The 2016 Blog Report: How I Grew My Blog Following by 224%
Last year I did my first comprehensive yearly blog report for my blog and it was really eye-opening and motivating to see how far I had come. I knew after putting together and sharing the 2015 Blog Report, it would become an annual post to put together and share. Although it’s a little terrifying to dig into my stats and to be this transparent with my success (and failures) with my audience, it’s also really rewarding and refreshing to see how far I’ve come. I belittle myself and my success because I forget to look at the big picture! Taking the time to look back on my blog for the whole year gives me a bit of a reality check – and shows me that I am successful and making progress with my space here!
So, without further ado, I give you the 2016 HTC Blog Report!
2016 Blog Stats (January 1st – December 31st)
Total Pageviews: 140,182 ( 33% increase from 2015)
Average Time on Site: 4:18
Bounce Rate: 45%
New Visitor: 79.7%
Returning Visitor: 20.3%
Facebook was my number one traffic referrer, mainly because one of the companies I work with paid to boost/run ads for several of my posts throughout the year, capping in at over 47,000 page views. This was closely followed by Pinterest, sending me over 30,000 page views through several pins that went viral.
Social Media Stats & Growth
Facebook Fans: 1315 (+370 from 2015)
Pinterest Followers: 3200 (+1800 from 2015)
Instagram Followers: 15000 (+12,300 from 2015)
Twitter Followers: 1800 (+350 from 2015)
Email Subscribers: 400 (+203 from 2015)
Total Growth in Social Media Followers: 15,023 followers (or 224%)
What I can Learn from my Stats:
I can Improve on Keeping my Visitors – While the percentage of returning visitors has gone up from the year before, it definitely isn’t as high as I think it could be. I’d love to see new visitors convert into returning visitors and staying around for a while. I’m planning on doing this a number of ways, but my biggest goal is to put some opt-ins on my most popular posts on Pinterest during the next couple of months to get those new visitors on my email list and to hopefully keep in touch with them to get them back!
Pinterest is Powerful – Yes, my top traffic referrer was Facebook, but that was largely due to several big ads that were run for some sponsored work that I did (see below.) However, most of the traffic that came from all my own work was from Pinterest. I FINALLY had two big posts go viral on Pinterest in the last two months and they have continued to bring in consistent page views to my blog on a daily basis. Things that I did this year to make Pinterest work for me? I invested in Tailwind, I got serious about my branding, I re-did many of my old images with my new branding, I created several images for some of my most popular posts, and I made sure each pin was written with SEO keywords in mind. I also never gave up on pins from older posts – the one that is currently going viral was first put on Pinterest in the middle of the summer.
The Posts that Performed the Best were How to Start a Bullet Journal, Worth the Hype? Too Faced Peanut Butter and Jelly Palette, What 22 Bloggers with they knew Before they started Blogging, and Trendsend Review: Better than Stitch Fix? This tells me that my audience enjoys informative posts that help them stay organized and gives them valuable information to help them decide on where to spend their money. It also tells me that my beauty and style posts are informative enough to be clicked on multiple times (instead of a post just being full of pretty pictures.)
Update – I’ve since switched over to a completely manual Pinterest strategy outlined in this eBook and I have TRIPLED my traffic since. The strategies in this eBook are unlike anything I’ve ever come across and truly work!
Put 150% effort into your sponsored posts – Yes, there have been times where I definitely bit off more than I could chew when it came to accepting sponsored posts, and I’m going to try to be better about saying no in the new year. But, I can honestly say that all of the sponsored posts I did do for HTC this year were 1. 100% authentic and honest (as in, they were products that I normally use in my life and would share with my audience anyway) and 2. some of my best work to date. I always want to make sure that I go above and beyond with my sponsored posts because I’m getting paid to essential market the brand to my audience, and I want to do a good job and build upon those relationships. This year, 8 of my sponsored posts were so well-liked by the companies I did them for, that the company paid to run Facebook ads for the posts! That meant I received A TON of traffic and got my site in front of a ton of new readers and potential followers. So, by treating my blog as my job and being as professional as possible with my sponsored posts, I benefited a ton!
Success of the Year
Instagram Growth- Instagram is its own beast and it can be really crazy exhausting to tame. The new algorithm change really threw me for a loop this year and for a while, I was ready to throw in the towel. However, having a strong presence on Instagram is the first thing that brands look at when it comes to working with bloggers, so I knew that I needed to keep working on it. I took a big leap of faith and invested in a very popular Instagram course that COMPLETELY changed the way I approached the platform and ever since then, my growth and community there has exploded. I went from 5,000 followers at the end of July to 15,000 followers by December 31st!
I learned that in order to create a community there, I had to actually take the time to be present on Instagram and connect with other. I think a lot of people assume that if they post a picture, “they” will come, but that is NOT how it works! Instead of just posting a photo and hoping that people would magically find it and like/comment it, I learned and followed a step-by-step process on how to effectively maximize my exposure, connect with like-minded people, and actually make friends through the platform. In fact, I’m going out to lunch next week with a fellow Utah blogger that I connected with on Instagram!
I could write a huge post (or probably 20) on everything I’ve learned from growing my Instagram, but here are some key takeaways – I learned that pretty DSLR pictures make my feed look nice, but sharing authentic and real “in-the-moment” photos from my phone get the best response. I learned that being honest and real in my captions and genuinely asking questions and taking the time to respond to the answers with MORE questions is what builds a community and friendships. And I learned that it’s okay to experiment with different marketing techniques on Instagram. Some of them turned out to be great, and some of them made me feel kind of icky – but by changing my strategies up every few months, I learned what truly worked for me and my audience!
I will also say that since going through a huge growth spurt over the last few months, I intend to take my foot off the gas pedal a little bit and not worry about numbers so much as simply posting encouraging content and engaging with those who are already following me! Growth is great, but I’m on Instagram to first and foremost connect with others in similar (or different) walks of life.
Monetization – I continued to successfully monetize my blog this year, making enough to cover all my blog expenses and fund my makeup addiction. Most of the money I made was through sponsored content and I wish I would have focused more on diversifying my monetization strategies. I just recently had some great success with some affiliate links and it gave me some ideas on how to use them more in the coming months!
What I want to Change/Improve in 2017:
Consistency – I’ve been all over the board on how many times I post on the blog, on social media, or send out a “weekly email” (that’s happened maybe 3 times this year?) Some of the feedback I got in my most recent reader survey was asking for more consistency, and I would really like to deliver that. This means having a posting schedule and STICKING to it, along with making sure I don’t just drop off the Insta radar for 5-7 days at a time
Growing my Email List – I did really good at this at the beginning of the year at 2016 and then, after the great summer struggle, I stopped trying altogether (and continued to pay for convertkit for 6 more months! Yikes!) I recently changed my ESP to mailerLITE and am really excited about the options and features it has. I came up with a very detailed plan on how I can grow my email list and what to use it for, so I’m hoping to really see the numbers grow in 2017.
Utilize video more and grow Youtube – I did 2 or 3 real Youtube videos last summer and while they were so fun, it was a TON of work. With all the moves we were doing, I realized that I just didn’t have it in me to work on another social media network, so I decided to put Youtube on hold for the time being. Now, with FB and Instagram live becoming popular, I definitely want to start utilizing video more in my blog and social media profiles. I’m thinking FB live Get Ready with Me or Unboxings or Travels, etc.
Get more involved with the Utah blogger scene and make friends IRL – The blogging scene in Utah is UNREAL! There are so many influencer events, parties, and collaborations going on all the time and I’ve been lucky to take part in a couple already. I want to continue to put myself out there (even though it’s scary) and network in real life, so that I can continue to pursue and take advantage of the opportunities for bloggers in the SLC valley.
What I WON’T be doing in 2017 –
Spending too much time promoting in blogging FB groups – Now, that doesn’t mean stop promoting in them all together. I actually help run a blogging FB group (Blog Passion Project) and it’s by far one of the most rewarding things I’ve done since starting my blog. But, when I first started blogging, I joined EVERY blogging FB group I could find and would leave my links in EVERY daily thread that popped up. That meant I was taking HOURS to finish the threads instead of focusing my time on more productive and helpful tasks, like writing new posts or growing my Pinterest and Instagram. So, I am going to continue to participate in a select few FB groups daily (the ones where the ROI is great and I have created great friends and connections) but I’m not going to over-do it there. I want to spend less than an hour each day finishing threads so that I can put my time into more important activities!
Comparing myself to others – Easier said than done, I know, but I’m going to try my very best to just march to the beat of my own drum and to focus on what I’M doing and not what is going on around me. I started this blog first and foremost to give me a safe place to process my emotions and to cultivate my creative hobbies. This blog’s main purpose is to bring ME joy and to motivate ME to pursue a vibrant life, along with bringing joy and encouragement to those who come across it. When I get sucked into the comparison game, I quickly lose that joy and put a lot of pressure on myself to write posts or change my strategies to get ahead, instead of doing what makes me happy. So, I’m going to try my best to put my blinders on and to just focus on doing my best to grow my space and to make it as honest and authentic to me as possible.
WHEW! This report was a DOOZY to write, but it was so encouraging for me to take some time to look back at the bigger picture and reflect on the amazing journey this blog has taken me on in the last year. It’s been a huge year of growth and learning experiences, full of successes and setbacks, but I wouldn’t change it for the world!
If you are a blogger (new or old) I highly suggest taking the time to do a blog report for the previous year. It can really help you figure out what things went well, what things you want to change, and set some goals for the new year. I know digging through your analytics and stats can be confusing and overwhelming, so I thought I would put my teaching skills to work and created a free workbook to help you out!
This Yearly Blog Report and Workbook will help you find and record different stats from your analytics and give you several prompts to help you figure out what they mean. It follows the exact process I take to put together my blog report and the questions I ask myself to plan for the new year!
Let me know your thoughts and takeaways from this blog report – I’d love to know if you learned any of the same things I did from this last year!