Building WordPress.com Website Success: From the Fringe

Want to learn how to be a successful blogger? For the second portion of our three-part series, we’re presenting a conversation with Suzie Marie, a UK-based blogger at From the Fringe. In this insightful interview Suzie speaks about her road to blogging success and shares expert insight on what it means to connect with your ideal audience. Suzy’s best piece of advice: you can make a meaningful contribution simply by being yourself. Suzie received a Highly Commended mention at the UK Blog Awards for her first blog (with over 700 posts), which led to her current blog, From the Fringe. Suzie writes on all things joy, lifestyle, and feminist feistiness, while incorporating a light-spirited voice into her writing.

When did you start your blog?

I started blogging back in 2011 when it was only a fraction of the huge community and market it has become today. It was a completely different world then, with most people just blogging about their lives and their stories.

Why did you start it?

I read a blog by Suzy Krause, and that inspired me to begin my own blogging journey. Her style was so unique and interesting, it made me want to write my own stories and share a little bit of myself with the world. I still read her blog today — she’s a wonderful writer!

How did you grow your site?

Honestly, I still feel like a relatively small blogger, so it’s weird for me to talk about growth. I don’t feel that it’s something I’ve really gained significantly! I think that winning Highly Commended at the UK Blog Awards in 2014 was a real boost to my confidence and definitely changed the way that I felt about blogging. I started to take it a little more seriously and really work on my writing, which is when my latest blog, From The Fringe, was born. It’s all about community rather than followers for me, so I’ve just focused on reading and commenting on other people’s blogs, sharing on social media, joining Twitter chats and blogging groups, that kind of thing.

Was there a specific event that significantly increased your site traffic?

I was featured on WordPress.com’s Discover recently, which was pretty awesome and brought me lots of lovely new readers.

Was your site’s growth strategic or organic?

My site growth has been a mixture of organic and intentional, I’d say. I think I’m definitely more savvy about how to accumulate traffic these days; however, I rarely follow the “rules,” and I can’t bear marketing myself constantly, so I tend not to do it! I promote my content online, but generally my followers are just people I’ve accumulated over the years like beautiful pieces of treasure.

How does social media impact your site’s growth?

Social media can be massively helpful in growing a site. If, unlike me, you’re willing to dedicate time and effort to it, social media is absolutely the key for getting your content seen by wider audiences. Pinterest and Twitter are both outstanding platforms for bringing your content to a large audience quickly, which can do wonders for your growth.

Have any of your posts received particularly positive feedback? How did it impact you, your site, and your community?

The post that was featured on WordPress.com’s Discover, “A Mushy Love Letter About Blogging,” has been my most popular post by far, and thankfully it has gotten really positive feedback. It was a post that I quickly penned on a train and didn’t proof or plan — I just wrote it and pinged it out into the world. So the fact that it resonated with so many people and inspired those on their journeys into the blogging world was hugely gratifying to me. As I mentioned, the post brought me lots of lovely new followers, and it felt as though the universe was confirming my belief that blogging shouldn’t be about numbers, but about love and passion.

Are you actively involved in the WordPress.com community?

This community is something that has only revealed itself to me recently, but it’s brilliant! There are bloggers from all over the world writing amazing content, and it never ceases to amaze me how blogging has grown over the years. I’d love to be more involved than I am, but by managing two sites and a full-time job, I very often run out of time!

What has been the best tool to authentically engage with your community?

I really relish the opportunity to share such personal and emotional posts with the community, and replying to each comment is really important to me. I try to offer advice where I can, and I enjoy hearing other people’s stories. I think the key to authentic engagement is just to be yourself — how much more authentic can you be?

How has the WordPress.com community positively impacted your blog?

It has given me the confidence to just be myself and do my own blogging thing. It’s so easy to get sucked into thinking about followers and stats, and you very quickly find that the fun and joy of just the craft itself disappears. Having a post about exactly that be picked up and promoted on such a large scale has kept me on the right track and serves as a reminder to stop putting pressure on myself and to just enjoy it!

From the birth of your site until now, take us through the evolution of how it came to be. What was the experience like for you?

In 2011, I started a blog simply as a place to share my thoughts. I was in the middle of a master’s degree and trying to work through all of the new concepts that I was learning about and the ways I was changing as a person. Over the years I honed in on my writing skills, developed a great community of people I now happily call friends, and began to gain confidence. I posted over 700 pieces to that site, something which just blows my mind! I constantly worked hard at blogging and started to gradually see improvements and collect positive feedback. In 2016, I started my new blog, From the Fringe, because I felt that I’d changed a lot since 2011 and needed something new to represent that.

It has been a truly joyous experience, and I don’t think I’ve ever been as invested in a project for such a long period of time! Blogging has undoubtedly shaped who I am as a person, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Any blips along the way? What helped you navigate those challenges?

So many blips! I’ve had times where I’ve barely posted a thing, times when the blog was the only good thing I had in my life, and times where I got tired of being part of the popularity competition that blogging sometimes generates. I’ve “quit” blogging a couple of times, too! I always come back to it, though, and to help me overcome the barriers, I try to remember starting all of those years ago and get myself back to that simple love of writing. That’s always a great way to rejuvenate my interest and remove myself from some of the negative aspects of the blog race.

What decision-making process did you use to create a really impactful site with an extensive reach?

There’s been a mixture of processes along the way. I’m very much about the words, so everything about the site is just about making the content the main focus. I have a huge title banner, and then it’s straight into blog posts, so I guess I just wanted to keep things simple. Everybody wants to consume content quickly and fuss-free these days, so I’ve tried to facilitate that as much as possible.

How much content do you share, and how often?

I don’t share content as much as I should because I hate scheduling with a passion! However, I use a content-scheduling provider called CoSchedule, which is so helpful. I tend to try and share at least one post per day and revisit old posts every now and then, or when something relevant comes up in current affairs that I’ve written about before. New content gets a specific schedule for a month after it was published. I only share on Twitter at the moment, but I’m also working on marketing on Pinterest (when I have time).

Did you have any epiphanies during the evolution of your blog?

Yes! Followers are absolutely not the only measure of success. Blogging brings so many amazing things — followers are just a tiny piece of the puzzle. Success can simply be you writing something you’re really proud of, making a new friend in the blogging world, or getting the chance to do something interesting for your blog. I can’t stress this enough. It’s the most important thing that I realized!

What advice would you give to those beginning a WordPress.com blog or website?

Being yourself is the most important part of blogging. People want to read a relatable voice with heaps of personality, so what you’re actually writing about is only part of keeping an audience interested. Make sure that your site is user-friendly and easy to read, and focus on the tiny things like spelling and grammar, which are vital for building credibility. Don’t concentrate solely on followers (I told you I can’t stress this enough), because there are other riches to be achieved. There will be times when you feel like it’s pointless, and that you’re never going to get anywhere because the market is so saturated. Just remember why you’re doing it. Whether it’s for a love of writing, to raise awareness about a particular issue, or to work through your own thoughts — that’s what is important. Keep going with it.

What is the best way to connect with your audience?

Replying to comments, chatting to people on social media, and getting involved with Twitter chats or in-person meetups and events are all great ways to connect. The sense of community is one of the best things about the blogging world, so make the most of it! I have friends all over the world just from striking up conversations online — it’s brilliant!

What are the overall benefits of building and running a blog like your own?

There have been so many benefits of blogging for me, I barely know where to start! On a fundamental level, it reconnected me with writing, something I love with a passion. This has given me strength and confidence in the hardest of times. I have been given brilliant opportunities such as attending an event at Parliament and delivering a lecture at a university. I started a magazine, The Olive Fox, with a fellow blogger, and we have amassed a team of 80 contributors from all over the world, and the community we have there humbles me every day. I have a voice for my feminism and my opinions, which is not something I take lightly. Blogging connected me to other like-minded, wonderful people. Honestly, blogging has been an incredible and sometimes unexpected force in my life. I hope it brings as much joy and happiness to my readers as it does to me! If I could make just one person feel like they have found a similar soul, I’d be delighted.