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The State of The Blog 2020

As the title hints, this is all about my little corner of the interwebs. This post has noting to do with family, job, puppy, running, etc.

I have tried to get all this put into words for the past couple of months and I keep getting stuck. That could also be a perfect metaphor for my life the past year or so, but I’ll save that for another day.

This blog is now 12 years old. In February 2008, I started this as a place to vent about my long-term running injury. It was an old blogspot url and I eventually transistioned to Katrina Runs for Food in 2009 and started blogging consistently with diary-type, day-in-the-life posts that merged running with cooking.

Fun facts:

  • Month with most posts: March 2010 with 43 posts!
  • First month with no posts: November 2017
  • Month with highest average posts: January (except Jan 2020—zero posts). New year, new me, bad weather, stuck inside, cold and dark, etc.
  • Month with lowest average posts: August. No big surprise since that’s the month I go back to school and forget I have any other life.
  • Most comments and most popular post: Whiskey cough syrup. There’s a bunch of sick people out there that are tired of the script stuff.
  • Most viral post: Stuffed zucchini, thanks to a Buzzfeed post. I had tons of hits for almost 3 years!
  • What niche brings in the money: Recipes, specifically Whole 30/keto/paleo and holiday baking.
  • What niche do I love writing about: running and daily “lifestyle” type posts. I don’t have a large following so these are strictly for me to write and read.

Times are changing

A few years ago, I monetized this URL to make this blog my side hustle. Let’s face it, I’ll never make much more than I am right now in teaching. Most teachers find second jobs or sources of incomes to supplement our salary.

When a few of my recipes got picked up by buzzfeed and some of my posts in the paleo world got picked up by US News and Huff post, I started getting some readers. I worked my way to Mode Media that payed a nice little bit each month for my blog visits.

Then, Mode went belly-up and left me hanging without paying me a big ol’ chunk of change. I was so very fortunate to find Mediavine and they have been phenomenal in transparency, utilizing best practices for user experience, and educating me in SEO.

And this is where my frozen “analyisis paralysis” begins.

A year ago, I started reading all the resources available on SEO-search enginge optimization…..aka “keeping Google happy”. It’s a rabbit hole of data that sucked me in and I began chasing rabbits everywhere.

The long, so very long, story is I got hit by a Google update a couple of years ago. I didn’t have any kind of warning or error. Google just stopped showing my blog posts like they previously showed. I dropped RANKING and I had no idea why.

Over the course of a few months, I optimized my web site for site speed, streamlining my categories into silos, making my site a glaring “SEE ME NOW” sign for google to find me. I researched keywords, which helped Google find me. I learned what works and what doesn’t.

Guess what Google doesn’t love? Posts that do not inform or provide a service or product. Google doesn’t care what my day was like or how I told the world how I manage day-to-day life, stress, balanced with trying to keep healthy eating and exercise.

And it’s not just me. Some of the really big lifestyle bloggers from the years of 2006ish-now have either dropped major page views or they have stopped blogging altother. Basically, if they don’t have a huge following, Google couldn’t save them without information or service posts.

Guess what readers do NOT love to see? Long-form recipe posts. They don’t want anything but the free recipe. Google doesn’t like to show those….then for a few months, Google did show the shorter posts, and now Google says length doesn’t matter and we should stick to User Experience. However, ads need space to load. So it has been a long year of shrugging my shoulders, throwing my laptop out the winder (in my head..not literally), and a lot of ANALYSIS PARALYSIS.

And then, there is Pinterest. That’s a whole other animal. I had to learn to use Pinterest better since that was driving traffic to my site by other people finding and pinning my posts. Then, Pinterst went public and now they are going to pay-to-play so all that work I devoted to pinning daily is out the window.

Sorry, these crack me up and I’m a food blogger…but I can laugh at myself all day long. Sometimes I look at my search queries–what you crazy people type into the search box to somehow land on my blog–and I no longer wonder why there should be a recipe for toast and jam.

After getting the website fast and friendly, I worked on updating some older reicpes that I was already ranking on the first page, but not position #1. I researched trends to see what Pinterest likes in January and what Google likes in January. I had a noticiable hit from a January Google update so I went back to the drawing board and seriously considered throwing in the towel.

I didn’t write a single post in January. I was stuck. What do I write about?? I have had the biggest mental writing block with all this trying to please the traffic-drivers that I just didn’t do anyting but research, half-way make a plan, then more research.

And this brings me to now. As some very knowledgeable folks at Mediavine have tried to tell us (those of us spinning in circles trying to figure out what the heck to do about Google vs. UX vs. Pinterest) all along.

It’s all about content, stupid. Just write good content. There are some conflicting opinions about whether or not Google punishes those with a large “crawl budget” filled with fluff posts or so-called “thin content”.

But I do know EVERYONE agrees that some daily life posts with 1-2 information/recipe posts each week is so much better than the nothing that I have perfected lately. Google crawls a site based on how often it is updated. It really is all about content and it’s way past time I get back to it.

I do not have a following. I do not have an email or subscribe list. So, growing an audience is my only goal for this blog in 2020. I want to build a place for people to check in each week to see a teacher balancing spinning plates with healthy food, working out, running and races, and my second language of sarcasm.

Bottom line, I miss this place. And even if I’m the only one reading it right now, I’m going to keep writing. I may work myself into a predictable posting schedule, but I’m not putting any limitations. Just writing.

Happy 2020!

Laurie Larson

Sunday 1st of March 2020

I LOVED this post! My blog is only a year younger and I share so many of your observations.. I started--just because! I ramped up my Google game a couple years ago, only to let it fall by the wayside. (I never monetized because I have such an aversion to ads myself, which might very well be shooting myself in the foot!) Since retirement (teacher, here, too!) I've slacked a bit and my baby needs some love in the form of a security key :( and I needed to think about whether or not I wanted to spend the money. (I think I will ...) I've been a LONG TIME reader, Katrina, and I LOVE your blog--I especially like your posts on healthy eating and your life with the LIttles and your home decorating. I love it all--even the running, though I've never run a lick in my life! Selfishly I'll say, KEEP WRITING. You have an interesting life, a lovely perspective, and beautiful voice.