One of the most common questions I hear from bloggers and businesses that blog, is 'How can I grow my blog's traffic?'  This is a valid question, but bloggers shouldn't forget to focus on their blog's subscribers as well.  Over the last year, I have seen first-hand what can happen when you focus on growing your blog's subscriber count.

Like most bloggers, I keep a close eye on my blog's traffic.  I launched my blog The Viral Garden back in March of 2006.  In the first few months, traffic quickly grew from 0 to around 150 visitors a day on average.  But in the fall and late 2006, I noticed that the growth began to slow, and by Feb. of 2007, I was only averaging around 175-200 visitors a day.

But I also noticed something else, my number of daily feed readers had caught up with my daily traffic, and by Feb. of last year, I was actually having more daily feed readers than daily visitors to my blog.  This really got my attention, because I had been doing everything possible to grow my blog's visitors, but had spent almost no time trying to grow my subscriber base.  So I quickly switched gears, and over the last 11 months, I have concentrated on growing my number of subscribers.  Here's how the growth has tracked over the life of The Viral Garden:


FBStats.jpgNotice that there's very slow and steady growth up till just after Jan. of 2007.  Then around mid-Feb., growth accelerates.  A couple of things happened here.  First, this was when I decided to focus more on subscribers.  Up till now, I had only a couple of subscriber buttons available on my blog's sidebar, one for subscribing to my blog's Feedburner feed, and one for subscribing via Bloglines.  Both were buried about halfway down my sidebar.  I moved both buttons up to the top of my sidebar, right under my pic and contact info.  Then in Feb., Feedburner started tracking Google Reader in the subscriber counts, and I saw about a 30% jump from this.

TVGSidebar.jpgThen in April, I noticed that Feedburner offered a form for your blog that would let visitors subscriber via email.  I thought this was a great idea, and added this form to my blog's sidebar under my subscriber buttons.  In the last 9 months, I've gone from 0 email subscribers, to almost 100 now.  Not a huge amount, but every little bit helps.

By mid 2007, I was helping a close eye on the behavior of my subscribers.  I noticed that many were accessing my feed with Google Reader, NewsGator, and NetVibes.  So I added subscriber buttons for these services, and also added a feed count widget that showed how many feed subscribers had accessed my blog from the previous day.  The pic to the right shows what my sidebar subscriber section looks like now.

Now notice the huge spike around July of 2007.  In spending time with Feedburner, I noticed that they offered a service for Blogspot blogs that would redirect all your blogs feed to the Feedburner version of your blog's feed.  Feedburner claimed that this would allow you to accurately track how many times your feed was accessed.  I decided 'Why not?' and made the switch.  I was stunned to see my subscriber count double immediately from around 600 to 1,200 daily subscribers!  If you have a Blogger or Blogspot blog, you MUST do this, here's the link that explains how.

Since then, I've continued to enjoy steady subscriber growth.  Last July I had around 1,200 daily subscribers, yesterday my count was 2,352, which means it's almost doubled in the last six months. 

Now I should note that during this same time, my daily traffic to the blog has increased by about 75%.  From what I can tell, around 5% of my visitors subscribe to my blog, so the growth of subscribers is cannibalizing blog traffic growth a bit.  Since I don't have any ads on my blog, I am ok with this.  My thinking is that I want my blog's readers to have as many options as possible for receiving my content.  If they want to visit manually, they can.  If they want to subscribe and access the blog's feed via a feed reader, they can.  If they want to receive email updates once a day, that option is also available. 

But the bottom line is that you constantly have to monitor your blog to understand what is working well for you.   I advise companies on how to improve their blogging efforts, but individuals can also benefit from not only analyzing their blogging efforts, but from also viewing their blog visitors as customers.   By paying close attention to my subscribers, I discovered how and why visitors were becoming subscribers, and catered to these people.  And subscriber growth of over 1000% in less than a year is the result. 

January 29, 2008





Mack Collier is a social media consultant, trainer and speaker. He has been actively immersed in social media since 2005, and in that time, has helped advise, teach and consult with businesses of all shapes and sizes on how they can better connect with their customers via these amazing tools and sites. While being passionate about the social media space, what truly excites Mack is the human connections that can result from the proper use of these social tools. His motto is "Don't focus on the tools, focus on the connections that the tools help facilitate." His goal is to help his clients create those connections with their customers, and nuture them into relationships that help grow their bottom line.

His social media 'homebase' is The Viral Garden, which in 3 years time Mack has grown into an influential marketing/social media blog with a monthly readership of over 175,000. He is also a frequent contributor to the website Marketing Profs, as well as the marketing blog Daily Fix, and small business blog Search Engine Guide. His writings have been referenced in several mainstream publications and websites, including The Washington Post, MSNBC.com, Ad Age, CNET, and The Boston Globe.

Mack is also a requested speaker and has presented at some of the top social media conferences and events, including South By Southwest Interactive, Marketing Profs Digital Marketing Mixer, and Small Business Marketing Unleashed. He is also passionate about teaching companies how to use social media sites and tools more effectively, and offers training and seminars privately to companies, in addition to his public speaking schedule.

You can learn more information about Mack's social media training and consulting services here. If you need a social media speaker for your event, or want to know where Mack will be speaking next, click here. If you want to email Mack, click here.

Mack wrote this bio. The third-person thingie is just for fun.






Comments(7)

Hi Mack,

Great post. I think it's important that all bloggers tag their site with analytics and setup RSS subscription as a conversion event.

Then you can figure out which sources of traffic, articles and other things convert the best and incorporate that into your blog strategy.

Best,
-Alex

Hi Mack,

Nice post. I'm fairly new to blogging but I'm learning fast. It's funny to me to read your post after a few hours of having set up bidvertiser's RSS ads on my blog's feed.

I say it's funny because I had some inner voice telling me not to waste that virtual real state. The ads aren't obstrusive at all, but do you think they could annoy my readers somehow?

Regards
Anthony

Hello Mack,

This is excellent information. I have been getting the Feedblitz newsletter for a couple of months and have read the articles, voraciously. I think I get better SEO advice and info from your blog than just about anywhere else on the Internet.

Thanks for the information!

Thanks Alex, I think it's also a case of you having to 'go with your winners'. My feed subscribers were growing faster than traffic, so I decided to cater to the needs of my subscribers.

Anthony I haven't seen bidvertiser ads, but if they are similar to the ones that Feedburner inserts at the end of a post in the feed, I don't think they would be intrusive at all.

Karen thanks so much!

Hi Mack, I'm new to blogging and everyday I'm keen to learn as much as I can in order to make my blog a success. You have pointed me the right direction, and I see the importance of not just concentrating on increasing my traffic, but that I also need to put the same effort into building u large subscriber base.

Very nice article. thx for sharing :) I have had some success doing something similar and its nice to know its working for you :)

Hi Mack ,)

Wow! What a great post here!! I had no idea, that I could monetize on my blogger blog with AdSense ,) Thanks for the tip! I look forward to adding analytics and AdSense ads to it, to see if I can get it some more traffic! Also, I have added your blog site to my links directory on my freelance seo website, since I think that your site has a lot to give, as for being very informative about so many helpful topics .) Thanks again for being you!

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