You may have noticed that there’s been radio silence on this blog for a couple of months. I took some time to decide if I wanted to keep blogging after 7+ years of putting fingers to keyboard. I was surprised at how much I missed it, considering that I’ve never been someone who could easily bang out 1,000 words on demand. My husband Cy can attest to the amount of effort it takes me. He’ll ask about my day and, on weeks when I’m writing a post, he knows he’ll hear something like “I just can’t figure out how to write my way into it this week.”
Despite that, I’ve decided to start blogging again, although probably (even) less frequently. Coming to that decision was a process of examining a bunch of things about myself, wine blogging, and First Vine. Not easy, but I guess it’s a good thing to do every once in a while. It all comes down to managing expectations – mine, that is.
The blog started in 2008 as an e-mail to what’s now a 1,300 person mailing list in hopes of selling more wine. Each week, either my business partner Dare or I would send a recipe that paired with one of the wines we carried. Over time, I began to add some information on wine in general, in response to questions people would ask me at tastings. In June 2009, we started putting most of the content of each e-mail in this blog, still sending the e-mail to our list to point people to it. I started writing on more science/geeky wine topics, as well as profiling our producers and writing more in general about where the wine we sell is made. These were longer, less frequent posts, still with a recipe and wine pairing in each one. Some of the wine topic posts appear to be perennially popular, according to the stats. But these days, far more people come to the blog by searching for individual recipes than for wine writing.
Has it been successful? The e-mails did, and still do, remind people to buy wine. That’s not surprising, since many of the people on the e-mail list signed up at tastings. Readers don’t necessarily buy the wine featured in the e-mails and blog posts, but I’m sure we sell more wine with the e-mails than we would without them.
But I don’t believe that I’ve sold a single bottle of my wines because of my blog posts. I’m saying this in honest surprise rather than resignation or bitterness. The hope was that by making the blog available to the world, people searching for wine topics or recipes might decide to try one of the wines associated with the blog posts. I guess I was naïve about it, but I thought that if people enjoyed the things I wrote about, that they might be inclined to try the wines, too. It hasn’t worked out that way, though.
Part of the reason is that the audience for the blog includes a lot of people who write about wine. And as someone who also writes about wine, I’ve come to realize that I could probably get through the rest of my life without having to buy wine for myself again if I chose to do so.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled to have knowledgeable and discerning readers. They know things about the topics I write about and provide encouragement and criticism, both of which I greatly appreciate. But if a lot of my readers probably wouldn’t buy wine from me to begin with, then I’m spending time writing for the wrong audience if sales is the goal.
That’s not the main reason that the blog doesn’t drive wine sales, though – it’s because it’s written in a way that pleases me, but doesn’t necessarily lend itself to sales. It’s kind of a hodge-podge. A former coworker who is also a writer once told me that he thought I wrote like someone who had hopes of a career as a crafter of long-form op-ed pieces. That’s probably true, although I doubt I’m focused enough for that, and I have a tendency to ramble. Even with Cy’s editing help. (After all, I’m the one who puts it up on the site…)
There’s nothing wrong with rambling, as long as I recognize it for what it is. In general, though, the more focused the range of topics, the more likely a blog is to attract readers. I get a respectable number of hits. But I could probably get more just by focusing on importing. Or retailing, or just on geeky wine topics. And probably many more if I concentrated just on the recipes and wine pairings, but also took photos of the food preparation and the different wines to include.
That’s what we bloggers are told about monetizing our blogs. More eyes on the blog brings the writer more attention. This, in turn, makes readers more likely to respond to the writer’s recommendations the more they read. Sell yourself, and the product sales will follow.
I’ve made peace with the idea that probably isn’t going to happen in a big way through blogging. What I like about this blog is that it gives me a creative outlet that I don’t otherwise have. Plus, there’s only so much time in a week for marketing and it has to be used wisely. There are some easy tweaks to the blog that I’ll start implementing right away. Not so much in the hope of it generating wine sales from blog posts. But the efforts will result in materials I can use for marketing. May as well multi-task!
So, it’s back to a slightly-modified version of the hodge-podge soon. With luck, new posts will be a little less rambling and better written. Thanks to you all for hanging in there all these years. I still get a feeling of satisfaction with each post I put out there. And I’m grateful, and more than a little surprised, that anyone wants to read it.