what i’ve learned – blog tips + italian Quinoa with brussels sprouts + goat cheese

Where did the time go? It’s been 6 months since MT started and I’m more than 50 posts deep! It got me thinking what I’ve learned since I started and why I started this blog in the first place. I thought I’d share a bit about my journey and what I’ve learned along the way.

My initial thought process for starting a blog was, I cook great food, have great ideas, I could be one of those super awesome bloggers that people are obsessed with!? Heck some bloggers even make money from their blogs using AdSense or get offered a cook book deal or a job. What am I waiting for?! What I’ve come to realize is that plenty of people cook great food, have creative ideas, and most of them take better pictures of food and dedicate a lot more time to their blogs than I do.

It’s A LOT of work to maintain a good blog. For some people, it’s their full-time job. Not that I don’t love my blog and perhaps there is a place for it among the big fish one day, but right now it’s not my focus. However, I do feel there is a great benefit from keeping a blog and engaging in some of these “best blog practices.”

So maybe I’ll never get to 1,000 followers (Ok let’s be real, I have maybe 25) but what I’ve learned from all this internet time is invaluable to any future blog, career, or website I may one day have. Here are my top 5 tips for new bloggers:

1. Content Matters Most
You may have dedicated hours to your blog’s layout, graphic design and social media accounts, but if you’re content is unoriginal, boring, fraught with spelling errors, or irrelevant people won’t keep reading. People can only follow so many blogs and read so many websites in a given day. While a blog that is pretty may be nice to look at, what keeps people on your page is what you’ve got to say. If your post or article is boring, outdated, or you constantly use a recycled recipe from some other blog, then chances are people won’t keep reading and are not likely to come back. Content, is king.

2. Content Structure
As a corollary to the importance of content, the structure of your paragraphs also matters. Reading online is more difficult than on paper, and people have a hard time comprehending complex words, long sentences, and long paragraphs. It’s best to make your sentences short and to the point, your paragraphs 3-5 sentences long, and break things up with pictures, bullet points, and subtitles.

3. Regular Posts
I’m terrible with this. I know I should just pick two days a week that I’m going to post and then stick with it, but my life has been too unpredictable over the past few months to have that luxury. If you can, post on a regular schedule (same day each week, same time of the day, etc.). This keeps your readers aware of when they should check back for posts, rather than a haphazard schedule leaving your readers wondering if you decided to quit blogging altogether or are just gone on vacation.

4. Getting Found
Oh I could spend days on this topic, but I’ll spare you. There is a whole science to getting found on search engines and by other bloggers. It’s really a ton of work, and if I went into everything you could be doing you’d probably be too dismayed to keep going.

In particular, here are some actions all bloggers should be taking that will help (no guarantees) get their blog out there:

  • Have active social media accounts – Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, etc.
  • Make sure you include alt descriptions for all pictures
  • Make sure your meta tag includes an accurate description of your blog
  • Use a DSL (high quality) camera if you can for all your pictures, and learn some basic photography skills
  • Track where your traffic is coming from and what posts are most popular, then cater your content to what’s likely to get you more traffic
  • Make sure your blog is spam free!

If you’re unclear about what some of these things mean, here are a few resources to get you up to speed on HTML and webmaster tools:
Google Analytics
HTML and CSS
Google Webmaster Tools

5. Have a Purpose
What is your blog really about? Is your purpose shining through? Is your message clear? Sometimes it’s hard for us to marry what we really want to blog about vs. what we’re really good at blogging about, until we try it. For me, I thought I would be great at writing and photographing delicious recipes that I came up with myself. I won’t lie, my food is awesome :) but looking through my posts and comparing them to other blogs I follow I’m not so sure I’m really all that awesome in comparison.

What I have discovered is that I really like researching, writing and explaining. I love to explain something complex and put it into simpler terms. I love to research a chemical process or how to be a better blogger. I love to try new things and experiment. I like understanding the HTML code of my website. I’m still trying to figure out the purpose of my blog, but it’s not something that happens overnight. If you’re not sure what your purpose is yet, keep blogging. Keep what you’re doing until you feel it’s time to try something new altogether or you find your purpose.

Alright, enough of that. Now to FOOD!

quinoa brussel sprout goat cheese

Italian Quinoa with Brussels Sprouts + Goat Cheese
Serves 2

2 cups cooked quinoa
2 cups brussels sprouts – sliced in half
1/2 onion – sliced
2 sausage links – cooked and sliced, any kind (I used an Italian style sausage)
1 T olive oil
marinara sauce – won’t judge if you use the store-bought kind
goat cheese (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Saute brussels sprouts in olive oil on med-high for ~5 min until slightly browned. Add onions and continue to saute. Add sausage and cook until brown. In a sauce pan heat your marinara sauce. Combine quinoa, sausage mix, top with marinara and shredded goat cheese. Devour!

italian sausage + brussel sprout + onion quinoa

quinoa brussel sprout goat cheese

DSC06229_Snapseed

The goat cheese was a nice change from good ‘ol parm. And even if you hate quinoa, all the goodness in this meal really covers up the taste. Easy, healthy weeknight meal.

Lauren

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