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How to become a Pro Blogger: Take Your Blog to The Next Level

I’ve been blogging professionally since September 2013 and blogging 5 years overall since July 11th 2010. By professionally, I mean that MANFACE is my main source of income. I have my own apartment, fridge full of food and TV License because of it and it’s the one thing I’m proud of.

There are so many amazing blogs out there, such as Kentucky GentBritish Beauty Blogger, London Beauty Queen and hundreds of others I subscribe to. But, a lot of frustration I see on social and read on blogs is people getting stuck, feeling that their blog has reached a plateau and so I wanted to offer my experience in how to take your blog to the next level.

What’s Unique To You?

Firstly, look inside yourself, look at your blog and think about your life. Are you creating something that’s unique to you or are you simply regurgitating the same content, photos and reviews as everyone else or even just doing it to get free products? If the answer is yes, then stop blogging immediately – stop wasting your time and everyone else’s.

What is special about you? Everyone has something unique about them, it’s what makes us human beings. Maybe you love running – blog about makeup and skincare that’s great for runners; what skin problems do runners face? What are your top tips for running? Do you eat special things? Are there any special apps you use to track your runs? Do you have any favourite brands, outfits or training shoes you love for running? Why? – This is just one example of how to tailor your content to you.

If you really don’t think there’s anything special or unique about you then firstly you’re wrong, there will be; but more importantly, before you put fingers to the keyboard, go and find out what makes you tick – maybe you’re a rampant S&M nymphomaniac with a foot fetish? People want to read about these things; plus, think about the potential advertising opportunities!

Don’t write your blog because it’s what you think people want; write it because it’s what you want to write about. BLOG literally means WEB LOG – it’s essentially a big, shiny diary for everyone else to read.

Planning & Consistency

I’m not going to wax lyrical about brightly labeled notice boards, excel sheets and blogging diaries. They may help you and I wouldn’t knock they’re usefulness but I’ve survived for 5 years without them. The only thing I would say and is to repeat advice I was given from Jane (British Beauty Blogger) which is to keep some level of consistency.

Now, you don’t have to blog every day; I mean you can if you want, but you won’t haemorrhage readers if you don’t. But, make sure you post something on a specific time. Following Jane’s advice, I post a meatier article on Mondays and then Something for The Weekend AKA The Friday Bullet on Friday. It gives your readers something to look forward to – “Oh it’s Monday, [Blogger name here] will have something new!”

Google Trends and Keyword Planning

Using tools like Google Trends and Google AdWords Keyword Planning Tool allow you to find out what people are searching for and boost your SEO (search engine optimisation). Look for opportunities people are missing and write about it with your own unique spin. I’m not going to go into depth on how to use/access these tools as there are loads of site on Google that will do a much better job.

I’m not going to delve too deep into the technical side of things as also part of what I do is managing and consulting on the technical side of blogging – but you could always hire me *big grin*.

Relationships

You need people skills and, which I have learnt, know when to keep your gob shut. I sit on a lot of secrets and gossip which can be your biggest strength, but easily your biggest weakness – keep things to yourself otherwise you’ll lose all trust. A lot of your success is dependant on other people, be it readers, other bloggers, marketing departments, brands or PR.

Don’t blog everything you hear straight away. I’m sat on product launches until the end of 2016 and I get these exclusives and launches because I’m known to be able to stick to an embargo without shooting my load at every given opportunity. Try and work with brands, not against them.

Don’t kid yourself, it really is London-centric

… unless your blog is locally based – so you blog about life in Manchester etc.

Every 4-6 weeks I take a trip to London for about 3/4 days (I’m actually sat on the train down now). I used to book hotels but I’m more than lucky enough to have 2 of my best friends live there, one in Stratford, the other jus south of The River. This is key. But, hotels outside central such as The Whitechapel Hotel in Whitechapel offer gorgeous rooms at a shade of the price you’d expect – at one point I was paying just short of £50 per night + £45 return train tickets if booked far enough in advance. That wasn’t a plug by the way, I just really love that hotel

Regional Press Tours

I live near Leeds the rest of the time, but getting face time with brands and PR is essential and many do regional press trips for a natter and a coffee somewhere relatively close to you (for me it’s either Manchester or Leeds). There are 1,000’s of blogs out there and this way you put a name to a face – it lets them know what you’re all about. Go for a coffee and chew the cud. If you don’t get told about these tours, just ask! Most people think I live in London anyway so I often have to.

Blog Events & Regional Blogger Events

I usually avoid these at all costs apart from certain brands and a few favourite stores I like to support (such as the team at LUSH Ltd Leeds). I cannot emphasise how relatively little weight many brands put into these events compared to a ‘proper’ launch in the capital. Regional events are essentially just exercises in free publicity which I know sounds pessimistic.

In fact, I attend few events full stop. The odd one might create some good social activity and I sometimes go to support the brand/PR team, but you’re often just there at the brand’s convenience. You’re surrounded by 20-50-100 other people who are all seeing, hearing and experiencing the same as you which gives you no real unique content. Try and arrange a coffee with a PR a couple of days later or even before; get some 1-2-1 face time to find out the key messages and see what else you can try and arrange.

I cannot emphasise how, at least every now and then, you need to try and make a trip to the capital – it might not be fair that this is a factor in taking yourself to the next level, but things in life are rarely fair.

Outreach

People won’t often come to you. It’s taken me almost 5 years for people to now come to me, but in the past, it involved asking for PR addresses via Twitter and sending emails just introducing myself and asking to be placed on PR lists.

Blogger Outreach

Outreach to other bloggers. This sounds cold and maybe mean, but check out their Google and Alexa Page Ranks / Domain Authority. If they have a good domain authority; ask them if you can write an article to feature on their site that would sit well with their readers. May will welcome this, particularly when they go on holiday, take some time off (I welcome it!) or if you have a skill/knowledge that they don’t. Get a backlink to your blog and make sure it’s rel=”follow” (Google it). This ‘juices’ your site with their domain authority (not costing/impacting them in the slightest) and will boost your own domain authority Page Rank.

For anyone now checking mine out, my page rank isn’t the best (but domain authority is) as I changed my domain from manface.CO.UK to manface.UK last year and it’s still not corrected/amended.

Shopping Lists

If you send PR’s shopping lists of all the things you want, don’t be surprised if they very politely and professionally tell you to f*ck off. I keep saying, building relationships is far more valuable than getting stuff. Remember this!

Go into stores and ask for free samples, tell them who you are and ask to take the photos on counter or in the shop. Say you’ll give the particular counter or store a shout out in the blog post – this builds local relationship and gives mutual benefit – brands and head offices love to hear that their local stores/counters are doing well and engaging with people.

Blogging Community

I tried going alone for the first couple of years. Not really developing any friendships and this was a big mistake. Yes, there are pitfalls of falling into a clique, but having a handful of close friends who you can get together with every so often is the most valuable thing in the world.

Every so often I have a coffee with Hayley from London Beauty Queen or a phone chat with Jane from British Beauty Blogger. This allows us to share ideas and more importantly, vent our anger and frustration over things that no one else understands.

Social Media

I hope Jane doesn’t mind me sharing a second piece of advice, but she probably won’t even remember she said this. 2 or so years ago we were talking about the plethora of social media channels – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Vine, YouTube, Periscope etc, etc, etc –  even doing this full time I find it too much so – pick 2 of your favourites and make them amazing rather than spreading yourself too thinly. I do the following:

Facebook

Everything from Instagram and MANFACE is automatically pushed to Facebook. It’s almost entirely automated. I have apps installed to the page that show my Instagram, Youtube and Twitter feeds. Every now and then I do a little Voting Poll or something a little more unique; but rarely. I still get good referral from Facebook regardless.

Twitter

This is one of my preferred channels. I LOVE twitter. I love being able to vent the irreverent nonsense that flows in and out of my brain holes. All my blog posts are automatically pushed to Twitter as well as a service that pushes out old posts with the prefix “You might have missed…”. Keep Twitter fairly lighthearted and you’re always going to offend someone but so as long as you’re not totally out there, say what you feel is appropriate; but remember brands are watching.

Instagram

Another channel I like. I posts all sorts of photos from grooming to things from my life. It’s more of a personal channel for me and I love to look back on it as a diary. Remember to hashtag your photos for ultimate impact. A website Top Hashtags is worth a look for ideas.

Snapchat @MANFACEUK

I’ve only recently gotten into this. If there’s something going on in my life, I add it to the story. I keep it fun, lighthearted and try and be as amusing as possible. I would advise you turn off the ability for anyone to send you snaps as it can be a bit ‘willy central’ – I have some dirty followers!

Periscope @FaceCollective

I hate doing it and I don’t really get it. I think it fills a gap in the social media market that doesn’t really exist. I love watching my friends on there and people like Hayley (LBQ) and Jane (BBB) are excellent at doing it, but other than them, I couldn’t give two shits.

YouTube

I’m a newbie to the YouTube craze. I cannot stand the sight or sound of people like Zoella (I’m sorry, that’s not a name), Tanya Burr and Alfie Chapman (or whatever they’re called). This over produced arse water makes my penis invert. It’s cringe. However, I’ve recently started a channel where I record a simple video blog, a true to form Vlog. I post updates of things that are going on and keep them as natural and unedited as possible with next to no production value (the odd slideshow and bit of iMovie music is all). I wanted a way to connect more naturally.

Pinterest

Just seems like a large collection of photos of things people want to shove up their own arse to be honest. Awful Christmas decorations and crafts you’re never going to make.

Vine

It’s quite difficult to get a real message across in 6 secon…

Advertising & Sponsorship

I always say “a candle won’t pay my Vodafone bill”. Remember that. Don’t be overly cautious when asking brands for money. MANFACE has a larger readership and circulation than a few of the biggest men’s lifestyle magazines – why should they command advertising/sponsorship rates and me do it for free? I don’t think so. Know your worth.

If you’re new to sponsorship, give a brand your stats for both your blog and social then ask them what they’d be prepared to pay – this is only to start with and after a while will give you a rough idea of what you’re worth. I’d tend to only ask brands who you have a relatively good relationship with. Be prepared though, brands will always try and get the best deal.

Banner Advertising

Banner advertising is a pretty poor business these days although some still do quite well from it. Many internet users use AdBlock software (even I do) and so I find it best to use Affiliate advertising where you get money when someone clicks through and buys something. But I sell my sponsorship/advertising through sponsored posts and product placements.

Affiliation

Get yourself signed up to Linkshare and Affiliate Window (AWin). I find Linkshare is a crappy affiliate programme manager but I have it anyway – I rarely get any click throughs or revenue from the programmes I have there.

My money comes mainly from AWin but I guess it’s down to the brands you have signed up there . I used Reward Style for a while but suspiciously got no clicks or revenue even though I was still pulling in through AWin. I’m not saying there’s anything dodgy going on there, but it was a bit odd.

At the end of every article, add in affiliate links to where the reader can buy the product from. There’s no shame in doing this, it doesn’t cost them anything, and you can get a small amount of money from doing so. Plus, when you have around 1,000 product articles as on MANFACE; things can really start to add up.

Finally do use affiliate Ad Banners. Put them somewhere convenient to you (as they’re not paid for so don’t need to be above the fold) such as in the sidebar, but just don’t go mad with them.

Photography

Finally, people will look at a photo and use this to determine if they can be bothered to read what you’ve written. If your photos are crappy and you haven’t made any effort then why should a reader waste their time to look through what you’ve done. There are literally millions of websites and blogs devoted to teaching how to take good photos and with the revolution in great priced, cheap SLR cameras and superb Smartphone cameras – there’s no excuse.

I am a qualified photographer and used to do it freelance so can’t be too preachy here. I use the Olympus PEN E-PL7 and love it. It’s a great compact camera and produces some amazing results. Pretty much every photo on MANFACE since November 2014 has been taken using it. I also have Photoshop for editing which you can pay for monthly (£8.78). Again, just learn how to use these things, that’s all it takes.

However, if I see another white table, white wall, stack of VOGUE magazines, Jo Malone candle and fake vase of pale pink roses from Dunelm Mills, I will loose my shit. Try and keep it original and unique to you.

Comments
Harvey Specter
Posted at 23:17 August 31, 2015
Heidi
Reply
Author

Oops, typo on my comment re web address..
http://www.chronicbeauty.uk
Sorry, needed to correct, thanks

Harvey Specter
Posted at 23:15 August 31, 2015
Heidi
Reply
Author

Hi Thom, enjoyed reading this better than a lot of ‘advice’ posts out there! Sensible and straight to the point. I’m doing a lot of things pointed out already for my blog and Twitter and IG are my faves I concentrate on too. I also love being a little more unique as a blog and even though followers are not massive, I’m enjoying the learning curve and the whole journey as a new blogger. Great to see you doing so well..
Heidi x
http://www.chrinicbeauty.uk

Harvey Specter
Posted at 18:55 August 24, 2015
Nic, Strawberry Blonde Beauty
Reply
Author

Thom, I’m late to this, but just wanted to say thank you for being so fabulous.

Harvey Specter
Posted at 23:00 August 15, 2015
Gianni Casagrande
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Author

Totally agree with these points! At the end of the day blogging is down to staying true, hard work and getting yourself out there! Nice little read :)

Gianni
http://www.thegedituk.com

Harvey Specter
Posted at 15:23 July 30, 2015
KLW Rose
Reply
Author

I stumbled upon your blog when I was trying to look up some of the Lush Oxford Street products, because I want to start doing reviews on the different products I’ve been trying.

I enjoy your writing style. This article in particular was very refreshing. As a new blogger trying to get my feet, it’s nice to hear that I don’t need to subscribe to every form of social media to get followers. I want to make genuine connections with my readers and other bloggers, but don’t want to spend all my time playing the social media game. Thank you for being so candid. ☺️

Harvey Specter
Posted at 18:22 July 19, 2015
Gil Segev
Reply
Author

Hi Thom,

This was an incredibly well-written article. So many journalists and even major newspapers focus on Tanya and Zoella, and like you mentioned those feel so impersonal sometimes. I’ve been blogging for over two years and began taking myself seriously around the holidays last year, and things have really turned out. It’s great to have another male beauty blogger out there, talking frankly! I love the candle line. xD

I would love to talk to you about contributing for your website or hosting a guest post on mine, and featuring you in my Q & A series. Please let me know if you would be interested!

Gil | Nosegasm.com

    Harvey Specter
    Posted at 20:06 July 26, 2015
    Thom Watson
    Author

    Haha you can use my candle line if needs be, I’m thinking of having it made up on T-Shirts and on my business cards haha!

    I’m actually looking into this at the moment so thanks for you offer and I may be in touch sooner rather than later.

    Thanks for your comment! x

Harvey Specter
Posted at 16:33 July 17, 2015
Bart
Reply
Author

Love this post. Slightly down lately so really needed this. Thanks.

http://www.inhautepursuit.com

    Harvey Specter
    Posted at 20:05 July 26, 2015
    Thom Watson
    Author

    That means a lot Bart thank you, I’ve been feeling very similar lately and know other people have, so instead of ranting and raving, I thought I’d try and share what I know x

Harvey Specter
Posted at 09:53 July 17, 2015
Alison Harriman
Reply
Author

Now back up, what’s this about the S&M nympho with the foot fetish ……

Ali x

    Harvey Specter
    Posted at 20:04 July 26, 2015
    Thom Watson
    Author

    Oh you have to meet her, she’s a hoot!

Harvey Specter
Posted at 08:12 July 17, 2015
Will
Reply
Author

Very informative blog post! Was wondering if you use a lens with your Olympus? If so, which one?

    Harvey Specter
    Posted at 20:04 July 26, 2015
    Thom Watson
    Author

    Hey Will, it’s the standard lens 14-42mm just make sure for Macros that you optical zoom in as far as possible and pull the camera back to avoid bulging and for gorgeous depth of field. x

Harvey Specter
Posted at 03:10 July 13, 2015
Littlemissstyleguru
Reply
Author

Great post loved this so much and your so down to earth which is fab; you say it how it is so thankyou xxxx

    Harvey Specter
    Posted at 14:27 July 14, 2015
    Thom Watson
    Author

    Haha thank you for that, there are many who would disagree but I’m taking that!

Harvey Specter
Posted at 10:49 July 10, 2015
Daniella
Reply
Author

Great post Thom, some excellent tips.

    Harvey Specter
    Posted at 11:04 July 12, 2015
    Thom Watson
    Author

    Thanks Daniella! x

Harvey Specter
Posted at 08:14 July 10, 2015
Grant
Reply
Author

Really great post – thank you. With regards to accepting sponsored posts and paid for experiences etc, is there a body who specifically deals with or explains exactly how disclosure needs to be done on blogs? Is there a resource that can help with ensuring that you have disclosed what you need to?

Harvey Specter
Posted at 18:00 July 9, 2015
Dannie
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Author

I looooove this post Thom! You make it sound so easy! I’m definitely going to be taking some of your tips on board, even if it is to improve my blog just for my readers. Who knows, you may be seeing me at some events in London…

Dannie x

    Harvey Specter
    Posted at 11:02 July 12, 2015
    Thom Watson
    Author

    Hopefully! If you book far enough in advance there are some really great deals for hotels (or even hostels) and train tickets. I worry I’ve maybe made it sound easier than it is but it’s definitely a good grounds for making a difference.

    Thanks for your comment Dannie! x

Harvey Specter
Posted at 11:36 July 9, 2015
Amy
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Author

Hi Thom!

I found your blog today via this post being shared on Twitter, naturally I had to pop along and have a read. This post was brilliant, I truly really enjoyed reading it and it has most certainly gave me some food for thought. In regards to social media I think I can be guilty of spreading myself too thin, I think somehow we have all found ourselves trying to use everything that is available to us whereas if we just focus on two or three we can be much better at what we do and how we share it with readers.

Reading your very last paragraph made me laugh but it also hit home, I’m very guilty of the white table images although there’s not a Jo Malone candle in sight (I cringe at the price). At the moment I’m trying to think outside of the box where my images are concerned, I have some ideas in mind but they have yet to be followed through; this post has gave me a little nudge to get things moving.

On a whole I loved this! :)

    Harvey Specter
    Posted at 11:01 July 12, 2015
    Thom Watson
    Author

    Hi Amy,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write this comment and I am beyond happy that you enjoyed the post! I always remind myself when I see brands doing well across all social media channels that they have entire DEPARTMENTS and teams devoted to social media alone; so really it’s ridiculous to expect any of us to do it as
    well, plus keeping up the blog and even having a full-time job.

    Looking forward to seeing your new thoughts and will keep an eye out!

    Thom

    Harvey Specter
    Posted at 00:37 July 15, 2015
    Amy
    Author

    You are so right, they have a lot more man power to cover all areas of social media than we do on our own. I came back to check my comment had published as I didn’t see it at first, I would have commented again if needs be as I loved the post.

    Thanks for replying Thom.

Harvey Specter
Posted at 17:24 July 8, 2015
Heather Nixon
Reply
Author

Such an interesting, useful post, thanks! Even if I disagree with you about Pinterest! :)

    Harvey Specter
    Posted at 18:12 July 8, 2015
    Thom Watson
    Author

    Haha I know, I had to get that in there. I know so many people love it and use it. Navaz from DisneyRollerGirl is well worth a follow on there if you don’t already! Thanks for the comment Heather.

    Harvey Specter
    Posted at 22:26 September 12, 2015
    disneyrollergirl
    Author

    awww just seen this – thank you! LOL at the candle line. Might need to nick that for my Quote Of the Day…

Harvey Specter
Posted at 17:05 July 8, 2015
CherrySue
Reply
Author

Love this post, Thom, nodded right the way through.

I was just talking about making your blog your business on Irish radio & TV this week and my key point was akin to yours – it’s called ‘social media’ because you HAVE to be social. There’s no two ways around that.

Replace London with Dublin and this post is a perfect fit for Irish Bloggers too.

Brilliantly done x

    Harvey Specter
    Posted at 18:18 July 8, 2015
    Thom Watson
    Author

    Haha the amount of people I see on Social Media and think “you need to chill out and have a word with yourself!”. Amazing to hear so much out of Dublin as until the last few years, wasn’t it still all done out of London? x

Harvey Specter
Posted at 16:07 July 8, 2015
Hayley
Reply
Author

Thanks for all the shout-outs Thom! Wowzer!
Awesome post and fabulous tips as always too… Plus a few chuckles at your directness ; ) X

    Harvey Specter
    Posted at 18:23 July 8, 2015
    Thom Watson
    Author

    Any time! Thanks for your comment Hayley and hopefully I didn’t go too far hehe x

Harvey Specter
Posted at 15:46 July 8, 2015
Jay
Reply
Author

really great content on here, plus its rare to find someone who also isn’t the biggest fan of the whole new ‘youtube generation’

Jay | IYAAJAY
http://iyaajay.blogspot.co.uk

    Harvey Specter
    Posted at 18:23 July 8, 2015
    Thom Watson
    Author

    If that’s what I say about them on here, imagine what I say behind closed doors ;-) x

Harvey Specter
Posted at 15:13 July 8, 2015
Josh | The Kentucky Gent
Reply
Author

SO much good content here – great compilation.

Couldn’t agree more with the relationships bit of this – I wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am today if it wasn’t for the people I met along the way, and the brands that I’ve met and worked with. Seeing as I don’t live in NYC or LA, it’s definitely great for me to visit a couple times a year to meet with brands face to face. Like you said – putting a face to a name is TOTALLY worth it.

Josh | The Kentucky Gent
http://thekentuckygent.com

    Harvey Specter
    Posted at 16:00 July 14, 2015
    Thom Watson
    Author

    Glad you enjoyed it Josh! Also very interesting to hear you have similar experiences across the pond! x

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