This article has been updated to reflect accurate readership and Facebook fan counts.
Building a massive online following as a blog or online publication in 2017 is a complicated task. There are tons of other people trying to do the same and there is a constant battle for attention.
Combine that with the fact that truly original content is rare, as content creators increasingly lift and repurpose others’ content in a never-ending race to create viral growth, and you have quite a difficult path ahead. Without significant capital backing, a large team or an existing following, it takes years to build an influential following online much less create mega publishing platforms like The Huffington Post, Elite Daily or BuzzFeed.
Simply put: It takes a long time to build an audience online, and it's never easy!
This uphill battle doesn’t seem to bother Chicago entrepreneur Case Kenny, who founded PRSUIT.com in 2014 -- a site which now garners 400,000 to 700,000 pageviews per month.
Kenny unabashedly says he created PRSUIT to be the most influential online content platform for a certain subset of millennials -- those who want long-form, substantive content (no memes or animal quizzes).
Kenny created his daily online publication PRSUIT with the mission of spreading perspective that inspires through original content that is focused on transparency. Over the course of three years, Kenny has built a massive social following and an evening bigger readership.
To achieve this level of growth, Kenny focused on four main keys for development:
1. Be original
To build a loyal following that respects your online brand or publication, you have to be original in every sense of the word. Kenny manages over 500 regular contributors yet his team only publishes one piece of content a day on PRSUIT.com. Doing so allows him to avoid the pitfall so many online publications fall into: creating content for content’s sake in order to get pageviews.
By focusing on one piece of original content per day, Kenny is able to highlight the transparency of the story and its originality and focus on that alone. Originality rises to the top of the sea of content that floats around online. Original content is more likely to be shared and valued by readers than content they’ve already seen in one form or another.
2. Leverage networks
The secret to spreading online content can be found in networking. When you’re first building your online publication or blog, you have to rely on word of mouth and links to your site. The way to achieve this is through networking and collaboration.
Kenny built his own network of distribution by partnering with experienced marketer and fellow online publisher Matt Gottesman of hdfmagazine.com as well as Adam and Matthew Toren, seasoned digital marketers who have grown and sold multiple online publications.
By connecting with this team, Kenny created immediate distribution through their respective followings and also had seasoned minds to strategize growth tactics.
To grow online, find fellow bloggers and social media influencers online and work with them to spread your articles and message. Connect with them to strategize ideas for growth.
Featuring other influencers is also a great way to grow your own brand. Kenny and his team interviewed Jake Paul for an article and Jake shared the article to his millions of Twitter followers. Arranging value-driven exchanges like this is key to growing online.
3. Test and retest
Kenny grows his publication every day by adopting a testing mentality. You don’t always know what will stick.
This mindset of testing is essential to growth. Experiment with different kinds of content (editorial, video, images, etc.) and get it out there. You can learn a lot through this iteration mindset.
4. Awareness first, hashtags second
When you’re first starting a blog or publication online, you have basically no awareness. As a result, many young publishers become hyper-focused on their numbers. The number of visitors, pageviews, etc. become a reflection of their awareness in the market.
Instead of focusing solely on these metrics, Kenny and his team focus on building awareness of the PRSUIT brand first and traffic second. It’s the same reason why Neil Patel continues to spend thousands each month on awareness that doesn’t have direct growth or revenue associated with it.
By focusing on getting the word out about PRSUIT through his Instagram page (113,000 followers) and Facebook page (over 53,000 likes and 53,000 followers), Kenny has created awareness of PRSUIT that is now translating into increased unique visitors, more contributors, more sponsorships and additional revenue opportunities.
It has attracted the attention of Fortune 500 advertisers, grossed Kenny and his partners over $100,000 in revenue in his second year, and it continues to propel his publication’s influence online.
If you’re looking to start a blog or online publication in 2017, focusing on these four tips will spark growth. By being original, leveraging existing networks, testing and creating awareness, you can make sure your blog starts on the right foot!