Setting Up, What You Need, How to Get Readers
If you promise not to share it with anyone else, I’ll give you the magic secret to having a successful beauty blog! Are you ready? Remember, don’t tell anyone — I could get into big trouble for spilling all. Okay, the secret is high quality content and hard work pay off. Usually. Sometimes you need something called opportunity. For me, opportunity was coming in like gangbusters during a time when beauty blogging was just gaining its feet; not so early on that brands had no clue what blogs were, but early enough where there were fewer beauty blogs. Opportunity is often seeing what is needed and meeting that need before anyone else does.
It’s a tough nut to crack now. Sometimes, I just want to tell someone not to get into beauty blogging and find another niche that you’re equally passionate about. It’s completely saturated (and some argue over-saturated), which means that becoming successful takes longer and requires more work than it used to. It is not impossible, but it’s unlikely you’ll be an overnight sensation, or even an over-year sensation. If it’s a hobby, just a place for you to periodically share your thoughts, go for it; but if you’re really looking to make something out of it, just be prepared for an uphill battle. If you stick with it, the outcome is totally worth it! Beauty blogging is rather addictive 🙂
What can you do differently?
I ask myself this question all the time. I’m interested in how can I do something differently or better. What’s my spin? What’s my advantage? Some bloggers are funny and witty, others are great storytellers. Do you love all high-end beauty products? Only products you can score a great deal on? Maybe you’re really into base makeup. Perhaps you have a skin tone that is underrepresented within the beauty blogging community. If you think about what you bring to the table, and you can’t really think of anything, you might want to re-think starting a blog until you do figure it out.
Technically, how do I set it all up?
The two most popular systems to use are WordPress (which is what Temptalia has always used) and Blogger (which I have never used, so I can’t help you at all). I would highly recommend securing a domain name, and I would say the shorter, pithier it is, the better. I’ve been going by “Temptalia” for over ten years on the internet, so it was natural for me to have the domain name at the time, but it’s also enabled me to build more of a brand. If you get a domain, you need to host it somewhere, and I’d recommend Dreamhost. We used them for a few years, and for the price, nothing beats it–the support was excellent while we were there 95% of the time.
Once you’re hosted, you can get free and/or inexpensive themes (or layouts/designs), and some places will install them for you–it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg either; maybe $20 to $100. It’s good to get an idea about how WordPress functions, so you might look into a WordPress for Dummies book. Shaun has always handled the technical side of the blog, including WordPress, plug-ins, design, and so forth. It’s a more straight-forward system than you think; it’s intuitive, and it doesn’t take long to learn the system without having to get into lots and lots of code.
When you have your name settled, you may want to secure that name on various social networks. Temptalia uses Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Instragram, and hopefully nothing else that I’ve forgotten. In the beginning, it’s not necessary to manage all of those social networks; you’ll want to concentrate on building up one or two. The reality is a lot of beauty bloggers aren’t full-time bloggers, so they have full or part-time jobs (or go to school), so spending a lot of time managing social networks isn’t going to be efficient. It’s more important to spend that time creating interesting content than tweeting about creating interesting content!
What do I need?
If you plan to photograph anything, you’ll want a decent camera (and no, it doesn’t have to be a fancy DSLR) and to find an area that has good lighting. For beauty, a camera with a macro function (which is a fairly standard function) is sufficient. Are DSLRs better? Sure, they can be, assuming your lighting isn’t terrible. Lighting is more important than equipment. You can make a DIY light tent (just google it), purchase a small one ($20 to $50), or just take two bright lights and shine them on the product and play with that set up for a bit. I recommend a tripod if you aren’t shooting with flash or excellent lighting.
- What do I use? I use a Nikon D3s DSLR with the following lenses: 35mm, 50mm, 18-85mm, 60mm, and 70-300mm. I primarily use the 60mm, as it is my macro lens. At this time, I really only use lenses that are full-frame, but if the DSLR is not full-frame, then Nikon makes excellent DX lenses that are much cheaper. For lighting, I use two AlienBees B800s along with soft boxes, beauty dishes, reflectors, and other stuff I don’t understand.
A good photo (and possibly video, if you also go that route) editing program is helpful to have. The standard is likely Adobe Photoshop, but here’s a great post on several viable alternatives to Photoshop that are free. If you’re a student, you might be able to snag a student copy of software you need, which would save you a bundle.
- What do I use? Adobe Photoshop CS6. I know Shaun also uses Adobe Premiere (video editing), Illustrator, and Dreamweaver.
You might think you need to have a closet full of beauty products, but you don’t–though chances are if you’re thinking about beauty blogging, you already have quite the stash! You can write reviews on products you already own, holy grail products, talk about product disasters, and how best to use a product. Maybe there’s a blush that just works with everything–well, you could show us that! You can also go to your local counter/store and play with displayers, get quotes from makeup artists, and the like.
How do I get more readers?
The superficial matters. When someone comes to your blog, you want them to stick around for more than 0.003 seconds. This is why design, layout, and load time can be really important. What will be the first screen that readers see? Have you used colors that a majority of people will find blinding or difficult to read on? Is it obvious where your content is? We are always reevaluating our choices to see how we can improve upon them, so it’s not a process that ever stops.
Content is king. I’ve said it many times before, and I’ll say it several more times before I’m through: content is king. In order for people to have a reason to go to your blog, there has to be content worth reading. If you want readers, these aren’t just passer-bys, they’re regulars, which means they need regular content to read. If you only post once a month, it’s going to be hard for readers to come in droves. As a reader, if I come across a blog that hasn’t updated a couple of weeks, I assume the blogger has lost interest or abandoned their blog. The harsher reality is that there are hundreds of blogs who post content multiple times a week, if not daily. Readers can read more than blog, but most aren’t able to keep up with 100s within the same niche. If you only want to post once a week, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it; just figure out what you can do on your end to make that one post worth the week-long wait.
Join beauty blog networks, link lists, etc. Some blogs participate in link roundups, which include links from a group of bloggers. I’m sure you’ve seen a roundup or two on other beauty blogs, so you might ask to join that particular list. If you’re not able to join, you can consider starting your own with other similar blogs. I’ve heard from others that this is a great way for newer beauty blogs to get their name out.
Time. It takes time to build up a readership, so just keep at it. You can periodically ask your readers how you’re doing, what kinds of things they’d like to see in the future, to get a gauge on who is reading. Just because they never comment doesn’t mean they’re not reading, but sometimes when you ask specifically for feedback, you’ll get some of your most loyal [lurking] readers to leave a comment! You can also try asking for feedback through polls, which makes it easier for people to weigh in without leaving a comment.