William and Susan Brinson are a seriously talented couple. In their day jobs, they rock the advertising and photography worlds. At night and on weekends, they post gorgeous images and great content on their blog House of Brinson. The blog is just over a year old and is already logging major traffic.
We met Susan and William at the ALT Summit, a blogger conference, and were impressed by their talent and their Blurb book, aptly titled House of Brinson. Below are highlights from our conversation with the duo about how they built blog traffic, what tools they use to track it, and what their book has done to promote their business and their blog.
Where did you go to find people who would be interested in your blog, and how did you get them to come to your blog?
We had been on Twitter for some time and had an audience there. Many of our followers were fellow bloggers, and bloggers are very supportive of new blogs. When we started the blog, we were featured and retweeted which drove traffic to our site.
Which Internet-based communities have you found to be the most helpful for building blog traffic?
The most helpful communities for us have been Pinterest and Twitter. The link backs we receive from Pinterest are amazing; it’s the second largest traffic driver to our blog. We actually started pinning our own images on Pinterest. Our home was featured on Design*Sponge and was pinned a lot, so we created a board called ‘our loft’ so we can build our personal brands.
Which were the least helpful?
The least helpful is Tumblr since they do not require sources to be credited. I would highly recommend all creators of original imagery and content to keep an eye on usage and crediting for all work you produce. We have a statement on our site that states you have to have written permission to repost our content.
What was a complete waste of time? Are there any tips on “what to avoid” for people just starting out with a blog?
Unsolicited endorsement opportunities that do not fall in line with our blog guidelines or our brand are a waste of time. When we discuss another brand or product on our blog we truly believe in it. When you start blogging, you now have a publishing platform, and you will be contacted and asked to participate in different promotions, sponsorships, and contests. We think very long and hard about what we say yes to and what we decide to use our blog to promote, mainly since it is our brand and we care about our readers.
What tools do you use to analyze and monitor web traffic? What data points are worth tracking and why?
We use the back end of our blog platform Squarespace. They have amazing analytics and that’s better than some of the most popular analytics programs available. I really think this is a best-kept secret! Of course I look at our general traffic, but more importantly I look at traffic that we receive from individuals that feature us called a referral. It helps me see the context in which our brand is being used and say ‘thank you!’ to the people who featured us.
So you had this successful blog and then you decided to make a book. Can you tell us about your reasons for going from blog to book?
The entire book process for us has been an interesting one! We started out thinking of our book as a portfolio based on material we put into the blog. A lot of work goes into quality control for our content and images, and we saw we had some good stuff. At the same time, we noticed magazines were mentioning our blog, so the book seemed like a great way to promote William’s blog-specific photography. Our intention was to create sort of a ‘look book’ and include a few recipes.
We debuted the book at AltSummit and immediately people were asking to buy it. We never expected to sell it, but knew that we could sell it through Blurb’s Set Your Price program. And since our book “debut,” book publishers have approached us to author other topic-driven books.
Has the book resulted in new projects and business opportunities for you two?
Not yet, but we have just started socializing it, meaning doing blog posts on it and getting the word out through Twitter. The only way we know the results is if we (specifically William) are hired and someone mentions that they saw the book.
I find print promotion the hardest item to track as far as opportunity. On the other hand, people keep print pieces for a long time and could come to us a year from now and mention the book. We will also use digital stats (like our book sales on Blurb) and website stats to track percentages and gauge interest in the book and our work. Speaking of which, if you’re making a book to promote your work, talking to people is important: how did you hear about me, have you seen our book, etc.
What is the best advice you can give to anyone making a book?
Stay focused when adding content. Our book was really a look book for our blog with some added content (like recipes) that we knew were high traffic items. Socializing the book (Facebook posts, talking it up, blog posts, and so on.) gives you useful feedback if you’re thinking of creating a second book. People really responded to our book’s images and they were very excited about the recipes – and that gave us ideas for future books.
Huge thanks to William and Susan!