In late October, it was nothing more than a pipedream. Today, YouthHockeyHub.com is a thriving new blog/website claiming over 12,000 engaged visitors during its first month of operation.
When someone starts a new blog or website, the goal is usually to generate a high volume of engaged visitors. So, if one generated over 12,000 in the first 30 days, it’s safe to say that would qualify as a rocking success. That’s precisely what has happened with YouthHockeyHub.com.
And it didn’t happen by accident.
So what is YouthHockeyHub, and why the sudden success? The site is a joint-venture between ZoselCo (Scott Zosel) and Multiply Communications (Tony Zosel, aka Tony Scott). Yes, my brother and I, both being youth sports enthusiasts, took a hard look at the marketplace for youth sports and saw some exciting opportunities looming. Our idea was to create a blog-style website covering Minnesota youth hockey, complete with feature stories and editorials. The primary drawing card would be weekly team rankings for both boys and girls hockey ages 9-14. Our long-term goal is to monetize the site via affiliate programs and advertising revenue.
However, you can’t just throw the site up and expect over 12,000 to beat a path to your door. If you want to generate big traffic numbers right out of the gate, be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty.
In a nutshell, here is our formula for success:
- Find a large under-served market – After exploring the marketplace for youth hockey, we saw that mnhockeyhub.com claimed some 70,000 visitors at its peak in March last year (see graphic below). This level of traffic volume will support several players. We wanted to be one of them.
- Find a marked loaded with engaged customers — Simply put, youth hockey parents and coaches are insanely engaged, and will spend big bucks at the drop of a hat (sticks, skates, ice time et al). If your ultimate goal is monetization, your market must have this essential characteristic.
- Connect with key influencers one-by-one – One of the chief reasons to offer weekly rankings was to attract visitors interested in seeing how their kids’ teams were doing. However, to offer rankings, we needed coaches and parents who would login to the site and rank teams in their division. Recruiting them meant finding them through their local hockey association website, individually emailing each one of them, and inviting them to become a ranker. To get the job done, we simply paid high school kids to plow through this tedious task. Once we had over 100 rankers in the fold, things became viral, as they invited many others and traffic really grew. One-on-one emails were critical; email blasting would have been futile.
- Work the forums – Like I said, youth hockey followers are insanely engaged. There are a couple key youth hockey forums where hundreds of key influencers congregate daily to discuss a variety of topics, including team rankings. Over half our traffic comes from one forum, and will likely continue if we participate. We also have a forum on our site where participation is growing daily.
- Contacting key influencers = exponential visits – Because we already have a personal dialogue with parents and coaches, it’s easy to create stories about the teams they’re connected with. And whenever we do this, traffic usually comes back tenfold. Let’s say we run a story on a Squirt A tournament preview, we’ll send a email notice alerting this particular group of 12-15 parents. This generates 300-400 visits.