Find out how to grow blog traffic with a real life example: How I took my site from a hobby blog to 1 million page views per month and a full-time income in 3 years.
How To Grow Blog Traffic
Four years ago, when I started From House To Home, I would have laughed out loud if someone had told me my little piece of the web would be getting 1 million page views per month in 4 years. But fast forward to today and that’s exactly what has happened. I get questions all the time about how this happened.
So let me start back at the beginning.
In The Beginning
When I first started, my blog was mostly a hobby. I started it because I was travelling a lot for work and didn’t have anything to do when I got back to the hotel in the evenings. So I would blog about my latest DIY projects and party plans.
However, it didn’t take long before I realized that I liked blogging better than I liked my job. I decided that I wanted quit my job and turn my blog into a full-time occupation.
The problem was that I didn’t have much traffic and I wasn’t making much money so the prospect of doing blogging full time didn’t seem very likely.
As you can see in May 2015, I had just over 1000 page views in the whole month and I made a grand total of $1.68 from AdSense. I also believe about 50% of those page views were actually spam sites (this was before I had learned how to filter out the sites that send fake traffic to google analytics). So definitely not the numbers required for a money-making venture.
I needed to figure out a way to get more people to know that that my blog existed.
Step 1 – Where Do Other Bloggers Get Their Traffic From?
While I was trying to figure out what to do I stumbled across Abby at Just a Girl And Her Blog. She was doing home decor and DIY projects on her blog like I was and actually had an eBook called Building a Framework: The Ultimate Blogging Handbook*. It wasn’t very expensive so I thought it was worth a shot and I bought it.
It had a ton of great blogging related information from the basics of setting up your website to the best types of posts to create to how to take better pictures and setting up your email list.
Note: If you’re getting started and want a good blogging resource, I still highly recommend this book* (scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page). Abby keeps it updated so it’s still useful today. You can also try out her free Launch A Blog That Thrives course.
But what I was most interested in at the time was where she got most of her traffic from. And she said Pinterest.
I had never even logged into Pinterest. Okay…I was a little behind the times…don’t judge 🙂
But I figured it was free so what did I have to lose? I logged in and created some boards and pinned my posts to them occasionally. And I have to say…not much happened. In July 2015, I had 100 total page views from Pinterest readers. Which I guess is better than 0, but not really the astronomical growth I was looking for.
That’s one of the things about Pinterest. It takes a while to build up some steam.
In August 2015, the total number of page views from Pinterest had increased to about 2500 (sorry, google analytics won’t show social media data going back that far so I don’t have the graphs). So things were looking up.
Post On Hometalk
In the meantime, I did follow another one of the tips she had in the book and starting putting some DIY posts up on Hometalk. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re a DIY home and garden site that has millions of followers. If you sign up as a blogger and post content on their site, they will sometimes include your posts in their emails. And you can get a lot of traffic from those posts. If you’re interested, click here to find out more about their bloggers traffic program.
You see that blip at the end of July? That’s my first Hometalk post in one of their emails (since then I have had some that send thousands of page views to my blog in one day). I got almost a whole month’s worth of traffic in one day, and I was sooo excited!
Step 2 – Take a Blogging Course
At this point, I decided if I was going to grow my blog a little faster, I needed to take an actual blogging course.
So I signed up for Ruth Soukup’s Elite Blog Academy (not an affiliate link…see the note for why). It is a really in-depth course with many videos and workbook exercises that requires a lot of diligence to do all of the work involved. But I did it.
Note: This course was considerably less expensive when I took it, than it is now. I would not have bought it at the current cost, and I don’t think it’s worth paying that much for. That is why I’m not an affiliate for it. While it does pay a pretty big commission (so you will see A LOT of people selling it), I don’t believe in marketing products that I would not use myself. Having said that, some people swear by it, so it may be a good fit for you. If you’re interested in learning more, I would read this unbiased review by Amy Andrews.
If you’re looking for a very affordable all around blogging course, I would do Abby’s Building A Framework course* instead…this one I am an affiliate for 🙂
Join Some Pinterest Group Boards
Okay back to the next step in my journey. One of the things I did learn from EBA was that the secret to growing your Pinterest account is to join group boards. These are boards that someone else owns which you can join. Then when you pin to them, your pins get shown to that person’s followers. So it’s a great way to get exposure for your Pinterest profile when you are starting out.
Take a look at the jump in traffic in September 2015, the first month that I started using group boards…up to over 20,000 page views.
That big spike at the end of the month is another Hometalk post, which accounted for about 7,000 page views for the month, but that means most of the rest of them (13,000) came from Pinterest. That’s a 5X increase in traffic in one month!
Note: These days Pinterest is downplaying the importance of group boards and saying that they are not distributing pins on group boards like they used to. However, I still think group boards are important for your Pinterest account when you are still trying to get it going. You can use all the eyes on your content that you can get! They do seem to work best if you can find group boards that are specific to your niche (eg. Outdoor Projects or Dinner Recipes) rather than the “pin anything” boards (eg. Blogger’s Best Pins).
Not sure where to find good group boards? I think the best way is to go find some other bloggers that have similar content to yours. Click on the Boards section of their profile. Then look for the group boards they belong to. You can tell which ones are group boards because they have the little circle in the bottom left corner.
To get access to the board, you will need to request to be added. If you open the group board, they will often have the instructions for how to do this in the description. Just in case you need to contact the owner of the board, that will be the first pinner in the list of members. It may take a couple of requests before busy group board owners get around to adding you, so don’t get discouraged.
If you’re still having trouble finding group boards, join a Facebook group like this one that is all about people looking for group board members.
Step 3 – Start Using A Pinterest Scheduler
After starting to use group boards, I realized that with all the pinning that was required, there was no way I was going to be able to keep doing it manually.
So I looked around for an automated solution that would create the pins for me and came up with two solutions – Boardbooster (no longer available) and Tailwind*.
Using a scheduler lets you do all of your pinning at one time and then sends the pins out on a schedule over the next week or two (or however far out you schedule pins for). This was a Pinterest lifesaver for me!
You can do a free trial run on Tailwind and see if you like it. Sign up with my link* and you’ll get a $15 discount if you decide to actually purchase the product at some point.
After a few months of using a scheduler, you can see that my traffic went up significantly again, but it seemed to hit a plateau at around 75,000 page views per month in March 2016 (and I still wasn’t anywhere close to making a full time income from my blog).
Note: I didn’t know this at the time, and I have never used them personally, but I have heard good things about them…MediaVine is an advertising management company you can apply for when you have 25,000 sessions per month on your site. (Note this is sessions not page views). I could have increased my income at this point if I had joined their network.
Step 4 – Take a Pinterest Course
Since I was making some decent progress, I decided to take a Pinterest-specific course to learn more about what I should be doing on Pinterest.
I will say if I was to do this over again, I would probably do this a lot earlier than I did. I could have saved myself a lot of time and effort trying to figure things out on my own 🙂
The course I took was Melyssa Griffin’s Pinfinite Growth course (not an affiliate link, see the note for why). It has all kinds of information on how to create pins that people want to click, how to use the scheduling tools properly and the game changing concept that Pinterest is not a social media site. It’s a search engine!
Note: This course is another one that was quite a bit cheaper when I took it, and I don’t sell as an affiliate now. At the time, it was pretty heavily geared towards using BoardBooster (the Pinterest scheduler that no longer exists). While those references have been removed from the course, I don’t think the content that remains is worth the higher price (and so I’m not selling this course as an affiliate either). If you are looking for a good course now, I recommend Blog Clarity’s Pinning Perfect*. You can read more about it in Step 5.
The Big Lesson Learned
So the big takeaway from this is that you need to use Keywords on Pinterest…in your pin descriptions, board descriptions and even in your profile description. Since most pins are found through search, you want yours to show up in the search results for the right people!
Two months after implementing keywords, my website traffic was up over 100,000 page views per month, most of which came from Pinterest. In less than a year after reading my first blogging book!
What’s so special about reaching 100,000 page views per month? That’s enough to join AdThrive (an ad management agency that is definitely worth joining if you qualify). My blog income went up significantly the first month that I started with them.
Step 5 – Learn Everything About Pinterest
Having heard about bloggers that are getting millions of page views a month from Pinterest, I decided to double-down and learn everything I could about the platform.
I took pretty much every course, listened to all the podcasts and joined all of the webinars I could find.
Many of them weren’t worth the time and money I spent. I learned there are a lot of people who call themselves experts and really aren’t! So my advice if you’re going down this path, too, is to learn from people who have done it themselves. And check that they have already made it to where you want to be (taking a course from someone who has less Pinterest traffic than you do probably isn’t going to teach you much).
Of all of the courses I have taken and books I have read, these three are my favorites:
- Blog Clarity’s Pinning Perfect Course* – This is a great overall Pinterest course that covers everything you need to know about getting your Pinterest profile working for you: Creating pinnable images, SEO worthy descriptions, pinning schedules, how to use Tailwind to schedule your pins, and Pinterest analytics. This is where I learned that you can use Pinterest itself to find your keywords. Just start doing a search for your topic. All of the words that show up right underneath the search bar are the most popular words people are using in their searches for that subject. Those are the words to include in your pin descriptions and titles.
- Pot Pie Girl’s Pin Signals Ebook* – Jennifer at Pot Pie Girl is a little controversial in the Pinterest world (this post in particular created a pretty big uproar!). But she does spend a lot of time testing strategies on Pinterest and then talking about how she uses them. You won’t see many of the things she shows you anywhere else and most of her explanations make a lot of sense to me. So I like to see what she has to say just to get a different take on things. Her paid content (like this Pin Signals ebook*) is very affordable and easy to read.
There are also a few free Pinterest resources that I read or listen to regularly.
- Simple Pin Media podcast – Kate Ahl at Simple Pin Media (a Pinterest marketing management company) does a podcast that covers all kinds of Pinterest topics. You can learn a lot by going through the ones that sound interesting to you. I suggest starting with the latest ones. Pinterest changes its algorithm often so some of the information from the earlier podcasts is out of date. They also have a facebook group you can join for free. A couple of notes:
- I will caution you that a lot of people in this group make statements that sound like facts when they are really just opinions (or interpretations of what Pinterest is doing/saying). I always try to find the original source to verify the information for myself.
- Kate is selling a service. She wants to keep her good standing with Pinterest so she isn’t going to question what they say or read between the lines too much.
- Tailwind Facebook Page – Tailwind sometimes has Facebook live events that are very informative. I follow them just to get the invites to these events. As with Simple Pin Media, remember that Tailwind is doing all this to promote their scheduling tool, so they do have some bias in what they are presenting.
- Pinterest Business Blog – If you sign up to get notified of new content, you’ll get invitations to Pinterest webinars and other useful information straight from Pinterest themselves.
- Pinterest Best Practices Guide – This is where Pinterest posts their latest best practices for pins, so I like to check it occasionally to see if they’ve added anything new.
- Food Blogger Pro Podcast – Bjork at FoodBloggerPro.com does another podcast that covers all kinds of blogging topics, including Pinterest. His focus is usually on food blogs, but many of the concepts he talks about are applicable to any kind of blog. He and his wife Lindsay are the people behind Pinch Of Yum which is a very successful food blog and they definitely know what they are talking about.
Putting my own spin on what I learned from all of these courses (especially the keyword research tip from the Pinning Perfect Course*), a year later in May 2017, my traffic was up to over 500,000 page views and I was finally making enough money to be a legitimate income-generating website!
Step 6 – On To SEO
As you may have guessed, I’m all about trying to learn what has worked for others, testing it out for myself and keeping the strategies that worked for me.
While I am still working on my Pinterest strategy (it still drives most of the traffic to my blog), I really didn’t like the idea of having all of my traffic eggs in one basket. So next up? SEO!
As usual, I decided to find a course to jump start my progress, and came across Sticky SEO by Kelly Holmes*. It takes a pretty daunting topic like SEO and breaks it down into manageable chunks that anyone can implement. I’m still in the process of re-working a lot of my old posts (this would definitely be something that is easier to do right from the beginning!). But using her methods I have managed to grow my google search traffic to a little over 30,000 page views per month…definitely better than nothing!
Of course it’s still a drop in the bucket compared to my overall website traffic – almost 1.5 million page views in May 2018 (most of which comes from Pinterest)! And with that I was finally able to make blogging my full time job. Almost exactly 3 years from when I decided that’s what I wanted to do.
The best part? None of this is rocket science. It’s just learning what you can, trying out what works for you, and putting in the work to make it happen. If I can do it, you can too!
To make it a little easier to find things, here are the links that I referred to all in one place:
* all links with asterisks are affiliate links. I make a commission if you buy them using these links. But as I’ve stated above, I only recommend products that I have used and believe in.
General Blogging Information
- Building A Framework EBook*
- Amy Andrews Elite Blog Academy Review
- Hometalk Blogger Traffic Program
- Food Blogger Pro Podcast
- Facebook group for finding Pinterest group boards to join
- Pinterest Scheduler (with $15 discount if you get a paid account)*
- Pinning Perfect Course*
- Pinteresting Strategies Ebook*
- Pin Signals Ebook*
- Pot Pie Girl’s Controversial Post
- Simple Pin Media Podcast and Facebook Group
- Tailwind Facebook Page
- Pinterest Business Blog
- Pinterest Best Practices Guide