9 Changes I Made When I Finally “Got Serious” About My Blog

Are you looking for blogging tips? Are you ready to take your blog seriously and use it to make money and land clients? It only took me 9 years (!!) and 2,000+ posts to figure this stuff. Click through and start doing these things now!

Let’s begin by acknowledging that is it COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS that I’ve been blogging for almost nine years and it’s only now that I’ve, uh, started taking it seriously.

If you’ve been reading Yes & Yes for a while, you might have noticed a few changes over the last year. Longer, meatier posts. Free workbooks. More Facebook, less Twitter.

None of that was an accident! It was all super strategic because I’m taking this ish seriously now.

9 changes I made when I got serious about my blog

I started to think about SEO

For a long time, I thought SEO (search engine optimization) only applied to “other bloggers,” people who only wrote about one, specific topic. I thought it applied to tech bloggers or gluten-free food bloggers or small space interior design bloggers.

I effectively convinced myself that this tool – a tool that’s useful to pretty much everyone on the internet – was somehow not useful to me.

Spoiler alert! SEO helps everyone. If you want more people to find you + your stuff on the internet, you should learn how to make your stuff more Google-able.

I hired Kim Herrington to help me and her SEO witchery increased my monthly pageviews by 30,000 and helped me triple my ad revenue. I’ve installed and learned how to use the free plugin Yoast and now I can optimize my stuff on my own!

Related: Entry Level SEO Tips That Won’t Overwhelm You
Are you looking for blogging tips? Are you ready to take your blog seriously and use it to make money and land clients? It only took me 9 years (!!) and 2,000+ posts to figure this stuff. Click through and start doing these things now!

I started using Pinterest

Pinterest isn’t just for recipes and crafts and fashion! (I know, I’m as surprised as you are.) Really, Pinterest is a search engine and when you make your content Pinterest-friendly, you’re making it easier to find for its 110 million users. Even if you’re not using Pinterest, your readers and clients probably are.

I took Sarah Morgan’s Pinterest Powerhouse ecourse and went from getting 7% of my traffic from Pinterest to 52%!

I stopped publishing stuff that nobody responds to

Let me be honest, guys. My “editorial strategy” is mostly just “blog posts I would like to read.” I figure, if I’d like to read it, other people probably would, too!

And sometimes that works out really well; I think my True Story interview series is the most important work I do. But some of the other series I’ve published – Real Life Style Icon, Mornings In, Read // Eat, Network of Nice – well, nobody really seemed to care about. They didn’t get pinned, they didn’t get comments, and when I looked at them in my Feedly RSS feed, nobody was giving them gold stars there either.

I loved these series, but they took tons of time to put together and, well, I really wasn’t getting much out of it. I wasn’t making money off them, I wasn’t landing clients, they didn’t relate to a product I sold, and – most importantly – you guys didn’t really seem to be that into them.

So I quietly retired them and put my time and energy towards other things (I hope) you’ll like better.

I created content upgrades

We all know that ‘content upgrade’ is just a marketing jargon for ‘free sumthin sumthin that complements a blog post and entices you to sign up for my newsletter,’ right?

I spent most of December last year working with Elise Epp and Susannah Brinkley creating a jillion (read: 10) awesome workbooks for you guys. These workbooks cover many of the topics I write about: money, relationships, friendships, travel. Now, whenever I publish a blog post about one of these topics, I can link to the related workbook and land some new subscribers.

To really leverage all that hard work, I put all the workbooks in one place and called it my ‘Secret Library’ so you can access all my stuff at once, without signing up  a million times.

Not convinced? Content upgrades have helped me quadruple my list in 2016. Quadruple! And if you’re not into ebooks or workbooks, that’s fine! Your content upgrades can be checklists, scripts, a video series, a video tutorial, or an audio download.

If you want to create some ebook content upgrades and a designer isn’t in your budget, the Canva ebook templates are beautiful.

Are you looking for blogging tips? Are you ready to take your blog seriously and use it to make money and land clients? It only took me 9 years (!!) and 2,000+ posts to figure this stuff. Click through and start doing these things now!

I wrote email sequences

‘Email sequences’ sound a little fancy and intimidating, don’t they? Really, they’re just a series of emails that help your subscribers get to know, like, and trust you. That’s not too scary, right?

A lot of us lure someone onto our email list with a lovely, shiny freebie. Then they don’t hear from us for another month and by then they’ve forgotten who we are and are slightly annoyed that we’re popping into their inboxes.

An email sequence solves that problem and you don’t need to reinvent the wheel or write tons of new stuff! I use ConvertKit because they make email sequences suuuuuper easy, even laying out the timing and content ideas for you.

Here’s an example:

1. Your reader signs up for your free workbook ‘How To Train Your Cat To Be Less Annoying.’

2. You send them that free workbook and tell them they can expect to hear from you over the next few weeks because you’ve got more helpful, cat-related insights to share. Annnnd you maybe encourage them to follow you on social media.

3. A few days later, you send them a shortened, edited version of an old blog post about cat behavior.

4. A few days after that, another old blog post that’s super helpful.

5. A few days after that, another old blog post … and maybe invite them to ‘reply’ with any questions.

You get the idea!

I paid for help + expertise

Here’s a fun fact about me: I’m not good at everything! You either? Welcome to the club. It’s called ‘Being Human.’

For a long time, I took a weird sort of pride in being 100% self-taught and figuring everything out by Googling and watching 7,459 Youtube tutorials by a million different people.

Let me be the first to tell you: That ish is time consuming. Yes, it’s free but it’s also exhausting and frustrating. This was the first year that I got really serious about asking for and getting help. Erin helps me with the nitty gritty of my blog. I took ecourses about Pinterest and webinars and video.

Ecourses can be expensive and it’s hard to know which ones are worth the money and right for you. One person’s game-changer is another person’s “meh.” I almost exclusively purchase ecourses from people I’ve been following for years, know in real life, or who walk their proverbial talk.

get-serious-about-blog

I met up with internet friends in real life + had lots of honest conversations

In January, I convinced Kathleen, Sarah, Katie, and Kyla to rent a house in Mexico with me and talk about internet-ing. I can’t speak for the other ladies, but those four days changed my business.

In July, I met up with 10 formerly-internet-strangers-I-now-consider-friends in Portland. When I was in NYC this fall, I finally met Hillary in person after years of liking each other’s tweets. Next spring, I’m going to Portugal, Greece, and Romania and I hope to meet up with URL friends IRL.

Taking my online connections offline strengthens my friendships. When we’re face-to-face we can talk about things we can’t talk about over email. We can get vulnerable and emotionally intimate and share numbers and stats and even a bit of blogging gossip. I can’t recommend it highly enough!

Related: How To Plan Your Own DIY Mastermind Retreat

I started to (at least try to) understand my analytics

Before I got serious about SEO, I’d opened my Google analytics account exactly twice: Once to set up and another time to open it, panic scream, and then close it.

Truthfully, I’m still only using about 5% of its capacity but I’ve got a super basic working knowledge of the dashboard. I can see that Twitter sends me almost no traffic, so I can let it go. I can see that this interview is still one of my most popular posts, so I can update it and make sure it’s properly optimized.

I can see my bounce rate, the countries where most of my readers live, and I can see how long people are spending on the site. Knowing these things helps me write better stuff and understand where to put my time and energy.

I realized just because I don’t like it, doesn’t mean I can ignore it

If my 2016 professional life had a theme song, it’d be  “Get Over Yourself, Sarah (Yes, That Business Advice Applies To You).”

I spent yearrrrrs avoiding business practices that seemed dry, boring, overwhelming, or too ‘sales-y.’ I convinced myself that my blog and I were Special Snowflakes and that things that worked for everyone else? They surely wouldn’t work for us.

And honestly, I will never enjoy looking at my analytics or learning how to optimize content for  a new social media platform. But I love blogging and writing and talking to you guys about the things that are important to us. Sometimes being good at that and doing it effectively means doing a few boring things along the way.

Which is a trade off I’m happy to make.

But I want to hear from you! Did you get serious about your business or career in 2016? If you did, what tools/resources/books/classes helped you? Leave links in the comments!

P.S. 37 blogging tips + business tricks I’ve learned in 37 years

photos by jordan whitfield and hope house press // cc

28 Comments

Kim Herrington

SEO is my FAVE! Im a big believer in it making a big difference beyond traffic growth. If there’s anything I can do to help let me know, Michelle. I love your site and have an affinity for working with blogs I’ve read for a long time, like Sarah’s.

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Emily

This is so helpful! Thanks so much for outlining a few of these things! I’m finding, myself which social media sites are sending the most traffic to my blog and which aren’t. Maybe time to let a few go…

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Sarah Von Bargen

Yes! Free up time and energy for more of what works (or for other non-blog-related things!)

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Michelle

I really like your idea about creating workbooks and linking to them in your blog posts. I’ve been considering creating an ebook or workbook but wasn’t sure where to start.

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Jacqueline

Products for sale and products for free are my stumbling block. My free to do list and meeting notes tool has over 15,000 downloads, but they don’t convert to anything tangible for me. I’m definitely missing something.

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Sarah Von Bargen

Do you have an email sequence that connects those downloads to a product that you sell? Sometimes you have to create a very, very clear trail of bread crumbs 🙂

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Ksenija

Thanks Sarah for helpful post. It does put some things in perspective for me when my blogging goals are in question. I absolutely can relate to the ‘special snowflake’ syndrome…

What I find an insurmountable obstacle is SEO in cyrillic. I blog in cyrillic and for us Google is just a whole other ball. I have no idea where to begin… any tips perhaps?

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Sandra Pawula

This is so inspiring! I’ve been blogging for 5+ years and only got serious this year too. I never started a real mailing list (aside from Feedburner) because I’m a special snowflake too. But I did this year! I also started on Pinterest in September, which is bringing more traffic to my blog (exciting) but I’m not yet seeing an increase in traffic yet. And, I just finished my second content upgrade today! I hope it will make a difference. Thanks for these great suggestions. I’m so happy for your success.

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Shannon

Thoughts on optimizing Facebook? I far and away get the most traffic from there, but my follower numbers increase very slowly, if at all. I wish that Pinterest worked for me, but my content (mostly personal essays on parenting) doesn’t seem pinnable compared to the super-clickbaity parenting advice that does well on it.

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Cristy

Oh my goodness! I’m so surprised to hear that Mornings In/Real Life Style Icons/Eat-Read were not so popular or driving much traffic–I loved all of those! I’ve never recreated a recipe from Eat-Read, but I definitely love Mornings In, in the same way that I love and find fascinating the Cheapskate’s Guide to Traveling ___________. Inside look at things! Plus, Real Life Style Icons helped introduce me to new, current, interesting fashion bloggers.

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Sarah Von Bargen

I know! I loved them, too! And when I talk to readers in person, they says they loved them … but that love was never reflected in traffic or comments :/
I haven’t TOTALLY given up on Mornings In, but I’ve done most of the countries where it’s ‘easy’ to find English speakers. I’m totally open to doing more if I can find contributors!

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Rachel

I found you through the Being Boss podcast and I just LOVE this space you’ve created. So informative, without having posts that take me an hour to read. And you’re FUNNY! My number 1 requirement for blog reading! This post made me cringe in agreement with everything you typed. There are so many things I ignore; so glad to know I’m not alone.

Anyway, I’m so happy to have found you and thank you for all the content you share … can’t wait to continue reading!

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Nichole

YES! 2017 is the year for me to “get serious” about my blog. SEO is definitely the biggest beast I need to tackle (mostly just ’cause it sounds so boooringggg) but it’s time I start paying attention to my “Google-ability.”

Thanks for these tips, which I will definitely be bookmarking!

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Kate

I am not usually a blog commenter at all, but I wanted to say I like this advice a lot, and it’s nice that you put it all in one place, because I couldn’t take notes while listening to your appearance on Being Boss, since I was listening to it while driving. Also, I love your blog, and have for some time, because it embodies so many of my secret desires that maybe someday I will act upon. (Of course, if I were really doing what you said in the podcast, I’d put a day on the calendar for some of these things and then do them. I’m getting there.)

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Sarah Von Bargen

Kate, at the risk of sounding cheesy – you can do all this stuff! I’m not magic! You can do it!!!! <3

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Camila @ AdventitiousViolet

Great post Sarah! I’ve definitely been inspired by your blog and am trying to be more serious about my blog and I’m working on some free resources as well as some products to start selling. That’s my goal of 2017! Thank you! 🙂 Also, I’d like to sign up to converkit, but can’t afford it for now, but every year I invest a little more in my blog and it pays of and it makes me happy!

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Sarah Von Bargen

Thanks so much, Camila! Yeah, ConvertKit is a bit expensive. Mailchimp is free up to 2,000 subscribers, I think!

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