How I Got 100,000 Visitors and 5,000 Email Subscribers in 6 Weeks

What worked, what didn’t, and what went viral

Peter Ramsey
Jun 27 · 5 min read
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Screenshot courtesy of the author

In April, Built for Mars had about 1,000 visitors, then it exploded and received 100,000 visitors in six weeks.

And it’s still growing.

At one point it hit about 230 concurrent readers. I was so excited I almost forgot to screenshot it.

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Screenshot provided by author

My UX email newsletter also grew by 5,000 subscribers and is currently gaining 150+ subs a day.

So, in the spirit of The Start-Up, here is a list of:

  1. Things that worked really well
  2. A few things that I wish I’d done differently

Things That Worked Well

People appreciate content that clearly took a lot of effort to create.

I think this is one of the reasons why people are drawn to YouTubers like MrBeast, he does things that clearly took a huge amount of effort.

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Screenshot from MrBeast’s Youtube

If you’re planning a launch/blog/campaign, ask yourself how it can be bigger. Or, how can it look bigger.

People will be more likely to subscribe to your mailing list if they have FOMO that if they don’t, then they’ll miss something. That’s really the bottom line of a mailing list, right? People don’t want to miss your content.

Here’s what I did:

  1. Released a series of blogs weekly, so people were subscribing to the next chapter.
  2. The signup area was specific about when the next content would be released.
  3. Send an automated “welcome” email, which reminded them what type of content they can expect to receive.
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Screenshot provided by author

I managed to get featured in a bunch of mainstream media, including TechCrunch, Financial Times, Forbes, and MorningBrew.

This was my strategy with journalists:

  1. Created a list of journalists who’ve written about this niche before.
  2. Approach them three or four days before the content went live. They need enough time to write about it, but not so long they don’t feel any time pressure.
  3. Send super personalized emails, not generic press releases.
  4. Tracked responses in Google Sheets, if a journalist didn’t respond, I’d try another journalist from the same paper.
  5. Twitter DMs seem to convert as well as emails.
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Screenshot provided by author

I know this isn’t that many retweets, but I had like 300 followers at the time and it was by far the best engagement I’ve ever had on Twitter. We celebrate the small wins, right?

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Screenshot provided by author

The key to a good Twitter thread:

  1. Be concise.
  2. Save the self-promotion for the end.
  3. Images and graphs help break up the text.
  4. Compress the real value of an article down into a few tweets. Not just the clickbaity stuff.

I knew that my primary audience (FinTech/founders/investors) were all on LinkedIn. And LinkedIn, generally, has really crappy content. So I largely ignored competitive places like Facebook/Slack channels/Reddit and focused on LinkedIn.

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Screenshot provided by author

In total, I saw tens of millions of impressions on LinkedIn posts, and they were just the ones people were sending me!

So, consider:

  1. Are there other platforms/communities where you could publish something that’s 10x better than the average content?
  2. Focus your efforts on a few platforms, and actually engaging with people there. Don’t just post it everywhere and hope it catches on.
  3. If possible, build relationships with influencers on that platform (long term strategy).

Things I Wish I’d Done Differently

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Image provided by author

I hadn’t set it up so I could see where my subscribers were coming from. They all just came from “Mailchimp API.” If I’d done this before publishing, I’d have a much better idea of where my sign-ups were coming from, and which methods to double down on.

I was still using a £2 per month hosting package, and every time I sent a newsletter out it’d die. For anyone that’s been in that situation, it’s totally crushing. I moved host and set up Cloudflare, but I probably won’t get many of those visitors back.

Lesson: Don’t expect much from £2/month hosting.

I completely forgot about RSS feeds and had a bunch of articles published on Wordpress but without any links to them. I naively assumed nobody would find them.

Wrong. They appeared in RSS feeds and people saw them early.

Luckily, I had a few people email to let me know, but if they hadn’t I’d never have known. Now I password protect everything. (Facepalms)

But, What Was It That Went Viral?

I opened 12 real bank accounts to benchmark their UX. This includes highlighting the subtle differences between great and terrible experiences.

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