A few weeks ago, I headed to Chicago with some of my favorite bloggers for the 5th Annual Blog Societies Conference — AKA TBScon. This is the third year I’ve been to the conference (you can view my previous recaps here and here), and it did not disappoint this year.
A little backstory: when I first went to this conference in 2014, I was so nervous. I was a little timid baby blogger who had never really ventured outside of the D.C. blog community, and there were some super talented ladies who were attending. The great thing about TBScon is that it’s a smaller conference (only 75 attendees), so you really get the chance to connect with other bloggers and make some lifelong friends.
Another great thing about the conference? It’s grown with me. When I went in 2014, I had maybe 2 or 3 sponsored campaigns under my belt. Now, I’m a full-time blogger. The information I learned at the conference was useful then, and it’s still useful now. I always come out of the conference inspired, ready to shake things up, and implement all the cool new things I learned.
So what did I learn this year? I can’t share everything, but here are my 5 biggest takeaways from the conference.
Follow Up & Expand Your Brand Partnerships
I’ve done this to a certain extent, but I really want to ramp this up this year. If you had a great time collaborating with a brand, reach out again every 6 months or so to see if they have anything new to promote. If you worked with a hotel, ask if they have any renovations or new restaurants to feature. If it’s a clothing brand, pitch them in advance for holiday. If a partnership went well in the past, try to keep it going.
Read Your Contracts Thoroughly
I’ve chatted about the importance of a contract before, but man — Brittany from The Lawyer Lookbook schooled all of us on what we should look out for. There are a lot of sneaky phrases people throw into contracts all of the time, and it’s super important to read every single page of a contract — even if a brand sends you one that’s 10 pages long. In the past, I’ve been able to negotiate parts of a contract that aren’t a fit.
I would highly recommend hiring a lawyer that’s in your state to draft a contract for you. I know we’re all millennials here and want to Google everything, but Brittany outlined some phrases in contracts even I didn’t realize were problematic for bloggers.
SEO Best Practices Change Constantly
SEO is really, really odd guys: Google changes its algorithm on a pretty regular basis, so what once was best practice a few years ago might not be the best practice now (for example — do you know that overusing affiliate links will hurt your SEO?) I’ve taken a few SEO classes at my local General Assembly before, but I want to make it a point to keep up with the latest SEO trends so that I can funnel as much traffic to my website as possible.
Categories? Quality > Quantity.
The first thing I did when I got home from the conference? I tweaked my website’s navigation a bit and narrowed down some of the categories on my blog. I’ve had my website for six years, so there were some things I blogged about when I first launched my blog that I do not talk about now (hello — I had a “Celebrities” category on my site! Y’all know I do not cover that at all.)
I eliminated some of my WordPress categories like “Sponsored” and “Giveaway” and made those into tags instead. As Lindsay from Lindsay Humes said, a category should describe what topics you cover, and it’s far better to have fewer topics on your website and more organization.
What Brands Are Really Looking For
We got the chance to hear some of the brands speak on a brand panel, and they gave insight on what they were looking for when collaborating with bloggers. For starters, keep hashtagging — it’s a great way to get discovered by brands. Most of the panel also agreed that they look for influencers with a high engagement rate and high-quality content, and aren’t focusing so much on follower counts — so FYI, maybe you’ll want to invest in a good blog photographer now and start writing more informative content to up your game.