Today, I’m happy to be bringing you a guest post from Melissa J. Will. She shares her experience with Pinterest, how one image took her from the brink of ending her blog to a pro blogger earning a full time income. -Cynthia
How I Became a Pro Blogger With One Pin
Have you ever done something on a whim when you’re ready to give up and find it changes everything? This is the story of how one image pinned on Pinterest enabled me to finally fulfill my dream of becoming pro blogger.
Here’s how it happened.
After many years of writing various online journals and blogs, I had the big talk with myself and decided to actually step up my game and see if I could earn a living blogging. I had dabbled in my efforts over the years, but despite a core group of loyal readers, my blogging never really took off.
I have always loved to write, take photographs, and share creative gardening ideas, so I knew I had the ‘do what you love’ part covered. But how the heck do you convert that into a blog that earns consistent revenue? And enough to warrant quitting your day job?
In July of 2012, I decided to dive in. The first step was to set my ego aside (a lot of good it had done me!) and learn how to create a successful blog.
For the first time ever, I invested in my blog. I moved from Blogger to WordPress, got my own domain, paid for hosting, and devoured advice on pro-blogging.
Although it felt like I was burning money, I also started a mailing list and launched a newsletter. If it was possible to learn to be a pro-blogger, I was determined to do it.
The learning curve was painful and I gradually reworked everything: layout, design, how I post, when I post, photography style, as well as all of the behind the scenes stuff like search engine optimization. Other key ingredients like social sharing and networking came much later.
It took a while to find my new voice, but once I had it, writing became much easier. I saw that I could have a basic, consistent structure to my posts but still be myself, which for me is the key to sustainability in any work.
An invite to join Pinterest arrived in my inbox and I signed up to have a look. I played around with it, but I couldn’t quite grasp how to make good use of it. I knew I needed to pin and be repinned, but my efforts were paltry at best.
In the fall of 2012, traffic averaged a few hundred visitors per day with some spikes here and there. It was fine but not what I hoped for. My content was improving, response from readers was positive, my mailing list continued to grow, but ‘it’ was not happening. I was losing hope.
By December I found myself mulling over my future as a blogger. What the heck am I missing here? Am I just not cut out for this pro blogging stuff? How do you find a blogging tribe anyways? Without products to sell, pageviews are key to generating decent ad revenue and I was not there by any means. I was covering my operating expenses but that was about it. How long could I afford to keep this up?
Just before New Year’s Eve, I decided to shut down the blog. I wrote my final post: a brief summary of what I thought were my best DIY posts of the year and made a collage of the images. I decided to share it on Pinterest and then write my farewell newsletter. Enough was enough. I had tried my best but—sobs— it just wasn’t good enough.
I first pinned the collage on December 26. It seemed silly to even share garden-related content at that time of year, but I thought maybe someone in Australia might like it.
And then it happened. Repins. Click-throughs. More repins, More click-throughs. My little goodbye pin was going on a happy tour of Pinterest. New visitors came to my blog, read the post, and then read more posts. They subscribed to my feed and newsletter. They wrote me emails. Found my Facebook page. Looked up my YouTube videos. And returned to visit again! My sleepy blog was coming to life.
January and February 2013 were my best traffic months ever to date: something you’d never expect for a Canadian gardening blog in the middle of winter.
This Pinterest thing was starting to get really interesting. I began examining successful pins and pinners. Which pins take off? When are they pinned? What kind of boards should I have? How often should I pin? What’s annoying? What works? I found Cynthia’s brand new Oh So Pinteresting podcast and started soaking up her advice. Don’t just pin it, do it!
I became obsessed with making sure everything I pinned linked to its original source. It’s still something that slows me down considerably, but I wanted to be a trusted pinner with carefully curated boards.
Pinnable images became the starting point for new blog posts. I realized I had stumbled upon a good formula: create a series of related posts, each with at least one strong image, and then create a summary post with a collage. Double win-win: repurposed content with increased reach.
My pin-stincts seemed to be good. The pins I thought would do well, did well. My number of followers on Pinterest grew slowly but steadily, and, as the repins fanned out, my incoming traffic came from a variety of pin sources. By spring, Pinterest was officially my number one referrer.
Not only did I finally clue in to the potential of Pinterest, but the value of social media interactions in general. Hokey as it sounds, I realized it takes a village and it was right here at my fingertips.
I do not recall how many repins the goodbye collage had by then but today it’s just over 100k. That’s not even a huge number by some standards, but it is very encouraging to know that it’s engagement that matters, not just numbers.
By late spring I was consistently getting thousands of visitors per day. I finally learned how to optimize my ads, started sharing my content on Hometalk (a home and garden social hub which brought a whole new audience who pin from my blog), started including social media sharing in my daily routine (not just my own content but helping other bloggers too), and launched a DIY garden art eBook featuring the projects in that good-bye collage.
This was turning into a very long good-bye.
Now, a year later, with 10,000+ visitors a day, 60,000 Pinterest followers, income from ads, Amazon, and my ebooks, I am earning a full-time income as a blogger. I couldn’t find a blog tribe, so I reached out to talented garden-centric bloggers and created one.
Pinterest is still my home boy (big traffic driver), but, aware that things can change at any time, I work every day to keep diversifying, improving, looking at new opportunities, and making new friends. After all, who knows how long this farewell could last?
Big thanks to Melissa for this guest post, it’s so great to hear how Pinterest made her a pro blogger earning a full time income! Be sure to check out her blog Empress of Dirt: Creative and Frugal Home & Garden Ideas and follow her on Pinterest.