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Improving Blog Traffic – My Blog Turnaround Plan

Today is the first post in a series about improving blog traffic, and how I plan to take this place to the next level.

I started blogging in 2010 on a whim. Troy had gotten laid off on April Fool’s Day of that year, and things got stressful very quickly. I immediately shifted in to money-saving mode, and started sharing tips and tricks with an online group of friends. I realized after a few weeks that it was probably becoming annoying. So I figured starting a blog to share that info would be a way to get the thoughts out of my head, and maybe along the way I could help a few people.

I wrote and shared for months and months, and occasionally I would get like 100 page views in a day. It was a cool feeling, and I loved being able to give other people options on how to save money. Traffic slowly grew, I added some Google ads, and I kept having fun. Things evolved, and I started to have bigger thoughts about what might be. After so many years of working hard and struggling, Troy finally got a fire fighting job in 2014. Then my parents moved in, and with Bennett on the way, we made the decision that I would stay home after he was born. The idea was I would also use that time to grow my blog and make it more of a legit endeavor.

Sitting where I am now, I look back at that version of myself and think I have a lot to teach her (me?). I went in to this full-time blogger gig with the assumption that simply having more time to write would mean my blog would grow instantly. It didn’t. I didn’t have a plan and I floundered. I think I was so overwhelmed in those last few months of work, that I just couldn’t focus on my next steps. Anyone remember Bennett being born only 15 hours after I finished up the deadline for an 18 month project? with my old company It was an intense time.

Since I quit work, my Facebook audience has grown, and that’s about it. Truth be told, my monthly/yearly pageviews have actually dropped since I started writing full-time. There may be many different reasons this happened, but without knowing for sure, my best option is to move forward. And have a freaking plan this time.

Knowing that I’m big on transparency, and that you all will hold my feet to the fire, I’m laying it all out on the table. I have learned so much from other bloggers sharing their own paths, so I am hoping to pay it forward a bit and let everyone watch me flounder and hopefully succeed. This is my first post in what I anticipate to be a series on improving this space, moving from hobby to business, and working towards what I envision in my head and heart. As I lit a fire under my own ass last week, I got myself too amped up and immediately felt overwhelmed. I realized that trying to do too much at once was insanity. So I sat down and came up with some concrete steps to calm the crazy in my head. My plan has 12 steps to make the transition on the road to improving blog traffic more manageable. There is so much to learn, and so much to take in. I simply can’t manage to do anything well if I’m trying to do everything. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

  1. Make a plan. Done. Check that off the to do list. Score one for instant gratification.
  2. Write a mission statement. Done. I’ll talk it about it when I write about SEO.
  3. Be honest and stay true to myself and my core values (family/friends, faith, food, fun, and fart jokes. And Nutella). More pageviews are not worth losing my integrity.
  4. Do a deep dive on one new topic every month. I plan to keep learning about all the other topics throughout the various months, but not expect myself to master them at once. And to be clear, I likely won’t master any of these, but knowing more about them than I do now will be huge.
    1. June: SEO (zzzzzzzzz)
    2. July: Learn more about Facebook and how to grow that audience.
    3. August: Learn more about Pinterest and how to grow that audience.
    4. September: Photography. I’m going to dive into Photoshop (hold me), and really try to not make my photos look like a hot bag of garbage. I’m aiming for a lukewarm bin of recycling by fall.
    5. October: Learn more about Instagram and how to grow that audience.
    6. November: Video
    7. December: Tech. This one scares me. So much.
  5. Network more. This is a hard one for me. As an extrovert, I could talk to a brick wall and have a great time. But something about professional networking makes me feel so awkward. As a baby step towards meeting this goal, I put myself on the waiting list for Food Blogger Pro. Their podcast is what got me amped up and inspired to take charge and move forward. I plan to attend a conference next spring in Los Angeles and am looking for more opportunities as my limited budget allows.
  6. Monetize with integrity. There are so many options on how to make money online, but there are only some that I feel comfortable associating myself with day in and day out.
  7. Make obtainable and measurable goals. And then try to exceed them.
    1. 10,000 Facebook followers by October. It’s my birthday gift to myself.
    2. 20,000 Pinterest followers by November. It will be a time of giving thanks for hard work.
    3. 1,000 Instagram followers by December. A happy Festivus for all.
    4. 100,000 pageviews a month by January (current average is about 45k). That goal allows me to work with a company that I hear amazing things about. I want in.
  8. Reach out to one company or industry person per week. This kind of goes with networking, but it is more about looking to connect with brands or people who I respect and admire.
  9. Update at least one old blog post per week. I started doing this last week. It is exceptionally frustrating, but also gratifying. It takes me about two hours per post to refine, update, and optimize. My photography is still very rough, but better than it used to be. Each post I update either needs new photos, or I have to find the original digital files somewhere in the ether of Shutterfly, and use my limited editing skills to try to improve them.
  10. Produce quality content. Don’t just hit publish to get something out there. But don’t be afraid to write about things that aren’t popular, or pinnable. Write from my heart every day.
  11. Be inspired. Be inspiring. Make sure it remains fun.
  12. Be grateful. And I am.For all of you and all the opportunities, I have been given because you people like to read about my weirdness. You make it interesting and worth all the hard work. And I learn 10 times more from you than I will ever teach others.

Three to four times a week, Bennett and I go for a nice long walk. It’s now down to a science, and I know I can get about 7,000 steps in during each jaunt. I listen to my favorite podcasts, and I am able to clear my head and just walk. I live in a very hilly town, so flat space is rare. At the top of this one hill, the road flattens out a bit for a quarter of a mile or so. That is where I pause to drink some water, check my phone, etc. The other end of that flat surface is a hill that I dread every day. It doesn’t look like much. At first glance, it seems pretty easy, but that hill goes on forever. It starts off on a slight incline, and then just keeps going up, up, up for probably a half mile.

improving blog traffic

I’ve learned with that hill, the only way up it is one step at a time. No matter how slow I go, I keep walking up, because once I stop, it seems even harder to get going again.

improving blog traffic

I make excuses to try to delay my climb back up, but in my heart I know one foot in front of the other and hard work is the only real solution. There is no easy way up; it’s a climb each and every time. About halfway up, I often look back and realize how much progress I have been able to make. I’m not at the top, but I’m sure not back where I started.

improving blog traffic

There is always sweating, and maybe some cursing under my breath as I approach the crest of the hill. But the view from the top is an expansive view of Puget Sound, and Mount Rainier. It’s a challenge, but the rewards are so much greater than any excuse I can think of for not doing it.

Excuse me. I have an elephant to start eating.

improving blog traffic

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26 comments on “Improving Blog Traffic – My Blog Turnaround Plan”

  1. I’m really glad you’re doing this. I was just catching up on your posts from last week (life got crazy and I missed a few) and I thought about asking you to do a series on what you’re doing to grow your blog. I subscribe to you in Feedly, but will make sure to go to your site too to give you pageviews. Thanks for sharing your life and journey with us:)

  2. The social web has changed a TON in the last 18 months. For my day job, I used to regularly book influencer campaigns with bloggers; now it’s all about someone’s instagram following. People aren’t reading and interacting with blogs the way they used to. Part of it is the overwhelming monetization of so many blogs – they all turned into content writer gobbledy gook. I think another really huge factor is mobile usage. I tried to leave this comment twice on my phone (where I now read all of my blogs) and finally gave up and came to my laptop (but I won’t do that 99% of the time). The comment window doesn’t fit the mobile screen right, the page keeps trying to reload so my text appeared agonizingly slowly, and at one point an ad popped up right over the comment box. So I would definitely add mobile optimization to your list of things to learn about!

    This changing blog world is really widespread, I’ve managed two blogs in two different fields for many years and my pageviews and readership dropped drastically last year without any changes to my posting schedule or style. I’m not sure if it’s people abandoning RSS feed readers for social platforms (although I bet that’s part of it) or if platform managers may have been fudging the numbers for years beforehand to get the ad revenue (that’s definitely happened before) or something else. It’s probably a confluence of factors. Still, I know there is room in the world for really good blogs run by someone with a strong voice and particularly take on the world, both of which you have, and I wish you a lot of luck in your journey! I’m looking forward to continuing to be a reader no matter what. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • There have been a lot of shifts lately, but I still feel like I am not keeping up with things.

      Thanks for the info about the comments. The blog is web optimized, so I have no idea why it is doing that. I’ll talk to the developer on Monday. I appreciate the feedback.

  3. I’ve been reading you blog long before B and will continue. I love your honesty and humor. You’re so real!

    I have to say the only change I’m not digging is the light font color. For me, it is difficult to read at times and if I’m tired I won’t bother.

    • My dad complains about the text color too. It’s part of the template I purchased, but I’ll reach out to the developer to see if there is a way to darken it. Thanks for that feedback!

    • I’m tech dumb, so after 14 emails with my template designers, and four chat sessions with multiple teenagers in Baltic countries, the text is now darker. If it isn’t dark enough, please don’t tell me. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I love your blog content as your world changes and you share how things are going. I have taken your advice on shampoo and a vacuum and they were both really good products. Looking forward to reading how all your goals and the hard work work out as you tell it like it is.

    Your pinterest link works.

  5. A word of advice from a graphic designer re Photoshop: If you don’t have a ton of time to learn the ins and outs and you just want your pictures to look great, look for Photoshop Actions that you can download, install and use with one click. Pioneer Woman shared a set several years ago that work great – you should still be able to find them if you search her blog. It’s not cheating, it’s working smarter.

  6. First, I’d love a photo of that view! As someone who used to live in your area and miss it so much, a photo of the Puget Sound and Mount Rainier would make my day.

    Second, I’ve been reading your blog for several years now and it has inspired me, made me laugh and made me cry, and motivated me from time to time. The one thing that keeps me a big fan? You post your whole blog in the email. I get so tired of click-bait bloggers who tease you with a starter in the email but then force you to click over to their website to finish reading the post. I’m sure this is what all the research you’re embarking on will tell you to do, because that drives those page view numbers etc. Please don’t. One, it’s annoying. Two, it takes up more time that I don’t feel I have, so I seldom click through and then eventually stop following all together. I do click through sometimes on your links when something interests me or I want to find out more. And I like your blog. But I don’t have time every day or every post to do so.

    So please don’t fall into the click-bait trap. I like what you do!

    • Where did you live?

      Want to hear something funny? I didn’t even know you could publish a post in an email that wasn’t the full post. LOL, my tech skills clearly need some polishing. But now that I know I can do that (or pay someone to do it for me), I still won’t because you asked me not to.

  7. I wish you luck on your journey! I have to say, I read a lot of blogs, and lately so many of them (particularly in the “frugal” space) are incredibly self righteous. One of the things I love most about your blog (and FB and Instagram) is how authentic you are, how you aren’t afraid to say silly things, admit mistakes, and just generally be an imperfect human being who is your true self. Please don’t lose that – I can’t handle another overly polished self righteous talker in the space.

    • I AGREE! Realness is refreshing and the sanctimonious bloggers just make me feel crappy. I don’t need that in my life.

    • Thank you Samantha! Trying to be a different version of myself would be too exhausting to keep up. So you get what you get, because I’m lazy. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Keep taking one step after another Sara, I have been with you from the beginning and have enjoyed our journey together. I don’t comment often but am supporting you in the background. Take care dear one and continue to grow in your faith and life.

  9. Do you have a follow me Pinterest button?!
    I looked for one but couldn’t see it. I read on my iPhone.
    Wanted to follow you ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I do. But if you click on the highlighted “Pinterest” link in the body of the blog post, it should take you to my page as well.
      On a desktop, the Pinterest button is on the top right of my page. On mobile, it’s about halfway down my homepage; before your see a pix of my face. They are little icons with Pinterest being the “P”.

  10. I’m just SO stinking proud of you. You are the adult we all THINK we will grow up to be but most of give in to the little brat inside us way too much. ( I deserve this snack, sitting in my butt and watching tv, etc)
    Do u write out daily, weekly and monthly to do lists also. Use an app?!? How do you keep yourself going and organized with everything you do on an everyday basis? I know some people just KNOW what’s needs done but I need lists.
    I felt overwhelmed just reading all your plans so I can clearly see why it must have felt HUGE.
    You got this ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Aww, thanks Jan! Hilariously I considered putting a meme of Veruca Salt (Charlie and Chocolate Factory) saying “but I want a big blog NOW” in the post. So, I’m not sure how adult that technically is. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I use a combo of methods. I have a great memory, but when everything is in there at once, I have a hard time to sorting things in a calming method. I use the calendar app on my phone, the “Notes” app on there, and we have a great paper family calendar as well. I need a big wall calendar and organization center, and am asking my friend (these people: who makes cool reclaimed wood products to try to come up with an attractive wall “org center”.