(UPDATE: I have added more details about how January actually went for me: mistakes, successes, and stats, and moved the details about how I made the switch to a new post. This way you can really see what I did in January properly!)
As many of you know, January 2016 was my first month of self-hosting my blog! I know lots of you have been asking me if I could write about my process, so here it is! I have yet to find another blog that talks about exactly how they grew from the very beginning, so this is for those of you like me who want to see how it really starts. I will try to do this monthly, so that you can see the truth of how I grow, mistakes included, and so that we can do this together — and you can learn from my mistakes! With that in mind, please feel free to contact me along the way — I’ve made lots of new friends doing this and would love to make more! Maybe we can motivate each other and hold each other accountable to our goals 🙂
I started my blog in March 2015 completely writing for myself. I wrote to process the things I was going through — namely, the changes within my family, suddenly being a full-blown adult, and my sexual assault. So I mostly blogged irregularly, maybe once a month, especially because I taught full-time right after I graduated. Then in October, working as a substitute teacher, I had a lot more free time. One day, I was working at an alternative school where the teachers didn’t actually stand up and teach a lot of the time. The two other teachers in the classroom struggled to give me enough work to keep me busy all day. I was mostly there for the supervising ratio. It got the point where one of the other teachers told me to just read blogs online until they found work for me. So I googled, and I came across Heather Armstrong’s blog at dooce.com: the first blog I ever really got into.
I was inspired to write again.
(If you go to her site and start from the beginning in her archives, I think it might be clear why I was inspired. Just do it, trust me.)
And so it began. I went back into my stagnant blog, and wrote my first truly heartfelt blog post, “It wasn’t really rape.” I started writing five days a week, Monday to Friday. I made the commitment to NaBloPoMo, and joined a few of WordPress’ Blogging U courses to revamp my site. I created a Twitter account, Facebook page, and Google+ page. I started using Pinterest for my blog. I saw my following grow from nothing to over a hundred on WordPress.com, and my social media numbers climbed — slowly, but it did. I could not believe it — people liked me!
And as I discovered more blogs, I realized people make money doing it.
So I mean, why not try it myself?
On December 18th 2015, I did it: I switched to self-hosting. And here we are!
January 2016 Stats
These were my stats in January, the month right after I switched.
• Pageviews: 1, 441
• Sessions: 895
• Visitors: 652
• 32.2% of all visitors were returning visitors.
• 67.8% of all visitors were new visitors.
• Bounce Rate (percentage of people who leave right away): 71.06%
Ouch — but this might be wrong because I recently realized all my links to my own pages open in new tabs.
• Average Time Per View: 1 min 32 secs
• Pages Per Visit 1.61
• Top Referral Sources: Pinterest and Facebook
Pinterest was my number one traffic source with 44% of my traffic coming from there!
January 2016 Posts
If you’re wondering, these are the posts from last month that led to the above stats. I used the Yoast SEO plugin to search engine optimize them myself. WordPress.com does SEO for you, unlike self-hosting — but Yoast is really easy to use!
• Guest Post by Live By Surprise: 9 Ways To Start Your New Year Right!
• Teas & Kitties: New Year Goals & Blogging // January 4, 2016
• How 30-Somethings Make Me Feel Insecure
• Teas & Kitties: Well, That Was a Rough Week // January 11, 2016
• Why Aren’t Schools Teaching Kids About Non-Binary Genders?
• Living In a Bubble: Being Politically Correct
• Teas & Kitties: Things Are Getting Better // January 18, 2016
• A Letter From an Old Dancer
• The Vulnerability of Sex
• Teas & Kitties: In Need of Some Me Time // January 25, 2016
• 8 Valentine’s Day Gifts Under $20
• Gender & Queer Communities: How I Fit In (Or Don’t)
January 2016 Wins
Achieved my goal of starting my email list! I’m really excited about this. It’s growing at a snail pace because I haven’t invested much time into it — I’ve been focusing on Pinterest, which I’ll get into later — but I gained two new subscribers this month. A very small number, but I’m excited nonetheless! I mean, they aren’t my best friends or my mother, so at least it’s reassuring that someone values what I write… right? (Smile and nod, smile and nod. Thanks.)
You guys like me. You really, really, like me! People have left some really heartfelt comments both on my blog and on Facebook. I’ve even gotten a couple messages from people I know who have read my stuff, and one of G’s friends even said he loves my blog to me in person! (Thank you, again!) It touches me so much that people read what I write and find value in it. I’m so excited — I’m not just writing to myself anymore!
Improved traffic. I had a major drop early in the month, but I’m back up to where I was at. Unfortunately my epic 90+ views a day aren’t happening anymore, but I feel better with what I’m getting now. (Yes, 90 is epic. Don’t judge, I’m early in the game!)
Read everything I can about blogging. I know I’m contradicting myself a little here, but I think the key is not to try to implement everything. Reading as much as I have about blogging has helped me spot scams, and helped me realize that everyone is doing this differently! It’s about what you find works for you, and reading a lot about it helps you find those things.
Started ignoring the stats. When I first started, I was obsessed with my stats. I wanted to see how many pageviews I got every day! But that’s not useful at all. It’s way more useful to check in once a month, or once a week if you really want to. That way you can see patterns — it’s really helped me figure out what works and what doesn’t so far, even in the short time I’ve been doing this.
Branded consistently across platforms. I may be changing things up a bit, but that’s something I can do this early on! From the beginning, I’ve used the same pictures, or at least VERY similar pictures for my header images and my profile photos, and I’m really happy with how easy it is to see who I am. I’ve read everywhere that branding yourself is important, and it is — it’s also important that people can recognize you easily, so I think I’m doing this well!
Got a planner. This has made a HUGE difference. I now make to-do lists daily and have an editorial calendar. I’m planned until the end of March right now! Without this, I couldn’t be a week ahead, that’s for sure! If you’re interested in a blogging planner, check out the Happy Planner — it’s the one I use, and I love it!
January 2016 Fails
Staying ahead. I was ahead for two of the four weeks of January, and as of now I’m back to scrambling the night before. I let my extra free time get the better of me instead of using it to get two weeks ahead, as I had planned. I should have just gone on a longer hiatus and gotten two weeks ahead after the holidays. Being behind makes it hard to research, read other blogs/network, and learn more about blogging in general.
Spreading myself too thin when it came to social media. I tried to learn EVERYTHING I could about Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, and Pinterest, and soon realized I wasn’t doing myself any favours. Now I’ve devoted most of my energy towards to Pinterest and I’m seeing WAY better results! (Scroll down to see what I mean.)
Focusing on $$. This early on, money isn’t what I should be focusing on. I know that, but I couldn’t help feeling stressed about ads not generating enough impressions, and my drop in traffic. But I’m back to remembering what’s important: finding my niche and really just writing as much as I can.
Finding my niche. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, but I’m really having a hard time with it. I know I love writing about the topics of feminism, gender, and sexuality, and you guys seem to like that a lot as well, but I have no idea how to provide you with something you need, the same way a DIY blog or food blog does. Those blogs provide you with something you’re looking for, and solve a problem for you. Need to figure out how to make killer enchiladas? Find a food blog. Need to find tips on painting furniture? DIY blog. But what does a blog on feminism, gender, and sexuality do? What can I offer you? Tips on not being an asshole? So I started thinking about other things that I’m good at — saving money, teaching writing, even raising my kitten. But soon I realized that if I started writing only about those things, I would lose my passion… so I’m back to square one, without a real niche. And that’s making it really hard for me to grow! Sigh.
What I Want To Do In February
… find my niche. Yep. I’m going to try to write more about feminism, gender, and sexuality, and maybe read more about it and see how that goes. Unless you lovely readers have an idea — in which case, shoot me an email at
email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org or leave me a comment!
Find other blogs like mine. I have yet to find another blog that touches on similar topics besides And Possibly Dinosaurs. I think it would really help to read another person’s perspectives and see how they do things. If you ever come across one, do let me know!
Grow my Pinterest following. This makes sense since Pinterest accounts for the biggest chunk of my traffic right now. I’m going to try to join as many group boards as I can this next month!
Build my email list. Right now, you can sign up to get emails with my posts in your inbox once a week. I want to build this list and maybe even send out newsletters soon to build a better relationship with you guys 🙂
Get ahead. I know, I’m saying it again, but I need to make this happen! I’m going to get 2 months ahead.
And finally… the moment you’ve all been waiting for…
Media.net ads: $2 (but payout happens at $100)
Buffer: $10 USD ($14.46 CAD)
eBooks/learning material: $4.47 CAD
P.O. Box (annual): $203.70 CAD
So that’s it for January! If you want to see more about how I actually set up my blog and the costs of that, click here!