20 Lessons Learned after One Month of Blogging
SchemaByte (SB) was released to the search engines a little less than a month ago. As the sites will tell you and as I expected, I’ve gotten some things wrong and other things right in this first month. In this post, I’ll go over the lessons learned, the traffic numbers, and I’ll also let you know the changes planned for schemabyte.com this next month.
Twenty Lessons Learned
I know full well that most of my readers won’t read the full details of what’s gone down. That’s okay, here’s the lessons learned up front for you guys. Also, and my apologies, but four of the twenty lessons learned around are about Reddit because I knew absolutely nothing about it until a week ago and I’ve gotten a significant amount of traffic from that social network. Finally, I’ve include specific statistics below.
- Overview Lesson When you first start out, blogging is operating in a void. Nobody knows who you are and nobody will care right away, and that’s to be expected. I wrote an article about dealing with lack of feedback partly because of that void and partly because of a particularly unhelpful client in my consulting business.
- Overview Lesson Blogging is not publishing a newspaper. Maybe advertising will work in that model, but blogging is about community engagement. Just talking won’t do a thing, you have to honestly care and contribute to the online groups.
- Overview Lesson You won’t get it right out of the gate. Changing things, like parts of your design or deleting posts that were a bad idea in hindsight, is part of growth. My todo list for this next month is at the end of this article, if you’re interested.
- Don’t worry about the search engines as long as you’re showing up in them; SEO games won’t help you out until you have more content, if then.
- Tell your family and friends about your site. At least when you’re beginning, their visits are a significant portion of your growth.
- Reddit can give you a very impressive traffic surge, but it doesn’t seem to be a very interested audience.
- You can’t use Reddit to promote your site in a straightforward manner. You can only join Reddit and try to be a participant, and if they like you, you might get some traffic.
- When participating in Reddit, only submit links that are a day or two old at most.
- Don’t take Reddit too seriously, it’s a serious time consumer with dubious benefits and, because of the way people act on there and the clunky interface, it’s not all that enjoyable.
- Stick with the social network you like the best most of the time (for me that’s Twitter), because social media takes a lot of time and you can’t be “really” active in all of them unless you’re a full-time blogger (and even then, I’m not so sure). Besides, you’re supposed to be having fun here.
- StumbleUpon and Pinterest are great fun but probably won’t bump your traffic significantly, at least at first. Still, if you find them fun, they could turn into something for you too, so you should do it. These are not big consumers of time, so it wouldn’t take much to be worth it.
- Facebook and Google+, as Twitter, don’t send people your way unless you’re active on those networks. Simply posting content is not enough, although I’ll continue to do so in order to have a well-established account if and when I spend the time to be social there.
- Perhaps Quora can help you out, but since I answered multiple questions and nary a person dropped by to check me out, I think it’s not worth the time.
- Don’t bother commenting on general websites or news sites. Instead, focus on contributing to sites that say things the same kind of people you’re seeking are interested in, because those visitors are more likely to check you out because of your awesome comments.
- Blog and website directories are for the most part a giant waste of time… and I mean giant, because it takes quite a bit of time to submit again and again, the directories for the most part take a long time to approve you, and once they approve you there’s not traffic from it because everybody and their brother is listed on those sites.
- The only directories worth your time are the ones that have a community, and only then if you’re going to participate in that community.
- Being part of a community of bloggers is great, exposes you to new ideas, and keeps you motivated.
- Forums are fantastic. Whether you’re learning about something or helping educate people about it, forums can be full of passion, give you ideas of things to write about, and provide real and substantive feedback which, at least for me and my first month, was pretty difficult to come by.
- Forums generate traffic with the least amount of time spent, so from a cold-hearted success standpoint, they are the best return on investment you can get.
- Your site’s traffic growth directly corresponds to your posting. Every time I post, I get a surge of traffic, and then it drops off day by day until I put out new content.
A Recap: How SchemaByte Started
This site disabled its cloaking device on the 13th of October, a bit more than four weeks ago. It had a cloaking device to start with – that is, .htaccess was directing search engines to not index the site – as I worked up a few of my preliminary posts so that you, my dear readers, would not come to a site with nothing on it. That was a good decision, since even with posts I’ve struggled to find the right ways to find people who are interested in preparedness both in their personal lives, their careers, in the standard prepping stockpiling approach, and in activism against the corruption done by big business and government. I’m not even saying I have found those ways at this point, although I have met some great preppers and some great bloggers along the way and those relationships are well worth this initial floundering.
So, to be clear, SB came online on 10/13, and these lessons learned cover 10/11 – 11/10/2012. Also, to be fair, I should note that I spend most of my time consulting and with my family; SB therefore typically only gets updated on the weekend. However, I do try to spend an hour a day keeping current, posting on other sites, and interacting with folks as SchemaByte – and that’s been enjoyable and rewarding.
All statistics below regard site visits, not unique visitors. Also, I have not mentioned paper.li below – that’s the weekly paper that comes out regarding this site – because it’s not clear how people are getting to the paper in the first place. Presumably, though, it’s mostly from social media since I let people know that way when it’s out.
One Month of Blogging: Search Engines and Direct Traffic
I got plenty of traffic from Google (30.73% of my overall month one visits) and plenty of direct traffic (24.02% of my month one visits), for a grand total of about 54.75% of my monthly visits in this category. Curiously, nothing from the other search engines, which I’ll have to look into this month. I’m sure quite a bit of that direct traffic is me, of course, but I did also tell my friends and family to check it out. I discontinued any SEO or keyword research for Google and haven’t done any other advertising that might lead to direct traffic.
Nonetheless, as the referrals rank up, the search engine results and direct traffic are following the same general pattern. Surges after site updates, with a baseline that’s steadily increasing from week to week. Because of that, I don’t feel the need to optimize or target specific areas, although I did try at first. If the trend of the search engines results paralleling the referral results continues, then logically by focusing on the referrals I can expect to reach a wider audience through the search engines too. Frankly, I don’t think I have enough content on the site at this point to merit deep-diving into the SEO world anyway; I intuitively feel that I need to gain authority by having more content along the same veins as the stuff I’ve put out to this point in order to rank more highly in the search results. In other words, it’ll be at least a few months before I worry about search engine rankings based on what I’ve been seeing.
One Month of Blogging: Lessons Learned about Social Media
All told, about 20.96% of my first month’s visits came from social media, and over half of that came from an unexpected surge from Reddit, which I joined just this last week.
By nature, I’m a Twitterhead. It feels freer and simpler than the other social networks; there’s no elaborate wall pages or multiple statuses or comment threads. Find a thread with a hash tag, and you find people who are interested in what you’re interested in, and that’s that. So I’ve been on Twitter since day one, and that’s the second top social media referrer for this site in its first month.
- Reddit: 11.73% of my month one traffic came from this social network. Those Reddit folk don’t seem to actually stay and look around on the site or anything, though… they surf in, scan the page, and leave. They don’t even comment in Reddit on the pages I post for this site, although I did get some conversation about links to other sites. On top of that, Reddit people regard self-promotion as spam, and so I’m not clear if this is going to work out at all. Their guidelines say if more than 10% of your posts are for your site, then you’re almost definitely a spammer. I can understand where they’re coming from though, so I’m going to give it the old college try and try to be an active participant and contributor of links to other sites. My other frustration with Reddit is that there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to tell if people responded to you, and you don’t get email notifications. Apparently, you’re expected to click into every item you’ve posted to see if anyone has anything to say to you – but who can tell, it’s not a cleanly organized site and a lot of the categories seem duplicative. I’m still definitely a Reddit newbie.
- Twitter: 5.05% of my month one traffic came this social network. Since I’m most active there that makes good clean sense, although I think I’m getting more out of the people I follow on Twitter than people who follow me are getting from me. They want more specific, actionable articles, I think? Anyway, that’s the vibe I get.
- StumbleUpon: 1.96% of my month one traffic came from this social network. This is great clean fun, “stumbling” about and finding new and old articles at random in specific areas. Unfortunately, though, it’s not so good for current events and despite a decent amount of stumbling I haven’t managed to get any followers there. It’s alright though; since it’s an enjoyable thing to do if you’ve got a spare 10 minutes, I’ll keep going and hope that perhaps, as I grow, the other Stumblers will stumble across this site more often and like what they see.
- Pinterest: 1.12% of my month one traffic came from this social network’s two domains, and like StumbleUpon using this network is enjoyable so I’m going to keep on keeping on and see if perhaps the other Pinners start feeling the love. Either way, though, it’s a great way to collect images from throughout the Internet and has the curious property of having your own profile be able to inspire you – if you collect images of things that inspire you.
- Tumblr: 0.84% of my traffic came from this social network. This is my bad though; I keep forgetting to post things there and certainly haven’t interacted with the Tumblr folks. Bumping this up is definitely going onto my month two list, I can’t say I’ve given it a fair shake at this point.
- Facebook: 0.28% of my month one traffic came from this social network. That’s right – that’s one person. I’ve been diligent about posting all sorts of links and good stuff to Facebook, but I wasn’t doing anything else on FB. This is another failure on my part… I need to post links on other people’s walls and interact with folks on FB if I’m going to get anywhere with it.
So what happened with Google+? I’m not sure, but I suspect it’s the same thing as Facebook. I’ve just been posting things to Google+ without doing much interacting on there, so I’ve been wasting my time (well, unless I start being more active on there, at least I’ll not have an empty account if I do start getting into people’s circles).
I also didn’t see any love from Quora, although I started participating there. Unlike the others, though, I think this is a failure because I actually spent more time on Quora than most other networks besides Twitter, yet still nothing, so I’m abandoning Quora for the time being.
One Month of Blogging: Individual Website Referrals
Referrals, my friends, are awesome. That’s when another site goes on and sends users your way, and my primary way of doing so is by making comments that are (as I see it) valuable and pertinent. I won’t break down my specific referrals for the most part, but a giant shout-out goes to truthistreason.net – heads and shoulders above the other referring private sites, and I’m very grateful for it. Referrals from sites that were not listing sites or social media accounted for about 12.57% of my month one traffic.
The key thing I’ve learned about participating on other, individual, websites is that there’s no point in participating on general topic websites that include a thing or two you might be interested in. All the interested people who’ve come to SchemaByte as a referral have come from sites that are specifically focused in on preparedness, activism, or technical aspects of things like firearms, etc. I posted advice on news site, specifically, that was a waste of time. People on the social networks are interested in recent, relevant news items you bring to them, but the news sites themselves are not worth commenting on.
One Month of Blogging: Lessons Learned about Blog & Website Directories
I wrote a week-one update, since deleted, covering the blog directories that I submitted the site to. I did it both manually for a large number of the recommended sites described by other websites and through a couple of the mass submission engines. There’s a couple of blog directories I’ll mention that were worth the effort, but for the most part submitting your site to general blog lists and website directories is a waste of time, and without any sort of qualification the mass submission tools are definitely not helpful. If you’re just starting out as you read this, just skip all that. I got zero traffic from all of the mass submissions and from more than 90% of the manual submissions. All told, traffic from directories accounted for just 6.15% of my first month visitors.
Three directories did turn out to be worth the effort:
- BlogCatalog: 3.63% of my month one traffic came from this listing site. On top of that, it’s a tight community over there and I’ve been privileged to have some fun discussions with the bloggers on that site. BC is definitely worth your time.
- OnTopList: 1.96% of my month one traffic came from this listing site. It’s sort of an odd experience; you list your site and then can put in new articles (most of them on that site seem to be spammy) for more “points”, but it’s not clear to me what good the points are. Presumably, they make your site rank higher in the list, but without a quality control mechanism it seems to have spun out of control? I’m iffy on whether or not you should join this site too, but I’m going to continue just to see if I can get that 2% a bit higher.
- Technorati: 0.56% of my month one traffic came from this listing site. This site has been a true frustration for me. Joining was quick and easy, but despite multiple support tickets I’m unable to get my profile picture updated or have my blog posts be listed. I’m not the only one, there’s quite a few folks in the support center trying to get their accounts fixed up with these two things. When asking for support, you’ll be first told to try another browser or clear your cache, then be told the team has been informed and is looking into it. For about two weeks now, “the team” has failed to do anything about it and, when I ask for updates, I just get the “they’re still looking into it” feedback. Not to rant, but remember I have been a web developer for over a decade; both image uploads and RSS feeds are easy stuff. Big ol’ #WTH for the Technorati. Of course, they’re supposed to be a great source of traffic, but the little traffic I’ve gotten has been because of interacting in discussions on that site, so I’m clearly missing out.
And that’s it. I managed to get listed in quite a few other directory sites, but it doesn’t mean anything – no traffic came from them. Nobody’s reading the other sites as far as I can tell, so don’t waste a day submitting to all of them. I will keep pursuing a list with alltop.com, but that’s mostly because, like Technorati, I get the sense from other websites that it’s well worth the time once I can get it done.
One Month of Blogging: Forums
The two forum sites I’ve been participating in are survivalistboards.com and americanpreppersnetwork.net. Considering I haven’t spent enough time there and have participated in two threads (maybe) on each, the 1.68% and .56%, respectively, are a quite respectable 2.24% in sum. On top of that, but I learned a thing or two from those forums, so I massively underutilized them. And, I’m not participating in forums for the other aspects of the site (like saving money or starting businesses).
In sum, despite their lowest ranking in month one, forums seems to be, tentatively, the best return on invested time and are awesome just for learning and getting ideas. For those reasons, forums are a high priority in month two.
Month Two List
This is in order of priority. By all means, if you have more ideas, drop me a comment and I’ll be glad for the help!
- More awesome articles. Come on, of course that’s number one.
- Find forums for the other aspects of the site (besides straight prepping, I’m set there).
- Check out Bing and Yahoo to see if the lack of traffic can be remedied.
- Keep on keeping on with Reddit, Twitter, StumbleUpon, and Pinterest.
- Keep on keeping on with other sites in my areas.
- Spend more time participating in forums.
- Spend more time on Tumblr.
- Keep posting to Facebook, Google+, and Delicious, but don’t spend more time on those networks. I only have so much time for blogging, picking my battles.
- Aesthetic and Functional Updates
- New home page. I think my current home page doesn’t showcase my posts properly, and on top of that the current logo (my mug) is more appropriate for the social networks than it is for my site. Hopefully I’ll get this done over Thanksgiving.
- Sidebar Rearrangement. My current sidebar is cluttered and not very usable. I’m starting to realize that folks don’t want the sidebar to be ornamental and full of asides; if it’s not immediately helpful it’ll be removed or put to the footer.
- Related Items Fix. The related items are currently showing recent posts from the current category, its children, and its parent. I’ll be changing this so only items in the current category are shown first, then only items in the child categories shown second, and going to the parent only if there’s room in the eight slots still open.
- Comments Fix. The comments box has text far too small, and might be one reason why people are not commenting much. A quickie, just bumping up the font size.
- PrettyPhoto Fix. I’m not sure I’ll have time for this, but on mobile devices the lightbox that opens for images isn’t properly centered. This seems to be something wrong with the PrettyPhoto codebase; I won’t know until I look into it.
- Do a month two update. You know, this is a new series. Didn’t I mention that?
Just Getting Started?
Here’s some other interesting articles you might want to read if you’re just getting started.
- 101 Blog Tips I Learned in 2006 – dailyblogtips.com
- 10 Lessons Learned from First Month of Blogging – nopassiveincome.com
- Your Alexa rating – is it really that important? – wahm.com
- Banned From Reddit – Come Back in an Hour – markewbie.hubpages.com
- How to increase your website traffic – Ultimate Guide – dedoimedo.com
and you must link back if you use it elsewhere.