Health of the Refuge: How Digg helped jump start our forum

Author: | Posted in Digg, SEO, Social Media 7 Comments

In the first of an occassional series on the State of SEO Refugee I explore the effects of a revitalized blog and recognition from Digg on our site. All the numbers are based upon our Google Analytics reports.

Patient is stable and resting comfortably.

If this article had been written last August, that would have been the headline. The health of SEO Refuree (SEOR) could have been summed up simply:

After an initial burst of enthusiasm surrounding our founding we have settled into a comfortable (although entertaining) existence. We’re averaging around 250 non-unique visitors per day: sometimes climbing above 300, occasionally falling below 200. Our active membership is growing slightly

Flat-lined woud be overstating things but it did describe our visitors chart.


Monday, September 18 was a fairly typical day. We had 227 visitors, bringing our total for the year to 63,271.

The next day, the paddles were slapped on our chest and we received a jolt in the form of Skitzzo’s blog post, Get ANY Adsense Account Banned. In retrospect, Google banning Skitz’s account might be the best thing that ever happened to SEOR. The post went popular on Digg and, before being buried by the Google worshippers, received over 6,000 visitors.

That was an average month’s traffic in just two days! Clearly the blog was – as some members had repeatedly reminded us – a potentially powerful tool for attracting attention and visitors to the Refuge.

We were just a little confused about how to use it. Sure the traffic was nice, but did it accomplish anything other than inflating our stats? Did it help the forum? Was getting a blog article Dugg an online shot of adrenalin or Internet patent medicine?

We have a pulse!

SEO Refugee 2006 visitorsThe answer seemed to be “something in between.” Following the September blip, traffic for October settled slightly above the previous norm and we showed mild growth for both November and December (an accomplishment considering we barely had a pulse over the holidays).

By the end of the year we were averaging around 300 visitors daily and occasionally drawing more than 400. For all of 2006 we had 96,139 visits and 903,224 page views.

We need more juice…

Once we recovered from the New Year hangover, we got our second Digg jolt. This time it came in the form of three blog posts going popular in January. Two were quickly buried but one proved to have staying power. The results were:

Better yet the blog posts were helping us build backlinks.

SEO Refugee link pop

Finally SEO Refugee was having some real SEO success.

We ended January with 26,453 visits (27% of our TOTAL for all of 2006) and 96,139 page views (I was addicted to Analytics by this time, complaining whenever the results were delayed. At this point it was difficult to determine what a “normal” day was. But, as best I can determine, if we weren’t riding a spike or coasting down its tail we could count on about 400 visitors a day, occasionally 500.


February 1st we had 380 visitors. It was the only day that month we dropped below 400 visitors.

On the 2nd, the post Digg’s Top User Weighs In on the Removal of “The [Top 100]List” understandably proved popular with diggers and we picked up 12,707 visitors.

On February 6, inspired by a jrothra post in the forum I blogged about the Top Ten Lessons I’ve Learned About Managing an Online Forum (8,986 visitors the next day). Sensing this was a popular topic (and one we knew a bit about) Skitz followed up with 10 Tips for Promoting Your Forum (Feb. 8: 6,039 visitors) then turned the idea on its head to create 10 Mistakes that Will KILL a Forum (Feb. 16: 16,549 visitors), our most popular blog post yet. In between he squeezed in You Might Be an SEO If… (Feb. 12: 2,196 visitors – buried).

We had overlapping Diggs (both eventually buried) on Feb. 20 (Yahoo Selling Search Results? based upon information in a forum post by Robert Paulson) and Feb. 22 (The Scarlet Letters – an SEO’s Open Letter to Diggers). They helped us attract nearly 8,000 visitors over a three day period.

SEO Refugee February 2007 visitorsAfter the sixteenth we dropped below 1,000 daily visitors only twice, the 24th (914) and the 26th (989) and our Analytics visitors graph was spiking like a tachycardia patient’s electrocardiogram.

On February 23 our total visitors for 2007 passed our total for all of 2006. Then on February 27 we passed the 100,000 visitor and quarter million page view mark for 2007.

It’s alive!

The 27th was significant for another SEOR milestone.

It’s a forum tradition for members to mark their milestone posts with more thoughtful discourse than is the norm. Members have been known to go silent for weeks trying to come up with a suitable topic. After days of preparation (and only one post late), eKstreme finally came with Web 2.0 (My 1000th (+1) Post).

Apparently it’s still a hot button issue. The link was posted on Digg and in spite of skeptics…

Web 2.0 is so 2006.
Forum posts don’t work well on Digg
Diggers hate SEOs

…it became the first post from our forum to become popular on Digg. Suddenly our “Most users ever online” stat jumped from 177 to 2,750. The post generated over 16,000 page views before settling down. It was an exhilarating and nerve-wracking time as we watched the page views climb and worried if our server and vBulletin software were up to the challenge. It turns out, they were.

The Diagnosis

It’s too soon to tell what kind of lasting impact an in-forum Digg will have but it’s a good indication that SEO Refugee is vibrant and growing. Some other signs of health:

  1. Our core group is strong, active and growing
  2. We’ve reached the front page of Yahoo! for the term [seo forum]
  3. We’re approaching 5,000 threads and have over 50,000 posts. Not bad for 15 months!
  4. We have over 25,000 shouts in the Shout Box (OK, I’m not sure that’s healthy)
  5. We’re posting regularly in the blog (26 posts total for January and February)
  6. Our posts continue to get strong traffic from StumbleUpon, Delicious and other social bookmarking sites long after the Digg spikes have run their course.
  7. We’re not just attracting traffic we’ve begun to drive it to other sites as well
  8. We’ve attracted our first advertiser, have a commitment from a second and are talking to a third (don’t worry, we won’t go Ch*t on you). We’re not getting rich but at least the server is paid for.

The Prognosis

The future looks bright. We’ve always known our members are some of the brightest people in the industry. Now, it apears, the rest of the world is catching on.

Of course a few months of heavy traffic doesn’t guarantee long-term success and, as we growth, we’ll face new challenges. But the heart of this forum, its membership, is strong and healthy. We won’t be “walking towards the light” any time soon.

  1. Posted by earlpearl
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