An Active Mindset: 100 new RSS subscribers and the power of endorsements

Everybody in the search marketing industry has fallen head over heels for social media. Certainly it’s nice to see those traffic spikes in your website stats. Personally, I see social media as excellent for viral marketing, branding and long-term relationship building. But I don’t see that new visitors coming to a site from social media sites are particularity interested in taking action on content. Why? Most of them are not in that particular mindset. For first time visits, search engine and affiliate traffic simply convert better.

Unless your monetization strategy is to sell page views you need to keep hitting the home page of the social media sites on a consistent basis in order to take advantage of them. What works best I find is a balanced approach to building traffic. Let me illustrate this by sharing two recent events that sent notable traffic spikes to this blog, as well as the resulting fallout from that traffic.

The first spike was thanks to power stumbler Andy Beard stumbling my post about PageRank and several of his friends voting the story up. I had 357 RSS subscribers at the time, and the post received 946 views that day (October 30th). The next day I received 134 page views and Feedburner reported 350 RSS subscribers. Thanks to Feedburner’s inherent inaccuracy that doesn’t mean people unsubscribed from my blog, but it does tell me that I received no new subscribers from that amazing increase in traffic.

The second spike was yesterday and was because I had requested a paid review from the popular blog John Chow dot Com. I received 1,022 page views and had 332 subscribers. Today I am over 480 page views so far and Feedburner reports 427 RSS subscribers—almost 100 new subscribers, a 30% increase! On top of that, I also got additional traffic to my company and my upcoming product site, as well as qualified leads for my private beta program.

Why the big difference in results from similar page views and visits?

The right visitor mindset

When people are stumbling, digging, and doing their social media thing, they are set on doing one particular task: to digg or bury the story; to vote the content up or down; to bookmark or not, and so on. In contrast, when people read reviews or product/service recommendations, they are interested in learning more and potentially buying or trying it out. This is one of the reasons why I love affiliate marketing. The power of affiliate marketing is not just that you can make money without owning a product (as an affiliate marketer), or that you can promote your product with no marketing budget (as an affiliate merchant), the real power is in pre-sales. People trust what others say about you more than what you say about yourself.

In this particular case, Michael Kwan from John Chow dot Com wrote a well-balanced and very positive review of this blog. He included both praise and critiques that I accepted and immediately acted upon. Few people believe in perfection; there is always something that can be improved, and that is why endorsements that mention both positive and negative things have far more impact than ones that say everything is perfect.

When you read the review it sounds like a solid recommendation providing reasons why his readers would want to read my blog, as well as points where he thought the blog could improve upon. In addition to his review, a mutual reader, David Darey, commented on the story, reinforcing why others should pay a visit to this blog. It is natural to think many people reading that review came here with the mindset of becoming an active reader. If you are one of John’s readers, welcome to my blog and feel free to express yourself in the comments.

Quality First

One of the reasons why I waited 6 months to start marketing the blog seriously is because it is easier to market a good product than it is to market a bad (or incomplete) one. If I only had a handful of low quality posts I am sure the review would not have been as positive, and the results would not have been so stellar. Half a year ago, I decided to take time out from my already busy workday to build a quality blog over time; I’d worry about promoting it later. In the end, it has been a test of patience, but also a rewarding experience.

Traffic spikes for everyone

How can you duplicate this?

  1. Focus on building quality content based on your own unique knowledge and experience. I blog mostly about SEO, which is a topic that has been beaten to death, yet I can always find an idea or angle not yet discussed.

  2. Encourage people both to praise and critique your content. We all like to hear applause, but it is the criticism that makes the blog better. Learn to listen and act on good critiques.

  3. Promote your content on bigger blogs to tap into that blog’s audience. You don’t necessarily need to take the lazy approach I took by paying for a review. Alternatively, you can invest a few hours researching and writing an exceptional post and equally exceptional pitch, and send both to your favorite A-list blogger. I chose to pay because for me is easier to find the money than to find the time to do that. Of course I do plan to start guest posting soon. Not every blog I want to target accepts paid reviews!

Have you tried doing this? Tell me about your peaks and valleys in the comments.

19 replies
  1. David Hopkins
    David Hopkins says:

    I'm not a blogger, so can't really offer anything from that end of the stick, but from being someone who just comments on blogs without a blog of my own, the thing that really keeps me coming back to blogs is if people actually respond to my comments. Particularly if they are meaningful responses, such as Mr. Slawski and Mr. Airey's.

    If you are looking to have a good number of regular commentors, I think personal interaction is more important than quality content.

    One thing I don't understand is how you can have so many readers, but only two seasoned commentors. That just seems to be the way it is.

    Reply
  2. Hamlet Batista
    Hamlet Batista says:

    David – I always enjoy your insightful comments. As soon as you decide to start a blog, let me know. I will be the first one to subscribe. Honestly!

    I try to encourage commenting at the end of my posts, and fortunately I average a reasonable number of comments per post. Unfortunately, I lack the time to do as much commenting or networking as I should. Hopefully that will change in the coming months.

    Reply
  3. Mack
    Mack says:

    I think user participation is extremely important to a blog's success. Like David mentioned, I really enjoy when I receive comment from the writer.

    Encourage people both to praise and critique your content. We all like to hear applause, but it is the criticism that makes the blog better. Learn to listen and act on good critiques.

    I find this to be a very good tactic (if you will) to encourage participation simply because everyone has some sort of opinion.

    Great Post, Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  4. SEO ROI Services
    SEO ROI Services says:

    I really enjoyed this post here Hamlet. Developing a subscriber base is something that is in my long term plans for growth and it's good to see how someone else went about it. I love seeing case studies (and have shared my own, especially on Facebook (at SEO ROI) and PPC (at Youmoz)). Keep up the good blogging!

    Cheers,

    Gab Goldenberg

    Reply
  5. Jez
    Jez says:

    Hi Hamlet,

    I had not seen that review, but just read it… good that its favorable but I don't suppose you were too worried about getting a bad one…

    I liked the fact they quoted the line:

    “pay-per-click, Viagra, and the almighty dollar… was enough to get Hamlet started.”

    That still amuses me after all this time.

    As for social bookmarking… I describe it as being "cheap, disposable traffic".

    I think people find gaming social bookmarking addictive as it provides an instant rush of traffic, which depending on the site you are gaming can be monetized.

    For example some sites got a large PR boost from Netscape.com (before it moved off to Propeller) and the users from that site are known to be "click happy" regards advertising.

    I had a few stumbles on my sites… they were completely organic which was nice, but, ultimately of no value to me.

    A quick blast from social bookmarking sites is no substitute for sustainable passive income / traffic…

    Reply
  6. Jez
    Jez says:

    Hi Hamlet,

    I had not seen that review, but just read it… good that its favorable but I don't suppose you were too worried about getting a bad one…

    I liked the fact they quoted the line:

    “pay-per-click, Viagra, and the almighty dollar… was enough to get Hamlet started.”

    That still amuses me after all this time.

    As for social bookmarking… I describe it as being "cheap, disposable traffic".

    I think people find gaming social bookmarking addictive as it provides an instant rush of traffic, which depending on the site you are gaming can be monetized.

    For example some sites got a large PR boost from Netscape.com (before it moved off to Propeller) and the users from that site are known to be "click happy" regards advertising.

    I had a few stumbles on my sites… they were completely organic which was nice, but, ultimately of no value to me.

    A quick blast from social bookmarking sites is no substitute for sustainable passive income / traffic…

    On another note, I see you looking for images that match your theme now ;-)

    Regards Davids comment on comments and commentors… I think you probably have quite a serious audience who don't make time to leave their RSS reader…

    Reply
  7. Paul Robb
    Paul Robb says:

    Hamlet

    Interesting post. My own short experience mirrors yours. For example,

    Stumble Upon Traffic: less than 1% subscribe to my blog

    Sphinn Homepage Traffic: around 5% subscribe to my blog

    Traffic from SEOmoz (contest and blog posts): around 15-20% subscribe to my blog.

    This is only based on 100 subscribers, and the numbers are my best estimates (I don't have strong analytics in place on my blog)… but I thought I would share these numbers with you.

    All the best,

    Paul

    Reply
  8. The certain Way
    The certain Way says:

    I had the same effect you noticed with StumbleUppon. I myself can genrate some 100-200 page views by submitting my own articles. But they never stay. I only do it very occasionally. And only for the best content, and still … nobody stays.

    I asked my 10 rss subscribers to give me some feedback on the site, or articles, got none either. So feel free to come by and give some feedback ;-).

    Olivier.

    Reply
  9. Hamlet Batista
    Hamlet Batista says:

    Mack – Thanks for your comment

    Gab – Thanks for the link, I'm glad you liked the post. Keep up the great posts on Youmoz.

    Jez – Yes, I know you always liked that line :-) I am not saying there is no value in social media traffic; but I think it is a little bit overrated at the moment.

    Paul – thanks a lot for your comment and for sharing your experience. I'd be interested in learning who has experienced the opposite.

    Olivier – Some will stay but you need a lot more that 100=200 page views

    Reply
  10. Dr. Pete
    Dr. Pete says:

    My numbers are almost in total agreement with Paul's; shout-outs on industry sites have a solid conversion to subscribers for me, but the day I got 700 visitors from StumleUpon converted at less than 1% (even though their metrics looked good).

    I think you're right about the mindset; there's a bit of a channel-surfer mentality to stumbling and social media. Sphinn has also added a layer by having a separate comments section for Sphunn articles; honestly, I don't like the way that circumvents the original blog.

    Reply
  11. David Hopkins
    David Hopkins says:

    Thanks for your kind words Hamlet, I think being a regular on your blog has certainly helped my understanding of online marketing.

    Another thought is that it can be good to foster relations between your readers. I will always read Jez's comments, but are less likely to read comments from newbies with spammy names. One thing that I think help socialisation on your blog is if you have the nested comments that you had on your old K2 blog.

    As for starting a blog, I suffer severly from only being able to work with high quality OO code, so I will have to make my own software with RSS feed and trackback intergration. That isn't to much work, but I work many hours. At the moment my main thing is working on a PHP framework and XML subset called eXtensible Server-side Interface. Thus far it is reducing PHP code by about 1000% and spliting development time in half. Its extremely flexiable, so I plaan to build a blog platform of it.

    Reply
  12. Hamlet Batista
    Hamlet Batista says:

    Sphinn has also added a layer by having a separate comments section for Sphunn articles; honestly, I don’t like the way that circumvents the original blog.

    Dr. Pete – I am waiting for them to provide comment RSS for each story. Once that is available it will be trivial to display those comments in your blog and help make your blog look more active.

    David – the problem with nested comments and other plugins is that they stopped working when I moved to WordPress 2.3. I will find the time to put them back. I really like them.

    Before I started blogging, I was planning to create my own blog in Django. After researching a bit, I figure that it would take time that I could better invest in writing posts, so I dropped the idea.

    Reply
  13. Drivelmaster
    Drivelmaster says:

    I want to open by saying that I Stumble, and I am a JohnChow.com reader. I think that Hamlet has hit the nail on the head. I have noticed that the comments people leave when they stumble a site runs the gamut from a one word response to an intelligent review. However, a majority of the comments I have seen from the sites I have stumbled has been a "cut and paste" quote straight from the the site itself! It is a sad commentary, in my opinion, but something that needs to be paid attention to when you are marketing a website or other product on the internet. Hamlet Batista, for me, seems to have very good information and insight. I will continue to read this blog, and I encourage anyone who is interested in SEO or internet marketing to subscribe to this blog. Email or RSS it doesn't matter, do it. You won't regret it. Thanx.

    Reply
  14. Arham | Blogpreneur
    Arham | Blogpreneur says:

    Hi hamlet :-)
    thanks for traffic spike list… I wish that would be useful 4 me..

    oh ya, I like your traffic spike number 2
    "Encourage people both to praise and critique " and That's happened for everyone

    Reply

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