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cover pic

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Honest Thoughts on My First Year of Blogging

Favorite place to blog #1: the front porch swing

     Preppy Mountain Farmhouse is one year old today.  I'm not sure what I thought this blog would be like in a year.  I suppose a part of me was afraid that no one but my husband and children would read it, and I would have chucked it by now.  Another part of me had a wild hope that it would be some overnight sensation and propel me effortlessly into some kind of stardom like Ree Drummond/Pioneer Woman.  I really didn't have a set goal in mind.  I just knew blogging was something I'd been contemplating for several years, and I wanted to give it a shot.  It would be a learning experience, an experiment to see if I could do something slightly technical, and be a new creative outlet for me in my free time.  The reality is that this blog has become a meaningful extension of myself.  A little bit of my soul goes into every post, and that has surprised me.  What else surprised me was how much I cared about its success, and I searched the web for other newbie bloggers to see how they were doing.  Unfortunately, I found very little from the inexperienced bloggers who also struggled daily with fears of failing.  So I dedicate this blog post today to any other bloggers just starting out who desperately want to know if what they're experiencing is normal. Bloggers who might be doubting whether or not they should continue doing so.  Bloggers who are looking at their number of followers or pageviews and feeling embarrassed that theirs are just a tiny fraction compared to the blogs they read and follow.  I'm going to put it all out there and let you know you're not alone.
     When I started this blog, I hadn't read any books or taken any classes on blogging.  I seriously started from scratch, and I learned by trial and error along the way.  I was so proud of myself when I changed some settings or templates on Blogger.  I felt like a pro when I registered my own domain name.  And when my first post was published and was out there in cyberspace, I was ecstatic.  But then I started to read about search engine optimization and showing up in directories and Alexa rankings.  I was somewhat terrified of clicking the wrong thing in my layout for fear that I would set myself up to be hacked or kicked off the google search engines, so I was very, very conservative with everything I did with my blog.  When I learned that I wouldn't even be picked up in the search engines because I needed to change my robots.txt, I obsessed about it for days as I researched to figure out what I needed to do.  And every time I had to paste some third party html/javascript for a new widget, I vacillated between being anxious that it wouldn't work and afraid that I had just plugged something viral and dangerous into my blog and laptop.  I have learned more about websites during this year than all the years of my life combined, but I am still discovering so much that I still don't know, and that is humbling.
     Speaking of humbling, stats are another part of blogging that threw me for a loop.  Suddenly, my mood for the day hinged on what my Blogger stats revealed about my most recent post.  I have spent hours on the Internet trying to find out how many pageviews other new bloggers get in order to see if mine were average.  The first time I hit 85 pageviews in a day, I was on cloud 9.  That is, until I learned that most of them occurred all at once from something called referrer spam.  To me, that sounded terrible and scary, and I had no idea what it was.  Thankfully, I did some research before I ever decided to click on those terrible links on my Blogger referrer page.  Once I understood what they were, I soon discovered that any time I get about 20 or more hits to my blog all at once, it doesn't mean a bunch of people are simultaneously reading my blog---it's spam.  Not something to be feared, but something to be aware of and to keep me humble.  So if you scroll down to the bottom of this page and see over 11,000 pageviews so far, just know that many of them are from bots or spammers, not real people.  When I see that many bloggers get this many actual views every day, I am humbled even more.

Favorite place to blog #2: on my front porch rocker from Cracker Barrel

     This leads me to the biggest problem I think I've dealt with concerning blogging:  being obsessed with my stats and comparing my blog to others.  I waited 8 months to install the free Google Analytics tracking into my blog.  I was afraid what those numbers would reveal since I knew that Blogger's pageviews were inflated.  But I felt like I had to know.  G.A. could show me not just pageviews and countries where traffic was coming from, but also daily users and how many were new or repeat visitors.  It could show me the cities they were from, and how much time they spent on my site, and which posts they were going to.  I found myself comparing the Google Analytics stats with my Blogger stats and even with my Feedburner stats, which really just keep track of my subscribers.  I drove myself crazy trying to make sense of them because they never ever matched up, not even when I took the bots and spam out of the mix.  I so wanted to see my numbers skyrocket from legitimate humans who were interested in my blog.  Instead, it has been a very, very gradual increase.  I have finally stopped caring so much about the numbers and instead focus on the individuals who do spend some time on my blog reading a number of pages each session.  They are people from all over the United States and from all over the world.  I'm even more touched when readers take the time to leave comments on my blog or Facebook page or send me an email.  It is exciting to hear from strangers that aren't reading my blog because they feel obligated to as friends or family, but because they actually enjoy it.  Don't get me wrong, Friends and Family, I love to hear from you too!
     As for comparing myself to others...that one is harder to refrain from doing.  I follow some very successful bloggers who have become famous and some lesser known (but still successful) bloggers.  When I see that one of their posts receives hundreds of comments, gets thousands of views, and is shared all over social media, it's hard not to feel envious.  I question what I'm doing wrong or if I should be doing this at all or do I need to start giving away free stuff or what?  My husband always asks me what difference it makes since it was never my goal to make money from blogging.  I suppose it's just the competitive nature in me that wants to feel that I'm among the best at whatever I'm doing.  When you read Pioneer Woman's story and see how she went from blogging about her recipes to having a TV show, published cookbooks, and now an entire line of dishes and cookware sold at Walmart, you can't help thinking, "Wow.  Why couldn't that happen to me?"  Of course, that kind of fame is rare, but even some of the less known bloggers sell their own books or have their own line of home decor or give presentations at conferences and exhibitions.  That really wasn't my plan when I started out, and quite honestly, I guard our family's privacy too much to allow a film crew into our home, but that diva in me comes out sometimes.  This year of blogging has made me evaluate how much popularity I would or wouldn't care to have.  So far with my little blog, that hasn't been an issue though.
     That brings me to the next shocker with blogging success, and that is the time it takes.  Actual blogging only takes me a couple of hours per post.  If I'm adding some links or some research is necessary beforehand, that might add yet another hour.  Lots of photographs means another hour or so loading them to my laptop and editing each one.  None of that was really a surprise.  It's all the other non-writing/photographing stuff that I didn't expect to be a part of blogging.  First, there's sharing your blog on social media.  When I began blogging, I had absolutely no Internet presence.  That's right.  Zippo.  I wasn't on Facebook or Pinterest or Instagram or Twitter or Snapchat or anything.  It occurred to me right away, however, that how was anyone going to know I even have a blog if I didn't promote it somehow.  So I opened a Facebook page.  A month or two later, I had a page on Pinterest.  Finally this February, I joined Instagram.  I think that's it for me for awhile though because it all takes so much time.  It's not enough to just share your blog post to your accounts.  There's all this give and take on social media.  Reading others' comments and posts is necessary, and commenting, liking, and sharing their pins is common courtesy.  But it all takes time.  Additionally, there is this blog community that exists in cyberspace that was unknown to me when I started blogging.  I had only been regularly visiting two blogs when I began.  I now follow about a dozen.  I love reading their posts, and I leave a comment when I can, and I occasionally share their posts or link to them when I write.  But all of that takes considerable amounts of time too.  The networking aspect of blogging is something I know I need to do more of, but I just haven't figured out how to squeeze in more time to do so.  All of this wasn't even on my radar a year ago.

Favorite place to blog #3: patio table above pool

     Finally, I think the biggest surprise for me is how this blog is morphing into something more open, revealing, and imperfect in a way I had certainly not planned in the beginning.  Yes, I wanted to share aspects of mountain farm living, but with a lot more aesthetically pleasing preppy touches thrown in.  I had no intention of showing anything messy or mundane or unsuccessful.  I really thought the blog would push me to do more classic decorating, more landscaping, try new recipes and home projects, and do more entertaining.  I wanted to create a blog that was beautiful, idyllic, and inspiring.  I never dreamed I'd be showing pictures of my cluttered kitchen, messy dining room, mismatched clothed children, or Pinterest flops.  I think I wanted a blog that would make our life into something perfect.  Something out of the pages of Country Living or a Land's End catalog.  Instead, it's becoming this photo journal of our very imperfect, noisy, busy, big family life that is some eclectic mix of homesteading/farming, and enjoying nature every season, lots of recipes, and the ramblings of a middle-aged blogger/substitute teacher/farmer mom.  Every once in awhile there is some DIY project, decorating, entertaining, fashion post thrown in.  I find myself now seeing my surroundings through a different lens.  I carry my phone, tablet, or camera with me all the time.  When I go for a hike or down to the barn or walk through the woods, something catches my eye and I have to photograph it.  Sometimes a photo inspires an entire post or it gets posted to Instagram.  Suddenly the common, simple, natural surroundings that I live in have become new, and beautiful, and something I feel this desire to share with others.  Instead of making this blog be about a perfect life I want to have, it is transforming into an exhibit of the beautiful, imperfect, real life that I already have.  I find myself stopping more often and really taking in the gifts all around me: the full moon rising over the mountain, wildflowers just beginning to bloom, the colors of the fall leaves, my children building forts in the creek.  All of it seems new somehow.
     So that is why two weeks ago, I renewed my domain name for another year.  I'm checking my stats less.  I'm comparing myself to others far less.  I am enjoying myself more.  I think blogging makes me a better person somehow---more creative, more grateful, more reflective.  And that in and of itself, is success.

     Now for those of you bloggers who are like I was, and you just want to see another new blogger's stats for reassurance, here they are.
Blogger says 11,129 total page views for the year.  783 last month.  43 today.
Feedburner still says I only have an average of 14 subscribers; although, there have been a few more than that most days this month.
Google Analytics shows in the past month: 186 pageviews, 147 sessions, 112 users.
Out of Blogger, Bloglovin, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook combined: 98 followers.
Alexa rank: rose up to around 12 million from over 20 million when I started, but a month ago it was shown to not have enough data to rank.  Not sure why.
The countless number of positive comments I've received in various forms have been wonderful, encouraging, invaluable, and have kept me blogging when I almost gave it all up.

     Thank you, Readers, for coming back to Preppy Mountain Farmhouse each week this past year.  I am so grateful for your views, your comments, your likes and your "following" me.  Here's to another great year together.


  1. Hi, I just wanted you to know that I discovered your blog a little while ago and I do enjoy reading it, so that is at least one real page view! I haven't been blogging for very long (a couple of years??) and you have already done so much more with yours. I still am not on any other form of social media and that is mostly a privacy issue for me. I like that I have regular readers and I enjoy reading other people's blogs. I think Ree Drummond is an exception to the rule of blogging, but that shouldn't make any of us feel less successful in our own right. Just taking the time to record our lives and create a permanent record, even if it is just for our own family, is an accomplishment that many others cannot claim. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and happy one year anniversary! -Jenn

  2. How nice to meet you Jenn, and thank you for taking the time to leave a comment here and introduce me to your blog. The connections that occur in the blogging world have been the most pleasant surprises of all this year. Have a great week!

  3. Sweet friend....I TOTALLY get it. :)

    Blogging is not for the faint of heart. Truly. You have a voice and a wonderful perspective and I feel like we are having coffee together. Here's to another incredible year and congrats on the anniversary.

    PS You got this. :)

    1. Thanks so much, KariAnne. You have been one of those encouraging, inspiring bloggers who kept me going this year.


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