Why I Decided to Stop Trying to Grow my Blog

9 Jan

Remember when I mentioned in my first post of 2017 that I’m totally over the bullshit? This is what I was referring to. I’ve been holding off on this for a while… so you might as well strap yourself in for a bumpy ride and some ranting.

First off, I love my blog.

I love writing my blog. I love engaging with my readers. I love “knowing” people online. And I really love it when I get the random comment that people enjoy my writing. Or that I made someone laugh so hard they peed a little.

What I don’t love is blog culture.
Or blogging culture.
I don’t really know what to call it… but I HATE it.

The whole culture of being a blogger – or being a successful blogger – is bullshit.

There are a bazillion bloggers out there and it seems like everyone wants to be famous. Or at least get a gajillion blog hits so that they can make $500,000 off their blog each year and sit around paying full price for stuff. So, it becomes all about the numbers. More specifically, how many page views your blog gets each day/month.

But there are so many blogs out there that it can be hard to build your audience. So bloggers have invented ways to “support” each other to grow their blogs.

Sounds nice, right?

It’s not.
It’s bullshit. In case you didn’t hear it earlier.

So let’s talk about some of the ways this whole ‘I’ll scratch your back and you scratch mine’ process works and why I hate it…

Crappy Growth Strategy #1: Instagram Follow-for-Follow
For this one you trade following accounts. A blogger will go to a particular hashtag – like #styleblogger – and then follow hundreds of other bloggers in the hopes that they follow them back. However, if the ‘liked’ account doesn’t follow them back within a certain amount of time… they unfollow them. This is a way that a blogger on Instagram can greatly increase their followers and look more popular.

Why I hate it:
I haven’t done this, but I have been the recipient of a ton of accounts following me only to unfollow me the next day. Frankly, if you aren’t interested in my Instagram page, don’t follow it. I don’t want an inflated number of Instagram followers who don’t even give a crap about what I’m posting. I don’t need someone to follow me (to get a follow back) and then ignore everything I say. If I’m really feeling like being ignored, I can just ask my kid to put his shoes and coat away when he walks in the door. Also, I’m not going to follow someone back unless I’m actually interested in seeing what they post.

Crappy Growth Strategy #2: Facebook Groups for Blog Comments
Did you know that you can join blogger groups on Facebook that are all about supporting other bloggers? Sounds pretty great, right? That’s what I thought. I mean, how cool is it that you can have a daily comment thread where you post your blog post and then get comments on it from other people. Those people could decide that they love your writing and become one of your faithful readers. And you may find someone else’s blog that you love too!

Why I hate it:
I apparently live in a Disney movie because that is not how it works. Instead, you follow the rules by posting your link you’d like people to read and comment on, and then go through to read and leave comments on 5 other people’s posts. Then, instead of engaging back with you… you’ll either get people who flat out lie that they’ve left a comment (when they didn’t), or you’ll get comments where it is super clear that the person didn’t even READ your post. They usually sound something like this:

Such a great post! Thanks for sharing! – Jane, from Jane’s Fake Blog (a link to Jane’s blog would go here, of course)

Sigh. Sure, I would occasionally get a nice comment from other bloggers who actually read what I wrote, but the amount of spammy comments just made my heart hurt.

Crappy Growth Strategy #3: Hiring someone & Buying followers
Bloggers are actually hiring online personal assistants to visit other blogs and leave comments (with links back to the blogger’s blog). The worst part is that people are starting to think this is normal. Are you freaking kidding me?! You can also literally purchase followers for your Instagram and Twitter accounts. Yeah, you can BUY FAKE FRIENDS.

Why I hate it:
Stop. Just STOP. If you want to read a blog and comment on it, that’s awesome. I LOVE comments. However, it just feels so cheap that people are HIRING someone to go and leave comments and links in order to increase their goodwill and page views. Also, don’t buy fake fans. It’s disgusting. Stop it.

Crappy Growth Strategy #4: Instagram Like/Comment Circles
This one really pains me, because I bought into this 100%. On those blog support Facebook pages, you can sign up to be part of an Instagram group. The way a group typically works is that 10ish people are put in the group and when you share an image that you’d like engagement on, you can just send it to your group and everyone is required to comment on it and like it.

Yes, I know when I put it like that it sounds really sleazy. And I totally admit that I tried this. And it’s like a drug. You post an image and nobody gives a crap… but then you send it to your group and you get a bunch of comments and likes!

It’s great!
It feeds your ego!
The engagement affects Instragram’s engagement rate formula so that now more people are able to see your post, resulting in even more likes and comments!

You’re SO COOL and POPULAR.
Except, you’re not.

Why I hate it:
I honestly thought that this would be a great way to make other blog/Instagram friends and support each other. The problem is you are literally trading likes and comments with other bloggers/instagrammers and they probably don’t really give a crap about you. In fact, for all you know it can be their hired personal assistant leaving those likes and comments on their behalf.

What really burned my biscuit is that after a while I realized that I was one of the only people actually following the rules with my likes/comments and the other people weren’t bothering to like me back. Or, if they did leave a comment it was crap like “great post!”

Let’s go with sleazy, yet ineffective for that one.

I’m Done
I’m not perfect. And I’m certainly not a perfect blogger. And I can fully admit that I found myself pulled into the swamp of blog culture last year. I got caught up in it, I really did.

But now, I’m done with the bullshit.
It’s sad. And it’s kind of desperate.

So yeah, I’ve decided to stop growing my blog.

Instead, I’m going to write about what I feel like writing about. Share what I feel like sharing. Like Instagram accounts and posts that I feel like liking. And just generally cut out the crap.

Now, stroke my ego and give me some comments.

Like what you see? Share me with your friends!

55 Responses to “Why I Decided to Stop Trying to Grow my Blog”

  1. Melissa January 9, 2017 at 11:00 am #

    I’m pretty sure this is why I can never be a “real” blogger (nevermind successful blogger). I just don’t have the patience or organization required to maintain this level of bullshit. I have kids,and a job and stuff to do and TV to watch. This is too much work. I hope you don’t let it discourage you though, because I DO love reading what you write. I love your trunk and stitch fix writing and your kid stories and your vacation pictures. I enjoy all of it, because it seems real and normal…which is probably because you are NOT into the bullshit. Have a great week!
    Melissa recently posted…My girls are the bestMy Profile

    • Joules January 9, 2017 at 11:05 am #

      Thanks so much! Consider my ego stroked… =) I’m coming up on my 6 year anniversary of blogging and I’m not going anywhere. The bullshit, however, has been tossed in the bin.

  2. LeeAnne Lafin January 9, 2017 at 11:11 am #

    I love this! It annoys the crap out of me to get comments on that are obviously not genuine or people tagging their other accounts in my comments. And my activity/consistency isnt even close to comparable with yours. I appreciate your realness. Truly. So here is your ego stroke–> YOU ROCK MY SOCKS! and I often pee a little when reading your stuff ;-P

    • Joules January 9, 2017 at 11:13 am #

      It is super obnoxious and those follow-for-follow people drive me batty! Thanks for the ego stroke! =)

  3. Kim January 9, 2017 at 11:23 am #

    Hi Joules,
    I am probably not your typical reader, but I love your blog! I don’t blog and you are one of only about 4 bloggers I follow and love to read. I originally found you about a year ago when I was learning about Stitch Fix for the first time and now enjoy reading your clothing posts and your adventures with Jack (I have two boys aged 12 and 15 so I know where you are headed!). Keep doing what you’re doing and I’ll keep on reading!

    • Joules January 9, 2017 at 11:26 am #

      Thanks Kim! And just for you I will have a new Stitch Fix post up soon (it’s being delivered today)!

  4. Kim January 9, 2017 at 11:30 am #

    Hi Joules,
    I’m probably not your typical follower. I’m not a blogger, not into social media, but I do follow your blog along with 3 or 4 others. I found you about a year ago when I was learning about Stitch Fix and have been following you ever since and love your posts about clothes and your adventures with Jack. The one about not being able to decide between the two underwear that were almost identical had me cracking up and remembering similar times with my boys who are now 12 and 15. I love your real life posts and will keep being a faithful reader!

    • Joules January 9, 2017 at 11:45 am #

      I know this is a dup post, but I just love that you’ve BEEN there with the underpants story. =)

      • Kim January 9, 2017 at 12:39 pm #

        Oops! I guess you can tell I’m not one of those random “love your post” commenters since I didn’t think my first post worked. I’m glad I my second post brought a smile. My boys always liked to wear their underwear backwards too because they wanted to see the pictures and couldn’t see them if they were on their butt!

        • Joules January 9, 2017 at 12:43 pm #

          OH MY GOSH, that is just too adorable!!

  5. Jesica January 9, 2017 at 11:36 am #

    I had a feeling about most of these and am not shocked by the others. It is yucky! I often use a hashtag #teachersfollowteachers if I post something about school, a cool lesson, etc. I noticed I got a ton of those follow me for a day then unfollow me things. And the fake/stupid comments, too. And I’m not even trying to grow anything (I don’t blog and I know I’m not going to be “instafamous”). It just makes me mad. I only use the hashtag in case there is another teacher feeling the same way or who could use my idea.

    Keep on keepin’ on!

    • Joules January 9, 2017 at 11:46 am #

      YES, the fake comments are so annoying! Like “AMAZING pic, I love your feed” when I post a random picture of my ugly/cute dog…

  6. Sally Allen January 9, 2017 at 12:11 pm #

    Amazing post! Very nice! Or, my personal favorite: cute!

    Seriously: Yes (times infinity) to all of this. You’ve articulated issues I hadn’t realized were annoying me because I was trying to ignore them, ha. Thank you for the inspiration. 🙂

    • Joules January 9, 2017 at 12:14 pm #

      2017: The year of no longer ignoring bullshit!

  7. Kim January 9, 2017 at 12:22 pm #

    I love this post because it is so true! I hate nothing more than the stupid comments on my instagram posts – so cool, nice, etc. Its even worse when those comments dont make sense for the picture.

    I’m a loyal blog reader and will continue to do so (with even more desire after reading this!).

    Thanks for a great blog and being real!

    • Joules January 9, 2017 at 12:23 pm #

      Thanks Kim! Those random comments that make absolutely no sense drive me totally batty too!

  8. Audrey January 9, 2017 at 12:44 pm #

    I’m probably just going to repeat what everyone else said, but maybe if enough of say it you’ll believe it, right? 🙂

    I thought about being a blogger. But the whole business and “sales” side of it scared me off, so I applaud you for doing it. Don’t get so caught up in the possibility of what your blog could be deter you from making it what you want it to me. I, like many others, found you because I was looking for images of stylish women that were not stick thin. I could buy all the same clothes as those women and they would look completely different on me. I wanted pictures where I could get an idea of what those clothes would look like on my body. I stayed because as much as I love the outfit posts, I love seeing what Jack is up to, or Ollie, or even you and your family.

    I can also relate to this post because I feel this way about just about everything else in my life except blogging (since I don’t blog). I’m tired of fake people, or trying to do something to make someone like me just to have them not even bother. I find when I shift my focus to my little family of 4, I am much happier. So maybe keep your focus on the genuine followers you have and make your site better for them and yourself. That may attract new followers in and of itself.

    • Joules January 9, 2017 at 12:47 pm #

      I love your comment and I absolutely am shifting my focus to what makes me happy. I know that there are some super awesome readers like you out there, and I appreciate that you keep coming back. As for clothing on a non-stick body… come back tomorrow too because I have a new Boden winter dresses post going up! =)

  9. Eeva January 9, 2017 at 2:48 pm #

    “Stroke my ego” loved this. Actually, this was an interesting post. I might be back for reading more. No, I am sure, I will.

    • Joules January 9, 2017 at 2:54 pm #

      Glad you enjoyed it!

  10. Jenn January 9, 2017 at 4:36 pm #

    I love this post so much! Yes, yes, yes! I took a break from doing Stitch Fix posts over the summer/fall because I was feeling like the SF blogging world was clichy and it made me feel all icky and like I was back in high school. Plus, it was starting to feel like a job and the whole point of me starting a blog was to create a therapeutic outlet and to be inspired. I’m right there with you about blogging about what you want to blog about and fuck growing your blog by finding fake readers. You will attract readers who connect with you and actually read your blog. It’ll take longer going the organic route than if you did all of those social media games. However, your soul will be in tact 🙂
    Jenn recently posted…Weekly Meal Plan – Week of 1.9My Profile

    • Joules January 9, 2017 at 4:37 pm #

      I totally agree on the feelings about doing a ton of Stitch Fix posts. I took a nice break and may do them from time to time. If I feel like it.

  11. Scottie January 9, 2017 at 5:34 pm #

    AMEN! I am SO happy to see I’m not the only one who feels this way. I really thought I was. I’ve been organically growing my blog for years and just could never get on board with what felt like a trick. I follow blogs and feeds I love, I comment and engage with those I know and have grown to adore. I put out quality content and don’t work with brands I can’t stand behind with my whole heart. I have to be able to look at my self in the mirror…integrity matters…even if it’s just to me. (And now you, so thank you. I’ll be following your blog now because I think I’m really going to like it.)
    Scottie recently posted…wine balancerMy Profile

    • Joules January 9, 2017 at 6:06 pm #

      Welcome! I’m glad you enjoyed the post and will stay awhile!

  12. Serena @ Thrift Diving January 9, 2017 at 6:02 pm #

    Hey, Joules! Saw this post because some fellow bloggers posted it on Facebook and I was curious. I couldn’t agree with you more, girl. That whole follow-for-follow stuff is ridiculous and it’s something I never chose to get involved in. In fact, I don’t do much social media anymore, aside from painters at and a bit of FB when I have something to share and to say. The blogging world feels less stressful this way. I focus on producing quality posts that come from the heart, and somehow, I have brands that support what I do because they like it. Glad to hear other bloggers chucking the crappy parts of the blogosphere, too. 🙂
    Serena @ Thrift Diving recently posted…Understanding Wood: 7 Things You MUST Know BEFORE You Refinish or Build Your Next Project!My Profile

    • Joules January 9, 2017 at 6:07 pm #

      Raising a glass to chucking the crappy parts! Out of curiosity, where did you see this post shared?

  13. Julia January 9, 2017 at 6:36 pm #

    I seriously love this! I don’t really follow many bloggers but I’ve loved yours for over a year now. Thanks for keeping it real!!!

    • Joules January 9, 2017 at 6:42 pm #

      Thank you so much! And thank you for coming and staying! 🙂

  14. Falon January 9, 2017 at 7:01 pm #

    So I’m totes guilty of almost all of these (except buying followers or using an assistant to comment on blogs cause who has money for that? I’d rather buy books). I’m getting increasingly fed up with all of the growth strategies/comment pods/Facebook groups too. However, I have found some awesome blogs (like yours) through blogging groups, so I do have some appreciation for them. And there are a few people in comment pods that I have clicked with and have become Insta friends with. But I am so with you on cutting out the bullshit!

    • Joules January 10, 2017 at 9:21 am #

      You found me through a blogging group and you came back?! That’s awesome!!!

  15. Jenna January 9, 2017 at 7:55 pm #

    You know I’m right there with you. As a newer blogger it’s so overwhelming to think about all the things you need to do to “grow your reach” and those groups seemed like such a good idea. But yeah, family time + work + friends + blogging = no time for all that jazz. I have found one writing community online that I love and is helpful, but it’s not a link graveyard like so many others.

    I follow lots of bloggers I love (like you) because I find great value in the content they produce, the brands they introduce me to and the honesty they bring to their online space. I tried some of that other stuff and it totally paralyzed my creativity. I’m back to writing what I love and hope others love it too.

    You do you, Joules. It’s why we are here. Also, the fabulous skirts. 🙂
    Jenna recently posted…One word: A look back and a look forwardMy Profile

    • Joules January 10, 2017 at 9:22 am #

      It can be overwhelming and does become such a tedious task (especially when it doesn’t really result in any ‘real’ growth). I’m glad that you enjoy what I”m putting out there… and my snazzy skirts! 😉

  16. Shoshana January 9, 2017 at 9:29 pm #

    Love this post! Your blog is actually one of the few blogs that I still regularly read, because I was getting sick of getting to the middle or end of a post on other blogs, and reading, “that’s when my good friends at such and such a place offered blah, blah, blah…”. I don’t mind the odd sponsored post, but when it’s EVERY single post, it starts to feel icky and fake. Your posts are genuine and real, and I look forward to reading new ones – including the sponsored ones, because I know that they’re actually products that you believe in, not just products that you got for free, and have nothing to do with your actual blog.

    • Joules January 10, 2017 at 9:23 am #

      Shoshana – thank you so much for such a wonderful compliment! Apparently I need to ask you guys to feed my ego more often, because you all are killing it! haha

  17. Kathy Owen January 9, 2017 at 9:48 pm #

    I can answer the question you asked Serena. It was a post by Kim Six on Facebook.

    I didn’t know about the follow for follow but I know there are a ton of giveaways where you have to follow to enter.

    I’m in two Facebook share groups and have been thinking of leaving them. Everything you said is right on.

    I started blogging in 2011 before I knew about the whole blog as a business or “Blogworld”. It was fun then it got to be a chore because of all the social media sharing hype. I stepped away from a bunch of Facebook groups where the drama was dragging me down. I started blogging the “old” way a couple of months ago. Meaning I’m blogging for me and my readers.

    Thanks for a “real” post.
    Kathy Owen recently posted…12 Craft Supplies Goodie Boxes Up For GrabsMy Profile

    • Joules January 10, 2017 at 9:24 am #

      Thanks Kathy. For some reason I can’t track down that post, but it’s good to know! It’s funny how hard it is to hit that ‘unfollow’ button, but once I did I felt so relieved to be off that blog culture treadmill! =)

  18. Karen Heath January 9, 2017 at 9:53 pm #

    Thanks for this post. I’ve been blogging for 6 years now and there isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t consider making this exact post. I discovered long ago that other bloggers don’t read my blog. This is disconcerting to me because it seems fair that if I’m friends with someone and read their blog that they would take a minute to glance my way. Just another thing you have to grow thick skinned about if you blog. So I don’t do any of the creepy stuff, only blog about stuff I like and when I like. Will visit your blog again soon to see what’s up with you in a more typical post. Good luck!
    Karen Heath recently posted…Turning An Old Radio Cabinet Into A BarMy Profile

    • Joules January 10, 2017 at 9:26 am #

      Oh my gosh and I totally with you on the hurt that comes with hoping that your friends or blogger friends take the time to read your blog. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post and I do hope you come back to visit! =)

  19. Mariya January 9, 2017 at 10:00 pm #

    I won’t share your blog with my friends, but I love reading it because you make me laugh and sometimes you give me style ideas or vacation ideas and generally put me in a better mood than I started with. Thanks for writing and being genuine!

    • Joules January 10, 2017 at 9:26 am #

      Thank you Mariya, I”m glad you enjoy it!

  20. Ali January 9, 2017 at 10:15 pm #

    Thank you for being a breath of fresh air. I discovered your blog due to your stitch fix reviews but have appreciated that you are one of the few bloggers out there who hasn’t sold out (or just tried to cash in on your readers). Thank you!!

    • Joules January 10, 2017 at 9:27 am #

      Wow, so many of you found me through Stitch Fix. I’m glad you came by and I’m extra glad you stayed! =)

  21. Melody January 9, 2017 at 10:25 pm #

    You are my new hero girl!!! I have been thinking these things for the last year. I’m so happy you had the courage to write this. Thank you for your open and honest post. In this blog culture it’s hard to grow your blog, while being true to yourself and your readers. Way to go!!!
    Melody recently posted…Restoration Hardware Inspired DeskMy Profile

    • Joules January 10, 2017 at 9:27 am #

      Awww, thanks so much! I was a little nervous about putting this post out there, but it really seems to have resonated! =)

  22. John January 9, 2017 at 10:40 pm #

    I tripped into your post through a Twitter suggestion and enjoyed read. Well said! I always thought those groups with their draconian rules were sleazy. I try to push for success through quality content and reader interaction. I blog, first and foremost, because I enjoy it. Thanks for this post; you’ve validated how I feel about all that nonsense.

    • Joules January 10, 2017 at 9:28 am #

      John, I’m so glad you found your way over! And I’m extra glad that I could validate that we don’t need to be sleazy to be good bloggers! =)

  23. Kristina January 10, 2017 at 1:43 am #

    Hi Joules!

    I totally get where you’re coming from. When I starting following blogs there were over 50 that I was following, most of them through linkups and it was exhausting. Over the past few years I’ve scaled it back and yours always stuck because I love how real you are! Now I’m down to about ten blogs and yours is one of them. I can’t remember how I started to follow you but it’s always fun to see you in my Feedly feed. Thank you for posting!

    Kristina

    • Joules January 10, 2017 at 9:29 am #

      I also had a huge list of blogs that I would follow that has been whittled down to under a dozen. I’m so glad I made the cut!! =)

  24. Lauren January 10, 2017 at 9:37 am #

    Aaaaaa-MEN! I wish more bloggers would follow suit. As someone who started a blog to make friends (and succeeded, so now my blog has no purpose and that’s okay!), I could never buy into the fakery that is now the norm in blogland. It’s obvious when people are commenting because they have to. Especially when a post is pointless or weak, it makes those who really do try to post personal things discouraged since they can never get as many likes as those who are buying or trading for them. At the end of the day, it shouldn’t matter, but now that we live in a culture where it’s so easy to place a value on one’s life via social media, you start to feel like you’re doing it wrong. I enjoy bloggers who spend their time and effort to discovering new people to follow, giving them shout-outs, and genuinely sharing their lives online, likes or no likes. I think your content has always done that and I’m happy you’ve stopped feeding the machine!
    Lauren recently posted…whatcha been doing?My Profile

    • Joules January 10, 2017 at 10:54 am #

      I totally agree with you too. It is so difficult to pour yourself into a post and then have a crappy required comment like “great post!” as your feedback. Thank so much for stopping by and I hope you stay! =)

  25. Holly Fetting January 10, 2017 at 12:03 pm #

    I think you know I adore your blog – in the last year I’ve commented and shared often. You are funny, smart and real. I believe this is how real life should be too. We just decide to be ourselves and those that like that will be drawn to us and stay.

    Also, I still love you for our amazing orange sandals!!

    As a side note, seeing a strong common theme here – perhaps a sponsorship with Depends might be something to pursue. Clearly you are building a client base for them! 😉

    • Joules January 10, 2017 at 12:15 pm #

      LOL Holly. I love having you as a reader and commenter and bloggy friend! =)

  26. Melissa February 2, 2017 at 12:13 pm #

    Oh my gosh Joules! I accidentally stumbled across your awesome blog, and I definitely love it. I’m sad that I missed 6 years of this cheeky, fun blog, but fret ye not, I WILL catch up! Consider me your brand-newest fan.

    P.S. (Try not to post too much in February…I’ve got a lot of catching up to do AND my youngest child is leaving for the Air Force…so have a heart! *wink)

  27. Jenny Schneider May 3, 2017 at 10:39 am #

    I accidentally found your blog while looking for stitch fix reviews. I love it. I don’t really know anything about “blog politics” but I enjoy reading what you write and looking through your “fixes”.

    • Joules May 3, 2017 at 11:12 am #

      Jenny – thanks so much for stopping by and I’m so happy you like it here! =)

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