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!
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.
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. Cara and Erin help 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.
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!
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.
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!