As you may or may not know, Connected Comedy isn’t the only website that I update every day. I also have a personal website at JoshSpector.com, where I share interesting things I find (usually videos) from my travels on the Internet superhighway.
Here’s the part that may really shock you – in the last six months I’ve had more than 2 million people visit JoshSpector.com.
Today, I’m going to tell you how that happened and how you can do something similar for your own website without spending a dime (because I didn’t).
First, here’s a little background about what I do on my personal site.
Unlike Connected Comedy, JoshSpector.com doesn’t really serve any business purpose and primarily features curated content. I’m not exactly sure why I started it, but it was basically to share things I found cool with people who I assumed would enjoy them. Its purpose was to entertain people.
Because it wasn’t intended to be a “business,” I didn’t run Facebook ads or put any money into growing the site’s traffic. That all happened naturally – here’s how…
A Long Time Ago, In A Galaxy Back In 2009…
I first launched JoshSpector.com in December 2009. I had blogged on and off for years (since 2001), but always through websites that didn’t have my name in the title. Typically, I blogged as just an anonymous guy – uncomfortable with putting my name behind my thoughts – and had multiple blogs on Blogger, Tumblr, and WordPress over the years.
I always liked it, but inevitably would abandon each blog after a few months and then start a new one later. In retrospect, I can’t help but wonder how many readers I’d have if I had just stuck with one blog all these years, but I guess it was just a process I had to go through.
At the end of 2009, I had become comfortable enough to launch a new blog for myself at JoshSpector.com. I didn’t tell lots of people about it (beyond some friends and acquaintances) or do anything to promote it, but I just started posting things I found interesting. I think it’s important to note this because before I get into the details of the traffic explosion over the last six months on the site, it’s important for you to understand that I had been blogging (in one form or another) for almost a decade and had been running the current site for more than a year before it really took off.
The point is, you need to understand it takes time to build traffic – you have to be patient. But if you are patient, great things can happen.
I Kept Posting Even When Nobody Was Reading…
In the first 14 months after I launched JoshSpector.com I wrote 386 posts. I was posting new content on the site multiple times a week – regardless of whether people read it or not. And for the most part, people didn’t read it.
I had just over 30,000 total visitors to my site during those first 14 months and on a typical day I’d be lucky to get more than 40 people to check out the site. But I didn’t let that deter me, and continued to post stuff I found interesting. I didn’t have a master plan (or a goal for the site for that matter), but I knew I wasn’t going to get any more traffic without fresh content so I kept at it.
I Connected With The Few Readers I Had…
You know how I always talk about how important an email list is and how powerful a connection it can give you to your fans? Well, even though I barely had any readers on my site, I always made sure the bottom of every post and the sidebar had links asking readers to subscribe to get each day’s post by email if they were interested.
My hope was if they actually saw something they liked on my site that they would sign up to see more of it by email as opposed to me having to rely on them remembering to come back and visit my site on their own.
Sure enough, even though I didn’t have many readers yet, some of them signed up for the email and I knew I could at least count on them getting links to my stuff whenever I posted it.
The other thing I did to connect with my readers was to put Facebook, Twitter, and other easy share buttons on each post to make it as easy as possible for people to share my content with their friends. Again, my goal was to make it as simple as possible for people to connect and share my content with their friends.
I didn’t think much of these things at the time, but it would turn out that these two things would dramatically impact the future of my site.
February 13, 2011 – A Day That Will Live In JoshSpector.com Infamy…
On February 13, 2011, I came across this really great Taiwanese commercial for a bank. I don’t even remember where I originally saw it, but I posted it on my site just like I would any other cool thing I found.
And at first, I assumed it would be just like any other thing I had posted up to that point. In fact, I only had 22 people visit my site that day. But here’s the traffic my site got over the next 7 days:
Feb. 14: 131 visits
Feb. 15: 183 visits
Feb. 16: 389 visits
Feb. 17: 909 visits
Feb. 18: 1,616 visits
Feb. 19: 1,883 visits
Feb. 20: 2,683 visits
Feb. 21: 5,988 visits
As you can see, that post was being spread by people who loved it to other people who loved it, all of which was sending more and more traffic to my site. And it was growing exponentially – it was truly viral. By the time March 28th came around, I was getting 45,000 people a day visiting my site!
It was pretty crazy and I was excited, but here’s what’s really interesting about it – more than 85% of that traffic was coming from the link that was shared with my original email subscribers. So I know for a fact that this whole thing began because a handful of my email subscribers (there were only about 30 at the time) decided to share that link with their friends.
Had I not gotten people to sign up for that email list, it’s likely they never would have seen the post, never would have shared it, and I never would have gotten that flood of traffic.
Coming Back To My New Reality…
It took a couple months, but the sharing of that popular post eventually died down and I saw my traffic dip with it. But, because I had been offering all the new people who visited my site a chance to join my email list (and at this point my new Facebook page I launched for the site), I had managed to convert a lot of that new traffic into regular readers and email subscribers. I converted new visitors into “fans” that I had a connection to.
By the time things had come back to reality, I realized that the reality of the JoshSpector.com audience had also changed. I now had almost 2,000 email subscribers and more than 1,000 fans of the site on Facebook. The viral hit had run its course, but it left me with a much larger base audience for my site – whereas I was getting about 40 visitors a day to the site, I was now seeing 2,000 visits on a slow day!
I continued to post content just about every day to feed that audience, redesigned the site a little bit, and settled into the new normal. But then, just as I was getting used to that…
Here We Go Again…
Last Tuesday I posted this funny Facebook status update, and it clearly struck a chord with my followers. They started sharing it by email, on Facebook, and on Twitter. The next thing you know, it had somehow come to Roger Ebert’s attention who shared it with his Twitter followers – all 510,000 of them!
Then, soon after, DailyKos.com (a huge political blog) posted a link and tweet to the post as well. Suddenly, my site was being flooded with traffic again and by Thursday I had a whopping 61,000 visits in a single day – my biggest day ever!
Basically, I discovered once again that you never know which piece of content you post is going to take off and that every single thing you put on your website has the opportunity to attract a ton of traffic to your site. Plus, because I capitalized on the first viral hit I had, it made it much easier to replicate the feat. I had more email subscribers and “true fans,” so I had a much bigger base to launch something viral like this.
Now, this latest hit is starting to fade away and once again it will leave me with a new base audience that’s significantly bigger than it was before…therefore increasing the chances of it happening again.
Why You Should Care About Any Of This…
Although I’m obviously thrilled at what’s gone on with my personal site, that’s not the only reason I’m telling you the story here. I’m telling you this because I know that the same thing can happen for you and your website.
I’m not an entertainer. I’m not a comedian. I don’t have shows, or albums, or videos that would appeal to the average person on the Internet looking to be entertained. But if you’re a comedian, you do. You have a much more vested interest in attracting fans who want to be entertained to your website than I do – it’s not my career.
If you consistently post content on your website, make it easy for people to access/share that content, and are patient enough to stick it out for a while – you can get 2 million people to view your website in six months. I know that for a fact because I just did it.