If gardening is something you love, then you have probably thought about starting a gardening blog. After all, anyone with a computer can set up a blog and add some posts sharing their knowledge. However, if you want to have a truly successful gardening blog, there is a little more to it than that. Not only do you need some inside knowledge to share, you may want to specialize further, creating a niche topic. You'll also want to hit the ground running with some solid SEO, design and content principles that will drive traffic to your blog and help you reach a wider audience.
The first part of this article focuses on the basics of getting your gardening blog up and running with a handful of tips. The second part offers interviews with three successful gardening bloggers, where they'll offer tips and insight on what they've done to make their own blogs a success. We've picked their brains, so you can benefit from their knowledge and learn a little about starting your own blog. Be sure to check out their blogs, too.
What Is Your Reason for Starting the Blog?
One thing that successful gardening bloggers have in common is a passion for their topics. If you don't love the topic you're writing about, then it won't take long for you to get tired of writing about it. In addition, you need an overall goal.
Do you want to share your knowledge with readers?
Do you want to offer online classes?
Are you tired of something you see in the industry and you want others to take action?
Whatever your reasons, it is important to know why you care about sharing information with others.
Choose a Niche
There are dozens and dozens of gardening blogs out there. In addition, you'll be competing with sites that are managed by big magazines and television networks. To make your blog stand out, you need to choose a niche topic that you can specialize in. Keep in mind:
Narrow your topic, so it is specialized.
Don't narrow it so much that you can't come up with many topics to write about. For example, container gardening is a good topic but if you narrow it to growing tomatoes in containers, you are limiting it too much.
Stick with what you know really well.
Check out your competition before committing.
Design Still Matters
Imagine for a moment that you are a site visitor looking for information on gardening. You have the choice to visit two sites with similar information and content. One site is cluttered with heavy, slow-loading graphics, busy neon text and background and is hard to navigate. The other site is clean, crisp and you can easily find what you need. Which site are you going to bookmark?
Make sure readers can easily navigate to the different areas on your site.
Make sure the text contrasts nicely with the background and won't hurt a reader's eyes.
After you read the case studies below and have your garden blog set up, you'll want to let everyone on your list and social media networks know that you've started a gardening blog. Your first visitors will likely come from family and friends. As they share what you write, you'll gain new readers.
Post a link to new articles on your social media pages.
Ask family and friends to share your articles and news about your new blog.
Ask people you know to like your garden blog page (you'll need a separate page typically).
Remind people every couple of weeks at first that you've started a garden blog, you hope they'll read your articles and share them.
What Is SEO?
You'll find numerous articles on WHSR that will help you fully understand SEO (Search Engine Optimization or where you rank on sites like Google), but the basics are pretty simple when you're just getting started. I recommend you get started with Jerry Low's SEO 101 for First Time Bloggers. In a nutshell:
Research keywords on Google Keywords. Choose ones with the highest traffic, but also add in some long tail keywords (long phrases).
Use keywords naturally. Don't force it or worry about using them a set number of times. Google's algorithms have gotten wise to that technique.
Make sure you publish strong content. Google looks at that closely now. Check for typos. Offer info no one else is offering.
Think about what someone searching for that topic would type into a search box and include those phrases. Again, make sure it flows naturally.
Consider making your site mobile friendly as Google is also ranking based on this element, too.
Case Studies of Successful Gardening Blogs
Often, the best way to learn how to do something really well is to connect with others who are already successful.
Jeanne Grunert, Home and Garden Joy
Jeanne Grunert, freelance writer and Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener, runs the blog Home and Garden Joy where she shares tips on everything from growing flowers to vegetable gardening and beyond. She is also the author of Plan and Build a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden. Not only is her blog easy to navigate, but the text is black, set on a white background and thus easy on the eyes. Her use of images is just right. They enhance her posts without creating slow load times.
Jeanne began her blog when she made the shift to rural living as a way to share her experiences with her readers.
I was moving from Long Island, New York to rural Virginia, and I wanted to share with readers what it was like to “grow a life instead of just make a living” (our slogan). I was having so much fun learning all about country life, and I thought it would be fun for my readers to experience these things too. I wrote about my first experiences at a country fair, watching meteor showers, planting fruit trees, seeing a fox in my yard, and learning to love country life.
After a few years of this, however, I was no longer a newcomer to rural living. I felt I needed to focus my blog. I chose “home garden joy” because it really sums up my deep and abiding interests: creating a comfortable, welcoming home; growing a garden; and helping people live in joy.
By creating that niche area, Jeanne stumbled upon an area that readers could relate to. Jeanne shares both photos and stories about her farm and the gardens that she and her husband have designed and planted over the last several years.
Becoming an expert is another thing Jeanne has done that has really lent some authority to her blog. She became a master gardener in 2012.
I took the plunge and became a Virginia Extension Master Gardener Volunteer. I completed my certification course and now volunteer my time with the Heart of Virginia Master Gardeners, a wonderful group of men and women who love gardening as much as I do. We’re volunteer educators and provide public programs, information and resources to the local community to help them with their gardens.
Becoming a Master Gardener helped me better understand what the general public wants to know about gardening. My own interests are very specific and sometimes, frankly, weird. I love soil science and could wax poetic for hours about the benefits of various manures for your garden soil, but that’s not what most people want to know about. Most people just want to know what’s eating their tomato plants or killing their roses. As a Master Gardener volunteer, I interact with local garden groups and others at public events, and I listen and respond to many, many questions. It helps me understand what to write about in my blog and what people are really interested in.
Her advice to new bloggers?
Have a plan to deal with seasonal ups and downs. My blog traffic peaks in May, as you may expect, but then falls way down from November – February. If you’re writing a vegetable gardening blog, have a plan to deal with the off season. What will you write about?
Because my blog is called Home Garden Joy, I have more freedom to write about home-based topics during the off season. My interests include cooking with garden produce, so I share recipes and techniques for preserving food, and herbal medicine, so I have plenty of things to write about that are gardening-related during those times of the year when the garden is sleeping.
But you have to think ahead. If you just stop writing your blog during the off season and let it go fallow, so to speak, you will lose readers and your search engine position will drop because Google and the other search engines like to see websites updated frequently with fresh content. It’s also very easy to slip into the “I’ll write tomorrow” habit and then you may never get back to writing your blog. So think ahead, have a plan for the off season, and work your plan.
Kathleen Marshall, The Practical Homestead
Kathleen Marshall, homesteader, freelancer and editor, blogs at The Practical Homestead. While her blog isn't solely focused on gardening, she does blog on that topic and has worked hard to build a readership interested in these types of topics. Kathleen's blog is a good example of coming up with a niche that is big enough to allow you to blog on topics all year long.
My blog is about becoming more self sufficient. Gardening is a big part of that. I don't look at gardening as a hobby, but as a way to provide for my family. I think it appeals to both beginners and intermediate gardeners.
Kathleen has found success by not trying to put on airs with her readers or pretend to know things she doesn't. It is important that readers are able to trust you as a writer to provide solid and upfront content and Kathleen has found that voice on The Practical Homestead.
Part of what makes my blog successful is the fact that I am real. I'm not the know-how expert guru. I make mistakes. Often. And I'm not afraid to write about them.
Every blogger makes mistakes when starting out. Kathleen shares a few tips to help you avoid her mistakes and also get a handle on the voice you want for your blog:
My lack of posting regularly has probably stalled my progress. I would like to create a calendar of topics so I can update easily each week.
Write about what you enjoy. Don't think you have to appeal to every niche of gardener.
Jessica Walliser, Savvy Gardening
Jessica Walliser, horticulturist and one of the experts at SavvyGardening.com, took some time out of her busy schedule to share some tips about garden blogging. Jessica is one of several bloggers working together to produce content for Savvy Gardening. This works well if you have a busy schedule, because you can identify yourself as an expert without having the sole responsibility to create content for a blog.
I started SavvyGardening.com a little over a year ago with fellow garden writers Niki Jabbour, Tara Nolan, and Amy Andrychowicz. We saw a need for fun, informational posts, written by unique voices and decided to collaborate on the project. It took us several months (and many Skype calls!) to settle on all the details, but we all love the results. Personally, my favorite thing is the incredible diversity of posts we've been able to share. The four of us each have different passions and backgrounds, and that translates to some pretty unique topics.
Jessica has some advice for new bloggers:
I would tell new bloggers to focus on developing their voice first. I think one of the most amazing things about the blogosphere is its ability to allow writers to share their true voice. No one is going to edit you, so your voice and passion can really come through. BUT, because no one is editing you, it's absolutely essential that you put your best self forward. Proofread your posts many times before they go “live.” Make sure your readers aren't too distracted by grammatical errors to enjoy your voice!
I [also] think interaction is incredibly important. Blogs should be welcoming places with plenty of interaction. One of the biggest battles is finding a way to limit spam without deterring legitimate comments. It's something we're still trying to figure out on Savvy Gardening. I think building a strong community and putting out great content are both essential to hosting a great blog.
While working with others helps to spread out the work load, I wondered how they divided up the work and how they kept things flowing smoothly over at Savvy Gardening.
All four of the Savvy Gardening contributors are very active on the blog. We're lucky in that the “work” is spread out amongst the four of us. Early in the process, we had many discussions about how to evenly divide all the tasks involved in designing, setting up, hosting, and writing a blog. We came up with a good system that enables us to keep from getting overwhelmed. We post three or four times a week and share every post with readers via social media as well. We've found that regular posting builds an audience. People know what to expect and it's our job to deliver!
Make Your Blog Unique
As you can see, each of these blogs is quite unique. One of the keys to their success is that readers know they will get unique, solid content from these bloggers. What do you have to offer that is different from what others are offering? Come up with a unique angle, voice, or content and your garden blog will be one that readers will share.
About Lori Soard
Lori Soard has been working as a freelance writer and editor since 1996. She has a bachelor's in English Education and a PhD in Journalism. Her articles have appeared in newspapers, magazines, online and she's had several books published. Since 1997, she has worked as a web designer and promoter for authors and small businesses. She even worked for a short time ranking websites for a popular search engine and studying in-depth SEO tactics for a number of clients. She enjoys hearing from her readers.