Lessons I’ve Learned From 6 Months Of Blogging by @JesseAarone
Note from Adam: I’m very pleased to have Jesse contribute today and while he admits he hasn’t achieved wizardry status yet, his blogging journey has taught him a lot of lessons. In this post Jesse isn’t just sharing his successes with you, but where he went wrong too. This is raw and honest with nothing held back. There are some important lessons to learn from here. Enjoy.
Hey there, my name is Jesse and I’m excited to be writing at Blogging Wizard today!
I too am a blogger – but by no means have I achieved wizardry status! I would even say I’m still in the amateur grasshopper blogging stage.
My personal blog, Mashbout, was created just over 6 months ago.
My first post went live on June 12 and it was about gardening…
Not a great way to start but I guess we have to plant our seeds somewhere (score 2 points for the pun!)
Even in my current elementary state, I figured it would be beneficial for you to see how my blogging seed has begun to sprout.
Here’s what I’m going to show you today:
- An inside look at my Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools search queries
- A clear breakdown of what’s driven traffic to my blog
- A laughable display of what’s driven traffic to my blog
- The ideas behind implementing site features and adding content
- Actionable insights you can do with as you please
And lastly, I’d like to ask for your help at the end.
So here we are; let’s embark on this journey, starting with a 6 month overview of my daily traffic:
I know those first three months look extremely stagnant, but a lot of hard work was going on during this time.
First of all, I was trying to learn basic SEO and inbound marketing from the articles of industry experts such as Rand Fishkin, Neil Patel, and Darren Rowse. I figured if I followed their advice, this blogging thing would be cake.
Right off the bat I messed up.
I created a blog without a goal. I had a purpose, but not a goal.
I pretty much started off by whacking myself in the digital knee. All I knew was I wanted to blog about ‘stuff’.
Thus, Mashbout was born; yes, “your daily mashup of information” – very fitting for a blog without a goal.
But it’s a starting point and it could’ve been much worse.
In fact, by not having a goal, I had the freedom to write about anything I wanted and try out whichever content form the experts were preaching at the time.
So that’s what I did for the first couple months.
- I started paying attention to keywords and used the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin
- I used Google’s Keyword Planner to find low competition phrases with 250-750 est. traffic
- And I experimented with different headlines
Ultimately, I was mashing up everything an internet marketing blogger does in the most royally incorrect fashion. I say it’s royally incorrect because I still had no goal.
Around October, after experimenting with elementary infographics, sub-par reports, and posts like “10 Songs Guaranteed To Wake You Up In The Morning” I found direction; a mid-term goal.
The goal: to attract and create an engaged community.
- To provide valuable and unique social media marketing, blogging, and content marketing articles in long form content and images on a consistent basis.
- To start genuinely participating in other communities as often as I can
- To write in a real voice
- To make sure every article is optimized for at least 3-5 long tail terms
My goal is labeled as mid-term because it will change after a few months. As I’ve discussed with bloggers such as Tim Bonner, what makes a blog successful is determined by our respective values; however, popularity contests aside, there should be monetary values. Right now I don’t feel comfortable monetizing anything on Mashbout as you’ll notice there are zero ads/affiliates, etc. But that, of course, will be a long-term goal if I can achieve this mid-term goal.
I still need to quantify it, such as “100 authentic subscribers, 5k unique visitors/month” but simple growth is what’s on my mind.
I think it’s important to put ourselves in the seats of potential subscribers/readers and see how they find and engage with our content.
This next part is guaranteed to make you laugh.
Curious as to what terms I was garnering the most impressions for, I opened up Webmaster Tools – this was the result:
Yes, I am the king of bacon cats and linkedin buttons.
This is simply the result of basic image optimization.
I’m sure you’re aware; impressions are meaningless metrics without the CTR and clicks to back them up. The only terms on this list that funnel traffic are:
- “social media quotes” with 125 clicks in the past month
- “best marketing blogs” with 107 clicks in the past month
- “inbound marketing blog” with 29 clicks in the past month
Switching over to metrics that matter, here are the top queries for the past month (Dec-Jan):
After optimizing every post for 3-5 longtail phrases, I’ve managed to keep my organic search traffic relatively steady. I’m nowhere near breaking double-digit thousands per month, but I’m noticing a slow and steady growth.
During the last two weeks I published two articles (and a funny picture about guest bloggers) that focused on blogging and resonated well with my tiny network. One of these posts took a more analytical approach to how Matthew Woodward’s blog and Gini Dietrich’s Spin Sucks foster high quality discussions and engagement. Matthew mentioned this post in one of his recent recap articles, sending about 40 referrals to my site. I think those referrals are high quality because his readers, as I’ve studied, are engaged and relevant to my niche.
These are important considerations because traffic sources help segment the quality of visitors.
This is my acquisition for the past month:
For direct traffic, I know a decent amount of the people who visit my blog directly.
Referral traffic is easy to track:
Social media is included (t.co = twitter) in this report so the numbers are higher, but you’ll notice Matthew’s blog mention, my guest articles on SteamFeed, and Stuart’s mention have driven quality, relevant visitors to my site.
I would show you guys my Author stats for guest blogging in Webmaster tools but I found that data to be dramatically false. It had one article suggesting 1,500 referral clicks to my site in the past month, which we know does not match up with the data set above. As much as I’d love to believe Author stats, it’s still in the Labs section, meaning the data is unreliable.
Content & engagement
We’ve covered most of my traffic acquisition, but let’s take a look at what people are actually doing once they’re on Mashbout.
These are my best pages for the past 6 months:
Optimizing the top two posts was fairly simple.
For 10 Songs:
For Make Money:
These top pages are really keeping my blog afloat.
They reel in targeted traffic and satisfy searcher intent. It’s as simple as that.
Adam recently posted an excellent article about marketing a blog from scratch and stresses how our content is our foundation.
He also mentions the importance of frequency, which is something I have yet to achieve. I only blog once or twice a week, but I’m not too worried about quantity yet.
Adam’s notion about reaching out to guest bloggers vs. letting them organically come to you really struck a chord with me.
All of the guest blogging inquires I get are obvious spam. Most of them don’t even use my first name…which is clearly laid it on my blog and email address haha.
I plan to reach out to a few select people to offer opportunities; however, I’m still a bit worried about quality standards.
At any rate, I think I know my site value pretty well:
- Organic search funnels the most traffic, so I just need to keep focusing on those longtails while making sure the theme is relevant to my target communities
- Referral traffic acquisition is steady but still very low. The more I focus on quality and promotion, the higher this will go.
- The Avg. Time on my Pages is almost 3 minutes, which tells me people are actually reading and engaging. If this metric was only 30 seconds, I’d have serious doubts. Fortunately, people seem to appreciate the long-form approach I’ve taken to content.
I believe these are healthy signals, but I know there’s much work to be done. On the guest blogging side, I’ve seen a lot of success. I’m happy to share some of my key insights from that realm.
Relationship building strategies
Actionable relationship strategies:
- Direct tweeting is much more effective after you’ve re-tweed, favorite, and praised the person multiple times. It’s a basic tip, but commonly overlooked. I was able to reach out to some very high profile people in the marketing world via this strategy.
- Use Fiverr to create something meaningful – not fake (you know exactly what I mean by fake lol). For five bucks you can have some create a pretty nice looking image, such as an icon, banner, CTA, avatar, badge, and you can donate this to a target community. I had 3 small icons created for a new guest blogging gig and the site owner was blown away at the initiative. Guest blogging only has a bad connotation when bloggers disconnect from being human. If you treat blog targets as you would a friend, things quickly become mutually beneficial.
- Web tools and services are created every day. I can’t keep up with every new WP plugin or Twitter tool and neither can most people. Also, people are generally afraid to pay for new tools just to discover if it’s valuable to them. That’s why reviews remain one of the most popular content models (in addition to the affiliate benefit). I’ve only written two articles about tools and plugins, but both received a lot of engagement and comments from the creators (and competitors). If you review new tools/plugins, there’s a very high chance they’ll engage with you and become an internet buddy.
Here are some of the reality metrics I’ve learned:
- When a longtail phrase in Google Keyword Planner suggests 600-800 monthly traffic and low comp, the reality is 150-300 and that’s for a collective 3 phrases. So just one low comp, low traffic longtail might only send 50-75 monthly organic per month. Granted, the page is getting a green light from Yoast and you’ve mixed in the related phrases in headers and copy.
- Optimizing for images is generally easier, but the value of that traffic is basically meaningless for two reasons; 1) they are just going to grab the image within Google images and 2) if they do go to your site, they will still just copy/download the image and bounce.
I know my site is nothing impressive and just a blip in the general internet marketing realm – in fact, my subscriber count is almost cringe-worthy:
But I figured you may find value if I disclosed most of the nuts, bolts, and data. Those 10 subscribers engage with me and I view them as friends, not some vanity metric.
I’m confident there are a million things I could be doing better/more efficiently – but maybe you have some ideas!
I’d love to know what’s working for your blog, outreach strategy, or growth campaign.
Hopefully you found value somewhere in this public display of my blog.
I’m happy to answer any questions/provide more information in the comments. Just ask and I’ll follow-up with you
About Jesse Aaron
Jesse Aaron is a professional blogger with a passion for homebrewing! Jesse wishes his blog had more magic and thus has enrolled at Blogwarts (score 3 pun points!)