How Whirli is Becoming the Netflix of Toys (and Growing Their Traffic)

In recent Growth Through Content case studies, I’ve focused on big traffic sites.

However, I love to study new sites to show others what might be possible and what markets there are for business ideas and growth.

And in this case study, I’ll be looking at Whirli.

You’ll discover:

  • Just what Whirli is, why their business is so exciting and the new niche they are operating in;
  • How they are growing their traffic and why they are set for incredible growth;
  • How I’d grow Whirli to 100,000 monthly visitors within 12 months;
  • And how you might be able to use the same tactics in a different niche.

Let’s dive in.


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Just What Exactly is Whirli?

Whirli was started in 2018 by Nigel Phan and in 2020 received €4.3 million seed funding in a funding round led by Octopus Ventures, with the help of MMC Ventures.

So what is it?

Essentially Whirli is a toy swap subscription site for parents of younger children to enjoy new toys on a regular basis.

Think of it as the Netflix of second-hand toys.

As a parent myself, I instantly saw how amazing this idea was.

When you have young kids, you spend lots of money on big, chunky, plastic toys. Most of them end up in toy chests and your kids rarely play with 95% of them.

The result is that your home is cluttered with junk toys.

Whirli changes this by offering a subscription service for second-hand toys, allowing parents to rent the toys and give them back when their child is bored of them.

And if we look at the Exploding Topics Pro data, we can see that interest in Whirli is growing. 

The New Exciting Niche That Whirli Has Opened Up

The ethos behind Whirli is simple: a combination of sustainability and affordability for parents. 

Toys for infants and pre-school children are big, bulky and made from masses of plastic, and the only way to get rid of them until Whirli was to sell them on a marketplace such as Ebay or take them to the local tip.

And due to their size, they are a nightmare to get rid of.

Whirli has stepped in and changed this by offering a new approach.

Instead of buying toys, renting them and returning them is a more convenient and eco-friendly approach.

This is why I was so excited when I saw this concept. 

Now, renting isn’t anything new. There is an abundance of rental services out there for all manner of goods.

But renting to reduce waste is an emerging idea that could create a whole new era of e-commerce.

And it doesn’t take much imagination to think about how you could jump on this.

But to help out, try reverse-engineering what goes into landfills.

For example, take leather shoes. They take 25-40 years to decompose in landfill sites.

What about jewellery? Sure, you’ll keep the expensive things, but your cheaper ‘costume’ jewellery would probably make many children happy.

And that’s just scratching the surface. From rubber-soled shoes, computers, musical instruments, clothing, fancy dress, home furnishings, toys and office equipment.

The circular e-commerce economy has huge potential.

Ultimately, if you can buy it, can you buy it second-hand.

And if you can buy it second-hand, can you rent it?

But how are Whirli growing their traffic?

Let’s take a look.

How Whirli Are Leveraging Traffic Growth

At the time of writing, Whirli enjoys a DR of 39 and a UR of 45. 

However, it’s clear that with backlinks from just 446 referring domains, they need to ‘up their game’ with regards to SEO.

But the traffic potential is there.

Right now according to Ahrefs, their traffic levels are 3900 organic visitors a month. And while we know that Ahrefs tends to be a little low on the traffic estimation side, we can see that there is plenty of room for growth.

And even if they only carry on doing what they do now, they’ll grow.

Here’s why.

They currently rank number 1 for the keyword ‘Toy Subscription’ in the UK.

And that phrase has shown strong growth over the last 10 years.

According to Exploding Topics, a growth of 454% has occurred.

And sure, while Covid might have made people wary of renting toys, given the huge media attention and culture change around disposable plastics, I believe that Whirli will be able to ride that wave and grow consistently.

But that’s not all that they’re doing.

Whirli is taking on the big players of the toy market and here’s why I think they have a chance.

The Jumperoo is Whirli’s top-ranking page according to Ahrefs.

Yet they sit on the second page of Google for the search term.

Of course, this isn’t the end of the world. The sites above them are huge domain monsters.

As they grow in domain strength and build links to their site, it is clear they can take on these huge sites.

But there is something that this site has that the competition doesn’t.

I  refer to this as ‘concept differentiation’.

Each landing page that Whirli ranks for doesn’t only offer the product, it offers a new concept for purchase.

Suddenly a person isn’t just reading the ‘Peppa Pig Playhouse’ page, they are learning about the concept of renting toys rather than buying them.

They are clicking multiple pages to see what else they might be able to rent.

And yes, these are all superb signals for Google.

For this reason, I suspect that Whirli will not only be able to rank on page 1 for key terms with fewer links, I believe that they will outrank many big sites with far less effort.

But could they grow even further, and faster?

Yes they could, and I’ll look at this next.

How I Would Grow Whirli To 100,000 Monthly Unique Visitors in 12 Months

Whirli is doing great, they are on track for growth but they could grow faster.

Here’s how I’d do it.

‘Toys For’ Content:

While the Whirli team are making inroads with their content, the first thing I would start to attack is the ‘toys for’ content gap.

This is a pretty simple way to generate content that will bring in their target audience.

Take the search term ‘toys for 2 year olds’.

This term has both e-commerce pages and informational content ranking on page 1 of Google.

And sites with similar authority are ranking. 

But that’s not all.

Whirli has an opportunity to become a trusted voice to parents across the UK.

Look at Made For Mums.

This site gains over 788,000 organic views on parent-related content every month.

For example, this simple baby puree recipe page generates over 4000 visitors each month.

And that’s just scratching the surface for content growth opportunities.

If Whirli wants to leverage this, they need to aggressively scale their content online.

We recently did this for another business, producing 64 articles in just 12 weeks and they are on track for over 100,000 monthly visitors.

Content scaling is hugely important for startups and producing hundreds of good quality articles is a MUST DO; not an ‘if’ but a ‘when’.

Producing content for your target audience is one of the most cost-effective ways to grow online.

But how could you use the same tactics that Whirli is based on to grow online?

How to Grow an E-commerce Brand Within the Circular Economy


I touched on this earlier in the case study.

The circular economy opens up a huge number of chances for online growth.

And here’s how I personally would do this.

Head over to Ebay or any other online marketplace.

Start looking at what used/second-hand products people are selling online.

From there, look at how you could create either an online subscription service or maybe even start a used product e-commerce business.

For example, take the search term ‘Aquariums’.

There are over 1600 listings online.

It would be fairly straightforward to start buying and selling aquariums that are used and even offer a follow-up subscription service for fish food and maintenance products like filters.

Of course, this is just one example. 

Use your imagination and a bit of research, and you’ll find an angle you can leverage.

Final Thoughts

Whirli is in an amazing place to grow.

With a product/service that is unique, focused on saving parents money, time and reducing plastic use, I am sure they can grow further and faster.

If you’ve enjoyed this case study, please share and also subscribe to the Growth Through Content newsletter by pressing the button below.

Every Thursday I’ll be sharing a new case study that focuses on a business that is growing through content. 


Andrew Holland


Click the button below and sign up to the Growth Through Content Newsletter.

Each Thursday I'll send you a new content marketing or SEO case study directly to your inbox.

posted October 21, 2021

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