How to Ramp Up a New Content Vertical, According to Founder of “Viral” Blog, Millennial Money
According to Grant Sabatier, founder of Millennialmoney.com, more millennials are striving to reach financial independence at a young age. Having that same mission two and a half years ago, Sabatier a digital strategist [and full disclosure, my son] decided to share his own financial journey online. With no financial investment, no staff, and writing just a few hours a week a brand was born. What he did have was a sound business strategy, passion for the subject, and an authentic lens for his content.
Publishers planning to launch a new online brand or expand into a new vertical can learn a great deal from Millennial Money's rapid success. Sabatier encourages publishers to have a robust digital strategy, search for “white space” that their brand can fill, publish quality writing, and partner with other brands to attract new audiences and gain credibility at launch.
Following is a brief interview with Sabatier about how Millennial Money got off the ground, thanks to a strong SEO strategy and mobile-optimized design, and how he plans to diversify the website’s revenue as the brand continues to grow.
Why did you launch Millennial Money?
Millennial Money was launched in February of 2015. I have worked on over 300 websites for other people and I have never had my own site. This site began as my personal blog to share my saving, investing, and money making strategies and will always continue with that component. It has just grown beyond me now. It’s now known as a personal finance/entrepreneurship investing community.
I am still the architect, but I also feature guest posts and other voices. I have a vibrant Facebook group. It’s a conversation facilitator. And now I am developing a full scale platform to provide even more resources like tools, courses, and recommendations for readers interested in reaching financial independence.
Who is the audience for Millennial Money?
Interestingly, about 70% of my audience are millenials with an average age of 27 and average income of $72,000. A lot of people start thinking about money and how to optimize it after they get that first good job. Those making $50k and under are paying student loans and living paycheck to paycheck, but also read the blog. It’s a pretty broad mix and it’s been growing so quickly that I am just trying to keep up.
But I have been surprised by the number of young millenials in college who read it. And I get a lot of older readers as well. I got an email from a 67-year- old woman in the U.K. recently.
50% of the site traffic comes from Google organic searches, 25% from social media, and the other 25% from referrals and media.
How did you achieve that traffic percentage?
I think about my strategy like I’m building a fire. Because my background is in digital marketing and this is the first site I have built for myself, I was very intentional about putting the pieces together to maximize the traffic potential of the site over time. The pieces include design, coding, page speed, metadata and taxonomy [category structure], which built the foundation so that I could write long, relevant, and keyword-rich content.
Can you provide more specifics about the decisions you made on design, coding, etc. that were important to your success?
I created a design with a mobile-first mindset. I knew that a majority of my traffic was likely going to come from mobile devices and Google has shifted to mobile-first indexing, so they prioritize the mobile user experience over the desktop. Since I had an unknown brand, I wanted to ensure that images were featured prominently as the centerpiece of the content and my logo was on every image (something I don't see on many blogs).
The average viewer judges your website within two seconds of visiting it, so I wanted the images to be cool and convey that immediately and either unconsciously or consciously, that I spend a lot of time and put a lot of care into crafting my content. It worked -- I routinely get comments on how awesome people think the blog looks and I think the design was able to make my brand feel bigger than it was when I launched.
Making sure your website loads quickly is also essential for mobile and desktop visitors. People don't want to wait and Google uses page speed as a ranking factor as well. To ensure the page speed would be fast I chose a good hosting package and limited the number of scripts and moving pieces in the code, minifying the CSS style sheet and other elements. I also compress images anywhere it's possible. Over time my speed has gotten slower; it's a constant battle given all of the elements now on the site, but when I launched it loaded in less than 1 second and was essential in creating an optimal user experience, and maximized my search ranking potential.
Every keyword on Millennial Money is used intentionally to maximizing the ranking potential of the website. The keywords were the kindling of the fire -- once I started getting media attention and more backlinks, the website started ranking for the keywords I had optimized for and now it's like a snowball going down a hill -- the rankings and traffic compound the more content and backlinks I get.
So what is your monthly site traffic?
It took a year to go from zero to 5,000 visitors a month. And then it took six months to go from 5,000 to 100,000 visitors a month (300,000 page views a month). Going back to the idea of the fire, I was building the kindling over the first year and then the match that lit it on fire was the media attention and backlinks that came with all the media mentions. This immediately increased relevancy and authority in Google so everything I had written prior skyrocketed in traffic and reach.
I am curious about the media attention for the site. What spawned that?
All of the explosive growth began with one CNBC feature. It was one of the most viewed articles on their site that month. The day it came out it was the top story of the day and outranked stories about Donald Trump and Mark Cuban. It was so funny, I tweeted at both of them, but they didn’t tweet me back. After CNBC the story traveled to The Washington Post, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, NPR, etc.
I have never reached out to a reporter. It’s wild how fast it blew up. Now my focus is on keeping the fire going and growing!
What is the size of your team (content, ad sales, tech)?
There are three of us. I’m the primary writer and manage the website. Then my best friend since I was 5 is the director of advertising and partnerships, and I have a co-creator for my course and co-host of my podcast. I’m still figuring out how big of team I really need, but my plan is to keep it lean and agile. I don’t currently have a vision to turn this into a massive company, I’m more focused on the mission of reaching as many people as possible.
Would you say that your content is sticky?
No, not really, but it definitely resonates with people. People tell me I have a way about writing about topics that normally can be dry and confusing. I relate with passion that’s blended with knowledge and my own experience. It also resonates because there is a level of vulnerability with the content. On my blog I am very open about the mistakes I have made, not just successes.
Do you have a content strategy?
I have a business strategy built around one of my favorite books, Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim. The central idea is to create a true business opportunity you need to create a new market and compete in uncontested waters.
Millennial money has hard to replicate content, a unique story, great brand, media attraction, and an increasingly diverse platform. And I just signed on two women podcasters whom I am going to syndicate along with other unique millenials voices on money in multiple formats.
I understand that the brand is now a leader working with Zillow and other brands to develop new content. How did millennial money attain thought leadership in a short period of time?
It is visibility and credibility. It’s all about audience share. Once you are endorsed by a few top publications, it’s a validator, and other people want to write about and partner with you. It’s all about mutual benefit – other brands want to reach my audience and I want to reach theirs. Many brands are super open and excited to explore creative ways to work together. I’m doing a series of videos for one brand, writing for another, and formulating a curriculum with another. It’s all a ton of fun.
Lou Ann Sabatier has 35 years of experience in the publishing industry. Ms. Sabatier has been deeply involved in all aspects of publishing; including strategic planning,business development, business and financial management, audience development, advertising sales, digital media and operations management. Currently Ms. Sabatier is Principal at Sabatier Consulting and Communications Director of 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative.