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Bible Blog Project: January, 2024 (UPDATE)

It’s been three months now and my experience so far has generated some mixed results.

On the one hand, my numbers continue to grow. My email list recently crossed 2,000 people and the traffic is increasing regularly.

On the other hand, the amount of work that is going into this thing — and what I know is coming — might be starting to take its toll.

For what it’s worth, I know that it’s not so much the blog as much as it is everything else that’s happening in everyday life. We’re starting a new year which means more projects across the board, Diakonos continues to grow, local church work is piling up — nothing anyone else isn’t also dealing with this time of year.

What this tells me is that if this blog is going to succeed (and it will), I need to make it more of a priority than it already is. I’ve been guilty of relegating it to the backburner more than once this month, and that has to change.

If it doesn’t, my head might just explode from trying to play catch up.

But I also know that this is the exact moment most people generally give up on blogs. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen start a blog, post nine articles, then by month three or four, the blog goes dormant. People move on, they don’t see much growth, life gets in the way — take your pick of reasons.

So instead of giving up (which was never really an option in the first place), the only thing I can do is rearrange my habits to make the blog easier to tackle. 

That’s part of what I want to talk about in this month’s update.

A Quick Recap of the Bible Blog Project

If this is your first time reading this blog and you have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, here are the last few updates.

Bible Blog Project: December, 2023 (UPDATE)

Bible Blog Project: November, 2023 (UPDATE)

Bible Blog Project: October, 2023 (ANNOUNCEMENT)

The short version is that I launched a blog in October of 2023 from scratch with the singular goal of getting it to 20,000 organic visits a month.

The key word in that sentence is “organic.” That means that those traffic numbers need to rely solely on SEO. No referral traffic (from an email list) and no social traffic (from social media channels).

That doesn’t mean that I’m not relying on email and social media (because I definitely am) but that my final, 20,000 visitor number won’t include traffic from that source.

Let’s see where we’re at so far, shall we?

A quick look at my site’s Google Analytics shows that I’m making quite a bit of progress. All those green numbers show growth, and that’s what I’m after, especially at this stage.

As a quick aside, the one number that I’m most proud of is “average session duration.” That means that people who are finding my blog are actually staying on there to read the blogs. Since my blog articles are intentionally short, this session duration is about where I’d expect it to be.

On the flip side, the bounce rate is astronomical. A site’s “bounce rate” refers to how many people go to your website and then “bounce” off within a few seconds, usually because they don’t immediately find what they’re looking for. 

As a general rule, you want that bounce rate somewhere between 2-5%. Any more than 10% is bad. 62.7% is abhorrent.

I’m not too worried about it though, because I know for a fact that the primary drive of that bounce rate is my book sign up landing page that I’m running my lead generation ads to. People come to that page, sign up, and they’re gone.  Voila. A high bounce rate.

Those numbers aren’t the ones I’m super concerned with though. These are:

This graph represents my traffic acquisition stats. In other words, this tells me how people are actually finding my blog. 

As expected, the universal driver of traffic to my blog is my email list. No surprise there.

The second is organic social, which is most likely from the paid ads I’ve been driving to the landing page on my website.

The “direct” traffic is how many people search intentionally for MYBLOG.com.

Unassigned traffic is a catch-all term for any random traffic from any other source.

See that tiiiiny, teeeeeny line for organic search? That’s the number I want to grow. Right now it’s at around 4. Per month. Which is putrid.

My goal by the end of the year is to have that number at 20,000.

Time to get to work. *Rolls Up Sleeves*

What I Accomplished in December

This month, I made major strides in a few key areas.

First, my daily blog email went out every single morning at 5 AM. I know from my Facebook ad reports that my audience skews older, so I tried to catch that early morning, sit-in-the-recliner-and-read-their-Bible crowd. 

That’s not a comment on age, necessarily, just habits. If the ads were targeting middle-age or lower, I might try sending it lunch time or around 8:30 AM, when most people are getting into the office and checking their email.

If it was a younger crowd, I would probably shoot for an evening read. That’s just what the data shows about demographics and content consumption.

https://www.researchgate.net/figure/What-Time-Do-Young-People-Spend-the-Most-Time-Online_fig4_308075837

(Source)

You might also remember that I am testing out a new email provider: SendFox. I raved about it last month for its simplicity, but this month, I have to admit, I’m not a fan.

The reason actually doesn’t have anything to do with their deliverability, but with their internal algorithm. 

At some point, unbeknownst to me, SendFox’s “smart” algorithm determined who was the most engaged from my list and purposely only sent my emails to those people.

What that means is that they effectively cut my list in half for me, without giving me any chance to re-engage those people, try a different time, etc. Nothing. Just…nope.

That’s anathema to me. I don’t like software throttling my progress on a whim, so I will absolutely be moving to a new service this month. I’ll keep you updated as to which one I go to.

Anywho, my numbers for the campaigns themselves were rock solid:

  • Open Rate: 30-32%
  • Click through rate: 2-3%
  • List Size (as of 1/1/24): 2076

These are all industry standard rates. If you started a blog tomorrow and focused on building an email list, these are most likely the numbers you would get too.

Like I said last month, it’s all a numbers game.

The other areas that I grew in were in my writing schedule. I tried to write a few devotionals every day at the beginning of the month, and as a result, the quality of those blogs improved (I think). 

It also felt very therapeutic to just focus on the Bible for 30 minutes every day for my own personal study. I really, really enjoyed that. If nothing else, this blog has certainly helped me meditate on the Word more.

Also, I decided to not increase my ads budget either. Q4 (October-December) is a notoriously pricy month for ads because of the holiday season, so I decided to wait and do something a little different in January. I’ll still run the ads, but it’ll be a different type of ad. Stay tuned…

My Goals for January

There is always room to improve, and this month, I noticed a few areas that I really need to get going if I’m going to try and hit my numbers on time.

Post Blogs to Social Media

I already use MeetEdgar to post to my social media channel, but I haven’t uploaded my blogs to the auto scheduler yet.

This is a super easy process — should take less than 30 minutes a month — so I just need to do it. More traffic from that source should help increase my search signals to Google.

Get on Threads

One of my goals at the outset of this project was to experiment with Threads — Facebook’s answer to Twitter (or X, or whatever Elon has decided to call it today). 

I haven’t done that yet, so I really want to set aside some time this month to do that.

Increase Ad Spend

As I said before, my list building ad spend will stay the same. I might even decrease it a bit.

I will, however, be starting some campaigns on another aspect of this blog that I think you’ll be very interested to read about. My goal for this month is to get that started.

Internal Link Building

Now that I have about 50+ blogs on the site, I need to go back through and do some internal link building. This will create a spiderweb of sorts through my site that will help people find relevant topics they’re interested in and increase the topical authority of my site.

External Link Building

In January, I plan to reach out to some bloggers to see about doing guest posts on their sites. This is also a numbers game, so I’m not expecting to make huge progress out of the gate, but one or two links would be nice.

The number one way to increase search presence is by building up a healthy backlink profile, so I need to start reaching out to other sites to generate some of those links.

Happy New Year!

Whatever online evangelism goals are for 2024, I hope that you absolutely crush it these next twelve months. 

Whether that’s building an online blog, turning your church website into an evangelistic tool, or just talking to someone about the Gospel, I hope that you’re able to reach more people with God’s word this year than ever before.

To God be the glory!

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