We can officially say (as of Tuesday this week), that we’ve been blogging for 6 months. Looking back at that first blog post written by David, A Texan Traveled — The Beginning, it is fun to see where we started, what we’ve accomplished, and to consider the future direction of From Texas to Beyond. This month we shared on a few local favorites in Fort Worth and Dallas, featured a series on Denton, TX, and began a segment on Kansas City, MO that finished up earlier this week.
Our goal in sharing our “State of the Blog” is to be transparent, so we share what we’ve learned, the mistakes we’ve made, and to gather your thoughts as readers for suggestions we might make to improve. We’ve enjoyed this monthly journey as it has forced us to press pause on the blogging schedule to reflect individually and as a group on our little corner of the internet. By no means do we claim to know all there is to blogging, but we do hope, especially for those other bloggers out there, that you find it helpful and encouraging.
Overall, from July, most numbers are down and while this may seem somewhat discouraging, a closer look at the numbers month to month tells us that it might not be all bad. In the areas of Sessions, Users, and Pageviews, the numbers are about half of what they were in July, however the positive side is that the number of Pages/Session and Average Session Duration have gone up considerably, while also lowering the Bounce Rate. What this reflects is that while we saw less traffic through the site this month, the traffic that did come through was of a higher quality–people stayed on the website longer and they looked at more content. Of course, we’re hopeful for high quantity and quality of users/traffic, but this month reflects higher quality.
As far as our traffic source, this month the most popular was the direct typing in of our URL, followed closely by Reddit, and in a distant 3rd through Google searches. Rounding out the top 10 was a blog that referred quite a bit of new traffic by making mention of our Ideal Tex-Mex Restaurant post, and our Facebook referrals. Last month, StumbleUpon was the number one traffic source, and this month it isn’t on the top 10. Amazing how things can change so quickly!
What Worked…And What Didn’t
I briefly alluded to this in the paragraph above, but it is clear to me in comparing July to August, that StumbleUpon is a great tool for generating new traffic that for various reasons we were not as active in participating during the month of August. While the links are still available on StumbleUpon, we only added a couple and did not see the same traffic presence as in July. You could call it an inadvertent experiment of sorts, because truthfully, we had no idea what the results would be. It is amazing to me how our presence on StumbleUpon did have such a significant impact.
This brings me to a hard question and that is: how do we maintain an active presence on StumbleUpon and other social media? In some ways, you could say we’ve “run out of steam” and our presence has declined in several areas. A reader has gently pointed out to us that we can’t be “everything to everybody”, so perhaps we need to consider more seriously the advantage of being active on fewer platforms and having higher quality content rather than a quantity presence on many platforms. (Do you like how this is coming full circle?). We’ve seen a number of referrals and traffic sources through Reddit, StumbleUpon, and Facebook and not as frequent traffic from Twitter or Pinterest. Does that mean we abandon them completely? Or just shift our efforts? We’re not exactly sure yet, but these are the things we are pondering as we move forward.
Another thing I’ve been thinking about on a personal note is how to stay fresh with my blog posts. In a world where everything is instant, people’s attention span is so short, and we are clamoring for another spot on the blogging scene, I don’t want just to share information, I want it to be accessible and relate to readers; I want our website to be exciting and recruit new followers while remaining relevant and keeping the attention of our loyal followers. I think this is a two-sided issue, because my brain says “hello, you’ve been working crazy hard with the other co-authors to grow this blog and you’ve been doing this for six whole months” and the other part of me says “you’ve only been doing this for six months, how will you maintain steam to blog potentially for years?”. A couple things we’ve learned as it relates to this: it is important to cross-train so that when for example, I need a break from Twitter, someone else can manage it. This is also why we take turns writing various series as a couple: for the Kansas City series, Matt and I were writing while David and Rebekah were on break. Any other pieces of advice for us on this?
Lastly, we did receive a nice surprise bump in traffic from the good people of the Austin American-Statesman that featured our Ideal Tex-Mex grading rubric (you can read the article here). While this helped our traffic and was shared on their Facebook page, it also created quite a discussion of varying opinions on what constitutes good Tex-Mex and we love a debate! We are so thankful to the Statesman for sharing and recognize that no rubric could ever handle all the wonderful varieties of Tex-Mex or Mexican food.
We’re still learning…but who isn’t. Even if you’ve been blogging for years or are just getting started, its important to recognize the growth you’ve seen in yourself, consider how you might improve in the present, and look forward to new opportunities in the future. Hopefully we at From Texas to Beyond will continue to refine our processes for creating both quality and quantity content on our website and social media platforms and continue to put forth a product that gains and retains loyal readers.