Several months ago I wrote why I quit blogging, and how that decision was a money-maker for me. However, I kept feeling the pull to give blogging one more try.
I started an experiment in early March to find out once and for all if the hype is true — would blogging on a consistent basis really drive more traffic to my site and grow my email list?
Sure, consistent publishing works for others, but will it really work for me?
What follows are three hypotheses I formed before starting this experiment, the results from a month’s-worth of data gathering, and 3 surprises.
I intentionally limited the scope of this experiment to my blog. I did not intend to increase my post frequency on Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media outlet.
This is simply limited to my blog and its current subscribers.
[shareable cite=”Jason R Owens”]Can I find the right workflow and/or discipline to publish on my blog for 30 days?[/shareable]
Something else that is important to note here is that I am focusing on the act of publishing alone. I’m not paying any particular attention to SEO or any type of optimization techniques whatsoever.
I simply want to see if I can get in the habit of generating 12 blog articles a month.
If I find the experiment is successful over the first 30 days, I’ll work in additional things such as SEO in the future.
Hypothesis 1 – I will lose the majority of my subscribers
I have to admit, I entered this experiment as more of a pessimist than an optimist.
I felt that emailing my existing list multiple times during the week would only alienate people, causing them to complain or unsubscribe.
Reality – I lost only 7 subscribers.
Hypothesis 2 – My open rates will drop to practically nothing
Again, I figured I would be annoying the daylights out of my existing list, so I figured that they would get tired of looking at my emails and not open them.
- The top line (blue-green) shows my open rates. At the very beginning of the month my open rate was just a little above 30% and holds at 25% at the end of the month.
- Red dashed line is what MailChimp reports as being the industry standard (16%) open rate for emails in the education industry.
- The solid blue line on the bottom is my click-through rate, aka CTR.
Reality – Over the course of the month my email open rates only dropped by about 5 percentage points. This was a big surprise to me, and it was very encouraging.
Certainly I have a lot of work to do to increase my click-through rates, but the good news is that it looks like people will stick around for the journey.
Hypothesis 3 – Traffic to my blog will not increase
When I published articles in the past, I might get excited about it for a week or two, but my enthusiasm would then fall away because I wasn’t seeing any real results on my blog.
This is what caused me to form this educated guess about my traffic not increasing. I figured I was just going to see more of the same results I’ve seen in the past.
Before I show you the overall results, let me add the caveat about my paid search traffic in the month before my March experiment.
I really enjoy running Facebook ads, and I ran a few in February.
In the graphic below you can see that in February I had 237 people visit my site from Facebook. You can also see that I ran no ads in March, therefore 0 Paid Search traffic.
The question now becomes: did my frequent publication on my blog make up for the lost traffic from Facebook?
In the image below you can see the big metrics — both Sessions and Users — were down, 26% and 40%, respectively.
Interpretation: Rather than buying traffic through ads, I was able to replace 74% of my traffic (100% – 26%) with non-paid means such as:
- Email (additional 23 sessions vs. prior month)
- Organic reach (additional 71 sessions vs. prior month)
- RSS visitors (additional 29 visits vs. prior month)
- People discovering my site through the Disqus commenting system (additional 38 visits vs. prior month)
As one would expect, I saw significant increases (over 650%) in people clicking through to my site from the emails I had sent.
My RSS readers more than doubled! (170% increase)
People clicking to my site from the Disqus commenting system accounted for gains as well.
Reality — While I lost paid traffic by my own choosing, I added gains in organic reach, email traffic, RSS traffic, and traffic from my Disqus commenting system.
[shareable text=”Regularly publishing to your blog really does improve your results! Click to find out more.”]Regularly publishing to your blog really does improve your results! [/shareable]
Unexpected Bonus #1 – I gained new email subscribers
Several weeks ago I subscribed to a product called OptinMonster.
The idea here is that you can create great opt-in forms for use on your website.
The type of opt-in form that attracted me is what is called an “after-post opt-in”. If you scroll down to the bottom of this email you will see an example of an after-post opt-in form.
When I was taking the stats for this blog post I was blown away to find out that my very first after-post form had already collected three conversions!
I know, I know. The purists out there will tell me that a conversion rate of 2.2% is dismal, and that they are able to get a 98% opt-in rate from people who have been dead for 2 years.
Congratulations to them. I’m just happy to be on the board here.
This is my very first step and my very first success in using an after-post opt-in. I can’t wait to do even more of these in the future.
Unexpected Bonus #2 – Organic traffic to my site more than doubled.
This one caught me by complete surprise.
As I said before, in my earlier attempts at blogging I would get very discouraged because I wasn’t seeing any improvement to my blog’s traffic numbers.
What blew me away is that this month my organic traffic more than doubled.
I’ll reiterate what I mentioned earlier. I made little attempt to optimize these articles to be noticed by a search engine.
In the image below you can see my site traffic has increased by 129%!
With the success here, I’m now even more emboldened to try some SEO tactics in the next 30 to 60 days as I continue this experiment.
Unexpected Bonus #3 – I gained new YouTube subscribers
I mentioned before that my schedule called for creating one video each week.
I post these videos out to my YouTube channel so that YouTube can host the videos, and I also publish links to these videos on my blog.
What surprised me here is that my increased activity on YouTube also drew three more subscribers to my YouTube channel.
My YouTube base is minuscule, and I haven’t been focusing on it for years.
I had five subscribers at the beginning of March, and now I have an additional three that I just added in the past 30 days with zero effort whatsoever on my part to grow my YouTube subscribers.
This is just an extra bonus that happened, and I wasn’t even looking for it.
I had a blast publishing the articles and then collecting the data. My key takeaways are:
- Publishing is a lot of work. It pays to have someone help you.
- Your audience will not abandon you. Just be certain to continue providing content they want.
- I now believe that publishing more frequently actually does grow the organic traffic to my site!
- After-post opt-in forms work. Again, just make certain to provide great content.
- I should add Facebook traffic for specific product-based campaigns.
- I realized unintended gains in my YouTube subscribers.
[reminder]What is your experience with publishing regularly to your blog and/or your email list? Does it work for you? If so, please share![/reminder]