1 week ago today I launched a new blog called TwiTip here on ProBlogger. In that launch post I documented some of the setup process that I’d already gone though (hosting, design, content, promotion etc). In a subsequent post I also outlined 10 WordPress plugins that I’d installed.
It has been 7 days since I launched it now and since I’m getting a lot of questions about how it is going and what I’m doing on the blog I thought I’d give a quick update on what I’ve done since and how the blog has performed.
Plugins and Features
While I’d already installed a few plugins over the last week I’ve added a few more including:
- Outbrain – a post rating plugin. You can see it in operation on single posts (at the end of posts). It allows users to rate posts and also suggests other reading that readers might find relevant (from both your own blog and other blogs). I’m still testing it but so far reader feedback has been good. My only concern with it is that there’s no way to control what other sites it recommends (you can switch that feature off) and it has recommended posts from a site that I didn’t think was that relevant to my readers on at least one occasion. Hopefully this will improve in time. Outbrain also gives a ‘popular post’ widget which I’ve added to the sidebar as well as some useful internal reports on what posts on your blog are connecting most with readers (see below).
- RSS Footer – a plugin I’ve been wanting to test for a while. This inserts a link (or any html really) into the footer of each post in your RSS feed that allows you to add a link back to your blog. This is useful when scrapers take your feed and put it on their blog without any attribution. While most bloggers try to stop other bloggers doing this it means that at least if they do do it that there’s a good chance you’ll at least get a link back and some attribution.
- FeedFlares – I’ve added a number of Feeburner ‘Feedflares’ to my RSS feed including a ‘Twit This’ and ‘Stumble it’ feature to help subscribers pass on the content to others.
- Feedburner Counter – I mentioned in my launch post that i would wait til I hit 1000 subscribers before adding the feedburner counter to the blog. This happened a couple of days back (although I only noticed today) so I’ve added the counter to the sidebar. Hitting this milestone was faster than expected and largely due to my amazing Twitter followers spreading the word about TwiTip.
In my launch post I mentioned that I didn’t think I’d be updating TwiTip more than 2-3 times a week. That has turned out to be wrong – I’ve published 12 already.
This is due to two reasons:
- I got excited – there’s something about a new blog that gets your creative juiced flowing.
- Reader Submissions – since launching the blog I’ve had 60 or so offers to write posts for TwiTip. I’ve had to say no to 40 or so of them simply because it would take me two months to publish them all if I did one a day. Having said this – some of the submissions I’ve received are great so there’s definitely enough content on hand for a post a day.
One of the things I’ve been working on over the last few days is a editorial calendar of sorts (or at least the beginning of one). One of the temptations when you start getting offers for guest posts is to just accept anything and everything. The problem with this is that you end up with a blog that doesn’t build momentum.
What I’ve been working on in the last day or two is a list of posts that I want to publish. This way I’m setting more of the agenda for where the blog will go rather than just letting guest bloggers do that (as great as they are in the long run I’m the one with the vision for the blog). Once I’ve determined topics I’ve gone in search of people to write them.
I’ve also been thinking through a few regular ‘types’ of posts that I want to feature. For example I want to interview some top Tweeters on how they use Twitter. I also want to try doing to do some user reviews. Having these consistent types of posts will hopefully help readers to know what they’re getting and will help develop a rhythm for the blog.
One of the things that has brought real life to the blog are the polls I’ve run so far. I installed WP-Polls early on and I love some of the options it gives to rotate numerous polls in a sidebar (as well as putting them into posts). The polls have been really successful at drawing people into the blog and getting things a bit more interactive.
Similarly I’ve made sure that each post has questions for readers (quite a few of the titles even have questions in them) and even had a post that was purely a chance for readers to have their say (this one on Twitter Tools). It’s important to me to build the most interactive and participatory blog as I can – it seems to be working with some great discussions so far.
Traffic and Promotion
So how’s TwiTip performed so far in terms of traffic?
One of the things that has been quite different for me with this blog is that I’ve spent very little time so far on ‘promotion’. Outside of a few tweets and two posts here at ProBlogger (three now) I’ve not really done anything for promotion.
The reason for this is partly that I’ve been swamped with work and partly because I’m fortunate enough to have a couple of other places of presence to leverage (my Twitter account and ProBlogger). Both of these have crossover with TwiTip topic wise and both are read by others who are willing to pass on news of the new site.
This is of course different to most bloggers starting out but illustrates a principle that is important – ‘leveraging any other online presence you already have‘ to promote your blog (something that gets easier with time of course).
In terms of actual traffic numbers to the blog in its first week Google Analytics reports the following (click to enlarge):
There was obviously a surge on day 1 and 2 when the launch happened and the last day is incomplete (still a few hours to go). Page views per visit should increase a little as more posts get added to the site and ‘new visits’ will obviously fall in time as people subscribe and become regulars.
In terms of where traffic has been coming from – let me give you a screen grab of the top 10 referrals from my WP stats plugin:
As you can see the biggest referrer was Twitter itself, ProBlogger’s launch post has driven some nice traffic, there was a little social bookmarking traffic over the weekend and a growing amount from Google Reader (and other feed readers).
Starting a new blog brings with it a variety of activities. I find that it is a bit of a hectic couple of weeks as you tweak, experiment, remember to do things and see what works. A couple of others things that I’ve done since last time I wrote:
Claimed blog on Technorati – TwiTip was already being indexed on Technorati but I claimed it as my own earlier today and set it up with some tags.
Secured @twitip – one of the things that I had been trying to do since before launching was getting in touch with the owner of the registered but unused @twitip twitter account. It’s hard to get in touch with someone who has registered an account but doesn’t update it. You can’t Direct Message them (as they need to be following you) and there is no real way of finding out who is behind the account (unless you know someone at Twitter). I did try to get in touch with Twitter but had no response but over the weekend I did a public @reply to the account and surprisingly the owner got back to me.
They were willing to do a trade on the user name. I gave them some of my time and they gave me @twitip but also @twittip (double ‘t’) and also a domain www.twittip.com (which I had previously tried to get but was already taken). I’m still not sure what to do with the twitter user names and at this point they just point people to @problogger (my main Twitter account). I’ll probably use @twitip to broadcast updates from the blog.
SEO Tweaks – Thesis (the theme I’m using) is great to use and well set up by default – but there have been a few tweaks that I’ve been doing. These are partly around the All-in-One SEO plugin – particularly around how title tags and meta tags are showing up on posts (although nothing too major).
Interestingly there’s already a trickle of Google traffic coming into the blog. I don’t really expect much of this for some time now (and it’ll go up and down as Google works out how to index the site) – I take a long term view of SEO – no rush here and no need to push it faster than will happen naturally as I add content and as others link to the blog.
The next phase of TwiTip is really to knuckle down and keep developing great content. This includes writing a few of my own posts as well as editing and liaising with those doing guest posts. Outside of this not a lot will probably change with the way that the blog is set up in the short term (although I’m toying with the idea of getting a logo designed).
I will probably add RSS to email and email newsletter options at some point (although not for a bit) and will work towards a custom design – but I’m in no rush for these as I have a few other design projects to get done first on DPS. Really the main task for TwiTip now is about content, community and a little promotional work.