Categories
Blogging

Goals for Q1 2008

Most of this post is really just a way of clarifying my own thoughts and putting a plan down so I have something to follow. These are 7 goals I have for the first quarter of 2008.

1) I’d like to get 350 RSS. I value RSS subscribers more than other traffic because I know they will be viewing whatever I put up. Personally, I have seldom unsubscribe from RSS feeds. When I have done it, it was because they had too much traffic (I couldn’t keep up with the crap Digg was sending me for example). RSS traffic tends to be smoother and I think is a better overall measure of average readership than even Daily Visits.

2) I’d like to get at least 3 mentions from either major media outlets or Technorati Top 100. This is all of course dependent on me doing something worth linking to. If I can do this, it will help achieve #1.

3) Get above 1,000 unique IPs per day. I can spike above that currently, but I will have to sustain steady growth to get to that point by the end of

4) Get into the technorati top 60,000

5) Have the photo sites I listed previously up and running and bringing in some amount of AdSense revenue > 0.

6) Be at least the first two pages of search results for “Travel Blog” on Google.

7) Widen my lead on the Bloggers Choice Awards. I’m really obsessed with this. You get an acrylic trophy if you win. I haven’t won a trophy since the national debate tournament my senior year in college.

I don’t think these are outrageous goals. There are people out there with sites worse than mine who are doing this. But I doubt it will happen without effort on my part. It could very well be that I get a streak of luck and most of these could be achieved within two weeks, but I doubt it.

How I get there is really the big question. I view traffic as a ratcheting phenomenon. You get 100 people to your site, 10 return, 5 subscribe to RSS, and 1 might put up a link to you. That link will increase the number of people coming to your site by some small percentage. You build up the small percentages to end up with a long term large number. Here are the obvious ways I can get from here to there:

1) Entrecard. For a period of several weeks, this was probably the biggest thing to drive traffic to my site. However, I got in near the beginning and now that more people are in the system, it is getting harder to get attention. The way the system works, it doesn’t really make for quality, long term traffic. Moreover, if you do want to get a lot of traffic, you really have to work at it dropping cards on other sites. Entrecard is great for starting out, but the opportunity cost of constantly dropping cards is high and the marginal return is low over time. I’ll stay in the system, but I don’t foresee putting much effort into it. I’d also dumb BlogCatalog and MyBlogLog under this category. They are good for a small steady stream of viewers, but nothing overwhelming. Moreover, they all target other bloggers who are looking for the same thing as you: traffic.

2) StumbleUpon. This is by far my largest traffic generator. This is true of most people. I think I’m going to eliminate all the buttons under each post (Digg, Slashdot, Del.icio.us, etc) and just have a single SU button. Getting to the front page of Digg is near impossible as is Slashdot. I’d rather make it obvious to people to click a single button rather than play the Digg lottery. As I mentioned previously, I spent $25 on StumbleUpon this week and it seems like a good investment. I’d be more than happy to funnel more money to SU if i can earn some on AdSense. Then again, you can easily get thousands of stumbles for nothing, it is just more random. FYI, if you are reading this, I’m pretty sure you are more likely to get stumbles if the initial stumble and review are NOT from the owner of the blog. (Hint, Hint)

3) Podcasting. This has been hanging over my head since the start of my trip. I’ve been shooting some video, but nothing has come together. The fact is, if I have a half assed video podcast on iTunes, I could easily get more people subscribed than I have RSS subscribers by a factor of 3 or 4. Easily.

4) Site Redesign My site is fine. I get lots of compliments on it. However, now that I’ve been doing it for a while, I have an idea of what works, what doesn’t and I’d like the site to be tailored to me. I’ve started the process of doing the redesign, including getting a logo. The one feature I really want to add is to put a Google Map in the header, ala Hitch50.com. The mapping part is already done, now I just need to integrate it. Also, I’m going to build the site from scratch with search engine optimization in mind to help achieve Goal #6. Same with the other photo sites I’m starting.

5) More personal branding There really isn’t a lot of ME on my site. Part of that has been a conscience decision and part of it is just the difficulty of taking photos of yourself when traveling alone. I’m not comfortable doing it, but I think it has to be done. A video podcast will go a long way in achieving this, as will the site redesign. USE THE POWER OF THE DIMPLES That being said, I have no desire to make every photo one of me. Most travel sites are nothing but photos of the people traveling and they are designed for friends and family.

6) Getting Help If it wasn’t for my daily photos, the content on my site would be sucking right now. This is because I spent so much time working on promoting the blog the last month and reading up on things like web marketing, SEO and advertising. These are not productive uses of my time. I should be out seducing women and taking photos of mountains and megafauna. Getting a webmaster who can do some of the back end work for me will be huge and let me focus on what ultimately matters: being a modern day Indiana Jones. The fact that this post is longer than anything I’ve written in a few weeks on my main site is telling. Much of the above could be done by another person helping back in the US.

7) Guest Blogging I’ve been writing for some other travel sites, but it hasn’t really resulted in my much traffic or name recognition. I’ll probably do some more of this, but in the end, my goal isn’t to be a free lance travel journalist. I want to build a brand and a name. I probably have one of the largest National Geographic collections in the world, and I can’t honestly say I remember the names of any of the article authors.

And obviously the most important thing….

8) Improve the content of my site. All of the above means nothing if I can’t do this.

Categories
Blogging

Getting from there to here

It has been almost 10 months to the day since I closed on my house. This marks a good moment to evaluate where there site has been and how it got from there to here.

Since about the beginning of December, I’ve been making a concerted effort to build traffic and get the word about my website. Prior to that, I mostly left it in the hands of fate….and Scott Kurtz.

Traffic

Figure 1. Daily visitors since March 2007. Click to Enlarge

The traffic spikes I’ve gotten sort of throws off the scale, but there are three definite periods of traffic:

  1. The start of the trip to the first big spike in May. That spike was a mention in PVPOnline.com and accounted for about 2,100 uniques.
  2. The first spike to the second spike. The second spike was also a mention on PVP. In between the spikes, average daily traffic rose about 25% to around 90 uniques per day.
  3. Early December until now. The third spike came from StumbleUpon a few days ago. It was totally unexpected and accounted for about 1,500 users. The gradual rise in daily traffic over that time was accounted for by joining EntreCard, BlogCatalog, and MyBlogLog. I’ve also submitted my site to some directories, but that hasn’t accounted for much traffic. Average daily traffic now is in the 150-200 range.

Basically, since I’ve started paying attention, I’ve managed to double my daily average traffic. Not bad considering I’ve had no mentions on big websites.

The biggest driver of new users has been StumbleUpon. Putting the buttons for SU under each article has been a very good move. I’ve also created a profile on the service and befriended a bunch of people. I also spent $25 the last few days and purchased stumbles from StumbleUpon. I expect traffic to dip in the next few days, so I’ll better be able to see how it works.

I’m considering just passing any ad revenue I earn from Google (which isn’t going to be much to start) right to StumbleUpon and use it to build traffic. Each Stumble costs $0.05.

RSS

Figure 2. RSS Subscribers

The 3 phases are even more obvious when you look at RSS subscribers. I hit 150 the other day for the first time.

I like to use RSS subscribers as my primary metric because you know they are return visitors and will most probably be there tomorrow. The slope of the RSS subscriptions has really picked up since I started promoting the site in December.

I’ve also moved to putting full text and images in my RSS feed about a month ago. I think that certainly helped.

Other Metrics

I’ve set a goal of winning the Bloggers Choice Award for 2008 in the Travel category. Given the system was new last year, I’m estimating it will take about twice the number of votes to win this year as opposed to last year. That means I would need around 500 votes to win. I’m currently #1 with a 15 vote lead. All it takes is some big corporate site to bother to throw its hat into the ring and I’ll probably lose. I get about 10 visits per week from the site, and I’m sure being listed #1 helps.

I’ve gotten into the top 100,000 on Technorati with an authority of 72. My authority was 15 a month ago.

I’ve submitted my site to several blog ranking directories. They are pretty bogus, but it at least gives you some sort of yardstick to measure your progress against other sites.

  • TopOfBlogs uses a running daily average. On that list I have been either first or second since I joined.
  • TopBlogArea uses a weekly average. I’ve gotten in the top 10 on that list.
  • TopBlogSites uses a lifetime count, and I’ve gotten to #31 in a month on that list.

From a qualitative standpoint, I’ve got a 10.0 review average (out of 10) on BlogCatalog.com, and I’m in the top 15 for the site with the most reviews on EntreCard (and I seldom drop cards anymore and haven’t solicited any reviews either). I also have a Facebook group with 142 members. (Facebook publishes my RSS, so some people could be just getting updates from there and not showing up on my RSS numbers)

Summary

As far as the world of blogs and independent travel websites go, I’m in pretty good shape. Most people never stick with a travel blog long enough to make it big. By the time it gets going, the trip is over.

While I’m made significant progress the last month, I still have an enormous upside I can exploit.

My next post will outline what my goals are for the next few months and how I intend to get there and a SWTO analysis of my site and my trip.

Categories
Blogging

Why I’m Here

I’ve had a website at this domain name since 1998. I was blogging before there were blogs. I was blogging before blogging was cool.

This site is an adjunct to my primary website, Everything-Everywhere.com. I don’t want to keep that site on topic with my photography and my trip. I especially don’t want to bother people by talking about the website on the website.

So, I figured the best approach was to revive this site.

In 2008, I want to start making inroads towards covering the costs for my trip. To that extent, I’m going to start to try and monetize my photography. In the next month, I’m going to launch the following advertising based sites:

  • A website for travel themed wallpapers.
  • A website for travel MySpace themes
  • A website for travel iPhone wallpapers
  • A site to sell high quality prints of my photos

The first three sites are really the same thing populated with slightly different content.

The print sales site I’ll probably run through SumgMug or something like that.

Based on similar sites I’ve seen, I’m shooting to make $5,000 from online ads in 2008. Most of the traffic I’m expecting to be driven from Google.

I am also going to be paying for a custom WordPress theme or my main site. There are several design elements which I think are unique to a site like mine I want to integrate:

  • I’d like to put my Google Map front and center in the site header. The best example I’ve seen of that is on Hitch50.com. The rest of the site sort of sucks, but the map integration is sort of clever. I think using a map in the header not only neat graphically, but it is functional as well.
  • I want to integrate the photo of the day more prominently. I don’t know how, but it has become one of the most popular features on the site
  • The country navigation is getting to long and unwieldy. I’d like to make the country lists collapsable by continent.
  • I’d eventually like to integrate advertising into the site, but I want to be very subtle about how I do it. I really don’t want to turn it into a NASCAR page. The photo download pages can go full blown NASCAR, but the main site I’d rather focus on increasing traffic.

Those are my goals for the next 30 days.

Next post I’ll go over my traffic history for Everything-Everywhere, my strategy for increasing traffic, and my goals for the next 3-6 months.