I’ve put off this post for so long because I felt like I had nothing new to add to what’s already out there. After all, I followed the advice found upon Googling “how to grow a blog” or reading books about blogging (ok it was only one book).
Still, it’s my most frequently asked question, made even more abundantly clear after the reader survey results, and when I thought about approaching it as more of telling my story rather than writing out a guidebook, I was able to stress about it less and get rid of this fear that I might be disappointing people.
I’ve gotten questions like how do you get people to comment on your blog, or how do you get featured on larger sites, and honestly, I don’t completely know how that all worked out. When I look back on the past two years of blogging, it all feels like it kind of just happened, which of course isn’t the whole story because I for sure worked my ass off, but that feeling points out that there is a lot I still don’t know and need to learn.
The bulk of what I know, and the thing that I’m most sure of, is that I spent 82% of my energy on improving my content and 18% on promoting it. Everywhere you look, they’ll tell you content is king, and there is no getting around it. Content is the value of the information you provide, how you present it, and your voice, and it needs to be of highest priority. If I only get one technical thing across, this would be it. That’s why I bolded it.
To stick with my plan of telling my story and to also satiate the interest some of you expressed on knowing this, I’m going to start with how I came to blogging. I’m also going to put titles on sections of this post for better navigating- nice!
How I came to blogging
I shared this before, but I can share it again, no problem. I previously worked in pharmacy. I never called it a career because it never felt like one. I pursued it because I was sold on the promise of a comfortable future, but it was a decision completely devoid of any intrinsic interest, and I needed to get out of it.
I always loved the idea of blogging, and I wanted to do what bloggers were doing- be creative, share things I love, and do it alongside like-minded people. I would have loved to do this through switching to a creative job, but that was proving to be difficult due to my lack of experience.
At that time, I had a friend successfully pursuing a career change, and she was blogging in her spare time as her creative outlet. She encouraged me to start my own blog, recommended a book on blogging, and said Google will have all the answers to my questions, so I did just that: I read the book, Googled my questions, and spent about two months researching and prepping for the launch of my blog.
Sure, I had hopes it would open doors and serve as a portfolio for those creative jobs I couldn’t get to notice me, but even more than that, it was my passion project. I felt like I had forgotten how to access that part of me after years of being a zombie at my job, so it was as exciting as it was terribly scary. That’s one giant thing I’ve learned, by the way: if it’s scary, that means you should do it. Unless we’re talking about something like walking through a really dangerous neighborhood. Don’t do that.
Around this time, I had moved into a new apartment I loved (still here!) and it was tugging at me to share all the things I was going to do to decorate and DIY for it. Was I doing any of that stuff before? No, never, but I really, really wanted to. That’s a great thing about blogging- it makes you improve at your subject. What I didn’t know at the time was that it would turn into my absolute joy, that it would grow into a deep love for design, and that clarity and focus would become one of the best things that ever happened to me.
There is no plan without a goal. My goal from the very first day was to grow this blog with the hopes that I could go full time with it. I don’t know if I ever said it aloud because frankly I was mad shy about it, but I did write it down in my notebook, which totally counts.
So knowing that I wanted to take this seriously, I stuck to a regular posting schedule and promised myself I’d do whatever it took to get it done. For me, that meant working most of my nights and weekends in addition to my full time job. I don’t mean to say that this amount of time dedication is necessary for blog growth, but when I get asked how I grew “so fast,” I’d owe a lot of it to those long hours.
I came from zero design background and knew nothing about what goes into blogging, so the majority of those long hours for about the first year were spent learning the skills I needed to improve my content (remember what I said about improving content?) I had to learn WordPress, basic coding, photography, photo editing, Photoshop, social media marketing, research equipment I’d need for production, research materials and techniques for DIY, learn blogging/internet etiquette, keep up with trends, how to find my style and voice, the list goes on.
There’s a million things to learn, and once there, those things need to continually be improved upon. It’s what I love most about blogging, that constant state of learning, and keeping up with that will yield results, absolutely.
Yes, but how did you get people to come?
I didn’t do anything crazy, or at least not as much as I sense people think I do. I don’t have any secrets or insider tricks on super boosting blog sharing. I just stuck to the basics.
These were so instrumental to the very early days of my blog when I was getting like 6 views a day. A blog or multiple blogs host a weekly link-up where you submit your blog post through a widget and everyone can browse the submissions live. Hosts would then pick their favorites and feature them in the following link-up while also sharing them on social media. Getting featured is what really helped bring more eyes to my blog, and it also connected me with bloggers that I’m still buddies with today.
I only submit to Craftgawker or Dwellinggawker because they have been the most successful in how much traffic they bring. Other than having submitted one of my posts to Apartment Therapy, this is it for me! For a comprehensive list of submission sites for home, craft, and DIY content, go here.
–I posted regularly to social media
There’s so much that can be said about strategy for each platform, but I’ll touch on the two most important.
- Pinterest is the most important one because it brings the most traffic. I didn’t see my Pinterest following really start to grow until I joined large group boards and got really picky about what I pinned, making sure everything was in line with my style and aesthetic. My best guess for how my work was found for getting featured in larger publications is through Pinterest.
- While Instagram makes it hard to track how much traffic is being referred to the blog, many of the inquiries I receive about collaborating indicate that they found me through Instagram, so I consider it a very important platform to stay regular with. Also, a lot of you said you stay up to date on new posts by following me on Instagram, so that’s important! My following started growing faster once I got specific about my style and aesthetic (this seems to be a recurring theme, eh?), used popular hashtags, and actively interacted with other grams.
-I commented on blogs/social media posts I genuinely liked
I was definitely guilty of doing that “Hey come check out my blog!” commenting in the very beginning, and I learned very quickly that’s not effective, or appreciated for that matter. So if I came across something through a link-up, Craftgawker, or social media that I liked, I’d read the post and leave a comment responding to it. Simple. It’s how I connected with some of the bloggers that are still my buddies today (this also seems to be a recurring theme).
Advice for new bloggers
This is essentially a summary of the main points to take away from my story and then some, and is maybe all you wanted to know from this very long post ha.
1. Be painstakingly clear about your goal.
It will guide your plans and pretty much every decision you have to make about your blog. There can be more than one, but they need to be written down and looked at regularly so you don’t forget them. This is mandatory.
2. Improve your skills.
I put high priority on improving photography and styling to present my work in the most beautiful way I could, and still do. I’d owe a lot of my blog growth to this. Whatever technical skills you need to get your story across in a beautiful and effective way, work to always improve on them.
3. Focus on sharable content.
It’s a lot easier to gain traction on a post about “The Softest Chocolate Chip Cookies” than a post about “My Trip to Grandma’s House.” Which one are you more likely to check out as a brand new reader? As a reader myself, I like the personal or random posts if I’ve established a connection with a blogger that I regularly follow, but if we’re talking about growth in the beginning and bringing in new readers, the sharable content (anything that teaches something valuable) is what’s going to do it.
4. Stick to a consistent posting schedule.
Quality is more important than frequency, but it is not likely that the content you produce in the beginning will be your best work. We all start somewhere (I dare you to look at my blog posts from when I first started my blog but also please don’t they are so embarrassing) and if you wait to only post things you think are perfect, you will never start. Posting regularly forces you to put yourself out there and get better, so long as you can be real with yourself about what needs to be better next time and then do that next time.
5. Find your style and voice.
I was lost on what my style was, or would be, before I started blogging, but I knew that blogging would help me find it and once I did, everything became infinitely more natural and clear. So much of what I did in the beginning was to emulate what other bloggers I admired were doing, so in a sense it was difficult to feel like myself. It basically took me until yesterday to be really comfortable about the way I write and what I love, so that goes to show that it takes time and practice. It’s easy to feel like we’re chasing after predicting what other people want to see, but if we can focus on what we love most with our whole hearts and continually search for it, it will attract the right people- this is really what we all want, and what makes all of this so fulfilling.
Blogging is essentially soul searching. It is a hard, time-consuming, and at times a lonely and scary thing to pursue. You’ll work so hard on an idea you believe in and might have to face that no one shows up or comments on it. You’ll go after collaborations and might face the rejection of them not seeing your potential the way that you do. The biggest thing that will push you through is if you truly care for what you blog about and stay honest about what you love, if you can enjoy the learning process and connect with people who relate to your highs and lows. As difficult as it can be, it’s a hell of a lot of fun- let’s not forget that among the pressures of trying to grow and build our empires.
Thanks a million for reading and for your support on sharing my story. If you have more questions or general thoughts/insights/advice you want to share, leave them in the comments below. I’ll get back to you. <3