We got 7,614 users to the site in February. This is how that compares to the previous months (blue line is target exponential growth, orange dots are actual):
It’s funny, when I drew up that blue line at the beginning of this blog, I said multiple times to “take it with a grain of salt” because traffic doesn’t actually grow that mathematically.
But so far, our actual traffic data has come eerily close to that line. I have no explanation for that.
Now of course, we are entering the super steep part of the curve, so it will get (literally) exponentially harder.
You’ll remember from our January update that we were aiming for 10,000 users in February, we didn’t hit that. We only published 4 articles in February and underestimated the lack of time Benji would have due to moving from San Francisco to Bali (believe it or not).
We also just guessed when it came to wanting 10,000 users, and we had no plan. We didn’t even do basic math to figure out how many posts we’d have to publish to hit that or what else we should do.
That, of course, is changing in March, which you can read all about in this post.
Acquisition: Where Traffic is Coming From
This largely stayed the same as last month. Most of our traffic comes from marketing communities:
A few notable things. We got 1000 sessions from Medium, obviously due to Benji’s article on Medium.
We also experimented with trying to promote our posts on Reddit.
Benji: “I experimented with having some friends share our articles on Reddit and also tried paying someone on Fiverr to post one of our articles on Reddit. While, it was the 5th highest source of traffic, the traffic quality was very poor. I had experimented a lot while at ThinkApps paying people on Fiverr and while it used to work well (1 post got 9,000 views in a day and another got 11,000 – both with high time on site), it doesn’t seem like that strategy works anymore. Someone sent me a book on Reddit today (Thank you), I’m going to test some things out and we’ll report back next month.”
Finally, note the power of influencers, our 9th highest channel was Darren Rowse’s Facebook Page. He published one post about our post and we got 300 views from that alone.
I would file this in the list of things you don’t expect. When I look at this post, I see 46 likes (besides me), 1 comment, and 4 shares. And yet, GA is telling us we got 291 sessions just from Darren’s page. Great. What’s also interesting is that we didn’t reach out to Darren. We’re guessing he must have found it through GrowthHackers or Inbound. But despite us not having reached out, it still goes to show the importance of somehow, someway, getting on the radar of influencers.
What Happened to Quora?
Readers of the February post may remember we were heavily trying to get traffic from Quora last month. We stopped. We just didn’t see any traffic spikes at all from it and it was incredibly tedious trying to write an answer a day and somehow finding ways to link to one of our (few) articles in those answers. After a while it felt like we were forcing it, so we gave up and stuck to other things that were working.
SEO: A Burgeoning Romance
SEO traffic is like watermelon at a summertime barbecue: everyone wants some.
We, of course, started with a brand new domain, so no links, no domain authority, nothing. Honestly, if we’re going to hit 40,000 users in 6 months, we’ll need some SEO traffic pronto, but I talk more about that in the emotions section.
To be honest, though, we aren’t doing much to intentionally build links. When we can, we’ll try contributing to posts that friends are writing or grabbing link opportunities here or there. For example Benji got into HuffPo (DA 96) after his Medium piece, and we also wrote a guest post or two, including this one in SumoMe (DA 67).
We’ve also noticed links in Roundups and other bloggers’ articles are happening without any outreach in our part, which is fantastic, such as this one in ProBlogger (DA 80) (we owe Darren Rowse some lunch or something):
So our own domain authority has now reached 22 according to the Moz Toolbar, up from 18 a while back and 20 a month or two ago.
SEO traffic is also on a steady (but slow) increase:
We got 337 sessions from SEO according to GA.
But there are other signs of life here. For example, impressions in Google search results is increasing exponentially:
Which is a great sign. (For those that are curious, impression means you appeared in a Google search result. Clicks are obviously what you want.) But we are still on page 3 or higher for terms that could get a decent amount of traffic, so clicks are much lower (but increasing slightly nonetheless):
We definitely have a long way to go on this front. We need the y-axis on the clicks graph to be in the thousands.
Here are the terms that we are showing starting to get impressions for:
“Hire writers” (and related terms) seem like a great keywords to be ranking for, and we are getting very few clicks for those, because we are on pages 4 and 5. So building more links for those terms and moving to the first page would be a game changer.
Here are the pages on our site that are getting some organic impressions:
Pages: What is Most Popular
Benji’s suggested search hack post did incredibly well last month, bringing in 3,375 unique pageviews alone:
We got to 990 email subscribers at the end of February, which is slightly ahead of schedule according to my totally made up exponential roadmap (blue line):
But more importantly, we finally set up thank you pages after people opt-in so we can measure them as goals in Google Analytics and see our conversion rate (hooray!):
So we’re converting 4.22% of visitors onto our email list. I was hoping for a lot better (6%+), but we are just starting to implement good content upgrades, so no shocker there. For example, Benji’s Medium virality post with a great content upgrade are converting over 6% so far:
And my recent growth model post with the spreadsheet based model I talk about as the content upgrade is converting almost 8% of sessions to subscribers so far:
Lastly, our homepage, which gets a decent amount of traffic is a simple list of posts with one small call to action at the top and a timed popups, and is converting at 4.5%. If we turned it into a proper homepage gate it should reach 12 – 20% conversion rates. We’re debating whether we should do that now, since getting people to read more, like us, and link to us, is more of a focus than growing the list at this time. But, to be honest, I go back and forth on that — I don’t know the correct answer.
This month we didn’t do a lot of new testing outside of Reddit. This is mainly due to me moving away from San Francisco and getting settled abroad.
We stuck to GrowthHackers and Inbound as the main sources of distribution and in turn those led to being picked up by the GrowthHackers Newsletter, Darren Rowse sharing our post on Facebook, and getting in the IMScalable newsletter.
February’s first big jump in traffic came from my Medium post. Most of the promotion for my Medium post was done through my personal Facebook page (since it was a story about a life event), getting friends to share my post, e-mail my personal e-mail list and our Grow and Convert e-mail list, and then trending on Medium. For more about promotion on Medium, for a step-by-step process of what I did, read this post.
The highest source of traffic came from my article Growing from 0-12k Organic Visitors by Mapping Content to the Sales Funnel trending at the top of GrowthHackers, getting the must read label, and getting included in their newsletter.
Going forward, we’ll be doing a lot more manual outreach to influencers we mention in posts (or with a tool such as contentmarketer.io), we’re testing if there is a way that we can be included in more newsletters, we’re going to be testing out Reddit in new ways, we’re testing out guest posting, and we’re going to be searching for more marketing communities that we can become a part of.
We’ll update you on progress in next month’s post.
I added this section last time to talk about the emotions we were going through during this challenge, since I felt like you don’t really see that much in the marketing world, you just see people bragging about the end result. I wasn’t sure whether people would care, but multiple people noted it:
So here it is again.
Making the March plan made me feel a lot better. In fact when I got the idea for it, Benji laughed and said only I would build out a post by post model for traffic. Maybe, but our goal for March is 20,000 uniques. And we are getting awfully close to needing to hit 40,000 in a 30 day span, so I think it’s important to have some sense of whether it’s possible and what we need to do to get there.
My feeling right now is largely positive, and that’s unrelated to whether we’re going to “hit” the goal or not. I’m just happy with what we’ve done already.
To be honest, I find myself caring less and less about the 40,000 number. I think 20,000 in a 30 day span is imminently possible, and I’d like to hit it. If we can, I think that’d be a solid achievement. Frankly I think to get 40,000 users in a month with no SEO traffic is difficult to impossible without having a piece or two go viral. Maybe that’ll happen or maybe we will break into page 1 at soon and things will change. Until then the focus has to be on keeping our content quality really high.
So overall I feel better than I did last month.
I’m trying to take things day by day and not trying to worry too much about the 40,000 number. Like Devesh said, I’m not really a planner, I’m a doer. I just try to keep grinding day in and day out knowing that if we just keep giving this our all, we should be able to hit the numbers we set out to hit. And if not, we should come pretty damn close.
That’s the thing about setting high goals for yourself, even if you miss them, you should end up in a good spot.
Like Devesh said above, I’m really happy about how far we’ve come over the last four months. I think the best part for me has been connecting with so many great people. Getting e-mails from people sharing how much they love what we’re doing and how much some of our articles have helped them is really rewarding.
I definitely understand where Devesh’s skepticism comes from. Where I miscalculated our 40,000 goal for six months was definitely underestimating the value of SEO traffic. When we hit 35k unique visitors in 6 months at ThinkApps, I had forgotten that even though we didn’t have many links when I started, the domain was over 2 years old (which helped us rank faster). We also got 80 something links when one of our articles got picked up by 9 to 5 mac and syndicated across 80+ sites. That drastically helped us build our link profile quickly. I’m not saying the same thing can’t happen, but we’ve definitely got our work cut out for us going forward.
To make up for the pretty much non-existent SEO traffic, we’ll definitely have to pull out all of the tricks in the book. We’ll need to leverage our network to connect us to some high-influence blogs that can hopefully help us gain more exposure, we need to increase the amount of content that we publish on our site on a monthly basis (we’ve only published 15 posts), and we’ll need a couple of posts to go viral within the same month. If all of those things come together at the same time, we should be able to hit our goal of 40k unique visitors in one month.