This is my favorite week of the year. Promise and anticipation hang thick in the air. Reflection on the previous year; looking ahead to the next. I have a shiny, blank planner sitting on my desk, waiting to be filled with the intentions I have swirling in my head. Dreams are created in the last week of the year.
In order to properly set goals, I feel like reflection is necessary. I need to see where I’ve been before I can decide where I want to go.
2015 was a critical year for Happy Healthy Mama. It was the year I decided to take this blog seriously and see what I could do with it. I gave myself a timeline. I only had the year to make it happen, or I was done. I wasn’t going to be done because I didn’t love blogging; I loved it when it was merely a hobby and I love now that I treat it more like a business. I was going to be done because it was becoming increasingly difficult to justify the time I spent away from my family to create content for Happy Healthy Mama without getting paid (much) for it.
Could I grow Happy Healthy Mama enough to create an income that would make it a valuable way to spend my time? I did it and it feels great!
The growth I experienced was substantial and created in me a newfound confidence in what I can do if I want something enough. I remember sitting down this week last year and writing down goals for 2015. I knew I needed to grow my traffic, but was apprehensive about how I would do it. I didn’t know how to choose a number, but knew I had to set a goal, so I picked one, and honestly, it seemed out of reach. My goal for monthly pageviews in 2015: 200,000. As I wrote that number, I cringed inside. Writing it seemed silly as it felt impossible. Who was I trying to kid? In 2014 this blog was averaging 65,000 pageviews a month. How on earth was I going to reach that faraway goal?
Shortly after I wrote it down, my pageviews started increasing quickly. The harder I worked, the faster they increased. By the end of the 2015, I was averaging more than 400,000 pageviews per month. The impossible became possible because I dared to write it down. I dared to reach beyond what I thought I was capable of, beyond what I thought I could do.
If you aren’t a blogger you may not understand why increased pageviews equals more income. My two main revenue streams are ad revenue and sponsored posts. Ad revenue is tied directly to how many pageviews the blog is getting (more specifically, how many impressions the ads are getting) and you can charge more for sponsored posts the more pageviews you get.
That means that when my pageviews went up over 500% in 2015, my income did the same. (Actually, the income growth percentage was much higher, but I was starting at a really low number.)
Please don’t misunderstand my excitement about the growth. As I mentioned before, I loved this blog when it was getting less than 100K pageviews a month. It’s never been about the numbers for me. BUT. I’m excited about it because it was a measurable success I had. I worked hard to improve my blog, and saw the direct results from my hard work. It opened my eyes to what I am capable of and let’s face it, success feels good.
What did I work on in 2015 that led to the growth? Let’s take a quick look at what I focused on most:
1. Consistent, quality content
Quality content always has to come first. Nothing else matters if you aren’t creating something valuable for your readers. I’ve always tried to have quality content on here, and to varying degrees I have, but I was not always consistent. I’m still not where I want to be with consistency, but 2015 was a big improvement. I also worked on my photography a lot so that my recipes looked as good as they tasted.
This was my biggest weakness before 2015. I hated the idea of self-promotion (still kind of do) and didn’t understand how necessary it was for growth. In 2015 I worked on promoting myself across social media and growing my social media accounts. My biggest focus was Pinterest and Facebook, but I also worked on Instagram a bit. I didn’t put any effort into Twitter or Google+.
I just about tripled my Facebook and Pinterest followings, and my Instagram following increased 5X. Along with growing my followings, I promoted my content much more.
Besides social media, I also starting talking about my blog more to real life friends. There was a time when this blog was like a secret life. I was afraid to even mention it. Why? Who knows. It is just something that is largely out of my comfort zone. Talking about it almost feels obnoxious, but I know it shouldn’t. When I bring a dish to a party and someone asks me for the recipe, it’s still hard for me1. to say, “It’s on my blog.” It’s getting easier and I realize how powerful word of mouth can be, so I know I need to talk about Happy Healthy Mama even more.
For the longest time I didn’t have any monetization on this blog. Then, I had one ad. Even if your pageviews are in the millions each month, one ad isn’t going to make you much money. I had to start to focus on monetization in 2015. I wish there was a better way to make an income from blogging than ads, but I haven’t discovered it yet. I have been a long time member of BlogHer (SheKnows now), but in 2015 I also joined The Blogger Network and then AdThrive. They are ad management companies that do the behind-the-scenes work for me. It’s been a bit of a struggle to find a balance between making income from ads and creating a good user experience. Please know I wish I could have a totally ad-free space, but it’s not realistic at this time.
Those three things were my main focus in 2015. I put in much more time than in the past. Running and growing a blog is a time-consuming venture. The good thing is that I enjoy it. I love the creative aspect of it, I love the community and how I can help others, and my creative, teacher brain is even starting to enjoy the business side of it. Now it’s time to look forward to 2016.
Goals for 2016
1. Refine Happy Healthy Mama’s brand.
This will embody a lot of what I do in 2016. From the look and feel of my website to the content I create, it will all be in line with a specific brand message that I will create and refine. I will talk more about this in the State of the Blog address I do in January.
2. Diversify traffic sources and revenue streams.
It’s never smart to have all your eggs in one basket. Pinterest is king today, but that traffic could be gone tomorrow. In 2016 I need to learn and implement more search engine optimization (SEO) strategies so that I get more traffic from google. Right now, Pinterest is my number one traffic source, followed by direct request (people typing my website into their address bar). Google can and should be a bigger traffic source for me. I also want to focus on not relying as much on ads for revenue.
3. Create a product.
This goes hand in hand with diversifying my revenue streams. Yes, I want to create a product to help diversify my income. It’s not all about that, however. I want to create a product that will be valuable and helpful for my readers. The ideas are there, but need to be refined, planned, and implemented. My product won’t be a recipe ebook, in case you are wondering. I’ve purchased a lot of ebooks, I love them, but never a recipe ebook. If it’s not a product I’d personally ever buy, I don’t want to create that type of product, either. I love cookbooks and will always purchase those (but don’t want to write one just yet), but the recipes I get online, I expect to get for free. So the recipes I provide online will continue to be free. 🙂 But I have other product ideas that I am setting a goal to implement in 2016. Stay tuned!
4. Continue to grow.
I set a goal in 2015 for specific amount of pageviews I wanted to achieve and I am going to do it again for 2016. It’s a scary thing to set a specific number, and even scarier to put that number out there on the Internet. (I didn’t share my last year’s goal until now.)But if I learned anything from my last year, it’s that you have to dream big and not be afraid to set your goals accordingly. So, here it goes. In 2016, I’d like to surpass 1,000,000 pageviews a month. Crazy? Maybe. But I’m a little bit crazy. Maybe you can help me by telling everyone you know about Happy Healthy Mama? Haha! 😉
I have some specific action steps that I’m planning on implementing to help me reach these goals, but I won’t bore you with those. I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek into the business side of things at Happy Healthy Mama. Stay tuned for an awesome health challenge coming your way tomorrow! I have more than just blog goals for 2016!
Happy New Year, friends!