Though it’s been 2019 for over a week now, I am still in quite the reflective mood. Last year, I wrote a post about how my blog did in 2017 and shared a lot of insights gleaned from the metrics I track in Google Analytics—you can read it here. I decided to write a similar post this year since it’s a win-win as I dedicate some time to really sit down and comb through reader behavior on my site and you get to see a behind-the-scenes look at A Touch of Teal.
There were many months of 2018 where my blog wasn’t my top priority—and that’s okay with me! I absolutely love blogging as a hobby, but I personally wouldn’t ever want to blog full time. I love going to work everyday and being in an office surrounded by other other people, and because my full-time job is the one that pays my rent, it always has to come first. That being said, I am really proud of the content I published this year—and the new Empress Theme I installed nearly a year ago now. When I was newer at blogging, I’d be frustrated that my work wasn’t as good as other bloggers’ work (comparison is the thief of joy!), so I set some standards around photography and content that I always adhere to so that I can make sure I’m proud of what I am putting out there. I feel like I did a good job of upholding those standards this year and really hit my stride in creating content I’d want to read. I’m excited to see where 2019 takes me on my blogging journey!
Like I said last year, I’m always looking for new posts ideas or behind-the-scenes content to share over on Instagram Stories, so if you ever have an idea or want me to talk about something, please don’t be shy about reaching out! My email is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
01. Measuring My 2018 Goals
Last year, I set three main blogging goals, and I think I did a decent job overall achieving the goals I set for myself—here’s a recap:
One // Expand my travel content and work with more hotels and tourism boards. In terms of expanding my travel content, I am really proud of all the work I put into that section of my site. I wrote a recap of pretty much every trip I took this year and even had the opportunity to write more general travel content, like about my flight anxiety or my favorite carry-on suitcase. In the fall, I was even approached by a book publisher to write a 15-20 city travel guide on cities in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States targeted at millennial women travelers. Though I said no to the opportunity for a variety of reasons (namely, I don’t have time to take on something like that right now!), I was still very honored to be asked—and realized I’d love to write a book one day.
In regards to working more with hotels/tourism boards, I partnered with The Greenbrier Hotel earlier this year and went on one of my favorite trips of my life! Other than that, I didn’t partner with any hotels or tourism boards this year—but I also didn’t proactively reach out to any ahead of my trips. I love going on media trips and partnering with hotels, but when I am traveling for personal pleasure, it’s nice to not have that pressure or the constraint of working around someone else’s schedule. That being said, I’d love to continue to expand my travel content this year and hope to at least take one media trip.
Two // Increase my blog revenue by 10%. When considering my blog revenue, I only account money. All the perks of courtesy items, advanced copies of books, and food/drinks/experiences at events are awesome and things I certainly don’t take for granted. However, cash is the only thing I can use to pay blog expenses with, so it’s the most important thing when considering revenue. This past year, A Touch of Teal had the best year it has ever had in terms of profitability as I increased my revenue by 221%. That’s right, 221%. I had to run the numbers a few times because I couldn’t believe it! My rewardStyle sales were actually down by about $200, but I had some great sponsorship opportunities with Master of Mixes, Old Bay, and Total Wine that more than made up the difference. I’m hoping to bring some of this momentum into the new year!
Three // Be better about saying yes to networking events and opportunities in DC. I think I did a great job at this goal, thanks to my blog squad here in DC. Whenever we are invited to an event and have a plus one, we text it to the group and see who wants to attend. To name a few cool events the blog brought me invites to this year: Diner en Blanc, a happy hour at The Capital Burger, a fall menu tasting at City Winery DC, a networking event at The Observatory at America’s Square, and a fun bottomless brunch at Urban Butcher. I’m excited to see what the new year holds, and want to continue looking for fun opportunities to better connect with my city, both through the blog and just in general with my friends!
02. By the Numbers
I published 137 blog posts in 2018 as compared to 2017’s 144 blog posts. This is the second year in a row that my number of blog posts decreased, though this year’s decrease wasn’t as substantiative as the difference between 2016 and 2017. I felt like this year I had a good balance of blogging in my free time while also making time for other things, like reading for pleasure, hanging out with friends, exercising, and traveling.
I blogged the least in September when I only published four posts. This is not surprising to me at all—September was the busiest month at my old day job (which included some travel out of town), I moved apartments, and I was out of town for two weekends. Though I usually try to get posts up each Monday/Wednesday, with link love on Friday about every other week, I don’t beat myself up about it when I can’t adhere to this schedule.
In terms of blog traffic, I was down pretty much across the board—but, hey, you win some, you lose some! My page views were down 7% and my unique monthly visitors were down by 12%. I published less posts this year, which meant fewer opportunities to drive traffic to my site, I hid some really old posts that were filler content, which resulted in less content overall driving traffic, and I also utilized social media less than in the past—I especially slacked on Pinterest. (More on that below!) I am not that concerned about this dip in traffic, as my blog still performed better in 2018 than it did in 2016, so not all my gains were lost.
My social media experienced close to zero growth, but that seems to be the case for a lot of bloggers and I also didn’t put too much time or effort in growing my social channels. My blog will always be my bread and butter since it’s the only thing I can completely control and I like to think of my social media as tools to help me promote new blog content and share more behind-the-scenes, real life content. I did make a real effort this year to get to know readers who reached out to me via DM and always answer questions, so that is one thing I’m proud of in regards to social media!
03. Most Popular Posts of 2018
Last year, I included posts from any year in my top ten posts list—but because of the power of SEO and evergreen content, many of those posts are the same this year. As such, I decided to change things up and only highlight the top ten posts published this year:
1. Festive Watermelon Daiquiris for July 4—I was really excited to see this post was the top-performing post of the year as it is one I did as part of my year-long campaign with Master of Mixes. They promoted my post on their social media accounts, which lead to an increase in traffic. I love the imagery in this post—it was such a fun cocktail to shoot and a special memory since my sister Lindsey was my photographer!
2. The Best Thing I Bought in 2017—this reminds me, I need to write a post about my best buy of 2018—though, truthfully, I am not sure I’ll be able to pick just one this year!
3. The 2018 Nordstrom Anniversary Sale—the most wonderful sale of the year! I paid to promote the link to my blog post on Facebook as a way to drive a larger audience to my site during the sale. I always make a large chunk of my affiliate sales revenue during the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, so paying $20-25 to promote my post is a great return on investment.
4. Pomegranate Spritzer for the Holidays—a recent post, Total Wine paid to promote this post on social media, which drove a lot of traffic to it during the holiday season. I’m also really proud of the imagery in this post!
5. Money Diary: A Week in Arlington, VA—this is one of my personal favorite posts of the past year, and I just added one to my editorial calendar for this year now that I’ve moved to DC and changed jobs. Look for it within the next month!
6. 5 Items Under $50 I Can’t Live Without—written for an Empress Themes linkup with other bloggers, I loved thinking about the five items I reach for daily that are all under $50. I stand by everything I referenced in this post last March!
7. My New Nightstands—I was surprised this post made the list, but I set the focus keyword as the name of the nightstand, so my guess is a lot of people who are considering buying them from Wayfair find this post through their research. I always try to set my focus keyword in SEO by Yoast to be a logical search term I would use to find the content.
8. My (Amazing) Weekend at The Greenbrier—one of my favorite posts from the year, I also linked back to this post regularly throughout the year, which probably helped to drive traffic.
9. 48 Hours in St. Michaels, Maryland—I loved this trip so much, and I loved writing this post! Published in October, I was impressed that this post was able to have enough time to crack the top ten given there was no promotion behind it. My guess is that a lot of my local readers are interested in learning about easy weekend getaway spots within driving distance.
10. My Favorite Spots in Georgetown—I was glad to see this post round out the top ten as it’s one of my goals to bring you more DC content in the coming year!
04. Most Popular Searches
Like I mentioned last year, one of the key things I monitor in Google Analytics is what you are searching for on my site. Though many of these searches are one-off searches when you’re looking for one of my past posts, every now and then a trend emerges with lots of readers searching for the same post or type of content.
Here’s a look at the top ten phrases that were searched on my site in 2018:
- One True Loves
- The Light We Lost
- Link Love
- Grad School
- Life Lately
- New Orleans
- Arlington Apartment
The first two phases in this list are two of my favorite books—and throughout the other popular search phrases not listed here, other books were commonly searched, too. This makes me happy as I absolutely love sharing my favorite reads with you and am excited people are using my site as a resource for finding a new book to read.
Another trend that emerged is that people are searching cities I’ve written travel guides about. This also makes me really excited, as I know that travel guides and trip recaps aren’t really useful to you unless you have a trip planned to that destination. However, I often have people tell me in person they’ve referred back to one of my posts when they are planning a trip, and it seems like search data also supports that!
05. How You Found Me
In the past, I did a really good job of keeping track of how people found my blog because it helped me prioritize which social media outlets to dedicate the most time to when I wasn’t working directly on the blog. This year, I didn’t pay as much attention as I should have and pretty much spent whatever time I wasn’t working on the blog on Instagram since it’s my favorite social media platform to browse as a user and create content for as a blogger. One downside of Instagram is that it is harder to track referral traffic from since the only place to include a link to the blog is in my Instagram bio!
The top way people found my blog in 2018 was via Orangic Search, which is when my blog appears on a Google/Bing/Yahoo search result. The second most popular way people found me last year was via Direct traffic, which is when someone types in the URL to my blog into their browser. Below are the top referral / social media traffic sources for 2018:
- Monica Dutia
- DC to a T
- The Blog Societies
- Molly on the Move
As far as traffic sources #6-9 go, I’m grateful to have friends who are willing to share my content on their blogs! In regards to social media, I am not surprised Pinterest is the top referral traffic to my site given that it has been for a few years now. However, this year, I all but abandoned my Pinterest and was not consistent about sharing new posts there. I recently went through and cleaned up my boards, but am not sure if I have the motivation to make Pinterest a huge part of my strategy—even though it might lead to growth. Instead of trying to share all my content there, I am going to set a smaller goal of trying to pin three to four top photos from the blog there each month.
As far as the other social media sources go, as I mentioned above, I spend a lot of time on Instagram. I also dedicate some time to Twitter, where I share new posts, Retweet funny/relevant tweets, and tweet about my daily life so people can get to know me a bit better. I have a similar strategy for Facebook, where a large portion of my audience finds out about new posts, so I always make sure to share new content there. I feel like my strategy on these two outlets works well for notifying people of new content, and my goal for the new year is to continue to use them as promotional tools.
06. Goals for 2019
First, I want to be more selective about the content I create and post only things I would want to read. I think I’ve gotten a lot better at this over the years. When I first started blogging, I posted five times a week, every week. With that much content slated, I had plenty of filler posts that probably shouldn’t have ever seen the light of day. In 2018, there were a few posts I published that I went back later to read and realized they were more “filler” than substantiative—posts like this sandals round-up. This coming year, I want to be really selective about what kind of content I am creating, even if it means posting less overall. I’d also like to take the time to write more long-form personal essays—like A Table for One: On Traveling Alone.
Second, I’d like to take at least one media trip or partner with a hotel on at least one post this year. Regardless of whether not this happens, I plan on continuing to build my travel content out, but I would love to gain more experience partnering with different brands and places and grow my travel portfolio. I’m also going to try to be better about reaching out to travel boards, restaurants, and hotels when I have a personal trip planned.
Third, I’d like to continue to expand my DC content and write more local neighborhood guides like this one and this one. This will be easier now that I am living in DC! It’s funny how whenever I go on a trip, I am always taking photos and carrying around my DSLR to get the best shot, but I never do that when I am home. So, I’ve been making more of an effort to even just snap a few iPhone pictures whenever I go somewhere new so that I can build up content overtime without having the pressure of spending a whole weekend shooting content. I’d love to have a Dupont Circle guide up for you by spring.
Fourth, I’d like to grow my blog revenue and continue to increase my sponsored partnerships. I am really proud that this year was the best year for A Touch of Teal revenue-wise. I work really hard on this blog, and probably spend 15-20 hours a week on it. I always say I’d do it if I made $0, and that still holds true, but it was really fun this year to partner with brands I truly love while also earning some income to pay for all the fees associated with running this blog.
In April, I am going to hit my FIVE YEAR (!) blogging anniversary. My life has changed so much since then and I feel very lucky that I have so many highs, lows, growth opportunities, and memories documented on this little space on the internet. THANK YOU for making A Touch of Teal a part of your daily, monthly, or weekly reading routine—it means a lot to me that people keep coming back to read what I have to say and share. Here’s to a wonderful 2019! x
This is such a good in-depth analysis, I loved reading this!! You knowwww your blog is one of my faves 🙂 Can’t wait to see your content for 2019!
THANK YOU! So glad we crossed paths at Create Cultivate – your blog is one of my favorites, too!
Congratulations on your best year ever! 221% revenue growth is seriously impressive. I’m so happy for you. Like you said, a lot of us in the blog as a hobby space would do it if we didn’t make anything, it’s nice to see even a small payoff for the effort.
Thank you so much – so glad our paths crossed this year. It really is nice to see the payoff, especially when it’s just something we do out of passion.
Loved reading this recap, Katie! Congratulations on the best year ever for A Touch of Teal!
Thank you so much, Ashlee! And thanks for all your help on contracts! x