Well folks, I’m happy that it is April. I’m mostly happy because I’m taking my first trip of 2017 this month... to Austria, Germany and Hungary! But if I’m being honest, I’m also happy because the March Blogging Challenge, which was indisputably a failure, is finally over.
Failure or not, I learned a lot from this Challenge. Most importantly, I learned what I want this blog to be… and what I don’t want it to be… as I enter Year 2 of the blog life here at Sarah Going.
March Blogging Challenge: Recap and Stats
What in the world was I thinking?
I started 2017 with a 45 day personal challenge to not drink alcohol and to go to my kickboxing gym at least 3 times a week. That challenge went really well and ultimately helped me establish a habit of working out regularly. So naturally, I thought it would be great to apply the idea of a “challenge” to this blog and commit to posting every single day for the month of March. How hard could it be, right?
As it turns out, very hard.
After starting off strong, I had a lot of trouble keeping up the momentum. As my fellow bloggers know, it takes a lot of time to write, edit and ultimately share a finished blog post including the perfect photo, title and description, and then to advertise that post on social media. Through the process of attempting to write and share so many blog posts in such a short amount of time, I learned a lot about my priorities as a blogger, what I actually enjoy about blogging and what I want Sarah Going to look like going forward.
These are all important lessons, so I’ll grudgingly admit that I am happy I at least attempted to complete this Challenge. That being said, from a statistical perspective, I failed miserably!
The numbers (unfortunately) don’t lie.
In March, I wrote and shared a total of 14 blog posts. Considering that there are 31 days in the month of March, I was 45% successful at this Challenge. Ladies and gentleman, as I’m sure you are well aware, a 45 is not a passing grade… that’s a solid F. Not like a 68 F, you-have-hope-if-you-can-work-hard-for-the-rest-of-the-semester, but like a you-are-definitely-failing-and-should-probably-drop-this-class F.
Another (slightly more positive) statistic: the Sarah Going blog got more views in March 2017 than in January and February 2017 combined, making March 2017 the third most popular month in Sarah Going’s history. Gotta take those silver linings when and where you can!
Blogging Lessons Learned... and A Look Ahead to the Future
In my experience with failure, it’s best to figure out what you can takeaway from it and keep moving forward. In this case, I learned a few important lessons:
- I don’t want to have to rush to produce content that isn’t of great quality.
- I don’t want to focus on a higher post count at the expense of writing posts long enough to fully explain a topic and provide useful information.
- I don’t want to bombard my social media communities with constant content, because I want my focus to be on the community.
- I want to update the design of the Sarah Going blog in order to make it easier to find content by specific topic.
- I want to make sure I’m focused on my particular travel niche - balancing work, life and travel - going forward.
- I want to keep this fun.
On the three things I DON'T want to do
I don’t want to have to rush to produce content that isn’t of great quality.
Nobody is a perfect writer 100% of the time: I make errors just like everyone else, and if you hang around here often you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I write REALLY long sentences (like this one!) I could certainly do better at the actual craft of writing, and one of the reasons I have a writing process that includes time to draft posts, time away from those posts and then a revisit to edit those posts is that my process helps me hone in on any errors before I share. Trying to post every single day (with a full-time job) doesn’t allow time for that process, and I really didn’t like the feeling that posts needed additional an read-through but I was forced to share them anyway.
I don’t want to focus on a higher post count at the expense of writing posts long enough to fully explain a topic and provide useful information.
I tend to write longer form posts, especially when I’m elaborating on a specific travel topic, because I want to fully explain what I’m writing about. There is certainly a place for short posts: quick updates, thoughts and maybe even stories or personal experiences. However, around here, those short form posts aren’t really my bread and butter. I like to live in the 750+ word range, so if I write a lot of posts in a row at 300 words, I don’t feel like I’m doing complete work (this particular post is over 1600 words, and I'm loving that feeling). Obviously, this is a completely personal decision for every blogger and blog (because we are all different) but the general takeaway is to write the type of posts - style, length and structure - that work for you and feel right for you. Blogging isn’t always easy, but there is no reason to make it needlessly more difficult by not being true to yourself.
I don’t want to bombard my social media communities with constant content, because I want my focus to be on the community.
Ah, social media… both a blessing and a curse for bloggers, am I right? On the one hand, I love my primary social media outlets - instagram and twitter - because they are a great way to engage with other travelers and bloggers from all over the world. On the other hand, social media is a literal time suck! As my fellow bloggers know, building a social media community is a FULL TIME JOB in and of itself. Again, making personal style choices that work for you is the only way to do this blogging thing, in my opinion. My personal style tends to be less frequent social media posting so that I can use the extra time to create content and work on building and engaging with my social media community. I didn’t like the feeling that I wasn’t being quite true to that style during the blogging challenge due to the rush and frequency of posts, so that is something I want to focus on going forward.
On the three things I DO want to do
I want to update the design of the Sarah Going blog in order to make it easier to find content by specific topic.
Sarah Going is a baby blog (turning 1 in April!) so I’m still at that blogging life stage where I design everything myself. As a bit of a design nerd, I really like messing around with different templates, themes, styles and designs here on the blog… but I try to balance that design love with some consistency. While I plan to keep the overall look and feel of Sarah Going the same, I noticed a problem with content storage and searchability during the Blogging Challenge: I was writing a lot of content, but it was hard to find on the blog without scrolling chronologically through all the posts. Since I do want to provide usable information to readers (as mentioned above), I also want to make sure my readers can easily find and reference that content. So I’ll be focusing on making my content easier to find in the near future.
I want to make sure I’m focused on my particular travel niche - balancing work, life and travel - going forward.
Arguably the most important lesson I learned from the March Blogging Challenge is where I want this blog to fit. If you are a travel blogger (or just a travel nerd like myself) you are well aware of how many hundreds (thousands?) of travel blogs there actually are in this super-connected world of ours. In the month of March, I spent a lot of time on my social media feeds as I shared and interacted with more content. This gave me the opportunity to read A TON of travel blog descriptions and about pages and to really think about what I want Sarah Going to be. I’ll mention this thought yet again because it’s one of the most important aspects of blogging: you can’t do this without being true to yourself. I’m a full-time worker, a millennial 20-something and a world traveler… so my blog should be written from that exact perspective.
I want to keep this fun.
Saving the best for last? Definitely.
Sarah Going isn’t a side hustle for me - I don’t make a dime from this blog, and if that ever changes in any way I’ll be the first to let you know. Sarah Going was launched as a creative outlet for me to share photos, ideas, advice and lessons I’ve learned and am learning from a life of balancing travel with other obligations. While I’d love it if my content could reach a large audience and people could interact with it, share it and learn something from it (and teach me something in return), that is not, and has never been, the ultimate goal here. I create content here because I love to write and I love to take pictures. So, in a nutshell, Sarah Going has always been… and should always stay… fun!
Doing some spring cleaning on your blog? Refocusing, reorganizing or reprioritizing? Feel free to share your blogging tips, tricks and ideas in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!