2015 was a big year of growth personally and for In it 4 the Long Run, as alluded to in my Recap & What’s Next? post. But it would be totally selfish to brag then bounce, so today I’m sharing the 5 core strategies I implemented to help me go from 25,900 monthly pageviews in December 2014 to 87,000 pageviews in December 2015.
A couple notes about numbers before we start
First, numbers are FAR from everything. Every blog is so different and every blogger has unique goals. Numbers are purely a benchmarking tool just like a scale for your weight. The same way your weight doesn’t dictate your worth, pageviews do not dictate a blog’s value.
However, as a benchmarking tool, numbers can be used to show growth and as a tool to help achieve other blogging goals. Comparing blogs purely on pageviews is a hugely incomplete comparison. Every blogger’s goals and definitions of success will vary and these variables are crucial to consider when understanding the value of a pageview.
So what’s the goal?
The purpose of In it 4 the Long Run is to provide approachable, delightful vegetarian recipes as well as tools and guidance for women trying to live joyful, healthy and fulfilling lives for the long run.
My goal as a blogger is to create the highest quality content for In it 4 the Long Run. My long term goal is to turn this blog into a profitable business to serve even more women and build a rewarding career.
So in service of this purpose and my goals, pageviews are a growth and success metric.
5 Strategies that Tripled My Pageviews in 1 Year
1. Get Serious About Photography
This strategy is numero uno for a reason. No, not because I think my photography is anything remarkable, but because for a food blogger, your photography is your number one asset. If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times “people eat with their eyes.” It’s cliche and overused because it’s 110% truth.
Pinterest has been one of my top 3 sources for traffic all year and I credit that to the photography on In it 4 the Long Run. People click on pins that are irresistible. It’s our job to take photos that will make people think “I gotta have it.”
Other top sources of traffic have been from FoodGawker as well as the times recipes have been shared in other blog’s roundups (which is great for SEO too). This traffic can clearly be attributed to the photography. While I’m very proud of the recipes I make, I’m not ashamed to admit they aren’t insanely original. Healthy, fun, delicious, easy to make? Yup, crazy unique? Eh, not really. However, if I can create a beautiful image, that’s way more important.
For example, this recipe was on the FoodGawker most favorited list for a month which is why this is the top viewed recipe published in 2015.
How to Get Serious about Your Photography
Ok, hopefully I’ve convinced you that photography is essential, but how exactly are you supposed to get better? I think of it in 3 parts, invest, research,and practice.
My DSLR camera is hands down (next to my computer obviously) the most important food blogging tool I own. For years I’ve used a Nikon D3100* which is an entry level DSLR. If you’re just starting out you really don’t need too many bells and whistles on a camera. Look for a camera you feel comfortable with.
I also highly recommend getting a prime lens (a lens that does not zoom). Most food photographers (including myself) recommend a 50mm* either f1.4 or f1.8 depending on your budget. The low aperture lens allows you to get beautiful bokeh in your images (crisp focus, blurry background). Together an entry level DSLR with a 50mm lens will get you fantastic pictures for around $500.
After learning and loving my Nikon, I recently upgraded to a new Canon 5D Mark iii* and I can’t tell you how excited I am to share some of these new images. I have a feeling that this investment will pay off big time.
Once you’ve invested in a camera you love, it’s time to learn to use it. Luckily there’s a ton of great free photography resources on the interwebs.
- A Quick Guide to Understanding Your DSLR – Kevin & Amanda
- Photography Concentrate – Rob & Lauren
- Food Photography Basics – Sally’s Baking Addiction
Everything I learned was through practice, a little surfing and one of my favorite photography books Plate to Pixel*.
Depending on your personality, this one is easy to overdo. You can read every photography book in the deep blue sea, but at a certain point you just need to get out there and shoot.
Yeah, this one is pretty obvious, but if you want to improve, you have to start using that camera. If you have a full time job that prevents you from shooting when there’s natural light during the week, dedicate a couple hours each weekend to shooting your recipes. Play around, find the best source of light in the house and set up a little station where you can shoot there for every recipe.
Before you shoot, plan out what you want the photo to look like. Sometimes I’ll sketch out compositions before I set up my scene to make sure I get it right. This actually saves me a ton of time in the long run. There’s nothing worse than spending hours on a recipe and realizing you don’t love any of the photos.
There will be those days
We’ve all had them. You have grand plans and for some reason or another no photo is coming out right. The light isn’t showing up, you can’t find a composition you like, the recipe doesn’t look as good as it tastes. Don’t worry or beat yourself up. Just get back on the horse.
There are plenty of recipes I’ll make, shoot and hate the photos. I move onto the next and try to remake it the next weekend.
Slowly, but surely if you keep practicing, keep finding what you like, what you don’t like, experimenting with new lighting, props, angles, composition you’ll find a groove.
2. Build a Community not Just an Audience
There are oh so many things I love about blogging, but the community is my favorite by a landslide. Hands down. Zero competition. In 2015, I went from blogging in a vacuum to blogging with a tribe. It wasn’t just a strategy shift, it was a mentality shift. I went from “what’s in this for me?” to “how am I helping others, how can I make this more valuable for someone?”
Not only is this way of blogging far more enjoyable, but engagement, comments, emails, likes, shares aren’t even comparable to 2014.
How to Build a Community
Admittedly this one’s a bit harder to tell you “how-to” because there’s a million ways to build a community. You can’t “growth-hack” community, because it’s foundation has to be trust. Every community has different needs, different goals, desires and ways to connect. But here are some ways you can start to gather your tribe:
- Have a blog you love reading and commenting on? Send a thoughtful email or private message.
- Admire a blogger in your peer group that is doing something awesome? Let them know! An authentic compliment goes a long way.
- Did someone comment on your blog? Go read theirs, and comment back or send a private message.
- See someone asking a question on their blog, twitter, a forum, a Facebook group, on instagram? Answer it.
It took me SO long to get into the practice of connecting one on one, but it’s incredibly powerful.
Adopt a Giving Mentality
The ROI on generosity is insane. However, it’s kind of a paradox because the key to generosity is to expect no ROI at all.
One of the most transformational mindset shifts I had this year was my attitude towards generosity. I’m the first to admit that I was a pretty selfish isolated blogger my first year and a half. I was blogging on an island just wanting for the fans to flock to me.
Lol. Nope. Wrong.
Somehow a lightbulb went off and I realized that if I shared my time, knowledge, attention, comments, anything, that not only would I be helping someone else, I’d be fostering a mutually beneficial relationship.
Find different ways to help other bloggers succeed with zero expectation. In blogging the nice guys win. End of story.
3. Utilize the Power of Instagram as a Tool for Blog Growth
Oh Instagram, thank you for existing. Instagram is such an incredible tool for bloggers. I was definitely late to the ‘gram game, having only started one for my blog in earnest this year, but I did my damn best to bring the heat.
Simply put, Instagram is where the people are. It’s simple, searchable, easy to discover new accounts, easy to share, easy to engage, and easy to build a powerful brand through photos and captions alone.
This is THE platform brands are looking for influencers on right now. If you’re interested in earning money and collaborating with brands through your blog, you definitely don’t want to ignore this platform. I’ve gotten 90% (if not more) sponsorship opportunities through brands finding my blog on Instagram. The time I spend on that platform, at this point, has the highest ROI. So it’s definitely helping me get to my goal of turning the blog into a profitable business.
How to Grow Your Blog with Instagram
Funny you should ask, I’ve written quite a few things, including an ebook on Instagram. Yup. That’s how much I believe in this platform for bloggers right now.
Grow Your Instagram Audience:
Transform Your Instagram Photography (which, hint hint will grow your audience in a huge way)
4. Use Your Unique Voice
I want to share a secret. You know that secret sauce you’ve been looking for? The one thing that will give your blog that edge. The thing that no one else can compete with. You guessed it. It’s you.
Ok, don’t roll your eyes quite yet, because I’m totally serious.
A big source of traffic this year for me has been due to people sharing my blog. Not just my recipes but my more personal stories of body image struggles, as well as my practical tools for building a blog. Like my recipes, none of my ideas are remarkably original, however my voice is. It’s as me as can be. And while you can copy my recipes, my design and my photography I doubt anyone could figure out how to sound like Georgie. If they can, I’d like to meet them. We’d probably get along (after I beat her up for copying me, of course.)
How to Use Your Voice
This is another tricky one to “how-to” for you, but I’ll do my best:
Write like you’re talking to one reader, not 1000 people.
When I write a post, I imagine one woman reading on her phone or on her computer. I constantly ask myself, what would I say to her if we were having a coffee together? What does she care about? How can I get on her level? How can I make her laugh, make her smile, make her feel something? How can I write in a way that she’ll want to share this post with her best friend?
I’m not yelling at an audience. I’m not writing in my diary. I’m writing to you. Because that’s who this blog is for. You’re all I care about.
5. Put in the Time
Ok, this one might be too obvious for most people, but I needed to add this because often I’ll see a certain (dangerous) sentiment floating around. Ok, dangerous is a bit dramatic, but so often I’ll hear people making excuses why they aren’t seeing a level of success they believe they “deserve” and often the same people who are complaining, are the ones who aren’t putting in the time.
In 2015, I easily spend 35+ hours a week on this blog in addition to having a full time job. If that sounds like a lot of time… it is.
You can read all the blog posts with the best strategies in the world, but if you aren’t making the time to implement and execute with excellence you won’t see any return.
It’s almost too simple. But it can’t be ignored.
If you take the time to execute on just one of these strategies, not for a day a week or a month, but for a whole year, I can guarantee you’ll see a change.
I would truly be blown away if you spent several hours each day for an entire year to transform your photography and didn’t see any kind of result from that. Blown away. But it takes time.
So next time you feel the urge to make an excuse for why Betty-Sue is seeing success and you aren’t, first ask yourself, are you making the time and truly moving towards your goals?
I definitely didn’t mean for that to sound too preachy, but it’s because I think you’re awesome and I want you to achieve, in the words of Jim Collins, your big hairy audacious goals that I just gotta stress how important putting in the work really is.
Hopefully you can take a strategy or two to help make this year epic. If you thought this was helpful, share it with your blogger pals. I’d love that. (Hopefully they will, too)
*An asterisk indicate an amazon affiliate link, if your purchase an item through this link I get a small percentage
- Bloggers – What’s been a big game changer for you?
- What areas of blogging do you want to work on this year?