On the last day of 2016, I posted about looking ahead to a better year. 2016 was a particularly rough year for me. So I set some big goals for 2017. I was determined to improve my situation, specifically my health and professions. It’s been six months and I think it’s time for a report. Are you curious to know how things have been going? Let’s dive in!
On the whole, my health is vastly improved. I was having chest pain and I had been diagnosed with angina. I had surgery in March (not directly related to the angina) and the happy side effect is that my chest no longer hurts at all. I feel five years younger. Success!
I’m happy to also report success in this arena! The switch from print to digital is proving successful. I have been taking a number of courses that have really helped me with this.
Wow! Why didn’t I work on my blog sooner? I am head over heels in love with blogging, for SO many reasons. Let’s first take stock of where I was and where I’ve come.
Publishing New Posts
I set a goal of publishing a new post twice a week, every week. Let’s see how I’ve done.
January 2017 – 6 posts
February 2017 – 6 posts
March 2017 – 6 posts
April 2017 – 6 posts
May 2017 – 8 posts
June 2017 – 10 posts
So it wasn’t until May that I managed to meet this goal. Creating new content is a challenge, especially since I put a LOT of work into most of my posts. I don’t have the sort of blog where you write for a couple of hours and you’ve got a post. Instead, I have to plan, design, make, photograph/video the process, and THEN write. So I’m actually pleased with this progress. I’d still like to meet my goal of two posts per week going forward, however.
I should note that during this time frame, I made some rather big changes on my blog:
- I changed my domain from JenuineMom.com to JenniferMaker.com to better reflect what I write about. I am very pleased with this change!
- I moved my blog from GoDaddy to Siteground because my server on GoDaddy was aging and they were going to charge me a LOT to have it moved to a newer server. I am VERY happy I moved to Siteground — they are fast and helpful! They also allowed me to make my web site secure with a free SSL certificate. I highly recommend Siteground.
- I changed my blog URL structure to post name only with help from Grayson Bell
- I made several user interface changes based on feedback from my visitors and Peek User Testing
Many of these changes happened because of something BIG I did in February — I enrolled in Elite Blog Academy. This is a special, comprehensive blogging course that opens only once each year and is taught by Ruth Soukup. This course is AMAZING! And it comes with a support group of fellow bloggers I find extremely helpful. If you are serious about blogging, you should get on the waiting list now. Enrollment will open again next February (but there may be special pre-sales offered to those on the waiting list). I got on the waiting list in October and was one of the first to sign up when doors opened in February.
Starting a YouTube Channel
Mission accomplished! I started my YouTube channel in January and now have 26 videos and 816 subscribers. The videos are time-consuming to create, but I think it adds a lot of value to my tutorials. My best video so far is the DIY Enchanted Rose Tutorial from Beauty & the Beast Live Action Movie which is currently at 3,842 views and 60 thumbs up!
In addition to putting videos on YouTube, I also put them on Facebook, which I think is helpful as well! I put up shorter videos for Facebook, and I often change them to a square format before uploading.
Extending My Reach
At the end of December 2016, I was generating about 14,000 pageviews/month, 10,000 visitors/month, and 11,000 sessions/month. I was very proud of this, as I had essentially doubled these numbers from the point at which I restarted this blog in September.
And now? It’s the first day of July 2017 and I’m at 70,000 pageviews/month, 23,000 visitors/month, and 33,000 sessions per month. That’s a HUGE increase.
At the start of the year I set a goal to reach 100,000 pageviews/month by the end of the year. I thought I was setting a huge goal. Little did I know I’d be on track to blow that goal out of the water! According to a goal chart I made, June’s goal was just 55,000 pageviews. I have exceeded that by 15,000. Hooray!
Improving My Social Media Skills
My goals here were to improve my skills on Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. (I had included Pinterest, but it isn’t really a social media platform at this point, so we’ll just include it here for tracking purposes.) I wanted to quadruple the following on all of my accounts. Let’s see how I’m doing:
Pinterest: 20k followers (about 4k) – 500% increase
Instagram: 18.2k followers (was 1.7k) – 1000% increase
Twitter: 5k followers (was 0) – 5000% increase)
Facebook Page: 1,534 followers (was about 100) – 1500% increase
Well, then — that’s all quite a bit better than a 400% increase. And I still have half a year to go to meet those original goals. Color me impressed!
But have I improved my goals? Yes, most definitely. I’ve taken courses in all of these platforms and I’ve definitely upped my game for each of them.
Courses I’ve taken:
Blogging in General – Elite Blog Academy by Ruth Soukup
Pinterest – Pinfinite Growth by Melyssa Griffin, Pinteresting Strategies by Carly Campbell, and Pinterest Success Strategies by PotPieGirl
Instagram – Instagram Decoded by The Social Media Posse
Twitter – Twitter Strategy for Bloggers by Saira Perl
Facebook – Strategies Worth Sharing by Brittney Ann
Sending Weekly Newsletters
My mailing list was at 0 back on January 1. Today, it’s over 10,000. I can hardly believe it myself. I haven’t seen that sort of mailing list growth ever, and I’ve been building a mailing list and sending out newsletters for my travel publishing business for over 15 years. I am so grateful to all those people who have signed up!
I also want to note that I moved from MailChimp to ConvertKit during this time, and I really feel it was helpful in building such a great mailing list. I really like ConvertKit and I highly recommend them!
I also had a goal to send a newsletter every week. This has been more difficult to do, mostly because I don’t always feel I have something to say every week. Looking back at my lists of newsletters, I’ve sent out 16 so far this year. That’s a bit less than my goal of one per week. I strive to improve this!!
My goal is to teach one course before the end of the year. I have yet to do this, BUT I have a great course in mind and I’ve already outlined it. I’ve also established a platform for it over on Teachable.com. I’m really excited about developing it, but it has to wait until after I’ve finished my book. What book, you ask? Read on.
Helping More People
This is my BIG goal. I love helping people and I want to help MORE people. I’ve developed in this area in several ways so far:
Book Deal: I was offered a print book deal in June. I just got the contract. I know, right? It’s like I can’t avoid print books no matter what I do. But I am happy! It’s not a terribly big project, so I decided I could do it. And I will reach more and different people with a print book, so it helps me meet my goal.
Facebook Groups: I discovered a number of Facebook groups that have like-minded people in them. When I share my projects there, they seem so happy and appreciative. I also started my own Facebook Group, but it’s a private one just for my Patreon supporters. Wait, what’s Patreon, you ask?
Patreon: My son encouraged me to open a Patreon account to allow people to support me. I was skeptical, but he was right! I currently have 93 supporters there, all of whom give financial support to help me with my projects. I am really enjoying this, and I particularly like having this group of people who I can show in-progress projects to, get feedback on project ideas from, and help more closely.
I know I will refer back to this in the future, so I want to make a note of major changes in the past six months. If you’re a blogger, or hope to become one, this may give you a helpful tip or two!
- I moved from Google Adsense to Mediavine in late May, as I finally had enough sessions to apply (Mediavine wants at least 25,000 sessions per month). Wow, what a change! Nicer looking ads, great support, awesome community, AND better revenue. My page RPM with Adsense in May was $1.04, which is dismal. My average RPM with Mediavine in June was $17. AH-mazing.
- Pinterest changed something in March and my impressions dropped like lead. I made some changes and did more research. I’ve been slowing increasing my impressions, and more importantly, my click-throughs. Pinterest hasn’t been driving nearly as much traffic as I think it could, and I’m setting a new year-end goal for it: Increase my Pinterest clickthroughs by 400%.
- I bought a Cricut around Valentine’s Day and — oh my word — it has changed my life and my blog. I discovered I have an affinity for creating 3D papercrafts with my Cricut, as a quick look at all my papercraft-related blog posts will attest to. I love this thing and I am looking forward to all the papercrafts I will design in the future. I feel discovering the Cricut, and sharing my designs, has contributed a lot to the growth of my blog. I truly enjoy papercrafting and it really shows.
Want to Start Your Own Blog?
I share plenty of advice on starting blogs to my friends and colleagues, but I’ve never put any of it on this blog. But given my success, I’ve decided it’s time to start. I love to teach and help, and this is something I am good at and can share with you. And I know some of you may be curious about this, and want to try it yourself. I encourage you to do this — I love it!
Let me start by sharing my 10 top blog tips that I feel really make a difference, in the order you should do them. This is the stuff I wish someone had told me back when I first decided to start a blog (thankfully, some of it I just figured out thanks to my years working online). This is what I tell people to do:
- Decide on a niche for your blog. I do not recommend blogging about everything. That’s too broad. My niche is DIY & crafts.
- Get a good domain (with a .com and no misspellings). If possible, get one of your keywords into your domain.
- Host your site at SiteGround
- Install WordPress from SiteGround’s control panel (very easy) and apply the SSL certificate to it. Ask their support for help if you get stuck.
- Set your WordPress URL structure to blog post name only
- Purchase a professional, mobile-friendly theme. Free themes generally look bad. My theme is Food Blogger Pro from Genesis.
- Write 5-10 blog posts of at least 1000 words each before you show your blog to the world. This will take some time, but it will make a difference.
- Get accounts on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and use the same or very similar handle for each. I use either jenuinemom or jennifermaker (if I could go back in time and re-do it, they’d all use jennifermaker). Start using them and accruing followers for when you are ready to share posts from your blog.
- Share your blog with your friends and family when you’re ready to launch. They will be your first visitors and will help you spread the word initially.
- Start using Pinterest as soon as you launch. Pinterest is huge and will drive traffic to your blog long before Google ever will.
If you do all 10 of these things, you will set yourself up for success. There’s more to it, but everything else can be learned later.
I hope you’ve found this mid-year report helpful! I know I am always fascinated with how bloggers got their start, and you may be, too!