It’s been a little over seven months since I launched The Hobby Blogger, and it’s really starting to come into its own. I’ve fleshed out the blog’s structure and given it a new look. Traffic is growing. Posts are getting comments. It feels like a full-on blog now.
In this post I’ll tell you how have I’ve grown my traffic, and we’ll look back on the goals I set in the last update and see how well I stuck to them.
Strong traffic growth
During the first three months, I had very little traffic and no one had commented on any of my posts. I hadn’t performed any blog promotion either: no social media, only one comment on another blog, and I had told only two people about my blog.
Starting in December, I began regularly commenting on a number of blogs, growing my traffic significantly. Here’s a graphic showing the number of THB’s monthly unique visits. Note that Google Analytics data is missing because I didn’t install it until right before the New Year.
While the numbers between AWStats and Google Analytics differ significantly, the trend is the same: traffic has been roughly doubling every month since I began commenting on other blogs. The total visits also shows the same trend.
In February, I got a big lift in traffic from a comment I made on StudioPress’s blog. It wasn’t the comment’s backlink that brought in the new traffic. Rather, Brian Gardner checked out my blog through the backlink, and liked my recent design changes so much that he featured The Hobby Blogger in their showcase.
You can see the traffic spike in the Referral component of traffic sources below. This is a stacked area plot in which the amount of each type of traffic is represented by how much area each color covers. So because you see very little green relative to the other colors, it means that the amount of direct traffic (via bookmarks or typing the site’s address into the browser’s address bar) I get is relatively small—about 20%.
The other interesting part of this graphic is the recent increase in search engine (organic) traffic. Recently, it’s been about 40-45% of my traffic. This is because I’ve been more mindful of putting relevant keywords in my post titles and headings.
Overall, the number of visitors is still quite small, but I’m psyched about the rate of growth. Also keep in mind that I still have no presence on any social networks yet, so there’s still a lot of growth potential.
One final traffic stat is that my Alexa Rank has gone from 8,899,358 on Dec. 6 (when I installed the Alexa Toolbar), to 428,726 as of March 31.
Most of my posts now get a handful of comments, and I gratefully reply to every one of them. It’s really nice because many of the comments have been helpful and pointed out things I’ve missed, or have given me something new to think about. A nice little community is starting to grow here.
Room for improvement
While I’m happy with the traffic and participation, the blog still isn’t firing on all cylinders.
- Email list – I only have about 12 FeedBurner subscribers, two of them by email. Everyone says that the money is in the list. Well, I’ve got a long way to go then.
- Revenue – I’ve earned a whopping total of $0.00. Not that I’m surprised. I’ve had quite a few click-throughs on my StudioPress affiliate links, but no commissions yet. That’s OK. I realize my traffic is way too low to be making any significant money. At this point, creating content is still my main focus.
- Bounce rates – Bounce rates are running about 60%, which is still way too high. Though it’s understandable given that so much of my traffic is coming from the StudioPress showcase. Those visitors are probably bloggers just checking out the look of my theme, and unless they’re interested in this niche, few of them will stick around for long.
- Posting schedule – I’m still struggling to post regularly every week. I’m striving to set a standard schedule of posting every Thursday. I don’t have any posts in reserve either. I’d like to build up a cache of five to ten posts to cover vacations, intense times at work, etc., and perhaps build up to posting twice a week.
Here’s a status report on the goals I set for months four through six, and how well I met them.
Add more basic blog elements
- Contact page – Yep. I’ve even received a few emails through it.
- Email subscription form – Got it. Though I only have two subscribers so far.
- Newsletter subscription form – Nada. Can’t yet justify devoting any time to setting up a newsletter.
- ChangeBlog – Check. Not yet sure if this is a “hit” yet, but it does get quite a few views, and it’s unique to my blog. My apologies to Internet Explorer users on the formatting. It’s the only browser that centers the text in each table cell, but a fix is on the way.
- Privacy and disclosure policies – Extra credit. I didn’t originally plan for these pages, but I discovered their necessity when I started my affiliate programs.
Grow readership and traffic
- Engage blogging community
- Comment on blogs – Started doing this in earnest at the beginning of December, and that’s exactly when my traffic started to grow.
- Participate in forums – Haven’t got around to doing this yet because of time, but I wonder if it’s even worth doing. I’ve wanted to join WarriorForum, but which gives more bang for the buck in terms of driving traffic: blog commenting or forum posts?
- Create presence on Facebook, Google+, Twitter – FAIL. The good thing is that my traffic is still growing without the use of any social media.
- Research/improve search engine optimization– I’ve slowly picked up and started implementing a few SEO tricks:
- Front-loaded keyword-rich post titles that are less than 70 characters
- Keyword-rich h2 and h3 headings
- Using Google Web Master tools
- Creating a sitemap using Google XML Sitemaps plugin
- Changing my permalink structure to a custom structure with keyword-rich slugs
- Create color scheme – More than just a color scheme change – also created a new logo, moved the navigation menu to the header, snazzier email subscription box.
- Add visual gradients to comments – Haven’t gotten to this yet, but will soon. Not a super high priority though.
- Security tweaks – Umm, yeah. Hackers, please stay away a little bit longer. Already have a few things locked down like changing the admin username and using a subfolder for the WordPress files.
- Speed optimizations – enabled gzip compression, reducing bandwidth by half and hopefully speeding up your load times.
- Development site – Extra credit. When I wanted to work on my design changes, I needed to install a local copy of the blog on my laptop so I could test design changes without messing up the live blog. It was indispensable in coming up with the new design.
- Become affiliate for Genesis, HostGator, and NameCheap, and add their banners to my sidebar – Got the first two done. Haven’t made a dime yet.
- Experiment with Google AdSense – Not yet. As a nod to John Saddington’s recommendation of getting at least 250 unique visits a day before advertising, I’m going to hold off on implementing AdSense until I get more traffic, especially since there are far more pressing issues to deal with that will help increase said traffic.
Goals for next three months
Here’s what I’d like to accomplish by the end of June:
- Add Google+, Facebook, Twitter presence – Though I’m worried about time being taken away from writing, I need to at least get going with Google+ to keep growing traffic.
- Build up a reserve of at least five posts – This will help ensure I post regularly every week.
- Blog enhancements
- Add visual gradients to comments.
- Add sitemap to blog – I want readers to be able to find older content more easily.
- Security tweaks – Would love to be able to securely login on public wifi without worrying about my password getting hacked.
- Speed tweaks – Add a caching plugin to speed up page loads.
- Add an affiliate box like Darren Rowse does on ProBlogger that promotes Genesis and HostGator.
- Update Prose theme to version 1.5 – I’m really excited about the responsive design aspect of this update so that the blog works better on mobile devices.
The main idea to take away from this post is that simply commenting on other blogs will help get your blog’s traffic off the ground. And doing a little search engine optimization on your posts will enhance that traffic. So if you’re pressed for time when you start out blogging, you can put off promoting your blog through social media, and you’ll still get visitors.
Keeping those visitors is a whole other ballgame. I’m only scratching the surface by analyzing visits. We should also be paying attention to repeat visits, bounce rates, how many pages deep our visitors go, and so on.
How did your blog’s traffic grow early on? Also, any tips to help me post more regularly? Let us know in the comments.