This is an amazing case study illustrating the potential of excellent writing.
Actually it’s not all that detailed of a case study because there’s not much to report.
The point of this post is to show you how consistency + great writing = millions of website visitors.
The website I’m profiling here is a website I visit not for work reasons, but for personal enjoyment. I go to it 2 to 5 times per week. Many readers are like me and visit regular.
Table of Contents
What’s the site?
The site is called the GreaterFool.ca.
It’s a blog (in the strict sense of the word) about investing and real estate in Canada. While the owner, Garth Turner, attracts visitors from all over the world, he focuses his opinions and analysis on the Canadian real estate market, tax code and investing environment.
On August 29, 2016 Garth published some basic metrics about his blog. In a nutshell, as of August 29, 2016 his blog received 1.41 million page views over the preceding 30 days. The average time on site was 3.5 minutes.
About the Site
Garth publishes 6 posts per week. Lately he’s had the odd guest blogger, but for the several years I’ve been reading him, he publishes like clockwork. It’s amazing actually how consistent he is.
The first thing you’ll notice when you visit his site is that it’s funny. Garth is a very funny writer. The lead photos he uses are funny; some are laugh-out-loud hilarious. He’s never revealed where he gets his photos and I can see why. It’s a goldmine of a photo source.
But the funny photos do not make the blog a success. It’s his writing, pure and simple. He weaves humour throughout investment and real estate information so that it’s fun to read. Most investment and real estate content is BORING. Not the Greater Fool.
Another aspect of the site is Garth aims to make just one or two points per post. He doesn’t inundate readers with chart after chart after chart or so much data you start getting bleary eyed. Instead he provides just enough data to support his main point(s) for the day. His audience aren’t analysts on Wall Street (although I’m sure the Toronto Bay Street analysts and investors read him too); his audience is Joe-Blow Canadian looking for some advice and information about buying real estate and investing in Canada. Accordingly, he keeps it all very, very simple.
The Website Technology
His site is not mobile responsive. He does not have an SSL certificate. There’s not an email sign up form. Navigation options are minimal.
In a nutshell, he breaks all the user experience tactics so often recommended, yet his site is a massive success.
This goes to show you that at the end of the day, it’s the content that’s most important.
That said, he may enjoy more visitors via search if he updated his site. I know for certain if he offered an email newsletter, I’d sign up immediately. I’m pretty sure many of his other readers would too.
I also wish he would make the site mobile responsive. I typically visit the site on my phone and must zoom in to read it. However, because I like the site so much, I’m willing to overlook this minute details.
He does offer sharing buttons, which I guess is fairly forward-thinking of Garth given everything else about the site is fairly old-school.
I don’t know Garth Turner and he doesn’t know me. While I don’t know for certain that he doesn’t pursue any SEO activities for his site, my guess is he does nothing to further SEO. He doesn’t use keywords (look at his titles). He doesn’t care how long or short a post is. He very likely doesn’t build links.
What he does do is publish outstanding content regularly.
He has no social channels attached to his website. He doesn’t need them. Accordingly, he doesn’t need to waste time formatting the perfect Facebook post or Instagram image. That’s refreshing.
Garth is maybe leaving a lot of money on the table by not putting ads on the site. I say maybe because he sells books and owns an investment consulting firm, both of which benefit from his blog (I suspect).
The question is whether his book sales and clients attracted via the blog out-earn what some ads would earn. I have no idea. What I do know is that given the high-value niche and the huge traffic that ads would generate a lot of revenue.
For instance, if he managed to generate a $5 RPM from a few ads on the site, which is not out of the question at all, he would earn $7,000 per month (1.41 million page views at $5 RPM). I think $5 RPM is low; with some effort, $10 RPM would be pretty easy to achieve which would generate $14,000 per month.
If he promoted a product or two as an affiliate; say products he uses and likes and recommends, that could easily put a lot more money in his pocket. While I’m not an active stock trader (I stick to index funds cause I ain’t interested in stock-picking), if Garth recommended a particular institution that had the best index funds or ETFs, I’d probably buy and invest via his recommendation. If I did trade actively, I’d probably follow his advice as to the best trading platform. The point is I trust Garth and so I would view his recommendations as being genuine.
If he sold sponsored posts, they could fetch a lot of money too, although I think too many sponsored posts can hurt a blog like this where the audience really wants to read the blogger and not some advertorial… but he could still sell them like crazy if he chose to.
There’s a lot more he could do if he was motivated by money, but he chooses to do none of it which is his choice of course. My point is that if you could write a blog like this, which is just one blog post per day (each must be well-crafted and funny), there’s a lot of money to be made.
Also, if he put in even a small effort toward SEO such as some basic keyword research, he could probably get a lot more traffic.
The writing is the magic of the site. Seriously, go read a few posts. I bet you’ll be chuckling along the way. He has a terrific sense of humour. He pokes mild fun at various people and happenings. As you get to know his tone and sense of humour, he gets funnier and funnier.
He’s also knowledgeable about real estate, investing, the Canadian Tax code and economics. That’s his main line of work these days (he operates an investment advice firm of some type).
When you put humor and knowledge together all wrapped up with excellent writing, you have a hit on your hands. That’s a formula that will work in any niche. In fact it’s a formula I wish we would see more of.
I’m not into cars, but I would read a car blog that was funny and informative at the same time. Why? Because I enjoy laughing.
Moreover he’s not afraid to speak his opinion about what people should and shouldn’t do.
While he attracts many “fans”, he also has a lot of haters who criticize him. He seemingly doesn’t care. He’s been in public life for years, first as a journalist, then he jumped into politics, and now he’s a well-known blogger and so he’s used to criticism.
He’s not the most technical and neither does he barf up the most data on any one topic. Garth recognizes that’s not necessary. What’s necessary is to provide sufficient data and info needed to drive a point home. Nobody wants to read a 10,000 word treatise with 15 charts on some obscure real estate topic unless you’re a broker (and I doubt brokers want to read that either).
It’s repetitive but people don’t care
There’s only so much you can say about Canadian real estate, investments and taxes. Garth can be repetitive covering the same topics repeatedly and making the same points repeatedly.
I don’t care.
I like the way he presents the info and enjoy reading it and so I go back multiple times each week.
What Does this Mean for You?
Can you write humour?
Seriously, if you can write mild humour consistently, you can develop a successful website fairly quickly. You will not be dependent on organic search traffic or social media traffic. Your audience will come to your site directly on a regular basis because they want to read what you have to say. This is an excellent approach to any niche site/blog. I recommend it strongly if you can inject humour into your words.
I’ll say it again. This model can be applied in almost any niche, which is why I think it’s so awesome.
Requires Patience… Unless You Boost Your Site with Some Promotion
Garth’s audience built up over time. My wife started reading him a long time ago. I came on board about two to three years ago. This is not a model that will fill your pockets with cash over night. You must persevere and be patient to build up an audience like this.
Garth, as far as I can tell, was wealthy before he started the blog so he didn’t need the money unlike so many other people working to build an online biz. I think if you can write well that you can do some promotion like guest posts on huge sites to get the ball rolling a lot faster. The key is getting people to visit your site, like what they read and then they’ll keep coming back.
A smart move would be to incorporate an email newsletter so that you can keep those visitors coming back right out of the gates.
Seriously, I bet a guy like Garth could get published on any publication which would drive plenty of new visitors to his site. I know he’s been interviewed on radio stations so his popularity gives him access to some serious publicity. If you managed to gain such popularity or demonstrate you can provide some amazing content, getting published as a guest contributor on top tier publications wouldn’t be that hard. A few guest posts on the Huffington Post, Forbes, Business Insider and the like would get you a truckload of traffic fast.
Not only is Garth funny, but he’s an outstanding writer. He’s a former journalist, so it’s not surprising. His words flow nicely; it’s a joy to read. While not everyone can be an award-winning author, I do think with practice most people can improve their writing considerably.
Tactics Don’t Matter
What’s awesome about producing content people gobble up is you get to focus on producing content that people gobble up. You don’t have to worry about SEO, social media, click bait, algo changes, etc. You just need to focus on producing excellent content; raving fans will follow.
Do I follow this approach?
I try, but I’m not quite the purist that Garth is. I wish I were, but sadly I’m not. Maybe down the road. I’m not a funny writer. That said, Fat Stacks is fairly successful without much promotion or tactics. The content does the heavy lifting, which is great because it allows me to focus on the content.
While I’ve done plenty of off-site SEO in the long-distant past, I don’t do much these days. I really do focus on content… but throw in a decent amount of social media too.
The point of this post is not to suggest that you MUST follow the GreaterFool’s approach. That’s impossible because not everyone can produce content like that and there’s room for many other types of sites.
The point of this is to illustrate how a very simple blog with great content can be a huge success. It’s just one idea of many.
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes that’s “the best blogging email newsletter around.”
Hyperbole? Maybe, but go check it out to see what some readers say.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.