newbie (1)

Okay, so here’s the number that came up when I did a Google search for Beauty Blogs: 939,000,000. And here’s the number that came up when I searched Beauty Bloggers: 216,000,000. Whatever way you look at it, competition is stiff out there. So, you might as well have the hard facts before I go any further. These days, if you want a beauty blog that’s more than a place to park your thoughts and feelings about beauty, you need to bring your A game.

I am emailed weekly by new bloggers asking for advice – I’m very happy to give it, of course, but I thought it would be useful to have a post that I can refer everyone to. It’s as no-bull as I can make it – I don’t see the point in pretending it’s unicorns and rainbows in blog land because it isn’t. So, by bullet point, here we go:

–         The thing I am asked about most often is how to get PR samples or information. The last thing I am prepared to do is give out PR information: they’re overwhelmed as it is.

–         A PR office operates as part of a business: they need to see something back for their outlay. Sending out sample isn’t a cost free thing for them; they have budgets to justify like any other part of the business would.

–         Until you have an audience that might justify them sending you product, don’t even ask for it. That means that the onus in on you to build an audience. It’s that simple.

–         A useful analogy might be that if someone who distributes the church leaflets through letter boxes asked for a nice lipstick to feature in the leaflet (I can’t see why they would, but you know…!) so that their neighbours and church friends could read about it, you’d probably expect a press office to scratch their heads and say no, this doesn’t seem like an appropriate way to reach consumers. It’s the same for a blog with hardly any readers – there is no justification for the send out. And they have to justify every send out to their bosses.

–         ‘Shopping List’ letters have become something of a joke in the beauty blogging industry – serious bloggers don’t do this. A shopping list letter is sending an entire list of products you would like to try for your blog. Often it doesn’t even give the blog name, never mind the stats, or any indication that the person has been a long-time fan of the brand, knows anything about the brand, never mind reasons that they want to share it, reasons that their blog might be the right place for the brand to be seen, and so on. It’s just a shopping list – but without the purse. Please know that PRs and brands laugh at these a nano-second before they press delete.

–         You have to sell yourself. If you think asking for samples is as simple as saying ‘send me a lipstick’, you are wrong. What is there about your blog that would persuade a brand they should be seen there? It’s a blogger job to let them know, and not a PR job to find out.

–         So, moving on from free stuff, or lack of, you’ll need to be inventive. Nobody has a limitless budget for beauty, so do some swapsies with friends, take any department store sample going, look for offers – 3 for 2s, watch out for samples in magazines and see how you can make them into useful and valid posts. Even a spritz of fragrance from the beauty hall can give you an opinion about a fragrance that you can share.

–         Everyone loves a bargain. So, another really good way to engage people is to bargain-hunt on their behalf. If you see good offers on in-store, or on-line, flag them up! Give them a reason to come back and read more about what you’ve seen. That’s a great post with absolutely no financial out-lay. And it’s useful.

–         Be creative and different with the way you take photos. I have found myself painting lipstick on a lemon, icing a tin of vaseline and sticking false lashes on a coconut, and why? Because nobody else has. Find ways to be different; with stats like those from Google outlined above, it’s crucial.

–         Be a great member of the blogging community. In fact, great isn’t good enough – be fabulous. Pay it forward all the time; be generous about linking to other blogs, take time to leave comments, add blogs you love to your blog roll, join in on Twitter, and if you’re new, remember the first rule; learn, don’t teach.

–         On Sunday evenings, between 8 and 9pm, the #BBloggers chat takes place. Join in the hashtag and the conversation as a way to get to know other beauty bloggers. The more you know, the more you’ll learn. It can get quite heated, but usually it covers topics that are very helpful to new bloggers.

–         Look for beauty forums to join; it’s a great way to find out what’s current and what people are loving or loathing at the moment. There’s no point in doing a squeaky and enthusiastic post on a product that has been widely panned elsewhere, so you might as well know what’s hot and what’s not.

–         Tell everyone you know about your blog! Ask them to tell everyone they know. Have some little cards printed with your blog name and URL and give them out to friends and family, work colleagues, college friends etc. Moo does reasonably priced cards; you can find them HERE. The more people that know about it, the more people are likely to read it!

–         If you feel ambitious for your blog, you can’t expect flocks of readers if you are only posting once a week. I post five times a day usually, because that is now the level I need to be at to stay where I am. You don’t have to post at that level.. but a post a day would be about right if you want to retain an audience.

–         Whatever platform you choose to blog from, you’ll need to have Google Analytics. This keeps tabs on how many people come to your site and it is crucial that you know the numbers. It can also tell you how many readers you send on to other places (good for exchanging blog rolls), and give you an indication of what your audience likes. Some brands are vastly more popular than others and your analytics will tell you what people like best so you can do more of it. The best way to understand how counters like Analytics work is to read this piece by MsDrifted, HERE.

–         If what you want from a blog is a place to record your likes and dislikes in beauty, then disregard all of the above and below. The joy of a blog is that it can be whatever you want it to be; the calmest, most happy bloggers, in my experience, are the ones that really don’t care about what anyone else is doing, or even if hardly anyone is reading… they just love to write about beauty.

–         Don’t swear on your blog – certain words are so out of bounds that I can’t even tell you! No brand in the world (unless it’s the Sweary T-Shirt Company or similar) wants to be associated with a potty mouth blogger.

–         How you present yourself is how you will be viewed; be careful with your blog persona and if you’re aiming high you need to be the person that people do want to be associated with and you need to say pretty much on topic. That means a) giving fair and honest reviews, b) not using your blog as a place for personal vendetta, c) not oversharing about inappropriate subjects, such as your love life, d) running spell check before you post. Again, think about how brands will see you – an emotional wreck with boyfriend issues and an elderly cat? They’ll only know if you tell them on your blog! There’s also the 75/25 rule… you should be on topic 75% of the time, with only 25% off topic.. in reality, on my blog what that means is that occasionally I put some accessories or fashion up or a post like this, but the majority of the time, it’s completely about beauty. Most of my readers aren’t bloggers so something like this isn’t of interest for them, and they’re always my absolute priority. Without them, I’d have no blog, so I try and keep off-topic to a minimum.

–         Unless you have lottery-type luck, I’d say you are looking at about a year to build a reasonable audience, to become known about and to be taken seriously. Longer, maybe if you are looking to earn money from your blog. And that’s a whole other thing to receiving free product.

–         I’m nearly at the end of 3 pages of A4 so, I’ll leave it there but will do a post down the line for bloggers looking to run their blog as pro-blog, or to make an income from blogging. The bottom line there I think is don’t blog but do Vlog! Another time…

*all products are sent to me as samples from brands and agencies unless otherwise stated. Affiliate links may be used. Posts are not affiliate driven.