How long does it take a new site, in a new niche to get to 10,000 monthly page views?
Turns out it can take 10 months, without taking much of your time.
Let me tell you how I did it, and how Rafal and I are planning to do it again, with another new site, but without all my mistakes …
As mentioned, earlier, Maker Hacks, the site we are discussing here was in a brand new niche.
It’s a long time since I entered an entirely new niche, and without much help or existing assets to rely on. That said, it is also my hobby topic (making, 3d printing, electronics, robotics, etc). It helps when you have a lot of passion for the subject, and as we will see below, being a legitimate part of the community you are serving.
There is a danger in turning your hobby into something more. Years ago I had reasonably successful photography blog (not as successful as Digital Photography School, just a nice steady site). My passion for the topic waned when I got more involved in the business side, especially the Stock Photography community. It got too much work and not enough fun, and I backed off, eventually selling the site.
Making things is how I unwind, it is a creative outlet. There is a lot of satisfaction from designing, building, tweaking, and teaching. Hopefully the variety of projects and facets will keep my interest high, and also the mistakes I made in the photography world will be avoided. We shall see.
The money I spend on the hobby usually coincides with affiliate and royalty cheques arriving. I joke that AWeber (via links from years ago) pay for my 3D printers. Ideally the site will eventually pay for itself, and cover the hobby too.
First, before setting up your new site, you need to know some things:
- Who you are going to serve.
- What they need/want.
- What they talk about (and how).
This research determined I was going to serve “makers” with quick tips and recipes (“hacks”). The domain was available! Maker Hacks was born.
From my keyword and social research I determined the topics I would, and would not, be covering.
I actually did all this research, registered the domain, did a webinar for Darren Rowse where I mentioned it as my new project … then I sat on the idea. For over a year …
Mistake #1: Analysis paralysis. Imperfect action is best.
I lost some momentum by sitting on the idea. Don’t let that happen to you. On Hack Your Design, Rafal and I announced our new project to the world very quickly after conceiving it so that doesn’t hurt us this time around, and we are holding each other accountable.
In both projects, we are using the Rainmaker Platform, which provides both the tools and the hosting, but also email. You will need to determine the platform that works best for you.
You might have seen this before, but it is highly relevant to this stage of the proceedings …
— Darren Rowse (@problogger) August 15, 2016
You must find the intersection of what you can credibly offer, and what they are looking for.
The way I get content ideas is from spending a lot of my precious spare time answering questions in Facebook groups. This takes me back all the way to the 1990s when I started. Back then I was helping people in email discussion lists with their programming problems, and now 20 years later I am still at it!
Being a helpful part of your community makes a huge difference to both the quality of your content ideas, and your authority.
I’d created a few articles for other sites, so I pasted those in so Rafal had something to tweak the design around, and my first official article went up on the site January 30th, 2016, but was not promoted. Other than the filler articles, I have since written 20 original posts for the site, aiming for evergreen.
Really, I should have been able to put out double that number of articles, or more.
The main pieces of Flagship Content (content that goes out and brings an audience back to you over time) are a 3D printing quiz, a 3-part guide to choosing a 3D printer, and a linkbait list of the best Facebook groups. That 3D printer buyers guide was my answer the most common question that comes up in the groups a lot. At some point I need to flesh it out and make it into an ebook.
Launching the Blog
The blog was launched early March with a $14CAD boost on Facebook, and a post on Reddit. By June my Facebook group had 500 members, the site was getting 100 visitors per day in between spikes of traffic when I bothered posting, and I was making around US$16 per week on Amazon. Google started sending me traffic too.
Big problem was the project was months in, and my list wasn’t growing. Contrast that with Hack Your Design where we attracted around 150 subscribers in the first week.
Mistake #2: Waiting months to create a compelling email opt-in incentive.
Yet again, analysis paralysis. Unlike with Maker Hacks, on Hack Your Design, Rafal and I have started with the email sign up. The landing page is all there is to the site right now! We have, though, a nice sequence of emails containing design tips to keep you happy while we build more 🙂
The day I changed the email opt-in to promise a free robot building course my opt-ins started growing. I decided to boost it with some paid ads seeing as the site was starting to make a little money.
With my woefully non-optimized campaign (I just boosted a post, no split testing, no Pixel, and no tracking links!) I get around 3-5 email sign ups per day and will probably end this month with over US$200 in Amazon affiliate commissions, so I will be ahead by a nice margin. My FB group now has 1,300 members, but my email list is still at 236 at the time of writing. Once past the holidays I will have a more accurate picture of the Amazon income and can start monetizing in other ways, which will allow me to funnel more money (and time, and energy) into ads.
Mistake #3: Put some effort into tracking and testing advertising!
Fortunately, this isn’t my day job so I can make mistakes like this, and heck I am getting ROI … I think 😉
Where Are We Now?
So that brings us to today. Currently the site is getting around 12,000 page views per month. Main sources are Google, Facebook, and strangely, Google+ 🙂
Due to me answering questions, and my content, I have been invited to admin some of the best FB groups in my niche, and that is going to open doors in future. There is even talk of me getting some items to review, which will certainly help the budget!
What I Would Do Differently
- Build a great sign up incentive from day #1.
- Create a good auto responder sequence to go with the opt-in incentive.
- Keep turning out quality content on a regular basis. The more content on the site, the more opportunities there are for people to discover it.
- Nurture the audience. Which reminds me, I haven’t emailed in a while!
- Promote! Accelerate with tracked and managed advertising.
Hope you can learn from my mistakes – All stuff I can fix, of course, and things Rafal and I will keep in mind with Hack Your Design.