Continuing on from my previous articles, this post is about openly sharing the lessons from our efforts in increasing the readership and relevance of //Startup News since our reboot, two months ago.
As I promised in my last article on the topic, I hope to share the wins and fails in the campaign to grow //Startup News, so we can share important lessons you can apply to your own startup or business.
To recap, the four main growth tactics we are focusing on at this stage, are;
- Publish more content
- Promote our articles further
- Build website traffic
- Generate advertising enquiries
So, how have we gone in achieving these, and what lessons can a fellow startup founder take away?
We’ll cover two time periods with the statistics I share. The ‘previous period’ which is 13 March – 12 May, and the ‘reboot period’ from 13 May until now. These are both the same length of time, so comparisons can be easily made.
Tactic 1: Publish more content
In the previous 8.5 week period before the reboot, there was 21 articles published. This equates to around 2.5 new posts every week.
In the same length of time, post our reboot, we have published 58 articles, which equates to roughly 7 articles a week, which works out to an increase in new articles of 180%.
I have also tried a few archive recap posts, such as 30 Startup Articles Every Founder Should Read and Top 10 Startup News Articles for Q1 2016 which deep link to important articles in our vast archives, and encourage deeper engagement with readers.
Then there is the reaching out further afield for stories. Whilst this takes both Marcus and I some time, it is well worth it, as you can see in the range of news and articles we have been publishing. A number of articles which went to press literally before other media outlets, or within hours of the initial announcements.
We tried doing a series of Saturday morning ‘weekly wrap’ style articles, which were meant to be a very succinct list of articles about local startups that have been published elsewhere. It’s a risk to link directly to other news sources, for fear readers won’t come back to us, however it’s all part of the mission here of sharing the news about local innovation in an noncompetitive way.
The readership though, has been fairly average. We aren’t seeing any big numbers on our Saturday views, and outside the startups being mentioned, we haven’t had any other praise about it.
These articles are potential candidates to drop off entirely, or be reduced from a weekly cycle. Hey, it’s my Friday night being intruded upon.
Lessons to takeaway
If you are using content marketing as part of your customer acquisition strategy, you need to ensure that you publish frequently. There is nothing worse than finding a blog or website that hasn’t been updated for months. Most bloggers tend to post at least once a week, if not more frequently. Try different days and frequencies, and see what works best for your readership.
Be mindful to test different topics, headlines and watch your traffic – it is very important to determine what your readers are most interested in, and least interested in.
Linking to older articles in archive recap posts is a great method to revitalise older content that is still valuable to your readers.
Don’t be afraid to drop topics or change posting cadence, if these articles aren’t getting sufficient engagement.
Tactic 2: Promote our articles further
There are three ways in which we are setting out to promote our content further. These are;
Publish archive recap posts
As mentioned above, these are working really well, helping readers uncover useful articles which they have likely missed (it’s hard when we have hundreds of articles to sift through!). These chosen articles are evergreen, meaning they don’t easily expire, and they are still valuable to our readership.
Build more subscribers to mailing list
As I have mentioned before, by simplifying the newsletter subscribe form from being multiple fields, down to a single email field. Then also moving the position to the top right of every page, means that we have increased our subscriber list by 13% in total.
This is great, it means 13% more people get our Friday afternoon emails, encouraging them to visit the website and consume more content.
If you haven’t yet subscribed, please do so – we’d love to have you on board. The form is just there (points to top right of screen).
Share further on social media
There are two main social media channels that seem to work best for us; Facebook and Twitter. We haven’t really done a lot of promotion of either channel, however Twitter is where we’ve seen the best growth.
We have grown our followers by 41% to just a smidge over 2,000 followers during the last eight or so weeks. We’ve done that as a result of tweeting and sharing more content (at least daily, if not more often) and we have started to include hashtags in our article tweets.
The result has meant a lift in followers, and also, very importantly, an increase in followers sharing our tweets to a wider audience.
In our bad news category, we haven’t done a great job of following back new Twitter followers. Many people (myself included) tend to unfollow accounts who don’t follow them back. We’ll need to lift our game on this, to keep the Twitter followers count in the positive.
Lessons to takeaway
If you haven’t already started an email mailing list, do it straight away! Getting people to hand over their email address means that you can make contact regularly and very cost effectively. This helps build traffic to your website (whether it be e-commerce, content, lead generation, etc) and reminds them that you exist.
Keep any lead generation or subscribe form fields to a minimum; many studies have shown the less form fields, the better the chance that people will complete them.
Make sure you share consistently on social media, and use relevant hashtags to better reach new readers. Try different platforms, and settle on the few where your audience engages with you.
Be sure to follow back Twitter followers – they’re a fickle bunch, and want to know you care about their tweets as well.
Tactic 3: Build more website traffic
As a result of all the above; publishing more frequently, promoting articles further, as well as improving our SEO (Search engine optimisation) and the redesign and tweaking of our content and categories, we have seen a great lift in our readership numbers.
From the previous period until now, we have seen a dramatic increase in three main metrics, being;
Sessions 85.12% increase
Users 87.81% increase
Pageviews 77.88% increase
These figures essentially mean we are getting way more unique readers, who are visiting more frequently, and they are reading more articles per visit than before. Awesome! Thanks to you for being here.
We have grown our readership significantly in a short period of time. It isn’t easy, and I don’t expect the growth curve to stay as strong, however it does mean as an online media property, the earning potential of //Startup News is increasing with each uplift in audience numbers (who wants to advertise in a ghost town of a website?).
The only bad news, and it’s really minor, is that our bounce rate increased by 1.59%. This means we have 1.59% more people ‘bouncing’ straight away. That is, they are visiting a page on the Startup News site, and then leaving without actually navigating any where else.
This could also be just the result of regular readers clicking on our tweets or weekly newsletter, and closing the browser immediately after reading the article they are interested in. I am certainly not getting upset about it.
Acquisition channel graph
Different acquisition channels
Digging down further, we can see that whilst all five of our tracked acquisition channels have grown, the actual mix of overall inbound traffic has changed. These pie graphs show you the before and after from our reboot, and the resulting effect on each traffic acquisition channel.
- Organic search
Social has become a far more important part of our mix, whilst search engines, as a percentage of total traffic has decreased. Interestingly, our traffic from search engines has increased, so these charts reflect more that social has referred far more visitors than previously.
Search engine exposure is important.
We have enjoyed a 52.99% increase in impressions, meaning that search engines are containing our articles in their results far more frequently than before.
This can be a bit of a vanity metric, unless the resulting clicks have also increased. Luckily for us, they have, with a 60.6% increase in clicks from results to the //Startup News website.
Lessons for you
If you aren’t currently using Google Analytics, do set it up this week; the data it provides you on traffic and what they are doing is absolutely invaluable.
Always consider multi channel approaches to building traffic, and don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Since we aren’t using pay per click or paid advertising, we are heavily focused on improving the website to be more search engine friendly, and using free traffic techniques, such as email marketing and social media.
Look for ways to improve your search engine optimisation – the difference between being on page one or page 107 is massive when it comes to the traffic it can produce (or not). When was the last time you ventured further than the first 2-3 pages of search results?
Be aware that ‘direct’ channel in Google Analytics can be a misnomer. Our email newsletter traffic appears as direct, and not as email – if you don’t tie these in, you could assume that email marketing is not worth doing.
Tactic 4: Generate advertising enquiries
Since the reboot, we have definitely seen a big increase in enquiries about advertising on //Startup News. They seem to be equally split between advertising banners, such as the ones you see on the right hand side of every page, and sponsored content, which is an editorial-style approach to promotion.
We still need to sort out the handling of these better, and close a few more sales, however this is less of a focus at the moment, whilst we keep increasing the readership (and therefore advertiser value).
Having said that, we are still keen to get some advertisers on board. You can read more about Advertising Opportunities with //Startup News here.
Lessons to takeaway
We need to eventually focus in this area, however we are more focussed on adding value at this stage. An online media property is only as good as their audience. The more readers, the more influence. The more influence the more advertising is valuable.
In summary, all of our metrics are on the increase, which is very pleasing to see. It sure helps with motivation.
The job now is to maintain the momentum of daily publishing, and ensuring that we keep to a high level of editorial quality. It can be easy to fall into a trap of publishing anything we hear about, just to hit some “article per month” count, however both Marcus and I agree we would rather skip a day or two, than publish articles that are plain rubbish.
How do you, as a reader, feel that we are going? I am keen for your feedback, criticism or compliments!
If you haven’t yet, you can read the previous articles on the subject of our reboot, below;
- Startup News 2.0: One Month Review
- Designers Perspective on the //SN Overhaul
- //StartupNews Revamped
Stay tuned for further articles, where I share more of the growth experience, and a number of experiment outcomes which I am planning to run.