50 Questions and Answers: Review of Hardware Revolution in 2009

| January 2, 2010 | (7)

Hardware_Revolution

Now that 2009 is over, I decided that it would be a good time to review my work here on Hardware Revolution by answering most of the 69 Questions to Ask to Review Your Blog, from Darren Rowse at Problogger, which is a great blog that I highly recommend if you blog and want to improve.

Note that I took out a few questions that I hardly had any answers for and that I focused on 50 questions, while Darren’s article has 69 questions, hence the difference in the titles.

I’m doing this to do a reflection of my work here on Hardware Revolution in 2009, see what worked, what didn’t work, what I can do and so on. My goal is to be a better blogger and to improve your experience reading this blog.

However, instead of answering on my own, in private, I figured that I would share the questions and answers here with you, for that you might learn a thing or two about me, what I’m trying to do here and how you could benefit from that. Enjoy!

General Questions

1. What goals (formal or informal) did you have for your blog in 2009?
My goals for 2009 were:
- To increase my readership through:

  • Quality content
  • Promotion
  • An effective web design

- To increase my income through:

  • More effective affiliate marketing strategies
  • Selling ads for money, for more as my traffic increase
  • Indirectly, as my traffic increase

In numbers, my goals were:

  1. Reach a million pageviews a month
  2. Make $10,000 a month
  3. Have 20,000 RSS subscribers and 3,000 Twitter Followers.

2. What goals did you meet?
I’m happy to report that my account on Twitter, @MathieuB, now has 5,289 followers, 2,289 more than my goal.

3. What successes did you have that you didn’t set goals for?
Getting in touch with some of you and with a variety of people is one. Learning more HTML, PHP and Linux coding is something else that I consider a personal success.

4. Which goals didn’t you meet for your blog in 2009?
Well, while both my readership and income has grown, they fell short of my goals, at an average of 66,000 pageviews per month and about $400-$500 per month of income.

5. What failed on your blog in 2009? What mistakes did you make?
At the beginning of the year, the hosting was a failure, as the average load times were in the 2-4 seconds, which I considered horrible. After switching to Linode though, things got way better and the server has been up and running since June without a hitch.

I relied too much on the incomes of the blog to be able to live and that was a major mistake of my own. While the recession didn’t help my online incomes, I was stupid enough to not have a part-time job between February and September and that put me into substantial debts.

Since September, my personal finances got a little bit better thanks to my part-time job, but I’m still living from paycheck to paycheck, something that I do not enjoy at all, as it adds a lot of stress to my everyday life.

6. How have you innovated in 2009?
As far as I know, Hardware Revolution is the only blog where you can find a variety of custom computer designs, consisting of all the parts that you need to build your own computer, to match your needs. I have improved on that offer by publishing guides to the best single parts for your money.

7. How have you invested in your own learning as a blogger in 2009?

I have read quite a few “How to Blog” blogs, kept an eye on social networks and other blogs, to stay up with the trends. Most importantly, I kept researching and reading on the new parts coming up to keep learning and growing my knowledge on computer hardware.

8. What do you want readers of your blog to ‘DO’ after reading your blog?
Build their own computer or at the very least, plan it.

9. Do Your Readers actually Do what you want them to do?
They sure do, I have been in touch with many of you who thanked for the blog or that I have assisted through the comments or e-mails.

10. Would YOU read your blog?
Yeah! I wish this blog existed when I first started building PCs and I had little to no idea on which parts to pick and how to choose the right PC/laptop based on the specifications.

Traffic

1. How did your traffic change in 2009?
See yourself:
TrafficBasically, it started full throttle in January, only to crash down in Feb/March, get up in April, slowly degrade until October and since then it has been picking up, slowly but surely.

Hardware Revolution was launched in April 2008 (It has been almost two years? Wow.), so needless to say, the traffic in 2009 was much better than the traffic in 2008.

2. What was the biggest source of traffic in 2009? Why was it big?
At 232,378 visits out of 513,605, StumbleUpon (My StumbleUpon profile) is clearly the leader here, with over 40% of my traffic coming from there. Why is it my best source of traffic? Well, I have been building my profile on there for a while now, connecting with people and it seems that technology blogs do very well on StumbleUpon.

3. What types of traffic didn’t grow in 2009?
Facebook and Twitter, both barely brought in in 1000 visits each, over a span of a year that is. Considering the time that I invested on both, it’s a deception.

4. Take some time to analyze traffic sources including search engines, social bookmarking, other referring sites, direct traffic – are they trending up or down?

Search Traffic

Search Traffic

Search Engines: traffic grew very well in 2009, definitely trending up, I’m particularly proud of that.
As for Social bookmarking sites:

  • StumbleUpon still is bringing in a lot of traffic. While at the moment, it’s less than say in January, the trend is up.
  • Digg.com. Hardware Revolution didn’t hit the front page of Digg.com, where most of the traffic comes from, in a very long time, since April to be exact. In this case, it’s trend down.
  • Other bookmarking sites bring in too little traffic to be examined closer.

Other referring sites:
As I pointed up before, Twitter and Facebook are a disappointment. Twitter traffic is massively down, by 80-90%. That is due, in my opinion, to Twitter becoming mainstream,being flooded by users and messages, so every tweet has less and less exposure. Facebook has the same problem too if you ask me.

Direct traffic has been going up steadly since September, with December closing in at the 3rd best month of the year. Trend up here.

5. Where did you promote your blog in 2009?
Mostly on social bookmarking sites, such as Digg, StumbleUpon, Twitter and Facebook.

6. Did the promotion pay off?
Yes and no. StumbleUpon is bringing in boatloads of traffic, while Digg brings in the occasionnal surge. As for Twitter and Facebook, it’s a big no.

7. What search terms are people typing into Google to arrive on your site?
People that land here are looking for parts comparison, system builds and such, pretty much matching what I offer, which is good.

8. What seasonal traffic was their in 2009?
Without previous data to compare to (The blog launched in April 2008 and traffic took a while to build up.), it’s hard to say. I can tell that traffic was down in the summer though, which is most probably due to school break and people going on vacations, as the average reader here is pretty young.

9. How many pages were people viewing on your site per visit?
1.42 pages, which is pretty low. Then again, I never focused on improving this, so if I were to put some efforts toward that, I’m sure that 2-3 is feasible.

10. How much time did you put into building traffic, promotion, marketing, SEO in 2009?
Too much? Not enough? I did put a lot of time, but I believe that my problem was that I was unfocused. I wasted way too much time on Facebook (It’s addicting, can you blame me? :D ) and Twitter.

As for SEO (Search Engine Optimization, or tweaking your site to rank better in search engines), I spent very little time, keeping it simple and sticking to the most important: writing for my readers.

Content

1. How many posts did you write over the year?
146 posts! Well, take out a few for guest posts, but still, wow, I never thought I wrote that many.

2. Which months did you write the most posts and which did you write the least? Why the ups and downs?
May and June were the months where I wrote the most posts, 23, while February was the month where I wrote the least, with only one post! On average, I published 13-15 posts per month during 2008.

Why the ups and downs? In February, I was in a depression and could hardly motivate myself to do anything. I couldn’t come up with anything to write and wasn’t doing much with my life.

In May/June, I was back into it, I wanted Hardware Revolution to succeed and my traffic to raise again. While the overall traffic actually decreased a bit in those two months, the traffic coming from search engines grew up nicely.

3. Which posts had the most traffic in 2009? Why do you think that was?
Do you make these 6 mistakes when buying a video card? was the most popular post by far, at 145,000 pageviews, 80,000 more than the 2nd most popular post. Why? That post went viral, wow. It went popular on Digg.com AND StumbleUpon.com during the same 2-3 days, bringing in massive traffic.

4. Which posts got the most comments? Why might that have been?
Do you make these 6 mistakes when buying a video card? with 74 comments. Due to the massive traffic that it got.

5. Which posts were linked to most by other sites?
Do you make these 6 mistakes when buying a video card? once again, as it went completely viral.

6. What topics most energized you in 2009?
The low-budget Gaming PCs. They are always such fun to do, as it’s a challenge to get as much performance as possible while staying within the budget limits. Besides, I know that most people prefer and can afford these.

7. Which posts drained you most?
The custom Computer Builds. Simply because they involve a LOT of research and demand a lot of my time.

8. What type of posts have you been writing lately (voice, style etc)? How long are they?
I have been publishing mainly custom computer builds and Best Of posts lately, that are mainly informative and technical. They are really focused on the content, I’ll agree with you if you tell me that I could improve my writing ;) .
As for length, they usually range from 1,500 to 3,500 words, although there are shorter ones (Happy New Year for example) once in a while.

9. How much time did you put into writing content in 2009?
Considering that I wrote over 140 posts and that each post takes on average several hours, you could say a lot of time.
I don’t have an exact figure for you, but over 1000 hours sounds right to me.

10. Are key pages (About page, Contact page, Advertise page etc) up to date?
No. I’ve been slacking on this, I keep telling myself that I’ll do it soon and I have yet to do it. Yes, I do deserve a kick in the butt for that. Same goes for the footer (bottom of the page), it needs an update.

11. What calls to action did you have on your blog in 2009? Did they work?
Mainly asking you to subscribe to Hardware Revolution via RSS or E-mail (which worked o.k.) and for donations to support me and my hard work (Complete failure, I got only one donation so far.)

12. What ‘need’ does your content fulfill for readers? What problems does it solve?
This blog is here to help you figure out which parts to buy to build your own PC. It helps you save many hours of research by giving you all the answers that you need at the same place.

Community

1. What recurring questions did readers ask in 2009?
Mostly help with building a computer system and questions about specific products.

2. How have your RSS subscriber numbers changed?
RSS/E-mail subscriber numbers pretty much tripled, from 150 to 450 or so. This could have been much higher in my opinion, had I been more consistent with my posting.

3. Are comment numbers from readers increasing or decreasing?
It’s hard to tell, not all posts are written to attract comments. But I would say that it’s slightly increasing.

4. How much personal interaction did you have with readers in 2009?
Some here and there, mainly answering questions from readers via comments/e-mails. I try to reply to comments as much as my time allows me to.

5. What other ways are readers interacting with your blog? (polls, guest posts, forums etc)
We used to have polls, but I stopped a few months ago because I ran out of ideas. We had a few guest posts and I am definitely open to anyone willing to write one. Forums are unlikely to happen in 2010, perhaps in the future if/when we expand.

6. Have you kept up with moderating comment spam in 2009?

Thank you Akismet. Best WordPress plugin ever, it blocks 99% of the spam and now with Disqus, I can moderate or reply to comments via e-mail.

Design

1. How does your blogs design look?
Hah! You tell me. I think that it looks alright, but it definitely can be improved.

2. Is it dated, confusing or ‘broken’ or is it attractive, functional and engaging?
It’s slightly confusing and broken, but then again, I see every little thing on this blog, as Hardware Revolution is a one man operation. Overall, it does the job for now, but I’m open to suggestions and comments.

3. Is there clutter anywhere on your blog?
I hate clutter. My desk is clean and free of clutter, so is my kitchen and apartment the majority of time. So noooo, no clutter. Just content, content and more content. Oh, and a little bit about me at the bottom =)

4. Does your blog load fast?
Average load time is about 1.1 seconds, so it’s not blazing fast, but I wouldn’t call it slow either. I intend to improve it when I get around to setting up a new server in the next few weeks.

5. When a first time reader arrives on their blog what impression would they get?
That’s a question that is difficult for me to answer, as I’m always used to what’s on the blog, so you can say that my point of view is biased. You, tell me, what was your impression when you visited Hardware Revolution for the first time?

6. Would a first time visitor immediately know what it is about and how to use/navigate it?
Once again, I’m biased as I run everything here. My guess is that most of the time yes, but some must get confused with all the choices.

Monetization

1. How much did your blog earn in 2009?
About $4,500 USD.

2. Are your earnings up or down on previous years?
I started blogging in April 2008, so 2009 was definitely a better year.

3. What sources of income does your blog have?
The vast majority of my income comes from affiliate marketing, mainly from Commission Junction (NewEgg) and Amazon. I make most of my income by getting a small cut (Usually 1%-4%) when you buy a product on NewEgg or Amazon after clicking on the links on Hardware Revolution.

4. How did your income change over the year? Why did it change?
It went up a lot in the last quarter (October to December), thanks to me updating/adding builds and Best of, along with the holidays of course.

5. What lessons did you learn about what methods of making money works best on your blog?
As the expression goes “Don’t put all your eggs in the same basket”. By that, I mean that you shouldn’t rely on a single source of income. Diversify your sources of income.

Your income is closely linked to your traffic. If your traffic grows, so will your income.

6. What didn’t work in 2008 when it comes to monetization?
Donations. Despite asking for them at the end of many posts, I unfortunately only got one.

Conclusion

There we go, that was 50 Questions and Answers about how Hardware Revolution did overall as a blog and how I did overall as a blogger in 2009. I hope that you found this post interesting, that it made you learn a thing or two about me.

Tomorrow, I want to follow this post up by outlining what I’ll do in 2010 to improve Hardware Revolution:
Planning the Direction of Hardware Revolution for 2010

Stay tuned to the Hardware Revolution RSS feed or free E-mail updates to get this update.

Category: Development, Questions & Answers

About Mathieu Bourgie: HR Founder - Computer expert with over 14 years of experience in building, fixing and modifying PCs. Over the years, I’ve developed a passion for PC hardware and now I enjoy helping others build their own PCs! In April 2008, I launched Hardware Revolution and ... Read more at my about page .

  • Chris

    Great article, just for the record, I came here originally a few weeks ago from looking for budget gaming computers. I found the $500 one on Google, and I have to say you explained everything pretty good, I just need a little more cash before I can get the parts. I would like it if you made more articles like that, because I'm still 14 and don't have a job. Computers are one of my favorite things in life, and I've never built one before. I just got sick of how OEMs limit the variety of parts you can get. If you could update that page some more, I'd appreciate it as I visit it quite a bit. Just for a laugh, entitle your next post “The revolution, of Hardware-Revolution.” lol.. Great site!

  • Chris

    Great article, just for the record, I came here originally a few weeks ago from looking for budget gaming computers. I found the $500 one on Google, and I have to say you explained everything pretty good, I just need a little more cash before I can get the parts. I would like it if you made more articles like that, because I'm still 14 and don't have a job. Computers are one of my favorite things in life, and I've never built one before. I just got sick of how OEMs limit the variety of parts you can get. If you could update that page some more, I'd appreciate it as I visit it quite a bit. Just for a laugh, entitle your next post “The revolution, of Hardware-Revolution.” lol.. Great site!

    • http://www.hardware-revolution.com/ MathieuB

      Hey Chris,

      I'm glad to hear that you found about this site on Google and that you decided to stick around. You will definitely see more articles like this one in the future, as I try to update them on a regular basis (Every month or two) to keep up with prices and new parts.

      I hear you regarding how OEMs limit you to what THEY want you to choose. It's one of the reason that I give when people ask me why they should build their own computer. Also, on average, being able to choose the parts allows you to get a better bang for the buck, aka better performance for the same price.

      “The revolution, of Hardware-Revolution.” Lol, I laughed at that one. I see it more as an evolution, but if you're enthusiast about it, you could call it that ;)

  • http://feeds2.feedburner.com/hardware-revolution MathieuB

    Hey Chris,

    I'm glad to hear that you found about this site on Google and that you decided to stick around. You will definitely see more articles like this one in the future, as I try to update them on a regular basis (Every month or two) to keep up with prices and new parts.

    I hear you regarding how OEMs limit you to what THEY want you to choose. It's one of the reason that I give when people ask me why they should build their own computer. Also, on average, being able to choose the parts allows you to get a better bang for the buck, aka better performance for the same price.

    “The revolution, of Hardware-Revolution.” Lol, I laughed at that one. I see it more as an evolution, but if you're enthusiast about it, you could call it that ;)

  • Pingback: Planning the Direction of Hardware Revolution for 2010 | Hardware Revolution

  • Bloodymoth

    Hey, are you going to do a 2010 review as well?

    • http://www.hardware-revolution.com/ MathieuB

      I will, especially since 2010 was a great year for me and HR!