This is the 3rd monthly post in the Growth Report series.
This month saw me blogging my way through 2 countries.
I started out the month on a small island just off the coast of Honduras called Utila, before gradually making my way into Nicaragua, which is where I spent the bulk of the month exploring.
Although I spent most of July travelling through Nicaragua, I focused most of my content writing time this month trying to catch up on my looooong backlog of post ideas.
One of the things I really need to do soon is get my post ideas organised. I’ve got pages of notes in my little ideas notepad, Google Docs all over the place and draft posts in WordPress ranging anywhere between a half written post and just a title.
I’m going to spend some time looking for a better solution for this in the next week or two, but if anyone has any suggestions, I’m all ears!
I managed to get 6 posts out over July, and the blog is really starting to bulk out a little now which is nice to see.
I started out the month with the 2nd monthly Growth Report post. I’m really enjoying writing these posts and looking back on what I’ve been doing and how the blog is progressing.
After that there was my guide to surviving Central America in the rainy season (it’s really not as bad as you think). Then I took some time to call BS on everyone who says Belize is too expensive to travel, write up a handy step by step travel guide on how to make the long journey from Placencia in Belize to Utila in Honduras, took a dive back into NZ travel with this post on the best day walks in New Zealand and finally confess my love for Leon as the best place in Central America.
Getting Featured On TravelDudes.org
As well as producing these 6 posts for the blog, I was also asked to write a piece for the popular social travel site traveldudes.org.
The site is well established and pulls in a great readership, so when Melvin contacted me and asked if I’d be keen to contribute an article, it was a no-brainer.
I wrote a post titled “7 reasons why New Zealand should be your next travel obsession” and it was instantly promoted into the sites guidebook. It got some great feedback and was shared a bunch of times from the Travel Dudes official Twitter account to over 268,000 followers.
Great exposure for me and the blog and it’ll be interesting to look at how that translates into traffic for the blog a little later on.
Site Updates & Improvements
I continued to gradually cross things off my ever growing ‘future site improvements’ list this month. The list is still longer than it was at the start of the month, but it could definitely have been worse!
Improving Internal Linking
Earlier in the month I was looking back through some of my older posts, and I noticed that the internal linking (especially in the older posts) sucked.
That’s not ideal, since internal linking is important for both usability and SEO.
Thanks to the Yoast SEO plugin, I noticed that it was the older articles in particular that were a bit lacking on the internal linking, and I think that’s mainly because when they were first published the blog didn’t have much other content to link to.
Now that the blog is getting built out a little more, there were plenty of opportunities to go back and make improvements to the older pieces to make better use of internal linking.
Why all the fuss about internal linking?
Well for a start it helps readers to discover other interesting content that they might want to check out.
That’s important if I want to keep them sticking around and hopefully turn them into fans or subscribers. Which I do.
It’s also important for the search engines.
The anchor text I use on these internal links, helps the search engines to work out what the posts are about. And it influences how they perform in the search results for relevant queries.
Improving Reader Retention
After a lot of trial and error, I decided to ditch the Shareaholic plugin.
I was mainly using it to pull up other recommended posts at the bottom of each blog post, as a means to help encourage people to stick around.
Unfortunately I just had too many problems with the plugin.
I didn’t like the way it looked. The design felt a bit poor and not really in keeping with the rest of the blog, and since I couldn’t find an easy way to customise the styling myself, I didn’t have much of an option to change that.
I also found the back end of the plugin way more difficult than it needed to be.
The recommended posts function would just pull in absolutely everything by default – even posts in draft form that haven’t been published yet – and you have to go in and manually list every page you want to exclude.
An absolutely crazy system, and it turns out to be way too much work to keep on top of them and prevent a load of 404 errors.
After a bit more research, I adopted the ‘List Category Posts‘ plugin which is way more technical but so much better!
List Category Posts does exactly what I wanted it to do, works perfectly and gives me none of the problems I had with shareaholic. More importantly, it also allows me to completely customise the CSS so I can control exactly how it looks.
Here’s how it looks now:
I also did some slight restructuring to the main menu to try and make it easier to navigate around the site. I plan to make more changes here as the site continues to grow, but for now at least, it seems to be pretty easy to follow?
Following on from my successful setup of the List Category Posts plugin, I wanted to find a way to display a list of my most popular posts in the sidebar to entice readers to view more articles once they were here.
After a bit of research I installed the WordPress Popular Posts plugin and after a few days of running in the background and collecting data, it was ready to go live.
You can see how it looks in the right hand side of this post in the widget area, under the title “My Most Popular Posts”.
I’m very happy with how it looks and fits in with the site and fingers crossed that’ll translate into some improved reader engagement stats over the coming weeks!
Improving Social Shares
My most popular post on the site to date is my how to make money travel blogging guide.
Last month I made a PDF version of that guide and I’ve been using it as an incentive to get people signing up to my email list.
I wanted to find a way to capitalise on the popularity of this post even further, and I decided to give the guide away as a free download from within the post itself in exchange for a like or share on social media.
I came across a plugin called Content Locker which seems to do exactly that, so I started using it there to see what kind of success it has. If it works well, I might look at making some more content upgrades for other popular posts and making more use of Content Locker.
Note – I’m using the free version of this plugin at the moment, but there is also a paid version which unlocks more integrations with more social media platforms.
For me, these are the numbers that really count.
Getting traffic is all well and good, but a subscription is the best possible endorsement, and I thank every one of you who are already subscribed and following along on this journey.
Here’s the stats as of the end of month 3.
Twitter: 1,960 (+728 from last month)
Email: 4 (+1 from last month)
If you’re a fan of the blog and like what you’re reading then please help me out by taking a second to subscribe or share a link with your friends.
So where did all of that work get us? Let’s find out…
Visits to the blog went up 48% this month.
That’s a fantastic result and the biggest monthly traffic increase we’ve seen so far.
Breaking it down by channel, we can see increases across the board:
Here is a table of the blogs top 10 traffic sources for the month:
And finally, here is the breakdown of the blogs most popular content during the month:
Interesting to see last months growth report making an appearance in the top 10 and also my guide to making money travel blogging still going strong.
Over To You
If you’re enjoying the blog then please, take 30 seconds to share it with your friends. It could be a tweet, a tag, a like, an email, a text message or a carrier pigeon. I need all the help I can get if I’m going to continue growing the blog.
Lastly, I want to say a big thankyou to all of you for following along on this journey with me. This wouldn’t be possible without every single one of you.
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