A lot has been happening since we published our last writing dispatch in July.
I joined on as Editor midway through October (helloooo!) and have been spending the last few weeks understanding the way we run the Crew blog and other content projects: what’s important, what works, and most importantly, how we are going to measure success moving forward.
Let’s start out with some of the key metrics from the last few months:
Pageviews: 141,691 — +52% from September and +69% from August
Unique pageviews: 129,012 — +56% from September and +68% from August
Bounce rate: 2.55% — -0.58% from September and -0.7% from August
Average time on page: 00:00:39 — +1 second from September and down -2 from August
Top 5 stories last month:
How side projects saved our startup (33,127)
Why I killed my standing desk (9,630)
5 weak words to avoid (9,176)
Why you shouldn’t work set hours (6,211)
The article was picked up by The Next Web as well as some of our other syndication partners where it was shared thousands of times.
It may have become a cliche in the publishing world but this result shows just how much truth there is in ‘write what you know’. We’re working on cultivating a writing style that blends personal experience with science-backed research and we’ll continue to focus on using our own experiences and unique viewpoints to our advantage.
Finding metrics that matter
If we were looking at stats alone I would be ecstatic about how we did last month.
Even without the runaway success of Mikael’s post we still hit over 108k pageviews, an increase of nearly 16% from September and 23% from August. One theory as to where this growth is coming from is that we’ve been more vigilant on posting regularly.
Since coming on I’ve worked on building a schedule that sees us publishing on a more consistent basis. We’re keeping the expectation of quality but adding in some more formal structure.
But numbers never tell the full story.
At Crew, we want to stop relying on things like pageviews and find the metrics that represent the company’s core values: honesty, transparency, and trust.
But trying to figure out a metric to measure an abstract term like trust is about as easy as nailing Jell-o to a tree. After a long discussion with Mikael, however, we managed to settle on one: newsletter subscriber rate.
It might seem like a weird thing to track, but we both feel that subscribing to a regular newsletter means you trust that what’s being sent to you is of consistently high value.
I’m a ruthless unfollower and it takes something seriously special to keep me on a mailing list. With the shear amount of content out there vying for your attention, allowing us to send our articles right to your inbox means a lot.
We’re going after a pretty ambitious growth rate and I’ll be including this in future writing updates along with our other metrics.
In order to help us out we’re going to be experimenting with ways to make signing up easier and incentivizing with e-books and other free stuff (like exclusive Unsplash collections).
We’ve also been using Twitter cards to help convert our social media followers into newsletter signups—a technique that’s been showing promise over the past few weeks.
These cards let us give people a quick and easy way (one click) to send us their contact info and sign up for our blog.
But we didn’t just want to spam our followers. We wanted to make sure they felt good about being a part of our network.
We decided that we’d only use the cards in situations where we were already engaged in a meaningful conversation with one of our followers. What’s meaningful? We decided on more than a favourite or a retweet—somewhere where we get a sense of who they are and if they’d benefit from what we do.
Here’s an example of one exchange that led to a new sign-up:
It’s a time-consuming process, especially as we don’t currently have anyone looking after our social media accounts on a full-time basis. But the results have been good so far.
I’ve sent out between 50 and 60 cards in the last few weeks and received 24 leads. So around 40% of people find enough value to sign up.
It might seem like not much now, but could become quite fruitful once we have the resources to scale this up.
One of the more traditional metrics I want to work towards increasing is time on page. Over the past 4 months this number has stayed pretty much stagnant and that’s definitely something I want to address.
This is important to me because I strongly believe in the idea of true fans and want the people who visit our site to feel compelled to read through our content. It’s easier said than done but this will just come down to making more great content as well as making some of our already published content more discoverable as it’s currently just 28 pages of posts and a ‘best of’ list that rarely changes.
Taking advantage of what we’ve got
I’m lucky to have such a talented group of designers and developers working inside Crew and I’m definitely planning on taking advantage of this over the coming months.
Each one of them has their own story to tell and I’ve started to reach out to see who wants to contribute to the blog. One of the most valuable things we can provide is experiential insight into everything from building a business to being a productive, happy, and creative person. The response has been good so far and I’m excited about what we’ll have to show.
We’ve also got an amazing group of regular contributors who I’ve been happy to get to know over the past month. If you’d like to join them or know anyone who does, send them my way.
Maximizing our content lifecycle
The main focus of our blog is to create evergreen content—articles that will be as informative now as they are in a year.
One of the biggest indicators that we’re on the right track is in the top articles this month. Besides the first spot, each of the other top 5 most-read articles is from at least a month ago, with our #2 and #4 articles coming from March and January respectively.
Producing quality content not only makes us feel good about ourselves, but it’s one of the best and easiest (on paper, at least) ways to fight content shock.
To make sure that we’re getting the most life out of the quality content we’re putting together I’ve been working on defining a content lifecycle that will hopefully give them life and value that extends beyond the usual news cycle.
Here’s a more in-depth look at how it works:
1. Publish on blog
On the day we publish to our blog I make a big push on our social media channels sharing on Twitter three times with unique quotes and images, Facebook, and LinkedIn (if it’s a good fit).
Twitter’s a great place for us to get some extended reach on our articles and we’ve been playing around with mentioning notable people we’ve quoted or referenced in the post, like this:
Here, just sending out an easy tweet got us 10 retweets and 9 favourites.
Full disclosure, Fred’s one of our investors, which might explain why he would be more likely to share our content, but we’ve had other examples of this working for both Crew and Unsplash.
By promoting our posts to people with a higher level of influence we give ourselves a better chance of being noticed by not only more people, but bigger networks and news organizations.
2. Syndicate (1 week after posting)
Within a week of publishing on our own blog and pushing our social media channels I’ll send the articles out to relevant syndication partners (like The Next Web, Business Insider, or Quartz) and publish to Medium.
3. Visualize (1-2 months after posting)
If there’s some key data we can visualize or turn into an infographic I’ll start working with illustrators inside Crew to make some awesome stuff.
4. Side project (3-6 months after posting)
If the response is there and we think we can we turn the content of an article into something more substantial like a standalone site, animation, or e-book, we look at completing that within 3-6 months.
This is an idea we’ve just started playing with and we should have something to show early in the new year.
Why write these updates?
For me it gives me a chance to deeply reflect on the past month and helps me to plan for the future.
I try not to get sucked in by analytics, but realize that there needs to be a means to measure whether or not the decisions I’m making are successful.
For you, I’m hoping this gives a bit of insight into running a blog and the challenges we face.