Welcome to the actual case study section of Blogging Case Study.com. Since I have your attention before you start scrolling down the page and skimming the content, there are a few things I want to say. First of all, the following information has been written with excruciating detail. So much so in fact that there’s probably too much of it here for most of you to read in one sitting. When I started this project I decided I wanted to create something great, something different; I don’t write your typical run of the mill 500-word blog posts and I didn’t want to conclude this project without giving as much value as I can.
Partly because that’s how I do things, and partly because I know someone, somewhere will relate to every hurdle and idea I’ve written about, and hopefully find comfort in the fact that they’re not alone on their journey. I didn’t make a single penny with this project (and neither did Andrea) – this is just something we’ve both done to finally flip the lid on such a popular medium and share as much useful information as we can.
When I launched Blogging Case Study to the world I said that while I was looking for people to make money from their efforts, that wasn’t my only aim. One thing I really wanted to help people attain was like-minded connections and change. Both personal and in their respective industries. Blogging has so much more to offer than its financial rewards, further proven by a recent Technorati study which said that just 5% of the people in their survey class themselves as full-time professional bloggers, a number which is probably far higher than reality since the people most likely to take part in this survey are people who are doing fairly well.
Of those 5% full-timers, less than half of them said that blogging makes up the majority of their income. In other words, just 75 of the 4,000 active bloggers surveyed are making a decent income for their efforts.
I’ve already written in detail about the story behind this project, which you can read over here. I said in that opening post that part of the reason I took this project on was to learn how to become a better teacher. Despite how many bloggers I come across that are teaching something, I don’t see anyone trying to become more proficient in the delivery of their message.
I went into this experience hoping I could further relate to some of the things that people are struggling with – especially those who aren’t tech-savvy – and help solve problems to enable even more people have success with blogging.
The feedback I have received from everyone following along has been amazing, and really appreciated. I’ve included a lot of examples throughout this case study of people who have made big strides forward as a result of this project. I’ve also highlighted three examples which will show you how one blogger is making over $1,000/m already, one is approaching 200,000 pageviews and another helped an animal to be adopted.
There really wasn’t anything I was hoping to get from this project other than to help people succeed with this platform, so I’m really delighted with the results. Though we have two months left, based on some of the stories I have to share I would call this whole thing a total success even if we were to stop everything today.
My findings so far have been interesting to say the least. Some situations arose which I probably should have predicted earlier on, while others totally surprised me. I’m going to start by looking at the journey behind Andrea’s site (and finally reveal what it is!), followed by my experiences with teaching so far and what I’ve learned. I’ll then show, in detail, the results of Andrea’s progress up to this point and finish with a look at some success stories from people just like you who are following along.
Building Andrea’s Blog: The Case Study
The first piece of homework I gave to you all when we started this case study was to decide on the niche you’re going to be blogging in and that’s exactly the task I set Andrea to start with as well. Keep in mind that we have never met and didn’t know each other before this project started so we communicated a lot back and forth via email (and sometimes via phone calls). I’ve already mentioned that this update is going to be overly detailed, so I’m including some of our actual conversations in those emails for total transparency.
After some initial advice on how to choose a topic to blog about, Andrea’s first ideas started to come in, “My current blog obviously has a female-traveller focus but more on a personal level, and I was thinking the new blog could maybe be more of an all-round resource for women travellers, rather than just ‘my stuff’? And this would be easy to generate content for.
I’m quite keen on the veggie traveller idea as well although I’m wondering how much I could write on a regular basis, as I’m not travelling all of the time and maybe it would be hard then to keep it up without being able to do a lot of food reviews and so on. I’d also be quite keen to do a foodie/travel type of blog – maybe not making vegetarian the focus although it ultimately would be mostly that – though I could leave room for guest generated content that wasn’t veggie?”
My initial response was “If you can just focus on the question of how you want to help people, then the process becomes easier and you’re never stuck wondering if a post you’re going to write fits your audience.
I like your angles, but which topics could you talk about for a long time? Or could the whole topic really be reduced to a single blog post. Your vegan traveller idea can be summarised in a single article by some people, for instance“.
After a few more emails back and forth we honed in on her niche ideas and I checked in for further clarification before we moved on to the next step, “I just want to be totally clear on the angle of your niche. Would I be right in thinking that it’s sort of a guide to helping people have their own “Eat Pray Love” adventure? I hope you’ve read that book or seen the movie, so you know what I mean. Basically pushing their boundaries (through things like travel) and doing something a little out of the norm, no matter their age / gender.”
Andrea confirmed that I was on the right track. We were ready for the next step.
It seemed like we had the niche idea mostly figured out so we started pushing around some domain name options.
“As far as the domain goes, my process is that I always try and pick something brandable” I told her. “If it’s relevant to the niche that’s great, but it doesn’t have to be. I built PluginID to 7,800 subscribers before I sold it. The name doesn’t exactly scream personal development, but that didn’t seem to harm me.
One idea I liked was a play on the angle of ‘mid life crisis’ and your website helping women to avoid it. So your logo would be ‘Mid life Crisis’ with the word Crisis crossed out for something like MidlifeCrusade.com. Maybe you can think of a better word to use than Crusade.
Also a ‘project’ domain could be something to think about. I like to think of what we’re doing and what you’re writing about as a movement, so having project in the name of the site gives that impression.”
Andrea, rightfully so, wasn’t convinced, “I like ‘midlifecrusade’ (and the funny play on words and light-heartedness) but I don’t relate to it – mainly in that I don’t relate to being ‘midlife’ as such. I have also had this discussion with another woman a similar age as me and we were saying we need to find a new, positive term for vibrant, energetic ‘coming into their own skin’ women of our age that doesn’t imply ‘being older’ as such. Hmm, hard to explain.”
Then she started sharing some of her ideas, “Something like ‘InANewSkin.com’ maybe (but probably not this – it doesn’t look right hey?) or maybe something more along the lines of a metamorphosis or growth would capture it for me? I like the ‘crusade’ idea though just don’t feel the midlife bit is ‘me’. I have been trying to think around ideas that involve transformation/change/moving forwards etc.
I was hoping ‘TheButterflyEffect.com’ would be free but of course it isn’t! Just some other ideas to bounce around (some totally rubbish no doubt):
- RideTheWildSide.com (I really like what this conjures up, but does it fit? Though seems ‘brandable’ to me?)
- TransformationInformation.com (Nah – too ‘self-development training manual’ sounding!)
- SpreadYourBingoWings.com (Am not so sure about the negative connotation here! However, it is funny I think, and memorable!).
- WaltzOnTheWildSide.com (really like the idea of ‘dancing’ into a new life)
A few minutes later she followed up with, “Decided total no-no on the bingo wings one!”
I had done my own research into some ideas as well since deciding on domains is always quite a challenge, so shot across some ideas, “I’ve tried a few ‘play on words’ domains to see if they’re available as they’re usually memorable. Things like ‘womanable’,'womenoftheworld’ ‘ButterflyProject’ and others but as with most searches, they’ve been registered already. Not terms I was totally set on but it shows how most niches have phrases that all seem to be taken. I have to admit this is the one step that takes me longer than anything else because it’s with you for the life of your blog. Unlike a theme or a certain topic you’re writing about.
WomanUp.com was probably my favourite idea so far, a play on ‘man up and do something’, but you know how that domain search ended. Hah. Some other suggestions…
- Constraintless.com <- The idea that nothing should be holding you back
- Butterflyist.com <- I like this since it's brandable and 'ist' means "one who" so you're someone who is spreading your wings and writing about it.
I’m not sure what you think about putting suffixes on the names, but that could give us some options. At the end of the day, this isn’t that important. As long as people can remember it after hearing it a couple of times. I’ll keep thinking anyways.”
Andrea quickly got back to me: “I think I like ‘Butterflyist’ best out of these, for the reasons you mention and I like the connotations of ‘butterfly’.”
Keeping in mind what I had just said about the importance of domains, we agreed to settle on this one before we let days of indecisiveness turn into weeks. After registering the domain with Namecheap and setting up hosting, the next step was to choose a theme and start designing the blog.
And yes, if you’re really done reading already, that’s the name we decided on. You can check out Butterflyist by clicking here.
It was important to me that Andrea was part of the design process since what she decides now is going to be what she’s left with when I ‘disappear’ – unless she makes any dramatic changes herself. I recommended a few resources to start her theme hunting and a few options from ElegantThemes – Glow, Earthly Touch & Deep Focus – were her favourite discoveries.
I really liked the Glow theme that she picked since it’s a simple design, attractive, and one of the colour options was very relevant to a site where the focus leans towards a female audience. Below you can see the original theme that we started out with, and the current design of Andrea’s site at the time of writing this.
Later on in the teaching section you’ll see more about how we dealt with design changes since Andrea was a total beginner to tweaking blog themes. For now, we’re going to look into some of the changes that were made to the original design in a little more detail.
Since the logo was going to be repeated a few times throughout the theme, this part of the project was outsourced to Craig Abbott (firstname.lastname@example.org), one of two people I recommend in the design section of the ‘how to’. Most designers I know prefer to have a little freedom when it comes to creativity, rather than having to do something to a specific request, so we asked him to give us a few options and just told him the name of the site.
He came back with a few options, which you can see on your right.
He sent another logo separately which myself and Andrea both liked the best. Craig then put together the logo in multiple colour offerings so we could see what looked best on the actual site header. We agreed that the yellow option fit nicely, so I tweaked the logo a little and up it went.
Since the Glow theme design was already simple and I’m a big advocate of keeping things clean, we didn’t want to over-clutter the free space in the site with tons of junk. The main things we wanted to highlight in Andrea’s design were:
- Who Andrea is and what Butterflyist is all about
- The latest and most popular posts on the site so far
- An opt-in form so people could subscribe to get updates
- Other ways to connect with Andrea and the site
Using the WidgetContext plugin we could then specify which of these we want to show on which pages of the site. For example, on the homepage of the site there is an opt-in form (covered in the next section) right underneath the navigation bar. Because of this, we don’t need an opt-in form at the top of the sidebar, and instead it would be better to show more information about Andrea and her site.
On single post pages, however, people don’t see that same form as they do on the homepage and instead see the content of whatever post they’re reading. Therefore, the opt-in form is now at the top of the sidebar with information about Andrea showing later. I do something similar on my own sites and highly recommend all of you to test this kind of thing out to see what your audience responds to best.
Did you know?
By default the theme also came with a little label on post pages which displays their date. One idea I had was to use this section in order to improve opt-in conversions, rather than taking it out altogether. People can see the post date in the footer of posts or in any comments if they really want to know when something was written. Getting conversions is the main aim of the site so that had to take a priority.
The question grabs your attention and the text subtly leads your eye to the call to action for collecting visitors email addresses.
Email opt-in forms
There are multiple opt-in forms placed throughout Andrea’s site to give her opportunities to grow her audience while people are enjoying her content. First of all, there’s an opt-in form at the top of the home page for people who discover the site directly. There’s also an opt-in form (and share buttons) at the end of all posts. Finally, you can find opt-in forms on the sidebar and on certain pages like Andrea’s welcome page.
I’ve stressed the importance of email subscribers on numerous occasions throughout Blogging Case Study so it was important that Andrea’s site was well optimised for this. They’re also linked to confirmation and success pages for when visitors want to subscribe for update, which was covered in this section.
Please note that since we have had so much to do in such a short space of time, we weren’t able to create the ‘lead magnet’ I had wanted Andrea to put together until literally today (Jan 1st). A lead magnet is some kind of freebie that tells people more about your site and encourages more people to join your thriving audience. More on this in the What We’ve Learned section.
Single Post Styling
My advice for the design of single post pages was fairly simple. Andrea is a great writer, I just had to gently nudge her to make her content more readable for the web. This means splitting up post sections with H2 headings, using bullet-points more and highlighting important parts of the content with bold text.
Just to keep the homepage of the site looking ‘clean’ I recommended that Andrea stick to one kind of style that she is happy with. She likes putting a post image before the start of her text content which I was totally fine with, so I just reminded her to keep it that way in all of her posts for consistency. The post images all get a defined size as well so they fit the full width of the content space.
Google Fonts / Cufon
Since regular text fonts don’t always look that great on a web browser, we ended up trying out Google Web Fonts to make her post headings more attractive. Since headings are arguably the most important part of a blog post, it was important that they stand out. Google Fonts is basically a free resource which gives you access to hundreds of attractive fonts that browsers wouldn’t normally be able to support.
Though we had Andrea’s site headings looking stylish on a Mac, a lot of Google Fonts tend to look ‘crusty’ – as a friend of mine puts it – on Windows computers on odd occasions and I couldn’t find any clear fix for this and nor was I able to duplicate the error. You can see an example below.
For that reason, we’re looking into using the Cufon WordPress plugin right now (which I use on ViperChill) to style fonts so that it’ll look the same in all browsers. Before I get into some of our more personal experiences in terms of getting things done and growing the site, I want to cover a little more about what I’ve learned from teaching on this journey.
My Experiences as a Teacher
I’ve mentioned that growing as a teacher was one of the big aims for me with this project. Though I do get a lot of emails asking for me feedback and do have friends who ask me for help at times, I’ve never taken anyone through the entire process of starting a site from scratch and seeing what they can achieve.
I’ve also never seen anyone else publicly teach anyone either, and a few weeks into the project when I realised how big of an undertaking this actually was, I could see why. For those of you who don’t know much about the marketing or ‘make money online’ industries, I’ll be the first to admit that this space does not have a great reputation. Most people teaching this stuff have actually had little (if any) success of their own, but discover that they can make a lot of money from helping other people make money.
For that reason, another aim for this project was to offer advice without receiving any form of compensation in return. It’s not that I don’t feel like I deserve to make cash, it’s just practically unheard of for anyone in this industry to not try and monetise their teaching through ads and affiliate links, so I wanted this to stand out for that reason. I always say that I’m the worst business man ever, but this is something I’ve put together for people I speak to every day in person with as well who are always asking me how to get started online, so I wanted this to be a hugely valuable resource.
I’ve also got to admit that after writing hundreds of articles on this topic, it’s also nice to have all of my information and ideas in one place. And at over 30,000 words, there’s more than enough content here to fill a physical book.
While it was time consuming enough to personally teach Andrea as much as I could, she wasn’t the only person I wanted to help. My own email address has been available to all of you throughout the case study and hundreds of you have gotten in touch to ask me questions along the way.
I did reiterate at times that I couldn’t promise a reply to all mails, but besides one or two I managed to get to every single question. If you were the sender of the odd one that I missed, I have a good feeling that I’ve covered enough here for you to get the answers you’re looking for.
Since a lot of people who were following along were totally new to the idea of blogging and building websites, the type of questions were typical of those who are less tech-savvy but really want to get involved with publishing content online.
I received emails asking me things like how to extract .zip files which contains someone’s new blog theme. Mac users, just double click on the file. Windows users, Winzip is a good option if you’re having problems with this. I had the odd situations where someone didn’t choose an admin password when installing WordPress so they weren’t able to log into their WordPress admin area.
There were even quite a few people who totally ignored the section on purchasing a domain and using your own hosting who went on to set-up .blogspot (Blogger) sites, only to later ask me how to install the WordPress plugins I was recommending. There were also readers who only got in touch to try and shame me about any speeling (I know) errors in updates which was quite strange. On that note, I realised long ago that no matter how much you ‘give back’ there will always be people who aren’t happy, so don’t stress if you find yourself receiving some negative feedback from your readers in the future.
I’ve had a lot more experience in teaching people how to build affiliate sites and I personally think that’s infinitely easier because in most cases there’s just one focus: Get that search engine ranking. Teaching someone how to blog is an entirely new ball game, where there’s lots more to learn and lots of things that can keep you occupied.
One of the biggest hurdles I know Andrea faced, and dozens of others who emailed me, was when it came to the design side of things. Both in terms of graphics and editing HTML code. Since they’re by far the most technical aspects to blogging, this didn’t really surprise me either. I would say I’m fairly proficient in both of these, but I’ve been doing this for years. There’s just no way to improve your skills without lots of practice. Because of this, I quickly learned that I was going to have to do a lot of the editing for Andrea if she were to have time to do anything else.
There are definitely tools to use and sites to help you learn these things quicker, but the only thing that’s going to help you spot weird CSS errors and know how to design anything you want in Photoshop is experience. You’ve also really got to want to learn, because it can be frustrating when you’re first going through the basics. Not dissimilar to when you’re first learning to drive a car.
With the onslaught of technical questions I received it further reiterated to me why the IM niche does have such a bad rep, and why there’s thousands of people willing to collect the dollars of people who are looking for some kind of quick fix. Newsflash: There isn’t one. You either learn why and how to do things yourself, or you just learn why and pay someone else to do them.
The benefit of creating a site like this over writing a book on the topic or teaching any other way is that I can get feedback from hundreds of different people and edit sections accordingly. I’ve made numerous changes to each section after it has gone live which should mean that people who are going through the course from scratch will get the benefit of all the people who have gone through it before them.
I won’t pretend that teaching certain concepts has been plain sailing. Sometimes getting points across that just make sense to me don’t quite click for other people, and once again I would say experience is the only differentiating factor. I think I’ve grown a lot from this project and definitely now have a better understanding of what people struggle with and how I can personally help them.
What Worked, and What Didn’t
Time, first of all, has been a big issue for us. After the launch of this site we quickly realised that this project had added a lot to our plates. Keep in mind that we had to write a Guardian update every two weeks, a Blogging Case Study update, build up Andrea’s site and teach her in the process. Since we both have other work commitments (which I seriously neglected), saying that we’ve been busy is a total understatement.
Not only after the project started Andrea kindly alerted me that she was about to go to Uganda on a Gorilla tracking tour. I was very happy for her, but not so happy to hear that she would be gone for three weeks and have no access to the internet. In her defence, it was something that had been organised before we got the ‘go-ahead’ on the project, but it was another dint into our limited available time.
I’ll admit that the stage were at right now is far from where we want to be. Since this kind of thing has never been done before online, you’re always going to come up against things that were unexpected. I did this to learn, so I have no complaints about what has happened so far, but it has not always gone to plan.
Lots of people have had success with blogging – myself included – but I’m under no impression that success is easy or successful people make up the majority of this medium. The success rate for professional blogging is actually dreadfully low as you’re already aware of from the Technorati stats I covered in the introduction.
It’s also rightly preached that success with blogging is no quick process. Anyone who has read ViperChill will know that when I ran PluginID it took me a whopping 7 months just to reach 500 subscribers. Yet once the site hit one years old it had just over 4,000. The initial hurdle is by far the biggest, but growth can definitely snowball from there.
When I did some research into the top 10 biggest blogs in the world I found that the youngest was four years and one month old, with an average age of 5 years and 11 months between them, further proving that consistency is key here.
While doing some research on the travel niche I stumbled upon travel blogger Gary Arndt in an interview with a blogging friend, Corbett. He had built his site to a considerable size and even has over 100,000 twitter followers. However, and I mean no disrespect to either of them, it was disappointing to see he hadn’t really decided to monetise the site at all, feeling that it would hurt his growth.
Since so many blogs in the travel niche seem to be monetising themselves by selling advertising space, I had Andrea test the waters and list down companies who were advertising on similar sites. Since they were advertising elsewhere it seemed like these would be the companies most likely to purchase ads from a random contact. Andrea made a list of around 35 different advertisers and sent them all an email. Varying the style a little to test the responses.
Only a few of the companies got back to us, with none biting, but some of the responses were definitely promising and are going to be good sources of income for Andrea in the near future…
Company #1: “After reviewing your site, we are going to respectfully decline the invitation. For your information, we typically buy our ads from websites that receive 10-15,000 unique visitors per month and have a Google pagerank of 4 or higher. It looks like you are just getting started with your website, and just don’t have the referral power that we are looking for in an ad partner. Please keep us in the loop as your site grows and gets to the aforementioned traffic levels. At that point, we will gladly revisit and review the request to purchase advertising on your website. Thanks for visiting our website, we appreciate your business.”
Company #2: “Thanks for getting in touch and apologies for the delay. We don’t actually buy space on those websites, they are all joined to our affiliate programme through Commission Junction. Do you know much about affiliate programmes? Happy to talk you through how it works if you haven’t come across this before.”
Company #3: “Thanks for the info…There is no link juice here unfortunately but please contact me when you are in more of an advanced stage.”
Company #4: “Unfortunately, we are maxed out on our advertising budget for the year. I will not know my new budget for next year until February or early March.”
In a way I like having this problem because it blows open what people are teaching just a little bit and shows the reality that these types of efforts sometimes face.
After searching around a little more I came across one site that a lot of travel bloggers were promoting as an affiliate: Travel Blog Success. Ironically, a program to help travel bloggers make more money from travel blogging. While travel isn’t totally the definition of Andrea’s niche, I think her audience would overlap with a lot of the people who were promoting it.
The thing that really stood out was the authors claims of making thousands of dollars per month just from selling ads, and he had devoted an entire section of his course to the topic. The program was mostly blogging orientated so I didn’t feel like it would be justified to spend $97 on the information. I emailed the author to see if I could purchase just one section (after all, I’m always open to learning more) but alas, no dice.
Since Andrea has also has a normal job she doesn’t get to work on her blog full-time, but since it is a writing job, that does put her in a slightly better starting position than most people. However, the skill of a writer does not make a blog successful. Her previous attempts at starting a site give credence to that. If you read her story you’ll see just how passionate she really is about writing. Monetisation is not just about making money from selling ads of course. People can and do make money by:
- Promoting products as an affiliate
- Selling physical items
- Promoting certain products or companies in paid advertorials
- Offering seminars and other offline services
The list goes on. You’ll see some good examples of this in the various case studies throughout this page. Andrea said she is always looking to take on more work if she can get it so what better way to show her skills to the world than through her blog? We created a very simple page on her site, linked from her sidebar, that shows some of her work and shows you how to get in touch with her if you’re interested in her services.
Since we only got going on this part of the site in December there haven’t been any leads yet, but I’m confident this is going to bring in some odd jobs for her. Due to the nature of her service, even just one customer could bring in as much money as dozens of product sales or affiliate commissions.
Writing Popular Content
Though Andrea is a good writer, how you package content for clients and newspapers is quite different to what works well in the blogosphere. She wrote an article about her recent trip to Uganda, and sent it across to me. Here’s what I had to say:
“This may just be me but I find the content very hard to read with all of the brackets. It takes away a lot from the flow of what you have to say. Think I counted about 40 before I stopped . I hate giving you any writing advice since you do this far more than me so I’ll just leave it at that suggestion and see what you think.
As a genuine reader of Butterflyist I want to know more about how you fit into this whole equation. After all I can read about travel on thousands of sites. I want to know about Andrea and her adventures. I got a glimpse of it in the emotional part when you saw the first gorilla. But I want to know:
- Why are you in Uganda in the first place?
- How did you get there? Crazy journey?
- How was everything else in the country. Nobody really travels to Uganda at all that I hear of so it would be nice to know more about the place. Things like lack of internet or phones or the crazy temperatures. That kind of thing.
- Would you recommend that other people do it?
I realise that travelling to Uganda for you might just be ‘another thing’ – though I know you really love it – but to someone like me it’s like “wow she went to Uganda?. To do what? See gorillas!?” It’s interesting, and I would like to know more about the travelling process (why you’re there) and maybe how it compares to other animal related adventures you’ve been on.
Remember that your headline is going to decide for 99.9% of people whether they keep reading the post or not. This is even the case for regular readers. This is a good time to refer to the idea of always having a person in mind who you want to write for.
For example, if you had picked me, then the title you’ve chosen – How to prepare for Gorilla tracking in Uganda – wouldn’t make sense. First of all I’m not going, and do I really want to go Gorilla tracking? The title should draw me into some kind of benefit about the unique experience or whether it should be avoided. Right now the title seems to be aimed at people who have the guarantee of doing this type of trip. I want to be sold / not sold on it more. Have more of your opinion in there. For example:
- Gorilla Tracking: The Breathtaking Adventure You Have to Take Before You Die
- Gorilla Tracking: The Breathtaking Adventure Everyone Should Try
- Andrea Goes Wild: My Experience with Gorilla Tracking in Uganda
- Discover Uganda: The African Country You Should Add to your Travel Plans
Again, these are just examples, but hopefully you’re seeing my point.”
The finished article turned out to be fantastic.
I was also browsing her old blog to see some of the posts she has written and one really interested me. It was Andrea’s experiences with couch surfing, where you have someone from another country come and live with you and sleep on your couch. You get to meet new people (and help out) while that person gets somewhere to sleep. She talked about the experience in a lot of detail, over multiple posts, sharing pictures of herself and her guest.
It was one post that really stood out to me simply because it was an interesting topic, made better by the fact that it was so personal. I recommended that Andrea take a few of those posts and ‘smush’ them together, making one in-depth resource on Couch Surfing that anyone who wanted to know more on the topic would be lucky to find. Again, the end result was great.
One service that is known to send thousands of visitors to bloggers is StumbleUpon, which I’ve written a huge guide about over here. We put $15 into a small test account for Andrea just to see how responsive users were to her articles, which should send about 150 visitors. The articles actually did much better than that and managed to pull in over 1,700 visitors from the site in December alone. Though they didn’t stay on the site as long as other visitors, a number of them subscribed to her email list to get further updates from the site.
More on this in the What’s next section.
After writing one of her detailed articles on Gorrilla tracking, Andrea decided to post it up on the Trip Advisor forums where she is a member. Just one link on that forum managed to send over 80 visitors to the site in 24 hours and resulted in a number of comments on the post. I’m always advising that people find what the most efficient use of their time is when it comes to getting traffic so this definitely options up some opportunities.
It’s clear that forums in this industry are active with passionate people so this is something Andrea now knows to focus on more in the future.
One small project we did to help raise awareness of Andrea’s site in the travel industry was to put together a small competition page in the spirit of good fun. The aim of the page was to ‘give back’ by sending traffic to other bloggers and hopefully receive some traffic from their sites in return. We created the page in December and allowed people to vote until the 25th of the month so one site could be ‘featured’ on the page for an entire year, as you can see below.
This sent a few hundred new visitors to Andrea’s site which was great, though I think it would have been much better if we didn’t have to do this around Christmas time when people are leaving work early, taking holidays and are generally away from their computers. We only included sites that Andrea genuinely loves (no matter their size) and wanted to promote on her website, whether or not she received any traffic in return.
Start Here Page
When Andrea first got in touch with me I was a little hesitant to start this project. Especially when I receive similar offers to coach people on such a regular basis, and I had a lot of other work going on at the time. I have to admit though that when I first heard Andrea’s story and started to learn a little more about her as a person, I found it really inspiring and honestly think I couldn’t have picked (okay, found) a nicer woman to be working with.
A Start Here page is something I implemented quite late into ViperChill after my friend Pat mentioned them on his blog. Since in many industries it’s very important you create a connection with your readers, you can use this page to talk more about yourself and show the world the best content that you have to offer. And of course if there are any types of conversions you want people to make (like becoming a Facebook fan or getting a free eBook) then you can show them off here as well.
Since we really have struggled with time when it comes to actually focusing on generating traffic (thankfully we have two months now to rectify that) I asked Andrea to start writing a number of guest posts so we had some more results to show in this first edition of the case study update. Out of respect for the sites that allowed Andrea to guest post for them, I don’t want to reveal any information she sent to them or they sent to her. One slight downside to this project is that I don’t want other sites in her niche to feel like they are just part of some ‘traffic’ strategy since that isn’t the case at all.
All I did was show Andrea my guest blogging guide and told her to be personal, and write whatever comes naturally when approaching people to write on their sites. It’s hard to monitor how much traffic guest posting sends since not everyone reads a blog directly. Some read it in their inbox while others check it in their feed readers like Google Reader.
Around 45% of the traffic to Andrea’s site for December has been classed as direct traffic, which I’ve noticed some analytics services counting as these other services. Surprisingly even though some of the sites had thousands of readers, none of them sent over 20 visitors back to Andrea’s site directly. This is a huge change to when I was such a big advocate of guest posting a few years ago and could receive thousands of visitors for getting just one article on a popular blog.
You can view some examples of the articles Andrea posted for other sites here, here and here. Again I want to reiterate that these are all sites that Andrea genuinely cares about and enjoyed reading previously.
Though she plans to continue guest posting, we wont be revealing any stats for future websites Andrea writes, because we don’t want them to be looked at by the thousands of people reading this just as a form of traffic, rather than actual sites with real people behind them.
Whats to Come
We still have until February 25th until the final Guardian update, so now Andrea’s focus is going to be solely on growing her site, writing more posts, and then when we have time just before the end of the case study, hopefully focus on some targeted monetisation efforts.
Since the actual lead magnet she made literally only went live today, I’m expecting that will entice more visitors to connect with the site.
Another thing that we’ll be working on in January and February is trying to optimise Andrea’s site around a certain SEO keyphrase so she can start to get more search engine traffic. Right now all of her guest posts have simply linked back to the site as ‘Butterflyist’ but now that we’re a little more free, we’ll be focusing on a term and hopefully getting some quality links from her posting.
We also have two viral ideas lined up that I think will do really well on StumbleUpon and other social networks, so it will be interesting to see how those do as well. We’ll be updating this page accordingly whenever we have new results to show.
And now, last but certainly not least, here is some awesome feedback we’ve had from some of the people following Blogging Case Study.
Success Stories from Readers
Thanks to everyone who took the time to share your story so far, it really has made it all worthwhile for me to do this project after hearing from you all. If you would like to share your own story for when I next update this page, please email hq @ bloggingcasestudy.com (without the spaces). Thanks!
The Teacher Who is Improving Education
“I wanted to write and tell you how useful I’ve found the blogging case study. I’ve followed the story of you and Andrea in the paper and via email updates and have done my best to develop a new blog with you: http://cagelessthinking.com I’ve found it really motivating to know that you’re making this work and the information you’ve provided has been fantastic.
I’m a teacher who is really interested in creative thinking and innovation in education so that is what I decided to write my blog on.” – Adam Webster
Almost 200,000 Pageviews
“The most valuable lesson for me has been a practical demonstration of how good content, combined with links on other blogs in my niche and social networking can have a massive impact on visitor numbers. Over the months I have been utilising the advice in the Blogging Case Study I have amassed over 33,000 visitors and over 194,000 page views. I have no idea how good this in the grand scheme of things but it certainly a massive increase for me.
What I have to do now is try and work out what I do next, I’m writing a list! And of course the key question for me is monetisation. You asked for anything we’ve specifically struggled with on our journey so far, and for me it is working out if it’s feasible to earn any money from my blog.” – Alex Ekins – alexekins.co.uk
Making $1,000 in the Painting Niche
Note from Glen: Will recently sent me a lot more information about what he’s doing and his success so I will be updating this in the next 48 hours with more information.
“I’ve only been blogging for 3 months, don’t have Aweber, a Facebook page, Twitter or any connections, yet through using your techniques and products you recommend (optimize press rocks!) I’ve managed to earn $1,000 dollars from my blog both directly $400 product sales (1 month) and $600 local events, speaking, live classes etc.
I want to share a $1,000 a month case study for absolute beginners as that is what I am!
- I’m based in the U.K
- It’s in the ‘hobby’ niche not the make money online niche
- You’ll learn how to paint!
To get a sense of my writing, you can check it out here” – William Kemp
The First Signs of Success
“I recently went online with my blog because I could not wait to show the world. When I received my first comment on my blog, it was the best feeling in the world. The blogging case study is so helpful and always gives me new ideas to improve the blog.” – Maddalina, Austria, http://stylesandbox.blogspot.com/
Getting Involved and Making a Difference
“I started http://winniethegreyhound.blogspot.com as a bit of fun (mainly) and an outlet for a bit of fun writing (alongside my freelance journalism work).
I also hoped to raise awareness of animal charities and the fact that retired racing greyhounds make GREAT pets (they don’t, for instance, as many people think need HOURS of exercise a day. They are couch potatoes!). But most of all I wanted to make it a fun read.
I was still amazed by how quickly it took off and the number of active followers I got. A key element was (as you said in the last update) getting proactively involved with other blogs run by the audience I wanted to reach. I followed blogs and commented on them, and they followed and commented back. It helps when you are writing about a subject you are passionate about and genuinely involved in.
I then started a Facebook page linked to the blog at www.facebook.com/WinnieTheGreyhound – which has taken my messages to a wider audience. I try and strike a balance between posts with a serious message and lots of light-hearted pictures and stories about (and written by) Winnie.
The primary purpose was about raising awareness rather than making money and it’s been a delight and a surprise to have made some REALLY REALLY good friends across the world who I would never have met without the blog. I’ve also made some good connections which by a happy chance have helped my other work. Oh, and I’ve had some nice freebies from pet companies.” – Elaine Pritchard
Now Starting to Make Money
“With the help of my girlfriend we’re now starting to make money from it and are approached regularly by companies wanting to get involved with us. It feels like the hard work is starting to pay off. So, if there was one piece of feedback I have for others, it would be to stick at it and be consistent.” – Matt, foodforfriendsyeah.co.uk
Going At Your Own Pace
Tim, who decided not to start with his own domain was kind enough to share some of his reasons…
“I’ll move to a WordPress site on my own domain and get it hosted somewhere for several reasons:
- I have a better plan of where I want to be and how to get there now so can structure the blog better
- I can use different forms of advertising on a self hosted blog to increase monetisation options
- I will change the name to something more topic focused”
Enjoying the Journey
“What have I learned? An enormous amount. I have updated my web building skills. Had to relearn some HTML, terms like favicon, widgets and plugins were all new. I have also learned how affiliate programs can generate income. The list goes on.
I am not sure if my blog will work or not but I am at the moment pleased that I have had 10 people subscribe and 109 unique visitors. Small fry to some but still a ‘mini success’, and I am having fun.” – Alvina, Reasonstogonorth.com
“Today one of my articles on my niche subject, business continuity exercising, was republished (with my permission) in the biggest industry newsletter, with a link back to my site. In fact, it’s the top story. And guess what, it’s over 3000 words long and headlined ‘top tips’.” – CN, who asked to remain anonymous.
“I couldn’t do all of the tech stuff, because I’m new to wordpress, but I managed to do most of it and am proud of myself.” – Anne Lyken-Garner, Getconfidence.net
“I would like to express my thanks for your case study – it has enabled me to start blogging about how we undertook a refurbishment of our 1890′s London Mansion Block cold, draughty, apartment into a highly insulated energy saving eco home, with the objective of showing others how to do the same. I have used various parts of your series – the platform is wordpress, and I used a Wootheme (canvas), which was one of the theme companies you recommended.
The blog is www.greenconversion.co.uk/blog and you will note that it is connected to other social media (I have not got YouTube working yet, hope to do so in the new year), which you also covered in one of your posts.” – Michael Fleming
“Your case study has been really great so far! It’s revealed the vast and interesting world of blogging to me. The blog I’ve started is about home brewing. Once you’ve set up a blog you don’t want to churn out any old article just to fill it with content, and genuinely useful posts take time.” – John, Homebrewmanual.com
“I am just fantastically proud of myself and the fact that I managed to put everything together and work out the bits that I found tricky. I am sure there are bits I need to improve upon and my grasp of SEO etc is a bit tenuous, but if nothing else I intend to enjoy myself and with any luck others might too.” – Deidre
Taking Offline Practices to the Internet
“Firstly I think the series has been very informative and practical – it has certainly given me many good ideas so thank you both. It must have done something because it prompted me to have a go and see if I could convert the obvious potential of the internet into something that could provide a ‘cloud living’ additional income.
My area of expertise is behavioural therapy and over the years I’ve tried with limited success to convert my one-to-one sessions into online therapies. I guess I’m best know for phobia cures (which in the past have been well publicised in local and national press) and feel that providing help for people online is the best way for me to give back some valuable tips, techniques and advice that actually works.” – Jim Brackin
Thanks again to everyone who has shared their successes so far. I’m so happy for all of you. I’ll constantly be updating this page over the next few weeks so watch this space! Now it’s back to work…