Friday, October 27, 2017

How I Grew My Blog, and How I Shrank It (Oops!)



In the many years I have been blogging here on The Closet Historian, I have not done many blog posts specifically about blogging, so we could say it is high time I addressed the subject no?

I feel like talking about blogging is somehow either taboo or has to be the main subject of a blog itself. There are so many blogs about blogging out there! Why? Because many many people are searching for articles about how to blog, and so a blog about blogging is bound to do quite well! It gets old though, reading about how much x blogger grew her blog, because of course blogging advice based sites have an easier time with clicks and views (and ecourses, why does everyone need to have an ecourse?) and are easier to grow, because people are always searching for more blogging advice! Do you know what people are searching for a lot less on Google? 1940's fashion advice.

Still, unless you have a blog about blogging, it can still seem a bit taboo to write about the subject. Of course everyone wants to believe we are all here solely for the pure fun and passion of it all. Many people start blogs with a lot more in mind than a passionate hobby however, including myself. I had just graduated university when I started this blog, I thought I could be one of the few who use magic and fairy dust to turn blogging into a career. Well, we know how that's worked out for me don't we! You know how I know it is indeed the passion and the fun of it that keeps me blogging? Because I reached my ultimate dream goal numbers last year, and then I lost them, and....well, I am still here arn't I? Because luckily I discovered along the way that blogging helps keep me sane and is the exact sort of structure and rhythm I need in life!

So anyways, today I wish to be crass and talk to you all about blogging, what worked for me when I hit the high numbers last year (that I had spent years trying and dreaming about achieving), and then how exactly I lost those numbers just as fast. These tips are mostly intended for other bloggers or people who want to start a blog, and are definitely more geared towards people who wish to make their blog into more than just a hobby.



How I grew my blog views to 50,000 views a month; What worked for me was:

-Posting Helpful Reviews of Brands/Films/Books People are Searching for...

No surprise here really. If a new book comes out, and people are searching for reviews, and you have posted a review...your blog will come up on those search results and people will visit! Same goes for films, brands, particular sewing patterns etc. Technically planning your content around knowing this fact is just good SEO, search engines will recommend your blog more if it includes search terms people are googling. I really don't think this tip is very insidious, sure you may review or mention something knowing it may lead to more blog traffic, but as long as you are reviewing or mentioning things pertinent to your niche and readership it is a win win. People visit blogs and websites that they like, and they like them for different reasons of course, but people are seeking good or interesting information, posts that are helpful to them in some way, either directly via DIY's and tips, or indirectly via good old fashioned inspiration. If like me for example you post about vintage fashion, reviewing a new style of dress from a particular repro brand, or reviewing a new period film may help bring in a few new readers, and it is the other content that you create that will keep them coming back. Hopefully...

-Getting Involved in the Community

This one was hard for me, I am a total introvert and am quite afraid to say something wrong and come off as weird. For a long time I was a total lurker, only viewing other blogs and social media accounts but never commenting. Sometimes I would (and still am guilty of this one...) type out comments and erase them several times trying to make sure I had the wording just right as to not embarrass myself. I get it!! But guess what, no one thinks you are awkward for pointing out how nice their hair looked that day, or complimenting how they paired that tan handbag with their cranberry colored dress. People love getting comments! (ahem...I love getting comments <3 ) Even if it is only one word comments, like "Nice!" or "Pretty!" it is still great to hear from people who are viewing/reading your work.

I am still not the best at engaging with my fellow vintage bloggers, but reaching out and beginning to participate in the community is the single biggest catalyst in going from zero views to some views. Of course be genuine, odds are you have an opinion about someone else's outfit, or review, or photos and you should let them know what they reminded you of, or inspired you to see, or had never thought about. Most vintage lovers are isolated from one another unless they live in big cities (and even then really), so connecting with people who have similar interests is going to be super rewarding! Eventually people will click back to your blog curious about the person who keeps commenting. People won't want to get to know you if you are merely a number in their daily view count, but if you are a name they will want to know more.

-Posting Consistently and as Often as I Could Manage

When this blog here of mine was getting 50,000 views a month, I was posting 4-6 posts a week, averaging around 5 a week pretty consistently. People will come back day after day if you have something new to show them and they know they can count on your blog to be good. These posts can't be just filler, links to other sites (you want them to stay on your blog remember, not click away), they have to provide a service or inspiration to the visitor. The hardest part here is generating great content consistently. Publishing great posts 5 times a week is awesome, posting great posts just once a week is also great- because consistency is good- but it is not going to generate as many views as 5 post a week. That's just easy maths unfortunately, and it is indeed very time consuming to keep that pace. That's why when people blog as their job, it is in fact a job and takes as many hours as a "real job".

-Createing Original DIYs/ or Other Deeply Helpful/Instructional Posts

Like I said already above, people will visit if your blog is helping them, inspiring them, or just downright a great resource. Not everyone is good at writing tutorials or explaining DIYs, and I myself have written tutorials that proved helpful and tutorials that have obviously proved confusing and near useless. The traffic stats will tell you which you have achieved, and this is a muscle you will have to train and keep in use to perfect. Not every super-content post has to be a tutorial or DIY, but those styles of posts when good are endlessly pinable, good for SEO, and turn you and your blog into a go-to expert. These posts (lets keep calling them super-content, like a comic book hero) are also evergreen, meaning that they will get views today when they go up, next week when someone shares them on facebook, and 2 years from now when yet another person searches for a DIY 1940s hat or in my case, the 1920s one hour dress. My posts about how to make a 1 hour 20's dress remain the most popular ever posted on this blog, even though I published them all over a year ago. Making a concerted effort to blog about the 1 hour dress more often helped me reach the 50,000 numbers last summer, and I haven't talked about that style dress since, but people still come here for those posts.

If DIYs and the like are beyond your oeuvre, instead of teaching someone how to make/do something, you can also teach them about something. Teach them the history of wool production in New Zealand, how to style/wear this particular item or that one, how to thrift shop like a pro, all about Lilli Ann or Lanvin, the 5 best resource books for knitting fair isle, the best sewing shears and why you are convinced. These are still how-tos, still helpful engaging super-content posts, but also are within range when crafting or making aren't always a part of what you do.

-Not Trying to Make Money Blogging

Hey, just so you know, I have never made any money from blogging, and I have been doing it for over 4 years now. You could put some google ads on your page, or accept every sponsored post about office furniture that random PR people who haven't looked at your site fling into your email inbox, but neither of those things are going to be super great for you in the long run. Why? It's easy money to have lots of ads on your blog right? No, because if your blog starts looking like news websites do these days (more ads than articles), no one is going to visit it. And also it just looks grubby and kinda tacky when the ads have no relation to what you blog about. Its 2017, fewer and fewer people are making money blogging, and if they are, it's likely they have other social media platforms that are really helping drive their traffic. Who is making money online these days? You know the answer, Instagram influencers and YouTubers. YouTube has a better system for giving cuts to the content creator from both paid YouTube Red subscriptions and more traditional advertising. I think people are more willing to see ads on YouTube videos than they are to see them on static blogs, probably because many people were raised on TV where ads one ignores to see content are the mainstay.

Once upon a 2008, many people could make a living blogging, but that just not really the case anymore. Perhaps this Instagram/YouTube bubble will eventually burst too, so why jump on that bandwaggon? Firstly, because that bubble may not burst, who knows, and second, because you aren't sharing your content online to make money, you are sharing your content online to build a brand. Everybody is building a personal brand these days, and it's the goal because you can take your brand to Instagram, to a blog, onto YouTube, and into bookstores or onto Etsy. Better that people know you, like you, and when you come out with a book, product, ecourse (I still don't get these but hey) they will want to support you because you are their friend. Look at the blog A Beautiful Mess, who are a huge blog btw, but they have been able to launch all kinds of ventures because their readers are behind them and want to see them succeed. They didn't do it ad-on-blog free of course, but if your goal is to turn blogging into a career, you have to be conscious of how that idea and career description changes moment by moment.

It's not like you are using your blog visitors to get quick google ad-sense cash (which is more like coins these days anyways I imagine), it's more like building a community of people who like the same stuff you do, then when you perhaps find the means to make something you would all enjoy, people are happy to engage with it. More likely than not, when bloggers or influencers I love come out with a book/product/etc I am excited to get my hands on it. I like the person, I want to support them. If you see people as dollar signs, either at the beginning or when you hit it big, people are gonna notice you are sleazy and leave.

All that being said, this is just my opinion. I'm no expert on making money blogging, or how to do it well and with genuine care for your readers, because I have never done it. Anyone wanna buy some office furniture?

So, where did it all fall apart? Why did my blog stop growing and actively start shrinking?



How I shrank my blog:

Well I basically stopped doing any of the above recommendations of course! Remember I said consistency was key? This is the internet! People can click away at any time, and only your diligence, hard work, and charisma as a blogger/content creator is going keep them coming back.

-I Went from Consistently Posting 5 Posts a Week to Only Posting 2-3

As my "day job" (it has been different day jobs along the way, but you get the idea) ramped up, aka I started working full time and crazy hours last year, my blogging and sewing fell by the wayside. I was exhausted weeknights, and could barely catch up on the weekends. Blogging well is a lot of work. Sometimes you only have enough hours in each day to complete one full time job. If you are a super planner you can schedule and organize your blogging around a full time job, I have been able to do it at times, but this year has not been those times, this year has been a bit crazy. I want more than anything to devote myself solely to my "side projects", blogging, vintage fashion research, YouTube, writing fiction novels, and sewing reproduction clothing. Unfortunately, I can't ignore the world and have to adult at least a little bit, and I lost my ability to balance it all once time became scarcer and scarcer. If anyone sees my balance laying about, please do return it. My email can be found on the contact page of this blog if you would like to report a sighting of my missing balance.

-I Started Writing Less of Those SEO Friendly Posts Like Reviews and DIYS

Balance out the window, who had time to create researched and well written posts anymore! It was all I could do to document my outfits to share, the idea of creating original DIYs or well researched articles went flying off and away with all of my energy. So again I guess this tip is the same, consistency is key! If people are coming to your blog for that sweet super-content, and you haven't been able to post any for weeks, they will lose faith in you and stop coming by.

-I Didn't Prioritize Well and Also Let Myself Get BURNT OUT

Burning out is easy. You start feeling a bit warm when you are scrambling to keep up the balance, keep up the posts, keep up the consistency, and before you know it you aren't scrambling to keep it all up, your scrambling in order to not fail completely. Then somehow you've been in the oven far to long, and like this metaphor- you're well overcooked.

Have you ever heard of the triangle dating joke/meme where there is a triangle with emotional stability on one point, intelligent on another, and physical attractiveness on the last point but in any partner you must pick only two? Well it's a bad dating joke, but I feel like in my life the triangle is "work full time", "work on side projects", and "sleep enough not to completely burn out" and I lost all balance between the three. You can work on your side projects and sleep enough to human properly, but not if you are working full time. Or you can work full time and sleep enough to human properly but loose your blogging mojo (hello, it's me, I've been wondering if aft....), but you rarely, very very rarely, get to have all three of these things at once. Spinning too many plates leads to broken porcelain, and then when you stumble and step on the shards it hurts. For me the shards were watching my numbers and traffic die away after years of trying to reach 50,000, that hurt, it still hurts.

-Like and Idiot, I let the Numbers Get to Me

Oops. Like I said in the opening of this missive, I started this blog because I needed a creative outlet, and also because I wanted to be a professional blogger. (I kept blogging because it turned out I loved it, who knew). Of course on the daily you can't over fuss and focus on the numbers, but if you want to grow anything, you have to measure that growth eventually. So when I finally started hitting my dream numbers of around 50,000 views a month I was over the moon and thought "this is it, finally I'm a real blog!" like Pinocchio wanting to be a real boy, I thought I had finally made progress in my goal to be a real blogger/influencer. Well sure, I was on my way, TCH was growing, and then it all fell apart due to boring real life/day job timesuck issues and eventually, lost hope. Because it is much harder to work tirelessly on something when the numbers are going down. It's just hard to keep up the motivation when less people are coming by than ever before and you feel like sand is slipping through your fingers but you cant seem to tighten your hands.

You start having treacherous and seductive thoughts like "Why spend all day on this post know one will read?" "Why make something when no one comes by to see your work anymore anyway?". These mean grey thoughts are seeping out from the numbers, the shrinking numbers creating a miasma that will threaten to choke out your creativity and drain the passion from everything you had built and loved. Numbers are fickle, and they make you ignore the actual people, the wonderful friends you have made who are still there, who do want to see your new skirt you made because they like you, not just your blog. If you forget about the people the numbers win, you can't let the numbers win. Numbers take down hundreds of creatives every year, your job is to persist, your job is to tell the numbers to feck off.

I'm still killing off the fog from my stupid numbers, I listened to them whisper and have paid the price for it. I'm building my gasmask so I can keep going, because I love what I do, I love what we share, I love making and learning and writing (and luckily, video editing oddly enough), so I'm gonna stop breathing in the lie that my worth lies in numbers (my blog traffic, the word count of the novel I can't seem to finish, my bank account balance, my student loan debt, how many years I have been out of college and am still not a fully functioning adult...). Numbers and I are on a break, I've gotta build up my reserves of numbers anti-venom. I am not numbers, I am a person. I mean ahem, this is an advice post for you, dear reader, not therapy for me...so, u...numbers don't define you. Yeah you, we were definitely still talking about you...and speaking of you;

Why do people come to your blog? They come for you probably, something about you is a little different and it is a perspective people want to hear from, eyes someone wants to see through even if only for a few minutes though a single post. So your most valuable asset as a blogger, or content creator of any kind (filmmaker, author, painter, musician...) is your unique point of view. Narrow down on what you can provide that no one else can, those posts are going to set your blog apart from the sea of the internet.

Hopefully, this has been helpful for anyone out there who has also lost their blogging fairy dust, or is just starting out blogging and wants to know what to focus on and what to avoid! Thank you all so much for reading this, and for visiting this blog, and for coming back year after year. You can probably tell that I tie up perhaps too much of my identity in this blog, so the fact that you are here means more to me than I can really communicate. Thank you!!!



P.S.: Were gonna talk a little bit more about blogging soon, I'm on my metaphorical 12 step in getting over my evil-numbers outbreak and am not done talking about it just yet. Stay tuned, or don't, I'm trying to figure out how not to care what you decide...

14 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    Maybe there isn't any legitimate place for numbers in setting goals or evaluating our own achievements. Numbers like site statistics and salaries are easy to quantify, but they don't represent any of life's true values.

    I hope you'll soon find a new balance, that's better than the one you lost!

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  2. This was a fascinating post for me. I had a similar experience, although on a much smaller scale - a few years ago, I was posting up to 5 times a week, getting 15+ comments on posts, I was really pushing reviews and histories and things like that that got me a lot of clicks. In the past couple of years, though, it's been harder to post more than twice a week, if that, and my numbers have been on the decline. It's a bit frustrating, but I don't want to give up on blogging, if only because it's a such a great excuse to work on my outfits and my photography! So lately I've been focusing on that - just enjoying the things that I love, and not worrying so much about the numbers. Although I do want to try to get back to posting and commenting on other blogs more consistently, if only so that I can stay more engaged with the community.

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    1. I'm glad I'm not alone! I think I was telling myself all year that I didn't care about the numbers going down, but in reality I really did, and then it all sorta stacked up on me this month. I feel so much better already just after writing this post. Your photography is constantly impressing me and is so wonderfully editorial, so keeping at it is obviously paying off! I love reading your blog, I'm glad you plan to stick around too <3

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  3. Thank you very much for this post! I appreciate the vulnerability you're willing to express here. As someone who's been blogging about as long as you have, I can definitely identify with a lot of what you've said. I've ebbed and flowed with feelings of success about my blog (or not as successful), so I'm feeling you!

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    1. Thank you Emileigh! I felt so much better about it all just after writing this post, and oddly I now have a lot more inspiration to continue on blogging!

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  4. I feel for you Bianca, the road of blogging can be rocky! Many years ago I perhaps had notions about followers and perhaps making money one day, but I have had to prioritise other things and now I just want to blog for my own amusement. I have also changed tack in terms of my own style and values - I'm simply not interested anymore in reviewing low end vintage repro clickable stuff. The great thing is that you have learned so much and could potentially revisit 'serious' blogging at any time you choose. It's a life skill. I personally can't keep up with reading blogs with 5 posts a week, once a week is just fine!! X

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    1. Thank you Porcelina! I am trying to be less hard on myself moving forward, but also more realistic and measured about my schedule and goals!

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  5. Thank you for this post! I hope you will continue blogging becasue, and this will be rather selfish, I love your blog! :) Every morning I sit down with my cup of tee, I open my blog feed and I always get a little thrill when I see an update from your blog. Your outfit are always on point and your tutorials are inspiring. And personally, as a blog reader, I don't need to see posts every single day. I like to have these little treats every now and then. It just makes it so much more special. I know numbers can be very seductive, but I hope that knowing that you have committed readers would encourage you to continue blogging.

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    1. Thank you! I am definitely going to keep at it, I hope I will be able to devote even more time to blogging soon by scheduling my time better!

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  6. Thank-you for sharing this great post, Bianca! It was a good read, and I really appreciate being able to see into your own blogging experiences a bit. Considering that blogging is a social thing, it can sometimes seem like you are on your own when it comes to the technical/SEO/trying to promote your blog side of things.
    I really enjoy your blog, and you don't have to worry about not posting often enough for me to keep coming back. (even though it sometimes it takes me a while to find the time to read your posts!)
    The Artyologist

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  7. Thanks for writing this, it was fascinating reading about the inner workings of your blog. I found it really interesting finding out what does and doesn't work for you. I enjoy reading your blog very much, however often you post and whatever it is about. Leave those numbers and keep enjoying yourself!

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