Summing up year one of Expatior.com

I never expected to be able to make this site work, but thanks to you all it has.

I’ll warn you now, this post will probably only be of interest to other bloggers so skip on by and don’t feel guilty if that’s not you – you are perfectly entitled to throw this post back in my stupid smug face!

Expatior.com, as a concept, was first conceived back in September 2011. Back then I just wanted somewhere to gather my writings in one place. After 4 months it became clear that not only was the variety of subject matter harming my readership but that free hosting had too many drawbacks. It was absolutely brilliant to ease me into blogging but I needed to take the next step. That I felt confident to do so was purely down to my early experiences with trusty, reliable, free Weebly, but also due to me buying and digesting some of Matthew Kepnes’s excellent books and resources.

It was at the end of March 2012 that I decided to leave Weebly and move to self-hosted WordPress. To provide focus I bought WalkAroundLondon.com for all my rambles and London-related brain-doodles, but I also bought Expatior.com – this action is what I count as this site’s true conception because I focused properly for the first time.

One year later and I’ve learned so much. It’s been brilliant fun, rewarding, and motivational. One of my gripes with Weebly was that it didn’t appear to be very SEO friendly. I was only scratching the surface of that largely mythical and unfathomable tentacled beast underpinning the internet but I felt in my gut that something was wrong.

Google Analytics told me that my first few months on Weebly were pretty pathetic in terms of readership. I had expected that because nobody gets instant following, but when I moved to WordPress I immediately saw the outcome of the effort I put in. April 2012 saw my figures rise gently, but I got married in May and went on my honeymoon to Mexico and Belize. This meant I didn’t put any effort in at all for almost two months. Accordingly my pageviews fell off the cliff.

The whims of the Net are impossible to predict.

I was pissed off, for some reason, but it did spur me on to write a lot more regularly once life returned to normal. Since the summer of 2012 I have written at least once a week and almost every post has exceeded one thousand words. Well, apart from the past two months as I’ve changed job and am in the process of moving house so I have, in effect, been brain-dead…

I saw my pageviews rise at what for me was an incredible and very pleasing rate until December 2012. Suddenly everything seemed to sour. Views halved for the next two months and only now are they bouncing back to their pre-Christmas levels. I still can’t work out what caused the lull but after a period of consternation and examination to make sure nothing technical was amiss I realised that I needed that beating to be able to let go.

Plenty of other bloggers talk about the moment they are freed from their stat addiction. It’s a psychological crutch when things are going well but only a large dip makes you realise the emptiness of it all. You just have to believe in your own work and keep going. It will all recover, unless you’ve been a naughty SEO gnome and have disturbed the slumber of the Great and Powerful Google. In which case you only ever have yourself to blame…

Yum, juicy meaty statistics

Expatior stats

So here are some of those fairly unimportant stats for you (with my own IPs cut out!):

  • 39,379 Pageviews.
  • 13,379 Unique Visitors.
  • 14,672 Visitors.
  • 2.68 Pages / Visit

Compared to some of my favourite and well-regarded bloggers who have revealed their numbers that isn’t too shabby. Compared to others it’s absolutely diabolically pathetic. But I’m happy.

What interests me the most is where these readers are. Somebody from every country in North America, Europe, and Australasia has read something I created. I’m only missing Asian readers from a couple of the ‘Stans, Laos, Syria, and North Korea, understandably. Only Uruguay is missing from South America but I think that’s normal? Unfortunately I have swathes of Africa missing, much like my travel history! I hope to start correcting both senses of that over the next year but for now it’s a great feeling to know that I’m reaching all these people, for whatever reason.

By a long way my most viewed post is about the Isle of Skye’s stunning Fairy Pools – mainly because of the photography – but paradoxically it might be one of my least favourite and least accomplished pieces of writing on here…

Obviously I write for the love of it. At the start of this ramble I said that I had made the site ‘work’ – for me that means that it pays for itself. These times of ‘austerity’ have hit my pocket hard with my government funded museum work being ever-so-unpredictable therefore limiting outlays has been important. I would have given up long ago if I expected a huge life-changing income from this site but recently I have been getting rather a lot of contact from advertisers wanting to place sponsored posts. I have had to turn down a large number because of the atrocious quality of their writing or simply because the subject just didn’t fit – you must protect your brand! – but it does make me proud that I have now been able to make the site pay for its own upkeep. I must chuck thanks and kudos to Neil from Backpacks and Bunkbeds for lending me a hand over what I need to say to prospective advertisers.

A quick tip to people considering doing the same with their own sites is to make all outgoing html links “no follow” so that you don’t incur the wrath of the search engines for selling links – if you don’t understand what I’m saying here then you should do a little research because it is very important. Explain this to your sponsor when you agree terms as well, to avoid disgruntled folk later on. Some will agree, others will not. It’s something I’ve had to learn to be careful of.

Creating and reaching a community

I would really be quite excited to host a few well-written guest posts from other bloggers, whether dabblers or pros. For that I would never charge and I would leave outbound links fully-powered. It’s not something that’s happened yet but we shall see what the next few months bring.

In an effort to raise the site’s profile Twitter has been something I’ve tried to build upon quite a bit. I’ve almost hit 800 followers now and have seen that figure rise smoothly in tandem with my pageviews. I’ve deliberately not gone out looking for followers, preferring the interest in watching it grow organically. Which may or may not have been a great idea. Nevertheless it is another pretty rewarding stat and by following other bloggers back you get to participate in a community brimming with fascinating writing and photography.

Pinterest is something I’ve only begun using in the past month but it is an intriguing platform for my photography. Quite a bit of my work has escaped this site in the past so Pinterest is a nifty way of providing an epicentre for it to spread out from. It does appear to work.

Facebook is not something I’ve really attempted to push into. I’m not sure why, but it’s probably because I just haven’t got the energy for it. Facebook is extremely needy. But I’m not sure I need it. Tell me if I’m wrong?

2013/14?

There is a lot I want to achieve this year. I still have a lot to write about, of course, but I need to work on making the most of all the different ways I have of reaching you guys. Getting comments on an article or through social media is the best feeling so I will try my best to keep reaching out and drawing you in. My most recent development is that I’ve started receiving invitations to blogging industry parties, something I never even considered before. There’s got to be room for improvement in what I do so I’ll keep looking and learning.

Here’s hoping, and as ever – thanks for reading. Roll on year two!

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