Nov 7, 2018
This episode demonstrates that it is possible to get to 6.6 million pageviews in 2 years of blogging, because Caroline Simmons of Swaddles N Bottles did it! And the best part is she loves sharing all her tips and tricks.
In this episode, Caroline and I discuss how Pinterest has fueled her blog growth, and how she strategically uses group boards to find new opportunities.
Learn how she hires contributors to create content for her parenting blog, and how she's started a new blog to teach other women how to build online businesses. This is all in addition to having two babies at home!
If you want actionable steps to take your blog traffic to a new level, you will love this episode!
* May contain affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I might receive a small commission at no cost to you.
Welcome to The Blogger Genius Podcast brought to you by MiloTree. Here's your host, Jillian Leslie.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 0:03
Hello, everybody. Welcome back to The Blogger Genius Podcast. Today, my guest is Caroline Simmons. It's Caroline right? Not Carolyn?
Caroline Simmons 0:21
Jillian Tohber Leslie 0:21
Yes. okay, and Caroline is a mother of two itty bitty kids. And she's a blogger. She's owner of a blog called Swaddles n Bottles, and it's a resource for new moms.
Now what's super interesting is that she started this in 2016, and she has since grown it to over 6.6 million page views. So we are going to get into how she has done that. Welcome to the show. Caroline.
Caroline Simmons 0:49
Hi. Thank you for having me.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 0:51
So I have to say that we met because you sent me the loveliest email out of nowhere, just saying how much you enjoyed the podcast.
Caroline Simmons 1:02
Yes, I am someone who always want to be learning about whatever there is out there that I can get my hands on involving blogging and growing. And just finding new strategies and tips.
And anytime I see your email pop up in my inbox, I either read it right then and there, or I flag it because I know it's always got such great content. So yeah, I really enjoy it.
And, you know, I like that we were saying that the internet can be kind of a lonely place. And so I always like to just send a positive message whenever I can. And just send you a little word of encouragement that I'm reading it and I'm loving it. And it is absolutely helping me.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 1:42
Thank you. And you're also using MiloTree, because if you sign up for MiloTree, you get my emails.
So honestly, like when I get an email like that. It's it makes my day.
Caroline Simmons 1:54
Well, good. I'm happy to hear that.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 1:56
And then when I learned a little bit about your business, I was like, please come on the show, I want to interview you.
Caroline Simmons 2:02
Yes, I'm happy to share whatever I can. Kind of pay it forward everything you've given me. I'd love to share some of my tidbits and hope that it can help someone else.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 2:11
Okay, so let's start at the beginning. You started this blog not long ago?
Caroline Simmons 2:16
Jillian Tohber Leslie 2:16
So tell me a little bit about you. And how you did this.
Caroline Simmons 2:20
Okay. Yeah, so I launched it in October of 2016.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 2:25
Wow. So two years ago.
Caroline Simmons 2:27
Just about two years ago now. And my first daughter was just three months old at the time. And when I was pregnant with her, I spent so much time online, trying to get my hands on any and all information I could about what was to come in my near future.
In terms of my pregnancy and labor and delivery and bringing home a newborn and breastfeeding that newborn. And so I spent so much time online, just trying to collect every bit of information I could.
Then as I kind of started going through, you know, those first couple months of motherhood and testing things out and trying to figure out. What was working what wasn't. What were the mom hacks that were saving me time and sanity and whatnot.
I thought I would love to share this. And so I decided I wanted to start a blog. I had never done anything website related in the past.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 3:22
And what was your previous life?
Caroline Simmons 3:24
My previous life, I kind of dabbled around in a few different things. And I spent a few years working for an energy company. I did some recruiting for them. I did some customer service for them prior to leaving my job.
Right before I had my first daughter, Emmy, I was working in higher education and working with college students, which was really, really fun.
So, to be honest, I can say that I hadn't found what I wanted to do long term. And then when this idea, once it struck me, like creating a blog creating something from scratch that I've done all on my own, and growing it to the point of reaching me, no, never would have guessed it would have been millions of mothers and helping them.
Once that idea was in my brain, and in my heart, there was no stopping it. It gave me, it's still to this day gives me goosebumps, just thinking about having the opportunity to do that. And so that's kind of what set me on my path.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 4:24
Okay, so you get this idea. You have this tiny little baby, and you think I want to help other mothers, right? So what do you do?
Caroline Simmons 4:34
I bought a domain and I'm pretty sure my husband thought I had lost my marbles because he's like, do you know anything about blogging? And I didn't.
And really, when I was a new mom, I was a new blogger. I researched. I took every free course I could find. I read every book I could find. I invested a little money in some paid ebooks and paid courses.
I just just dug into anything I could get my hands on to figure it out. And I started creating content. I think one of the things that was the most helpful was that I was creating content for an audience that I was in the same position.
I was going through the same struggles, and I was finding solutions. And I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. And I think that really helped.
I had to tap into what's going on in my life. What struggles and am I going through? And how can I help others?
Jillian Tohber Leslie 5:37
You know, it's so funny, because people will go, I want to start a business, what should it be? And I always say, examine your own life. Because, you know, if you're having a problem, chances are millions of other people are having that exact problem.
And that's it again, we didn't set out to create MiloTree, we built it for ourselves, it worked really well. We're like, Hey, we could help other bloggers.
And so we didn't set out to go, we're gonna make this app. And, you know, it's just, we scratched our own itch, and we were able to find a solution. Just like you did.
Caroline Simmons 6:11
Right, yeah. And that is, I think, what what brings in the people is when you're solving a problem for them, and you're not setting out trying to do something for yourself, right?
You're saying, and this is something that a lot of people are struggling with, how can I help? And when you have a mindset of helping, I think people can sense that. Yes. And I think that they are attracted to it.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 6:35
I agree. It's like, they can smell it.
Caroline Simmons 6:37
Jillian Tohber Leslie 6:39
Okay. So you start writing posts.
Caroline Simmons 6:42
I started creating content and building the website, which that was a struggle in itself. Learning this new platform of WordPress, and that, that took some time. That was probably the biggest learning curve.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 6:57
Did you did you hire somebody?
Caroline Simmons 6:59
No, it was really just tutorials, and watching a lot of YouTube tutorials, and just reaching out to other bloggers, and just kind of trying to figure it out little by little. And still to this day.
I would say it was maybe three months ago I installed a new theme in my blog and made a major change. So I tried not to be too hard on myself with it being perfect in the beginning. Because that is kind of, building a website is ever evolving. That was probably the hardest kind of hurdle in the beginning was the technical stuff.
Something as simple as changing the color on my menu bar would take me, you know, 45 minutes to Google it and figure it out, and then try it and it didn't work. So I had to try it again.
So, that was definitely tough. But now I'm pretty proud of what I do know, and what I can accomplish. And it was fun to learn all of those new things.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 7:59
So there's a lot of content on your site.
Caroline Simmons 8:02
Jillian Tohber Leslie 8:03
Did you write it all?
Caroline Simmons 8:04
No, no. So I did in the beginning, and then I believe it was June of this year, I really kind of felt like, while my experiences were great, why not start providing some other views, some other experiences.
Because every path through motherhood is unique. And why not give some other people an opportunity to share what they have. So I opened up an application and put it out there on social media, my Instagram, my Facebook.
I started reading content that all of these other mothers had submitted. And I was blown away by the results. I never would have thought that I would have received as many applications as I did.
And then from that, I now have three writers who write for me consistently. They are wonderful. I feel incredibly blessed to have them because they too, I think, really share my passion for helping moms and providing whatever information they can.
So they helped me create a lot of the content. I have done a lot of guest posts in the past where I've allowed newer bloggers to share things. But I would say probably 70% to 80% of the content I wrote myself.
I'm really loving having other views and other just stories and point of view this from others.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 9:28
Do you pay them?
Caroline Simmons 9:30
I do? Yes.
My content writers who are with me, my three, I do pay them and I have not paid for, like blog posts in the past. But I do pay my writers. Absolutely.
I mean, if you read some of the content they provide me with, it's amazing. It's stellar. And I like supporting them.
And the fact that they're also trying to make something of themselves as freelance writers. So, yeah, I love being able to support them on their journey as well.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 9:59
And how much content. How often are you posting?
Caroline Simmons 10:03
You know, that's one of the interesting things about blogging. Since I brought on these writers, I've been a lot more consistent.
When I brought home my second daughter, she was born in October, she was a little bit early, so she really needed extra attention. And so I didn't post there for maybe two months.
When I first found out I was pregnant with her, oh, my goodness. I have like the worst morning sickness. And so I didn't post then for two or three weeks. So I wouldn't advise that to other bloggers.
But I would say it is one of the nice things about blogging, is when you do have to take time for your family, and for yourself, you can.
But I have seen a lot of growth since I've been really consistent. And I'd say for the month of September, I think I'm already up to we've posted 16 times.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 10:57
Caroline Simmons 10:59
And that's a combination of my own, and my writers as well. So as long as there's stuff to be shared, you know, we're going to be sharing it, we're not going to hold ourselves back.
As long as we keep having inspiration on things to write. We're going to keep putting it out there.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 11:17
That's awesome. Okay. Now, here is the million dollar question actually be 6.6 million question is, how have you grown your page views so big?
Caroline Simmons 11:29
Well, this is just kind of my philosophy for any blog is you have to know your audience and where they are spending their time, where are they hanging out. And wherever that is, you have got to work the heck out of it.
For me, being that I am targeting women, new mothers, for me, that was Pinterest. And Pinterest has been the number one source of traffic for my blog.
Really since day one, I have just researched and read and implemented and tested and dug into my analytics with Pinterest more than any other platform because it's what's working for me.
And I think that that's something it took me time to figure out to work on what's working.
You know, I think as a blogger, we can get so tied up with, well, there's Facebook, and there's Instagram. And there's Twitter. And there's LinkedIn. And, you know, there's all these different things and you're trying to make each of them work.
Because you maybe hear that they're working for other bloggers or you think it could work. Where really I mean, if Pinterest is working, work Pinterest, and focus on that. And once you've got some consistent traffic from it, that's it's okay to start working on other things, and looking into other things.
But I think that by really focusing on that one platform and doing whatever I could to learn and master and just make it work for me, that's what really drove the traffic.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 13:05
So by the way, you are so preaching to the choir, I agree with you 100%.
I always say this, which is go toward what's working. And then people will say, yeah, but what, what happens when Pinterest changes their algorithm, and I go, Oh, don't worry, they will. And then you go toward whatever else is working.
But if something is working, dig deep, it doesn't mean that you ignore Instagram, but focus on what's making you money.
Caroline Simmons 13:33
Right. And especially if you're just starting out, you're like, wow, this is working, okay, that means you've just skim the surface.
If you've just pinned a few times, and it starts doing good things for your page views. Imagine what would happen if you really just took the time to educate yourself and read as much as you could. Even if you take three days to do nothing, but just educate yourself. It will pay you back and you will start knowing how to implement these things differently and just and really launch it.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 14:01
So let's talk about this. Okay, so did you take Pinterest courses?
Caroline Simmons 14:07
I did not take a specific Pinterest course. I'll be honest, I was an avid pinner before. I loved recipes. And when I was young and single, I had my dream wedding board, and all of that.
My fashion board and such, so I was a pinner beforehand. And I think I understood how it worked. In that sense, when it came to making it work. For myself as a blogger, I think it was really just about digging into analytics.
There's so many free resources out there, you know. Just a quick Pinterest search on Pinterest tips and what you can do to make it work for you. There's so much content out there.
Which I love that about the blogging world. I love that people are willing to share, what is working for them.
And so I might have taken some free Master Courses, as they call them, where it's like a one time thing where you sit and they share just kind of a few golden nuggets from Pinterest.
But I didn't take one course that kind of changed everything. For me, it was more of just grabbing whatever I could, wherever I could, and just implementing little things here and there.
And then, like I said, it's all about digging into your analytics. You know, if you don't know what's working, you're not going to know what to stop doing and what to change.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 15:32
Okay, so so let's unpack that a little bit.
Caroline Simmons 15:34
Jillian Tohber Leslie 15:34
What does that mean? Digging into your analytics?
Caroline Simmons 15:41
So you've got your analytics on everything, if we're talking specific about Pinterest?
Jillian Tohber Leslie 15:46
Yeah, let's do Pinterest.
Caroline Simmons 15:48
Pinterest analytics lets you know what boards you're pinning to that are getting the most results.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 15:54
Caroline Simmons 15:54
You can also look into things like what type of pins are performing. You can see what times of day that you're pinning that are working for you.
I am an avid user of Tailwind.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 16:11
Got it. And we do too.
Caroline Simmons 16:14
Oh, my gosh. And that it's not just the Pinterest analytics alone. My Tailwind analytics are huge for me. It lets me know so much.
And especially like I said, I'm a big user of the group boards. And using group boards on Pinterest is a great way to expand your reach.
And it's great how they can let you know, you've pinned to this board 67 times in the past month, and it's only been been repinned once. Well, that tells you that your ideal audience is not hanging out in that group board. That's you're not getting your pin in front of the right people.
So it may be time to, take a break from that group board, possibly leave that group board and really start to focus more on where are you know, my my ideal pinners? How can I get in touch with them? And how can I make sure that they're seeing my content And clicking on it.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 17:11
So in Tailwind, you're looking at which are your most successful boards?
Caroline Simmons 17:17
I'm looking at what are my most successful boards. I really also love to look at what people are pinning directly from my domain.
Because it shows them if there is an image within a blog post that really is like standing out to them. And they're really captivated by Wow, this is this is such an interesting graphic. And so if I see that that's being pinned a lot, I like to go in and maybe create a new PIN that's maybe a little modified version of that, that graphic, it just tells you so much.
But the board analyzer as they call it, and that really helps me see where is my effort is most being returned.
I'm using that time slot to pin to this board? Is it worth it? And then from there on the opposite end of, leaving boards and also helps me see what are my rock star boards?
Where are my people for sure, hanging out. And I like to make sure that as soon as I have a new blog post that it's going to my rock star boards, because I know that that's going to be the fastest and the best way to reach my audience.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 18:24
And how many boards do you have?
Caroline Simmons 18:27
Oh, my goodness, I think I'm probably in about 145 range right now.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 18:32
Caroline Simmons 18:33
And that's what's really great about group boards is because I personally have maybe 15,000 followers on Pinterest right now. But my reach is 4.5 million.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 18:47
Caroline Simmons 18:50
Being part of those group boards, it's expanding my reach well beyond my individual followers. And I mean, that's huge, right there.
That is what I say is the secret to Pinterest is the group boards.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 19:04
Is the group boards.
Caroline Simmons 19:05
Jillian Tohber Leslie 19:05
Because, again, I feel like I've heard over time that group boards are not as useful that they need to be very curated.
Are you pinning in group boards that have thousands or hundreds of contributors?
Caroline Simmons 19:23
You're touching on something that I've heard a lot of debate on. So I agree with you that if you are in boards that are pin whatever you want, no rules. Pin, whatever, and there's, you know, 4.5 thousand people in it. Yes, that can be a negative.
But I am personally part of a board that I think have probably 700 or 800 contributors, and it's one of my top ones. That's why when I'm looking at group boards to join, I'm not usually making that decision myself. I'm going to ask to join, I'm going to give it 30 days. And I'm gonna let my Tailwind analytics Tell me from there.
So I test it out, see if it's working. And if it doesn't, okay, I'll go ahead and leave.
But I also think that you really do need to have a balance, I would say, you know, 70/30.
70% of your group boards you really need to be focusing for that's very specific target audience.
I'm a parenting and pregnancy blogger, I'm going to be joining boards that focus around pregnancy, babies, labor and delivery, breastfeeding. That's what I want to be looking for.
I'm fine with testing them out. But I'm also very quick to leave them if I feel like they're not working. But I'm not going to rule them out from the beginning. Let's give it a try.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 20:44
Now, how are you finding these group boards?
Caroline Simmons 20:47
PinGroupie is an awesome resource.
It has really evolved too, from when I first started blogging, they've really updated it. And it's a lot more user friendly.
Now, you're able to go in and filter out the category of group boards that you're looking for. And so that's awesome.
Another great thing is , go to your fellow bloggers, see what some of the bigger bloggers in your in your area and see where they are pinning to and into to get added to those group boards as well.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 21:25
And so will you reach out? You emailed them? Will you messaged them on Pinterest?
Caroline Simmons 21:30
Yeah, I'd usually just follow the instructions on the group board. And it'll say, follow me and, send me an email or follow me and messaged me on my Facebook page and things like that.
And I think one of the most valuable things that's helped me is I have two things I always follow up, I keep a running list of who I have messaged in regards to these group boards.
And then if I'm added, I make a note, send them a thank you email. But a week to 10 days later, if I haven't heard back, I send a second email and I continue to follow up with them.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 22:06
I love this. Okay, keep going.
Caroline Simmons 22:08
And then more than that, a lot of times, and this is like a really big secret. But a lot of times, you'll notice that the bigger bloggers that have, you know 300,000+ followers don't have instructions on how you can grow the board. And so it takes some digging.
I go to their website, I find, you know, their email address, and I send them a very personalized email to see if I can get added. And so a lot of times, I think that, you know, bloggers will look at these larger accounts. And well, there's no instructions on how to get added. So they must not be accepting contributors.
And I don't take that as a stop, I keep going, I keep digging past that. And I find a way to make a connection with them.
And I've got a group board that I'm part of. And you know, she didn't have any instructions. But she has half a million followers. And they're my target audience. And I reached out to her, and I kind of established a relationship with her and asked if I could be a contributor. And that was a big launch forward for my traffic.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 23:08
That is terrific. Oh, my God, I'm going to go back and kind of rethink our whole group board strategy.
Caroline Simmons 23:16
Yeah, it's powerful. Not only that, it's a great way to build a community with people in your network.
In my ebook, I have an ebook, Pinning For Pageviews, where I talk about the strategies that work great for Pinterest. And one of my suggestions is to have your own group boards.
And, you know, pay back the favor. Give other people an opportunity to market their blog post and their blogs to your audience. And I think it's a great way to say like, hey, I've got this many followers and this group board your content is great, I'd love to add you and you kind of do like a little group board swap and build a relationship there.
So for all the group boards who have given you the opportunity to share your content, pay that back and invite some of our fellow bloggers to join yours as well.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 24:05
So how many would you say, how many group boards are you in? How many group boards do you have? And how many regular boards?
Caroline Simmons 24:17
Yeah, I want to say I am probably part of at least like 100, 120, group boards and 40 are my own.
I'm so worried that those numbers are going to be completely off.
I'm thinking, like when I'm in tailwind, and I'm adding all those boards, I'm thinking of like, how many days right and so I want to say that's probably about right, I'm in like maybe 120 boards?
Jillian Tohber Leslie 24:49
Wow. Okay, how do you keep track then of all of these group boards? Do you have, say, your top five group boards? So if you're pinning do you pin into 100 boards?
Caroline Simmons 25:08
So this is going to be really hard to explain but tailwind, has this amazing feature called board lists. And what I do is I create groups of 10. So I have mom boards A, mom boards B, mom boards C, and that's how I go through.
And I of course, have a Google Docs with all of my full list of all of them, and which one is on which board list so that way, I ensure that I'm not missing one.
And then when I go to pin, a new pin, I go through my list. And I pinned to the group board A, group board B, group board C. Also having it set up in that way where I have those different board list helps me so that way, I'm not pinning, you know, all of the same boards and all the things day. Does that make sense?
Jillian Tohber Leslie 26:01
Yeah. Okay. So let me see if I can say that back to you. So you can group boards on tailwind?
So let's say you've got 100 group boards, you can lump them, let's say 25 into a group and then another 25 into a group. So that when you are choosing what boards to pin to, all you have to do is put that group name and all those 25 boards will be included.
Caroline Simmons 26:32
Yeah, that's it.
What's really nice is you can go on your first pin, you go A, B, C, D, then on your second pin, you go B, C, D, A your next pin. So that way you're really mixing it up.
Group boards have rules they don't want you pinning 25 times in one day really helps you mix it up so that you're pinning all across your different boards each day.
And that's really awesome, too. Because, I mean, you think about like I said 4.5 million when it's mixed up like that. You're really hitting all of those boards. All of those people throughout the week. Got it?
Jillian Tohber Leslie 27:09
Yes, this terrific. Okay. So do you have somebody helping you?
Caroline Simmons 27:16
You mean with my Pinterest?
Jillian Tohber Leslie 27:17
Yes. So are you doing all of this?
Caroline Simmons 27:19
I did have a VA for some time who was really, really helpful. And she ended up finding a great full time job that was just like, so meant for her. She's so great at it. But she was helping me for a little while.
And my husband helps me with some things like outside of Pinterest. He helps me with more of like the business aspects of it.
But Pinterest, I'm really kind of doing it all on my own. And that's not a bad thing. I really enjoy it. I really love it. And it's such a wonderful platform.
And like you said, they're always updating, they're always changing. And I think I've yet to see a change that I really dislike.
I think that they're always just making it better for the users, which is great for us. Because that means people are enjoying it more. They're spending more time there. So yeah, I really don't mind doing these things on my own. Because I just I love Pinterest.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 28:12
It's so terrific. Okay, how many hours a day are you spending on Pinterest?
Caroline Simmons 28:19
Spending on Pinterest? Honestly, not too many, thanks to Tailwind. I do do some manual pinning here and there. I really think that Pinterest rewards people who are in there being an active user. And pinning.
So I do get in there and pin on different recipes and just things that you know, are of interest to me. So I do spend some time here and there. But I don't have much time to work each week because of you know, the two little babies.
So I have to be pretty wise with my time. I'd say each week right now. And probably working. I would say 25 to 30 hours a week.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 29:00
Wow, that's great.
Caroline Simmons 29:02
Yeah. So I try to squeeze in as much as I can during naptime. And after they go to bed. And they go to a mother's day out program two days a week for just five hours.
So the night before they head off to their little school days, we call it I like to sit down and plan well, more than five hours of work. So that way, I can really just set the momentum for myself and just get as much done as I can in that amount of time.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 29:31
Who is creating graphics for you?
Caroline Simmons 29:34
I create my graphics.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 29:36
Cool. Okay. Using what platform?
Caroline Simmons 29:41
Canva and I also really have just discovered Shutterstock, I believe is the name of it. And Adobe Photos a little bit pricier when it comes to purchasing photos. But the quality of them is so great.
And as much as I love Canvas, Canva images are very heavily used, and you really start to see and a lot of the same photos being used over and over again.
So for me, it's worth it to spend, you know, $3 on a photo that I know is like 100% unique and really just is so on point with the blog post topic.
But I love Canva. I am an avid user of it. One of my things for next week is to create a little tutorial for the bloggers and my facebook group who I kind of help with whatever goals they have on Canva, because it's just the possibilities are endless.
And, you know, you can really I mean, every graphic on my blog, pretty much 99% of them I created in Canva.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 30:41
Wow. And do you have templates set up in Canva so that you can put the image in change the text, and it looks like it's consistent with your site?
Caroline Simmons 30:51
I don't. Canva provides a really great Pinterest template, which is that optimal size for a pin. But besides that, I think it's really just creating my own brand in a way in terms of I have certain fonts that I always use, I really I have just a look. And that I stick with.
I really like high quality images. I like for the image to be big and bold. And I like for my my texts to be very easy to read as somebody scrolling through Pinterest. I don't want it to be too small.
So in terms of templates, I'm really just using that Pinterest pin template on Canva, and then adding all of my own kind of signature things.
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Jillian Tohber Leslie 30:41
Now, what about writing descriptions? How do you think about that on Pinterest?
Caroline Simmons 32:24
I think you've got to use the same kind of SEO tactics that you use on your blog with Pinterest. You've got to really sit down and create a very keyword heavy description.
And you've got to be thinking in the mind of your ideal reader. What are they going to be typing into a search bar and whatever that is, you've got to find a way to work it into your description on Pinterest.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 32:55
Yes, yes. Now, are you using hashtags?
Caroline Simmons 33:01
I mean, I think maybe once or twice. I have not jumped into that. And I know it's a newer feature. So I haven't started using them yet. But I know others are. And I haven't heard too much feedback on it.
Have you heard of people really seeing a huge difference?
Jillian Tohber Leslie 33:19
We are starting to put a couple hashtags into our descriptions. And I want to go back and add some hashtags at least like one to every board description.
That's a big undertaking, because we have a lot of boards, but that's what I am thinking of doing. But we are starting to put a couple in our descriptions.
I don't know if it's helping. I feel like it can't be hurting. And so what we're trying to do is put like our basic search words, you know, #babyshower, #girlbabshower, you know, #pinkbabyshower, that kind of thing.
Caroline Simmons 34:02
And you've just touched on like, the toughest thing about blogging, things are always changing. And then you've got to decide, do I spend an entire day going back into this?
It's like a few, maybe what, six months ago, Pinterest decided that they were going to change the shape of their board covers. And we all had to spend an entire day going back and fixing all these graphics.
You have to really weigh things out and say, Is this a wise use of my time or is it going to even really make a difference?
Jillian Tohber Leslie 34:34
And then you don't know that's the bit, you have all these analytics and all this stuff. And then at the end of the day to, there's a part of you, that just doesn't know.
Caroline Simmons 34:42
Right. And I think that that's when you've got to take care of the things that you like we've talked about with Pinterest, you got to take care and nurture the things that are working for you, and take on those outside things just one week at a time. And don't try to do all of them at once. And you've really just got to space out and use your time wisely.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 35:00
And what I want to say about you is you're not using hashtags and you're still getting tremendous traffic. So will you go entire day going back and doing hashtags because I don't think it's gonna change too much. Exactly. So you do a blog post.
Or let's say, even somebody you have these writers. Do you create the editorial calendar for them? Did they pitch you ideas?
Caroline Simmons 35:27
No, most of the time I'm sending them the ideas based on what I know their strengths are.
I have one girl that's just awesome at the How-tos she just wrote an awesome blog post for me about the maternity leave, with financial planner and how you can basically save up. She's very good at like actionable steps things to do.
I've got another one who's just she's wonderful at, tapping into the emotions of motherhood and really just writing almost what I like to call like this supportive type blog posts.
And then I also have someone. I have a labor and delivery nurse who writes for me, and she gets all of the things that have a lot of a lot of medical terminology. And, and she she is a great combination and knowledgeable in her field.
But she also is so great at breaking it down so things aren't so scary. They're all very, very wonderful writers. And again, I'm so thankful that I have them.
At the beginning of each month, I usually send each of them three to four posts, topics, and they begin writing and they have access to Swaddles and Bottles, and so they go in on the back end, and they create their blog posts, they do the formatting and things of that sort.
And then it saves as a submitted post. And then I go in, and I do all the search engine optimization, I create the graphics for it. And I do all the little back and stuff, and then I publish it.
Then I add it to my Tailwind, and I get it running through all of those group group boards. And then I put it on my Facebook schedule if I plan to share it there. And that's kind of just the the lifeline of a blog posts.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 37:19
And how many images are you making per post?
Caroline Simmons 37:23
When I first started out, two to three.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 37:27
And they all have text overlays?
Caroline Simmons 37:30
Yes. Always, use overlay. I like to just play around with the different titles change some words, you know, because the science of what makes a pin go viral. And what makes the pin just die off into the abyss is something that so many people have tried to specifically pinpoint. And it's not a perfect formula.
I mean, you can't do ABC and within 24 hours have 20,000 readers, right. There's a lot of great guidance that we've received a lot of just general rules that people say, but again, you know, one of these, general rules that people say, is to avoid having like, faces in your pins but some faces and some pins that have done really, really well. So I think that it's a combination of a lot of things. And so I really like to try to tweak those things with each graphic that I make, just to kind of cover a few different bases.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 38:30
So what would those bases be? When you kind of go, Okay, I'm gonna make three images for this blog post, what will you go to, as things you think might be successful?
Caroline Simmons 38:40
I'm just really changing the title. And I don't want to say call to action. But for example, let's say I wrote a blog post on losing weight, you know, I might do the first one on, you know, the Complete Guide to losing weight, I may do another one that's like, losing weight 101, 25 ways to get past your plateau, or than I might do another one of, Number stuck on the scale, can't get past a certain point? Here's how we can help you.
So it's the exact same subject, but your wording it in different ways, because you never know what's going to appeal to someone, everyone's different.
So I really just kind of rewording those things I might do maybe some different fonts, things might look different, just based on whatever the image is. If the image allows for me to do text over the whole image, then I'll do that.
If it allows me to do text, they would just kind of like in a bar across the bottom, I might do that. So I really do try to make them pretty different. But the overall goal is, I want that text overlay to really be compelling, and really, really show them that there's value behind clicking through.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 40:02
Yes. Got it. I meant to ask this, when you have your contributors, do you say this needs to be at least 300 words? Do you have a limit?
Caroline Simmons 40:14
I usually will write that whenever I'm sending them the prompts. Sometimes, yes.
The wonderful nurse that I have that writes for me, she just did an awesome blog post for me on the the biggest myths of labor and delivery. :ike debunked by a nurse, which was so awesome, because I mean, moms, you know, we got that we tell our horror stories, and everyone's like, terrified, but then to hear it straight from her.
So with her, I usually just kind of let her roll with it. And they've all been writing for me, like I said, for so long, to the point where I think they just know what's the ideal length for Swaddles n Bottles. And we don't have anything that's, you know, an extensive 3, 4 page blog post, and I'd say, 2,000- 2500 words is probably the absolute most that we have.
Everything ranges, probably in between, I'd say 650 to 1000 words. And the reason is, because it's a resource, we are trying to get you the information, we don't really want to fluff it a lot.
We want to inform you, get you what you need, so that you can feel better about whatever it is that you're looking for. You're struggling with.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 41:30
Got it. And then will you add, say, the three images into the blog post? Or will you kind of add them into say Yoast, and then if somebody is going to pin your post, those other images will show up?
Caroline Simmons 41:45
Yes. So usually, I just do one in the blog post, then what I will do is create new pins in Pinterest and put that link there.
And you bring up a good point, a great tool that I really like, I don't want to get into too much of the debate because they have been having some technical difficulties is Social Warfare.
They've done some updates, and some people are jumping ship, I haven't had any issues whatsoever, and I really, really like it. But Social Warfare allows me to select which pin, if somebody decides to click on that Pin It button, it lets me decide which pin is going to be used.
And one more than that is it allows me to write that description. Like we talked about that description that's got those keywords. I don't have to worry that they're going to pin something with a blank description, whatever they're pinning, it's keyword heavy. It's got all of those things that I know are going to help it grow.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 42:42
Got it. That's terrific. Okay. Now how are you doing with Google search versus Pinterest in terms of driving traffic.
Caroline Simmons 42:52
Google or search engine traffic? Search engines are number two for me. I've seen a great increase. I used to get maybe about four 450 and pageviews a day from search traffic. I'm now into about the 2,000-3000s, and again that has come from all of the amazing bloggers out there who have been kind enough to share you know their tactics and their strategies.
I took an amazing paid course from Hashtag Jeff. Are you familiar?
Jillian Tohber Leslie 43:38
Love him, love him.
Caroline Simmons 43:39
He's so good and I love how he's so real with you. He's like look videos are not my thing. I'm not a really like out there, bubbly blogger. But man, he is so good at what he does.
And he breaks it down so well. I love the checklist that he gives you and everything like that. So taking his course why probably what really launched that forward for me.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 44:06
I did a workshop with him at an AdThrive conference. And I loved him.
Caroline Simmons 44:12
Did you go to the Adthrive Conference last year in Austin?
Jillian Tohber Leslie 44:15
Yeah. Were you there?
Caroline Simmons 44:15
No, me and my husband were so close to going, and I don't remember what happened. But we weren't able to go and I have like everyone in the Adthrive group has been talking about, when's the next conference?
Jillian Tohber Leslie 44:28
Yes, oh I will go.
Caroline Simmons 44:30
I'm so ready to go.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 44:31
Yes. Yes. So he was there. And that's where he just opened my eyes. I'm going to try and get him on the show. He opened my eyes to the power of SEO.
Caroline Simmons 44:41
Yeah, he's wonderful. I love how he keeps it coming for you. Like he's constantly sending emails of new things.
When this whole Google big whatever happened in August, he was the first person in my inbox saying here's what you need to do to try to fix it.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 44:56
Was this like GDPR?
Caroline Simmons 44:58
No, Google did a big update changed. Some things a lot of people in certain areas, saw some big drops. I didn't see anything too big.
And I had one day where I got down to just like 1400 but it was one of those things where I think was really scary. A little dip and things have kind of corrected themselves since then. He's just so knowledgeable.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 45:22
Yep. Yep. Okay, so how do you monetize?
Caroline Simmons 45:26
My monetization strategy for Swaddles n Bottles. I think is really about and I think that should be the case for all blogs, diversification.
You don't want to put your eggs in one basket. You don't want to have just one way that you're making money and so we just talked about you know, Adthrive. I monetize my website through ads first of all.
Secondly I do affiliate marketing and I think affiliate marketing needs to be diversified. So many people just think Amazon, and Amazon is wonderful I absolutely love it.
I was an Amazon mom well before I became a blogger who was promoting it. I mean I order more stuff off of Amazon than I would be willing. So I love it and I love promoting it to to my readers and the products that I use.
But then I also love the smaller affiliate marketing setups. You know there's shareasale and CJ affiliates and pepper jam they all have affiliate programs.
Target has an affiliate program. I mean, really, it's kind of difficult this day and age to find someone that doesn't have one, so I really think you need to diversify that and not just stick with Amazon, but reach out to all of those those other smaller affiliates as well.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 46:40
Are you making your most affiliate income with products like strollers or bottles? Or is it courses about new mothers? What works for your audience?
Caroline Simmons 46:57
You know, the product that I'm using, there are so many products for just having a baby in general. It can be difficult to really navigate through them. I do a lot of suggestions -- either the best products that is cost effective products, the ones that work the best things like that.
I just did a blog blog posts too, on the products you do not need, because you're going to think that you do, but you actually don't need them. And so I do do a lot of that.
I also do an affiliate for courses that like you said, you're a new mom. Here are some things that could help you out, or you know, you're a breastfeeding mother, here are some things that can help you out.
So I think it's really just diversifying that. And in thinking outside of the Amazon box, it's a great way to get started. It really is. But then once you've got a good steady hold on it, start looking for more things. Because there are more things out there.
The courses and things add so much value for my readers. And I know that they're really, really helping them. And so I love promoting and any other blogs that have courses like that. So that's another way that I monetize affiliate marketing.
And then I do do occasional sponsored posts, I'm not too big on them. Well, not to say that I'm not too big on them. I don't do them very often. Because I really do try to stay super selective and which ones I do because I want them to be just really, really in line with my audience, and what they need and what products I think would actually benefit them.
And so I do them. I'm not constantly aiming to do a certain amount per month or anything. And when I find a product that I think will be great, I love pitching them. And I have a lot of messages that come to my inbox as well about partnerships. But we just try to stay selective and what we do so that we we stay in line with what our audience needs.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 48:54
And if you were to break it down? Are there any other monetization strategies?
Caroline Simmons 48:58
No, not for Swaddles n Bottles.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 49:00
Okay, if you were to break it down, how much, percentage wise, how much would you say you're making the ads via affiliates?
Caroline Simmons 49:09
Affiliates is always number one. I definitely make the most with affiliate marketing.
To go back to the diversification, I was just looking at my different income for the month, and Amazon's great. It's on track. It's doing well but for the first time those small little here and there other affiliate opportunities is what I call them, has surpassed my Amazon income which goes to show you can't disregard the little things.
This little affiliate program may only make you $100 a month, and this program may make you $100, but then when you've got 10 of those small wins it adds up, so affiliate marketing with Amazon and other affiliates combined, those are definitely my number one source of income each month.
Ads as a close second and I think the ad network that you're with is a big part of that, and and then of course sponsored posts would probably the smallest percentage.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 50:14
Right and then because you've had all this success, you created another blog and you also have a Facebook group?
Caroline Simmons 50:24
Yes. So then I created the Basics of Blogging and obviously I hope someone can tell through everything we've talked about today. I really love helping other bloggers.
I am a firm believer that I could give away every blogging secret that I have, and it's not going to hurt my success.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 50:46
I love that. Say that again.
Caroline Simmons 50:54
I had a wonderful mentor at my past job. And his saying was, a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 51:03
Caroline Simmons 51:06
And so I think that as bloggers, it's a natural for us to want to hold everything close. And not give away our secrets. But I think that as long as we all promise to just stay unique and always be ourselves and create our own content. There's nothing wrong with sharing what's working for you.
And so I started the Basics of Blogging as a way to share just really anything and everything that was working for me.
I created two ebooks Pinning for Pageviews and Mastering Affiliate Marketing, where I just kind of share everything.
And then I have a Facebook group where I try to get on there and share just little tidbits here and there. We've recently also started doing something where we invite other successful bloggers to kind of take over the Facebook page.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 51:56
Oooh, can I come in?
Caroline Simmons 51:57
Yes, absolutely. Come in. And you just kind of share.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 52:02
Can we talk about MiloTree?
Caroline Simmons 52:03
I actually talked about MiloTree this morning.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 52:06
Caroline Simmons 52:06
Jillian Tohber Leslie 52:07
Oh, thank you.
Caroline Simmons 52:08
Yeah, I told them. I was like, I'm doing an interview this morning. I'm really excited about it. And I kind of told them why I think it works so well. And how it's helped me bring back traffic and grow big following.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 52:23
I love it. Wait, but tell us what is this Facebook group?
Caroline Simmons 52:26
It's called just the Basics of Blogging.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 52:28
Okay, got it.
Caroline Simmons 52:29
And it's very different than your typical blogging Facebook group. Because in some of the other ones, you'll see a lot of like, promo days and follow for follow and comment threads and stuff like that. It's not really my goal.
My goal is, like I've told everyone is just a constant waterfall of knowledge and support. And it's just really where I want people to come and grow and learn and hopefully meet their goals that they have.
So it's not a place to come and share your latest blog post on the wall and stuff like that. It's a place to kind and just kind of join this community of people who have the same goals as you.
We're all trying to be successful bloggers, and I really want it to be a resource for people. But I also don't want to be the only person sharing what I know. I really want it to be a community and kind of set the standard for whatever's working for you, share it, share the wealth, share the love driven knowledge.
I'm excited. You know, all of this the blogging thing blogging about blogging is kind of a newer.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 53:33
It's kind of meta, isn't it?
Caroline Simmons 53:35
Yeah, it's, it's new. And it's very different than blogging about babies and bumps and birth and things like that. But I enjoy it.
I do I really enjoy helping people. And I love hearing your feedback. And one of the bloggers who's doing, you know, takeover soon, she was one of the first people to purchase my ebook. She was a brand new blogger.
She's now, bringing in well over 100,000 page views a month. I know that it's not just because of the blog, I know that she also just has a wonderful mindset in terms of continuously learning, and she's just sharp and she's just got something about her that she's been able to be very successful at this very quickly. And so I'm gonna let her take over and share some of her stuff.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 54:19
Yes, I would love to come in, just to share kind of what's worked for us.
Caroline Simmons 54:24
It's a smaller community. We just, I've just kind of picked up on this with them. Now that my girls are in school, and I have a little bit more time but I've got I've got big goals for it.
And I really hope that it becomes something you know, five years down the road when someone else is doing an interview like that. They can say, well, the basics of blogging really helped me.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 54:46
Oh, I love that. Okay. Do you have any parting advice for a mom blogger out there?
Like you have two little babies, and you're doing this, like, what is your advice to somebody who listens to this and wants to be where you are?
Caroline Simmons 55:07
I would say well, I would say to just really embrace the process. It takes time. Just the process of that journey of creating something and putting in these hours and staying up late after your baby good, it's bad. And, you know, hustling during those times. It's a tough journey.
But man, when you get to the point where you're seeing your goals, you're knocking them off, and you're crossing them out, because you've done it, it's so rewarding. So just embrace it. and be patient with yourself.
Don't try to shortcut it or, or anything like that. Really just just embrace the process. And be patient with yourself. Continue to just make those small efforts every single day they will add up. And you will start to see it happening for you.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 55:54
Oh, wow, Caroline. Thank you. Just you know, I love your mindset of small goals. It's a slow build, the overnight success is not really real. But if you just keep in there and learn and grow and do your right one thing every day, you will grow your business.
Caroline Simmons 56:18
The Slight Edge is what I'm reading right now. And it's all about that same thing, just constantly making the daily efforts that if you look back at what you did yesterday. Those little efforts that's not what's going to make you successful. But it's continuing to do those over and over and over and over again, that's going to get you to the point where you're meeting your goals.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 56:47
And one less thing, which is we all compare ourselves to others. And there are always people who are bigger than us, whose businesses look so much better than our businesses. And by the way, one thing I will say is you have no idea what really going on in that person or that business' life.
When you feel yourself contracting and feeling less than, to force yourself into saying and I believe in abundance, and I believe in abundance.
Caroline Simmons 57:14
Absolutely. Yeah, you're right comparison, like the saying, comparison is the thief of all joy. If we would all just focus on ourselves and anytime that we're feeling down, write down a few things that we've done and we've accomplished and be able to say that you're proud of yourself.
That is a bigger motivation and to me then looking at someone else and trying to you know, catch up with that so to speak.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 57:37
Absolutely. Well Caroline, this was such a pleasure thank you so much for coming on the show.
Caroline Simmons 57:43
Absolutely. I have enjoyed speaking with you so so much. I hope I get to meet you in person at the next Adthrive convention.
I would love it and we live kinda near each other. Yeah, we have made some family trips to Austin with our girls here and there. So I will absolutely reach out to you. If we make our way there.
Jillian Tohber Leslie 58:03
I realized I ended my recording without asking Caroline how people could reach out to her me to give you that information.
Now, her website is called Swaddlesnbottles.com and her email address is Caroline@swaddlesnbottles.com. Her other site is thebasicsofblogging.com and that's also the name of her facebook group.
So do reach out, especially if you'd like this interview. And just like how Caroline is using Milottree to grow her Pinterest followers.
Because Pinterest traffic is so valuable, you might want to do it also. So head over to MiloTree and get your Pinterest pop up that tells your visitors to follow you on Pinterest installed on your site. And if you do that you get your first 30 days free.
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