July 29, 2014

Case Study: The Launch of a New Blog

Towards the end of July I launched my third blog, DesignM.ag. My goal with DesignM.ag is to build on the things that I have learned through Vandelay Design and to develop a site that will become an excellent resource for the web design community. I thought it may be helpful for some readers of Traffikd to learn more about the process I took with the launch, and to share some things that worked well and some things that could have been improved. Hopefully this will give you some insight and will be an aid for you in your next blog launch.

My Strategy for Promotion

Every blog launch needs to include some type of strategy for promoting the blog and getting people to check it out. Of course, content is a big part of the launch, and visitors need to find something worth their time when they arrive. However, content is not enough for a new blog because targeted readers will not just find the blog by mistake.

The first and most important part of the promotion was to announce the launch from the Vandelay Design blog. At the time I had about 5,000 subscribers there, so it was an excellent opportunity to give DesignM.ag a quick boost since both sites target generally the same audience. I also announced the launch here, but with a smaller, less-targeted audience the results would obviously not be as significant.

In the announcement post at Vandelay Design I linked to each of the four posts that were published at the time of launch to get visitors reading the content right away, rather than just seeing a link to the homepage. Having another established blog is a luxury that you may or may not have, but if you do, be sure to leverage your existing success as much as possible.

One of the initial posts was a group interview of 21 web designers that shared some of their favorite design-related blogs and websites. I decided to use this post for a few reasons. First, it gave me an excellent opportunity to email influential design bloggers and mention the launch of DesignM.ag. I was planning on sending an email to those in my network to let them know about the launch, but this worked out better because it got them involved with the site right off the bat.

Most of those involved in the interview came to see the post once it was published, many voted for it at social media, and a few even linked back to the post from their own blog. I highly recommend this type of approach if you can apply it to your own blog, because it’s an excellent way to let others know about your new blog and to give something back to them in terms of a link and a bit of exposure (although the exposure is limited on a brand new blog).

A few months ago I wrote a post here at Traffikd about my approach to targeting social media with specific posts – meaning, I’ll create a post especially for the purpose of drawing votes and traffic from social media. With a new blog launch social media traffic is a tremendous opportunity because of how quickly you can get a lot of eyeballs on your new site. This was my primary method of getting exposure and getting the site off the ground.

For the launch of DesignM.ag one of the initial four posts was created to target social media. Within 24 hours of the launch 50+ Fonts for Big Bold Headlines reached the front page of Delicious and did very well with StumbleUpon. As I shared a few months ago, Delicious users are the most predictable of any social media users. With the tech-savvy audience that DesignM.ag is targeting, getting to the front page of Delicious is very do-able with the right content. In fact, DesignM.ag is currently six weeks old, I’ve published one post each week specifically to target Delicious, and each one has gone to the front page. This just goes to show that if you take the time to learn about what works well with particular social media sites, it’s very possible to create content that will have a high likelihood of success (assuming you’re targeting the appropriate social media sites).

Also in attempt to promote DesignM.ag and get some added exposure, I wrote two posts for Smashing Magazine, both had a link back to DesignM.ag in a brief bio at the end of the post. Writing guest posts was one of my primary methods of growing Vandelay Design and I highly recommend it to any blogger. However, neither of these posts brought all that much traffic considering Smashing Magazine has over 100,000 subscribers. Still, the few hundred visitors that did come were well-targeted.

In summary, my promotional strategy involved only 3 major aspects:

1. Leverage any other blogs that you own

2. Find a way to get others involved right away

3. Target social media with specific posts

The Good

The group interview was pretty effective at getting others involved at the site right away. I was very pleased with the number of comments, social media votes, and links that I received from participants in the interview. Getting noticed by other bloggers in your niche is always important, so if you can get 20 of them involved at once, it’s a productive thing to do.

Leveraging the Vandelay Design blog allowed me to transfer some of the readers from my primary blog over to my new blog as well. If you’ve built an audience and developed a reputation for producing good content, you have a huge advantage as compared to bloggers launching their first blog.

Through the first six weeks the posts created to target social media have been the biggest source of traffic and the most influential factor in building subscribers. Creating posts to target social media is not that difficult, but you have to take the time to understand what social media users will respond to. This is an approach I would use with almost any blog launch.

I’ve also gotten a boost by being fortunate enough to get links from a few influential bloggers. These people are all very well-respected by their readers, so a recommendation and a link are pretty powerful. In almost every case these links came from other bloggers that I would consider my friends. Over the past year I’ve made an effort to connect with other bloggers in my niche, and for a new blog launch this really pays off. I didn’t ask anyone to link to me, but it’s a pretty common practice for bloggers to link to their friends (and it’s something that I have done for others as well). One link in particular had a big influence. Henry Jones of Design Reviver mentioned DesignM.ag in a post that got Dugg, 14 of the Most Useful Web Design Blogs. As a result of the Digg traffic, I got a lot of visitors and saw a nice increase in subscribers.

Things I Would Do Differently

Getting the site ready for launch took a bit longer than I was hoping for. The WordPress theme involves multiple loops, multiple feeds, and excluding categories here and there, so it took a while to get the theme working as I needed it to. As a result, I didn’t get the design of the site to a point that I was satisfied with before the launch. At the time I just wanted to get the site up and running, and the content was ready, so I launched it before I was completely satisfied with the look of the site. I figured I would make some changes over the next couple of weeks, but running three blogs hasn’t allowed much time for those changes. I recommend that you hold off your launch until the design is completely ready.

While I was able to get some other designers in my network involved in the group interview, I had a number of others in my network that I didn’t reach out to. When I launched Traffikd I sent a personal email to a number of my readers and blogging friends and I got a really great response. This time around the only people I emailed were the designers that participated in the interview. I probably could have improved things a little just by taking an hour and sending out some personal emails to those in my network.

I mentioned earlier that I wrote 2 posts for Smashing Magazine with links to DesignM.ag. I would have liked to write guest posts for a number of other blogs in the design niche, but I just ran out of time. From my experience, guest posts don’t draw huge amounts of visitors, but they do help to build recognition of the blogger and their site, and the visitors that do click-through are much more likely to subscribe. Additionally, writing guest posts is a great way to get to know other bloggers and build some strong relationships. If you don’t have other friends that blog in your niche, take a few moments to contact some bloggers, introduce yourself, and ask if they would be interested in a guest post. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with the results.

Overall Results of the Launch

My goal for the first 30 days of DesignM.ag was to get 100,000 visitors and 1,000 subscribers. I fell just short in terms of visitors, although for the month of August the site went over 100,000 visitors (about 93,000 from July 21 – August 21). In terms of subscribers the goal was actually surpassed in the first two weeks. To sum it up, it took me one month of blogging at DesignM.ag to reach the same level of traffic and subscribers that took me six months at Vandelay Design. This is solid evidence that launching a second (or in this case third) blog is much easier than the first blog. Not only will you have an existing audience to promote to, but you’ll also know a lot more about what you’re doing and you can spend your time more efficiently.

I started Traffikd because I wanted to share some of the things I’d learned about social media and building a blog. With the launch of DesignM.ag I’m more convinced than ever that social media is an incredibly powerful resource for quickly getting a blog off the ground.

About Steven Snell

Steven is a web designer, blogger, and freelance writer.

8 comments

  1. very helpful. i will apply this case study to my new blog. thanks!

  2. Congrats Steven. A tip: For guest posts to really work in traffic and SEO terms you got to ad content links back to your blog.

  3. Hey Tad,
    Yeah, I agree. However, I’d be more likely to do that if I’m writing for a small blog, but hesitant to try to slip in links to myself when writing for Smashing Magazine.

  4. Great stuff, Steven. Those stats are simply wonderful, considering the really short time span. Good luck with the next 10 blogs! :D

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