|Having a plan is one of the best ways to increase traffic.|
I won't bore you with numbers, but I now consistently have as much traffic in one day on this blog as I used to receive in two months! It didn't all happen at once, and there were some ups and downs along the way, but I've found that the 25 steps below can help any blog increase traffic, whether it's brand new or been around a while.
Here are my 25 ways to increase blog traffic:
- Post consistently. When I first started blogging, I'd have months of 6 posts here and months of 2 posts there--with no rhyme or reason. The smart blogger will at least post once a week--usually on the same day of the week. The benefit to a consistent schedule is that readers know when to "tune in" to your blog.
- Encourage comments. Some bloggers recommend turning the comments off when the traffic is low, because conditions are favorable for zero comments. However, I think it's a smarter strategy to expect zero comments, but encourage them from the very beginning. The best blogs will get a conversation going, and that helps build traffic. I know it can feel lonely waiting for that conversation to start, but just keep plugging away.
- Tag content. Most blogging interfaces (like Blogger and WordPress) have ways to tag posts with keywords that you may use multiple times. For instance, I know this post will have a "blogging" tag at the very least, though there will probably be some others as well. And this enables readers to click on the tag to see all the content on your blog that is related to that topic. Plus, it helps with SEO (more on that below).
- Always put your best foot forward. Don't fall into the trap of pulling punches on your blog. That is, don't hold back your content. I've heard many writers talk about how they use their blogs as places to throw their scraps. Well, I don't know about you, but I have more than enough great content available to me online that I don't want to settle for the scraps. Always blog your best, and you'll be surprised how you'll come up with even better ideas as a result.
- Be sincere. Whether you're sincerely a jerk or sincerely a helpful person--or even sincerely confused, sincerity goes a long way in the blogging world. Don't try to change your blogging persona every week. Pick an identity and stick with it. That's one of the surest ways to connect with your audience.
- Create a niche. Most successful blogs have a niche, something that defines what it is. Over at Poetic Asides, that niche is poetry, especially related to poetry prompts and challenges. MNINB is not the best example, but it's niche is better writing and living. One of the main benefits of developing a niche is that readers know why they're coming to your blog and why others should go to your blog.
- Think readers first. If your blogging goal is to increase your audience, then you need to think about the needs of your readers first. Most of the tips on this list are designed to put the reader first, from being consistent and being sincere to including share buttons and paying attention to blog stats from time to time. If your blog is reader-centric, then the readers will come and bring their friends.
- Blog different. While it's good to use successful blogs as a model for your own blogging efforts, readers are looking for unique voices. If your blog is all about sports (for instance), maybe you can blog about a specific team or city or region. Or dedicate it to the players who aren't the "stars" of the sport, but who probably still have fans who are starved for information about their favorite players.
- Provide links. Link well and link often. Link to your own blog content. Link to the other sources of information across the Internet. Link, link, link. That said, make sure the links are relevant and helpful for your readers. If you link to bad information or information that's not relevant to your blog post, that will leave a sour taste in your readers' mouths.
- Think SEO. I know Google is building up the importance of social media in its searches, which may incite other search engines to follow suit, but that doesn't mean that SEO (or search engine optimization) suddently has no relevance for bloggers. What I expect to happen is that content with solid SEO and solid social media metrics will rise to the top of the search results. (Click here for some SEO tips.)
- Avoid ads (until you're popular). Just because Blogger and WordPress have tools to help you monetize your blog with ads, it doesn't mean you have to use them--at first. Ads are distracting and can slow down your blog. In fact, they may even harm your search result placement. Plus, if you don't have significant traffic, there's no money in hosting ads. Instead, focus on building your traffic first. Many blogs advise getting traffic up to at least 10,000-15,000 page views per month before worrying about monetizing. Even then, you may find that ads aren't a good fit for your blog.
- Have a social media strategy. A blogger without social media accounts is going to find it incredibly hard to build blog traffic. Bloggers should work to develop meaningful connections on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ at a minimum. But there are others as well, including Red Room, Goodreads, Tumblr, and more. When you publish a new blog post, be sure to link to it on your social media accounts. As mentioned above, the reach your content has on social media sites may significantly influence where you appear on Google searches.
- Comment on other sites. You have to give if you wish to receive (remember the golden rule?). In addition to responding to comments on your own blog, be sure to leave insightful comments on other blogs you admire. If you read a post that really hits home, let the blogger know. If you disagree with a point, share a thoughtful comment on why you have a different perspective (and be nice about it). Also, make sure your comments link back to your blog, in case other readers are interested in learning more about you.
- Archive well. While tagging can help with SEO, it becomes even more effective when you use tags to help archive effectively. This means that you don't create a brand new tag every single time you post--unless it's necessary. Instead, try to think structurally of how your posts fit together. Some of my tags (actually called Labels in Blogger) on MNINB include "Life Changing Moments," "Tips for Writers," "Blogging," and "Speaking." Some of these tags have more content than others, but they all help group information to make it easy for my readers to find content about which they care.
- Include images in posts. There are a few reasons to include images in your posts. One, they make the blog and each post more attractive and help with design. Two, images help bring in traffic through search engines. Three, post-specific images help differentiate posts in your streams of information on Facebook, Google+ and other social networks. Click here to read even more on this topic.
- Keep an eye on your blog stats. I do not believe in quantifying everything, especially when it comes to content. However, a lot can be learned about what's working and not working on your blog by checking out your blog stats. If there's a feature that always seems to gain traffic, then you know it's a safe bet that those posts will continue to work in the future. If there are features that never (ever ever ever) gain traction, then you'll have to make a decision about whether you still think it's worth putting time into those posts. And yes, I think stats are something you look at over an established period of time. The Internet can be fickle, so a great post can go overlooked from time to time, and a horrible post can get amazing results every once in a while. The trick is figuring out what sticks for the long haul. (Here's an earlier post in which I looked at my statistics.)
- Give readers option for e-mail updates. As you can see in the upper right-hand corner of this blog, readers can sign up for free updates from my blog. I started this around the middle of last year, I believe, and it's really helped remind readers to check out the blog. Plus, they can check out updates on their smart phones without having to go online, which is something I do with quite a few blogs. It's a great way to check out a blog while I'm stuck in a waiting room or have a few minutes to kill.
- Provide social media share buttons. I'm still working on my button strategy, but I've noticed a bump in traffic during the short time I've used them. (Click here to learn how to get your own social media share buttons.) These buttons make it easy for your readers to share content that they think is great--without leaving your blog. And as has been mentioned a few times above, social media is a growing force in search engine results.
- Be prepared for high traffic days. The best way to be prepared is to make sure you don't get lazy with your posts by not including links to your other relevant content and that you include share buttons. You never know what is going to really catch on with readers, so treat every post like it could go viral--that way it's optimized to reach even further.
- Pick and choose posts to push hard. As you get a better handle on which posts appeal most to your audience, you should know which posts probably deserve a little extra promotional efforts. Hint: The better performing posts should get more promotion, because these are the ones that readers have shown appeal to them the most. You should link to everything at least once, but linking to every post multiple times is likely to scare potential readers and connections away. So pick your battles.
- Craft an editorial calendar. At the end of 2011, I started crafting an editorial calendar for MNINB for the first time, and it's really helped me focus my efforts. As a result, my traffic this January has already more than doubled last January's traffic. An editorial calendar makes following several of the steps above much easier.
- Invite guest bloggers. One of the things I wanted to start doing in 2012 on MNINB is make the blog more personal and inspirational about life events, in addition to the tips about writing, blogging, etc. So I started inviting people I know and respect to guest post the Life Changing Moments series that appears on Wednesdays (including Jane Friedman, Collin Kelley, and Nin Andrews). This benefits my blog by bringing in new readers who are connected to the guest bloggers, and it benefits the guest bloggers by exposing them to the MNINB crowd. It also benefits my readers, because they get to hear from people who are cooler than me. (Btw, click here if you're interested in a guest post on MNINB.)
- Provide testimonials. Actually, I don't do this all too well. I have testimonials in the comments, from e-mail messages, social media sites, etc., but I don't actually throw them up on my blog. But I've seen blogs that do it well by having a special page that collects them. It helps build excitement, especially for readers who are new to your blog and want to know more about you.
- Have a blog post promotion plan. Of course, way back on number 20, I talked about picking and choosing days to push harder. Well, for all posts, you should have a blog post promotion plan--a way to let people know about your latest posts. For me, I share blog posts on my Facebook profile, Twitter account, LinkedIn profile, Google+ profile, and Facebook fan page at a minimum. With tools like Hootsuite, Seismic, and others, it's possible to post to various social media accounts without logging into each, and in fact, you can even schedule tweets and other messages in advance.
- Build your brand. This is just the act of making sure that everything you do to increase your blog traffic works together and helps build you, the blogger/author/person, as a brand with whom people can identify. It may take a while for your brand to evolve after blogging for a while, but once you start to get an idea of what it is, work to build and communicate that message. This brings us full circle to being consistent, which is the surest way to build traffic over time.
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Check out these other Not Bob posts for writers: