In 2020, I drove 142,263 users to my website. Here's the screenshot of my Google Analytics from last year:
In my mind, I still can't believe it. 142,263 seems like such a massive, outlandish number.
For context, it's the equivalent of filling up Staples Center 7 times.
It's also the same as filling up Dodger Stadium 2.5 times over.
Or 3 Angel Stadiums!
The Internet is one of the most incredible mechanisms in the history of mankind. It's given a regular person like me the ability to reach thousands of people all over the world daily consistently.
The best part of this story? Paying $0 for the traffic. All the visitors were coming in organically from Google Search.
When I first started my SEO journey, getting traffic felt impossible. I believed Google Search was a complete black box. Opaque to understand and deadly to newcomers.
This is a common belief. Search anything on Google, and you see primarily large and established brands at the top. It's hard to believe the regular jills and joes have a chance.
My goal here today is to inspire you - yes, you - that you can achieve these results. I have no intention of selling a course on this. There are plenty of people out there who are more prominent experts than me.
I simply want to help give a leg up to the little guy. For the cash-strapped entrepreneur, you deserve a fighting chance. You could be getting massive exposure for your business, like a boss.
Let's dive in.
Why did I do it?
Simply put - I wanted to prove that I could. My goal has always been to leverage the Internet to make a living online.
When you are scaling up a business online, you need to be spending 50% of the time marketing and 50% of the time building.
Most people get so caught up building the business they forget to market it.
This is a common error, and this used to be me too.
When I first started, I was in the camp of "If you build it, they will come." This rarely works.
If you want people to find out about what you're doing, you need to find a way to reach the people who care about your product.
Secondly, I saw an opportunity in the Christian market to build a profoundly different business.
Most of the websites in this space were ugly and archaic.
As a person who believes in God, I thought that I had a unique take on the situation and could provide value that no one else was currently offering. This is why I started testimon.io.
Why you should care
Positive exposure to the target audience is the lifeblood of all businesses. You can attract your target market and turn them into customers.
The better you can reach your target audience, the more fighting chance you have to become successful.
This is why you see companies with high LTV (life-time value) customers purchase distribution channels now.
Here are some prime examples:
If you are a bootstrapped entrepreneur, you do not have the massive marketing budget like Apple does. You cannot afford to drop $10M on a marketing campaign. Every cent is precious.
If you are willing to put in the time and consistent work, you can grow a massive distribution channel that helps you sell more. Your funnel will continuously drive new business FOR FREE. As long as your product/service is a fit for them, the customers will buy from you.
Hacks for getting started
The first step is the hardest step of every journey. It's no different on this one.
The trick to getting traffic is relatively intuitive:
Find a search result that is being underserved and be the one to provide the most value.
How do you do this? Start with Ubersuggest.
Neil Patel is an SEO phenom. His tool is the best free thing for finding low-hanging fruits on Google search.
When finding the right keywords, brainstorm what your customer looks like. What are they searching for on a typical day?
For example, if we are building traffic for e-commerce for dogs, here are some things I'd be looking for:
Your goal when starting out is to aim low. I'm usually looking for opportunities below 5,000 monthly volume and SEO difficulty below 20. Look for keywords with a high PD (Paid Difficulty) and a low SEO difficulty because it means that advertisers are going after those words.
I also try and find search results that the giant competitors are not entrenched in.
Google will not trust you with the 100,000 search volume head term on the get-go.
But they might be willing to experiment with your result on a 2,000 monthly search result.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Google has established their new guidelines for EAT and YMYL:
What Google is looking for is expertise and authority in a domain. If your website is posting about different topics with no common thread, Google may not see you as an expert in any matter.
Google doesn't like ranking untrusted websites that talk about life and money.
For example, if you are creating a blog about mental health, you probably will have a challenging time ranking.
Keep these in mind when you are hunting down your keywords and narrowing down on your niche.
Compile a massive list of keywords you want the go after. I recommend going for at least 30 pieces of content minimum to start driving traffic to your website.
Once you have your keywords, execute. Start writing every day. As in anything, consistency is everything. Create a habit of putting out new content every day. Create a cadence for Google and your audience to recognize.
Strive for quantity in the beginning, and your quality will eventually improve. I highly recommend reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell to get a better understanding of the 10,000-hour rule.
Free Tools for Tracking Growth
What we measure, we improve. The best and simplest tools to use are:
- Google Analytics: See all sources of traffic and helps you improve where the traffic is coming from, and improve the funnels you are building
- Google Search Console: Find out where the organic Google traffic is coming from, which keywords are performing well, what the click-through rates look like
- Google Optimize: If you are into doing split A/B testing, this is a great free alternative to start tracking conversions.
- Facebook Pixel: This tool helps you collect information about what your audience looks like, so you can run ads against this data in the future.
Crossing the valley of death
It takes Google a long time to recognize you as a legitimate website when you are starting out.
You will most likely be writing to a metaphorical graveyard in the beginning. Look at my traffic when I started:
I was my only reader for the first couple of months. I had the occasional spike in traffic when I shared my content on Reddit or social media. Otherwise, it was all crickets.
It takes about 4 months to 1 year to see actual results if Google likes your niche. This is what I refer to as the valley of death.
It's what causes most people to give up on building traffic for their website. It weeds out the people without conviction for their idea.
Start getting into a habit of sharing your content across the different channels. I know this is really difficult for most people because no one wants to be judged by strangers.
But start getting used to being uncomfortable. This is the cost of making money on the Internet.
Long Tailed => Head Terms
Usually, there are 3 major types of keywords people go after:
- Buy: iPhone 9 for sale
- Know: how can I lose weight?
- Navigational: where is the nearest McD?
Buy words are usually highly competitive. Navigational terms are helpful if you have a local business. Know words is where you can build yourself as an expert. The next important thing to understand is long-tailed keywords and head terms.
Let's break these terms down:
Head Terms are a popular search term that has high search volume. Usually, head terms are highly competitive and held by entrenched leaders.
- "cats": 1.8M monthly search volume
- "dogs": 2.2M monthly search volume
Long Tailed Keywords are usually relative niche and low-volume search results. They are generally not as competitive as head terms.
- "why do cats meow all the time": 320 monthly search volume
- "dogs that dont shed and stay small": 210 monthly search volume
There are so many variants of long-tailed keywords that would provide value to your audience. These words are constantly changing as new developments are coming out.
The best part about long-tailed keywords - if Google finds that your search result useful to the audience, they will experiment it against other terms it might satisfy.
You could end up ranking for a decent head term with a nicely executed long-tailed keyword.
Let's say you're building a website about cryptocurrencies: new tokens, technologies, laws, and questions are being asked all the time.
If you are the first to create a quality piece of content about some of these long-tailed keywords, you could rank #1 very quickly (as long as there are few competitors who are creating similar content).
Not all traffic is equal
At the end of the day, traffic is a vanity metric. While it feels great to have tens of thousands of users coming to your website every month, what you care about is conversions.
The question you have to ask yourself is: What is the goal of my website?
A popular website can generate passive income through ads, affiliate sales, and info products for some people.
Or, you could be looking to drum up new clients for your business.
Whatever your goals are, make sure to track them daily and brainstorm new ways to improve them. You can use tools like Google Analytics or Mixpanel to track your conversions.
As a general rule of thumb, desktop traffic tends to convert better than mobile. An older audience tends to convert better than a younger audience. This may vary depending on the niche you're going after.
You can utilize tools like Ubersuggest to find your target keywords' age and device breakdowns.
What am I planning to do next?
My website is a part of my experiment to build multiple sources of cash flows in my life.
My goal is to create passive incomes that work without me being an operator on a day-to-day basis.
In my opinion, time and income should be decoupled from each other. I dream of a world where people are all paid based on the value they bring versus the time they spend on something.
My website has grown significantly since 2020. As of the time of writing (3/14/2021), I am getting over 53,523 users per month.
The next steps for testimon.io are:
- Grow the traffic to 100,000 active readers monthly
- Build a community around the Christian niche and create stickiness
- Gain users for the new Testimonio mobile app for memorizing Scripture. Release a subscription version soon.
- Low-hanging fruits for revenue: ads, affiliates, and partnerships.
The goal is to generate $10k/mo in passive revenue for this website by the end of 2021. The free cash flow would ultimately allow me to re-invest into making the product and eventually scale it up to a $100k/mo business.
If you want to follow me on my journey and gain the occasional gem, you can find me on Twitter where I'll be tweeting about building online businesses and scaling from 0 to 1.