June 13, 2009

This Blog’s 1-Year Anniversary

NOTE: This post is old, and is probably on different subject matter than my current writing. It is possible the information is outdated or my opinions have changed. -- Josh Klein, May 28, 2012

My first post on this blog was one year ago, on June 10th, 2008. Today, I’m going to talk a bit about the past 12-months here. The following is self-reflective and self-indulgent — and more about administrative stuff than web strategy — so you have permission to skip it and write mean things in the comments (maybe).

I expose some details about traffic, subscribers, and my blogging strategy. If you’re curious about the inner workings of the blog and my process with it, read on.

Ranking in Google

I’ve mentioned before that I started this blog as an experiment (among other things) to rank in Google for my personal brand (“Josh Klein”). I hit the #1 rank about 3-months in and realized I should have a plan for what those searchers would do. I choose to make my conversion goal subscriptions, which meant writing better content to convince you I was worthy of showing up in your email inbox or RSS reader.

It was surprising and humbling when my subscribers grew beyond friends and family (there are about 435 of  you, now).

I’ve stayed at the #1 rank for “Josh Klein” despite any alleged TED talks about alleged crow vending machines from allegedly cooler-than-me Josh Kleins. Google it, you’ll see. I also moved up to #5 for “web strategy”, a dramatically more competitive term.

I don’t think ranking for these search terms is too important as a part of my overall strategy, but it has provided an interesting way to test and learn about the inner workings of Google beyond my work for clients.

For all the magic wands SEO people wave, none is as powerful as a title. When “Josh Klein Web Strategy” is in the title tag, the H1 tag, and every link to my blog, all I have to do is keep writing new posts and getting more links. It should be no surprise that after a year, I’m ranking strongly for those terms.

Speaking of links, you people have linked to this blog from 3,665 pages. Wow - thank you!

There are also some big search ranking mistakes I make here:

- I don’t use categorical archives, mostly because I don’t have enough written (yet). The idea with categorical archives is to extend the reach of your specific content by creating landing pages for broader categories. Google should consider your topical page on “baseball cards” an authoritative page if your 50 baseball card posts link there, you link every time you use the anchor text “baseball cards” across your site, and you craft your HTML to focus on that keyword.

- I’ve known for a long time that “Josh Klein Web Strategy” is the H1 tag for every page on my site, but been too preoccupied to change it. I think this is preventing pages other than the home page (like individual article pages) from ranking as well as they should for their respective topics.

The title of a page should also be in the H1 tag. The site title makes more sense as an H2 tag, except on the homepage. Google might be misinterpreting my site’s content.

- I don’t do any link baiting or social media optimization. I try to avoid what I call “Top 10 Ways Ducks Quack” articles, my early posts and recent list of SEO tricks notwithstanding. I felt horrible about writing about SEO an hour after I published it.

One of you even called me out on it at a bar. Nothing is less cool than talking about SEO in front of normies (you know, non-internet dweebs). The worst part about that post was how fast it spread, particularly on Twitter. Blech.

- I usually avoid linking to other people’s blogs, not because they have nothing interesting to say, but because I have nothing interesting to add. So far, I’ve acted under the assumption that if you wanted to know what I was reading, you would check out my delicious bookmarks. I’m considering doing more linking and reacting posts.

Web traffic

I’ve kicked my addiction to traffic stats; I care less about quantity and more about quality, so I measure success by the people I meet and the ideas we talk about. Still, just for today, I want to indulge my craving for hard traffic data.

This blog has attracted over 16,000 “absolute unique visitors”, who viewed 36,000 pages for almost 2 minutes each. That means you people have spent 1,200 hours reading what I write.

Are you crazy? Go outside or something.

UPDATE: It’s actually 1:56 minutes “average time spent on site” on 20,000 visits, making it around 645 hours; still a scary number.

About 8,000 of 20,000 total visits came from Stumbleupon, a social media tool I now swear off as a waste of time (these visits weren’t high quality). Another 3,200 came directly via typing in the URL or via a non-web-based email client like Outlook. 2,800 or so came from organic Google searches, and 823 came from Twitter.

Over 1,000 visits came from Problogger.net and another 360 from Sitepoint.com, the two places I wrote as a guest author. What’s interesting about those visits to me is not the volume, but the quality, of those referrals.

This is Problogger, where I wrote for free three times:

Problogger Traffic Referrals

This is Sitepoint, where I was paid to write once:

Sitepoint Traffic Referrals

Other pre-qualifying sources of traffic also attracted the best visitors, albeit in low quantities. Looking at these numbers now, I think I’ll redouble my efforts to “join the conversation” in relevant communities and write guest posts, and shun so-called “social media optimization” even more than I already do.

Conversations

There have been almost 200 comments (half mine) on 31 posts, though my first 13 posts predated the Disqus system (and I lost all the WordPress comments when I switched). Disqus has brought 51 visits for an average of 4 page views in 9 minutes. 92% of those were returning visitors. I’m very happy with this level of “engagement”, at least by the numbers.

But I’m bummed out. I wish more of you disagreed with me. I won’t be happy until someone writes a polite but violently opposed rant in the comments of one of my posts. I’ve had plenty of trolling attempts (which I’m always happy to delete), but no you-are-completely-wrong-and-here-is-why comments.

I toyed with the idea of removing comments altogether, but I’m going to give it some more time to see where they take us.

In addition to comments, the contact form has been a great way to meet a lot of you. Thank you for writing in!

And let’s not forget Twitter.

What’s next?

I’ve neglected this blog a bit, not out of laziness or ennui, but because I’ve been scared to commit definitively in one direction over another (the all-consuming “next level”).

But something dramatic changed last week: I left my cozy gig as a strategist for a large Madison Avenue ad agency to start my own company. I’ll talk about this at length soon.

This is going to lead to dramatic changes on the blog that I hope to roll out over the next few months. I intend to write more, but when haven’t you heard that before?

I started experimenting with video, but there was something eerie about being alone while talking to a camera that represented hundreds or thousands of people. I never posted any footage, but I promise to give video another shot (pun intended).

For the last year, there has been a Chinese Wall between this blog and the work I do. Whatever the exact changes will be, the blog and my business will soon be in sync.

I don’t want to promise the world and under deliver, so I’ll stop here.  I’ve learned a tremendous amount from blogging for the past 12-months, and I can’t wait to see what happens in the next 12.

I should pay you to let me write here. So, seriously, thanks.

---
  • http://www.mdaniels.com/ Matt Daniels

    Great to see that you, and what seems quite a few bloggers these days, are leaving agencies to set-up their own shop.

    And I am fully prepared to leave that, “you are completely wrong and suck at like–here's why” comment. :)

    • http://www.joshklein.net joshklein

      Good… I'll just write something controversial and let's get to it :)

  • Kalle

    But I’m bummed out. I wish more of you disagreed with me. I won’t be happy until someone writes a polite but violently opposed rant in the comments of one of my posts.

    Sorry, can't help you with that. What you say mostly feels like a breath of fresh air amidst all this SEO/WEB 2.0/MakeBigBucksNow!!1 hype everyone else seems to be spewing. I only wish you posted your insights more often. And finished the Worth Caring About series, which has started out as solid gold.

    • http://www.joshklein.net joshklein

      In their defense, I do think it's important to remember that they aren't targeting you and I as their audience, and there ARE people out there who don't know a thing about the topics and could really benefit from their help. But don't get me wrong, I agree with your assessment that there is too much of that stuff.

      I'm glad you like the Worth Caring About series; I actually have the second article written, but it has been a nightmare to edit (the narrative flow is yucky, and it doesn't really get to “the point” forever). Hopefully I'll be able to publish that one very soon.

  • remarkablogger

    Josh, you are completely wrong, and here's why:

    Just kidding.

    Congrats on a year and especially the new venture! Now you will be writing to attract clients, which will require a subtle but important shift in your content focus. SEO will be more important than ever, but really, most of it is writing what potential clients are looking for.

  • remarkablogger

    Josh, you are completely wrong, and here's why:

    Just kidding.

    Congrats on a year and especially the new venture! Now you will be writing to attract clients, which will require a subtle but important shift in your content focus. SEO will be more important than ever, but really, most of it is writing what potential clients are looking for.

    • http://www.joshklein.net joshklein

      Thank you! I agree that the writing will shift, but I think I have an alternate strategy that will allow me to focus my content even more on unique opinion content, rather than introduction level how-to and tips articles. Maybe. At this point, things are in the air… but I'm not certain the blog should be a lead gen tool.

      • remarkablogger

        Really? Man, I can't imagine a blog being anything else! :-) Unless you mean not this blog. If you don't want to spill the beans on your plan, that's cool, but you got me curious now.

      • http://www.joshklein.net joshklein

        There is a weekly newsletter in my future. I think the heavy opinion stuff and the introductory stuff will have two separate homes.

  • Fran Greenberg

    Happy Birthday to your blog! Your writing has been extremely informative for me. Impressed, too, that you are now the first Josh Klein in Google ranking. I, too, am the first of my name in the Google rankings, as is my studio, DiaGraphic Design. It gives me all the more reason to overhaul my site….I didn't bother to do a search for “graphic designer”, a more potent search term, and one where I think I might find myself well into the back pages of a Google search.

  • Fran Greenberg

    Happy Birthday to your blog! Your writing has been extremely informative for me. Impressed, too, that you are now the first Josh Klein in Google ranking. I, too, am the first of my name in the Google rankings, as is my studio, DiaGraphic Design. It gives me all the more reason to overhaul my site….I didn't bother to do a search for “graphic designer”, a more potent search term, and one where I think I might find myself well into the back pages of a Google search.

    • http://www.joshklein.net joshklein

      Congratulations on ranking for your name! I don't think you should worry too much about ranking for “graphic designer”; you'd be competing with just about everybody in the world for that one!

  • http://www.joshklein.net joshklein

    Good… I'll just write something controversial and let's get to it :)

  • http://www.joshklein.net joshklein

    In their defense, I do think it's important to remember that they aren't targeting you and I as their audience, and there ARE people out there who don't know a thing about the topics and could really benefit from their help. But don't get me wrong, I agree with your assessment that there is too much of that stuff.

    I'm glad you like the Worth Caring About series; I actually have the second article written, but it has been a nightmare to edit (the narrative flow is yucky, and it doesn't really get to “the point” forever). Hopefully I'll be able to publish that one very soon.

  • http://www.joshklein.net joshklein

    Thank you! I agree that the writing with shift, but I think I have an alternate strategy that will allow me to focus my content even more on unique opinion content, rather than introduction level how-to and tips articles. Maybe. At this point, things are in the air… but I'm not certain the blog should be a lead gen tool.

  • http://www.joshklein.net joshklein

    Congratulations on ranking for your name! I don't think you should worry too much about ranking for “graphic designer”; you'd be competing with just about everybody in the world for that one!

  • remarkablogger

    Really? Man, I can't imagine a blog being anything else! :-) Unless you mean not this blog. If you don't want to spill the beans on your plan, that's cool, but you got me curious now.

  • http://www.joshklein.net joshklein

    There is a weekly newsletter in my future. I think the heavy opinion stuff and the introductory stuff will have two separate homes.

  • http://blog.asmartbear.com/ Jason Cohen

    Congratulations on taking the leap and quitting the job. It's not as risky as they say:

    http://blog.asmartbear.com/blog/too-small-to-fa

    Now the interesting question is whether you can convert the principals you talk about here into the context of a little company of your own! Fun times.

  • http://www.joshklein.net joshklein

    Awesome post, Jason. I totally agree with you – some friends have told me I'm crazy, but most (especially the ones who took the plunge already… voluntarily and involuntarily) are totally behind it. So far (1 week in) it's been phenomenal.

    Also, Balsamiq looks like a great tool. I might have to use it on an upcoming project.

  • http://blog.asmartbear.com/ Jason Cohen

    Congratulations on taking the leap and quitting the job. It's not as risky as they say:

    http://blog.asmartbear.com/blog/too-small-to-fa

    Now the interesting question is whether you can convert the principals you talk about here into the context of a little company of your own! Fun times.

    • http://www.joshklein.net joshklein

      Awesome post, Jason. I totally agree with you – some friends have told me I'm crazy, but most (especially the ones who took the plunge already… voluntarily and involuntarily) are totally behind it. So far (1 week in) it's been phenomenal.

      Also, Balsamiq looks like a great tool. I might have to use it on an upcoming project.

  • http://adchick.wordpress.com/ adchick

    Josh! Good for you…start your own! I did 27 years ago and realized that: I cannot be everything my little business needs to be successful. I cannot trust everyone. Growth must be carefully managed. Get a too-conservative CPA to advise you. Be prepared to work your ass off.
    I've always read your blog and felt I learned something every time, even if I am a non-tech kinda gal. I respect your opinions and thoughts. Surround yourself with people who know stuff you don't and they will push you to the top. Keep me posted!

  • http://adchick.wordpress.com/ adchick

    Josh! Good for you…start your own! I did 27 years ago and realized that: I cannot be everything my little business needs to be successful. I cannot trust everyone. Growth must be carefully managed. Get a too-conservative CPA to advise you. Be prepared to work your ass off.
    I've always read your blog and felt I learned something every time, even if I am a non-tech kinda gal. I respect your opinions and thoughts. Surround yourself with people who know stuff you don't and they will push you to the top. Keep me posted!

    • http://www.joshklein.net joshklein

      Great advice, thanks. Seth Godin said something similar to me, but he phrased it “fire yourself!” :) I appreciate the kind words. You know I dig the adchick too!

  • http://www.JohnVasko.com jvasko

    Josh, it sounds like you've had a lot of success over the past year and I enjoyed reading about it. The H1 tag has been very powerful for you. I'm just getting started with my personal brand but hope I can achieve a bit of what you have over the next year.

  • http://www.JohnVasko.com jvasko

    Josh, it sounds like you've had a lot of success over the past year and I enjoyed reading about it. The H1 tag has been very powerful for you. I'm just getting started with my personal brand but hope I can achieve a bit of what you have over the next year.

    • http://www.joshklein.net joshklein

      I'm sure you will John! Great to meet you at JellyNYC last week.

  • http://www.joshklein.net joshklein

    I'm sure you will John! Great to meet you at JellyNYC last week.

  • http://www.joshklein.net joshklein

    Great advice, thanks. Seth Godin said something similar to me, but he phrased it “fire yourself!” :) I appreciate the kind words. You know I dig the adchick too!

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