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.
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.
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.
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.