Million Dollar Blog Project Update: First Month’s Results (and Revenue!)

  • December 1, 2011 by Corbett Barr
  • 46 Comments

If you’ve been following along with the Million Dollar Blog Project, you know that we launched our case study blog Expert Enough earlier this month.

We have the full details of the launch and this month’s results to share with you today. We’re really happy with how the new site is turning out.

If you’re participating in the MDBP with your own blog, we would also love to hear a little summary of your results for the month in the comments below.

If you’re new here, the Million Dollar Blog Project (MDBP for short) is a group project we kicked off a few months ago.

There are two goals for the project. Goal #1 is to build a case study blog from scratch in public and document every step along the way. Our revenue target for this blog is $1 million over it’s lifetime.

Goal #2 is to have anyone who is interested to create a blog and follow along with us. We want the people who follow us to earn a total of at least $1 million from the blogs they create within the next two years.

We’ll be updating you on the progress of this project at least once or twice a month. So far, there have been 13 updates in the project.

We’ve covered a lot of ground, including:

It’s not too late to join us if you’d like to enter your own blog as part of the project. Head over to the MDBP sub-site to register and join the 330+ people who have entered. Participating is free and you’ll be added to the leaderboard. Some of the leaders on that list have received a decent amount of traffic just by people clicking through to check out their sites.

You can also always follow along with these blog posts without entering your own blog to participate if you prefer.

If you have questions, just let us know in the comments below.

On to the Results!

Before we jump in, please note: I do not share any of these stats to brag or to compare against your projects. Our results will be different from yours because we have access to different resources and relationships than you might. Heck, you could even do better than we’ve done if you’re smart and work hard (like Scott Dinsmore did with his recent re-launch). The bottom line is, don’t compare our numbers directly, but use the strategies we’ve outlined and you’ll do very well for whatever stage you’re at.

During the first six weeks of this project, we set the groundrules and asked you to help us choose a topic. After a little controversy, we settled on the topic of “expertise” for our case study blog.

We spent about a month after that refining our topic and choosing a brand, developing our launch plan, designing the site, and getting content ready for launch. Expert Enough officially launched on November 8.

We followed the launch strategy I outlined in this post pretty much exactly. I’ve helped clients use this launch strategy numerous times and it has worked like a charm every time. I highly recommend carefully planning your launch if you have a new site coming out. It can make for an awesome first month, as you’re about to see.

On launch day, we had 4,335 visitors stop by the site. Over the first week, 10,966 people visited. Not bad for a brand new site. The visitors came from lots of different places, but here are the top 5 traffic sources for the first week:

  1. “Direct” traffic accounted for 5,840 visits. This includes type-in traffic and some untracked social media traffic and links. It’s frustrating that the direct traffic can’t be tracked, but it is what it is.
  2. 2,054 visitors came from Zen Habits, where we had a guest post on launch day. Guest posts can be a tremendous boost in traffic for a new site.
  3. 759 people came through RSS syndication. This includes any site that linked to Expert Enough but was read through RSS (like Google Reader).
  4. Social media accounted for 674 visitors. This includes Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, etc.
  5. 451 people came from Think Traffic. We mentioned the site here on launch day and in other posts during launch week.

(By the way, you can see all of these stats for yourself by viewing our analytics directly over at Clicky. All blogs participating in the MDBP have publicly viewable stats for you to follow along with.)

Some other interesting stats to note about the first month:

  • Total subscribers: 1,419 (595 email and 826 RSS)
  • Total comments: 204
  • Retweets of new posts: 432
  • Facebook “likes” of new posts: 317
  • Total Twitter followers: 448
  • Total Facebook page likes: 487

For the month, there were a total of 21,536 visitors. People spent 5 minutes 33 seconds average on the site, and the bounce rate was just 26%:

That first bump you see in the graph is launch day. The second bump is from a slightly viral event that happened in the second week (explained below).

The traffic of course leveled out after launch week, but we now have a great little foundation to build on of over 1,400 subscribers and about 300 to 700 visitors per day. It’s going to be fun to see where this goes.

For comparison sake, it took Think Traffic over 4 months to get to 1,400 subscribers and we didn’t have a month with over 20k visitors until 13 months in. I know it isn’t a fair comparison exactly, but interesting nonetheless.

Revenue (Yes, Revenue!) Results

We hadn’t planned to monetize the site this first month, but then something really exciting happened. The “Expert Enough Manifesto” post that we published during launch week went mildly viral (thanks to mentions on minimalmac, simple links, michaelschechter.me and Lifehack.org).

The manifesto was no accident. I highly recommend putting together a manifesto style post to follow up your launch post that outlines exactly what your site stands for and why people should be reading. Here’s another example of a manifesto type post that Scott Dinsmore ran during his launch week.

In this YouTube video (below), I share how this poster came about, how we monetized the exposure and what you can learn from the experience:

People liked the manifesto so much that they started asking for a physical poster of it in the comments. I didn’t think much of it for a while, but then took it seriously after a few more requests.

We headed over to CafePress and whipped up a poster version. This was incredibly easy, and I had a poster version ready to order in about 15 minutes. Cafe Press lets you set the “markup” on each copy over the amount they charge to print the item (they also do t-shirts, cups, calendars, etc.). I set the markup at $5.01 to make it an even $19 for the poster. You could go with $0 in markup if you like as well.

So far, for November, we sold 9 copies of the poster at $5 profit each! This was so fun because of how unexpected and different it was from how I had expected to monetize the site at first.

That’s a total of $45.09 in revenue for the month. It feels great to have earned something in the first month, even though we didn’t expect to.

We also made a pitch at Expert Enough for the big Only72 sale that happened this week. We didn’t make any sales unfortunately, and we’re learning a lot already about what this audience is interested in. We’ll be doing a lot of experiments in the coming months as we build out the revenue sources.

I’m also happy to report that MDBP participants (excluding us) have earned a total of $27,369.00 in revenue from their projects so far! Keep in mind this is self-reported revenue (not verified), but it’s fun to keep track of this as well.

That puts us at 0.0045% of the way to our first revenue goal and 2.74% of the way towards our second revenue goal :)

How Much Overlap Came from Our Existing Audience?

It’s difficult to see exactly how much of the new Expert Enough audience was already familiar with my work or Think Traffic. We do have a couple of ways to estimate it though.

First, FollowerWonk will show you the overlap between Twitter followers from different accounts. According to this site, there is about a 45% overlap of people who follow @ExpertEnough and follow @ThinkTraffic or @CorbettBarr.

That doesn’t necessarily confirm that the Expert Enough follower came from our existing audiences though, because they could have followed me or Think Traffic after learning about Expert Enough. We link to my personal account and the Think Traffic twitter account from the bio of Expert Enough.

Next, of the current 449 people who “like” the Expert Enough Facebook page, 100 of those also like the Think Traffic Facebook page (about 22% overlap). I can’t determine the overlap with my personal Facebook account because it isn’t a business page.

My gut (given the stats above, and the percentage of visits that came to Expert Enough directly from CorbettBarr.com or Think Traffic) tells me this: probably somewhere between 30% and 40% of total Expert Enough visitors this month were already familiar with me or Think Traffic.

This is a rough estimate, and not really all that important. I share it out of curiosity and in case you were wondering how much of a boost the new site got because of our existing audiences. If you have thoughts about it, feel free to share below.

What We Take Away from This Launch

With a website launch like this, there is always more that could have been done. We could have guest posted more, written more “great” content in the weeks after launch, built buzz better in the weeks prior, etc.

But in the end, you do what you can. We put a pretty substantial effort into this launch and I’m happy with the results so far.

It’s important not to look at a launch as a single event, but as the beginning of a big exciting journey. I have little idea where this site will take us over the coming months and years, and I know that producing great content and earning revenue will be a massive challenge. But that’s part of the fun!

This is only the beginning.

Now Let’s Hear About Your Month

How has your own Million Dollar Blog Project been coming along?

What results did you achieve last month? What did you learn?

We would love to hear about it in the comments. Please share.

And if you have any questions for us, about the Expert Enough launch, about our plans, or a question about your own site, feel free to ask below.

Thanks for following along with this project. We appreciate your support!

Oh, and if you’ve been following along on Twitter, you know that the #MDBP hashtag has been, um, taken over by the Murray-Darling Basin Plan activists in Australia. We’ll let them continue their cause and get out of their way by using a new hashtag. Use this instead to talk about our MDBP: #TTMDBP

If you’re planning to launch a new blog in the near future, we have a live workshop + Q&A session scheduled just for you today at Noon Pacific / 3pm Eastern.

Launching a blog is a critical opportunity to get buzz and build a solid foundation of visitors to your site. As you read above, there are some tricks you can implement to make sure you attract lots of viewers and subscribers with your launch.

Join us in this live workshop to create an unstoppable launch strategy for your new blog. We’d love to see you there. Bring your questions and a notepad :)

Written by . Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.


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Jon Cooper December 1, 2011 at 6:07 am

Great job Corbett! Glad you addressed two things -

1) How much traffic was a result of your existing online real estate (this blog & your personal one).

2) The exact number of traffic you received from your Zen Habits guest post.

Keep up the great work! I’m relaunching my blog soon because of your tips & tricks btw :)

Corbett Barr December 1, 2011 at 11:46 am

Awesome Jon, glad we covered everything. I’m always happy to answer if you have other questions as well.

Good luck with the relaunch!

Gregory Ciotti December 1, 2011 at 6:18 am

Great post, love that you guys are keeping such good track of your case study.

Glad to have my contribution on EE as well, keep killing it Corbett.

Corbett Barr December 1, 2011 at 11:46 am

Thanks so much for contributing, Gregory. The post was definitely well received.

Dan December 1, 2011 at 6:40 am

Haha, I wondered why everyone seemed to be tweeting about the Basin Plan.

I launched my blog on Monday, and while my figures are comparatively low, it has definitely taken off better than any site I’ve launched before thanks to following your launch plan.

No revenue yet, and I’ve yet to do any guest posts, but I’m starting on that this week.

Corbett Barr December 1, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Fantastic, Dan! Congrats on the launch and results. I’m glad the launch plan helped. Definitely do as much off-site promotion as you can as well (guest posts are a good way to start). That’s a critical piece.

We’ll start talking about revenue much more in the coming weeks and months. First we’re focused on building an audience and relationships with our readers.

Johnlyn December 1, 2011 at 7:22 am

This has been such a wonderful adventure. I’m finally following through on something that has been difficult for me.

Thanks to your challenge I now have a new blog as well as an eBook that is just about ready to go. Even though my launch strategy (if you can call it that) is way different than yours, I don’t know that I would have followed through if it wasn’t for this challenge.

Last month I was able to submit a guest post at one of my favorite blogs which has helped tremendously. I know there are a lot more things that I was “supposed” to be doing to launch my blog, but given the learning curve and the amount of time that I have available I did what I could do and that’s enough.

The most important part to me is this: I’m helping people with something I care deeply about. When I have 97 unique visits and 182 page loads I know I am making a difference.

Thanks again for this challenge – it’s been fun to watch other people’s progress as well.

Corbett Barr December 1, 2011 at 3:40 pm

I definitely don’t want to give the impression that you have to do everything we discuss as part of this project. If you’re doing any pre-launch planning, you’re way ahead of everyone else to begin with. You have to make due with the time and resources you have, and challenge yourself to go one extra step.

Congratulations on the launch and impending ebook. That’s exactly why we’re doing this challenge. I’m so happy to hear we’ve helped you make progress. Keep letting us know how it goes!

-Corbett

Tom Ewer December 1, 2011 at 9:01 am

Corbett,

That’s a hell of a launch. More visitors in your first month than I’ve had in my first six with my blog! But then, that is to be expected from “the traffic guy” ;)

It’s really interesting to see how you’ve got on with your strategy. And incredible to see how many visitors you got from your ZenHabits guest post. There aren’t many bigger blogs you could hope to guest post on – I don’t think I’ve ever had more than 50 visitors from a guest post!

Cheers,

Tom

Corbett Barr December 1, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Thanks Tom! Yeah, don’t compare these results to yours directly, the situations are probably a little different.

The key to guest posting is to find audiences that are very engaged and have a lot of overlap in interests with your topic.

Tamal December 1, 2011 at 9:49 am

Hey bro wow wow wow! You make me very excited! I have been following your blog and the MDBP for a few weeks now, I recently started a blog on SEO (+ it’s a consultation site) when I read about EE, I was very excited and wanted to digg further and make it a successful one like yours. Congratulations for the first month figures, ohh yeah you made it! You showed me that yes a 1 month virgin blog can do magic.

With you!

Corbett Barr December 1, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Cool Tamal, good luck with your new blog. Let us know how it goes for you. Thanks for following along!

Maria December 1, 2011 at 10:56 am

I had this post: http://fitnessreloaded.com/2011/11/26-step-guide-to-get-an-exercise-addiction/ going viral on Stumble Upon.

It brought me 45,000 visitors in three days!

Corbett Barr December 1, 2011 at 11:31 am

Awesome Maria, that’s incredible! Congrats.

Were you able to convert some of those visitors to subscribers?

marianney (darling blogs) December 1, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Wow that is very impressive!

marianney (darling blogs) December 1, 2011 at 12:48 pm

It’s really cool to hear the stats on this Corbett, thanks!
I’ve been a little quiet in the community lately, but I’ve been making a lot of significant progress.

The most significiant being that after months and months of trying to figure out what i want to blog about, I followed the suggestions on choosing a topic to a T and finally came up with what my passion is and what I want to write do and write about! I wrote about my thought and elimination process here in case anyone’s interested: http://www.alifesetfree.com/freedom-business/1mbp-choosing-a-topic-for-my-new-blog

Since then I’ve been really excited about my launch which isn’t for another 2 months, but I want to make sure I’m really ready and do it right this time. After creating a Coming Soon site about 2-3 weeks ago and doing a little networking, I already have 5 followers. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but to me it’s a lot for a nobody with a site that doesn’t even have content yet!

Thanks again as always for the motivation and the knowledge. As always it’s invaluable!

Corbett Barr December 1, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Congrats Marianney! Choosing a topic you’re happy with isn’t an easy task. Pat yourself on the back for taking the time to do it right.

And nice job on the initial followers. Everyone starts somewhere. For Expert Enough, we ended up with about 75 followers before launch I believe. Nothing huge, but every little bit counts.

David Robert Hogg December 1, 2011 at 1:19 pm

I hope this doesn’t sound like a criticism (because it’s not) but I was surprised by how few visitors came over from Zen Habits. You’ve got a lot of experience with guest posting, were you expecting more or was this about level with your expectations and past results?

Great overview, btw.

Cheers.

Corbett Barr December 1, 2011 at 3:34 pm

The results from Zen Habits were pretty much exactly as I had expected. I’ve posted there before (and have guest posted on other sites as well). 2,000 visits from one guest post in a week is pretty high in my experience. In fact, I have guest posted on other big blogs (in the same ballpark) and only received 100-200 visitors.

Cheers, let me know if you have other questions. Happy to answer.

Kirk Eisele December 1, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Thanks for posting your numbers so specifically. It will help me keep my expectations in check regarding the conversion rates of visits to subscribers on an informational blog. Planning my launch for January 1st so will see how it goes!

Emily December 2, 2011 at 8:57 am

Totally motivating post! Encourages me to know that I can get more traffic if I put things in motion.

Vijay December 2, 2011 at 11:04 am

Thanks for sharing. It inspires me keep going with my blog, which i started along with the MDBP.

It would be great if you could also share the tools and resources you used to create the manifesto. I am planning to create one too.

Corbett Barr December 2, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Hey Vijay, the manifesto was just created in photoshop. No special tools. I just designed it using text of different sizes and weights.

Tania Tyler December 2, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Yay! I am so glad that I came upon this project. I am motivated, inspired and my spirit feels alive again. I’ve had the idea of what I wanted for a new blog for quite a while but never got around to putting any energy into it past the planning stage. Well, yesterday I started and was totally thrilled that the url that came to me was available… talk about a sign… http://sacredenvironment.com, a blog about connecting with Nature (ecopsychology).

I installed a theme I’m pretty happy with (although there is a lot of tweeking and exploring to do with it), installed plugins and got my first post up today. I love the idea of the accountability journal.

One thing I did on Clicky was change the setting to ignore my own visits (preferences -> IPTags & Filters -> Set/remove a cookie to ignore your own visits). I wanted to make sure that I get an accurate measurement of true visits.

I even came up with what I think is a catchy tag line that can be used for tee shirts, bumper stickers, “green” shopping bags, etc… “walk softly – connect with Nature”.

This weekend I’ll be pondering my audience’s needs & desires and putting together a list of 10-20 similar blogs to start evaluating.

Thanks much! Although I’ve had other blogs for several years now, I’m really excited to be putting a real effort into this one and learning a lot in the process.

Tania

Sarah O December 2, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Impressive figures! Congratulations! I figured this would be a successful launch since you all already know how to do everything right. How great that we have the opportunity to learn from you. And how cool to already be making money from that manifesto poster. Way to go!

Question: I can’t for the life of me figure out how to find my blog on the master board. How do I look for it? It doesn’t seem to be sortable by name. I know how many subscribers i have (at least I think I do because I checked Feedburner today) but I couldn’t seem to find it sorted by subscribers either. Help!

Thomas Frank December 2, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Dang, you finally passed me on the leaderboard :)

November’s traffic was actually less than October’s for me, but that’s because last month I ran an Adobe CS5 giveaway AND happened to hit #1 on Google for a really hot-button issue that has since become less important.

However, I think November was better overall. I completely redesigned my blog, set up a CDN, did a whole bunch of optimizing, and wrote my biggest post ever. Now I’m really focusing on my blog’s speed and SEO – I just recently switched from All In One SEO to Wordpress SEO by Yoast. After doing that, as well as optimizing my document structure, I noticed that I had hit the 2nd page on Google for my primary keyword (using a non-personalized search). Not bad for a few days’ work!

I can’t wait to see what happens this month – I’m going to continue optimizing my loading speed and design, and try to get some awesome post out. Your content has been especially inspiring, Corbett – I recently listened to your interview on Pat Flynn’s podcast and got a ton of great ideas out of it. Thanks!

Enoch Sears (@BusinessofArch) December 2, 2011 at 5:37 pm

Corbett, this is a little off topic, but what video camera did you shoot that video with? The color, resolution, depth of field of that video – amazing! And hey- you have pretty eyes.

Corbett Barr December 2, 2011 at 7:46 pm

Well, anyone who points out my pretty eyes should get answers to any questions you ask ;)

I use a Panasonic GH2 DSLR with a f/1.7 20mm lens. It’s a really great setup, highly recommended.

Mits December 3, 2011 at 9:32 am

Corbett,

I don’t see how you can make money from the blog as I don’t see any advertisements? How did you make money, I just don’t understand it.

Corbett Barr December 3, 2011 at 10:09 am

Hi Mits, we don’t plan to use any advertising on the site. The revenue we earned last month was from selling a branded physical poster through CafePress. We’ll be implementing other revenue sources in the coming months, but are focused now on building and connecting with our audience.

Extreme John December 3, 2011 at 7:32 pm

The first months results of the Million Dollar Blog Project are terrific. Continue on doing the endeavor and I think this has a potential to be a very great success! Thanks for posting the updates.

Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2 December 4, 2011 at 6:26 pm

So cool to see people succeed in “Crowded” markets.

I think my favorite part of this post was seeing the evidence of how powerful a strategic “Guest Post” can be. One of my favorite marketing mentors, Jay Abraham, once said that if you took all of his marketing weapons away and only left him with one, endorsed relationships would be the one he’d want to have.

That’s exactly what a guest post is and it’s no surprise that this was one of your top sources of traffic.

Wishing you more success and looking forward to see more kick ass results. :)

Allie | Ramblings of a WAHM December 8, 2011 at 9:51 am

Corbett,

Sometimes when I see popular bloggers launching new books or blogs and these launches are wildly popular, I think, “That is cheating, you already have followers and readers. What about the little guy, we don’t have that luxury.” BUT that is the idea. Build your community and then let them know what else you have that can help them. And I am learning the popular bloggers work their butts off to get where they are.

Great job! It will be interesting to see the search engine traffic when it starts to come in more.

My blog is at a stand still and it was driving me crazy! I decided to take a hard look at it and really focus on what I have neglected. With the help of this project I am finding ways to help me blog better. I did not launch my blog but it was fairly low traffic so might at well be close to a launch. I joined so I can follow the journey and learn.

Thx.
~Allie

Corbett Barr December 8, 2011 at 10:35 am

Hey Allie, thanks for the thoughts! Of course, keep in mind that most of us started at zero some time ago. I used to feel the same way. I kept doing the work and trying to make an impact, and eventually an audience started to grow. Then I was able to use that audience to help me launch more projects with a head start. It’ll come for you too, just hang in there :)

Tania Tyler December 8, 2011 at 10:39 am

Hi Corbett,
I’ve been getting so much out of your site and the project, thank you!

Could you point me in a direction to read more about setting up membership-based training (online workshops)…

Tania

Vanessa January 4, 2012 at 9:45 pm

Corbett -

I cannot thank you enough for doing this challenge. I have been blogging for a few years for clients, but have never been able to have full freedom and control. This project has challenged me to step up my game and learn new things.

Because of you, I was brave enough to reach out and have successfully secured some “big names” for blog interviews, and am currently working on some guest blog posts. Already reaping the benefits and hope to reporting on some revenue soon with my affiliate links.

Thanks again!

Corbett Barr January 5, 2012 at 8:02 am

That is so awesome Vanessa! Congrats on the progress. I’m really happy to hear about it and I hope you’ll keep us updated.

Mike Yasieniuk March 9, 2012 at 6:17 am

I love the monthly stats and have started doing this for our new blog. I am a little late entering the TTMDBP but after following some of the advice in previous posts we have seen some reassuring numbers in the first week. On http://www.bestpsdfreebies.com we have seen 637 visits, 531 unique visitors and 1920 page views in only the first week.

Keeping stats like this will help us focus on our goals and find new ways to drive more traffic. Following your blog helps us do that. Thanks!

Jon Cooper December 1, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Thanks Corbett! I REALLY hope you can answer this question then:

When you launched E.E., you went from a countdown page to a full blown blog. Did you use a separate environment to critique everything and then you moved it over in one click? If not, please explain the process of moving from your countdown page to a full-on blog. Thanks :)

Corbett Barr December 1, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Hi Jon, yes, we developed the site on a separate sub-domain and then migrated everything during the days before launch (using the BackupBuddy plugin).

HOWEVER, you don’t need to do that. Instead, you can simply use a “maintenance mode” plugin (like the free one from Themefuse – Google it). That will ensure everyone sees a “coming soon” page with options to connect over Twitter, Facebook, email, etc. Behind the scenes you can then go about your business developing content and designing the site.

I hope that helps. Cheers.

Gregory Ciotti December 2, 2011 at 6:47 am

I saw traffic jump on your Clicky stats the day it went live.

Not bad, I guess submitting it to Reddit was a good idea.

They seem to like articles with research involved.

Shlomo December 4, 2011 at 8:10 am

Thanks for this tip about the Themefuse maintenance mode plugin. The other ways of hiding the site during construction seemed too hard to try on my own without some serious hand holding.

Jon Cooper December 5, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Wow. Thats awesome, I haven’t been able to find that info anywhere. Thanks Corbett!

Smarty December 6, 2011 at 2:27 am

I think 2k visitors from one guest post is really nice. I actually never knew how powerful guest blogging can be. Corbett I hope next month will be even better than November. I just start my blog and hope next year I’ll talk about similar numbers. Good luck.

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