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
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).