What I've learned in my second year of blogging

When I did this last year it was fairly well received. So here I am, a year later, doing it again. As usual I’ll share pretty much every statistic about this site (except specific financial details), and more importantly, everything I’ve learned (the highlights anyway) in the last year.

I’m going w/ the same format again, for the same reason (I’m lazy). Speaking of lazy, I’ve had this post in my drafts waiting to be finished since the beginning of August – the actual 2 year mark.

  1. What I’ve done
    1. Stats
  2. What I’ve learned
    1. SEO
    2. Find a Mentor
    3. Your Niche is Different
    4. Advertising
    5. Write more content, then some more, and then some more

What I’ve done

Stats
Here’s an overview of the statistics for Simple Help from the last year. Even after 2 years, I can’t go a day without checking Google Analytics.

  1. Visits and Pageviews – 08/01/07 – 07/31/08
  • 3,429,852 visits
  • 5,883,633 page views
  • As the graph below illustrates, there was a significant drop in the middle of Dec. 07. I was quite sick, and the site went down for 2.5 days. Such is life.


    click to enlarge

    By Month

    All in all I’m pleased with the growth compared to the first year (1,104,495 visits, 1,756,518 page views). One of the things I wanted to increase this year was the number of page views per visit, which I did – slightly. Last year it was 1.59 page views per visit, this year it grew to 1.72. I attribute this to 2 complete site re-designs and the use of the Related Posts plugin (and the Related Posts for your Feeds plugin).

    1. Traffic sources – 08/01/07 – 07/31/08
    2. Similar to last year, search remains my #1 source of traffic. By far.


      click to enlarge

      One rather significant change is that during Simple Helps first year, it was on the front page of Digg.com 16 times. In the second year – not once. This I attribute to two things – 1) I stopped “writing for digg” and 2) it’s a lot harder to get on the front page now. One of my silly goals in my first year was to get on the digg.com front page twice in one day. The second time I accomplished that goal, my previous hosting provider told me in no uncertain terms that Simple Help had to move. It was at that point I went from shared hosting to a dedicated server.

      Last year, digg was my #2 source of traffic, this year, it’s #8. Which is kind of interesting in and of itself – a lot of people will claim that digg has no long-tail. Not entirely true.


      click to enlarge

      You’ll also note that images.google.com is my 6th highest source of traffic. If that’s not a glaring hint as to why you should use the alt and title tags, I’m not sure what is.

    3. Traffic sources – 08/01/07 – 07/31/08
    4. Once again, Google reigns supreme.


      click to enlarge

    5. Top Content – 08/01/07 – 07/31/08
    6. My 5 most popular posts in the last year were:

      1. How to convert .flac files to .mp3 using Windows
      2. 10 Alternatives to iTunes for Managing your iPod
      3. How to use your PC and Webcam as a motion-detecting and recording security camera
      4. 15 Windows Explorer alternatives compared and reviewed
      5. How to completely wipe all the data from your hard drive

      Only one of those posts (How to completely wipe all of the data from your hard drive) did I actually write in the last year. The other four are from the first year. Also noteworthy is that my most popular post, accounts for almost 10% of my traffic. That’s one post out of six hundred.


      click to enlarge


    What I’ve Learned

    SEO
    If I had to guess, I’d say there are a billion sites on SEO (search engine optimization). There should be a new rule – if your site doesn’t get a couple of hundred thousand visits via search engines, per month, you can’t start or run an SEO site. My suggestion? Review some of the tips on one established SEO site (say Matt Cutts or the seomoz blog), implement those tips, and then stop. The time that some bloggers spend reviewing SEO “tips and tricks” never ceases to amaze me. Use that time to write an article instead. No matter how “SEO friendly” your site is, if you don’t have content, no one’s going to come. Besides, most SEO sites just take content they found on another SEO site, re-word it (the ones that aren’t totally lazy) and publish it. Do you really need to read the same 10 tips 50 times?

    Find a Mentor
    Without question, my absolute #1 suggestion is to find someone already established in your niche, and befriend them. I cannot possible emphasize this enough. The How-To Geek writes PC tutorials, just like I do (though he has a more heavy emphasis on Vista), and has shared countless tips with me. Without question, Simple Help would not be nearly as popular as it is today without him. The hard part is, of course, finding someone that’s willing to share information with you. I’ve been unbelievably fortunate.

    Your Niche is Different
    Similar to the SEO rant (above), do not waste your time reading “pro blogging” web sites. Here’s why – they generally offer suggestions that may not even apply to you. A blog that focuses on collecting coins has a completely different audience than a blog that focuses on photography. The differences can be in gender, age group, geographic location – the list is endless. What applies to one site does not necessarily apply to another. Again, find someone successful in your specific niche, and find out what has worked for them and what hasn’t. You’ll find that information way more valuable than what you would on a “pro blogging” web site.

    RSS subscribers don’t matter

    This one might be a tiny bit controversial. For my site – a computer tutorial blog – RSS subscribers don’t matter, at all. Remember – your niche is different. Everywhere you go you’ll read about how to increase your RSS subscriber count. Take a step back and ask yourself – “for my site, does the number of RSS subscribers matter?” Here’s an example. Darren Rowse, of ProBlogger.net, has 47,189 RSS subscribers (as I write this, Aug. 23rd, 2008). I have 3,227. He has 14 times (plus) more RSS subscribers than I do. However, in the last 30 days, problogger.net has had 767,118 page views (according to SiteMeter. Over the same period of time, Simple Help has had 796,178 page views. Slightly more page views, 14x fewer RSS subscribers. So before you spend too much time trying to increase your RSS readership, ask yourself, does it really matter for my blog?

    Social networks are a waste of time

    What the heck, another controversial one. I publish my posts via Twitter, I have a MyBlogLog page, FaceBook page (two actually), FriendFeed account, Last.FM… you name it, I have a page or account on that service. Not a single one of them drives any significant traffic to my site. StumbleUpon is an exception, and I’m not sure if it even counts as a social network. But again – consider your sites topic. If you write about FaceBook apps, you may get a tonne of traffic by creating a FaceBook group.

    Advertising
    Here’s my experience with advertising. When your site becomes popular, advertisers find you. They’ll even bid against each other. Until then, stick with AdSense, Kontera, Tribal Fusion – whatever.

    Write more content, then some more, then some more
    Just write more. Not everything will be popular, in fact most of it probably won’t. But the more content you have, the more it’ll show up in Google, and the more visitors you’ll get. Also, if you write something that you think is absolutely terrific, and the visitors don’t immediately flood your site – don’t stress. I’ve had things that I wrote months and months ago all of the sudden become hugely popular on StumbleUpon, or show up on a very popular blog – driving that traffic you hoped for.

    { 10 comments… add one }
    • Shankar Ganesh August 24, 2008, 2:49 am

      Congratulations on the very impressive growth! But you’ve revealed nothing about your earnings ;)

      And why the theme change?

    • Damien August 24, 2008, 5:27 am

      Congratulation on reaching your second year!

      As I read this post, I can’t help nodding my head on every single point you said. My blog is somewhat similar to yours and is reaching its first anniversary this Nov, but looking at my statistics compared to yours, I guess that I still have a lot more to catch up.

      Just write more. Not everything will be popular, in fact most of it probably won’t. But the more content you have, the more it’ll show up in Google, and the more visitors you’ll get. Also, if you write something that you think is absolutely terrific, and the visitors don’t immediately flood your site – don’t stress. I’ve had things that I wrote months and months ago all of the sudden become hugely popular on StumbleUpon, or show up on a very popular blog – driving that traffic you hoped for.

      I fully agree on this one.

    • Keith Dsouza August 24, 2008, 2:18 pm

      Congratulations on completing your second year, the growth is definitely impressive.

      I agree with many of your suggestions and would like to add that even I don’t advice people to rely more on blogging tips once they have got a foothold, those tips are generally around increasing traffic, subscribers et all, what one should focus is the content that would drive more traffic to a blog.

    • Ky August 30, 2008, 1:30 am

      Congrats! I can see your site is growing rapidly. Keep up the good work!

    • Matej October 15, 2008, 4:00 pm

      Really liked the article and I totally agree with you, with on everything. Especially the part about mentor, I cannot stress enough how this helped me.

      Although subscribers don’t mean anything to you , you just got one ;) cheers!

    • gerescorm February 15, 2009, 1:24 pm

      Your web page doesn’t correctly work in safari browser

    • RaiulBaztepo March 28, 2009, 3:32 pm

      Hello!
      Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
      PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language ;)
      See you!
      Your, Raiul Baztepo

    • PiterKokoniz April 7, 2009, 3:46 pm

      Hello ! ;)
      My name is Piter Kokoniz. Just want to tell, that your blog is really cool
      And want to ask you: is this blog your hobby?
      Sorry for my bad english:)
      Tnx!
      Piter.

    • Ben September 7, 2009, 12:49 am

      Thanks for the info.
      Great to see someone share real statistics and screenshots of their website.
      In the case of how to geek, there success may be in part to the design and the forum to keep users comming back.

      Ben

    • sandrar September 10, 2009, 5:20 am

      Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.

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