Last updated on March 11, 2022 - My Free Marketing newsletter 👀
Please meet my friend Peep Laja who I met years ago when he created his first failed startup. He subsequently went on to create one of the most popular marketing conversion blogs online. I was curious how he actually did it and wanted him to share the story with you. I’ll let Peep take it from here. -Noah
I blog over at ConversionXL. It’s a conversion optimization blog, one of the biggest in its market.
I started the blog a little more than 2 years ago (October 2011). While I got 50,000 visits on my first month of blogging thanks to some viral hit posts, the rest of the growth has been slow and steady.
It took a few more months before I started to regularly get 100,000 or more visits each month.
And it’s not just a vanity metric - my blog (indirectly - by generating leads for my business) pays salaries for my staff of 10.
Here's how I went about architecting that growth...
(Read all the way to the bottom to download the Checklist to Grow Your Own Blog to 100K)
Before I got started, I felt unsure about the blogging strategy to pick. There were a gazillion marketing blogs around already. What was the point of yet another marketing blog?
I got over this irrational fear by using data.
My first step was to go through various subjective top “100 marketing blogs” lists (e.g. google “top marketing blogs” or “top fitness blogs” - whatever your niche is), and to analyze the type of content they put out.
I asked questions, lots of questions:
Once I had the answers, I put some thought into how I could be better. How could my content stand out from the noise - both in terms of content and visual presentation?
Since people are not inclined to read much these days - or so I thought - I was expecting to land on a strategy of smart, short posts - summarizing the data, drawing interesting insights from the noise. Kind of like Seth Godin does:
The secret of success is doing something that others are not willing to do for a long, long time. So when I was analyzing the content of marketing blogs - trying to understand how I can be better - I finally figured it out.
The answer? Evidence based, data-driven marketing advice. That was how I summed up the gap in the market. That was going to be my angle.
And I chose to focus specifically on conversion optimization because there were few dedicated CRO blogs around. Picking a niche is important when getting started - don’t be afraid to go niche at first. You can always expand later.
Take Tim Ferriss. Four Hour Workweek. He was that guy. Now he is much more than that, he expanded his brand after the first thing became a success. You can do the same with your blog.
If you start out as a generic marketing blog or fitness blog, it’s very hard to stand out. Ever heard of Nerd Fitness? That’s another great example of going niche in a very crowded market (and finding lots of success).
Know PPC? Don’t start yet another AdWords blog. Instead focus on just the display network.
If you look at my blog, you won’t find posts that state mere opinions. Or statements like “people generally prefer XYZ”. Instead of claiming “simple websites are better,” I include evidence:
In a study by Google in August of 2012, researchers found that not only will users judge websites as beautiful or not within 1/50th – 1/20th of a second, but also that “visually complex” websites are consistently rated as less beautiful than their simpler counterparts.
Do you see how that adds credibility? It’s not just me saying “simple design is better” anymore.
I have an editorial policy that requires every claim be backed up with research, a case study, or specific example. Now I’m actually pissed whenever I read an article that says “according to research this and that is true” without linking to the actual research. It’s more common than you think — and oh how convenient for the writer to put it in without doing the hard work of finding credible sources.
People love that my posts always contain links to data sources. Most common compliment I hear is“It’s refreshing to see advice that’s backed by actual data”.
Very few blogs do that, and they’re pretty much all successful.
I looked up research on what kind of blog posts get the most social media shares and backlinks.
The most popular posts are:
So that's what I did:
And it worked. And it still works, very well. People are constantly impressed with the quality and depth of the posts. If you write a post that’s around 2000 words or more, you can pack a lot of useful content in it (more content than any 200 word blog post can be).
Will this strategy work for everyone? Probably not. First, you need to be a writer. If you struggle with putting more than two paragraphs together, then 2000+ word articles are not a great match for you. Maybe videos or podcasts are your thing. And maybe there are some great long-form content blogs in your niche already.
If you’re considering starting a blog today, I’d start with research with the goal to have good answers for the following questions:
You need to find a gap, an opportunity, in order to stand out from the noise.
If you’re starting out and you have no pre-existing following, don’t wait until “people find your content on their own” or until “SEO kicks in.” The world doesn’t work that way.
There are obvious things like adding easy social sharing widgets to your blog, so people could spread the word. And using lead magnets to capture emails of readers, so I could later deliver my content to them directly.
I distributed every post I wrote wherever I could.
Remember this key point: You can only do so much to spread the word about content, the content has to be able to carry its own weight. It needs to be really good, so people say, “This is great shit, I’ll tweet it out!”. What you create needs to be excellent. And then you need to see how you can make influential people find it.
A ton of influencers picked up my blog posts from HackerNews. And then Tim Ferriss took my blog down by sending too much traffic.
Funny story about this. My pricing experiments post got to #1 spot in HN during my first month of blogging. Took my blog down (lesson: use a CDN). 7 months later somebody “found” the post again, and posted in on HackerNews, again. I was in the top 10 for 2 days in a row. Massive traffic. And then right after HN traffic had died down, Tim Ferriss shared it on his Facebook account and Twitter.
(Note: I didn’t pitch him, but I’m positive he saw the link on social media
after it went viral via HN.) So this same article has paid me again and again and again. Superb ROI from those 18 hours.
Interesting tidbit: while StumbleUpon, Reddit, and HN traffic have quite a bad visit-to-email-optin conversion rates, they help in other ways. Stuff that gets popular there gets tweeted out, so I picked up a ton of Twitter followers (easier content distribution later) and got a lot of backlinks as people were sharing interesting links on their blogs. And backlinks + social signals moved the blog up in Google rankings.
•Guest blogging works very well for traffic and audience building. The traffic from those blogs is going to be warm and typically converts extremely well. Word of advice: your guest posts need to be even more epic than the ones you write for your own blog.
Guest posts are essentially high quality advertisements. If you want readers to check out your blog and start following your stuff, you need an epic guest post. Writing epic posts is of course hard work, which is why you should avoid writing for small blogs. The ROI is going to be much smaller if you do that, not worth it.
Don’t be afraid of big blogs. Everyone craves quality content, and they’ll even pay for you. All top blogs pay guest posters (wanna write for me?). SmashingMagazine is still sending me hundreds of visitors each month even after 1.5 years since my last guest post. Last month’s referral traffic stats:
• Content syndication. Business2Community and BusinessInsider want to syndicate your kickass content.
• Say yes to every podcast / webinar opportunity, I did. Every little bit helps to get your name out there. And pitch yourself to be a guest at other people’s podcasts or webinars.
You probably know who are other players in your market, don’t you? If you don’t, ask around on Twitter and spend some time on Google. Identify who has guests on their podcast / webinar, and pitch your topic. If your stuff is good, you’ll get it.
Make sure your blog is packed with quality content before reaching out though. And make sure your pitch contains specific ideas for the topic and why that’s relevant to their audience.
I still hold the all-time record for webinar attendance when I was a guest speaker on Unbounce webinar (Unwebinar). I think it was like 3000+ people. And yes, I got tons of signups to my email lists and still meet people who say “I first heard about you via Unbounce webinar”. Use other people’s audiences to grow yours. But you need to add a ton of value to them, otherwise it won’t work out.
The world is full of mediocre me-toos, and does not need another one. Be so good they can’t ignore you, as Steve Martin once said.
Sure, SEO helps. But note that I did not utilize an SEO company, I didn’t go out to build a bunch of artificial links. All links to ConversionXL are legit organic links, earned with great content.
Besides using an SEO plugin on my WP, the only SEO I’ve done is to write a post title contains a phrase I might want to rank for. And then I added the same phrase a couple of times into the blog post content as well. That’s it.
I brainstormed a list of keyword phrases (2 words and 3 words long) one might search for when wanting to know about the topic I was about to write about, and used Google AdWords Keyword Planner tool to estimate search volume for each. If the volume was more than 0, I went for it. Long tail ftw. I used to avoid trying to rank for ultra-competitive keywords at first, since I didn’t have the backlinks to outrank others. Now, 2 years later, I
Organic search is my main traffic driver today:
I haven’t done any paid content promotion at all.
In my first year I posted 76 posts – that’s one post per 4.8 days. Anyone can do that.
Then I slowed down even more: sometimes even 2 posts per month. “Work” took over. Sometimes I had to remind myself that blogging IS work. Not only have I witnessed that the frequency of posting is correlated with the amount of traffic I get, but also the amount of leads.
Every single time I hit ‘publish’ on a post and email it out to my list, I get a huge jump in incoming leads.
I’m confident my traffic would be higher with more content. And that’s what I’m working on right now.
It’s critical to have patience when starting out. Everyone wants to be an overnight success, but it doesn’t happen. Slow and steady - persistence is key.
I’ve helped many high traffic blogs increase their conversions, and thus have had access to their Google Analytics. I see the same thing *every single time* for their traffic pattern: slow, slow, slow, slow, BOOM!
This is my organic search traffic trend, from the beginning until today:
Plateau. Growth. Plateau. Growth. If you’re wondering what causes the fluctuations between the low and high points are, those are the weekends. And the dip at the end is Christmas, holidays.
Anyways - you gotta keep at it. If you set the expectation that probably not much will happen during the first year, you can keep going without worrying too much about results. You have to persist.
I just saw the same thing mentioned on Derek Halpern’s blog. His revenue over the last 3 years:
If you want to make a quick buck, blogging is not for you. The main purpose of a blog is building an audience. Audience who trusts you, likes you and wants to buy from you - whatever it is that you might be selling today or 4 years from now. And you don’t even need to know what that is - your audience will tell you later.
My goal is to take it to 1 million monthly readers. I now have a full-time editor on board who helps me with content creation and distribution, guest writer outreach, traffic generation. I’m increasing content frequency and outreach efforts. I still write all the blog posts that are published under my name, unlike many marketing celebrities who use ghostwriters. I believe that authenticity works.
Let’s thank Peep for putting together a bad-ass how to guide on creating and actually growing your blog audience. (Did anyone notice how the medium IS the message?)
If you enjoyed the post and learned something 'click to tweet' How to Grow a Blog to 100,000 Visitors in Less than a Year http://ctt.ec/gdhRe+ #OkDork
Check out his very successful web optimization consultancy at ConversionXL
Post a comment below: What is your favorite blog and why?
[Now Closed: Every single OkDork reader who comments will get Peep’s book
How to Build Websites that Sell: The Scientific Approach to Websites for free (normally the already too low price of $5). Giveaway closes Friday 2/14 at midnight Eastern]
Check out How to Create a Marketing Plan for more.
This is hands down the best & most informative blog post I've read to date on how to actually get traffic to my site using content. My key learning is I didn't give my own blog enough time to grow - time along with consistent quality blog posts is key:
"The secret of success is doing something that others are not willing to do for a long, long time."
Nice post, Noah. Content is still the key that all strategies must come hand in hand. Thanks for sharing your insights.
Great insights and useful tips.Probably this is why has one of the highest scores on Blogr!Thank you for sharing your experience Noah.
Very inspirational. I'm on my third month blogging and am no where near what I want.
This is an inspiration for me. I'm launching a fresh new blog in just a week. I know, it's gonna take a lot of time and effort but I need to reach at least 50k visitors a month within a year. I'm not going any shortcuts because they prove to be short-lived.
Thanks for taking your time to write down this epic journey. Love your work, man!
Thank you for this amazing post Noah! This is what I call a blog post! 🙂 Amazing value.
Thanks for such a detailed discussion.
I completely agree to your idea of content diversification, which can effectively reach the unexplored segments of our viewers. Above all, it is the strategy that is likely to pass the test of time.
Thanking you once again.
Interesting.I like this.....Every single time I hit ‘publish’ on a post and email it out to my list, I get a huge jump in incoming leads.
Another great article!
I just love these kind of article with the details of your journey until now.
I which I had the ability and the patience to write a 18h article!
Great post. Not necessarily a big blogger, but it was nice to see how you arrived at your conclusions for the tactics that you’re taking to market your content.
Great Post With Real Experience. Previously i tended to write only 1000-1500 Words Post.after reading this article definitely i will write 2000+ words post on my new blog (just 1 months old.)-( http://hubnol.com..Thank a Lot.
Great advice. My favorite blog is LaunchYourFinances.com but that's because I am trying to get rid of some credit card debt, ugh! It's a great site for most personal finance issues.
Very good post sir, is it possible to earn something with this type of Mp3 site, http://songsdl.co
Please let me know.
Lovely article! thank you!
My favourite blog is http://www.beluckyinlove.net It is a relationship blog, helps me to see things in a different light. Lots of insight.
Again, thank you for taking your time to write the article.
Wow! That was a great read. I have started implementing these strategies in a new blog I am building. I want to see long can I get in 1 year.
This is one of my favorite article over the years and keep coming back reading it to refresh my mind on customer acquisition.
This was a SUPERB post! Love it! Man, I can take a lot away from this. Thanks for sharing!
You seem to have done something in contrast to what Brian Dean does. He says few posts so that you can spend more time on link building. What's your take on it?
WOW !! I will take the 2000 words per blog advise
Great post for growing any blog from scratch.
Thanks for sharing awesome tips.
I have just started a new blog on the health tips niche. Trying very hard to get visitors organically. As of now visitors are almost non existent, but posting on facebook does help a lil. Anyways a great post! 🙂
just read this and how to create content that generated 40,000 targeted visitors and they complement each other well. thx for the great resources Noah.
great post . I was really finding something like this . My blog is only 6 months old and I am not getting good organic traffic only some referral traffic but I am sure that in a few months I would be successful
Thanks for the help and reboots in confidence I needed to keep going!
Popularity and awareness about a blog is very important for its increases accessibility among targeted customers. Some of the factors that can help in improving the overall reach of your published content are making your post viral, increasing the SEO friendliness of your content, posting the content at right frequency and other such reasons. Further, use of the various heat map based tools like Click Tale, Mocking Fish, Mouse Flow and such others can help in creating the content that best suits the interest of your targeted customers.
About to take these methods and run with it!
Thanks Peep and Noah!
Nice post. ill follow this. thanks a lot. great work
Fantastic Blog - Thanks to my friend, Pavneet who shared this link with me.
I am still confused about selecting niche. I analyzed blogs in my domain of finance but not able to figure out niche for myself.
Possible reason is that I just started blogging last year and it's long way to learn writing as well as finance.
I am writing anything that came to my mind. I will decide my niche after writing for few months. Is it okay ?
Thank you for the inside information on how to grow our traffic via blogging. It's not easy to be honest. Nomatter how good one may be in writing quality content, it still takes time to grow the traffic and build your tribe, as Seth Godin suggests. We have been using various techniques to grow our traffic to our Travel Guide startup and have had an ok success up to now. Trying to learn and do more!
My blog is only two months and have average traffic of 200 daily. With what i learned from your blog i will keep on posting daily and wait for like a year.
I was just thinking in this post how I ended up at OkDork.com. Actually a very long journey.
I was browsing 9gag.com and there was a post about cool sites to visit. Among them was NerdFitness.com. Visited Steve's site, and loved his content. In one of his articles he just mentioned Tim Ferris(no link) and I googled Tim and ended up on his blog where the first post I read was Noah's where he helped the postman rock climber get his belay glasses business to a new level.
Obviously I followed to AppSumo.com and then heard of OkDork.com and now I am writing this comment.
It is amazing how quality content and a mention got me here.
Interesting article for those who started in this world. Thanks for sharing such useful experience.
This article is very helpful v& refreshing. I have been spending more time on social media marketing vs my actual blog. I need to make some changes.
Top notch content, on the mark, totally relevant - many thanks!
great content very specific by one who has done it. As a beginner and wannabe, thanks!
First time reading such a non-commercialized, click this, click that blog that really teaches you something meaningful. I actually liked the "Slow, slow, slow, slow, boom", it actually resonates quite well with book writing. The dormant period, approach of publishers, numerous refusals, then bam! You get couple of high-profile deal offers is the same. I am an up and coming business book/self-help book author on rules and principles you need to follow to reach leadership (before the top tier CEO/exec) and I need to start creating my own blog. This fantastic blog has helped me rethink the necessary steps. I am curious, though, besides the social impact satisfaction you get, what is the associated monetary/financial reward (as your blog gets bigger/more famous/higher traffic) is there a good informative blog that talks about this? Can anyone tell me? Believe it or not, this the FIRST TIME I am leaving a comment online. Shows I am now quite serious about this stuff.
This is badass. Thanks for the help and reboost in confidence I needed to keep going!
Superb...I think the take away of this post is- "The secret of success is doing something that others are not willing to do for a long, long time"
Great article...thanks for that info.
My favorite blog is Authority Nutrition because it's chock full o' quality research links!
You're so full of spam
thanks for sharing all this great stuff!
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