The Countdown To Red Cups Begins

October 25, 2015 1:57 PM

This week will be one of those week's where I'll be glued to graphs. It's the week where coffee drinkers from around the world want to get their hands on Starbucks' Christmas drinks. My website, Countdown To Red Cups, counts down to their return.

I built countdowntoredcups.com back in 2011 and within a few days of launching the site it was ticking over with a couple of hundred visits a day and appeared high in Google for Red Cup related searches, beating Starbucks' own pages.

It only took about five days for the site to get its first bit of attention. It was discovered by two radio presenters from Xfm who shared the link on their Twitter accounts and also mentioned it on air. Although I worked for the group that owned Xfm at the time they found it totally independently, the first sign that the site was going viral. Obviously this on air mention created a midweek spike in traffic, only to be followed up by another spike at the weekend when the site was mentioned on BBC Radio 5 Live.

The site continued its growth in traffic, picking up more likes and more tweets, including lots of retweets of the hashtag #redcupsarecoming.

I was amazed a few weeks later when I had a day which dwarfed the previous highs created by the radio mentions. Starbucks sent out an email newsletters to their subscribers, at the bottom of the email was the phrase "Red Cups are coming" - a tease from Starbucks and enough to get thousands of people heading to Google to find out exactly when they were coming.

With my website ranking higher than Starbucks' official site for Red Cup related search terms, it was countdowntoredcups.com which gave them the answer, and of course they then shared the site via Facebook and Twitter with their friends.

On November 2nd 2011, it was the site's first "Red Cup Day" and it was a huge day for traffic. The site picked up around 1,000 Facebook likes in a few hours and out performed previous day highs in unique visitors by around 10 times. At this point the site was truly viral and it didn't take long for US media to notice. I was contacted by a journalists at Fox News in Chicago who asked if I would take part in a TV news feature about Red Cups and why people get so excited about their return.

In its 50 day existence during 2011, the site was visited over 50,000 times, over 10,000 of those visits were on "Red Cup Day" and in total users generated around 60,000 page views. The site received over 3,000 Facebook likes and was posted to Twitter over 200 but was but was talked about in tweets and retweeted hundreds more times. 54% of visitors to the site came from the UK, 45% from the US, the remaining visits came from 57 other countries around the world.

But this was just the start of it and the site has grown each year since. The biggest problem to overcome was the bounce rate of 82%. Users who visited the site vanished again as soon as they'd seen the countdown, this means they didn't spend much time on the site (average 36 seconds) or click on to more pages (average 1.2 pages per visit).

In 2012 I added a social voting mechanic which allowed users to vote for their favourite Red Cup via Twitter using a hashtag, the site tracked the votes and displayed the results. This increased the page views per visit to 1.5 and in 2013 the addition of regular posts and updates got the site up to 1.9 pages per visit.

The unique users grew from 50,000 in 2011 to 70,000 the following year and 85,000 in 2013 and massive 224,000 in 2014. Page views grew from 60,000 in 2011 to 340,000 in 2014.

This year so far, the site is tracking about 40% up on last year, so it's sure to be a big year again. I remember writing last year that "countdowntoredcups.com is the single piece of content which has had the most engagement out of anything I've ever produced," this fact has now been blown out of the water by my YouTube channel which is currently getting around 20,000 views a day and 700,000 a month. My biggest video, 'How To Make A Mermaid Potion' currently has around 850,000 views in total and is fact approaching the 1 million mark.
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