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Digital Photography School Progress Report

Posted By Darren Rowse 9th of May 2006 Case Studies 0 Comments

It’s been just over a couple of weeks now since I launched my last blogging experiment (Digital Photography School) and as I said in my vidcast last week I want to periodically report on how it’s going and what I’ve been working on as I go along.

It’s early days but so far I’m reasonably happy with Digital Photography School’s progress. By no means is it a launch on the scale of some of the big blog network’s launches that get tends of thousands of hits on their first days – but it’s promising. So far it’s averaging about 600 daily visitors and is earning around $10 per day (through a combination of AdSense and Affiliate links).

What have I been Focussing On?

DPS is still in it’s launch phase and as a result I’ve been working hard on the following elements this week:

Writing Content – The writing of quality content was my primary task in the lead up to launching this blog and it has continued to be my main focus since. My topic is ‘helping people get the most out of their digital cameras’ and so I’ve set myself a goal of writing on post on that topic each weekday. So far I’ve not had any problems with keeping to this goal as I have a list of 200 or so topics that I want to cover over the next few months and have plenty of experience on the topic to draw on.

I’m attempting to keep the tips at a pretty accessible level (aiming at beginners through to medium level users) and am drawing as much as I can upon my own story and experiences. The feedback that I’ve had from some readers (via email as I don’t have comments) has been quite positive and I’ve had a few emails asking me to cover specific tips.

SEO – My strategy for growing traffic to this blog is two fold. Firstly I want to grow a loyal readership and secondly I’m hoping over time to grow the blog’s search engine ranking and grow the number of referrals from Google and it’s fellow SE’s. As a result I’ve spent time this week thinking through some SE strategies which have included some of the following ‘onsite techniques’:

  • Getting the URL structure right (putting post titles in URLs to get keywords in there)
  • Thinking carefully about keyword use in post titles
  • Making titles live links
  • Watching keyword density

I’ve also been working on ‘offsite techniques’ which have largely been about attempting to get other sites to link to it. My main strategy for this has been to approach others in the niche that I know and have a relationship with. I’ve also emailed a few relevant blogs with links to posts that I think they’d appreciate. This has had some success so far but is something I need to work more on.

Interestingly, because DPS is so lowly ranked in Google, the pages that link to it are generally ranked more highly for it’s keywords than DPS itself. For example my vidcast post is well ranked on ‘Digital Photography School’ as are quite a few other blogs and sites that linked up to it. Also my feedburner RSS feed is ranked quite well for the term! This will change in time.

It’s way to early to make any real call about the success of my SEO strategies after just two weeks. I know I have been indexed by Google (currently ranked 64th for “digital photography school” and already getting the odd referral from Google for some more obscure search terms. I’m expecting that there will be no huge improvement in my Google referral numbers for a number of months (I’ll most likely languish in the sandbox for a while) but I’m willing to wait it out and prove my worth.

Newsletter Promotion – one of my main efforts to build reader loyalty has been to promote my newsletter list. I’m using Zookoda to maintain this list and have been doing quite well with it already with a list o 128 subscribers so far (it’s getting around 10 new subscribers a day).

I’m in two minds about what strategy to use with the list. At present I’ve promoted it to a once a week newsletter type email (similar to ProBlogger’s) but I’m seriously considering changing it to be a list that shoots off an email at the end of each day with the ‘tip of the day’. I need to make a call on this in the next few days before the list grows much more.

RSS Promotion – I’ve not promoted this quite as heavily as the newsletter but am definitely working on getting people to subscribe in one way or the other. My Subscribe page gets decent levels of traffic and seems to be working well. There are currently 99 RSS subscribers according to Feedburner’s stats.

Cross Promotion – As I mentioned in the vidcast – part of the reason I launched this new blog was to see what impact I could have in launching a second blog on a similar topic to one that I already have. In a sense this is an experiment with leveraging traffic and diversifying my blogging by going deeper into my niche.

I’ve been heavily cross promoting DPS from my other digital camera blog and have found it to be worthwhile.

Server-4You can see via the traffic graph to the left that there have been two ‘spikes’ in traffic since launching. The first one on the 22nd was the day I soft launched the blog by linking to it on my digital camera blog and mentioning it in my blog’s newsletter. The link to it in my newsletter wasn’t that prominent but 500 visitors for the day wasn’t a bad start.

Since that time I’ve linked to DPS most days that I’ve written a new ‘tip’. The results have been a steady flow of traffic across (usually around the 200 to 300 visitors a day mark).

The second spike (on 2nd) was another link in my newsletter. The newsletter is sent to around 10,000 subscribers and about 15% of them visited the blog within 24 hours. This time the links to DPS were more prominent and the flow on impact was much higher. Interestingly since that newsletter spike the traffic on the blog has been noticeably higher as some of the readers from it have decided to keep coming back.

Of course I also linked to the blog from ProBlogger on the 2nd May which will accounts for some of that spike (although interestingly very few people came over as a result of that link which to me shows the importance of ‘relevancy’ in cross promotion – ie people here are interested in blogging now cameras).

Comments upon the ‘experiments’

In the vidcast I mentioned that I was experimenting with two ‘non blog-like’ elements on this blog.

No Comments – The experiment here is to see what impact NOT having comments has on a blog. The results so far (and it’s early days) are that I can’t see too much impact in the numbers of other blogs linking to me to continue the conversation (a theory I was testing). The only other thing to report on this front is that it’s weird not having that immediate feedback (feels almost unnatural) – on the other hand I do like the fact that this blog will not ever have comment spam.

I’m yet to decide whether I’ll continue to leave comments off this blog or not. I’m toying with the idea of having an occasional post that allows them down the track but in the mean time I’ll continue the experiment (there’s no point doing an experiment if you’re not willing to see it out).

No Outbound links – The other experiment was to see what impact having no outbound links in posts would have upon AdSense CTR. So far it’s difficult to actually measure the results of this experiment. CTR is reasonable, but it’s not as high as some of my other blogs. The reasons for this are numerous:

  • The topic is not really product specific – I find that blogs talking about specific products tend to convert pretty well
  • The traffic to this blog is largely referral traffic – I find that SE traffic tends to click on ads more
  • Ad positioning is not highly aggressive – while it’s reasonably prominent I’ve attempted to keep the position of AdSense ads on this blog a little less aggressive than on some of my other blogs. For example here at ProBlogger on individual pages I have an ad inset into the top right hand side of posts. At DPS they are largely under posts (and on some longer articles in posts).

I am pretty certain that CTR is higher than if there were loads of outbound links in sidebars but in the weeks ahead I’ll do some experiments to see what impact some different ad placements will have.

PS: I’ve also had a little luck in the last few days with some of my posts on Digg, Delicious and Reddit. For example this last post on 10 ways to add variety to your digital photography has been bookmarked quite a bit. It doesn’t bring massive traffic but it’s enough to raise the daily visitor levels a little.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. I think the DPS is great. You’ve already got a lot of great articles and I think given time, the site is going to do remarkably well for you.

  2. I have been going over there from time to time. Maybe once every other day since Darren announced it here. I have always been interested in photography and a lot of friends and family say I have a good eye for photography.

    Personally I don’t think I know much about photography in and of itself so I am looking forward to learning more on what Darren shares with us. Already have learned a little.

  3. Hey Darren,

    Is it just me or is your photography site layout look lots like http://howto.diveintomark.org/

    Anywho. I find it a little hard to navigate…..

  4. Don M says: 05/09/2006 at 4:20 am


    The layout of his site is a freely downloadable template. (He mentions a thank you to the designer on his ABOUT page.)

    Actually that was going to be my question to Darren:

    Are you planning on implementing a modified version of the template you are using? Or are you just using that template while you are ramping – and planning on a custom layout down the road? Or are you experimenting with the “faux-frames” CSS layout to see how it might work for a custom template down the road utilizing the same features?

    For what it’s worth, there are some decent plusses with that template you are using. I like the idea of the navigation and other elements remaining in place on the page. My only concern is that the layout may be just awkward enough to confuse some users.

    But I’m sure you are testing that out right now anyways…

    Thanks for the blog launching insights!


  5. DFS is great and I just syndicated it. I have also set up a fotolog last week (link) and now your DFS is quite a good inspiration for me. I’ll sure set some links to you school.

    Well, as I just found out there is a referral program for Picasa run by Google. You’ll get 1$ for each referred download of this program. That may be great on fotologs!

  6. Ah, I still find the scrolling awkwark. It works on marks site because there’s no scrolling.

  7. I am very impressed with the content of DPS! Really a great job and clearly something that sets you apart from the average AdSense blogger.

    On the other hand I do not like the template you have used at all. I like the colours, they match the image that I have of photography sites, but the navigation is just impossible. I know you are interested in visitors entering specific pages via search engines, but I think that it wouldn’t hurt to make it easier for visitors coming through the homepage to navigate to deeper levels.

    I always use a very special usability test, I ask my 65 year old father to navigate through a site, this always helps me find any weak spots in the navigational structure ;)

  8. […] Darren Rowse of Problogger fame has launched an interesting blog-lite site called, Digital Photography School. This is part commercial weblog, and part experiment in SEO and other blog-tech topics. […]

  9. I’ve been following DPS as well. Mainly because your timing was perfect, I just picked up photography recently. Keep the articles coming!

  10. thanks for the feedback all – in terms of design – it’s definately something I’ll be keen to change in the coming month or so but I guess I was hesitant to invest too much into an experiment. Now it’s starting to work out I’ll consider a redesign definately as its anything but ideal.

  11. nicely done, i’m wondering how you do all this success, my blog has something like 3000 visitors a day but i earn even less than these $10 :(

  12. good Iead! I hope you can make more success in blog idea!

  13. What a good idea, Darren, to describe your promotion actions on the real blog case!

    I’also launched a similar enterprise: the blog describing step by step promotion process of a newly opened web site on the case of Business Directory 4Clever. The blog will cover in chronological order all the actions taken to drive visitors to site: taken promotion efforts, search engine activity and behavior, visitor attitude and so forth.

    Hope, it will be intresting for Problogger visitors too.

  14. Darren-

    I swear I just read this post for the first time. Figures, I think I come up with a good idea, and you are already well down a similar road. Like an Italian inventing pasta, I guess.

    I think my typical reader is a little further along than yours (and, sadly, likely more scarce as result.) But I think the idea of serving up assignments – complete with the occasional curve ball – to a group of motivated amateurs will yield interesting results.

    Using Flickr as a repository, it is easy to group reader-sent photos in any way you want, so I plan to exploit that.

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