Supporting the Bold North: Excited to join the Super Bowl LII Host Committee's #Crew52 as a Social Media Captain

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I am excited to announce that I will be joining the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee Social Media Team as a Shift Captain during the two weeks leading up to Super Bowl LII on February 4, 2018 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  I could not be more excited to be a part of such a big event here in the Twin Cities.  I have been overseeing social media efforts over the last 10 years at some of Minnesota's best companies, so adding the Super Bowl to my resume was an opportunity I could not pass up!

As one of the Social Media Captains on "Crew 52", I will be working with a team of talented social media experts activating social media response strategies and leading specialized teams during the ten-day span of Super Bowl events before the big game.

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Inside the Blog: Traffic sources from January 2009 - September 2017

I am a member of the Problogger group on Facebook, which consists of thousands of bloggers at various levels of experience. There is usually a good amount of questions asked everyday in the community, of which I try and offer answers whenever I can.  Today there was a question about what everyone's biggest blog traffic sources are.  Without looking at my Google Analytics, and recalling from memory, I replied that Google organic search and Google+ are my leading traffic sources from the last eight years.  After replying, I thought it might be interesting to go in and look at the actual numbers.  Here is what I found.

I was correct on Google organic search being my top traffic source.  Looking at my top 24 traffic sources from the last eight years, Google organic search makes up 43% of all sessions.  That is followed by Direct traffic and then Google+.  Those top three traffic sources make up 71% of all sessions to my site.  The complete list of 24 traffic sources is shown below:

The top 24 traffic sources to my website from January 2009 - September 2017.

I pulled some additional data as well to analyze which traffic sources make for the best visitors to my site.  Here are a couple of notable data points:

  • Six of the 24 traffic sources generated more than two pages per session on average, with the highest being Disqus, the blog commenting service I use.
  • Seven of the 24 traffic sources averaged more than two minutes per session (I use two minutes as my benchmark as to what makes up an engaged visit, among other metrics).  The longest visiting traffic source, on average, was from Shoemoney.com.  Back in 2010, I competed in a blog contest on Shoemoney's site, which brought traffic back to my site and had visitors reading a fairly lengthy post I wrote before they could vote for a winner. I made it to the finals of the contest, but did not win.

Google+ will definitely not stay in the top five for very long. Google+ as a traffic source (for my site, anyways) is on the decline, as shown in the graph below:

Google+ traffic is on the decline for my site. The significant drop off in 2016-2017 can most likely be attributed to my year off from blogging.

It will be interesting to see how this report looks again in a year, especially as I ramp up the promotion of my website and blog.

How I use a scorecard to build and manage my blog

One thing I have come to realize about myself is that I need to keep score if I want to get things done. Not keep score against others, but rather just keep score with myself. I need to add a layer of gamification to many of the goals I want to achieve, otherwise I can mindlessly drift into activities that do not move the ball forward on the things that I really want to pursue and areas I want to grow in. Blogging is one of those activities that can sometimes be easy for me to push aside if I get lazy. At the same time, blogging, building a robust content library, and developing online products are crucial to some of my long-term goals, so I have to keep moving even when things get busy (or I get lazy).

One solution I developed to keep me motivated is a blogging scorecard. This tool gives me quantified results and a visual representation of my blogging progress every week. I built it in Google Sheets and it uses simple formatting, simple formulas, and conditional formatting to keep me accountable and motivated to achieve a high score for the week. Below is an image showing what the scorecard looks like.

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Here are some notes about the spreadsheet:

  • I have my blogging activities split into two categories, one for content development and maintenance, and one for analytics and web development. I can add or remove lines (or even sections, for that matter) as needed, depending on the different activities I may be focused on at any point in time.

  • The gray boxes are days that I am not expecting to complete those tactics, so they are not calculated in the completion percentages.

  • Each line is tallied by COUNTA() and SUM() formulas, as well as the section percentages, and the overall completion percentage.

  • I mark the cells with “X” tallies, but you could put anything in the boxes because the COUNTA() function only cares that the cell is not null.

  • I am using conditional formatting on the end column that shades from red to green depending on the percentage. When the week starts, they are all red, so it is motivating to see the boxes change colors and get closer to green as I mark cells off.

  • The total completion box is also using condition formatting, but in this case, displays a green check mark if I get over a 75% completion rate, a yellow exclamation mark for 33%-74% completion, or a red stop sign for anything below 33%.

  • I have played around with weighting different processes, offering me a greater score for completion over others, but in general I usually just have every row be equal to each other.

By the end of the week, I have a great understanding of the progress I made through the week, and then strive to beat that completion percentage the next week, or see how many 100%’s I can string together. I have gamified my blogging.

I have these scorecards for various things, including certain systems I manage at work and for working out, just to name a couple. But my blogging one gets the most attention by far.

As I mentioned above, I built this in Google Sheets, but I have found that it converts into Microsoft Excel pretty easily. If you would like a copy of this scorecard, just drop me a note using the form in my About page and I will send you an email with the link to download the template. (Note: This also opts you in on my email list, but trust me, its all good stuff that will come your way and will be worth your time… promise. Also, I send out free templates and exclusive content to my email list regularly).

Hopefully some of you might find this to be a useful tool if you are looking to build and manage your blog better.

Inside the Blog: A look at the results from not blogging for a year

I have been blogging on a very consistent basis since 2005.  That is, until September 2016. Last year I decided to take some time off from blogging, in order to refocus on my goals and figure out how my blog was going to support those goals. What I didn't expect to do was take 12 consecutive months off.  It can be a struggle getting back on a routine when you end it for a period of time.  So after 12 months, I really found myself missing my blog, and with plenty to say, thought it would be good to get back at it.

Since starting my break from blogging in September 2016, I had not really taken a look at my Google Analytics account.  Logging in there this past week was an eye-opening experience.  On one hand, it was easy to see what not blogging for a year can do to your traffic.  From September 1, 2016 to August 31, 2017, my traffic fell over 40% year-over-year.  Below is a snapshot of the different key metrics.  Total users, new users, sessions, and pageviews were all down big time from the year previous.  What is really interesting, however, is that my past blog posts increased some key engagement metrics, despite the drop in traffic.  Number of sessions per user, pages per session, average session duration, and bounce rate all performed better during my break than the year previous when I was actively blogging.  That was very interesting, given that a lot of my content was not very evergreen.

My website analytics looking at September 2016 - August 2017, compared to the same time frame a year earlier. (Click the image to enlarge)

You can also see very clearly that as time went on through the past 12 months, the traffic really tanked around February 2017.  This really shows the power of blogging (or lack thereof) on a regular basis and it’s affect on your traffic over a long period of time.

Another interesting report to look at is the channel effect on traffic.  There is no question that organic traffic would take a hit, and in this case, that resulted in a 54.8% decrease YOY.  The only channel that increased over the 12 month period was email, which was a result of keeping my website link in my email signature block.  That drove an increase of 252%.

A look at traffic by channel from September 2016 - August 2017, compared against the previous time frame a year ago. (Click the image to enlarge)

What’s Next

So I have decided to get back to blogging regularly, primarily focused on the topics I am most versed in: digital strategy, digital marketing, project management, and a few other things mixed in.  The challenge ahead is whether or not I can get my traffic to rebound, not just compared to 2015-2016, but even to the levels I achieved in 2013-2014, when my website got record traffic.  The chart below actually was a little jarring for me to look at, showing that my website traffic has been on the decline for several years.

Users, sessions, and pageviews since 2008; time periods are from September-August. (Click the image to enlarge)

So that is the challenge ahead… to get my web traffic back on the rise. I am going to essentially start over.  My site’s historical content is gone.  I have put together a new content plan, a new promotion strategy, and some new tactics to try this year.  I have decided to blog about my blog (meta, I know) every now and then to share a little about what is working and what isn’t with those of you who might be interested.  And of course, if you have any suggestions or feedback, I would love to hear it, so just drop those in the comments below.