How I Use Growth Metrics to Optimize the Stats of My Blog and Email Newsletter

I came across a post about Paul Graham’s Startup Advice this weekend. Paul Graham is the cofounder of Y Combinator, an influential startup accelerator and seed capital firm. So, if Paul Graham has an advice about startups, I listen.

There’s one advice in that post that I want to discuss today. That advice is to focus on the growth rate. The target growth rate during the incubation period is 5-7% a week. If you can go above that, that’s great. If you can’t hit that target, you need to rethink what you are doing.

Paul Graham advises to measure the revenue as the key metric. If you don’t have any revenue, measure the active users. All you have to do each week is to hit your target growth rate. Nothing more, nothing less.

Since, I don’t have any revenue for my blog, I look at two numbers. The first one is the Medium followers and the second one is the email newsletter subscribers.

I know that a subscriber doesn’t mean an active user. Eventually, I need to find a way to measure the active users as well.

Medium Followers

I always thought that my Medium following was low and I was discouraged by that fact. Now, that I’m looking at the growth number, that stat doesn’t look that bad.

I have 478 followers and 255 people have followed me in the 30 day period until March 9. That comes down to 59.5 new followers per week, roughly a 12% weekly growth, which is above the minimum 5%.

At this moment, the minimum growth of 5% would be roughly 24 new followers in a given week.

Email Newsletter Subscribers

At the moment, I have 38 email newsletter subscribers. In the last four weeks, I was able to add 3 to 4 subscribers per week.

38 email newsletter subscribers seems to be a minuscule number and I was discouraged by that in the beginning.

When I look at the growth rate, it comes down to 9% to 11% per week, which isn’t that bad according to Graham Paul’s advice.

Other Stats

I know that the follower and subscriber stats by themselves aren’t sufficient, but it’s a good starting point to track stats.

There are other stats such as the number of people who clapped for my Medium posts in a given week and I have written a post about 8 lessons I have learned from that stat.

The number of people who clap for Medium posts is rather an inconsistent stat to keep track of, because sometimes, a post goes viral and that stat only goes down from there.

A stat should also be actionable. It’s rather difficult to try to write viral posts. All I can do is to write the best post I can and the rest is up to the universe.

What I’m more interested in is to write evergreen posts. Those are not necessarily viral posts, but the ones that are original and insightful, so that they keep receiving new views and claps.

How to Optimize Email Newsletter Stats

The subscription rate is not the only stat I look at. I also look at the following stats:

  • Retention rate,
  • Open Rate,
  • Click-through rate.

I used to have an autoresponder that sent an email every two to three days. In every email, there was only one post featured.

The idea behind an autoresponder is to set it up once, funnel the subscriber there, and then forget it. It was a passive way of managing your email list. Even though the idea wasn’t bad, it didn’t feature my latest and best content.

After that, I switched to an active approach. I started to send an email per week, where I only discussed a single post. In the beginning, I started to select the post based on my own preferences. Then, I started to use the Medium stats, which was a more accurate way of selecting the featured post.

At a certain moment, I realized that Gary Vaynerchuk was featuring multiple posts in a single email with a single line for each post. I started to do that as well.

Sending an email per week and featuring my latest content worked out well so far. So far, only two people unsubscribed from my list.

I use the title of the last week’s most popular Medium post as the subject of the email. That works well to increase the email open rate.

Featuring all the posts instead of a single one dramatically increased the click-through rate, because different people have different tastes.

Conclusion

Even if you have a small side project like a blog and email newsletter like mine, you can use some stats to measure how your project is doing and how you can optimize it.

Evaluating the feedback you receive is critical for your success and your stats is a critical piece of feedback. Remember, what gets measured gets improved.

I’ve discussed some stats and actions to optimize them in this post. I’ll keep measuring these stats, add more actionable stats to these, and come up with action items to optimize those stats.

A blog and an email newsletter might be a small side project, but they give you important lessons about starting and running a business, such as determining your key stats and actions to optimize them.

Once you get into the groove of tracking and optimizing stats, you catch the entrepreneurial bug and it’s impossible to stop. So, you might as well start somewhere and why not start with a blog and email newsletter?

Burak Bilgin
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.

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