People I talk to are often curious about CNCCookbook as a business. They want to know how big it is and how it got to be that big. While our financial performance is private, suffice to say it is very successful. What I will share is some data about our marketing and how we built the business. Many of you gentle readers out there are interested in having your own business, so hopefully some of this will be helpful to you.
For starters, we get about 2.8 million visits a year to the site, which is quite large considering I do all the marketing myself as well as the majority of the software and customer service. I manage to get our marketing done plus the customer service with about 30-40% of my time, which leaves the rest of the time to write software.
How successful is CNCCookbook’s marketing compared to the world at large?
It turns out there is a fairly decent way to analyze this, or at least one dimension of it. I’m speaking of measuring the web traffic that comes to the site versus other sites, and specifically the SEO traffic. That’s traffic generated by people searching for some topic and clicking on a link that leads to CNCCookbook. There are other sources of traffic, such as advertising, referrals where a link on another site leads here, links from email such as our newsletter, and direct traffic which is where the person either types in our URL or uses a bookmark in their browser.
I want to focus on SEO traffic because it is the easiest to get comparable numbers on and because it represents new audiences in many cases and is therefore a good proxy for measuring growth-related marketing. There is a service called “SEMRush” that is ideal for tracking this kind of thing. You can go there and type in any URL and see a bunch of useful statistics for free. Here is CNCCookbook’s SEMRush report:
SEMRush report on CNCCookbook’s web traffic…
First thing to note is that these numbers are more relative than absolute. For example, they show us have SE Traffic (Search Engine Traffic) of 13,462 a month. We actually have many times that. What they’re doing is taking a sample that is a subset of the whole internet but that is statistically significant as a relative measure between sites.
You can see we do no advertising, as I mentioned. If I were to try to buy the traffic we have with advertising, they predict it would cost us $30,086 per month. That’s a lot of advertising and I am so glad we don’t have to pay it or I would probably have to give up the business. As I mentioned, advertising has never been a good investment for us, though we test it at least once a year and try new things to see if that has changed.
They also list some of the keywords and how we rank for them. They show us ranking 1st for CNC Programming as keywords. Not surprising as we have a lot of content about g-code programming including our free g-code programming tutorial. We rank very highly for “practical machinist” because I really enjoy those boards and refer to them a lot here. I hope they get a lot of referral traffic from us, as it is a good resource for machinists.
How Does CNCCookbook’s Traffic Compare to Other CNC Companies?
That’s interesting, but how does all this compare to other CNC Companies?
Let’s use SEMRush to generate some comparables:
These numbers were gathered in mid-January, so you can see we’ve already grown a bit since then. The list just represents a bunch of companies I’m familiar with that are mostly CNC-related that I use for comparison. Remember, it’s only covering search engine traffic. These companies may rely more on other sources. Companies that mostly use telephone sales or resellers are particularly hard to compare, although at some point you’d think their customers must track down their web sites.
We’re really proud of how we rank relative to these other companies, and we think it shows pretty clearly that we are the #1 CNC Blog out there. It also shows there is plenty of room for growth left. Lots of folks that could benefit from our web site or our software have never heard of us. Many who may have heard of us have never visited our site and probably don’t know what we do.
We rely on you, our customers and readers, to help us get the word out to those who may not discover us online. We appreciate every time you publish a link to our site, mention us in emails or conversations, or connect with us on Social Networks like Facebook by Liking, Sharing, or Commenting on our antics.
How Did We Get to be the #1 CNC Blog on the Internet?
In a word: content. We publish lots and lots of high quality content. I try to add 3-5 new articles every week. I do extensive research on every article to make sure that when we do an article, it is the best and most complete article on that topic that you’re likely to find on the Internet.
We use no advertising. Although we do experiment with it from time to time, we’ve never found it to be very cost effective. It would be great if I could spend a dollar to make two or three in return, but so far it has been spend a dollar and get back a few cents.
There’s no cold calling. I simply don’t have time for it.
We do have a few dealers that resell our software, and we thank them for the help they give us.
We find that writing articles is pretty cost effective marketing. I love to write, so I enjoy doing it. And the articles draw traffic for a long long time, so it is a gift that keeps on giving. Some of our most popular pages are from 2005 or so. You can’t run an ad that still pulls after 9 years!
The downside of this “Content Marketing” is that it takes a critical mass before Google and Visitors notice you and growth takes off. We literally have thousands of articles on the site to have gotten to this stage. It’s been a great investment, but it isn’t something you (or a competitor) can replicate overnight. I always tell entrepreneurs if they’re even thinking of starting a business, start a blog first. Prove to yourself that you can reliably grow that blog and that you’re happy churning out post after post, day after day, because that’s what it takes to do what we did.
There are alternatives. You should test advertising and see if it works for you. There are a variety of things you can do differently to tap into local business. CNCCookbook sells worldwide, but a Job Shop may benefit more by starting with marketing locally and really nailing it.
Content marketing works!
It works well, it is cost effective, and it’s not that hard. It’s biggest disadvantage is a need to reach critical mass before growth will take off. Patience is a virtue in that respect.
I have been using content marketing for my last 3 companies, including CNCCookbook. It is still a pretty new thing for Marketing people to talk about, and most companies are not very good at it. It’s a tool you can embrace and be ahead of the pack for a long while to come. The best part is the sooner you start, the longer it will take the competition to catch up, if they ever can. I would take a careful look at the competition to check for signs they’re already building a significant content marketing presence as well.
I can offer you two other resources that may help your marketing and business strategy. They’re in the form of two other blogs that I write for (Oh no!), albeit much less frequently than for CNCCookbook. Here they are:
Firehose Press: They say learning something new that is deep is like drinking from a firehose. I keep up with well over 200 blogs, and this blog is a clippings blog. Every marketing article I learn something from or want to borrow a tactic from gets a clipping posted to this blog. You can literally learn right along with me, reading the things I read and resonate with. If you like what you see there, subscribe to the RSS feed. I go through probably 85 marketing related blogs every day looking for ideas, and I share all of the best ones to this blog.
Smoothspan Blog: This is a business strategy, entrepreneurship, and techie related blog. We’re here in Silicon Valley and I’ve been involved with 8 software startups to date. I have enjoyed some great success and this blog talks about all of that.
In the end, we’re successful because of you, dear readers. I know many of you would like to be successful or more successful in your own businesses, so I wanted to share a little of the inside dope on how to go about it.
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