Exactly 2 years ago, I registered and started Tracking Happiness. I had no experience in creating a website and practically no expectations. I had an idea of what I thought it could become, but no way of knowing whether I could do it at all.
Now, we're here, two years later and a LOT has happened. I wanted to take a breather for a moment to consider what has happened in these 2 amazing years. This post is about the highlights of Tracking Happiness over the past 2 years.
It all started on April 1st, 2017:
Registering the trackinghappiness.com domain name and getting started!
- The initial goals of Tracking Happiness
- Where is Tracking Happiness at the moment?
- Highlights of Tracking Happiness
- Where do we go from here?
- What about you?
The initial goals of Tracking Happiness
The first of April 2017 was a quiet day for me. My girlfriend was busy and I had no plans on that Saturday, so I decided on a whim that I was going to start working on this idea that I've had for a while. I registered the domain and started building out the website Tracking Happiness.
I initially wrote a couple of pages about the idea of tracking happiness, why I started and why I continued. But I also created a page about my goals: the goals I had for Tracking Happiness.
Here is a couple of them:
- Reach 1.000 site views
- Reach 10 comments
- Reach a word count of 100.000 on-site content
- Accumulate 5.000 site views
- Get featured/quoted on another site with one of the posts
- Get a guest to do a post about tracking happiness
- Inspire 10 persons to track their happiness
- Reach 5.000 monthly site views
- Rank first on Google for the search term "Tracking happiness"
- Create a regular blog section, to further branch out within the Happiness genre
I'm absolutely THRILLED that Tracking Happiness has reached all these goals by now (and more, which I'll discuss later!)
Where is Tracking Happiness at the moment?
Tracking Happiness is doing great! But I believe the website can grow a LOT more still.
At the moment, there are about 200 visitors per day on average, which mostly visit the website via Google. This number is growing nicely every month!
I've learned that it's preeeeetty difficult to get a website to the number 1 position in Google. See how one of my initial goals was to rank first on Google for the term "Tracking Happiness"? That took me over a year.
Yes, more than a year.
Now, others might have done it within a month, but when I first registered this website 2 years ago, I didn't even know the difference between HTML and CSS, let alone what it takes to get a site to the number 1 spot.
It felt good once I eventually hit that number one rank in Google. It finally seemed like I had an idea of what I was doing. 🙂
I finally reached #1 with Tracking Happiness over a year after first starting!
Once I reached that #1 spot, I thought: "This is it: Job well done. Now let's sit back and watch this thing shoot to the moon."
I was so wrong.
Turns out that not a lot of people around the world google the words "tracking happiness". This idea needed a lot more work in order to grow.
Let's have a look at some of the successes I've had along the way.
Highlights of Tracking Happiness
Here are a couple of things that stand out when I think back to the last 2 years of working on Tracking Happiness:
Almost 700 people have signed up for my Tracking Happiness template!
This is such a wonderful statistic. I've somehow inspired almost 700 people to give me their e-mail address so I can send them a link to my Tracking Happiness Template. This is why I first started working on this website, because I really do believe that the world can be a better place if more people learned more about their happiness.
This is one of the things I'm most proud of.
If you're one of those people, let me thank you from the bottom of my heart. You keep me going.
One of the things I like most about hosting Tracking Happiness is that I get to publish nerdy data analysis essays about how certain factors influence my happiness.
I call these my happiness case stdies.
Last year, I wrote an article about how my sleep habits influence my happiness. It turned out to be a quite detailed data analysis, so I decided to share it on a platform called Hacker News. I posted it there, not expecting anything to happen to it.
2 hours later, there were >250 browsing Tracking Happiness simultaneously!
I coudln't believe it either so I had to make a picture
Tracking Happiness received about 40,000 pageviews from that single article alone. I doubled my entire traffic counter of over a year within a couple of days! It was total madness. Here's the post on Hacker News for those who are curious.
I made $9.89 so far!
Yes, Tracking Happiness made me $9.89 last month (February). Amazon paid me that money because some lovely people decided to buy a nice leather journal from my review article.
Now, you're probably thinking: "who in their right mind would create an entire website just for that little money?!"
And that's the thing that a lot of people can't get their head around: I'm not building Tracking Happiness because I want it to make me some money. No, I'm building this website because I believe the idea of Tracking Happiness can help a LOT of people on this planet. I'm not in it for the money.
In fact, I've spent hundreds of dollars on server hosting, design, marketing, e-mailing and software just in order to build and maintain this website.
And that doesn't even factor in the >1,500 hours of my life that I spent on this website. That's 104 weeks of work and on average 15 hours per week.
Again, I'm not doing this for the money.
I've learned a bit about web-design and hosting!
It turns out I really like working on this website. I didn't know it when I started, but building a website and working on its design is something that I really enjoy doing!
When I first started, I hosted my website on Bluehost servers. This company really caters towards beginners, and creating this website was much easier than I expected!
This is what this website looked like 2 years ago!
A very simple web design that was perfect for me as a beginner
Over time, I learned more and more about web design, page loading speed, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), copywriting and all that stuff. Eventually, I slowly become more comfortable tweaking this website and improving as much as possible.
I eventually wanted to design a landing page by myself. This is what I first came up with:
The most depressing landing page ever
Looking at this TERRIBLE design makes me chuckle. At the time, I thought this was looking quite good. Luckily, I asked for feedback on Reddit, which got me to learn a lot more about design than I already knew.
Eventually, I further improved the design to what it is today. I hired a great designer to create a killer logo, and I'm finally feeling like this website is slowly becoming a more recognizable brand.
Yes, a brand.
I'm hoping that Tracking Happiness becomes more than just a "blog". I want people around the world to become familiar with the concept of Tracking Happiness!
The ups and downs of marketing
Let's go back to that first day of the website. On the first of April 2017, I was quite naive. I thought: "if I just write original content, people are eventually going to find it".
It may have been that easy in the early 2000s, but not anymore. You need to market your idea if you want people to find it. I've learned that this is true for just about anything.
A good idea means nothing without marketing.
So I started to look for avenues on which I could market this idea and found especially Reddit to be great. I've posted a lot of my articles on there, and these have had a great reception:
Some of my attempts were less successful though!
Marketing a website sometimes requires thick skin
Here's another one. I've been posting status updates about the progress of this website on Reddit. Some people have difficulties understanding that money isn't my motivation when working on Tracking Happiness.
Apparently, Tracking Happiness is an in-denial failure because it's not making money
These are just a couple of examples of how "interesting" marketing can be. It's been a wild ride, that's for sure and I'm just as motivated to continue with this journey as when I first started! 🙂
All the crap that comes with trying to build a website means nothing to me compared to hearing about people who I've inspired. And that's the BEST part of this website.
This website has apparently touched and changed people around the world that I've never even met.
Having a positive impact on others
After a couple of months of working on the websites, something funny happened. I started to get positive feedback on Tracking Happiness. People started to reach to me, and they all wanted to tell me how cool the idea of Tracking Happiness is and how they're going to try it.
That's what keeps me going. I really appreciate these kind words, and I want to show you a couple of them!
Sanjay was one of the first to reach out to me about how cool he thinks the idea of Tracking Happiness is.
The ability to look back and review my own thoughts provides a unique insight into the workings of my own mind at a certain point in time, and enables me to see how much I've changed since then. It's almost freaky, how different I was back then.
He's written about his experience here on the website. Additionally, he's gone out of his way to inspire others to try it as well! Consider my mind blown.
This is what Justin (someone who reached out to me over email) thinks about Tracking Happiness:
The Happiness Tracker changed my life, I’ve talked about this process to a few friends and family. I hope others can see how even minor entries can lead to huge changes. Start slowly by tracking your weekends or your Mondays. Trying to document everyday it’ll be difficult to carve out time with the list of other responsibilities you might have. If you have any questions, I know Hugo is always helpful and responds right away to emails.
This really warms my heart. 🙂
A random stranger
Here's another Redditor that I featured in my "How Happiness Is A Choice" article:
WOW. This article was so helpful for me! And I love the happiness tracker that you had at the bottom of the article... I have been doing something similar for my postpartum depression. Every day I rate my mood and look at the factors that contributed to it. I am not nearly as diligent as I'd like to be though. I'm going to look more closely at your site for some more ideas. How wonderful. Thank you for getting in touch and for putting positivity into the world.
Sajad from Iran
Waking up to see a comment from Sajad on Tracking Happiness was really awesome:
I just wanted to say as a middle eastern guy who is living at Iran I think I’m happy even though many things are banned such as Beers ( all alcoholics), dancing (it’s illegal), mandatory hijab and more… Surprisingly people (including me) are still happy despite of crazy inflation rate that we are struggling with.
Reading your post is really heartwarming for me and I just wanted to say keep working man.
It's comments like these that keep me going.
Another random stranger
Here's someone on Reddit who said this in reply to my Happiness Essay about sleep habits:
Just wanted to say great! Looking at your method page for happiness measurements, I thought that this is how life becomes knowledge... I wish my students could see your article in full... Is just the don't speak English. As for me, I'll be talking to them about your little scientific enterprise. Loved it because it's simplicity! Thanks!
Again, having random strangers across the globe reach out to me like this is a fantastic feeling. I don't care if Tracking Happiness never becomes profitable, I just really like the idea that Tracking Happiness is positively influencing the lives of people who I have never even met.
That's the greatest thing about creating this little corner on the internet.
If you told me Tracking Happiness would be able to move people like this 2 years ago, I would have called you nuts. But here we are. Tracking Happiness has really grown into something that I'm very proud of.
But I'm not done.
Where do we go from here?
I'm going to keep working my ass off on growing this website. I truly believe that this website can become much bigger, reach way more people and have a much bigger positive influence on the world!
I hope I can get it there. Let's see what happens between now and the 1st of April 2020.
This year, I'm going to focus on the following things:
- Create more inspiring content on the Happy Blog
- Publish more nerdy happiness case studies about the data that we all collect
- Share more experiences of others who also started tracking their happiness!
- Find more ways to spread the ideas of Tracking Happiness
I'm also looking to experiment with advertisements on this website. No annoying pop-ups or paywalls, just a little advertisement in the content here and there. I'm hoping this could offset a bit of the cost of keeping this website online!
Anyway, I'm going to continue to work hard to further grow this website, and I'll see you at the next anniversary of Tracking Happiness!
What about you?
If you've come all this way, right at the bottom of this 2-year anniversary post, why not share your experiences?
What do you think of the concept of Tracking Happiness? What do you like about it? What do you hate about it?
I'd love to hear from you! Let me know whatever you think about it in the comments below! 🙂