8 Lessons I’ve Learned from Growing a Non-Sexy Niche Blog to 1200 Visitors/Day 

8 Lessons I’ve Learned from Growing a Non-Sexy Niche Blog to 1200 Visitors/Day 

A year ago, i took a big decision. I changed my job, by moving from a safe corporate job to a startup one. Here, my goal was to create & lead the online marketing team.

You could imagine my doubts. I was afraid, really afraid. I was out of my comfort zone.

Oh…. the horror! :O

Since i had been an Inbound Marketing advocate for a couple years and didn’t have the chance to fully pursue this unselfish way to do marketing, this was my time.

My first project: creating & growing valuable content that not only draws attention, but also keeps it and increases the trust level of the reader.

And i did it!

heimdal blog growth

Here are some lessons i learned in the past year:


1. Do Your Homework

On the Content Marketing side, my first step was to analyze the status quo of the industry i work in. My conclusions:

  • Poor Content. The Snowden & the Wikileaks incidents increased the security demand. Everybody (home users & companies) was suddenly interested in their online security & privacy. The content creators preyed on this increasing interest, creating hundreds of content pieces/day.
  • Lack of Quality Evergreen Content. On this crazy ride to capture the readers’ attention, many publications focused on the FUD principle, emphasizing the online dangers out there. That’s a valid strategy. Unfortunately, fewer focused on the education part, providing in-depth security resources.

Basically, it was just another case of Quantity over Quality approach.

Key Takeaway: Analyze your competitors content marketing strategies, find a gap and fill it. There’s no such thing as “Too much content in our niche. No space for us”. Anybody can create better content and get in front.


2. Evergreen Content Works Big Time

So, we’ve started to create an editorial plan, focusing on evergreen content, like:

Our main purpose was to create actionable & useful content for our target audience. Initially, we weren’t interested in getting press coverage, despite the fact we had access to some unique cyber security intelligence. In fact, this access has proved to be, later on, a great content source and a very good traction driver.

You must take into consideration that nobody knew us. We were the new guys. The intruders. But, still, the above articles have hundreds of inbound visits on a daily basis.

Actionable Takeaway

  1. Research your niche topic on Quora, Forums & other UGC websites.
  2. Find repeating questions
  3. Answer to those question in a well-researched, in-depth blog post.


3. Keyword Research Is Underrated

Many web content crafters say that you shouldn’t focus on keyword research and that Content Marketing is the new SEO. That’s not true, at all.

Their ignorance could be your bliss.

Yes, your goal should be to answer people’s needs through content. But, in the end, the keyword research process helps you find out how people are trying to find solutions to their needs. Afterward, you can position your answer in front of them through on-page optimization.

semrush keyword ranking evolution

The “Master Keyword Research in 7 Days” from Nick Eubanks has proven to be a goldmine in this area, well deserving the 127$ fee.

A free alternative is the Definitive Guide to Keyword Research from Brian Dean, that has one of the best SEO blogs out there.

I wished i could have focused more on this in the past.

Actionable Takeaway  Don’t ignore Keyword Research. Read the above resources, use SEMRush to find low hanging keyword opportunites. Use WordPress SEO by Yoast for on page optimization and you’re good to go.


4. Communities – Perfect for Initial Traction

Content Creation is not enough.

From my perspective, the creation part is only 30% of the job. You need to market that content as much as possible.

A great way to do that is to promote your content in relevant communities for your niche.

For a startup that doesn’t have a community build around their brand, it’s ideal to use existing communities.

Word of advice: Don’t be selfish. Don’t overly promote your own stuff. Go above & beyond on curating quality stuff, interact with existing members, gain trust.

It pays off:

reddit traffic growth

Traffic Growth Evolution from Reddit

Actionable Takeaway Find communities relevant to your niche: forums, Quora, Q&A websites, reddit, Facebook Groups, Linkedin Groups. Curate quality stuff in there, get noticed as a niche specialist, then promote your own stuff.


5. Ego Baiting Influencers = Exposure Magic

Capitalizing on communities and curating industry content will bring you lots of exposure from your target audience, but also from press, bloggers & other influencers.

The Expert Round-up  

Reading the 100 Days of Growth (great ebook, btw, you should definitely get it), I’ve successfully tried to apply one of their growth tactics: Expert Round-up posts, that brought us 3400 unique visitors by itself.

But, most importantly, helped us create or nurture some business/journalists relationships that, surely, will cash in the near future. Some already did.

Here’s a small  summary of what we did:

  • Compiled a list of 57 influencers.
  • Brainstormed a simple question, aiming to get insightful & actionable answers: “Can you name 3 security tips any user needs to follow to stay safe online?
  • Got their email addresses. For those that didn’t have this info public, we’ve used the Email Generator + Rapportive technique.
  • Started the outreach, followed up at least 2 times on other channels where the influencer was active on a daily basis (Twitter & Linkedin).
  • Got a whooping 33% conversion rate by getting answers from 19 experts.
  • Created a nicely designed ebook, compiling all the expert answers.
  • Published the blog post and promoted the ebook as a content upgrade.
  • Got 3400 unique visitors, 110 email addresses (people that downloaded the ebook) & these social stats:

buzzsumo article stats

Quick Win Outreach

As i mentioned, our mission is to create the best infosec education blog out there. To achieve that, we’re doing lots of external linking, recommending different resources & tools.

Lately, on our blogging checklist, we’ve added a final step. Basically, we’re reaching out to all the influencers, resource/tool creators mentioned in the post. The response rate is not great, but we get the occasional tweet or share.

Recommended ToolContentMarketer.io (currently in beta, but very promising) to semi-automate this process.
Key Takeaway: Personal outreach & ego baiting can bring a huge traffic boost. Keep in mind to avoid a hit&go approach & nurture those newly created relationships.


6. Infographic Marketing Delivers

A while back, i read an interesting article from Neil Patel that talked about how infographics had a big impact in his blog growth.

Taking into consideration his advice, we tried to replicate the tactic. We created a thoroughly researched infographic and pitch it everywhere relevant.

It proved to be another big win, getting valuable links & exposure from big media outlets like AdWeek or CloudTweaks.

Key Takeaway:

Key Takeaway Create a well researched & good looking infographic. Also, don’t be afraid to do a broader pitching & not focusing on your niche media. In our case, a security infographic was published on a Social Media Marketing publication.


7. Go For Email List Building from Day 1

One of the most important lessons i’ve learned in the past year is that Email is the best online marketing channel out there.

I was partially aware of that when we started the blog. We created an Exit Intent Pop-up using the free Wbounce technology. The window invited the user to subscribe to get the blog articles by mail. That’s it!

The list growth rate was slow! Frustrating slow.

In February, i had a change of mindset and tried to focus more on this tactic:

  • Created a Scroll Slider Pop-up that brough almost a half of the current subscriber list. A great tool to put in place for that is SumoMe’s Scroll Box.
  • Added an invite to subscribe to the blog newsletter at the end of each blog post.
  • Offered content upgrades in EACH blog post. Gave away actionable advice related to the post topic or just the PDF version of the article. To achieve this, i use Thrive Leads, the best email list building tool i’ve ever used. I’m even thinking to fully switch to it.

Using all these tactics, we achieved a 350% monthly increase in the number of subscribers. Also, around 80 subscribers are coming back whenever we publish & promote a new piece of content.

Key Takeaway: Email List Building is a foolproof blog growth catalyzer. You own the database, you own the content, you control the traction. No more algorithm change stories (Pinguin, Edgerank etc.)


8. Long Form Content is a Winner

There was a period when everybody was involved in the Short vs Long Form Content debate. Myself, after reading about Google’s way to contextually answer to Search queries, i chose the 2nd faction.

It proved to be a smart decision. We couldn’t challenge the big guys, so going for long tail keywords was the right move. Having a 1600+ words/blogpost policy, we managed to increase our organic traffic by  288.35% in less than six months.

For example, we’ve created a 4300+ word “Online Browsing Security Guide” that gets 70+ daily organic visits. No extra efforts needed.

Evergreen long form content FTW!

Key Takeaway: Don’t be lazy or scared! Don’t focus on content innovation or get stressed that you can’t find new things to write about! Go the extra mile to write the best resource about a certain topic out there and, on the long run, that will be enough to get in front.


The Big Takeaway

Don’t settle for the “If you build, they will come” mindset. They will not come. Don’t look at content as a necessary evil. Challenge yourself, write as best as you can, focusing on the in-depth and actionable attributes. And that’s not even enough.

Market the hell out of your blog.

Outreach, communities, email, influencers, keyword research.

Go all in! Don’t fall into mediocrity!

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26 Comments 8 Lessons I’ve Learned from Growing a Non-Sexy Niche Blog to 1200 Visitors/Day 

  1. Donnie

    Ok I’m amazed it look easy but I guess that is when works kicks in, I came here from other blog because I’m struggling to increase my traffic

    1. Alin Vlad

      Thanks Tudor. I’m overwhelmed with all the positive feedback. This gives me the energy to go forward. 🙂

  2. Dragos

    First of all thank you for the article, I really learned a lot from it.
    Secondly I have a question regarding your fourth advice, about communities.
    When you are posting in a facebook group for example, do you use your personal facebook account or do you use a dedicated account that is used only for your startup’s posting? Does that account give viewers any hint that it might belong to someone from your company?( eg. it’s avatar is your company’s logo, it’s name is identical to the name of the company)

    1. Alin Vlad

      Glad you found it useful, Dragos.

      Regarding your question, the best practice is to position yourself as an expert in that niche and gain authority. That can be done through content curation and engagement. In the end, the brand will be the beneficiary, because you’re gonna also promote the content created by the company.

  3. Boykie

    Good stuff. I’ve already started applying some of the things you mention and this post is confirmation and a reminder that I’m on the right track.


  4. Naga Surendran

    Excellent article Alin and thanks for sharing your insights. In terms of social sharing, can you share some stats on what were the best mediums? LinkedIn vs. Twitter vs. FB?

    1. Alin Vlad

      Thanks Naga. Regarding social sharing stats, Linkedin Groups have proven to best medium for our niche. Also, Reddit subreddits have proven to be great for inbound traffic, but quality wise it doesn’t compare with Linkedin.

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  6. Harsha

    Hey Alin

    Awesome post, incredible insights and actionable content! Subscribed 🙂
    Q: How did you use Nick’s course to find a niche, Coz I’ve the course and the difficulty is not enough data. How do you tackle that?

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  9. Mihai

    Very good your remark, Alin: “From my perspective, the creation part is only 30% of the job.”
    Most often, content creators embrace the idea of creating unique content, without taking into account other aspects such as:
      – The needs and problems of the public to whom it addresses
      – Usefulness of content created especially, how to be implemented (If offered advice and not only portions).
      – Update existing content, where views have changed over time.
      – Investing time and money in existing content in order to promote it. Otherwise, what use to create new content, where the impact is below expectations.

    Also, I recommend Rand’s Whiteboard Friday, of this week: https://moz.com/blog/why-good-unique-content-needs-to-die-whiteboard-friday

    Good Luck, Alin!

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