Two years ago, after working in mobile gaming development, I decided to try my hand at another online business. I bought an existing website—UponAMattress.com—that provides educational articles and product reviews to mattress shoppers. The site generates revenue by directing users to mattress listings on Amazon, which then pays us a commission.
I originally set out to simply maintain the site’s existing revenue. But as I started making minor improvements, I discovered that I could significantly grow not only our traffic, but also our revenue. And from mid-2018 to mid-2019, revenue more than doubled from about $300,000 to $625,000.
I’ve been amazed at how small changes can make a big difference. Here are the steps I took that helped us grow our revenues so fast:
Improving Google search rankings
Our placement in Google search results for keywords and phrases that mattress shoppers search for is pivotal to our success. The first thing I did was add a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate to our site—enhancing the site’s user security through encryption. This may seem like a minor update, but it modestly helped our search result rankings almost immediately. Google has disclosed that it factors site security into its rankings, and it’s easy enough to do—so why not?
I also revised all of the existing 18 articles on the site to make them more engaging and with simpler language, which has also improved our search visibility. Then I turned to some online freelance writer job boards, such as the one on Problogger, and hired some high-quality writers to add several more articles to the site. The more content you have, the more potential to incorporate keywords that will draw people to the site in the long run.
Refining the user experience
When I bought the site from the broker, it had some user-experience issues. Some banner ads weren’t loading correctly, and the site felt too cluttered. I wanted to make the user experience more mobile-friendly, because 30% to 40% of our traffic comes from mobile devices.
First, we switched to a different web hosting company, which improved our page-loading time. (Google has reported that page loading time factors into Google search results on both desktop and mobile devices.) We then worked to make the site design cleaner and minimalistic, which tends to help with mobile navigation.
We also used conversion testing software to test and refine our page layouts. We were able to test out the impact of different charts and photos on our pages, and by optimizing the page design, we saw our conversion rate rise by 10%.
Hiring a part-time assistant
I wasn’t at a place where I wanted to hire someone full-time, but I realized I could devote more time to higher-value tasks by bringing in part-time help. So I turned to entrepreneurship professors at my business school alma mater and inquired about finding a current student looking for some extra income and experience working for a startup. I found someone, and it became a win-win: The student now works for me about five to 10 hours per week, and I give him meaningful tasks, such as recommending ways to improve our website usability, that will ultimately enhance his education.
Getting PR to build awareness
One of the best ways to improve a site’s search rankings is to have it linked to by other reputable, highly ranked websites. Using the site HelpaReporter.com (HARO), I’m able to respond to inquiries from journalists and writers looking to interview business owners on a variety of topics. I’ve tried to respond to as many inquiries as I can that are related to topics I consider myself knowledgeable about—and I’ve been featured in several online publications over the years. One particular article on lean management on American Express’ website has driven a significant amount of traffic to the site. Moreover, being featured on reputable sites has had the biggest positive impact on the site’s search rankings so far.
Growth through trial-and-error
Ultimately, my experience has taught me that I shouldn’t be afraid to try a lot of different techniques for generating traffic and revenue and seeing which ones gain traction—and which ones don’t. If one strategy doesn’t work out, so be it—I can always move on and focus on those that do. I’ve been surprised to discover certain things that I thought would have minimal impact actually made the biggest difference.
My success with Upon a Mattress has convinced me to keep finding new ways to grow my company’s revenue. In fact, last year I bought another website with plans to deploy the same successful strategies all over again.
What strategies has your business used to greatly increase revenue? Share your insights in the comments section below!
Print this article