Back at the start of the year, I set some blog-related goals for myself, and, in a bid to keep myself on track, I thought it might be a good idea to do a monthly progress report, to see how I’ve been getting on, and work out what I could be doing better.
Some of you might recall that I used to do monthly blog traffic reports, for similar reasons, so these will be similar to those, but, rather than just focusing on traffic, I’ll be looking at a bunch of other stuff, too. Honestly, this is as much for my benefit as it is for anyone else: I don’t really think there’s much point in setting goals if you’re not going to regularly review them, but, left to my own devices, I probably wouldn’t find the time for it. So, this is my way of keeping myself accountable, basically, and hopefully it’ll also be vaguely interesting/useful for those of you with similar goals, who can learn from my mistakes. (Or successes! Because you never know, do you?) So, here’s January’s report…
January was a pretty mixed month for the blog. It started off really well, with me finding out I’d been ranked first in the HIBS100 lifestyle blogs list, and also getting some good news about various collaborations for this year, including one really big one, which I’ve mentioned quite a few times, in that annoyingly-vague, “I’m not allowed to talk about this yet, but I really want to talk about it,” kind of way. Sorry about that.
The thing about all of this, however, is that while this particular collaboration is something that came about as a direct result of the blog, and will hopefully help the blog grow in return, it’s currently taking up so much of my time that I don’t have much of it left over to actually work on the damn blog. Er, did that make any sense AT ALL? Let’s hope so. Don’t get me wrong: I’m really grateful to have these opportunities, and they’re good things in themselves, but they’re also slightly frustrating things, in that I started the year bursting with enthusiasm, and with tons of ideas to help grow this site, but most of them have had to be shelved for now, so I can work on other things. For the second half of the month, then, I’ve felt like I’ve been struggling to keep my head above water, and I’m really not a fan of that feeling: still, my biggest deadline is at the end of March, so hopefully things will return to normal then! In the meantime, here’s how I’ve been getting on with my yearly goals…
GOAL: 200,000 pageviews/month
THIS MONTH: 173,617 pageviews
Despite everything I’ve just said, January actually ended up being a pretty good month for pageviews – which I can take absolutely no credit for, as I don’t really feel like I did anything much to deserve it! Because I was so busy, I was forced to reduce my posting schedule to around 4 posts per week, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, there were a couple of weeks where I struggled even to do that many, which made me feel a bit stressy, really.
This was, however, still one of my best traffic months so far, and it brought me tantalisingly close to achieving my year-end goal of 200,000 pageviews per month. If you’re thinking this bodes well, and that, with 11 months left to achieve this goal, I must surely have it in the bag, though, well, I wish I shared your confidence. The fact is, I’ve been here before: this time last year, I was getting some of the highest pageviews the site has ever had… only for the traffic to drop off significantly over spring and summer. I refer to this as The Summer Slump, and it’s a pattern I’ve observed with every blog I’ve ever owned: basically, traffic will be high during autumn and winter, then it’ll drop over spring and summer, and I’ll have to spend the rest of the year trying to recover from that hit. Last year, I didn’t quite manage to recover the lost ground, so while I was happy with this month’s traffic, I’m not kidding myself that it’ll stick around!
As for where the traffic came from, well, Google accounted for most of it, with almost 50,000 visitors arriving via their organic search: proof, if you needed it, that you really can’t afford to ignore SEO, if you want to get consistent traffic, which isn’t dependent on how many posts you publish every month! (Read my SEO tips for bloggers here.)
Social media was the next biggest traffic driver, with Pinterest sending me over 28,000 visitors. I wrote about my Pinterest strategy last year, and it hasn’t really changed since then, apart from the fact that I have much less time to devote to Pinterest these days. The site also changed its algorithm not long after I wrote that post, which means that I get less traffic from it than I used to: it’s still a good amount, though, and significantly more than any of the other social networks I use.
On that subject, I think the only other thing to note about January’s traffic is that quite a bit of it came from the ‘Revive Old Post’ WordPress plugin I use on Twitter. I know a lot of people really hate seeing bloggers tweet links to their posts more than once, and some will even sub-tweet about it in a way that makes me totally paranoid that, OMG, they’re totally talking about me! They must HATE me! WAH! Here’s the thing, though: if you only tweet each post once, then only a tiny fraction of your followers will see it, because only a tiny fraction will just-so-happen to be online at the time, and for everyone else, it’ll get quickly burried in their feed. When you tweet your links regularly, however, you’ll dramatically increase the number of followers who see those links – and the amount of traffic those posts get. Yes, some people will be annoyed, but some people will be annoyed whatever you do, so you may as well do what works best for you, hey?
GOAL: 20,000 followers
END OF JANUARY : 12,012
I didn’t actually write down the exact number of Instagram followers I had at the start of January, but I do know I had 12,012 at the end of it, which I think was a growth of between 500 – 700-ish. I was pretty happy with that, and I was also pleased to finally break the 12,000 follower mark, but I’ve worked out that I need to do quite a bit better than that if I’m going to meet my somewhat ambitious goal of 20,000 by the end of the year.
Again, I didn’t really do much differently on Instagram this month. I find winter a really tough month for photos, and this month has been particularly tricky because, not only have we had very limited daylight, I’ve also been spending most of my time at my desk, which hasn’t exactly given me a lot of photo opportunities! One thing I have been doing (or WAS doing at the start of the month, anyway!) is re-using older photos, mostly under the #ThrowbackThursday tag, but occasionally on other days, too. I suspect this is also probably frowned on a little, but I see Instagram as a place to share my best photos, and I know that most of my followers won’t have seen them before, so I’m not going to sweat it too much. I’ve also been taking advantage of days when there’s some good light, or when I have my studio lights out for a fashion post, to bulk-shoot some photos for Instagram. I don’t have time to do this as often as I’d like, but it helps to have a bunch of photos in stock for those days when absolutely nothing happens, and it’s pitch dark outside all day!
03. Email subscribers
Again, I didn’t bother to make a note of how many email subscribers I had at the start of the month, but I ended it with 957, which I think is a growth of just under 100 subscribers. Although it’s not a huge number, I’m actually quite happy with it, as, until now, my email list had steadfastly refused to grow at all. This month, though, I installed a pop-up subscription box which appears when users exit the site (Not too often, though: I dislike pop-ups as much as the next person, but I have to admit, they work like nothing else…), and I’ve also been adding a sign-up form to the bottom of some of my posts. (There’s also one at the bottom of the site permanently, although it’s not particularly effective there, and I’ve been intending to move it for a while now!) All of this has been done in a very haphazard kind of way, though: this is another one of those things I know I could be doing much better with, if I only had the time! That said, if my list continues to grow at the same rate, I should have no problem meeting my goal – which I should probably have made a bit higher, if that’s the case!
04. New ebook
At the start of the year I said I wanted to write another ebook, and also find some new ways to market my existing one. Total fail on the second part of that goal: honestly, I haven’t even had time to think about that book, let alone find time to market it: boo! (It is still selling reasonably well, though, with no thanks to me, so I’m not unhappy with it, I just know I could do better!) Back at the start of the year, though, I did make a start on another one… which I ended up ditching, because I just didn’t think anyone would ever buy it.
I would still like to write another ebook, though, although I probably won’t have time for it until later in the year now, so if anyone has any ideas for me, I’d love to hear them!
05. Money, money, money
Finally, I also set myself some financial goals for this year, which I didn’t make public, but which I will now proceed to talk about in a vague, and not particularly helpful way, which will likely make you all wonder why I’m even bothering to mention them? I don’t really think you need to be specific about figures in order to make some general observations about the business of blogging, however, and the main one I have to make this month is that, although it was one of my best months for blog traffic, it wasn’t one of the best for revenue. And, I mean, it wasn’t a particularly bad month, either, but January is typically a bit of a lean month: advertising budgets are lower than usual after the Christmas period, and people’s shopping budgets are usually smaller too, for the same reason, which means less affiliate income for people like me.
Don’t worry, though, although I earned less in January than I did in December, it was an expected drop, and I know I’ll make up for it later in the year. One of the more difficult aspects of blogging – or many other kinds of self-employment, I’m guessing – is that you often don’t get paid for campaigns etc until weeks after they’ve been completed. So, while I had a drop in income in January, I’ll have an increase in April/May which will make up for it – or I hope so, anyway!
As I said, I think this is worth mentioning, because it helps illustrate the point that pageviews and follower numbers aren’t the be-all-and-end-all that some people make them out to be, and high pageviews/followers don’t always mean you can expect high earnings. It’s a little bit more complicated than that, unfortunately, which is why I thought it would be a good idea to have these monthly progress reports focus on things other than just page views. And with that said, I hope you enjoyed this one – now let’s see what February brings!