Happy December everyone! Last Wednesday I hit a huge milestone in my own blog growth. I reached 1,000 followers. That’s by no means a blogging career/book deal/ popularity level that others might rejoice in, but it’s made me very proud. When I started blogging this year I thought Sam would read my blog and maybe two random other people. What’s surprised me most are the genuine friendships that I have formed with other people through blogging. I never expected to find a community that would become my friends even if we only exchange emails.
I’ve read other bloggers posts on how they grew their blogs and I was really interested in their process, because for me, it’s always been slightly different. Here’s my confession: as of right now, I have never purchased an ad space. I’ve swapped ad spaces and buttons (a lot); I’ve had people put me on their sidebar out of the kindness of their hearts; I’ve won amazing ad spaces with Belinda at Found Love Now What and Chelsee at the Southern Beauty Guide. And a special additional shout-out is owed to Chelsee to opening my eyes to how an amazing sponsor conducts themselves via twitter, etc.
And it isn’t because I don’t believe in ad space. I do, I really do! (I sell it so it would be hypocritical of me not to!) But money has been extremely tight. While blogging as a full time side job/money generator when not acting would be my ideal, that’s not currently the case. Blogging is just a hobby. (Well a bit more than a hobby. A passion. An obsession maybe?) So while I know that purchasing ad space and sponsorship for my blog is the next step for me, I can’t currently do that until I have a bit more income.
1,000 followers in 9 months isn’t insane blog growth. No one is going to be knocking down my door for a book deal anytime soon. But part of me is insanely proud that all the growth that has occurred is because of my daily toil and sometimes tears.
So how do I think I’ve grown my blog without spending money?
#1 Content. I’ve never reached a point where I have felt like I was sitting down to write a post, just for the sake of posting something that day. I think it helps that I have tried not to pigeonhole myself into one “niche”. Yes, I am an expat. Am I an expat blogger? Yes, but I blog about more than just travel and being abroad. Am I a food blogger? Well I post recipes weekly, but I blog about more than that. Am I funny? Sam would say no, I would say yes. Which is why I full embrace my “lifestyle” blog status. Maybe Rhyme & Ribbons isn’t your typical lifestyle blog, but it does exemplify the best parts of my lifestyle.
#2 Joining blog hops and linkups. I attribute a lot of my early growth to blog hops and linkups. In fact, I still join most of them on a weekly basis. You can have the best content in the entire world, but if no one knows your blog is out there, then no one will be reading it. I’ve also heard of some bigger bloggers turning up their noses at blog hops and linkups. I’m not a big blogger (obviously) and I still find them beneficial for the growth of my blog and for my own personal reading list. So of my favourite bloggers only have a few followers and I found them through a blog hop.
#3 Responding to comments. There’s a huge difference between a follower and a reader. And frankly, I’d rather have 300 devoted readers than 3000 followers. When someone takes the time to leave you a thoughtful comment on your blog, you should take the time to respond to it. It doesn’t have to be that day or right away. Everyone has to live their own lives, but I think it’s really important to respond to all the comments left on your blog eventually! How else will you start conversations with people and make new internet friends?
#4 Commenting on other people’s blogs. (With more than just a “please follow me back, etc”. In fact, write that if you can help it.) If you want to grow your blog you need to make an effort and put yourself out there and one great way of doing that is to start thoughtful/silly/ridiculous conversations with other bloggers via their comments.
#5 Using social media. This is one I didn’t do right away, but I should have. I didn’t really understand why people had twitter accounts for their blogs. But then I made one this spring and it all made sense. I should have been tweeting my posts all along. And even more stupidly, I’ve only recently started pinning my posts to Pinterest (which again, has driven noticeable traffic to me.) Learn from my mistakes.
This isn’t going to be groundbreaking (or even new) information to anyone but it’s a bare bones summary of how I’ve managed my own blog.