Monday, May 01, 2017

Blog Biz: 5 Reasons Your Blog Might Not Be Getting Any Readers

It's May! Another month whizzed by and, boy, things have sure been busy for me lately. Thanks for still sticking around and for engaging with me on Facebook and Instagram. I've also tried Twitter again because I want to see if it's still an effective platform for me. If it proves to be a howling wilderness after a month of Tweets (check out #TopazTweetsOnTues), then I guess I'll just delete my Twitter account.

Anyway! Because I've been busy elsewhere, this blog was the one that turned into a howling wilderness. Don't worry! I am not quitting blogging. I've just been busy with work but my contract is done and so this May, I'm going to blog again! Here's what I'm going to share with you, dear Loyal Readers: my online shopping finds from Calyxta, Adobomall, and Kamiseta, my wedding anniversary celebration at Baguio, my new finds for the home (Simply Modular shelves and Cheers picnic party sets, my new ways to look more fabulous (Kilo Off and Flawless treatments, and more! I'm so happy I'm blogging again!

I'll also be doing workshops again this month, and Manila Workshops is hosting my first workshop this year! It's called Boss Bellas: Mompreneurship 101 - a workshop exclusively for moms who want to go into business. Please sign up! We'll have fun! Lots of prizes! 

This also means I'll do a Facebook Live post soon. I always do a Facebook Live broadcast before a workshop. It's how I practice! I'm very nervous doing workshops, you see. I almost always throw up just before! But ever since I started doing FB Live before a workshop, I found that it calms me down. My most popular FB Live topic was "5 Reasons Why No One is Reading Your Blog." So here's a blog post about five more!

Tip to get more readers: Share your blog posts everywhere!!!

You may have heard the success stories of bloggers getting thousands of readers a day. You may have thought to yourself, "Why can’t my blog be like that?" The truth is that growing an audience for any blog is difficult – especially nowadays when there are so many out there. Here are some of the reasons why your blog may be suffering, and how you can fix this and get the readership you deserve.

1. You promote only your blog posts on social media.
The biggest reason why so many blogs fail is because they're not promoted well or not at all by their authors. Social media is key for keeping people up to track with your latest content as well as interacting with your readers. If you haven’t already, create a Facebook page and a Twitter page for your blog. Invite all your friends to follow these pages and then make sure that you keep posting any new content the moment it’s published (you can use plug-ins as found at to automatically post your content to social media). There’s even the option to promote posts for a small payment and guarantee more readers.

Now the next question is how do you get people to follow your social media accounts and how do you keep them? Through engagement. While of course your social media is about you, if you keep it exclusively about you, it can be a turn off. People want community, people want to engage. So while of course you'll share with your followers your blog posts as they're published, do also share links to articles that your community will like. For example, my blog is now a working mama blog. So on my Facebook page, I also share articles from parenting and business sites about the working woman life. I share news about how our government makes (or unmakes) policies and laws that will affect a working mother's career. This is a value-added service to my blog readers. Plus, they won't think my page is all about my blog—it's also a place where they can be updated about issues that matter to working mothers. Be relevant. Be useful.

2. Your content is too niche (or too broad).

Having to accept your content is the problem is never easy. It may not so much be the writing style or the layout, but could simply be the nature of the content. There may be not enough people out there with an interest in it. On the other hand, there may be too many blogs relying on the same content.

That's what happened to me. After a while, my readership had reached a plateau. I guess there was just too many mommy blogs out there. So I had to find a niche in the mommy blogging scene. Hence, this became a working mama blog! It's still about motherhood but instead of exploiting my kids (hahaha), I now talk about something that matters to me and to many mothers — our careers!

Get help improving your content using sites such as Research other blogs related to your content and see what you can do to make yours more inclusive, or alternatively make yours stand out.

3. You’re not using analytics.
By this point you’ve probably used some form of analytics to realise your posts aren’t getting any traffic. However, you may not be using these analytics to your advantage. I got this tip early on from Jackie Go. She really learned how to leverage the data she got from Google Analytics down to when she publishes her posts. So I paid more attention to mine (I just checked it for the site stats before) and realized that when I publish and promote posts mid-morning and late at night, more people visited my blog. And that is why it's now 10pm and I'm writing this post! 

If you’ve got the Google analytics plug-in installed (Blogger users will already have it installed), use this to check the age, location and gender of your audience so that you can cater your content more towards them. Find out the times when people are most regularly visiting your website so that you can post new content at this time. Stop being afraid of these figures and charts and use them to help improve the effectiveness of your blog.

4. You’re not using links.
Why do blogs need links? This hyperlink ought to explain. Search engines such as Google appreciate websites and blogs that aren’t all about them. You may think that putting links to another website will deter readers to other places on the web, but it can actually cause search engines to improve your rankings. This is a common practice used by SEO companies. You can also use internal links that lead from one post to another post on your blog. I use Linkwithin. It really helps drive traffic to old and forgotten blog posts. Try it!

5. You aren’t blogging regularly enough.
Last and most important reason of all why no one is reading your blog: You're not blogging regularly. I say this all the time at my blogging workshops because I've seen it time and again happen to my blogs. When I'm not updating my blog, the visits drop. What can I do? I have a life to live! But it's true. Update regularly and they will come!

So remember: You may not be getting the readers simply because you’re not blogging regularly enough. You’re never going to get lots of traffic by blogging once a month. Readers like a blog that feels busy. Try to aim to publish new content at least once a week. And make sure people know that you usually update on a certain day. Say, Mondays are for your family's weekend escapades, Wednesdays are for your healthy kiddie recipes, Fridays are for your thoughts on motherhood. Things like that help readers to look forward to visiting your blog. You can opt to blog daily – just make sure you’re not sacrificing the quality for quantity though.

So that's why I'm excited to blog again after soooo many weeks gone! I miss blogging, I miss my readers, and I have so much to tell! Come back this week for more updates! See you!

To find out more reasons why people aren't reading your blog, watch this!

To sign up for my workshop, click here!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

My creamy and cheesy scalloped potatoes and kangkong recipe

This post is brought to you by US Potatoes.

My family loves potatoes. Mashed potatoes, hashbrowns, potato chips, french fries—my husband and kids devour these! Me, I like potatoes in my favorite dishes: caldereta, menudo, afritada, mechado, nilagang baka. Because potatoes are healthy, I don't mind serving this all the time. So you can probably guess what vegetable I always have on my grocery list! 

During the holidays, my son Iñigo and I saw a recipe on Tasty (Creamy Scalloped Potatoes with Kale) and we decided we were going to try it out. Mostly because we already had most of the ingredients in our pantry and we wanted to try something new with our potatoes. I tweaked the recipe a bit and I want to share it with you because it is so delicious!

Creamy and Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes and Kangkong Gratin

3 medium-sized US potatoes, washed and peeled
4 big bundles of kangkong (leaves only)
¼ cup parmesan cheese, grated
¼ cup cheddar cheese, grated
¼ cup bread crumbs

Béchamel Sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons flour
1½ cups milk
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

1. Make the Béchamel sauce: In a sauce pan, sauté garlic in melted butter over medium heat.
2. Add flour and stir quickly or else it might burn. 
3. When mixture browns a bit, add milk, salt, and pepper. Simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally until mixture thickens.
4. Slice US potatoes about ¼-inch thick. 
5. Pick out the kangkong leaves and shred.
6. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and olive oil over the kangkong and mix gently.
7. In an oven dish, arrange a layer of kangkong, then overlapping potatoes, then the cheeses.
8. Pour half of the Béchamel sauce over the layers.
9. Repeat!
10. Top with bread crumbs. Add more cheese if you like!
11. Bake at 170°C for 30 minutes covered with aluminum foil. 
12. Remove cover then bake an additional 30 minutes till the cheesy breadcrumb topping is golden brown.

Cheese! No need to grate. This will melt to a gooey mess anyway!
Cheese, milk, potatoes... And kangkong! Great combination!

My husband loved it! The kids found it yummy, too. Hooray! Mommy win!

As a mama, I have to be more mindful of what my family eats. Of what I eat! I cook a lot of meat dishes and I really try to add more vegetables to our every meal. It's hard to make the kids eat green stuff but they like broccoli, carrots, corn and potatoes, so I serve these happily! 

I want to add how my three boys will benefit from eating potatoes regularly. Here are the 5 reasons potatoes are good for very active and growing kids (and for my husband, too, who runs for fitness): 

1. Potatoes have no cholesterol and saturated fat. 
A little fat now and then is always a happy thing but a lot of it can cause a whole plethora of problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

2. Potatoes are rich in potassium.
Potassium is good for muscles. Little boys are always flexing, using, stretching their muscles. I know because if I don't control them, they'd destroy my house with all their running, jumping, kicking and punching! Did you know that potatoes with skin have tons of potassium—more than bananas, spinach or broccoli? I didn't! I thought bananas were the king of potassium but maybe that's why potatoes are called POTAtoes because of all that POTAssium! 

3. Potatoes are a good source of fiber.
We need fiber in our diets because it helps our systems work better. Blood sugar is regulated better, weight is managed better, tummy feels full longer, digestive system functions better and cleaner. A medium potato with skin contributes 2 grams of fiber, which provides 8% of the daily value per serving.

4. Potatoes are an excellent source of Vitamin C.
Vitamin C is perfect for kids because it helps wounds heal faster—and my kids are always getting scrapes and bumps! Plus, this antioxidant keeps gums healthy, help with iron absorption, and many more! Potatoes provide 45% of our daily nutritional value! eat potatoes! 

5. Potatoes are a good source of Vitamin B6.
Vitamin B6 is good for metabolism, making blood, making proteins, making you healthy and keeping you alive basically! And that's what I want my kids to be—alive and healthy!

I'm definitely going to look for more ways to serve potatoes to my family, but in healthier ways. My recipe above is a lot salty, to be honest! Next time, I'll make it with no-fat milk and no salt because the cheeses are salty enough already. For added fiber and nutrients, I also won't peel the skin. These steps should make my potato and kangkong gratin even healthier!

Please share with me your potato recipes, too! If you share it on Instagram, please tag me (@topazhorizonblog) and use the hashtag #USPotatoPowerPH so I can find your recipe! 

Oh, and check out the Potatoes USA-Philippines Facebook page – the official platform of Potatoes USA Philippines to know more about potato nutrition, recipes, upcoming events, and general potato facts.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Questions to ask yourself before you get married

This time ten years ago, I was sick with the flu. Or maybe my wedding jitters were just manifesting as the flu! Anyway, even though I was unwell and stressed out with the wedding countdown (but my friends made me feel better with a surprise bridal shower!), I knew there was one thing I had no doubt about: marrying Vince! I loved that man like nothing else in the world and when we decided to get married, I felt a peace that I had never felt before.

Over the years, my blog readers have emailed me asking about my wedding suppliers, for a copy of my misalette, and many other questions. The one I love and dread the most is "How did you know you were ready to get married?" I love it because I have never been so sure of anything in my life! I dread it because when people ask, that already means they're not ready to get married yet and I don't know to tell them that! 

How did I know I was ready to get married? There were many factors that decided it for me (detailed below), other than the fact that I loved Vince. Honestly, love isn't a good enough reason to walk down that aisle. If love was the only reason for marriage, then what do you do if the love fades or even goes away? It sometimes does, you know, when the drudgery of work suffocates you both and the children overwhelm a marriage. What happens when you fall for someone else? Or when you're far apart and can't love each other with affection and service? Marriage isn't about feelings. It's about commitment, family, duty. Love makes those easier, but if you can't commit, if you don't want to be part of a family, and if you have no honor to fulfill your duties, then you shouldn't get married.  

If he's someone you really, really like, that really, really helps!

Now let's say you're already engaged. Should you busy yourself with the wedding? Of course, but don't get distracted from your upcoming lifetime commitment. This is the time you should be seriously evaluating yourself, your fiancé, and your relationship. Most couples are surprised to find that their engagement period is one of the hardest times together. Not only do you have a wedding to plan but you’re also contemplating the reality of a future with your partner. Plus, this is usually when you're spending lots of money and time with each other's family. The stress of it can be overwhelming. As long as the stress is all coming from the outside and not from each other, you should be fine! 

Anyway, I wanted to share with you the questions that played on my mind when I got engaged and maybe, if you're also wishing to get married, you should ask yourself these things before your wedding happens!

Are Your Finances Secure?
Let’s face it—love won't keep you alive. No matter how romantic that song goes, you can't survive on sex, hugs and kisses. You got to eat, you need a roof over your head, you got to pay the bills. You don't have to be rich, but you and your fiancé shouldn't be irresponsible either. Can you live on your own? Can you support a family? If kids aren't in the plans, can you support your dreams? 

Money affects a marriage profoundly. When you feel insecure or even afraid because the bills are piling up, creditors are knocking on your door, your kids aren't eating enough, or you can't afford the doctor or proper treatment when the kids are sick, your marriage will crumble. Marriages aren't built on money, sure, but they are built on a strong foundation of duty. Part of that duty is to provide for each other. 

During your engagement, you can already gauge your fiancé's financial readiness. Do you know each other's money situation like income, debts, and assets? Can you discuss the wedding budget comfortably or is talking about money a big no-no? Are you getting into debt just to have the wedding of your dreams? Is he shooting down your wishes because he doesn't want to spend money at all? If there are money issues now, you can be sure you'll always be fighting about these when you're married so address them now before it's too late!

What Do You Want For Your Wedding?

Speaking of the wedding of your dreams, make sure it's the wedding you BOTH want. Have you ever gone to a wedding where you know it's a bridezilla up there at the altar or it was a domineering groom who's running the show? You can see just one person's personality! It doesn't bode well for a successful marriage because marriage is a partnership, not a dictatorship. 

It’s important that your wedding day itself represents what both of you want. You may be the bride but remember you're sharing that "stage" with your man! Always consider what he wants, too. Think about your husband-to-be carefully—the way in which he proposed may signify what he wants the wedding to be like. For example, if he asked your father for your hand, then he may be a traditionalist. 

My husband didn't ask my parents' permission to marry me because he knows I'm a feminist and I would be offended by any act robbing me of my agency. Yet even though he knew I didn't want an engagement ring, he still gave me one and an extremely traditional one, too—a diamond solitaire! This made me reflect on why we give diamond rings (because diamonds mean tradition and they signify forever) and I realized that my husband may respect my very modern attitudes but he remains old-fashioned in some areas. So I made sure that our wedding had a modern vibe but kept everything else—white dress, my parents walking me down the aisle, our vows—strictly traditional. 

My wedding was all about compromise. It made me understand that it isn't about me anymore. Marriage is going to be about yielding, understanding, compromising, and working together. My wedding made me realize that I'm okay with that.
Vince said he always imagined me with flowers in my hair so I gave him that, too.

Do You Communicate Well?
The stress of wedding planning can be terrible, so if you start to bicker about small and unimportant things, don’t worry too much. It’s only natural to get snappy in times of stress! Just take a deep breath and take a step back to stop the arguments from escalating any further. 

However, if you feel that your conversations aren’t productive and that you're arguing too much, then that's a big red flag. Filipinos are lucky because we're close to our family and friends and we can bring up our worries to them and they can hopefully give good advice. But I find that family and friends tend to take our side (because they love us very much!) and aren't very forgiving of anyone who causes us pain—that includes your fiancé! So maybe you and your fiancé should consider going to a relationship counselor and talking about your issues before you get married. Make sure you iron out any glitches in your relationship before you make that big commitment.

Do You Want The Same Things?
Finally, one of the most important questions to ask during your engagement is if you and your fiancé want the same things. Of course, no one is the exact same as each other. If you're planning your honeymoon and one of you is desperate to visit France and the other’s craving pizza and pasta in Italy then you can compromise. But if you disagree on fundamental issues then you might start to realize that there are cracks in your relationship. 

There’s no point in marrying someone in the hopes that they might change, particularly on subjects like wanting children, keeping your career, supporting his dreams, religious and political beliefs. Some things are so integral to who we are that to spend our lives with someone who doesn't agree with those integral parts of ourselves is asking for a lot of pain and suffering. 

Wanting the same things, sharing the same values, and heading in the same direction are key to the success of a relationship. While my husband and I shared many beliefs and priorities, we also had a lot of differences. He knew I liked being a career woman (his parents were the traditional husband-provider and housewife) and I knew he wanted kids (I was leery of them). Before we got married, we had a talk where he assured me he'll always support my desire to work and I assured him that with him as my partner in parenting, I'm not so afraid of motherhood anymore (I still freaked out when I found out I was pregnant more than two years later haha). 

So if you have a boyfriend now or just got engaged, ask yourself these questions. If you like the answers, then congratulations! I'm so excited for you! If you don't like your answers, then see if you and your man can work out your issues. Good luck!