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.
#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.
If you're thinking about Squarespace, I'd tell you to go for it. I'll be honest with you though - it wasn't easy to make the switch. I wish I'd taken more time over it and read more information. Luckily, the Squarespace Help team are incredible helped me so much during the process.
#2 | Focused on my mailing list
If I haven’t mentioned it already, my email list has also increased dramatically. Part of this I think is down to Squarespace, which makes it SUPER easy for me to offer free downloads and collect subscribers.
But the other part of it was actually creating an actual plan for my mailing list. I started doing this towards the end of last year and I’ve seen results already. I started out just sending random emails out about random things. But then I decided to invest my time into a strategy. And boy was I right to.
I couldn’t believe I hadn’t done it before. Why had I not put two and two together? Linking your e-marketing to your blog posts is key. The blog posts that you write during the week, write an email that covers the same theme. Last week, my content revolved around putting a plan into action, so I emailed my community with three main things they should put their focus on this year. And it worked. Because I’m leading people down a path.
Next up, I’m taking lead from Zoe and thinking about gamifying my email list. Watch this space…
#3 | I came up with better headlines and created more value
OK. I know you’re sick of hearing this. It’s about quality not quantity. One brilliant post per week is better than five average ones. But this year, I’ve spent more time into creating kick-ass headlines, whilst also making sure I deliver the promise in those headlines. I think this is why people have kept coming back. They know that I’ll deliver results. They know that I’ll teach them something new.
In every single one of my posts I try to educate, inspire or encourage my reader. And for people now to tweet me and say, “I’m learning so much from your blog”, or “My social media wouldn’t be where it is today without this post from you” - that makes this whole thing more meaningful than I could ever imagine. Everything about my online presence increased, even though I cut my publishing schedule down.
Here’s an example of one.
This post, This is the social media posting schedule that will increase your traffic by over 100%, gives you the exact schedule I used to more than double my traffic. It’s over 2,000 words long, features lots of examples and goes into a hell of a lot of detail. Really, the proof is in the comments and the 900+ shares.
P.S Don’t forget to pin this to save it for later!
#4 | Wrote an eBook
So, I wrote a pretty hefty eBook this year. It’s called ‘The 28-day Blogging Breakthrough Challenge’ and it’s all about how you can get a breakthrough with your blog in just 28 days.
It started off as a challenge on my blog last January. But after speaking to readers, they said they’d love to have it in one place so they could keep going back to it. I’d had the idea of creating an eBook for some time, so I put the two together and hey presto - the Blogging Breakthrough eBook was born. And it’s now offered as a free opt-in when someone signs up to my mailing list… hint hint 😉
I also created the Blogging Breakthrough magazine - a monthly magazine that gets sent out only to my subscribers. My goal for 2017 is to make this a purely user-generated piece of content. As in, everything that features in there is written by YOU. I want to celebrate you more as writers and creators which is why I want you to be a part of it. It’s like my way of saying thanks for being a part of my community. So if you’re interested in writing something for the magazine, feel free to let me know!
#5 | Bought a house
I know this might seem completely irrelevant, but this whole process has really taught me a lot about my blog and online presence. Buying a house has given me a new perspective and a completely different sense of time. It gave me more stress than I ever could’ve imagined. But it also made me feel so much joy. It’s so difficult to put into words. It’s been emotional and hectic...and also made me realise what I actually want from my life.
A couple of years ago, I was so down with my career and blog, I was thinking of packing the two in altogether. I was so close. But when I had my family and now fiancée telling me I’d come to far to give up, I carried on. And I’m so glad I did. Because I wouldn’t have been shortlisted for a UK Blog Award.
Buying a house means more responsibility but it’s also made me realise what I want to make time for - and one of those things is blogging.
#6 | Started using Pinterest as a promotional tool
So, you might be surprised that I haven’t really mentioned social media a lot in this post yet. I used to spend all my time on Twitter and that was great. But there was a problem. Tweets disappear. They aren’t there forever. There was no way I was going to get my message out there in front of all those people at all those different times. Even if I did create a stellar publishing schedule and discovered my optimal times. I needed to stop putting my eggs in one basket. I needed an alternative.
Enter Pinterest. I started pinning the odd blog post and suddenly, I saw my traffic and shares increasing. Then I pinned some more, and then I set up a proper pinning strategy. Now, Pinterest is my top referrer of website traffic month on month, easily by over 80% each time. This is has been one of the best things I’ve done for my blog and I highly recommend you try this out too.
#7 | I concentrated on myself
I always used to put everyone else first all the time. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Your loved ones are the most important people in the world. But when my Grandma was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and I was watching my mum looking after her, it was eye-opening for me.
It made me realise that you have to look after yourself and you have to be selfish sometimes. We all made sure we were as involved as possible so my mum could still look after herself. You’ve got to really think about not just what you want from life but how you’re going to get it. Remember, nothing will run right unless you do.
#8 | I set some goals
I’m not talking about some silly, vague, little goals. I’m not talking about my goal of wanting to take over the world. I’m talking about a list of monthly and weekly goals that were not only actionable but achievable.
Actionable in the sense that I could work on them whenever I wanted, and achievable enough in the sense that because they were broken down, they seemed a lot more manageable.
They included things like, guest post on a fellow blogger’s site, take part in at least one Twitter chat every month and apply to at least one freelancing gig every week. Yes, sometimes I didn’t achieve them, but at least I could go back and figure out WHY.
I’ve brought this forward into 2017 and setting monthly and weekly goals really helps me see clearly how I’m moving forward in both my blog and my life. I think it’s important for ANYONE to do. If you’d like more advice about this, let me know!
BONUS: I GOT SERIOUS WITH LIVE VIDEO...AND I’M STARTING A YOUTUBE CHANNEL!
I went from wanting to avoid live video altogether to wanting to do it all the time. And now, I’m planning to start my own YouTube channel, with my first video aiming to go live at the end of the month. I kept putting it off and putting it off, but I know the best way for me to do it is just to START. I can’t wait - so keep your eyes peeled for that and make sure you’re following me on Instagram for all the behind-the-scenes updates!
The biggest takeaway for me in 2016 was that I didn’t give up. I kept going. Even when times got tough, even when I thought there wasn’t any point and even when I thought I wasn’t good enough. But it paid off. This year, I’ve had bigger results with my online presence and more opportunities in my life than I EVER could’ve imagined. And it’s all down to my blog.
I hope this story encourages you. I hope it inspires you. I truly believe that you shouldn’t waste your time. But there are some things that are worth your time - and they’re usually also worth a lot more than that too.
What was the one thing that really helped your blog and online presence grow last year?