The Blog Year in Review

I am going to publish some data about the readership of the blog and some details about the back end.  This may be of some interest to those of you who write your own blog, or have thought about doing so.  I wasn’t quite sure what I expected when when I started out, but looking back I was surprised to see that was eight months ago!

Behind the Curtain:

I have a bit of computer background, and have run and configured my own servers, web servers, and written HTML, java and even complex AJAX code for the web.  In fact, long ago, it used to be my day job.  Years ago (think 2002-ish) I had most recently used a WYWISWYG HTML editor (think Frontpage, or similar) and was very un-impressed.  It was difficult to use, I never got what I wanted, and the pages didn’t load right in different browsers.

Now the browser world is much more complicated (iPhones, Firefox, IE, Chrome, etc).  Also, the Internet itself has really matured.  In particular, Google’s PageRank is much more complex than it used to be, and you really have to stay on top of your game to understand how to best direct Google and its users to your site with proper keywords, meta tags, text placement, and so on.

In the past, I had always had the best results by doing all of this myself.  I used and configured my own webserver, wrote my own HTML (usually from scratch), and used as little complex code as possible to keep things manageable.  Obviously, I don’t have as much time as I used to, so when I wanted to start, I looked at the options available.

I pretty quickly settled on WordPress.com as soon as I saw the interface.  It is easy enough for me to write a post, and very configurable.  There are only a few limitations that cause me heartburn (I can’t embed anything I want, although YouTube and major sites usually work OK).  I can’t do everything I want, but close enough that I haven’t felt the need to move on.  Even as a semi-geek, I think anyone could get a nice blog going easily on WordPress.  It has also been pretty cheap, and I’ve only spent about $50 on the back end of the blog.

Once I started using WordPress, I was most surprised with how high my site ranked on Google.  The software us programed to work with Google and puts the post title, tags, and other information which identifies the content of the post in a way that Google can recognize it easily, which I thinks help the page rank higher than if I had programed the web page myself.  I could probably do as well, but it would take a lot more hard work and research to do it.

The only upgrade I would consider is to ‘self host’ the blog.  I would run the WordPress software on my own server, so the blog would appear the same, and even the ‘back end’ for my posting/management would be the same.  The difference would be that I could embed whatever I want, and that I would have much more ability to see referer tags (details on incoming links), country of incoming traffic, and some other statistical data.  This would increase the cost of running my own server, but I actually have one around that I currently use for other purposes (email, etc).

Stats:

I pushed the blog pretty hard on Twitter, Facebook, and my friends and family when I started.  I think this kept my hits in my first month pretty good.  But now I only really push a post when I think it is a good one, and the hits are pretty steady.  I am happy to write that December has been my biggest month yet.  Mostly I get page views on the main page, and visitors clicking some of the top pages to figure out what the blog is about.

Next I have a few of my better, or more commonly searched posts which get a couple hits  a day each.  Examples are my review, and writeup.  Hopefully as I keep getting some quality posts up, these will continue to grow.

2010 Monthy Hits

The ‘Local Bloggers’ links to the right have proven quite popular, and I’ve come across a couple more I’ll be adding soon.  I’ll also include a permanent link to my TrainingPeaks archive of my 2010 training.

As for incoming links, my top two are Twitter and Facebook, each with about 100 hits.  While they are my top referrers, they account for < 2% of my total traffic.  Since most of my hits don’t seem to come from a referrer or other searches, I think most readers have bookmarked the page or type in the URL.  Again, this is something I could know for sure if I self host so I can access the raw server logs.

Response:

This is where I have been most impressed.  I have had people recognize me in races and on rides, primarily through the blog.  I have gotten very nice comments in person and on the blog from fellow racers (and strangers) who stumble across it.  I’ve had 49 comments, and have appreciated every one of them.

It has definitely achieved its goals of raising my profile in the racing community, hopefully helping some other people learn a thing or two, and I’m sure it will be a good personal diary of sorts to look back on in the future.

The Future:

I’m not sure entirely what is in store for 2011.  I hope to continue to keep everyone in the loop on my progress training for next season, which will begin soon.  I am not making a promise, but I would very much like to upgrade to Cat 1 next year, and have been thinking about ‘re-branding’ the blog, now that the name is obsolete.  I really want to try to have a resource for people outside cycling to appreciate what we do, and for those working their way through the ranks to have something to learn from.  Whatever your motivation, I hope you keep reading.

About Russell

I have been racing bicycles for a decade. This blog will chronicle my efforts as a Category 2 road racer and lining up with the PROs.
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