In October, I released 30 videos in 30 days for my annual SEOctober event. I posted these short videos on YouTube and for the first time since starting SEOctober, I decided to crosspost them on IGTV. These two platforms ended up behaving very differently though – and I want to share with you what happened to my YouTube channel and my Instagram.

Since I did things differently this year, naturally I got some different results. And since most of you probably aren’t also gonna go out there and just decide to post 30 videos for 30 straight days (by all means, go for it, if you’ve got the time!) I figured I’d share with you what worked for me and what didn’t work, how each platform functioned differently, and if I should choose to do this again, what I would do differently.

First of all, what is SEOctober?

If you’re new here, you might be thinking, “What the heck is she talking about?”

SEOctober is a marketing campaign that I’ve been running for the past three years where I released one video every day explaining the foundations of SEO in order to optimize one page on your website. In general, learning SEO is really overwhelming, so these videos help to break it into bite-sized pieces that people can watch day by day or binge all at once.

SEOctober YouTube playlist

A brief history of SEOctober’s evolution

When I first came up with SEOctober in 2019, I made it a private event for people who were on my email list. Every video and corresponding transcript were loaded into Membervault, my course delivery platform of choice. The great thing about MemberVault is that it has really cool gamification features so I was able to automatically unlock different bonuses and prizes for people as they were moving through the training – so this made SEOctober a fun “challenge.”

I also had a free private Facebook group where I gave people feedback on the homework they were assigned.

The humble origins & wild success of 2019

I had about 400 people join from my existing email list and about 600 new people (many of them were active in the Facebook group and ended up becoming students in my Attract and Activate program.)

The first year that I ran SEOctober, everything was kinda “get it now before it’s gone.” I started releasing videos on October 1st, I stopped releasing them on October 31st, and people had until November 15th to watch all the videos. If they hadn’t watched the videos by November 15th, they could either pay $25 for lifetime access, or they lost access (I just unpublished the videos).

So what I saw when I looked at my MemberVault analytics was that there was a big surge of people who were interested in the beginning of the month, and then there was a dip in the middle of the month with a surge towards the end of October.

Now I kinda came up with the idea for SEOctober on the fly, so to see how successful it turned out was super satisfying – and for a while, SEOctober became my “thing.” Even months after it ended, I would hear people say to me, “I heard about you through that free challenge!”

2020: Free content into personal outreach

Fast forward to 2020 and I started planning again for SEOctober 2020. I had an even bigger idea for what I wanted it to feel like. I wanted that same community of people working through it together, but this time I had a bit more time to plan and I’d grown my team more, so I was able to do more live events to give people feedback in the free Facebook group.

And because I had those MemberVault metrics that told me who was actually watching the videos, completing the homework, and doing the tasks, I spent a lot of time during that last week doing personalized outreach to people who were actively engaged.

Okay but what about the numbers, Meg?

I would say that the average conversion rate for a launch that’s trying to sell a product at the price point that I was working towards, is probably somewhere in the 1% to 3% range. In my first year of running SEOctober, I was able to convert about 2% of people who were on my email list, and because of the word of mouth that got our about SEOctober, that bumped up the next year, beyond that 2-3%.

2021: Shifting the private, short-term training to both public & evergreen

This year, though, I did things a little differently. The first thing I decided to do was to offer the daily videos on my YouTube channel.

I’ve been releasing weekly videos for the past 9 months on my YouTube, and week after week I see an increase in the number of people who are finding me and my channel. And let’s face it, I’m an experimenter. So I said to myself, “Let’s see what YouTube will do if I switch to daily videos. I know that the algorithm loves fresh content, so I wonder how it would react to this shift?”

I also wanted to be able to see how people would watch the videos. When I offered them in a private community, I would see spikes on Mondays and Fridays but this year, I also released videos on weekends. I guess I had 2 reasons for doing this:

  1. It’s okay to try new things and not know what the outcome is going to be
  2. I had a lot to say, so posting only on weekdays just wouldn’t cut it

I also know that the YouTube algorithm does not like when you remove content, so this year instead of giving viewers a deadline of November 15th, (which would’ve destroyed my credibility with YouTube), I left them all up on YouTube so anyone can watch them, at any time.

In previous years, I loved the urgency and the feeling of everyone moving through the content at the same time, but I also didn’t love that people had things happening in their lives in October and if they missed it, they missed it. That didn’t feel good to me as a creator; as somebody who teaches people to create to be found.

Another reason why I decided to make all of the content public this year is that I didn’t want to do a free Facebook group anymore. I personally don’t feel that great about promoting my business on Facebook – I have mixed feelings about Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook’s marketing system, so it no longer felt like it aligned with the way that I wanted to run my business.

I actually closed down my free Facebook group in May of this year because I was tired of giving everything away for free. I already had a bunch of free content out there, so instead, I wanted to leverage my time in order to create content for larger audiences. So this year I created a challenge for people who wanted to pay for it, for only $59.

People were able to get access to the same free videos, but we also had weekly coaching calls where I was able to give customized feedback to people in that paid community about what all of this meant for them. This was great because it gave them a taste of what it would feel like to work with me long-term in a more personalized way!

Using free content for email listbuilding with extra incentives to subscribers

In order to make it more interesting, I also offered special treats for people who joined my email list. So I sent daily video reminders to those on my email list to say, “Hey, don’t forget to watch this!”

We also turned the videos into a private podcast feed just for people who were on my email list (for those people who aren’t YouTube lovers or who prefer listening instead of watching).

Video reach & engagement on YouTube vs. Instagram

As long as we were creating all this free content for YouTube, we figured since we had 4x as many followers on Instagram, as I do on YouTube, why not publish it there too? After all, Instagram says that they’re a video-sharing platform now, so let’s just take the same videos and post them to IGTV.

I was hoping to have steady growth across both platforms, but that isn’t what happened – at all.

Before SEOctober began, I had about 500 subscribers on my YouTube channel and about 2100 followers on my Instagram. By the end of October (after releasing videos for 30 days), I had 330 new subscribers on my YouTube channel – which is a 66% increase – compared to the 3% increase I had on my Instagram account.

What we can take away from this is that YouTube really wanted to show my video in other content that people are watching (whether those are my videos or other people’s videos). On Instagram, though, my reach actually went down. People weren’t engaging with my videos, so Instagram stopped showing them to people after a while. It just wasn’t what the algorithm wanted to show people.

Why the big difference?

It’s simple, really: the goal of these platforms is different.

When people go to YouTube, they go to watch videos, to learn from long-form content. When people go to Instagram, they’re much more likely on that platform because they want to be entertained (So even a short five-minute SEOctober video was maybe just too much of an ask for this platform).

So this helped me double down on my decision to continue creating content on YouTube, that is meant to be found and meant to be consumed in its entirety.

How did SEOctober 2021 perform?

So with all of these changes that I’ve made with the decision to break outside of the “private community box” and have things go more public, how did SEOctober perform compared to the small, intimate community I previously offered?

Honestly, not as well as in previous years. I didn’t have as high of a conversion rate for my paid program at the end of this launch cycle – and I think there are a bunch of factors at play here!

I didn’t necessarily have that intimate feedback loop going on with thousands of people at the same time. I was still creating and I probably had a broader reach, but it was shallower.

I missed the experience of being in the inbox and having conversations with a larger group of people, but it was also much better for my mental health to not feel like I was “on” all the time.

One trend that’s entirely out of my control is that people are feeling burnt out of online learning. And although this could hinder my ability to reach those people, all I have to do is pivot my messaging to make sure I’m reaching these people.

Even though this particular launch didn’t bring in as many clients as previous years, I think it was worth it to try. By opening the doors and removing that sense of urgency, people weren’t as inclined to join as rapidly – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Because now that gives me a chance to be found by people for this same content for the rest of the year, the next year, and so on. It doesn’t create a shelf life on my content, the way that I’ve restricted myself in the past.

The bottom line: one launch is not going to make or break the way that I run things. I’m not going to let my self-worth fall apart because my conversion rate dropped by 1%.