(Since this post has been published, the blog has been re-named! Letters From Sunshine is now Forever Charlotte Nicole, but it’s still the same great site and content!)
I can’t believe that it’s already been a month-and-a-half since I launched Letters From Sunshine. The time seems to have flown by; truthfully, I had been planning on starting this blog for over a year, so it makes it feel like I’ve been blogging for a lot longer than what I actually have been. This post is a reflection on what I have learned over the past month, my accomplishments and downfalls, and my goals for the next month.
Just a quick disclaimer: although I use “first month” in my title, everything that I’m going to be talking about actually happened over a six-week period. I want future posts like this to be in even, monthly increments (i.e. month of March, April, May, etc.), and since I started my blog mid-January, that wasn’t going to work out so well for the first month. However, when I talk about my site stats, I will make clarifications between the first four weeks, the month of February, and the current six-week increment.
Before I Started Blogging…
I had thought about starting a blog for about a year before I actually launched. Why did I wait so long to actually start one? For starters, I needed time to think about the blog in itself. What was it going to be called? What would my personal brand be? As I thought about it, the name “Letters From Sunshine” popped into my head and made perfect sense. Blogging is (kind-of) like writing a letter and I’m an optimistic person (so the nickname “Sunshine”), so the name seemed to work pretty well; I also made the choice to sign all of my blog posts “Sincerely, Sunshine”, just like a letter.
After choosing my blog’s name, I then chose the colors of my brand–yellow and blue–to revolve around it.
I also needed time to think about what I was going to write about. I wanted my niche set and plenty of ideas ready before I jumped in so that I wouldn’t hit writer’s block early on; I actually wrote a few posts several months before I launched, just to get a feel for it.
Truthfully, most of this time was spent doing research over blogging; I wanted to know as much as I could about what I was getting into, what to expect, and how everything worked. I’m glad I did, because it made the process of getting hosting and WordPress so much easier, as well as finding blog images, using SEO (although I need to improve it), etc.
Finally, I decided to jump in and begin blogging when I noticed a sale on hosting. I spent about a month getting my site set up, posts finalized, and had a countdown on Facebook and Instagram leading up to the official launch date of January 17, 2017. (I actually chose that date specifically so that Letters From Sunshine’s birthday would be 1/17/17.) When January 17th arrived, I launched with three blog posts (How to Request a Job Shadow, What to do After You Win a Scholarship, and Why You Should Job Shadow Before Senior Year), which leads me to my first reflection…
Adventure One: Blog Posts
When Letters From Sunshine launched, it had three posts and I have posted four others since then, this one being the eighth total. My goal starting out was to post once a week, which I accomplished every time except for one week.
The post for the missing week was supposed to be The Display Dorm Room vs The Real Dorm Room, which I ended up posting two weeks later than planned. The night before it was supposed to be posted, I had it ready to publish…but something about it kept nagging me; I didn’t feel as if it was quite right yet.
I decided not to post it yet, but I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it. I took a break from it to write the next week’s post. When I came back to it, I had a clearer sense of what I was trying to say and the best way to write it. Although it meant not meeting my goal for that week, I’m glad that I waited to post it; I always do my best to never sacrifice the quality of my work, both in and outside of blogging; this was especially important to me since I am just starting out blogging, as well. That post is now one of my most visited and re-pinned posts, which goes to show that it is better to have quality work.
The lesson learned? Don’t settle for less than what you know you are capable of, even if it means missing your initial goal.
Adventure Two: Social Media
I’m going to be honest here: Before starting my blog, I was probably one of the few millennials that had never had an Instagram or Twitter account and I had just started getting on Facebook again a month before the blog’s launch; the only social media platform that I consistently used was Pinterest.
So the process of starting social media pages for Letters From Sunshine was a little overwhelming. Although I am starting to get the hang of it, I am still learning how to utilize these platforms to promote my blog and connect with other bloggers, but I am enjoying the process. About two weeks into blogging, I joined my first #BloggingCollege twitter chat, which I absolutely loved and it helped me get acquainted with some of my fellow bloggers, all of whom are super-supportive and amazing.
As for Instagram, I am still trying to figure out what to post and how to caption everything. (If you have any tips for me, please leave them in the comments below or email me!) There are tons of amazing themes that people use for their Instagram pages, but I am personally not sure if I want to limit my content based on a color scheme. Maybe I’ll decide to try it out one day, but as for now I would rather focus on learning more about the platform, connecting with other bloggers, and sharing my content.
Adventure Three: Pinterest
Okay, so technically Pinterest is a social media platform and would go under Adventure Three: Social Media, but Pinterest deserves it’s own category because this is where 80% of my traffic comes from!
When I was doing research over blogging, I learned how important Pinterest was for providing blog traffic, so Pinterest was one of the first social media accounts that I set up for my blog. Over the past six weeks, I applied for rich pins, wrote quality descriptions, and paid attention to my analytics. I also joined some group boards.
One lesson that I learned just three days ago: it is not only about joining group boards that helps provide blog traffic, but which group boards you join.
I am a member of several group boards on Pinterest that fit within my niche, which is great; like I said before, Pinterest was providing me with 80% of my traffic, but this traffic was generally no more then about 20 pageviews on a good day. All of the blogging articles I read talked about how much group boards helped them grow their traffic, but I just wasn’t seeing it yet.
Three days ago, however, I got invited to another group board. I accepted, pinned a few of my pins to it, and didn’t think much about it for the rest of the day.
The next morning, I logged on and saw that my blog traffic had not doubled in amount, had not tripled in amount, but was 11 TIMES my normal amount! All of a sudden I was going from pageviews in the tens and teens to about 90 pageviews in one day. I was absolutely ecstatic! This trend of higher pageviews has continued the past few days, as well. I’m looking forward to seeing how it changes in the month of March as I get more posts up and work on promoting them more.
Adventure Four: Site Stats
Although I wasn’t that thrilled with my daily stats (which are honestly to be expected since I am a new blog and I only had seven posts up), I am really happy with them when looking at the month as a whole. When I was researching blogging, I loved the posts that would share their site stats and how they achieved them, so I have decided to do that as well so that if anybody else decides to begin a blog, they can have (another) point-of reference.
For my first six weeks of blogging, I have had over about 550 pageviews, with about 230 of them being in the first “actual” four weeks; the month of February saw about 420 pageviews. Again, that is pretty amazing since I am a new blogger! My goal is to continue raising that number of pageviews and to get those who are visiting my blog for the first time (which is pretty much everybody) to become regular readers; I hope to do this through an increased social media presence as I become more familiar and comfortable with the platforms, as well as posting more articles.
I achieved these stats by (1) Writing quality content, (2) Posting the content during a period of high demand, (3) Promoting on social media, and (4) Connecting with other bloggers.
Some of my posts I wrote months before my blog launched, during that previously mentioned time period when I wrote a few just to get the feel of what my blogging voice was. I also planned some of my posts so that they would be published during a period of high demand. One of my posts that I have been seeing top views from are Ten Factors To Consider Before Choosing Your Dorm. The spring semester is when a lot of high school seniors are making their college choices and applying for housing, so I published this knowing that it would be relevant at this point in time, rather than posting it in (for example) September when it is not going to be of much use to anybody.
I also promoted my blog a bit on social media, mainly through Twitter. I will often link posts to my tweets and use relevant hashtags to get my content out to people. As a new blog, I also knew that it is important to connect with other bloggers, so I participated in a Twitter chat, commented on their blogs, and will reply to and re-tweet other blogger’s tweets.
Adventure Five: Changes During the First Six Weeks
As I started out blogging and began to get a feel for it, I made a few changes to better represent my brand.
One of the first things to go was my original blog header. Although I loved it at first, I quickly realized that it wasn’t fitting with the “college-bound, college lifestyle” brand that I was going for. Luckily, I was quickly able to make a new header that I loved even more.
I also gave Letters From Sunshine a slogan/motto: A Millennial College Blog.
I originally wasn’t going to have a slogan for my blog, but when I was creating new banners for my social media pages I realized that I needed something to explain what my blog was about, since my blog name doesn’t do that. “A Millennial College Blog” seemed to work really well, so I adopted it into my brand.
Goals for March
Although I am really happy with what I have accomplished the first six weeks of blogging, I know that I am still a newbie in the blogging world and have a lot to learn; I cannot be more excited for it.
Besides the previously-stated goals of continuing to post once a week and growing my audience, I would also like to post more on social media. So far (on Twitter) I’ve limited myself to doing re-tweets and alerts about new posts, but I would like to expand past that (any tips on the best ways to do that?); the same applies to Facebook. Currently, however, Instagram is my highest priority for figuring out how to use to promote my blog. I have been looking at how other bloggers utilize Instagram for ideas, but it is something that is going to take time to figure out.
I am super excited about (finally) posting this and would love to hear your thoughts! If you are also a blogger, I would love to hear feedback and suggestions, as well.