We Went from 0 to 25,000 in Less than a Year – Here’s How We Did It!
It seems like not too long ago that we were googling similar questions. Not too long ago – nine months to be exact – we were wondering how bloggers get more than 25,000 visitors to their blog in a single month. It seemed like magic and almost unattainable. Often times people say it takes time – and yes, we absolutely agree with this. But we also think it is possible to make it happen faster if you are willing to put in lots of hard work.
After hearing advice from successful bloggers like Lia Garcia that new bloggers should try to get to the 25k sessions as soon as possible, Lisa found herself googling “How to increase blog traffic” on more than one occasion. Most of the things she found wasn’t new knowledge, however, and blogging has still largely been trial and error for the most part. Here is how we made it happen in the end as well as a few actionables you can try to help your blog grow!
Why 25,000 Sessions?
So, why did we aim for 25,000 session/monthly? Well, it comes back to our blogging intentions. The story is a little longer than this, but basically, we agreed to “go for it” – make money from a blog. But not just a little money – we aimed to earn a living wage from the blog and we were determined to do it. We knew it was theoretically possible – but we needed to put in the work. We are still nowhere close to making enough from the blog so it is a good thing that we also continued working online and didn’t completely put all our eggs in one basket.
Anyways, maybe you have heard of the Ad network called Mediavine? Well, having ads on your site is seen as one of the first ways you can make money from it. It’s a great first step but not the only way. In any case, one of Mediavine’s requirements is that you have 25,000 sessions in the previous 30 days before you can apply. So that’s what we aimed for. From all the display advertisements on our site, you can tell that we did it.
It took us roughly 8 months to go from 0 to 25,000 sessions a month. That said, we worked at an increasing pace as the months went on and we learned more and grew as bloggers. We do also have to say that we were kind of lucky and had a blog post go semi-viral when we crossed the mark the first time. Afterward, it took another two months until we hit 25,000 on a consistent basis.
Our Blog – Penguin & Pia
When you search for “blog growth” posts you often read that you shouldn’t compare your blog to others. We agree to some extent. Of course, you should not compare your new travel blog to an established food blog. However, sometimes it can be helpful to compare your blog to a blog in a similar niche at the same point in time.
What we mean is this: If your blog is five months old, compare how your blog is doing now to how the other blog was doing when it was five months old. Sometimes bloggers publish traffic or income reports which can be helpful. In order to make it possible for you to compare your blog with ours, here are some things you should know about our blog:
- Our blog is a travel blog. We don’t have a specific niche that we focus on (at least not yet – maybe it will develop as we continue this blogging journey).
- We blog in two languages – English and German. This is important since our audience is different than if we just blogged in English. Approximately 40% of our visitors read our blog posts in German.
- Before we started blogging we had a basic understanding of SEO and Digital Marketing. We knew some basic SEO rules but improved rapidly during our first few weeks and months of blogging. If you go back to some of our earliest posts, you’ll see what we mean. We did, however, have a Pinterest account already set-up (Lisa’s original personal account) and started using that for Penguin & Pia.
How We Increased Our Blog Traffic
We like actionable steps. That’s why we wanted to tell you what we did to grow our blog traffic to 25,000 monthly sessions in less than a year. You might not be able to use all of them, but maybe some of them will be helpful and give you a little bit of a boost!
Choose a Good Web Host
Hosting is a debated topic because different people have different experiences with the hosts out there. We started with Bluehost because it was the cheapest offer and so many bloggers wrote raving reviews about them. However, our website was quite slow because we were on a shared server with lots of other customers. The Google Page Speed test (which we recommend you do, by the way) was not happy with us and wanted us to improve our “Server Response Time”.
Only when we googled “Bluehost” and “slow server” did we come across a ton of negative reviews. Takeaway: Always do extensive research before deciding on a host! We never really had negative experiences with Bluehost directly but decided to switch anyway because of the slow server.
Now we use Siteground – an are glad that we do. Our website has gone down a few times (issues with plug-ins) and their 24/7 customer support has had it up and running again in minutes. So yeah, we legitimately recommend Siteground (and yes, this is an affiliate link) as an affordable solution for new bloggers. Once we (hopefully) increase our blog traffic a lot more, we’ll look into other options but for now we’re happy.
Set Up Your Website For Success
In tons of blogging groups, we always read something along the lines “When I was a new blogger, I had the date in my URL. How do I get rid of this now?”. Luckily we researched some best practices before we set up our blog. And there are a few things we recommend you do from the beginning as it will make your (blogging) life so much easier going forward.
- Don’t have the date in the URL. Yeah, the New York Times does it – but they are the NYT. They can do what they want and because they report the news. Timestamps are important for them – but blogs should, generally speaking, aim for being more evergreen.
- Find a great website theme that can grow with you. There are a lot of pretty looking blogging themes out there. It is important that you find one that is pretty and versatile FOR YOU. As your blog grows, you’ll most likely want to make some changes to your design – such as a static homepage (which we have meant to do for a couple months now).
- Make your website look nice but also keep site speed in mind. Having an Instagram embed in the footer looks nice, but you should also be aware that it can slow down your site. Finding a compromise that works for you is important – especially since site speed/load time is becoming a more important ranking factor for Google.
You Don’t HAVE to Blog in English
This might not be relevant for that many people, but it was something that Lisa struggled with initially. Long before she knew Eric she played with the thought of starting a blog to write about her exchange semester and other travel experiences. Her plan was to do it in English, because then more people could read and understand it, right?! While she was theoretically right, she didn’t consider that competition for English blogs would also be much higher. As such it would have also been more difficult to get her articles seen.
When we started Penguin & Pia we agreed from the beginning that we would blog in two languages – it’s also easier to do when you’re two people instead of one. Now we have seen that there can be advantages to blogging in a language other than English.
What we’re trying to say: Don’t feel like you HAVE to blog in English. If you speak another language fluently you should do some keyword research, look on Pinterest, etc. to see if it would be worth it to write articles in that language.
Invest in SEO Early – Literally and Figuratively
If you go back to our earliest posts, you’ll see that our first 20 or so posts aren’t SEO optimized at all. However, we did enough research and were lucky to stumble upon some amazing Facebook Groups and websites early on such as: Make Traffic Happen and DigitalNomadWannabe. In groups related to these websites, there were often conversations about SEO and keyword research tools from which we learnt a ton. After talking about it for a while we made the decision to invest in the recommended tool called Keysearch.
At first we were hesitant to invest the money but looking back we are so glad we did. This meant that we were not blindly writing articles hoping that someone would find them. We could actually write for keywords that we knew people were looking for. It still takes time for organic traffic to grow, but without an understanding of SEO and Keysearch we wouldn’t be where we are now (and we’re still learning more every week).
Only Focus on Traffic-Driving Social Channels
Social media is a divisive topic these days – and this is especially true in the travel and the blogging world. What works for some doesn’t for others, algorithms change, it’s all madness sometimes. That said, we’ve focused on blogging and only used the social channels that made sense for our growth and our content. Here’s a rundown of what we did:
Since it takes time for organic traffic to grow and for Google to trust your website, we knew that we could not just focus on blogging in the beginning. What you might not know about us is that before we started this blog, we both had Instagram accounts that did pretty well (at that time). If you want to have a look you can find them here: @lisutravels and @wanderingwychop.
However, the more time we invested in this blog, the less time we spent on Instagram. Maybe this will come to bite us in the butt in the future, but we made the decision since Instagram barely drove any traffic to our website even when posting consistently. And there are only so many hours in a day, after all.
One social channel that did do well, however, was Pinterest. This is also something we had read on many other blogs. We tried to create pins for articles consistently and tried out different designs quite frequently. People often tell you: Stick to your one style because then people will recognize your design. While this is maybe true for established bloggers that had lots of time to test things, it’s probably not the best advice for new bloggers. How will you know which style works best if you haven’t at least tried a few different ones? So that was what we did.
Since we were also trying to reach more people in North America we made the decision to invest in Tailwind early on. Staying up until the middle of the night (we were in Europe) to reach them in their evening didn’t sound appealing. So we decided to invest in Tailwind and are SO glad that we did.
Lisa schedules pins for new articles to all suitable boards once they are live and that’s it. We don’t have to log into Pinterest every single day and don’t need a spreadsheet laying next to us to see which boards we haven’t pinned to. It frees up lots of our time, gives us peace of mind, and we’re posting to Pinterest consistently (and Pinterest likes consistency).
Facebook, Twitter & Flipboard
Besides Pinterest, we also gave Facebook, Twitter, and Flipboard a try. Facebook doesn’t really work for us or at least the returns are not high enough for the amount of time we could put into it. Eric likes Twitter so he keeps working on that – it is not a huge traffic driver but he likes to build new connections in real-time through that platform. Flipboard is an interesting one and very similar to Pinterest in a way (without the need to design your own graphics). We’ve had some success with it so give it a try if you want to.
Write High-Quality Posts Consistently
The more articles you have on your website, the easier it is to get more blog traffic. Of course, there is no guarantee and more posts don’t automatically translate into more traffic. However, if you write low-quality posts that are not helpful to anyone, and not found easily in Google or pushed on social, then you probably won’t increase your traffic. We’re going to say that one more time: You have to write posts that are high quality – they have to be valuable to your reader (and to Google).
However, if you publish high-quality posts that are SEO optimized and/or would do really well on social, you’re likely to increase your readership over time. And the more high-quality blog posts you have, the easier it is to get to the 25,000 sessions per months. At least, that was our thinking.
This was also the reason why at times we published a new post every second day – in English and German. That would equate to 30 high (or at least medium) quality posts a month. Of course, it is unrealistic to keep that up over a long period of time since there are so many other parts of the blogging business that need attention (and then there is something called life as well) – but it really helped give our traffic a boost.
Someone in one of the Facebook groups we are members of (unfortunately we can’t remember exactly who it was) once said something that really stuck with us: “You only need 200 posts that get 25 visits a day to get to 5000 daily sessions“. Looking at it this way doesn’t make the numbers sound as scary anymore. Of course, these are still high numbers that we are slowly working towards now, but it seems more doable.
For our purposes, we changed the numbers to be a little more realistic when it was our goal to get to 25,000 sessions per month. We would recommend you do the same. Start with 40 posts getting slightly over 20 sessions a day (21 to be exact) for 30 consecutive days and you’ll hit 25,200 sessions. That doesn’t sound THAT difficult, does it?
Keep Learning and Improving (and Living)
Without constantly learning and improving our blog, the way we write articles, and a hundred other little things, we wouldn’t have gotten to the 25,000 monthly sessions as quickly as we have. For some other bloggers, this might still be a slow pace. But this is our journey.
When we started out we didn’t have a ton of money to put into the blog so we invested it in Keysearch and Tailwind first. Had we had more money freely available, we might have considered a course. There seem to be so many great SEO and Pinterest courses out there – but since we have never done one ourselves we can’t really give you any recommendations.
For those that are like us and just don’t have the money to spend on a course, we want to say this: Don’t worry, there is quite a bit of free information out there. Start by joining blogger groups on Facebook, listen to marketing or blogging podcasts, and read marketing journals online. It can seem overwhelming in the beginning, but you don’t have to learn it all at once. It’s a process that’ll take time and you’ll never be done learning.
It’s also very important to remember to balance blogging/work with other things in life. We went all in and doubled-down on the work because, well, we can. That being said, we go for walks, hikes, take coffee breaks, and enjoyed our travels as much as we could, despite putting in long hours.
The last thing we did and would like to recommend to you as well, is this: Experiment. Yes, some people might tell you “Only invest your time in Pinterest – it was the only platform that worked for me.” While often times there is a general truth behind these kinds of statements, just because something didn’t work for them doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work for you.
Experiment with different social channels, try paid advertisement if you have the money to spend and know what you’re doing, try writing different kinds of articles, experiment with different languages etc. Of course, you shouldn’t keep doing things if you have tried them and they don’t work. But how would you know that if you’ve never tested it before?
We tried lots of different things when we first started our blog and we think that it really helped us to understand what works for our blog. Our final point: Take advice from others, but don’t accept it unconditionally – find out what works for your blog by experimenting!
And there you have it – our journey from 0 to 25,000 monthly sessions! What do you think? Obviously, there is no ONE way to grow a website’s traffic. In the end, you have to find what works best for you and work with the skills and interests that you have! If you have any questions or want to compare notes, we’d love to hear from you!
As always, Happy Blog Waddlin’,