Late last year I posted an article entitled “How To Increase Web Traffic”. Since starting CCBbuzz on December 1, 2008 we have experienced explosive growth. As a result we are documenting our progress and providing you with not only our results, but how we are achieving said results. Since traffic = money, we imagine this would be of interest to many and as always we would be interested in your feedback on the subject and how we are conveying this information. Providing you with the “how-to” information may at first appear self defeating, however our thought is that the benefits of transparency far outweigh safeguarding information – I plan on writing about the benefits of transparency in a future article.
The plan at this point is to provide you with a monthly summary of our traffic levels and accompanying analysis. Traffic levels will be depicted by WordPress graphs visually illustrating traffic trends. The analysis will point out specific events, or actions which triggered specific events that lead to specific traffic trends. We plan on keeping things simple and pledge to be completely honest in our reporting in the hopes that as an open, online community we can grow upon one another’s successes. Please keep in mind our analysis is based on our experience and opinion of what we are seeing on the web traffic graphs.
Our first month has been interesting to say the least. For the purposes of this discussion I will divide the month into three time periods, Time Period I: Blog Kickoff, Time Period II: Growth, Time Period III: Holidays. Let’s start from the beginning.
Figure 1. December 2008 Web Traffic
Please note the following – in Figure 1 we only captured the time period between 12/2/08 and 12/31/08. When making the screen capture we did not realize at the time that WordPress only makes available 30 days worth of data – at least that we are aware of. So therefore when I made the screen capture on 12/31/08 it only went back to 12/2/08 – trust us though – you aren’t missing anything. Another note on the graphs – Figure 1 has not been modified and is unaltered representation of our traffic levels. Figure 2 has been modified to remove data from January 2009 to limit the discussion only to December 2008. Figures 3- 5, have been altered to show only the time period of focus for each section, but the data has not been altered in any way.
Figure 2. December 2008 Web Traffic Summary
Note that the numbers highlighted in Figure 2 are not relevant to this discussion as they include traffic from the first four days of January 2009. The scope of this article is limited to December 2008.
Time Period I: Blog Kickoff
This time period is meant to summarize the time between the launch of our blog, 12/1/08 to 12/14/08. This time was both exciting and boring at the same time. There is excitement in any new project, and this was no different. However on Day One when the entire day resulted in one hit – and this is considered a major accomplishment, it can be akin to watching paint dry. Traffic levels were well below one hundred and you would hear such statements from us as “maybe we can maintain at least 10 hits per day” with wide-eyed optimism.
Figure 3. Time Period I: Blog Kickoff
Time Period I was characterized by the launch and a slow but steady web presence which set a solid foundation for future growth.
Time Period II: Growth
This is the time period between 12/15/08 and 12/22/08 which is when things really started taking off – traffic levels ranged from approximately 100 hits to 2,655 hits – daily, and all within a period of eights days! As you may imagine we were pretty excited and were really in disbelief. Although there is no definitive way of determining what caused our traffic levels to grow so rapidly, I have a few ideas but I don’t believe I can nail it down to just one or two; hopefully as we gain more experience and report more of our analytics we will be better able to definitely pinpoint the reasoning – in the meantime I will give you my best guess. Also keep in mind that as an evolving system the Internet is never static and is constantly in a state of change therefore making it impossible to predict anything with a definitive state of accuracy.
Figure 4. Time Period II: Growth
First, I maintain that the three drivers of “partnering, content, and frequency” are the fundamentals of our progress – for more on this, click here. Next, the content on 12/16/08 may have had something to do with it. This day I had released my “Branding And Outliers” article which was based heavily on “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell, which was, and is still, as of the writing of this article, the holder of the number one spot on the New York Times Best Sellers List. Notice that the release of this article corresponded with approximately 700 hits, which was an increase of over 700%.
I recall at this time that I was concerned about being a one-hit wonder. Was it merely because we had written about a best seller that we were driving so much traffic to our site? Would it die down after I switched to other topics? As you can see by Figure 4, the concerns were baseless – traffic continued to drive upwards nonetheless.
Another likely reason for our growth is search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. We have pushed such efforts from Day One and continue to do so. Our system works with me primarily writing content, and Amy scouting ahead by learning new web optimization techniques by reading books and participating in the open source communities on the web. Lately we have been switching roles a bit, with Amy writing more content and me learning new techniques in order for the both of us to be interchangeable so to speak. The key here is to have one person focus on content and another focus on optimization so neither is neglected as the combined effort of content and optimization is a powerful combination.
Another area that has driven traffic has been involvement in the online open source communities and social media. The open source communities allow for the exchange of ideas and participation in such forums allows for visibility. However, one should not do so simply for the sake of exposure, the best method is legitimate need or the offering of genuine value. The needs arises from questions posed to the group who’s answers will improve your blog. On the other hand if you contribute to the solution of problems you will be offering value to the community and pushing growth in these areas. For the benefits of social media, see my articles entitled Social Media Part I, Social Media Part II, and Social Media Part III.
A couple of additional things worth noting from this period. On 12/22/08 we had our busiest day of 2,655 hits. Although I believe content had something to do with it (admittedly I am biased), I don’t believe it is the sole reason. On this day I posted “Snow & The Snowball Part III” which drew upon “The Snowball” by Alice Schroeder which was on the Times Best Sellers List and documented the biography of Warren Buffet. At first glance one would think there is a trend here with my using best sellers and high growth days – however this was Part III of the article, that same logic would have had a spike for the preceding two days as well.
As discussed previously I believe some of Amy’s SEO efforts were beginning to pan out. SEO, content, and the frequency of our posting I believe were all key here. Again, because the Internet is constantly evolving , and is really a living organism of sorts, it is difficult to precisely predict anything and one can only speculate – I will further discuss this in a future article. One final item worth noting is at this point we had not been listed on search engines such as Google yet, so this was not a factor at this point.
Time Period III: Holidays
The third and final time period is from 12/23/08 to 12/31/08 and was characterized by a “traffic recession”, a large increase, and then a slight drop-off. During this period Amy and I were “road warriors” and traveling here and there for the holidays while writing content and posting new blogs.
Figure 5. Time Period III: Holidays
That is the great thing about loving what you do – you really don’t require a vacation, work is a vacation in and of itself – you really just can’t wait to get back to it. This is really a labor of love and hopefully our content and presentation reflects this. We literally work on the blog from home, the beach, and while on the road. In a future information technology (IT) focused article I will pass along how you can configure your office to be mobile without trading capability thereby giving you the ability to work from anywhere. I will also provide an article as to the benefit of travel and networking and how this in turn benefits your blog content.
But I digress- back to web traffic. On the first day of this period we dipped from 2,655 to under 1,170 on 12/23/08. We next hovered around just slightly over 600 hits per day on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and dropped to 178 hits per day on the day after Christmas. We next began an ascent to our peak of 3,117 on 12/30/08 and dipped to 1,936 hits per day on New Year’s Eve.
So what were the main drivers behind our traffic trends for this time period? My guess is that two major players were again content and the holidays. Let’s address the low traffic days first:
1. December 24 (Christmas Eve): 644 hits per day
2. December 25 (Christmas Day): 634 hits per day
3. December 26: 178 hits per day
On Christmas Eve we posted “Heritage Stories & The 12 Gifts” which was a departure from our normal format. Christmas Day we did not post – I know, we are slackers, who gave us permission to take a day off anyway? And on December 26th we posted “What Is Class Part I”. As content was our major driver for success, perhaps it may have caused a dip in traffic?
Maybe, but I don’t believe so – here’s why. On December 27th I posted “What Is Class Part II”, which brought us back up to 666 hits per day. I would expect that if content were an issue we would expect an even lower traffic day on December 27th given that this was Part II to a series which was launched on a low traffic day. So what was the issue then? Timing.
It just so happens that our blog was launched during the month of December, which contains not one but two American holidays. And not just two ordinary holidays, but big ones where people generally take days, or even weeks, surrounding the holidays off from work and other personal activities and abandon their computers. Again, this is my speculation, but it seems to make sense. So how does this explain that New Year’s Eve was a relative high traffic day at 1,936? My thought is momentum built up during the entire month, and we corrected a mistake that we made on the preceding holiday, we posted content on New Year’s Eve and New Years Day to give us a little extra “oomph” during an anticipated slow time.
Now let’s address our high traffic days. December 29 – 31 was the release of “The Groundswell Effect Part I”, “The Groundswell Effect Part II”, and “The Groundswell Effect Part III” – as you may recall these are largest traffic days since launching the blog. Let’s look at the traffic for these days:
1. The Groundswell Effect Part I: 3,113 hits per day
2. The Groundswell Effect Part II: 3,117 hits per day
3. The Groundswell Effect Part III: 1,936 hit per day
The interesting thing about the Groundswell content is that although it is a niche topic in that it pertains to mainly marketing folks, it also, in my opinion, has a broad enough base to appeal to a wider audience as it focuses on the study of crowds and the behavior of crowds specifically within the Internet – something that is very relevant to web traffic and therefore the generation of income. I believe that the combination of content with the momentum we had built with posting frequency from the preceding days attributed to this.
In summary here are our key metrics for our first month of existence:
1. Lowest Traffic Day: 1 Hit – December 1st (Launch Day)
2. Highest Traffic Day: 3,117 Hits – December 30
3. Average Daily Hits: 753
4. Total Hits For December 2008: 22,612 Hits
All in all we are pleased with the results. Keep in mind the following:
1. This was my first blog, Amy had one previous blog which was a hobby and had not achieved these kind of traffic levels in its entire existence
2. This blog was originally established to drive traffic to the Cape Cod Branding website, but quickly took on a life of it’s own
3. There were two major holidays in this, our first month
So here is what we learned from the experience:
1. Partnering – At least one person writing content, while at least another works SEO. As I had mentioned previously our individual experience was limited, however we make for a powerful partnership
2. Content – Without good content the blog is unsustainable and will quickly lose momentum
3. Frequency – Post often, but without sacrificing quality of content, frequency is important, but secondary to content
4. Backup Content – Strive to have at least a week worth of backup articles, more if possible. This would have allowed us to post a blog on Christmas Day, which potentially would have given us more traffic on that day and all without sacrificing quality time with family and friends, which after all should be a priority. For more on priorities, click here.
5. Consistency – Post content the same time each day you post. For example if you post, three times a week a predictable schedule may be Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with each day at 7:00 PM. Admittedly this is tough for even the best of us, but you should strive for some regularity as we have noticed that traffic levels are highest when we have maintained a predictable schedule.
I will not go into detail on the first three items as I already addressed them in my “How Do I Increase Web Traffic” article. More on backup content -it allows you to take a breather now and then. However, my advise concerning this topic is counter to what many other bloggers recommend. Most bloggers recommend that you have a backlog of articles ranging from 10 to 30 articles prior to launching a blog.
I disagree with this advice and here’s why. When starting a new endeavor I find it is both exciting and boring at times – you may recall I mentioned that we experienced this during our first Time Period. Consider this – with any new business or project the small victories are what keep you going. My recommendation is to release the first article once complete. Seeing traffic come to the site will drive you to publish more. Small victories will keep you going – this is important.
In addition, traffic patterns should shape your content. If you write all of your content up front you may be spending quite a bit of time and effort on something that flops. However by monitoring your traffic you will notice what is a hit and what is not doing so well. While one article is posted begin work on another in parallel to use as a backup. I liken this to following a trail of breadcrumbs – one topic will lead you to the next, and to the next, and so on and so forth.
This approach will help to keep your content pipeline full while actually posting articles and monitoring results. This may not work for all, however I find that I learn best from doing and I am the type that has to see results or I quickly run out of steam and move on to something else. One can prepare forever, however I find when action is taken it prompts more action. Delayed action increases the probability that the project will be discarded off to the side. Develop content, post, monitor, adjust, and repeat.
One final note on consistency. We had discovered late in the month that the WordPress day does not begin at midnight, but at 7:00 PM for Stat tracking. For example, today Wednesday ended at 6:59 PM and Thursday begins over at zero visits at 7:00 PM, Easter Standard Time (EST) – for the purposes of posting blogs to WordPress or using WordPress software on a private server. This threw us off for a bit, as we try to monitor accurate hits based on what article we’ve posted, so it is worth mentioning.
To summarize our first month we were off to a slow start the first week, but quickly built up momentum. Although there were certainly some things we could have done better, however all in all we are pleased with our web traffic for our first month. We are interested in proceeding forward, improving upon our past inefficiencies, and therefore pushing forward at a faster rate.
Our first month was exciting, but the best is yet to come!