Five Things That Helped Me Grow My Blog
I know I talk a lot about what won't help you in your blogging journey, but it struck me I rarely share what I think might actually boost your blog. I wholeheartedly believe in sharing knowledge -- it's why I decided to officially coach new bloggers, and often do it for free too -- but I noticed a severe lack of useful blog posts about the things that helped me on my journey. Which, obviously, is pretty sketchy of me. Sorry about that.....
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Anyway, although this is only a short list of the five things I found to be the most helpful, the list isn't exhaustive and please feel free to email me if you have any specific questions you need answers to. If you want to know how, or why I branched out into freelance journalism -- just shout. Or if it's more of a techy Wordpress query you have a burning desire to have answered......well, I'm not your girl - but I'll be able to direct you to either a helpful tutorial, or someone who can help you.
If you don't know the background of Wanderluce, it started out in a very different iteration. It used to be a standard Wordpress hosted (eg wordpress.com) hobby blog called 195 Days of Summer. I was super into Zooey Deschanel at the time.....don't judge. Mr Wanderluce and I both wrote on it, and it was essentially an online travel journal for us both to keep track of our six-month sabbatical. Well, that six-months turned into three years and the hobby blog switched to a self-hosted website with domain and hosting costs and a super terrible name. I struggled to make my voice heard in the crowded blogosphere and was writing about nonsense I felt I should be writing. I did a course, became a social media manager to pay the, admittedly tiny, bills while we continued to travel and somehow found myself a 'digital nomad' with big dreams and a scattered mind.
But I didn't really 'find' my calling until luck struck (and a bit of chutzpah) and I landed myself an internship at Lonely Planet Traveller in-between travels. At the end of that stint, I had my first ever byline and knew I wanted to be a freelance writer. More travels, and more interesting jobs copywriting, social media managing (the actual worst job for me, a social media hater) and Oli and I were ready to come home to London. I mean, we had a wedding to get on with so we literally couldn't keep living in Thailand anyway....but we were done with it by then.
I threw myself back into the blog, now known as Wanderluce and started writing -- with gusto and typo's galore -- about anything, and everything I felt like. I made blogger friends, and worked with a really awesome company and helped to coordinate a huge blogging conference. I also pushed forward with my journalism career, pitching (badly), writing (occasionally) and landing myself a staff job on the travel desk at the Express. Pinching myself the whole way, obvs.
After I found out I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to go back to freelancing again. Money-wise, it made no difference so since then I've been writing across stacks of topics for people like the Telegraph, Mush Mums, Red and Mother & Baby. I still adore my blog, which is constantly evolving, but things are really rapidly shifting.
As is often the way, as soon as I stopped doing what I thought I should be doing and started listening to my intuition and gut -- good things happened. Now, I want to be really super clear here -- this isn't the sort of post where I'm going to tell you how to grow your email list from 0 - 3000 or why my traffic has quadrupled after doing XYZ.
Because I don't monetise my blog, and I'm not a full time blogger -- I feel free to utilise it as my creative hub. It's where I write the sh@t people don't pay me for, the stuff I LOVE writing with absolutely zero pressure to follow any rules.
But. And this is pretty contradictory. My blog is definitely my business. Or, at least, it's kind of the face of it. If it weren't for my blog, I wouldn't have landed my job at LPT. I wouldn't have made money on the road, and I wouldn't have the extensive writing experience I now have. So, as I say, I still take it seriously because it's a serious part of my success (which, for me, will undoubtedly look different to your own idea of success).
Regardless, if you're at that weird blogging stage where you feel like your chugging away doing everything everyone else seems to be doing but not seeing any results (whatever those results might look like to you) -- these tools WILL help you. I promise. They are universally helpful, and it doesn't matter whether you are keen to monetise your blog and make a full time job with it or land your first ever press trip, or work with a brand, or launch your first product.
Everything on this list could help boost your blog if you choose to use it. It's up to you if you do or not, because you have to go with your gut -- I am a FIRM believer in that.
And in the interest of being really honest, there is one thing I'm yet to do that isn't on my list (yet), but should be on yours.
Branding. I'm not going to start referring to myself as 'brand Wanderluce' but I am trying to design a logo (I've been trialling an online logo maker as well as Etsy), and get my fonts and colours a little tighter. The truth is, I'm not changing anything as such -- just noting down the things I already do, so that if I ever get an assistant, I can hand her an A4 piece of paper over and she/he/it can create something without me needing to tweak it.
Future proofing, if you will ;)
This might seem really simple, but listening to these specific podcasts really helped me focus and shift my mindset. Which in turn, made me do things differently. I promised I wouldn't, and I don't want to be airy-fairy and vague here so I'll give you a few examples.
- Listening to Jess Lively made me realise the importance of listening to my intuition in business. I love The Lively Show although Jess is a touch on the woo-woo sometimes and very American, if you know what I mean ;)
- I already knew Jen, but the whole Make it Happen podcast where she interviews different creatives has inspired me. I re-listen to them pretty often and there's maybe one, or two episodes that didn't directly help me in my business.
- More recently, Sara's Hashtag Authentic podcast has been a fab Instagram guide.
- Being Boss is beyond epic. It's full of practical advice on anything you can think of, and is especially good when you are trying to take the next step in your blogging career.
This is a big one you guys, so if you only take one thing away from this post -- make it this: Pinterest is a traffic game changer.
SERIOUSLY. So, I started growing my Pinterest early last year, just by creating pins more frequently for blog posts and pinning regularly but it wasn't until the middle of the year I saw amazing results. I hired a VA who helped me join group boards, pinned regularly on my behalf (much more than I'd been doing) and my referrals went crazy. I saw the biggest spike in traffic I've ever seen, and even after I stopped using my VA my traffic continued to grow off the back of Pinterest.
The practical steps I took, that you can quickly and easily implement (for free) are:
- Create pins using Canva for every blog post (I create a minimum of 3 per post, with slightly different styles and titles).
- Save these pins with a title chock full of relevant keywords. Pinterest is a search engine y'all!
- Pin them regularly to your own boards and group boards using Boardbooster or Tailwind (both have subscription costs associated).
- Join relevant group boards using Pin Groupie to find them.
- Use Melyssa Griffin's amazing free resources!
I've never been a big fan of social media, and that had to change when I started managing other people's accounts as a social media manager (annoyingly). The noise and rules of blogging also seemed to seep into my head and I felt I had to use every damn platform.
But last year I changed things, so while I am still a total social media junkie by virtue of my job, I only actively try to grow my Instagram and Pinterest accounts. I've always loved Instagram, and was an early adopter of it albeit a truly terrible photographer.
But it wasn't until last year I started to see the benefits of utilising it as a tool for my blog, and as a way to grow my community. It's where I found my 'tribe' you know?
And the main ways I did that? See below:
- Reading everything Sara Tasker has to say on the topic of Instagram! Seriously, she should be your first port of call, as she offers a stack of free resources, a 7-day e-course (also free) and a paid for (but HUGELY worth it) course too.
- Upping my photography game, and switching from my crappy old iPhone to a Huawei P9. I still use my DSLR for the majority of my travel shots - but on Instagram I showcase a much wider range of photo-topics so I use my phone instead.
- Using VSCO, A Color Story and Lightroom for all of my photo editing. Nothing goes on Instagram without some editing!
- Honestly, just engaging. It seems annoyingly simple, but getting involved in Insta-chats on Twitter, and finding people you love and commenting on their posts often has been a game-changer too.
Reading More, Writing Less
This one is less tangible, so it might not immediately feel as helpful. But I promise if you take a step back and apply it to your own daily blogging schedule it'll make a difference. If only to your creativity!
I got into a real spin when I constantly seemed to be following these two rules: read everything in my 'niche' and share it, and write as much as possible.
Then I stopped. I just stopped reading and writing anything at all.....I took stacks of time off, and barely wrote a thing. Definitely nothing of interest anyway. My creativity and inspiration was just completely stumped and I had no energy to write. I had no motivation to write.
Then I stopped, thought 'f@@k it' and cleared my entire Feedly feed of blog posts by people I felt I should be reading, and started again. I filled it with five or six blogs I loved and just started reading them for pleasure. That's literally all I did. I still have those five blogs, I have a few more too -- and I only share what I actually read and enjoy.
Because I stopped caring what I was writing, or how often and just focused on reading lots, reading voraciously, and reading across all manner of things -- news, blogs, zines, whatever -- I found I wanted to write again. I actually had things to write about, and I started thinking in blog posts again.
The only issue? I wanted to write about more than just travel. Actually -- for a while, I didn't want to write about my travels at all. So I didn't! And I still don't.
Because I don't define my blog by any one topic, I don't feel constrained to write within one. But that is something that will also have to change soon as I move further away from travel.......watch this space.
I honestly think that taking these two steps this week will help you. As soon as I started writing what I actually wanted to write, people connected - they commented, pinned and shared. This led to less of a spike in traffic (you can't track it as such) but it did lead to an increase in email subscribers and commenters. Which, for me, is more rewarding -- both for my ego (!) and for my business (an huge but disengaged audience aren't gonna buy into anything you sell).
- Create a Feedly list and add no more than five feeds. Set aside some time to read them, and anything else you fancy too -- if you find you don't want to read them, get rid!
- Keep a notepad or use your iPhone notes to jot down thoughts, regardless of whether it fits into your niche or not. If you read something about feminism and you got super excited about it, but you run a couples adventure blog -- write it down anyway! You'll find a way for it to fit.
This has been my most significant investment, but the most rewarding -- and I saw the financial gain really quickly.
Last year I decided to start coaching with Jen Carrington and it was honestly the best decision I've ever made - she helped me make space to work out what I wanted to do, then provided really practical, tangible action plans to get there.
Just a few months after coaching ended and I've achieved all the goals I set during my sessions with her, so to my mind? She's basically my fairy godmother.
Wow, that was a little bit mammoth. SORRY!
If you have any questions you want to ask me privately about what I've talked about here - drop me an email: lucy (at) wanderluce (dot) com.
And if you're a super new blogger, and need some help to take things to the next level - I offer blog mentoring too.
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