When I first started growing my blog to support my web design work in 2009 I felt lost and awkward. I had no idea what would help me get clients, what would make someone feel comfortable enough to work with me, let alone what would make them come back or refer their friends to me.
I was enthusiastic and had a lot of knowledge, but you can't show that to anyone until they find you.
It's easy to feel like your tiny website is going to stay lost in internet limbo unless someone who's already successful discovers you.
While that can't hurt, there is no one handing out wands and creating blogging fairy godmothers. And even if there were, there's no fairy godmother section on your business plan or editorial calendar.
When it comes to growing your blog or business in a meaningful way, you don't want to hope for a fluke high traffic day that's gone as fast as it arrived. You want to track slow and steady growth without beating yourself up about the numbers.
So what should we pay attention to?
The past years of hands on experience – plus wearing out my library card and amazon delivery service – have taught me a lot about online business and strategy. I've taken courses, attended conferences, and have been lucky enough to have conversations with really smart people.
What's been truly transformative for me is being behind the scenes in hundreds of businesses as a designer and consultant. Before I can help anyone improve their online world I have to understand it, so I've had the opportunity to see a huge variety of healthy online businesses.
While some of them have thousands of people waiting to hear from them every week, most have small blogs that provide a great positive impact through a product or service that they provide. And those blogs and businesses – including my own – support families, pay for rent or mortgages, without the comment count or posting frequency that we imagine a “successful blog” has when you use lifestyle blogging standards.
Something about that, to me, is incredibly freeing. With a lot more peace of mind and confidence gained from seeing that there's not one right way to do things, these are the numbers I pay attention to:
Pageviews, total social media followers & total email subscribers
These numbers can be frustrating when we get growth tunnel vision or pin our self worth to them, but these basics will give you a fabulous baseline for understanding what's working and what's not as you grow your blog. The trick I use is to have a spreadsheet where I track them all side by side, every week. Every month might feel better to you, which is great too.
I've found that grouping my statistics together gives them context, which turns them into an interesting story instead of something I judge myself on. Suddenly instead of feelings, we have context – we can see which weeks were stronger than others, in which areas of our online world. From there you can see exactly what works with your audience, and fine tune. It's like a blogging super power!
I dare you to make a calendar reminder to do this once a month, or once a week, and see if you can make it routine enough that it's not uncomfortable.
Time spent in your work vs. on your work
If you're anything like me, you have some procrastination skills under your belt. Am I right?
While they feel like work, in reality most administration, non-essential tasks, and endless to do lists (that we don't edit nearly enough!) just make you chronically bogged down and paralyzed. They're the junk food of our work lives.
With the help of a free activity monitoring program like RescueTime, you can quickly classify work that pays the bills from work that's filler, and adjust your day from there.
Where people are – and aren't – clicking
Google Analytics is a great tool, and chances are it's even better than you know. If you follow these instructions on installing the code on your website, you'll get a free map of exactly where people are clicking on your website shown on top of your live website.
To see this for your website, if you have google analytics set up go to:
1. Go to Google Analytics, and click “Access Google Analytics”
2. Select your website by clicking on it.
3. In the sidebar click “Behavior”, then “In Page Analytics”
4. Look at everything that people are clicking on – and consider removing distractions
The balance between charging my creative batteries & using them
You can only out so much energy out into the world, but most of the time we're last on our lists. The problem is that running on empty makes us sloppy and reactive. You can't be the star player on any team like that!
I see this play out in my life for how much I work vs rest, how much I'm working vs. learning, even in the give and take of listening and sharing my friendships. With all things, the idea isn't to perfectly balance your life and hope it freezes in place, but to strengthen those adjustment muscles so when something's out of place you notice and can get centered easily.
Pinterest is a powerful source of traffic for most bloggers, and until recently there were surface level numbers available, but nothing juicy.
But finally, some juicy metrics arrived and I'm throwing a nerd party!
If you change your account to a business account (there are no fees or substantial changes that go along with this) Pinterest now offers a dashboard that how what you pins perform over time, their pageviews, and what your most viral content is.
It also has a dedicated section so you can watch exactly what's happening with pins from your website to make sure you're making the most of your Pinterest traffic.
Of course, more than any number on a chart, you have to use your intuition and by asking for feedback from the people you help. All of this is an experiment, so jump in, start testing and start paying attention to what works – but also what you're excited by and where your heart is.