog was to reach out to other people with Cervical Dystonia, which has evolved into simply connecting with others regarding a more universal human experience, I thought that I could offer a few tips on connecting with blog readers. Once I committed to my topic, the words just flowed out of my brain and through my fingers and on to the computer screen. All of my self doubt went away. I was proud of thee post. Honestly, I was a little jealous of myself that I can’t post it on here.

Answering comments and reading other people’s blogs, aside from writing, is my favorite part of blogging. Reading other blogs inspires me. Comments motivate me and connect me with other people. They even connect me with new, real friends.

Now I’m not as afraid to pick a topic and write. I used to wait for an outline-like inspiration to hit me or chose the easiest topic possible. Now I want to challenge myself to write about what I know, but not just the fluffy stuff. Anyway, I am really happy that I accepted my challenge, which was only a challenge because I forgot to write it down my deadline.

How to you set new challenges for your blog?

Categories: blogging, Cervical Dystonia Tags: ,