How to increase traffic to your personal finance blog
Last month, I surprised everyone with a killer Beards & Money report demonstrating that I am the supreme master of blogging and know all the secrets to make money with a blog. I killed it with over 15,000 page views and a gross revenue of over $150 in the blog's first month! I was able to demonstrate that Sam Dogan from FinancialSamurai.com has a pretty accurate idea of how the top personal finance bloggers earn their living, and how to increase traffic such that the blog is a success.
We're another month in, with a new net worth post already out. How did the blog do this month? Did I increase traffic, stay stagnant, or decrease? Did I make any money? Were my revenue targets for the amount of traffic consistent? Could you repeat my "success"? Find out more in today's blog post about blogging.
Monthly Page View for Beards & Money?
Let's dive right in to the meat. I've been working hard recently to spend less time pontificating on these little quick-hit update posts, because there really isn't more meat than a little data and a little analysis. I'll try to save the big-word posts for things that are a bit more interesting and useful. And I'll explain why I'll probably break those up in the future, too.
What that actually means is I will ultimately still ramble on for 2,000+ words, but hopefully offer you some interesting insight about how to run a successful blog, increase traffic, and how to make money with a blog, even if by shear counter-example.
Here is a screenshot of my Google Analytics plugin for the month of April:
Well shit. If you peek at the total page views there in the figure, you'll see I managed to significantly lose views. Rather than increase traffic, I got half of the traffic that managed to rain down on Beards & Money in March. Total page views went from 15,000 to 7,500.
Why should you trust a damn thing I have to say about blogging, specifically how to increase traffic? Good question. I don't have an answer. But I'm going to spend countless words analyzing the shit out of the situation and proclaim to still be an "increase traffic" expert.
From the graph, you can see from where that little bit of traffic mostly came. Once again, Rockstar Finance featured one of my posts on the front page. That little shout out is still driving traffic to this day.
Some kind soul also used the little social share buttons I have down at the bottom of each post to share the same article on the Financial Independence sub-Reddit. It stayed on the front page there for a couple of days.
But the drop! What about the month-on-month drop? Definitely no increased traffic there. Also, those peaks look ... smaller than last month.
During the first month, my "baseline" was about 50 - 60 page views per day. Then, the first big spike blew the site up with over 6,000 page view in one day. It eventually settled down, but ended up hitting a new baseline of about 100 - 150 page views per month. So, a good little increase in normal daily traffic.
In April, that baseline had increased to over 200 page view on days I have a new post, and 100 - 150 on days that I do not have a new post (more on that later). This time, the Rockstar Finance bump was significantly lower at only about 1,500 page views for the first day. Interestingly for our experiment, the feature on Rockstar Finance was posted on the same weekday (Wednesday) in both months. Nice little accidental control of variables there.
A phenomenological model for page view dominance
So what was the difference between the March bump and the April bump? From the data, I have developed a phenomenological model (look it up) that describes the difference in traffic, and hopefully can help us learn and increase traffic in the coming months.
Let's look at the two Rockstar Finance (RSF) events. In March, the entire blog was featured. The link simply said "Awsome new blog -> BeardsandMoney.com". In April, one article was featured.
Let's look at the data for those two events in a little more depth:
In the table above, I look at the data for each month during a 2-day period. That 2-day period consists of the day this blog was initially featured on RSF and the next day.
What is interesting is that the total number of users is roughly the same for each event. However, the number of page views is significantly different.
This can be explained by looking at the manner in which the blog was feature for each event. As I already pointed out, in March the blog was just referenced as awesome all around with a link to the front page. Those visitors poked around and read lots of different articles. The average pages per session was 3.23, which means the average reader read three different articles (or at least the front page, and two other pages.)
In April, a single post was featured. As you can tell from the bounce rate, most people came, read that post, and then bounced off the site. The average pages per session was only 1.38. That means that most readers only read the one page on which they arrived.
Something else that is interesting, is that the post that was featured ("I love you honey, when I die you'll be rich") probably has the least number of link-backs to my other posts. Oops! Basically, it was one of the least "sticky" posts on the site.
When RSF ran the first feature, J. Money sent me an email saying he was going to give me a shout out and that it would be the first time RSF featured an entire blog. He thought it might be a neat experiment. Well, there are the results.
Utilizing special features in content aggregators
Now what can we take away from this experiment that will help build traffic in the future? How should you set up your blog so that it's ready to maximally capitalize on a feature in RSF, Reddit, or another big traffic driver?
Here are some quick points that I think might help you and me in the future:
- Write interesting stuff. This one should be obvious, but if you want to be featured on one of the big sites, then you need to write interesting stuff. You don't need to be a great writer to be a successful blogger, you just need to write things that are interesting. Repeating the same PF bromides over and over in the same way is boring. I curse and use humor, or I strive to look at things differently or completely opposite of conventional PF wisdom.
- Write useful stuff. You blog posts should be useful. They should help the reader solve some current problem or help them think about what might be a future problem. For example, PF bloggers love to write about how leasing is fleecing, and so forth, but how does that help someone already in a lease? When might a lease be a good idea?
- Link back to your older content. Give people a reason to wantto read some of your old articles while you have their attention. Hey, want a $2,392 a year raise without asking your boss? Want to know why I gave up $3,000 per month in side income? Especially if you have older articles relevant to the topic of your post, such as when I wrote about making over $150 with my blog in its first month of existence.
- Create a voice.Like I said, I curse and use humor. But I'm also Dr. Beard. I drop the name of dead French psychologists, use sophisticated sounding words that will make you look smart at a party (like phenomenological), and constantly poke fun at my own expense.
If the phenomenological model I'm building for a successful blog is accurate, and we'll only know after another year or so, then following these points should help you to:
- get linked to by larger, heavy-traffic PF blogs and websites,
- have those new eyeballs poke around your blog more, generating more and more page views, and
- make sure those new eyeballs become returning eyeballs in the future.
Now that we understand a little about why the RSF events had decreased numbers of page views, let's look at the blog as a whole. Why did the number of page views seem to drop irrespective of the RSF events?
Consistency is the key to a successful blog
Take a gander at this little screenshot of the "All the Beards & Money posts ever, Amen" page:
A major aspect of science thinking is being able to approach data both deductively and inductively. In this particular case, let's take an inductive approach to the data. Let's assume no pre-existing ideas about why the traffic dropped. Then, we'll think about variables that could affect blog traffic and see if we notice any emerging patterns.
So, do you see any pattern in the observational data above?
In March, I posted a shit ton of stuff. In April, not so much. Now, two of those posts in April were epic 3,500+ word meaty, beefy, bad ass posts. They took as much time as four or five quick-hitters. But, that doesn't seem to matter in terms of page views.
What we're seeing here is the direct result of failing to be consistent with blogging.
We like numbers at Beards & Money, so here are some numbers for April and May:
The table shows the average number of page views on days where I had no new posts and on days when I had posted a new article. For this analysis, I excluded RSF events.
That's one hell of a convincing number right there. The number of page views for this site doubles on days that I post content. That makes sense for a couple of reasons:
- I have a baseline of traffic from link backs, organic search engine traffic, direct traffic made up of returning readers, etc. It's pretty consistent on a day-to-day basis whether or not new content is posted.
- I also have a base of regular readers that might have already read through all the old stuff and come back when I post new stuff. The site has about 100 email subscribers at this point, 150 or so feed subscribers, and a paltry number of twitter followers. When I post new stuff, all those folks come in to read.
Now, let's think about the number for a bit. There were 30 days in April. I posted articles on 3 of those days. So ... (27 * 100) + (3 * 200) = 3,300 page views as the baseline.
March had 31 days and I posted content on 18 of those days. So ... (13 * 100) + (18 * 200) = 4,900 page views as the baseline.
Do you see the effect consistency has on your potential as a blogger? And keep in mind that these numbers are all excluding major traffic events (like RSF, Reddit, etc.), and for a blog that has only been in existence for a couple of months. Consistent content creation means more and more pages for Google to crawl, and more and more organic traffic. With time and lots of content, Google will love you, driving your baseline traffic sky high.
How to increase page views with the same content
Looking over the data for the past two months, I'm pretty sure I've come across a pretty surefire method for increasing page views in the future even with the same pathetic level of content creation I managed to slap together in April.
Once again, I posted a shit ton of stuff in March. In April, not so much. However, two of those posts in April were epic 3,500+ word meaty, beefy, bad ass posts. They took as much time as four or five quick-hitters. But, creation time and word count don't seem to matter in terms of page views.
The total number of postsis more important than the word count. This makes sense because each page read equals one page view whether it is 500 words or 5,000 words.
Have you ever noticed why most major content sites break their content up into multiple pages? Have you ever clicked on one of those Facebook clickbait ads that show you 15 Terrible Celebrity Tattoos? Ever wonder why you have to cycle through 15 freaking pages to see all the horrible tattoos instead of them just listing all those horrible pictures in one long post?
The reason why is that the same content that could easily fit one page can generate 15 times the page views when broken into chunks, which means 15 times the ad impressions, too.
Now, let's imagine I broke the Disequilibrium and Epistemelogical Resources posts into multi-part series. Instead of one big 3,500 word post, I would have three smaller ~1,200 word posts. In theory, those two posts alone in April could be used to generate 3 times the page views.
Instead of three posts total in April, I could have "created" seven posts in the same time and with the same number of total words. That would still be significantly less posts than in March, but I guarantee it would have increased blog traffic significantly. Probably not quite by a factor of three, but close.
For each one of those "new" posts, I would have gained at least an extra 100 page views. Just by breaking up those two articles, I could have generated at least 400 - 500 more page views on posting days alone, and even more on the back end from future readers.
We have to be careful here, because writing content that is too short will get you penalized by Google. More importantly, short content usually lacks substance. You need substance, because you want readers to become loyal.
You want to follow those bullet points up above: have a voice, write useful stuff, and write interesting stuff. To do those things, you also have to write meaty stuff that can stretch into the 2,000 word realm. In fact, none of my posts have even been less than 1,500 words.
In the future, though, I'm going to be breaking up some content into short series. I'm going to enforce a self-imposed rule of 3,000 word hard caps for content. Everything else needs to be broken up. That gives plenty of space for meaty content, but also doesn't sacrifice easy page views. It also might allow the reader to enjoy my content at a more leisurely pace.
Of course, I'm shocked anyone would enjoy my content at all!
What affects page views for a blog?
Here are the basic points we can take from this data:
- Be consistent. Write a lot and often. Your consistency has a direct affect on your daily traffic, and consistency will build loyal readers because they will come to trust that your great content will keep flowing.
- Be creative.Don't rehash for the thousandth time how to save money by not drinking lattes. May the Flying Spaghetti Monster strike me with a meatball if I have to read another PF blog post about how much a latte-a-day habit costs over 10 years compared to saving that money instead. Write stories. Personal stories. Write about something a little differently. And for FSM's sake, have a little fun.
- Write meaty content.Provide depth to your information. Solve a problem your reader might have or your own problem. Look at the problem in many different ways, because that's how a money expert does it anyway.
- Break up really long posts.You want meaty content, but don't make the content too meaty. If you have 3,500 words worth of great stuff, then you probably have two really good and meaty posts. Grab those extra page views and help improve your consistency by breaking that content into chunks. You're readers will probably be thankful.
- Use bullet points to summarize your main points. Tee hee.
And there you go. A simple guide to growing your blog.
Grow your blog with me
If you already have a blog, then grow your blog with me. Let's compare in the comments. Do you think my data supports my theories? Or, am I a blogging idiot that doesn't know what I'm talking about?
Keep in mind, I am a dumb ass when it come to blogging. I have some experience, but never trust Dr. Beard. It's rule one. Try and see for yourself.
Also, you might be wondering how the money side of the blog is doing. Remember the first paragraph above where we asked the question: did I make money this month?
How much money did the blog generate in April? Did it meet expectations based on page views?
Guess what? I'm breaking this blogging about blogging content up into two parts.
Find out about the revenue side in the next post.