By Alex Chris of reliablesoft.net
How do you build a successful fitness blog? What does it take to start a blog and grow the traffic to 100K monthly visitors in less than a year?
If you have a fitness blog or planning to start one or even if you are just curious on how you can grow your blog’s traffic fast, then this post is for you.
What you will learn in this post is the steps I followed to increase the traffic of my fitness blog to 100,000 organic visits in only one year. I will explain the process I followed and share my experiences so that you can replicate my steps and do the same.
To give you an additional incentive to read this post until the end, let me mention that the organic traffic of the blog at the end of January is close to 600K monthly visits.
Have in mind that although what you will read below is the story of a fitness blog, the concepts and techniques can be applied to all kinds of blogs and websites.
So, let’s get started.
I’m sure that you want to see some numbers and statistics but let’s just hold on for a moment.
Let’s rewind and take it from the beginning and talk a bit about the fitness industry.
The fitness industry is often referred to as the ‘million-dollar industry’. On one hand, we have the millions of people searching for ways to get fit, lose weight and unleash the secrets of healthy living.
On the other hand, it’s the companies that make millions per year by selling meal plans, diets, supplements and sometimes just hope to help those people achieve their goals.
In the middle, we have giant websites (newspapers, online magazines, etc.) that provide free information on all topics related to fitness and healthy living.
Someone may wonder, how can a new fitness blog compete with these and gain its share of traffic and money?
Well, it’s a matter of quality. Have you ever heard the term ‘content it’s king’?
It’s one of the most popular advice given by SEO’s the last 10 years and this is for a reason.
Make your content better than the competition and everything else will follow.
So, the first takeaway message from this post is that there is always hope. The Internet is not a place for a few but it’s a place for the many and if you prove that you have something valuable to offer to your readers, you can succeed in any niche you choose.
How to go from 0 to 100K Monthly Visits on Your Blog
Ok, now that everything is in place, let’s get to the details.
The blog is caloriesecrets.net, it was established in April 2012 and by the end of April 2013, monthly traffic from Google was 102,944.
Here is an overview of the monthly traffic for the first 12 months.
It helps you see at a glance your traffic details and the relationship between number of published posts and traffic. This can prove very useful when you need the extra motivation to start writing you next post.The above table is a copy from my notes. I like to keep a simple table like this for all my websites and I suggest you do the same.
Step 1: Get to know your niche
Your first step and before starting a blog in any niche, is to find out as much as you can about your niche.
In my case, I was blogging about fitness since 2008 so I knew the industry very well and I believe this is one of the reasons that the blog’s traffic increased so quickly.
Once you come up with a blog idea, open Google, go to Facebook and Twitter and spend time to learn about your industry.
Find out who are the influencers, which websites rank on the first pages of Google, what type of content they provide, how often they publish new content, what is the average length of each post, what do they share on Facebook and twitter.
Tools like semrush and buzzsumo can help you a lot. Semrush is the perfect tool for competitor analysis. It can give you a lot of information about a domain including ranking keywords, traffic and a thorough backlink analysis.
Buzzsumo can help you identify what type of content gets shared on social media, what type of titles are used and who are the influencers in a niche.
STEP 2: Do your keyword research
A successful blog starts with good keyword research. I’m sure you know this already but it’s necessary to mention this again because any time you spend at the beginning doing keyword research will pay off later.
Remember when I mentioned above how competitive the fitness industry is? This is where good keyword research and in particular long tail keywords come into rescue.
When doing keyword research on highly competitive niches, don’t lose your time by targeting the most popular keywords, these are already being targeted by giant websites.
What you should do instead is go after long tail keywords.
This guide explains in detail how to find the long tail keywords in your niche, what I want to add here is the following:
Don’t get obsessed about the search volume of a keyword. Tools may show that long tail keywords have low search volumes but what is more important, especially at the beginning, is to achieve top rankings for some of the keywords (even if their traffic is very low).
This will gradually make your domain stronger and give you the opportunity to achieve higher rankings for more popular keywords.
STEP 3: Create a publishing schedule and stick to it
If you want to get traffic from search engines, you need to have content. It’s as simple as that.
Especially in niches like fitness, you need to have a lot of content. When starting out you should decide how often you can publish new posts, create a plan and stick to it.
When I launched the blog in April 2012, I published 10 posts the same day and then established a publishing schedule of three posts per week, which I keep today.
No matter the season (holidays, time off) or how I busy I am, I will publish three new posts per week. It’s a commitment you have to make if you are serious about your blogging efforts.
How often you should publish a new post depends on a number of things. You should not set optimistic targets you cannot meet but on the other hand you should not forget that the success of your blog, largely depends on your content.
My recommendation is to aim for three posts per week and if you feel you can do more, to go daily. Don’t forget to take a look at what your competitors are doing, this will help you decide on what target to set.
Step 4: Create Quality content
I said in the introduction of this post that content quality is a very important factor for all blogs in all niches.
For health-related niches, this is even more important. When you give advice to people that has to do with their state of health, you should be very careful.
It’s not like blogging about any other subject where you can become an expert through experience.
It’s not enough to be passionate about nutrition or fitness but you need to be an expert (a verified one), so that your readers (and other websites in the industry), will take you seriously.
If you think about it, you have three options:
- To become an expert – get a diploma or attend courses.
- To avoid giving any health related advice to people and only share your experiences on how you managed to lose weight or get fit, etc.
- Hire an expert.
At the beginning, I started with number 2. I’m passionate about fitness and healthy living and I had enough stories to share with the rest of the world.
Soon enough my experience in the fitness industry told me otherwise. To get noticed by other bloggers and websites, I needed something more than just experiences, I needed certified experts that can analyse the science behind nutrition/fitness and this is the point that I decided to go with number three, i.e. to hire experts to do the writing.
It was a huge step, one that added risks and extra costs to a blog that was not making any money yet, but it was a necessary step. I was willing to take the risks because I knew the industry well so I knew what to ask from my writers.
Now, I don’t want to confuse you so let me clarify something. I’m not suggesting that you need to be a certified professional in order to create a blog on any topic you like.
All I’m saying that you need to take into account the particularity of your niche and be in position to create content that is as good or better as to what is already published on the web.
To summarize, my advice when it comes to creating content for your blog is this:
- Take a closer look at your competitors and create content that is better (both in terms of quality and length).
- Use case studies and research data to back-up the views / ideas expressed in your articles.
- Be unbiased. Tell both sides of a story.
- Don’t try to oversell a product or service, your main focus should be to provide value to your readers.
Step 5: Get your SEO right
Once you have good content, the next step is to get your SEO right. Good SEO will help your content rise to the surface and receive the attention it deserves from search engines and people.
In general, SEO can be split into three parts:
Technical SEO: These are settings that have to do with indexing and crawling, XML sitemaps, URL formatting and other ways to ensure that search engines can read and index your website properly.
On-Page SEO: Techniques you can use to make your pages’ search engine friendly. Things like your page titles and descriptions, text formatting, image seo, mobile friendliness, speed and other settings that can help search engines understand the context (meaning) of your posts and pages.
Off-page SEO: This is often referred to as ‘link building’ and it has to do with getting references (links) from other related websites on the Internet. By doing so, you can gradually increase your domain authority and get better rankings in Google.
It’s not as hard as it sounds. There are many ways to learn SEO and get this right. You just have to allocate some time from the beginning to learn the basics and as you become more experienced, everything will make more sense.
What I did from the very beginning was to fix the technical SEO issues and for every published article, I did some basic on-page SEO optimizations, especially with the titles and images.
Now, everybody with an experience in blogging knows that link building is crucial for rankings. I also knew this in 2012 but for those that remember, this was the year that Google released the Penguin and Panda algorithms that gave a special attention to bad linking practices.
So, I decided not to do any form of link building but rely solely on the quality of the content (as well as the methods you will read below), for getting natural backlinks to the site.
My advice for beginners is to follow the same path i.e. until your blog is at least six months old and has a decent number of posts with quality content, not to engage in any form of link building.
After that period, be selective as to the techniques you will use and don’t push it too fast. Build your link profile slowly and avoid any kind of shortcuts.
Step 6: Promote Your Work (besides Social Media)
We all know that social media is one of the fastest ways to promote your blog, especially if you are willing to spend a few hundred dollars on Facebook ads, but it’s not the only way to reach new audiences.
While I did start a Facebook campaign to increase my fans, which was more efficient at that time than it is now, I also looked for other ways to promote my blog. In particular:
- I added the blog to the Chrome Web Store. This was a hidden source of traffic since thousands of people added my chrome app to their desktops and they also got new notifications every time a new post was published. I did not expect this to work so good but as they say, you will never know something unless you try it. Unfortunately, after the latest changes to the chrome web store (June 2016), this is no longer the case.
- I created apps for Android Devices and Microsoft and uploaded them to the Google Play, Amazon Play Store and Windows Store. The competition was less (compared to today), and these apps generated a decent amount of direct traffic.
- I also verified the website with Health On the Net– an independent organization that checks health related websites for compliance with a number of things. This did not generate extra traffic but it helped in building trustworthiness which is equally important.
Step 7: Don’t forget about your users
While so far we have talked about the importance of content and SEO, you should not forget about the user experience.
The first thing that comes in mind is of course the design of the website that has to be easy to use and user friendly, but there also other incentives you can provide to users so that they can come back and re-visit.
What I did is to create a set of Free tools (free diet plan, calorie counter, calorie calculator) to help users achieve their weight loss goals.
This helped a lot in getting repeating visits and creating a community around the website. In addition, it was a great way in building a large email list for my newsletter.
The take away from this section is to think of ways to make users engage with your content and give them incentives so as to re-visit.
What about money?
I deliberately did not mention anything about money and how I was able to pay for all the content and tools, but I know that this is a part that you want to read so here are the details.
At the beginning and for a few years the website was operating at a loss. This was not a surprise for me, I knew it from the beginning and I took the risk.
I knew that in order to make real money, you needed a lot of traffic but I also knew that in order to get good traffic you needed good content and tools.
The website makes money from Adsense. The last four years it generated a nice five-figure amount. Enough to cover for the initial expenses and also to provide a decent monthly revenue.
With Adsense you don’t have to worry about creating products, managing sales and customer support but you settle for less profit.
I know that other companies are probably making more money from my content than I do but at this stage and with the lack of time, I decided that Adsense is the best way to go.
To sum up this post, let me give you some pointers you can use when working on your own blog or website.
First: There is no secret recipe for creating a successful blog. Everything is laid out in front you and it’s the same for all blogs in all niches:
- Create engaging content
- Good on-page SEO
- Careful off-page SEO
- Consistency (stick to your publishing content)
- Build a community around your blog
- Be patient and work hard
Second: Get to know your niche really well. This is part of your job as a blogger, it’s not an optional task. You need to know what your competitors are doing and what is working for them. Spying on your competitors is not a black hat technique, it’s a way to make your content and user experience better.
Third: Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. If you are starting out now, you may not get it right from the first time. That’s normal to happen. Learn from your mistakes and try again.
It took me years to get organic traffic to my first blog, caloriesecrets was my fourth attempt in the fitness niche.
Take ProBlogger as another example. It is a highly successful blog with millions of monthly visitors in one of the most saturated niches on the Internet, but this did not happen overnight. Darren has been working on this blog since 2004 and before that he already had two years’ experience with other blogs.
Don’t forget, good results come to those who take blogging seriously and work hard.
Share you own story or questions in the comments, I would be more than happy to answer them.
Alex is the Digital Marketing Manager at Reliablesoft. He blogs regularly about SEO and Digital marketing and his work has been referenced by leading industry websites. You can find him in Twitter (@reliablesoftnet)