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How I got 12,000 Pageviews for $50

Posted By Darren Rowse 6th of June 2009 Blog Promotion 0 Comments

Joey Daoud is a filmmaker and freelance photographer.

Put $50 towards some ads in an AdSense campaign and maybe you’ll get a few hundred click-throughs. What if that same $50 could get you over 12,000 pageviews, plus a mention in the British newspaper the Guardian. Here’s how I did it.


Photo by vinduhl

50 to 12,000

Some back-story: I’m making a documentary on life hacking (finding shortcuts in everyday life to get the boring stuff done quicker), and with that I have an accompanying blog and podcast.

A few months back I was reading a profile on the author Will Self. He made a comment about how he still enjoys using a typewriter because it forces you to write differently and not edit yourself.

I’m always trying different ways of writing, and being in Gen-Y I’ve always had a word processor to punch out essays and articles, so I’ve never had the experience of writing on a typewriter.

I figured there must be a program out there that mimics the behavior of a typewriter, something basic like WriteRoom that wouldn’t let you delete or insert words.

I did a search and came up with nothing. However, the idea of a very minimal text editor that was so archaic it wouldn’t let you delete stuck with me. I figured it was in the spirit of the film, so it would be something cool to share on the site and see what people make of it. And like the blog posts and podcasts, hopefully it would be something people would spread around and help promote the film.

I have no programing experience, so I turned to Elance, the great freelance site where you can hire anyone from virtual assistants to graphic designers to programmers.

I posted the job for a programmer to make this minimal text editor, waited around for a bid that was in my price range, and finally got the minimum $50 bid. After hiring we went back and forth with tests and notes, and about a week later I had the creatively named program Typewriter.

I posted it to the site. A few days went by and not much activity; a few mentions here and there, but nothing big. Then the hit I was hoping for came.

It was posted on Lifehacker. In one day I got 5000 pageviews, plus mentions on dozens of other blogs (it was sad to see how many would just copy the entire Lifehacker post verbatim).

This traffic boost led to more subscribers and sales, plus a greater awareness of the film and blog. And I’m still only $50 out of pocket.

Blog to Newspaper

That Saturday night I got another surprise. One of my Google alerts showed my name mentioned in an article in the Observer, a weekly paper that’s part of the Guardian. It was about the author’s first experiences with word processors, a story prompted by Typewriter the program, which was mentioned at the end (my name popped up when Will Self’s quote was misattributed to me).

At first I thought this was just some online blog on the Observer’s site, but I soon discovered that this was in the actual printed edition, distributed around the world.

It’s been a little over 2 weeks since the post went live, and the post alone has gotten over 12,000 pageviews, not to mention traffic to the rest of the site. All for just $50.

Ideas for your Ideas

Here are some ways you can use what I did to help your own blog and projects:

  • Ideas are cheap to make into a reality. I think the beauty in all of this is that it’s so cheap and easy to implement an idea and see if it sticks. If you have an idea that you have the slightest belief that there might be something there, just do it. Throw it out into the interweb and see what happens.
  • Think beyond your traditional content. As I said I have no programming experience. Plus my blog is about a movie, yet a piece of software became a hit. With Elance and other freelance networks, if you can imagine it someone can implement it (and for not that much). Make an iPhone app. Design an eBook or cool poster as a unique interpretation of your content. Read lots of stuff, related and unrelated to your blog, and keep an open mind and eye.
  • Offer it for free. If I didn’t offer Typewriter for free I don’t think it would have been nearly as popular. Sure, maybe I could have made a couple bucks, but I’m a filmmaker, not a software developer, and goal number one of the program was to promote the film and blog.

I hope you found something useful in this post, and hopefully it gave you some ideas of your own. Now go make them a reality.

Joey Daoud is a filmmaker and freelance photographer finishing You 2.0, a documentary on life hacking. He also writes about film and photography on his blog Coffee and Celluloid.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Darren what a fantastic story and a brilliant display of what thinking outside of the box can achieve. This is a great bit of inspiration not just for me but for all readers of this post. I’m going to go into my old files and see what ideas I shelved without giving them a shot and see what can come of it.

    Great stuff!

  2. “Awesome” is the only word that come to my mind!

    I completely agree with all the three conclusions. With global outsourcing possible through freelancing sites, it has become really cheap to get anything developed. So, your imagination is the only limit!

    Also, I agree that thinking beyond the obvious is necessary. Podcasts and RSS feeds are fine. But we need to go beyond that. Here are some ideas:

    – ebooks
    – Software related to what you write about
    – Widgets
    – iPhone apps
    – Browser toolbars

    The list can be endless. All these are inexpensive to develop, and are very easy for your users to download / install.

    So, if you create something useful, it can be an instant hit.

    And yes, give it away for free. The days are gone when people used to think that free is cheap. We are slowly moving towards open source – in word and in spirit.

    So, offer your stuff for free, and money would follow directly or indirectly.

  3. I always wanted to try something like this.. Will give it a try with your advice. Getting mentioned in main stream media is something proud thing for most bloggers…

  4. That’s a great opportunity you got there. Bloggers can spend years without getting that kind of exposure. And for only $50? that’s what I call a great deal. Cheers Joey!!!

  5. Blogging to newpaper would require a good experience, and writing something exclusively and attract people’s attention. A hard task but it really pays off.

  6. Inspiring stuff! I thought it was going to be another “how I hacked so and so advertising service” but this was brilliant, bravo :D

  7. Salman says: 06/06/2009 at 1:17 am

    Hi Darren
    Are there any free ways to increase page views.
    As I am a starter so I cant afford paying out $50

  8. Salman says: 06/06/2009 at 1:18 am

    Hi Darren
    Are there any free ways to increase page views.
    As I am a starter so I cant afford paying out $50

    http://www.tips4blogging.co.cc for blogging tips and hacks.

  9. I don’t think that you invested just $50.

    First of all, you had the resources and the already-existing audience to promote your documentary.
    You have your fame and reputation, which has been achieved with years of hard work.

    But the idea itself is great. Of course not many can pull it off… a noname blogger will never be quoted or featured :)

  10. it’s so great idea and crazy, but the most important is the Capacity that publish your article in newspaper.

  11. I love this idea about changing the nature of promotion. It proves the basic adage of blogging: provide great content.

    I was wary from the hyperbolic title, but this post is inspiring to take new directions.

  12. That’s absolutely hilarious. I use basic text editors for lots of stuff (writing HTML, for example), but don’t take away my delete key!

    I wasn’t aware of elance. I’ll have to keep it in mind for graphic design work in the future, since I suck at it.

  13. Congrats! I think what you have actually illustrated is how a good idea can pay off. Whether it’s a “million dollar homepage” or photos of funny cats – getting something different up will often capture the imagination.

    Unfortunately there is no guaranteed recipe for good ideas! Although if you come up with that, you’ll be getting more than a few thousand page views :)

    Nice one.

  14. Nice and inspirational story. Thanks for this post Darren and of course Joey.

  15. Salmon if you want to save the money, you can always learn how to do some basic programming through books at the library. I started my programming years ago by reading and using the free development tools.

    My free software offerings like time manager Taskblaze: http://bit.ly/Nhajy
    have brought in tens of thousands of pageviews, downloads and good will.

    So Joey is right.

    If you can find a need and build the software that addresses that need, then you’ll get much in return. $50 isn’t a lot of money to get it done. But if that’s too much, then get to reading and coding on your own. You won’t be sorry you did.

  16. I think the main point here is ‘desire’. How strong is your desire for what you want? There is a billion different things that I want to do for my blog but then when I put them in order there are a lot of other things I prefer to do before them (like sleep…lol).

    If you want to do something hard enough then you’ll find a way. The trick is having the right motivation/strong enough motivation to follow your ideas through.

    The other thing you need to think about when following through with an idea is its need for consistency. I might always be able to start something but do I have the time and energy to keep it going – to be consistent with it?

    I wish following through with ideas could be more simple – like how Joey has put it…lol.

  17. Thanks everyone for you kind comments. I’m glad you found it useful.

    Salman, I agree with Brad. The only reason I paid is because I don’t know how to program, but if you have a unique skill or are willing to learn, then you can definitely put something together and throw it out there.

  18. A wonderful and inspiring story for those of us who have yet to see that type of traffic. Thanks for the helpful tip!

  19. The problem is that, for a professional blogger, I’m not sure 12,000 pageviews is actually worth $50. Unless you’re getting $4 CPM, you’re not breaking even.

    And I’ve had dozens of mentions in the mainstream press. I’ve been on major TV and radio programs covering the politics and foreign affairs niche that I operate in. The boost in traffic to my blog? Bupkis. It just doesn’t translate.

  20. Awesome! Thinking beyond traditional content is what I the tip I liked the most. That’s what every successful person does.

  21. That’s brilliant. I hope you have given SOME credit to the developer of the script? I know you paid for it and it’s yours now, but that person is probably just as physched as you are for the successful results. :)


  22. GREAT, GREAT LESSON learned out of this.
    Sometime we just need to be creative in terms of marketing your blog.

    Stock Market and Life

  23. As a freelance programmer, I have to say I have a problem with this post.

    We fight a misconception that programming is easy, and any programmer who wants to charge more than $50 is being greedy, and this post somewhat persists it.

    While it’s true that sometimes you can get projects done for this cheap, not all ideas are going to be cheap, and not all cheap implementations will be any good.

    Just as a professional blogging blog would warn against getting dozens of articles written for $5 by a cheap copywriter, I feel I have to warn that a high quality application for $50 is the exception, not the rule.

  24. @James Joyner – Even if he doesn’t earn $4 CPM on that burst of 12,000 viewers the exposure and the increase in his subscriber base will surely pay off in the long run.

  25. Tim – yeah, $50 is pretty cheap for this, especially since Joey mentioned info going back and forth a couple of times.

    I wonder it the programmer thought that a neat idea and worked for less because of this?

  26. Great, great idea. You gave value to your readers while promoting. Win-win. Of course it is possible that some of these brilliant ideas can fail. I’m giving away one of my ebooks for free for example. Many readers put less value on the book because it is free. Nevertheless, I want to continue give readers value, while I promote.


  27. @Kosmo – Possibly, I know if someone offered me a cool sounding job I’d do it for cheaper. ;)

  28. I’m strongly with Tim and Kosmo on this one. The developer in this story who did all of the actual work got 0 extra pageviews and a measly $50 for his troubles.

    I soon as I got to the “Elance” part of the story that sent up a big old red flag for me. Finding a programmer on Elance, the home for undercutting industry rates and undervaluing freelancers, may have made the $50 punchline of this story easy to attain but it’s kind of frowned upon in some circles to “wait around” until you find a programmer to do your bidding for so little.

  29. For the comments on the cost being so low, the provider was based out of Russia and was new to Elance. Lots of times new providers will offer a lower bid to get the job to build up a positive rating, which was the case here.

    And Kaushik, yeah, the idea could totally fall flat, but I think if the risk is minimal (however you figure what minimal is), then I think it’s worth a shot to throw it out there.

    Typewriter is one out of a dozen ideas. I’ve got podcast episodes that I thought would be hits that weren’t, and vice versa. (*cough* that would be an interview with Biz Stone on Twitter, if you’re interested http://is.gd/PoLQ)

  30. @Brandi – I did give the programmer a shout out on the original post, and I’ve had some people ask me about him.

    So while he might not have gotten pageviews to his site, he got hits to his Elance page and hopefully some new business because of this.

    And James Joyner and Top Ten Rap Songs – between spending $50 on Google or Facebook ads and on the program, I’d stick with the program any day. It’s done far more than any ad has ever done.

  31. That is just incredible!

    One of my posts had over 20000 views on Lifehacker.

    Now, if Oprah and Ashton Kutcher were in your movie… it would make a sweet-tweet!

  32. Back to classic?
    Hmm.. Would be a new challenge for people who lost their blogging spirit..

  33. Joey,

    This is a real cup of inspiration! I love how your creativity turned into something better.

    Thanks so much for you sharing your story and I’m going to have to start thinking of such creative projects!

    Miss Gisele B.

  34. Thanks for sharing your innovation and out of the square approach to blogging. Well done.

    I imagine the feeling of reaching beyond your expectations is euphoric.

  35. Pride over getting something for $50 over Elance is troubling to those who have to make their living as freelancers. Even in Russia that doesn’t go very far. And that’s the problem with Elance for freelancers. It’s filled with new people who will always submit the lowest bid and with buyers who always take the lowest bid.

    But there are also enough customers out there who are willing to pay a premium for quality and look beyond Elance. We started as one of those $50 Elance freelancers but now don’t even bother with Elance and rarely taken anything for less than 20X that amount.

    The best way for freelancers to move out of that Elance trap is to setup their own site, build a great portfolio, blog in their niche, and do a lot of SEO….same as any blogger…just use Elance to build a portfolio. There are plenty of people willing to spend more than $50 on their great idea.

    Anyway, kudos to Joey for a great marketing concept.

  36. This was a really inspiration story and you have an awesome piece of software here! I have to admit, I probably wouldn’t pay for it, but it is an interesting way to write and it forces you to keep going no matter what. That’s so cool!

    You’ve given me some fuel for my own future projects. :)

  37. Brad Isaac says: 06/06/2009 at 1:27 pm

    Jeff, we don’t always know what the Elancer’s situation. For instance, I would expect my son will be coding at that level when he’s 15. $50 would be a good amount at that age.

    Some new Elancers bid low to build their reputations and a client base. Consider it like blogging. We may give away a lot and we get a lot because we pay our dues.

  38. currently getting huge page views become not so difficult thing, but it is more difficult to make this pageview to money. how can I do it?

  39. Ever since I started my blog Jessica Who?, my mind has not stopped churning out ideas. Because I don’t want to overwhelm my readers and run out of steam, I have many posts coming down the pipe. I have spread them out and have ideas all the way up to the end of August.

    Because I have put so much effort into my content and I have received so much positive feedback, I feel that I am ready for that inevitable spike in traffic and when it does happen I know that most of them will become regular visitors.

  40. Hi Darren,
    What according to you is the single best way to increase the pageviews other than investing money?My blog is 2 months old..In the last month I have around 1600 pageviews. I have 38 posts right now. Do you think I am going well??Please suggest..Your suggestion will be really helpful…Thanks.

  41. Don’t think of the money factor here. You are an entrepreneur when you are thinking of improving your blog and money factor shouldn’t hinder you from implementing an idea.

    You should have noticed the important factors here – getting an idea and thinking of ways to get the work done. There times it’s not enough to work hard… It’s more important to work smart.

  42. Just another proof that thinking outside the box is the key to achieve! Good luck! I hope you will come up with other great ideas and make money :-)

  43. Awesome idea

    What a great way to build your exposure. Interesting that the traditional media picked up on it.

    And giving something away for free allowed you to get a whole lot more back in return.

  44. Fantastic stuff there. Well it goes to show how powerful an idea can become.

    P.S Way too many links in this post, yawn.

  45. Great idea and cool story.
    Downloaded the tool, weird to go back in time like this.

  46. Genius! What really kicks for me is that I learned how to type on a genuine manual typewriter many many many moons ago in Jr. High school. And truth be told, trying that program is tempting, but I’d probably bail after 10 seconds. I have been assimilated. :-)

  47. Thanks so much for the fantastic idea. You’ve pushed me to think outside of the box and to actually implement some of the “brilliant” ideas I have, yet hardly ever get around to them.

    I’ve used rentacoder, but not elance. It really is just that simple to hire someone to do something you don’t have the time or the talents to pull off, and reap the benefits of it.

    I’m always looking for new ways to drive traffic to my site, and to teach my team to do the same. I’ll definitely add this to my team membership site. Thanks so much for sharing!


  48. Yeah but thats highly unlikely for everyone to do it … I wud say that you were quite lucky !!

  49. Ack!! Luck has nothing to do with it. Find a need and build a solution. That’s all there us to it. If it means hiring help to build the fix, then fine. As Long as it solves peoples problems, they will visit.

  50. PLUS no one mentioned how many more you will get from this(post) same 50 bucks ;)

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