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Why you DON’T need numbers to be a successful blogger

I’ve been thinking about the topic of this post for a really long time. A really long time! But I’ve held off from posting about it because I felt really awkward about it and, to be honest, filled with fear about the reaction I might get.

It’s another of my obsessions; honesty.

I proclaim to be honest, and I talk a lot about being transparent on my podcast and across social media. But there’s been one niggling thing I haven’t been honest about.

To be clear, I haven’t lied about it either, I just haven’t been as open as I am about everything else in my life. 

But after chatting to friends about it, and interviewing podcast guests the topic of blog stats just kept coming up. What’s a ‘good’ number? What’s a micro influencer? How many monthly views should I be getting as a new blogger?

After being asked these questions time and time again but I didn’t know how to answer. Because while I’ve been blogging a few years now, and I’ve certainly built a career from it — I don’t consider myself a full-time blogger at all. 

The big stats myth

In fact, I’ve created income streams where I don’t rely on my traffic on purpose. I’ve talked about how I earn my income before and nothing’s really changed there (mostly through journalism.) But I also earn money through my courses and a small chunk of affiliate income too. 

All in all, this adds up to a decent monthly income. So WHY am I so scared to share my blog stats? If they dropped to zero tomorrow or increased to 1m views a month my income would broadly speaking, stay exactly the same.

I posed the idea of radical honesty about blogging stats on my Instagram inviting others to share theirs. Unsurprisingly there were no takers. Because guess what? Nobody feels safe to share their stats. 

Why? 

Because there is a wall of silence among bloggers. I used to work on the agency side and I know, for a fact, people lie about their stats. We ALL know people use bots and buy followers too.  And although I don’t judge them (I definitely used to though!) I do think it’s creating a toxic environment. 

When ‘bigger’ bloggers discuss their stats, it’s because they know they can — if you get hundreds of thousands of followers each month, you know for a fact it’s a ‘big’ number. You will probably also know by the number of opportunities you get from brands/tourist boards etc which undoubtedly increases when your numbers grow to dizzying heights.

But if you, like me, have a business model set up around the principles of HONESTY and creating a safe, non-toxic environment for other bloggers, it’s not exactly good sense to avoid the topic of stats simply because you don’t like the number you see staring back at you.

Do you know who benefits from us staying silent? Brands and agencies do. When we keep ourselves small and lie/hide our numbers, brands can tell us our stats ‘don’t meet their requirements’ and choose not to pay us for perfectly good work. 

When two bloggers go on a press trip or work with a brand and we all stay sheepishly silent about what we charged, or what our numbers are, guess who’s really calling the shots? Not us. 

I’m not suggesting all brands are hideous and evil. But it makes perfect sense to me that every single brand I’ve worked with on paid and unpaid collaborations in the past year have found me through Instagram where there’s nowhere to hide. Yes, you can buy followers, but you can’t fake an image a brand gels with, or Photoshop engagement into your posts.

Radical Honesty (thanks Amy Liz for this term!)

Chatting with my awesome pal Jen Carrington gave me a bit of clarity. She pointed out that my whole ‘thing’ is honesty, I live and breathe that online and more than simply ‘not lying’ I actively seek out ways to be vulnerable, to ‘overshare.’  

So here you go gang! My CURRENT stats for you. For reals. 

Ps – just in case you think I’m crap at SEO – 67% of those micro numbers came via Google 😉

Just in case you thought this would be a very sad tale about how awful it is my numbers are so rubbish, it’s not. Because guess what happened when I reviewed my various income streams that are directly related to my blog and online presence? 

As my numbers dropped, my income went WAY up.

Here’s some more radical honesty for you >> In November 2017 l, my monthly views were around 30k. In January 2018, just a few short months later they’d dropped to below 10k. But through my courses, affiliate income, and sponsored posts my income had tripled (this doesn’t include a small percentage related to Instagram.) 

 

I now earn more money from blogging than I do from journalism and that feels AWESOME. I am now the master of my own destiny even if that means my total salary has dropped a little bit to make way to make more money through my blog and courses. 

Don’t believe me? Look at this snapshot of one of my Booking.com account. It shows that in November I sent over 7k referrals (from two posts) to the site, and earned about €4. But in April, I had my worst month for referrals at less than 200 yet made €50. 

As you can see in this screenshot, as my referrals to Booking.com went down my income increased. Bonkers.

The moral of the story there? It’s not about HOW much you have, it’s about HOW good they are (crap sentence alert!) What I mean by that is when your audience truly connect with you, your message, and yes……fit your niche, they are far more likely to buy into the things you recommend.

Because, well, simply put – you buy those things too. 

When I did The Blogger Course I raved about it endlessly. It genuinely made a HUGE difference to my blog and how I see it as a business. So Monica kindly made me an affiliate and, although I was a bit passive about pushing sales her way I still drove over $800 in sales resulting in $200 for me. 

There was no hard sell needed, just sharing a new link with my Facebook group. Because guess what? The people who bought it knew I loved it. GENUINELY loved it. They trusted I wouldn’t shove a link their way just to earn some cash, which I wouldn’t. 

Same goes for everything you’ll find on the blog. Booking.com? I use it (because I love how you can cancel with no fees.) Amazon? I’m on first name terms with my postie and DPD driver I get so much stuff there. 

BRB, just off to sleep off this vulnerability hangover in a dark room with some gin.

L x

How I Went from Blogger to Journalist

Of all the questions I’m asked it’s this one I hear the most: “How did you break into journalism?” normally followed by: “Tell me how to do it too!” and I don’t know why I’ve never thought to write it all in a post, because whenever you’re planning content — literally answering a question someone’s asked you is a pretty good start right?

Actually, I know exactly why I’ve held back. Because I feel like a fraud I guess. I’ve written before about imposter syndrome, and so many people reached out after that post and said they felt exactly the same I know you’ll understand when I say I feel like a big fat fraudster.


I wrote this post way back in 2015, pre-baby and pre-podcast too. The reason I decided to reboot it for you is because I’ve written a course all about how to get your first byline as a blogger.  

I’ve pored all of my knowledge, as well as recruiting industry experts to write guest lectures too and I am SO excited to share it with when I release it on the 15th May.

If you want to sign up for the course when it opens, pop your details below.


But ever since I started sharing more posts about blogging, about my journey, my tips and advice I’ve had such a brilliant response from all of you.

People have commented on here, on Facebook, Twitter and on Instagram wanting to know more, to say thanks and even sharing the post. Don’t ever underestimate how much that means to me — it’s more than just a massive ego boost (which, of course, it is!), it’s a validation that I have something useful to share.

So here we go.

From small acorns….

Alternative title: from broke backpackers, slightly less broke flashpackers grow.

It’s not remotely glamorous, so don’t get too excited. While Oli and I were travelling we came home for a wedding. In that time, we were back in London with zero cash, so Oli did catering work for rich people (seriously rich people, the tips pretty much paid for our plane tickets to Bali!) and I carried on with the freelance work I’d been doing while we were away. Which was fine when we were living in a cheap country like India or Thailand…..not so fine when we were trying to live in London.

So I topped it up with temping for Office Angels (reception and admin work mainly). As it goes, non-idiots with an overpriced degree in their thirties are hot property in the admin world so I got stacks of work and was repeatedly asked back to certain places.

One of those places was Immediate Media, a publishing house home to the Radio Times, Match of The Day, Olive Magazine and….Lonely Planet Traveller. I was at reception, so had access to the entire staff database as I had the exciting job of operating the switchboard. On my last day, the security guard I’d got chatting to (and kinda took me under his wing) told me I’d always regret it if I didn’t just pick up the phone and call one of the team at Lonely Planet. So I did.

And that one call landed me a two-week placement. At the end of the two weeks, I’d made connections, learned a little of what it was like to work in a busy editorial team and got my very first byline. After another placement at Marie Claire over London Fashion Week (lots of transcription, dull as fook, no byline) I had enough experience under my belt to start pitching.

From freelancer to staff writer

Obviously, I didn’t do that at all though. Instead, I moved to Koh Tao, scrapped the idea of wearing shoes, tried to plan a wedding and worked as a social media manager (wow, smart career move Luce).

Although I continued to keep my finger in the freelance writing pie, as it were, it was only last year my bylines started to become ‘impressive.’

I landed a staff writer role on the travel desk at the Daily Express which is where I really learned how to be a ‘proper’ journalist. I had the most amazing editor, who boosted my confidence and reminded me I’m a good writer, with fab story ideas. Although I was famously pretty sketchy at headlines……she still laughs at some of the headlines I’d turn out (‘The island so beautiful your EYES will hurt’ was a classic!). It was a brilliant education and I even got nominated for an award for an article I wrote about Slovenia.

Am I a journalist?

I left when I got pregnant, as I already knew I needed to boost my freelance writing career before maternity leave (I was paid a day rate at the Express). So boost my freelance career I did, and alongside my Express bylines, I now have The Sun, Telegraph, Red and Mother & Baby to my name too. The commissioning editor at Stylist invited me for coffee, and we are still trying to find a space for one of my stories, and the Daily Mail offered me £1,000 for a story (which I turned down, because of the direction they wanted to take it in).

That was all a bit braggy, wasn’t it? Yep. The reason I’m sharing it is to tell you that if you want a banging byline too — it can be done. I did it, and I have no formal qualifications at all.

All it took, was a bit of chutzpah, a lot of hard work and a sprinkling of talent too. You wouldn’t know it from the hella typos you likely read on this blog but I’m a pretty good writer, and I am really good at coming up with good story ideas too.

There’s loads of stuff I’m not as good at, so for those things, I seek out ways to learn how to get better. Like I mentioned before, my ability to encapsulate my fab story idea into an eye-grabbing headline isn’t top-notch….but I’m getting better.

So there you have it. That’s my story and how I made the leap from blogger to full-time freelance journalist.

I know you’ll probably have questions, and if you do please just drop me an email or pop something in the comments.

You can find all of my blogging resources here 

L x

If you have dreams of getting paid to write, then you need to know how I went from blogger to full-time freelance journalist (with ZERO qualifications).

Let’s talk about numbers, shall we?

It’s time for a weekly dose of Lucy losing her head, having a wobble, then an epiphany and then writing about it. Note to self: Needs snappier title.

How are you this week? How are you feeling about your numbers? How old you are, the number on the scales, the number of followers you have on Twitter, shares you get on Facebook, repins, comments on Instagram…….

If you have a blog, perhaps you track the number of page views you get each month? Maybe you track your competitor’s numbers too, so you can see where you stack up. 

Maybe you’ve been tracking your income. I know I do this. I have a Monzo card with a dreamy app that shows me exactly where I’m spending my money on a nice little pie chart. Do you have this too?

The Numbers Game

Because we are all obsessed with numbers right? Whether you’re a blogger, Instagrammer, YouTuber, whatever — we are all bombarded with numbers. Regardless of whether your income relies on those numbers they’re out there attached to your profile for all to see.

And we are only human, right? I preach a LOT about knowing why you need the numbers before chasing them all the time. For most of the time I am able to objectively look at my social media and see, with clarity, that I offer value. I can see where my strengths lie, and I make a full-time income supported by these numbers so I know I don’t need to worry, I don’t need to hit any magical number for the sake of it. 

BUT. But, but, but. I am only human. I have an ego, one that’s easily bruised and it’s really hard not to care that when I want to share something with my Instagram-fam I can’t just add a link to my stories and say: ‘Swipe up!’ Instead, I have to laugh about it and say – the link’s in my bio. Or use a bit.ly link. Or reply to each message individually. 

Faking it

So, for better or for worse numbers matter. Not all numbers, but some. And they’re different for us all.

Once a month (or, once a quarter) I check how I’m tracking to my goals vs. my competitors. It’s a trick Monica of The Travel Hack talks about in The Blogger Course and it’s great for working out missed tricks as well as seeing where you are growing in comparison to everyone else. I’ve found that even though my numbers might be smaller, I grow steadily across all of my platforms – and that’s good enough for me.  

But this month, I saw a few anomalies. Some mega gains, you know? And my analytical mind loves this SO much! My old job as a merchandiser (not a visual merchandiser…) meant hours of number crunching to work out exactly why the hell we sold 25 Chanel Vitalumiere foundations in Cardiff last week instead of the usual 1. I live for this stuff.

Whereas I usually just look at things from a qualitative point of view: ‘Ooooh an amazing trip to Lisbon!’ ‘They were featured by a big account’ ‘Ahhhh someone retweeted them’…….that kind of thing, you know? This time I decided it looked so unusual I would turn to every nosy-parkers friend, SocialBlade.com. If you don’t know what this is, it’s a tool to spot fake influencers. It’s quite addictive…..

 

Here’s what my Instagram account looks like on Social Blade…..

You can see a small growth of +120 for the month. And about -90 followings too. Pretty average, nothing major. 

 

But if you were looking at an account who was using sketchy tactics to grow, you might see this instead.

900+ new followers in a month about -700 unfollows in a couple of big chunks too.

 

 

 

 

 Judgement

And you know what?  Let’s be TOTALLY real. This tactic isn’t illegal. It doesn’t actually hurt anyone. Yes, it’s super annoying beacuse it doesn’t follow our prescribed tactics of: ‘just take better pictures, do your hashtag research and spend two hours a day engaging with the community’

That works for some people. But if you need to get to a certain number to appease a brand you want to work with, or get that ‘swipe up’ or get onto that press trip, or join that agency who specified at least 15k followers, why the hell not? I get it. I don’t judge…..I honestly don’t. I just wish people would be a little more honest. 

Don’t brag to me about your Instagram growth unless you’re gonna back it up with how you did it: ‘I used this amazing thing where it grew my following for me.’ Who would do that in these crazy judgemental days? There is a stigma around it, end of story. 

I was tempted. SERIOUSLY tempted. I’ve done Instagram courses, I engage, take nice-enough pictures, engage ALL THE TIME, and I do my hashtag research. To no avail. Well, actually, to no ‘numbers’ avail. I have the dreamiest Instagram community and I never feel alone. Most of my blog readers, course students, mentoring clients and Facebook group crew know me through Instagram initially. Brands want to work with me, and most find me through Instagram…..but, a HUGE number would still be nice right?

Insert facepalm emoji right here.

The Experiment

In a moment of madness/creative genius/definitely madness/shits and giggles – I signed up for a trial of Social Drift, a tool promising to grow your Instagram following to big numbers while you sleep. I thought, YEP, this is it. I’m gonna hit the bigtime and get my swipe up and I am gonna pretend I did it authentically. And nobody will call me out, because it’s a big elephant in the room and people will avoid the topic (to my face.)

For one hot minute and then I remembered who I am and thought FUCK THIS SHIT. As if I would do that you guys!!!  Instead, I pulled myself together and thought NOPE. I’m gonna finish this three day trial, document it and then write about it instead. 

How it works

I signed up for a three day free trial, with limited functions, and added my Instagram account. 

You need to turn off two-step authentification and tell Instagram ‘it was me’ when dodgy login attempts from Dallas, or California show up. 

I set some parameters……accounts who’s followers are similar to mine (Social Drift will basically mine them…..), and how fast I’d like to grow. I actually could only choose Slow (due to the free trial) but it suggests you start with slow, working up to normal, then fast. 

What Happened

Within minutes, I could see I was following tens of new accounts in the live stream. Weirdly freaked out, I left and came back later vowing to ignore Instagram for a bit.

By the end of day one, I’d lost a follower and my feed was full of crap. 

This pattern continues through day two and three…….

When I check in with Instagram, my feed continues to be full of unrecognisable accounts and I have to keep muting randoms on Stories too. 

That’s the end. I started with 2926 followers and ended with 2927. But bloody hell, was it worth it to make sure I never wondered whether to do it again – imma stick with my small, but perfectly formed Insta-fam. 

L x

If you liked this, you might enjoy these……

Why do we always have to be first ?

I wanna tell you a story. It’s kind of embarrassing so bear with me…..

Last week you may have noticed how many people on Instagram Stories were sharing templates. Amazing, creative, cool templates that seemingly came out of nowhere (as all good crazes do) and swept our Stories.

Cats or Dogs? My Instagram Origin Story! That kind of thing. You know the drill. They were fun to do, fun to read and seemed to be a super cool way to do something different on a saturated platform.

They annoyed me. I swiped right to no avail as there was seemingly nobody I followed who wasn’t fillling one of these damn things out. And then tagging others to do the same. Now, I’m a huge contrarian so I HATE anything where people tag me in stuff because it repels my inner rebel and makes me want to scream: ‘NOPE. I DON’T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING’ 

I’m quite childish like that.

 

BUT then one of my favourite humans, Dom, started doing them…..and I thought, okay – I’m into this. Then I heard the story of the girl who went from 14k to 400k in a week because of her templates. And I though….hmmmm I want to be that girl.

WHO EVEN AM I? Yes. I am ashamed to tell you that I wanted a piece of that pie. I ignored every instinct in my body, and created some templates too. I uploaded them and eagerly awaited my millions of followers to roll in (I mean, I’d like to tell you this thought was a sarcastic one but it was not…..facepalm.)

What happened? CRICKETS. Why? Because it wasn’t the right thing to do! I wasn’t being true to myself, true to my ‘brand’ and, more importantly, I knew that — so I didn’t even promote it properly. I wanted a shortcut to a number that isn’t even part of my business strategy!

I preach about why you need to know WHY you want the numbers you do in my SEO course, and this is the chapter I get the most positive feedback about. People think it’s a game-changer, and I understand why because it was a game changer for me too.

So what happened to me?! Why did I lose my head?

I wanted to be the FIRST at something.  

Flashback to a few weeks ago when we all jumped on Vero, using the hashtag #onVerofirst; that felt the same to me. I wanted to be the first. I wanted to rewrite my terrible, oversaturated, overfiltered Instagram history and be an early adopter. A success story.

If you arem’t cringing into your brew right now, I judge you. I am cringing so hard right now it’s surprisingly hard to type…..

Anyway. Someone snapped me out of this. 

I asked Barb to fill out my templates and she said no, because she hated them. ‘They are making Stories so boring!’ she said. Hold up, isn’t that what I thought before i lost my head too? OH YES, IT IS. 

And that’s when I realised something. I don’t have to be the first at anything. I already am the first and so are you. We are all the first at being US. There’s no roadmap, or blueprint to each person’s individual success and none of us have to follow anyone else. Equally we don’t have to do every single thing differently! If you wanna do a course, or follow a blueprint you’ve seen work for others — that is TOTALLY OKAY. Because you are still doing it as you, so it is still totally unique. 

Revolutionary, I know.

But I think it need to be said because I am seeing a real trope of every single part of the internet being taken over by RULES. ‘I love my little corner of the internet because I do what I want’, except I don’t because I use a mobile responsive WordPress theme so Google doesn’t hate me,  I always pin horizontal images so Pinterest likes me and I NEVER film more than three talking to the camera videos in a row on Stories. 

SNORE. 

Who created these rules???? And why are we beholden to them? (Except for you Google, I love you and will do everything you tell me to……)

Pin this for later:

Eating my words 

This is where I tell you that of course, I follow lots of rules. Some self-imposed and some Google-imposed and I’m okay with that. Especially in the areas of my business that pay my mortgage. 

But I’m making some energetic boundaries  (what is that phrase Being Boss?! I don’t understand it but it works well in this sentence…..) when it comes to the areas of my business that are priority to me and the areas that aren’t.

Instagram is a priority. It’s where my tribe are, and what fills my cup. Facebook is not. My podcast is but my blog can be a little more passive. 

PHEW. That was tough. How are you feeling about being the first ever you? 

L x

 

How to Use Instagram Stories to Engage your Audience

How to Use Instagram Stories to Engage your Audience

I’ve long been a fan of Instagram Stories, except I definitely haven’t…..in fact, I used to be a Snapchat addict and, while I adored Instagram for sharing beautiful pictures, poring over other people’s and general product enabling, I felt very uncomfortable with its jazzy new feature.

In fact, I guess you could say I hated it.

Remember Snapchat?

I liked that. I liked the impermanence and raw footage vibe. I liked that it was fun and the only stat you could monitor was that weird, pointless number you were given. BUT, I also LOVED Instagram and felt as though I needed to try it out. I mean, streamlining my social media addiction could only be a good thing right?

So I switched my allegiance to my beloved Instagram and through gritted teeth started using the Story function. Guess what? I LOVED IT.

Since then, I’ve become quite the Stories obsessive sharing snippets of my daily life and engaging with my Insta-tribe. And I’ve found it to be one of the best ways to build community, promote my work and identify what my community want to hear from me.

If you’re a blogger, or a brand or small business I want to show you how Instagram Stories can help you too.

Pin me for later!

Pin with text overlay saying, 'How using instagram stories will boost your blog' with background image of woman using phone.

Updates to Instagram Stories

As of December 5th users can now archive their Stories (so they last longer than 24 hours) and you can also add your own little highlights pinned to your profile.

This is a great way for you to quickly share a few facets of your brand to those visiting your page. It’s also FAB if you want to keep your Stories to repurpose for a blog post, or upload to YouTube later because you don’t have to consciously think about saving every Story.

I love stories so much, Helen even included me in her favourite Instagram accounts!

Why you need Stories

It’s currently pretty underrated to be honest, and there aren’t many of us using it consistently. That means that you have a FAR greater chance of being seen and seeing others work too. Although, of course, there’s an algorithm in play whereby you’ll see certain people’s Stories (within those you follow) first, it’s a far less harsh one than Instagram ‘proper’ so you’re in a good position to get your voice heard.

A really good place. There are around 250 million people on Stories daily, which is HALF of Instagram’s total daily active users. Stories have increased the amount of time people spend on Instagram, and if you are creating compelling content it will generate customer leads and engagement.

Be in the 50% who are using it!!!

It’s a great way to test things out. For example, I often ask questions in my Stories to gauge the kind of content I should/could be writing. I’ll do this in a few different ways: using the poll feature, taking a couple of pictures and asking people which I should post, and literally speaking to camera and asking a question.

The reaction is always useful, even if only a couple of people respond. I’ve steered my business toward new endeavours based on my Instagram Stories research and I get a lot of blog coaching clients this way too — as I’ll use this to answer questions in a less traditional ‘free consultation’ method.

Approximately 20% of my total followers watch my Stories, and this number rarely fluctuates. I am less active at the weekend, but my followers are too so this doesn’t cause any issues for me.

And I’ve seen big spikes when I’ve been added to a location or hashtag story and have gained exposure to people outside of my following too. This is a good reason to add location or hashtags when appropriate!

Get creative

Although they exist to rival Snapchat’s spontaneity, I don’t see anything wrong with curating and adding filters to your Stories. I treat it in the same way as my grid and try to maintain a fairly consistent style, using 3 different colours for my text (I do occasionally break out of this!) and sticking to similar tones. Ish.

But where I would never post images of food on my grid, or really write about it on my blog – I often share what I eat in Stories. It’s a nice way for my followers to get to know me, and my vegan diet — and a great way for me to start transitioning into what I’ll be writing about more often (vegan lifestyle)

How to use them

I really suggest you have a good play around in Instagram, using all the different functions on offer. You can always delete anything you post, and you could even send them to one trusted follower, as opposed to your entire crew.

My favourite ways to use Instagram Stories is to share my vegan meals, show behind the scenes of a blog post/podcast edit or photography session. I love sharing what I’m up to and having a moan! And I try to check in with my followers to see if they’ve read my latest post, or listened to the podcast too.

And I share accounts I adore with my followers regularly, because #communityovercompetition!

Some things you could try are:

  • Sharing a picture before and after editing
  • Behind the scenes of your Instagram 
  • Chat to camera about your day/new blog post etc etc
  • Show something that doesn’t fit with your grid (for me, that’s food)
  • Use a poll to survey your followers
  • Promote your new blog post/product launch
  • Use cute filters as a form of procastination
  • Boomerang your swooshy skirt, or champagne bubbles in a glass 

If you need some extra inspiration, here are some awesome brands and bloggers smashing it…..

Pret a Manger

Pret share awesome updates with their followers regularly. Things like the recent doubling of discount for those bringing in a reusable coffee cup, and their philanthropic efforts as well as their commitment to creating more Vegan and Vegetarian sarnies.

Feather & Wild

Victoria has the most divine Instagram feed and she seamlessly transfers that over to her Stories where she shares creative, beautiful snaps of nature and her home.

Weekend Candy

I love Claire so much, she is a fabulous travel blogger and takes divine pictures of her weekend breaks around the UK & Europe. She also injects so much humour, that even though she doesn’t do a whole stack of chatting to camera you get a real sense of her personality.

She Flourished

Rabya often shares the behind the scenes snippets from her dreamy Instagram posts, and makes really creative videos too. She’s ace.

Useful resources

Beverley’s guide to using Instagram Stories creatively

Sara’s Instagram Stories Prompts

L x

The ONE SEO Trick That Will Improve Your Blog

The ONE SEO Trick That Will Improve Your Blog

I really struggled with this blog post title, which is ironic really, given the topic. Do as I do, not as I say I guess 😉

Seriously though, if you’re reading this you are probably pretty into SEO and trying to make your blog that little bit less invisible.

Because that is honestly all SEO really is.

Take away the fancy lingo and all the rest of it, because optimising your blog for search engines (aka SEO) is simply about removing the invisibility cloak. You work hard on your blog and I’m positive it is awesome, so you just need to tweak the little bits and pieces that help other people see how amazing it is too.

Psssst, if you don’t want to read this post head to this episode of my podcast What She Said where I chat all about SEO with my pal Simon Heyes.

If you want some more guidance, head to my guide where I give you my best tips for SEO. Then come back here!

But back to why you’re here. To understand what the fudge the Google Keyword Planner Tool is and how it can help you get your blog posts ranking higher.

Digital Detox - magazine coffee cup mobile phone

UPDATE

The keyword planner tool can sometimes be really tricky to access. It often looks like it’s only available if you set up a paid Adwords account but that’s not true, you simply need a Google account.

This is a GREAT tutorial on how to get around it and access the KP tool for free.

WHAT IS IT?

The keyword planner tool is within Google Adwords, which is typically where most people land, get confused and quickly click back to Twitter because it’s all too alien. No judgement. I did this too.

Google Adwords is where those who want to pay for an optimised search engine listing (one at the top of the page) go to create campaigns and bid to get their listing at the top of their chosen keyword. If that sounds nuts, do not worry as you don’t really need to know about it to use the keyword planner.

Although you don’t need to know about the inner workings of Google Adwords to use the keyword planner tool, you do need an account. I’ll go into more detail about that and walk you through what you need to do later in this post.

HOW IT CAN HELP YOU

How many times have you written a catchy title for your post only for it to bomb. Or seen someone else’s doing far better? I’m not suggesting following this tutorial will suddenly triple your traffic, there are no quick fixes here. BUT, more often than not the blogger who takes note of what people are searching for, incorporating the right keywords into their post in the right way will have a better chance of getting decent traffic to the aforementioned blog post.

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That’s a very long-winded way of saying that the keyword planner tool is where you should start with every blog post. Because, if you’re ONLY using your Yoast plugin and popping a keyword in, diligently following the guidelines to make the plugin turn ‘green’ — which is to say that your post has good searchability for the keyword you’ve told Yoast you want it to rank for — without researching the keyword first: you’re missing a step.

If this is a facepalm moment and you’re wishing you never read this post — don’t worry! I’ve not only got your back but  I’m also here to tell you that keyword planning is EASY. It’s simple. There are a few slightly techy things to note and then you are GOLDEN.

google keyword planner tool screenshot

google keyword planner tool screenshot

HOW TO USE IT

Right, so are we all on the same page with what the Google keyword planner tool is, and why you need it for your blog?

I’ll presume the silence = a million high fives and joyous whooping, yes?! Moving on…..

Here’s are the steps you need to take:

  • Hit the ‘create an account’ button, and follow the instructions to get your Adwords account setup. It’s free!
  • Once that’s done and you’re signed in, go to ‘tools’ & ‘keyword planner’.
  • Using the top box (‘your product or service’), enter your keywords. Think about what your audience would be typing into Google to get to your post and use those words.
  • You can utilise the targeting options to narrow the audience, but if you want to keep it simple, click ‘get ideas’
  • The results are easier to interpret in Excel, so download and choose the option: ‘download csv’.
  • Save the file, and upon opening in Excel (which is the best way to look at the data) you will see a LOT of information.
  • Delete everything apart from these two columns: Keyword and Average Monthly Searches
google keyword planner tool screenshot
google keyword planner tool screenshot
google keyword planner tool screenshot

So, how do you interpret this data? The keywords column shows you everything people are searching for around the product/service term you input. I’ve chosen ‘solo female travel’ in this example, and you can see that some of the search terms related to this are things like: ‘travelling alone’ or ‘solo female travel destinations’ etc etc.

This gives you a huge amount of potential keywords you could use in your blog post. Which one do you choose?

The next column you need to look at is the ‘average monthly searches’ column. Here you’ll be given volume chunks, from ‘0- 10′, right up to ’10k -100k’.

TOP TIP: Because this is formatted as words, not numbers, you won’t be able to sort it. I suggest you use a filter instead 🙂

If the keyword you choose is ‘fun solo vacations’, you’ll see that between 0-10 people each month are searching for it. That means your post will be that much less likely to get decent traffic because people simply aren’t searching for it. Conversely, using the term ‘solo holidays’ and you are looking at up to 100,000 monthly searches. So you pick the solo holidays keyword and sprinkle it throughout your blog post right?

Hmmmm, not really. The thing with picking the Marilyn Monroe of search terms is that everyone wants it. It’ll be used by big travel websites, hotel booking sites, tourist boards……you get the picture right? Your beautifully crafted, witty personality blog is going to find it really hard to rank against big hitters, and why would you want to compete anyway? There are easier ways to rank. Smarter ways.

The sweet spot (I think there’s actually proper Adword jargon for this!) is when you choose a keyword like ‘travelling alone’ which has between 1k – 10k monthly searches, and could fit into a blog post with more context. ‘Why I decided travelling alone was for me’, for example. Or, ‘Travelling alone isn’t for everyone’.

Finding that middle ground between decent monthly searches (even 500 a month is great if you think it’s just for ONE post!) and a keyword that fits naturally into your post. Trying to shoehorn a search term you would never use just won’t work. Be a person, not a robot!

Google likes people, so always remember that when you are going mad over SEO and frantically checking your Yoast score (I’m guilty of it too!).

Further Reading

My simple guide to SEO post

This video tutorial.

L x