How To Grow A Blog To Nearly 200,000 Page Views A Month In Under 3 Months – And Why You Shouldn’t Bother
How competing with the largest technology news websites in under 3 months taught me a whole load of ultra valuable lessons about SEO, blogging, content marketing and social media.
I was feeling a little nostalgic today, and decided to take a look at some pretty impressive statistics that I actually do not talk enough about in my opinion.
Back in 2011 I set myself a challenge:
The outcomes of which I hoped would be varied and very beneficial, and trust me they were truly illuminating.
I wanted to start a technology blog based on the mobile sector, yes the technology market.
A market saturated with wannabe bloggers and geeks who are no fool when it comes to bashing out a WordPress website and dabbling in some basic SEO and social media marketing.
Anyway I was advised by many that I had my work cut out and I should niche deeper, sod that I basically replied.
I wanted a real challenge and I had/have a lot to say about this growing area, an area that felt really intriguing and exciting at that point in time.
Mobile was really starting to become ubiquitous and I could only predict the future of this global adoption to be truly massive and life changing for humanity so I started to set about with a plan.
One of my articles ‘why I know hate my Samsung S2‘ was (I believe) competitor SEO’d to sabotage Samsung by the likes of Apple’s PR arms etc and I was constantly on page 1 of Google for the term ‘Samsung S2’ as a result.
So at any one point for many, many weeks and months, up to 20-30 people were sat reading that article.
Why did this article become so successful?
It was opinionated, had a negative element in it (great for competition to latch onto) and dare I say it made a pretty good point that touched a nerve about dire battery life.
What I did learn was your blog title needs to be killer; succinct, long, whatever it takes to get people to click, but make sure your content is also quality or impact and ‘shareabilty’ are totally lost.
Plus you want those followers and likes anyway, and only quality will bring people back and allow you to gain their trust.
Social media matters
After a while I was sick to death of tweeting articles, liking and sharing on Facebook etc etc so I used Onlywire when it was new as it was perfect for me to schedule masses of content, auto update and post and do all that dull work pretty quickly.
I also had various other key digital marketing systems in place to aggregate news (Google alerts etc) and had a system in place to SEO articles using Greg’s High Performance SEO plugin which I totally pushed to its limits.
Trust me running a successful blog needs a plan!
I have to say that I was doing pretty hardcore content marketing before it really had a term, and it worked.
I was already very good and knowledgeable at SEO with many successful client campaigns and results and I read a lot about theory and tested ideas, so it was fair to say I felt I had a ‘chance’.
With my skill-set in place I also wanted to do more with social media and news syndication and of course aggregation/curation to find what was newsworthy.
But you need to know that I started out blind, mainly writing opinion based articles, averagly written for the most part, my grammar can be poor but has admittedly got better from blogging.
In the end I was bashing out upwards of 4-6 blogs a day of between 300-600 words, with all the hardcore SEO that I put in to each this was seriously draining and dull for me.
The tipping point
But hey it doesn’t stop you and you keep going and then there comes a point when you see that you are getting some real traffic, some engagement and a unique voice and at this point I went straight to Google and submitted a request to be accepted to Google news.
I was accepted into Google news within a few weeks and my traffic went instantly crazy so when people were typing ‘iPad’, if I had wrote a good quality SEO article on an iPad, safe to say I was on page 1 at the top in the news section.
I also approached News Republic when they were just starting out (now one of the biggest curators of news in the world) and I got accepted into that application along with BBC, Sky, and other larger news arms and then Appy Geek when it arrived, both of which at one point made me a couple of hundred pounds from advertising revenue in a month.
So did this alter my articles/editorial decision making?
I ended up in a time warp following my competition such as, TechCrunch, Gigaom, Engadget, Gizmodo etc etc and all the large sites that I totally competed with by myself in terms of stealing traffic.
We all essentially wrote the same articles about iPhone updates (to get clicks for people searching for iPhone and variations on this theme) daily to get our boost of lucrative Google traffic and make them more cash for clicks, but hey it was paying for itself so I fed the beast.
However, obviously my competition were still able to write in-depth quality pieces as they had the clout, the staff and the links to many other areas.
I did see a lot of traffic spike for ‘help me‘ type articles which made sense but it was tough to keep up with all the techie aspects by myself.
What did I earn?
In terms of monetisation I never quite got it right, I wanted to interview people in the industry and offer exposure packages for new products etc and PR like a specialist firm.
I also considered setting up a mobile accessories website with drop-shipping but I admit to never getting it right in that aspect and I had grown tired of the reality of running a busy news website without financial backing and other people to add value for free.
In my top month from Google Adsense alone I was paid around £600+/month, which was pretty good but seriously way off the mark to what I needed to stay afloat and what I can earn as a digital professional, I was also offered quite a bit of recompense in various forms to post articles for others.
So should you set up a blog?
If you are not worried about money, maybe.
If you do want to be commercial, think very clearly about this and find like minds early and approach it in a business sense, you can succeed alone, I basically did, but I ran out of steam and energy chasing Google news traffic for pennies and lost sight of the opinion (interesting) part of the initial blog make up that made it irreverent and slightly out-there, and much more fun.
But that is a much harder hill to climb, (the commercial world makes it so) though arguably with less traffic and more focused attention you can make more money from synergy with the ‘right’ people you are attracting.
Personal branding as a consultant is one area a good personal or expert blog can really help you command more per hour for instance.
Key lessons I learned
Content is king but quality is queen, and together the couple are stronger.
SEO is not dead it has however become much more about being relevant and focused and doing a number of things right which are less about ‘traditional’ SEO and more about being mindful and useful and having the ability to share and engage with your content.
You can get a successful blog going pretty quickly but you need help from an expert unless you can do the wide amount of areas that I can easily.
I learned so much from being hands on in that 6-8 month period that I honestly don’t think any of it was wasted and it certainly put me on the map of being able to pull of what many thought was impossible.