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Behind the Curtain at BlogHouse

Ever wonder what it takes to run this website? If you prefer not to see how the sausage is made, avert your eyes now and come back later this week when we are back to our usual schedule (or check out our latest flea market finds (creepy clowns!) on Instagram). Everyone else, prepare yourself– I am about to pull back the curtain.

What's behind the Blogging Curtain_(1)

You might be surprised to learn that running a travel and shopping website is not all fun and games. Some may imagine that I spend all my free time ambling from village to village, cheerfully plucking souvenirs along the way. But dear reader, there is a dirty underbelly to this business, one that threatens the very existence of this website.

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Its name is SEO, html, Facebook, and all things WordPress.

Because of these mysteries, weekends that should be spent exploring new cities are instead spent in front of the laptop, performing “research” on pressing topics like “how to center your primary navigation menu” or “what is ideal character number per line.”

If I can’t get a consensus from google results, then I am forced to enter Dante’s last circle of hell (aka travel blogger Facebook groups)— a place where thousands of bloggers come together to bicker, brag and otherwise annoy each other.  Pose your question here and you might get an answer, but more likely you’ll get a response like–

  • “Great question! I have no idea but I’m following this thread”
  • “Google it.”
  • “Hello I am a new blogger– the NomadicJourneyingWandererWithABackpack. Please feel free to enjoy my blog and like me on Facebook!”

I was tired of spinning my wheels trying to figure out tech-y and design issues. I also needed some overall guidance on the direction of my website. It was time to step away from the laptop and sit down with some real experts, face to face.

Enter BlogHouse.

Navigate Media Group’s BlogHouse is a hands-on workshop run by some of the best travel writers, photographers and bloggers in the business. Think of it as a blogger boot camp, with group and individual sessions covering WordPress, design, social media, PR, photography and video. Throw in booze, a never-ending stream of gourmet treats and some great swag, and you have yourself a conference and vacation all-in-one.

My Experience at BlogHouse Chicago

The BlogHouse experience starts even before you arrive. Have you ever wanted to hand your website over to someone and say, “I have no idea what’s wrong exactly, but fix it please.”  Incredibly, this service is all part of the BlogHouse deal– WordPress genius Michael Tieso will  perform something called “site optimization” and help you with all those little (and big) questions you just can’t seem to figure out. BlogHouse is worth it for Michael’s help alone.

Next up, the actual workshop. If you’ve sorted through prior BlogHouse experience posts you’ll notice they all have one thing in common– luxe accommodations. We were lucky to have run of the house at  Flipkey’s Villa D’Citti in Chicago’s leafy Lincoln Park neighborhood. Plush beds, homemade breakfasts, comfy sofas and warm cookies– I’ve never been to a conference that spoiled me like this.

 

The BlogHouse sessions are a mix of lively panels, interactive discussions, and intense 1:1 blog audits. The audits were my favorite part– the BlogHouse faculty does their homework and I was surprised at the level of on point feedback that was prepared just for me. Lots of learning goes on after hours too, where all of our experts (now friends) shared their experiences with us and offered encouragement and support.

After hours was also a whirlwind of fun Chicago activities, where we sipped cava in fancy lounges with city views (Vertigo Sky Lounge) and navigated our own electric boats on the river (courtesy of Chicago Electric Boats). BlogHouse sponsor Gogo treated us to a night of margaritas and some of Chicago’s best Mexican food.  Late nights were capped off by make-your-own panini parties in the B&B kitchen and long chats with our fellow attendees.

But the best part about BlogHouse is that it doesn’t end after the workshop is over– we now have a new gang of writers, tech experts and photographers that we call our friends– ready to brainstorm, collaborate and offer support.

Meet the BlogHouse Experts

  • Lisa Lubin – LLworldtour.com Don’t be intimidated by the Emmys (yes that’s plural as in 3-time winner) Lisa’s smart as a whip but girl-next-door approachable.
  • Cailin O’Neil – TravelYourself.ca  Forever our captain– and producer of the cutest sloth videos anywhere.
  • Ayngelina Brogan – BaconisMagic.ca  I can confirm that I don’t hate Facebook quite as much after Ayngelina’s session. More importantly, I learned that wherever Ayngelina goes, hilarity will follow.
  • Stephanie Yoder – Twenty-SomethingTravel.com  It’s easy to understand why Steph has such a huge (and dedicated) following– I loved hearing Steph’s breezy, but no nonsense advice.
  • Michael Tieso – ArtOfAdventuring.com  Genius, guru, Michael you can pick your label– I think I speak for everyone when I say we are eternally grateful!
  • Sherry Ott – OttsWorld.com  Sherry is an incredible photographer and my BlogHouse mentor. I can’t tell you how helpful Sherry’s blog audit has been– Sherry inspired me to change the way I think about this site– I’ve already made a few of Sherry’s changes and hope to make more soon– stay tuned!

My fellow BlogHouse Chicago Attendees

I met so many great writers, photographers and storytellers– be sure to check out their sites:

Special thanks also to BlogHouse sponsor Megabus!

20 Responses to Behind the Curtain at BlogHouse

  1. culturalxplorer 07/07/2014 at 8:37 pm #

    Lovely post Kristin (hope no one got tempted away by your creepy clown IG pics). I miss it already, such a great time and met so many wonderful people! Looking forward to many more NY adventures with you!

    • Kristin Francis 07/07/2014 at 10:44 pm #

      Thanks Chanel! Sad you’ll be leaving for so long, but I’m sure we’ll have many more adventures to come!

  2. Cailin O'Neil (@CailinONeil) 07/07/2014 at 9:23 pm #

    Love your pictures especially the Tin Man! We are happy we could have you and we are glad you enjoyed it! 🙂

    • Kristin Francis 07/07/2014 at 10:43 pm #

      Thanks Cailin, it was a blast and so helpful!

  3. Ayngelina 07/07/2014 at 10:49 pm #

    Love that I got through to you and you’re no longer a Facebook hater. I should update everyone on my method, since BlogHouse it seems to be working and I’m also gaining 200 followers a week – who knows how long that will last but so far Facebook likes the method.

    • Kristin Francis 07/08/2014 at 9:31 am #

      Ayngelina that’s incredible!! I would love to hear all the updates!

  4. Jenny @ A Thing For Wor(l)ds 07/07/2014 at 11:43 pm #

    The NomadicJourneyingWandererWithABackpack—now THERE’s a site I’d read!! So good to meet you, raid Cathy’s fridge, and keep in touch with you looong after the Bloghouse whirlwind of site audits and winetaps has died down. I look forward to reading your new posts, and knowing what exactly I must lug home after a jaunt to each new place.

    • Kristin Francis 07/08/2014 at 9:32 am #

      Thanks Jenny, don’t forget all the late night promises to guest post (wasn’t there a Spanish santa or something?)

  5. Sue 07/08/2014 at 12:45 am #

    A wonderful symopsis of your time at Bloghouse. Cheering you on all the way to big success!

    • Kristin Francis 07/08/2014 at 9:29 am #

      Thanks Sue, you should definitely consider the next go around!

  6. Lindsay @ Frugal Frolicker 07/08/2014 at 8:42 am #

    You took the BEST candid shots of us! I miss the late night panini parties and in-wall wine tap, but eager to take on more NYC rooftops and adventures with you and Chanel! 🙂

    • Kristin Francis 07/08/2014 at 9:29 am #

      Thanks Lindsay! I’m so glad we have our mini BH group here in NYC!

  7. Steph 07/08/2014 at 9:00 am #

    “If I can’t get a consensus from google results, then I am forced to enter Dante’s last circle of hell (aka travel blogger Facebook groups)”
    I can. not. stop. laughing. Best thing I’ve heard all week!

    • Kristin Francis 07/08/2014 at 9:28 am #

      Haha thanks Steph! I thought it might sound snarky, because there are some great FB groups out there, but there are certain ones I avoid (except as a silent observer to watch some of the ridiculous debates).

  8. Beth (@besudesuabroad) 07/12/2014 at 3:47 am #

    Can you believe it’s been a month already? I miss it so much! Here’s to hoping a few of us can have a mini reunion down in Mexico!

    • Kristin Francis 07/18/2014 at 11:40 am #

      I know, can’t wait!! : )

  9. dianaveggienextdoor 07/12/2014 at 11:56 am #

    I am so glad you had such an amazing experience! And I had no idea that Chicago (my city!) has electric boats 🙂

    • Kristin Francis 07/18/2014 at 11:39 am #

      Diana– I was seriously wondering, where is the track underneath (a la Disney)– are they seriously letting us drive a boat around?? Yes– they just give you the boat and you are off! You should try it– it was the highlight of the trip!

  10. Patrick 07/14/2014 at 1:07 am #

    Love this! I tried to go to the website link for the bloghouse but it didn’t seem to work. I know Chicago just happened but do you know if there’s a different link to learn more about it? Thanks again and congrats!

  11. SJ @ Chasing the Donkey 07/23/2014 at 5:36 pm #

    Sounds like just what I need! I hope I can make one, one day!

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