Welcome back for Part 2 of my super special two year anniversary post! Today is about growing a blog and growing the inner me.
Psssst, Wanna Hear a Secret?
I’m going to talk about growing a blog and how I found my style, but first, can you keep a secret? Do you want to see my traffic for this blog over the last two years? Do you? Well here it is:
When I look at that graph, I feel quite proud. If I ever need an example of solid, consistent traffic growth then I’ll refer back to that graph, because it’s constantly creeping up and up and there’s no shame in never having ‘gone viral’. Only very few if us will ever go ‘full viral’, and retaining those viral visitors can be quite tricky, leaving you with an increased server bill for the month and little more readers.
Fact 4. I have a dog, a miniature poodle named Bernard.
At first I was disappointed at how slowly it was growing, why on earth wasn’t I famous yet? Why wasn’t my traffic doubling, quadrupling or hitting big numbers?
Spam, Spam, Spam.
In July 2015 I suddenly discovered referral spam in Google Analytics and realised that 50% of my traffic was not real. I immediately started blocking it. Find out how to block it on Moz.com and make sure your traffic is real. The more recent spikes are when a post has been a big success on Foodgawker, or Instagram, driving a lot of traffic through to my site.
These two years of consistent, steady growth in traffic has cost me quite a lot of money. Hosting isn’t free and good hosting isn’t cheap. I’m on my third host and pleased to say that they are completely awesome with super speedy servers which don’t unexpectedly jam up or bring my site to a standstill. Add the cost of food, equipment and photographic kit and the bill keeps on growing. You’re probably wondering why this is titled ‘a career in blogging’ at this point, as I’m telling you that it actually costs me money.
Growing a Blog, and Myself.
The first year is very important when growing a blog, for me, it was specifically the first 18 months which were very important to my growth. Blogging is a MASSIVE subject. Like seriously huge, there are so many topics and facets to learn about. Yet it’s fiendishly deceptive, because it looks oh so simple, in fact, it can be simple. WordPress boldly advertises it’s famous five minute install and there are online blogging platforms where you can also get going in minutes. The barrier to entry is about as low as it’s possible to get, you just need a bit of time and an internet connection.
Fact 5. You can’t expect to produce great content, straight out of the blocks.
Every time I scratched the surface of any given subject within blogging, I find more laying below. Each time I look into one small aspect of blogging, I find more and more information hiding behind it. What looks and feels so simple becomes a vast, in depth topic. In those first 18 months I was getting to grips with my styles of writing, cooking and photographing. But also I was getting a handle on social media, website design and code (or learning to hate it), how the blogging community worked, blogger events, planning, props, styling, etc etc. There’s a hell of a lot to learn about and it doesn’t come quickly.
The most important part was my opinions. My opinions on life changed and morphed into something different. I discovered that I have opinions to start with, that behind my easy going facade, there really was some decisive thoughts and strong feelings. The first 18 months say me apply these to my blog and follow the path that I genuinely wanted to go down, leaving all the ideas that I’d copied or been influenced by in my wake.
Once I had been through this process of self evaluation and refinement of my thoughts, I felt a lot more comfortable in the work I was producing, I felt less unsure. And the posts that I produced that were the most confident? Well, they’ve been some of the most popular.
The Most Important Thing in Blogging? You.
My initial disappointment at not having massive ‘exposure’ was completely unfounded, I simply wasn’t ready for it. To put it in plain English, I can’t expect my work to become a big hit if my work isn’t any good. To expect any different would be arrogant.
Lesson number one is that blogging is not about monetisation, not about likes and over inflated Twitter followings. It’s about the person behind the blog and their journey. That’s what really matters.