November 2016 Traffic Report

(This post contains affiliate links. See more about my use of affiliate links here.)
 
The holiday season is in full swing and Christmas is right around the corner. This also means that the time has changed so the days are shorter and it gets darker earlier. When this happens I'm less motivated to do things during the evenings and this has resulted in me only posting three new posts this month. On the plus side I did come up with about 20 new post ideas and also created two new YouTube videos.

Since I didn't feel like spending much time this month created new content I decided to spend my time focusing on improving my blogs organic reach or SEO. Before I dig into this, let me define what SEO is and why it's important for my blog.

I started off by doing some research online and finding tips from other bloggers on things you can do to improve the SEO of your blog.


Overall month-over-month I saw the number of unique visitors decrease, which isn't too surprising since I didn't post much new content and the holiday season started in November. What did improve month-over-month was the amount of time visitors are spending with my content and my bounce rate. Both are slowly moving in the right direction.


I share my monthly traffic reports partly to hold myself accountable and help me keep a closer eye on my monthly stats. I also do this in the hopes of helping and encouraging other bloggers who are looking to grow their online presence.

November 2016 Blog Stats

  • Sessions: 4,054 (-13.49%)
  • Users: 3,109 (-16.27%)
  • Pageviews: 5,720 (-12.90%)
  • Pages/Sessions: 1.41 (+0.71%)
  • % of New Sessions: 66.92% (-5.17%)
  • Bounce Rate:80.83% (-2.36%)

November 2016 Top 5 Blog Posts

  1. Hair Tip: Pre-poo Before Cleansing Chemically-treated Hair
  2. How to Keep Relaxed Hair Moisturized in the Winter
  3. Product Review: Cantu Shea Butter Leave-in Conditioning Repair Cream
  4. Achieving Smooth Hair at 9 Weeks Post Relaxer Touch Up
  5. 4 Benefits of Using Coconut Oil on Chemically-treated Hair 

November 2016 Top 4 Traffic Drivers

  1. Google/organic
  2. Pinterest
  3. Direct
  4. Facebook

November 2016 Social Media Stats

  • Bloglovin: 87 (-1)
  • Facebook: 71 (+8)
  • Google+: 61 (0)
  • Instagram: 284 (+9)
  • Pinterest: 1569 (+215)
  • Twitter: 381 (+14)
  • YouTube: 53 (+6)

How I Did With My November Goals

  • Grow my pageviews to 7,000 - NO
    • As I mentioned earlier I didn't post a lot of new content this month, so I'm not surprised I didn't meet this goal.
  • Work on improving my SEO - YES
    • Since I wasn't really spending much time in November creating new content, I decided to spend more time updating old content to improve my SEO.
  • Grow my email subscriber list to 50 - NO
    • I did gain about 18 new subscribers this month, but I didn't even get halfway to my goal of 50 total subscribers. The main reason for not reaching this goal is I didn't promote my email list outside of adding a sign up form to a few of my popular posts.
  • Add more images to my photo library- YES
    • I think I should have been more specific about the number of images I wanted to add to my photo library. I ended up only adding two. 

What worked

SEO optimization for old posts
This was pretty much the only that worked since this is really the only thing I worked on for the month of November. To optimize older posts for SEO I started with creating a list of my most popular posts. I then when to each post to
  • Review the content to see where the keyword gaps were 
  • Update the content and added missing keywords
  • Update the metadata
  • Add related post links
  • And in some cases change the post title to include keywords
Since I started doing these things I've seen a 21%+ month-over-month increase in my organic traffic which has made me very happy.

What didn't work

Growing my email list
I really didn't do much to grow my email list outside of adding a signup form to the sidebar of my site and to some of my popular posts. I need to be more aggressive with promoting my email subscription and creating incentives for people to sign up. I think I will leave that as a goal for 2017 instead of tackling it in December.

My December Goals

  • Grow my pageviews to 6,800
    • I'm going to be more realistic with this goal this month. What with Christmas only a few weeks away and the time change I anticipate my blog post schedule will be impacted just like in November.
  • Continue improving my SEO
    • Optimize another 20 posts for SEO. Organic traffic is now about 1/3 of my traffic and surpassed Pinterest to be my number one traffic driver. This is crazy when just about a month ago half of my traffic was coming from social sites. 
  • Complete my January content calendar
    • I've started planning my January content and I want to finish it this month so I can start creating and scheduling my content.
  • Start my February content calendar
    • I want to be more organized with my blog in 2017 and consistently create content. The best way to do that is to plan and schedule my content for each month.

What's been going on with your blog lately?

A List of Great Gifts for the Entrepreneur in Your Life

(This post contains affiliate links. See more about my use of affiliate links here.)

Christmas is almost around here! It's crazy. I was just in the store the other day and they had all kinds of Christmas displays up and I think I may have heard Christmas music playing over the sound system. Well all of that got me to thinking about holiday shopping and what would be on my gift list this year. Outside of home decor my list would be full of things I could use for blogging.

So I put together a list of 10 gift ideas that would be great for the blogger or small business owner in your life or you could buy as a treat for yourself.


A list of 10 gift ideas that would be great for the blogger or small business owner in your life. | arelaxedgal.com

Tech equipment 

1. Laptop - Apple MacBook Pro
I used to be a PC girl. I grew being a PC girl, but a few years ago I got my first taste of a MacBook at a company I worked for. It took some getting used to, but I ended up loving how few problems I had with it and how awesome and clear the screen resolution was. Now when I use my personal PC I get in a funk. It doesn't help that the laptop is almost (cough) years old. Since I don't have the extra cash right now, I'm saving up so my next laptop can be the Apple MacBook Pro. I actually have my eye on one in case I happen to come into a few thousand dollars.

While you don't need a MacBook to be a serious blogger, I highly recommend one if you want to start creating designs for yourself or other. With a MacBook it's easier to get and use professional design software and have an overall better experience.

If you're not looking to get serious about designing or don't have the money for a MacBook (I'm raising my hand) a nice PC is the way to go. As a backup to the MacBook I've got my eye on a Toshiba Satellite that has a 1TB hard drive so it can handle all the pictures, graphics and videos I'll be working on. They can run in the neighborhood of $500-$700.

2. Lighting - Diva Ring Light
Getting good light for photos can be tricky. Especially when the time changes and the days are getting shorter. When that happens I end up only have the weekend to capture a few photos. Well some of this could be solved with the Diva Ring Light. This light gives off white light instead of yellow and has a mount for your phone or camera so you can get good beauty shots.

From what I've read the Diva Ring Light is perfect for rooms like the bathroom where you don't get a lot of light, but would like to take more pictures. I've wanted to do videos or take pictures in my bathroom, but the light most of the time is horrible. If I had one of these Diva Rings you would probably see better lit pictures from me and probably a lot more with me in them.

3. Camera - Nikon or Canon DSLR
I've been taking photos with my iPhone and lately the quality has gotten better because I'm shooting only in natural light and taking more time to setup each picture. That being said I'd still like have a more professional camera, and a tripod, to take even better quality photos.

Lots of bloggers and professional photographers swear by digital single lens cameras or DSLR cameras. The most popular brands among bloggers seem to be Nikons and Canons. Mostly because they provide high quality pictures and come in a variety of price points. So if you have just a few hundred dollars to spend you can find something that will work for you. They also allow you to not just take pictures, but also shoot videos.

Doing some research here are the Canons and Nikons that seem to be most recommended by bloggers
  • Nikon D3400
  • Canon EOS Rebel T5
  • Nikon D5500
    Canon EOS Rebel T6i


Office equipment 

4. Poster board
As I mentioned above, I been taking more and more pictures for my blog and I found that poster board is a cheap way to get a good white backdrop. It's also good if you're looking for colored backdrops as you can get poster board in many different colors. I like to get my poster board from the Dollar Tree since I can get two big sheets for $1. It's really cost-efficient to replace which happens to me every few months depending on how often I use the sheets.

5. Colorful pens and notepads
While I use my Google calendar for a lot of my planning I'm still a little retro in that I like to write out a lot of things. And it's more fun to write things out when you have colorful, fun notebooks and pens.

Online subscriptions

6. Pinterest scheduler - BoardBooster
This is an online tool that helps with managing your Pinterest profile. I use it to pin new pins to my boards and also loop existing pins on my boards. In addition to pinning and looping BoardBooster can help with board clean up, improving pin quality and group board management. In my post How to Easily Manage and Boost Your Pinterest Performance I share how BoardBooster has helped me grow my Pinterest following with very little effort.
The great thing about BoardBooster is plans start at $5 a month. So it's not a gift that will break the bank.

7. Pinterest schedulers - Tailwind
Another Pinterest scheduler option Tailwind. Plans start at $9.99 a month. While I'm currently not using Tailwind I did do their free trial. Two of my favorite things about Tailwind is 1) the amount of data and analytics they provide and 2) they optimized my pinning schedule based on when my followers were most active.

Design or graphics

8. PicMonkey
This online design and photo editing tool has been helpful to me as a blogger. While I don't use the design tools much I do use it for image editing quite often. With PicMonkey I feel I get better editing results with images that have dark lighting. The PicMonkey auto adjust does a better job than other free image editors, so I'll start there and then make adjustments as needed. I also like that PicMonkey has a tool to remove backgrounds from images.

I use the free version of PicMonkey, but to really do some serious design work a paid subscription is the way to go. With a subscription you get access to templates, additional editing tools and can save your designs so you can go back and edit them later. Subscriptions start at $3.33 a month.

9. Creative Market 
One of the things I wish I had some money for is a new design theme for my blog. I've seen a few on the Creative Market that I really like, but can't afford right now. Getting a gift card to the Creative Market would be awesome and could go towards that purchase.

Another thing a Creative Market gift card could be used for is images, new fonts and graphics such as product mockups so you can showcase your creations for sale.

10. Etsy
A gift card to Etsy is a good idea as this is another place where you can find awesome design themes and graphics that can be used for your blog or other business materials.


What gift is at the top of your list this year?


How to Keep Your Eyeshadow From Creasing

I love eyeshadows. Just look in my makeup case and that's totally obvious. I love the various colors you can get, the different finishes and how they help accessorize an outfit. What I don't love about eyeshadows is they sometimes crease and wear off throughout the day. So by the end of the day when I get home it doesn't even look like I applied any eyeshadow.

Not being very makeup savvy I just accepted it thinking that's how eyeshadow worked. Until I stumbled across eyelid primer. How I stumbled across it I can't recall, but once I started using it I never turned back.


Part of having a great makeup look is not having it wear off before you get home. See how you can avoid this by using an eyeshadow primer. | arelaxedgal.com

Using eyeshadow primer helps with
  • Putting a barrier between the shadow and my eyelid 
  • Creating a foundation for my eyeshadow to hold onto so it stays on longer
  • Making the application of my eyeshadow smoother
  • Keeping oil produced by my skin from reaching my eyeshadow
  • Seals in any eye treatment products I've put on

The eyeshadow primer that I settled on and continue to use is the Elf Shadow Lock Eyelid Primer. The primer claims to prep "your eyelid for smoother, longer-lasting and crease-proof eyeshadow. The lightweight liquid quickly absorbs into the skin for comfortable wear and increases eye color longevity."


Even though this primer is only $2, it works really well. My eyeshadow lasts through the day and I don't see it start to wear off until well after the day is done. Also the intensity of certain colors is greater than if I just applied the shadow directly to my skin.

Part of having a great makeup look is not having it wear off before you get home. See how you can avoid this by using an eyeshadow primer. | arelaxedgal.com

On days when I decide to wear eyeshadow here's how I apply the primer
  • Clean my face and then apply moisturizer to my face avoiding my eyelids
  • Apply a thin layer of primer to my eyelids using the wand. Depending on how I want to apply my shadow depends on how much of my eyelid I apply primer to
  • Make sure the primer is blended
  • Then I apply my shadow by patting it on instead of swiping

Do you use primer for your eyeshadow?



October 2016 Traffic Report + Free Printables

(This post contains affiliate links. See more about my use of affiliate links here.)

October was kind of a month of evolution and me getting even serious about blogging.

First off I decided to try a new social media scheduler for Twitter and Facebook called Recur Post. Previously I was using Hootsuite which I liked and had no technical issues with. The one feature I wished Hootsuite had was looping content. With looping content I could reuse past tweets and posts saving me lots of time and effort in recreating content. Time that I could put towards other things.

This is where Recur Post came in. I heard about Recur Post in a Blogging Facebook Group I'm a part of. I decided to give it a try and see if I liked it. Before I get to far let me tell you about Recur Post. It's a social media management platform for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. You can either upload your content or input it manually. Right now I'm using the free plan so I can only have 100 pieces of recurring content in my library. I'm using Recur Post to only post my own content on Twitter and my Facebook Page and using Hootsuite to post the content of other bloggers.

Here's how the free plan of Recur Post differs from the free Hootsuite plan. With Recur Post
  • I can group my content in libraries and use the libraries for scheduling my content
  • I can easily schedule how much content I want to post and on what topics
  • My top performing posts are automatically recycled and reposted
  • There is access to analytics so I can see which posts were top performers in each channel

So far I'm loving the recurring feature of Recur Post. I've spent less time creating tweets and posts every week and I've seen steady engagement on my Twitter account. The only downside is the free plan only allows you to have 100 pieces of recurring content. That really isn't much if you have more than 100 posts.

The second thing I did in October was started capturing emails. I didn't have an email list in place and it was something I kept meaning to do and kept putting off. I finally decided to bite the bullet and start collecting emails. I'm using the free plan of Mailer Lite which allows me 1,000 unique subscribers a month. So far I've only sent out one newsletter that included a freebie.

Now that I've shared a bit about what happened in October it's time to dive into the monthly stats. I share my monthly traffic reports partly to hold myself accountable and help me keep a closer eye on my monthly stats. I’m also doing this in the hopes of helping and encouraging other bloggers who are looking to grow their online presence.

October is now done so I'm sharing my blog wins and losses, what I learned and FREE printables for tracking your blog and social channel stats each month. | arelaxedgal.com

October 2016 Blog Stats

  • Sessions: 4,686 (+24.46%)
  • Users: 3,713 (+24.10%)
  • Pageviews: 6,567 (+22.70%)
  • Pages/Sessions: 1.40 (-1.41%)
  • % of New Sessions: 70.57% (-2%)
  • Bounce Rate: 82.78% (+2%)

I check my blog stats at least once a week to see how I'm tracking and if there are any changes I should make to the content I'm promoting, where I'm promoting, etc. So imagine my surprise when a few days from the end of the month I saw that I was a few hundred pageviews away from 6,000. I wanted to jump up and down (actually I think I did). I was even more excited when I crossed 6,000 and couldn't wait to put the numbers into the spreadsheet I use to track my blog and social stats each month to see what the month-over-month increase was.

I'm so glad that I created the spreadsheet I use because I can easily go back and see what my numbers were for the previous month and what the month-over-month gains/losses were. If you're not using anything to track your blog and social stats I highly recommend you find or create something. You know what, I'm going to make it easy for you and give you access to a PDF version of my blog and social stat tracker that you can use for your blog. All you have to do is sign up using the button below.


October 2016 Top 5 Blog Posts


October is now done so I'm sharing my blog wins and losses, what I learned and a FREE printable for tracking your blog and social channel stats each month. | arelaxedgal.com

October 2016 Top 4 Traffic Drivers

  • Pinterest
  • Google
  • Direct
  • Facebook

I decided to dig a little deeper into my traffic drivers this month and saw that Pinterest drives about 52% of my total traffic and that percentage has been increasing each month. While this is good news I don't want to be totally reliant on Pinterest for my traffic so I need to work on diversifying my traffic sources.

Organic is driving about 24% of my overall traffic and I'd like it to be about 30-40%. Especially when the organic traffic has a lower bounce rate and spends more time per session on my site. You'll see this reflected in my goals that I'll be looking to implement some things in November that will, hopefully, have a longer-term positive effect on the organic traffic I get.

October 2016 Social Media Stats

  • Bloglovin: 88 (-3)
  • Facebook: 63 (+9)
  • Google+: 61 (+1)
  • Instagram: 275 (+4)
  • Pinterest: 1,354 (+146)
  • Twitter: 367 (+23)
  • YouTube: 47 (+2)

Since I started tracking my social stats this is the first month were I saw a loss in followers. To put a positive spin on it, they were Bloglovin followers and I really don't try to increase or maintain my following there.

As I am every month, I was surprised to see any gains on Google+ and YouTube since I don't much of anything on either platform.

How I Did With My October Goals

  • Grow my pageviews to 6,000 - Yes
  • Post on Facebook 1-2 times a day - No
  • Post on Instagram at least once a day - No
  • Create my own stock photo library - Yes


What worked

Promotion and optimization
In October I had little drive to create new content. You may not have been able to tell because I had a few weeks of posts already created and scheduled and I did write and post a few new pieces of content. Since I didn't feel much like creating, I decided to spend time promoting my existing content.

To do this I
  • Created my Recur Post tweets and also set up Recur Post for my Facebook page
  • Posted a little more regularly on Instagram
  • Made some optimizations to my Pinterest account by looking at my analytics to see which boards were my poorest performing and getting rid of them. After doing that I saw a surge in activity on my remaining boards. Also my traffic from Pinterest looks to have increased

Recur post
As I've mentioned I started using Recur Post for my tweets and that's when I started seeing pageviews from Twitter. Granted it wasn't a lot, but before I started using Recur Post Twitter didn't show up in my list of traffic drivers. Now it's in the top 10. I'm hoping with continued use and Recur Post determining which tweets are better performing I'll see Twitter rise in my list of traffic drivers.

Additionally through Recur post I've been able to post to my Facebook page at least once a day. I don't even have to think about it or write posts every day to make that happen. I wish I'd started using Recur Post sooner.

What didn't work

Instagram
This has been a slow growth channel for me. Mainly because I find it time consuming to take or find pictures, try and write a compelling caption and schedule the post. So I end up posting sporadically throughout the month stunting my growth. To be honest I don't really see any traffic from Instagram so I've decided I'm ok with that and will focus my attention on other channels that I think will be more beneficial for my blog.

My November Goals

  • Grow my pageviews to 7,000
    • Yep I'm going big for November. To do this it goes back to promotion and optimizations.
  • Work on improving my SEO
    • This will also help increase my pageviews. During November, I'll be going through my old blog posts to review keywords, update metadata and add related post links.
  • Grow my email subscriber list to 50
    • As noted above I started an email list in October and haven't done a whole lot to promote it. I'll be doing research and working on ways to increase my subscribers over the next few months. Right now my list is at 5 so you can see I have a way to go.
  • Add more images to my photo library
    • Part of what sometimes delays my blog or social posts are the lack of appropriate images. So I decided to get around that problem by creating my own image library. I've been shooting my own stock images using props around my house and my iPhone. I want to continue doing that in November so I have a greater library to choose from.

What blog or personal goals did you achieve in October?


5 Ways to Save Money When Flying

(This post includes affiliate links. You can read about my use of affiliate links here.)

Until recently I didn’t do much long distance traveling, particularly air travel. This was mostly because I lived an easy drive from most of my family and friends. Now that I live a few states away I’ve been flying more during the year which isn’t cheap.

Being the frugal person I am each time I travel I try to find a new way to save some money. So as we get ready to roll into the biggest travel season of the year - Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years - I wanted to share my five tips to make flying a little cheaper.

Traveling by plane doesn't have to be expensive. Here are five ways you can save money the next time  you fly. | arelaxedgal.com


1. Hold your flight

This is a neat little feature I found when booking directly with the airlines. Most if not all of the major airlines allow you to hold a flight for free for a certain amount of time. This is a great money-saving feature to take advantage of because the price of airline ticket can change daily.

I’ve had a few experiences where the cost of tickets increased overnight. During one of those experiences the cost of the ticket increased by about $70. I was so glad I decided to hold the ticket 24 hours for free because I was able to book it at the lower price.



Take an empty reusable water bottle

I like to have water with me no matter how I travel and I don’t want to pay a lot for it. When I travel for pleasure I tend to take an empty reusable water bottle with me. This was I can get through the security checkpoint and fill up my reusable water bottle at a fountain near the gate. It’s also nice to have a reusable water bottle on hand when I’m at my destination.

The cost of buying a reusable water bottle is so much less than buying water when you travel. If I think about how much money I could end up spending on water when I travel at about $3 a bottle I easily make my money back and then some.

When it comes to reusable water bottles, I’m like using ones without a straw when I travel. This is because air can build up in the straw causing the water to squirt out when you open the bottle. I learned that the hard way when I opened my water bottle mid-flight and ended up drenching the man sitting in the seat in front of me.

Bring a snack from home

When I fly my eating schedule gets all messed up. I either miss a meal or have to eat a meal earlier or later than normal. And not all flights provide a complimentary pack of pretzels or peanuts. So I’m always grateful when bring a snack from home.

Great cost efficient snacks that pack well are trail mix, granola bars, chips in a can or pretzels. My snacks have also been a lifesaver on occasion when I was at my vacation destination.

Get a ride to the airport

Depending on how long you’ll be gone getting a ride to the airport can be cheaper than leaving your car there. Especially if you're going to be away for a week or more. Find a friend or relative who can drop you off and/or pick you up. You can also us ride-sharing services like Uber. And as a bonus if you're new to Uber you can use my promo code leahm1041ue or link to sign up and can get $20 off your first ride.

As another plus, getting a ride to the airport can also cut down on your overall travel time because you don’t have to factor in time to park your car and getting from the parking lot to the terminal.

Traveling by plane doesn't have to be expensive. Here are five ways you can save money the next time  you fly. | arelaxedgal.com

Pack an outfit or two in your carry on

While I haven’t had to use them I always pack at least one change of clothes in my carry on when I check a bag. This helps me have more room in my checked bag so I don’t go over the limit and also have room for anything additional I bring back.

Additionally I use the clothes in the carry on as a backup in the event my checked luggage gets lost for a day or two. I also pack some of my more important toiletries in my carry on. This way I have to spend money on products I already bought.


Do you have any money saving tips for air travel?

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