Behind the Blog: How It Grew and How to Grow Your Blog

The question I get asked most often about blogging is for tips on growing a blog and how my blog grew.

I was originally going to make it short and simple and give you a list of 5-7 things you could do to grow your blog, but it started to feel like every other article I’ve read on growing your blog.  Stuff like this:

  • Comment with genuine things to say on other blogs and leave your URL. (That does not mean make a plea for someone to follow you back…it just means leave your URL in case they’re interested.) 
  • Participate in link-ups. It exposes you to other people who are surfing through the link ups looking for other blogs. 
  • Guest post – Ask other bloggers you’ve been connecting with to post on your blog. It’s a fun way to build relationship with other bloggers, and it introduces each of your readers to each other’s blogs.
Don’t get me wrong.  This stuff is GREAT and helped grow PMT by hundreds, which ain’t no small potatoes!  If you have less than a few hundred followers, start with those things for sure.  But as I reflect on and analyze what I think the main factors for growth were, I can pinpoint two major things that I believe are what helped grow things by the thousands.  I recognize there are LOTS of ways to grow a blog other than what I’m about to say, but this is how it happened here.  
I definitely started with the stuff above and if I started all over again, I would go the same route because it made blogging fun.  Those were the things that helped me make blog friends that I still keep up with today!  But, we are here to talk about blog growth, not making friends.  There were two things I was doing simultaneously that continue to sustain major growth to this day: 1) Focusing on useful, consistent, quality content, and 2) Making posts pinnable. (…and making up your own words…)

Useful, Consistent, Quality Content
I really believe, for PMT at least, it comes down to content.  If you are going to go this route, write consistently (at least 3 times a week), write for the type of readers you are looking for (not the ones you currently have, if they are different), and most importantly, incorporate content that is useful to others.  
This may not seem to be a strategy for growth because you are not actively trying to expand your reach.  Instead, it seems like, “If you build it, they will come.”  But, will they REALLY come?  How will they know to come if they don’t know you exist?  I think you do need to do things to get your name out there (which is why I said if you have less than a few hundred readers, start with the things I listed at the top), but in my experience there is also truth to the old Field of Dreams saying.  I really believe that quality content will bring the right people as well as create exponential momentum for you later on.
Write Useful Content
“Quality content” is kind of a broad term.  Do a quick Google search and plenty of articles will tell you the basis: well-written, consistent posting, etc.  But after thinking about how the heck this thing grew, this is the biggest piece of insight I could draw from the journey: write content that is useful to people.  
I didn’t know this would be the greatest source of traffic when I started blogging–I just happened to have had a goal that was to help other people.  But, having useful content is the number one thing that has grown my blog.  Google searches make up 42% of my traffic, and it’s not from people searching for “Putting Me Together.”  They don’t know this blog exists yet, so they wouldn’t know to search for it.  They’re searching for things like “building a new wardrobe” which leads them to the Building a Remixable Wardrobe Series and the Wardrobe From Scratch Series or “ways to style a dress” which leads them to some of my remixing posts.
Posts that provide useful information, like the BARW series, WFS series, packing and remix posts, style tips, and “how to wear” posts have been the major sources of traffic for me, from both Google and Pinterest.  So, “if you build it” came true.  People came and they continue to come because the content is there.  And, they share it with others because it’s useful to them.  As I’ve talked to other bloggers and look at some of my favorite bloggers, this has been true for them as well.  Their most trafficked posts are sewing tutorials, clothing tricks, hair tutorials, beauty product recommendations, etc. which have consistently provided traffic over a long period of time.  
What I’ve especially loved about all of this is that somehow the content of the blog is spreading the word for itself or other people are now spreading the word for me.  I spend very, very, very little time promoting my own blog.  I’m sure my blog could grow even more if I did that in addition to continuing with useful content, but since I am at the mercy of limited time, I love that the content draws people on its own.  I see it as a cycle of mutual blessing.  I’m able to spend less time promoting my blog and more time writing those big posts you guys love, and in turn you (and Google) have been helping to spread the word for me.  (Thank you, by the way!)  
Even if you’re not a style blogger, what advice do you have to offer? Maybe it’s 5 beauty or hair tips, 5 things you’ve learned from parenting, inspirational quotes, insights from your day, or 10 tips to grow your blog ;). Are there useful things you’ve learned that you can share with readers?

Also, don’t have to feel like you have to have it figured out before you write it. Like I said, I wrote the BARW series out of what I was learning, and I said it as such. I didn’t say “I’m an expert remixer, so here’s what to do.” I was *just* getting a handle on remixing, and I said, “This is what I’ve been learning…I hope it’s helpful!” I even feel the same way with this post.  There are tons of blogs out there much larger than mine, so why would *I* have something worthwhile to say about how to grow your blog?  But, you never know who you might touch as you share what you’ve been learning!

*EDIT…adding a couple of things:

I don’t think all of your content has to be “useful.”  I wouldn’t count my standard outfit posts high on the usefulness scale, but once in a while I write longer posts with tips, tricks, and tutorials.  I only had 3 non-outfit posts in 7 months when I first started out, but they ended up bringing a lot of new readers.  Plan to write them as often as you have time for, whether it’s once a month, every two weeks, or every week.  Just try to incorporate them once in a while in an intentional way so that you can build your repertoire.

Try to organize your useful posts and make them easily findable to newcomers.  They will eventually get buried in your archives, which newcomers will not likely dig up.  Make those posts accessible by putting them into a table of contents, into your menu bar, or labeling them and linking to the labels somewhere on your homepage.  Think, “If I have 1 minute to make an impression on a newcomer, what posts would I hope they find?”

While 42% of my traffic comes from Google, 37% comes from Pinterest.  Thank God for Pinterest!  When I say that to people, they ask me if it’s from pinning my own images to get exposure, which is not the case.  So far I’ve only pinned one of my own outfits and it was for a sponsor.  
Reflecting on it all, here’s how I think Pinterest helped grow this blog: 1) Content that is useful gets pinned, repinned, and visited, and 2) Creating pinnable images.  
Useful Content Gets Pinned…and Drives Traffic
I’ve already talked about useful content, but I took a screenshot below of what has most recently been pinned as I write this post.  There are about 18 pictures, and a whopping 12 of them are from BARW, WFS, a packing post, or Shabby to Chic.  That’s 67%!  It’s the useful things that get pinned.
Secondly, it’s important to know that while my outfit posts get pinned, the things that actually drive traffic to my blog are the useful posts.  
Can I preach on content any harder?  🙂
Pinnable Images
If you’re going to go through the hard work of writing useful content, make an image that will help people want to pin it.  I’m not talking about a good quality photo, though that will definitely help.  I’m talking more like an image that summarizes what your post is about, both in image and with a title caption.
Here are some examples:
They all have images plus a short title to tell you a little more about what the photo describes.  They clearly display a load of information with just a quick glance, and not only does that make me want to pin them for reference later, but if I saw these floating around Pinterest I would actually be enticed to click into these to read more.  
It’s a minor thing you can do to help readers effectively share the great things you’re writing about.

There you have it!  I’ve spilled the beans and even shared some traffic stats.  Like I said, if you haven’t yet, put some energy towards getting your name out there, making friends, and having fun.  If you want to grow your blog beyond that, beef up your useful content in the meantime.

Let me know if you have questions!  Also, there’s a lot I didn’t talk about here that people could do to grow their blogs.  Feel free to share for others what your BEST practices for growing your blog have been, or even what you’ve seen NOT work so that people don’t waste their time with them!

Catch the rest of the Behind the Blog series by clicking here.

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