Although i’ve been running theleavingcert.com for close to 4 years, this year is the first year i’ve done what i regard as ‘real’ work on it. Right now (at this time of year) traffic is at it’s peak. The leaving cert is on radio, it’s in papers, it’s the only thing on about 55,000 irish student’s minds. A few weeks ago we bought another leaving cert site (leaving-cert.net) so we now have not one but two fairly popular leaving cert sites. The goal is pretty simple – world domination (or at least leaving cert domination)…
Last year, traffic on theleavingcert.com peaked at 1,168 visits the day before the start of the leaving cert. At that stage though we weren’t nearly as dominant as we are now in google for leaving cert search terms. Over the last 6 months or so, we’ve doubled content, changed the design and added more features. So far, traffic has peaked at 3,706 visits which is over 3 times the traffic we got on the same day last year.
This comparison tells it’s own story. The leaving cert always starts on a wednesday so i’m comparing leaving cert week 2009 to leaving cert week 2010. Saturday to saturday.
Obviously we’re delighted with that kind of growth. The effort we’re putting in is being rewarded by google which ultimately leads to more traffic. 80%+ of our traffic is organic i.e. comes from search engines.
Although we’ve owned leaving-cert.net for a couple of weeks now, it was only really this week that we got everything sorted out and running properly. So unfortunately i don’t have a full weeks stats yet, but it’s also getting quite a bit of traffic as you can see from the previous 4 days stats;
So combined, the two sites are not only getting decent traffic at the minute but they’re growing. Quickly. They have plenty more potential just waiting to be unleashed. I’ll say it yet again but i don’t believe we’ve truly taken things seriously up until now. Yes, the site has been online for almost 4 years but it was probably only looked after for about 1 of those 4 years in total.
So we’ve yet to really see what will happen when we give theses sites 100% over a long period of time. But the indications are good. Can we triple or quadrouple traffic next summer? Yes… and that’s now the goal….
A few weeks ago, we had 140 friends on facebook, today we have almost 700. That’s the result of a lot of hard work. Commenting, liking, chatting, uploading… we’re doing our best to act as a hub for leaving cert talk and where possible we’ll try to help & advise people if they’re looking for it.
Here’s an example of what we’re doing on facebook. Tonight i posted a general comment, not really expecting any feedback or anything to come of it… i really just wanted to let students know we hadn’t forgotten about them and we’re aware there are exams tomorrow, they’re probably studying hard etc…
About an hour later that update has 15 comments & 4 ‘likes’. That’s typical of what’s happening. It mightn’t sound like much but it shows people are willing to talk, willing to interact.. perhaps even looking for a place to ask questions or get things off their chest. The more we talk with people, the more of a community we build (both on the site and on facebook).
We do add friends, but we also get plenty of friend requests… i’d say it’s 50/50. Very early on we realized we needed a ‘page’ rather than a friend account but because so many people were already engaging with our profile, we decided to postpone our efforts on the page until next year.
On twitter, there seems to be less leaving cert activity and it’s much more difficult to find leaving cert students, so we’re less active there than on facebook but we do spend a lot of time trying to hunt down leaving cert students and follow them (Only in the context of ‘twitter’ could i get away with that last sentence without anyone battering an eyelid )
Social media is undoubtedly the way forward though. After every exam, people always give updates on how exams went via text or mobile web so we can simply collect all those notices, gather them all in to a blog post and publish it within half an hour after an exam finishing. It gives people a great idea of how an exam went plus it allows us to be first on the scene with reactions.
With theleavingcert.com, we did have the odd student posting but the vast majority of content is either the work of Enda or myself. With leaving-cert.net (our new buy), the bloggers do all the work in terms of producing content. That makes the site more interesting to read for students, plus it allows students to talk to other students which ultimately is what they want.
So we’re moving in to the world of multi author / community driven blogs which is really a new ball game for us but on paper, it’s less work for us (creating unique content isn’t easy), it gives readers more variety, plus it allows us to focus on running the site and adding new features etc… i feel that stuff is what we’re best at.
In Mainstream Media
A lot of people will say mainstream media is still needed but it really depends what sort of exposure you get. I’m 100% focused on the online world. Anything offline is just bonus in my view. Both theleavingcert.com & leaving-cert.net have been mentioned in The Irish Times over the last week or so and to be honest i don’t think it’s impacted on traffic at all, but i also wouldn’t expect it to… (not too many square inches here!)
You can’t click on a link in a newspaper. Me, i just scan newspapers. If i see websites mentioned i’ll just forget about them. I’d imagine most people are the same. I bought two papers last week, only because i knew we were mentioned in them
These days i never read papers unless i’m on a plane, in a waiting room or something… i only visit news sites if somebody links to them or i’m bored. I’d imagine radio has a similar non-effect. TV is different as a lot of people have a PC beside them whilst watching TV these days. How can i say that? Well, try visiting a site mentioned on dragons den about 30 seconds after it’s mentioned. Server Error 🙂
We have plans, we have energy, we have momentum… really, we just have to keep doing what we’re already doing. That’s probably the hardest part. Maintaining workrate all year round. It is a little easier though when you can look at the traffic, connections on social networks, positive feedback etc… all of that acts as motivation.