60,000 Unique Readers a Month for the Little Blog that Could

I met with my editor for MyFirstApartment.com last week  over dinner. We met at Park Avenue Summer and sat a few tables down from Kevin Bacon (!) . . . but the big news was our site traffic.

For those that don’t know, My First Apartment is an apartment living blog I started writing for over 5 years ago when I wrote an Chicago neighborhood guide I quickly got hooked writing about the trials and tribulations of apartment living.

After the neighborhood guide, I started blogging about my first apartment living experience outside of college. It was good fun, and a nice way to make a few extra bucks a month.  When I first began, we had between 5-10K readers a month, depending on the month. Even though we were small, it was exciting, knowing folks were reading on a regular basis.

Like most blogs, we view our unique monthly readers as a barometer of our relevance and influence. As you can likely imagine, the web traffic for apartment hunting/living is somewhat seasonal, with its low point around the 1st of the year and slowly picking up through May, when it explodes – gaining steadily until Labor Day. Traffic during the back-half of the year goes down gradually.

August is our Super Bowl season.

A year ago, I was challenged to raise the monthly unique visitors to 50,000 per month. It was a sizable leap from the year before, but not impossible. In addition to paying more attention to keyword searches, I also starting pitching MFA so we could gain increased traffic from cross-links as well as gain the Google Search advantage as well.

Hitting 50K felt huge at the time, but to have traffic increase by 20% a year later truly feels beyond incredible and quite satisfying. Working in social media, metrics are often treated with nervous gulps. How do we measure? What matters? Admittedly, it can be a nail biter – but it doesn’t have to be.

Personally, I find metrics invigorating. It’s mathematical storytelling and instant gratification all rolled up in one. Few endeavors allow us to immediately trace our success (and failures). But, even our failures tell us how we improve next time. The important thing to remember is that tracking over time tells the very best story because it provides the best context. Notice I’m not saying we’re tracking again other specific sites. This is because while we can gain best practices from other sites – their stats won’t help us sell more ads or convince more readers that we share good tips. Nope, this is a one-on-one game.

Through the years, often my favorite articles don’t receive the best traffic. We know that our readers come to our site for quick info. It’s often the same info time-after-time, as opposed to our more quirky articles, like one of my personal favorites, How to Avoid Roommates from Hell (which Jezebel quoted). While it makes me a touch regretful, I know the importance of balancing the two types of posts. Half feed my creativity, the other half feeds new readers and our SEO.

Shortly, I hope to dive fully into our MFA metrics to see what can continue to be improved – maybe this time next year, we’ll crack 75K uniques:)