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I finally get to write the “How I built a 10,000 visits/month site” post. This is that post. In February, I finally crossed the 10k visits mark, which was a goal I had set for myself. For some reason, 10,000 visits is the number that a lot of people choose to measure success by, whether it’s subscribers, money made, or visits.

This is actually a difficult post for me to write. Often these posts say “I did [this] and I tripled my traffic and built a huge following”. These posts frustrate me and others because they are such rare occurrences that they are not repeatable, or they give people false hope.

What I hope this post will show you, from my experience over the past year of writing on this site, is that blogging takes hard work. Add on a day job (in my case, switching jobs AND cities), a social life, hobbies, other sites, speaking engagements, and family (if you have one), or even traveling, and blogging gets REALLY difficult to do consistently. Then add on the fears of not doing well and combine that with perfectionism, and blogging becomes even tougher.

What I want to do is show you real numbers. I want to show you the events that have been paramount to my blogging success (if I can even call it that). I’ll show you how the traffic numbers going up is pretty even with the number of Twitter followers I have.

I also want to tell you both the things I have done, as well as the things that I have not done, to build the traffic to my site. What you read may surprise you.

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Don’t Hire Remote Workers

John Doherty —  December 31, 2011

This post is outside of my normal realm of SEO writing, but I felt like it needed to be written.

Today I read a blog post on 37Signals called Stop Whining and Start Hiring Remote Workers. I have been hearing people say, at an increasing rate, that “We’re in a global economy, so get with the times and hire people who live far aways, or open an office there.” Last night I was at dinner with Rand Fishkin, Michael King, and a number of others when this conversation came up. It’s something I’ve been thinking about.

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Let’s Be Thankful

John Doherty —  November 24, 2011

Today is Thanksgiving. I’m currently on vacation for a few days in Colorado, but I took some time a few days ago to really think about what I am thankful for. While riding on the plane to Colorado, forced to be off the Internet (unless I wanted to pay $15 and let’s be honest, that’s insane for 3 hours of access), I had a moment or two of clarity.

What am I thankful for? I am thankful for so much. I am thankful to have a warm place to live. I am thankful to have a job that I love, in a city that I am crazy about (New York City), with coworkers that I genuinely enjoy and can be myself around, wonderful friends spread around the world both from the SEO industry and my travels, and so much to look foward to in the future.

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Who’s Hiring in SEO?

John Doherty —  November 2, 2011

I need a job imageEvery day it seems that I hear about another company that’s hiring, so while I’m working on another business idea, I thought I’d aggregate together all of the jobs that I currently know about in the SEO space:

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I think that every SEO should develop their own website. I don’t care if it’s an SEO blog, a travel blog, a site about your cat, or a tribute to Metallica.

My argument is:

In order to be a decent SEO and to be able to stay current as SEO becomes more and more technical, you need to have a place to test out ideas that you otherwise may not be able to do on client sites (for ethical or practical reasons, such as making changes yourself/quickly).

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Productivity. We all hear about it constantly and know that we should take steps to make our lives more productive in the time set aside to do so, so that we can enjoy the time where we do not need to be productive. Or, so that we can actually have free time.

I used to to be a productivity loser, but over the past few months have become much more of a productivity ninja. One important thing to note is that everyone is going to need to find what works for them, but here are some of the shortcuts and tools that I use to keep my inbox under control, my writing and drafts synchronized, and my priorities straight.

Google inbox shortcuts

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On Being Afraid of Failure

John Doherty —  October 17, 2011

Can I take a minute to write a personal post on here? This blog is usually all about SEO tactics, but today I’ve been doing some thinking and reflecting.

I come from a family that is really smart and well educated. I mean really smart and really well educated. My father has his PhD in institutional analysis. My mother is working on her second Masters degree, this one as a mathematics specialist. My older brother is in a fully funded MD/PhD program at Baylor College of Medicine, and my younger brother is a genius who will one day be an ambassador or something to a foreign country, helping to keep our country safe.

And I have a Bachelors degree from James Madison University in Virginia (a good state school). I work for the best SEO consultancy in the world, hang out with some awesomely smart people, and am trying to make waves in New York City.

And guess what?

I’m petrified of failure.

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I’ve been reading a number of books and blogs recently about business. I recently got sent a copy of Tony Hsieh’s “Delivering Happiness”, thanks to Zappos Service. I’ve also been reading Michael Hyatt’s blog Intentional Leadership, where he shares a lot of tips about productivity and leadership. Both have impacted me in big ways.

Let me tell you a story.

I work at a company, Distilled, that is all about hustle. In the course of a week at my job, I will probably touch everything from a technical site audit to internal marketing for our conferences. I might be working on gathering research for an infographic and the next minute I’m fixing an issue on the website and cleaning out the spam queue. My job is never boring.

This lack of boredom is a good thing since I have a history of getting bored in or burning myself out on an industry within a few months and then look to move on to a new industry. We have a lot of awesome things going on here at Distilled Рconferences in New York and London, blog posts on our blog and many other industry blogs, and numerous awesome clients to keep happy and effect change for.

Oftentimes however (and this does not reflect poorly on the company, but on me) I get caught up in doing so many things that I forget to do any one thing well. I’ll be jumping from one project to another and not focusing on doing any one particularly well. I’m great at starting, but not so great at finishing. Even while writing this post, I keep getting distracted by Twitter and email.

This is funny, because at the heart of the GTD methodology is this:

GTD enables greater performance, capacity and innovation. It alleviates the feeling of overwhelm, instilling focus, clarity and confidence.

Michael Hyatt, the Chairman (and former CEO) of Thomas Nelson Publishers wrote a blog post called The Unproductive Writer’s Guide to Success, wherein he says the following regarding keeping your audience’s attention. The same principles apply to work.

…Instead of spending five hours writing ten blog posts, spend five hours writing one good post….

If it takes me all day to write an email that makes me a lot of money, that is better than spending five minutes to write an email that fizzles on impact. Yes, the email must do its work efficiently, but I do not have to be productive in its construction.

Instead of shouting and splashing, slow down and be unproductive. Focus on just one thing and do it right. You will be spinning circles around your competition.

When we get bogged down in a lot of “stuff to get done”, we can lose focus easily. Too many awesome things really is a problem.

I’m trying to take the time to focus on doing things well. I wish a way existed to quantify the value of time. If I get 10 things done, but not well, I’d like to be able to quantify that against 1 thing that I did REALLY well and thoroughly.

Just some thoughts.

*Post updated January 2012, originally published August 2011*

“I’m an SEO beginner and I want my first job.”

Is this you? Are you looking to find your first SEO job, but don’t know where to start? The SEO and online marketing industries are growing rapidly, with an incredible increase in the amount of jobs posted online:

We all need to know where to start when trying to learn a new skill, though, so allow me to give my thoughts from a couple of years of perspective.

Print and Read The Beginner’s Guide to SEO

SEOmoz (a website you must become familiar with if you are going to work in SEO) put out an incredible resource called The Beginner’s Guide to SEO. This guide, broken into multiple chapters, covers everything from the technical bits of websites to linkbuilding and how search engines work.

I have been carrying my copy around in my backpack for over a year and consult it often. Print it, dog-ear it, use it up, and then print it again. Trust me.

Build Your Own Website

Nothing has helped me learn SEO more than practicing it, which should come as no surprise. I built this website, in fact, to teach myself better how to launch and adhere to SEO best practices as I continue to write on and develop it. I learned how to buy domain names, direct them, implement meta tags and URL formats, and customize Analytics installs all through building this site. Developing your own site will also let you better learn HTML and CSS, and you can do some cool things with other coding languages if you desire (JavaScript, Python, etc).

Once you’ve built your first site, build another. Every time you launch a new website, you learn new skills or refresh old skills. Reminders such as the importance and work required to build an email list, optimize a site technically, implement OpenGraph tags, and more will constantly serve you well whether working inhouse or agency side. I recently relaunched SingleGeared.com, a side product, because I wanted to both make a site responsive and rebrand it, two things I had never done before. And I learned many important lessons along the way.

I highly recommend using WordPress, because it is relatively easy and quick to set up. The mass amount of available free plugins and enables you to customize your look and content on your site. The plugin I recommend most is Yoast’s WordPress SEO, because it is light and powerful. It fits all my onsite SEO needs.

Read Everything You Can

Subscribe to RSS feeds in your Google Reader or RSS reader of choice. Here are the sites I recommend to everyone:

SEOmoz
YOUmoz (SEOmoz’s User Generated blog)
Distilled
SEER Interactive (in Philly)
Ross Hudgens
Conversation Marketing (to learn about good content)
Google Webmaster Blog
Hugo Guzman’s blog
Jason Acidre’s blog

One of the best things I ever did was start using Flipboard to aggregate content from people that I trust. I followed the steps in this post and adjusted them for my content aggregation needs.

Get on Twitter, Get Involved

After building a site, getting some readers, reading a lot of blogs, and maybe doing some SEO on your mom’s puppy site, you need to get involved on Twitter. Many great conversations happen on Twitter, and that is also where you will hear about SEO jobs at great companies.

The trick to Twitter is that there is no trick. The SEO world is tight-knit and helpful, so you have to be friendly and helpful as well. If you can’t produce, you’ll move along pretty quick.

Get a Twitter name that is professional (no “MikeLovesBeer” handles here, except in rare cases) and start following some people. Engage them in conversation, ask good questions. Eventually you’ll gain some followers of your own.

One word of advice: don’t be afraid to be a bit personal, but build your online name first. I will sometimes tweet pictures now of dinner, or a beautiful sunset, but only do so now that people on Twitter know me, and I have met a lot of them in person now.

Go to Conferences

Conferences are THE place to learn incredible information, meet a lot of cool people in the industry, and yes, hear about job opportunities! I don’t care if you have to stow away on a cargo ship across the Atlantic; go to a conference. I found out about Distilled opening our NYC office when I went to the conference in London. My friend Curtis in the UK found a job there as well. Be nice, be personable, know your stuff, and don’t be afraid to approach the “big names”, because they are all great people and will help you to no end. Trust me.

I wrote a case study of increasing my Twitter following through conferences here.

Be Available for Work

People who do good work can always find work. There are endless amounts of freelance SEO jobs available for people who are willing to take the work on on the side. You don’t have to be an expert yet, but if you’re insatiably curious you will increasingly get better and provide more and more value for clients.

The key here is to be transparent. Let people know that you’re young and still learning, but that you’ll work hard. Because you’re less experienced, charge a lower hourly rate than high-paid experts would and get experience.

Also, build permission to do a case study, even an anonymized one, into your contracts. This way, you can show future clients what you are capable of doing, even if you can only tell the online vertical.

Best of luck to you!

Good luck. SEO/inbound marketing is a great field to be involved in, since the community is always excited by people who are excited and trying to add value. Engage, make friends, and have a ball.

Feel free to reach out if you have questions as well. One of my joys in life is helping others succeed.

Six months ago today, I launched this website, johnfdoherty.com, with the post An Introduction. I didn’t even change the URL, so it’s “hello-world-2″. At least it’s structurally correct, right? :-)

I’m surprised at how the site has grown. Currently there are 93 published articles, which is an average of 15.5 per month. This number is slightly skewed because of conference recaps that I have written, but let’s just say I’ve tried to write a lot of quality and helpful content quickly. Also, traffic has increased exponentially over the months, so let’s take a look at where traffic is coming from, and maybe we can put together some takeaways as well.

Let’s jump into some numbers.

First, here are my site’s statistics for the last 6 months:

 

Feedburner (RSS) Subscribers

To date, I have 41 RSS subscribers. I’ve had the “What Would Seth Godin Do?” widget installed since mid-June and have doubled subscribers since then.

Overall Traffic

This site has had a total of 9,077 visits since it launched on February 8th. Of all those visits, here is a breakdown by type of traffic:

Here is a breakdown by country:

Organic Traffic

Organic traffic has increased from 50 organic visits in February and 243 in March to 1,520 organic visits in July! The total of organic traffic for the life of the site is (number).

Here’s a graph showing the traffic growth:

Up and to the right!

Breakdown of organic traffic

Even more interesting is where the organic traffic is coming from. For the most part, my site is rocking the longtail of queries, though traffic is beginning to come from one and two-word keyphrases as well.

Here’s a graph of keyphrases that organic traffic is coming from:

Over 76% of traffic coming from 3+ word keyphrases

Social Traffic

Social, of course, is a big driver of traffic for this site. Since 27% of this site’s traffic comes by referral, I thought it would be wise to break referral traffic down by Social and Referring Sites (aka, the sites driving the most traffic to my site).

Here is the breakdown by social:

As you can see, Twitter drives over 75% of my social traffic, which is also 11.5% of my total site traffic. Social can drive a lot of traffic!

Here are the top 10 sites referring traffic to my site:

Takeaways

As all SEOs realize (hopefully), this data means nothing if we do not turn it into actions (thanks Avinash). So here are my goals for the next 6 months:

  1. Increase organic traffic by over double (goal is 8,000 organic visits by next February 7th).
  2. Increase traffic from other social media sites by double as well. I want 200+ visits from StumbleUpon and Facebook each. (So I need something StumbleUpon worthy. Anyone want to guest post an original beginner SEO-oriented infographic?)
  3. Double RSS subscribers by February 7th.
  4. Publish 3 more guest posts.
How has your website increased in traffic in the last 6 months? What goals do you have for the future? What goals do you think I should set?