From Texas to Beyond

Local, Near and Far: Our journey of exploring the world.

Category: State of the Blog Reports (page 1 of 2)

Interested in how we’re running this thing? Every month you’ll hear from us in our State of the Blog Reports; we’ll report our stats, what works, and what doesn’t. You can check in with us as we go up the steep learning curve of blogging and provide any insight you might have to make us better.

September State of the Blog Report

We’re back again for another month of reporting on the status, growth, lessons learned, and reflections from September. In September we wrapped up our Kansas City series, highlighted a few local favorites here in Fort Worth, shared our day trip to Deep Ellum, invited a guest blogger for his first post on a layover in Vienna, and started our series on Paris. We’ve been busy! All of us are very much looking forward to October and the continuation of the Paris series–David and Rebekah have a unique way of storytelling and beautiful photos that I’m excited to read.

Our hopes and reason for sharing our “State of the Blog” is to be transparent, so we can reflect on what we’ve learned, the mistakes we’ve made, and to gather your thoughts as readers for suggestions we might make to improve. 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. Continue reading

August State of the Blog Report

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.

Numbers

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.

Analytics

 

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!

Traffic Source

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.

Summary

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.

 

 

State of the Blog for July

Five months down and many more to go! In an effort to give you a peek behind the curtain, we are back to share with you something very near and dear to our hearts:  The State of the Blog Report.

Just as a reminder from the first report, we intentionally make our status reports known as a way to share with you and the blogging community what we have found to work and what doesn’t. It is a way for us to see what our baseline is and how we need to improve. We do not claim to know it all, we simply and humbly share with you our results saying this is where we have come from, this is what we are building on, and where we hope to keep growing.

Let’s look at the numbers and see how this blog is doing.

Numbers

This past month was our strongest one yet as we have been blessed with tremendous support from our audience and other sites. We introduced a series on South Bend, IN and then brought the story back to the DFW area to focus on some of our favorite local spots.

fttb - july pageviewsAs you can see from the numbers, we had several really good days that were a result of a spike from some of our articles getting “stumbled” from StumbleUpon. The sessions, users, and pageviews jumped 65%, 69%, and 61% respectively. The pages per session and average session duration both decreased while the bounce rate also decreased. The percentage of new users increased but that was mainly a result of new users finding us from StumbleUpon.

fttb - july sourcesAs for where the readers came from, you will see that StumbleUpon brought in the most with Reddit following closely behind it. We did have a major increase in spam last month which is a downside. Facebook continues to hold steady for us bringing in new and regular viewers.

What Worked…and What Didn’t

This past month was obviously our strongest numbers wise with the extra traffic from Reddit and StumbleUpon.  With some of our articles making it on there, that has helped out a lot. But as you can see, once those sites “dried up”, our traffic decreased back to normal. If we were to take out the rise in traffic from those few days, we would have still had our best month as we have garnered a nice steady flow of traffic which is very encouraging to us all. The Facebook groups continue to be an amazing ally for us in getting pageviews, comments and likes. This is still a highly recommended thing to do for all bloggers looking to gain more followers.

For a more detailed look at StumbleUpon and Reddit, David has provided a brief summary:

This month, two new forms of social media provided many pageviews and new users for our site. Taking over the #1 spot from Facebook is StumbleUpon, with second place going to Reddit. While these venues provided a good boost in our statistics, there are also many rules associated with submitting links to each. Make sure you follow these guidelines, so you are not classified as a spammer.

Taking a look at Reddit, if you only link to your personal blog, you will be flagged as spam. It does NOT matter if you have amazing content. They do not want you promoting your blog/website too much. If you do not play by the rules, they can remove your content, or even completely block your URL address for multiple offenses. In addition, be aware that each subReddit’s has its own rules as well. These guidelines can be even more stringent such as content, format and age of the article. In general, the larger the subReddit, the stricter the rules. Reddit’s definition of spamming may be very different than mine, but when using their service, it is always best to follow the general guidelines. While these sites can be great, there is much to learn before you start posting your content.

Summary

We continue to be humbled and thankful for all of the support we have seen. The Facebook groups have been amazing to us and have seen some growth from Reddit and StumbleUpon. It is great to see how this little blog is picking up momentum and growing. We realize that it is beyond us and our efforts and is due to something greater than us. We do not know what the future holds, but we hope that you enjoy our upcoming series on different cities both local, near, and far.

June State of the Blog Report

Four months down and many more to go! In an effort to give you a peek behind the curtain, we are back to share with you something very near and dear to our hearts:  The State of the Blog Report.

Just as a reminder from the first report, we intentionally make known our status reports as a way to share with you and the blogging community what we have found that works and what doesn’t. It is a way for us to see what our baseline is and how we need to improve.

We do these posts because it is helpful for us to see where we have come from, where we need to grow, and hopefully help others who are starting their own blogs. We do not claim to know it all, we simply and humbly share with you our results saying this is where we have come from, this is what we are building on, and where we hope to keep growing. This is a way for us to share with other bloggers and travel writers what we have found that works and what doesn’t work, as well as pass on helpful tips and tricks from our experiences.

Let’s look at the numbers and see how this blog is doing.

Numbers

This past month was our strongest one yet as we have been blessed with tremendous support from our audience and other sites. After the Prague series finished up, and a feature on Caravaggio, we brought it back to Texas with a feature on Fort Worth, a short-series on Houston, an initial Chicago series, and an international series on Cesky Krumlov.

june analytics

The amount of sessions is up 11%, users is up 21%, and the pageviews is up 14% over all of last month. Another item of note is that our percentage of new users jumped 3 percentage points as more people continue to find us and our content. Looking at the graph, there were several days that had high pageviews and sessions for us. Also, we did not have as many low days where no one came by. (For a description of what all these words and terms mean, check out the first post as Rachel described them there).

jun acquisition

As for where the readers came from to get to the site, Facebook has been our most popular again this month. However, we have started seeing increasing traffic from Google searches. New to the charts this month is Reddit. David has been actively involved in Reddit and promoting the site, as well as other cool links, as best as one can on there (for anyone looking to “friend” him, check him out here).

What Worked…and What Didn’t

As mentioned in last month’s State of the Blog report, we have really focused more on social media and this has helped us in many ways. This month, we have focused on different Facebook groups that have really been good as far as not only generating traffic, but also seeing what other travel writers are doing. If you are a travel writer, I would encourage you to look at the following groups as they have been so beneficial to us: Part-Time Traveler Talk (social media), Travel Bloggers Mega Share, Travel Blogged, and Twitter for Travel Bloggers. Other non-travel related groups that are helpful are: Social Media Network Group and Blog Society. There are several others that we would like to join or are trying to join but have not been able to as of yet. (If there are any groups that you suggest we join or look into, please let us know as we would appreciate the help.)

What has been great about these groups is that they have had different “threads” (essentially a post) that focuses on a blog exercise or a different social media approach. These threads help us meet other travel writers so that we can learn from them. Whether you are looking to do travel writing or something else, I would highly suggest looking into these groups for your style/type of blog.

As far as social media goes, both Twitter and Instagram continue to be great ways for us to connect with our readers, other bloggers, companies, organization, and professional writers/photographers. We have truly been amazed and humbled by all the support we have received and so we say a big THANK YOU! Rachel continues to work diligently with our Pinterest page as that has steadily grown this past month as well.

We have added a couple of new features on the blog that you may have noticed. We joined Bloglovin’ so please feel free to follow us there. There is a new button on the sidebar that will help in following. We have just started this out as we have noticed many other bloggers using this service so we hope to provide our thoughts on it in the coming months. Also, we have added our Facebook page to the sidebar as well for quicker access to it that will have some extra info, pictures, and ways to communicate with us.

Another item to note, as you may have noticed, we have scaled back our posting from five days a week to three days a week. Some weeks there will be four due to our continued Feature Friday series or the new “In Case You Missed It” summary post on our different series.

Summary

We continue to be humbled and thankful for all of the support we have seen. The Facebook groups have been amazing to us and have seen some growth from Reddit. It is great to see how this little blog is picking up momentum and growing. We realize that it is beyond us and our efforts and is due to something greater than us. We do not know what the future holds, but we hope that you enjoy our upcoming series on different cities both local, near, and far.

May State of the Blog Report

Three months down and many more to go! In an effort to give you a peek behind the curtain, we are back to share with you something very near and dear to our hearts:  the State of the Blog Report.

Just as a reminder from the first report: we intentionally make known our  status reports as a way to share with you and the blogging community what we have found that works and what doesn’t. It is a way for us to see what our baseline is and how we need to improve.

We do these posts because it is helpful for us to see where we have come from, where we need to grow and work on, and hopefully help others who are starting their own blogs. We do not claim to know it all, we simply and humbly share with you our results saying this is where we have come from , this is what we are building on, and where we hope to keep growing.

The thing about blogging is that it is a LONG journey! Very rarely is a blog successful overnight or in a week, or even a month. Being a successful blogger takes time. For some, they are blessed with quick success. But for many, it is a slow and steady build up that for some ends up fizzling out as the time and factors of life get to be too much to produce the content needed.

We all see and read about the success stories. In our humanity, we don’t always think about the time, effort, and energy it took to get to that point. At least I don’t, I should say. But for many, the numbers came after a long time. It came as the content got better, the website was improved, the marketing continued, and really there was more content and the fan base continued to grow. This is part of the reason for doing these post in our infancy so that you can see how we grow (and if that happens).

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