In August 2010 I have achieved some significant numbers with Fitzroyalty. I’m publishing this information not to promote myself but to show the progress that can be achieved if you are serious about publishing an independent website. Just as I was initially inspired by the Abbotsford blog, it is nice to think that I may provide motivation for others.
Fitzroyalty has published over 2000 posts since May 2006, and it has received over 1,000,000 total hits. For me the most important number is 100,000: Fitzroyalty exceeded 100,000 hits per month for the first time in July 2010. 10% of its total traffic was received in the last 2% of overall period of publication.
This demonstrates the cumulative effect of continual regular publishing. For the first two years I didn’t think strategically; I published when I could (perhaps 3 times a week) and was satisfied with merely being creative and receiving a few comments.
Then I started to learn more about WordPress, which was becoming more sophisticated and powerful, and about search engine optimisation (SEO). I started to tweak the code and alter the layout and to think consciously and deliberately about publishing strategies.
At the start of 2008 I had enough ideas and was writing fast enough to decide on (and commit to) a daily publishing schedule. I started to formulate the idea that quantity was as important as quality, and that audiences wanted regular posts to read even if some were really simple, such as a photo of new street art.
I started to implement more plugins and measurement tools, including Google Analytics and WordPress’ own statistics tool. The screen capture above shows a graph of the data generated by the WordPress.com Stats plugin for Fitroyalty. In mid 2008 I was receiving between 2,000-3,000 hits a month and was quite pleased with this.
So if you’re a year or two into publishing your site or blog and your traffic is about the same, don’t stress about it. Given the way the internet has developed, you’re probably getting more hits than I was after publishing for about two years.
The first big improvement in my traffic came from my decision to publish twice a day at the end of 2008. Monthly hits went from 3,000 to 5,000-6,000 almost immediately. Then in early 2009 I started building the local news sites and my traffic started doubling, and doubling again, from 6,000 to 15,000 per month, then from 29,000 to 61,000.
I was genuinely astonished that a few SEO tactics, a regular schedule and some incoming links from the local news sites could have such an effect. It was an effect I had hoped for, though I did not think it could be quite so significant, and the feedback I have received from other contributors is that the local sites have resulted in more traffic for them too.
In 2010 traffic plateaued at 50,000-60,000 hits a month and I was thrilled. I was receiving just over 10,000 unique monthly visitors (by IP number) and, compared to the approximate population of Fitzroy (9,000 people), I thought this was about the maximum I could achieve.
Then the hidden pizza story emerged. Michael from My aching head and I were quick to write about it and to share details that the Yellow Pages did not want shared online (they didn’t put anything useful on their site or on Facebook, and disabled commenting on Facebook to stop people from sharing information there). I’m sure Michael’s traffic exploded in April 2010 as a result just like mine did. Fitzroyalty got 79,000 hits in April – a new record and one I thought I’d not easily beat.
I mention this to illustrate that sometimes an event happens that is a natural story for your site and, if you cover it well, you will be rewarded with many visitors, including many new visitors. I call it ‘the art of capturing the conversation’ and some bloggers do this really well.
Take Lisa Dempster, for example, whose review of Lord of the Fries about a year ago resulted in a significant traffic increase for her site. She initiated a conversation that people evidently wanted to have, and provided a place where it could occur. That’s a valuable service to provide and one that is rewarded by audience participation.
As I expected, my traffic dipped in May, but then rose to over 80,000 in June, and inexplicably to over 103,000 in July without any specific story causing the increase. I assume that this is the result of my regular publishing schedule (every 12 hours), my SEO strategies (internal linking, incoming links from the local news sites and comprehensive metadata tagging) and using a sitemap plugin to alert search engines each time I publish new content.
My impression is that Google likes regular content more than long content. I think you get more SEO value from 2 posts, each containing 200 words and 1 photo, than you do from 1 post containing 400 words and 2 photos. It makes sense to publish short regular posts that audiences can read in a few moments.
So when I see a great site like Claire’s Melbourne gastronome using a week’s worth of content in one long ‘amnesty’ post, I think what affect breaking the 8 reviews in this post into 8 separate posts could have. I believe it would create more hits and a better rank in Google search results.
When writers like Claire work hard to produce quality content they deserve to achieve the best results from it. People like Claire and I create our content as a hobby and give it away for free, and we measure our success in traffic, comments, links and influence.
Separating content into smaller posts is an important strategy for increasing your traffic. I suspect that part of Google’s algorithm incorporates a measure of how many posts a site publishes over time, and how consistent it is.
I attribute the traffic Fitroyalty receives to the regularity of its schedule as much as the relevance of its content for its audience. If I’d acted strategically from the start, I think I could have achieved these results quicker. I have no idea whether further increases are possible because the traffic has already exceeded all my expectations.
If you’d like to share information about your own traffic or general ideas about publishing, please comment. If you’re a fellow publisher I’d like to learn more about your experiences and how you attract and retain your audience. The more we share this information the more we can all benefit.