Friday, May 25, 2012

From Then to Now - A Year in Reflection

Didn't you guys just LOVE those giveaways? So so happy to have so many amazing people come together and join me with my One Year Celebration! I heart them all for being so wonderful to my readers, and I heart all of you guys for helping me grow into another year!

Today I wanted to sit and reflect.  Reflect on how exactly far I've come in a year of blogging.  My typical go to attitude on myself is critiquing in a debby downer-pessimistic type of style.  What I do is never good enough, I always have to try harder and keep improving.  It's a good motivator, but it can start to wear me down as I never really sit and appreciate how far I've come.  It's been a year, it's about time I do that.

Wanna join me? GREAT! Okay so here's a few topics that I really want to take the time and reflect and share with you how I've learned and in turn, hope that I can teach you maybe something you didn't know?

Picture Quality
One of the easiest ways to see I've grown in my blogging is my experience in photography.  I am still a novice.  I essentially know nothing.  Well, one grain above nothing.
But the BEST decision I EVER did to achieve better photos for my blog, was to turn off Auto.  Between this ebook
, and a photography class I took with a local teacher, I learned a handful of things to get myself to be able to take pictures on Aperture Mode.  Almost instantly better pictures, seriously.  Another big improvement I've changed in my photography is I WAIT to take reveal pictures.  In the beginning of my blog, my husband was deployed so I did ALL my projects at night, when it's dark out and no natural light.  It's harsh on your pictures.  Having to compensate lack of light by using my cameras flash just revealed "flat" projects, there was no life or depth to them.  But understanding the importance of lighting and natural lighting, I try to wait to take any type of reveal picture until I can use natural lighting. 
It's a small step of improvement, but these images compared side by side show the slight changes I've made to achieving better pictures.  I still have SO much to learn, but that's added to my "To Do" list for Year #2!

Photography skills, improving in a  year


Also, are you wondering why that one frame was on its side? Yah apparently I thought doing a project reveal of the oversized “S” didn’t “need” a staged ready photo and left that frame icture on its side.  (Still doesn’t answer your question of why is it on its side though did I? Yah … was “sizing” up if I wanted that frame on its edge for the current subway art).

But you see the improvements right? Way better lighting makes the photos way more appealing to the eye I think.  Not only did my decorating improve (did I really leave my shelves like that before?) but having layers of decor creates depths of field, and adds to a better result in the picture.

Writing Skills 
While my specific "style" has not changed (I'll always write more conversational than formal) but I've learned a lot about SEO search words, key phrases, and properly titled posts.
SEO search words - Once you write your post, take a moment and read back through it and highlight specific topics that stand out in your post.  Then using Google analytics type in specific words you use, and find similar search terms that are being searched by others and try to use those throughout your post instead.  This will bring your post to the front page of Google search results more often, which drives you more traffic. 
Also try to use a variety of words, rather than being repetitive.  When you reread your post, if you see you use a certain word more than once, try to use a synonymous or a different descriptive word.
Use Google Adsense Keyword Tool {image below} for an easy way to find key phrases that people are searching.
Google Adword Keyword Tool

Taking the extra 5 to 10 minutes to reread and make these changes could be the big difference of how large of audience your post reaches.  By using keywords you're opening yourself up to new readers and people searching for terms that you are writing about. 

Styles of Tutorials
I have a DIY & Tutorial page dedicated to showcase most of my projects and how to's and it's fun to see all the projects I've done over the past year (sometimes it's a bit hard to stay on top of it and keep it updated... mental note to add that to my list of way to improve in Year #2). 

I've noticed that I'm less likely to do "simpler" DIY tutorials now.  In the beginning a did a lot more basic tutorials because that's what I was learning too and wanted to share with my readers.  But as I grow and learn how to do more I do less of those types of those "basic' tutorials, and try to do a lot more unique and in depth projects and DIY's.  I do a lot of small projects around the home that almost seem to do a tutorial would "bore" my readers, so I don't include those in my posts anymore.
I have wondered if that's true... or if I'm missing opportunities to still connect to new readers.  I mean we all start out somewhere. 
What do you think?  Do you think as a blogger grows, they should grow with the style of tutorials they do?
Or do you think the occasional basic tutorial is a great way to connect with readers?
Would love to hear your opinions/thoughts/rants in the comments!

Blog Design
My blog design hasn't changed too much.  I'm still within a similar realm of where I began a year ago with PB&J because I'm used some of my favorite colors and designs.  I dug up my original header that I had up for my blog, and logo and wanted to share them.  Aren't they precious?

That picture is of my son's adorable little bum bum and him carrying around his best friend, Monkey. I designed my own first logo of PB&Jstories in Picnik too. I love that my logo is essentially the exact same, I've stuck with the grey and yellow and typically use aqua for any additional accent color. One of the hardest things about starting a blog I think is to understand the importance of the name, design, and niche of your blog.  I’m really happy that I came up with the name PB&Jstories, and a year later it still “fits” and has become my brand.

I still am not sure if I belong in a “niche” specifically.  I know I fall under the DIY bloggers, I mean that’s what 99% of my blog posts are about.  But, I keep coming back to the idea of being more relatable to my readers.  I don’t want to just be tutorial content and how-to’s.  I want to write more “in between” posts that get my readers to know me, and my style.  I want to connect with my readers and have a sense of community.  What do you think?  Do you like blogs you feel connected too or are you just reading for the how to’s and looking for project inspiration?

Really has been a great year!
I cannot wait to see what the second year of PB&J brings!!!



  1. I cannot believe you have only been blogging for a year!! BRAVO!

  2. I have to be honest, Pam, your blog does not reflect that you've only been blogging for a year! Yay! And Cheers!

  3. Pamela, I am not even remotely close to being where you are with your blog (unfortunately). I want to be.. but just don't know how. So as a "beginner" blogger (even though I've been blogging for over 4 years), I would love to see more "basic stuff." And my goal is to one day have those little in-between posts about my family or whatever to sort of keep my blog as part journal. So I would say yes to wanting to feel like I can connect to the blogs I read. It will definitely keep me coming back!

  4. Just purchased Kristen's eBook. Thanks for the tip! I'm working on my photography skills too, and I agree, it makes a world of difference. I love your blog and I think you are doing a great job of "evolving" as time goes on. You've clearly made great progress in the past year! Great job!

    -Erin @ DIY On the Cheap

  5. Wow...great progress. Congrats Pamela.

  6. Great job very proud of you. Love mom

  7. I haven't been reading from the beginning, but, wow, nice job on improving your photography skills! What a huge difference turning off auto makes. And thanks for the SEO tips, I didn't know you could do that with AdWords, I'll have to give it a try.


Love hearing back from my readers, you make my day! Thanks, Pamela of PBJstories

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