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Pretty Please, Check Out My Site!

October 16, 2012

It’s been over two weeks since I launched the new version of KitchenPC, and already over 2,000 people have checked it out.  Yes, this is going to be another one of those numbers posts.  You’ve been warned.

I thought I’d share some of the techniques I’ve been experimenting with to generate some traffic, as it seems to be a complete guessing game as far as what works and what has little effect.  As a control, I’d like to mention the average person (since the 10/1 launch) spends 4 minutes and 1 second on the site, and I have an average bounce rate of 39% (this means 39% of visitors leave the site after only visiting a single page.)  So, if you’re launching a new website, what should you do to attract visitors?  Is it worth spending money?  Where can you get the most bang for your buck?

Facebook Ads?

One easy approach, or so I thought, would be to just spend a few hundred bucks on Facebook ads.  What can be simpler than just paying people to visit your site, right?  Well, turns out it really isn’t as easy as it sounds.  I decided to create a single ad targeted at people with the interest “Cooking” on their profile.  If you like to cook, you’ll probably like my site.

On launch day, I wanted to get about 500 people to the site so I figured I’d bid about a buck and set the daily spending limit at $500/day for one day.  Turns out, such a strategy does absolutely nothing.  First, it took over a day to even get the ad approved from Facebook.  Second, when the ad was approved, traffic slowly just trickled in at under 10 clicks per day.  Most likely, the limiting factor in this result was the bid price.  I’m actually entirely unsure how Facebook’s magic algorithm works (I’m assuming it’s a very well-kept secret,) but I would guess the higher the bid price, the more people will see your ad.  I will go out on a limb and assume you’d have to make some insane bid price to get any real amount of traffic on a single ad.  I suppose the other technique would be to create dozens and dozens of ads under a single campaign, targeting various demographics, interests, age ranges, etc.  However, even doing all that, it seems trying to get 500 users onto a site in a day with Facebook ads would be a tall order.

So, does this technique even work?  Let’s look at the numbers.  I ended up lowering my budget to just $200 (total), and running the campaign for 2 weeks, ending yesterday.  Out of the 260,000 people the ad reached, just 128 people clicked on the link.  Oddly enough, I can only account for 116 of them using my own logs.  This means I paid $1.56 per visitor using Facebook.

This Facebook ad linked to a special URL that I could track using Clicky, which lets me compare this traffic against normal site traffic.  Clicky tells me that there were 109 unique visitors who used this entry point into the site (which means many people were clicking my ad more than once?) and spent an average time of 3 minutes and 24 seconds on the site; 15% less than the average visitor!  What’s even more depressing is their bounce rate was 51.4%, or 31% higher than average.  Only 11 of these visitors created a user account, two watched the intro video, and only a couple used any sort of real site feature.  Overall, it seems $1.56 for each of these users is a bit steep.

I’m well aware that there are whole companies who can optimize these sorts of ad campaigns, but in all honesty I can’t really say I’d recommend using Facebook ads to drive traffic into your site unless you have huge truckloads of money to burn, and a team of people working on these campaigns and monitoring and optimizing traffic.  Plus, you should probably know your site is actually something people want before spending any real amount.

Just Ask Some Press People

About a week before launch, I decided to send a link out to the test version of the site to various technology blogs.  These included sites such as AllThingsD, GeekWire, Sprouter, TechCrunch, ReadWriteWeb, GigaOm, LifeHacker, and PandoDaily.  I also emailed a few food bloggers, though most have very strict guidelines about promoting a product (i.e., most won’t do it.)

Out of this list, I only heard back from GeekWire, who agreed to run a Startup Spotlight segment on the site on launch date, which was fantastic!  The Startup Spotlight article drove 150 people to the site, who spent an average of 5 minutes and 47 seconds on the site with a bounce rate of just 11.9%.  This is already a huge improvement over Facebook ad traffic, not to mention it was completely free.  Though many of these people used various site features, only 3 new user accounts were created; perhaps GeekWire readers are interested in checking out new technology, but aren’t really my target demographic.  I think it’s safe to say emailing a few blogs is a better way to generate site traffic than paying a couple hundred bucks to Facebook.

One quick side note on Facebook.  I also played around with their “Promoted Posts” feature, which allow you to pay either $5 or $10 to promote a post.  This appears to be a complete scam.  You’ll get a bunch of new Likes, however, most of these Likes were from obviously fake Facebook accounts.  Some of them had pornographic materials, or were obvious marketing scams (mostly overseas.)  I don’t think I got any new real Facebook followers by promoting a post.

Press Release?

The first time I launched KitchenPC back in 2010, I did a press release which was pretty fun and also generated some great leads.  The story got picked up on a major food blog (generating 4,000 visitors in a single day!) and also created a lot of buzz on Twitter.  It’s really difficult to quantify the success of a press release, but I’m of the opinion it’s a good use of your time and money.

I decided to issue another press release for this launch, which went out the same day the new site went online.

With press releases, you’ll get dozens of sites that simply re-publish anything that comes over the wire.  If you’re a wanna-be news site, it’s cheaper than writing your own articles.  However, I got very little traffic from most of these.  The one exception seems to be a newspaper, The Sacramento Bee.  They published the press release word for word (which now appears to be gone), and drove 167 people to the site.  These users spent an average of 5 minutes and 33 seconds on the site with a bounce rate of 12.6%.  8 of them signed up, and a pretty good chunk used many of the major site features.

This article, plus the various other republications definitely make a press release a pretty cost effective way of generating site traffic, and judging from last time, the effects of this press release could pay dividends for many months.

Spam, I mean Email

I also once again used MailChimp to send out an update to the thousands of existing user accounts.  Once again, this got my account locked due to an excessive number of people reporting the mail as spam (I think their cut off is above 0.5%).  I’ve really found no way to prevent this from happening, as no matter what, some people don’t appreciate being emailed.

I’m somewhat kicking myself for not tracking email clicks with a track-able URL like I did with Facebook, as I’d love to have metrics on this.  However, I can see 65 visitors from Yahoo! Mail and 8 visitors from Live mail.  I also got a few email replies directly.  These traffic sources had similar stats than the press release traffic, which was of course far better than Facebook Ads.

My Advice?

So, my advice?  Try to muster up some press.  Write a good press release, get it out there.  Write bloggers related to your market.  If you’ve built up an email list through a beta release or a landing page, email them.  Don’t waste your time with online ads; they don’t work and are not cost effective.

I think it goes without saying the primary goal for launch is not to generate massive amounts of traffic.  The goal is to get a small amount of traffic (perhaps a few thousand people) and see if that traffic sticks.  See if they’re signing up, see if the features you worked so hard on are being used, and see if they keep coming back for more.  From what I’ve seen so far, it’s obvious this version of KitchenPC is a huge improvement over the last one.  My daily traffic is now over double what it was at the end of the beta, so things are definitely heading in the right direction.  At some point, you’ll generate something that really clicks and people will start sharing it with their friends, bloggers will start writing about it on their own, and you’ll build up a loyal user base organically.  At least, that’s what I’m hoping!

 

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One Comment
  1. My comment didn’t show. Anyways, good info. I agree that FB ads are a waste, but maybe got my business some exposure. Share your story on echoed.com I cut and paste from what I have on my website.

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