Growing a website to 800,000 visits, becoming Google-less in the process.

Growing a website to 800,000 visits, becoming Google-less in the process.
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Backstory

If you’re like me, growing a site to hundreds of thousands of visitors seems a distance away. I couldn’t count how many projects I released, that faded out after a month or two.

These projects were released before I had a day to day job, this meant I was too focused on the money, rather than the cool project I wanted to build and release. This led me in a cycle, project after project that ended up with the same result — a project with blood, sweat and tears down the drain.

However, after starting a job in January 2020 — that soon began to change. In March that year, I released a website that tracks the price of items within a game — utilising their free, easy to use API that provided me real time values. It was my job to retain this data, storing it in a database (that would now hold more than 90,000,000 rows.. yes, 90.. million!).

My whole drive for this project was simple — build a cool website in my small (but limited) time out of work hours. The site grew much faster than I’d ever expected, having gotten more than 210 concurrent visitors recently. A high proportion of traffic has been mainly from SEO and YouTuber videos.


Going Google-less

If you’re like me, hearing the terms “become google-less” seems so distant, with Google becoming so heavily involved in majority of our daily lives. However, after a long time coming — I’ve finally made the move and I’m happy to share how I did it.

Google Analytics

For years, this has been my go-to for tracking how well my websites are performing on a day to day basis. It’s free, simple and easy to use and provides a nice set of KPIs — what’s NOT to love? Actually.. a lot! I admit, I was so blinded by the thought of “If it’s free, we must be the product”.

It’s free, and certainly free for a reason, after hearing about how Google actually sell your visitor data (which makes Google Analytics completely free), I started venturing out to see if I could find other, ‘like for like’ alternatives. When looking at these however, I started getting the following thoughts:

  • “Why should I care? Don’t Google get enough of us already?!”
  • “Does MY data really matter to them?”
  • “Will my visitors really care?”
  • “If I stop, others will still continue to use Google Analytics, it defeats the whole purpose”

This was a few example thoughts that I had, I admit I was silly and by thinking this, I (like many others) wouldn’t move — and in turn, still continue to aid Google in finding out about each and every visitor.

This is when I turned to the analytics platform that I use and heavily love to this day — Fathom Analytics. This is run by a team of two (primarily, I believe many others are present but do things behind the scene) fantastic guys, who want to prevent our (and visitors) data being sold to Google.

Fathom is an absolutely outstanding platform, from personal experience it’s fast — and seems to load much faster than the bloated service provided by Google. A huge advantage I have with Fathom is its interface, I really only care about the main factors.

I highly recommend that you give Fathom Analytics a shot, click here to check them out (and get $10 off your first month too using my referral link!).


As our traffic blew up within the space of a few months, so did our server costs — to keep up with demand, and to be able to host the volume of data that we had. Google Ads allowed us to pay the $230 a month hosting costs, and meant we could monetise without asking from our audience.

I posted a thread a while back on gaining investment, and more than often enough the same thing popped up — why gain an investment, when you could put more tailored advertisements on the site (which in turn, is better for my audience).

Instead, I started to email a few companies that had something in common with my audience. Emailing out of the blue is usually something I fear, but actually resulted in multiple companies all being — interested solely because of our audience overlapping with theirs.


Google Workspace

And finally, having the ease of Gmail with a custom domain felt like a godsend — being able to use many email clients without much configuration felt fantastic. However the aspect of privacy became daunting after the Google Analytics situation — this is when I found Hey.com.

Hey is pricy, I’d admit, however it prevents any form of spying or tracking from third parties when opening emails. It also has a very great interface, such as separating emails and “screening” (or whitelisting) senders when they’re emailing for the first time.

All in all, becoming Google-less has certainly cost more — but I can sleep well knowing I (and my audience) are no longer the product, and instead my money is going into the pockets of well-made companies by individuals.. and not robots.

If this article was helpful, feel free to tweet at me https://twitter.com/heychazza.

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