CSVJSON — Self Rise of an Online Tool

In January 2014 I launched CSVJSON, an online tool to convert, validate and format JSON. I built this tool to help me solve problems I was encountering over and over as a developer. So I thought it would be useful to share my tool with the world.

The first year, no one was using it. In 2015, it started picking up. And now, in March 2016, I get over 600 visits a day. 85% of the traffic is organic while the rest is mostly through direct access. I must state that no marketing was ever done. This growth is purely organic.

This paper tries to answer a couple of questions.

  1. What led to the rise of CSVJSON in Google page rankings?
  2. How to further increase traffic?

To help answer these questions I asked Samuel Lavoie to help me. Samuel is a friend who also happens to be an SEO and Inbound Marketing expert. He was kind enough to take some time and dive through the data and help me with the analysis.

First however, let me describe what this tool is all about.

What is CSVJSON?

CSVJSON allows a developer to do 3 things:

  1. Validate and format (beautify) JSON
  2. Convert CSV (comma separate value) data to JSON
  3. Convert SQL (search query language) export to JSON

These are essentially tools a developer sometimes needs to do his work. I built these tools online to be fast, efficient and hassle free. I also incorporated some on-site SEO elements with definitions and insight. I tried to be concise though to give an awesome UX. Get in, convert and get out as fast as possible. Here’s a screenshot of the CSV to JSON converter:

A Year of Growth

CSVJSON was launched in January 2014. Growth however started mid 2015. This chart from Google Analytics shows the growth.

Some interesting facts:

  • 71% are new users. Mostly found organically through Google and other search engines.
  • The curve is jagged — peaks are weekdays and valleys are weekends (developers don’t work as much on weekends)
  • Sessions last close to 4 minutes. I imagine this is the time required to input the data, configure options, convert it, and copy it back.
  • In general, there is only 1 pageview per session. This means users go in, get their thing done and leave. They don’t wander around.

The interesting part is the growth. The curve shows a constant progression. We’ll analyze where the growth comes from. But first, let’s see which tool is used more.

Most Popular Tool

Looking at the last two months, January and February 2016, we can clearly see that CSV to JSON conversion is the most used tool with 72% of visits. SQL to JSON is far behind at 14%. Disappointing is the fact that JSON validation/beautifying is only 8% of visits because that is in my mind the value this tool provides. It is where I spent most on development time.

Traffic Sources

As I mentioned earlier, I made no marketing. Looking at February 2016, we can clearly see that Google and possibly other search engines are bringing traffic organically. With a very low bounce rate of 24% might I add.

Opportunity

Let’s have a look at what developers search for on Google.

In February 2016, CSVJSON got 106K impressions in Google Search. It got a 11% click through rate. Mostly driven by the keyword search term “csv to json”. It ranks 1.4 on Google for that search term and gets around 50% of the clicks. That is very good.

However there is almost 4 times more traffic on the search term “json beautifier”[1]. CSVJSON ranks at 7th position for that search term and got a mere 2% of the clicks. That is the opportunity. To raise up in rankings to the first position in order to grab 50% of the clicks. That alone would allow me to triple the traffic.

According to Samuel:

“json beautifier” is more competitive than “csv to json”[2]. It also has more search volume.

This means it will be harder to get that traffic. The good news is that a deeper analysis using Google Search Console reveals a slow progression of CSVJSON for the search term “json beautifier”. On March 1st 2016, it averages a 7.2 ranking position. The trend seems to point towards a 6th or even 5th position down the road. That is good news! Unfortunately, I only have one month of data, not enough to extract a trend and make projections.

What Drove the Growth?

Today CSVJSON ranks 1st position for the search term “csv to json”. That wasn’t always the case. How did CSVJSON get to that position? Again, here is the growth curve:

According to Samuel, the search term “csv to json” is a low difficulty term. CSVJSON was able to gain a good ranking position and in return, it got good “strong qualitative and topic relevant links”. In his words:

Why is this happening? People are linking/referencing CSVJSON page because it’s being #1 in the SERPs, blogger and writers tend to search google for references. So by owning a good position on a low difficulty term, a page will acquire links by itself…

In addition, Samuel has a theory on the sudden increase in traffic since January 2016:

With further digging, the page https://management.cio.gov/schema/ seems to be online since October 2015, which could also correlate with ranking boost 2–3 months down the road.

Before that, the only significant backlink was from Github. For 20 months, CSVJSON was a public repository on Github which provided a backlink. It was also forked by 3 people for another 3 backlinks. In October 2015, I turned it into a private repo which removed those backlinks. Reason was I started putting Google Adsense on the site and wanted to keep that code private[3]. Yet CSVJSON continued ranking better on Google even after that. Other backlinks from domains with more authority took over.

I do believe that other metrics aside from backlinks helped a lot. Notably a long dwell time (4 minutes) and low bounce rate (24% through organic traffic). Google noticed that users who clicked on CSVJSON were satisfied. They didn’t come back to the search results to try another website. What I learned here is that today backlink is one of many factors. Google considers a number of other metrics for determining page rank. In this case, I believe dwell time and bounce rate drove CSVJSON’s page ranking authority.

Going Forward

Ahead lies my opportunity to improve ranking for the search term “json beautifier”. With 40k impressions a month, it has a lot more than the 11k impressions for “csv to json”. The good news is that CSVJSON is moving up in rankings for the search term “json beautifier”. On March 18th, CSVJSON’s average ranking position was 6.6, a 0.6 improvement from the 7.2 reported end of February (see above).

Samuel believes that CSVJSON’s increasing domain authority is helping to transfer equity on the same domain for the search term “json beautifier”. Search terms “csv to json” and “json beautifier” are like two communicating vases. He suggests to implement the following on-site strategies leverage one for the other:

  • Add a link in the homepage body text to the json beautifier page
  • Add a link in the csv2json body text to the json beautifier page
  • Add pages to the topic json beautifier (and beautify json) based on some of the most popular user’s questions.

Samuel also suggests the off-site strategy of answering questions on Quora linking back to CSVJSON. He believes by implementing those, we will accelerate the rise in ranking for “json beautifier”, and at the same time reinforce the strength of “csv to json”.

As for myself, I also want to implement another strategy. To turn the Github repo public again. And that’s exactly what I’ve done.

github.com/martindrapeau/csvjson-app

This allows CSVJSON to get some backlinks from Github. The first backlink is from my repo. Then, anytime a developer forks the repo, I get another backlink. An open source repo also allows me to crowdsource development. With more than 600 visits a day, I’m hoping there are enough eyeballs that some people will get involved either through asking for enhancements, reporting bugs, or even developing features. In this sense, Github is the perfect marriage between SEO and development. Time will tell if this strategy improves traffic and ranking.

On the flip side I am a bit concerned that someone may jump into the game by forking the repo to publish their own website in order to compete against me. Fortunately csvjson.com now has enough domain authority to mitigate that risk.

Stay tuned. I hope to publish a follow-up in a few months when more data is available.


Thanks to Alexandre Gauthier and Olivier Cabanes for reviewing this text.

Notes

[1] Samuel points out that terms “json beautify” and “beautify json” should be bundled together. That makes for 50K impressions. Samuel explains:

“json beautifier” and “json beautify” are synonyms for Google so you can bundle them together. How to tell? A search for beautify json or json beautify will return results oriented toward json beautifier. So json beautifier is the key expression and the other 2 are part of the same topic.

[2] MOZ Analytics was used to determine keyword difficulty:

[3] AdSense was removed in January 2016 in favor of cross marketing Ludo’s Quest, an HTML5 game I wrote and managed to publish on iOS and Android. But that’s another story. With less than 15,000 monthly views, AdSense wasn’t generating more than 1$ a month.

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