I know blogging and building a following takes time to build, but I’m struggling to actually get it done because I kind of feel like I’m writing to a void, an invisible audience, like no one is going to read it, so why put in all the effort? Yet, I feel like I have a lot I want to say. How did you deal with starting your blog knowing that there might not have been many readers?
Friend, we feel ya. Boyyy, do we feel ya! In some of those really early days, there were only two people reading our blog… and they both lived in our house! And that’s because everyone starts in the same place: at the beginning. To be honest, until we went full-time last year, we thought we didn’t have time to blog five days per week. We blogged shoots when we had them, but that was it. There were so many other things that needed our attention and not quite enough hours in the day. In hindsight, though, if we had to do it over again, we’d have made time for it, because it’s revolutionized our business. We heard that for years from some of the country’s most successful photographers, but we didn’t 100% believe it until we saw it for ourselves.
It’s been one year since we started blogging full-time and, just like Shakira’s hips, the numbers don’t lie. When we compare the number of visitors to our blog in May 2013 (one month before we started blogging five days per week) to May 2014 (last month), our total traffic is up 600%. And when we started, knowing one day the audience wouldn’t be quite-so-invisible anymore like it is now, was enough motivation to push through the days when all we heard were crickets. Has it been easy? Heck, no! We’d be lying if we told you it was. It’s actually been a labor of love, a lot of good old-fashioned hard work.
So, how did we stay motivated?
1. Plan on Linking Previous Content
At the beginning, it was especially tough, because, like we said, we didn’t see an immediate return on our time investment. We spent hours and hours brainstorming ideas and writing posts to connect with people and help them, too, and then we’d watch the numbers — and they wouldn’t move. We felt discouraged. Who wouldn’t? And, the worst part? The next day, we’d do it all over again, sometimes to just a slightly better result, and the post from the day before felt gone, wasted, buried in the blog. Does that mean it wasn’t good content? Of course not! It just means the audience hadn’t grown yet. But, one of the best things we decided to do is write series that link all the previous content together. That way, for example, if someone visits our blog for the first time today, they can easily find the rest of the posts in this series or others, like The Story of Us or The Pink Slip Files.
But, regardless of how we felt, it’s like we tell people, we hadn’t earned the traffic yet. We hadn’t made a consistent investment in people’s lives. We hadn’t proven that we were for real, here to stay, and here for a purpose. So, we kept chugging along. Post after post. Some days were better than others. That’s still true, of course, and always will be. But when we looked at our growth over time, not just a snap shot of a few days or a week, we started to see improvement — and that’s continued to build on itself.
2. Write for People, Not Numbers
Also, when we stopped looking at our Google Analytics as numbers, and started looking at each number as a person, it changed everything. Because that’s the point of this whole endeavor anyways, to create an online community of friends who can come to this place every day for something that will make their life better. What’s awesome, is that oftentimes we get messages or emails that references a post on this blog that touched someone’s life, but the post isn’t from the current day and time. It’s from a year ago, when we thought no one was reading, which is why, when we started blogging full-time, we always kept future readers in mind, and spent just a little extra time making sure we were writing something worth reading — even if no one was, just yet. To answer your question directly, friend, you’re not blogging to an invisible audience and you’re not writing to numbers. You’re writing to real people with real lives. Real wants. Real hopes. Real dreams. You’re taking a tool that’s cold and metal and using it for something warm and loving: connecting with people.
3. Write for You
Lastly, when we look back on the past twelve months and really reflect on everything we’ve done, this blog has probably meant more to us than almost anything else, because we decided to be authentic, we decided to be real, we decided to be us, and now we have this incredible gift that we get to share with each other, a running diary of our life. Where we’ve been. What we’ve done. Who we’ve loved. It’s a blessing in every sense of the word and something we’ll cherish for the rest of our life. The interesting thing is that, at the start, we were the only two people reading our blog, so we were quite literally writing for ourselves, but we believe that when God can trust you with a little, He trusts you with a lot — and that’s what makes this so much fun, because no matter how many thousands of people read our blog each month now, at the end of the day, we’re still writing like we did over a year ago, as if we were the only two readers…
Good luck, friend. We’re cheering you on.
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More from the Dear A&J Series…
1. The Best Place to Invest
2. How to Choose a Session Location
3. How to Find Great Light
4. How to Blog to an Invisible Audience
5. How to Take Sharp Family Portraits
6. What Lens Should I Buy Next?