How I Got 100,000 Visitors and 5,000 Email Subscribers in 6 Weeks
What worked, what didn’t, and what went viral
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.
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:
- Things that worked really well
- A few things that I wish I’d done differently
Things That Worked Well
1. High effort = high reward.
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.
If you’re planning a launch/blog/campaign, ask yourself how it can be bigger. Or, how can it look bigger.
2. Give people a clear reason to subscribe.
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:
- Released a series of blogs weekly, so people were subscribing to the next chapter.
- The signup area was specific about when the next content would be released.
- Send an automated “welcome” email, which reminded them what type of content they can expect to receive.
3. The power of traditional media
I managed to get featured in a bunch of mainstream media, including TechCrunch, Financial Times, Forbes, and MorningBrew.
This was my strategy with journalists:
- Created a list of journalists who’ve written about this niche before.
- 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.
- Send super personalized emails, not generic press releases.
- Tracked responses in Google Sheets, if a journalist didn’t respond, I’d try another journalist from the same paper.
- Twitter DMs seem to convert as well as emails.
4. Twitter threads are great
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?
The key to a good Twitter thread:
- Be concise.
- Save the self-promotion for the end.
- Images and graphs help break up the text.
- Compress the real value of an article down into a few tweets. Not just the clickbaity stuff.
5. Consider other platforms (not just Twitter / ProductHunt)
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.
In total, I saw tens of millions of impressions on LinkedIn posts, and they were just the ones people were sending me!
- Are there other platforms/communities where you could publish something that’s 10x better than the average content?
- Focus your efforts on a few platforms, and actually engaging with people there. Don’t just post it everywhere and hope it catches on.
- If possible, build relationships with influencers on that platform (long term strategy).
Things I Wish I’d Done Differently
1. Track signups better
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.
2. Get good hosting
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.
3. RSS feeds exist
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.