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How to Get Your First Visitor

Credit: David Salafia

David Salafia

When I was in junior high school, I worked at a take out Chinese food place. I answered the phones, took orders, deep fried appetizers, packaged up food, and dealt with customers for five bucks an hour. It was great. I felt like an adult, making a little scratch (under the table), and learned quite a bit about business (the owner was a great businessman). I didn’t even mind that I’d come home smelling like a deep fryer!

One of my most vivid memories of that experience was the framed $1 bill behind the counter. It was this ragged looking bill in a beautiful wooden frame.

You see it a lot in restaurants. They frame the first dollar they make because it’s special.

It’s also good luck. It attracts other dollars.

I asked the owner who made their first order and he told me it was his mom.

You can easily take that offline strategy to your online business.

How do you get your first visitor? Your first customer?

Tell your mom.

Then tell your significant other. Tell your friends.

Nowadays, everyone wants their site to get picked up by a major news source whether it’s mainstream media like the New York Times, a social news site like Reddit, or a popular blog like Mashable or Techcrunch. They want to leverage someone else’s traffic to boost their own.

While that’s a proven strategy, it isn’t what you do when you are getting a blog off the ground. You’re going to have to do things that don’t scale.

A lot of people know of me because of Bargaineering. When that was getting started, I used to joke that it all started with three visitors. My girlfriend (now wife), me from home, and me from work. For the first month, every Bargaineering visit was someone I knew. I was emailing people, I was telling them in person, and I was trying to spread the word as far and as wide as possible. They were sick of me talking about this little website where a computer science nerd was talking about money!

We didn’t have Twitter or Facebook (these were the days of Myspace and Friendster!), so all of the interactions were very one-on-one. As it should be.

Of the friends I told, I suspect about a dozen would come back on a regular basis. They would comment. They would become the core of the Bargaineering community and they were instrumental in growing the site. They were only there because I asked them to visit and gave them reasons to stay.

I’d also go to other personal finance sites and leave comments. I’d email other bloggers just to say hello and we’d exchange guest posts so we could expose ourselves to a different set of interested readers. We would agree to visit each other’s site and comment on a regular basis.

It was all very manual and you have to be OK with rejection.

90%+ of my friends didn’t give a crap about personal finance. 90%+ of the people I tell about Microblogger will smile politely and never come here. And that’s OK. To reach the 10%, you need to go through the 90%.

Try to learn from the rejections, even the soft ones where they say “Sure, I’ll check it out” and you’re certain they will not. Don’t be offended. Instead, ask them why they don’t think it’s a good fit. Are they inundated with information? Are they not interested in that subject? These are key insights that can help you improve.

Word of mouth is a great way to spread awareness about what you’re doing but it always starts with just one mouth – yours.

How did you get your first visitor?

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Jim

In 2005, I founded a personal finance blog (Bargaineering.com) that became successful enough that I quit my career as a software developer in the defense industry. It is my goal to share everything I learned so that you can do the same - build an online business that let's you pursue your passion.

14 responses to “How to Get Your First Visitor”

  1. This is a very encouraging post for someone new to blogging. I did have another blog about 4-5 years ago that I gave up on because I wasn’t getting the visitors and interactions. I have learned that I need to be consistent and stick around for a while in order to build up and audience and improve my writing and interaction skills. Thanks for the encouragement.

    • Jim Wang says:

      Consistency is very important. People are making a commitment when they “subscribe” to a blog so it’s important to stay on a schedule.

      If you offer overwhelming value, you can get away with a sporadic schedule but even the most random of writers still gets a good amount out there within a month.

  2. Dejital says:

    This is a solid post. Especially if you have friends/family that will ‘keep it real’, thye will give you insight from a user’s perspective that you may have never thought of.

  3. Michael @ Financial Ramblings says:

    I highly recommend net-working with like-minded folks. Don’t start spamming all the big wigs, but reach out to others who are a bit ahead of you. Comment on their articles. Link to their work and/or share it via social media. Let them know if their server is down or if there’s a major typo of some sort in one of their articles. In short, ingratiate yourself. More often than not, people will reciprocate and you’ll be off to the races.

  4. This is a perfectly timed article since I’m getting my own site off the ground right now. I agree that one should be shameless and plug your site with your family and friends in the first go-round. I think they’re more forgiving as you get out of the blocks and make your first inevitable newbie tumbles.

    I think the biggest obstacle/mental roadblock for me is feeling some vulnerability in getting myself so “out there”; it’s not something I’ve done before, and a bit difficult for me since I’m a closet introvert who usually prefers to keep to myself (though I’m opinionated around friends!).

    And I totally hear you about getting 3 visitors during your first month… I’m probably at 3 total visitors also… my wife, me, and me checking out my site on my iPhone!

    • Jim Wang says:

      It was three visitors the first day! (but not that much more during that first month)

      That was an obstacle for me at first but I wasn’t including a ton of personal information in the beginning. Over time, I got used to it and started to share more and more. You’ll find that, especially on smaller sites, people are generally very nice.

  5. Martin says:

    I recently told a young lady about one of my new sites… Well, I forgot that I had given her a fake name lol! Oops. But I agree, word of mouth all the way.

    • Jim Wang says:

      Ha, there are two solutions to this – 1. don’t use a fake name. 2. don’t tell young ladies about your blogs… especially after using your fake name. 🙂

  6. Meg Sylvia says:

    Love the restaurant story! I think that the reaching out to other bloggers is really important to get your name out in the community and build a network to leverage at some point. I was afraid to reach out like that for so long, but it’s amazing what positive responses I’ve received!

    • Jim Wang says:

      Reaching out is absolutely crucial, I think it’s always fun to make new friends – especially if they’re writing about similar things. Most people are nice! 🙂

  7. Mike B says:

    Jim, thanks for this post. As a blogging beginner (frugalife.net), I found some of this advice quite helpful. As you, I got my family and friends involved and now am trying to build some traffic by beginning to network (which is how I found you!). I love your inspiring story and hope to learn something in these course sessions from you (I already have 🙂 I do find one thing daunting: it seems to me at this point that to avoid being stretched too thin (and spending a lot of time), I should focus on commenting/networking with a smaller number of fellow bloggers. Or is it better to just comment on anything and everything in hopes that something will pan out as a productive connection? Anyway, thanks for the great post.

    • Jim says:

      Hi Mike – Thank you for the compliments and I hope I can pass on some useful information that helps you further along!

      I think you should do both. Comment on anything that interests you and then develop deeper relationships with those that respond. Not everyone will respond and in those cases, maybe the relationship isn’t meant to be (or isn’t meant to be right now). The ones that do, try to develop that acquaintance into a friendship or business relationship. So breadth first, then depth.

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