25 lessons from 2.5 years of Unseen Beauty

I can’t believe I’ve had this blog for two and a half years now! From what started as an idea buzzing around my head whilst I was supposed to be relaxing in the bath, it’s been an interesting journey and I am really glad that I now have this little corner of the internet for writing. Writing is quite a big part of my job, but I really wanted to do something that would get me away from thinking about work for a while – which is basically how Unseen Beauty came about.

Here are 25 things that I have learned since setting up the site in January 2017.

1. As time goes on, you’ll change what you want to write about

At the beginning I thought it would just be a beauty and skincare blog, but I found this too narrow a niche, and also some of the people who read my articles couldn’t care less about that! Also, there are so many beauty and skincare blogs out there. What makes people stand out is when they bring something new and different to the table. So I still have my product posts about once a month, but Unseen Beauty has become more than that.

2. Sometimes it’s surprising what people want to read

It’s that thing – you never know which posts people will like. You can spend ages with your finger hovering over “publish” thinking “shall I just bin this?” and then when you finally click the button because the indecision is getting too much, you find that people really relate. Or, you can spend ages on a piece of content that you’re really proud of, and barely anyone reads it! You just never know until you send the posts out into the world!

I’m never going to be the kind of blogger that bears her heart and soul to the world, but I have found that the posts where I share a bit more honestly are the ones that people respond to. I think there’s a lot of generic content out there, so people want something a bit different.

3. If you set out with the idea that it’s not about the photos, the right people will come

On my work blog I wasn’t that bothered. It’s an educational blog, and people come for the educational content.

In the whole lifestyle arena, photos have a more important role. Instagram invaded the blogosphere and suddenly much higher importance was placed on the photos – which is an issue when you’re blind and can’t take them yourself.

Blogging has always been about the words though, and I didn’t want that to be taken from me. So I was just honest about it. If I’m talking about a place or a product, I’ll try and get someone to take a picture. If I don’t manage it, you get the article without. Blogmas is enough work anyway without stressing out over images, so you may just get my stock Christmas photo.

And you know what? On the whole, people are fine with that. My articles tend to be on the longer side, and people come because they want something to read.

I’m grateful to S and my mum for helping me out, and I know the photos add value. But it makes me sad when I read that people don’t want to publish posts because they don’t have the right photos.

4. Blogmas is a challenge, but it’s a lot of fun too

I’ve done it twice now and will probably be doing it again this year! Posting every day in December until Christmas Eve, coming up with the content, and not reusing ideas is challenging, but it’s also a lot of fun. Readers who engaged with the posts kept me going, and it’s also good to be part of the community of people who are doing it as well so you can see what content they are creating and encourage them too.

5. You’ll meet some cool people through blogging

Yes, there’s drama if you choose to get involved in it, but generally I steer clear of it and it stays away from me. I’ve found the blogging community to be really friendly and had some great conversations with people, either via the comments, on Facebook, Twitter, or privately.

6. Ideas will come at the weirdest times!

In the bath, when out running, in the middle of the night … Never when I’m at my laptop ready to write them down!

7. It’s ok to take a break

Having a plan and a schedule is good, but sometimes if you’re running on empty, the best thing to do is take a break. Give yourself space to think about other things. Then the ideas will come again.

If you try to force it or churn out posts when you really don’t feel like it, you’ll lose the sense of enjoyment, and a hobby blog is supposed to be fun!

8. Blogging is about community

It’s not all about only communicating with your own readers. You can make some great contacts through interacting with others and also discover new blogs by seeing who comments on things that you find interesting. You may well have things in common with them. Apart from that, community = the chance to do interviews or guest posts – and perhaps my favourite, swap boxes!

Also, knowing that my genuine recommendations have helped someone else feels good too.

9. Things change and you have to come up with new plans

When I was reading my notes, I couldn’t remember why I wrote this at first, but it was in relation to WordPress. Sometimes the platform changes. Horrid new editors are forced upon you that are inaccessible for blind people. You have to come up with a solution or give up. I didn’t want to give up, so yay for plugins that disable the new editor!

10. The internet can be a mean place, but it’s often not as bad as you think

I was really anxious about posting some of my content because I know some of my opinions are unpopular. Not with the people I know, but particularly when criticising the disability community or things that challenge the accepted way of thinking – they can bring out the trolls! It’s not that I particularly care what some troll on the internet thinks, but things can spiral out of hand quickly and it takes time and energy to manage. Fortunately I haven’t had to … yet!

11.The stats will never tell the whole story

I look at them. My number-crunching brain likes them. They are useful. But particularly when it comes to people who don’t have their own blogs, they may just read and won’t give you any idea of what impact your words had. That’s ok! We don’t all do the comment, like or share thing. That’s ok! It often amazes me how people come out with things that they can only know because they’ve been reading my blog – and I had no idea they were!

12. If you get bored with a topic, stop writing about it

I got bored doing some of the product posts, so I reduced them. People will know if your heart isn’t in something!

13. There is so much blogger junk mail

Every… single …week! Offers of high quality content directly related to my audience. People who love my blog about parenting, even though I’ve never written a parenting post in my life! People who think my audience would just love to see their infographic. Because blind people just love infographics – the clue’s in the name! Ugh!

14. Collaborations are fun

Whether that’s the swap box or the posts I did collecting views on a topic – involving others in a non-spammy way is a different way to create content and get to know other people at the same time.

15. Readers can be so kind

From comments that say “I know where you’re coming from” to those who regularly support the blog. From people who look out for things I might want to feature, to others who say the kindest things. Then there was the reader gift of new products to try that nearly made me cry because it was such a lovely thing to do!

16. You might think you’re the only one, but often many people can relate

I’m thinking about some of my opinion pieces now, and the things I don’t usually talk about…sensory difficulties, the disability-related challenges that we don’t talk about. Someone somewhere knows how it feels and might even be happy if you put it into words!

17.Blogger events aren’t actually that scary!

Admittedly I haven’t been to many, and I still think I’d find some of them a bit pretentious or be mistaken for someone’s mum, but there are low-key ones out there where it’s just everyday people writing blogs, rather than going after that perfect Instagram-worthy life that only really exists in people’s heads!

18. Beauty box fatigue is a thing

So I cancelled them all at the end of December and only restarted one in June. I’m up for looking at new and different things, but if there’s a lot of repetition and things you don’t really need, it’s not really a bargain!

19. Broken links are a pain!

I now have a plugin to tell me about them, but often shops will just pull a product and then you have a broken link. Or people will delete their site, meaning that any links to it from comments or linked posts will just lead to nowhere. This is not a great user experience for anyone wanting to visit those pages, but broken links are bad for your SEO too, so it is worth fixing them – even though it’s a boring task.

You probably aren’t surprised that I have a massive spreadsheet for logging them all!

20. This is not my job

And I’m happy about that! I have 2 businesses. I think some people put themselves under a lot of stress to monetise their blog, which sometimes leads to collaborations that look a little out of place or endorsing products that they normally wouldn’t. I’m not judging because we all need to get the bills paid, but this not being my main job means I can turn things down without measuring everything as a business opportunity. However, if I do make some money through the blog, it’s a bonus.

21. People sending out phishing emails seem to love bloggers

Your site, that you don’t host with us, will be taken down if you don’t give us your credit card details immediately! Your email address, which also wasn’t set up through us, is about to be deleted! Oh no! Give us your money quickly!

22. People don’t just read Blogmas content in December – who knew?

I think it’s because it’s linked – so someone reading a doggy post might also read dog-related Blogmas content. It just makes me smile to see those pages getting views in June!

23. You can use your blog to do good and support charities

I’ve done posts with two wolf sanctuaries, two donkey sanctuaries, and a couple with Dog’s Trust. I know that as a result, a couple of new sponsorships have been set up and that makes me really happy. I’ve found too that charities are happy about the publicity and willing to help with information requests.

24. You can reach people all over the world

Location data isn’t always accurate – people aren’t always where they claim to be – but it can give you a good idea of where your readers are. Most of mine are in the UK, but I sometimes scroll through the list of countries and am interested to see how many readers are based in other parts of the world.

25. I still have ideas!

Yes, there’s a spreadsheet for that too! I haven’t run out of ideas after 2.5 years and I still have plenty more.

Finally I’d like to say thanks to everyone who has read, commented, supported me, or contributed in some other way to the first 2.5 years of Unseen Beauty. You’re amazing!

I hope you’ll stay with me on this journey!

More from Unseen Beauty

If you’d like to get my catch-up emails, usually once a week, you can sign up using this form.

The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping information that I think my readers might like.

This post contains some affiliate links, but I only promote things that I’ve tried and tested.

 

Would you read your own blog?

Taking a fresh look at your blog from an outsider’s point of view.

If you were a visitor to your blog, would you want to read it?

It sounds like an odd question, but think about it for a moment. Is your blog something that you would like to read if you hadn’t seen all the content before?

Hopefully the answer is “yes!”

The reason I’m asking is because it’s really hard to write things that you don’t find interesting. You might have to do it for a job – I wrote plenty of documents in past jobs that didn’t get me excited – (strategy delivery action plan anyone?) but when it comes to your own blog, people will be able to tell whether you’re passionate and feel excited about the content.

I’m sure there have been articles that you clicked on because of an interesting headline, but then you clicked away after a couple of seconds. Why is that? I’d say there are two groups of reasons.

Mistakes or a bad user experience

The first reasons are that there is something wrong with it. Different things will bug different people. Maybe there are lots of mistakes in the writing and that puts you off. I’m not talking about grammar so much, but if it looks as though someone hasn’t given it a once-over before publishing, and dashed it out, leaving lots of typing errors in, I find it really distracting.

Maybe there is too much clutter to make it an easy reading experience.

Maybe the in-your-face pop-up drove you crazy!

Maybe there was an exciting title, but the content didn’t live up to it. Nobody loves clickbait.

Maybe the article is exactly the same as a bunch of other articles on the topic, and the blogger didn’t do anything unique to make it their own.

The list goes on, but they are generally things that can be fixed, and probably should be fixed so that readers don’t click away.

Personal preferences

Then there are the other, more personal things. These aren’t mistakes, but they’re about personal choice. They’re what makes you stand out from the crowd, and because of this, some people will be drawn to your blog because of them, whereas others will click on by. They aren’t bad things – but it’s good if you can be consistent with them so you give a clear message about what kind of vibe you are going for. How will you do this using your language/layout/images/choice of topics?

I like something to read, so a couple of lines of text with a bunch of photos doesn’t do it for me, whereas other people might fall asleep halfway through some of the articles that I enjoy because there’s too much detail for them.

I can’t stand football, but some of my friends hunt out articles about sport.

I love dogs, but most of the time I don’t want to read about cats (sorry cat lovers – one or two articles won’t make me run for it, but a whole blog on them wouldn’t be my first choice of reading material!.

As someone who is blind, content will always be king over images for me, but I know people who will stop reading if they don’t like the blog design or lack of photos.

If every product is amaaazing and every post feels like an ad or promotion, it somehow doesn’t feel real, and that’s a turn-off for me. I’d much rather someone say why they didn’t like something once in a while or that something just wasn’t their thing.

Whilst everyone can work to improve their writing style and presentation, these are more personal things. You can’t please everyone, and trying to please everyone will just give you a headache and make your blog blend into the noise of the hundreds of other blogs out there because there’s nothing that makes it stand out!

Take a look at your blog through the eyes of a visitor

So, if you want to get a better understanding of what’s important to you as a reader, why not make a list of things that make you really want to read a blog, and things that make you click away after a few seconds and never return? Some of them will be just basic good practice for running a blog, but some of them will be more specific and based on your personal likes and dislikes.

Once you’ve got your list, think of how it applies to your blog.

Do you unintentionally do any of the things that would make you click away as a reader?

Let’s take my ideas. I try not to do any of the generic things that I think are bad practice because if they wind me up, I don’t want to do the same to my readers. So no annoying pop-ups or ads scattered throughout the text. I can’t say I’ll never make a mistake, but I do read through the posts and check them before hitting publish.

It gets a bit less clear-cut when it comes to the personal stuff. I do write the kind of longer posts that I like to read. Partly because I have a lot to say, and partly because I’m looking for like-minded people.

I don’t write about cats or football, partly because they don’t interest me, but also because I would have nothing to say and it would be a bit of a rubbish article!

I try to come up with ideas that other people haven’t covered before, but I could do more to write posts with more of my own feelings or personal experiences in them, otherwise it can sound a bit generic. When you’ve previously worked in a job that encourages you to not put yourself in the centre of your writing, you have to develop new skills for blogging.

I like reading empties and favourites posts, but if I get 10 posts in my reading queue called “January favourites”, I might get a bit bored – so I’ve been experimenting with the titles. Such as November favourites – bloggers, body lotion and bunny ears! or 15 November empties – lots of handcream and a disappointing panda. Just something a bit different.

I like book posts, but never write them. That’s going to change!

People seem to like my disability posts, but I don’t find them the most exciting to write, because writing about my every-day life is kind of old news for me, whereas to the reader they’re often something new. So I combine it with things that I love –blindness + make-up tips or the accessibility of online shopping for someone who can’t use a mouse.

Sometimes it can help to do a year top 10 post to see which ones people are interacting with more. It’s tough if the posts people most enjoy reading aren’t the type that you most enjoy writing – and it’s definitely not good to just write for others without thinking about what you want to talk about. It’s your blog after all! But if you want to take the blog in a certain direction, give some thought to where people who like that type of content or share that interest may be hanging out. It might be that there’s nothing wrong with the content, it’s just not getting in front of the right people!

It’s good to try out new ideas to see whether they work – then you can carry on with them if you enjoy them and readers are engaging, or keep it to a short series if you run out of steam or the idea doesn’t work for some reason.

If you try to look at your blog and think about the things that you don’t enjoy on other blogs, it might help you to identify things you could do to make your own posts better, and improve the experience for long-time or new readers.

You could also think about some words or phrases that describe how you want your blog to be seen or remembered, and then see how some of your trusted readers describe it. Do the two sets of words match up? If not, what can you do about it?

More from Unseen Beauty

If you’d like to get my catch-up emails, usually twice a week, you can sign up using this form.

The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping deals or discounts that I think my readers might like.

Happy 1st birthday Unseen Beauty

As you can probably guess from the title, a year ago today I published my first two posts on this blog. The first one was an introduction, because although I already had another blog, the interface is different and I was still trying to figure out how things worked. The second was a product post, which is still one of my favourite type of posts to write!

The idea of blogging wasn’t new to me because I was already writing for my business blog. I’m an English teacher, so I write about language, language learning tips, writing skills and anything else I think my learners and readers would enjoy.

But Unseen Beauty was going to be different. I wanted it to be a place where I can write about all the other things I enjoy that have nothing to do with my job.

I came up with the name in the bath, where I get a lot of my ideas. For anyone who’s new – “beauty” because I feature a lot of beauty and skincare products, and “unseen” because I’m writing about the products and life in general from the perspective of someone who is blind.
Fast forward a year and I’ve written 120 posts – that number was pushed up quite a lot because I did Blogmas! Here are some of the things I’ve enjoyed – in no particular order:

  • Chatting with my readers. I know some of my friends and family read the blog, but I’ve also got comments from people locally and in other parts of the world, which is great!
  • Getting to know other Bloggers –including taking part in regular threads in the Blogs in Bloom Facebook group, doing several collaboration posts, and doing my first ever blogger swap box!
  • Working with brands – there’s something so nice when a brand that you like is interested in your blog or an idea that you’ve pitched.
  • Spreading information – I know some people have tried out new products after I talked about them, and I think that some of the accessibility and disability-related posts have given people new information and helped them to understand some issues better, which makes me happy.
  • Supporting charities I care about – I know that at least two people adopted wolves after my post about Madadh and Kgosi and I’m proud to be a virtual ambassador for them. I’ve also talked about the Dog’s Trust and the Wolf Conservation Trust, and I hope these posts have helped people to find out more about them too.
  • Trying out some new products and foods – all in the name of research of course!

I’ve got plenty of ideas for content this year, but for now, let’s have a blog party to celebrate. Here’s how to take part:

  1. Please tell me in the comments one post that you’ve enjoyed, or one topic that you’d like me to cover this year.
  2. If you have a blog, leave a link to it and tell us a couple of sentences about it. Don’t just leave a link – you’re more likely to get visitors if you let people know what your blog is all about!
  3. Visit some other blogs that you think look interesting. I can’t check who does this, but people who only take and don’t give anything back don’t get far in life!

So, thanks for reading and now I’m looking forward to your comments!

More from Unseen Beauty

If you’d like to get my catch-up emails, usually twice a week, you can sign up using this form.

The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping deals or discounts that I think my readers might like.

Finding your writing voice

Today’s post is a guest post that I wrote for the UK Bloggers’ site. It’s about some things to consider when you’re developing your unique style of writing, or your blogging voice. How do you want to sound to readers? What parts of your personality do you want to bring out?

There are plenty of posts about how to get more readers or take great pictures, but your own blogging voice is a powerful tool – and it’s one that only you have!

You can check out the article here.

More from Unseen Beauty

If you’d like to get my catch-up emails, usually twice a week, you can sign up using this form.

The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping information that I think my readers might like.

This post contains some affiliate links, but I only promote things that I’ve tried and tested.