Bride Meets Blog: Abby Larson on Style Me Pretty’s Explosive Growth
When people try to defend Boston’s validity as a consumer tech startup hub, they point to the success of brands like TripAdvisor, RueLaLa, and Wayfair. But there’s another that’s managed to stay pretty under the radar, pulling in 18.6 million page views per month, and serving as the 12th biggest source of traffic on the social media site Pinterest (beating out much older websites likes Amazon.com and RealSimple.com in the process, according to a February 2012 study by the business intelligence firm RJ Metrics).
I’d guess it’s the site’s volume of flowers, lace, letterpress stationery, and happily-ever-after kisses that scare the average business reporter away. But not the 1.5 million brides, wedding vendors, and aficionadas that visit it each month.
I’m talking about Style Me Pretty, the wedding style blog founded by Boston entrepreneur Abby Larson in 2007 after she sold her stationery business. She leads the site with her husband Tait, who has his master’s degree in computer science from Stanford. It’s since sparked countless wedding blog competitors and copycats—which Larson says is a good thing for customers. The blog’s relationship with Pinterest goes well beyond the loads of traffic it serves up for the site; Style Me Pretty has amassed more than 635,000 followers on the social media platform, and every image in every one of its blog posts comes with a Pin It button that can quickly shoot the photo off to Pinterest, crediting the photographer in the text of the pin.
Style Me Pretty has grown from a blog showcasing wedding style, décor, and cuisine into a place for wedding industry vendors to connect with choice customers. It recently launched a network of regionally focused sites to better accommodate the 600-some-odd wedding photo posts it receives each week, and has big plans for serving as an online inspiration source for lifestyle niches beyond weddings.
I e-mailed Larson some questions to learn a bit more about how Style Me Pretty grew its audience, what its technology back end looks like, how it innovates in an increasingly crowded space, and more.
Xconomy: You started Style Me Pretty in 2007 after selling your invitations company. What were the types of things you first blogged about and how did you gain traffic/followers? What can you attribute the growth to?
Abby Larson: During the early days of SMP, we didn’t have access to the incredible content that we do today, so we did the next best thing and crafted our own. We designed inspiration boards for specific readers, we built color palettes based on particular wedding styles, and we did vendor profiles and Q & A’s. We connected with our readers. We engaged them. We built a sense of intimacy into the very foundation of our blog that welcomed them and encouraged them to come back day after day to check out what was going on. Because they too, were part of the conversation.
I attribute our early traffic to a few things. First was the actual conversation that we were having with our readers. Every day. Consistently. Our readers knew that they could come to Style Me Pretty day after day and find fresh, new, thoughtfully crafted content that would resonate with their own lives. The second traffic motivator was the blogging community in general. At the time, some of the larger blogs were looking to feature fresh, new faces in the industry and were happy to promote our blog to their own readers. The support that we got from other established blogs was critical to our initial success. And lastly, I made blogging my job from the get go. I was 100 percent committed to the site and I didn’t ever see it as a hobby. It was something that I wanted to transform into a business, a career, and that drive was very powerful in establishing success early on.
X: When did you first start accepting ads and bringing in revenue for the site?
AL: We joined a third party advertising network about 6 months after we launched. We held steady with them for a good year before we started selling in house banner ads. We now sell 100 percent of our ads in-house and have fully built our ad sales teams to support that. Our Little Black Book is a revenue stream for us as well, as a highly curated paid vendor directory. It was launched publicly at the beginning of November 2007, though was actually formed offline months prior.
X: What were your monthly traffic numbers after the 1st/2nd/3rd/4th year?
AL: At the end of July 2008 we had … Next Page »