Today I’m introducing guestblogger, Ashley Acornley, RD, LDN who blogs at Fresh From the Farm, which is packed with useful information about finding nutritious and tasty farm fresh foods in your area.  Enjoy as Ashley shares with you some of her first-time blogging experiences:

As part of my graduate practicum project at Meredith College, I decided to venture out of my comfort zone and enter the world of blogging. As any of my friends and family members can tell you, I am not a computer-savvy individual. Although I was raised in the era of computers and smart phones, I would much rather write my work by hand than touch a laptop. Nonetheless, as a large component of my practicum, I decided to create a blog entitled, “Fresh From the Farm.” The purpose of my blog was to expand the knowledge and consumption of local foods in the Triangle region. To my surprise, my new blog has been quite a success since it has been launched in early May 2011. I have found that my weekly recipes, farmer’s market reviews, and nutrition tips have allowed my followers to become more aware of the benefits of consuming local foods. However, my blog has thrown a few challenges my way, and has consumed a large part of my summer. Since many of you visit blogs frequently, or are bloggers yourselves, I thought that it would be helpful to share some of the lessons that I have learned along the way, so that you can pave your way to blogging success!

1. Brainstorm the content of your blog ahead of time

Once you have the title and idea of your blog planned, the next step is to brainstorm a few weeks’ worth of blog topics and content ahead of time. This way, you get a good feel for what your overall theme is going to be. This will also help your readers to determine what to expect from you on a weekly basis. Writing the content of your blog ahead of time is also a real time-saver when you have a busy week and do not have much time to devote to your blog.

2. Spread the word: market and promote your blog

I have learned that the best way to attract new readers to your blog is to constantly promote your blog using blog traffic, social media, and local businesses. At first, I started promoting my blog on my Facebook page, Twitter account, and by commenting on other people’s blogs to increase blog traffic. However, I also started to use the old fashioned approach to advertising, which is sending mass emails to friends, family members, and co-workers- these people will always be your biggest fans! In addition, I contacted several local authors, bloggers, chefs, and business owners who were more than happy to advertise my blog. This was probably the best exposure that my blog received, and I am very grateful for it! Finally, I took matters into my own hands by creating my own business cards, so that everyone I network with has my contact information and my blog site for future reference.

3. Be confident in your work!

Although it is scary to display your personal thoughts and opinions to the public, do not be afraid to display your work to the world! Your best work is when you are just being yourself. Your fans will love your blog posts, no matter how unique they are.

4. If you are stuck, be sure to seek help

This statement can involve moment’s when you are having trouble with writer’s block, designing your blog, determining the direction of your blog, creating catchy blog titles…and the list goes on. It is always best to seek the advice of another individual in order to get yourself out of your “rut,” you may just create an even better idea together! For instance, when I was initially creating my blog, I contacted both my mentor and graduate advisor to help me with my troubleshooting issues on WordPress. Not only was it more time efficient to get quality advice, they also helped me to create some amazing content on my blog!

5. Take plenty of pictures!

People are definitely more attracted to pictures rather than text on a blog. I recommend using a camera or a smart phone to take pictures of your subject matter. Always carry a camera or phone with you for spur-of-the-moment events, because these tend to be the best pictures to display! Also, if you are describing a recipe or a “how-to” tutorial, it is helpful to provide a picture with a caption for every step of the way, so that your readers can follow along.

6. Be creative!

Always use catchy titles or phrases to attract your audience to have them visit your blog on a consistent basis. Try new fonts, colors, captions, and pictures to accentuate your blog!

7. Increase variety throughout your blog

Although your blog pertains to one central subject, try to mix up your content as much as possible. For instance, post interviews, provide monthly guestblogs, review books, explore new recipes, or talk about recent experiences. This will keep your readers intrigued and coming back for more!

8. Always be prepared for the unexpected

A large component of my blog involves cooking and baking different meals using local foods, and to take step-by-step pictures of how to make each recipe. However, in the middle of June, my camera unexpectedly broke, and I was not able to display pictures for about one week until it was fixed.  When in doubt, improvise! In this instance, instead of posting a weekly recipe, I blogged about a local Community Supported Fisheries Project in Raleigh, a topic that I feel my readers would benefit from. Although I missed out on one week’s worth of recipes, I educated my readers on additional local food topics that didn’t involve as many pictures as before.

9. Back up ALL of your documents

Be sure to save all of your documents and pictures along the way, because you never know when your computer in going to suddenly crash, you lose your disk, or your paper copies get accidently thrown away. All three of these instances has happened to me along the way, and it is not fun to start from scratch again. It is best to save your work to a central drive that does not stray too far away from your computer.

10. What do you think???

What have you learned during the creation of your current blog? Did you encounter any struggles or experiences that you wish you knew ahead of time? Please share them with your fellow bloggers here!

Find Out More About

Ashley Acornley, RD, LDN

Ashley is originally from Philadelphia, PA and earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Sciences with a minor in Kinesiology from Penn State University in August 2008. She completed her Dietetic Internship at Meredith College in Raleigh, NC in May 2010 and is currently working on completing her Master’s Degree in Nutrition. Ashley is also an AFAA certified personal trainer and has been training clients for the past four years. She enjoys staying active by participating in 5Ks, triathlons, and other competitive events. She also practices boxing, yoga, and strength training at her local gym. Besides physical activity, Ashley has found a new interest for cooking, baking, and visiting the local farmer’s markets in Raleigh. Ashley is especially interested in wellness and sports dietetics and enjoys teaching her clients how to stay healthy, motivated, and physically active!

Ashley’s blog, “Fresh From the Farm,” can be found here