Since President Obama gives his State of the Union address last night, I thought it would be perfect timing for a State of the Blog Address. I’ve never done this before, but I think it’s good for a blogger to openly talk about her blog once in a while. I like to be transparent and I think it’s nice as a reader to see what direction a blog is heading. So let me give you a peek at what’s been going on behind the scenes in the land of Happy Healthy Mama.
Highlights from 2014
Let’s start with taking a look at 2014. 2014 was a year of learning and transition for Happy Healthy Mama. I was coming off of 2013 where the blog really took the backseat to my family life. Luke was a busy 1-year-old, we were building a house and then moved, and I didn’t have as much time to commit to blogging. It took some soul-searching to decide what I wanted this blog to be, how much time I wanted to commit to it, and I took some time exploring those questions in 2014.
I slowly made my way to posting more consistently in 2014. My goal starting out 2014 was to post 2-3 times per week. By the end of the year, my goal was to post 3-4 times per week.
The main focus continued to be recipes, but I also sprinkled in posts about life, parenting, and natural living. I started a Fitness Friday series that evolved into posting less frequently about fitness, but still in the mix 1-2 times per month.
I finally decided to get serious about learning food photography and made a lot of growth in this area. In January I started using Lightroom instead of iPhoto to edit my photos, and while there was a learning curve (hello neon green smoothie–whoops!), I got the hang of it.
In the summer I took a huge leap and got a new lens. It was a huge, scary investment, but I cannot tell you the difference it made in my photography. I could finally get close to my food and still get crisp, clear photos. My old lens was so limiting, and I didn’t even know the extent until I got a new one. I am probably the only food blogger around who uses a Olympus camera, but in case you are interested this is the lens I got.
I focused on learning to use all the settings on my camera (although I’d been shooting in manual for a while, there were things I didn’t know how to do) and studied food styling, composition, and lighting.
I still have a lot to learn and hope to continue to grow and improve, but I’m happy with the progress I made in 2014. Just for fun, here’s a look at the evolution of my food photography.
2011 Breakfast Quinoa
2013 Restart Salad
January 2014 Orange Chocolate Chip Muffins
May 2014 Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Balls
November 2014 Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad
Happy Healthy Mama in 2015
I am excited about the possibilities for 2015. I am as focused as I’ve ever been on making this space the best it can be. I see the potential and am happy about the exciting things I hope to bring to you this year.
I will continue to focus on bringing you real food, clean-eating recipes this year. I want my recipes to be accessible, simple, and quick–all things I look for when I’m searching for new recipes. Not every recipe can be quick, but I’d like as many as possible to be recipes that don’t require a ton of time. As always, the recipes will be a reflection of the foods we like to eat. Some will be totally plant-based, others will have meat, some will be dairy-free, while others will have some cheese. I try to limit the amount of gluten I eat (for inflammation purposes), so some recipes will be gluten-free, but not all. There will always be a variety!
I’d like to expand the topics I cover even more this year. I will share the things I am passionate about: nutrition, ingredient knowledge, natural living, health topics, and parenting. Fitness posts won’t disappear, but I’m seeing myself posting less about fitness this year.
While fitness is a big part of my life, I’m just not as passionate about sharing workouts as I am talking about how to avoid shady ingredients or living an anti-cancer lifestyle.
I know there’s a fine line in blogging of over-sharing and being too impersonal, but I enjoy writing personal posts and I love the connectedness I feel with my readers when I do. I think there’s room for more personal, lifestyle posts here, so plan to see those in the coming months, too.
I recently read a post by a successful blogger who was giving blogging advice, and she said the most important thing you can do is have a narrow niche. Focus on one thing. My first instinct was to follow her advice. Stick with one thing! She knows what she’s talking about! She probably does. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best advice for everyone. I can see the value in providing a variety of information in one place. I’m busy. I love the idea of one blog that has all the different topics I’m interested in. One stop shopping, so to speak. If that’s the type of blog I’d like to read, then that’s the type of blog I want to have. Sometimes, you have to follow your instincts and go against the grain. That’s what I’m doing.
Time for some honest talk. In the past, I always treated this blog as a hobby rather than a job. Nothing wrong with that. But it was the safe answer. I took a hard look at why I was blogging as a hobby rather than a business, and it turned out the answer was fear. I was afraid that if I tried my hardest, really put 100% effort in, and failed, that would hurt. I would be embarrassed. I was totally afraid of failing and didn’t even know it.
So instead of admitting that I wanted this blog to grow and and be something more, I settled for putting no effort towards growing and remained satisfied with the organic growth it experienced. I told people I didn’t have the time it took to really be a serious blogger. Late in 2014, I made a decision. I was going to be all in. I finally admitted that yes, I do want to grow this blog. Yes, I do want this to be a legitimate income opportunity for my family. And now I’m putting it out there, so it’s really true.
I started an online blogging course called Elite Blogging Academy in the fall and it’s opened my eyes to the business side of blogging. I was naive. I had no idea the effort it takes to promote your blog. I thought that the “big bloggers” out there got lucky. Or that their content was so great, so much better than mine, that people just naturally shared it over and over and that’s how they got big. I was clueless. The idea of self-promotion would make me shudder, and it still makes me uncomfortable, yet I can see now how vital it is if you want to grow your blog.
I’m only on Unit 5 of 12 in the course, but I’m learning more than I knew there was to learn about blogging (after 5 years of blogging!) and am seeing real results just putting what I’ve learned so far into action. Comparing my pageviews from the first 30 days I started the course to the last 30 days from today and I see a 52% increase.
At one point in this blog’s life, I went longer than 6 months with 0 monetization efforts. I was in between ad networks so I had no ads, and just didn’t work to find other ways to bring income. (During that time, this post went viral on Pinterest, and I didn’t get anything for all the extra pageviews–go figure!) Because I treated blogging like a hobby, I didn’t focus on making money. But let’s face it. This is hard work. This is a job. No one wants to work for free, right?
First and foremost I want to share my passion for healthy living. I started this blog with that passion and not the idea of making money, and that passion hasn’t changed and won’t change. I just hope to be able to make enough money that I can justify the time spent on this blog. So I’m exploring ways to make that happen without changing your experience too much. I’ve had ads for a while, but maybe I’ll have a few more in the coming months. I don’t want anything too obtrusive like pop-ups (ugh–those drive me crazy!) but I know that I’ll probably have to add some in places I’ve shied away from adding them in the past, like at the top of the page.
I have done a few sponsored posts and will continue to do those when the right opportunities come along. More often than not, I have to turn them down as the companies that have approached me don’t fit with my message. I will never compromise and do a post for money if it’s a company or product I don’t believe it. But when it’s a product or company that I believe in and I can naturally align it with a recipe or information that is valuable to my readers, I will take those opportunities.
I am also looking into different products that I can bring you, but haven’t gotten very far in that process yet. One thing that isn’t on the horizon and won’t be any time soon is a published book or cookbook. I may be the only food blogger who isn’t looking for or dreaming about a book deal. I want to focus my energy on this space and this space only for the time being.
I have slowly been making changes to the site. I want to continue to work to organize the content I have in a way that makes it easier for you to find. The changes I made to my recipe page were a good start, but I still need to add more categories. Remember you can always use the search tool on the top of that page to help you find what you are looking for, as well.
It’s time for a new header (the title of my site, tagline, and graphics you see at the top of the blog) and that will happen sometime this year. I tried for months to design one myself, but threw in the towel, admitting my limitations, and decided to hire out a designer. I haven’t settled on who I will use, but have been shopping around. (I’d love a recommendation if you have one!)
One big change that’s coming is to my email delivery service. Those of you who primarily read my posts via email, this is especially important for you. Instead of having each post sent to you like I’ve always done, I will be changing to a once a week newsletter. The newsletter will include more than just what I post on the blog, and will include I highlight of what I posted that week. As I move towards posting more each week, I know most people don’t like being bombarded with emails, so this format just makes more sense. Then you can pick and choose which posts you want to click over to read rather than getting a separate email each time I post. I’ll fill you in more when that happens. Those of you who don’t subscribe may want to for the extra goodies email subscribers will get!
Whew! Are you still with me? That was quite a long post, but it feels so good to have all these thoughts written down. This is where Happy Healthy Mama is going in 2015–I hope you’ll stick with me for the ride!
Thoughts? Feedback? I’d love to hear it!