July 2012 has been the most successful month in the near 2 year history of AvocadoPesto – by far. I nearly tripled my traffic, see for yourself:
When I was a wordpress.com and didn’t have Google Analytics – traffic from Dec 2010 up to June 25th 2012
Traffic for first 25 days after blog redesign June 26 – July 25, 2012
Total Views All Time (Nov 2010 – June 2012): 88,245
Total Views June 1 - June 25, 2012: 10,610
Total Views June 26 – July 20, 2012: 36,992
How I Did It
There is no one change to credit here but instead a series of sweeping changes in the way I approach blogging and my website. I will try to address each change individually. In some cases it is somewhat difficult to get granular information pre Google Analytics because wordpress.com tracks only very basic site statistics:
New Design and Better Performance
What kicked all of this off was my major site redesign in late June, whereby I moved from wordpress.com to just a regular .com and implemented the Thesis Theme. I was also considering other website design options to help with my performance, which involved installing some new plugins for performance as well as some back end work that D did (mostly image optimization, combining external files, setting up Cloudflare).
Implementing some basic performance techniques, particularly installing W3 Total Cache and Cloudflare has increased my performance from a D and a C to:
This is the sort of thing where I wouldn’t expect it to get more people to your site, since people don’t know about your site performance until they’re already on it. However, if the site is performing well it’s reasonable to believe that people will spend longer on it and surf more pages. Unfortunately I don’t have data related to this before already implementing these changes in July, but consider a basic scenario:
1000 visits per day * 1.60 page views = 1600 page views per day
Now, if your site is performing faster you might be able to bump that up to say 1.70 page views or even 1.80, in which case you’re getting an extra 200 page views a day or 6k a month. So, there certainly is some merit in making sure your site is performing well.
Referral traffic is really the heart of this blog and it accounts for 72% of my traffic. There are tons of food porn sites where, if your photograph gets accepted, it can basically turn a mediocre day into an outstanding day. My progress here has been two fold:
- Getting more photographs accepted
- Expanding the number of sites from which I get my referral traffic
Consider my All Time (Dec 2010 – June 25th 2012) referral traffic:
Now consider the month of July – top 10. Remember that in order to match up correctly with views you have to multiply visits times pages/visit.
As I mentioned before there are some clear stand outs. Firstly, getting more photographs accepted to sites like Foodgawker resulted in me getting half as many page views in July as I had received from the 1.5 years prior! In fact, of the 33 photographs that have been accepted to Foodgawker about 1/3 of them are from July. This has a bit of a spiral effect because if a photo is accepted to foodgawker then there is a good chance it can get picked up by another one like Tastespotting or even featured on a lesser known site like Healthy Aperture. I can’t stress enough the difference a photo editing program like Lightroom does. If you’re serious about food photography I think this is a necessary investment – unfortunately it doesn’t come cheap.
This month I also started submitting to a lot more photo sharing sites, mainly to see which ones generate the most traffic. Sites like Finding Vegan and Chowstalker are more niche in what they take, but there are also less submissions and as a result give you more of an opportunity to stand out. It can really be time consuming submitting to all these food porn sites so I strongly encourage you to spend one month really testing the waters and then committing fully to the top few which really provide you the best traffic boost.
Surprisingly the site RecipeNewz which accepts all photos, regardless of quality, generates a decent amount of traffic. So for those of who whose photos are still getting rejected by Foodgawker and Tastespotting, head over to RecipeNewz and submit all your posts there (max of 3 submissions a day).
This month I also joined the food network Tasty Kitchen where you create a profile, friend fellow bloggers and submit recipe with photos. The downside to this site is that to submit a recipe you need to individually type out each ingredient by quantity, measurement and type (so that users can easily change the number of servings). I have found that this site has been bringing a decent amount of traffic though and each visitor seems to stay on my blog longer and go through more pages than the other food sharing sites.
Prior to July I shared my recipes on facebook via my profile as well as through my avocadopesto twitter account. My social media ended there. In July I took it a step further (something I should have done a long time ago) and implemented a few key elements to bolster my social media:
- I created a dedicated Facebook Page for my food blog
- I became more active on Twitter and began to follow other food bloggers
- I created a Pinterest account
- I installed two social media plugins specifically to help gain followers; digg-digg bar and facebook like box pop-up
Consider the results from July (referral traffic):
Again, July ended up being about half of what I had achieved in 1.5 years working on Pinterest and Facebook. Twitter, while not overwhelming, was triple what it had ever been before. I believe the plugins I mentioned were key in allowing me to “make up for lost time”. For example, the digg digg bar has allowed users to share my posts on various social media sites and floats unobtrusively down the side.
The big winner though is the Facebook like box pop up. One thing I noticed about food blogs is the high amount of traffic that comes from new visitors (80%). Many visitors will come to your blog once and then possibly never return. It’s important to make a strong effort to “capture” them while you can. The plugin I added to suggest that people like my Facebook comes up once every 10 days for each user. So, if you are new to the site, you see it the first time, and then if you visit again it won’t be shown for another 10 days. This way it is not bothersome but at least makes the suggestion to everyone who visits the page. You can also do this for subscriptions, though those plugins are a bit more difficult to find for free and I found this Facebook like box to be super easy to install.
A few things to note here. I believe the Facebook pop up box was installed around July 6, so as you can see my new likes (daily) shot up after that and have remained higher than my pre pop up box average. I’m not sure but I also think that the 113 Like Box and Like Button refers to that plugin. Overall I have got over 200 likes in just one month of creating a page, advertising it on my home page, and installing the pop up.
I’ve never really been much into SEO. I write my posts how I want and whatever happens happens. However, once I designed my new blog I decided to make a more concentrated effort in this area. It’s really difficult to true back SEO work to results but a few of the things I did were.
- I went back and updated my images to include ALT tags
- I installed YOAST’S plugin for SEO
- I included meta descriptions for all my posts which contained the key word(s) (essentially the title).
- I added the easy recipe plugin so that my posts would look nice in search engines, displaying the thumbnail as well as the prep time, etc.
- I set up Google Webmasters and submitted a site map so that my posts would get indexed by Google.
Google seems to be happy and is crawling my website more
Indexing my sitemap and practicing some basic SEO has increased my impressions
To be honest it’s difficult to properly evaluate this because I redirected my blog. Also, search engine traffic isn’t the major source of traffic for this blog, but one thing I do like about it is that it is dependable. Once your posts are on Google they are essentially there for good, and while I can’t control if Foodgawker is going to accept one of my photos, I can always count on traffic driven from older posts. Moreover, it’s a good long term strategy and I hope to see more of the effects of my SEO work going forward.
I think it’s pretty clear here that there are a lot of factors at play, and that probably comes at no surprise, because it’s rare that you all of the sudden triple your traffic in one month. Frankly, it also helps a lot that I was coming from nothing (I mean really, no Facebook page for 1.5 years!). It’s unlikely that I will see this same growth next month but it does go to show how much opportunity there really is. Note that I didn’t change any of my content and it’s still the same old me writing. It was just a matter of being more efficient with my marketing – it’s all in the presentation.