Using Blog Hops to Expand Your Audience with Leen Curinga

Leen Curinga
Episode 78: Leen Curinga

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This week, it is my pleasure to introduce to you, Eileen Curinga, but you can call her “Leen”. She is a blogger in Hampstead, NC who has been at it for fourteen years! She has really honed in on the skill of blog hopping and I cannot wait for you to hear all of the ideas that she’s going to share with us about how she grows her blog Sand Dollar Lane through blog hops!

Using Blog Hops to Expand Your Audience

Leen has some great ideas to share with us on how to collab with other bloggers. She has turned her love of helping others into a unique way of growing her blog one season at a time!

Listen in as she shares with us all about her:

  • Beginning “KIT” blog also known as a ‘keep in touch’ blog
  • “Season” of being known as Leen the Graphics Queen
  • Pivoting into the home decor niche
  • Transitioning from sharing “all the things” to just a few

In this episode, we cover:

  • How Leen got started with blog hops
  • Tips on how to use collaborations to grow
  • How a blog hop works
  • Squeezing the most out of the extra exposure

Links and resources mentioned during this episode:


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Complete Transcript of this Episode

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Welcome back to the podcast. This week I have a guest. I think you’re going to be super excited to meet her. Her name is Eileen Curinga, but she goes by Leen for short. She’s been blogging for about 14 years out of her home in Hampstead, North Carolina, and she has four kiddos and blogs at the blog Sand Dollar Lane. Eileen, welcome to the podcast.

Thank you so much for having me.

I’m so glad you’re here. You have such a fun special twist on your blog. I don’t think we talked about this yet over here on my podcast, but it is these home tours or blog hops that you do. Is it every single week or how do they work? Tell us about that.

My hop is called Celebrating Seasons. So we’ll do it every season. Four times a year, we’ll do a celebrate spring, summer, fall and christmas, and usually there’s 20 to 25 bloggers that join me and probably every day like this week we’re doing Celebrate Fall and there’s five bloggers everyday this week just sharing their fall decor.

Okay, so tell me how you got started. Just start back at the beginning. I would love to hear, first of all, how you came up with the name Sand Dollar Lane, and then what got you started blogging?

I actually started blogging when we moved to North Carolina from Syracuse in 2005. I had just a little personal blog and there was nothing really out there. It’s just a personal blog too, so I wouldn’t have to send the same information to all the aunts and uncles and cousins and everyone wanted to know what it was like down here, how are we doing and all this. So it’s just start a little blog about where we lived and what the kiddos were doing and that kind of thing. And then there wasn’t even like Facebook or anything. I have this email, I would have to email everyone on my list. He had created a blog post today. If you want to know what we’re doing, here’s the link. There was nothing any other way to share it. Then I had a graphics business, a wall graphics business called Leen the Graphics Queen. And I started blogging for that, just sharing new designs and that kind of thing. Different rooms we had done. And then I started adding some home decor ideas to that in 2008. And it was just confusing because I was laying the graphic screen. Was I selling? Well, details. Was I showing home decor stuff? So then I separated them and became Sand Dollar Lane. I started that one just for decorating and things like that.

Now do you live on Sand Dollar Lane?

Nothing super creative. That’s a new road. But I love that and it works and it’s memorable.

I like that sand Dollar lane. It rolls off the tongue.

I asked her friend, my friend Brittany from Pretty Handy Girl, we’re very close friends, and I was asking her like names, what should I do? These names? And I was so out of touch with the real world. I live in this very quiet little corner. I had never even heard of the show Fixer Upper at the time. And I told her I was thinking about naming it because this house was definitely a fixed upper when we bought it. Still more fixer than upper. And she said, no, you got to separate it from the show. And I said, what show? You are so out of touch.

That is hilarious. And so you decided that the Sand Dollar Lane blog was going to be all about home decor?

That’s right. Well, in gardening and started to shift a little bit. We work with the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital Patrol. We do Turtle Patrol and we’re really into environmental conservation and that kind of thing, and kind of wanted to be kind of shifting. We’re still going to do coastal decor, but also maybe just some like natural cleaning recipes and more environmental.

Got you. So what did it do for you when you shifted from the graphics Leen the graphics queen to home decor? Did anything change in your business?

Just the way I went about it. And we still were doing wall details. Just went to last year. We just didn’t blog about them anymore. But it was kind of a fun change. It’s way more fun to blog about your cute new porch set than, this is the design I designed last week as much fun? But I love this a lot more.

Good. And so what gave you the idea to collaborate with other bloggers and kind of link arms and do this linking every season?

I had actually been invited to participate in other blog hops and I just love the camaraderie of it. But it’s so much work, it’s hard, there’s not a lot of consistency in it. People get kind of burned out, so I’m like, I can do that. Let me jump in there.

So you took over maybe an existing one or you just started from scratch?

No, I just started a fresh one. And I like to celebrate this season. I didn’t want to do it all the time and I didn’t want to do it once a year either. Like a Christmas tree. Hop. I wanted to do it sometimes.

Yes. And so has it grown over time?

It has. The first one was probably four or five years ago and it was kind of small. But some of the same people are still in this one this week that were in the original one.

Yes, I’m in the one this week. It is the fall celebration. Celebrating the season, right?

Celebrating Fall.

Yes, celebrating fall. Love it. And we’ve all shared fall home tours. So the concept was to take a space in your home and decorate it for fall and share that on your blog. And then each person tell us how the technical parts of the blog hop work.

My least favorite part is the background. So each person sends a link to their post and a photo of just one little photo of what they’re going to do. And then I create a collage and every person in the hop shares the collage. And at the very bottom there’ll be everyone’s picture and a link to the post. And every person links to the person before them and after them. So that kind of gets it going through. Rather than just stopping and reading one post, it keeps people reading all the way through.

Have you seen it grow? Your blog numbers?

For sure. I have much more traffic on the hop week. For sure.

Makes you rethink maybe of doing them a little more often. Maybe they’re a lot of work. Yes, I know that. You also have to be really cognizant of Google and what Google wants and not appearing spammy. So I think that the way that you have set this up, being once a quarter is absolutely genius. So you have grown from just a few bloggers doing it to 20 or 25 now

24. We had one person had to leave at the last second, so she wasn’t able to do it tomorrow. And I know when you talk about Google, my business coach says that you don’t want to be linking off your block so much. She says don’t do the hops. But I think just the camaraderie of it is enough in itself to kind of weigh that risk out a little bit and getting to know other people, other bloggers. And I think that’s fun and I think that my readers like to see I think everyone’s readers like to see different things. They’re meeting new bloggers as well.

Yes, it is definitely spreading the word about different people that are doing similar things. Obviously, you’re not going to want to link to something completely off brand. You’re sticking to all Home Decor here. So I feel like it’s definitely a benefit to the readers. So on your blog hop, you talked about how we each get a collage from you of the featured image from their blog post. And it goes at the bottom, it’s kind of like a little pin, and underneath it you’ve got each day of the week. Tell me about how you decided how many people for each day and that you were doing it more than one day.

I just want everyone’s opinions. I’m a people pleaser and I want everyone to be happy. So we have a Facebook group, the celebrating season blog hop Facebook group, because that’s the easiest way to communicate with 24 other women, for sure. I think there’s 75 people in the group right now, and sometimes they can’t participate. That week I did a poll and actually most people preferred to do like a one or two day, which I was surprised. But we tried it a couple of times. We did like 15 on a Tuesday and 15 on a Wednesday. And it was just too much. It was too much for me as the host, trying to comment on everyone’s and share everyone’s. It’s just a lot in one day. So we broke it back up into the five days. And I think five or six per day is good. It’s not overwhelming because I do expect the participants to comment on at least their day. And it’s such a great group of women. And I’m not just a man couldn’t join, but we don’t have a man right now. But it’s such a great group and they are commenting even if, you know, it’s only required that they comment and share on social media on their day. So the four other people on their day, but most of them share everyone throughout the week.

Yes, and that’s the beautiful thing about it. And if you are a newer blogger, these opportunities are absolutely priceless. Because I think that when it comes to Google and things of that nature, when you are blogging and actually linking up with other people, the main thing you want to know is that they are similar domain authority as you or better or greater. And when you’re new, everybody is better is not the right word. It’s domain Authority higher number. So maybe you’re a ten and you’re linking with someone that’s a 20. That is beautiful. That is considered an amazing backlink. And when they link back to you so just keeping that in mind, it’s always an opportunity. Like you said, the relationships that you forge, you might decide that you meet someone in the blog hop that you want to collaborate with on an Instagram Live or a YouTube video together. And so these are the places that you can actually forge relationships and that will last a lifetime. I’m assuming you’ve got people that you’ve been friends with in there since the beginning.

For sure. Yeah, I have several blog friends that are actually not my very closest friends, but right up there. My birthday was last week, a couple of weeks ago, and my husband had a big surprise party for me that I wasn’t aware of. He rented a beach house and had a surprise party. And four different couples came from out of town and one was family, one was my best friend from childhood and two were blogger friends. That when we had to evacuate for Hurricane Florence. We went to Gina Luker’s house. I don’t know if you know Gina. She is my friend. I have good, good close friends that I met through blogging.

Well, happy belated birthday. Thank you. Love that. And I love that you are able to carry these conversations, these relationships on into real life. So I think that’s where it can become a game changer. Now on these blog hops, once you post the image and we have all of the different bloggers throughout the week, we go on social media and that is the extra push. So not only are you linking within your blog post and the people who come to your blog reading it and clicking over to the new people’s post, you’re sharing it up and so your stories, you can post it on Facebook or Instagram, you can share it in an email to your readers. So I think that it’s just the kind of the gift that keeps on giving.

It is. And I always create a little Instagram reel of I don’t know if you saw it today, the five people loved that day. I’ll just do a little quick little reel and tag everyone and I noticed that there are other participants doing the same thing. I just ask that they kind of share in stories, but now they’re like creating reels too, and they’re excited. And like today I saw one. It’s day one of the celebrate fall home tours. And hers is until Thursday, so she’s going to post every day about the ones throughout the week.

Wow, that is awesome. So when do you have to start planning the next season?

Usually the Christmas one, we have to plan early because everyone does a lot of posts, blog posts for Christmas. So I will have the spreadsheet up. So I usually create like a Google spreadsheet and say in the group first, the Facebook group sign ups are up. And it used to be, you know, I couldn’t fill the whole thing, so I would have to say, hey, tell your friends about this. But now just that group alone fills it pretty quick. And then there’s a waiting list, so if someone has to bail, it’s easy to pop someone else in their spot about a month earlier. I schedule the dates. Christmas, I’ll probably do by the end of this month. I’ll create the spreadsheet for that. Get on everyone’s calendar.

Yes, yes. And then how long does it take you to put together the actual content.

For the hop itself? Like the code and stuff? I would say after everyone gives me all the information, which is sometimes a challenge, reminding 24 other people who are very busy themselves. Don’t forget, I got to get the code. Once I have everything, I’ve got it done pretty good. I have templates and stuff that I put it in, so maybe a couple of hours to do all that.

Got you, but it’s totally worth it. And Leen, just give us a little glimpse into maybe what you would do looking back from the very beginning. Is there anything you would change with your blogging journey? Anything you would tell yourself at the beginning?

For sure I would be more consistent, which is what I’m trying to do now. Definitely more consistent at the beginning and keep track of your growth because this is always like a little side thing for me. And if I didn’t have time to do it, I didn’t do it. And that’s not a way to grow a business. I guess there too, I would take it more seriously as a business. Not when I started there. Really. No one made money blogging and it didn’t cost you anything. It was a blogger, remember blogger or blog spot or something. And I think there were maybe 20 of us, 25 of us that on Facebook. We would share things and there really wasn’t much. I don’t even know if there was even Facebook back then, but we would just like comment on other there was a lot of comments then on blog post because that was the only way to say, hey Leila, that looks great. I love that.

Exactly. So it shifted, but at the beginning you would have rather been more consistent. And I think we can all agree with that, that we all struggle to publish whatever schedule it is that we have committed ourselves to on a regular basis. But definitely Google likes a consistent blogger, for sure.

I think readers do too. You don’t want to get forgotten about because you haven’t reached out in a month.

Exactly. You forget that you are blogging for them.


So where can we find you online?

I am, and all my social media is also Sand Dollar Lane.

Awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining me this week. I appreciate you, and I am so excited to be in this week’s Blog Hop. It’s going to go all week. I will put a link to it in the show notes so that you guys can see exactly what it is that we’re talking about. And I look forward to the Christmas one.

That’s going to be great.

All right. Thank you so much.

Thanks for having me.

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