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launching the minimum viable blog – the numbers

January 22, 2010

Yesterday, I finally put Grattisfaction live on the internet.

I’d been working on it for a while, trying to get it perfect. Shortly after spending way too many late nights tweaking link lists to attain blog perfection, I thought of the “minimum viable blog” concept (it is exactly what you think it is).  I realized that I needed to get something out there so I could iterate.

I unchecked the “make private” box, and tweeted a link out.  And I waited.

I didn’t have to wait long.

I was overwhelmed by the positive response.  And I learned a huge amount about social media, blog strategy, and virality.

What I Thought Would Happen

With great trepidation and only slightly less excitement, I made Grattisfaction public.

Everything on the internet I’d ever done before had gone like this:

Press “public” or “upload” or any other button of power… and then visit site.  Victory!  Now we wait.

Then some search bots come through, so I’d get maybe, 30 hits the first day.  (Actually, this depends on what sort of web analytics you’re using.  Javascript is better than server logs.  But I digress…)

And then I’d get between one and ten hits a week, that would generally bounce.

Because people only found me because they got lost.

What Actually Happened

Shortly after I pressed ‘Public’, I tweeted three posts:

From such small acorns do tall trees grow

~30 hours later, this is what happened:

from small acorns large trees do grow

Things like this make me think the metrics on aren’t accurate.  (I’m told they use urchin and give you a subset of that data.  Wish there was more, but I’ll get to that in the AAARR post next.)

This is really awesome, I think.

I just had one question –

How could such a thing possibly happen?

Moreover, why was one post so incredibly popular, drawing ten times the amount of traffic of the second most popular post?

Let’s start by looking at how traffic arrived at Grattisfaction.

referrers to on 1/20-1/21

(As we enter the metrics section here, I caution you, some of these may not add up perfectly.  I don’t have good metrics tools – just and, so a lot of these are screenshots.)

As you can see from the data, the vast majority of the traffic came from, twitter derivatives (twirivatives?), and various flavors of

Let’s also look at the numbers – click-through on are often misreported as direct traffic by Google Analytics, so might mis-report them:

The post was re-tweeted 48 times and shared on facebook 5 times (I didn’t share on facebook).

Just for fun, here is what the breakdown looks like.  (If anyone knows how to extract insight from referrals, please leave some thoughts in the comments.)

Twitter drove almost all of the traffic. Clicks came either directly from twitter or from, at lack of a better term, “social media crossover,” where content crosses from one social media platform to another.  (If anyone knows a real term for this, please let me know.)

Looking for comparisons, I found Fred Wilson’s blog numbers, and tell a similiar tale of twitter traffic (except the numbers are  much larger.  This makes sense because his blog is much better than mine.)    Of course, he has the high pagerank and deep content reserves that search engines penetrate – I don’t have those (yet), so he gets a lot of Google traffic too.  Right now, I have basically no search traffic (maybe 10-12 hits over the last two days.)  I’d love to see Fred’s ratio of Twitter traffic to a post v. Google traffic to a post over the life of the post.

Unlike Fred Wilson, I am not important or famous on Twitter.  I have about a hundred followers, and a slightly greater number of followees.

But how did that one tweet end up getting retweeted and put on, while the other posts did not?

The answer is simple: that tweet had the #leanstartup hashtag affixed to it.

Because it had #leanstartup, it was received by Eric Ries.

And Eric retweeted it to his  7,475 followers.  (Eric is what we call a thought leader.  Thanks Eric.)

After it appeared on @ericries (he was the first person to pick it up), it propagated wildly.  Hiten Shah was kind enough to submit it to Y-Combinator news.

Lessons Learned

– Twitter is an awesome way to promote your web content.

– Use relevant hashtags.  These don’t need to be popular or trending hashtags, just hashtags people check.  (Thought leaders are checking them constantly – these high-follower, high-influence individuals are key to spreading your ideas on twitter.)

– Social Aggregators (like are like firehoses of traffic onto your site.

– I was more than a little scared to launch my own blog about start-ups and agile biz/tech. I’m awed by how positive, open, and supportive this community isI’m incredibly grateful to have such a great community of others who are trying to make great things and start great companies.

Tomorrow’s Post: AARRR! 3 Days Metrics from the Minimum Viable Blog, and the Iterations I Made As a Result


Thoughts?  Comments?  Numbers from your own blog launch?  Please leave a comment below!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 22, 2010 9:59 pm

    I arrived at your article about Zynga from one of the entrepreneurship blogs–probably Eric Ries’. I didn’t even realize how new this blog was until I finished the article and looks for a list of older posts.

    I’ve been working on my website/blog for a while, and finally had the same realization last week: I need to get a barebones blog up there, or I’ll never finish it. (Still coding, but sooo close!)

    • January 22, 2010 10:04 pm

      Thanks Dan.
      Something is better than nothing. It’s probably better than you think. Here’s where I benefit from not having web dev chops – you can only mess with a template so much before you want to put it up. But people are actually way nicer on the internet than you’ve been led to believe.
      Good luck,

      • January 24, 2010 8:56 am

        True! The freedom increases the indecision. I’m planning to experiment with the platform and format as well as the content with this project–though I have gotten my feet wet with a WP blog recently.

  2. January 27, 2010 2:59 pm

    They should call this the Eric Ries effect. I had almost the exact same result to a blog post about my web app launch that i tweeted to #leanstartup and got retweeted by Eric Ries (and then by Kent Beck): (Ignore the visitor count displayed on page as the counter was not set up until weeks after the buzz had died down.) It generated only 18 retweets, but well over 1000 page views on Google Analytics.

    With just a little more data we ought to be able to calculate the ROI of an Eric Ries retweet to within 10%.

    • January 27, 2010 3:05 pm

      Yep. Logically, that should extend to thought leaders across all subfields. That, and start-up people are hardcore early adopters and all use twitter.

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