The Good, the Bad, and the Stats: The #GeekPastiche A to Z Reflection

A-to-Z+Reflection+[2015]+-+Lg

Last year my reflection focused on basic lessons I learned as a first-timer. It was too long and posted too late, because I barely survived the 2014 Challenge and it took me a month to get back into my normal routine. This year’s reflection is about things we did right here at Sourcerer, things I’ll do differently if I blog A to Z next year, and what A to Z did for our numbers in April.

April was the best month we’ve ever had here for views, but our unique visits were only in the high normal range. We actually had more visitors in March. Likes and comments were through the roof. More on that below.

The Good

Here’s a list of things that totally worked.

  1. I started planning early – in October – had all the topics assigned by January, and most of the posts written in advance.survivor-atoz_by_Retro
  2. I did everything I could to generate buzz by chattering about #AtoZChallenge on Twitter and sharing from the A to Z blog and Facebook page during March. This made us some friends, and a lot of people had our blogs in feeds and on lists before April 1.
  3. I offered guest posts to ten bloggers. This was one of the keys to our success because it distributed the work of writing the posts nicely, and because it offered visitors a variety of perspectives.
  4. I chose about half the topics to fit into our normal content scheme, and I invited bloggers who I thought were best suited to tackle those topics to write about them. Then gave a few more bloggers open invitations to take the ones that were left. This kept our content consistent, so even though we suspended a few features for April, we didn’t take anything away from our regular readers.
  5. I visited a ton of blogs the first week of the challenge. 35 or 40 the first day, and maybe 200 the first ten days. You’ll see the effect of this volume of visits in our traffic numbers below. The first week of the month was stellar for us.
  6. We were strict about keeping our posts short. Many of our normal posts run into the 800-1200 word range, so we tried to keep the A to Z posts under 500.
  7. We did our best to answer all the comments. I am sure we missed some, but we tried. In my opinion, answering comments is one of the most important parts of blogging, because first-time commenters who don’t get a response are not likely to come back.

The Bad

A to Z art by Jeremy of Hollywood Nuts! For the A to Z list, click here.

A to Z art by Jeremy of Hollywood Nuts! For the A to Z list, click here.

I’m using “Bad” here just to make the headline work. There was nothing I’d actually call bad in this experience.This is a list of things I could have done better, and things I’ll do differently next year.

  1. Our plan for this year had too many moving parts.
  2. I got busy with offline stuff and writing for May, and did not have time to maintain the visits during the second half of the month. I’ve not done much on Twitter aside from #azchat and scheduled tweets for two weeks. We still had an awesome month, but if I’d been able to keep up the engagement, we would have had an even better one.
  3. Next year, by the time I start planning and seeing who’s interested in A to Z, I intend to have most of an 2016 challenge finished. I’ll either trade some of my posts with contributors or just do a solo challenge here and schedule it around our regular features.
  4. I didn’t visit enough of our commenters back. I am not sure how to solve this one, really. I just didn’t have the time because our threads were so busy, and I was also busy with work and family stuff for the last two weeks of the month.

The Stats

I value engagement more than I value traffic, and I knew A to Z would be good for likes and comments, but I did not expect it to be quite this good. We ended the month with 901 comments and 1,446 likes. Just to give you a frame of reference, we normally see 450-600 comments and 700-900 likes in a month when we’re blogging every day for a long stretch.

Here are our monthly views since we started so you can see how April compares to the rest.

Stats Montly 2015 Apr

4,336 views is our best month ever, and slightly better than Part Time Monster’s best month. Interestingly, we had fewer unique visitors here in April than we did in March, and about the same number we had in January. That means our views per visitor were up (to 2.36). So we got a lot of repeat visits this month.

These are our daily numbers for the past six weeks.

Stats Daily 2015 Apr

As you can see, April 1 was our best day. April 2 and 7 were almost as good. Our traffic started to tail off the middle of the second week – about the time I stopped with the crazy-efficient visiting. It never came back to the April 1 level, but we still ended the month with excellent daily numbers. The numbers for the week of March 23-29 are representative of our traffic for the last quarter; you can compare it to the last couple of weeks in April and see why I am pleased.

Our most popular posts for April are heavily skewed in favor of posts we published early in the month.

Referrals

Twitter, Facebook, and search engine referrals are all in line with our quarterly average, and views from the WordPress reader are up a bit. I suspect the WordPress views are up because I spent a lot of time the first week of April giving out WordPress likes like candy on A to Z-related tags from my phone.

Interestingly, we only received 61 referrals from the A to Z Challenge blog. 60 came from the signup list, and only 1 came from the theme reveal linkup. For the year, we’ve seen 92 referrals from A to Z and 10 of those came from the theme reveal list.

Discussion

It’s my sense that these results are not typical. I’ve got several friends who have been flat this month, and a couple who actually had worse-than-normal months for traffic. I also saw plenty of A to Z blogs with zero to three comments on their threads, even during the first week. Here’s why we got a bump.

Have one of these, just for fun :-)

Have one of these, just for fun 🙂

  1. I spent two months generating buzz and more or less cleared my social media schedule the last couple of weeks of March to chatter about A to Z.
  2. Ten bloggers with the proven ability to deliver doing a month-long daily blogging challenge have a huge advantage over one person posting every day. It spreads the work around and results in a lot of social media shares.
  3. Our traffic is fairly modest. It’s easier for us to generate an increase with steady promotion and smart networking than it would be if we were averaging 10K or more views per month.

I learned a lot about blogging from the 2014 challenge, and learned even more this year. Here are a few general observations.

  1. The first week is probably going to be the best. You want your strongest posts to be the first ten, so that people find them before the excitement wears off and fatigue sets in.
  2. Don’t expect a traffic bonanza. We had a good month here but we also worked hard (perhaps too hard) for it.
  3. Just writing and posting is not enough. I compared notes with a lot of bloggers during the first two weeks of April. Those of us who had the time to do massive visits and chatter about A to Z on social media beyond the blogs got better than normal traffic in the beginning. Those of us who were too busy to do that didn’t see much difference.
  4. It pays to do A to Z with friends. Even if you don’t have time to visit one another very much during April, it helps to have people to Tweet with, share info with, and introduce other bloggers to.
  5. Guest posting is the bomb.

I hope you had as much fun in April as I did. Since the various A to Z lists are up until the 2016 lists go up, I’m, planning to put a little time each week into visiting new blogs from them through the summer and early fall.

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52 thoughts on “The Good, the Bad, and the Stats: The #GeekPastiche A to Z Reflection

    • This one is way too long, but you know. You only get one A to Z Reflection a year, and I did not want to wait until the end of the quarter to publish the April stats.

      I’m very interested to see yours.

      Liked by 1 person

      • My post is too long too. It’s just under 800 words, but there’s a lot of scrolling because of screenshots & bulleted/numbered lists. Hopefully that makes it more digestible despite the length. Regardless, like you say, you get one Reflection a year, and partially I’m noting the stats & analysis for posterity and reference for next year.

        Liked by 2 people

  1. I think getting over 90 links from the A to Z sign up is fantastic! Although I haven’t counted, I honestly don’t think we got over a dozen referrals all month long from the sign up. Our traffic came from Twitter and pretty much only from Twitter. We got a few people who found us from our comments on their blogs, but not that many. No where near as many as last year’s challenge numbers.
    However, overall our comments were positive and we’re super happy with the outcome. A number of people have grown into friends as a result of the daily interaction. And I have high hopes we will stay friends with them. : ) Since I’m a bit of a social media mess, too shy to be good at it, having more blogger friends is huge help.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Y’all are strong on Twitter, for sure.

      Keep in mind, the 90 referrals are since January. We got a third of them before April 1, and there are obligatory host and minion visits there.

      This is a curious thing, the low number of visits from the list. I’m glad you’ve made some friends and I’m glad you’re getting some interaction on your threads.

      Will be in touch soon re: StumbleUpon.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed! We ALWAYS do better when I’m visiting and commenting on a lot of blogs, not just in April. When I have a long stretch where I’m too busy to get out and about in the blogosphere, it tells in the stats.

      Here’s to next year!

      Like

  2. It’s cool to see all those stats. I just published my Reflections post with much the same sort of screenshots, and our numbers are nearly the same, but I focused way more on “grassroot” visiting a month ahead to meet people, and, I’ll be honest, didn’t participate on Twitter at all, or Facebook, except to retweet or share posts that were interesting. I think building the list the way I did has the larger payoff in the end, as familiarity with a person breeds better commitment to engage, I think.

    On my end, it was just me, all the way through, and I didn’t have much of a marketing plan after April 1st except to visit like crazy. Burn-out is a serious thing, though. I experienced it too, where you can see the dip in engagement. A couple of my posts performed abysmally compared to others, that I thought would go further (K is for Kitano Tenmangu had photos of maiko [apprentice geisha], but had one of the worst turnouts for the challenge.) There is definitely a semblance of luck with this challenge.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just went and had a look at your stats summaries. Your March/April increase, and the spike in your comments, are genuinely impressive.

      I think you are right that your plan has the better potential for long-term engagement. I don’t think I made as many new friends this year as I did last year, and it’s because I didn’t do as much visiting from the list, nor visiting commenters as I did last month.

      Just looked at my stats from my old personal blog last year. 1,100 views in April. I don’t know how many comments i received, but it was nowhere near 900. I badly underestimated the time required for two aspects of A to Z this year: answering the threads here, and managing the sharing of the links.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s okay, both plans have merit, and as your focus at the moment is social reach, your plan made sense. For me, my plan involved better engagement post-AtoZ, because last year, I had really nice engagement, but then only 1 or 2 people I met were actually still commenting after the challenge (and I had also stopped reading a bunch of blogs i found during the challenge because their content quality didn’t match the challenge’s… hence my “testing the waters” a month before with the sign-up list up to #700.)

        I’m still planning to make use of the momentum, and check out a bunch of other blogs I didn’t get to see from that #700 onward, and hopefully find some more blogger friends before summer rolls in. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I had a better than average month stats-wise, but lower than last year’s A to Z (when I was a team person’s minion). My views per visitor was much higher than usual, though, and on balance I think I prefer fewer people who stay longer, since we might end up friends for longer!
    I was really glad to meet you and hope to see you again!
    Jemima

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was almost a minion this year, but decided it wasn’t wise, given where we are with this blog. We’ve run on contributions from the beginning, but having eight or ten bloggers loading their own posts is a relatively new development, and having A to Z run smoothly here was make-or-break for us.

      In retrospect, that was a wise decision, and withdrawing my personal blog from A to Z before the challenge started was also a wise decision.

      You’ll certainly see me again!

      Like

  4. Pingback: So, That Was Fun! | Just Gene'O

  5. Thanks for the reflection, very insightful for a first timer like me who is still trying to finish. My posts were definitely too long, and I didn’t have a plan. I’m looking forward to writing my reflection post this week and catch up on my remaining letters 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome! A to Z is definitely one of the more grueling blogging events. Some of my posts last year were too long, and I almost did not finish on time last year. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

      Like

  6. I admit – I’m terrible when it comes to engagement. It’s something I’m working on. This was my first year in the challenge, as I only started blogging in October. I, too, had guest posters – they filled my Sunday spot, and that gave me time to prepare for the days of the actual challenge. I do try to write at least a few days in advance, this helps for the days that I just dont feel well, and made this challenge a breeze 🙂 I’m keeping the guest bloggers for sundays.. they’ve been a god-send!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I started in October of 2013. The first year was tough. One of the things I’d do if I could go back and start over is queue up two months’ worth of drafts before I published one thing.

      Like

  7. I don’t understand all the states you posted, in that I know how many visits I made, and how few by comparison I got back in return, but likes? Am confused by that. I like things on facebook, but not on blogs themselves. What am I missing? Agree on your statement if people don’t get a comment back they don’t return. I added people to a blog log as they visited and left comments and continued to visit from that blog log as well as new ones on the linky. Several were real back and forth, but as time went on many only made 2 or maybe 3 visits, so slowly I’ve been deleting them from the blog log. Unrelated, but since you seem to be knowledgeable…can you tell me how in the world to delete a wordpress blog? I signed up eons ago, never ever use it, don’t want to, so when I sign a blog like yours I have to cheat and use a different email then my real email, because if I use my real email it wants to link to my non wordpress blog vs the blog I use. I can’t find a way to actually the delete the thing. Since the email I use to sign blogs goes no where, you can leave word for me on my blog in comments and or in the contact form. Thanks for the use of your brain.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve deleted them before. I’ll have to look at the profile settings to figure out the steps. They make it difficult because deleting a blog kills the URL forever. Once you delete it, there’s no getting it back.

      The likes I refer to are WordPress likes. Most WordPress blogs have post like buttons at the top or bottom of the post, and you can also like posts from the WordPress reader.\

      On the back-and-forth .vs one time commenters, etc. Unless a blogger is blogging on the same platform as you are, or is really good at keeping up, or is willing to follow a thread by email to get response notifications, it is difficult to keep up a running conversation. With something like A to Z where people are visiting tons of blogs, this difficulty is greatly magnified.

      Like

      • Many thanks!! I’ve tried several times to do this, but with the link you gave me figured out, I had registered, but really didn’t have a blog, so couldn’t delete it, but it kept referring to it when I would comment on a blog like yours. So, today I typed a one sentence blog post…so then I had a blog, lol, then I could get to the dashboard which I wasn’t able to do before, wala tools and delete. Much appreciate your help. I can now use my real email, problem solved.

        Like

  8. I think I need to write me up one of these. I’m still beat. As for traffic wise hmmm I think the success of my own A to Z should not be measured in the numbers, because even though I visited posts as much as I could for at least he first 3 weeks, and people have told me that my A to Z theme was great, the stat’s show different. Which means my regular readers probably gave my blog a skip in April. That kind of sucks, but okay lesson learned. That means that if I’m doing the A to Z next year I may have to plan things differently or change my theme up or something.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is exactly why we made sure our A to Z topics were things we write about normally, and heavy on TV and comics. Didn’t want to lose our regulars for a month. Also, didn’t want to misrepresent our everyday blogging because then once we were done with April, people who liked the A to Z stuff would be less likely to stick around.

      The linky is open for a few days, so no big rush on the Reflection. I’m pretty beat, myself.

      Like

  9. I really enjoyed your reflections post, it does teach a lot to novice bloggers like myself. Those numbers are very impressive. I guess what has been a great month for me, would have been a horrible month stats wise for others…

    Like

    • Yes. You can’t really measure your traffic by comparison to others that way. Last year, my great month was a quarter of what we got here this month with a flawed writing blog that I just never could get off the ground. It’s the best month I ever managed with that blog.

      If you’re growing you’re making progress. And that’s if you care about the views at all. I don’t believe in using traffic as a status marker. I look at the stats as feedback. I always have a baseline for an average day in my head, and I consider good days positive feedback or else an indicator we did a lot of things right. Bad days are negative feedback, or an indicator that we did some things wrong. That’s all.

      I try to learn from people who are more successful at finding readers, and share what I know with people who are not as far along and want more. That’s why I share the stats and read stats posts, and it’s the only reason except that I’m a bit of a geek that way.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well I do enjoy your stats posts. Ok they do make it painfully clear that I have no readers compared to other blogs, but I am still new, at my stage one can only grow.

        Like

  10. Pingback: The A to Z Challenge a reflection | Serins Sphere

  11. Interesting insights! Sounds like you were impeccably well-organized. I got messed up with offline stuff and didn’t get more than a few posts pre-written. That curtailed the visiting and commenting a lot, as I was too busy writing. Not going to happen, next time (I hope). Congratulations on a successful A-Z Challenge. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I got tied up the last half of April myself. Was glad we were mostly scheduled way in advance. I experienced that writing problem last year. 🙂 Congrats to you, too!

      Like

  12. Thanks for posting and explaining the stats. This was my second year in the challenge and I’ve learned that I need to prepare all the posts before April so I can spend the majority of my time visiting other blogs and commenting. Most of the people who came to my blog were following up on comments I had left on theirs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Most of my early visitors had to be following comments and WordPress likes. I feel off the visiting in the second half, so did not leave a lot of comments to follow.

      Like

  13. Looking at this stats list makes me realize that the A to Z list would not show as a referral for the blogs I visited, because I had copied the Theme Reveal list to a document and visited links from there (largely the week before the challenge) to scope out who might have interesting themes and blogs to visit during the challenge. I found new blogs through there and through my new commenters, as well as through thoughtful repeat commenters on other bloggers’ posts.

    I didn’t have enough time to visit, either, and I am looking forward to more time to do this in a leisurely way going forward!

    Liked by 1 person

    • All manner of visiting strategies like that going on. Low referrals from the list doesn’t necessarily mean people didn’t use the list to find blogs.

      I am pondering the importance of list placement now. I have a friend who was registered in the first 25. She saw consistent visits all month. We were around 100, so part of the reason we peaked so early is that everyone ahead of us blew past us on the list during the first week, I think.

      Talking elsewhere to a person who was registered in the 700s. Her best week? The third.

      Liked by 1 person

        • I was near the end of the list last year. So far down, I started at the bottom. Generated about 1,000 views the whole month. It was the best month I ever had at that point, so, I was happy. And I visited a lot. Made many friends last year. Not so many this year.

          Liked by 1 person

  14. Very good observations! I have seen people complain that they didn’t get as much of a bump out of A to Z as expected – then again, they didn’t visit anyone else either! That’s not how A to Z works. Sometimes I ran into blogs with few comments as well, which seemed weird for good topics, until I realized that their comments were “visible after approval” only… I assumed they had not gotten around to reading them yet 🙂
    I think you did great in the challenge, the guest posts were fun, and the topics were awesome! 🙂

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary
    MopDog

    Like

  15. You’re the second person I’ve read who said they started planning in October. I thought I was doing well by starting on March 1st! I think I was working on my schedule in mid-February, trying to line up what letter would go with what, but that was as far in advance as I went.

    Stephanie
    My Blog

    Liked by 1 person

    • I mostly started planning in March because I had so many contributors to line up. I only wrote seven A to Z posts this year, and two of those ran at my sister’s blog 😀 In October, a lot of our contributors were new. I wasn’t at all sure they’d enjoy posting here enough to still be around in the spring, and I was careful about asking too much, because they’re doing it for free, and for the fun of it. I just knew that was going to take a while, so I started early.

      Like

  16. This is an outstanding Reflections post–one of the best I’ve seen. Your points are helpful and informative. It sounds to me that you did a lot right in the time leading up to and during April. I’ve seen similar outcomes in my own stats for April so what you indicate here is not an anomaly by any means for the blogger who is diligent at working to make their blogging outcomes more fruitful.

    Thank you for this excellent post and for being such a positive player in the April Challenge.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Road trippin’ with A to Z
    Tossing It Out

    Like

    • I appreciate you stopping by and also the insights, Arlee.

      This was only my second year, so I have to be careful with the reflective stuff. But I have to say. I wrote, in a post last fall that got almost no reads, but was read by everyone who contributed here here during April: “You get what you put in.”

      I think my stats confirm that. You do what you can do and be happy that someone read your words. And you keep rolling.

      I am doing the road trip. Haven’t started yet, but setting up my social media for it, and once I’m set up, using the A to Z list to meet bloggers all year long.

      Thank you for this awesome idea for a blogging challenge. And I saw that #AZChat answer of yours where you said the thing you wanted was media coverage. However many weeks ago that was.

      Like

    • Wasn’t just few, though that can certainly help and I recommend it. This particular A to Z Challenge was built on guest posts. I only wrote seven A to Z posts this year, and two ran at my sister’s blog 😀

      Gonna get on that road trip soon.

      Like

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