It’s been a while since the last Niche Site Duel 2.0 FoodTruckr.com update, and for good reason:
After niche selection and branding strategy, collecting emails during a pre-launch phase and then launching (you can get all of the updates here), I’ve been in the middle of the toughest phase in the life of any brand new website – the part where you’re cranking out content, and there’s not much of an audience there to consume it.
I didn’t expect FoodTruckr to have a huge following after only a few months. The most successful websites and businesses that I’ve built in the past – the ones that have earned well over 6-figures took over a year before there was any significant following, and a year and a half before any significant earnings were generated.
I have to remember that for NSD 2.0, I’m taking a long-term, content and value-driven approach to building this site as an ultimate resource, and like the Online Business / Blogging and Internet Marketing niche that Smart Passive Income is in, the food truck niche will take some time to realize that what I am developing is a valuable resource and one to pay attention to.
During Niche Site Duel 1.0, when SecurityGuardTrainingHQ.com was born, I implemented a lot of tactics that I learned from SEO experts to try to rank as high as I could, as fast as I could – and it worked. Within 73 days, I went from scratch to #1 in Google for my primary target keyword, earning over $1,000.00 per month: 95% through Adsense, 4% by way of affiliate marketing, and 1% through a job board.
Those tactics don’t work as well anymore (although private blog networks seem to still be working very well for many), and as always I love to try different approaches, experiment and report what happens.
NSD 1.0 was a sprint.
NSD 2.0 is a marathon.
Although I’m several months into this project already and not seeing any income from it yet, there are a lot of good signs with FoodTruckr:
- Many people in the food truck industry are enjoying the content they find on the site and find it useful. I know this because many of the visitors have reached out in some way to let me know, and I’ve also reached out to ask people who have subscribed to the email list.
- Traffic and subscriber on the blog is continually trending upward.
- FoodTruckr.com is seeing significant upward movement in the search engines.
- The podcast that I launched (FoodTruckr School) is also growing significantly and getting some great exposure.
- The followers on social media have become more and more active and interested in what’s being published.
Let’s get into the details…
The Advantage Most People Don’t Take Advantage Of
When you’re just starting out with a brand new blog or business, although times are tough and traffic is minimal, you actually have quite an advantage.
Unfortunately, most people don’t make the best of this opportunity.
When your audience is small, you have the ability to spend more individual time with the people who do follow your site to create a deeper connection with them, which in turn can help you extract more ideas, concerns, pains and problems that you can address and provide solutions for, and they can also help guide the direction of the brand new resource that you’re creating for them.
So even though I mentioned that this post-launch, minimal result phase is the toughest, it does give you a window of opportunity to reach out to your audience, make personal connections with them and set yourself up for success in the future.
As a by-product of reaching out and making connections – at least in my experience – I’ve noticed that I’m always reenergized and have more motivation to continue to push forward.
Even with sites like Smart Passive Income, I often take the time to randomly select a few people who have signed up to my email list, and personally email them individually to ask for their direct feedback on the site, and ask them what they might need help with. Although I’m only connecting with a fraction of a percentage of my audience, the feedback and one-on-one interaction is still completely valuable.
As a result of reaching out to my audience on FoodTruckr and asking those same questions, I’ve been given the following feedback:
“I’m really happy someone is finally putting together a resource for those of us in this industry. A part of me wants to say you should start a forum, but I know that I, and most other food truck owners are probably too busy to spend time on it.”
How awesome is that feedback?! Validation for the site, and insight on the possibility of putting a forum on the site. Through my research, I’ve found that most food truck owners are indeed much too busy to spend a ton of time on another site beyond what they do on social media already.
Here’s another one:
“I like the articles on the site. From what I’ve read so far, a lot of it is stuff that I haven’t really thought about before. I’m good at cooking food, but could always use more help with marketing. Thanks for that. I would like to see some stuff about fixing my truck though. That’s a huge pain that I deal with every week. Looking forward to what else you can provide for us!”
Again, some amazing feedback and validation (and direction!) directly from my target audience. This proves that the content is helpful, and just shows me that perhaps the site just needs more time and additional marketing strategies to get the word out there. I am trying a few out of the box things this year to help spread the word, which I’ll talk about at the end of this report.
Traffic and Subscribership – The Numbers
Traffic has continued to grow slowly over time, which is great. It’s better than a downward trend.
On average, the site is seeing between 300-400 visitors a day. With that said, please know that after I revealed the site here on SmartPassiveIncome.com, a lot of the traffic is indeed coming from here. Skewing the traffic numbers is something I knew was going to happen, but it was something I made the conscious decision to do knowing that it would be more educational for all of you to know where the site is so you can see how it’s all put together and evolves.
If I had to take an educated guess, I would say that the true numbers are more like 150-200 visitors a day from my target audience – which still isn’t bad at all. With search traffic, and direct links from forums that talk about food trucks, I know that the traffic isn’t all just coming from you 😉
Here’s a screenshot of the traffic over the past two months:
Over the past two months, 19,653 people have visited the site – but as you can tell from the table below, many are coming direct (which is probably through email blasts sent to subscribers), and also Google searches and social media. You’ll see the traffic from SPI on here as well:
The traffic coming from Buffer in the table above is a result of posts on Twitter and Facebook that are scheduled through my Buffer account. As I mentioned in my popular 21 Web Applications I Can’t Live Without post, Buffer is one of my all-time favorite apps, and in this case, posts for the entire week are scheduled at one time.
Getting deeper into Google search – unfortunately late last year Google has decided to hide the specific keywords that people find your site with if they are logged into their Google account – which is most people unfortunately. This was for privacy reasons, and I sort of get it, but for someone working on a new website trying to deduce how their audience is finding them through search engines – it’s not good.
With that said, there are still food truck related search terms that I can see I’m getting traffic for:
The (not provided) part is search traffic from those who were logged into Google at that time.
The search terms that I do see, like food truck business plan, how to start a food truck and similar ones excite me – a lot! Those are the exact terms I want to rank for. Here’s a breakdown of where I rank for certain keywords that I’m targeting or are interested in:
This ranking was provided by SEOKeywordRanking.com. WhooshTraffic.com is also great for daily reports like this.
What Do I Mean by “Targeting Keywords”?
In NSD1.0, targeting a keyword meant I would create a small network of blogs and Web2.0 sites, publish articles on those sites and link back to the original page using the keyword as the anchor text.
Not this time around.
This time, I’m simply publishing high quality articles about those very topics. For example, when people search for “food truck business plan”, it doesn’t go to our homepage – it goes to a specific post that includes those keywords in the title.
You can learn more about ranking for multiple keywords on non-homepage sites in Episode 0006 of my new podcast, Ask Pat – which is below. And if you haven’t gotten into Ask Pat yet, you should! You can check out the rest of the episodes and subscribe to the show on AskPat.com.
FoodTruckr has also steadily been growing its email list. When the site launched, it launched with a total of 215 email subscribers, which were collected during the pre-launch phase and allowed me to start creating content from day 1 for a small audience that was already there.
Today, FoodTruckr has a total of 1,115 subscribers and is growing at a rate of about 8-15 emails per day. Emails broadcasts are sent every few weeks (manually – not through the autoresponder) to update subscribers about the most recent content published on the site, and also the most interesting conversations on Twitter and Facebook.
The autoresponder is something I need to work on. I’ve mentioned several times in the past about how important setting up your autoresponder sequence is, however I felt like I needed more time and research to determine exactly what should be put into these emails.
No more excuses.
FoodTruckr School Podcast
In addition to the blog, the FoodTruckr School podcast, which is only 5-6 episodes in, is doing really well! I’ve gotten direct feedback from my audience and a lot of them prefer this method of content consumption over the blog posts, since most of the day they are on the road and can listen while they prep or while they’re on the road.
And the download numbers are quite encouraging.
Following the same exact steps as my podcasting tutorial, I launched FoodTruckr School in November. This time around, however, I learned my lesson and published more than just one episode on the blog before going live on iTunes. The show launched on iTunes at the end of November, and has since been featured in the New & Noteworthy section in the business section of iTunes. The truth is, however, most new podcasts are featured in New & Noteworthy for a period of time.
Before the feature in iTunes, the show was getting between 30-50 downloads a day via the blog and on iTunes. When the show got featured in New & Noteworthy, the download numbers jumped to nearly 200 downloads per day.
The show has seen spikes here and there, depending on exposure and placement in iTunes, but the show nearly doubled its numbers when it was in the top 10 in iTunes Business > Careers, which is the category and subcategory the show is in.
Here’s a look at the download numbers since the show started:
Small beginnings, but again – great sign. Especially that last leg of steady growth.
As you all know, I love podcasting, and it’s been truly amazing to use this medium to connect with some amazing people in this industry, including a few of the contestants from The Great Food Truck Race on the Food Network, and just regular people who decided a behind-the-desk-job wasn’t for them, and now they’re killing it in a food truck instead.
It’s truly inspiring to me and I can obviously relate to their journey and purpose.
The show goes live once every two weeks, so it’s not a huge deal to spend a couple of hours to put this together, including recording the 20-30 minute interview, every two weeks. The addition to the brand has been a good decision thus far, and again all I can do at this point is keep going!
Social Media – A Huge Win
More than the blog and the podcast, the biggest success thus far with FoodTruckr has been its social media presence. The reason for this is quite simple – most food truck owners spend most of their time on Twitter and Facebook anyway – so it makes complete sense that this is where FoodTruckr would have the most interaction and traction as well.
Do you know where most of your target audience hangs out, and the platforms they use the most?
For me, it was quite obvious after talking to them in person. They use Twitter, Facebook and FourSquare multiple times every single day.
If you’re not sure, it might be a good idea to run a survey to your existing audience, or do manual searches on each of those platforms to see how active the community is.
Find out where your audience is – and go there.
I’m using social media to bring followers and fans back to the blog to read or listen to content, but more than that, it’s about the real connections that are being made with real people on these platforms.
At this point, the FoodTruckr Twitter account has 497 followers, which is great. With that said, it’s interesting because many of the food truck owners, I’ve found, use Twitter primarily as a tool for letting their followers know where their truck is located, and when it’ll be serving. Many could benefit from using it to actually interact with their fans and customers too. Many do, but not enough it seems.
So, the interaction on Twitter with other food truck owners has been great, but not as good as on…Facebook!
The FoodTruckr Facebook Page currently has 2,427 followers, and it’s growing at a rate of about 100-150 fans a week. I did run a small $200.00 Facebook ad campaign to get the first thousand fans (for social proof purposes, knowing Facebook was going to be a large part of the brand), but this was right around the time of launch.
Since then, the page has grown organically. I have not run any more ads since launch.
There are a number of reasons why I think this page has been growing so well:
- Most food truck owners are on Facebook anyway, and are more active at following other pages.
- The prominence of the Facebook fans box / widget on the homepage of FoodTruckr.com
- Being found near the top of search on Facebook itself.
That last one sounds interesting, and unfortunately there’s no way to know for sure because of the limited insights and analytics that Facebook gives its page owners, but if you type in “food truck” in the Facebook search bar, you’ll see Food Truckr pop up near the top, and because of it’s branding and imagery, I think a lot of people are clicking through.
Like I said before, most of the posts are scheduled at the beginning of the week, but the interaction, of course, happens from time to time over the course of the week as those posts get published.
Scheduling and automating is great, but for social media to actually work, you actually have to be social and interact. This is where many brands fall behind.
In 2014, plans are to take a Gary V. approach to a lot of the posts on FoodTruckr.com, similar to what I’ve started to do on Smart Passive Income’s Facebook Page – getting heavy with the graphics and share-ability of posts.
Unfortunately, sharing doesn’t help out in this niche as much as it might in others, and this is a challenge that I have that’s unique to this particular niche, and maybe a few others.
You see, food trucks interact and comment and they follow the page, but when they share – who are they sharing to?
They’re not sharing with other food trucks and people in my target audience, but with their own fans, who are not in my target audience.
Sharing is powerful, but when people share with people who are not in your target audience, it puts a major dent in your social marketing strategy. For most of us, when people share our content it’s not always to those in our target audience, but in my case, it’s nearly 100%.
And that’s okay! That’s the way it is, and I have to adjust accordingly and try new things to break into the industry. Here’s a little bit of what I have planned for early 2014…
Thanks again for reading the update. I hope it was worth the wait, I know a number of you have been waiting for a while – but as you can see, I’m just continually adding new content to the site and podcast, and slowly building the FoodTruckr audience and fan base. Over time, I suspect that it will grow much faster and become more of a well-known resource for the industry.
At this moment, there are a couple of strategies that are being implemented to hopefully gain more traction and exposure for the site.
First, we’re going to conduct an industry survey to collect data from food truck owners about how they run their truck, the equipment they use and the food they sell. This information will be very useful for everyone in the industry – not just food truck owners, but any company that may work with food truck owners, from food companies, to equipment and truck manufacturers, just to name a few.
Other than providing value to those in the industry, as the facilitator of this survey, it could really help put FoodTruckr on the map as an authority and mover in this industry. If this survey becomes a yearly thing, it could be one that everyone looks forward to each year, and a document that gets shared and helps spread word of the brand at the same time.
That’s the idea at least, and the survey has already been written and should be launched and promoted come February. We’ll see what happens, but I’m very excited about this strategy!
Secondly, the site’s latest content is currently focused on a “How to Start a Food Truck in…” series. The first phase of this series is to discover and create the steps required that are the same no matter what part of the country you’re in – business plan, branding, food and menu, etc.
The second part will involve research to figure out what the unique requirements are in each city to get a food truck approved, from the various code and zoning requirements to the licensing fees and other things that are city-specific. This potentially includes spots to serve, bars and restaurants that are friendly and often work with food trucks, etc.
Over time, a library of “How to Start a Food Truck in…” articles will develop, similar to what exists on SecurityGuardTrainingHQ.com right now, which has 2 articles for every single state in the U.S. – one for armed security guard training, and one for unarmed security guard training.
The vision is that anyone who wants to start a food truck, no matter what city they live in, will be able to come to FoodTruckr.com, discover exactly what they need based on their location, and become a fan of the brand from the start.
At that point, the site could promote branding services, website creation products (from turn-key solutions to consultation and more involved help), to membership sites and more.
As you can see, I’ve got a LONG road ahead of me, but I’m enjoying every step of the way.
Cheers, thanks for your support, and I’d love to hear what you think!