Be Yourself for a Living: How to Reach 100,000 Pageviews Per Month (in “Only” 6 Years)
I’ve been writing on kadavy.net since May 31, 2004 – 6 years and a few months. Last month was the first month that kadavy.net reached 100,000 pageviews, which is a modest achievement, but at least I know that there are many blogs that will never reach this milestone. Even more gratifying is just looking at how traffic has grown over the years (Google Analytics has only been available since November of 2005).
Sure, many sites grow much bigger, and much faster, but I think the value of slow, steady, growth like this is often overlooked, and is at the core of Being Yourself for a Living. Here’s how its done:
Stay true to yourself
This sounds incredibly trite and cheesy, but its really true. Its easy to get distracted by the latest trends, and spiral into writing useless “top 10″ posts about how to create the coolest Twitter background, but you have to follow your passions, interest, and experiences. The things that are really hot at any given point do have plenty of importance, but nothing is more important to focus upon than the unique perspective that you can provide. Fortunately, there’s only one you, complete with things that have happened to you, things you think about, and things you can’t help but do. While you are unique, you’re probably just unique enough that there are plenty of people who are interested in the same things that you are, and are interested in what you have to say.
Be patient, be committed
I was talking to an elderly man in my neighborhood the other day. He has been living in Lincoln Park, Chicago since he bought his house more than 50 years ago. A lot has changed in the neighborhood since then, and – as you can imagine – his house is worth much more than when he purchased it (even when adjusted for inflation).
It’s stories like these that have caused many people to seek real estate as an investment – often to their own financial peril. “God only made so much dirt, and there will always be more people,” they say. The problem is, the time to lay claim to your piece of dirt has mostly passed, and the way we interact with information has altered the way we interact with “dirt.” But information – and experiences – are not like dirt. There are always more.
What is 10 years, really, in the grand scheme of your life? If it takes you 10 years to build something great, there’s plenty more life to live; and if you’ve stayed true to yourself, you’ve had a lot of fun building it. Many entrepreneurs dream of starting a company, giving up most of it in exchange for funding, building said company, and cashing out 3 years later for millions. There is so much fervor around the success stories that have worked this way, sometimes its hard to recognize whether that is, in fact, what you really want from your career and life.
I once wanted this, too; but I can say with certainty today that I no longer do. I don’t love money enough, I’m not interested enough in such bragging rights, to muster enough motivation to put up with what a personal drain I imagine that to be. I don’t know if those are the things that motivate such founders, but I’ve definitely met some for whom money and acheivement are their driving forces. Why would you work so hard on something if you didn’t love it? If you loved it so much, why would you sell it? After 6 years of tinkering around, I’m finally making a very modest living off of the Kadavy, Inc. family. Most of this happened in the last year (I hope to share more about that in future posts). I can’t wait to see what happens in the next 4.
When you’re true to your curiousities, and accept that something will take a long time, you can more easily enjoy the whole process. By using only the resources you have at hand, whatever it is you build is yours the whole way.
Write with SEO in mind
Most posts on kadavy.net have come from answering this question: what do I know that I could teach someone else, and how would they search for it? When I had a lump in my mouth, and agonized over just what it might be, once I finally knew what the issue was, I set out to help inform other people who might be searching for the same thing. Instead of writing about mucoceles (whatever those are), I wrote about mucoceles using the language someone would use to search for them. This experience has paid for its own medical bills and then some. By using SEO best practices, you can make sure the people who are looking for what you have to share – actually find it.
Find an audience
Whatever websites there are that you like to read, those are probably the ones where you can find your audience. The first breakout post for kadavy.net was Eight Life Hacks for Health, Wealth, & Happiness. It was during the budding days of “Lifehacks,” and Lifehacker, naturally was a good place for such content. I thought of the post while in the shower, wrote it and published once I got out of the shower, and sent it in a quick e-mail to Lifehacker, who then published it on their site. I’ve had good luck being covered by Lifehacker a number of times over the years, and lately I’ve had good luck with the (amazing) community on Hacker News. You have to find out where your audience reads, and get in front of their eyeballs – usually, this will take some effort on your part (like sending an e-mail). Guest posts are another great way to reach an audience, though I’ve never actually done one.
Build upon your successes
Not every blog post is of use to a lot of people. Unsurprisingly, not that many people are looking for the meaning behind the movie “swimming pool,” or trying to figure out how to set proper book margins. But, a surprising amount of people have lumps in their mouths, or want to transfer their itunes library. Aside from poking around on Google Keyword Tool, its hard to know if many people will really care about a given blog post; but when you do have a successful post, build upon it. Write related posts, research related keywords and incorporate them into the post, or build a whole separate site. If you have a post that goes viral, try to think about what elements made it interesting to your particular audience. I’ve found that explaining design principles by using popular examples is apparently as much fun for others to read about as it is for me to write about.
So, take it or leave it. I’m not rich. I’m not famous. But, I got 100,000 page views last month and I’m happy about it. It may have taken a long time, but I’m not stopping any time soon. Hopefully some of my advice can help you reach 1,000,000 page views.