Lab Report: Adding Social Media

It’s been three months since we launched FreshPlans, our laboratory site. We’ve been taking one SEO/SEM step a week there, to see how much difference each step makes. Normally, when we work on a site for a client, we do everything we can as fast as possible, so it’s hard to sort out the effectiveness of any one step. Now, each site is different, so we can’t claim that this is scientific proof of the relative usefulness of various approaches, but as a case study, it gives us some useful data.
We’re getting a nice increase in traffic over time, so we’re seeing a successful website overall. We added an affiliate marketing component to the site, too, so we can measure income for another very clear metric, and the income is also increasing slowly but steadily.

Our first priority from the beginning has been to have a good site with lots of fresh, good content. Experience has shown that this is always the best bet. We submitted to major search engines, and placed some very good links. All these steps improved our rankings and increased our traffic. We got to #1 at Google for the name of the site fairly quickly, and are showing for some searches. For example, we’re #2 for “Classroom theme ideas” and #2 for “pirate classroom theme ideas.” But we’ve had visitors via 1,872 keywords, so we can feel pretty good about our relationship with Google.

Once we were showing up well in search, we put some effort into the affiliate marketing aspect, playing around with ads and fine-tuning the items we offered. We set up a Facebook page and posted each new post from the site there at the Facebook page. Last week, we set up a Twitter account, and today we installed TwitterWidget at our site in place of some of the ads we had in the sidebar. You can see the new widget in the screenshot above. Here’s how the page looked with the ads:

We found, and the discussion forums confirm that our experience is typical, that people pretty much ignored those sidebar ads. TwitterWidget brings in recent tweets, so we have to make sure we’re saying interesting things, and hope that the widget will encourage people to follow us at Twitter, and thus to come back to our website more often. We’ve had 24 visits from Twitter, which suggests that it’s worth our while to continue our efforts there. We’ve had 23 visits from Facebook, though it’s had a longer period of time, so we should also keep efforts going there.

We’ll keep you posted on how social media affects our metrics. We should also mention that this is Back to School, a busy time for things directed toward teachers, so we may see a good rise in traffic now and a fall in October; we always have to keep seasonal variations in mind.

How has your site been doing in the past three months? Could you take some of the steps we’ve taken with FreshPlans and see some of the same improvements? Or, if your site is making more progress than ours, can you share some steps you’ve taken that we haven’t?







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