How I'm Slowly Growing My Blog

My strategy: Create and share unique, original content.

A little over two years ago I kind of stumbled.  I found myself living my days at home, with my very young children, and I began to feel the walls closing in on me. I couldn't really contribute much of my time to anything but childcare and house maintenance, something that I did because I really wanted to be home with my boys, but not because I felt all that satisfied by it; I think it's okay to admit that. I started writing this blog during nap time. Originally called "Make-Do", it was my creative outlet. I snapped warm, fuzzy pictures with Hipstamatic and wrote about my life, using projects and recipes as the take-away. It gave me something more to focus on, and a few of my friends read it, so I felt like I was connecting with the outside world a little more. I didn't have a plan for where it would go, because I didn't need one.

For Dani, My first post

Things changed about 6 months in when I decided to blog more often, with more focus, re-branding to Poppy Haus. I scaled back on some of my family content, and concentrated on what seemed to be really working for me- designing projects and cooking. I had found a way to take the monotony out of my day by turning it on it's head, filling my life with creative work and self-imposed deadlines. I now had projects building up around me. In March of 2011 I submitted one of these projects, my paper lanterns, to Design*Sponge, and they ran them.  That's when people other than my good friends started to see my work, and when my readership started to grow from a handful to maybe a bucketful. I began to to dream about running a blog with a real following, and I thought about how I might do it for profit. Over the next year I watched my readership ebb and flow. I increased my social media efforts, I tried to pay more attention to how I wrote things so that people could find my work on search engines, and I worked harder to create content that was both original and consistent, presented in a more concise and thoughtful way with stronger photography. It's this last bit that I think has benefited me the most. 

 The net of exposure from just a handful of my posts drives my traffic.

At the end of the day I am doing this, because I really like to work on creative projects. I create original content, and that's what works best for me.

I think that original content is something that I have uniquely constructed, photographed, and written about.  If I am the first person to do what I've done in the way I've done it, all the better. This is what matters most to me, and it's why I keep this blog. I gave myself permission to be small, to enjoy my time, and I've grown as a blogger both in numbers of readers and with quality of content, because of it.  While Poppy Haus is still on the smaller side, I think it's a better blog that it used to be, maybe better than a some of the more well-read blogs in my genre, and it's growing in a way that makes me proud. Because there are so many smaller bloggers out there who do the kind of thing that I do, and a few of them read this blog, I thought I'd share some of what has had the most positive effect on my readership and exposure in the last year.

1. Attending Alt Summit

Me and


, braving a photo-op at the Method Party

Alt Summit 2013 was an eye opener for me.  I met so many people who do what I do, which is crazy, because it often seems like I am all alone in this strange world.  Alt is a conference for bloggers who are inspired by the Emily Henderson's of the world, and are looking to find opportunities to work with a very specific type of brand (

Serena and Lily


Land of Nod





The Honest Company



). I made a few good friends at Alt, and we have become cheerleaders for each other's work. I also learned that I really can't do it all when it comes to blogging, and that's okay, I just need to do a few things well.  It was at a seminar at Alt that I developed my schedule, which has proved to be very good at keeping me on task while adding consistency to the blog.

2. Adding Video Content

I'd been flirting with the idea of adding video posts to Poppy Haus for a while before I finally sat down and learned how to use iMovie and made my first video post about our family pizza night.  I got such a positive response from readers that I have gone on to make a few more, including this one about how to make those paper lanterns (viewed over 3000 times).

3. Pinterest

Pinterest drives

a lot

of my traffic. I pin a picture from every post I do, and I've built up a modest but

growing following

, which has brought more traffic my way because of re-pins and direct pins from my blog by people with a larger following.  Occasionally pins from my blog go a little viral, as in the case of the macro bowl post. I also see better traffic from Pinterest because of this next thing... 

4. Craftgawker

I credit my friend Tiffanie Turner from

Corner Blog

for telling me about


.  I submit my projects 3-4 times per month and doing so not only reaches individuals specifically looking for my type of work, but catches the attention of editors of larger blogs who link back to my work in round-ups. Pins of my work have also increased because of Craftgawker.  The net exposure of just a handful of my posts keeps traffic coming in.

5. Joining a social media network

I joined the

Clever Girls Collective

earlier this year. From here I can apply for paid opportunities to participate in brand campaigns.  I like this system, because I can really pick and choose what seems right for my blog. Participation in a campaign requires me to write a post, and engage on Twitter and Instagram, interacting with my followers, participating bloggers, and the client. So far I've done a campaign for Wyndham about my family vacation, and for Ford which took me on a little road trip to review their new compact Hybrid. I space this type of thing out, and try to keep the content relevant to my audience (people like me).     

6. Building relationships with brands I admire.

This is what has me most excited.  I've had the opportunity to participate in projects with a few brands that I really like this year. They found me, because they saw my work and liked what I was doing. I'm most excited about working with


.  I made a Blurb book of my blog last year before Alt and as it turns out, Blurb really, really liked it.  They use it as a marketing piece at blogging conferences, and they featured me and my book at their recent food fair in San Francisco, which included filming an interview and food segment with me at my house to market the event- so crazy. I had so much fun working with them and I'll share more about that experience this week. 

So there you have it.  I'm probably not doing about a million things that I "should be" doing to grow the blog, but I feel pretty good about the way things are headed, with better content, and more focus than I started with. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions- and I promise I will never write anything this long ever again!