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Why We Wrecked Our Site Traffic

web-traffic-decline

Last year around this time, our company had a call to arms: we would blog.  Not just boring drivel so we could claim that we maintain a blog, but good, useful, specific content about things we know and are working on.

The goal was to show the world the things we’re doing, offer some helpful advice and plugins to the community, challenge ourselves to do cool things worth reading about, and to increase our overall site traffic. 

The strategy paid big dividends in all of those realms.  We focused on jQuery, JavaScript, CSS tricks, and other development strategies.  Traffic grew to a reliable 40,000 + visits per month, our tutorials and plugins were featured around the web, we were encouraged to take extra time in coding to push the envelope, people were appreciative and thankful for our efforts, and we ranked high on Google for very competitive terms about jQuery and JavaScript.

Mission accomplished, right?  Not so much.  While we were getting all of those visits, they rarely converted into leads for our web design and development services.  The people finding us had already solved 80% of the problems we address for our clients, and they were using our free resources to solve the remaining 20%.

Furthermore, it gave our blog a split focus.  Covering front-end web development, politics and web marketing all on one blog meant that too many posts were going up that didn't appeal to our followers.

Monetizing Our Targeted Traffic

We began to wonder if there was a better way to organize things to provide a more consistent experience to our readers and to perhaps benefit ourselves from the traffic.  We threw around a range of ideas: a book on jQuery promoted through our posts, accepting some choice advertising, selling our plugins, and more.  Ultimately, we decided that these options were outside our core focus and motivations for the company.

We then realized that our growth in traffic was perfectly coupled in timing with the launch of our first product: HiFi CMS for Designers and Developers.  Not only would it be great to send additional traffic to HiFi, but our visitors happened to be perfectly targeted for the product.  Designers and developers who value doing things the right way in an innovative manner.  We could also maintain two highly focused blogs instead of one that was all over the map.

The Process

However, internal discussions about the benefits of the traffic and actually pushing 1,000+ people a day away from our site were two very different things.  The process didn't happen overnight, because we needed to be sure that we did everything right.

First, we imported all of our technical blog posts from NMC into HiFi.  Naturally, there were were some formatting errors in the import and we had to go through every post line by line (including code samples) to make sure the import went smoothly.  

Next, we realized this was a perfect opportunity to further optimize some of our popular post URLs and title tags.  We went through each post to make sure it was optimized according to Google Keyword Tool and that the URL was as tight and relevant as possible.

Finally, the scariest part of the whole process came.  We set up 301 permanent redirects from all of the old NMC links to the new URLs on gethifi.com.  Nearly all of our blog traffic is referred from Google, so we wanted to ensure we kept all of our ranking with the new posts.  According to Google and every other trustworthy resource out there, the 301s are the best way to maintain your page rank and successfully pass it along to the new site.  While Google hasn't lied to me before, it was a little bit harder to "flip the switch" when 30,000 of our monthly visitors are on the line.

Wednesday May 26, 2010, a date which will live in infamy, we pulled the trigger.  Everything looked to work perfectly thanks to weeks of efforts from across our team.

The Results

While the traffic switch went perfectly and HiFi saw a large spike in incoming traffic, it's only the first big hurdle, it isn't the ultimate motivation of this experiment.  The real goal is to turn that traffic into followers and leads for HiFi.

Within the first week, HiFi has gained dozens of new Twitter followers and there has even been some nice new chatter about HiFi. Also, our email list has gained a decent amount of new signups, but not a number aligned with the volume of traffic now going to the site.  So, our next step is to optimize the site for our new type of visitor who lands on HiFi accidentally rather than intentionally and might not be seeking out the email signup. Also, now that we have more traffic, it's important to provide more valuable resources to those visitors and encourage them to subscribe.  We're accomplishing this by building out the site's content and planning several exciting new plugins to publish exclusively on HiFi.

We're excited with the initial results, but recognize we have a lot of hard work ahead of us in continuing to generate good content and increasing our conversion rate.  Let us know what you think and if you've ever done something similar.

Comments

Chris Butler's avatar
Chris Butler

Clay,

Synchronicity! This is something we experienced, too, and that I'm now starting to see across our client base: being willing to shed traffic for the sake of retaining the valuable engagement and attracting the right prospects. In fact, this very thing came up in an article I just posted yesterday about <a href="http://www.newfangled.com/measuring_what_really_matters">measuring what really matters</a>.

Like you all, we have tons of content that is attractive to just about anyone in the web space (designers, developers, agencies, freelancers, competitors, etc.), but finding among them those who are actually looking to work with a company like ours is another matter.

Good points and I'm glad you were able to divert that interest toward your CMS.

Chris

Clay Schossow's avatar
Clay Schossow NMC team member

Chris,

Thanks for the comment, I enjoyed your post! Looks like we're addressing similar issues. A really important metric for us was looking at the actual visitor content funnel -- did people landing on technical posts make their way to any conversion pages? Looking at that data, it became apparent developers coming to our site were interested in the blog post that drove them there, maybe a similar blog post, but not in us. We felt HiFi would greatly improve that conversion, as it has a more natural appeal to those folks.

We'll keep you updated on how this all works out!

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