Learning from You: Changes to Wardrobe Oxygen thanks to Reader Survey FeedbackBlogging
Last month I started an anonymous reader survey and the feedback has been AH-MAY-ZING! You all have been so great, sharing ideas, telling me what you like, what you don’t like, and what you’d love to see. Each time Survey Monkey has emailed me letting me know I have new responses I get excited. I’m going to keep the survey open in case anyone wants to add feedback at any time, but wanted to share what I have gathered thus far and how I’m going to use it to improve Wardrobe Oxygen. Heads up, this is a pretty lengthy post so I am truncating it on the blog for those who don’t care much and want to get back to the fashion!
Who Is the Wardrobe Oxygen Reader?
The overwhelming majority of you are between the ages of 35 and 44. The next largest category is 45 to 54 but a very close second is 25 to 34. This is amazing feedback because it is very different from what I get from analytics sites, which can’t decide if the majority of my readers are over 50 or under 25. I’ve guessed this number from comments, emails, and feedback on social media but it’s nice to have proof that my audience is the age I think they are.
I have in the past couple of years added more content for women over 40, but with this feedback I know I can’t leave out the women under 35. Expect over 2016 to see a broader range of fashion advice, catered to different decades of life.
How Long Have You Been Reading Wardrobe Oxygen?
While over more of you have been with me for five years or more than I expected (and am thrilled about!), 40% of you have been reading for less than two years and a little over 40% of you have been reading for 3-4 years. These numbers are great to see; it shows that the changes I have been making with Wardrobe Oxygen over the years has brought on new readers without turning off those who have been around for the long haul.
I don’t want to change drastically, but I think it’s important, especially if you blog about style, to be aware of current trends in the industry and adopt those that are appropriate. I try to stay abreast and make good decisions, but always welcome feedback if you find something isn’t a good fit (or if you see something somewhere else that you feel would be a good fit here at WO2!).
How Do You Read Wardrobe Oxygen?
The results for this question were awesome. Over 60% of you read directly at the blog. This is cool because you’re getting the full Wardrobe Oxygen experience, and you see things in the font, layout, and size I envisioned for the post. This also makes me glad I’m so particular about ads; I despise pop-ups, pop-unders, skins (when the background of the site is one big ad), auto-audio and video and refuse to work with any ad network that forces such content. I know I lose a lot of revenue dollars by not using such ads, but if you’re coming directly here I want you to have a positive experience. Those advertisers I use (most are ad spots purchased directly by the company) will be glad to know that their ad space is getting eyes.
The second largest number was the write-in choice; Facebook. I know the Facebook community for Wardrobe Oxygen is strong; over 11,000 of you are over there and sometimes the comment section gets really fun. I don’t auto-post to Facebook; I like to put a personal touch on each post I share there and have been known to not have a timely post if I have something scheduled for a weekend or a vacation day. This feedback reminds me to be more fastidious with posting to Facebook since so many of you only read posts by them being linked there.
How Did You Find Wardrobe Oxygen?
Most of you had no idea, you didn’t remember or thought you found it through a Google or Pinterest search. A good chunk of you found me via a message board or the comments on an active site – Reddit, GOMI, DC Urban Moms, YouLookFab, Corporette, The Nest, The Bump, MetaFilter, Jezebel, Get Rich Slowly, Lifehacker, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Washington Post, Dallas Moms Club. A big thanks to those of you who have mentioned me in these places! It really means a lot when you recommend me (and heck, even when you rant about me because one person’s trash is another’s treasure!). And to those readers who are freelancers and have linked to me in their articles and guest posts? Big squishy hug and lipstick-smearing kiss on the cheek. A big thank you to April, who mentioned me in a few articles; some are years old but still bring the blog traffic. That, and the recommendation of theBalm’s Mary Lou Manzier Highlighter have been so rewarding, you inspire me to keep creating link-worthy content!
What is your Favorite Topic on Wardrobe Oxygen?
This one wasn’t as surprising – a tie for capsule wardrobes and outfit posts. I knew such; I see it thanks to Pinterest analytics and what brings you to the blog from Google and other search engines. Also it’s clear by the number of likes on Facebook and comments on the posts. I’m glad, they’re my favorite types of posts to do. However, they both take the most time (outfit posts were far easier when I didn’t have a kid and could take blurry selfies in my home office mirror) and I am glad they are worth the effort.
The topic “How to Wear It” was in third place, and I didn’t expect that. Over the years I have done fewer of these posts because I’ve often received negative feedback on them. Comments that the trend is too young, the trend is impossible to carry off in a variety of climates, not able to be worn in the office, no able to be worn by a certain age or body type. I’ve also received feedback that such posts can be found elsewhere and it’s redundant (or that I don’t do it as well). I’m going to chalk up this difference to the fact that these posts aren’t popular with a noisy majority but appeal to a quiet majority and will try to fit more in come 2016.
The biggest thing I learned from this survey question is that the choice to have columnists on the blog wasn’t the best.
This year, I turned 40 and Wardrobe Oxygen turned 40. I started questioning a lot about my life and the blog. My day job, is this what I wanted to be doing the rest of my life? I have always felt the blog benefits from me working in Corporate America. Not only will I be able to share career fashion advice from experience, but I’ve seen so many great blogs take a nosedive when the author goes full-time. However, it’s a helluva lot to move up the corporate ladder, have your blog grow in size and visibility, and have a family. I like my job, but I love Wardrobe Oxygen. So I started 2015 with the idea that I would bust my ass until June working to make it possible to either go pro with the blog, or at least be able to go to part-time at my day job. I talked it over with Karl, he agreed, and I got to work.
I did a site redesign and a new logo. I overhauled my social media, even bought ads on Facebook. I increased the amount of content, worked harder on SEO, attended blogging workshops and conferences, tried to make the content more polished and “professional,” and brought on columnists. Alison wrote about Fashion with a capital F (a topic many had asked for), Phyllis wrote about beauty but from a different perspective from me, Chelsea wrote about reinventing herself after 40 (a topic I thought many of you would relate to or find inspiring). I planned to bring on more columnists – one discussing plus size fashion, one writing about ethical and sustainable fashion, and then one who is over 50 and one who is under 30 to give balanced perspective on fashion and trends. I envisioned a site a la The Everygirl or The Glitter Guide but for grown-ass women, focusing on style and staying badass with age.
June came, and while I had increased the monthly revenue for Wardrobe Oxygen, it wasn’t enough to quit my day job. Not only that, I was miserable. I loved Wardrobe Oxygen because it took my two dream jobs – writing and being in fashion, and made them a reality. But working so hard for traffic and sponsorships took away all the fun and creativity that makes WO2 such a pleasure. It also took the me out of the blog and I saw from comments (and comments on message boards) that readers didn’t like the change.
The final straw was BlogHer. After going I felt mega disillusioned with professional blogging. It seemed the way to achieve success is by becoming a brand and putting the focus on attracting other brands, not readers. I didn’t want to become a brand, and I knew my family had no interest in that either. I wanted to be able to rant about politics on Twitter, share imperfect un-curated pictures on Instagram, and admit my faults on the blog. I’m not a perfect shiny person, I don’t want to pretend that I am, I don’t like reading perfect shiny blogs and I’m not interested in attracting an audience who prefers perfect shiny curated content.
I went back to blogging at a slower pace. I started saying no more, and wrote more honest (and less “Pinteresting”) content. But this left many scratching their heads wondering WTH was the point of the columnists. Alison, Chelsea, and Phyllis are phenomenal women and I am thrilled they agreed to write here at Wardrobe Oxygen but their columns will end with the end of this year.
Wardrobe Oxygen and Social Media
This one didn’t surprise me much; 70% of you follow on Facebook, 52% on Instagram, 20% on Twitter, and 21% on Pinterest. I assumed such not just from the numbers but the type of engagement I receive on these channels.
I plan to continue to focus on Facebook. While most marketing and blogging advice says Facebook is dead, you prove it isn’t true for Wardrobe Oxygen. I gained thousands of new followers on Facebook in 2015 alone. I’ll continue to share my links there instead of a weekly link-up post on the blog, and make the comments there as much as a focus as they are here on the blog. If you follow there already, you’ll see I’m sharing more pictures on Facebook from Instagram; I didn’t used to do that because I personally find it annoying to follow a blogger in multiple locations and get the same exact content in multiple ways but this feedback shows you’re not necessarily following me in multiple locations.
This feedback also reminds me to stick with my current method for Instagram. All advice says I should have more curated content and a theme to what I share; to use a DSLR, have plenty of white, have a consistent filter, post at the prime times, use lots of hashtags, only post once a day, etc. etc. etc. And if my goal was to get tens of thousands of followers I would. But a lot of you follow me there, and I like having a place where I can share the real behind the scenes. Many of you mentioned in the survey you’d like more daily life posts; I provide such content on Instagram and like to keep it there because I want to keep the focus of the blog off my family and on style. But Instagram gives a bit of context, a peek into who I am when I’m not making capsule wardrobes or standing in the middle of the street with my hands on my hips.
As for Pinterest and Twitter… I will continue to use those but they won’t be my top way for connecting with readers. To be honest, I’ve removed both apps from my phone to focus my time on where you are. But to continue with honesty, money for sponsorships comes less from blog traffic and more from how “influential” you are, which means followers on social media. My social media numbers are very low in comparison to my peers and in comparison to my blog traffic, so while I may not be as real-time active on Pinterest and Twitter, I will continue to look for passive or scheduled ways to grow those channels.
And while I’m being honest, a bit about money and social media. I accept sponsored tweet opportunities, but I won't monetize Facebook and risk the great community and trust built there. I do very few sponsored Pinterest opportunities, but that’s mainly because it’s a helluva lot of work for little pay. While I have used a monetizing tool in the past on Instagram, I don’t plan on doing it again unless it’s part of a single-post contract.
Videos on Wardrobe Oxygen
I don’t watch a lot of videos. While I have my own office at work, I’m regularly on the phone, on a webinar, or listening to work-related content. Once I’m home, if I am watching anything it’s on the big TV and being viewed by Karl and/or Emerson with me. So I haven’t seen the desire for videos on the blog until this year when brands started requesting them. I asked a few blogger friends who do them and they all admitted that adding video increased their blog traffic, social media following, and their revenue.
When I went to BlogHer, the two topics I wanted to learn more about was writing a book and doing videos. I was very inspired by the video workshops, but once I got home I never saw the time to do such a thing. Elizabeth Arden required video content for the series of posts I did with them (stay tuned for that), and Karl and I found the experience (after me having a literal migraine from the stress of it and spending a whole day rearranging and cleaning to find places to film) pretty fun and exciting to learn a new skill together. But since then, I have had a ton of excuses why we haven’t filmed more.
The majority of you said you don’t watch videos, and at first that made me feel justified in not making video. “See, they don’t watch videos either! What a waste of time!” But the thing is, there’s a lot of people out there who do like video and don’t know about Wardrobe Oxygen.
I won’t replace content with videos; if a post has a video it will also have photos and text and provide a full experience even if you never click Play. But videos can add a personal level to the blog (I doubt many of you even know what my voice sounds like), and bring an audience from other places. While I haven’t filmed anything at the time of writing this post, I did buy myself an iPhone tripod and remote and Karl’s reading up on using his DSLR for video. I promise the blog content won’t suffer!
What Other Blogs Do You Read?
This was my FAVORITE question. The responses were amazing. The top answers were the ones that I had assumed, but there were some that were regularly mentioned that I didn’t expect or didn’t even know about. I visited every single blog that was mentioned by you (even the several of you who shared your “hate reads”), and I have to admit I am honored to be in such company! The top blogs mentioned were:
- Already Pretty
- Bridgette Raes
- Capitol Hill Style
- Girl with Curves
- Grechen’s Closet
- Kendi Everyday
- Looks Good from the Back
- Outfit Posts
- Putting Me Together
- The Mom Edit
- The Simply Luxurious Life
- The Small Things
- Une Femme d'un Certain Age
- What I Wore 2 Day
This really helps me understand who YOU are. Blogs are so unique, it’s not about competition but better understanding Wardrobe Oxygen’s audience. These are some amazing people, they aren't afraid to be human and they all work to provide quality content on quality blogs. And I gotta say I like them all, which makes me feel good about sharing me on the blog, and the relationship I have built with all of you. I’ve added so many new blogs to Feedly and am following so many more social media accounts! So thank you for this feedback, it was pretty awesome!
What Do You Wish To See on Wardrobe Oxygen?
The feedback for this question was pretty awesome. The main thing I got from it is that most of you are happy with the variety I currently offer. So many of you were understanding of the time commitment for writing quality posts and said you’re happy as-is and don’t want current content to suffer with any changes. I hear you, I desire the same. A few requested things that would be awesome, but I just can’t see fitting into my schedule on a regular basis or else it’s a topic where I don’t feel expert enough to discuss. And some, I’d really like to start doing. A few of your suggestions and my responses:
- Fitting Room Photos: The other weekend I went to the mall and it was the first time in a year. Like you, I adore seeing fitting room photos and getting a feel for a current collection at a popular retail on a figure similar to mine, but I hardly ever have time to hit the mall. However, when I do I will come with a fully-charged phone and be sure to get some shots and share!
- Advice for Tall/Very Petite/Larger Plus Sized Women: I don’t want to give bad advice, and I haven’t had experience shopping for, dressing, or living the life of any of these figures. However, there’s some phenomenal blogs out there that are written by women with this figure. Do check out Fashion for Giants, Alterations Needed, and Style IT. Follow them on social media and read their comments to find even more bloggers in those categories. They can advise far better than I ever could.
- The Look for Less: I have a post in a couple weeks where I go into detail about this topic.
- More High End Fashion: My average reader is a middle class professional and so am I. While I love fashion, I don’t have a lifestyle or a budget to afford high-end designers and can’t speak much about them with any credibility. There’s many fantastic blogs who write about and do outfit posts featuring designer fashion; check out The Fashion Guitar, Style Bubble, Luxury Shoppers, and Gary Pepper.
- Monthly Budgets: My feeling is that any blog that is monetized can’t give a realistic fashion budget because their purchases will be different from non-blogger women. For example, this fall I wanted a brown leather bag. I didn’t have to save up for one, Maxwell Scott reached out and I was able to choose a gorgeous brown bag from their collection. I needed a pair of black ankle boots for work – a pointed toe and wearable heel height. Marmi Shoes asked to do a collaboration so I chose a pair of VANELi boots that would be perfect (and are). On top of that, I know my wardrobe is affected by being a blogger; I wear brighter colors, dress up more at the office than I need to, and incorporate more current trends to keep the outfit posts interesting. I don’t keep a budget; my purchases are determined by how financially successful the previous month was for the blog. If I did well, I’ll treat myself. If not, I only purchase to fill a hole or replace that which is worn or no longer fits.
- Sale Picks: I do these on occasion, but it all has to do with my schedule. If I have a Girl Scout meeting Saturday, I’m likely working on the curriculum that week prior and don’t have time for such a post. If I’m on a webinar at work, I can scroll through online shops and get ideas so I am prepped to write such a post that evening when I’m home. Lately, I’ve been doing far more manager things at my job and haven’t had that scroll through the sale section at Nordstrom time. However, I plan to continue having such posts and will have them in the future as time allows!
- Outfit Posts with Other People: This sort of fits in with an idea I have for 2016… not exactly this but something similar so stay tuned!
- More Weekend/Casual Outfits: Your wish is my command! Karl now has his little Fuji camera and takes it most anywhere; we’ll try to capture some real-life outfit photos and share them on the blog from time to time!
- Share My Size: I realize I haven’t always done this so I am making a concerted effort to more regularly share what size I chose for a garment. Usually I am a 14, Large, or XL. While I am 5’3” I often find petites too short waisted so I do a lot of regulars and get the hems shortened. If I stray from this, I’ll try to remember to share!
- Better Mobile Site: I agree, the graphics for the categories make you have to scroll forever when on the homepage; I’ll look into this as well as more white space to the left of the text and responsive images. I hope to have an update to the site early in 2016.
- More Variety in Brands I Wear: This is tough. As a mom, blogger, and working full time outside of the home, there’s little time for me to spend on building my wardrobe. One of the things I recommend to busy women is to shop at fewer retailers so you have more consistency with sizing and are more likely to find pieces to go with your existing wardrobe. I follow this advice myself; while I am happy to explore new brands as a short, soft, size 14 woman I easily get frustrated shopping and would rather simplify my life and reduce stress by shopping where I know I’m more likely to achieve success. But do let me know what brands you’re curious about or love and I am happy to investigate and possibly feature or review on the blog!
- Emerson/My Personal Life: While I share pictures of Emerson and Karl on Instagram, I won’t be sharing much of them here on the blog. Karl and I have agreed that Emerson will not be used in any sponsorships or monetized aspects of Wardrobe Oxygen. While Karl is happy to be part on occasion (see our trip to Columbus), he’s far more comfortable behind the camera. Both of them would prefer to not have their lives shared on the blog and I fully respect their decision.
- Fewer Sponsored Posts: In this day and age, there’s not much money to be made from sidebar ads. I despise monetizing Instagram and Facebook, so the way to make money from Wardrobe Oxygen is through sponsored posts. As I mentioned above, opportunities come to “influencers” and that is primarily based upon numbers. Each time a brand reaches out or I receive an opportunity to apply for a sponsored post, I have to share my monthly pageviews and unique visitors and the number of followers on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr. Now brands also care about new channels like Periscope and Snapchat. Even though I have a strong Facebook audience, the rest are peanuts in comparison to other bloggers desiring the same opportunities. However, my pageviews and unique visitors have increased this past year which has helped. So as my “influence” grows, I get more opportunities, can be more picky with who I partner with, and am able to reduce the number of sponsored posts.
- More Morrissey: Only one of you mentioned it, but it cracked me up!
This category of responses made me tear up multiple times and inspired me to write, write, write! Karl asked why I have been so obsessed with the blog lately, and I said it was because of the survey. The feedback was amazing – honest, constructive, thoughtful, and said with care. Seriously, I only had two troll responses and the rest was so amazing and it was clear you care about Wardrobe Oxygen. I do too, and I care about your thoughts on the blog and will take all that you wrote and will consider it while still keeping WO2 the place it has been for over a decade. I’m honored to have such an amazing community of readers, and that you take the time to share your thoughts and visit on a regular basis. I just want to make this place the best resource I can; keep sharing your thoughts and I’ll keep providing the very best content I can!