How Starter Story Used Content Scaling to Generate 349,000 Monthly Visitors
In this Growth Through Content case study, we’ll look at Starter Story.
Let’s dive in.
What is Starter Story?
Pat Walls created Starter Story in 2017 and it features business advice, tips, success stories and interviews with business owners.
With over 6000 business ideas, a database of over 200 business growth tactics and 2500 business success case studies, Starter Story is one of my favourite websites.
Pat disclosed that his site was generating over $45,000 a month in revenue back in 2021 and I anticipate it’s a lot more today.
But what’s their traffic and SEO metrics like?
According to Ahrefs, Starter Story has a UR of 52 and a DR of 72.
With 237,000 backlinks from 5900 domains, they generate 349,000 monthly visitors and this traffic equates to the equivalent PPC value of $170,000.
But how are they doing it?
Pat Walls has a course on his Lean SEO approach that you can access when you become a premium member of the site (which I am).
So I’m not going to give a detailed breakdown of how to use lean SEO.
However, I will explain what it is.
Traditional SEO is the approach of creating content, performing outreach and PR to get links.
Lean SEO is a way of thinking, planning and using SEO for any website and any team of any size.
The approach is based on the idea of creating minimum viable content, then you track progress and scale the creation and improvement of content if done correctly.
If you’re struggling to understand this, think of it this way.
What’s better, a site that has 30 articles, or three?
The answer would of course be 30, no matter how great the three articles are.
The lean SEO approach would be to look at how you can create the 30 articles as fast as possible, in the shortest amount of time and at the lowest cost.
And then look at your analytics to see whether they are gaining traction, and work on improving the ones that are. Then look at the reasons why they are gaining traction and either scale this approach, or modify based on the information gained.
This approach has allowed Starter Story to scale it’s content creation to build a site with over 32,000 pages in just a few years.
The secret to this is all down to content types.
How Content Types Match Content Intent and Fuels Growth
If you have been in SEO for a while, you’ll be aware of content types.
Content-type is a word to describe the type of content that is ranking online.
If you do a search and all the results that come up are list posts, it’s safe to assume that the content type of a ‘list’ is what Google wants to see and people want to read.
This is because it matches the intent of the search query.
The lean SEO approach and the success of Starter Story lies in the smart decisions around content creation.
The site is geared towards those running or looking to start a business.
As such, many of their top pages are lists of names and lists of ideas.
From shoe brand name ideas to hairdressing business ideas.
They have ideas and names for everything.
And yes, this type of content is scalable at speed and low budget.
Check out this page of restaurant slogan ideas:
And indeed, this list of clever Instagram captions for fashion and style:
The beauty however is how Pat has scaled the content.
Check out his 234 pages that contain Instagram captions for almost every industry:
This content is all highly useful for any business owner and is therefore hugely on point for the target audience of Starter Story.
To use this approach yourself, you must look at your target audience and see whether there is a content type that would benefit them and that you can scale its creation.
For example, let’s say you sell baby products online. Lists of baby names beginning with A, lists of baby names from 1950, 1960 and so on.
You’ll have something you can use, regardless of the industry.
But that’s not the only weapon that Pat uses, he also has the power of user-generated content.
Why Unleashing the Power of User-Generated Content Can Superpower a Site
UGC, or User-Generated Content, is extremely powerful for any business.
However, it’s traditionally only been seen as something for e-commerce and social media.
Pat changed this with his database of interviews.
And this, if I’m honest, is the insane value of Starter Story and why I became a paying customer.
You have thousands of interviews with business owners who reveal their business stories to the world.
And here’s the best part, the business owners write these stories themselves.
Yes, this is guest posting with a purpose.
I often call this approach ‘unexpected content’ because as the name suggests, you never know what content you’ll find. And it’s why I love Starter Story’s weekly email they send out that looks like this.
This content hooks me into the site, gives me a reason to come back and it's incredibly interesting stuff.
The question is, how can you leverage user-generated content without it becoming a spammy site?
The answer lies in what Starter Story is vs a traditional site where you guest blog.
Sites that allow guests to blog on them tend to follow a wide path of the subject matter.
Some sites might be super broad and allow you to guest blog on every area of business.
Others might be more refined, such as an SEO blog where you can write about any aspect of SEO.
This means that the content can be of all kinds of standards.
The Starter Story approach is an interview method, which focuses on the business owner’s story and they answer pre-set questions.
It’s this direction and singular approach that makes the content so powerful and doesn’t rely on writing ability.
So, if you want to use this, think about going niche.
For example, weight loss stories if you’re a gym.
Holiday tips from returning customers if you’re a travel company, and so on (please note this is another way TripAdvisor did so well, leveraging tips and reviews).
This brings us to the final aspect and why this is so powerful.
Content Databases: The Future of SEO
If you follow me on LinkedIn, you’ll know that I talk about aspects of content in terms of information value.
Sites that give a lot of information are sites of value, and value means that you’ll attract traffic from both word of mouth and indeed search engines.
Starter Story is the Wikipedia of business start-up advice, information and tools.
Or for lack of a better term, it’s a search engine of business start-up information.
The way Pat has created his site (built by himself) is that every piece of content in Starter Story adds to the database and links together.
The site has four databases.
Each database links with each other perfectly.
For example, if I search the business idea database and click on a digital subscription business, you’ll see how I can access all the other database information that is relevant.
And this includes those customer stories.
This makes every page of Starter Story insanely useful to the audience because all the content they create helps the entire site by interlinking.
Every how-to guide adds to the database and helps people to find answers, regardless of where they are on the site.
Of course, Starter Story is custom-built, but you can see why this approach is so powerful.
(If not, use the site and you’ll see what I mean).
But how might you use this approach?
I love Starter Story because it has become its own search engine.
And that’s the core tactic to take away.
How do you go from being a website to a search engine of content?
How do you make this happen at scale and what does that look like?
This is going to take some time to think about, but it’s worth it; I obsess about this each day.
But if I can suggest one area to start, it’s to think about lean SEO and making decisions based on data to then scale.
Start small; test, and then scale what works.
That’s lean SEO.
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