The last day of January officially marked the end of my first year of blogging. Serious blogging. I’ve had other blogs over the years but I wasn’t serious about them. I didn’t have a vision for their future. I didn’t know my ‘Why’. And, they died from neglect.

So, I consider this to be my first year of blogging. This was also my first year of blogging on a self-hosted WordPress site. Scary and exciting stuff!

For the first few months, I learned by trial and error (who am I kidding, I still do!). While I was serious about building a successful platform, I was still primarily focused on my online business, that changed in July when I decided to take a strategic view for the future of this blog. I started to give a lot of thought to my why and what I hoped to share with those visitors who read my musings. This change of perspective brought me new clarity. Clarity that was soon reflected in my page views and earnings.

Yes, earnings. Earnings are important because I want to keep blogging here for a long time. That means Smart Money, Simple Life needs to be financially sustainable as well as, hopefully, provide opportunities for me to build income streams that support my desire to work for myself and work from home.

So, no more waffling… Here’s what I learned in my first year of blogging. The good. The bad. And the downright surprising!

My First Year of Blogging

The Good

Books. Books are always good! And, I was lucky enough to discover a few books that really helped me get a handle on this whole new world during my first year of blogging. Here are the two that have had the most immediate and powerful impact so far. (I’ll be adding a recommended books reference page to On Blogging very soon).

How to Blog for Profit Without Selling Your Soul by Ruth Soukup

Ruth stuffed this book with the most amazing gems gleaned from her own experience of creating an incredibly popular and successful blog, Living Well, Spending Less. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Platform – Get noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt

I’ve just started this book but it’s already blowing my mind.

Sometimes, you’re lucky enough to write a post that resonates with readers and is widely read and shared. One post I wrote in November did just that. When Money is Tight – Tips for Living on Next to Nothing has so far been read over 82,000 times and pinned more than 18,000 times on Pinterest. Thank you!

Statistics for the First Year of Blogging

The Top Three Posts – Page Views

When Money Is Tight – Tips for Living on Next to Nothing = 82,317

The Benefits of the 10 Item Wardrobe = 49,274

Planning for Visual Learners = 15,562

Traffic growth

February 1, 2015 page views = 0

January 31, 2016; total page views for first 12 months = 289,092

Page views for January, 2016 = 113,715

traffic stats google smart money simple life

Smart Money, Simple Life traffic statistics (by month) for first year of blogging. Source: Google Analytics

Traffic Sources

My biggest provider of traffic, by a very long way, is Pinterest. Being a visual person I’ve always loved Pinterest but it wasn’t until Jesenia from The Latina Homemaker invited me to join her Pinterest group board, Best of Pinterest that I understood the awesome traffic generating power of Pinterest. (Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jesenia!) Since then, I’ve joined a few more group boards, as well as creating my own Money – Make It, Save It, Spend It. (If you’d like to join my group board, just leave me a message in the comment section below – remember to include your Pinterest info).

If you’re a blogger and looking to expand your reach, you must try Pinterest.

I’m now in the process of deciding which scheduling software is best for me; Board Booster or Tailwind. Meanwhile, I’m pinning manually. A lot! But, it’s worth it. Besides, there are worse places to spend your time than Pinterest! 🙂

Social Media

At the beginning of October, I decided to focus on one social media venue at a time and not surprisingly, I chose Pinterest. I challenged myself to increase my followers from 334 to 1000 within three months. I actually achieved that goal within 60 days. (I’ll discuss how I did that in a post very soon). Here are my current stats for social media followers/likes.

Pinterest – Click to follow

Oct 1, 2015 followers = 334

Jan 31, 2016 followers = 2349

Facebook  – Click to Like

Likes = 193

Twitter – Click to follow

Followers = 20

During the next 12 months, I’ll be adding grow my following on both Facebook and Twitter to my Social Media To Do list. I have to admit though, they both do my head in a little bit. That’s most likely because I haven’t taken the time to figure out how to use them properly. If you’d like to follow me just click the ‘click to…’ link above and I’ll happily follow you back.

what i learned my first year of blogging
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The Bad

I guess the biggest, baddest thing that’s happened so far is getting started at the end of 2014, then having to dump everything and start again in February, 2015.

Also, in the early days I broke this site. Twice. In my defense, it was an issue with the template and not me, but… The site was still broken and I still had to figure out how to get it back up and running again.

My hosting service, Bluehost, were amazingly helpful at this time and if you’re looking to start a blog of your own, I thoroughly recommend them.

Blogging also takes up way more time than I ever thought it would. So, if you’re keen to start your own blog, be prepared. You need to commit a fair bit of time as there’s a LOT to learn in the early days.

My productivity sucks. I’m working on it though. It’s been a constant struggle for me since, well, forever! I’ve always been that kid; sitting in class and staring out the window, lost in a world of my own. If only I’d known I was an INFP all those years ago, I might have found ways to work with it, rather than against it. You live and you learn, right?

I’m working on applying the lessons from The Power of Less to reduce the distractions and focus on just one big goal for the next 12 months. Whenever I find myself getting distracted, like; reading the Entertainment section of an online news site, I ask myself one simple question, “Will this help me reach my one big goal for the year?”. Not surprisingly, the answer usually a resounding, “No!”.

Then there are the times that I just need to get out of my own way and, do it! Perfection is a dangerous ideal, in any area of life. Fear, too, is a big hindrance to achieving your goals. Both can cause a paralysis of sorts and I admit, there are times I’m subjected to both hindrances. I’m working on that, too.

And, The Downright Surprising

There are three specific things that have taken me by surprise during this first 12 months of blogging. They are:

  1. How quickly traffic has grown
  2. How amazingly supportive other bloggers are, and
  3. How much I love the work.

I remember excitedly telling a girlfriend that I was hoping to reach 5000 page views that month. 5000 page views at the time was a huge result for me and I was bursting at the seams with excitement. Now, I’m looking at monthly page views in the six figure region. To say reaching this milestone has completely blown me away, is a serious understatement. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to be reminded that it’s real. That’s all thanks to you. So… Thank you!

Other bloggers have been amazingly generous with their help, too. Like Jesenia inviting me to join her Pinterest group board and the many others that followed. Plus, the bloggers who’ve shared my posts, or commented or, just generally been very supportive of my efforts. Thank you!

It’s truly amazing to see such a spirit of cooperation where you expect to see competition. I hope that one day, I can pass on this legacy to other bloggers as they begin their journey. And, a journey it is.

The final surprise has been just how much I love working on my blog and being involved in the blogging world (or should that be blogosphere?) and how my only regret is not beginning earlier. But, perhaps, the timing wasn’t right before and is now, who knows. The simple truth is, this is the best job I’ve ever had.

Goals for the next 12 months

I have some very specific goals for the next 12 months as well as some more nebulous ones. The specific ones are related to:

  • Traffic
  • Social Media
  • Networking

The nebulous ones are, of course, harder to define. Mostly because I’m not sure what they are yet! But, here are a couple of the ideas that are percolating at the moment:

  • Start another blog on a different topic, one I’m also passionate about.
  • Explore options for providing a service to other bloggers, probably Pinterest related.

Traffic

I’ve set myself an arbitrary goal of increasing my traffic by 300% by the end of 2016. That means, by December, I hope to have traffic of 300,000+ page views per month. To do this I’ll be focused on not just social media, although creating a tangible presence on Facebook and Twitter and expanding my presence on Pinterest are very high on my list, however my big focus will be on increasing my traffic from organic search.

Increasing organic search means increasing my ranking on search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. That’s going to require a fair bit of upfront research on search engine optimisation (SEO). So there’s going to be a lot more learning in my foreseeable future!

Networking

I intend to spend more time exploring and commenting on other blogs, both within the Personal Finance niche and without. There’s so much great content out there and so little time! I really want to take the time to support others who are working tirelessly on their blogs, too.

I’ve also joined a couple of Facebook blogging related groups and I plan on being more active than I have been so far. My favourite is Natalie’s #SocialHack group. If you’re a blogger, join!

My big networking goal is to attend a blogging conference. At this stage, I’m aiming to attend the ProBlogger event being held on the Gold Coast (Australia) in September this year.

More to come…

This first year of blogging has taught me much about myself, my skills and my strengths and my weaknesses. I know I still have an awful lot to learn but I’m really looking forward to my next year of blogging and hope I can fulfill at least some, if not all my goals for myself and my little blog. I hope you’ll stay for the journey, too.

And, once again, a great big “Thank you!” for sticking around and helping me achieve so much in just one year of blogging.

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