In July 2017, The Uncorked Librarian LLC toasted to an official start as a travel and book blog designed to help travelers and readers pick the booziest locations and most wanderlust inspiring books to get them there. Turning a blog into a business was brand new to this MLIS graduate. What a fantastic year and wild experience. After looking back at successes and failures through “A Year in Review,” check out TUL’s blogging goals for 2019. I hope they help you too.
AND I know. We are almost midway into January 2019 and here I am trying to reflect after the year has started. My cat is currently sleeping on my new goals notebook page. What does that say?
I started The Uncorked Librarian back in 2017 as a mere hobby book blog. After finishing my MLIS and leaving my public library job, I decided that I had too many ideas, projects, and travels that I wanted to complete full-time. Battling severe ulcerative colitis with monthly infusions solidified the decision to work from home. I could not be happier with that daring choice. Humorously, you can read about why I love book blogging here.
Notable Successes (I drank a lot of wine!)
I have learned a lot in the past year, made mistakes, and had a few shocking successes. Reflecting back on 2018, The Uncorked Librarian changed and grew in so many unexpected ways. My brand is on the back of book covers, and Lonely Planet featured a collaborative piece that I contributed to.
I also learned more about my target audience and found myself endlessly learning new platforms, tools, and ultimately, how to build a small business. Entrepreneurship was something I never imagined for myself–you can read about becoming an LLC here–and I cannot wait to see where 2019 leads.
Lastly, I made some beautifully supportive blogging friends. The travel blogging community enhanced my trips with secret tips, and I connected with so many talented authors. I talked to more people like me: wanderlust dreamers and female entrepreneurs wanting to live more meaningful lives. Having no regrets, The Uncorked Librarian happily popped the cork on a new life.
The Uncorked Librarian: A Year In Review 2018
Reflecting back on A Year in Review 2018, though, I truly did not have a clear direction for The Uncorked Librarian. I had yet to learn what intrigued and engaged my readers. Knowing I wanted a boozy feel with books and travel, I did not ‘niche down’ enough. I wrote about every book and every travel experience. This lack of direction got me nowhere.
The Bad First And Advice For Newbie Bloggers:
Overall, I succeeded as a blogger in 2018: I traveled, made money, was offered opportunities, worked with other bloggers, and had decent blog traffic. People engaged, my stats steadily increased, and I started producing higher quality content. I learned more than I ever thought imaginable, and I f*ed up too. The bad first, and what I learned:
Don’t try to write it all and be it all
- Unless your goal is to become an online magazine with multiple contributors and a strong key focus around multiple topics, narrow down your field. Refine, refine, refine. For me, generic travel and books did not target any specific audience, hurting my traffic and page views. No one knew what books to expect. Plus, why read about random travel locations? I needed a solid, cohesive theme.
- Do/My Fix: In 2019, The Uncorked Librarian will focus on boozy and literary travels and books inspiring wanderlust and travel. All else, has to go.
Consider your content before converting a hobby blog to a monetized blog
- I wanted to keep my old book reviews when I switched from WP. com to self-hosting on WP. org (you can read about that process here). Transferring old posts may have helped with my Domain Authority (DA) and getting easy approval for Adsense and affiliate programs. However, those posts have non-existent Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which hurts where I rank in Google. Like pop rocks, my site jumped all over. I am sure Google could not adequately index or determine my area of expertise.
- Do/My Fix: In 2019, I am cleaning up old posts, throwing out and redirecting posts that are not worth the traffic or time, and am restructuring the site. This is over 100 blog posts. You heard me right. It’s a nightmare, but worth it.
Don’t waste too much time in Facebook groups and contrived engagement pods
- Joining FB groups is productive and destructive. FB groups are great to ask questions, find advice, and network. Occasionally, it is helpful to join in engagement and follow for follow threads to meet new, sincere bloggers who will reciprocate the love. Unfortunately, many will link drop and run. You also do not want a ton of non-organic followers who don’t engage. High follower numbers with low engagement looks bad to readers and brands. These users won’t consistently read your content or purchase from you. They inflate temporary numbers and unsustainable engagement. These are a few FB groups I joined in 2018 to network.
- Do/My Fix: Drop groups with MIA moderators and members who consistently fail to follow rules/engage. Use these groups more sparingly for reciprocation threads and more for advice and learning. Follow and network with accounts that interest you.
Lets not forget that Blogging “Resouces” Pin…
- Mistakes happen, even if you re-read and edit a blog post 10 times. Pinterest mistakes are impossible to fully erase soooo…
- Do/My Fix: Laugh at yourself, be mortified, get over it, and move on. We are all human. Fix the mistake, learn from it, and know it will come back to haunt you. Hey, I made a new slang word at least. Top that 2019. Oh wait, don’t.
A Year In Review For Social Media And Blog Stats:
With that social media lesson learned, I spent 2018 trying to slowly increase my engagement and numbers on all social media platforms. While numbers are not everything, we all want to see an increase that translates to blog traffic and income. I didn’t start utilizing most of my channels or even my blog until after July 2018, although I grabbed my handles (@theuncorkedlibrarian) earlier in the year. My 2018 stats are the following:
Pinterest: 1.2 million monthly views; 3,653 followers
Twitter: 5,676 followers
Instagram: 4,436 followers
Facebook Business: 344 followers
Highest Blog Views On One Day: 974
We all know Instagram and Facebook have become “pay to play platforms.” Sadistically, I still want to have a decent presence on both. As a business, followers and brands will look for you everywhere. I just cannot afford the time to post every day on IG. It’s not going to happen.
Top Blog Posts in 2018:
While building a small social media army of booze and book lovers, I had a mixed and eye opening array of popular blog posts. TUL’s top 5:
- Get Your Witch On! 10 Wickedly Witchy Books – My audience loves book lists, and this witchy post received over 75,000 impressions from Pinterest in just one week. I timed the post almost 2.5 months before Halloween, and of course, marketed the bejesus out of it in October.
- Book Index – At the end of 2018, I decided to create a pin for my book index of all the books I reviewed that year. I had no idea this pin would go close to viral. Looking back, I wish I had added meatier content (I may add summaries in 2019). Definitely feeling like I cheated viewers out of quality content here. I’m sure I hurt my bounce rate, too.
- Gifts For Book Lovers That Aren’t Books – So many bloggers write gift guides to get those affiliate links pumping. Annoying or brilliant? Both?! I debated writing my own gift guide and decided to make my bookish gift list a little more personal. This post crashed my site, having built an abundance of traffic on one day (the day before Thanksgiving). My server could not keep up.
The Top Three Post Involved Books…Messaged Received…Then, Blogging Became A Hit:
- Turning Your Blog Into A Business – You will find endless blog posts about blogging for beginners. Filing as an LLC to protect your personal wine fund is lesser known and uncommon, although it should be a must. I still talk to bloggers who make money from affiliate links and have no idea that if they make over a threshold (usually $400), you have to pay taxes. You are technically self-employed. There are laws you must follow, and no one wants to get sued for image misuse, not disclosing properly, a bad review, you name it… You need protection!
- How To Start A Bookstagram and Kick Butt – My instagram focuses on both travel and books. Merging the two is a work in progress. I realized that travel bloggers have a lot of insight into the IG game perfect for book bloggers such as hashtags. I also studied up on flatlays, props, and Lightroom that I wanted to share. Based on response, this post fulfilled a need and gap in the community.
But something is missing…which leads me to 2019 goals…and wanting to vomit…
2019 Blogging Goals For The Uncorked Librarian
A New Direction After A Year In Review
Looking back at my successful posts, my audience is mostly female and from the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. Confession: I am also at the peak age of my followers’ age range. Cough, cough. What I learned in 2018 is that you have to provide value and become an expert in your field. Travel stories are my favorite, but if you aren’t giving readers tips, tricks, and advice that they need, your stories are more journals for you. Blogging for business is about your voice coming together to fit your readers’ needs. You need to know your audience.
My readers wanted book lists and blogging advice. See something missing? Traveling…my travel posts bombed because I didn’t niche down enough. I deleted all old travel posts. [Sobs into wine glass.]
Should I give up writing travel posts? Um, no. Sorry. I want to be a travel writer. Rachael from Pingel Sisters best defined what I should consider: is The Uncorked Librarian appealing to readers who travel or travelers who read? In the end, I decided that my appeal is to readers who travel…and drink. Both can be interchanged, as well, but my excursions will now focus on literary and boozy travels. My book reviews will focus on travel, even if it’s to fantasy worlds or within yourself.
With a stronger niche in sight, and continually cleaning up old posts, my 2019 blogging goals are to:
- Work More Productively – I spend a lot of time on social media and blogging in general. I need to learn the art of batching tasks, limiting social media time, and getting the most achieved with high payout for my time.
- Refine Marketing Strategies – Although Pinterest is amazing for traffic, I want to rank in Google and rely less on social media. I need to learn more SEO strategies. Currently, I land on the front page of Google for less searchable but niche terms like “best books for dad 2018,” “spooky books for adults,” “how to start a bookstagram” and “instagram collab scams.” I also want to work with more local businesses and tourism sites. Instagram is quite the beast, and I need to convert IG traffic to blog views. Like Hilary Rushford teaches, I need to “Instagram with Intention.”
- Steadily And Organically Increase All Social Media Channels’ Followers and Engagement Rates – Posting regularly with quality content is my goal to increase followers and engagement on Pinterest, FB, IG, and Twitter.
- Up My Newsletter Game – I am finally off the RSS feed newsletter model. Each month, I am going to create a newsletter customized for my readers. Building subscribers with incentives is my newest challenge. You can sign up here for my newsletter:
And my biggest business goal:
- Lastly, Make A Part to Full Time Salary – It’s product building time: whether this is an e-course or wine glass. I am hoping to offer some services for the book community, ad space, and of course, generate passive income from affiliate marketing and ads. I need to master current income generating funnels and diversify.
When you look back what does A Year In Review look like for you? What are your blogging goals for 2019? What were your greatest successes and failures?
If you asked me one year ago if I would become a boozy book and travel blogger as my life’s gig, I would have thought you were drunk. Work from home? Own an LLC? Learn how to use Photoshop? Land in Google searches? Find my name on the back of books like The NY Times Book Review? Work with brands to promote helpful or fun products? Have a million people eyeing my Pinterest account? Help other bloggers with tech? Talk to popular authors on a weekly basis? Get free stuff? Get paid to blog? Improve others’ lives and my own? Yea, right.
2018 brought so many unexpected opportunities and ideas that 2019 seems like an exciting new venture to do better and be better. Better as in a writer, traveler, friend, blogger, and reader. My biggest hope for 2019 is to provide my audience with recommendations to have boozier and more bookish lives related to travel and reading. Of course, I want to make a little more cash in the process.