Towards the end of 2014 I decided to take all of the travel blogging I used to do on this site and begin building niche travel sites based on some of my frequent destinations.
The move came partly to build a sandbox for my content marketing, traffic acquisition, and conversion testing. But also to beef up content on some of my favorite outdoor adventure destinations and stop blurring the lines between my personal blog and my travel blogs.
This spring, I decided to test the impact of a voters choice travel award on one of these sites, North Shore Experiences.
NorthShoreExperiences is a niche travel site where I produce and share content about Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior, a premier travel destination in Minnesota. Content is focused on lodging, dining, to-dos (outdoor activities like trail guides) and trip itineraries as well as building a business director.
It serves a search market searching on north shore Minnesota, north shore lodging, north shore trails and the cities and regions along the north shore for a popular tourist and travel destination.
From March through May the site ran a BEST of North Shore Experiences competition where readers and our social community nominated and voted on the best experiences in nine categories along the North Shore ranging from dining and lodging to exploring and an afternoon of play.
March 10, 2015: Solicit nominations from readers and community for each category.
April 20, 2015: Nominees announced and voting opened, nominees notified via social media.
May 28th, 2015: Winners announced and BEST of itinerary published
May 28th, 2015: Media release.
June 4th, 2015: Letters mailed to winners.
Impact of Competition on Site and Community
First, it’s worth noting that this site is not a full-time project. While it is a passion of mine, I work on it when time permits and when I have content from my travels, contributors or features to write. That said, these metrics are not reflecting a starting point of zero and will reflect both the growth rate as well as the integers related for scope.
Social Media Reach
Facebook and Twitter were the primary social networks for sharing and promoting the site, content and competition. Announcements were made for the nominating and voting period as well as for the winners.
Specifically, once nominations were tallied and voting began, those organizations who were up for an award, were mentioned in Twitter and Facebook posts to spur additional interest in the competition.
Overall between both Facebook and Twitter, NorthShoreExperiences as a brand saw an increase of 149% reach during the period of the competition in comparison to the period previous.
During the period received 42,570 impressions compared to 19,590 impressions the period previous, a 117% increase.
During the period received 7,781 impressions compared to 614 impressions the period previous, a 1167% increase.
Social Media Growth
Social media follower growth was modest with a 36% growth from Twitter and a very modest, 1.3% increase on Facebook.
One of the things that negatively affected our Facebook stats was our loss of audience when were posted our winners. We took the same approach on Facebook that we did on Twitter, posting a new winner every hour. The trough you see is lost likes and hidden pages due to that publishing schedule.
Email Database Growth
The NorthShoreExperiences Email Database saw list growth of 712% from the month prior to the competition to the month following the competition (8 vs 65).
Web traffic growth
Overall, the competition grew traffic 1,175% from the four weeks prior to the nomination period to the period after the winners being announced. On average site traffic averaged 36.2 weekly sessions in the weeks prior to the nomination period compared to 461 weekly sessions in the period following the winner announcement.
These data points look at the period from March 10th – June 4th, the period from nominations to announcing and communicating with all of the winners. Traffic has leveled off and is currently as of June 17th maintained it’s increased levels, although not at the 400 weekly sessions, closer to 250 – 300, still way up from 25-30 the weekly average in the period prior.
Again, this site is a passion project that I work on part-time so the numbers aren’t huge but even this part time small effort had a significant lift on reach and scope.