The Business of Blogging

Once upon a time, I had a blog (I may have mentioned this before). In the mid-aughts, my blog consumed me. I wrote all the time. My thoughts were composed in the voice of my blog. It was slightly insane, and I loved it.

During that time, I never thought much about deliberately attempting to grow my audience. Actually that’s not entirely true. From time to time, as I saw other bloggers get big, I would think about trying a bit harder to put myself and my site out there. But I never did. And then I lost my groove, burned out, decided it was time to take a break, and eventually, moved on.

When I started Mommy Sanest, I knew I wanted to be “serious” about blogging. I knew if you asked me what I really, really, truly wanted to be, the answer in my head, for many years now, has been “a blogger.” But I didn’t say it out loud for two reasons: 1) I was worried that people would think it was dumb, and 2) I was pretty sure I would fail.

Lessons learned from my first three months of blogging | the business of blogging

Those fears still consume me, so I probably shouldn’t use past tense.

Regardless, here I am, working to move past those fears. But this post isn’t really about that. This post is about numbers.

Because I’ve decided that I’m doing this, like, for real, I have to pay attention to users and pageviews. I have to push out my content. I have to promote my work. And I have to do it in a space that has way more voices than it did in 2006.

I’ve been wanting to blog about blogging (meta, yes?) because I find this process interesting and… vast. And since I’m doing NaBloPoMo, now seems as good a time as any.

My Beginning

I bought my domain name in March 2014, but didn’t post until June and didn’t bother to install Google Analytics until July. In August, I made a bigger leap. I signed up for MediaBistro’s online Blogging class.

While I knew how to blog in the literal sense, I learned quite a bit, and most importantly, the four-week class (and the monetary investment) forced me to really work on the site. I spent a ton of time finding and tweaking a WordPress theme. I learned about search engine optimization (SEO). I put together a content calendar. I organized categories and tags. I grabbed all of my social media handles. I paid attention to things that I never bothered with on my old blog. And, I started to think about goals.

Traffic Report

The traffic on my site is a barely drop in the infinite Internet bucket. The traffic I get in a month is what other sites get in a week, a day, a few hours, a few seconds even. The traffic goal I set in August was to increase pageviews and users 10 percent each month, which seemed realistic. While I’ve done better than that, and I’m happy to have done better than that, the process of growing is completely frustrating (FWIW).

Month Users % Change Pageviews % Change
August 84 NA 653 NA
September 168 +100% 778 +19%
October 315 +88% 1315 +69%

Social Media Following

Month Twitter Instagram Pinterest Google+ Facebook
August 140 11 7 NA NA
September 228 20 43 1 NA
October 400 31 125 13 129

Where My Traffic is Coming From

Pinterest and Twitter seem to be doing particularly well as far as building followers goes, but I don’t get a ton of traffic from either site. Instagram isn’t my strength and doesn’t provide a direct path when it comes to promoting my work, so I don’t spend too much time on that platform.

I’m not exactly sure what I’m supposed to be doing with Google+, but it always drives some traffic, so it seems worth it to be there. I think what confuses me about the platform is that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of interaction between users, but maybe I feel that way because I only have 15 people following me.

As far as traffic referred from social media sites, Facebook wins, hands down, and I just published my page in October. Facebook is tricky because of the constantly changing algorithm that leads to suppression of organic content from businesses as well as content that leads people away from Facebook. But for now, it seems to be working for me.

My organic search traffic is low, and because the rules have changed, Google often suppresses the search terms that are leading people to my site. I’m still figuring out SEO (I use the SEO by Yoast plugin, as that seems to be the gold standard for optimization on WordPress), but the truth is, because I’m trying to keep so many balls in the air, I don’t exactly optimize my writing like I should.

What Worked (+ What the Jury is Still Out On)

There are so many ways to get your name and URL out there on the Internet. I’m still trying to sort out what all of this means and what activities are worth my time and what isn’t.

In October, I participated in the Blogging Betties Pinterest Challenge, which contributed quite a bit to my Pinterest growth (I’ve continued to grow since this challenge). This month, I’m taking the Pinning Perfect course from Blog Clarity, which I’m hoping will help me better understand how to use Pinterest to drive traffic.

For Facebook, I’ve been a little weird about promoting my page to all of my “friends,” so I only share it from time to time. I also participate in the Bloggy Moms Friday Facebook Hop, which is easy to do and not terribly time intensive, and has helped me grow my followers a bit beyond my own network. It’s basically a, “I’ll like your page, if you like mine” situation. I’m down with that.

I’ve also dipped my toe in the waters of linkups/link parties/linkys. While I’ve gotten some traffic from these, I’m still determining exactly how and when to use them. They can be somewhat time intensive because I want to follow the rules, check out other people’s stuff, comment, pin, etc. And since I’m not specifically blogging about crafting or recipes (at the core, I consider myself a personal essayist), sometimes I feel like I’m sharing the same stuff over and over and/or this is not the kind of blog that benefits significantly from this kind exposure.

Guest posting is another source of traffic for me, and my Kidlist posts always drive a good amount of traffic to my site.

Onward and (Hopefully) Upward

It is very easy to fall down the blogging rabbit hole. There is so much I could be doing, and so many things I want to do to put myself out there even more. While I’ve set my sights on freelance content work as a way to actually make money and build a career in this space, I also really just want to write. There are a million outlets both on and offline (and both paid and unpaid), some that would drive traffic back to Mommy Sanest. But as far as timing goes, I feel a bit maxed out and have pushed this goal to the 2015 list.

15 thoughts on “The Business of Blogging

  1. This is a great post with some really nice resources. Your traffic numbers are pretty similar to mine, which is nice to know (we started around the same time). It looks like you’re crushing me on Facebook though. 🙂

    It does feel like there is SO much to do. Writing worthwhile content, getting involved in challenges, reading and engaging with other people (which I enjoy, but it does take time), and promoting — it’s pretty much a full time job.

    I am interested in the classes you’ve taken. Where did you find them? Do you feel like they’re providing a good return on investment?

    • Hi Joanne, Definitely check out the Bloggy Moms Facebook hop–I really have gained a lot of followers that way. It’s every Friday, and I plan to participate until the end of time/Facebook.

      I hear you on all of this. I actually started to write about how to figure out what blogs you should be following and commenting on, and that’s a whole other can of worms. I think I’ll include that in my next blogging about blogging post. You have to be strategic about these things, but at the root of it, for me, I have to be genuinely interested in the blogger and their content. And then I have to find the time to actually read and comment.

      I’m doing Pinning Perfect now, and it’s pretty cost effective and seems to be great so far. I would say it’s likely worth the cost even though I’m only three days in. I say that based on the fact that I checked out another, more expensive Pinterest class that did not seem to provide the same amount of resources as this one does.

      The blogging class I took through Mediabistro was with McLean Robbins. It was worth it, but definitely an investment. I also felt I was a little bit of an intermediate in a beginning class, but I needed something to force me to focus and start at the beginning, and this class definitely did the trick. I also think because I took the time to do this class, I was more confident putting my blog out there.

      I think choosing classes is a tough decision–you can sink so much money into this stuff and a lot depends on your goals. Because freelance writing is one of my big goals, I will probably put some money into a class for that next. I also am already registered to attend Mom 2.0 in 2015. I hear that attending a conference and networking IRL makes a big impact.

      So I’ve basically just written another blog post, and I have more to say, but I’m going to cut myself off at this point :).

  2. This post is incredibly intimidating to me. I started my blog in the middle of August and I am no where near your numbers. Not even close.

    I guess I need to just keep plugging away and use some of the advice you have shared here. I do love the bloggymoms blog hop for fb exposure. However, I don’t find that people are actually clicking over to my blog.

    Trying to not take it personally. The blog is mostly for me anyways.

    Thanks for the post. It’s good to see how other new bloggers are doing.

    • Hi Erika! My intention was definitely not to intimidate, though I feel like this world is completely overwhelming–and maybe that came through in my post.

      It’s really hard not to compare ourselves to other people, but we need to try not to do it, primarily because that’s just truth, but also because it’s hard to keep the whole picture in mind—things like how often a person is posting, how much they are promoting their own content, and what other avenues they are using to promote themselves (i.e., offering their services as a guest blogger or submitting work to other sites), all contribute to traffic.

      I mean, the truth is, I try to tell myself not to get too wrapped up in the numbers because I really just want to write. But it’s hard to not get wrapped up in the numbers.

      Anyway, here’s two other resources you might want to look into:
      Bloggy Moms does a monthly bloghop, which doesn’t drive a ton of traffic, but I always get a few folks from it. It’s probably worth the 3.5 second it takes to put your link in the form:
      http://www.bloggymoms.com/group/the-blog-hop/page/november-2014-blog-hop#.VFqFrsma9gp

      And there’s this awesome site called Beyond Your Blog, which provides a ton of great information about how to be featured on other (big!) sites:
      http://www.beyondyourblog.com/

      I feel like I could keep going on in this comment, but I’ll stop myself. Clearly I’m going to have to do another “blogging about blogging” post. I appreciate you stopping by! 😉

  3. If anyone can do this blogging thing, it is you. I want to guest-write something! It will be called “I don;t have kids, but I know Lou, and she’s pretty funny, and you should like her too.”

  4. Do any of those stats take into consideration people who still use RSS readers? I’ve got you in The Old Reader & read your blog that way. I’ve never known whether that counts as a page view or not. I know some people don’t do a full feed to try to make people visit the site, so I’m thinking “reader views” don’t get counted anywhere. That has always frustrated me (but I’m not switching my blog feeds to partial.)

    • That’s a good question Jen. I don’t think it counts as a pageview if you read it in your reader. But a lot readers show how many subscribers you have, and that counts. I can’t figure out how to access that info (or if it’s possible) in the Old Reader though. Side note: I’m actually still not over the fact that Google took away the reader. That one was so easy to use, everyone used it, and it showed subscribers.

  5. There is *so* much to do, isn’t there? Writing down my numbers like you did would be good for me. 🙂 It’s hard to measure progress when it starts out so slowly. You look very organized about it!

    • First of all, let me just say that you have basically the best writer’s name.

      But the topic at hand: Yes, there is a ton to do. Too much, really. I am definitely fascinated by it, but don’t have the time to do everything I want to do. However, I am one of those weird people who’s a little bit left- and right-brained. I consider myself creative, but I’m very process-oriented and love looking at the numbers.

      FWIW, I keep a spreadsheet in my Google Docs with my monthly numbers. I only track users and pageviews (Google Analytics) as well as the # of followers I have on each social platform. Sadly, I check it/update it daily, but I’m hoping if I continue to grow, I’ll start doing this every week or so instead of every day. #Obsessed

    • Haha. So true. I’ve done better with pageviews and users every month, and I’m still feel like my traffic isn’t anywhere near where it “should” be. But, I also feel like as long as I’m doing something I’m proud of, I won’t regret it.

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