Sarah’s Corner – October 2011 in Review

Sarah’s Corner – October 2011 in Review

Hi friends! I’m writing this post from underneath the haze of a Halloween weekend hangover, which must mean that it’s the end of October – and time for another monthly wrap-up post!

Let’s start with the posts that went live in October…

Case Study 4 – Meet Our Conversion Rates Test Site!
How to Get Website Traffic Fast
Case Study 4 – Progress and Setbacks
Fun Times with SEO: Building a Subdirectory Blog

Ouch – only four posts… For someone who made the commitment to post to this site twice a week for all of 2011, that stings quite a bit – especially since I had a lot of good content planned to go live as part of Case Study 4 on improving conversion rates.

As I mentioned in the “Progress and Setbacks” post, I had a few challenges this month – primarily, a month-long cold that eventually turned into pneumonia. At that point, my priority became taking care of my writing clients at the expense of this site, as they’re the ones who pay most of my bills right now.

(And yes, I’m painfully aware that this situation could have been avoided if I was a good blogger who worked ahead and had extra content in reserve… I guess there’s always room for improvement!)

But here’s the funny thing. I was getting pretty down on myself about having to write this post and admit to you all that I really dropped the ball this month, when I came across this quote on a new post over at Advanced Riskology:

“Every great challenge comes with great setbacks. If setbacks are something that everyone must experience, then the only thing that really matters is how you react to them.”

So many thanks to Tyler for reminding me that having a down month is one thing, but the key to long-term success is to avoid letting those setbacks spiral out of control.

In that spirit, I’m pressing forward with my conversion rates case study. Although I had initially only planned to post on it through October, I’m extending it for two more weeks in order to cover all of the topics I want to get to. Here’s what you can expect to see in the next two weeks:

• November 3rd – Copywriting Tweaks that Improve Conversions
• November 7th – Effective Email Marketing Strategies
• November 11th – Final Case Study 4 Wrap-up

I’ve lost a good bit of time on this case study, but I’m going to kick things up a notch over the next two weeks and see if I can’t make at least a little progress on it. I’ll keep you posted!

In other Common Sense Marketing news, October continued to be a record-breaking month in terms of traffic. As you’ll recall from last month, the following are my traffic figures from September 2011:

And although I was blown away to hit over 18,000 visits, October was even better:

Now, it’s still not all good (whoever thought that having too much traffic would be an issue?!). Common Sense Marketing is run off a reseller hosting account, which means that I set the bandwidth limits for each site I run. And although I bumped up that number to higher levels than I ever thought I’d hit, the Stumbleupon traffic coming in to my site still blew it out twice in October.

And because I was out sick for much of the month, I wasn’t as quick to respond to these outages as I should have been. I finally learned my lesson, jacked up the monthly bandwidth to a level that I *really* don’t think I’ll hit and set up a free alert through SiteUptime that will notify me by email if my site goes down again.

Unfortunately, it seems that there were some negative consequences resulting from this downtime. Interestingly enough, every time the site crashed due to exceeded bandwidth, the Stumbleupon traffic died down to reasonable levels for a few days before picking back up again. It’s still down after the last outage, and I’ll admit there’s a part of me that hopes it stays that way!

The bigger issue, however, is that Google dropped the PageRank of Common Sense Marketing from a PR3 to a PR1, although I can’t say for sure whether this is the result of the downtime or the high bounce rate of the Stumbleupon traffic. Either way, it’s not a huge deal, since having a high PageRank has never been a real objective of mine, but it’s still a bummer to see that number go down.

On the positive side, my decision to add an email list opt-in form to the 15 Ways to Get Paid to Write article has been paying off, as over 70 new Common Sense Marketers have joined the community through this page. Yes, that’s only a .2% conversion rate for that specific form, but it’s still 70 new members that wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t added the form.

So that’s what’s going on with the site for now. As the year winds down, I’m starting to plan ahead for 2012, and I’m beyond excited about some of the ideas that are taking shape. I’ll have more announcements for you next month, so be sure to check back for November’s wrap-up post in a few weeks.

In other news, I’m a month closer to my anticipated “making the leap to self-employment” date, which means that I’m continuing to push forward to eliminate as much debt as possible before then. This month’s payoff amount was quite a bit lower than September’s was, largely due to the time I was out sick. But despite all that, I was still able to pay off $1,036.98 of credit card debt in October. And yes – that’s a highly specific number for a reason…

This payoff was a milestone for me, as it wiped out the last of the debt on a $6,500 credit card that’s been maxed out for over three years and represented the largest single debt in my name. I can’t tell you how stressed out I used to feel looking at the balance and thinking I’d never be able to pay it all off. And now, the way I feel when I look at the balance and see $0 – no money owed – is truly incredible.

That leaves about $6,400 left on one final credit card. My goal is to blast through this one as well, putting down about $2,000 for each of the next three months. That will be a challenge, as I’ve got some big business expenses planned for the next two months and traveling home for the holidays will eat into the budget as well, but I’m optimistic. I’m looking for another long-term writing client in the health or fitness industries right now, and if I can find the right person, that will get me a lot closer to meeting my goal.

So that’s where I’m at right now. I’m still playing catch up from being out sick, but I’ve got a lot of great stuff on the horizon that’s getting me fired up and helping me stay motivated. I’m truly excited about where I see this site heading and I can’t wait to tell you more about it next month.

How was your October? Got any goals for the upcoming month that you’d like to share?


16 Responses to Sarah’s Corner – October 2011 in Review

  1. Even though you’re getting high bounce rates, I still think your stats are impressive and your growth seems great as well. Great idea with the extra opt-in on your viral post.

    I really like what you’re doing on here, and I think you’ve done just about everything right to really get your blog moving.

    My goal for November is to spend at least 10 hours a week on SEO work I’m doing. I’m already learning a lot, and it’s great to apply what I’ve learned.

    • Sarah says:

      Jeffrey – Thanks so much! And good for you taking the time to actually practice SEO – I think there’s a lot to be said about how much more you learn when you do it versus reading about it.

      Best of luck with your experiments 🙂

  2. I am also impressed with your stats and progress. Congrats on getting that large debt paid off. Hope you stay healthy in November.

    • Sarah says:

      Thanks so much! It’s hard to even describe how much of a weight I feel has been lifted off my shoulders after paying off the most recent card 🙂

  3. I wouldn’t worry about those StumbleUpon numbers either, you’re getting your blog recognized and gaining more subscribers, the other stuff is accessory in comparison.

    I’d look into getting some managed WordPress hosting if you really never want to have site problems again, I’d recommend, it’s a worthwhile expense with that much traffic.

    You could have had thousands of more views if the site hadn’t gone down, and that matters.

    Otherwise I’m glad to see all of your writing paying off, and I’m also glad to see some viral content convert over for you, for me StumbleUpon has been nothing but a bandwidth waster, haha!

    • Sarah says:

      Hey Gregory – Thanks for the tips. I’m going to try the setup I have now for a little bit (since I don’t want to pay for more hosting than I need to), but if I keep running into issues, I’ll definitely take a look at something like that.

  4. Philip Buuck says:

    Congratulations Sarah! I started internet marketing as a way to pay off my own credit cards, and I’m still working on it, but I know what you mean about closing out an account. The traffic is looking spectacular too!

    I’m enjoying your case studies too – it’s really cool that you’re being so open about the work you’re putting into them!

    • Sarah says:

      Thanks so much, Philip! Glad to hear that you’re enjoying the case studies and that you’re making progress on your own debt payoff as well 🙂

  5. Jeff says:

    Glad to hear you are doin better ( you are better right) don’t push to hard and stay healthy. Congrats on the payoff, it does feel good. Working on my last credit card myself (like you it was maxed forever) before talking the house payments.

    I gotta work on some of my sites this month and get them ranked a bit higher. I know on some just a couple notches higher will boast my Adsense quite a bit.

  6. When did your PR drop, was there a PR update recently that I missed?

    • Sarah says:

      Sometime in early October. I don’t think it was a universal update since none of my other sites moved, but I have heard that Google uses PR changes to make a point or give a penalty – which I think could be possible given how much my bounce rate has changed.

  7. Paul Evans says:

    Congrats on those impressive stats Sarah, amazing MOM increases.
    And don’t worry too much about the PageRank drop. I think it’s really important to not put all your eggs in the google basket when generating quality traffic: they have such a monopoly on search that sometimes you can feel like a slave unto them
    Good luck for the full jump to full-time employment : i’ve had my own company here in France since March 2011 after 13 years of working for big internet companies. I don’t regret it for 1 second!
    Take care, Paul

    • Sarah says:

      Thanks Paul! I’m not too worried about the drop in PR, since having a high PR doesn’t really affect things too much for me and I’m sure it’ll bounce back once the Stumbleupon traffic dries up.

      And congrats on starting your own business! Glad to hear it’s working well for you 🙂

  8. steve wyman says:

    Hi Sarah,

    I just wanted to say how impressive it is to tackle that debt. Qudos indeed.

    Your going to be so well set up when thats gone and what a relief hey.

    congrats so far..

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