STARTUP

How (Even A Long) Vacation Helps My Start-Up

Entrepreneur Eileen P. Gunn writes about taking time off from her new family travel website to go to Germany with, you guessed it, her family.
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It’s just before 8:00 in the morning on the 13th day of a 19-day vacation. I was supposed to write this blog several days ago, but my plan to work early mornings and evenings on my new website, FamiliesGo! while on a family vacation in Germany has been nearly impossible. 

After dealing with later than usual bedtimes for my preschooler and organizing for the next day’s adventures, I’m ready for sleep myself. I’ve done little more than check my email and answer what I absolutely have to, then glance at my Google Analytics and fret over my slowing traffic. There have been a few mornings—not enough—like this one, where I’ve been the first one up and can squeeze in a half hour of work while the coffee brews.

I have to admit my empire suffered from neglect on the first ten days of my trip. With no blog posts, no new listings in the site’s Hotel Guide and no new Facebook or Twitter activity, my traffic fell to less than half of the 232 visitors I had in my previous ten days. I’ve made a trifling $17 in Google Ads for August— most of that in the first half of the month before I left town—compared with $13 during the mere six days in July that we were live.

Things shifted in a better direction after I found the time to publish a guest blog and some hotel listings I had readied before I left. And I’ve been better about Tweeting and Facebooking for at least a few minutes in the evening, when my mostly US-based followers are still at their computers. 

The one nice thing about being on vacation and not posting things constantly is that I’ve been able to see more clearly what spurs new traffic and where that traffic comes from. I’ve harvested some helpful strategic insights.

The guest blog, about traveling with tweens, spurred a nice spike in visits to the site, a handful of comments and several new Facebook followers after a long plateau. A lot of people assume parents of older kids need less help and advice than those with small children and parent-travel content tends to skew toward people with babies and toddlers. So this is new traffic to the site is interesting and an incentive to find ways to serve up other content for parents with school-age kids and teenagers. I’m now always on the lookout for more guest bloggers who can address this demographic that I can’t. 

Also, it’s become apparent that while my Twitter followers outnumber my Facebook followers by 3.5 to 1, Facebook drives two to three times more people to my website. I need to learn more about building my Facebook following and getting Facebookers to click through to the website.  Luckily, a day or two after observing this, an invitation landed in my email inbox to a workshop for entrepreneurs on getting more out of Facebook. I signed up from Munich.

I’ve also come to fully appreciate that, traffic issues and time away from the laptop aside, this trip has been valuable to me. As a person running a family travel website, I need to get up from my desk and travel. I’m now able to add a new region to the FG Hotel Guide with hotels I’ve personally visited. I’ll get easily five blogs out of the trip, including another video. I’ve also had the opportunity to acquaint myself with JFK, Heathrow, and Frankfurt airports—all major hubs— through the eyes of a parent. I’ve already added a tip about play area in Heathrow to my homepage. (Last time I went through Heathrow I wanted to find a proper pint, not a play area.) And every scrap of travel I do with my husband and child adds to the body of knowledge I can draw on as a "family travel expert".

All entrepreneurs struggle with the reality of not being able to be everywhere at once. And planning the vacation soon after launch wasn’t ideal in terms of building momentum, but on balance I hope the long-term gains outweigh the short-term setbacks.

Now, time to wake the family and head out for the day.

 

Last updated: Sep 22, 2011




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