How I doubled traffic to my website after losing my job and running out of cash

Sometimes you just have to write the headline first, so you can take a long, hard look at the story you are about to tell.

This blog post is called, “How I lost my job, ran out of money, and doubled my website traffic.”

In four months.

Because that’s what I’ve done. And yet, did I really think I would pull it off?

Of course!

I went to bed last night about 4 p.m. after mowing the grass. Despite getting lots and lots of sleep in the past week, I’m wiped out and maybe feeling a bit flu-like. So, I have been taking life very slow lately.

Anyhow, when I went to bed the website was at: 39,722. I only know this because I saw it when I got up just now to write this.

And when I refreshed the page?

40,340!

(cue Manilow and balloon drop) Looks like we maaaaaaaaaade it! Yeah, yeah, yeah!

balloon drop

I find this 40,000 hit milestone noteworthy because it was just four months ago that I was writing about hitting the 20,000 mark. You can check out that June post here.

Not only did I double traffic in just four months (it took almost a year to get to 20,000), but I did it after losing my great-paying Contently clients.

I never have been so broke in my life, so there has been no money for Facebook spending for quite some time now.

BUT…I DID work very hard writing a few very well-researched, unique blog posts about medical cannabis while I had no work at all (gratefully work is picking up again), and then I spent some money while I still had some boosting those posts to medical cannabis audiences. I think that relatively small sum I spent has paid dividends.

But I also am seeing a lot of new local followers on social media lately, especially Facebook. So, I’m sure that is driving website traffic, too.

And there is nothing more gratifying than when someone in your own community positively acknowledges your work.

It doesn’t take money to drive up your website numbers, at least not once you have an audience. It just takes content that is written from the heart.

Did channel 4 report spur interest in my site?

I am aware that Channel 4 WHBF ran a story last night on people being thrown in the local jails on no charges at all under the guise of “mentally ill” and “we don’t know what else to do with them,” so to speak.

I say “guise” because the sad truth is this: “Mental illness” is not ALWAYS why people are being held that way in those jails, even if it’s the reason given.

That’s the TRUTH. You can believe what you want to believe. I hope it doesn’t ever happen to your kid.

Read more: What happened to me in the Rock Island County Jail? Finally, my tell all

Read more: Part II of my tell-all: Horror in the Rock Island County Jail

Read more: The ‘Trinity Factor’ and why I supported Strategic Behavioral Health in their successful bid to build a new psychiatric hospital in the Quad-Cities

Barbara and Benny Heitz still can send down lightning bolts from heaven and I suspect they someday will.

As a person with PTSD, I respect myself enough that I did not watch last night’s report. One can only imagine what that would have done to me. But don’t get me wrong. I am very, very, grateful to the station for reporting on such matters.

I hope WHBF-TV 4 asked the local hospitals/mental health centers what responsibilities they would like to accept for this humanitarian crisis and what sorts of process changes will be implemented.

I didn’t watch, but I’m grateful anyway

So, no, I didn’t watch it. Hell, no! My God, the promo, with the person screaming inside the cell…that might have been me for all I know. Talk about a PTSD trigger, good LORD, no, I was not about to watch it.

I wonder if they reported how many people are completely calm when they arrive at the jail. Stripped naked, thrown in a solitary cell two days, hearing them talk about what they’re going to do to you, when they have no charges against you…two days, mind you…you are HELPLESS in there.

You know the days by counting the shifts (you learn to recognize the voices of the guards who work on the various shifts…even easier when you personally know a couple of them).

It will make you go insane, no doubt.

Read more: Check out my portfolio of paid mental health content

To be honest, I’ve been smoking 707 Headband hash since I saw the promo a day or so ago. We can thank Uncle Sam for his expeditious processing of my amended tax return for that. That came along with the house insurance bill on Monday, and there was a tiny bit left over after I went to the bank.

Praise. The. Lord.

I have been praying and asking God to direct me away from the television and the internet.

I definitely do want to thank WHBF-TV 4 Rock Island for doing this sort of journalism. Even if I didn’t see the report, I’m sure it was well done. Everything they do is well done these days. I am glad to see veteran Quad-City journalist Mike Mickle back in the saddle as news director there.

You’ll remember Mike’s “What’s going on in the woods?” reports from his KWQC days. Mike went undercover with a camera crew on Credit Island and caught men having sex with another in a public park in Davenport.

I thought the report was stigmatizing at the time. In fact, it’s a matter of personal safety, public safety, and public health all rolled into one. Mike probably saved a lot of lives with that report. I thought I knew all there was to know back in those days on such matters as men having sex with men in a park…oh no, I sure didn’t!

Read more: Check out my reporting on matters of public health

And you’re talking to a former executive news editor of The Advocate magazine, the birth of the gay and lesbian civil rights movement.

Advocate Mast

I had no idea how dangerous and scary being gay in the Quad-Cities can be, and I’m not talking about hate crimes in the sense that most people come to think of them.

WordPress stats show cannabis content driving my numbers

So, I estimate there were about 500 page views alone between the 10 p.m. news last night and midnight this morning. However, none of the posts viewed during that period had anything directly to do with my experience in the jail.

This piece — on navigating the workplace as a medical cannabis patient — appears to have brought people to the site last night (it had the most hits, and it’s well over two months old), and from there they gravitated to posts about my dad and my house, mostly.

Overall, however, all of my posts related to medical cannabis do consistently well, even when I’m lazy about promoting them on social media. What that tells me is that I actually am getting “regulars” to my site who don’t even come from social media anymore, they just go straight to my site. I never really even envisioned that day’s arrival, at least not anytime soon, even if that’s the ultimate goal, of course. So very cool.

Over the course of the past week, I have noticed that “views per visitor” on my site – the number of pages each visitor looks at each day – has gone from about two or 2.5 to, last night, I kid you not, 25 page views per visitor. But it has steadily been inching up like that all week.

Thank you, thank you, thank you

I may not have articulated this very well, but it was nice to wake up to that 40,000 after a five-hour nap. Every writer wants to be read, there is no greater compliment than that. And that folks are spending so much time on my site once they get there…awesome!

Thanks to all of you!

And as always, special thanks to Al Gore, inventor of the Internet. I really don’t know what I would have done without you.

Write what you know sounds so cliché, but that really is the trick to being successful at writing for a living.

As for my website, I don’t expect to make money off of it, directly. But I do hope to land great paid writing gigs from people who see my personal posts, as I have, and hope to continue to do so.

Soon. I want to rescue a dog, peeps!

Until next time.

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