Data Points and Delusions Of Of A B-List Blogger

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Data Points and Delusions Of Of A B-List Blogger

 


Today marks the anniversary of when I kicked off the OnStartups.com site.  I thought it only fitting to look back and share some of the lessons and surprises from my first year of business blogging.  What I’m going to try and write about is the insider data that I find interesting or surprising.  It’s the kind of stuff I’d want to read myself about other people’s business blogs.

Data Points and Delusions From A Year Of Blogging
  1. Total articles posted:  158.  Approximate word count:  160,000


Interesting observation:  I was a huge procrastinator when it came to writing my thesis (which started at the same time as this blog).  The volume of content on the blog exceeded the content written for my thesis within the first couple of months.  At final count, my thesis had about 26,000 words (about a sixth of the size of the OnStartups.com blog)
  1. Delusion #1:  For the first few months of the blog, I probably spent more time “watching” my web traffic (and analyzing sources of traffic, reddit comments, etc.) than I did actually writing the articles.  Now I’m much more disciplined and don’t track my numbers nearly as often.

  1. RSS Subscribers:  2,300+.  E-mail subscribers:  354.  I’m a little surprised that this many people still request updates via email.  But, I have no issue with it.  I don’t use an automated emailing service like FeedBlitz as I like to write personal messages each time I post a relevant article.  I only send notifications out when there is a “significant” article (and not on all articles).


I was a big fan of RSS even prior to starting my own blog.  I elected to provide “full” RSS feeds to all of the article content (though this does reduce the amount of traffic the actual site gets).  My rationale is quite simple.  The site’s primary purpose is to serve its audience of entrepreneurs.  If it were me on the other end reading, I’d much prefer reading an entire article within my RSS reader than be forced to click through.  So, that’s the way it’s been.  My guess is that this drives more RSS subscribers than I would have gotten otherwise.
  1. I’ve made it to about a Technorati rank of 3,600.  I had a relatively steady climb up until the 4,000 – 5,000 range, but seem to have stalled now (and actually bounce back and forth between 3,500 – 3,600).  I’m guessing that if I reduced my posting volume, I’d start moving backwards as I’m now up against other bloggers that have made it to this same level.  I actually don’t think the Technorati ranking does anything for me (other than somewhat feeding my ego).  Though I’m in the top 10 list of blogs on the topic of startups, I get almost zero traffic from Technorati searches.  I’m not sure what all the Technorati fuss is about.

  1. Website traffic has also leveled out at about 5,000 – 10,000 visitors a week.  The good news is that over a third of my traffic is now coming from search engines (i.e. natural search).  I’m guessing this means that there’s a steady “base” of visitors that I’ll get based on the existing content that is already out there.  The second largest source of traffic is Reddit.com.  More on this below.

  1. Delusion #2:  I’m going to get rich on advertising!  Though the traffic on my site has grown steadily, I am nowhere near the point where any real money can be made on the site.  I’ve been approached a couple of times by parties that have volunteered to “monetize” the traffic on my website (the numbers are getting better, but not enough to make sense for me yet).

  1. Most of my articles are getting submitted to both reddit.com and digg.com (usually by regular readers, and occasionally by me).  About 25% articles will do reasonably well on Reddit.  Diggs seem to be much harder to get.  I’ve had one article hit the front page of Digg (with 768 diggs).  The article was “Hindsight 2.0: Lessons Of A Failed Web 2.0 Startup”  I did not think this was one of my better articles.  I have not been able to repeat this success with any other article, despite reasonable attempts.  

  1. Confession:  I have no clue as to why certain articles do well and others don’t.  Generally speaking, I’m not good at predicting which articles will generate interest so I’ve stopped trying to delude myself into thinking I can somehow control how articles will be received.  I’ve now shifted to simply writing about what I’m interested and what I think might be useful.  Let the numbers fall where they may.

  1. Delusion #3:  I started an online discussion forum, the “OnStartups Forums” to act as an alternative to the popular Joel On Software forums.  This has been a modest success with about 600 registered members and some interesting discussions in the threads.  I should have done more to nurture this community, but I simply have not had the time.  The delusion is basically that one can setup a forum and have people simply interact spontaneously without any nurturing or oversight.  This doesn’t work unless your last name is Spolsky.


If you have any questions about the above (or anything else about the blog that you’re curious about), leave me a comment.

Special News:  ’ve quietly released a version of the WebSite Grader.  It’s an early, early public release of a software tool I’ve been using internally when trying to measure the effectiveness of a website (for instance, when a software startup goes for sale on eBay).  I found myself looking at a similar set of data points for each company I come across and wanted to automate it a bit.  It’s an interesting tool that does a relative measure of websites against a pool of other websites submitted (the number is already up over 1,000).  Try it out, but don’t expect a lot (yet).  The code is in alpheta (somewhere between alpha and beta).  

Posted by admin_onstartups.com admin_onstartups.com on Mon, Nov 06, 2006

COMMENTS

"The delusion is basically that one can setup a forum and have people simply interact spontaneously without any nurturing or oversight. This doesn’t work unless your last name is Spolsky. "

Actually, that doesn't work unless you make it as easy as possible for people to use your tools. It might sound trivial to you and others, but I certainly would have been more of a regular has your forums not been borked up a few times. Also, the "remember me" function has yet to work to where I don't have to log in every time I want to reply or post. Also, when I did finally log in..I was never taken to the article I clicked on in the first place...so I would have to locate what I was wanting to read ....again.

I think if you put more effort into the functionality of your forums, you would have greater participation. I have personally turned around unproducing forums before...and while it is not easy...it can be done.

posted on Monday, November 06, 2006 at 2:33 PM by DanH


In follow up...for instance...when I click on the above link for forums, I don't even get the forums..or a log in screen. Just a screen to register if I want to. The only way I can even get into your forums is by cliicking on a link in the rss feed for a forum posting..then logging in.

posted on Monday, November 06, 2006 at 2:36 PM by DanH


Dan: Good points. I agree that part of the reason the forums aren't used as much is that the software is frustrating. I've been meaning to go in there and fix it, but just havn't made myself do it yet.

Thanks for the tip. I needed a gentle nudge again.

posted on Monday, November 06, 2006 at 2:46 PM by


You wud be perhaps glad to know, first time when I came across your blog(few months back), I actually organised one of my complete weekend to go through all the previous blog entries :).. Thanks for all pointers & knowledge sharing.

posted on Monday, November 06, 2006 at 4:30 PM by NM


HUGE congrats Dharmesh on this occasion of Onstartups first year anniversay!

Your anniversay post is wonderfully human, interesting and informative... Great Job!

And, I've Dugg the post on Digg!

Very best wishes to you and Onstartups (and HubSpot) in the year ahead!

posted on Tuesday, November 07, 2006 at 4:46 AM by Sheamus


Dear Dharmesh:

I am (still now) a quitly secret fan of your blog. Each week or two I came back to read the new posts. I am also read to Paul Graham, Spolsky, Eric Sinkand eventually to Guy Kawasaki and others. I think you´re one of the best sources of critical and well minded information about ISVs and startups.

Your importance is greater to the startup people as me, that lives out of Silicon Valley or Boston, and even out of USA , and thereby is out of the main startup scene. You act also as our chronist in there!

I want to point out that I appreciate a lot your humbleness, or more exactly the humble style which you use to support clear opinions. It stand out in an some excessive ego and opinionated blogging world.

Thanks and greater success in the second year!

posted on Tuesday, November 07, 2006 at 8:13 AM by Rolando S. Buenavilla


Dharmesh,

I just wanted to offer my word of congratulations. These are really interesting insights regarding the growth of your site. You've come a long way in a year. I was a regular reader prior to your coverage of the sale of Huckabuck.com, and following our dialogue about that eBay exit strategy, I've really enjoyed your take on the directions of startups in this space.

We recently relaunched our corporate site atwww.voodooventures.com as a blog and are working hard to cover entrepreneurship and Web 2.0 in a similar way. All of you comments above about getting traction for the blog are so true. In fact, we find ourselves falling into the trap of checking webstats about every 15 min. I wonder if you have any insights beyond the delusions you had/have but into what has made you as successful as you are presently. Keep up the good work.

Cheers,
Chris Schultz

posted on Tuesday, November 07, 2006 at 10:00 AM by Christopher Schultz


The weakness of the forums is that I can't log on anonymously when I need to ask n00bish questions. Sure, everyone knows my name, and everyone is glad I came, but that's part of the problem!

Sometimes, I want to be anonymous.

posted on Tuesday, November 07, 2006 at 5:50 PM by Brian


Congratulations Dharmesh!

Yes I know of the over-anaylsis paralysis of checking logs and stats too often. Whilst it is good to have some market intelligence as to where visitors are coming from this can be a time sink..

posted on Tuesday, November 07, 2006 at 8:34 PM by Scott Carpenter


I'm currently guilty of delusion #1. If I spent as much time writing as I did watching traffic and conversion trends, I'd have 2x as many articles! Brian.

posted on Monday, November 13, 2006 at 2:18 AM by Brian P Halligan


Congratulations on the "birthday"!

I must echo your sentiments in #4: "I’m not sure what all the Technorati fuss is about."

I have found almost no traffic coming to my blogs from T'rati, and, on the rare occasions that I do actually search for blogs/blog posts, Technorati's search returns nowhere near the quality that Google's blog search does. I don't see Technorait outlasting its own buzz.

posted on Monday, November 13, 2006 at 6:43 AM by Mike


I enjoy your blog Dharmesh. Ditto on the technorati. I use it sometimes to find out who's linking to an article, but I never really see any traffic from them.

posted on Monday, November 27, 2006 at 12:47 PM by Phil Crosby


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