Let me be honest, when Benji first told me the goal should be 40,000 unique visitors a month in 6 months, I think I laughed out loud.
I might’ve even thrown in a snarky comment for good measure: “Good luck.”
Nonetheless, it’s fair to say that Benji has been more optimistic than me from the start.
Don’t get me wrong, we both fully expected this blog would resonate with marketers, and it has: we’ve received a bunch of emails and comments with people excited to follow our journey. But there’s a reason my ex-coworkers used to call me “Johnny Raincloud”…because I need to be convinced.
But here’s the thing, I can be convinced by numbers pretty easily (I’m an engineer by training), so really they should have called me “Johnny Data”, but they weren’t that nice.
In this post, we’ll look at data. Specifically, the traffic and email list data of this blog in November. And we’ll see why Johnny Raincloud is forecasting some sunshine for Grow and Convert.
But before we get into the numbers, though, I want to step back and point out what readers are saying about Grow and Convert. Because data is fine, but if you aren’t really resonating with people, traffic doesn’t mean much because you don’t have the trust or emotional connection to get people to act.
So let’s see what’s resonating.
What’s Exciting Readers: The Journey
We’ve noticed readers are specifically mentioning The Journey as something they like. The Journey has two aspects:
1. Our Goal: It’s unique and fun to follow a blog from 0 to 40,000 unique visitors. Will they hit it? Will they fail? Let’s see!
2. Our Transparency: It’s not interesting if we don’t tell you what we’re doing. That’s why a lot of people keep using the phrase “following along”. In fact, it’s kind of amazing how many people are signing off their emails with the same phrases:
Our Monthly Transparency Reports
Every month we’re going to update you on where we are relative to our goal: 40,000 monthly uniques and 5,000 email subscribers in 6 months. We’ll also list out what promotion strategies we used on that month’s posts, where traffic came from, and any other key insights.
Note: Our first post was in the middle of November, so this is actually a 2-week update, but we have some initial “startup” items to cover, and I wanted to get on a calendar month schedule.
Let’s get started.
BTW, if you want updates in between the monthly updates, we’ll post them on Twitter, so follow us there. and for more full updates of our journey along with other blog posts, join our email list here.
Forecasting How we Get to 40,000 Uniques and 5,000 Email Subscribers
Normally, we’ll get right into the updates, but since this is the first one, let me walk through how we think we’ll get to 40k monthly uniques and 5k email subscribers.
Blog Traffic Roadmap
Blog traffic growth is not linear, and it’s often not even monotonic, so laying out a roadmap of traffic growth is a bit dubious. But nonetheless, here’s a graph that shows our monthly traffic goals:
From my experience looking at analytics for many, many sites, our eventual traffic graph will look a lot more like a staircase, with big jumps followed by minimal growth:
We’re not exactly sure when these spikes of traffic will come. It really depends on the type of content that we put out, what resonates with our readers, and if we end up getting some of our content picked up by some larger publications, etc.
The goal of these monthly updates is to show you where we are relative to our monthly traffic goals and explain what has been working, what our shortcomings have been, and show you how we’ve been distributing our posts.
List Building Roadmap
One thing we haven’t talked about yet is the importance of email subscribers for the overall growth of the blog.
We think they are vital. Here’s why: they are far more engaged than social followers, and they help you build loyal repeat traffic.
If we can hit 40,000 uniques in 6 months, I think 5,000 subscribers is a reasonable goal. In the first 6 months of a blog, from my experience, I’ve typically seen sites converting around 5+% of their visitors to e-mail subscribers.
For example, here is the month-to-month conversion rate for my conversion optimization company blog in 2015, where traffic has hovered in the low 4-figures a month:
I’ve also had clients with over 100,000 unique visitors per month convert in the low single digit percent range, so 5% – 8% for 0 – 40,000 is reasonable. In a future post, I’ll detail the main opt-in strategies we’ll use to get there.
Assuming a 5% – 8% conversion rate of the traffic roadmap I showed above, here’s how many email subscribers we would get every month:
Before the data nerds start nitpicking me, I’ll be the first to say: Of course our conversion rate will not be constant from the beginning to the end, it will likely start off high and then dip as we get more traffic. But like I said, I think an overall conversion rate of 5% over 6 months is possible for this blog.
A lower conversion rate wouldn’t put us at 5000 (5% doesn’t quite get us there either), but there are other methods to make up the remaining subscribers such as: running a giveaway, going on podcasts, or doing free workshops for other blogs and communities. We should easily be able to tack on 1000 or more subscribers at the end with those methods.
Traffic Update: Ahead of Schedule
Ok, let’s see where we are in our first two weeks.
Overall Site Traffic
Our first post was published on November 17, and we’re at 1878 “Users” (Google changed the name to Users from Unique Visitors so this is the metric we will use going forward) as of December 1st.
1,878 unique visitors is pretty good for the first two posts and only two weeks of being live with the site.
Avgerage session duration is on the lower side (typically you’ll want to shoot for 2:00 and above) however this is due to there being only two pieces of content thus far and because of where the traffic came from (mostly social and referral).
Also, bounce rate is on the high side. Again, the high bounce rate is due to there only being two pieces of content and because of the traffic sources. Once we add more content, we should see the bounce rate drop. *Typically the bounce rate you’ll want to shoot for is 60% or below.
Note: Technically, the above data includes 80 or so visitors before the first post when we started announcing it to friends.
If you look at graph from Google Analytics of our traffic over the last two weeks, you’ll notice the spikes are correlated around the days that we launched our new posts. Also, you’ll see small spike pre-launch when we started telling friends via word of mouth about our site.
In the early stages of a blog, typically most of your traffic will come from social and referrals, and as the blog matures you should see traffic shift more towards Organic Search, Direct and Referral as your main acquisition sources.
Digging into the numbers for our two posts
Post 1: Content Marketing has become too trendy
Total unique pageviews in November: 736
Here’s where the traffic came from for the first post:
For the initial launch of our blog, we mainly leveraged our network to get the word out about our new site. Most of the traffic for our initial first post came from posting on our personal Facebook pages as well as some Facebook groups that were focused around marketing and entrepreneurship such as From Wantrapreneur to Entrepreneur (a private group for people who’ve taken the SumoMe Building $1,000 monthly business course). We also tweeted from our personal accounts to get the word out. Finally, Benji emailed an old list of his that had 164 people on it, and got a 13.5% click rate, so that also drove some traffic.
We did the bare minimum when it came to distributing our first post because it was mainly a launch announcement and we didn’t want to over promote our site prior to adding value to our readership.
Post 2: Our Content Strategy Unveiled
Total unique pageviews in November: 1043
Here’s where the traffic came from for the second post:
For our second post, communities became a big part of our promotion tactic. Friends in the marketing space shared our post on GrowthHackers and Inbound, and we ended up trending on both communities for between 1-3 days. As you can see from the numbers above, this drove most of the traffic to our site.
Below you’ll find the number of upvotes we received from each of the communities to attain that level of traffic. Comments also play a big part of the weighting system. For our post on Inbound we received a total of 9 comments. For our post on GrowthHackers we received a total of 7 comments.
Overall, here is our sitewide breakdown of acquisition sources — largely just a summary of what we have above for these 2 posts. In the future we expect email to make up a more significant share of traffic and of course, eventually, we hope organic search will start to build.
These numbers are very typical for an early stage blog. Typically most of your promotion starting out will come from social. Referral traffic was driven largely by the communities. Direct comes from people sharing your links with others. Other is traffic driven from GrowthHackers.
Digging deeper into the sources of social traffic site wide:
Here is where we are two weeks into month one compared to our month one goal:
So, although it can be dangerous to draw any sweeping conclusions after two weeks and two posts, we are ahead of schedule!
List Building Update: 10.4% Conversion Rate
Quite frankly, our email list growth has been excellent so far. We have 196 email subscribers already, which means 10.4% of the 1,878 users to date have joined our email list.
Considering our goal is to get 5% conversion overall, starting at 10% is great.
We aren’t implementing any fancy tactics yet. We just have a handful of ways to opt-in to our list:
- Sitewide Popup – When someone makes it 50% down a page, this pops up:
(We’re using OptinMonster for our popups, and we’re using their basic plan, (not an affiliate link) which costs $49/year, pretty affordable).
- Join Us Button on the Homepage – This opens up a similar looking popup form when clicked.
Taking up a huge chunk of your homepage is a great strategy for growing your email list. It’s been called a “featurebox” by some, and is used by huge blogs like Buffer (Buffer asks you to join their app, which is obviously their main CTA, instead of joining an email list):
- Contextual In-Post CTAs – Both of our posts have calls to action to join us on our journey:
We’re not shy about asking people to opt-in in the middle of a post, because we do it contextually. We’ll talk a lot more about content upgrades later, but for now, our posts are still high level, so it doesn’t quite make sense to make elaborate opt-in bonuses. Instead, since we’re outlining what our blog will be about, it makes sense to mention we have an email list where you can keep up on our journey.
Note: In the future we’ll report more detail on how various individual opt-in forms are converting. Unfortunately I made some installation mistakes so the individual opt-in form data wasn’t being properly recorded. Oops.
Our Email List Building Secret Sauce
My suspicion is that our initial surge of subscribers has to do with what I mentioned at the top of this post: Our journey is compelling. Plain and simple, people want to see if we can hit these numbers or not. (By the way, if you want to read our current articles — all which are very in depth articles with case studies and examples in each one about content marketing for real businesses, join our email list.)
So, here’s the question to ask yourself when it comes to list building:
What can you do in your niche to add a little piece of uniqueness to your content strategy that will get people to follow instead of ignore you?
Want us to write an in depth case study about you or your company? We’ll also drive traffic to it. Apply here.
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