152: How to Build a Curation Site to 1 Million Pageviews a Month with Maggie Lord

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Millions of people read Rustic Wedding Chic, which is the #1 resource for rustic and country weddings online. What you may not know is this popular wedding blog is run by a Mom of 2 with her 3rd on the way, Maggie Lord. Maggie calls herself a naptime entrepreneur and we SO resonate with that idea.

Welcome to the show, Maggie! We’re so excited to have you!

On the Podcast

1:10 - An Inspired Bride3:01 - Curating A Site5:50 - Solving Problems Through A Directory Site7:01 - Monetizing Your Platform9:52 - Advice For A Blogger Building A Platform12:20 - Working With A Team16:27 - Working with Freelance Photographers17:40 - Growing A Pinterest Following20:06 - Thoughts on Content Schedulers22:55 - What Makes A Popular Pin25:26 - A Frequent Pinner27:50 - Testing Out Promoted Pins29:34 - Maggie’s Embarrassing Mompreneur Moment

Listen Now An Inspired Bride

When Maggie and her husband were planning their wedding 9 years ago, she had a very clear vision for how she wanted things to look. She pictured a rustic but chic and elegant feel for her northern Wisconsin, small town wedding, but struggled to translate it to vendors. There was no Pinterest or Instagram 9 years ago (can you believe it!?) and Maggie found it difficult to plan a wedding without a quick way to save and share the magazines and images she loved.

She thought if she was having trouble, surely other brides were, too. So she thought, “I bet I could start a blog.” And back then, starting a blog was super easy! There were a million different blog formats to choose from, so she picked one and set out to help other brides just like her. In the back of her mind, Maggie thought her new venture would be a great profession someday, but she wasn’t sure how the details would work out.

In the meantime, she enjoyed planning her own wedding! And, of course, sharing the process on her blog. Where did she find inspiration? Where did she NOT find inspiration? Where did she struggle? She compiled these thoughts on her blog, and Rustic Wedding Chic began.

Curating A Site

How did Maggie go about gathering and sharing content that was the best of the best for rustic weddings?

She thought if she could share ideas from other brides and photographers, then her readers could translate those ideas into their own weddings. Initially, she had the idea to reach out to photographers and ask if she could share photos of their beautiful, rustic weddings. She offered to do a write up on their work, with a link to their services. In the early days of blogging, this is how blogging was done.

When Maggie started 8 years ago, there were maybe 3 wedding blogs in the niche: The Knot, Style Me Pretty, and Martha Stewart Weddings. She had access to ‘real weddings’ (not even a term yet) that she could showcase. As this virtual collection grew, brides all over the country were able to find the right florist or cake decorator for them. RWC started by asking to feature the work of vendors, and now they get hundreds of requests a month from vendors.

Maggie quickly learned that ‘rustic’ was an umbrella term - and there were tons of wedding types you could call ‘rustic’, from lakeside to barn settings. Shortly after launching Rustic Wedding Chic, Maggie launched RusticWeddingGuide.com as a way to help couples connect with vendors and venues. Creating this resource came out of requests Maggie would constantly get about finding the best venues. It's fantastic to see savvy business owners become the solution to their own problems.

Solving Problems Through A Directory Site

Did Maggie need a bunch of expensive software to make a directory site? Did she have to become a tech whiz?

She admits that putting together a directory site was a challenge.

Maggie was very comfortable producing content in blog format. She had post-writing down to a science. Putting together this directory site forced her out of her comfort zone. She made the decision to start small, and build from there.

RWC was getting requests from both sides: vendors wanting to get listed and brides wondering how to connect with vendors. Since the Rustic Wedding Chic team is small, they had to really focus their efforts. Maggie pulled everyone together and they made their plan. Starting small and building up worked in Maggie’s favor, as currently there are over 5,000 vendors listed on this directory site.

Monetizing Your Platform

Since Maggie has monetized successfully, I wondered if she could walk us through that process and break down her income streams.

Early on she got help from her brother, who is the president of an internet company. He helped her brainstorm and make a plan to monetize WRC. She knew she had a strong readership and impressive social media numbers, but the path to starting a business wasn’t so cut and dry.

Along with her brother, she tested ideas - and it turned out that advertising was her strong suit. Maggie intentionally wanted to make sure that she could work with smaller vendors like Etsy sellers, so they worked out a model that was more like direct sales.

She also partnered with Google and used Adsense for selling ad spots.

The wedding world is perfect for featuring sponsored posts or Instagram campaigns. The game has changed a bit now than when she started, but still, the model of featuring products and services on your platform works.

Maggie is also an author! When she signed her first book deal, she was unsure of how the process worked. She signed with a good publishing company and invested in a book attorney to make sure she was making wise choices.

We love how diverse Maggie’s income streams are. She’s got many pieces of the pie all fitting together.

Advice For A Blogger Building A Platform

What would Maggie say to a blogger who’s new and trying to build a platform and create a package that would be attractive to advertisers?

Maggie’s advice is on-point: “People have to be really cautious of the niche they’re in. I felt comfortable being in the rustic country wedding space because it came from a very organic place, and people could tell I was passionate about it. I was going to be true to that topic.”

Once you find a niche, spend a lot of time and effort learning how you can dominate that niche. You want to have the best site, be the most authoritative, and give readers a good experience.

“Be brand conscious, even if you’re not a huge, well-known brand yet, you still have to think of yourself as a brand.”

Maggie says that when bloggers try to work with bigger sponsors, they have to be confident in who they are as a brand. It’s difficult for any company to part with money, even if they have deep pockets! So you have to prove that your blog is worth investing in. The company wants to make sure that if they send you X dollars, it’s going to be worth their effort.

If you can put a package together to explain who you are, why they should work for you, and who your readers are in a compelling way, that makes the decision ten times easier. A simple start is, "I am the expert in this world because...(your reason)"

Brands have a million options when it comes to spending their advertising dollars. They want a blogger who will be the perfect fit.

Working With A Team

Maggie’s site is INCREDIBLY busy! She has lots of logistics going on behind the scenes to manage regular advertising spots, sponsored posts, working with publishers, and so on. She accomplishes all of this with a small team! We had to ask how she makes it work.

When RWC first started out, she was a one-woman-show. All she had to do was create the content and publish it to social media. When the social scene exploded, especially with the development of Pinterest (Rustic Wedding Chic was one of the first Pinterest users) and her site gained more readers - she was responsible for more work.

Maggie knew they had to grow as a company or she’d be limiting her potential and opportunity.

When Rustic Wedding Chic decided to develop the Rustic Wedding Guide, she needed a team member solely dedicated to that project. Since their list of vendors is curated, Maggie had to make sure the vendors were high-quality - and this took a great amount of attention. She also needed a team member to handle paid subscribers advertising in Rustic Wedding Guide’s showcase listings.

Maggie was able to hire someone to dedicate their time exclusively to the wedding guide and taking care of advertisers.

A couple years ago, Maggie’s husband left a job he had for a long time and transitioned to managing advertising on the blog. RWC would get tons of requests asking for a media kit or ad prices for social posts, or to personall review a dress - her husband was able to completely take this responsibility off of Maggie’s plate. (We love wife-husband teams!) Maggie handles all of the content creation and does media appearances for Rustic Wedding Chic.

Rustic Wedding Chic hires freelancers from all over, from California to New York. Maggie frequently hires photographers to do styled shoots, as well as freelance writers to assist here and there. Her team is a healthy mix of full-time and contract employees.

Working with Freelance Photographers

Sometimes Maggie will work with a company who wants her to review or showcase their product. In some instances, the company is very direct that they want Maggie’s special touch on these features. Maggie likes to be hands on with that content.

Other times RWC will field a request for something like a sponsored post, and the sponsor wants Maggie’s team to only be responsible for creating images and sharing the product. She talks with the company to see what their vision is, and they find a solution that works for her and her team as well as the company.

Maggie really wants Rustic Wedding Chic readers to know that they can expect only product and photos that will deliver high value to their lives. No matter your niche, this standard is great for any blogger.

Growing A Pinterest Following

Maggie has an impressive 161,000 followers on Pinterest, and has leveraged the platform well to grow her business. We had to hear more!

At the time when Maggie joined Pinterest, it was still by invitation only during their small roll out! The friend who recommended Pinterest to Maggie wasn’t even thinking of her wedding business, just that the social media platform might be something Maggie would personally enjoy. But it wasn’t long before Maggie started looking at Pinterest that she thought it would be the perfect place to share their beautiful featured weddings, so she sign-up as a person, but with the first name "Rustic" and last name "Wedding."

They grew very quickly and early because they saw the value of people being able to look at, and curate for themselves, hundreds of images at once. When RWC started on Pinterest, there weren’t a lot of Pinterest users or competition. She certainly credits that early adoption to their success.

As we know, Pinterest isn’t perfect. Maggie says that now she will go onto Pinterest and it kills her to see other pinners stealing her images! Swiping an image that they have exclusive rights to, and linking to their site, which means her fabulous photographers don't get the credit they deserve. As great as Pinterest can be for business growth, there are certainly drawbacks.

Nowadays if you were to search ‘rustic weddings’ on Pinterest, you would probably get thousands of images from so many people. But just a few years ago, you would have only seen Rustic Wedding Chic content. We think this is totally a lesson in being an early adopter of new technology; don’t be afraid to try something new for your business!

Thoughts on Content Schedulers

Maggie says she has seriously signed up or paid for practically EVERY content scheduler out there. Some she found helpful, and some were just downright frustrating.

She did use Tailwind for a while, but wasn’t a fan that her items would be scheduled SO far out. She’s also worked with a company that uses a bulk uploader for Pinterest. But despite trying out these many different scheduling options, Maggie just didn’t see that her pins were performing as well as they did when she pinned organically.

Maggie has gone back and forth as to whether or not a 3rd party service is useful. These days she still does take the time to daily pin organically and see what performs well. She will go back to her blog archives and see what post she could recirculate since there are always new brides needing to see past weddings.

Bottom line: Maggie has paid for ALL of the scheduling tools, but still feels that the best return on her investment is organic pinning.

That said, Maggie does use Pinterest Analytics. She thinks it’s very valuable to keep track of how many people you're reaching and which pins are most popular. Maggie did work with a social media expert to help her make sense of Pinterest Analytics. Her consultant asked Maggie if she’d ever notice that her pin view rate was about 4 million a month!! And then the consultant explained that a pin view rate means a number of times your pins are interacted with in a month - in Maggie’s case, 4 milion! It was one of the highest the consultant had seen.

You can imagine that brides using Pinterest to plan their weddings are highly dedicated, if not a little obsessed! And the numbers show it. Maggie finds it helpful to use analytics to know how to hone her Pinterest strategy.

While content schedulers weren’t right for Maggie’s business, the value of gauging performance and observing trends certainly has been.

What Makes A Popular Pin

So what ARE those insanely popular pins that keep driving traffic back to Maggie’s site?

Maggie continues to be FLOORED that some of her content has been pinned over 145,000 times. Surprisingly, many of her top pins are fairly simple images. She’ll even see images of simple wedding features like mason jar centerpieces doing incredibly well.

(Though the success does come with difficulty. You can imagine how annoying and frustrating it is when Maggie sees her amazing pins pointing to OTHER people’s content. Let this interview be a friendly PSA: don’t steal pins!)

Highly popular pins are ones in which people feel like they’re going to get a piece of information or insight that can only be found at Rustic Wedding Chic. One of her pins is a lovely image with the title: ‘This Wedding Was Planned Under $10,000, See How They Did It’. A user can pin any pretty image, but it is highly valuable to be able to go to a site with solid information. Maggie has a pin called, ‘How To Have The Best Unique Guest Book’ that did very well, and another ‘Rustic Wedding Sign On Pallets’ which has had over 400,000 repins.

This kind of success makes total sense! Maggie’s not just throwing around pretty images, she’s giving practical advice that helps others.

One final note: while DIY projects aren’t a huge part of the Rustic Wedding Chic brand, those select posts do pin well. Again, Maggie wisely has observed that any pin through which the reader knows they’ll get exclusive information of how to recreate a look or complete a project will be a success.

A Frequent Pinner

Maggie’s favorite strategy is to pin content directly from her blog. On any given day, her site produces a few brand new featured pieces of content. Her daily Real Weddings posts will have between 12-24 images, each of which Maggie turns into a pin.

She also spends time going back to more popular posts or seasonal interests and searches for pinable content. (For example, at the time of recording we’re heading into summer. So Maggie is looking for posts like ‘25 Beautiful Summer Wedding Ideas’ or ‘Best Outdoor Seating Ideas’.) She estimates that she’s pinning between 50-100 images a day. She is constantly checking her Pinterest analytics to see what pins are popular and resonating, looking at stats like the pins with the most impressions, saves or click throughs in the last 30 days.

A lot of bloggers or business owners are curating content from not only their site, but also other related sites. Because Maggie has Sso much brand content, she could easily fill out a Pinterest profile with only her own images. But does she?

Maggie says probably 90% of her boards feature pins from her own site. And considering they have 9 years’ worth of content, it makes sense! But Rustic Wedding Chic does believe in sharing the love. They do try to pin and share content from other brands that they know Rustic Wedding Chic fans will love. Though on the whole, of their 60,000 pins most, maybe 90%, are from Rustic Wedding Chic.

Testing Out Promoted Pins

Just like us, Maggie was excited to see Promoted Pins roll out. She thought it would be a great way to reach new followers on Pinterest, but admits that for her brand she’s always been a bit disappointed with the outcome--they got repins but not new followers.

The best way for Rustic Wedding Chic to get new followers is still to create gorgeous content and work with great companies their readers will love.

In Maggie’s opinion, she thinks promoted pins are probably a great tool for businesses just starting out and trying to gain more followers because you need to be seen. Personally, she likes seeing promoted pins because she gets amazing suggestions of ideas that she truly enjoys.

Maggie’s Embarrassing Mompreneur Moment

Maggie calls herself ‘The Naptime Entrepreneur’ and has written a few articles on that topic. She has 2 boys - and one on the way - so her house is a bit crazy!

She used to try to work all hours of the day, but realized it wasn’t working when she made one embarrassing mompreneur mistake! She was at the park with her kids and drafted a hastily written email to a very prominent magazine, full of misspellings. She thought to herself that she would save the draft and polish the email once she was home. But when Maggie went to fix and send the email, she realized it had already sent!

Enough was enough. She realized she really couldn’t do it all! So now, she works when her kids are napping or sleeping. As anyone with kids and a business or creative outlet knows, it’s never easy. Maggie says it well: “When my kids are awake I’m CEO of Mommyhood, and when they’re asleep or at school I’m CEO of Rustic Wedding Chic.”

Connect with Maggie

Site: RusticWeddingChic.comPinterest: @RusticWedChic

Now It's Your Turn To Head Out There And Be Brilliant!

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