How we grew our site traffic to over 100,000 visitors a month for (almost) free
Find out how we grew our site traffic to over 100,000 unique visitors a month for (almost) free – and what you can learn from our experience.
On 30 April 2013, Talented Ladies Club went live for the first time. It was launched by me, Hannah Martin, then a freelance copywriter, and my friend Kary Fisher, a freelance designer and illustrator. We had no experience and no budget, and not even much of a plan, but plenty of ambition to grow Talented Ladies Club into a useful resource for ambitious mothers.
Our initial goal was to become the go-to website for ambitious mums in the UK within three years. And with this goal in sight we plugged away at our new venture. (I hasten to use the word ‘business’ at this point because we had zero idea how we’d ever make money.)
We posted content daily, and shared it on our new social media accounts (again, without much of a clue how social media really worked). We had a flurry of early visits from curious family and friends, and some came back and checked over the next few weeks.
But once our initial launch boost subsided, our traffic was pretty unspectacular. I’d spend an hour or so writing an article, and perhaps 15 or 20 people would read it. But what we lacked in experience and knowledge we more than made up for in determination and belief. So I kept researching and writing content for those 15 to 20 people every day.
I’m telling you this now, because it helps you to understand why I was so excited to see this site today when I logged onto our email marketing account:
Yes, we have just officially hit the magic 100k – over 100,000 new people have visited our site in the last month. (That’s more than double the traffic in one month than we had in our entire first year.)
It’s taken us eight roller coaster years to get here, and we’re absolutely delighted. We’re also done this with zero funding, zero big name help, and virtually zero money spent on ads for traffic. (You can barely count the £25 we miss-spent on Google ads when we launched.)
Five things that helped us hit 100k visitors
If you’re looking for inspiration and advice to grow your website or blog traffic, I thought it might be helpful to share what worked for us over the past eight years. So here are the five key things I attribute to helping us hit 100k visitors.
I’m starting with this because I think it’s the most important factor in our success, along with getting help (I’ll come onto that in a minute). In the first few months after our launch, we had barely any traffic. In fact, an average of 55 people a day visited our site in that time. And there were times that it felt hopeless.
What was the point of researching, writing, editing and publishing a post a day (plus finding imagery) if barely anyone would ever read them? But as my parents well know, I am if nothing but stubborn, and I was determined to make Talented Ladies Club work. So I plugged on, while researching any ways I could increase our traffic.
This includes the aforementioned ill-fated experiment with Google ads where most of our ads ended up on a Ukrainian fishing forum… hardly our demographic! (Our Google account manager said we were the unluckiest business he’d ever worked with.)
While we had some early mini-successes (I’ll get onto Twitter later) it was my insistence we continue to publish a post a day, even if just our family and friends were reading them, that eventually paid off.
I had been wise enough to arm myself with a basic but working knowledge of SEO before we launched, and around a year after we first went live, Google finally took notice of us. Our articles began ranking on search, and we’ve never looked back.
So if you’re finding progress slow and wondering whether to give up, please heed my lesson. I often liken our success to a tortoise. I’ve watched many a hare race past us in the past eight years – often with eye-watering grants and funding, or friends in fashionable places propelling them on – but I’ve later plodded past many of those hares whose impetus burned out once the money and initial buzz of excitement faded. Slow and steady eventually wins the race, it seems.
2) The right help
It’s all well and good plugging away at a business that hasn’t taken off yet, but that doesn’t pay the bills. And a couple of years into working on Talented Ladies Club we’d built a modest amount of daily traffic but weren’t earning any money from it. Clearly this wasn’t a recipe for long term success.
It was at this time I invested in our first proper business coach. It was a HUGE leap of faith, as I was paying her more than we were turning over a month at that time. But I’d chosen my coach carefully and I knew that we needed help if we were ever seriously going to monetise the business.
Coaching didn’t directly affect our traffic – that’s not why I wanted help – but it did something important that enabled me to continue growing our traffic myself… it started making us money.
In order for Talented Ladies Club to be a viable business, it needed to earn enough money. At that time I saw the site itself as a loss leader; I needed to keep building traffic if it was ever to make money in and of itself. So I had to develop other parts of the business and make money from those. And getting the right help showed me how to do that.
Today we have several different income streams. And in fact, this is one of the successes of our business; our eggs are in many different baskets, so if one happens to disappear, we still have other ways to make money. Ironically, after all these years our website itself is a consistent source of considerable income, so I feel my insistence that we keep posting daily has been vindicated!
So what’s my advice for you here? It’s simple: get the right help. Yes it’s important to keep plugging away and not give up, but if you’re plugging away at the wrong things you may never achieve the success or income you aspire to.
I continue to invest heavily in coaching and training today still, and it’s what keeps my business growing – and keeps me challenged and in love with it.
I briefly mentioned Twitter earlier on. I also mentioned how bad we were at social media in the beginning. I spent no time properly using platforms or engaging with people – I would just barge in, post our content and leave… and hope people would see it and engage with it. And predictably, we were pretty much ignored!
I could see accounts on Twitter that were performing brilliantly, so one day I contacted one and asked if they’d teach me what they knew. I paid for two one-hour calls, and the woman shared her strategy for using Twitter.
Once I knew what to do, I was away! Within the first year I had gained 11,000 followers, and less than four years later had amassed over 40,000. But more importantly, Twitter started giving us much-needed traffic. Before our SEO really took off, Twitter was our best source of traffic, giving us a precious 75 hits a day – a LOT to us then.
I think I paid £100 for those two calls, but it was some of the best money I had spent on the business, as it helped us find an audience, and showed me that our content was needed and wanted.
In fact, I got so good at Twitter that I created a training course in which I shared the exact strategy I used to grow our following and (more importantly) our engagement on there. I’ve retired from using Twitter today – I pay someone else to do it now – but it will always have a special place in my heart.
If you’re trying to grow your web traffic, I recommend choosing one social media platform to focus on. Find the one where your ideal audience are and, importantly where they are when they’re thinking about what you are offering. Don’t assume because they follow influencers on Instagram that they want to hear about your financial consultancy on there!
When you’ve chosen your platform research the best way to interact on there. And much like my advice on building site traffic, post and engage consistently. Spend at least half an hour a day engaging with other people’s posts, and be interesting and useful (both in your own posts and in your comments on others’).
I talk about something called ‘social media karma’. Basically it means that you get back what you give out on social media. If you are generous and helpful, you’ll find that people want to help you too. They’ll also want to engage with you, and will happily share your content, click on your links and even become customers.
As well as mastering Twitter, understanding and using SEO properly has been a vital key to our success. Today the bulk of our traffic comes from organic search, and we rank top for hundreds of different search terms.
If you have a website today, you can’t afford NOT to educate yourself about SEO – it’s not enough to guess your way through, or pay an expert, YOU need a working knowledge so you can build a website that Google and other search engines love.
And you’ll be relieved to know that SEO is MUCH simpler than you may think. It’s less about complex technology and more about psychology and common sense. I am completely self-taught at SEO – I have never paid for training. And to date we’ve grown a site that excels at SEO. So if I can do it, you can too!
If you know nothing about SEO and want to understand how it works (in layman’s terms!) and have simple actions you can implement to improve your SEO, I recommend watching our hour-long SEO Masterclass. It also has a worksheet and ebook of the class to make it really easy to action.
5) Staying interested
This final not-so-secret to our success is more of a long term thing. In eight years, a lot has changed; what people talk and care about, how businesses market themselves and operate. Fashions have changed significantly too.
So if you’re growing a business with any long term ambitions, staying still is not an option. You need to observe shifting patterns and trends. You have to be prepared to learn, and you need to have the humility to accept that you can also learn from those who are less experienced than you.
You also need to stay curious and passionate about what you do. You have to love your business (or at least I need to – I have no desire to just go through the motions for the sake of money) if you want it to love you back. I want to be proud of Talented Ladies Club and to feel that what I do and create has meaning and purpose. I’m not interested in making a quick buck – or a long fortune – doing something I don’t believe in, or that is at odds with my values.
So staying interested in what you do, and caring enough to make it the best is vital. It’s what makes your business brilliant, makes it unique, makes it authentic, and is what will keep it these things as time passes. It will stop you become irrelevant, and ensure that you continue to grow your traffic year-on-year.
That’s how we grew our traffic to over 100,000 visitors a month
So that’s how we grew our website traffic to over 100,000 unique visitors a month for (almost) free. As you can read, we caveat it with ‘almost’ because (again, bar that poorly spent £25 on Google ads, and Facebook ads to our Jobs page for a while) while we haven’t directly paid for traffic to our website, we have spent money on training, business coaching and two redesigns of our site to ensure it remains fresh and relevant.
As our website and income have grown, we have also invested in other areas of our business, all of which have contributed to our overall success. These include software, great design, branding, marketing and PR, and ads for our courses. But we have only ever invested as we could afford it, and with careful consideration of the returns that investment would possibly bring to the business.
So what advice or inspiration can you take away from this to help YOUR website or business? I hope it helps demonstrate that it IS possible to achieve the success you dream of. Yes it will take work, time and the right help. But if we can do it – a clueless copywriter and designer – then you certainly can!