How to grow a blog from scratch

I really never thought I would grow a blog from scratch this quickly.   This is my first blog about blogging and I didn’t think I’d be writing this type of post so soon!  However, I was reviewing my first three months of blogging by looking at some analytics and thought it would be useful to share, as there are lots of fellow newbie on various Facebook groups who are interested in this type of data.

How to grow a blog from scratch

Having achieved over 15,000 page views in total, and currently standing on 7,000 page views per month I’m really happy with how it’s all going.  I’ve also got nearly 400,000 average monthly viewers on Pinterest, based on the last week’s activity, which I find staggering.

I started the blog for a number of reasons, but mainly in the hope that it would lead to a way of working from home, even if not directly, as it would be a reference site for what I can do.  From the start I vowed to use best practice so I followed all the advice given in other blogs about what to do from day 1.

Self hosting and website theme

I knew that I needed to be self-hosted and also that I wanted the site to look ‘nice’.  It was also vital that it looked good on mobile devices as more people browse using their mobiles and tablets than PCs these days.  Here are the stats from just three months and you can see that most people use mobile phones to look at my blog, followed by tablets.

I chose WordPress as it’s so widely used and has plenty of support articles and forums online, so just about any question can be answered.  Although I used to be a developer many years ago you don’t need to be technical to set up a website.  I chose a Pipdig theme because ALL my favourite blogs used them so it was a no-brainer, and as I didn’t have an existing blog to migrate from WordPress.com or Blogger it was really simple.  The fact that they do the techie migration stuff if you do use a different platform, for free, is a great service.

Pipdig recommend Siteground for hosting so I signed up and have been really happy with the site’s stability and their regular communications ever since.

Pinterest marketing

I always wanted to primarily use Pinterest to drive traffic, as it was how I really learned about blogging and a resource I’d used to research my recent travelling adventures.  I do love a ‘Best Things To Do In…’ blog and have found them to be so useful, so wanted to write my own.

I read a lot of blogs about how to use Pinterest to get traffic and I started pinning manually, aiming for 20-30 pins per day.  Once I’d written 15 or 20 blogs it became quite a task to pin in a structured way, so I started a spreadsheet with certain subjects and blogs pinned on specific days of the week so I could keep track.  Around a month ago, though, I realised that it was taking too much precious time (on top of everything else!) so I started using Tailwind.   Pretty much every single blog about Pinterest growth recommends Tailwind, and I have to agree.  My stats have gone crazy and I now get around 30% of my traffic from Pinterest.  Here are my stats from yesterday, when Pinterest was even higher as I didn’t do any Facebook marketing.

You can guess from the chart below when I started to use Tailwind!   You can find out more and start using Tailwind to grow your traffic using this link.

Chart showing increase in activity on website in last 30 days to show how to grow a blog

I purchased Tailwind on 29th April

You really need to learn how to configure your Pinterest account and so I paid for the ‘Pin Practical Accelerate’ course at Redefining Mom and it was really good, well worth the money (only $27).  If I had one piece of advice for Pinterest, it would be to follow best practice from the start, to set it all up properly and get nice-looking pins.  The course sets you tasks to do each day and covers everything you need to set up Pinterest from scratch including designing pins and organising your boards. I use Desygner for my graphics and it’s really easy to use, especially on my iPad.  I love the image creation process – here are some of my best-performing pins.

As I write, I have 7 out of the top 12 pins if you search for ‘scooter rally’ and 3 of out the top 11 pins for ‘vespa scooter’.   For my travel blogs, I have 2 pins on the first page for ‘Bognor Regis’, my hometown and subject of a really successful recent blog.  It just goes to show that you can get results really quickly to grow a blog via Pinterest whereas Google is more of a slow burner.

This is my Pinterest profile if you want to follow me!

Facebook marketing

I didn’t set up a Facebook group initially but wish I had as the sooner you start, the sooner you have a platform on a massive social network and can grow a blog more quickly.  I get most of my traffic from Facebook still, so the sooner you start the sooner you’ll build up your likers.  I also post in Facebook groups, particularly for the scooter-related content which is very niche and also on my own timeline.

Here is a link to my Facebook page.

Twitter and Instagram

I have built up followers on both Twitter and Instagram, but there is a lot of work to do still.  I really enjoy Instagram, so that doesn’t seem like hard work, but I struggle to keep up with Twitter.  I try and post once or twice a day on both and it does help when you use relevant hashtags.  I can’t claim to be anything like an expert though, so do search Pinterest for plenty of tips.  Both are very helpful when trying to grow a blog though, so you need to experiment on every social media platform to see which works best for you.

You can follow me on Instagram or see what I’m up to on Twitter, and I’m open to tips on both subjects!

SEO

It’s really important that your website is optimised for search engines, so that traffic is sent naturally (i.e. for free) from Google and Bing etc.  It will take a while for the bots that crawl the web to find you and index you, but once they do then you could appear in search results if you have good keywords.  There are plenty of blogs on the subject but the Yoast plugin is really handy for telling you what to include in each blog to make it optimised for SEO.  It’s so much easier to do it from the start rather than having to go back through each blog to change something.  There are also blogs to explain how to find out which keywords to use, I would recommend searching on Pinterest for some if you’re not sure.

You need to ensure all of your photos are correctly titled, as that really helps with SEO too.  I also use the Tasty Pins plugin to help with Pinterest SEO and have found it really speeds up adding lots of photos.  You don’t necessarily want to show your Pinterest pins on the page, and although it’s not hard to hide them using HTML it’s much quicker with Tasty Pins.  It also makes it really easy to add Pinterest text which is displayed when your pin is clicked in Pinterest.  You can also disable pinning on some photos, for example adverts, and it makes it so easy to do so.

This screenshot shows the Disable Pinning and Pinterest Text fields which appear when you have the Tasty Pins plugin installed.

Screen shot of adding a photo to WordPress with extra fields for Tasty Pins plugin

Tasty Pins’ creators, WP tasty, also use the ShareASale affiliate network which you can read more about using this link.

As well as an SEO-optimised website you also need a decent domain authority (DA) to rank highly on Google.  Lots of things can help with this, including backlinks from other websites, and having plenty of comments in your posts to show Google that people are engaging with them, but it takes time and so I’m not focused on this just yet.  As long as my pages are optimised and the content is good then it will come in time if I follow best practice.  There is one very obscure, long-tail keyword that I’m top for though, which I found by accident!  I was wondering when the band King Kurt played at the Isle Of Wight scooter rally so Googled ‘King Kurt Isle Of Wight Scooter Rally’ and I came up top!  Mainly due to some of my photos being of a King Kurt-themed scooter and that their titles worked well for SEO.  You can check your DA on Moz’s link explorer and mine has gone up from 0 in my first month (before Moz discovered me) to 4 last month and then to 15 this month which I’m very pleased with!  I still have a long way to go though.

I would really recommend listening to the Food Bloggers Pro podcasts for lots of SEO blogging advice, as well as Pinterest marketing tips.  It’s not just for food bloggers either, so don’t be fooled by the title!

Affiliate links

As I wanted to monetize my blog from the start, I set myself up as an affiliate with various brands who I’ve used myself and would recommend.  They include Booking.com, Amazon and Awin.  Awin has a vast collection of brands including Moonpig, Ticketmaster, Jack Wills, Next etc and you can sign up here for their program.  There are a multitude of advertisers for every possible sector and it’s really easy to link because they all come under the Awin umbrella so you can see all your analytics in one place.  I have actually made referral sales, and earned commission already, although it is very small amounts.  However, it would be silly not to have the adverts in place just in case it reminded a reader of a purchase they wanted to make!  And if any of my posts suddenly goes viral then I’m ready for it.

GDPR

It’s important that blogging websites are GDPR-compliant.  There is a lot of information out there but it is important to have a privacy policy if you are collecting personal data for a mailing list, or using affiliates.   You also need a cookie policy if you are using affiliates so after reading so much about it I was recommended to use Iubenda, which (depending on your requirements) can provide privacy and cookie policies for free, but I paid $24 and it provides peace of mind that my policies are legal and will be kept up to date if legislation changes.  It was very easy to implement too.  I used the Cookie Consent plugin and that was really easy to set up and point to my policy.  If you want to see what Iubenda can offer then follow this link to get a 10% discount on your first purchase.

Email subscribers

I use MailChimp for my mailing list as it’s free for up to 2000 subscribers.  It is GDPR compliant already, and is an easy platform to use.  Their email templates are really easy to change and configure, and you can add photos and other content, or just have plain text emails if you prefer a simple look.  There is a lot of debate online about which email platform to use and so many pros and cons for each; I researched a lot and then flipped a coin to decide on MailChimp!

Slimstat

Although I’ve recently started using Google Analytics, I’ve been recording page visits using Slimstat (a WordPress plugin) since the start, so this has the most complete data for reporting purposes.  I want to get to 10,000 monthly views and then will review everything to see which direction to head in to grow my blog further.   I was trying to get to 6,000 for seemingly ages, but then I passed that milestone last week and now I’m at 7,000 already!   I’m trying to achieve at least 200 page views most days, with higher peaks when I hit Facebook with lots of marketing posts.

Chart showing an average of over 200 page views per day showing how to grow a blog

I’m really pleased with how many people look at my blog worldwide too.  On Pinterest I have more US-based readers than from the UK!

Although this is a really long blog, I’ve not really gone into any detail as there is plenty more information on how to grow a blog out there from more experienced bloggers, but I will share more tips in the future if it would be useful.  Please leave a comment to say which aspect would be most useful!

If you want to know more about me then read my story here!

This page includes affiliate links for which I may receive a commission if you make a purchase.  This is at no extra cost to you and goes towards the running costs of the website.

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10 Comments

  1. May 29, 2018 / 11:35 am

    You’ve achieved great things very quickly and it’s brilliant that you’ve shared it with others in an easy (ish) way to understand. I know the advice you’ve given me has been very useful. I see that you’ve given a couple of prices during your blog and if you do more on the subject I think others may find it helpful to know what other costs are involved, such as the hosting, buying a theme, domain names, etc. Keep it up 🙂

    • AliRichards
      Author
      May 29, 2018 / 12:31 pm

      Thanks for the feedback!

  2. June 4, 2018 / 6:01 am

    Hey,
    Congrats on your achievement so far😊 You have made it very clear for new bloggers like me. Very inspiring!
    Can i ask few questions? Do you pin the same image to aPinterest group board multiple times unless there are any specific rules? If yes, how frequently?
    With a Facebook group, do you find it hard to manage all the posts and comments which come in? Does it take up a lot of your time?

    • AliRichards
      Author
      June 4, 2018 / 4:46 pm

      Hi, thanks for reading! With group boards I try not to pin multiple times, or if I do then I leave a massive gap between them. They usually have a rule that you pin one of the group’s pins for each one of yours that you pin. Some also have a pin limit per day. My Facebook page (it’s not a group) doesn’t have tons of comments to be honest so it’s not hard to manage! People share my posts (which is brilliant) and like them, rather than posting lots of comments. When I post in other groups (related to the subject) I get more comments than on my page, but it’s not an issue to keep up with them usually. I hope this helps but please do email me with any further questions and I’ll answer if I can!

  3. June 27, 2018 / 10:35 am

    Great post! 🙂 A few questions. How many posts you had published before launching your blog? And at how many did you start to have at least 50 visits daily? Thanks. I hope i’ll have at least half of the success you have. Good luck!

    • AliRichards
      Author
      June 27, 2018 / 7:03 pm

      Hi, I had 4 or 5 posts before I officially launched but then added to them quickly. In my first month I had 4109 pageviews which is an average of 136 per day. I’m now hovering at just above 9000 monthly pageviews after 4 months. The extra views are virtually all from Pinterest, but my natural traffic is growing too, from SEO. It’s 80% marketing and 20% writing I’m afraid, which I’m sure most bloggers don’t realise. I do hope this was helpful!

  4. June 28, 2018 / 8:58 pm

    I¡¦ve recently started a blog, the info you provide on this site has helped me tremendously. Thanks for all of your time

    • AliRichards
      Author
      June 28, 2018 / 9:30 pm

      Thanks for reading! I’m so pleased it was useful…

  5. July 14, 2018 / 12:42 pm

    Hi, great and informative post . Good and actoonable advise. I will go and find the food blogger podcast now and listen to them. I am now trying to figure out SEO and sort out my pins so i will download the tasty pins plug in

    • AliRichards
      Author
      July 14, 2018 / 3:28 pm

      I hope it works well for you – the podcast is definitely worth a listen!

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