When Ash Read moved, he needed to furnish his new home.
Since he didn't want to buy his homeware from major retailers, he had to dig around and do his own research to find smaller, modern brands that fit his style.
The assumption that other people had this same problem led him to create Living Cozy.
Ash has used several smart strategies to establish his site as an authority in the space. And in just two short years, he's built up his monthly traffic and earnings to 150,000 page views and over $10,000, respectively.
Want to know how he did it?
Keep reading to learn his interesting approach to niche site creation, the secret to his success, and what he wish he knew when he started his business.
Ash's Beginnings in Content Marketing
I grew up and still live in the east of England.
I started blogging and writing online around 14 years ago, around 2008. Since then I’ve built a career in content marketing, working with various software and fintech brands to help build audiences and drive traffic from organic search.
The Origins of Living Cozy
I’d recently moved houses and was searching for new furniture and home products. But I found it hard to discover brands and sites that weren’t big-box retailers.
I’d done some work with a few direct-to-consumer (DTC) home brands in the U.S. so I knew there were plenty of new, modern brands out there. But they were hard to find.
I started Living Cozy as a way to help consumers discover modern furniture brands. Most DTC brands reach consumers through social media and ads. There’s not too much focus on longer-form content and search, so I felt there was an opportunity to help these brands reach consumers in search results.
To discover brands, I tend to scour Instagram; it’s not an overly glamorous process.
Brands also currently come to me and reach out when they launch. At the moment there are around 300 brands featured on the site.
I started taking Living Cozy seriously in the summer of 2020, so it’s coming up on two years old. It took around six months until I had a month where I made over $100. The site currently makes over $10,000 per month in revenue.
Ash's Unique Marketing Strategy
My top marketing strategy isn’t so much a marketing strategy, but more of a content strategy.
Everything we publish features multiple subject matter experts, and this has been essential to helping us build industry credibility, quality content and trust. Consumers know they’re getting experts' thoughts and opinions whenever they land on one of our articles.
I find industry experts from HARO (Help a Reporter Out) and have also built good relationships with a number of experts now who regularly contribute to our content. I also get outreach from PR teams now. Most are bad, but occasionally a really good contact will land in my inbox.
To be honest, though, I don’t think there’s anything particularly special that we do.
The best way to build a great website is to constantly create good content. I’d probably say the thing we do that others don’t is to focus heavily on the briefs we produce for writers. It’s not uncommon to spend 3+ hours speaking to experts and gathering quotes when putting together a single brief.
The Importance of SEO
SEO is hugely important to the business. It’s our number 1 growth channel and likely will be for years to come.
We are working to build up a more owned audience via our email list and to drive more of our traffic from sources other than search though. This feels like a great way to future-proof the business and become less reliant on primarily one channel.
His Overall SEO Strategy
We look for high buyer-intent keywords that many of the bigger publishers in our space either ignore or don’t focus too heavily on. For example, keywords where the top-ranking posts are outdated.
As a growing business, we don’t have thousands of articles to keep track of like other more established brands. So our strategic advantage is targetting a smaller number of valuable keywords with content that stays updated and is always fresh.
Link building is very important. We have a directory of home and furniture brands on the site. In the early days, I’d filter through all the brand websites looking for the ones that had a press page where they linked to publishers.
I’d then pitch interview/content ideas to those brands and when we’d hit publish, I’d ask them for a link on the press page. It really helped us to build credibility in the early days and I’m sure it helped with SEO too, as Google would see a bunch of links from highly-relevant sites.
At the moment we’re running new digital PR campaigns each month to create newsworthy stories and generate backlinks from other publishers in the space.
At the moment, Ash's site averages around 150,000 pageviews per month.
His Top Three Tools
My main tools are:
- Clearscope: Every article we publish is reviewed in Clearscope before we hit publish. It really helps us to maximize every article we put out and ensure we’re hitting all the right keywords and phrases throughout the article.
- Search Console: I check Search Console every week (usually multiple times) to see how our rankings have changed and to look for opportunities to further optimize and refresh our content.
- Ahrefs: I use Ahrefs to keep tabs on our rankings and track a few specific high-value keywords. It’s also my go-to for keyword research. We keep tabs on a few competitor sites using Ahrefs and we’re always looking for long-hanging fruit and SERPs where there’s an opportunity to outrank some of the big players in the space.
Ash's Biggest Challenge
Ramping up content production has been my biggest challenge so far, and it has come in stages for Living Cozy.
The first step was to transition from me writing everything to me writing briefs for multiple writers to increase our publishing cadence. Now, the challenge is to replace me as the brief writer and enable the site to scale beyond the time I can dedicate to it.
We work with a number of freelance writers to produce content, but ramping up from a couple of posts per week to 5 to 10 hasn’t been so easy. It’s hard to scale content quantity without losing any focus on quality.
His Greatest Accomplishment
My greatest accomplishment so far has been making my first bit of revenue online. It was £9.37 and it came from an affiliate sale for a bedding brand around six weeks after launch.
This gave me the belief that there was an opportunity here and that I could build a revenue-generating business. I probably didn’t make another sale for like two or three months after that. But it gave me the push to keep going.
What He Wishes He Knew When He Started
I wish I had known that it was going to work, honestly. It’s hard to dedicate hours and hours before and after your day job to a project you don’t know will take off.
Knowing what I know now, I’d have gone all-in earlier and tried to think big. Initially, I didn’t have goals, really. If I started again I would have put more trust in myself and bet bigger at an earlier stage.
His Biggest Mistake
My biggest mistake has been focusing away from my skillset.
I’ve always worked in content—as a writer, strategist, manager, etc. But prior to Living Cozy, all of my entrepreneurial efforts were focused on building tech/SaaS products—things I couldn’t actually build myself.
It meant I was spending my time focusing on the things I’m not great at (product management, pricing strategy, sales, etc).
I wish I’d focused on my personal sweet spot much earlier in my entrepreneurial journey.
Advice for Other Entrepreneurs
My advice is to do what you do best.
It’s easy to try and do it all with your own business, but you just end up wasting time on the things you aren’t good at. I’m bad with numbers, so I have an accountant. I don’t really like link building, so I work with experts.
As soon as you have the income and a few months' of runway put aside in the bank, try to fire yourself from the tasks you don’t excel at.