This blog recently turned six months old, which means it’s time for another progress update.

If you’ve been following GrowthBadger for a while, you’ll know it’s a side-project I started with the goal of building it into a million-dollar business.

How?

Guess-and-check, basically.

I’m experimenting my way there and sharing the details with you, in three-month chunks.

That’s what this update is.

First, a recap of the results of the first 90 days, which I posted about three months ago.

Here were the site’s stats so far at the time:

  • 2,447 total site visits
  • 47 email subscribers
  • $0 revenue
  • 24 so-so backlinks, Ahrefs domain rating of 9

Since then (a little over three months later), the site has gotten:

  • 7,688 additional visits (3x increase)
  • 515 more email subscribers (11x increase)
  • $0 revenue (still haven’t monetized yet, but plan to soon)
  • 103 more backlinks (4x increase), Ahrefs domain rating of 24

Nothing incredible yet, but you can see it’s starting to gain momentum.

What’s noteworthy is that it has happened without publishing a single new blog post.

Though I haven’t been inactive.

Let’s take a closer look at where these results are coming from.

Traffic

Here’s a screenshot of GrowthBadger’s site traffic over the past three months:

Google Analytics traffic chart

(Notice the big spikes in the middle.)

And here are the top pages in that time, by number of pageviews:

Top 5 pages by page views 6-month update

That first page is what I’ve been focused on over the past three months.

It was a survey I ran in order to find out what blogging strategies are working best right now.

Things like which marketing channels are most important, how many bloggers sell their own products vs. use affiliate marketing, etc.

And to incentivize people to take the survey,  I paired it with a giveaway of $1,070 worth of blogging tools. Thanks to the folks at Kinsta (awesome WordPress hosting) and Mangools (killer SEO tools), who provided the top two prizes, my out-of-pocket expense for the prizes was only $68.

Running a giveaway was one of the main action items on my list for these last 3 months, and I’m happy to say it went well. (More on that later in this post.)

I’m also putting together a blog post with all the results from the survey, and it’s going to be the best post yet. Lots of new statistics and insights that haven’t been published elsewhere. It’s already given me ideas for how to make this blog more successful going forward, and I’m sure other bloggers will find it just as useful.

In the meantime, the survey & giveaway already brought in a decent amount of traffic and email subscribers. Nice!

Of course, as a limited-time giveaway, the traffic to the blogging survey spiked and then fell. That’s pretty obvious in the middle of the first traffic chart I shared above.

But excluding traffic to the blogging survey page, you can see there’s been a pretty consistent pattern of growing traffic in the background:

Traffic chart excluding blogging survey page

The majority of that traffic growth has come from organic search, which I’ll talk about more in the SEO & Backlinks section below.

While 75% of my traffic in the first 90 days of this blog came from posts I’d made on Reddit and GrowthHackers, by contrast over the more recent three months only 8% of my traffic has come from those sources.

That’s a huge win because even though niche communities can be a very powerful way to get started and understand your audience, they aren’t super scalable.

If I had to continue getting most of my traffic from r/blogging and GrowthHackers, then it wouldn’t be long before my readership stopped growing altogether.

Email subscribers

Of all the stats I shared, what I’m most excited about is now having over 500 email subscribers.

By some estimates, a single email subscriber is worth as much as 1,000 Facebook followers.

When I monetize, which will be soon, these will be very important.

The majority of my new subscribers over the past few months came from the survey/giveaway, but even with the giveaway over I’m still continuing to get new subscribers every day.

SEO & backlinks

As I said in the last update, I intend to make organic search a main traffic source for this blog in the long term. As a recurring source of traffic that builds upon itself, SEO is tough to beat.

So how’s it coming along?

I’ve gotten 1,918 organic search visits (sessions) since my last update three months ago. Still not massive numbers, but a 20x improvement.

And as you can see it’s growing pretty consistently each month:

SEO blog traffic 6-month update

(Those big dips are weekends.)

Here are my top three pages for organic search traffic:

SEO traffic top 3 pages 6-month update

The Remarketing Ultimate Guide post and the Blog Statistics post are bringing in a full 87% of my SEO traffic, while the Blog Names post brings up the rear with only 5%.

How about backlinks?

The single most important factor in SEO, GrowthBadger’s backlinks have increased fourfold over the past three months: from 24 to 125.

But more important than the number is the quality, and a good measurement for that is Ahrefs’ Domain Rating.

I didn’t note GrowthBadger’s Domain Rating three months ago (dumb move, Kyle), but I believe it was a 9. Now it’s 24.

Ahrefs domain rating 6-month update

Solid progress.

Okay, now that the site’s overall stats are out of the way, let’s talk about the two main experiments I ran in the last few months:

  1. A giveaway
  2. Paid advertising

Experiment #1: Product Giveaway (for the Survey)

As I mentioned, I gave away $1,070 worth of tools to bloggers who filled out my recent survey. (You can still see the giveaway rules and details here if you’re curious.)

Content marketers typically run giveaways with a viral aspect baked in: entrants are incentivized to share the giveaway because they’re given additional entries for each person who uses their referral link to enter.

And to enter, they have to provide their email address.

That structure makes giveaways a quick way to get email subscribers, and tools like Vyper, Gleam, and KingSumo make them easy to run.

But because my main goal was getting people to take a survey, setting it up that way wasn’t an option.

So my giveaway did not have a viral component.

However, I was still able to get 1,117 survey responses and 328 email subscribers from my giveaway.

Here’s an approximate breakdown of where they came from. (I say “approximate” because in some cases I directly linked to the survey on Google Docs rather than linking to the page on this site, which means I don’t have traffic source data for everyone.)

Reddit – 18%

Twitter – 9%

Twitter Ads – 8%

Email outreach – 6%

Facebook – 1%

Instagram – 12%

Facebook Ads & Instagram Ads – 25%

Google Ads – 10%

Amazon Mechanical Turk – 11%

As you can see, some of those are paid sources. In addition to the $68 that I spent on the prizes (since they were mostly donated), I also spent about $500 driving responses from paid sources.

For me that was worth it, but it was also probably unnecessary since more than half the results still came from unpaid sources.

Experiment #2: Paid Advertising

Aside from the ads I ran for the survey, I’ve also been running ads to my blog statistics post.

The entire point of that post is to bring in links for this site.

It’s basically just a list of statistics from other sources (properly attributed of course), organized in a way to make it easy for other bloggers, journalists and content creators to find a statistic they need to support an article they’re working on.

Then when they use the statistic, they link back to my post.

At least, hopefully they do. Often they probably link back to the original source instead. Which is why I conducted that survey I was just talking about — so I can be the original source on a whole new set of statistics, once the results post is finished.

Still, even just by listing other people’s statistics, the existing post has been able to pick up some backlinks: 19 so far, up from 0 three months ago.

How?

Google Ads.

One of the challenges with SEO is that backlinks are an incredibly important part of ranking well on Google… but the pages that already rank well on Google are the ones that get a lot of links, because they’re the ones that show up when writers search for a source to quote or reference.

It’s a snowball effect.

So as a new site without a lot of ranking power yet, I took a shortcut to get more visibility.

I’m calling this the “snowmaker strategy” because it gets you started on the snowball effect so much faster.

Not only does the target page start to organically rank much faster, the backlinks it gets also benefit the rest of the site.

By running ads on keywords like “blogging statistics 2019”, I’ve been able to get my post in front of writers right as they’re searching for an article to quote or a fact to cite.

In some cases, when they link back to my article they even leave the gclid on — proving that they found it through my ads. (The gclid is a long series of characters Google adds to ad URLs for tracking purposes.)

URL includes gclid

So far I’ve spent about $100 per month on it and the results have been quite promising. It’s helped that page go from getting no organic search traffic at all to over 300 organic search visits per month. At this point I can shut off the ads and it will continue to get links.

In the future I’ll use the same strategy with other blog posts that have more search volume potential.

Let me know in the comments if you’d like to see a more detailed post or case study about the snowmaker strategy.

Plan for the Next 90 Days

Over the next three months, I plan to:

  • Publish a big new post of unique, original blogging statistics (coming very soon).
  • Continue using the snowmaker strategy on additional blog posts.
  • Write an in-depth case study post, probably either about the snowmaker strategy or the new blogging statistics post.
  • Start making money! This is a big one. I’ve been purposely waiting to monetize until I had enough people on my email list, but now the timing is right.

Any questions? Is there anything else you’d like me to test?

Let me know in the comments below!