It was one year ago I published my first post here on eCommerceFuel. Looking back, I’m amazed at how the blog and community have grown in just 12 short months.
In this post I want to share traffic and analytic stats and the marketing strategies I’ve used, and let you know what’s in store for the blog in the coming year. Most importantly, I want to hear from YOU about what you’d like to see in the future!
My Amazing Readers
I have to start by saying thank you for your incredible support! I honestly couldn’t ask for better readers than you guys. It’s so much easier to feel motivated and inspired to write when you know people are engaged. Nearly 1,000 comments appear on the blog, and I’ve had the chance to chat with more than 1,400 of you via email. Awesome!
It’s been fascinating talking with so many different types of people, from a helicopter pilot in Brazil preparing to launch his first store to a Silicon Valley tech mogul looking for a way out of the rat race. So again, thank you for commenting, sharing and reaching out to me this past year — I couldn’t have done this without your support.
Traffic and Analytics
I love it when people share their analytics and traffic data, so I’m dishing some of mine. The stats below are for the eCommerceFuel blog between April 15, 2012 and April 14, 2013.
Top Traffic Sources
- Direct Traffic – My top traffic source was direct traffic, including visits from links in my eBook, people typing the address into their browsers and email visits.
- Shopify.com – Traffic from the guest posts I’ve written for the Shopify blog were the third largest traffic source.
- News.ycombinator.com – This is the address for Hacker News, a popular site for programmers and other techies. I had a few articles hit the front page and I left a number of comments on threads that generated decent traffic.
- Reddit.com – Most of this traffic came from a popular AMA (Ask Me Anything) I did that generated some exposure. I answered 100+ questions from the Reddit community, and the AMA was one of the top submissions in the eCommerce subreddit for quite a while.
- Ecommerce.shopify.com – Traffic from “The Ultimate Guide to Drop Shipping,” a guide I wrote with Mark Hayes from Shopify that was recently released.
Growth in Organic Google Traffic
It always takes a while for organic traffic from Google to ramp up, and that’s definitely been the case with eCommerceFuel. The blog generally receives between 150 and 200 daily organic visits from Google, which is definitely on the low side for sites I’ve launched at the one-year point.
The reason? I think it’s because I don’t publish that frequently and I have a limited number of pages to rank for. Other eCommerce sites I’ve launched have had 300+ pages to rank for at the one-year point. This blog has fewer than 50. As I continue to publish more content — with an emphasis on targeting keyword phrases for each post — I expect to see organic traffic expand.
Top Countries of Readership
(Interactive world map courtesy of SimpleMaps.com.)
Predictably, my native United States is at the top. But it’s surprising to see Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines in the top 15 as well!
Subscribers and Content Stats
- Total Subscribers: 8,554
- People Who Unsubscribed: 988
- Number of Posts Written: 31
- Number of Comments: 982
- Facebook Followers: 716
- Twitter Followers: 1,149
- Most Popular Post:
Detailing the entire process of how I marketed eCommerceFuel would be an involved story, one I may save for another post. But I do want to give you an idea of how I marketed the blog and how much time I dedicated to it.
The eBook Strategy
Starting a blog from scratch is difficult because no one knows or trusts you. I decided to write the eBook “Profitable eCommerce” to build credibility and to create something people would naturally share. I probably could have sold the eBook, but by giving it away I was able to generate more exposure.
Looking back at the traffic stats, you can see that my primary traffic source is direct traffic. I’d bet that at least half of that traffic comes from links in the shared eBook.
I decided to write long-form, in-depth content to provide as much value as possible. Because these posts often take me 10+ hours to write, I couldn’t post them on a weekly basis. I decided to focus on quality over quantity, and I think that’s been a good decision in terms of people sharing my content.
Writing good content is one thing, but getting it into the hands of others is quite another! I knew early on that I’d need to do some heavy guest posting to build authority with Google, get noticed by the eCommerce community and drive traffic to the site. So after my eBook was live and I’d written a handful of decent posts, I started reaching out to as many people as possible.
I wrote testimonial posts for WPEngine and Rackspace about their great hosting. I pitched bloggers on guest pieces and wrote high-quality posts for their sites. Once I started getting a little traction, I agreed to any interview request I received. Finally, I stalked the author of the Shopify blog and convinced him to let me guest post regularly for the site.
Connecting Personally with Readers
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve chatted with more than 1,400 readers via email. I asked you to tell me a bit about yourselves and what you’re hoping to get out of the blog. I’d estimate that about 15% of you replied and, up until recently, I made it a priority to personally reply to every single reader email.
This took a tremendous amount of time, but it allowed me to make personal connections with so many of you. I truly believe that building those personal relationships with readers has been a key component of the blog’s success and the high level of reader engagement. I had to discontinue this practice for a few months due to a time-sensitive project, but I’m hoping to reinstate it in the near future.
Leaving High-Value Comments
Blog commenting as we typically think of it (plastering generic comments on thousands of blogs) is a horrible strategy for marketing. When done correctly, however, it can be a powerful way to generate targeted traffic and leads.
When looking to drive traffic via comments, I look for two things:
- A site with a decent level of traffic
- A post on a topic I can speak to authoritatively
The mistake most people make is leaving a link in their comment before they establish any credibility. Instead, you should first write an in-depth comment that showcases your knowledge and expertise on the topic. Only after you’ve done this should you include an on-topic link to some of your own content.
I’ll often spend 30 minutes or more crafting a valuable comment for a blog post, and then I’ll link to one of my related articles at the end. Not all of them generate substantial click-throughs, but many have generated hundreds of visits to my blog from highly engaged readers. Best of all, your comment doesn’t look spammy and should remain permanently to drive ongoing traffic.
Providing an Incentive to Follow Socially
To help build my followings on social media, I give away a free 1-on-1 coaching session each month to a follower on Facebook or Twitter. Not only has it helped boost my audiences on both platforms, it’s also a great way to connect with readers and helps me understand what issues people are struggling with.
The Time Involved
One of the most important things I’ve learned is how important it is to build early momentum with a new venture. It takes a lot of effort to get a site launched and to start seeing traffic. If you get distracted and try to ramp up a different project before building initial momentum, your chances of success decrease significantly. It’s too easy to get discouraged, and you’re less likely to reach the tipping point where your business starts growing organically.
For the first six months eCommerceFuel was live, it was the primary project I was working on. That’s not to say I was 100% focused on it for eight hours a day — I wasn’t. I had operational issues pop up with my other businesses, and I had other items to deal with occasionally. But I wasn’t trying to start another business at the same time, so most of my time was going toward the eCommerceFuel community.
Once I got past that six-month period and starting seeing substantial organic growth, I let off the gas pedal a bit. The last six months have been a combination of working on the blog and my eCommerce stores.
This past year has been amazing, but I’m really looking forward to taking eCommerceFuel to the next level in the coming year. Here’s what I have planned:
Launching a Podcast
In June, I’ll finally be launching the eCommerceFuel podcast. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while but have had to bump back due to other projects and obligations. I love doing long-form interviews and think they’re one of the best ways to learn from experienced entrepreneurs, but I’m not sure video is the best way to deliver this content. A podcast offers the perfect medium for interviews and allows for all sorts of options I’m excited about exploring.
Not many people know that back in my college days I had my own radio show at the school’s station playing funk music at 3 a.m. (can you tell how awesome I was?!). I’ve always loved the microphone, and I’m really looking forward to kicking off the podcast in June!
Increasing the Publishing Frequency
I enjoy writing long-form pieces, but due to other projects, I’ve only been able to post once every few weeks. That will be changing. Starting in June, I’ll be posting on a much more regular schedule.
The eCommerceFuel blog and community will be a focus of mine in the coming year, and I’m excited to have the bandwidth to publish on a more frequent basis.
Aside from a few tasteful affiliate links and a quick-start guide I wrote by request, I’ve largely kept the blog product- and sales-pitch-free. Before selling anything, I thought it was crucial to offer a lot of value for free, earn your trust and prove that I had some experience in the field.
I get numerous emails each week asking if I offer paid consulting (I don’t) or seeking recommendations on training and/or inquiring if I offer any in-depth training products. So earlier this year I decided to create something for readers who wanted something more in-depth than what’s offered on the blog.
Over the last several months, I’ve been working on what is some of the best material I’ve ever created. It’s the training course I wish I would have had when I got started, and I’m really proud of how it’s shaping up. It’s not quite ready for prime-time, but you’ll be hearing more about it come May. Stay tuned!
What Would You Like to See Next Year?
I’d love your thoughts on how I can make eCommerceFuel better in the coming year. What do you want to see more of? What could I add that’s missing? Where could I improve? I’d genuinely appreciate hearing your thoughts in the comments below.
Thanks again for such a great year! I couldn’t have done it without you.
Post photo credit.