It’s finally here!
Without further ado, please allow us to introduce Mediavine University, where we teach content creators how to build sustainable businesses.
Our debut course, Growing Traffic, is now live and available to purchase. In honor of that, we’re celebrating with Mediavine’s VP of Support Heather Tullos.
She and Jenny will be dishing on all things Growing Traffic and Mediavine University (MVU), talking about how the course is set up, the different topics that are covered and what’s up next. You don’t want to miss it!
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[MUSIC PLAYING] JENNY GUY: Hey. Hello. Howdy. Hi, long lost friends.
It feels like it has been about 500 years since we last saw each other. How are you all? Hello. The last time that we were all together for an episode of Teal Talk it was February and cold, and we were having a terrific conversation with two of the founders of Black People’s Recipes as part of our Black History Month programming.
Now March and the whole of Women’s History Month has passed us by and it is already spring. The days are longer and all kinds of things are blooming from flowers to seasonal allergies. And I am suffering on the regs.
But I just wanted to first say thank you so much for taking time out of your busy day to join us for another episode of Mediavine’s Teal Talk. I’m with you as always as your host, Jenny Guy. Our goal with all of the programming we put out at Mediavine is to provide education in service of our company mission statement, which if you don’t know what that is, here it is, helping content creators build sustainable businesses. It sounds so noble.
And it is noble. We’re very passionate about it around here. And I have to say that our topic today falls absolutely in line with our Mediavine mission. And it’s really been a dream of mine for a whole lot of years. So I will try to keep any squealing or pinching myself off camera, so y’all don’t have to watch.
So that’s right. If you missed any of the times in the last few days that we blasted it out over social media, we have officially launched Mediavine University, where we teach content creators how to build sustainable businesses. Yes! We need an applause track.
OK. Our first course of many is available for purchase right now, and the long title is What I Wish I Knew When I Started My Website About Growing Traffic. And while this one is designed for content creators earlier on in their blogging career, we have many courses coming up that will be perfect for wherever you are in your publishing journey. Our goal with this is to have to be meeting people in different places wherever they are, whether it’s they’re just getting started or they’ve been doing this for many years.
In fact, part of the reason that we are here today is to ask you, our always incredible audience, what courses and instructors do you want to see on Mediavine University? So say, hey, let us know in the comments. We are taking notes. My incredible team is writing it all down.
So tell us, we want to know as always. We always ask you guys what do you want to see? What are your next ideas? And that’s what we’re here for. So please put that in there.
And now that I have been yapping away, and a lot of yapping, it is past time to introduce my wonderful guest with me today, is Heather Tullos, Mediavine’s VP of Support. Heather is not only one of the featured instructors in the growing traffic course, but she and I worked together to plot the course out. So it truly would not be happening without her.
So I want to welcome you Heather and thank you and the whole support team for all of your support in bringing Mediavine University to life. So thank you. They support they’re good at supporting. That’s what they do.
Let’s talk growing traffic and be you, and whatever else comes to mind. So yay. Hi, Heather.
HEATHER TULLOS: Hi. I’m excited to be here. It’s been a minute since we talked. Was it Halloween?
JENNY GUY: It was. It was the last time we were costumed. And we did set a precedent with that. So I don’t know, maybe that should be our thing, to just always have costumes.
I don’t know. We’re wearing spring costumes today. These are our costumes. The weather is nice.
OK. If you have questions for myself or for Heather, drop them into the comments. I’m going to do a quick bio for my friend, Heather. She is the VP of Support at Mediavine. She authors the food blog Sugar Dish Me, and is the keeper of all the dogs. She has been optimizing site since before Mediavine had health checks and works best with 94 tabs open. I think that is a company standard at Mediavine University. If you don’t have a lot of tabs open, what are you even doing with your life?
HEATHER TULLOS: What are you doing?
JENNY GUY: Not enough.
OK. So let’s start with an easy one. What makes you so excited about Mediavine University? And I’m assuming that you’re excited.
HEATHER TULLOS: Yeah, I’m excited. I feel like this is a thing that you’ve talked about, I’ve talked about, the support team has talked about in various iterations for as long as we’ve worked together. So I’m super excited that it’s finally launching. Yay. Shout out to the marketing team for getting that all put together and a huge high five to support team for helping us to create all the content in the first course.
I think the thing that makes me the most excited is that we put together like one place with a dedicated path for people that are looking to grow and expand, or really just are at the very beginning of their journey into blogging as a business. Over the years I’ve spent so much time talking with people at conferences or retreats or over email, or in the last couple of years I know you and I have worked a lot of virtual events together, and a lot of times I feel like I’m just rattling off like 1,000 overwhelming things. And we’ve never really had one solid place to point to for resources or answers or information.
Jenny, you and your team have always done such a really amazing job of putting together free resources for just about everything Mediavine. But there’s never been a place to point people to if they maybe haven’t been with us for the whole journey, or they’re not already a Mediavine publisher, or they just need a more organized format. So I think this is going to be a game changer.
JENNY GUY: Absolutely. I was actually thinking about that the other day how we’re asking our audience here to tell us what things they want to learn about from us. I mean, our whole job is bloggers. That’s what we do every day. That’s what we’ve done for years. And whether it’s virtually, or all the emails that the support department has, or now that we’re finally starting to get back out in conference the people that come up and ask questions, we’ve just had so many people just ask, what do I do?
And now we have the ability to put things together because the blog is a great resource. But it’s a guided tour. It’s a way to go through step by step–
HEATHER TULLOS: Only because on the blog you have no way to search. You have to know which button to push. You have to know exactly the thing that you’re looking for unless I send you articles in the right order. And then you don’t have action items from a blog post. You don’t have a takeaway or a worksheet or a dedicated way to track what you’re doing and how you’re changing things.
JENNY GUY: So every one of the things that we are teaching in Mediavine University, it was really important– just like we do here on Teal Talk is we want action items when we end. What are your key takeaways? What do you want to walk away and do immediately? And every one of the different course modules that Mediavine University has a one-sheeter that is listed with all of the–
So let me step back and say for those who are wondering now how to get involved with Mediavine University, how to access it and some of the other details, I’m going to say that really quickly. Here it goes. First, we’re going to drop the link to join us in the comments, and it will also be on the Resource Guide that we share at the end of the episode.
Someone said, thank you for doing this, love your hair. I’m going to assume that that’s Heather’s because her hair looks amazing right now. But I will also say thank you. I think these–
HEATHER TULLOS: Jenny’s hair also look fab.
JENNY GUY: Mediavine University runs on a platform called Mighty, and it is where all of our courses will live as we put them out, and it’s also where– one of the aspects why we chose Mighty is the Mediavine University community will live and it’s where you can crowdsource, interact, talk with other people at different phases in their community.
So the first step before– it’s absolutely free. It’s to just create an account. And so go to Mighty, create an account, put your picture in there, tell us why you’re there, tell us how long you’ve been blogging, interact, say hi. And that’s your first step.
And then you can explore what courses we have available. Right now it’s just the one, and it is What I Wish I Knew When I Started My Website About Growing Traffic. And it is $85 and it’s really designed for content creators who are at the beginning of their journey.
And I wanted to ask Heather this, why did we decide to start with this course?
HEATHER TULLOS: There were a few reasons. Like I said before, I wanted to have a place to point the people to, the people that I talked to that have a beautiful beginning, but maybe have a ways to go, or people that are working towards building their blog as a business. They’re trying to figure out how to get to that level where I can actually have a paycheck. And growing traffic, it’s really like one of the very first obstacles that you face as a blogger.
So like where do you find that audience? Who is going to reach your content besides your mom or my mom? Because she will definitely read your content. How do you grow the thing that you just built? And so we really just wanted to address that part first.
JENNY GUY: Yes. And we will have some courses that are on Mediavine University that are for our publishers, for sure, and some that are more for people who aren’t yet our publishers who– and this one specifically is for people who want to be our publishers and aren’t there yet with traffic. So if you have a friend out there that’s wanting to get started that’s been asking, they’re not sure what to do, this is a great place to send them.
So Heather, will you tell us what different topics we cover in the growing traffic course?
HEATHER TULLOS: We cover a lot of topics in the growing traffic world. I will say the growing traffic course is great if you’re not our publisher yet, but I think it would also be great for somebody like me that has not actually launched a website in a hot minute. I started blogging in 2011. So if I started all over again, I feel like I know all the right pieces for content creation, but the way that I got my audience when I saw the biggest growth is a little different than I would find my audience now. The industry has really changed since I saw my traffic kind of boom.
So my approach would be different. So if you’re starting a new website and you feel like you don’t remember how you found readers, then this also might be good for you.
So the topics that we cover are things like diversifying traffic sources, making sure that mobile is first, SEO building blocks, that’s super important– we all know that. Site navigation is a big deal– and then user experience and the metrics behind it, making database decisions, and site speed.
JENNY GUY: So that’s a pretty broad– there’s a lot of things there. And I wanted to say I think that even if you hit a wall, I think it could be a good resource for you. If you feel like you’re doing the things and you’re getting frustrated, this could be a great resource for you to say, I’m just not sure. And there are some great tidbits with each one of the modules to say, oh, man, I might not be doing that exactly the way. And it’s different. I mean, for as young as the blogging industry is, how many times does it change like seismically since you’ve been doing it?
HEATHER TULLOS: I mean, we always are having to shift and change and adjust. And I also think to that point– sorry. Remember when I said, I have all the dogs? They’re barking right now.
JENNY GUY: You do have all the dogs. They have feelings.
HEATHER TULLOS: They have a babysitter, but he’s not on task.
JENNY GUY: Yeah. You were saying that actually before we started, which I thought was such a profound thing, was that we go blind to our own websites. We just don’t see the things we’re missing. And that makes it really hard to self diagnose. It’s part of the reason why it’s so good to have a blogging network, a group of your mastermind or whatever so you can say, this is what I’m trying to do. And they could say, well, this is what is happening. So it’s different. It’s hard.
Heather, you’re muted.
HEATHER TULLOS: I muted myself because–
JENNY GUY: Dogs, dogs, dogs.
HEATHER TULLOS: It’s better momentarily.
JENNY GUY: That’s good.
HEATHER TULLOS: I was just agreeing with you.
JENNY GUY: Oh, OK. Great. Perfect. Great. I wanted to hear audible agreement. So I appreciate it.
OK. So one of the ways I know that– and I’m going to go off script a little bit like I always do. One of the biggest ways that people say to grow traffic, or at least in the past was a way to grow traffic, particularly for a lifestyle blog, was Pinterest. And I don’t know that I want to dive into those controversy laden waters, but Pinterest has not been as great a performer for– a lot of the people we hear they say it’s not performing the way it used to.
So why is it so important to diversify your traffic sources?
HEATHER TULLOS: So Pinterest specifically– I know that every time this pops up in the Facebook group, which hello all my Facebook friends. I’m your moderator.
So this conversation I feel like it comes up a lot, especially recently, and people are trying to figure out, what in the world is going on with Pinterest? What are we doing here? And there will always be a few people that are just finding a lot of success with it. I don’t know if it is because they’ve just been at it for a long time because their content really is very Pinterest friendly content.
I think it kind of varies. But for most people I think we feel like we’re spinning our wheels. And I know for me, Pinterest stopped being fun a really long time ago. I enjoyed it as a user and then I didn’t enjoy it as a user.
And so it was really hard for me to make myself want to do that. So I really shifted focus to SEO, where I felt like I had more control, and I do enjoy creating content. It’s the thing I like. Google at least gives you a roadmap to follow unlike other social network platforms.
So having diverse traffic sources is really important because it lets you pull readers from various places. You don’t have all your eggs in one basket. You want to kind of spread it around a little bit. But I think it also gives you the opportunity to be creative because the way that you approach something that is really hitting on Facebook is really different than the way you approach something that is content you created for Instagram or an extension of something you did for a TikTok, or all the different ways that you get people to your website give you the opportunity to approach your content and be a little creative in a different way.
JENNY GUY: We’re going to talk a little bit more about that when we get to the module that you taught. Yep, we’ve got a question for our fellow content creators out there. I want to know how long you have been blogging. And I know that people celebrate different anniversaries kind of like when people talk about how long they’ve been together as a couple. Was it your first date? Was it when you said you’re boyfriend or girlfriend?
Was it when you decided to do it as a career? So let us know in the comments how long you’ve been publishing.
And this is something that a lot of people might not know. I’ve heard it said, but I would love to hear you explain it. I have heard that traffic from different sources doesn’t monetize in the same way. Can you explain that?
HEATHER TULLOS: Yes. I think it’s important to know if you didn’t know it let that be the thing you take away.
Holy cow, 18 years.
JENNY GUY: That’s a long freaking time. Your blog can be sent to the army.
HEATHER TULLOS: Sorry, that just totally distracted me. That’s amazing. High five. I can’t see who you are.
JENNY GUY: High five.
HEATHER TULLOS: That’s awesome.
So yeah, different traffic monetizes at different rates. Its advertisers just spend money on different traffic sources. But I think it also has to do with the way readers engage for those traffic sources, or sometimes when you come in from social media, sometimes you’re still like in an iframe.
So it’s harder for advertisers to know who they’re reaching because you’re operating inside like– when you click through from Pinterest, you’ve landed on the blog, but you’re still in a little Pinterest bubble.
So it’s harder for advertisers to understand who your readers are and if they’re spending correctly versus search traffic. Search traffic monetizes really well because it is much easier for advertisers to know who they’re marketing to and also what your reader is looking for.
There’s more information for them to go on. They’re not totally flying blind. Email and direct traffic also monetizes really, really well.
If you have dipped your toes into the Web Stories pool, if you’ve ever had a Web Story, take off and be really successful and then you’ve actually managed to get that traffic to your website, not just to the Web Story, it usually monetize– high five if you managed to do that. It is awesome. But that traffic spike will monetize really well because it’s direct traffic and it is also not Safari traffic.
So it’s Android traffic, which monetizes at a higher rate because Safari traffic is already– it’s all the privacy things.
JENNY GUY: All the privacy things, right.
So the other thing is they behave differently, right? The traffic from the different places tends to behave differently. Not always. It’s not absolute.
HEATHER TULLOS: When you think about how you– so put yourself in the shoes of a user on Pinterest. If you’re on Pinterest and you’re pinning because you still actually enjoy it and you’re maybe saving ideas for a party you’re planning or saving recipes for dinner ideas or whatever else people do on Pinterest, your goal is to stay on Pinterest. It’s not really to leave that platform and go to a website.
So you might click through the pin and verify the link, but then you probably just go back to where you started. If you’re looking at a recipe you might scroll down, you might read the ingredients and be sure you have them on hand, then you’re going to go back to Pinterest and keep looking. So most of the time people do not leave Pinterest and stay on your website.
It’s the same thing with Facebook. Think about the last time you opened an article on Facebook. Did you read the article and then think, wow, I’m on a really amazing engaging website? I want to stay here for an hour and read all the things. No, you just go back to Facebook and mindlessly scroll some more.
JENNY GUY: I have to see if those people are really breaking up. Hold on.
HEATHER TULLOS: I know.
JENNY GUY: All the people you went to high school with.
HEATHER TULLOS: So the way that advertisers spend is really relative to how that reader is using the site, what the behavior is like.
JENNY GUY: OK. That was very helpful. So I’m actually going to go through each of the little modules here because some of them– so we put together the modules sitting in front of a fireplace outside of Phoenix, and we were sitting there typing in front of this fire and we decided that one of the things we had to talk about was mobile. How does that relate to traffic at all?
HEATHER TULLOS: Mobile. I mean, I feel like we say this a lot. So I don’t feel like it’s going to be like a revelation right now. But if it is, then I’m glad you’re here and I’m glad you’re listening. Please take this with you.
Mobile is where your readers are. Mobile traffic is important. Looking at your site on mobile, it should be the first thing you do, not the last thing that you do. So we look at our sites on desktop all day.
We really experience our most recent content. We experience our home page. We’re the site owners. You know where all your stuff is and you also are not looking at things you created three years ago. You probably don’t need to.
Most of the time your readers are not experiencing your site that way at all. They’re on a tiny device. They are hitting your home page as a second page view, not a first page view. So they’re finding you on your content first, and it’s probably not your most recent content unless you are a really masterful marketer.
And so it’s probably content that’s been flying around and being shared for a while. And so it is really, really important to focus, well, not all of your energy, but the majority of your energy on creating a really excellent mobile experience for your readers.
JENNY GUY: Yep. And that is also a reason why we threw in the last module in the course, which doesn’t necessarily seem like a great connection, which is site speed. Why is site speed? And I think people know, but I do think it’s helpful to hear it because we do spend all day looking at our desktops. And I think that it’s easy to get trapped and forget that your content looks different on a phone, and that’s where your readers are.
So site speed, why? How does that connect to traffic?
HEATHER TULLOS: I mean, the title of the course is, What I Wish I Knew. So what I wish I knew at the beginning. If I could go all the way back to the beginning and not have had to fix all the things that I broke, I was learning along the way, site speed would be one of the things I would put at the top of my list of stuff that I wish I’d done correctly because for anybody that’s had to fix it, it’s a pain in the ass.
And it feels technical and it feels unapproachable. So if you just had a few tips and tricks about not putting Instagram widget that’s loading a whole bunch of unoptimized images with every post that nobody’s ever seeing in your footer, I wish I had known those things sooner. They do really impact user experience, and so they really impact your traffic.
JENNY GUY: Yes. Every time someone says, why is site speed important, it’s the same thing that you always say with mobile, think about it as a reader. When you’re clicking on a search result in Google, how long do you wait for a site to load before you click the Back button? It’s not long. That’s just the truth. There’s another bajillion results, I’ll just go back.
HEATHER TULLOS: Well, the site speed is important. Your reader does not know what they’re waiting on to load. So if you have something really cool but really slow that is not lazy loaded that’s at the bottom of your page, they don’t know what’s holding up the program. They also don’t care. There are a bajillion other search results. They will find another option.
And the other thing that I think for me really impacts mobile experience as a user is when somebody wants me to opt-in to email before I can even see the content. Before I can even read the first sentence, you’ve got a thing that covers the whole screen on mobile. It frustrates me as a user.
JENNY GUY: Is that an automatic back button? Because I’ll do it. I’ll be like, nope.
HEATHER TULLOS: So if you’re checking your Analytics and you realize your bounce rates look a little high or your session duration is looking a little low,”? I would check your opt-ins because opt-ins are another thing that are often cached for you as a user. So you forget they’re there unless you visit from an incognito window because you’re not in survey.
JENNY GUY: Translate.
HEATHER TULLOS: OK. So if you don’t visit your site from a private or incognito window, you won’t be served. Like most of the time opt-ins have like a 30 day cookie or you won’t be served that opt-in once you’ve got it all set up, at least not for a while. So you can kind of forget what the experience is like. It’s like you set it up, you check it, you think OK, that looks good, it works, and if you’re not served that thing again, you never see it on your own site, you kind of forget it’s there.
So visiting your site from a private window on your phone is ideal. A lot of times in Support we will take screenshots of things. We’re like, well this happened. And they’ll go, oh, I forgot that was there. I didn’t mean to do that.
JENNY GUY: Yeah, exactly. And the other thing that we talk about a lot– and actually Nicole Johnson teaches our module on mobile first, and she has some great tips in there for what to look for. But one thing that we’ll say is that when you’re visiting your site on mobile from that incognito window, make sure that you can X out of everything that you might have that’s an opt-in popping up. You have to. If it’s not easy to get out of, people will just leave.
HEATHER TULLOS: Try to figure out how to exit, you think like, how do I get out of here? And most of the time you experience that when you click through sites from social media.
But, again, that’s another good tip is to use your site. If you are generating Facebook traffic, go to your business Facebook page, click through the post that you are sharing on your phone, and see what that experience is like for your readers.
Is it slow? Is it weird? Is it buggy? Does the font look funny? Did you forget that you implemented something that slides in from the side that you’re like, wow, that wasn’t cute?
JENNY GUY: I was having some wine the other night and I said yes, and then the things– yeah, you don’t know. You never know.
The other thing, definitely like make sure that you can cross out of anything. And we’re going to do a little plug here. But if you’re looking for an opt-in solution that isn’t a pop up, we have an incredible thing if you’re a Mediavine publisher and you aren’t running Grow or you are running Grow, you should be. But there’s something called Spotlight Subscribe, which doesn’t require readers to X out of it and gets a very similar effect with opt-in rates. So check that out if you haven’t already. I can say with absolute certainty that it will help your opt-in rates. We’re running it on a medium on corporate side and it’s magic.
HEATHER TULLOS: It also doesn’t cost you anything. I have paid for various other email opt-in solutions. And it’s not going to be the same rate of return as said pop up that’s in your face covering things. I guess that may convert some readers, but it is definitely better for the people that will just back right out of it.
JENNY GUY: It may convert. It also may piss off. So try some Spotlight Subscribe.
OK. So we have a couple of different courses or modules in here that are about SEO and site navigation. Obviously everyone talks about SEO. SEO is related to everything.
So why is it important we did basically some building blocks in this course?
HEATHER TULLOS: I mean, again, going back to the beginning of what I wish I knew, I think early on when I started blogging, I would hit keywords and I had no idea that was what I was doing. I didn’t really understand it. I was just like, oh, cool, people are reading this content that I created. I didn’t really realize why or how they were coming to me, and I really wish I had understood that sooner and better because I could have grown faster, which is the point of this course.
So I think it is a really nice beginning understanding of how to correctly structure your content, how to sort of write for SEO without losing your own personal voice.
But I think we were talking about before we hopped on here, my sister has a site and it’s a hobby for her. She dabbles, but eventually she might want it to be more, and she doesn’t know what to hyperlink the keyword text and link to herself. She doesn’t know how to correctly use H1, H2, H3. So those are all things that people that are just sort of learning to navigate a blog, they got put it somewhere. Everybody needs to learn.
JENNY GUY: I think that sometimes actually– and this is another story about Nicole, who’s one of our instructors. She blogged for a long time and she actively ignored SEO because it was so freaking overwhelming and there are so many courses and so much stuff on it. All the marketers are talking about it with all the acronyms, and it just feels like it’s so much that I’ll deal with that at another time.
HEATHER TULLOS: And I think it’s definitely a thing that people make feel unapproachable. And I think one of my biggest takeaways from just working with Mediavine as a publisher, but also working for a Mediavine, is SEO it’s not a complicated order. It’s not. It’s best practices and putting those into place and doing them over and over and over again and creating content, and just doing more of that, but also creating good content.
So when I think about those times of growth with my own personal website, the times that I have seen the most growth were when I was checking off all those boxes. I was really publishing very regularly five times a week. I was really doing my best to connect with my readers in my writing, and I was also managing to hit the little SEO checkboxes. And it pays off.
JENNY GUY: It does pay off, and it’s a long game. But really the vast majority of SEO best practices are rooted in Google best practices that are to make a better experience for your readers and to give them what they want. It’s not like a magic button that you can push. That’s not it.
HEATHER TULLOS: Yeah. And it’s a format that lends itself to answering questions. So it helps me create content. When you sit down in front of your computer and you think OK–
For me, I’m like, OK, I made this cake. What do you want to know about this cake? It was good. I liked it. I like cake. It was like, what else do you want me to say?
Google helps you to answer questions. You’re like oh yeah, I do know more about this cake than just that I like to eat cake.
JENNY GUY: Yeah, exactly. It sets it up in a way it’s easy for your readers to get through to find the things that they want and that they need, and you’re answering the questions in advance before they ask them.
What if I want to make this delicious cake gluten free? What if I don’t drink alcohol? What happens if I over beat? Why do I need to use this kind of butter? Stuff like that.
HEATHER TULLOS: Yeah. And if I think about all the things that I had to go back and Band-Aid after learning how to do things correctly, and then I was like, oh, cool, I have like two and 1/2 years worth of content that I need to fix. And I see people talking about fixing their content all the time in the Facebook group. People are always like, well, half of these posts that I’ve made and they’re stupid now and I don’t know how to fix them.
So that was really what we were thinking when we put the SEO course into this what I wish I knew in the context of growing traffic. Obviously SEO is a really excellent way to grow traffic, but also obviously if you just do it right from the beginning, you’ll make your life way easier.
JENNY GUY: Yeah. It’s your firm foundation on how to have a good place to grow from when you go forward. And we have an SEO course. The navigation course is taught by Mediavine CEO Eric Hochberger, and the SEO building blocks is taught by Mediavine cofounder, Amber Bracegirdle. So some really great content in there.
We have a comment that I wanted to share, which is my subscriptions for email quadrupled when I first heard on Spotlight Subscribe and I love how you can see which posts they were on when they did subscribe.
That is amazing. I can’t see your name. I think you’re coming from the group. But if you want to tell us what that taught you, what you learned, that would be incredible.
And I actually have a question for our audience, which is, what has moved the needle for you in terms of growing traffic? What has actually done it? What was the thing? How did you reach the Mediavine threshold, or how did you put yourself up over 100,000 or whatever it was, whatever milestone it was? What made the difference for you? What did you invest in that paid off?
What I wanted to say was the long title of this course is, What I Wish I Knew When I Started My Website. And Heather has been saying that, that we hear that all the time because we have quite a few bloggers on staff at Mediavine. In fact, the cofounders were content creators. So all of that has kind of come through, which is a lot of people and a lot of rooms and a lot of places across the country in the last however many years saying, I wish I’d known that when I first started my blogs. I wish I’d done that.
Which is why we started the course with that title, which is why I thought of it, which was like, this is the stuff that we wish we could go back in time and do. And our goal is to try to help everyone out there, be able to do it sooner than us.
OK. So we’ve covered why it’s important to diversify your traffic and mobile first. We did a little SEO site speed. The last two, one of them is your module that you teach in the course, and the other one is Christina, who is one of our Premier account reps.
So it’s all about metrics and data. And there’s a lot of that happening in this course, and you are the unofficial data queen here at Mediavine. So why do you love data so much? And I hear you say it a zillion times, use your data to make your decisions for your business. So why is that so important?
HEATHER TULLOS: It’s so important. So unofficial data queen is for sure. Christina is really, really, really good at nominated most likely to make a spreadsheet and solve your problems with it. She’s very good at data. I think I’m good at translating it into easy action items.
I think if you were running a brick and mortar business, you would not guess about what inventory you needed on your shelves. You would not guess about what store hours you needed to be open. You would know. You would know the answers to those questions.
And I think we should approach our digital businesses the same way. Google Analytics will tell you a whole lot. And I think when Nicole and I used to do lunch and learns, which hopefully one day we will manage to get back to those because they were super fun– but one of the questions that we would ask people is like, who opens your Google Analytics? And you look at sessions or page views or whatever number makes you happy, and you might like bop over and look at real time Analytics and then you’re like, OK, cool, all right–
JENNY GUY: Which is fun. We’re not going to deny it. It is very fun to be like there are 75 people on my site right now. This is so exciting, and you want to say hi to all of them. Totally understandable.
HEATHER TULLOS: And so you’re like, OK, well, I guess I’m doing good. But I think Google Analytics is a really insanely powerful tool. It will do a million zillion things. You can set it up in 100 ways.
But even if you’ve just got like the basic standard implementation, I think it’d be really hard to be like, OK, here’s a bunch of information. I don’t know where to look. I don’t know what to do with it. But I really think that is the information that tells you what you need to know. It helps you not guess. We should not be guessing.
You don’t have to guess at making good decisions for your websites or for your readers. The numbers are always going to point you in the right direction. You just have to figure out where to look.
And I kind of see this, again, in our Facebook group. People will just be ruminating. My traffic dropped. Is anybody else seeing their traffic drop? The Analytics will tell you why your traffic dropped.
Crowdsourcing is not going to answer your question because your traffic is different than my traffic is different than her traffic. If you just figure out how to poke around in your Analytics details and you notice like, oh, well, it was my search traffic that went down and it was this post that was different, and then you can use a keyword tool and see like, oh, well, somebody else is beating me now, and then you can just look at who’s beating you and figure out why. What are they doing differently?
And so I think it’s really important to figure out how to extract the information and then also apply it. So you can’t fix it if you don’t know what’s wrong.
JENNY GUY: OK. Let’s say that your traffic goes down and it’s not just a day. Let’s say you’re seeing it over the course of a week or two because it is important that whatever it is, if your traffic drops real quick and then bounces back up, there’s different things happening here. What do you do if I see my traffic start dropping?
HEATHER TULLOS: So the first thing I would do if I noticed that my traffic was dropping, I would compare year over year. Look at the same time frame last year. So look at this week. There are a few tutorials– one of the managers on the support team entered them into an actual help article for me.
But it was definitely a post in our Facebook group where I sort of laid this out. If you’re in the group you can search it. But you want to look at whether or not there’s a holiday. Do you normally have a spike on Sunday and then a dip on Monday? That’s one that we see a lot. It’s pretty common.
A lot of times people will be looking day over day. And that can help, but it really depends on what you’re looking at. Most of the time you need to be looking at a bigger time frame. So if you feel like your traffic is down or you see that graph kind of dropping, compare it to the same week last year.
Another tip that I have is to make sure that you’re laying the same days of the week. So you want to be comparing like Sunday to Sunday, Monday to Monday, which means every year you have to kind of shift the dates a little bit. You’ll see an increase in traffic as well as an advertiser spend when there’s a holiday, and then there will be a drop off after that.
So I think just troubleshooting those little details can always get you pointed in the right direction, and then you can flip to the acquisition section of your Analytics. And you can see, OK, well, what’s the difference in sources here? It’ll tell you where you’re down.
Are you down across the board? Is there something going on in the world? I know like in 2020 crazy increases in traffic. So in 2021 traffic was down, but for a lot of people, it was just like returning to a little more normal. Wasn’t really down, it was just that people are doing more than baking bread.
So just go step by step. Compare week over week, compare month over month, compare year over year. Line up the dates, line up the days of the week, make notes about the differences. Google Analytics will tell you if it’s a post that is different, and then you can see what to fix.
After you look at all those details, you might just notice, well, this post it was performing really well for me and it was all Pinterest traffic. And Pinterest is not doing great right now. So what can I do to maybe corner this with search traffic? How could I optimize this post to get readers in a different way?
JENNY GUY: Yes. And appreciate the caveat that you shared, and just to caution again, we all know that absolutely nothing has been normal for the last two years at this point. So when you’re going into your Analytics and trying to set a baseline, it’s hard to have a baseline when literally everything is just completely upside down. So establish the baseline with that caveat.
Fantastic. We actually had a great comment from our friend who had quadrupled their email sign ups from Spotlight Subscriber. I just wanted to say they say, seeing which post readers subscribe from shows where I get the most engagement and loyal followers, and then I create more of that type of content.
HEATHER TULLOS: Yes, snaps.
JENNY GUY: I figured you’d probably snap on that one. That’s one of Heather’s favorite things to do is to see where– and you break down in your course module– because Google Analytics is very overwhelming. You go in there and there is so much. I don’t know, but you go in and very much isolate like how to do more than just look at your active users on your site and your page views, but how not also just to go into a rabbit hole of I could spend six years learning how to use Google Analytics and still not know at all.
HEATHER TULLOS: Well, because if you’re looking to grow your traffic, you need to know what your readers like and where those readers are coming from, and then how to create more of it. So just like this person is looking at where they’re getting the most subscribers and then they’re creating more of that kind of content, you can look at where you’re getting the most– if your goal is to increase your search traffic, what kind of content are you getting Google traffic from, and can you create more of that kind of content or adjacent content?
You can dig into keyword research. If you’ve got said cake that’s performing really well on Pinterest and it’s really nailing it for Pinterest, is it the format of the pin that’s sending you the content? Is it just like a really Pinterest friendly recipe? You can try to duplicate it.
JENNY GUY: Yeah. You can start to figure out why. I mean, sometimes something will go viral, but when you have something great that’s performing really well, try to figure out why it is and how you can do more of it because it works.
HEATHER TULLOS: And the data will help you do that objectively. You don’t have to just be like, oh, I don’t know, I guess it was a good cake.
JENNY GUY: Which it could have been really good cake. We’ve talked a lot about cake and now I want cake. So that’s happening.
OK. But sticking to the task at hand, your lesson in traffic, beyond just in growing traffic, beyond just data, it’s about user experience. Can you tell us how user experience in working to optimize that is so important from your traffic, particularly when you’re just starting out or looking to make moves to turning your website into a business?
HEATHER TULLOS: Yes. So obviously creating a great user experience is really important, but especially when you’re trying to make that great first impression, it’s when you’re building your traffic that is first impression territory. It also translates really well if you look at the percentage of new versus returning users. I think for most of us the majority of our readers are new users. And so you want to make sure that the first time they visit your website that experience is good.
So we get a lot of emails and I see a lot of discussion where people are talking about user experience. And obviously we want readers to keep coming back. But most of the time these conversations sort of gravitate towards like what we think or what we feel or our own personal experience, which I can’t emphasize it enough. The way that you use your website is not the way that your readers use your website. It just is not.
And so using the data to kind of navigate that user experience and figure it out is really important. It gives you the answers. You don’t have to guess.
JENNY GUY: Because like you said, just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean your readers don’t.
HEATHER TULLOS: It’s totally subjective. What is good user experience? And I think Christina talks about this in her course, which is just like, what are your goals? Your goals and my goals are probably not the same.
So if your goals are to have x amount of traffic and make x amount of money and you don’t feel like working with brands, so display ads are the ticket for you, then your goals might look different than somebody else that really likes to do brand work. And so traffic is still a goal, but they might go lighter with advertising placements if they’re in that space.
It’s like you just have to decide, what is your goal with your website? And then you can use that to kind of let the information guide you. So if you notice the session duration on a post is really low, you might notice that it’s not that big a deal because it’s all Pinterest traffic and it’s going to be kind of bouncy anyway.
But also you might notice it’s search traffic and the session duration is kind of low, and are you losing people? Could you be doing something to pull them in? So the information gives you the answers?
JENNY GUY: OK. That is very helpful.
All right. So we are almost out of time, but I kind of wanted to spend our last little bit of time together doing a bit of a preview on what we might have coming up for Mediavine University. And I know that you both as our VP of Support and a long time blogger yourself, I am guessing you have some pretty terrific thoughts on what type of courses we can create. And I would love to hear what your thoughts are.
HEATHER TULLOS: We have some really good courses coming up. There are going to be some courses that are specific to revenue and RPM. So I think that will be a really good one. And there will be some courses about Grow.
What am I missing? What else did we talk about doing?
JENNY GUY: Yeah, absolutely. We have coming up that is super specific to earning through display advertising, which we know some things about, and the person that is going to be teaching that course is our CEO Eric Hochberger.
So we’ll have that one coming out. It’s a perfect course for Mediavine publishers. It will be loaded with action items and help you navigate through all of those different ways to maximize your earnings. So that’ll be coming up.
We also have in two weeks from today announcing our next episode of Teal Talk. It’s going to be on Tuesday, April 26 at noon Central. And we’re going to have Andy Dehnart from the website Reality Blurred, who is actually our next upcoming professor for Mediavine University, and he is bringing to bear his over a decade of publishing to teach a course in writing reboot. So people who have been publishing for quite some time have a lot of that content that we were talking about that they may want to optimize to change.
And it is going to be a five day course that’s actually going to be virtual, a workshop style. So we’ll have 10 people sitting together. He’s going to teach, you guys are going to work together on optimizing your writing, your About page, how to start from scratch with an article, how to optimize an existing article, all of those things will be covered. And as I said, it’s going to be for people who’ve been publishing for quite a long time and are looking for maybe a refresh there.
So he will be here to talk with us about that on the next episode of Teal Talk; and then we have Eric’s course coming up; and then after that Heather said Grow. We’re going to talk about engagement. But the sky’s the limit, so please let us know what you would like to hear about. We are open into the comments down there.
Tell us where you’re struggling, what you would like to learn from and who you would like to learn it with because Mediavine University we will be doing some courses that are staff courses, like the one that is currently up there where we have several different Mediavine people teaching, then we’ll have some that are with just one person teaching like with Eric’s course coming up, and then we love using our external publishers because we know for a fact that our publishers are experts in so many different areas.
And we know that we’re not the experts in everything. So we would much rather share the expertise of our incredible publishers and have everybody grow together. So let us know if you have an idea for a course or a instructor that we definitely should talk to. We would absolutely appreciate that the most. And if you are interested in creating an account and joining the Mediavine University community, we are going to share how to get the link to do that and then also a Resources Guide for you to be able to see some links from this episode.
In the meantime, happy learning. Heather, thank you so much for joining us today and for talking to me.
HEATHER TULLOS: Oh. Thanks for having me. It was fun. I’m excited about this.
JENNY GUY: I’m excited too. And I’m excited to see all of the different suggestions we get and how we’re going to be able to make this grow in the coming months and years. Beyond that you guys, have a wonderful rest of your day. We will see you in a couple of weeks with Andy.
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