Leaving Work Behind

How I Attracted 2,000 Visitors to a Brand New Blog [5 Steps]

Written by Tom Ewer on December 6, 2013. 50 Comments

CrowdMany people believe that a blog’s growth must follow certain “rules” — that you have to pay your dues over a period of weeks and months before you can expect to attract a sizable audience.

But in reality, one can build a blog and start attracting visitors tomorrow; it’s just a case of getting a few ingredients right.

With the above in mind, in this post I want to share with you the story of how I attracted around 2,000 visitors to my brand new blog and what ingredients were necessary in order to make it happen.

How a Brand New Blog Attracted Nearly 2,000 Visitors

If you are a regular LWB reader you will know about my relatively new blog, Healthy Enough. I say “brand new” above because I made some major changes last weekend which, when combined, were tantamount to starting from scratch.

In short, I turned my entire blogging strategy on its head. Instead of enormous 2-4,000 word articles once per week, I decided to start writing concise and actionable 4-600 word pieces every day (at least for the time being). To bring a clear focus to that approach, I decided to create a minimalistic theme that puts visitors’ focus entirely upon the content and allows it to be easily read across multiple platforms.

The new Healthy Enough.

The new Healthy Enough home page.

In the end I took down all of the articles I had written to date and started entirely anew (although I am re-purposing sections of the old articles to create new ones).

On Monday I started by publishing an article on fad diets featuring the opinion of Alan Aragon — the nutrition advisor for Men’s Health Magazine (amongst other things). I had asked Alan to answer one simple question: what he thought the single biggest change the average person can make to positively affect their health and fitness was.

My original plan was to include Alan’s answer amongst many others in an epic roundup post, the likes of which you see all over the blogosphere. However, that didn’t jive with my new content strategy, so I opted to make an entire article out of Alan’s quote.

I wrote up the article in about thirty minutes and hit Publish. before I went to bed on Sunday night I sent Alan a quick email as follows:

Hi Alan,

Although I had planned to include your answer in a larger piece, it inspired me to write a standalone article, which I’ve just published: http://healthyenough.net/alan-aragon-fad-diets/. It’s only a quick read (I like to keep things short and snappy on Healthy Enough). I hope you like it!

Cheers,

Tom Ewer

The next day, my analytics for Healthy Enough looked like this:

Clicky Analytics

It turns out that a few hours after I had sent my email, Alan had replied:

Love it! Shared it on Facebook to my 5000 friends & 4580 followers 🙂

Healthy Enough saw 1,283 unique visitors pass through its virtual doors that day, which places it amongst the top five traffic days Leaving Work Behind — a 2 1/2 year old blog — has experienced.

Of course, the traffic has since plummeted and things are more back to normal; one share does not make a blog. But that single share (and all of its associated shares) have brought nearly 2,000 visitors to my site over the past four days, despite the fact that the blog is (to all intents and purposes) only four days old. I have no doubt that the number of visitors from that single share will exceed 2,000 before the week is out.

How Did I Do It?

I believe there are five distinct reasons why I was able to get off to such a great start.

1. Design

Let’s face it: most new blogs look terrible. The design is typically amateurish. I’m not judging — I’ve been there and done that.

The problem with poor design is that it can persuade people that your content isn’t worth reading before they’ve even read it. If the above article had been posted on a typically amateurish-looking blog, the chances of Alan sharing it would have dropped precipitously.

That’s one of the reasons I chose to go with such a simple, minimal design. You might tell me that you don’t like it (and your feedback, as always, is welcomed), but I don’t think you can say it looks bad per se. It’s plain, simple and well-presented. In short, the design lets the content speak for itself, which is precisely what worked in my favor when it came to getting the article shared.

2. Content

There is of course no chance that Alan would have shared my article if it had been crap. I had to write something good to provoke the share.

I believe that the article has two broad characteristics which largely defined its success:

  1. It’s concise, well-written and engaging — i.e. it has something of value to offer the reader, but does not ask them to sacrifice anything more than a couple of minutes to read it.
  2. It takes Alan’s opinion and uses it as a basis for a rounded argument against fad diets.

I cannot stress the importance of the second characteristic enough. In a blogosphere filled with “30 Experts Talk About…”, I went in completely the opposite direction and focused on just one expert in one post.

What are you more likely to share: a roundup in which you are one “expert” amongst thirty, or a post that focuses solely upon you?

3. Depth of Content

If this truly had been my first post, Alan might have been reticent to share. After all, would the blog be around next week, or the week after?

So although I was starting from scratch, I spent last weekend writing up articles based upon the previous enormous articles I had written and scheduled them back to September 2013 (when the blog was first launched).

When it comes to launching a blog, I recommend this course of action. Don’t start with a handful of articles that you’ve just published — date them so that they stretch back for a period of weeks, or ideally, months. That way, your blog doesn’t look brand new, even though it might be.

4. Outreach

If you read my email to Alan above, you may have noticed that I didn’t actually ask him to share. Quite frankly, asking people for shares is something I have grown out of. I never liked doing it — it left a bad taste in my mouth.

Instead, I now focus on two things:

  1. Letting my content do the talking: if it’s good enough, people will share it.
  2. Building a long term relationship: someone might not share my post first time around, but hopefully that first interaction is just the beginning of a valuable relationship.

If Alan hadn’t shared the post, that would’ve been fine. But by reaching out to him and showing my respect for his opinion by writing an article based upon his opinion on fad diets, I have established a modicum of recognition in his mind for my blog. That’s something I can work with in the future.

I don’t mean for that to sound like I’m trying to “manufacture” relationships, because I’m really not. The fact is that I like a lot of what Alan has to say about health and fitness and he seems like a good guy. Why wouldn’t I want to be acquainted with him?

5. Luck

Finally, we must not ignore the key factor of luck.

I might write another five of these posts and not get a single share. That’s the nature of the beast, but it shouldn’t discourage you. If you put enough high quality content out there and work on establishing genuine relationships with influencers in your niche, I strongly believe that everything else will take care of itself in time.

It just so happens that I hit the jackpot with my first post. That won’t always happen. I understand that I may not experience that success again for some time (although I will certainly be trying to replicate it).

You have to be philosophical about blog marketing: it won’t always work. But the more times you try to make it work — the more times you give it an opportunity to work — the greater your success will be in the long run.

Like the old phrase goes, you make your own luck.

Putting It Into Practice

I was speaking to James Clear yesterday and he told me a quick story about a friend of his who had gotten in the best shape of his life over the summer with a specific training program. That friend was almost ruefully re-living the way he felt at the time. In response to that, James’ thought-process was clear: why did he stop? If he had discovered a training program that made his friend grow strong and feel great, why did he stop doing it?

The moral of the story is this: once you find something that works, do it again and again.

When it comes to Healthy Enough, I have a handful of different strategies I will be using to promote the site. The “expert opinion” strategy detailed above is one of them. Now that I have had a taste of success with Alan’s post, I will be making sure that I give myself the greatest chance of repeating that success by publishing many more similar posts. Here’s another one that I published yesterday (and no, the author hasn’t shared it yet ;-)).

So, if I have inspired you to try something similar to my one-post expert roundup strategy, remember that luck plays a big part, and repetition is the key to sustained success. Good luck!

Image Credit: James Cridland

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50 Responses to “How I Attracted 2,000 Visitors to a Brand New Blog [5 Steps]”

  1. Lisa Byrne
    December 6, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    Hey Tom-

    Love your Healthy Enough new look!

    I think anything that is shortened has more of a chance of being actionable especially in the health/fitness industry.
    That’s where I’ve spent my time for the last 28 years.
    I always enjoy seeing what you’re up to.

    Hey, the new look reminds me of Leo Babauta’s ZenHabits.com or even his mnmlist.com look. Love this simple, clean, clear feel.
    Did you borrow the idea from his stuff?

    Keep on rockin’ it!

    lisa

  2. Eric Gati | My 4-Hour Workweek
    December 6, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    Tom, this minimalist idea is interesting, and I think this is actually going to be a huge differentiating factor between your blog and the millions of other health/diet/fitness blogs.

    Reminds me a LOT of Zen Habits, which I have to believe you’ve seen before. 🙂

  3. Paul Hill
    December 6, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    Hi Tom,

    I did pretty much the exact same thing this week. I created a new Adobe illustrator tutorial for a new website. I then reached out to 10 popular graphic design bloggers requesting feedback on my tutorial…like yourself there was no request for a link or anything like that as I find all that a bit cringe.

    Within a day, I got a response back from a guy called Chris Spooner (graphic designer & blogger) who provided extremely positive feedback and said that it deserved a Tweet – he even said he had learnt something new. He sent the tweet out to his 75,000+ followers and the traffic to my site went crazy. I am still getting likes, tweets and links to the page and my YT channel as a result.

    Aside from the traffic and exposure to my site the thing that pleases me the most is knowing that my content is good – the reason I contacted those 10 people was to verify the value of my work and the traffic has just been a bonus. The important part for me now is to build on this and keep moving forward.

    Nice work on your blog Tom – hope you can capitalise on the traffic!

    Paul H

  4. Jackson Davies
    December 6, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    Hi Tom, this was a very interesting article. I agree that it is not always about paying your dues in time but I do feel that at some degree you have to spend a bit of time in the trenches to know how to best make that first move. Your example shows how using another person’s credability and contacts can get you a great start. There are no growth rules! Sometimes it is just about seeing the right opportunity at the right time. I find that experimentation makes us stronger!

  5. Sebastian
    December 6, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Great Post, like the idea of going simple and straight forward. I think that’s the way to go. Just wanted to ask is the used theme on the website written by you or could it be bought anywhere?

    Greets Sebastian

  6. debashish
    December 6, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    I love minimalist designs and this one is as minimalist as it gets. It’s quite similar to zenhabits though, isn’t it?
    The one expert one post formula sounds superb. I am definitely going to try it out.
    Thanks for the great post, Tom.

    • Tom Ewer
      December 7, 2013 at 12:36 pm

      Yep, that was a big influencer. I’m tweaking as I go and it’s got some very big differences to ZH in reality, but there’s no mistaking that it’s an inspiration.

  7. Sylvia
    December 6, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    Hi Tom,

    I am a HUGE fan of your work and a current new “student”. So please take my comments as nothing other than constructive criticism and personal opinion.

    I doubt highly that the massive traffic had anything to do with the new design. And could actually have a lot to do with the fact that those fans of Alan Aragon did not return (yet). Obviously that could change in time.

    As I mentioned in the LWB community forum, I think that people looking for healthy lifestyle info will want to see (at the very least) occasional photos. If you intend to include recipes and exercise tips, photos would be expected.

    I think I get what you’re trying to accomplish with a pure content and no distractions site, but I think it will turn off more people than attract. Again, just my opinion.

    I do wish you success and time will tell if I am proven dead wrong. 😉

    (For those that click on my blog and think “Egads! How garish. Who is she to criticise?” I know, I know. I’ve been working on a redesign.)

    Sylvia

    • Tom Ewer
      December 7, 2013 at 11:55 am

      Hey Sylvia,

      Not at all! I appreciate the feedback.

      I think we’ll have to agree to disagree at this point, but the beauty is that when it comes down to it, the numbers won’t lie to us. Given that the design is something of a hot topic, I plan to come back to this with some comparisons between new and old (and with other sites to), referring to bounce rate, time on site, conversion rates, etc.

      At this point the numbers are looking pretty favorable, but I’d like to finish tweaking the design and see more diverse traffic before publishing them.

      Just out of curiosity, would you consider to be part of the blog’s target audience? I.e. a relatively “average” person who would like to be more fit and healthy but doesn’t want to sacrifice their existing way of life to do it?

      Cheers,

      Tom

      • Sylvia
        December 7, 2013 at 1:10 pm

        I look forward to the follow up comparison post and tweaking of the site.

        As to whether or not I would consider to be part of the target audience…yes, I suppose so. My fitness level and health is pretty average but could certainly be better. I exercise sporadically and don’t want to make any changes in my life to make room for more.

        That said, I would have zero interest in following your Healthy Enough blog because it contains nothing but content that doesn’t hold my interest. I’m a voracious reader so that’s not the problem. It comes down to a boring looking site which subliminally tells me the content will be a snooze.

        I’ll be following your progress with that blog from a blogger’s perspective to see how it’s working.

        • Lisa Byrne
          December 7, 2013 at 1:21 pm

          I know we can all have our opinion so let me reply here. I don’t think it’s boring. Busy sites make me nuts. Personally , I have an affinity for simplicity and clean sites. I have a saying ‘less is less, there’s no need for more’.
          And I don’t see how the perception of a boring looking site is related to the content being snoozy.

          What is it that needs to keep your attention Sylvia? Curious on that.

          • Sylvia
            December 7, 2013 at 1:38 pm

            Hi Lisa,

            Love the less is less line.

            I said the boring looking site subliminally says boring content.

            When I first landed on the home page it looked like there would be nothing more to view or read. I wasn’t interested enough to read to the bottom of the page where the “more articles” link was located. So I looked for the navigation bar to see if there would be more elsewhere. There was nothing in the nav bar either. (I see today that both the top and bottom of the home page have been tweaked.)

            I don’t need or enjoy flashy or busy, but a little something more to indicate there is going to be more interesting stuff somewhere on the site.

  8. kashaziz
    December 6, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    So what is the monetization strategy for this blog?

  9. John Shea
    December 6, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    Great post Tom, this is very similar to the David Siteman Garland “shout out” strategy. Planting a seed by letting people know you mentioned them and just letting them share it without asking.

    http://www.therisetothetop.com/interviews-guests/favorite-ways-site-traffic-shout-out-strategy/

    • Tom Ewer
      December 7, 2013 at 12:01 pm

      Interesting…not something I’m familiar with (I don’t have the patience to sit through videos for the most part :-)). I don’t want to comment on his strategy as I haven’t read up on it, but simply mentioning someone and letting them know you’ve done it, in my opinion, is generally not effective.

      I say this from personal experience. If I get 20 emails per day from LWB readers and 5 per day are telling me that they mentioned me in something, will I remember them all? Or any of them? Regrettably not.

      What I will remember is someone who went the extra mile or did something unique (and did it well). That’s why I think Alan shared my piece. First of all, before he even read the piece he knew it was short and wouldn’t take long to read. Second of all, he knew that I was featuring him and him alone, which is pretty unusual (unless it’s an interview, but again, they’re even more common than expert round-ups).

      I’m not saying that the more traditional forms of outreach are dead, because after all, you interviewed me and that’s how we know each other, but if there’s ever an opportunity to do things a little differently, I think we should grasp it with both hands.

  10. Phil
    December 7, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    Wow, I did the same thing as you Tom! I started conceiving of a new health/lifestyle website a couple of months ago, spent some time writing about 6 very long, authoritative blog posts, then in the end decided to go for frequent, shorter posts. AND I’m doing a fair amount of outreach to get little content snippets from other experts. AND I went with a super simple aesthetic. Just launched this morning. Excited! Would love to cross promote some day…

    • Sylvia
      December 7, 2013 at 8:36 pm

      You just launched this morning and you have 45 comments?? How did that happen? Are these all of your readers from your other gardening site? How did you market the new site?

      I do like your site design much better than Tom’s. It’s simple, but does offer additional interest with the short videos and a bit of color in the heading. I also appreciate the photo of you. It helps me relate more to you and your message.

      • Phil
        December 8, 2013 at 1:17 am

        Well, half the comments are my responses 🙂

        Yes, those are mostly readers from my gardening site and from my ex-wife’s nutrition site. We emailed those two lists and I shared to my small social media following and that was all. So it’s definitely nice to be starting with that, but I already put in the work over the last 4 years to build up the other sites, so I think I’ve earned it 🙂

    • Tom Ewer
      December 9, 2013 at 1:12 pm

      Hey Phil,

      I don’t believe in cross-promotion for the sake of cross-promotion, but please do share any awesome content you publish with me and I’d be happy to promote it 🙂

      Cheers,

      Tom

  11. Darnell Jackson
    December 7, 2013 at 6:10 pm

    Thanks for sharing this Tom excellent results it just shows the most complex design is a simple one.

    • Tom Ewer
      December 9, 2013 at 1:13 pm

      In a way, yes! You simplify things drastically which means you only have to get a few things right, but by exposing those things, it makes it so obvious how “right” you need to get them.

  12. Warren
    December 8, 2013 at 12:24 am

    Hey Tom,

    Thank you for a very informative post; and congrats on this and your new health blog. I too am working on a blog in the health niche, but with a different approach. It’ll serve as a case study for my current blog.

    Your Healthy Enough blog not only stands out amongst other health blogs, but just as a blog in general — as I’ve never seen that structure and execution before. I also believe in quality vs. quantity — which you’ve nailed right on the head. Well done!

    Cheers!
    Warren

  13. JoDavies
    December 8, 2013 at 6:58 am

    Thanks for the info. It’s great to learn the process… and honestly, I feel silly because I did even know that you could back-date posts… I left a gap b/w some posts as I was experimenting and now I think I want to fill in that gap… Great to know it can be done at least!

    I also like the ‘one expert’ strategy. You went with your gut and created something that really flows well with your new format… shorter posts, one expert = makes sense to me! It’s also great strategy in that you are SO right…. What would people share more? A 30 person round-up or an article solely focused on their methods… It’s great insight that some people need to hear.

    Thanks again! It’s always a good read at your site! Jo

  14. Steven Le
    December 9, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    Very well written. I will be taking on board the advice you’ve given. I always knew content was important but for some reason design never really occurred to me that much. I guess it’s difficult to strike the right balance between simple and just plain.

    • Tom Ewer
      December 9, 2013 at 1:15 pm

      Absolutely right, and it’s entirely subjective (as Sylvia has proven). You can’t please everyone, so go with your gut, measure the results, and adjust as required!

  15. Bob
    December 9, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    Hi Tom,

    Great piece, thank you for sharing. May I ask what your approach is in getting authority figures such as Alan to answer a question for you in the first place, as something of an “unknown” in his field?

    Do you shoot them an e-mail? Call them up?

    • Tom Ewer
      December 11, 2013 at 3:50 pm

      Just shot him an email and asked nicely! It’s a numbers game — the more people you reach out to, the greater likelihood you have of someone responding. I think I emailed 10-15 people and got 4 responses (which is a pretty high “conversion rate” as far as I am concerned).

  16. Yaisa Hagood
    December 10, 2013 at 3:57 am

    Before reading this blog post I just read an article on copyblogger that discusses the power of influence marketing and listed strategies to get people in your niche like you did with Alan to share your content. I connect with several influencers in my niche on social media sites but I have never asked them for anything. This article has given me some ideas on how I can reach out to them. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Erika Volk
    May 11, 2014 at 12:45 am

    Tom-

    I totally agree with your theory on design. I frequently pass over websites that have wonky hard to follow designs or a home page loaded with fitness stock photos from the 1990’s. I just don’t feel like I can trust the source.

  18. Siddaiah Thirupati
    December 14, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    Hi Tom,

    Writing 4 articles in one day with 600 words looks a good idea for me, as, per my experience I wrote different length articles on my blog, most of my article ranking on Google are 800 words articles.

    I never tried outreaching influencers, this time I will plan this strategy, thanks a lot for sharing this information.

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