As a technically challenged blogger, blog traffic was (and still is) my biggest hurdle. Truthfully, I wasn’t sure at first how to bring in traffic to my blogs at first and found the whole process to be overwhelming. Fortunately, once I realized there was something to this blogging thing, I started doing my research to learn the best ways build a community and keep readers coming back for more. I may not have a traditional approach to blogging, mostly because my lack of technical ability, but I learned enough over the past ten years to help me build a small job listing blog into a number one community, and eventually a blog worth selling.
As the next installment of our technically challenged blogger series, I’d like to offer my top blog traffic tips.
- Success isn’t measured by traffic (but it helps): Too many of us feel we’re not successful if we don’t receive thousands of visits each day. While those are definite perks, they’re not the end all, be all, indicator of blog success. For example, compared to my former writing blog, Kommein receives very little traffic. However, every day the same people visit which means I haven’t done anything to turn them off (yet). Also, every day I receive new visitors, which means that search traffic is rising and new folks are interested in what goes on here. We have thoughtful comments going, community members are retweeting and we’re receiving some cool links from other bloggers. So maybe traffic isn’t as big as what I’m used to, but I’m very pleased by Kommein’s success. It would truly suck if I threw a party and no one showed up.
- Readership isn’t only physical traffic: Stop looking at your daily traffic as the only way to measure readership. This blog has more subscribers than it has daily visitors. People read it via Facebook, Kindle, email and RSS. That all of those numbers are rising indicates that Kommein is gaining in popularity. Explore the various ways people can read your blog, beyond traditional traffic.
- Stats are your friend: Get a good stats program, for example I use a combination of Performancing Metrics and Google Analytics. See where your traffic is coming from, who is linking to you, what your most and least popular content is and more. Your stats tell you so much about the people who visit each day. Get in the habit of giving them a quick daily look-see and a weekly analysis. Use the things you learn from your stats to help you to create new content and promote existing content. (FYI – I wrote a technically challenged stats post just before I wrote this one, so look for it soon.)
- Let your comments be your guide: Do you want to know how your community feels about your blog and blogging? Read the comments. Some of them are thought provoking, some is negative, and some offers suggestions for improvement, but all are valuable. Your comments tell you about how well your community responds to your content. They’ll comment on the stuff they care about and will stay away from stuff they don’t enjoy or find too negative. One of the reasons some bloggers rehash the same controversial topics over and over is because they spawn so many comments, making the blog look ultra popular. Use your comments to learn what your readers want.
- It’s OK to be self promoting: Not spammy, but self promoting.
- Guest posting rocks: Offer to guest post or to trade guest posts with your favorite bloggers – and do be afraid of them being “too big” either. If you’re a good writer and engaging blogger they usually have no objection. A well written guest blog post can drive traffic for years.
- Visit other blogs and communities: Read and learn what others are responding to. Become part of the discussion. When you’re a regular or offer thought provoking comments and ideas, others will follow you back to your blog to learn about you. Commenting on blogs, forums, Facebook pages and more also helps to get your name out there – it makes you “familiar.”
- Cross blog promotion is a beautiful thing: Link to other blogs and communities. Sharing is a two way street. When you promote others regularity, they may just help to promote you and your stuff in return. Mind you, don’t promote to promote, and don’t link to others because you expect recipriocity. Share because something is interesting, intriguing or discussion worthy.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help: If you’re not receiving much traffic or things don’t seem to come as naturally to you as other bloggers, ask. Some bloggers don’t respond to email inquiries but others are happy to help. There’s no harm in reaching out to the experts for an opinion or advice as long as you don’t take advantage of their hospitality. Also, blogging forums and communities are also terrific places to look for tips and advice. The blogging community is very generous with their information.
- Get by with a little help from your friends: Am I really suggesting you make friends with some of the top bloggers? Yes, yes I am. I can guarantee that most of them got where they are because they made friends with the right people and there’s nothing wrong with doing the same. I’m also recommending you make friends with bloggers who may not be A-listers. Make friends with all kind of people. And by friends I mean, be friendly. Don’t bug people for retweets or to link to your stuff. If they like what you do, they’ll show you some love without your having to ask. If you have good content it pretty much promotes itself. Having friends just spreads the love around.
- Content is king: Lame expression but always true. The key to good traffic is good content. Period.
- Twitter rocks: Twitter is an amazing tool. Get on it, chat, engage, discuss, learn and drive traffic to your blog. Notice I didn’t say “incessantly tweet out your links?” That’s because it’s kind of annoying and spammy and no one really likes to be hit with links all the time. However, if you chat with folks and create a pleasant environment, they’ll want to see your blog.
- Know your competition but treat them as colleagues: I never look at competitors as competitors. They do what I do, but different. No two blogs are the same, though many have similar content. “Competition” sort of has a negative meaning, though, doesn’t it? It implies that your goals are to beat each other to the top and this is rarely the case in blogging – I’ve seen it, but not much. I mean, yeah, we want to dominate the search engines but most of us aren’t setting out to cream the competition. I prefer to look at the others who do this as colleagues or collaborators. Working together instead of against each other creates so many more possibilities, don’t you think?
- Avoid negativity: Blogs are a lot like real life. No one wants to hang out all day near a whiny, cranky person. No one wants to hang out with someone who complains all the time. Sure, they have friends but probably not as many as if they had a better outlook on life. Positivity is infectious. Win them over with your good attitude.
- Be different: One of the reasons I left the freelance writing niche is because I felt I was getting stale. In fact, very few blogs in that niche are saying anything new or different. It’s really tough to come up with fresh content every single day. If you’re going to write about the same topics other bloggers are latching on to, do yourself and your community a favor and find a unique slant. Don’t rehash, renew or repurpose. Readers appreciate fresh over stale.
- SEO & Keywords? Maybe. I was reluctant to use keywords and SEO, because I hate obvious keyword articles, but you know what? It works. I don’t know that we need to make our blog posts all key word-y, but there’s something to be said about finding the proper balance of keywords in order to bring in traffic. Do use SEO, but don’t compromise good content. If you write for the traffic it’ll show – and then you won’t have any.
My best tip for bringing in traffic has nothing to do with promotion or keywords. It has nothing to do with social media or networking. For me, the reason I had good traffic was because I had good content. If you write something worth reading, folks will come. It’s not enough to be famous or lucky – because if you suck as a blogger none of that will mean anything. If you write good, engaging content, people will come. It may happen slowly, but a there’s nothing wrong with a slow, steady rise. If you make it worth it for people to stop by, they will.
What are some of your traffic building tips? Do you agree with the tips I shared above? Why or why not?