What I Learned From My First Year of Blogging

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Published February 4, 2014 by Brad Knutson
One Year of Blogging

Yesterday marked the 1 year anniversary of the launch of this blog. It’s been an interesting journey to say the least.

I should preface this post by saying that this isn’t really my “first” year of blogging. I’ve blogged before, but never for a solid year, and never with so much of my own resources invested. I create a WordPress.com blog years ago to blog about music. A few years later I started blogging about Fantasy Baseball on Blogspot. I even blogged about food for a short while… I’ve been all over the map. One detail always remained the same, however; I always ended up quitting or giving up a handful of months in.

This time is different. I’m older, wiser, and more dedicated. This is my career now. I have my own time and money invested into this, so it’s something I’m willing to stick with.

Still, I’m proud of myself for sticking it out.

I knew that starting out blogging from scratch would be difficult going in. I knew that I had failed before, and that countless bloggers had failed before me. So I put a lot of effort into it. I built this site from scratch, and I started writing. It’s been a solid year now, and I am pleased and shocked with the results.

To mark the one year anniversary of this site, I want to share with you what I’ve learned to this point.

First…A Little Bit of Data

Before I dive in, I wanted to share some data about my blog and other numbers.

365 Days
162 Blog Posts 1 Post / 2.25 Days Avg.

Over the course of a year, there was times where I blogged day after day (sometimes even multiple times in a day), and other times when I went nearly two weeks without writing a post. I’m impressed with myself that it ended up averaging out to a little over 2 days for every post. Not bad for someone who is blogging part time, right?

Traffic Data
81,107 Unique Visitors 131,593 Pageviews
75,918 Search Visits 9,126 Referral Visits
5,305 Social Visits

One Year Traffic

The one problem my blog has is that the vast majority of my traffic comes from search engines. I don’t get a ton of social media traffic or referral traffic. In fact, 80% of my traffic comes from search engines, to the tune of about 76,000 visits. If something were to happen to my search rankings, my traffic would suffer in a major way. That is definitely something I plan on working on in year two.

Business
24 Leads Through Contact Form 12 New Clients

Without even trying, I actually received numerous inquiries regarding my consulting services. After speaking to each potential customer, and working out their budget, I was able to get a total of a dozen new clients. That might not sound like much, but I think it’s a pretty good number considering I really didn’t market myself that thoroughly.

Social Media
1,985 Twitter Followers 8,166 Google+ Followers
1,762 Twitter Visits 474 Google+ Visits

I focus most of my social media efforts on Twitter and Google+. I realize that there is a huge market on Facebook, but I’ve just grown tired of the platform. I haven’t really taken a meaningful stab at Linkedin yet, and Pinterest just isn’t right for my niche.

I have definitely had mixed results with Twitter and Google+. My following on Twitter seems to be much more active and inclined to click on my links, while Google+ seems to be a large group of people (or bots…hopefully not) that don’t necessarily seem interesting in what I’m posting.

Search Ranking Factors
Moz Domain Authority 28 Domain MozRank 4.15
42 Linking Root Domains 473 Total Links

Data from OpenSiteExplorer.

These numbers aren’t terribly impressive I must admit. The thing is, for this blog – link building was never a priority. Every single link I earned was truly organic in every sense of the word. That’s something I’m proud of, low ranking factors or not.

When I look at these numbers with that perspective in mind, I’m kind of impressed that I managed to build over a link per day. I also just checked the “Just Discovered” links and there are 40+ links from 30+ new root domains that will be in Moz’s next OpenSiteExplorer index.

Most Popular Posts
CSS3 Rollover Social Media Icons Published on February 24, 2013 27,517 Pageviews
Display Loading Image While Page Loads Published on April 15, 2013 14,132 Pageviews
CSS Only Accordion Published on June 12, 2013 3,606 Pageviews
Smooth Scrolling to Anchor with jQuery Published on August 20, 2013 3,351 Pageviews
Creating a Popup Email Subscription Form with jQuery Published on July 13, 2013 3,287 Pageviews
CSS Only Responsive Carousel Published on September 27, 2013 3,173 Pageviews
Fade One Image Into Another Published on March 11, 2013 2,258 Pageviews
Creating a CSS Only Pinterest-Style Masonry Layout Published on October 7, 2013 2,226 Pageviews
CSS Sliding Underline Published on August 7, 2013 2,106 Pageviews

I was amazed that my best performing post is also one of my oldest. I also noticed a trend that my posts about web design and development (mostly CSS) get by far the most attention. I post a lot about marketing on my blog, but as you might expect, that is a much more competitive niche for traffic, which is why those numbers are lower.

In the last year, a few of my posts made waves on social media – thanks to a few industry influencers. First, in May I published What Will SEO Look Like in 5 Years?. This post was tweeted over 100 times, and one of them was from a particularly power Twitter account.

At the time of this tweet, Brian Clark was going by the Twitter name CopyBlogger, a widely known industry authority on content, marketing, and more. Since then, Brian has separated himself from the brand, which is why the tweet now displays from his personal account. From Brian’s tweet alone my post got 207 hits alone. My own tweets only send a handful of visitors, so it’s amazing to see what one influencer can do with one tweet.

3 months after that, I wrote an article about Yelp: Beyond the Listing, which got tweeted out by the CEO of Yelp, Jeremy Stoppelman.

About 2 months later, I wrote an article titled 15 Free SEO Tools For Evaluating Your Clients. This article got tweeted out by Moz.

Moz may have tweeted out the link because I mentioned a few of their tools, but that’s besides the point. Their tweet sent a total of 249 visitors to my site.

Strangely enough, my marketing posts have done much better on social media than my web design posts (which I’ve already established have dominated marketing posts as far as search traffic goes). It’s an interesting result for sure, and one I’ll have to use to my advantage in the coming year.

So What Have I Learned?

That’s enough data for now, what about what I learned through this process?

Content Really Is King

I’ve said it before, and I know it’s cliché, but it’s true. Content is king. I put a lot of time into creating content this past year – well over 300 hours – and it’s paid off. I never thought that I would get my writing in front of 80,000+ faces in my wildest dreams.

Further proof that content is where it’s at is shown by comparing this domain to my other successful website, ShareTally.co.

bradsknutson.com sharetally.co
Moz Domain Authority 28 30
Organic Search Traffic for December, 2013 12,784 Visits 379

Even though ShareTally has by far more links, a higher Domain Authority, and on paper looks like a more powerful domain – it got outperformed in generating search traffic…by a lot. This is because ranking factors great guidelines to live by, but if you don’t have content, you won’t rank, and you won’t get search traffic. My posts, while individually many might not be very impressive, collectively they generate hundreds of organic visitors every day.

ShareTally has literally no content, so in fairness I have to mention that it does get more branded search traffic than this site. It’s the long tail keywords that account for the large difference between the two sites.

My Most Successful Content Wasn’t What I Thought It Would Be

It still surprises me every single day when I look through my analytics reports to see what my most popular content is. I never imagined that my “CSS Social Media Icons” post would be the overwhelming favorite. To date, 211 comments have been made on the post (admittedly a bunch are my replies), and it’s picked up a bunch of links. I only vaguely remember writing the post, and never thought it would generate nearly 30,000 visitors to my site in the coming year.

It just goes to show you that what you consider good content and what the world considers good content isn’t always the same thing. I’ve written posts before that I’ve poured hours and days into, proofread and rewritten, and so on and so forth. It’s painful to admit, but these posts don’t always land with my audience, which is why they aren’t in my top 10. I can honestly say that of my personal favorite 10 posts I’ve written this past year, not a single one of them is in my top 10 traffic generating posts. Such is life, I suppose.

More Posts Quality Content Means More Traffic

It’s pretty obvious to me that the more I write, the more traffic my site brings in. I’m not the only one that has come to this conclusion.

The bigger lesson I’ve learned, however, is that I could create all the content in the world, but unless it’s useful to people, it’s not going to gain much traction. In the past, I have made the mistake of publishing content just to publish content. Looking at the analytics, the traffic generated doesn’t warrant the effort I put into making some of those lower quality posts, so why even bother? When I write genuinely useful posts, they get the attention they deserve and my effort pays off – it’s an almost certainty. It might not take off right away, but eventually someone will find it through search, and eventually someone will link to it.

I’ve actually already put this mindset to work when I write. I only publish a post or two a week now (unless I’m feeling ambitious) but I try to make them as high quality as possible. No more “How to Add a Facebook Like Button To Your Site” posts for me!

I Hate The Design of This Site

I hate it. I hate my own design. I loved it when I first created it, but now I can’t stand looking at it. I cringe a little every time I see it. This just means that in the coming year I’ll have to devote a little time for a complete redesign, top to bottom. That actually excites me a little, because it will probably spawn a bunch of CSS related posts along the way.

*Note: Since I wrote this post, I actually redesigned the site. So this previous section is sort of null and void. Don’t worry, it won’t be long before I grow tired of this design.

I’m Not An Authority On Anything and I’m My Own Harshest Critic

I love writing on this blog about everything from web design to social media to marketing. I would like to think that I know a lot about a bunch of web-related subjects, and I’m always happy to share that information with the rest of the world. After spending a year writing and reading what others have written, I’ve come to the realization that I still know very little.

“The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” – Aristotle

I remind myself of this quote all the time. It holds true in my daily life. The more I learn, the more I feel like I know nothing. I suppose that keeps me on my toes and forces me to be constantly learning. I like to think of this as a good thing, as opposed to a negative.

I’ve also become the harshest critic of my own work. Just like I briefly mentioned above, I hate the design of this site. It’s not uncommon for me to spend hours writing an article, publish it, and be not be happy with my work. Maybe it’s the perfectionist in me, or maybe I’m just crazy. I just hope that I can channel it and produce better work because of it.

Here’s to another year of blogging!

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Founder at Inbounderish
Brad Knutson is a Web Developer in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. He has experience working with WordPress and Drupal, and also has an interest in SEO and Inbound Marketing.

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One thought on “What I Learned From My First Year of Blogging

  1. Katie Rose

    I think you’re being too modest, those numbers are very impressive! I know first hand how difficult it is to keep up blogging over the course of the year – especially when “blogging” isn’t your full time job and is more of a hobby. Congrats on your first successful year, and good luck in the years to come!

    Reply

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