2021 in Review
2021 felt more hopeful.
I know everyone has been trashing 2021 but for me, 2020 was much worse. 2021 was frustrating at times, but still an improvement. I mean, anything would be an improvement vs. being locked down alone in Brooklyn. 2020 was flat out awful, which made me more appreciative of 2021’s bright moments. On a personal level, this year was actually pretty great. Better than great. I fell in love.. I moved to a city I’d always dreamed about living in. And I got/get to see my parents multiple times a week after being unable to see them for a year. I stayed mostly healthy (besides that month long cold from hell) and I felt extreeeemely lucky.
It was a sad year too. I had a lot of conflicted feelings over leaving New York (my home for 15 years). I missed my friends and my old home. And I lost touch with a few people who were once really important to me. And (especially over the last month or so) there was just so much uncertainty.
Professionally, it was only medium. Not bad or devastating, but not GREAT. Instagram grew a little, my email newsletter and Facebook group grew a lot, my blog traffic was down. I got feedback that my content was boring, and I get it because at times I just felt really unmotivated and exhausted. I wrote about a lack of stamina, and at times it felt like I was just getting by. Not being creative, not being strategic, just getting things done and then wanting a nap. The past couple years have been HARD. There are years of growth and years that lag, and this year lagged a little bit. It’s the first time that’s ever happened, and I absolutely don’t see it as a permanent thing.
If anything, it motivates me and next year things will grow again.
There are a few things at play. First of all, pandemic fatigue is real. Coming off of such a hard year, I just didn’t (and still don’t have) the energy to work 24/7. Also, a constant layer of stress about messing up, saying the wrong thing, or accidentally offending someone was added… and when you are anxious and nervous, it can be hard to be yourself.
We can also add to that list a rich personal life that is mostly offline (two of the biggest parts of my life are my boyfriend and my niece). So it was a little weird as offline, life felt good, but online I guess I was yes: a little boring. I do think that sometimes influencer content is more interesting when it’s coming from a place of struggle. Kind of awful but true: some of my best content has come right after breakups… or during the pandemic. A lot of people found me during lockdown, when I was really struggling – and talking about that.
I wasn’t struggling this year – I was happy but exhausted. I’m feeling a lot less tired… energized, actually – after a break.
It was like I took a week off and the creative juices just went into overdrive. I am particularly excited about this month’s content but also the year ahead. This year, a goal of mine is to keep this blog and my social channels interesting and fun for you, while maintaining my happiness and a level of privacy. The “when will you reveal your boyfriend” questions can be a lot. I totally understand the curiosity. That being said, he is not a new handbag to reveal; he is a human being who, while incredibly supportive of my work, doesn’t want me to post photos of him. Maybe that will change, maybe it won’t… I want to be respectful of his wishes.
Anyway! I am going to talk about personal and business goals in an upcoming post (next week, I think!) but this post is an annual report of sorts: your favorite posts, your favorite products, what platforms and projects were most lucrative for my business, ETC. I do this every year. It’s a good exercise for me to dig into the numbers and think critically. It helps me to set goals and think about future partnerships, plus areas of my business I want to expand, work harder at, or stop doing.
I share it with you as I like being transparent (and because I think it’s interesting!!!).
Everything I do here is done for a reason. It’s not always a financial reason (building this community and supporting small businesses will always come first) but I’m not running a non-profit. This is a business, and (well, most of the time at least), I try to be as strategic as possible.
Lastly: THANK YOU. For your encouragement, for reading and commenting here, following along on Instagram, liking and commenting on my posts and shopping via my links, listening to the podcast, subscribing to the newsletter, and of course – hanging out in the Facebook Group (my FAV!). YOU have been one of the brightest spots in a year that felt so uncertain and , and I am so incredibly grateful for that. A special thank you to those who still comment on the blog. As you will see below they were down quite a bit from last year (the industry is changing and most people prefer to DM). I cherish every blog comment!
2021 IN REVIEW
2021 BY THE NUMBERS:
- 315 posts published (vs 364 last year)
- 4,495 blog comments (-50% vs. last year)
- Blog traffic was down 6%
This was the first year where my blog traffic was down vs. the prior year. 6% is not the end of the world but it’s still a little sad. I feel like a bit of a failure looking at these numbers (especially blog comments – heartbreaking!!!) but this is also a factor of where the industry is right now. If there were a way to capture DM engagement, I’m sure that would be much higher than last year. People are spending more and more (too much if you ask me) time on Instagram. Even when I link a blog post in my stories, I’ll get a DM as opposed to a comment on the blog.
I know it sounds silly but blog comments are just so much more meaningful and easier to manage – I can reply easily from the computer, and a discussion can ensue. Nothing makes me happier than when I see a lively discussion in the comments of a blog post.
The decline in traffic was caused by a few things.
The main (and sad!) reason is that I didn’t focus on it quite as much as I have in the past. 315 posts in a year isn’t exactly slacking, but I focused a lot more on Instagram as that is where most of my partnerships (and frankly readers) were. Also, I was quite spread thin: a huge move, a long distance relationship, living close to family (and wanting to stop working many days at 5pm to go be with them), plus just having a lot of work to do between my newsletter, instagram, the podcast, etc. I don’t like that my traffic was down, but this was a big year in terms of life changes, so it does make sense. We will turn it around next year – I have faith!
HOW YOU FOUND ME:
- Organic Search
- Direct (direct traffic is when someone types in your website name)
- Mackenzie Horan (thanks, friend!)
- Go Fug Yourself (thanks ladies!)
MOST POPULAR POSTS OF 2021
This is always such a popular question, be it on the podcast or in the Facebook group, etc. Making friends as an adult can be really, really hard – especially in a new city. I got some experience with that this year, so I wrote a post about it.
This was SUCH a popular one and I’m glad as Melissa really got me through quarantine. 20 minutes a day was manageable, something I could stick to. While I am not currently doing her workouts any more I know at some point I will go back to them. Quick, effective, and not too hard.
An older post, but a good one – such a simple way to add body and shine (while also getting your scalp super clean).
This comes up in nearly every Q&A. I wrote it a few years ago but keep updating it as I swap out favorite products.
We love some goal setting! 2022’s goals will be on the blog next week or the week after.
I was so nervous to press publish on this piece as it was raw and honest and I was worried about how people would respond/if they’d find me whiny and bratty. But it resonated with so many of you and I’m really grateful. On bad days I will re-read this (and the comments section!).
This post is a perma fav (and I sell at least a couple ice rollers every day!). It’s just such a great product. Crazy affordable, but also makes a difference.
You guys are really into scalp health! Ha. This is a great post, written a few years ago. It always trends especially at the end of summer when we’re all having to deal with dry shampoo build up + sunscreen, salt, etc!
This was a very popular post (and product) – my lash serum. I started using it this summer and have had amazing results. I can’t get over how much longer and thicker my lashes look. Some days I even forget to put on mascara!
This is also an older post but gets great SEO. There are posts that I write for SEO reasons, but this actually wasn’t one of them… I wrote it more as an answer to questions I’d been getting. It just got picked up by google and has been a top post for a couple years now.
TOP PRODUCTS OF 2021 IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER:
Something that cracked me up a little bit is how similar this list is to last year’s list. 8 of the items are exact and then we have a different pair of faux leather leggings and a different pair of jeans (same brand, AGOLDE). Made me laugh – at least I am consistent: I tend to fall in love with products and talk about them over and over and over again!
This is the coziest – I talked about it over the winter and then again during the Nordstrom sale. It is truly so cozy. I recommend sizing down, I have the medium and am tempted to give it away to a friend and buy a small as it’s just a little bit frumpy and big.
My favorite jeans, period. Most of my jeans are from AGOLDE… I find them to be true to size, fit my body really well, and to be on trend without making me feel like I’m doing some sort of nineties cosplay.
It makes me happy to see this rank as it’s a really cool small Etsy business. I love this thing. It’s a great gift and when you put it over a candle it emits such a cozy warm glow.
These were a best-seller last year and again this year. I love these sneakers and have gotten my mom and my sister obsessed as well. I have (from over the years) four pairs – the tan, grey, navy, and white. They are so comfortable but I love that they have a little lift in them.
These are so cute… and so inexpensive. And one thing I realized this year is that during the rainier season it’s good to have an inexpensive pair of non-leather sandals to run around in.
I owe this find to Jen at The Fashion Magpie (a fav read of mine) as she led me to these and they are so great. The quality is very good and it’s reasonably priced for letterpress.
Another repeat offender, this is a perennial favorite and as I mentioned above, one of the best inexpensive things you can do for your skin. It’s wild how effective it is!
Also a repeat from last year. My favorite body lotion. I wrote a longer review of it.
The best face cream ever. A big splurge but my holy grail, most favorite skincare product of all time.
Also a repeat offender. Another holy grail beauty fav. In fact, I use this a few times a week to keep my skin smooth and bright!
The sexiest, smoky body cream, from an amazing small business. They make it in very limited quantities so it sells out fast but I always try to post to Instagram when I see it restocked.
This was such a fun find and so popular. I love this blouse, it could pass for Zimmermann or something fancy.
I had always been a Spanx leggings girl (and I still love my Spanx) but these look like REAL leather. I love them.
This was in one of my gift guides and was wildly popular. So many of you bought it for your parents… ha ha!
Also a repeat offender! This is just the best little pullover. The gold snaps, the slimmer fit, the longer length… it’s so PERFECT. Definitely an important part of my quarantine uniform.
This little box is the greatest – it looks so much more expensive than it is, and I love that it comes in emerald green (amongst other colors!!!).
My favorite. Honestly, this makes travel so much nicer, just having all my toiletries in one orderly place. I keep it packed at all times so that it’s ready to go when I have a trip.
Also a fav from last year, and a best buy from quarantine for sure. These are the greatest. So cozy. I’m pretty much always wearing them!
It is positively wild how much love this community has for the gold birks. And I can’t fault you for that. They were out of stock forever and then they came back and I posted them and you all broke the Internet.
Favorite favorite candle. I always stock up during Sephora’s sale. This also made the list last year.
Last year, I added a revenue section to the post this year for the first time ever as I think there are a lot of questions about how bloggers make money. While I am not comfortable sharing dollar amounts, percentages are interesting!
See that big yellow wedge? Yup. That’s Instagram.
That (and other things, I do love it at it’s purest form, I just hate the algorithm and the way the platform penalizes larger accounts (especially if, god forbid, you want to take a few days off!) is why I won’t be leaving Instagram anytime soon. Instagram ads were the biggest source of revenue this year. This is a bit disheartening at times as I prefer doing larger (long term) partnerships across all of my channels. (An example of that would be yesterday’s Briogeo post where we did a blog post, instagram reel, and stories).
I can be more thoughtful about it, I can put SEO behind it, and selfishly I charge more for it which means that I can run fewer ads (A sponsored blog post costs about 3x what a set of sponsored Instagram stories cost). This is just where the industry is right now, and I’ve had to adapt.
Affiliate revenue was second (this includes swipe ups, but there’s no accurate way to break out what’s from Instagram and what’s from the blog, newsletter, etc).
A lot is from swipe ups, making Instagram even more important (financially speaking, that is!). Sponsored blog posts were second, and the podcast + banner ads on my site were little baby pieces of the pie.
In 2022, I want my newsletter to become a piece of the pie (ideally meaning fewer ads on Instagram). Even if it’s only a tiny piece. I really like the idea of selling ads in my newsletter or doing dedicated newsletters. We will see. I like how pure my newsletter is but it would be fun to test some partnerships there and see how they perform.
My affiliate revenue was down (as a percentage) from last year.
Last year, it was nearly half my income (48%), this year it was only 36%. The main reason for that is that in 2020, I did two Amazon drop collections whereas in 2021 I only did the one staples collection. The way that the Amazon drop partnerships are structured is that you receive a flat licensing fee + bonuses depending on sales, but the main revenue driver is with commissions. Since I did not do any big drops this year, my affiliate revenue definitely suffered. That is okay though!
The biggest chunk is “other.” That makes me really happy as it’s all those smaller brands I link to but were under 2%: Chappywrap and Etsy, Hill House and Farm Rio, ETC.
Also! If you’re not familiar with the term “affiliate revenue,” that’s the links on my blog. Most (not all!) of the links on my blog are affiliate links, so if you make a purchase from something I share here I will often earn a percentage of sales. Think of it like a finders fee. It isn’t much (usually around 5-10%), but it adds up and is a very significant to my business!
That about sums this year’s review up! I’d love for you to share what you’d like to see more of in 2021, if you have any content requests!