Founder's blog

Lessons learned from The Traffic Spike

Apr 12 2011 :: by Alex
My recent blog post about the Chinese hard drive has attracted HUGE amounts of traffic. It's been featured at TechCrunch, Slashdot, Reddit, StumbleUpon and others. Of course, after being upvoted at HackerNews - my long-time personal favorite.

It was "liked" by 14K (forteen thousand) people on Facebook and retweeted more than 2.5K times. My blog has received about 450 000 visits (and still counting) - thank God I host it at blogger.com, otherwise my server would be dead by now.


But what's in it for me and my startup? Let's have a look at the ups and downs:

Pros


  • Self-esteem and excitement. I'd lie if I didn't say that my ego was flattered. Come on, wouldn't you be happy to get this shitload impressive amount of visitors and mentions?
  • SEO-effect. The blog has attracted hundreds of links. Those links are completely outside of my business's target keywords niche (the most weird ones came from a marijuana-growing forum, German politician's blog and Vietnamese social network)... But I guess I'll still earn some "trust-rank" for my blog.
  • Brand awareness. Hopefully. In Vietnam and Germany, at least.
  • Conversion - I gained some new subscribers and Twitter-followers (read on for the exact numbers)

Cons


  • Low conversion rates. And by "low" I mean "almost zero". Only 15% of the visitors actually checked out some other pages on the blog. Out of 450 000 visitors only 500 people (0.11%) have subscribed to my feed and only 100 (0.03%) have followed me on Twitter. Another 100 (0.03%) visitors cared to view the "about this blog" page and only 400 people (0.08%) have checked my main (non-blog) website so far.

    I'd call this kind of traffic - "carpet bombing" (as opposed to "laser-guided missile"). Still, the SEO effect should not be underestimated.
  • Comment-moderation is exhausting. The Internet is full of idiots has some unrestrained individuals. Every five minutes some Anonymous was posting an aggressive, racist, offensive or meaningless comment. I spent hours removing hundreds of the most awful ones.
  • Productivity drop. You end up checking your blog every half an hour, reviewing stats or the number of retweets. And - moderating comments.

Of course this does not mean that the "viral" approach is dead. You should keep creating great "shareable" content... Just remember that the "viral" traffic converts badly, the bounce-rate is 95%. It won't drive the actual sales. But do concentrate on converting this traffic into RSS or mailing list subscribers instead.

According to this great post by Rob Walling - every traffic source has a half-life and this was a striking illustration. Traffic spikes after being featured at TechCrunch, being upvoted at Reddit, being "Stumbled Upon" or retweeted - are always followed by a decay. And your job is to keep your website prepared to "The Traffic Spike" and make the most of it.

Unfortunately, my blog was completely UNprepared. It didn't even have an "about" page until last week...

Steps to prepare your blog


  • Add the "sharing" widgets to your pages where appropriate. Facebook "like" button, "retweet" button and a couple of bookmarking sites - are a must. You can use a service like addthis.com or add the buttons manually.
  • Optimize your feed: host your feed at feedburner to track your stats, ensure fast delivery and optimized markup. Add "share" and "retweet" buttons to all your RSS feed items. If you use feedburner, go to "Optimize" - "Feed flare" and add Facebook and Declicious. The "retweet" flare is not there by default, you have to paste this line into the "Add new flare" field:
    http://erik.thauvin.net/download/tweetflare.xml
  • Call-to-action in every post: add a "subscribe" link to the bottom of every post of your blog. This includes the RSS feed (your RSS items will get published and republished many many times).
  • Content is king - OK, you must be sick of this one. But, guess what, it's still true!

'Lessons learned from The Traffic Spike' was written by Alex by Alex. CEO, founder


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