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Our Biggest 2021 Surprise Blog Post “HITS” And “MISSES”

Our hope is that every post we publish will be loved by you, but 12 years into this crazy world of digital content creation, we still get shocked by what the Google Gods decide to “pickup” and give an extra boost of traffic to, or not. Here’s how it works – we get daily traffic from you lovely readers and then of course Instagram followers who come over for a particular post. And it all stays relatively consistent unless the Google crawlers, that comb through and analyze that day’s post, ping the Google gods to say “this one – make everyone on the internet see this one right now”. This isn’t something we actively chase but we certainly hope for a Google pickup and we do try to customize every post’s SEO to be “Google-friendly” in addition to being inspirational, educational, and personal. When we get a Google pickup (which we can watch in our second by second analytics) we all slack each other with a “Congrats ________ you got a Google pick up!!” and it’s VERY fun.

Before I tell you the hits and “flops”, high traffic isn’t always the goal for us. It’s this mix of traffic AND engagement that we strive for. For instance, I know that my personal posts won’t get a lot of Google hits (unless I put “dead cats” or ‘”vasectomy” in the title – true story). “Engagement” is actually more important to us because it means that you really read it, were invested in it, and that keeps us caring more. It means all of us are more connected – which like most relationships is far more meaningful. But Google traffic can introduce new people to the blog thus growing the daily readership to have even more meaningful connections. I sound like a marketing strategist right now doing some weird PR speech but you get it – we don’t just want anonymous randos every day that will never come back because that feels soulless to us as human ladies who care so much about this site. But we also want new people to find value here, stay a while and yes, come back. So while some of these are “surprise hits” it doesn’t mean that we necessarily value them higher just because they got a lot of Google traffic (although we very much appreciate it).

THE SURPRISE HITS

Oh and real quick – these weren’t the most popular posts of the year in traffic or engagement, just the ones that we stood out shockingly high traffic due to Google pickups. They were the ones really didn’t predict.

What Do You Do With That Awkward Space Above Your Kitchen Cabinets?

photo by tessa neustadt | from: emily’s glendale kitchen reveal

Why did this crash our site that day? Well, it’s simple solutions to a problem that PLAGUES so many of us. Good job, Mal for asking the question and giving some pretty solid solutions for this annoying and awkward problem area.

How To Make Your Living Room Look Better (The 7 Dos and Don’ts)

This was inspired by me, Googling “how to be a better mom” after a bout of frustration with myself (and the kids). I forget what article I read, but it wasn’t anything NEW. I “intellectually KNOW” what it means to be a good parent, but reading another article by a parenting expert, simplifying what I already knew, was somehow still super helpful and comforting. So I wondered what is our version of that – and thus spawned the series that has been a pretty big hit (don’t steal the idea, it will be obvious you got it here). I think we all just love the simplicity – it makes us feel safe, comforted. Reminds us we aren’t alone in our problems and wants, and empowers us that we can do this.

The One “Entire House” Paint Trick That Stole Our Hearts (+ A Bunch Other Ideas To Feast Your Eyes On)

design by a1000xbetter | lead design by patrick maziarski | styled by patrick maziarski and jazlyn jennings | photo by virtually here studios

Oh, I get it – I knew what it was and even I want to click on that title again because I love a “paint trick” that someone with a lot of experience will recommend. Jess and Ryann great job on this one.

Two Simple (But VERY PRETTY) Bathroom DIYs That Lea Johnson Executed In One Weekend

design by lea johnson

We love Lea – her posts are always awesome, but again – this one surpassed normal expectations. I think it was the words “bathroom” “DIY” and “weekend”. Jess is great at entering in what are called “slugs” to try to stand out when Google crawls over our posts. So great job Lea, Ryann, and Jess on that one.

Is Cord Swagging Back?? And Are They Part Of The Sculpture (+ It Can Actually Be A Really Affordable Trend)

design by flack studio | styling by joseph gardner | photo by anson smart | via architectural digest

I pitched this idea with little fanfare from my team, but they helped me publish it regardless (likely because I’m their boss), so imagine my excitement when the numbers were off the charts! I think it hit because of the word “trend” (yes, it works) and “affordable”. I gloated a tiny bit, but don’t worry – some of my other “slam dunks” below were total air balls. Thus the addiction…

The Posts We Thought Would Be Off The Charts, But Were Just Normal

I’m not going to pretend that we don’t get disappointed when we really put a lot of time/effort or thought into a post and it just does normal traffic (again, not bad traffic, but just didn’t meet our excitement and expectation). We do. But we are also used to it – and when you publish 365 posts a year you just move on VERY QUICKLY. Plus you get to learn something.

Kid Mask Review – Our Kid’s Three Favorites (And 20 That We Crowdsourced From Real Parents That Fit Well And Their Kids Actually Wear)

In retrospect, this post didn’t take off as I predicted because I think most parents already had a ton of masks for their kids when we published. Well, that and I think we posted it after a lot of kids were already back in school (late August). My family was so isolated for so long that we honestly didn’t think about kids masks until a couple of weeks before school in September. I wasn’t reading the general temperature well – most of y’all already had your kid’s masks and didn’t care about the post (or maybe it was boring).

Farmhouse Update: How To Design A Kitchen With A Load Bearing Post And Beam In The Middle + 4 Unique Options

via devol

I still have NO idea why this didn’t do better. I know it seems kinda specific but I also know that so many people want to open up the kitchen in their old house to make it bigger, but they have a load-bearing post right in the middle. This could have been due to timing, bad SEO words, or maybe I needed to simplify the title – “how to open up a kitchen without removing a post”. It didn’t take a ton of time as I had already pinned the solutions when we thought we couldn’t move our post so that’s ok.

In Search Of The Best Rugs For Kids And Pets That Are Still Actually Cozy – And The 4 Rugs We Keep Coming Back To (Guess What They Have In Common???)

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | From: see how ehd brings fall into our homes (and yes, there are *chic* pumpkins involved … target does it again)

Again, I thought that this would totally hit and don’t get me wrong – it was normal traffic, but with “kids” “pet” and “rugs” and “cozy” I just thought it would do really well. I have NO IDEA why it didn’t. I would read that post over and over.

The Shorts We Bought That Made Us Feel Really Good (And The Ones We Would Skip) – AKA A Very Honest Review Post

This post did fine, but we were expecting a lot of people to be excited about a shorts review since it did SO WELL a couple of years before. I think that fashion reviews might be hard because so much of the fit is based on your body type, not necessarily the piece itself. But most of my team loved the same pair of shorts which is pretty darn compelling. I also think when we style out an outfit it helps give it more context?

So You Want To Put An Arch In Your House? Read This First

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: living room update – again | photoshopped by jess:)

Another one of my pitches that I thought FOR SURE would be HUGE and it was just normal. I mean, arches are on year 4 of being incredibly popular in homes, social media, etc. Maybe if I had put “DIY arch” or “Design Mistake – The Insta-famous Arch Can’t Go in Every Style of House” that might have helped.

Hate Your Popcorn Ceilings? Albie Is Giving Us A Popcorn Ceiling Removal 101 (Plus A GREAT DIY Option)

design by albie k. buabeng | photo by ellie lillstrom | from: what happens when you design your living room and then move?? you make it work… albie’s new living room round one!

I was so excited to read this post when Albie pitched it and we said yes immediately. It got normal traffic (and longer engagement – so those who came stayed for a while) but popcorn ceilings are such a menace that I thought Google would pick it up for sure.

design by a1000xbetter | lead design by patrick maziarski | styled by patrick maziarski and jazlyn jennings | photo by virtually here studios

Another fun year of trying to predict the internet. It’s like we are seasoned gamblers at this point – we are better at poker than most, but we are frequently reminded that it’s still a crapshoot. I am super proud of my team for enthusiastically playing this game by reinventing posts, taking risks, and really using our IT experience behind the scenes to get Google crawlers to pick it up.

So much of it is about timing, too. For instance, the first time we posted “how to choose the right rug size for your living room” was March 14th, 2020 – the week everyone was glued to the news, not reading design blogs or red dawning it out of their offices. I remember obtusely being like “what? this is such a good post?”, not totally understanding what was about to happen two days later (lockdown, pandemic, nothing rug-related AT ALL). So 3 months later when everyone was redecorating we reposted it, realizing that none of you really saw it in the first place and boom it hit then and continues to be a big traffic driver. So there are lots of factors and again it doesn’t dictate the posts, but it’s something we think about in hopes that Google will help the post do even better.

Curious about the #1 post of the year in engagement? We’ll have that coming up for you next week – along with what you pinned the most (so interesting), what you bought the most (always fascinating), and a roundup of all of our makeovers from 2021 (it was a slightly slower year than most, but still so much!!). Thanks to my wonderful team for another great year of navigating the unpredictable waters of the internet and thanks to you all for coming back and giving us a semblance of consistency and hope that many people actually care about our posts, regardless of “Google pickups”. xx

Opening Image Credits: Design by Reath Design | Architecture by Bestor Architecture | Photo by Laure Joliet

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Jessvii
2 years ago

BRB, going to read the living room tips one I somehow missed…

About the “misses,” for me, the rug one was a miss because in the middle of a global pandemic, I didn’t want to shell out on a big-ticket item. If it was a $12 milking stool, I’d be onboard ;).

Jen
2 years ago
Reply to  Jessvii

‘in the middle of a global pandemic’…..sorry but it’s not. Spanish flu was over and done with by now (nearly two years going by) and people are STILL referring to this time period as being ‘in the middle’ of it. I can only assume it’s because it sounds good.

Liz
2 years ago
Reply to  Jen

Hey Jen, wow. My mom went to the ER twice in the six weeks before she died of congestive heart failure on Dec. 3 of this year. The first time, she needed to be admitted to the hospital for iv antibiotics but it took 2 days in the ER for a hospital bed to open up. The second time she went, she was in what the nurses told my dad was “imminent danger of a heart attack” and that she would probably die if they left. She waited 19 hours in that condition before being seen by a doctor, who confirmed that she had acute pulmonary edema and required treatment, but they didn’t think a bed being available would happen in the foreseeable future and my dad met with the home hospice team while they treated her on a gurney in the er hallway. I talked to my parents while they waited in the er and people were moaning and screaming in the background, desperate to be seen. Would you care to guess who had filled up the hospital? Actually, I’ll spare you having to think about it, since you’re clearly an idiot, and just tell you. Covid patients! I… Read more »

L
2 years ago
Reply to  Liz

Liz, I am so sorry for your loss. Wishing you and your family peace & comfort this holiday season and beyond!

Rachel
2 years ago
Reply to  Liz

Liz, I’m so sorry for your loss. I know the many of us who are not science deniers all have strong feelings of anger towards those who do deny the pandemic but it’s an attitude that hurts no one as much as those who have lost others. I wish you and your family healing and peace this holiday season. Sharing your mother’s story here may change at least one mind—and, in that way, save the lives of many innocent others.

Elaine
2 years ago
Reply to  Liz

Liz I’m so sorry for your loss. I hope the trauma your Father has experienced will heal over the coming weeks and months, and that he will find peace again.

Eliot
2 years ago

This is strange and interesting. As a regular reader, I often forget this side of the blog business model. Does anyone know if the list format is a Google optimization tactic? I have always found the “13 Signs You Were Born in the 90s” or “Hate Bathmats? 11 Affordable Alternatives!” Buzzfeed-style headlines vaguely off-putting, but they have become so ubiquitous that either the world disagrees with me, or they serve some other function.

Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Eliot

It is, kind of. People are just too busy, have low attention span for things that are not lists or easily digestible. I can relate to some of it, even though as a learning consultant I know that content, examples, making things relatable, helps remember and apply learned content better. Unfortunately, this trend appears to be going downward spiral. Compare action movies of the 80s to action movies over the last 10 years. Also compare the first three Star Wars to the last thee of the same franchise. The recent ones are all about chase, shooting, not so much about a conversation or character development anymore. Dialogs are pretty poor. A lot of kids don’t like dialogs, the more explosions the better. It’s not their fault, because it’s our generation that develops it for them and for their parents. As a mom, I’m also disappointed about tv for the youngest viewers. Even early Wiggles we’re much slower than the brand new content You can also look at the recent designer posts and thumbnails on youtube (from other creators). They are all lists and sensationalized: How to prevent a house from looking cheap, don’t do that, expensive looking decor from Ikea,… Read more »

Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Lane

Oh so many typos. I’m sorry.

Rachel
2 years ago
Reply to  Lane

I didn’t notice them 😉 Also, we have entered late stage capitalism. On the bright side, as an educator I’ve been pleasantly surprised…this year specifically… by a huge increase in critical thinking skills and more critical understandings of literacy and of the world—students this year specifically have come into my classroom—(and I’ll note I also saw this trend when I was scoring some standardized literacy testing for the government but obv I can’t speak categorically because I only saw a small sample…) but it’s so interesting because I’m seeing all these students who are suddenly aware of these border discourses and value systems that shape the information they receive. They’re learning to look at issues with a critical eye and examine them from all angles. I have to assume the BLM movement is responsible for this. And also topics like consent and feminism and social politics becoming more mainstream…they’re just really giving me hope this year and I couldn’t help but comment on this because yeah maybe in lte stage capitalism we’re giving them crap but they’re so capable of going beyond us and finding quality for themselves. Huge rant but I hope it’s inspiring even for this blog. Regarding… Read more »

Mariele
2 years ago
Reply to  Lane

Yep — your spiel here reminds me of the book Deep Work. It’s honestly depressing to think about.

Shannon
2 years ago

This post was a reminder that you guys put out so much consistently fresh and interesting content! I couldn’t help but notice that most of the posts that didn’t hit as you’d hoped come across as obvious “buy these things from our sponsors” ads, which for me is almost always an immediate turnoff. Don’t get me wrong, I know you’re running a business, but maybe find subtler or more relevant ways to present some of your partnerships. I know it’s a fine line between being creative and sneaky, which no one likes either. Maybe pair ad-driven content with pure creative content in single posts? Easier said than done I’m sure. Just my two cents. Keep up the amazing work!!

Cris S.
2 years ago

Always fascinating. Thanks for giving us a peek behind the curtain.

2 years ago

Try updating the “kid mask review” post, slug, and headline to focus on the keyword “best kid masks”.m instead. I guarantee your timing wasn’t the issue, but the keyword choice.

Love, the editor of a major blog 😉

Jessie
2 years ago
Reply to  Marian

I think it could have been both the wording and the timing. Emily mentions that it may have been a month too late, but in our area (midwest) most kids needed masks at some point over a year before that, since many schools went back in some form in the 20-21 school year. By fall 2021 it seemed like we all had our mask stashes in good shape.

Rachel
2 years ago
Reply to  Jessie

I think you could probably try again with it rn though because omicron

Rachel
2 years ago
Reply to  Rachel

ESP if you included information about being safe and picking quality for the masks (which you may have done but possibly should advertise in the headline?)

2 years ago
Reply to  Rachel

I agree. Plus, for those of us with younger kids who couldn’t get them to wear masks until much later, and who aren’t in school yet, we need posts like this on an ongoing basis. Hence my comment about this being more of a wording thing than a timing thing.

Tracy
2 years ago

Emily! Please tell about the first image you posted with all those lights hanging over the dining table. Where can I find more about this house! Tracy

Arijaan
2 years ago
Reply to  Tracy

Yes please! I read the whole post and comments to see if there would be a link that that home haha!

Admin
2 years ago
Reply to  Tracy

the opening image credits are always right at the bottom, just above the ‘fin’!
for easy access: Opening Image Credits: Design by Reath Design | Architecture by Bestor Architecture | Photo by Laure Joliet

Jessie
2 years ago

I think some of the “flops” seemed too niche. I have popcorn ceilings, and trust me, I know how to remove them – but that might be one of the most atrocious sounding DIY projects on the planet. Maybe if the title said “An EASY and MESS-FREE tutorial to remove your popcorn ceilings” it would have intrigued me more, but that would have been inaccurate. I wonder if the kitchen post about the load bearing beam would have sounded more interesting if you’d branded it as part of the design agony series? For some reason it wasn’t intriguing to me, but the design agonies almost always are. Arches are also sort of a niche subject, since they don’t fit style-wise in many houses, and are usually just an option when doing major renovation or construction. And now that you say the shorts post should have been intriguing because almost everyone liked the same pair, I wonder why you didn’t mention that in the title? I don’t have the same body type as anyone on your staff, but if you’d said “one pair of shorts we pretty much all loved – and some we didn’t” I think that may have done… Read more »

Rachel
2 years ago
Reply to  Jessie

These are good. I concur.

Patti
2 years ago

I personally don’t come here for fashion advice. There are plenty of blogs for that which are better suited to my age group. I come here for the great design advice from varying points of view. I love to see new home products and makeovers and, of course, THE FARM!

2 years ago
Reply to  Patti

Same! I’m here for ALL the design blogging. It’s the design site I check the most often. Once in awhile, I’ll skim through a fashion post, but usually I totally skip all the stuff on clothes and skin care.

beks
2 years ago

thanks for reminding us that you were negligent with your cats and of your awful bio line. it wasn’t funny then and your lack of care isn’t funny the second time.

LF
2 years ago
Reply to  beks

What? This comment is bizarre. Like why do you even read this blog. Emily, I’m a longtime reader, read almost every day, and I have found your blog massively helpful in helping improve my own design skills and get a better sense of my style and how to implement it. Keep up the good work!

2 years ago

But I still want to thank you for the fact that quality content is more valuable to you than traffic. Mistakes do happen, but being true to your principles is worth a lot. Happy New Year!

2 years ago

I’m fairly new to your site, so I scrolled through to see what I would have clicked on. Definitely going back to read the paint trick one. Will check the shorts out as well, but frankly, I need to work on the covid pounds I’ve gained before I buy shorts.