2,000 Subscribers in Three Months: One Blogger’s Story of Rapid Growth

Well, hello there.Guest post by Tyler Tervooren of Advanced Riskology

Hi, I’m Tyler. I created a blog in June, 2010 called Advanced Riskology and, by September, more than 2,000 people had decided that they liked it enough to make it a part of their daily lives.

That makes me feel incredibly good and I want to tell you exactly how I did it, but before we begin, I should clear up a few misconceptions that a lot of people have had when they hear my story:

  • I am not an overnight success. It only took three months for Advanced Riskology to build a respectable following, but it took me 25 years to come up with it.
  • I didn’t just get lucky. I found a few strategies that worked really well for what I was doing and I leveraged them as much as possible.
  • No one discovered me. I’ve gotten help from some very influential people, but it was because I asked for it, not because I was found.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way and you know that my little journey wasn’t just cakes and pies, let’s clear up a few other things:

  • I didn’t work my brains out. I do spend a lot of time working, but not usually on anything related to driving traffic to my site. I spend most of my time writing and planning my adventures.
  • I didn’t do anything shady. I didn’t sell my soul to any black-hat SEO ninja and I didn’t pay for any obnoxious advertising campaigns.
  • I’m not some guru. I didn’t even start learning about how to build or run a website until 2009 and Advanced Riskology was not my first try.

So where does that leave us? Basically, I’m an average guy that decided to take a chance on myself, worked my butt off without ignoring everything else life has to offer, and built a small but sustainable business from an idea that makes me excited to work on every single day.

If you’re like me and you want to build a high traffic website that you can be proud of without selling your soul or giving up the things you love, you can do it. There are a million little tactics you can use to do it, but it’s more important to focus on a few important strategies and philosophies that will make a big difference.

Advanced Riskology has been successful because I focused very hard on a few important things:

I removed the barriers between my work and my life.

When I decided to start this project, I thought very hard about how I could do it in a way that would not force me to think about the separation of life and work. Even though it doesn’t specifically bring traffic to my site, it’s the foundation of the entire system.

This is very important because building something valuable does take hard work, but the more that work fits with my perception of how I want to live my life, the easier it is to commit to it and the better I do.

It’s synergy in action. When I work, I’m actively improving my life. When I play, I’m improving my work. There’s a nearly complete overlap and it has completely transformed how I look at work and life.

Yes, I do believe that you can build a high traffic website doing something that you don’t care about, but I don’t believe that you can necessarily qualify that as “success” since you’re constantly balancing a trade-off between two very important parts of your life that are working against each other.

If you’re looking for the number one way to improve your website and your life at the same time, I would ignore all the guru tips and tricks you hear every day and focus instead on how you can make your work fun again.

Don’t be afraid to make big changes.

I stuck to a strict “go big or go home” policy.

I understand all the psychology about taking baby steps and I do that too, but when it comes to setting milestones, I don’t screw around.

Everyone says that failure is a part of the process and I believe that. Like Corbett says, you have to be willing to fall down seven times and get up eight. But when you’re learning, you’re just as likely to fail at the little things as you are at the big ones.

If you’re going to occasionally fail no matter what you do, you may as well make the steps you take big ones.

That’s why, when I launched Advanced Riskology, I did it big by working with a team of beta-readers to make sure the stage was properly set, hosting an interview with a very influential person, and giving away some big, valuable prizes. A lot of people showed up and got very excited.

When I created my first free guide, Take This Job & Shove It, I looked around at what everyone else was doing. Most people just threw together a few old blog posts into a pdf and put it behind an opt-in form. I decided to do one better by creating a completely new resource for my audience, giving it away for free with no opt-in, and making it extremely valuable to the people who would read it.

Rather than creating something simple, I went for the absolute best I could. I made something that I would be proud to sell, and gave it away free.

The results were amazing. Nearly three months after launching it, it’s been downloaded almost 2,000 times and I feel incredibly grateful to be able to help so many people.

When I decided to go after some media attention, I went on HARO and looked for the biggest opportunities I could find. It took a lot of tries, but one story I landed ended up on the front page of MSN. That was a real turning point for my site.

When I write a guest article, it’s usually, at the very least, 1,500 words, usually more like 2-3,000. Rather then write everywhere I possibly can, I choose carefully who I want to write for and I do the hell out of it. This story took about 3 hours to put together, but others – the ones that made this story possible – take as much as 16-20 and go through multiple revisions before they’re ready for you to see. And some get scrapped entirely. I’m not afraid to throw away 10 hours of work and start over if it’s not good enough to make me look my best.

Every day, there are millions of people hoping to put in an average amount of effort and get something amazing in return. This what we in the industry call “noise.” It’s cheap and occasionally entertaining, but it doesn’t go anywhere.

You want to be the “signal” – the stuff that people are searching for in a sea of mediocrity. That takes more work, but it is definitely worth it.

I built a funnel to capture the right people.

As Corbett has explained before, the amount of traffic you get to your site is not nearly as important as what you do with it. That’s why, from the very beginning, I thought carefully about how I wanted people to interact with Advanced Riskology and with me.

I want the site to be a place where people feel comfortable hanging out and can find all the risk taking resources they need, so that’s what I focused on creating.

A big part of that strategy is prioritizing “awesome” over “efficient.” Since my work and my play are now mostly aligned, I don’t care how long it takes me to create the best stuff that I can. The result, of course, is an extremely effective subscriber funnel.

I spent far too much time designing Advanced Riskology (three months), but that doesn’t bother me because when people show up, they’re impressed by how it looks and that lends me some instant credibility. You only get a few seconds to make a first impression on your site, so it’s a good idea to make it the best one you can.

Since people like the design, they stick around to read a few articles. Most of my articles take a long time to write. I don’t mind that either because the better the articles are, the more likely someone is to download my free guide.

My free guide took a tremendous amount of work to put together, about 60 hours, but I don’t care because it truly helps people, and the more excellent, free help you can offer someone, the more they’ll trust you.

As each new visitor journeys down this path, I’m trying my damnedest to prove that I deserve their trust, and every time we interact I give them a brief reminder that they’re welcome to sign up to receive my free email series.

Once they’re ready for that, they get a month of more free resources to help them navigate whatever big risk they’re working on. Each email has an invitation to ask for help if they get stuck on something. I read and thoughtfully respond to every email I get and people love it.

No, that doesn’t scale well, and no, I don’t care. That’s a problem I’m happy to deal with once it comes.

The End Result – Influence

The end result of putting those three concepts together:

  • Combining your work and life in a meaningful way
  • Going as big as possible with everything you can
  • Creating a funnel to filter the right people through

…is an extremely connected audience that trusts and appreciates you. You’ve built influence by proving that you’re worthy of the attention you get.

Those are two reactions that you can’t just ask for – you have to work to foster them. When you build them into the experience of your site, you end up with massive word-of-mouth advertising. The people that you’ve affected go to great lengths to tell everyone they know about you, and that’s the best (and cheapest) strategy you’ll ever employ to get more traffic to your site and more subscribers that care about what you do.

When you build influence like that, it doesn’t matter what color your retweet button is or how many times you submit your site to Digg. You’ll do just fine.

Images by: edler_d, cncphotos, dairycow2

Tyler Tervooren is the creator of the Guerrilla Influence Formula, a guide to help you build a massive following for your cause. It’s launching soon at Advanced Riskology. Follow the live updates on Twitter @tylertervooren.

66 thoughts on “2,000 Subscribers in Three Months: One Blogger’s Story of Rapid Growth”

  1. First of all, great post! I love the concept of work and play overlapping and both benefitting from the other. Very cool :)

    Could you share a little more about when you were first getting started? You say you worked with a group of beta readers – how did you find them? What feedback did you track from them? You also say that you gave away big ticket items – what kind of items were they and how did you find them to give away?

    Thanks again!!!

    1. Hi Sarah. Let me try to answer your questions:

      I found my beta readers through a small business forum that I was subscribed to at the time I was starting to build AR. You don’t have to go this route, though. Your beta team could literally be a small group of friends that you think would be interested in what you’re up to.

      I mostly just had them test the site to make sure the layout and functionality made sense and I also took a lot of feedback from them on the first couple of articles I published to find out what the general reaction was so that I could focus on what was most compelling to other people and not just me. Having them around to leave a few comments here and there before I launched the site also helped make it look like there were already people there interested in what I was doing.

      If you follow my archives back to June, you can see exactly how I put together my launch. If you show people what you’re doing is serious, you can get a lot of people to give away a product of theirs on your site because it helps build their own audience and reputation. Win/win/win.

  2. Great breakdown Tyler. I LOVE the first 3 points you made and think that everyone needs to hear them over and over.

    Good stuff, man, and congrats on the successful growth. I’m looking forward to seeing what you do with it :-)

    1. Thanks Andy. As usual, my story doesn’t really contain any sensational headlines or guru-style tactics and I think that’s a story worth telling. Work hard to to make the best damn resource you can and think hard about how you do it and you’ll get back what you put in.

    2. I would have to agree with you Andy, everyone seems to think it happens overnight and it doesn’t. There’s also no magic rabbit, hard work, hard work, hard work.

  3. That’s a good story, and it’s so refreshing.
    I luv the way you spread your message and the things you have done, Tyler !
    It’s quality magic if you make your work fun, because it shows.

    I have read your guide and it’s seriously worth paying money for.

    You are on a mission like me, I like it – a lot !
    You rock and shine bright, my friend, keep shining !

    1. For anyone reading through the comments, Mars is a great example of someone who is (seemingly) having a blast doing what he does and seeing the benefits as well.

      His website is like a playground and people seem very attracted to it.

      Thanks for the kind words, Mars.

  4. Awesome post Tyler,

    There is really great advice in this post and loving what you do can have a great impact on your business. I love your point about not giving up and how you landed a story on MSN, I think that’s my problem for now and I need to improve on it.

    Thanks so much for the awesome post,

    1. Hey Onibalusi,

      Glad you enjoyed the story. Getting a few big media mentions certainly helped me, but careful about relying on them, as they’re typically few and far between.

      Better to re-focus on loving what you do so that you can do something remarkable and the media will come to you. :)

  5. Just cruised over to your site, and while my first thought was that it looked like a rip-off of AONC, your content is killer! I’ve been know to have a few travel adventures myself, and after reading your about page, I immediately clicked on the subscribe link on my google toolbar and got my first 2 questions.

    1. is that 2000 email subscribers? The google reader feed lists fewer than 500 followers so it must be, but looking at that number was a shock for someone anticipating seeing a couple thousand.

    2. How many of the original 2,000 have you retained?

    Your content looks great and I can’t wait to get a minute to read more of it – just signed up for your email series too.

  6. Inspiring and your passion is what drives and keeps readers coming back. I also like the concept or your riskology blog, taking risks and overcoming fears is naturally something that is an attractive and appealing subject.

    1. Thanks Justin. The reason I decided to focus on that topic was because it allows me to cast a wide net and cover a lot of different topics (important for me because I get bored easily) but keeps people intrigued because everything stays under the “umbrella of riskology.”

  7. Tyler, this is a great post and really inspirational to see that you’ve come so far in only a few short months. I’ve been blogging for most of this year, but haven’t really taken it in the direction that I want. The past week or so I’ve been reading a lot about people like you who really have a focus and a vision and are successful in implementing both without any BS.

    I really agree with your idea that work and play are one in the same. Chris Guillebeau calls it convergence. Whatever we call it, I think it’s absolutely essential to success.

    Heading over to your site to check it out…

  8. Excellent article Tyler. Very inspirational. Going for the big goals is where I think a lot of people fall down. They think they’re unworthy, or not good enough. When they realised that’s BS, they’re free to achieve great things.

    Aim for the stars and whatnot :)

    Love it.

  9. This is a mind opener for someone new like me who wants to also make blogging as an avenue of income and a way of life.

    I really appreciate your openness and honesty.

    Thanks and good luck, Tyler!

  10. Awesome story. Great looking site. Even better advice. My big takeaway and something I try to practice daily:

    …prioritizing “awesome” over “efficient.”

  11. Yes yes, convergence. That’s a good word for it. For me, I think laser-like focus combined with the willingness to try some new and uncomfortable things were a big part of the equation. And minimal BS is always important.

  12. Now that’s an recipe for success if you ask me..you worked your butt off and people started to follow..things are looking good for you bro..

    “TrafficColeman “Signing Off”

  13. It’s amazing what happens genuine people work hard. Awesome to see the success you’ve been having, and really looking forward to hearing more about the adventures to come!

  14. Be The Signal.. Man I luv that line.

    Congrats on the blog Tyler… nice to see someone that says it like it is and shares how to really get results.

    Like John said.. no magic.. just hard work everyday. Then take that hard work and put it into things with the biggest return.

  15. Great stuff! Even two months ago, this would have given me indigestion, because 2,000 subs in 3 months really is phenomenal. No two ways about that.

    Now, I’m totally stoked, because you’re demonstrating opportunity. And that’s cool as a moose.

    It takes more than hard work, it’s working hard at the right thing.

    1. That’s one of the most important points you can make. You can work your ass off on the wrong things and get little in return, or you can focus really hard on the most important bits and feel a lot better about the direction you’re heading.

  16. Hard work, persistence, determination and a great idea combined makes for a successful entrepreneur!

    I really love your story Tyler! You seem like a down to earth, no-nonsense, practical guy. Come up with a great idea, write valuable content, play BIG and seek out some influence… very simple, yet powerful and effective.

    The best part is meshing your business and your personal. People spend half their lives trying to separate the two and you just made it clear that its not only OK not too, but maybe even advisable!

    Great stuff and really nice to meet you! Ciao!

    1. Yep! If I didn’t absolutely love what I do, there’s no way I would be hanging out here in the comments talking to everyone and trying to answer questions. I’d be onto the next thing.

      Since I actually enjoy this, it lets me make a whole lot more meaningful connections.

  17. First of all…mustache or no mustache? I’m so confused. :-)

    I really appreciate this post. It’s so refreshing to hear a non-hype success story. It can get to be really discouraging when you’re just getting started trying to read and digest all the tips available that often contradict each other. For me, it just causes me to second guess everything I’m doing.

    Thanks for sharing your journey. I really needed to hear it today.

  18. This was a great post. Anytime I read a story like this it always juices me up to keep going towards my personal business pursuit. Thanks for being an inspiration.

  19. I really liked what you shared here Tyler!

    I’ve dubbed this “The Blueprint”.

    I believe something awesome happens when an individual is able to combined work/play/life with seamless consistency. This is something I don’t currently have, as I still work the 9-5 grind, but it’s a serious goal of mine.

    Your right about your first impression or curb appeal of your site. It’s freaking amazing! I instantly get the feeling you’re a laid back dude, and I’ve never met you.

    With the help of Corbett and Mars I’m slowly building my site to match my personality and your site, as well as Corbett’s and Mars’, is what I use to set the bar. Because like you said “Go as big as possible”!

    Thanks for giving us you!

    1. It’s pretty funny looking at my analytics. People tend to either stay a few seconds or a few minutes – almost nothing in between. How someone feels when they land on your site has to have a lot to do with that because a few seconds is not long enough to make any other judgments.

  20. The psychology of risk tolerance is an area of interest to me. In fact, this post kind of brings my exposure with Corbett’s blog(s) full-circle. I think the post, OK, OK, I Give. Lifestyle Design is not for Everybody was the first thing of his I ever read. The pushback and excuses discussed there are stuck in my head somewhere. At first, I tried to reconcile their resistance as simply an alternative strategy. Yet… after all this time, risk avoidance still seems like a terrible strategy.

    I’m not conscious of it all the time, but I wonder if there’s a naysayer gene some of us don’t have. The problem with that even if it is true, it’s just another excuse for people to avoid risk as much as it is for people to embrace risk.

    The concept of risk premia in financial modeling is insightful, and your approach conceptualizes that in an approachable manner. Congrats!

  21. Good stuff Tyler, All I have to say is Seth Godin and Gary Vaynerchuk!! Put their ideas together and you get amazing results, You did it right from the beginning, Go big or go home,

    Best of luck


  22. Your voice comes through really clearly. Every word holds maximum impact. I like that. Like that picture at the top too…
    Good stuff, man. Cheers.

  23. Tyler. You clearly get it. Well done. But, beyond getting it, you feel it. You feel your audience and your readers and what that means. You’re not short sited and greedy. You’re not going for the quick buck. Respect and admiration to you. You are a rare individual. Keep up the goodvwork.


  24. Really great protest Tyler, this is great insights and I like your point about 25 years to be an overnight success. Success takes hard work. I had thought about HARO, and even talked about it on my own blog. I think it’s time to take action and register myself.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  25. Tyler,

    Congrats on 2000 in 3 short months, unbelievable!, but so well deserved.

    I love your honesty in “clearing up the misconceptions” that most people have when they see this kind of success story. I can’t wait to see what the next 3 months will bring you.

    Hmmm.. when my little blog grows up….I want it to be just like yours!

  26. The biggest thing I admire about you is your REALNESS, it shows in your writing. No trick, tactics or nothing just pure. I am 100% believer in that.

    We need to understand that the best marketing campaign is just a good product, a well designed website, a unique story. NOT some tactic. I think you’ve proved that.

    As long as more people are doing what you’re doing we can start getting rid of all the gurus and their fancy-pansy tactics.

    I really appreciate this post guys, thanks for taking the time.

  27. I enjoy your down to earth writing style. It is nice to read something that inspires me to act like my heart desires. Thanks for the post mate.

  28. Thanks for the transparency… Very helpful article. The piece of advice that resonated so well with me in this post is that you didn’t get “found”. That’s something a lot of blogger often neglect… Asking.

  29. This comment is completly off subject. I just wanted to let you know that you are by far my favorite writer/blogger. I read many blogs and I always seem to end up back here. Your like an old friend that I respect and trust. Just putting it out there. Thanks for keeping me motivated.

  30. Hi Tyler, Hi Corbett,
    I missed out on the “opt-out” strategy. Brilliant! You are demonstrating the spitting image of a power source from “The New Media”.
    I’m amazed at the old school just pumping out products into the market and taking millions on the launch! Most without a website. I can’t believe that will hold. Especially when I see individuals such as yourself, who are willing to go the extra mile.

  31. Very motivational post Tyler. My absolute favorite quote from this post is “If you’re going to occasionally fail no matter what you do, you may as well make the steps you take big ones.” Thanks. I’m going to remember that one.

  32. Great post Tyler. This was definitely something I needed to read right now. I have been just dabbling in this blogging thing far too long. It is time for me to take it more seriously. Guys like you Corbett and Everett Bogue are an inspiration. Thanks for setting the example, helping us out, and kicking ass!!

  33. awesome article :)….very inspiring. ‘When I work, I’m actively improving my life. When I play, I’m improving my work’ – love that quote

  34. With no any doubt, this is an excellent post. And, reading this post is recommended for newbie internet marketers for understanding many facts essential for real success.

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