28 Apr 2010
Everything you ever wanted to know about writing a blog; how to attract readers, increase traffic to your site, pump up your email subscriptions, reduce your bounce rate, etc – you won’t find here because I don’t know how to do that stuff either. What I can share with you is the information and data collected from my site – for what that’s worth. I thought others might find it interesting if I were pull the curtain back and espose some real world numbers (or parametrics…I think), to let people know what they might expect when they start out writing a blog. Your numbers might be better or they might be worse – I’d like to think that traffic to my site is driven by the amazing funky fresh insight I provide, that my take on things has some value but I have no idea and I have nothing to compare it to. I might discover that my numbers are comb-over bad or kung-fu awesome. This is exactly the reason I am doing this, bringing this information into the light so others won’t venture into bad neighborhoods to feed their need for information.If there was an article out there that was blog related, I’m pretty sure I read it. Most of them were amazingly stupid and obvious and gave advice like:
To get more subscribers, make it easy for people to subscribe, or
Offer original and quality content on your site, or
Really bad website design is a big mistake and can be off-putting to potential readers
Really? Wow – such insight has to be hard to come by. I guess I should rethink my strategy of designing a sorta bad, but not really bad website where you had to solve puzzles to subscribe so you could then read partial Garfield comics that Jim Davis penned in 1983. (these are all real tips I pulled of other people’s blog posts – really)
At first, I was okay with simpleton advice tips 101 because I didn’t know anything and I was willing to read through the 100 ridiculous tips to find one good one. It didn’t take long before I evolved beyond these tips and I was looking for something with a little more meat on the bone. I should point out that I am not technically gifted but I do have some skills but writing code isn’t one of them. I started the writing my blog to learn how about social networking, RSS feeds, etc. so I didn’t have any applicable technological knowledge coming in. I made mistakes, but I know through my job the value of backing up my work so the few times I did kill my site I was able to restore it without much effort. As I searched deeper and deeper, I started reaching out to friends and other bloggers to get advice, tips and help. I have found that most people in the blogosphere are really, really helpful and I haven’t met one yet that wouldn’t go the extra mile to help. It is one of the greatest things I have experienced since starting this blog – learning that it’s like Utopia here and everybody is friendly and wants to help and see you succeed. So let’s get on with the curtain pulling shall we? Say hello to my little friend…..
So once you have actually started your blog, you need to have some way of getting it to your readers. When I started, I honestly thought that the only people who would read or visit my site were my friends (which I don’t have that many) and my family (which don’t really care). I didn’t have any expectations – but only because I didn’t know what to expect. So I set up a Google Feedburner account so that people could subscribe to my site and have my posts delivered to them either through a reader like iGoogle or to their email address. You can see in the chart above that the growth is fairly consistent in the general upward direction – that is good. Lately, for some reason I can’t explain, my RSS subscriptions swing wildly day to day. I am at a high today of 186 but I was at 145 yesterday and 180 the day before that - who knows.
A few weeks ago I reduced the amount of posts I wrote from 5 days a week (M-F) to 3 days a week (M-W-F) and the blue line above – the one that looks like a heart monitor chart, reflects that pretty clearly. Something else that I can’t explain is that my email subscriptions got up to 33 pretty in about 3 weeks, but it hasn’t changed since. I thought there might be a broken link or something because I read that email subscriptions are still (but just barely) the favored delivery method. I even subscribed myself to make sure that it was working – it was – so I can’t tell you why the emails stopped at 33 and the RSS rose from 70 to 186 in the same period. Maybe my readers are super savvy and ahead of the curve of the general population (that’s what I’m going with).
This is my Google analytics page – kinda hard to get it to fit and still be easy to read (sorry). I started hosting my site on March 4th so this chart only reflects the last 40 days. To give you some idea, March 4th was a Thursday and I had 13 unique visitors at www.lifeofanarchitect.com. When I relocated from my blogger site to my own domain, I lost loads of people and since I didn’t have that many, this freaked me out. I felt that I had lost all the ground I made in the previous weeks. I even went in to my blogger account and set up special messages and URL links to the relocated posts on my new site after I had spent a week trying to figure out how to safely migrate between sites. I have since recovered but felt pretty stupid for not making the switch more seamlessly.
You can see in the map above that there are a couple of Everest like spikes – the whole chart actually looks like a profile of the Himalayas. The first really large bump was when two posts I wrote were picked up by a fellow blogger in Portugal, Daniel Carrapa author of The Belly of an Architect. Daniel posted a link to my site and referenced the posts and it my site blew up. I went from 30-50 readers a day to 550 and when the dust finally settled, I leveled out with an additional 125 readers a day. For a while, I had more readers from Portugal than American.The next spike happened a week later was another blog site that referenced these same two posts – this time it was a German site. This pattern repeated two more times and I have slowly been crawling upward ever since. The swales or dips you see in the chart towards the end are the weekends when I don’t write or publish anything.
I had some of my new blogger friends tell me that I needed to be on Twitter – something that I resisted. I didn’t understand what Twitter was really all about and relegated it to people who were interested in hearing that “@BrineySpears dropped her fork, picked it up, and used it again without wiping it off.” Yeah, that’s not for me – totally not interested. After I was chastised for being stupid, I dusted off a name, @bobborson that I had set up a while back and entered a “followme” link on my site. I did this on March 4th – the same day that I launched my new domain. I have made quite a few worthwhile connections on Twitter and they have made a huge difference in helping promote my site. Promote is a nasty word, I’m not selling anything, maybe market is better? No, definetly not.
I will go online and to read through headlines on Twitter that get me to follow the link to an article. It’s pretty slick and has turned out to be a great resource. Not with regards to how to increase the traffic to my site (there are gorgillions of those links) but information that I think helps make more more relevant as an architect. I feel more connected to my profession than I ever have. I have read loads of articles, even bought a book on Twitter, to learn more on Twitter etiquette. When I started, I sought out Twitter lists and followed about 150 people who were in architecture and design related fields – some followed me back and others didn’t – but Twitter etiquette told me that the decent thing to do was to follow back the people who follow you. So that is what I have done – I haven’t sought out too many people from those first few days and I haven’t followed anyone (that didn’t follow me first) without reading some of their tweets and learning if they had something worth my time.
While I would love for all my numbers to be fantastic – and maybe they are for only having been at this for basically 2 months – I am more interested in representing myself properly and genuinely. There are services that you can page that would route people to your blog or to your twitter account but I don’t see the value – particularly since I’m not trying to get anyone to buy anything.
Most of the really good pieces of advice seem pretty obvious once you hear them and can practically apply them; some that you may not be able to appreciate until you get involved within the blogging community. Read other blogs, post comments, engage other readers – these things benefit everyone. I don’t mind if someone comes onto my site and posts a comment that will route people to their site. Now I’ll delete it if their comment is superficial or so thinly veiled that the only reason they are posting is to create traffic to a different site. I just set up a meaningfull blog roll and I have written guest posts on different sites; these small and simple gestures have impacted my site immeasurably and I’ve made some new friends.
Content drives sites like mine and the ones I like to visit and read. I really do go for the content - not gimmicks or give aways. Eventually I’ll dry up and become irrelevant at some point but I don’t think that’s where I am at now. Despite being a source of stress, I still enjoy it when I write a post and someone leaves a comment (other than “you suck” but I have asked my sister to stop doing that).
Two guys are in a bar and one sees a girl he really likes and his buddy is prodding him to go talk to her:
Buddy #1: Dude, go talk to her.
Buddy #2: No way man – she’s too pretty and she’ll never go out with me. I’ll get rejected and it will be totally embarrassing.
Buddy #1: C’mon you wuss! What’s the worst thing that could happen other than her saying no? What if you get a yes?
Buddy #2: all right….
(walking over to the girls and speaking to the one he likes)
Buddy #2: Hi my name is Buddy #2 and I was wondering if maybe you would like to go out some time?
Girl: Get away from me you f*cking loser!
(walking back over to Buddy #1)
Buddy #2: That was a lot worse than no.
That joke always come to mind when you get advice that seems really obvious and the person who is giving the advice doesn’t have anything to lose. That’s sort of how I felt after reading all these posts on finding readers, what to do, how to attract them, etc. and that’s why I thought it would be beneficial to other people who have blogs to see what is going on over here. For some reason, sharing this information seems like telling someone how much money you make or how much you paid for something precious. That’s not really who I am and if sharing this information helps someone else gage if they are on the right track, that’s awesome.
ps – feel free to subscribe by clicking on the RSS feed or by entering in your email address (oohh, now I feel dirty)