19 November 2013

Beginner Blogger's Bootcamp: Week Six: Developing Unique Content and Building a Following

The Beginner Blogger's Bootcamp is a series of posts published once a week on Monday evenings. It is designed for new bloggers, those thinking of starting a blog, or seasoned bloggers wanting a refresher, and covers everything from starting a blog to photographing your nails to using social media. Check out past posts in this series.

Hi Bloggers! My apologies for getting this post out late, I was totally exhausted last night and fell asleep before I could finish this post! A word of warning - this is a very lengthy post, so grab a coffee, glass of wine, or whatever you like to sip on when reading blogs. It should actually be two posts, but I want to finish up this series before Christmas, so I've combined two topics.

In previous posts we dealt with how to make your blog more appealing through blog design and taking good photos. These are important for drawing people to your blog. But that's only part of the equation. Developing unique content that sets your blog apart from the others, and building a following are important for making taking your blog to the next level. 

One of the frustrations newer bloggers have is that they feel no one is reading or following their blog. It can be disappointing when you feel that you are putting your best work out there and no one sees it. This post is filled with tips and advice, so hopefully it will help you in that respect.

Unique Content

What is Unique Content?

In the book Problogger, a must-read for any blogger IMO, the authors Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett distinguish between useful and unique content. Useful content is what you normally see on nail polish blogs - nail art, swatches, etc. Most of the stuff a blogger posts is useful. But just because it's useful doesn't make it unique. Unique content is what sets your blog apart from other blogs, it's something that you can offer that readers can't get someplace else. 

Unique content is important because it's what attracts readers to your blog and keeps them coming back for more. With so many nail polish blogs out there it is hard to develop content that is truly unique, but if you make an effort to do stuff that is different from what other bloggers are doing, people will notice and they will want to follow!

So I can hear you thinking, "but it's my blog can't I just post what I like?" Well, yes, but if what you like is not working in terms of bringing visitors and followers to your blog, would it hurt you to try something new and develop posts that add value for your readers? I'm not saying to give up on writing about what you enjoy, just think about your audience and what they would find interesting and unique.

10 Suggestions for Developing Unique Content

Think of blogging as a dialog, a large conversation with lots of people adding their knowledge and opinions. You want to add to that conversation in a way that contributes something new, not repeats what other people have already said. What can you say that would add to that discussion? 

Exercise: Go to your favourite blog, and scan through the last 15-20 posts. What posts really stand out to you? What posts not so much? And why?

If you are stuck on how to write posts that will stand out, here's some suggestions:

  1. List posts: You tend to see these at the end of the year, for example, "20 best polishes of 2012," but they are fun to read any time of the year. Put together a post of your top five polishes of the season, or 10 underrated polish brands. You can also use the list as a way to start discussion with your readers.
  2. Tutorials: People often turn to nail polish blogs because they want to learn something or they are having a problem with something. Tutorials are always popular - they don't just have to be on nail art, you could do tutorials on your nail care routine, or how to organize your stash.
  3. Sneak peaks: If you have a special arrangement with an indie brand or a company, being able to show the first look at a new collection or polish is a great way to keep your readers interested. It will take time to build up relationships to the point where you have that option, but it's not impossible. 
  4. Swatches, especially of polishes that have been under-reviewed: I'll be frank, sometimes posting swatches isn't necessarily the best choice in terms of creating unique content. I'm thinking about when a collection has been reviewed by many bloggers. If you feel that you have something to add with your review, perhaps you don't think it's as good as previous reviews suggest, fine. But posting swatches and a review of a polish (or polishes) that hasn't been shown much may be a better choice. After all, people searching for that polish are more likely to stumble on your blog.
  5. Original nail art: Who doesn't love nail art!? If you have a unique style then nail art is a great way to post unique content. If you are just getting started with nail art, my suggestion is to work on learning the basics while also developing your own style.
  6. Comparisons: Comparing several similar polishes is really helpful for readers when they are trying to decide what to purchase. Comparisons are also not done very often, which is why they can be valuable to your readers.
  7. Informational posts: These are slightly different from tutorials in that they don't provide step-by-step instruction on how to do something. These still satisfy the demand people have to learn something or solve a problem. The Beginner Blogger's Bootcamp is an example of a series of informational posts. Other examples would be posts on different nail art supplies, or recipes for natural nail care products.
  8. Series: A series of posts on a particular topic - if it's something that there's a big demand for - can be very rewarding but also useful for your readers. If they really like the topic they will come back and read the rest of the posts in the series!
  9. Reader-generated content: Blogging can be pretty isolating, even with comments, so it's nice to get your readers involved every once in awhile, and they appreciate it too! Use a comment or a question you received to start a debate/discussion (with the reader's permission of course), or invite contributions from your readers (I did this with my "From the Readers" miniseries).
  10. Nail art/polish trend predictions: What do you think will be popular in the next few months? Like list posts these can be fun to read.

Tip: Keep a journal or notebook and write down ideas for future posts. Use these ideas when you are feeling uninspired or lacking in ideas.

Posting nail art tutorials can inspire others, and if they recreate your designs they will (hopefully) share your post and link to your blog! Encourage your readers and followers to tag you if they create a nail art look inspired by one of your designs.

Building a Following

Some people get overly concerned with their stats - how many people are following them on their blog and social media sites. Followers for the sake of followers is never a good thing. I've seen bloggers who have a large number of followers, but not very many people are visiting their blog. Where's the fun in that? Instead think of your followers as a community you belong to. Not just a set of numbers.

It can be discouraging when you have been blogging for awhile but it feels like no one reads or visits your blog. Believe me, I've been there. I felt that way when I started blogging on Tumblr, and even when I moved my blog to Blogger, for the first few weeks I only had one follower.

My advice? Post the best work that you can, work on developing unique content, and continue to do so on a regular basis. If you are dedicated, people will notice and take interest. Aside from that here's a few more tips...

Network With Other Bloggers

Who reads nail polish blogs? Other nail polish bloggers!! Yes it's true, and connecting with those bloggers can bring about some good relationships and moral support, as well as new followers to your blog. Here's some ways to get involved with other bloggers:

  • Join Blogging Groups. There are many groups on Facebook for nail polish and beauty blogs. You don't want to use these groups to just pimp your blog (post links and leave), but being an active member can be a good way to meet other bloggers. Maybe you might find some bloggers that you want to do a challenge with, or some other project.
  • Leave comments. Being an active commenter on other blogs in your niche is a good way to get noticed. But be warned - leaving your blog link in your comments is a very bad, BAD way to get your name out and will only result in upsetting or irritating other bloggers. This is called spamming. I personally delete these comments and so do many other bloggers. A better way to get noticed is to read other blogs, and leave thoughtful and considerate comments. If you really want another blogger to check out your blog, send them a polite email and ask if they would check out your blog. But don't be pushy or expect people to follow you back.
  • Share the work of other bloggers. When you start to think of yourself as part of a community, part of that means sharing the work of other bloggers who have inspired you or who you think deserve more attention. I have benefited from having my blog shared by other people, and while I'm not always good at sharing the work of other bloggers, it's something I want to do more.

Get Your Readers Involved

Because your readers and followers are part of a community, it makes sense that getting them involved in that community is important. Here's some ways you can do that:

  • Make sure to allow for discussion. Especially in the early days of blogging, responding to comments is very important. It shows people that you care about what they write. It is harder to maintain when you start to get more comments (speaking from experience here), but even then make an effort to respond when you can and always when someone posts a question or needs clarification on something.
  • Give your readers a task. No I'm not saying you should have your blog readers edit your posts! Instead ask them to share their tips and advice on a topic, or submit their suggestions for your next tutorial, or ask them to send in their nail art designs for you to post. Getting people involved will encourage them to be active members in your blog's community.


Giveaways can be a fun way to get new people interested in your blog, and to give back to the readers that have supported you. And of course brands like them to promote their product. But it is possible to overdo them. Like I said before, followers for the sake of followers is not really the best approach. There is such a thing as placing too much emphasis on giveaways, so that people are mainly following you because of the giveaways and not because they enjoy your blog.

I prefer to tie my giveaways to milestones and accomplishments, and not to reaching X number of followers. But that's just my opinion.

If you are worried about people unfollowing after a giveaway, make following your blog an optional entry in your giveaway. Instead, give people additional entries for sharing your giveaway so that more people will hear about it.

SEO Tips

SEO what?! Search Engine Optimization is the process of making your blog posts easier for Google (and other search engines) to find. I get a lot of traffic from Google, so that has been an important aspect of growing my blog. However, I'm not an SEO expert, and there is so much to learn on the topic, most of it geared towards web developers and people with specialized skills in that area. But here are a few things that I have picked up along the way:

  • Label photos with keywords. Most people tend to leave the random file names set by their camera (i.e. pic-292999.jpeg). Give your photo a file name that uses keywords that describes the photo. For example, if I have a photo of a swatch of a China Glaze polish, the file name will look like this: China-Glaze-Gossip-Over-Gimlets-Swatch-1.jpeg. For nail art, my file names will look like this: Dreamcatcher-Nail-Art-1.jpeg. This enables your images to be found easier in a Google Image search. Make sure to use dashes - and not underscores _ to separate the words. Do not leave blanks between words.
  • Add search descriptions to your posts. This is a Blogger-specific tip that I just learned about. In Blogger you can enable search descriptions, so that when you write a post you can write up a short description of the post using keywords. This makes it easier for search engines to find your posts. I haven't tried this one yet, but I know other bloggers have had success in driving up traffic by entering search descriptions on their posts. You can also add search descriptions to past posts. 
    • To enable search descriptions go to "settings" then "search preferences" in your control panel for your blog.
  • Use keywords in your posts. In your title, post, and tags, use keywords and common phrases that people search for such as "nail art" "nail polish" "swatch" and brand names. Here are the best places to put those keywords:
    • In the title of your post (which also becomes the URL unless you set a custom URL)
    • The URL - if you set a custom URL that is different from your title
    • In the body of your post, especially in the first few sentences - many bloggers tend to start their posts by talking about their day, their sore back, etc., but there's a good argument to be made for getting to the point.
    • In tags or labels that you assign to the post
    • In links to other sites or blogs - when linking to a relevant website, say the store for the indie brand that the post is about, use the name of that brand for your link, don't just use generic words like "here" or "link".
  • Link to your blog. When bloggers or websites link to your blog it makes your blog show up higher in Google and web searches. If you are writing a post and it's relevant to a past post that you did, you can link to that post. Also another way to get inbound links is to do guest posts. Make sure that the blog you are guest posting on links to your blog. 

Enable and add search descriptions to your posts so that search engines can easily find your blog posts. Use simple descriptions with keywords. Think about phrases you use when searching for content.

Final Thoughts

If you made it to the end of this post, you are a blogging superstar!! This is a lot of information but much of it, like using keywords, responding to comments, getting your readers involved, will become second nature. Remember that your blog will always be a work in progress. I know that not everything I post about can be considered "unique content" but it's something that I work towards.

Let's hear from you!! 

What do you think about these tips? Do you have any advice or suggestions for developing unique content or building a following?

*Stay tuned later this week, I'll be introducing a special segment of the Beginner Blogger's Bootcamp! Hint: this will allow those of you following to get more involved, and new bloggers to get feedback on their blogs.* ;)

See also:

Beginner Blogger's Bootcamp: Week Five: Editing Nail Photos
Beginner Blogger's Bootcamp: Week Four: Taking Nail Photos
Beginner Blogger's Bootcamp: Week Three: Blog Design
Beginner Blogger's Bootcamp: Week Two: Blogging Platforms
Beginner Blogger's Bootcamp: Week One: Starting Your Blog
Introducing the Beginner Blogger's Bootcamp: Kickstart Your Nail Polish Blog!


  1. What an awesome post, I've really enjoyed this entire series. I'm going to start naming my photos something relevant. That's a great tip to put dashes in between, I had no idea!

    1. Thanks Erin! I'm happy to hear that you're finding it useful. The labelling photos trick really does work!

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  3. Thank you so much for this Blogger Bootcamp series! I'm finding it super helpful and really easy to follow along with and implement. I'm really excited to see the remaining posts!

    1. Yay!! That's great, and you're welcome! :)

  4. This is great advice! I definitely need to make a list of content to add to my blog.

    1. I'm working on mine too. Lately I've been pretty busy with lots of posts I need to get out, but I know it will slow down eventually. :P

  5. Great tips! I've kind of fallen into a blogging slump. ):

    1. Oh no!! Blogging slumps are never good. I find that reading about blogging can help me get motivated. Strange but true.

  6. I have really enjoyed this series. I have been blogging for well over a year now but having been feeling like I was in a rut. This series has really helped to get the creative juices (and the technical ones too!) flowing!

    1. I'm glad to hear that it's been useful. I find if I loose my motivation when it comes to blogging, that reading about blogging can help me get back on track. Hopefully you get some good ideas from these posts - or I can point you in the right direction. :)

  7. Hi Meghan, thank you so much for the tips and details! I have read every post of this series. More importantly, I truly appreciate your openness and honesty in sharing the realities of nail blogging for us new bloggers!

    1. You're welcome Lacquertude! I'm happy to hear that you find it helpful, and I hope I haven't scared you off of nail blogging! ;)

  8. Great post! And thanks for the tips! :)

  9. Thanks so much for this post! I found this really useful - I've started a feature on my blog called "Try This" because I find inspiration in all kinds of random places and I wanted to share! I wasn't sure about it because it's not something I've seen around but this post has given me a massive boost - my feature is a unique point about my blog. :)

    Also really appreciate the comment about labelling photos - I hadn't given it much thought but I definitely need to get into that habit.

    1. I'm glad you found the post helpful. That sounds like a great feature and if you have a set day of the week that you post it, you might find that people tune into your blog on that date hoping to see it! And definitely start labelling your photos with keywords/descriptions. Depending on the image it might not land at the top of a google image search but it will be closer to the top.

  10. I see what you did at the end there ;) thank you so much for doing these Blogger Bootcamp posts, there really helping me out!x

  11. These posts are incredibly helpful, thank you! I had no idea the search descriptions options existed!

  12. These posts are very helpful..I didn't know about the SEO. Thank you :)

  13. I made it to the end! But it wasn't really that long ;)
    Everything you say is so worthy, it's really a true pleasure to read you. And I learned a few tricks here to! I think I already apply 75% of the things you name so, I must be on the right path to blogging paradise :)

    Have a great day!

  14. Really great information! Most of it I do already but it gave me more inspiration. :)

  15. Super useful - especially the search engine optimization ;) I knew SEO existed, but did not know about those easy ways to do it that you listed! Great!

    I'm looking forward to when I have the time to implement some of the stuff you talk about in this series! It is all very useful!

  16. Do you have any tip on good FB groups with nail bloggers?

    1. The Nail Polish Blogger Connection is good: https://www.facebook.com/groups/357987504306134/

      And I also like Polish Pashionistas, although it's not blogger specific: https://www.facebook.com/groups/polish.passionistas/

      Once you've been blogging more than a year, I suggest the Beauty Blogger Coalition: https://www.facebook.com/groups/beautybloggers/

  17. I really enjoyed this post. There are some thing I had considered before, and others I definitely need to put into effect. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who thinks giveaways can go to far when it comes to having a "number" of followers vs quality.

  18. Thank you for for these tips and links to other bloggers. I am a new blogger and this is helping me out IMMENSELY!

  19. I'm curious as to why there should be no spaces between the photo name. I noticed on blogger when you click on your photo you can add the name of the photo there in properties, would this be the same concept? I'm going to have to get the book you mentioned in this post. Once again this has been so helpful. Thanks!

    1. When there's spaces between words in a photo name it will be read with %20% in between the words i.e. flower%20%nail%20%art.jpeg - not very search engine friendly. So that's why you would label it flower-nail-art.jpeg.

      To answer you other question I don't have much experience with the properties feature, but it's something worth looking into. Thanks for mentioning it.

      And you're very welcome, I'm glad you found the post helpful. :)

    2. The properties option on blogger creates a caption on the picture if you were to pin-it using Pinterest. I'm sure it has other uses too, but this where I've noticed it come into play the most for me. I always try to fill the properties in on my photos with not only the title of the blog post/photo, but the name of my blog too. That way if someone decides they want to pin-it, the Pinterest description box auto-fills. Obviously they can delete it and caption it whatever they want, but I always hope people remember to leave my blog name.

    3. Thank you Julie! This is really helpful. I don't have a Pinterest for my blog (just one for the business) but I know a lot of people pin my photos. So I'll try and start filling that in. :)

  20. Thank you so much for the tips! They are very helpful and useful.

  21. Thank you so much for these tips! I'm thinking about beginning a nail blog mixed with some lifestyle (DIY, inspirational quotes...) This series really helped me. I'm so glad I found it!


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