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Q&A: What is the best thing you’ve done to grow your site?

Christa from Brown Sugar Toast emailed in three blogging questions that she’s given me permission to address as Q&A’s over the next three weeks. I thought some of you would find my advice to her helpful, so I’m posting my answers to her here.

Here’s her first question:

What are the best things you have done to grow your site? I suppose my main question is how to find women {or help them find me?} who “fit” in my blogging niche. The purpose statement of my blog is “to encourage women to live creative lives in Christ.” Should I be doing guest posts, participating in the dreaded linky parties ;), paying for advertising? Perhaps all of the above? -Christa

First off, the fact that you are asking questions and seeking to be intentional says a lot about your character, motivation, and drive. You have amazing potential, Christa! Your blog is beautiful and you have some fantastic ideas. Keep up the great work!

When I started MoneySavingMom.com, I had a huge advantage because I already had a mommy blog that I had grown to have around 4,000 to 5,000 pageviews per day (you can read the whole story on how I “fell into” blogging here). In addition, blogging was still pretty new so there weren’t so many incredible voices out there like there are today. Honestly, I think that’s one reason people read my blog — just because there weren’t that many others to choose from! 🙂

As far as specific things I did to grow my blog, here are some ideas:

1) I Set Big Goals

For years, I’ve been setting specific blogging goals. Not only detailed numbers that I wanted to grow my traffic and social media sites to each month and year, but how much income I wanted to make, features I wanted to add, series I wanted to write, people I wanted to network with, and more.

I haven’t always hit these goals, but they have motivated me to aim high, work hard, and think outside the box. Plus, they challenged me to step outside my comfort zone. It has well been said, “If your goals don’t scare you at least a little, they might not be big enough.”

2) I Linked to Others

You can never be too generous. So many, many people have graciously reached out and helped me — especially when I was first starting out.

I want to do the same for others. I can’t help everyone, but I do my best to try and help as many people as I can — especially when I see someone who is working really hard and being creative, not just hoping for someone to spoon feed them some success.

From the beginning, I’ve seen my blog as a conduit. I can’t meet everyone’s needs, but I hope that my blog can serve as a hub to point you in the direction of other sites, blogs, and resources that can be a huge help to you wherever you are at in life.

3) I Networked With Others

Building relationships with other bloggers, website owners, authors, and speakers is a great way to not only learn much, but also to open up doors for networking. Look for specific people whom you’d like to have a relationship with and then go out of your way to promote and encourage them. You never know what this might lead to.

Be creative. Think outside the box. Find ways to work with other bloggers that will be mutually beneficial. That’s what networking is all about!

4) I Wrote Guest Posts

Guest posts are a great way to get your name and writing in front of a new audience. Plus, they are a way to exercise new writing muscles and build up thick skin when you receive a rejection email.

Psst! I love to consider guest posts from my readers. See our guest post submission guidelines here.

5) I Didn’t Give Up

Honestly, I believe has been one of the main keys to my success. It’s so easy to want to give up. In fact, I still have days when I’m ready to close up shop (I had one just last week, in fact!). But if you stick with it and keep at it, eventually your efforts will pay off.

As far as what you should specifically be doing, Christa: I’d encourage you to make a list of all the ideas that come to your mind. These could be things like guest posting, commenting on other blogs, participating in Linky parties, experimenting with Pinterest, interacting on Twitter and Facebook, running giveaways on other blogs, and more.

Then, pick one or two ideas to experiment with for a few weeks. See what kind of response you get and track your results. Over time, you’ll start to learn things that work — and many things that don’t work. Chuck the things that flop and stick with the things that work.

Keep learning, keep asking questions, keep experimenting, and keep pressing on. I’m excited to see you succeed!

For more suggestions and ideas, be sure to check out my How to Make Money Blogging series. In the first few posts, I share some practical ideas for growing your blog traffic and setting up your blog for success.

What advice do the rest of you bloggers have for Christa?

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61 Comments

  • Pinterest can get great traffic to your blog if you do crafts or food. Using good pictures and step by step directions is key!

    • Crystal says:

      I definitely agree with this… though Facebook is still my #1 traffic driver next to Google. Of course, I’m not all that domestically gifted, either, so that might be why. 😉

      • Linda says:

        AND you have enough fans that your posts get seen by people. Those of us under the “fan limit” need to promote their posts if they want them to get seen by more than a 100 or so people. Just throwing that out there so that smaller bloggers understand that.

  • deborah says:

    I’m encouraged to hear that you still have days you feel like you’d like to close shop. I can feel discouraged with my blog {several reasons} and definitely have days that I think, “What am I doing?” Yet, there are many things I do enjoy about blogging, even though my blog is one tiny fish in the sea. 🙂

  • Sarah says:

    I especially love the tip about making audacious goals. I often have goals, but I believe being more specific and intentional is something I should be working on!

    Thanks for this!

  • I’d add that commenting on blogs in your niche is also a great way to get your blog out there and also to build relationships with bloggers who blog about similar things.

    • Forgot to add what is hopefully obvious: that the comments should be sincere and on topic, not, “Please come visit my blog!” And I also think it’s wise to only leave your URL in the comment form and not in the actual comment.

    • Crystal says:

      Some of my friends were telling me recently that they’ve gotten more traffic from leaving comments on blogs than from writing guest posts… which I thought was very interesting!

      • Crystal,

        I would agree about leaving comments on your site! Your website has been one of my top ten sources of traffic for the last several years.

        • Crystal says:

          Wow! That makes me so happy to know that it’s been sending traffic your way! And thanks for all the insightful comments you leave; I know we all appreciate it!

      • Victoria says:

        It is true just last week I got a surge of traffic and I when I dug around to figure out where it was coming from it originated from one comment I had made on someones blog that added to the content the blogger was writing about. I have been blogging for over a year now and I try to set aside 30 to 40 minutes each day to read and pin and comment and share others blogs posts. I do it with the heart of wanting to network and also learn how to write better, but I have found it also does boost traffic, since whenever I don’t have the time to do my 30 to 40 minutes for a few days in a row my traffic does drop significantly.

      • Nicole says:

        Just a few weeks ago I was contacted by a gal via my Etsy shop, with a question about one of my products. She had found me through a comment here at Money Saving Mom! So thanks for the traffic, Crystal! =)

  • These are great tips! I look forward to reading more in the comments.

  • Sharla says:

    I agree with what Kristen suggested about sincere comments on blogs that are in your niche. It is a great way to form relationships with other bloggers. Also, look at the styles and content from blogs that you enjoy visiting. Don’t copy their ideas or layout but just start to take notice of what you as a reader enjoy and then think about what your readers are looking for.

    I couldn’t agree more about being generous both with other bloggers as far as promoting them, encouraging them, helping them, and networking with them but also being generous with your readers in offering them free printables or ebooks or other such benefits and also always trying to offer them your best content. This was something I learned recently. I had been holding onto some of my best ideas for when my readership grew so that I could reach more people with it and therefore bless more people, but then I realized that I was actually holding back something from my current loyal readers and decided to post it right then. It actually helped me grow my readership and was a win-win!

  • Thanks for sharing this series! I think that anyone that is starting out with a new business/website (blog, shop, home based business, etc) can get discouraged by the lack of traffic. There are SO many websites out there now that it is hard to know what to do to make your specific site stand out. I appreciate this post and the advice! I look forward to seeing what the other questions were.

  • Alexa says:

    I think that commenting is a great way to not only bring traffic but to connect with other bloggers. You can’t just go for the big blogs, you need to do a lot of commenting on blogs that are close in size of yours. Other than that I have had a pretty good bit of luck with guest posts. You can’t let rejection discourage you, but instead let it motivate you to do better.

    Also, once you get a little bit of traffic built up if you write a great post that people can relate to. Most bloggers are very generous. They will link to you or share your post socially which brings more traffic.

    I have realized it takes a substantial amount of time to get a lot of traffic. You have to be patient, consistent and enjoy what you are doing.

  • Abby says:

    On a day like today, I can definitely attest to the power of writing guest posts. Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts with your readers, even if you don’t agree with it all 🙂

    I have a question, Crystal: do you think there’s room for all of us? I know that no one else can blog from my exact perspective, but do you think there’s enough room in blogland for all of the frugal-living/recipe/craft/money-saving/DIY blogs out there, or do you think there comes a point when the market is pretty much penetrated?

    • Angie says:

      I have this question too–is the market too saturated by blogs? I have an idea and have been writing posts to start a new blog, but there are so many out there! I understand that blogging is a marathon, not a sprint, when it comes to generating an income, and it takes awhile to build up, but can it still be done? I would love to hear Crystal’s thoughts, and anyone else’s too!

  • Jo Lynn says:

    I really enjoyed this post and am looking forward to the next few answering the blogging questions also. I’m just gettting started so this will be really helpful! Thanks for answering her questions in this format (and for the link to you guest post submissions : )

  • Sarah says:

    Excellent advice in this post and in the comments! My blog is quite new and I’m looking for ways to grow.

    I have heard of bloggers getting together to form a blog mastermind group – a small group of bloggers with similar size blogs in similar niches commits to reading and commenting on each other’s posts, providing feedback in private and promoting each other. Trina Holden has a great post on this.

    I’m hoping to start this kind of a group – anyone else interested?

    • Lydia says:

      I’m looking forward to these posts about blogging Crystal and have enjoyed reading through the comments here for more ideas.

      One thing that I’ve found helpful is to reply to comments that people leave. It might not be a huge way to get more traffic but it does seem that people are more apt to come to your site and leave a comment if they know you are going to interact. Plus the person that commented will most likely come back to see what you wrote, giving you more traffic too. We all know that it’s fun to read the comments on posts and personally I enjoy blogs where I comment and know that the blogger will respond…it doesn’t feel like I’m writing to some black hole. 🙂

      • Crystal says:

        Love this advice!

        I’ve been trying to do better about responding to comments recently! While I can’t usually respond to every comment, I want people to know I read them and appreciate them.

        So anyway, THANK YOU to each of you who take the time to comment here!

        • Lydia says:

          Yes Crystal, I know if you have a blog that gets hundreds of comments a day it’s pretty much impossible to keep up. My email questions and comments are increasing the last couple of months and I’m starting to realize how hard it can be. But I appreciate how you try to interact with at least a number of the comments you receive and think you do a great job as a “bigger” blogger. 🙂

  • Siobhan says:

    I would love to have some guest posts on my site if anyone is interested. Maybe a recipe or money saving tip?

    Thanks

    MyMoneyDearest.com

  • I like the advice about guest posting as “a way to exercise new writing muscles and build up thick skin when you receive a rejection email.” I remember when my guest post submission got rejected here at Money Saving Mom. It stung, but that’s the reality of submitting guest posts. Sometimes they get accepted, sometimes they don’t. I didn’t give up, though, and later guest posted on ScaryMommy.com and other sites. This hasn’t necessarily lead to a huge jump in followers, but did introduce me to some awesome new Bloggy friends. Guest posting also allows you to build relationships with the host blogger.

    I would also recommend blogging classes from Blogelina.com that I found here on Money Saving Mom. The class I took introduced me to some other bloggers looking to grow their blogs and taught me the importance of getting a Facebook page and Twitter account for my blog.

  • teri says:

    I haven’t been blogging too long, and was looking for ways to increase traffic. There are some great tips here for “young” blogs. I recently found myself asking, “Why am I doing this? Are people actually interested in what I have to say?”. It is refreshing to know that I am not alone, even seasoned bloggers have their moments.

  • Leah says:

    I rely a lot on signal boosts – via FB, Twitter, and Pinterest. A simple, “If you enjoyed this post, consider sharing it with a friend!” is often enough to get a reader to click share and post on their FB page. Then it’s like the old Faberge Organics commercial … “then she tells two friends, then they tell two friends, and so on and so on …” 🙂

  • I’ve done all of these: guest posting, networking, commenting…all of it. It’s a great way to form a community of loyal readers and to me, having loyal, supportive readers who share my posts and feel connected to them is more important than having 10000 drive-by views a day.

    Beyond that, another great way to get notice for your blog is to network with other bloggers in person. Conferences, local meet-ups, one day blogger boot camps…they put you in touch with bloggers in and out of your niche, which is really nice. Oh, and that reminds me! When you guest post, do so on blogs that you regularly read but might be out of your niche. Just because someone may write about food doesn’t mean they’re not interested in personal finance or fitness or whatever. Staying within your niche is excellent for relationship building, and growing traffic, but branching out definitely helps!

    Good luck with your endeavor!

    • Jana, I agree with that advice. Try to find those that are similar to you, but have a bit of a different niche – share money-saving tips with a food blogger, reach out to a savings blogger with a crafty idea, etc. My blog is an outreach of my newspaper gig (I’m a full-time reporter, and blogging is part of my job), so my blog’s success and growth has been all about networking. I stay in close contact with the “mommy bloggers” in my region, and we share content often. I would encourage other bloggers to reach out to the news media outlets in your geographic location. Money-saving tips, especially, are covered by traditional media more now than ever. Local TV newscasters may even offer you a short weekly segment, I know that has been the case for some of the independent bloggers in my region. Look around and see if your local newspapers have a consumer or lifestyles columnist (like me). We are always looking for new fodder. It’s a great way to spread the word, and an invaluable contact.

  • Kathy says:

    Thanks for the great tips! I just started a food blog about a month ago. I’m enjoying it so much! The tips left in the comments were helpful as well. I look forward to what else you are going to address in this series.

  • Tiffany says:

    Thanks for this post! It helped me really think about new ways to increase my traffic too!

  • Thank you, Crystal!!!!! This is so helpful and I know I’m going to be referring to these comments for a while! I’ve found pinterest to be my “highest referrer” with facebook just below. And I’ve also gotten visits from people simply because I made comments on your site! Thanks so much for the tips – can’t wait to read the other posts!! 🙂

  • Shannon says:

    I have been following your blog for two years and cannot believe I had never read about how you “fell into blogging.” You are quite the inspiration and to have learned all of your lessons at such a young age is such a blessing. I feel like I have such a connection with your earlier passion for writing but not really knowing how to make income with it. Your trials and errors sure are insightful for those of us with passions-in-training 🙂

  • Great topic and thanks for the tips, Crystal. I can’t wait to read more! I so appreciate your interest in helping other bloggers. What a kind way to pay it forward.

    I started a blog about 7 years ago just as a way to document our safe foods with food allergies…so Grandma would have a reference to help us out. 😉 And I honestly didn’t start taking it too seriously until last fall. Here are some strategies that have helped us grow recently:

    1. Know How to Read Your Blog Stats. That may sound silly to some but really, I had no idea that I could see my daily traffic info for many years. It really helps to see what is working! I had no idea we had the same #1 post every single day and that we were coming up in the top three on a Google search for that topic. Knowing where traffic comes from and why they come is a huge advantage.

    2. Get on Other Social Media. For me, FB has been really successful but I think it’s because of my niche. There are many food allergy parents out there longing for discussion on how to keep their kids safe. For some niches like creating and cooking, Pinterest is great. If you are catering to the younger crowd, my husband just read that Twitter and Instagram are the “thing”…not FB anymore.

    3. Mix Up Blog Posts. Even though we deal with food allergies, I have been told many times not to stop posting our homeschool activities, my organizing ideas, my decorating features, etc. I think people like a small peak into your real life, not just food ideas or posts on one single topic every single day. Do keep focus though. I consider all those topics as part of my life as an allergy mom.

    4. Networking in Social Media. Networking on other blogs has been mentioned but my most effective networking so far has been on FB. Again, I think it probably has to do with the niche we are in. I have read about taking just so many minutes a day to comment and network online. So I think it’s important to figure out which social media outlet will work the best for your “market” so you don’t spend all day doing this hit and miss.

    5. Figure Out Your Niche in Detail. I thought our niche was simply milk allergies. But as we have been growing, I have been paying attention to the audience we are drawing WITHIN milk allergies. Instead of trying to be like all the other food allergy sites, I’m embracing what makes us different and maximizing on that. It has helped a lot.

    I think I can go on and on but…I look forward to gleaning more ideas and tips from the posts and comments for this series! 🙂

  • This was so helpful! I’m looking forward to more. Thank you!

  • What a great question, and a great response! Of course, all the comments are so helpful, too. I am working on doing more of these things, and like you said, learning what works for me. II really enjoy leaving – and responding to – sincere comments. It’s amazing how one little comment can mean so much! I want my readers to know how much I appreciate them.

    • I’ve recently had great success with some of the photo websites, such as foodgawker and dailybuzz (both of these sites feature food or crafting photos). They feature your pictures, with a direct link to your post. These sites have driven incredible amounts of traffic to my blog. If your site is about food there are many others: healthy aperture, tastespotting, tasteologie, photograzing. These sites are picky about which pictures they accept, I was rejected a few times before they finally started accepting some of my pictures.

  • SO cool I was just asking myself this question yesterday and I pull up Money Saving Mom to find this! Thank you so much for sharing! 🙂

  • Angie says:

    Hi,
    I’m sorry to double post this question, but I would really like to know anyone’s thoughts on this issue. Maybe no one saw it above. I have this question too–is the market too saturated by blogs? I have an idea and have been writing posts to start a new blog, but there are so many out there! I understand that blogging is a marathon, not a sprint, when it comes to generating an income, and it takes awhile to build up, but can it still be done? I would love to hear Crystal’s thoughts, and anyone else’s too!

  • Nicole says:

    I’m interested to know…you say you set big goals for traffic and social media numbers, etc. How do you go about reaching a goal like that? Doesn’t that depend on the readers, not on yourself? Like I can say I want to have xx amount of followers on Facebook by the end of the month, but ultimately it is up to people that read my blog to decide if they are going to follow me or not…I can’t make them do it, lol! So is this really a feasible, helpful goal to have?

    Just wondering how to make these kinds of goals work for me. Thanks for this post, I am looking forward to the next two!!!!

    • Crystal says:

      There are many, many ways to achieve those goals. For instance, I just recently added the Facebook widget to my sidebar… and my daily Facebook Likes have doubled! I also regularly plug my Facebook Page in blog posts — many people don’t know it exists and they aren’t going to think to go looking for it. But when you put it right under their nose on occasion, they are happy to subscribe.

      In addition, I do a lot of things to foster conversation and community on Facebook as this increases the value and interaction on my page, which ultimately results in more interaction and Likes.

      Yes, your readers have to help you out with these goals (thank you to each of you who so willingly help me out!), but you can be creative in finding ways to have them help you out. Never just sit back and wait for people to come to your blog or Facebook Page. Go start kicking things and experimenting — and you never know where it will lead!

  • Kate says:

    Crystal, I just read through your Becoming a Work at Home Mom series and I loved it so much! First, it made me just want to be friends with you. 🙂 Second, I was so inspired to work harder at the things I wanted to achieve. I love that you were doing these things that you didn’t know much about but just kept trying. Third, I think it’s so amazing how God directed you, even down to the bad morning sickness. And I think it’s so cool that he blessed your efforts to help your family financially by having such a small grocery budget and multiplied it into this blog.

    My husband is in the Air Force so we can afford for me not to work, but we’ve been recently inspired to be even more careful with our money so that we can give more!

    I liked what you said in this post about being generous. My husband and I are pretty handy/crafty, and there have been a number of times when we’ve done something for someone, and then had someone else offer to pay us! Like fixing cars or making cards.

  • Angie says:

    For someone who is looking for ways to work from home, is it still possible to (eventually) make money blogging, or would it be more realistic to pursue another avenue? There are just SO many blogs on every topic imaginable–is there a point where the ‘market’ will become saturated? It’s hard for a nonblogger to gauge whether it’s still feasible to be successful, when most of the more established blogs have been up and running for several years. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      I think it is totally possible, if you’ve got a lot of perseverance and can find your own unique voice. I think there’s always room for more unique voices!

  • Tanya says:

    A great way to grow your blog is build a core group of a few bloggers – and then work to support each other!

    The Blogelina Blogging Buddy Network (http://www.blogelina.com/how-to-join-your-clan/) is an easy (and fun!) way to build networks and make connections to grow blogs! Group members can really support each other – either by collaborating to promote each other’s content, increase followers and subscribers – or just plain encourage each other on those days when blogging seems so HARD!

    We keep the groups small (5-6 members) to make sure members can really focus on helping each other – and it’s not so overwhelming! Plus, the network is free to join.

    Remember, You Are Not Alone… So join a blogging group – and don’t be! 🙂

  • Marie says:

    Thanks for the post. Some days I just feel like I am floundering – and that all the other bloggers out there with the high traffic numbers know something they aren’t telling me! I am still pretty new, and I have already had many days when I felt like throwing in the towel. It can be tiring when you feel like you are just such a small voice in a large group, and wondering if anyone will ever find you:-)

    Your post is great – and although I am not glad to hear you have days you still feel like giving up – I will admit I’m glad it happens to everyone….and that we can just work through it.

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