Tag Archives: blogging

Blogging: Taking part in the Q&A Panel at The Co-op #OnTheList Event

On Friday night I took part in the Blogger Q&A Panel at The Co-operative #OnTheList event in Manchester. I was, it’s fair to say, as nervous as hell. Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking and all that. If you know me then you know that I have raging social anxiety. I remain perplexed as to why I was asked to be part of the panel, but now it’s over it was a great (confidence building) experience and it had made me reflect on what I do and how I do it.

I don’t present myself as any kind of blogging expert, it’s an ever evolving world and I think even the best of us struggle to keep up at times. I’m lucky to be part of the North West blogger community, an incredibly supportive and hilarious bunch of friends who would do anything for anyone. Anyway, I digress. 

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Photo credit: Karen Hannah

The panel were sent most of the questions the day before so we could look things up and prepare ourselves a bit. I know on the night my answers were not as in-depth as they would be here, plus we didn’t manage to get through all the questions during the panel, so for those who may be interested here are my answers in full. Feel free to ask me anything, or almost anything…

Which social media channel is your best referrer, and why do you think that is?
I get a significant number of referrals from Twitter, then Facebook. I have a fairly respectable following on Twitter and I tweet and auto-tweet regularly. I could and should do more to promote my blog posts across the board, but I don’t have the time to do everything.

Do you vlog? If so, why, if not, why?
I don’t think I’d ever call myself a vlogger, I don’t think I’m very natural in front of the camera and I lack the technical skills to make decent vlogs, but brands want video content so I have done the occasional one. < Insert plug for YouTube channel here >

How do you prefer a brand to approach you, in order to work with you?
Preferably with a bottle of prosecco… A nice personalised email is always a good start, a PR or brand who are open to having a useful dialogue about what they want and what I can offer. I don’t mind if I get a “Hey Bloggers!” email, I do mind it when they get my name and the name of my blog wrong, which is either careless or rude.

I like to know specifics, what they want, when, how much etc, I don’t have the time, energy or patience to go back and forth for days, I don’t want vagaries, I want specific detail which I can work with.

Do you actively engage in SEO tactics, if so, which do you find the most useful?
My blog is self-hosted and is a WordPress blog. I have the Yoast plug-in which was recommended to me by nearly every blogger in the world and a whole bunch of SEO professionals. It’s really easy to use and it takes the thinking out of SEO, so I just follow the Yoast instructions and suggestions until it gives my blog post a green light. I get a lot of traffic from search engines, so I think I must be getting something right.

Do you have your own domain and if so, why, if not, why?
Yes, I’ve been self-hosted for about two years now, it doesn’t cost that much and it’s not that hard to go self-hosted. I blogged on the free WordPress for about 6 months before I made the leap and never looked back.

Do you think it’s acceptable to sometimes blog about something “off topic” or should we stick to what our readers are expecting from us?
My blog is HodgePodgeDays, hodge-podge literally means a jumble, so theoretically nothing is “off topic” for my blog. I think it’s your blog, your little corner of the internet, you can write what you damn well please; go off topic, what’s the worst that can happen? You might even get some new readers.

Do you stick to a regular post frequency and rhythm, or just blog spontaneously?
I used to try and blog regularly and did blog most days. These days I have less time due to work commitments and life so I blog less. I find I get a day or two every few weeks and I blog my socks off then, I try and schedule them out a bit. I think my lack of consistency in terms of frequency and content topic lets me down and is something I need to work on.

What opportunity do you see on networks like WhatsApp and SnapChat, if any?
I’m not on either. I’m a bit of an old skool Twitter junkie who is having a passionate affair with Instagram, as well as a love/hate relationship with Facebook.

Affiliate partnerships, do you partake and if so, are they worth the hassle?
I think I’ve been an Amazon affiliate for about two years and I’ve not earned a penny, so I’m obviously doing something very wrong. I know some people can earn good money from affiliate partnerships but I’ve yet to motivate myself to properly monetise my blog.

How is best to get to know new brands, to prospect opportunities?
Get to know brands via social media, be nice and chatty as well as open. I’m not a pushy person so I don’t often make the approach, I’d rather PRs and brands approach me, because then I don’t feel so much like a blagger. I sometimes cruise the #BloggersWanted and #BloggersRequest hashtags on Twitter, but some of the best relationships I’ve got with PRs and brands are where someone has recommended me to them and they like what I do and my helpful, professional attitude.

What’s the best opportunity you’ve had, because of your blog?
Three things really stand out for me. Earlier this year we went to Bluestone Wales and had a fabulous holiday we probably wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise. I also got to be a judge at the International Cheese Awards, and in September I went to River Cottage with Foodies100 and a group of other food bloggers. There are no words to describe how amazing that experience was.

What’s the next step for you and your blog?
I don’t think there are enough hours in the day for me to be able to do what I really want with my blog. I know I need to re-balance the content and post more personal and family blog posts, because that’s what people really want to read about. I’d like to earn more money from my blog, not least to justify the time I spend on it.

So that was me and my answers. Any questions?

PS. Thank you to everyone who was lovely to me, you’re all so very kind xx

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She thinks it’s all over…. it is now… phew!
Photo credit: Karen Hannah

Is it worth paying to promote your posts on Facebook?

Back in March this year I conduced a little experiment with Facebook. Dear old Facebook had been imploring me for months to try paying to “boost my posts”. I have a little over 2000 people who like my Facebook page and routinely everything I post on these gets very little attention, this is largely due to the algorithms Facebook uses to limit the content people liking pages will see and also to encourage page owners to put their hand in their pocket.

I was running a lovely little competition to win a limited edition print of a cartoon, it was a great prize but for some reason my competition wasn’t as popular as I hoped it would be. I looked at the stats on Facebook, it had been shared to only 67 people out of around 2000 followers. That’s pretty depressing. So I decided to see if paying for Facebook advertising was really worth it.

I paid £3 to boost my post over three days, ok so that is pretty cheap, but I didn’t want to go in high and waste my money.

Facebook advertising

The Facebook advertising ran for 3 days and apparently over those three days paying for it meant that it showed up a fairly impressive 1,152 times in peoples timelines. Am I impressed though? No. Why not? I hear you ask, well firstly it showed up in my own timeline several times each day, which just felt a little spammy for my liking, and it was my post!

Also, I’m not convinced by the accuracy of their stats which seemed to suddenly rocket in the final hours of day three, so I suspected a bit of creative accounting had taken  place to make the Facebook advertising seem more effectual than it actually was, though I can’t prove it, it’s just a hunch.

What else didn’t float my boat? Well my advert had 1,219 “impressions” in total and it only had 7 clicks. Firstly the idea of impressions makes me mad, I don’t really want Facebook to show the same thing to the same person 10 times, I want more people to see it once, twice tops. And 7 clicks? Really? I suspect at least half of those were before I’d boosted the post in the first place.

My rationale for boosting my post and buying some Facebook advertising was to generate additional clicks on the link and more entries into the competition I was hosting. I wasn’t looking to increase my page likes, but that would’ve been nice too. Generating just 7 clicks and no engagement or interaction was beyond disappointing.

My conclusion: I paid £3 for 7 clicks to my blog which seems pretty darn expensive. I also felt like Facebook had maybe spammed some people on my behalf, which could potentially lead them to unfollow or unlike my page, which is the very opposite of what you want to happen. Would I boost a post again? It’s unlikely. Unless they iron out the spaminess, sort out the accuracy of their statistics and do something to improve click throughs etc, it’s probably just a big old waste of my money.

Have you used Facebook advertising? Have you had great success and have I just been unlucky?

My Top Five from 2014

2014. You’ve been an incredible year in terms of blogging. It was my first full year and we’ve done so much, tried new things, been to exciting places; we’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve failed and succeeded, thank you 2014, we’ll remember you fondly I think.

As well as my round up of the ten life lessons 2014 has taught me, I’ve picked out my five most popular blogs from 2014, hope you like them too!

1. Anxiety…again – I write a lot about mental health, particularly my anxiety, I write really openly and honestly about how I feel and it seems to strike a chord, this is my most popular mental health post.

2. Making boozy peanut butter milkshakes – this is such a popular blog post. A recipe for incredibly easy, incredibly amazing boozy milkshakes. Don’t just sit there, go make one 🙂

3. Easy Joulutorttu recipe (Finnish jam tarts) – fancy looking homemade festive treats don’t get easier than this. Two ingredients and ten minutes of your time, as a Russian meerkat might say…simples.

4. The truth about pesto pasta – my eight slightly amusing and probably made up facts about pesto pasta struck a chord in November. Winner, winner, pesto for dinner?

5. Body confidence – containing a picture of me in my pants, this was and continues to be a popular post. I have scars and squishy bits but I’m determined to love myself, have a read, your squishy bits aren’t as bad as you think, honest.

Thank you so much for reading my blog, for following me and it and for commenting and sharing and generally being there. Without you I’m basically shouting into an abyss, so thank you, sincerely.

Have a fabulous 2015 x

Merry Christmas!

Hello there, Merry Christmas to you! This post is my final #Blogmas offering of the year. For the uninitiated, Blogmas is a blog every day in December (up to and including Christmas Day) challenge thingy. I’m pleased to say I made it, I didn’t think I would but I did. So hurrah etc!

I thought it would be an idea to do a quick round up of my five favourite posts from December, just in case you missed any, so here goes…

  1. A piece all about the Christmas magic from my childhood and how we’re creating some for the small boy. It’s lovely.
  2. I made my own snow globes – really easy and so cute.
  3. Elf on a shelf – some of what our cheeky Elf has been up to.
  4. My fifteen favourite things about Christmas.
  5. A very Mancunian Christmas – my pick of presents made by Mancs for Mancs.

There’s plenty more if you want to rifle through my archive, but these five are either my favourites or have been incredibly popular.

I can’t leave without giving a mention to my Joulutorttu recipe, which was massive, but it’s from November, so technically not part of Blogmas, but it picked up lots of views every single day, you lot love a Finnish jam tart!

So that was Blogmas. I’m now going to put my laptop away for the next few days and have a well earned rest. Thanks for the love, support, comments, tweets and retweets. I wish you and yours a peaceful Christmas and a very wonderful 2015.

Love, Jane xx

blogmas

Parent Blogging & Boundaries

Tonight I’ve sat and written up a review of some swim pants and edited some pictures of them ready for posting tomorrow. Fairly standard blogger behaviour I think you’ll agree.

What was different tonight is I looked at the images I was going to use of my three year old son, stood on the beach in his swim pants, just being himself and I thought very hard if I should use them or not. I called hubs over for a second opinion and we had a fairly earnest chat about the images I would use of our son.

The pictures are in no way shape or form erotic. He is wearing baggy, nappy type swim pants and nothing else, he’s not posing seductively, he’s not doing anything which might entice or titilate.

I can’t get inside the mind of a paedophile. I can’t imagine what someone sexually attracted to children might find a turn on, but I think even paedophiles might struggle to find them erotic. So tonight we’ve had our first ever “but what about the paedophiles” chat.

In a previous job, I encountered a couple paedophiles trying to be rehabbed in the community. They were sad, lonely boys, intensely weird and probably destined for a lifetime of unhappiness. They’d been badly damaged by years of abuse during their own childhoods, and their idea of what was “normal” behaviour was horribly warped. My point is, unlike most of the angry mob, I have encountered paedophiles in the real world.

Would I let these boys anywhere near my son? Over my dead body. I do everything I can to protect my son from all the dangers of the world, always finding a balance between being protective without being over protective. Never wrapping him in cotton wool, but always being one step behind him if he needs me.

I can protect him as much as anyone can from abuse, but I think it’s important to remember that there aren’t more perverts and paedophiles these days, we just are more aware of them. Online is a different ball game of course, but he’s three and we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

I don’t hold with all this hysteria about no photos of the school nativity or sports day just in case they fall into the hands of a panting paedo. I’m sad to say that I’m sure paedophiles can easily find more erotic images than my son in baggy pants, or a shepherd in the nativity, or the three-legged race at sports day.

So publish and be dammed! Tomorrow, pictures of my boy in baggy swim pants will be on the Internet.

Getting to know me… Blog On 2014

Well hello there…if you’re reading this, then like me you’re probably getting mentally psyched up and all excited for Blog On 2014. I can’t wait!

Lovely Laura has put together a list of questions so people can get to know a little bit about each other before we meet. So, here I am, have a read and feel free to ask me anything, and I mean anything.  I am an open book. There’s a little bit more about me on my about me page if you’re interested.

Name – Jane, but close friends call me Jay. I’m also known as DG because of my other, non-blogging Twitter account, DG has just stuck.

Blog urlhttps://hodgepodgedays.co.uk/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/HodgePodgeDays

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Hodgepodgedays

Instagram – http://instagram.com/hodgepodgedays

Location – Didsbury in South Manchester

Bra size – (only kidding) More than a handful, less that a bucketful.

Kids – One small boy aged 3 and a half. Part tyrant, part angel.

Favourite food? Pretty much anything with noodles, my favourite meal is bean curd massaman curry with noodles. I also live on scrambled eggs. Bring me eggs and I’m yours forever.

Tea or coffee?  Coffee, hot, strong with not too much milk please.

Cat or Dog? A doggie please. I love a faithful mutt at my feet.

Left handed or right handed? I’m right handed but I use my left hand to carry my wedding ring and to feed myself popcorn while I’m typing this.

What came first the chicken or the egg?  Erm I dunno. Dinosaurs?

Dietary requirements? Moderately picky vegetarian. Can’t eat mushrooms and I have an aversion to bananas, yoghurt and anything strawberry, apart from actual fresh strawberries.

Special talents?  Balloon modelling – giraffes and sausage dogs a speciality.

Describe Yourself In Seven Words – Funny, weird, introspective…? I got stuck, so I did what I always do and I asked Twitter, this is what they came up with…

Getting to know me... Blog On 2014

What Is The Best And Worst Thing About Blogging?  – The best thing is finding and having a voice as well as making lots of lovely friends and getting to go on exciting adventures. The worst thing is writers block and when something technical goes wrong with my blog and I get all baffled.

What is the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done? Oh no, I’m too sober to say, but involves a queue for the bathroom and a sneeze.

What would your superhero name and power be? Snooze-button Woman. I have the ability to sleep through alarm clocks, screaming children, hurricanes and I’m liable to nod off anytime, anyplace, anywhere. I enjoy a kip!

What will you be wearing at Blog On 2014? Not a clue. Though I’m hoping it’ll be reasonably clean and stain free. A fashionista I ain’t. I do have purple hair though if that helps?

What’s your favourite blog post you have written this year so far? Crikey, I’ve got a few, but I liked this one and so did lots of other people………. 15 ways you know you’re a parent

If you choke a smurf what colour does it turn? Purple.

Would you like some cake? What kind? Yes please, coffee and walnut if you’ve got it, or a giant and I mean giant Tunnocks Teacake please.

Well, that’s me, any questions raise your hand. Look forward to meeting you at Blog On 2014.

My Blog Redesign

My blog has been self hosted since November 2013 and for a little while now I’ve had a nagging feeling that I needed to do something with the look of it. Sort a proper logo and header out, brand me up a little bit. Do something which said a little bit more about me rather than just some generic swirly things.

I was lucky enough to bump into Feb25 on Twitter and when I mentioned I needed to pull my finger out and get it sorted they offered their expertise. They’ve re-branded bloggers before and they’re fond of HodgePodgeDays, I had a good feeling about it all, so we set to work.

From my point of view it was easy-peasy. They wanted some background on me and what makes me tick, so I showed them this blog post all about me and I listed my interests, which are…

  • Mother
  • Tweeter
  • Blogger
  • Music lover

They went away and created a logo, I was blown away by how much they’d captured me. I showed it to some friends who loved it too. It was clearly a winner. They supplied me with a banner, a logo for social media use and a favicon, everything a blog redesign needs. All I needed to do was upload them and I had a brand new, unique, beautiful look.

blog redesign

It really was the most simple process. I started off having absolutely no clue what I wanted. They got a feel for me and came up with some suggestions. They’re happy to tweak and tweak until things are just right and for me, this is just right.

They were an absolute dream to work with and the turn around was really quick. I can’t recommend them enough. If you’d like to find out more about Feb25 and what they can do for you, check out their website or find them on Twitter and tweet them, they’re lovely. I promise!

What do you think of my new look? I’d love to know.

Want to Write? Take my Advice

Since I was featured in the February edition of Writing Magazine, a few people have been in contact asking for my advice on how to get started. I’m no JK Rowling I admit, but I do write and I do get paid for it. So here are some of my thoughts and tips about starting and keeping on writing. And if all else fails, just follow what the wonderful Neil Gaiman has to say.

writing magazine feb 2014

Writing Magazine, February 2014

Write for yourself 
I just started blogging for myself, people liked my style and it just snowballed from there. When I started blogging I didn’t expect anyone to read what I wrote. I wrote it for myself, to get things off my chest or to pour my heart out somewhere. If you write because you love it then you’ll not go far wrong.

Blog for the love of it
The best thing I did was start my blog, it’s worth investing £50 or so in getting your own domain right from the start, but write for yourself at first, about your life, things you’ve done, places you’ve been. Make friends with local bloggers in your area and get on twitter and search out review opportunities and interesting things to do. Eventually once you’ve built on this PRs may approach you to write sponsored posts, you can earn some extra pennies that way. But find a balance, if your blog is entirely reviews for freebies you’ve got and sponsored posts then it won’t have a heart and people won’t embrace it.

Find a mentor
Find a mentor or an honest friend who will read what you write and tell you the truth. I’ve got a couple of mentors and friends who help me immeasurably both in my writing and generally in terms of my career. Writing is pretty solitary, or it can be and having trusted but honest people you can bounce off is incredibly useful. Writing is like a muscle, you’ve got to keep exercising it, so write, even if it’s just for you.

Just go for it
I started writing for free to build up my published portfolio again after my extended break from writing, now I’m getting paid. Approach local magazines and see if they’ll commission a free article maybe. Once you’ve got a decent portfolio you can start scouting about for paid work.

I got “spotted” via my blog by an editor and now they send me to review plays and things, as well as writing general articles for them.

Sleep on it
Sometimes when I’m in the mood I can bang out some pretty decent stuff which I’m instantly happy with. Sometimes I might really struggle to find the right words. Whichever side of the bridge you find yourself, it’s always a good idea to give yourself and your writing a bit of breathing space before you click “publish”. So sleep on it, or leave it for an afternoon. Come back to it with fresh eyes and pat yourself on the back, or make the drastic revisions it needs to make it a piece you can be proud of. Don’t be afraid to scratch it and start again, if it needs it, it needs it. Oh, and write tight, don’t witter on, like I’m doing now…!

Always remember, if you write from the heart and honestly, then you can’t go far wrong.

Happy writing!

The Roost – Bloggers & Brands 2014 YouTube Video

photoIn December the lovely lot at The Roost put a shout out to bloggers to send them a short video on what their hopes, dreams and ambitions were for blogging and working with brands in 2014.

What with me being a try anything once kinda gal, I thought I’d inflict my ugly mug the YouTube watching population. Thankfully (for you) they didn’t include the whole of my performance, but do keep an eye out for me. I think it’s a really well produced video about Bloggers & Brands, I’m really proud to be a part of it. Let me know what you think!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8bxy5x9D_s

What are my Five Favourite Things?

Here are my Five Favourite Things so you can get to know a little bit more about me. I have decided not to include family or friends in this because that absolutely goes without saying. These are my five favourite things…

1. Music. I love music and listen to it all the time, it can equally bring my mood up and down. Key moments in my life are happily soundtracked on my iPod and just hearing a song again can trigger memories. I am a confirmed indie kid and my favourite bands are currently James, The Wonder Stuff, Rage Against the Machine, Smashing Pumpkins, The Stone Roses and The Charlatans.

2. Exercise. I’m a real endorphin junkie. My physiotherapist described me as someone who binge exercises. It’s true, I’ve already spoken in a previous post of my love for dance, Zumba, yoga, Pilates, running, walking and swimming. I can’t do nearly as much as I’d like, but I make a point of walking every day to the point where the lovely happy endorphins kick in.

3. Writing. I love writing, crafting and twisting words into sentences. I’m really loving blogging at the moment and I’ve started writing the odd piece for publication. It’s a lost love, as a teenager I was a very keen writer and had lots of things published, I studied journalism at university and worked briefly as a journalist before I lost confidence in my writing abilities. I love that I’m writing again and hope I don’t lose my mojo any time soon.

4. Devon. We are incredibly lucky that we have access to a family cottage in North Devon so we frequently nip down for a holiday. Whatever the weather it’s always stunning. The cottage is near a cove and at night you can hear the waves crashing against the rocks. It is so peaceful. We love the ready access to beaches, great pubs, even the garden is lovely. It has it’s own orchard and that’s great to explore. It’s the only place where we all can completely relax. No TV, no Internet, very patchy mobile phone signals. Almost completely cut off from the world and that means 100% family time.

What are my Five Favourite Things?

5. Twitter. I am a Twitter addict, I’d check it every minute if I could. Over the past year it has been my saviour, my best friend, my source of distraction and solace and it’s been my enemy. I love it for keeping my mind off the physical pain of my operations and recovery. Twitter can be wonderful but I sometimes forget that reality is different to Twitter and that trips me up. It is one of my favourite things, but it can have it’s dark side.

Those are my favourite things. Simple things really, but the best things often are.