I recently hit a blog milestone that I thought would take a bit longer to reach: 10,000 monthly pageviews. I think it’s interesting to follow along others’ blogging journeys, so I wanted to share more about my blogging process, and what’s helped me grow my blog. (Since this post, I hit 51k pageviews in Decemember 2020!)
As a quick clarification: this is not one of those “How I Got 10k Pageviews in My First Month Blogging” posts. It’s more of a “How I Got 10k Pageviews in my 1000th Month of Blogging.” Blogging is not a get-rich-quick scheme for most people, especially in niches outside of “blogging about blogging.”
I’ve been blogging for a long, long time—basically 10+ years, and I’m just a 2018 college grad (you can do the math and see that I started blogging as a wee little middle schooler). Yes, it was very embarrassing. Yes, I did post lots of cringe-worthy outfit photos and tried to be a super hip ~fashion blogger~. For the longest time, I used my blog as sort of an online journal, sharing my outfits and memoir-style accounts of my life. I got maybe a few hundred pageviews/month, 1,000 if I was lucky.
I didn’t start taking blogging more “seriously” until late 2018, and even then, I had no idea how to really grow my blog. I was just writing whatever the heck I thought might be useful to people, and hoping it would be found. By the second half of 2019, I was getting around 3,500 pageviews/month (thanks to one post that was doing really well on Google). I also had switched my focus by this point to running, travel, and sustainability instead of fashion.
It wasn’t really until January 2020 that I actually started honing in on blog growth tools such as SEO (search engine optimization) and Pinterest. From December 2019-March 2020, I got about 5,000 pageviews/month. Then, in April 2020, my monthly traffic doubled to 10k, and I’m on track for more than 15k in May. It might not sound like a lot compared to other bloggers, but it’s awesome to see that growth. In April 2019, I got around 700 pageviews, so hitting 10k in April 2020 represents over 1300% growth!
Here’s what’s been working for me. And if you’re also hoping to hit 10k pageviews, these tools and methods are pretty tried and true, so they should work for you too.
Some Quick Blogging Terminology
Before I begin, here’s a quick overview of some terminology I’ll be using:
Pageviews: the number of times a page/post is loaded (pretty self-explanatory haha).
Sessions: a single visit to your website (a visitor can view multiple pages in a session, so your pageviews are generally higher than your sessions); if that person comes back to your site a few hours later, then it’s a new session.
Unique pageviews: the number of posts/pages that are viewed, minus duplicate views by the same person in the same session. Say a person views Page 1 twice and Page 2 once during their session. In this case, you’d have 3 pageviews, 2 unique pageviews, and 1 session. For this reason, unique pageviews are lower than pageviews, but higher than sessions.
User: number of people who visit your site. This is generally the lowest value of these 4 terms.
In April 2020, I got:
- 10,305 pageviews
- 9,412 unique pageviews
- 8,290 sessions
- 7,187 users
A graph comparing my traffic from April 2019 and April 2020. Accidentally installed Google Analytics twice in 2018 and didn’t catch it until late 2019, which is why some old stats are out of whack. The unique pageviews are correct though, as they eliminate duplicates.
3 Ways I Grew My Blog 1300% in One Year
Of the 7,187 users I had in April 2020, 63.8% came from organic search (4,609 users), and 27.3% from social (1,954 users). Within social, 63% came from Pinterest (1,238 users), and 35% from Facebook (687 users). I’ll be breaking down each of these categories and how I used them to grow my blog.
1. Implementing SEO.
I get 60-75% of my monthly traffic from organic search on Google. The percentage was a little lower in April since I had a spike in traffic from social.
SEO (search engine optimization) is the most reliable way to get consistent traffic, but it takes time to learn, and time for it to “kick in.” SEO is very broad and nuanced concept, but to simplify it, it involves a couple main tasks: keyword research and on-page SEO.
SEO Crash Course: Keyword Research and On-Page SEO
For keyword research, you’ll need a paid tool—there are some free ones, but they don’t have the same functionalities. You can also get 10 free searches/month on the Keyword Explorer in Moz. I personally use SEMRush since I get it for free at work (it’s normally $100+/month), but the most popular for bloggers is Keysearch ($17/month). These tools let you know things like monthly search volume, keyword difficulty (how hard it is to rank for a keyword), and related keywords.
You can use keyword research either to get ideas for articles, or you can go into it with an idea for a post and see how to best frame it, based on what people are searching. I tend to do the latter. For instance I wanted to write about Aura, a light show at the Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal. I looked up “Aura Montreal” in SEMRush to see how competitive it was, and get ideas for my post.
The Keyword Magic Tool in SEMRush
“Aura Montreal” had 480 monthly search volume and a keyword difficulty of 68.96, which is relatively hard for a smaller blog link mine (keyword difficulty is on a scale of 1-100, with 100 being the hardest). I also noticed that most of the sites ranking for the keyword were major sites with high Domain Authority (kind of like the “prestige” of a website). I knew I couldn’t compete with sites like TripAdvisor and Montreal Tourism.
But no worries—I was thinking of doing a review of Aura anyways, and there were a handful of related keywords with lower volume, albeit higher keyword difficulty. Most of the review results were individual reviews on TripAdvisor though, and not their main Aura Montreal TripAdvisor page, and I thought that a blog article would be able to outrank an individual review. I also saw the suggested question “is aura basilica montreal worth it,” and while it had zero volume, it seemed like a good way to frame my post, and was something I’d searched myself before going to Aura. So, I titled my post: Is Aura Montreal Worth it? Review of the Notre-Dame Basilica Light Show (I included “light show” and “notre-dame” because of related keywords).
Some suggested keywords
When it comes to on-page SEO, you’ll want to write your post in a way that’s user- and crawler-friendly. This means breaking your post down into distinct sections with H2 and H3 headings. Your H2 and H3 headings can be whatever seems natural, but you can also use them to incorporate related keywords, or common questions. In the example of my Aura post, I included a heading for the dates and schedule of Aura Montreal since “aura montreal dates” and “aura montreal schedule” were related keywords.
You’ll also want to pay attention to your URL and make sure to include your main keyword in the path (what comes after the .com). It also shouldn’t be too long, and should avoid including the date/month/year (it’s unnecessary and dates the post, unless it’s a time-sensitive article). Your URL also shouldn’t include numbers related to the post; if your post is about 10 best restaurants in Paris, just leave out the “10” in the URL path. That way, if you decide to change the post and add/subtract restaurants, your URL doesn’t awkwardly suggest another number.
I also try to write as helpful a post as possible, as longer posts generally rank higher on Google (mine are usually at least 1200 words). Of course, you should always try to match user intent; this doesn’t mean you should fluff up your post with irrelevant info (a post about how to make fried eggplant shouldn’t talk about the history of eggplant)—it just means to answer the query (what’s searched) as thoroughly as possible.
How SEO Has Worked for Me
The above example was just to quickly illustrate how to implement SEO. My Aura post isn’t actually bringing me a ton of traffic, as I’m not ranking very high for it yet (SEO often takes several months to “kick in,” especially if you’re a smaller blog).
Most of the posts bringing me traffic are running-related posts. Basically 60% of my April traffic went to a handful of running posts, and 55% of my total monthly traffic went to two specific posts that were ranking in the top 3 for related keywords. This is a huge spike from previous months, likely because the pandemic has made running more popular. I also had written some new running posts, which were starting to get more traffic.
A running gear post was actually my very first post to rank on Google and bring me consistent organic search traffic. This happened totally by accident—I wrote the comparison before I even knew what keyword research was. I just wrote the post because I thought it might be helpful, and because I wish a post like that had existed when I was deciding between the two products.
I’ve continued to write these types of posts because they perform well for me. SEO is also largely based on experience—most of these running keywords are extremely difficult to rank for (70-80 keyword difficulty), but since I’ve been able to rank for it in the past, Google recognizes my authority in the topic, and that allows me to rank for future running posts (and to rank relatively quickly compared to my other posts). The idea is to try a bunch of different things (within your “brand” or niche), and see what specific topic works for your blog, and to keep developing posts within that area.
And above all, remember that you need to write what people are looking for, if you want traffic from Google. You can’t just write whatever you want and hope for the best (I see this mistake a lot with newer bloggers who share personal trip accounts and selfies, and hope they’ll get tons of traffic). SEO does make blogging a little “drier” since personal stories in themselves aren’t going to rank on Google, but you can still find ways to incorporate your personal experiences into SEO-optimized posts. For example, I shared a creepy Couchsurfing experience in my guide to Couchsurfing, which was informational, but also allowed for personal stories. I’m also all for finding a balance between SEO and personal posts. That’s why not every single one of my posts is optimized for Google—some of them are just for fun, because I feel like sharing them.
2. Learning how to use Pinterest and Tailwind.
Edit in November 2020: Since writing this, Pinterest best practices have changed. I’ve updated the post to include best practices, but you should also know that Pinterest has become extremely glitchy, and many bloggers are experiencing traffic issues. I still think Pinterest can be a helpful tool, but you should always diversify traffic sources (hello, TikTok!).
I put off learning Pinterest properly for months. I used to think that it was only for teen girls to pin pics of hot guys and fantasize about their weddings (mostly because I had friends growing up who used Pinterest for that LOL). When I finally did make an account for my blog, I thought that all you had to do was create a basic pin, share it to one board, and done—let the viral blog traffic roll in!
It’s definitely a lot more complicated than that. Pinterest is a visual search engine with its own set of best practices and keyword research strategies.
For the longest time, I was getting only a few clicks per day from Pinterest. Now that I’m more familiar with Pinterest best practices, I get an average of 40-60 clicks/day (and I have fewer than 200 followers!). Here’s my Pinterest process:
Create a pretty pin design on Canva.
Canva is a user-friendly graphics creator where you can design everything from resumes to Pinterest pins. I have Canva pro now for extra fonts and stock images, but the free version does just fine. The important thing is to make your pin look good—if the pin is ugly or too basic (like my old ones were), it won’t get clicks. Here are some examples of my old vs. new pins:
Another common mistake I was making was that I only created one pin per post. Now, I end up creating around 5 per post, sometimes more (though usually not all at once). This allows you to keep promoting your post on Pinterest with new pins (Pinterest likes “fresh” content).
Pin manually to my most relevant board.
After creating a pin, I either add it to my blog post (if it doesn’t already have a pin) and pin it using my browser extension, or I upload to Pinterest. People say that launching your pin manually is important, so avoid launching through a scheduler.
Another thing I was doing wrong was having too few boards. Having at least 5-10 relevant boards (including group boards) for your pins helps get it seen by more people. For example, if I have a pin for an article about Boston, I’ll first add it to my Boston board. I have almost 120 boards total—the more posts you have about a specific place, the more granular you should get. That’s why I have a few city and region boards. But for continents and countries I haven’t been to, I’ll just have a more general continent or country board.
You should also make sure to fill out your pin title and description using relevant keywords. Pinterest is a search engine like Google, so you want to try to get your pin to show up when people search related keywords. Keyword research on Pinterest is totally different from that on Google though. There are certain things that will do well on Pinterest, but not on Google, and vice versa. I actually write some of my posts “for Pinterest,” knowing that they might not rank on Google, but are likely to get lots of clicks on Pinterest (based on my experience and keyword research).
Pinterest keyword research is a little easier in that it’s more intuitive—I usually just look up a broader keyword like “Bordeaux France” and see what Pinterest suggests (the higher volume keywords will appear closer to the left). From there, you can write a relevant title and description. Pinterest SEO is also easier in that you can “keyword stuff” without penalty. While stuffing your keyword into your blog post wherever possible is not encouraged (it decreases the user experience, and Google penalizes this), you can “stuff” a bunch of Pinterest keywords at the end of your description, and Pinterest won’t care. It’s a very common practice that allows you to try to rank for more keywords.
Example of the keyword suggestions you get when you search “Bordeaux, France”
Example of one of my pins that’s doing well and used “keyword stuffing” in the description.
Schedule the pin through Tailwind to the most relevant other boards.
From there, I schedule the pin using Tailwind to a handful of other boards, with an interval of 3-5 days between each pin. For example, I’d schedule the Boston pin to my then Massachusetts Board, then New England, then USA. I may also schedule to my “Best of the blog” board, and a couple of USA group boards (the more niche boards tend to be better than general travel and continent ones).
I didn’t want to buy Tailwind for the longest time since it’s quite an investment ($15/month for the plan I use, $10 for the most basic option). I finally caved though since I wanted to be able to schedule a steady stream of my own pins without keeping track of things manually. I also wanted to participate in Tailwind communities, which are groups within the website based on a specific niche. For example, I’m part of a few travel communities and sustainability communities.
Within each community, you can share your pins to be reshared by others. Most communities have a 1:1 or 1:2 repin ratio (so you have to repin 1-2 other pins for every pin you add to the community). This allows your pins to get seen by more people, especially if your Pinterest account is still small. There are some pretty high-profile bloggers in these communities, and I’ve been able to get way more clicks using Tailwind. When I got my Tailwind subscription, I went from 5 clicks/day to around 20/day to an average of 50/day now (update 11/2020: I now get 250 clicks/day from Pinterest, when it’s not glitching).
If you’re interested in trying Tailwind, you can get a $15 credit and your first month free with my referral code.
The huge jump in link clicks after I got Tailwind. All of this is organic (the two spikes are pins that went “viral”).
Participate in pin threads.
Update: I no longer participate in these, but they may be helpful to people just starting out.
One final thing I do is to participate in repin threads in blogging Facebook groups. This is where you drop a pin of yours and you have to repin everyone else’s. It’s another great way to get your pins seen by more people if you’re a smaller account.
Some people say these are a waste of time, and I actually don’t have any real evidence that they work for me. My pins have ranked and gotten decent clicks both with and without the threads. I think the general consensus is that they still help, so I’ve still been participating.
3. Leveraging Facebook & niche Facebook groups.
The final big chunk of my traffic came from Facebook in April 2020, though this is unusual. I got just under 1,000 pageviews that month from Facebook, but in the average month, Facebook makes up an insignificant amount of my traffic.
I got lucky this month because my roundup of YouTube channels to improve your French got lots of clicks and reshares from Facebook. This is mainly because my friend Diane of Oui in France (a living abroad lifestyle blog) shared my post on her page. I had recently updated the post and included her channel, so it was a really nice case of bloggers supporting bloggers 🙂 (and totally organically too, as I hadn’t even told her that I included her channel in my post).
I had also shared the post in a travel Facebook group where there are a lot of fans of the French language and culture. I’d noticed people asking for French YouTube recommendations before, so it was a natural place to share. Niche Facebook groups (like for running, travel, hiking) are really blowing up, and they’re a great place to find a specific audience. If you share your article though, it’s important to do so in a way that encourages engagement from the group, and in a way that isn’t blatant self-promotion. When I shared my French YouTube channels post, I also made sure to ask others what their favorite channels were, creating the space for people to learn about other channels too.
Facebook groups can also help your blog grow if you respond to people’s posts looking for advice, and link to a relevant blog post. Say they’re looking for hikes to do in Hawaii, and you have a post on that—you can suggest a few, then link to your post. This is a lot of effort to keep responding to these posts though, and there’s marginal gain. Still, it’s another way to reach a specific audience for your posts.
Example of how I shared my blog post in a group in a natural way that encourages discussion.
4. Having some luck.
I wouldn’t have hit 10k pageviews if everything hadn’t lined up the way it had. If the pandemic hadn’t made running trendy, I wouldn’t have gotten a huge spike in organic traffic. If I hadn’t written the post that got 40% of my April traffic, I wouldn’t have hit 10k pageviews. If my friend Diane hadn’t shared my French YouTube channels post, it wouldn’t have gotten all those views. If I hadn’t written that one running post over a year ago, I wouldn’t have known that those posts work well for my blog. If I’d followed the conventional advice to “niche down” and only wrote about travel, I would’ve lost massive traffic during this time.
I think it’s important to recognize that while you can work super hard and do everything right, you also need some degree of luck to hit your goals. Sometimes, everything lines up in your favor. Other times, it doesn’t. For instance, I might lose tons of traffic if running becomes less popular when people can go back to gyms. I can’t control that, and that’s fine. I’m just going to keep working on the things I can control, like SEO and Pinterest (well, I can’t control their algorithms, but I can optimize my content).
I hope this showed you some new ways to grow your blog, or it was at least interesting to read about my strategy and blogging journey. I love reading these more personal blogging recaps myself, so I wanted to share my own.
If you don’t have a blog yet but want to start one, be sure to check out my beginner’s guide to blogging. If you are a blogger yourself, I’d love to hear what’s been working (or not) for you in your blogging journey.