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2016 – A Year of Swoodson Says In Review

2016 – A Year of Swoodson Says In Review

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A Sewing Blog's year in review - looking back at 2016

It is 2017!! Which means it’s time to look back at the year and reflect before I forge ahead with 2017 plans and goals. I always share quarterly reports, if you’d rather look chunk by chunk, here is 2016 q4, 2016 q3, 2016 q2, 2016 q1 (and so on and so forth, linked here). I used Jetpack statistics – I know purists prefer Google Analytics but I’ve never had a significant discrepancy between the two and use Jetpack because it’s super easy.

{This post contains affiliate links, indicated by an asterisk*. Please refer to ‘legal stuff’ in the top menu for more info.}

Top Posts

top-sewing-tutorials-of-2016

  1. Free Felt Wine Glass Ornament*
  2. The Easiest Way To Transfer an Embroidery Pattern
  3. 3D Puzzle Animals
  4. Simple Sunglasses Case with Secret Pocket *
  5. Stay Put Ice Pack Cover*
  6. Bag Organizing Zipper Pouches
  7. List of Men’s PDF Patterns
  8. Simple T-Shirt Refashion
  9. Sheep Softie Pattern
  10. How To Stencil with Freezer Paper

These were the most popular posts that were published in 2016! I put a star by the ones that were promoted – I write sponsored posts through Social Fabric and the companies can choose to pay and boost them on Facebook and/or Pinterest. It usually results in a huge spike, and definitely pushed those posts to the top of the heap – I definitely don’t think #5 would have been that popular without it.

best-2016-posts

Above you can see traffic numbers for all posts published – it is a huge drop from the top to the middle. Once a post gets traction on Pinterest, it really stays popular for a long time, which you can also see in my quarterly reports above.

The busiest day of the year was in December 18th with 5,014 views.

daily-average

Looking at overall traffic, comparing  my overall daily views average from 2016 to 2015 showed a 74% growth over the last year. ( for anyone wondering, my accountant husband told me to calculate this by figuring: [(this year divided by last year)-1]. I haven’t calculated this in the past, and don’t have a frame of reference for if that is good or bad, but I think it sounds positive!

Money

2016-income

These graphs just show revenue – not subtracting out expenses for profit. I mostly just wanted to share the changing colors of where my money is coming from, as Mediavine ads got settled in and I moved away from freelance writing. I would like to rebalance my graph a bit – but hopefully increasing pattern/product sales and more sponsored posts.

Some noteworthy changes as I looked at some of my data was that the Brother 1034d serger* has been my top affiliate money earner.

I signed up as an Etsy affiliate recently and have seen exciting income from that, but it won’t be reported/received until later this year – if you want to sign up as an affiliate with them, I’d love for you to use my link!

I feel good about this overall, but am definitely making a pointed effort to earn more income in 2017 (more specific goals coming in a separte post soon!)

Positives

  • I worked with Abby Glassenberg to write a Buzzfeed post: “15 Ways To Craft Yourself Into Oblivion After The Dumpster Fire That Was 2016“. I would share a screenshot of the dashboard/views, but can’t seem to get logged back in (working on it!) but sad to say, this post did not “go viral” or get much traction in their community. The experience was really interesting – Abby is great and I had fun coming up with this list with her. There is a lot of analysis on what makes certain Buzzfeed posts get so much attention, and I enjoyed reading blog posts about it and strategizing even if it amounting to basically zero traffic, this time. I’m not sure if I’ll plan on trying to do another one soon, but it was relatively easy and I’m glad I dove in and tried it instead of just vaguely “maybe doing that” some day.
  • Submitted posts for consideration to be shared on two sites that I’ve enjoyed for a long time, Small for Big and Curbly. I haven’t heard back from either of them, but Small for Big was recent enough that I’m holding out hope. It is disappointing if I don’t get featured on either, but at the end of the day it’s a positive that I stopped, got outside my normal routine, and thought about something that I thought fit their aesthetic and put myself out there.

before-and-after

  • I finally picked a cohesive aesthetic for my square, intro shots that introduce the post and act as a thumbnail and my longer, Pinterest-optimized collages. I have read this a few times as a great thing to do, in order to look more professional and have a specific look on Pinterest, but for some reason just kept putting it off. No more! I’m slowly updating posts as I promote them and have time – you can see an examples from left to right of what I used before and what I updated it to. I’ve also chosen a specific font to watermark with, a change I made last year, but the difference is visible here as well.
  • I met all my deadlines! Off the top of my head, I wrote sponsored posts here on Swoodson Says, freelance posts for Seams & Scissors and the Craft Industry Alliance, and my own self-imposed deadlines for a variety of blog tours and my yearlong Try Something New Every Month project.
  • I filed as an LLC. Long story short, in high school my family (and I) was sued for an injury sustained from my horse kicking a barn worker, when we weren’t there, and they had signed a liability release. The case kept getting thrown out and refiled under some tiny change and it dragged out for years and stressed us all out and raised their homeowners’ insurance. Needless to say, any additional legal protection I can find, makes me feel better.

a

  • I finally got super-organized about promoting old content. I not only share older posts in my weekly newsletter, I also repin and reshare them on Facebook. I’ve also started saving the “copy” I use on Facebook, for ease of sharing next time. Going forward in 2017, each new post I have that is evergreen (it can be shared again), I am copy/pasting my description the first time I write it and add each post as I go, instead of waiting until the end of the year to go back and do it all at once. LOVE IT. Feeling super good about this.
  • I started with Mediavine Publisher Network! Wahoo! They are an ad agency – which means I copy/paste their “script” into a plugin on my site and then they handle all the ads. I can choose placement and frequency, but they run auctions and “waterfall” ads to maximize money. I am too lazy to find the hard numbers and calculate it, but it is safe to say I’m making 3-4 times as much as I was using Google Adsense and Amazon CPM ads by my own management. It’s a smaller company that has grown via word of mouth and are super responsive and have very hands-on help, highly recommend working with them, you do need a minimum of 30k views per month.
  • I got added to a new Pinterest group board that is performing the best out of all my group boards, managed by All Free Sewing. It took several emails and follow-ups to get added even though I already have a positive relationship with them, but I’m glad I kept at it!
  • I kept up using Tailwind* and really, really love it. It is a Pinterest scheduling service, and has an additional “tribes” feature that make it easy to repin quality content, quickly (and get your own content in front of other people to repin). I’ll share some screenshots below that demonstrate its value – if you use my Tailwind* link you’ll get a free month (and I get a referral $). There is a small learning curve, but I think it’s really user friendly, and even if you just use it to schedule your shares to group boards, it’s going to save you time.

tailwind4

This shows the scheduling feature – I pin something to my “Swoodson Says Board” and then schedule repins of it to relevant group boards and content boards. An awesome feature is that little black box- if I’ve already pinned it somewhere, it reminds me of how long ago that was. If it was a month ago and I forgot? Oops! If it was two years ago? Wow, should’ve pinned it again more recently. Awesome.

tailwind

This is a shot of tribes – I can just click someone else’s pin and schedule it to my board right from there. You can see in the yellow box my own stats – when I schedule my pins above you can also “add to tribes”. On this tribe alone, my content has had a reach of over 8.5 million pinners, with all those reshares and repins. Wowza.

tailwind2

Above you can see the scheduled pins- they analyze your followers and pick “best times” to send out pins. You can add more or fewer throughout the day if you’d like, randomize them, hit an interval so your new pin feeds out over time instead of in one chunk. It’s swell. Right now I have over 300 pins scheduled, going out around 16 a day.

tailwind3

Last but not least, the Pin Inspector shows me what pins have been most popular, I can search for my own pins and schedule repins through here, etc.

I know there are other features and new features coming up, but these are the ones I use the most and I love it!

Negatives

  • If I use a company’s products, I try and make sure to notify them so I’m on their radar and maybe they’ll even reshare it on their social media. In one cringe-worthy incident, I emailed about a product… to its competitor. So, so awkward, I wanted to just delete the polite email from the social media manager telling me as much (I sent an apology instead).
  • At the beginning of last year, I signed up for the Mighty Lucky Quilt Club and thought it would be a really fun year-long project. I did the first month, and they changed something about the format of the challenges being sent out, and it just fell off my radar. I can still go back and access each month’s lessons but this was a big letdown for me and a missed Instagram networking opportunity for sure.
  • While I stuck with my second year in a row of Try Something New Every Month, I am slightly disappointed about the community/participation angle. I started a Facebook group, and was co-hosting with my friend Rebecca from Hugs Are Fun, and there was a fair amount of participation in the beginning of the year. Slowly, we stopped doing round-up posts because participation waned, and then Rebecca bowed out, and I felt a bit like I was talking to an empty room in the Facebook group. There were probably 2 or 3 people who stuck it out the entire year with me (yay!!) and I loved seeing what everyone made who did share, but it didn’t become a tight-knit, active group like I’d hoped. I think I’ll take a break for 2017 after 2 years, and re-evaluate in the future.
  • Sales from my pattern shop were relatively stagnant. I love my patterns, but they’ve definitely been slow-going.

Subscribers and Social Media

@swoodsonsays instagram

A shot of the most popular posts on Instagram, above!

Follower count – [December 2015 vs December 2016]

Instagram [825/1454]

Facebook [961 /1494]

Twitter [648/757]

G+ [347 / 424 ]

Pinterest [ 3608/ 6668]

Newsletter [1201 / 1796 ]

I do not do much on Twitter or G+, so those continue to be my slowest growth, which is fine. Would love to see bigger jumps for my newsletter & Pinterest for the new year!

pinterest

I should have flipped these graphs I think, but you can see from top to bottom some general growth analytics on Pinterest.

mailchimp-analysis-posSo, I love mailchimp! However, they don’t have any function to allow you to compare clicks across newsletters sent. Every newsletter, I send links to my recent posts and some from the past, along with creative news from around the web, things I’ve had my shopping eye on, and other bloggers’ tutorials I’ve loved. What I really wanted to know was how popular links were with my readers, across all newsletters sent, but also accounting for how many readers I had at the time that newsletter was sent out. My husband works in the financial sector, and is an Excel wizard, and made something called a macro that magically figured all that out!

I have a screenshot above of the most popular links, which I found interesting. I put stars beside some of the correlations I saw to popularity on other sites – blue indicates posts that did great on Facebook, red indicates posts that did great on Pinterest, and green indicates posts that weren’t really popular anywhere except my newsletter.

I didn’t include a screenshot of my least popular links, because the distribution towards the end wasn’t particularly noteworthy (like, lots of links only had 5 or fewer clicks). The only trend I could see was that my sew-along calendar additions regularly do not get many clicks. I have thought about scrapping it all together, when I started it I sewed a lot more for me and honestly rarely have time join in anymore, but it doesn’t take a ton of time these days. On the fence about its future – this report confirmed what I suspected in that it just isn’t that popular.

2016 Goals

Last year I organized things a little differently and set up a reflection and goals post for creative thoughts and then for business thoughts.

Reflecting on how I did on my goals from 2016…

  • A new flannel crib sheet for my daughter
    • Nope. She decided to climb out super young so we switched to a twin floor mattress before I made this. Anyone have ideas for 2 yards of pretty organic flannel?!
  • A front pouch/fanny pack for my Tula toddler carrier (there is a pocket, but when I wear a kid on my back I can’t reach it!)
  • A felt cover for our magnet board
    • Nope. No excuse, just didn’t get it done.
  • A pillow/rest for our mini-ipad (for my husband)
    • Done! I will hopefully share a tutorial sometime this year, but I finished the prototype and gifted it to my hubby, as seen here
  • A dump truck pillow for my son
    • Nope. No excuse, just didn’t get it done.
  • Our 2015 family year book
    • Done! No photo, but I just ordered it from MyPublisher.
  • To have all my handmade Christmas presents done by September.
    • HAHA. Foolish. I did, however, wisely combine a few sponsored posts with gifts, so even though I was making them relative last minute, I was getting paid to do so!
  • To design an embroidery pattern!
  • Take better photographs!
    • Done. I’m no pro, but I am consistently taking better lit, better composed pictures.
  • Work smarter, not harder.
    • I have streamlined a lot of my post promotion strategy, host pictures directly here instead of on Flickr, and am posting less frequently with a focus on quality over quantity. I’ve set up a regular process to promote old content regularly. Feeling really good about this. Tailwind, as seen above, is also a big part of my success with this.
  • Promote Old Content Better
    • See above – done!
  • Work smarter on freelance posts
    • Done. I am scaling back freelance posts in general, but am much smarter about choosing topics and projects that will not be expensive or time consuming, and relate back to other content on my own site in the hopes of people swinging over.

WOW. What a novel. With all that being said, I’d love to hear both what you enjoyed here at Swoodson Says for 2016 and also what you’d like to see in 2017! I’ll be sharing some specific 2017 goals tomorrow in a separate post, too!

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Pam

Thursday 23rd of February 2017

You had an amazing year. I'm looking forward to this year and have been working really hard to get to where you are. So happy for you!

Stephanie - Swoodson Says

Monday 27th of February 2017

You are so kind Pam!!

Amira_littlemushroomcap

Monday 23rd of January 2017

Hi Stephanie!!

Thank you for sharing all the details of your blogging journey. I have fallen off the blogging wagon and in need to get myself back up. I even lost my .com website so, now am in plan to create another .com and new hosting - just need a good content ready to post before doing so to justify my spending towards building the blog...thank you for the motivation!!

Stephanie - Swoodson Says

Sunday 12th of February 2017

Happy to help! Hope you find your enthusiasm again soon :)

Deanna

Tuesday 10th of January 2017

My goodness what an extremely valuable post! I wish I did something like this. You are a great example. I really do need to sum up my year of 2016, 2015, etc... and then set concrete goals for 2017. I just feel like I'm scrambling to get everything started in 2017 that I'm not stepping back to evaluate 2016 with hard core stats. It would be fun to analyze the growth each year. The information that you provided was really valuable. Thank you! I subscribed to your newsletter and looking forward to following you. Thanks Stephanie

Stephanie - Swoodson Says

Wednesday 11th of January 2017

Thanks Deanna, I so appreciate you saying all of that! I took time "off" around Christmas/New Year's and it gave me a nice quiet time to look back at the year before planning for this one. Definitely doing it again this year!

Hélène Martin

Wednesday 4th of January 2017

Congrats on a great year! I'm so impressed by your work ethic and the quality of your content just keeps going up. Here's to a fantastic 2017!

Sara

Wednesday 4th of January 2017

Looks like your hard work is paying off! I've been working on Tailwind while I have the free trial, but I'm still not sure it's worth doing unless I have a lot of group boards. It's takes me a long time to schedule and I find it easier to pin things when I see them. I'll have to check out that All Free Sewing board...

Also, you posted to IG more than 2x as often as I did. I'm curious if it brought you more traffic. I'd say our follower growth was pretty similar this year, so I'm wondering if frequency matters....

Stephanie - Swoodson Says

Thursday 5th of January 2017

Hey Sara! Have you tried the tribes feature at all? I know your pins are much more curated than mine, but I bet you can find some large enough with a fair amount of the aesthetic you're going for. I would say that IG brings me very, very little traffic. I searched my incoming links and literally found zero, which seems implausible, but maybe it's valid. I do know it has made me several connections that would not have happened otherwise. When I first set out to try and post a photo every single day, I think frequency mattered a lot more because it was chronological. Now that they've changed it to be more like Facebook, I think it is the opposite, and I'll actually be trying to post well lit/composed photos, which will definitely mean way less frequently. We'll see how that goes!

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