Growing Your Web Site Successfully From The First Year

What goals should you have the first year?

Where to start? Establishing goals can be overwhelming. Establishing realist goals? Almost impossible without experience. I’m not going to tell you it’s easy or that there is a magic bullet or any other wild claim. There are enough people out there doing that already. There are so many sites who will gladly take your money for false promises to get your site running successfully. These “coaches” claim they can show you how to make big money in months, maybe weeks or even days. Their coaching will always involve you buying into their search engine optimization and social media newsletter, emails, etc. These sites are preying on you, they hope you do not understand the landscape and that you don’t have realistic goals.

Buying ads, sharing on Facebook, or spamming Reddit will not make your site viral, sorry but it’s true. Anyone telling you otherwise is out to scam you. Hitting it big quick at anything is rare. If it were common everyone would be doing it. Running a site successfully, like anything else in life, is done through careful planning, patience, consistency, and realistic goal setting.

Making money online is getting harder and the competition is huge for advertising and sales. You can definitely make some money. Over time, you can definitely make an additional income. If you play it right and keep at it, then you can make a real job out of your site. Truthfully, it takes hard work, dedication, consistency, and quality to reach that goal.

The Biggest Threat to Your Site’s Success

The biggest threat to your first year is failing to live up to unrealistic expectations. Statistically speaking, most sites fail in their first year. These failures happen not because the owners didn’t have something to share, not because they couldn’t get sales conversions or design a site. They happen because the owners got frustrated with not reaching a wildly unrealistic goal. Don’t set crazy goals and undermine your own success.

I’ll share where our site has grown to in a year and what we’ve done to get here. Hopefully, that is enough to give you a baseline to measure your own efforts against.

This site, the one you are on right now, adventure-us.guide, started out life just 12 months ago and has had almost 200K hits since inception. I think that is not bad.

More importantly, the growth we’ve experienced has been steady and consistent. Remember, you are far more likely to see success if you take a practical and logical approach to your goal setting. For instance, are you more likely to retire off a lottery ticket or retirement savings over 30 years? The retirement savings of course. In generating revenue from your site, the lottery is equivalent to the promise land of going viral that all the SEO sites are telling you about. In all honesty though, putting out methodical quality content consistently is what will get you to your goals.

Delivering Consistent Quality Content

Jen and I write anywhere from one to four articles per week and have consistently stuck with that for the past year. I think this graph of search engine browsers shows that growth best (more on this below).

How does this translate monetarily? Well, our first year we brought in close to $400, after spending about $140 on various site expenses we’ve made our money back and paid for some outings. In our second year, we will probably double, if not more than double, that revenue of the first. Like any new site owners, we made some mistakes which I will share below. Luckily the mistakes were found early and we adjusted, our site is now above average, thriving profitably into it’s the second year.

Should you use free hosting or premium hosting?

This is definitely a day one item. You have to decide this before you can start. We went with GoDaddy and paid around $50 to set up everything and get a domain name.

The site hosting and domain name are going to be your two upfront costs. Your site hosting cost is around $50 as ours was, or you could go all techy and setup free hosting in the cloud. If I was starting over, I would go the free route. You are going to find your first-year domain is super cheap. Why? Because domains usually don’t get tied up more than a year as most people give up their sites after failing to make it the first year. Our domain was free with hosting the first year and surprisingly based upon site valuations the second year.

Site valued domain name renewal is used in the post intro period. This means that you’ll have to pay possibly much more as your site is growing. For us, that translated to a fee of around $50 to keep our name the second year.

Understanding Search Engine Optimization

I’ll sum up the SEO experts advice everywhere: “I am a magician, ask me for advice and give me money, this is wizarding stuff for real people!” There are too many free tools to ensure your SEO practices are aligned with current expectations to pay someone to advise you here. As soon as you launch a site, be prepared for the deluge of emails (mostly from India) soliciting you for SEO coaching.

How do I know this? I’ve been a front-end web developer for 5 years, coding for SEO, reviewing search engine rules, and listening to so-called wizards scam people as long as I can remember.

Here is what you need to know. Write good content, write useful content, write consistently. That’s it. All of those 1990-early 2000 search engine wizardry hacks that “SEO Experts” employed in the past have been blacklisted. Google, Microsoft, and the others have gotten wise to the tricks and their search engines see right through them. Now a sophisticated algorithm ranks your site. Those algorithms look at things like the age of the content, how active the site is (is it basically an archive or is new content being added?) and if their users click on the link if it is presented to them. You can see this in simple form by opening the developer console fn-F12 and going to the audit.

Generating Content That People Want to Read

If you want to have your own website you should have a good deal of knowledge, or interesting opinions, about a topic to engage people. When you want to start a site now, a blog, journal, review or whatever, but do not have any ideas for content, then you need to go no further. If this is you then stop take some time and discover what it is you are passionate about and can bring the world. No one wants to read daily about your trip to get your hair done. If you can share interesting new hairstyles and provide a how-to, then go on.

Having at least a single niche to start with is incredibly important. If you navigate through our menu you will actually see many topics and growing. This is a strategy for us. We have a lot of interests we would like to share but sometimes haven’t written enough or generated enough traffic on those topics to justify a new site. The solution is to build an audience for those topics then once you have a large enough base to migrate those to a new site. If you are worried about users finding the new site, don’t. Modern technology is pretty cool and putting in redirects for those pages is really easy. How to redirect isn’t the focus of this article, but understand migrating to a new site is a pretty simple process.

How to attract visitors

This is what we all want, without visitors your site will not make you any money and your dream discarded. This is a very important topic, that can get emotional at times. There are countless companies out there ready to take advantage of your desperation and offer you everything under the sun to attract visitors. Of course, you will pay for their amazing services.

Should you use social media

Yes! Social media is a fantastic way to get your content out in front of people. If you write a hit piece of content and it spreads out on Facebook or Reddit, this can drive immense traffic to your site. Making a hit or going viral is the dream of every content producer, but this amazing viral hit isn’t likely. Please be realistic. Realistically, you will be sharing your content on your personal pages where your friends and family will visit your site to support you, maybe some interest will develop too. Don’t get discouraged if your article isn’t going viral the moment you published or shared it. The fact that you wrote it, published it, and shared it, is a job well done. Time to start thinking about your next piece. Going viral often doesn’t happen in a single day anyway, don’t let those marketers and advertisers sell you on that, it is as rare as hitting the lottery.

Should you pay for advertising

No! Unless you already have an audience, already have a robust amount of content and can make decent conversions from your traffic, you will lose money on this. I have tried and tested this personally throughout the years with different platforms. Platforms change, results do not.

What you will likely encounter after giving social platforms your money: clicks, meaning people who visited the link from sites like Facebook do not match traffic statistics even remotely. I would say that for every 50 to 100 impressions Facebook reports to you, actually equates to a single visitor. Is Facebook even showing your ads? I don’t know, and you have no way of verifying what people are actually seeing. The way it works on FB, and many others platforms are that you give them money, give them criteria and then trust they are showing ads for your site and content. You are going to have to give a whole lot of trust in this process and make a huge assumption that what you believe will occur actually will. What could go wrong? You could just be throwing away money, which is exactly what I think you would be doing if your site is new, small or just up and running.

Conclusion

That most solid advice I have come across is to be persistent. In driving web traffic, the biggest piece really is just showing up, delivering quality consistently and being patient. There are a lot of minute factors at work in driving traffic to your site that you simply should not be focused on out of the box. If you are worrying day and night about the scaffolding of your site on every device, instead of thinking up new content, then you are hurting yourself because the content is king in the web game. Deliver content and get traffic and that’s the bottom line.

A Web Developer by trade, find me on Github A motorcycle enthusiast at heart. Most days I'd rather be in the woods anywhere.