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Honestly, I never thought I’d be writing one of these posts:
“I 22-X’d my blog traffic in 1 Month – Click here to find out how!!”
Well, the truth is- that’s what happened. By every metric, my traffic exploded last month – it was crazy. And although the month just finished up a few days ago, I’ve had 31 August days to write like crazy, market my content, interact with you amazing readers, and just learn about what worked well and what fell flat…
I knew after my initial goal of 25,000 monthly sessions was achieved in August that I would have to write about the process. It seemed too monumental to just move on and continue without acknowledging what just went down… So here are my top reasons for putting this experience out there for all of you:
To say ‘Thank You!’ for reading, sharing, and helping along the way,
Literally, show you the explosive growth and awesome results, and
…Tell you how I did it…
Awesome – let’s get into it!
Step 1 – Baseline information and MikedUp Blog Background
My first published article on MikedUp Blog was March 1, 2016 (I’m not linking to this because it’s horrendous…) and in the time since that first article, I’ve seen traffic. It’s not been impressive traffic, but there was some traffic. Here’s what it looks like for the past 2.5 years:
Eh… I’ve had some solid ‘hits’ in the past and there has been some slow and steady growth, but I hadn’t been lighting the world on fire.
After a few months, I finally got a handle on my stress and anxiety, had a chance to relax for a minute, and then people started asking me if I was planning to write new articles anytime soon. So, charged up by the fact that there were actually real people in the world who cared to read my stuff, I contemplated a dive back into the blog.
I discussed the possibility of going “all-in” on the blog with my wife
She agreed on a few conditions… Mainly, we confirmed that I kept my personal and professional priorities straight while growing the blog. After a thorough talk of what that would look like for the short and long-term, I earned her blessing, which was mission critical.
While the months ticked by, I saw steady increases as a result of my newfound focus. Nothing earth-shattering but I was on pace to double traffic by December.
Doubling blog traffic was a safe goal… But come June, I wasn’t satisfied.
So I started interacting with more bloggers on social media, pitching other sites for guest posts, and doing whatever a ‘blogger’ from the midwest without significant connections could do to make a mark in the internet world. My progress inched along at a slightly quicker pace. The extra efforts were moving the needle, but you’d need a microscope to verify that.
ESI (the handle for ‘ESI’ – aka the guy that owns Rockstar Finance and ESI Money) was talking about expanding Rockstar’s VIB (Very Important Blogger) Program for another round of applications. I didn’t know much more about the VIB program than what I read in the program’s description, but I saw this as an opportunity to at least ‘rub elbows’ with some personal finance (PF) influencers. And, worst case, I’d at least have an introduction and hopefully some dialogue.
I saw that this round of applications was closing in about a week, so I fired off an email to apply right away.
ESI and I exchanged emails for a few days and on July 18 – I was accepted into the VIB program
Just going through the past forum conversations required a collective 7 fingers of Woodford Reserve and about 12 hours of actual reading time. So for 3 days, I zipped through the past VIB (private) forum posts that discussed so many different topics, most of which were indirectly about different ways to grow and sustain traffic, write great content, and otherwise grow your site’s reach (these posts are not visible to the general forum group).
It was a Master’s Degree in blogging and I felt like the kid who snuck into the kitchen in the middle of the night and wanted to eat as many cookies as possible before being caught and sentenced back to bed. I loved every minute of it.
Then as I got to know a few members of the group, we began discussing why I joined VIB in the first place
I volunteered the facts that my wife was pregnant with our second child, I was working a full-time job, running our family business while blogging, and I’d ultimately want to turn my blog into a business so I’d have the option of dropping my ‘regular’ job around the time that Baby #2 was born (January 2019).
This offering of mine lit a fire in the group who insisted that making some income by January 2019 was well within reach. One of the most efficient was to earn blog income (they said) was to qualify for a premium ad network – the only problem was that this network needed to see 25k monthly sessions for your site to qualify.
And as you can see above, I had earned a paltry 18k sessions – in roughly 2 years. I wasn’t optimistic, but I listened to their fantasies anyway…
But as the conversation continued, my competitive juices got all ‘riled up. And before I knew what hit me, one of the VIB members issued a challenge:
“Mike – why don’t you make 25k sessions your goal for August?”
I’m assuming you don’t know me personally, so I’ll save you the ambiguity – I compete in everything from grocery store shopping efficiency (for time and price) to distance running with unsuspecting high school cross country athletes out for a practice on the local trails.
I compete so hard at everything that I caused my wife’s family to stop playing charades at family get-togethers – something they had done for 20 consecutive holiday seasons since before I came around (10 years ago). We haven’t played since “that” time…
If someone wants to issue me a stretch goal challenge… I’m your huckleberry
So it was on…
I had the remaining 11 July days to plan a full-scale blogging attack, all with the goal of achieving 25,000 monthly sessions.
And do you know what? That’s exactly what I did…
Step 2 – What (exactly) were the results for my August push
July: 1,176 | August: 26,203
A 2,200% increase month-month, and close to double what my site had seen in 2.5 years leading up to August!
So what is a session anyhow (I had no idea before August):
“A session is defined as a group of user interactions with a website that take place within a given time frame. One session may include multiple page views, events, social interactions, and e-commerce transactions… ” – Google
Basically – this was the Gold Standard I used to measure “success” in August. Simply because the ad network asked for one threshold to be achieved and it wasn’t page views, bounce rate, or anything else… It was sessions. And I was thrilled to see this growth!
What’s the deal with that spike?
We had a mini-viral situation near the month’s midpoint. Is Your Family Prepared for an Emergency? took off thanks to Reddit and earned nearly 8k sessions in 1.5 hours… Yeah – that was awesome. Then just as the faucet opened up full-bore, it closed just as suddenly. All things considered – I’ll take it and I’ll love it.
“Thank ya ma’am – Thank ya very much.”
January-June: | July: 2,000 | August: 43,825
Also a 2,200% increase month-month. There’s not much else to say that wasn’t said above, so I’ll leave it at:
July: 83 | August: 116 | 40% increase
I know that sessions were the primary goal, but this is the category I’ve been most proud of.
Earning subscribers is difficult. To gain someone email address, their trust, and an open line of communication to their inbox takes a certain level of… well, a few things:
Trust – A subscriber has to trust the information you’re publishing. They need to believe you know what you’re talking about and it can take multiple posts, weeks, or months to earn that trust.
You have to sell your email subscription – This process is a tight-rope walk for many bloggers. You need to make it obvious that you want people to become subscribers, but go too far (e.g. crazy popup when your site loads) and people will leave your site without reading a single word.
The promise that you will provide value to your readers when they subscribe – What are you going to do for your subscribers and why do they care (amateur tip – they may come for the free ‘giveaway’ but they’ll stay for the great quality content).
Luck – We all need it – and I was fortunate enough to get a lot of it.
This is more like golf than basketball – you want the lower numbers.
Here’s what The Internet has to say about Alexa Ranking:
“A site’s ranking is based on a combined measure of Unique Visitors and Pageviews. Unique Visitors are determined by the number of unique Alexa users who visit a site on a given day. Pageviews are the total number of Alexa user URL requests for a site.”
Admittedly, I don’t know much about Alexa Rankings, but I did love to see the almost 90% decrease in a short 30-days!
July: 20 | August: 26
This time we’ll take from Wikipedia:
“The domain authority of a website describes its relevance for a specific subject area or industry. This relevance has a direct impact on its ranking by search engines, trying to assess domain authority through automated analytic algorithms.”
Domain authority is measured on a logarithmic scale from 0-100, with Facebook being a 100 and the March 1, 2016 version of MikedUp Blog as a 1… So my current 26 is respectable, but a ways away from some higher authority on personal finance, small business, and fitness topics.
Traffic Metrics Summary
Many of these different metrics are a bit repetitive. They are essentially saying the same thing in a variety of different ways:
My traffic exploded in the month of August, and as a result, Google and other companies/metrics that rate the relevance of websites think that MikedUp Blog got a whole lot more relevant in 30-days.
But let’s not get too far up on the high-horse. According to my Alexa Ranking, there are 569,443 websites in the world bigger than mine. There’s still quite a mountain to climb here.
Let’s break down a bit about HOW the readers interacted with MikedUp Blog in August
Traffic Sources – Where did people come from
Much of that direct traffic was distributed from Reddit, in addition to other sources from around the web. For some reason, the Google machine didn’t classify those in the logical buckets they belong (at least in my mind).
Social represents all of the social media platforms while referral traffic is a link to my site from some other site (i.e. Rockstar or the other guest posts I published on other sites during the month). Organic search is what I got from Google.
Bounce Rate – When people visit the site, do they stay – or bounce off to another internet destination
July: 72% | August: 67.7%
They left the gun and stayed to eat the cannoli. And I appreciate that.
Average Time on Page – How much time did folks stay reading on the site
July: 1:03 minutes | August: 1:00
Considering the huge increase in traffic, I was pretty excited to not see an equally huge drop in time spent on page. Ideally, this number will increase in time as the posts continue to improve (I tend to write longer posts that take a while to digest).
Outbound Clicks – Where did people go after MikedUp Blog
It was great to be able to send a good number of readers to other sites and blogs that my content linked to during the month. Bloggers tend to focus on keeping people on their own sites (myself included), but ultimately – we want to do what’s best for the reader… If your site serves the needs of the readers, theoretically they’ll continue returning to the site because of the value gained. It can be a glorious positive feedback loop of win-win for all parties.
Now that you have a thorough understanding of what goals were achieved and the progress that was made, let’s look at the plan we used to make it happen.
Step 3 – The plan we used to achieve The Goal
As I said above, I had 11 days to get this plan put together. And I’ll save you the suspense – it was stressful! But that wasn’t a terrible thing.
The lead-up to and execution of this plan was an exercise in time and stress management, the likes of which I hadn’t experienced all that often. I learned a lot about myself in those 40 some days… And I also learned what far-reaching goals a team of hyper-motivated and focused individuals (e.g. Team VIB) could achieve.
There wasn’t time to do everything. I had to niche down my focus areas to use my time in the most efficient manner.
Here are the main focuses that I devoted my time to in August that led to explosive growth:
Focus #1- Publishing content daily
We knew that in order to achieve these crazy goals, that there would have to be a ton of shots taken. Bloggers who have been at it for a while know that posts you think may do well oftentimes don’t, and posts you throw together last minute and think are a bit haphazard have a tendency to explode.
I wanted to land somewhere in the sweet spot. So with the help of many fellow bloggers and the quiet professionals of the VIB program, I started compiling a content calendar that would feature a post published on my site each day in August. …That’s 31 posts for those scoring at home.
On July 20, I had a ‘cache’ of 4 blog posts loaded to my site. That cache soon looked tiny compared to the 31 needed, so I got to writing – and…
Focus #2- Soliciting guest posts from others
Yada yada, I have a busy life. I couldn’t write 31 posts, edit, load to my site, and market them. Just ain’t gonna happen.
So I called up some virtual friends to help me build out my posting schedule. Thank God they all came through with quality content that addressed many of the pain points my readers deal with on a regular basis. Here are all the guest features for the month:
This month wasn’t possible without these writers and their AMAZING posts.
While we’re on the topic of ‘quality content’…
Focus #3- The foundation of MikedUp Blog’s August success was great quality content
We knew that it’s one thing to publish 31 posts in a month; sure that would’ve increased traffic. But eventually, people would stop caring. In order to bump traffic, gain momentum, then explode – the posts coming out of MikedUp Blog needed to be the best stuff I’ve ever written. Period.
I’ll let you be the judge of how the posts turned out, but IMHO – I think we did pretty well. Here are a few of my favorites:
Focus #4- Creation of MikedUp Blog’s Wins and Losses Series
I’ve been wanting to launch an interview series on the blog for a little while now, but until July 21, I hadn’t come up with a decent idea. Then, in the frenzy of preparing to publish 31 straight days and with the creative juices flowing, I came up with the concept that led to my Wins and Losses Series, and started soliciting participants from some internet buddies.
Throughout August, I received many an encouraging Tweet, email, or literal pat on the back – the main constant was people loving the new W&L Series. I was so thrilled to see this thing take off and do so well so early, and it was no doubt a contributor to my month’s success
If you’re interested in participating in the Wins and Losses Series, please send me a note here(you don’t have to be a blogger to participate!).
Focus #5- Have a social plan
I learned quickly that just writing great content can only take you so far. If you’re not hustling your tail off to get those posts out in front of hundreds or thousands of potential readers – your traffic will hover somewhere above baseline but below explosive.
So my approach to social media was 2-pronged.
Focus #5.1- Social Media Attack Part 1:
Quick hits were needed to bump traffic instantly.
The top 3 methods used were Reddit, Twitter, and Tumblr. For Reddit, I found great success by simply following Michael Dinich’s guide (which was published on Rockstar earlier in the month). This guy knows what he’s talking about when it comes to social media traffic and his plan proved incredibly valuable.
For Twitter, I reached out to all the bloggers and friends that I’ve had interactions with, shared their content all month, asked them to do the same, and continually thanked everyone – letting them know that it means the world to me when they take the time to share one of my posts with their audience. I saw my regular Twitter traffic quadruple by the end of the month.
I saw some traffic from other sources as well, but those weren’t as highly productive as the 3 above.
Focus #5.2- Social Media Attack Part 2:
I knew that this month wasn’t going to last forever. And eventually, I wouldn’t have the time or resources to share everyone’s content on Twitter, dive wholeheartedly into Reddit, and figure out Tumblr… So when that dip would come, I had better have some level of passive traffic coming my way – or I’d be right back where I started.
This part was simple… Just not easy. I dove all-in on Pinterest and Google SEO content.
I learned from and followed in the footsteps of Scott from Making Momentum and Chelsea from MamaFishSaves. These two, along with a couple other friends in the shadows gave me some expert pointers on how to get my Pinterest profile up to par and then make the most out of the platform. My traffic from Pinterest isn’t quite explosive yet, but I went from 0 at the beginning of the month to an average count of 250 sessions/week… Not too shabby.
For the Google SEO focus, I did 2 things: 1) I learned as much as I could about writing content to target specific keywords (and then wrote that content), and 2) Started going back and rehabbing some of my older content that I considered to be great quality… but the posts just hadn’t been optimized for Google. I’m honestly not seeing a huge bump from these efforts quite yet, but knowing that Google can take weeks or months to notice your shiny new suits and slick physique – this isn’t a complete surprise. I’m optimistic that the Google bump will come before too long.
Focus #6- Write/talk everywhere
“Say yes to everything,” Was the advice I received – and I followed it to a ’T’. I recorded 3 podcasts and wrote 5 guest posts for various sites across the web during August. Here they are:
An awesome bonus also came my way during the month when my post (67 Great Frugal Tips…) was featured by Rockstar Finance. Those don’t hurt, either 😉
I also wrote a few other guest posts that will publish sometime in September or later for different sites…
Yeah – I did everything I could to get my name out there and as they say – “Every little bit helps.”
Focus #7- Twitter Begging
Some of you may have seen this tactic used during the first few days and on the last day… And apologies but, “You gotta do whatcha gotta do…”
Begging for clicks on Twitter probably earned about 50-100 total sessions.
Focus #8- I considered publishing old content
If I was going to come up short on posts for the month, my fallback was to refurbish and republish older content. Luckily, I was able to get enough guest posts coming in, in combination with my own writing to fill up the rest of the month. So, I’ll save this tactic for another day.
Focus #9- In-month maintenance and work
Continuing to write while marketing, scheduling content, and interacting with everyone via social media, email, and in the VIB forums was overwhelming – to say the least. I used this strategy to get 25 hours out of every day (#productivity #efficiency) and tried to make time to workout at some point each and every day (which is a common practice for me anyhow).
Without the daily exercise and productivity plan, I would’ve fallen short or burned out – 100% lock.
Step 4 – Build on the progress and continue site growth
OK – so now that we’ve hit the goal we can just take the foot off the gas and coast for eternity, right?
Uhh… Not quite.
Football practices in college were difficult. There was the physical exhaustion, the mental focus required to commit the entire playbook to memory (while also studying for classes), and the fact that there were grown ass men trying to literally pick you up and throw you on your back.
So to prepare our bodies and minds for the games, our coaching staff would try to make summer camp practices (in particular) a more demanding version of any game that you’d ever be in. And the one tactic that built more character than any other (read: we hated everything about this tactic), would be to post a practice’s schedule hours before it began. But that wasn’t all they’d do.
Then, as we’d watch film prior to practice, the coaches would reinforce the upcoming practice schedule. Next, as we’d dress and get our pads prepped and helmets on, the practice schedule would be posted in our lockers. They had that damn practice schedule everywhere, and subconsciously, we’d know exactly when the last 5 minutes of practice would be… Practice would drone on but before too long, the end would be near, and we’d be dreaming of relaxing in ice tubs and feasting on a (typically) phenomenal meal.
But just as practice should’ve ended, something terrible would happen…
All coaches would simultaneously blow whistles and yell, “OVERTIME!!!” And we’d have to ‘get on the line’ and prepare for 10 minutes of extra conditioning. This tactic was physically exhausting and, depending on the day, mentally crushing.
…But it made us stronger…
September and onward is MikedUp Blog’s ‘OVERTIME!!!’
And in order to build on the momentum gained, I will need to keep my foot on the gas. There’s no quitting ahead. Not for this guy. So here’s the plan moving forward:
I will be posting MikedUp Blog original posts every Monday and Wednesday
Saturday will feature a “Shout-out” to a post on a different site – something that’s “wow’d” me that I think my readers will love.
I am continuing to send out my “Sunday’s Quick Start” email every Sunday evening to my AWESOME email subscribers. This email is short and to the point. It features 3 ‘quick hits’ for the week ahead – anything to help the reader become healthier, get a quick financial win, learn something new, or get MikedUp Blog behind the scenes updates.
This plan will continue to see updates and modifications in time, but it is the basis from which I plan to grow MikedUp Blog to a whole new level.
Step 5 – Acknowledgements and Conclusion
There’s quite a bit of self-back-patting above… And although I’m no stranger to high self-confidence, I’m no arrogant ass either. 26k+ Monthly sessions simply wouldn’t have happened without the help of over a dozen awesome bloggers, family, and friends.
Special shout-outs to those mentioned above:
(ESI, Michael Dinich, Scott from Making Momentum, and Chelsea from MamaFishSaves) – Also all of my amazing VIB cohorts… Thank you all!
My parents, brothers-in-law and friends who all shared my content and gave me the all important clicks were also instrumental.
But this thing doesn’t happen without the 3 most important people in my life… My business partner, teammate in all things, and incredible wife. Without her – I’m probably working at Subway wondering the meaning of life (although I’d probably end up being a manager and run the best Subway in the State – maybe country…). My daughter who shows me what it is to laugh, love, and enjoy every day. And Baby #2 – who is giving my family a new excitement in life.
Thank you to all – Love you guys!
I’d love to know your thoughts about what went down on MikedUp Blog in August. Is there anything that stood out to you as crazy awesome – or – anything you would’ve done differently? I’m all ears and will be monitoring the comments section below!
Thanks for reading!
If you’re interested in discovering a better version of yourself – whether with fitness, finance, or family – then subscribe below to MikedUp Blog’s FREE newsletter and let’s improve together!