I launched my side project publicly two weeks ago, and want to recap what happened since then.
Let me say this from the start — there’s very little to celebrate in these 2 weeks. Launches are great, but they are infrequent. What happens between the ‘big bangs’ is not glamorous. This is where persistent, incremental work counts, and my project is no exception.
You can see the peak of the launch date. Fame fades fast, and I hit a plateau of ~20 unique visitors per day. You can also see that the plateau isn’t really even — the daily numbers are shrinking. This is just the wakeup call that I need.
Keeping the project as simple as possible allowed me to define its success criteria. I am tracking the following numbers to see where I stand:
- ‘Internet juice ranking’ — how much traffic am I getting to my website? Am I standing out in the crowd? What am I getting from SEO vs AdWords?
- Engagement of anonymous users. How useful is my ‘signed-out’ experience? Once a certain user finds my website, do they get what they came for?
- Conversion from anonymous to signed-in users. There’s much more value users would get from my website if they sign up. How effective is my messaging of this value? How many anonymous users register?
Internet Juice Ranking
I’m not great at SEO, but I did several things when I started this project:
- I went after the ‘endless pages’ tactic, having a separate URL for every website that a user may want to check. I.e. https://www.haveibeenexpired.com/ssl/medium.com to check on Medium’s SSL certificate.
- I generated a sitemap based on a few thousand popular websites, and fed it to Google Search Console.
Let’s see what I got out of it over the past 2 weeks:
These are not impressive numbers. The average position of my website is at the bottom of the second page of results. I’m surprised people actually get to my website like this! The trajectory appears slightly positive, but I’m not counting on it too much, because of this:
Have you ever typed a URL into your browser, knowing exactly where you want to go, but ending up having Google ‘search’ for the URL? This is what I think is happening here, as most of the search queries that led people to my website look like website addresses. This is just my hunch, but I doubt these people had SSL certificate expiration in mind when they landed on my website.
Furthermore, the search terms where my website gets shown (towards the bottom of the second page, on average!) don’t seem relevant to what I’m offering. Try `lazlogistic`, for example. Google thinks you are probably after https://www.lazlogistics.co.id/, which belongs to AliBaba. SSL certificate expiration doesn’t seem to be top of mind for this search term.
Going after distinct pages for SSL certificate results, having the tested website part of the URL, gave me what I asked for, but not what I wanted. The name of the tested website plays a bigger role for determining the intent of my page than the SSL certificate result data shown. I will need to redesign the page to make the data more prominent for Google if I wanted to extract more value out of this venue.
My AdWords campaign
I fired up an AdWords campaign for search terms such as ‘ssl certificate check’. Let’s see where it stands now:
240 clicks for 2,710 impressions yield an 8.8% click-through-ratio (CTR), which I think is quite high! I didn’t define a proper conversion metric, so the glaring 0 is not meaningful to me right now.
At a spend of about $3 per day for my AdWords campaign, I’m getting what I think is a steady flow of relevant users. Why relevant? Because here are the search terms behind these 240 clicks:
No obscure website names here. Instead, there is plain intent to figure out SSL certificate details. I negated a few search terms that were close but irrelevant to my website, such as
free ssl certificate.
So, the conclusion here is that the AdWords campaign is indeed responsible for the majority of my website traffic. Judging by the search terms, it seems to be pulling in relevant traffic! Let’s see what these users do when they land on my website.
Engagement of anonymous users
So what does a user do once they land on my website? How likely are they to find what they came for? My main offering for anonymous users is to check any website they are interested in. Type the website address, click “Check”, and see the SSL certificate expiration date.
HeapAnalytics help me answer this question with a simple funnel. Out of 100 users landing on my homepage, how many view the results of an SSL certificate check? How many check for another website, and another?
My website has seen 473 unique visits to its homepage over the past two weeks. Out of those, 195 users have checked some website and viewed the result page. This is 41.2% engagement right there!
This ratio is even improving with time, and stands at 57.7% (63 out of 109 users) over the past week. I ‘blame’ the difference on launch blast. It has probably brought a lot of users that were interested in my work in general, but not necessarily in SSL certificate expirations.
Since users can check as many websites as they like, I’m also capturing persisting interest — the 2nd, 3rd and 4th checks made by the same user. You can see that 67 out of 195 users checked more than one website — 34.3%. This ratio is quite constant over the past week as well — 33.3% (21 out of 63 users). This means that the ‘right’ users for my website get hooked somewhat, wanting more than just one valuable interaction in 1 out of 3 cases.
The conclusion here is that the AdWords campaign is quite accurate in capturing intent for what that my website delivers. The overall funnel looks like this:
1000 campaign impressions → 88 user clicks → 50 users perform an initial SSL certificate check → 16 users perform at least one additional SSL certificate check
I’m not sure I would know how to improve the initial step. A CTR of 8.8% seems very high, and I would rather see if increasing my campaign budget would keep me at this CTR. The engagement ratio (50 out of 88 users) is approaching 60%, and is also very high in my view.
The residual engagement (16 out of 50 users) is something to consider. These are probably my most ‘core’ users, those that understand the value they can get from my website better than others. They are the best candidates to traverse through the next step and sign up, right?
Conversion to signed-in users
Here come the bad news. Out of the 473 unique visitors over these 2 weeks, I landed 29 registered users. A 6.1% conversion rate, but looking closer reveals a grim picture. 5 users signed up, out of 109 unique visitors. 4.5% conversion rate. Not everything is up-and-to-the-right, as you can see. This needs immediate attention, as I think I can have a higher conversion rate here. At least one that is going up and not down!
How can I capture the 33% of engaged users who test more than one SSL certificate on my website? The idea would be to provide more value to signed-in users, at the expense of anonymous users. I want to get people hooked on the first check, and then ‘push them over the fence’ and sign up for more checks.
Running more than one check won’t be as straightforward as it is today. It won’t be hard either (just click
back in your browser window), so this is a great experiment to run. If I successfully capture 80% of the more ‘persistent’ users, I will get 14 sign-ups for every 100 anonymous visitors. I will settle for less, even 5 more sign-ups for 100 users, as it means doubling the current conversion rate.
There’s much more to think and write about. How do I engage with signed up users (hint — email is a debatable approach I my opinion), where and how to keep on publishing the existence of my website, and more. But focus is key, and right now I want to improve the funnel I already have. Here’s where I stand:
- I have a strong funnel with a high CTR on my AdWords campaign, and high rate of engagement by anonymous users.
- I have a poor conversion rate from anonymous to registered users, and I need to ‘pull the blanket’ from one side to the other. I’ll provide more value for signed-up users, taking a bit away from the anonymous experience, and see where it gets me.
Pay attention to the landing page as this change will go live soon, and I’ll report back in a week or two to see how it went.