We’re now 2.5 months into our 6 month project (nearly halfway!), so things are starting to ramp up. We made some good progress this month, but the real challenge is about to arrive.
If you’re new and want to follow along as we try to hit 40,000 unique visitors in 6 months, click here.
On to January’s update.
We had an internal goal to get to 5,000 unique visitors (users) in January, and we got close, coming in at 4,382.
As we talk about in the emotions section below, it’s easy to get dejected or overwhelmed with our 40k goal, but it’s important to remember that just a month ago we had 1,276 users, so we more than tripled traffic in a month (with holidays in between).
Satisfaction level on overall traffic: 90%
Acquisition: Where Traffic is Coming From
No surprise here when you read our promotion section, but our traffic sources were dominated by Growth Hackers and Inbound.org:
We made a push this month to answer a ton of questions on Quora, and although we suspect links out of Quora may be showing up as Direct (see below), a week or two into January, we started putting UTM parameters on those links to indicate it’s from Quora.
Traffic from those UTM tagged links didn’t make it close to the top 10…coming in at 17 sessions and ranking 25 on our acquisition list. Argh. We’ll keep at Quora for another month and see if we can get something substantive.
Pages: What Is Most Popular
We only have 9 posts on the blog so far, and the homepage makes 10, so don’t hold your breath for the top 10 most popular pages on this site:
We do have an internal competition of whose posts are the most popular, and I couldn’t be happier to see my blog conversion post coming in at a strong #1, even ahead of our homepage.
That said, Benji’s suggested search hack post was only published in late January, so it’s a legit threat.
Competitions aside, we are proud of our time on-site stats so far. People are reading the posts! Like reading reading. The suggested search hack post has a 6 minute and 11 second time average time on page right now. This is solid. The only blogs I’ve seen with higher time on site are super high quality and publish really long articles, so that’s a good sign for us.
We’d love to know what readers’ time on site is. If you can share, tell us your blog url and typical time on site in the comments.
Traffic Relative to Goals
Remember, in our first post about goals, we set up example exponential graphs to help us see where we are relative to a path that would lead us to our goal.
January has us on track again after a slight dip at the end of December.
If you’re curious, the blue line has February 28 at 7,000 users.
We started January at 238 email subscribers and we ended at 563. So our list grew by 136% — more than double, not bad.
Our conversion rate on the 4,382 users in January was 7.4%. Most blogs I’ve seen don’t convert that well, so that’s pretty good.
I still don’t think we’re maximizing our conversion rate, though, mostly (like everything with Grow and Convert right now) due to lack of time. For example, we don’t have a homepage gate, which should help with conversions considerably, and most posts don’t have real content upgrades in them. Instead we’re just asking people to “Join the journey”, which is working well so far but eventually we’ll need to provide more substance for optins. But I did project in our first post that this blog would likely convert between 5 – 8% of visitors, and we’re on the high side of that.
In terms of specific optins, our sitewide, scroll based popup is still converting at an insane 6.6%. I’ve never seen a simple popup convert that well.
Look at how simple it is:
In fact it breaks a lot of “rules”:
- No image
- The logo is bigger than the headline
- It interrupts reading because it’s scroll based
So why does it convert so well? My guess is:
- Our traffic is still not that high (<10,000 users), so it’s a super targeted user base
- Our content is appealing, if it wasn’t, no one would opt in
- Even though the popup isn’t the prettiest, the value proposition is compelling (people love the idea of following our journey).
We still haven’t created a thank you page and thus don’t have a Google Analytics goal for optins so we can’t easily see optin rate by post or page. As I mentioned above, working part time on this, our to do list is long and producing good content always wins. It’s bothering me to not have these basic analytics set up, though, so I’ll plan to fix this in February.
Finally, here’s where we are relative to our list building roadmap:
A tad ahead of schedule.
So, overall, we are on track, but note that the grain-of-salt exponential graphs are still in their early stage almost-linear growth regimes. The steep curve of the exponential is just getting started and is about to hit us full blast.
Fortunately there is still a lot we have yet to do…
Before I list what we did in January, let me first list out what we have yet to do (as of 1/31/16):
- Haven’t published a guest post
- Haven’t been a guest on a podcast (The first one was published a few days ago in February.)
- Haven’t done any serious email outreach for link building or shares
- Haven’t run a contest
- Haven’t accepted guest posters
Now, here are the things we tried in January:
Communities, Communities, Communities
This was number 1 through number 100 in terms of promotion tactics employed in January (and so far). Obviously you can see that in our acquisition channels screenshot. Growth Hackers and Inbound.org were massive.
It’s hard to say exactly what makes an article do well in those communities, but we think a key part is that our content is really in line with the audience there. Marketers want to learn about marketing, and it seems we are giving enough depth in our articles to stand out. And as we’ve mentioned before, the 40,000 in 6 months goal is absolutely resonating with people.
In addition, we told people in private communities we are a part of about our posts. We both joined Facebook groups in January and have found that these groups are much more engaged than other communities. We’ve been sharing some of our articles there and have been getting a lot of great feedback and have been forming some great relationships with people that have helped us promote our content via communities.
As I mentioned earlier, we tried to answer 1 question a day each on Quora in January. Unfortunately only a week or two into the month we started to suspect that Google Analytics may not be properly recording Quora traffic as coming from Quora:
So we then started to include UTM parameters in our links back to Grow and Convert that identified the traffic as coming from Quora. We haven’t done a good job of going back to old posts and adding those parameters, though.
Above is all Quora traffic from our GA in January.
- Quora isn’t driving a lot of traffic
- The posts that are getting a lot of traffic are the old ones and don’t have the UTM parameters in them.
Let’s do some detective work to see which it may be…
Here are screenshots of our view stats from within Quora:
Frustratingly, Quora doesn’t let you put a date range for viewing stats. But when we select “last 30 days” when writing this post (first week of February), it says my answers had 4.7k views and Benji’s had 6.6k views. So a total of 11,300 views.
Not every answer has a link to a GC post. But, many do. So let’s guess reasonable clickthrough rates to posts on our site…
A range of click through rates on links to our site of 1% – 10% would yield 113 and 1,130 sessions on Grow and Convert. Google Analytics is showing us 18 sessions from Quora, which would correspond to a clickthrough rate (on Quora views) of 0.16%.
I have no idea what clickthrough rates on links inside Quora answers are (if you know, please tell us or provide a link in the comments), but 0.16% seems pretty damn low. I measure conversion rates for a living and the kind of links that get clicked that few times are random stuff in the sidebar or end of blog posts that add little value.
Hence, we’re going to keep doing Quora in February and we’ll be sure to use UTM parameters in all links there.
2016 is the rise of the Facebook group. We joined a number of groups and have started interacting with members in the community.
Note: We aren’t just throwing links in these groups but we’re answering questions and helping other people with challenges that they might have. In turn that’s giving us visibility and helping us build relationships with other marketers.
The advantage of Facebook groups is that people are online almost all the time meaning that there is a super high level of engagement when posts do get shared compared to lets say Google+ groups or LinkedIn groups.
Being that it was our first month experimenting with FB groups, we’ll save some traffic stats for next month and will hopefully use UTM parameters to quantify the impact (although we don’t want to overstep our boundaries).
Groups that we’re a part of:
Again, I want to reiterate that we’re not just in these communities to share our content. We’re forming relationships with people who are active members of these communities. If you are just using these groups to distribute content you’ll get banned in 2 seconds (especially with Cult of Copy or Internet Marketing Super Friends). I’ve been a passive member for about a year studying how they operate and have only recently started contributing to the conversation.
I want to start including this section on the monthly posts from now on. Here’s why: There’s a lot of bravado in the marketing space (especially marketers talking about marketing to other marketers, which is a category we fall into here). Most posts you see are like this:
How I accomplished this unbelievable feat in this unbelievable amount of time.
But what about the struggle? The doubts and fears, and imposter syndrome that everyone feels but tries to cover up. This isn’t a family reunion, we don’t need to pretend our lives are perfect.
So every month I want to talk about the emotions of the month.
There were definitely times this month where I felt like “There is no way in hell we are hitting this goal.” Then, we’d get on a Growth Hackers email and it would switch to “Ok, maybe we’ll hit it.” then at the end of the month when we started knocking on the door of 5000 unique visitors (users), I felt pretty optimistic. But I’m not gonna lie, going from 5000 to 40,000 in 3 months isn’t going to be easy.
One note on me though: In my previous job at a startup, my coworkers actually called me “Johnny Raincloud” because I had a way of raining on every parade (in my defense, that startup crashed and burned, so I had reason to be skeptical). I like to think of myself as “Johnny Data”, I’ll look at the data and see where it’s pointing. That has it’s pluses and minuses. Plus: I can be really realistic and not delude myself. Minus: I can be totally pessimistic in the early stages, when numbers usually show you that no one knows you exist.
The good thing is, this is a partnership and Benji is basically the opposite of me. He appears to be 100% confident at all times that we’ll hit this goal.
I’m going to let him comment here…
As Devesh said earlier, I think the biggest challenge for us has just been the time we’ve been able to allot to this project. We’ve both only been working on this between 5-15 hours a week. That’s what worries me; because initially I thought we were going to be able to pump out 8 posts per month and 3 months in we barely have 8 posts total.
That’s was what led me to the decision of working on this full-time. I know that if I can dedicate 40+ hours a week to the site that I can make the site grow much faster. I was only doing the bare minimum when it came to promotion before and I only had time to write between 1-3 articles per month. We really need to increase the volume of posts on our site to hit a number like 40,000 readers a month. Also, I’m going to double down on promotion tactics that have been driving traffic for us.
I’ve stayed positive because it really only takes one or two posts going viral to help us hit a number like that and I have a few tricks up my sleeve to help us get closer to that goal. It’s going to be a close one but I will go down fighting if I have to.
I don’t want to spoil next month’s post but on the positive end as of writing this post (Feb 4) we’re already at over 2,000 unique visitors for the month so even though it’s a short month, we’re starting it off strong.
February is going to be fun. As Benji mentioned, he quit is job and is working on Grow and Convert full time. But, he’s also moving to Southeast Asia, so that’ll take a decent chunk of his time. Nonetheless we should be able to really start ramping up elbow grease hours here.
The blue line in the traffic graph above says 7,000 uniques in February, but we want to get ahead of schedule, so we’re aiming for 10,000. That will set us up with a solid base of traffic for March and April.
Concrete Traffic and Promotion Plans
For February, we’re going to start doing
- Email outreach to promote posts (like this)
- Guest posts
- More podcasts
- Possibly an email based contest to grow the list faster.
Stay tuned and let us know if there are any particular topics you want us to cover!
If you’re new to Grow and Convert, you can follow us here.
Want us to write an in depth case study or story about you or your company? We’ll also drive traffic to it. Apply here.
Join the G&C Content Strategies Newsletter
We send in depth articles about content marketing about once a week. No list posts, no high level stuff.
It's free and marketers at companies such as Salesforce Desk, PayPal, and Cisco have joined.