Blog Year in Review 2020
In January, StyleWise/Leah Wise will be 8 years old!
Throughout those 8 years, I’ve:
- joined several (now defunct) blogger networks
- interviewed at least a dozen brand owners
- worked with at least 50 brands
- built up my affiliate marketing strategy
- thought about quitting my day-job (glad it didn’t work out)
- fired myself from a few collaborations (let’s just say that some brand owners have no people skills)
- met up with fellow bloggers and influencers in Chicago and NYC
- chatted with industry friends for hours on the phone
- been interviewed by the NYT and Fashionista, and featured in Bustle.
- started, built, and shut down blog-affiliated social media accounts
- started grad school
To be honest, I started this blog without a real sense of longevity. There was no business strategy (because I never thought it could become a business!), there were very few ways to monetize, and I had just moved to a new state with no long term career plans.
The fact that this has been the longest hobby/project/job I’ve worked outside of singing in choir is an amazing testament to how fulfilling it is to write, share, collaborate, and edit a sustainable fashion blog.
Of course, it has become much more than that. I was so afraid to broaden out the topics I share because it goes against the advice of blog marketers. But, for me, allowing StyleWise to come back down to earth – even changing my header to show my name instead of a brand name – has been exactly what I needed to make this space sustainable through inevitable transition and change.
I was talking with my husband recently about what will happen to this blog when I get a full time job as a priest. He just assumed it would always be with me, that I’d never stop. And there was something really lovely about that. It doesn’t have to stop, unless I want it to. And this year has been a testament to the fact that, when it comes to blogging, things can suddenly get better after a couple years of decline.
This Year in Blogging
This year, on the brink of Covid shutdowns, I finally came full-circle and transitioned my blog back to WordPress after a multi-year hiatus. In February, I hit the lowest number of page views I’d had for years, at around 16,000 that month.
I finally had to admit that moving to Squarespace the previous spring had all-but-destroyed my blog’s reach. It had broken literally 100% of my links, disconnected from my RSS feed, slowed down my site, and made it more difficult to differentiate my design from other blogs in my niche.
I had no strategy, declining readers, and a broken blog.
This year, after moving to a WordPress Business account, I started the long, tiring work of fixing broken links, setting up redirects, updating old posts, removing thousands of inane tags, replacing photos, and properly categorizing over 900 blog posts. (I do not recommend switching platforms four times!)
I upped my affiliate strategy with the help of a revamped ethical affiliate organization, the Reclaim Collaborative, and RewardStyle, making sure all my top-performing posts were updated and linked properly. I built a new Brand Directory.
Orientations and Growth
I also made some extraordinary changes to my own brand loyalties and expectations, including quitting my formal partnership with Everlane and creating an Ethical Rule of 3 for shopping. In personal news, I also started cutting my own hair!
Meanwhile, I was dealing with a sprained ankle, family health crises (there have been several, but I haven’t felt it appropriate to share them here), a pandemic, surprise Zoom school, and a stressful (and utterly transformative) hospital chaplaincy internship.
This past fall, I also worked as a seminary intern at a local church while collaborating on a Lifecycle Analysis project for the Ecology department at my university.
Everything was hard. Many things were tedious. Some days – many days – I fell to pieces. But I also like to think that this year instilled in me a greater sense of taking the long view: the idea that things begin to untangle themselves if you sit with them.
Some things will always be hard for me, and that’s ok. It’s ok to name things without trying to solve them or make them go away. This isn’t evading the work. Rather, it’s acknowledging that my intense and immediate striving for resolution is often not particularly effective. The quiet, behind-the-scenes stuff matters, too.
By the Numbers
Around July, something curious started to happen. My blog numbers started to grow. Then, in October, my post on Ethical Alternatives to Old Navy (an old post I updated this year) saw a sudden surge in visits. In one month, my page views jumped to 75,000. My affiliate income increased substantially.
After 7 months without sponsored posts, I took on several that I really believed in to round out the year, bringing the total for the year to 12 (you can see them here). I also relied on readers’ generous tips and over 200 comments to sustain me and urge me toward further nuance.
Significantly, I stopped obsessively planning content or scheduling posts to publish at the exact. right. time. It has not ruined me; it has been fine.
- 500,000 page views
- 250,000 sessions
- 240,000 unique visitors
- 120 posts
- 97,000 words
- $540 donated to ACLU, The Xerces Society, & NAACP
Against all odds, this has been a good year in blogging, for many reasons. But I’m fully aware of the ebbs and flows of operating a site like this, especially when it’s not a content mill or a full-time job.
Things will slow. I will change. Trends and buzzwords are fickle. There is still work to do.
More than anything, I am thankful that, somehow, the little blog I started as a 24-year-old barista is still chugging along, still sustaining me, still a place of meeting and conversation.
And I am especially thankful to readers – all of you. The ones who read a single post; the ones who subscribe; the ones who email me, comment, and follow me on Instagram. The ones who have become friends, or already were.
Things are not what I thought they would be. And I’m learning that that’s just the way I like it.