Website Feestdagen Belgie

Current Tasks

  • Migrating the backend of the solution to Node.js.

Overview

Target audience: 30-55y.

Launch date: May 2010.

This project has evolved into a complete ecosystem with a decent footprint across the Internet (at least in Belgium and The Netherlands).

This desktop web property consists of +-5000 web pages :).

Objectives

  • Business objective: to become a top resource for Belgian and Dutch visitors about the following topics: Belgian holidays, school vacations, offline and online calendars. This would not be an easy task because of the tough competition (mostly travel operators and print shops).
     
  • Personal objective: to establish a web property that could be used to improve all my related skills around Internet Marketing.
    An example: you need a high-traffic website for split-testing new ideas about ad creatives and knowing what works in your market and for your audience (this is more efficient, budget wise, than doing PPC to get these valuable results).
     
  • To get more than 1 million visits in 1 year.
     
  • To publish a web property with +1000 web pages and +50000 words.
  • I also wanted to offer NGO’s such as Médecins Sans Frontières a platform to increase awareness among the public.
     

The 1 million visits/year goal was achieved in January 2014 (for the 12 months of the previous year 2013) after 2 years of hard work administering, designing, developing, authoring stuff, networking and trying to beat the competition; and learning and documenting all relevant new stuff along the way.
I consider this project to be over now.

The 1 million unique visitors (not just page views, or web server hits) does not include the +100.000 visits by smartphone users who are using the Mobile Web App or the Android App, but it does include the users of the Google Chrome App.

Major Updates

The property is updated on a continuous basis.

  • 2016: creation of a calendar service for the years 1830 – 2099 including the Belgian holidays, extended weekends and school vacations. The objective was to create ever-green website content that does not have to extended every year. The calendars can be viewed online or downloaded as PDF documents or images. The service has been developed using Node.js Express.js (instead of WordPress CMS) and the Bootstrap V4 CSS framework. The downloadable documents are generated automatically by the backend (no manual work needed). We are happy to announce that the website now offers an additional 1500 downloadable calendars and an additional 4000 web pages.
  • Jan 2015: implemented a Mobile Properties promotion page.
     
  • Summer 2015: migration to the responsive premium WordPress theme Canvas (by WooThemes-Automaticc).
    This is a major task because the former WordPress theme StationPro and related WordPress plugins that I developed, were customized heavily by me. The color scheme will be changed dramatically as well (from a darkish color scheme to a light color scheme).
    Note that the previous WordPress theme did not have to be responsive because we serve specific mobile-friendly pages for smartphone users. I’m a strong believer that the use-case of a smartphone user is significantly different from that of a desktop user and as such a smartphone user requires a completely different UX (different User Interface and also different content). The reason for implementing a responsive WordPress though is to provide a better UX for the -tablet- user.

Please contact me if you want to discuss some aspects of this project. I have maintained a detailed log of all relevant activities (technical, functional and operational) so we can even shuffle back in time if you want.

Go to

  • Wayback Machine: Do you notice the evolution of the website? Check the Archive.Org Wayback Machine: July 2010 versus March 2015.

CMS WordPress

The website appears from the outside a pure content-only information website and that is great.

On the inside, the content is powered by a custom-made powerful declarative backend/backoffice (developed in PHP) which generates a lot of information automagically.

The WordPress CMS has been extended with various self-developed custom WordPress plugins and a heavily customized premium WordPress theme. Fact: the web property hosts more self-developed plugins than plugins of other authors.

Infrastructure

It was and still is a challenge to setup a scalable and secure infrastructure for such a high-traffic website.

The web property has been migrated out of necessity to a cloud server infrastructure with an HTTP Cache Proxy mid 2014. The cache configuration has been fine-tuned for a WordPress-powered website. Please read the description of this mini-project Varnish Cache & Cloud Server migration (Feestdagen website).

Some figures of the access logs:

  • The month January 2014 resulted in 85GB server bandwidth and 6.7 million server hits (excluding the data of the Amazon Cloudfront service).
  • The month November 2014 resulted in 110GB server bandwidth and 4.9 million server hits (excluding the data of the Amazon Cloudfront service).

You might notice that the number of hits for November 2014 is significantly lower than for January 2014 whilst the number of unique sessions increased (according to Google Analytics). The reason is that an HTTP front cache server was deployed in autumn 2014; and it handled many requests independently of the HTTP Server.

The operational costs have increased significantly over time because of the traffic increases but I consider this expense an investment in my career.

Website performance

The conversions and the ranking of this website have progressed very positively overtime.

The main KPI for this first website was initially traffic (things do not have to be presented more complicated than they are).

Now I know better, a website should have business-oriented KPI’s but at that time I focused only on basic metrics because it fulfilled my goals.

The website traffic increased steadily after the first 3 months. Around 2014Q1 I had the impression that the website is practically at its top regarding traffic. It is time to move on and start a new project.

Results of the blog article about the Belgian National Holiday Jul 21, 2014

Discover the exceptional outcome of this blog article. It scored unexpectedly an all-time-high since the start of this project.

  • An Average Time On Site of 7 minutes 9 seconds.
  • 30600 unique visitors (sessions).
  • The cloud cluster infrastructure remained stable and performant.

I have written a report to document the results of this specific blog article. it is actually a report for internal use. Please file a request to get a copy of the document.

Major Updates.

  • Jul 2015: the results for the 2015 blog article were even better.

The BP Oil Spill mini-project

It is somewhat ironic that I initially did not have enough material for this website due to a momentarily lack of inspiration and a French language training I had to attend.

Therefore I picked up a long trending topic of that summer to proceed. I decided to focus on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 because it was a major event that year and the news coverage spanned several months; this makes it an interesting topic for blogging. I must say that those oil spill pages got plenty of traffic during the summer and fall of 2010 (and still does). What did I offer? Well, I had setup a number of factual pages with plenty of multimedia (videos, maps, cams) about the event and I released several blog articles with the latest news about the event. The page that received the most traffic was the mosaic page with live feeds of various webcams that were installed on the sea floor near the wells that lost oil.

I was also “lucky” that the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico lasted much longer than anyone had anticipated.

The objectives of this BP Oil Spill mini-project were:

  • To gain more experience in copywriting and designing pages and articles.
  • To test if I could get traffic, e.g. rank well in the Search Engines, for the oil spill theme; opposed to the actual theme of Belgian holidays and school vacations and calenders for this website. And oh the traffic started coming in very quickly and remained steady over the course of a few months. So it was clearly proven that at that time the search engine rankings are primarily assigned at the page level (opposed to the website level).

After the BP Oil Spill mini-project

It is important to realize that this website does not stand on its own; it is part of a complete ecosystem around this topic. This portfolio contains a few related properties (but not all).

Later on I started to extend and refine the website and published pages and articles around the real theme of Belgian holidays and calendars.

The website had an average sessions/day of 3K, with seasonal lows of 1K and highs of 10K.

The related mailinglist has +1500 double-optin subscribers. I cleanup the mailing list on a regularly basis by removing the subscribers that do not engage sufficiently in order to lower the expenses of maintaining that list. If I had kept all subscribers then the list would have grown to +10000 in total.

Project Documentation

The documentation of this project is extensive (and sometimes too sensitive, re: security, authentication, competitive advantage) to put online.

The operational, technical, analytical aspects and optimized standard-operating-procedures of this project are documented internally.

I have listed the table of contents of just a few below. They are used by me and others to operate this ecosystem.

Demo’s

Please find below a screencast of the website with the WordPress theme StationPro (non-responsive but extremely optimized by me) as it existed for many years. This layout will be / has been replaced in 2015 with a customized responsive premium WordPress theme.

Notes

  • A recent mini-project covered the production of quality content to describe how to add the Belgian holidays and school vacations to your online calendar product or service.
    This covers various online agenda services (Telenet Webmail, Google Calendar, Apple iCal,…), various software products (Microsoft Outlook), and various devices platforms (smartphone iPhone/Android/Firefox OS, tablet iPad/Android/Samsung, desktops and laptops). The traffic (search and direct) to these pages is trending upwards significantly.
    Please discover it here (you might not like the orange grid but the color wheel told me this was a matching triadic color for the existing color palette).

Related Skills

I have learned and perfected many skills by developing this ecosystem, such as Advertising, Analytics, WordPress CMS and many many more of this list of skills. This website was actually the main ecosystem for developing my skills.

Related Projects