For every month in 2015, I’ve set specific goals for growing my blog readership, and podcast audience. The end goal is that by December this blog will have at least 100,000 visitors for that month, and the podcast will be downloaded at least 10,000 times for December. Every month I am going to write a post like this recapping how I did in the previous month, and share any lessons I have learned. The goal is to help you learn how to build a blog readership and podcast audience as I do.
First, here were my goals for February:
Blog – At least 54,000 visitors
Podcast – At least 850 downloads
Now right off the bat I have to admit that I forgot when setting both goal amounts that there were only 28 days in February. Oops! My goals for last month should have been about the same as January.
Which is part of the reason why I didn’t hit either goal.
Let’s start by looking at how the blog did in February:
My total blog traffic for February was 50,225 visitors, averaging 1,794 visitors a day. My average daily traffic in January was 1,735 visitors a day, so traffic increased slightly last month.
Here’s where my traffic came from in February:
Organic Search – 81.3%
Direct – 11.3%
Referral – 4.1%
Social – 3%
Email – 0.3%
Organic Search traffic went down slightly, and everything else went up slightly. I am hoping that trend continues in March.
Posts written in February – 10. My goal was to have at least 2 posts a week, so I hit that goal. For March, I’m going to bump that goal up to at least 12 posts and 3 a week.
One of the things I’ve noticed about having goals for the blog for this year is that it’s forcing me to pay more attention to all the details. Also, it’s prompting me to always look for ways to improve the experience here, which will improve the numbers. One of the nagging issues on this blog has been slow load times. Up until a couple of weeks ago, it typically took over 6 seconds to load a page on this blog. I’ve known for a long time that such a high load time was creating a subpar experience for many visitors, and a lot of people were probably leaving before the blog even loaded.
There were two main reasons for the slow load times:
1 – I was using Godaddy’s ‘Economy’ hosting. The economy hosting is shared, meaning that it’s stuck on a server with hundreds if not thousands of other sites, which creates longer load times for all those sites. A big reason why I never switched to a faster hosting method was because I was scared to death of the migration process. I was afraid it would break my blog.
2 – The 2nd reason for the long load times were all the plugins I had. Plugins do two things for your blog: They add functionality, and add load time. So every plugin is a tradeoff between increased functionality for you and your readers, and increased load time. I had always focused on the increased functionality, and ignored the increased load times.
So a couple of weeks ago I put my foot down and decided that it was time to get the load times for this blog down drastically. When I started checking with a site called Pingdom, the blog was loading in a range of 5.5 to 6.5 seconds. So an average of about 6 seconds to load. Insanely high. Here’s what I did to lower load times:
1 – I switched from Godaddy’s Economy Hosting to Managed WordPress Hosting. This immediately shaved 1 to 1.5 seconds off the load times.
2 – I disabled any unnecessary or redundant plugins. This saved 0.5 to 1 second of load time.
3 – I added the WP Smush.It plugin. This plugin optimizes the images used on your blog. More images means more time to load, and this plugin strips out any uncessary bits and bytes to make the images smaller and quicker to load. This lowered the load time by about half a second.
4 – I turned off pingbacks. This saved another 0.5 to 1 second off load times.
5 – I disabled the Jetpack plugin. This saved another 0.5 to 1 second off load times. This one was a big tradeoff. The Jetpack plugin had a lot of functionality I needed, but that load time of an extra second or so was a lot.
6 – I changed the frontpage option to only display 3 posts instead of 7. 7 posts means more stuff to load, and longer load times. This saved 0.5 to 1 second.
So at this point when the smoke had cleared, here’s how fast my blog was loading:
My blog had gone from loading in over 6 seconds, to loading in 3 tenths of a second! That is freaking FAST. Now that was with almost no plugins other than the bare essentials activated. I wanted to strip out all of the fat, and get the blog loading as fast as possible. I also wanted to give myself some leeway, because I would need to add a few plugins back, and those would bump the load times back up a bit.
The first problem I noticed was, I had no sharing buttons here. Gotta have sharing buttons. So I started researching sharing plugins, I specifically wanted a plugin that would add sharing buttons before the post, but also I wanted a plugin that wouldn’t add much load time. I quickly discovered the Premium plugin Social Warfare. The plugin got very good reviews, and I noticed that the developers promised ‘virtually instant load times’. So I went with it and am using it on the blog now. I really like it so far, and I’ve noticed it added about 3 to 7 tenths of a second of load time to my blog. Which is pretty low.
So at this point, my blog is consistently loading in 0.7 to 1 second. Very fast. So what’s an ideal load time? It really depends and you’ll hear a lot of different answers. Personally, I think your goal should be to get your load time down to 2 seconds. If it only takes 2 seconds to load your blog, most visitors probably won’t even notice that. But if it takes you 3 seconds or longer, that can quickly become an irritant. You can use Pingdom to check your site’s load time. Don’t fret if your load time is over 3 seconds, the odds are you can make some very simple and quick changes to your blog to get that load time down by at least a second.
Podcast Numbers and Overview for February
I made the same mistake in setting my podcast goal for February as I did with my blog: I forgot that there were only 28 days in February.
Goal for February – At least 850 downloads.
Actual number of downloads for February – 574
Oops. This wasn’t even close.
Here’s the podcast daily downloads over the last 6 months:
Now, there’s an explanation for why the numbers were down in February for podcast downloads. In January I started to notice that my laptop’s keyboard was acting funky. By early February it had gotten really bad, so I decided it was time to get a new laptop. I found a Dell laptop that had all the bells and whistles I needed, but the problem is that it was a brand new model, and as such it wasn’t available at retailers yet. The only option was to have Dell build me one, which would take 2-3 weeks to build and ship to me. Ok fine, I ordered it. And sure enough, a couple of days after I ordered it, my old Dell laptop officially kicked the bucket. Which meant I couldn’t publish new podcast episodes until I got the new laptop. So I was only able to publish two new podcast episodes in February. I have the new laptop now so starting this week I’ll have regular episodes up again. But this taught me a valuable lesson: Have a few episodes of the podcast recorded ahead of time to avoid a problem like this in the future.
So that’s how my February went here on the blog and with my podcast, The Fan-Damn-Tastic Marketing Show. My goals for March are:
Blog – At least 58,000 visitors
Podcast – At least 1,100 downloads.
I’ll share my results with you in one month!