Many 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.
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:
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!
The next day, my analytics for Healthy Enough looked like this:
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- Letting my content do the talking: if it’s good enough, people will share it.
- 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?
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