8 OF THE BEST THINGS I DID LAST YEAR TO GROW MY BLOG

8 OF THE BEST THINGS I DID LAST YEAR TO GROW MY BLOG

2016 was incredible. If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, you KNOW I love a bit of reflection. I think the only way we can effectively move forward is to look back at what we've done. So that's what this post is going to focus on but with the main purpose of helping you. 

This is my first full year that my blogging purpose has been totally consistent. Full disclosure: it's not been easy, but boy have I loved it. Oh wait, and I've also got a full-time job which makes my blog even MORE difficult to manage.

But back to today. And blogging. I want to share with you the key things I did last year that helped to grow my blog and online presence, with the hope that next year, you'll be writing a post like this. 

Let's go!

#1 | I designed my own squarespace website

Let me tell you something. I am NOT a designer. I'm good with the words and the ideas, but ask me to draw something and I'll freeze. To me, design was always terrifying, confusing and something I wanted to avoid. But with Squarespace? WOAH.

I can now officially say I've designed my own website. Fonts, colours and everything. It's amazing. My favourite part is how it works in blocks and you can move things around as and how you want them. This is honestly something I never thought I'd be able to say but EVERYONE can design a website with Squarespace. It can be anything you want.

Why is it so great? - You can completely customise it to suit your brand, working with blocks makes it easy for you to move things around and I have full control over it. (Also, you don't need to know any code.)

How has it helped? - The proof is in my traffic and engagement. They've more than doubled. Especially my pageviews - I started off the year with 4,000 and now I'm on 15,000.

HIT A BRICK WALL WITH YOUR BLOG? THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED TO DO

HIT A BRICK WALL WITH YOUR BLOG? THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED TO DO
I’ve hit a brick wall with my blog. My traffic isn’t growing and I’m running out of ideas.

Can you relate to this right now?

I get lots of tweets and emails every week from lots of different bloggers - people who have just started out with their online presence and those who have been blogging for quite some time.

Recently on Twitter, someone mentioned that they’d hit a brick wall with their blog. No matter what they were doing they weren’t getting any comments, their traffic wasn’t increasing and no one was joining their community.

So here’s the question: what are successful bloggers doing to maintain their online presence, generate so many ideas and constantly grow their community?

When I first started out I only had a few readers and some of those readers are still here today, over three years later. I had to go through a long period of time when I felt like I was writing to no one, but the readers were there.

They carried me on until I generated more and more readers, and from then on, my community and numbers never decreased.

That’s not to say there were slow months. The entire growth of my online presence has been slow.

I’ve had terrible pageviews for some blog posts, no comments for ages and barely any interaction on my social channels.

Now, I promise I’m not saying this to make you feel disheartened. I’m saying this because I want you to know that it’s totally possible to make it as a blogger. You don’t have to be worried about all the noise or feel like all your ideas have been done before.

Sure, if you want a simple change, just stick to interacting on social media. But what I AM saying is, if you love writing and inspiring people - which I do - and you LOVE blogging, you can make it work.

Don’t lose hope.

Put the work in.

Right, enough with the speech. This is what you need to be doing in order to help you turn your online presence around and find your way as a blogger.

 

25+ WAYS TO START YOUR NEW BLOGGING YEAR WITH A BANG

25+ WAYS TO START YOUR NEW BLOGGING YEAR WITH A BANG

Well, Winter might still be here but Spring is officially on the way. And this is a perfect time to start a plan to give your website and social media accounts a bit of a spruce up. 

There’s so much you can add to your online presence over twelve months - the clutter in your sidebar, too many categories and changing your bios so they all say different things. We can all get a bit carried away!

So today, I’ve got the ultimate list of things you can update on your website and social media profiles. All you need to do is pick what task you want to do when and work your way through the list. Spoiler alert: you don’t even need rubber gloves 😉

YOUR WEBSITE

Whether you’ve been blogging for three months or three years, I bet there’s a few things that could do with sorting out on your website. Having a clean and professional blog that’s easy to navigate is so important, so that’s what this section is going to cover. Let’s go.

Old Content

One of my goals for the year is to update all of my old posts on my blog, starting with my most popular posts. Got Google Analytics? Good! Here’s how to find your own:

  • Go to Behaviour
  • Click Site Content and then All Pages
  • Set the date range right back from when you installed Google Analytics on your site to now
  • Your most popular posts are there!

You want to focus on the top five to ten depending on how much time you’ve got to work on your blog. Here’s a list of things you want to to them:

  • Reformat - Check the layout of your past few blog posts and then look at your old ones. Bet there are some differences aren’t there? Go through and edit the fonts, the colours, your headlines, and even add new images are screenshots if you need to. Consistency is key and you want the format of all your posts to be very similar if not the same.
     
  • Check all links - Broken links are an SEO red light, so if you click through to some that don’t work, you need to get rid or change them. Maybe your usernames all changed when you rebranded or you link to a post on another blog that doesn’t exist anymore. Check and change as necessary.
     
  • Add more links - I bet some of your newer posts really relate to points you make within old content. This is your chance to link them! It’s like you’re taking your reader on a journey through your site. No, don’t leave! Here’s another post for you to read! That’s internal linking and believe me, it’s powerful. 
     
  • Update your images - If you’ve been reading my blog for some time, you’ll notice my images have changed a lot over the past year. Instead of horizontal, they’re now vertical and they always include text. This is because if you pin your blog posts to Pinterest, that’s the kind of image you need. Since I started creating images like this, the amount of people sharing my blog posts to Pinterest has quadrupled.
     
  • Add a content upgrade - These are like free downloads you can offer your reader within your content (you can see an example of one I did in Tuesday’s post here). If you have an email list, this will seriously help with your growth. Your most popular posts are going to be popular for a long time, so why not make them even more attractive to readers with a free piece of adult homework to help them?

THE ULTIMATE NEW YEAR BLOG PLANNING GUIDE

THE ULTIMATE NEW YEAR BLOG PLANNING GUIDE

I recently had a major overhaul of my content for ABOH. It was an afternoon during the festive holidays and I had an urge to sit down with a blank planner and really think about where I wanted to take my blog this year.

It was pretty daunting at first and I struggled to know where to start. But, once I did, the ideas and plans flew out of me like a firework exploding in the sky - and it’s made me feel so great! 

A new year is a great reason to make some changes to your online presence. But I know it can be challenging to decide where to start and how to even put some strategies together. So if you’re anything like me and left your planning until 2017 had got going, this post is for you.

I’ve pulled together the ultimate guide for you to plan to take your blog even further this year. Keep reading to learn the steps you need to go through and why all of this is so important.

#1 | EVALUATE EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED OVER THE PAST 365 DAYS

To move forward, you need to know where you’re at right now. Traffic, interaction, community numbers. What made you feel really proud this year? What blog posts got the most comments? What gave you the motivation to seriously get stuff done? And what did you actually do that made some huge improvements this year?

Whatever goodness you brought to your audience last year, you need to do the same again. Pick a few pieces of content that got the most views and shares and generate even more content ideas around those. But this time, make them even better.

One of the most popular pages on my blog for the past eight months has been my post about printables to help you plan your life. This has been shared OVER 14,000 times on Pinterest. This is because people love list posts AND they love posts to help them become more organised and make improvements. So this year, I’ve got a plan to create a paid product all about productivity and organisation due to the success of this post. 

If you don’t already track the stats for your blog, I HIGHLY recommend you start doing this in 2017. This will really help you evaluate your current situation.

Here’s a list of what to include in your spreadsheet and where to find everything in Google Analytics. To download your free template, just click below!

  • Sessions, pageviews, avg. session duration, new sessions, users, pages/session, bounce rate, returning/new visitor - these can all be found on the homepage of your Google Analytics dashboard.
  • Top referrer, second top referrer, third top referrer - these can be found by going to ‘Acquisition’ in the sidebar, then ‘All Traffic’, then ‘Referrals’.
  • Top page - this can be found by going to ‘Behavior’ in the sidebar, then ‘Site Content’ and then ‘All Pages’. If you find your top page is your homepage this is totally natural. But for the purposes of your stats, if this is the case ignore it and pick the second most popular.
  • Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook followers and so on.
  • Newsletter subscribers.

HOW LOOKING BACK HELPS YOU MOVE FORWARD (MY 2016 REVIEW)

HOW LOOKING BACK HELPS YOU MOVE FORWARD (MY 2016 REVIEW)

Well, we’re here, friend. The last blog post on A Branch of Holly for 2016.

I can't really believe it, can you? I was really struggling to know what route to go down with this, but then I took a look through my Bloglovin’ feed and managed to find some inspiration. 

So I thought I'd take a look back over the last year and how my blog and online presence has grown and developed - boy has a lot changed! I've done a personal year in review on Little Branches (where I announced we've bought a house!), but here I want to reflect in a little more detail. 

I wanted this to be helpful for me as I go into a new year, but also an inspiration to you to see what you can do in a year if you put the right plan in place, work in a smart way and believe in yourself a little bit more.

I just wanted to quickly tell you why I love doing these end-of-year reviews. When my blog was very young and only my family were reading my content, I saw some bloggers I admired write posts like this and I thought it was so honest and refreshing. They were people with successful blogs and thriving communities, and they were exactly where I wanted to be. Of course, I was falling into the one trap all bloggers should avoid - comparison.

But then I read more about the journey they'd been on, what they'd done to make their blogs successful and I didn't compare myself anymore. These were no overnight successes. They were real. There were late nights, lack of sleep, sacrifices, hard decisions and sheer determination. That's what pushed me forward.

So here we go - my 2016 in review