Who doesn’t want more website traffic? Like money or good looks, it seems like it’s just not possible to have too much traffic to your blog.
Trouble is, traffic is tricky. You can buy it, sure. But if you don’t convert that traffic into dollars, you’re losing money. And to actually see ROI, you have to not just make back the money you’ve spent on advertising. You’ll also have to cover the overhead for your business and the time you spent managing it all.
If you go the other way and build up free traffic, you’ll have to get enough results to justify your time. Anybody can spend an afternoon building traffic to their blog. But did they get enough traffic from those efforts to justify the time spent and the opportunity lost?
It is, of course, possible to get an ROI on your blog traffic work. I’m about to give you specific ideas for exactly how to do that. But know this: What works for other blogs might not work for yours. If you want to be successful, you need to track results.
How the 80/20 rule applies to building blog traffic
Ever heard of The 80/20 Rule, aka “The Pareto Principle”? It’s the idea that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. The 80/20 Rule has vast applications, but what we’re interested in is the idea that some of the things you do result in big gains, and some other things you do result in almost nothing.
The 80/20 Rule applies directly to building blog traffic because some of what you do is going to blow the doors off. Other things you do will fizzle. The only way to tell the difference between something that rocked and something that fizzled is to track your results and your work.
Track your time and your results
Tracking your work is fairly easy, but it is a habit. Some of us have trouble developing habits. But if you want to know what works or what doesn’t, you need to know how much time it takes you to do it. There’s no need to get crazy with this and track every minute. Think hours, even ten minute increments.
The next piece is tracking the results. In “the biz”, we call this analytics. If you’re using Scoop.it Content Director to manage your blog, you’ll have some good analytics data already within your account. You can also pair that up with Google Analytics. To make Google Analytics do its thing properly, you’ll need to set up some goals. Don’t worry – they take about 5 minutes each to set up. There are resources on how to set up goals here.
Don’t go crazy with setting goals. Track what you need to know to determine ROI. Maybe that’s email sign-ups, downloads of ebooks, demo material or other assets. Maybe it’s orders, or how many people complete a contact form. Just set up your goals FIRST. Remembering to set up tracking after you’ve done a month’s worth of promotion is kinda like closing the barn doors after the horse has run out.
15 ways to get more traffic to your blog
So you’ve got your timer system set up. You’re tracking goals on your blog. Enough with the background work – let’s drive some traffic! These are fifteen time-tested, effective ways to turn a trickle of traffic into a river.
1. Optimize your posts for SEO.
Hopefully SEO doesn’t scare you, but if it does, there’s a great free plugin called WordPress SEO by Yoast that makes optimizing blog posts a snap. The plugin gives you a checklist of suggestions for each post you write. Just keep following the suggestions until the plugin’s color-coded button turns green. Then you’re done.
2. Let keyword research shape the topics you write about or share about.
Notice I said “shape”, not “determine”. The days of picking a keyword and then writing a blog post around it are fading, if not already gone. The days of trying to hit a 2% keyword density in your posts are way gone.
However, keywords still matter. Even two minutes spent with a keyword tool (like the Google AdWords Keyword Planner or Ubersuggest) can make a big difference in the success of your post.
3. Set up rich snippets.
This is another SEO trick that can give you a significant edge. Some people have seen up to 30% increase in web traffic just by adding rich snippets. So what are they? Rich snippets are basically a way to mark up meta data on your pages so your search engine listings look more interesting, and are thus more likely to be clicked.
The WordPress by Yoast plugin I just mentioned will let you create and edit rich snippets. There’s a good tutorial on how to use it for that here. Or you can get the advanced course by going to Google’s resource area on “Structured Data Markup” which is another term for rich snippets. Use the Structured Data Testing Tool to see how your listings will look.
4. Set up Twitter cards and Open Graph tags.
These make your posts look better on social media, thus dramatically increasing their likelihood of getting shared – like by 200%. See Twitter’s online resource (https://dev.twitter.com/cards/overview) to learn about Twitter cards. Once again, the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin will create Twitter cards for you. Twitter has two other suggestions for plugins and a setup guide here.
Open Graph tags work best on Facebook. Like Twitter cards, they’re a way to dress up your posts so they look better, and thus get shared way more often. Once again, the Yoast plugin can set these up for you. There’s also a new and very promising plugin called “Facebook Open Graph, Google+ and Twitter Card Tags” that can create open graph tags, Twitter cards, rich snippets and Google+ post formatting.
5. Add images.
Images break up text, add emotion and engagement, and are way more likely to be shared on social media. Consider having more than one image per post. Some bloggers like to use an image about every 300-400 words, or about every screen length if you’re scrolling.
6. Use subtitles, bullet lists.
Want to know the dirty little secret of the blogging world? It’s that people rarely read online. They scan. Resisting this behavior is futile, so it’s best to just format your text so it’s easy to scan. That means using 2-3 subtitles per post. It also means using bullet lists, and bolding important words or terms here and there.
Here’s an easy trick to use more bullet points: Look through your post for commas. Got more than two commas in a sentence? That might be an opportunity for a bullet list.
7. Speed up your site.
Website users love fast sites, and Google does too. Use the Google Page Speed Insights Tool to see how you can improve.
8. Guest post.
Here’s where that work timer will come in handy. There’s a whole book’s worth of information on how to guest post, but I’ll give you the postage stamp version here.
- Go find the most widely-read and shared websites in your industry or niche. Really stretch on this. You will probably need to write for a large or very large publication in order to get enough exposure to make quest posting worth your while. Aim for a place with more than 20,000 Twitter followers.
- See if they take guest posts.
- Pitch the editor or owner three different terrific ideas for guest posts. Keep your pitch to less than three short paragraphs. Use bullet points.
- If your pitch is accepted, go write the piece. Make it fabulous. Have one other person read it before you submit it.
- Add a very short author biography with a tempting call to action at the end of the article.
- Promote the bejesus out of the piece once it’s published.
- Thank the editor or site owner.
Guest posting is time-consuming. It can be a little frustrating, too. You make get several rejected pitches. Try at least three guest posts before you give up on it.
9. Comment on other blogs.
This is an excellent way to gain exposure and traffic for a fairly small investment of your time. To write good comments, follow these guidelines:
- Always write comments that contribute.
- Always be positive.
- To get your comment in as soon after the post was published as possible. That way your comment will be up at the top of the comments, and will get far more traffic.
- Share your personal experience with the topic at hand.
10. Politely reach out to influencers.
There’s a whole art and science to wooing influencers and getting them to share your content. It can result in massive spikes of traffic when it works, but it can also alienate people sometimes if it doesn’t work.
First thing to do is to only promote your highest quality content. Then find 3-5 people with larger audiences than yours who have shared similar content. Next, customize your pitches. Finally, never say, “please share this”. Say something in line with “Hi. I’ve noticed you’ve got an interest in topic X. I’ve got a post on my site about it that you might like.” This works especially well if you have quoted the influencer in your post.
The next option for getting influencer attention is roundup posts. These are basically where you ask 7-10 experts their opinion on an issue or their experience with something specific. Then you share their responses in your blog post.
11. Be helpful.
There are dozens of Q&A sites with thousands of questions, just waiting to be answered. The content you’ve got on your blog could probably answer at least some of them. So get on Quora, or LinkedIn groups, or forums. Find questions or discussions that are directly related to your blog content. Answer the questions. For about every one out of three questions you answer, mention there’s a post on your site that goes into more detail.
Why only one out of three question? Because if you pitch your site, even lightly, every time you answer a question, you’re over-promoting. People hate that.
12. Send email updates.
Every new piece of content on your site deserves at least a mention in your email updates. Of course, if you’re using Content Director, this is already pretty much automated for you.
13. Write better headlines.
A bad headline will kill a blog post. Use a headline analyzer like the Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer if you aren’t sure you’ve got a strong headline. Or be like the Upworthy’s writers: Write 20 headlines, then pick the best one.
Whatever you have to do, put some serious thought into your headlines. As David Ogilvy used to say, “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”
14. Use your Google Analytics data to find what kind of content does best.
Give the people what they want. Do a content audit once a year to see which posts have generated the most results for you. Write more posts like those.
15. Make sure your site is mobile-friendly.
Some sources, like comScore, report that there is now more traffic from mobile devices than there is from desktops. They’ve been saying that since last year. Unfortunately, many of us are still not “thinking mobile first”, though we should be given the Google update that’s coming on April 21st.
So the next time you’ve got some downtime while you waiting somewhere, use that time wisely. Read your own blog on your mobile phone. Subscribe to your email newsletter. Try to leave a comment.
Do you have any tips to increase traffic to a blog? Come on – tell us. That comment box below is just sitting there, waiting for them.
And if you’d like to see how content curation can help you improve SEO, you should read this eBook!
Image by Ian Muttoo
Thanks for the tips pam! In addition to point 13, I’ve used http://coschedule.com/headline-analyzer (I have no affiliation with this company) and really liked it alot. I found it to be really useful in picking new headlines for social media. Specifically twitter where you can re-post the same link over and over again with different titles!
Nice one too! Thanks for sharing @iseniorsolutions:disqus. Very visual. Funny to look at the correlation – or lack of – between my most successful posts and the score this type of tools gives. Sometimes they’re correlated; sometimes not as some of my most successful posts are getting barely a B… But it’s just one of the criteria for success and maybe a sign they could have done even better: will try new headlines on Twitter and play with this. Maybe an idea for a follow up post!
@gdecugis:disqus I do agree sometimes the tool has flaws, but even with it’s flaws it made me think outside the box a bit. It would be a cool idea for a post to run studies on tools like these. Any other tools or tips you guys suggest for headline ideas?
Portent’s headline tool is pretty good. Hubspot has a good headline tool, too. BuzzSumo is awesome for finding headline ideas. There’s also the Advanced Marketing Institute’s Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer http://www.aminstitute.com/headline/
Hi iseniorsolutions. I’m addicted to the CoSchedule headlines tool. It’s awesome. Guillaume is right, though – it is not a perfect measure of whether or not a post will succeed. A few weeks ago I pasted in about 20 titles from different blogs’ “best posts of the year” roundups, and the headlines tool rated most of them with a mid to high 60s score.
But that tool also decided the headline for this post. Thanks for sharing.
Fantastic advice Pam and definitely a few things I wasn’t aware of like Ubersuggest. I love your enthusiasm and concise way of getting across the info. Now I must go look Twitter cards! Thanks.
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Great headline and quality content. Once again, content is king!
Great article, is twitter cards used to send your blog out with your picture and description?
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new comers. Never indulge in any black hat activities to gain short term benefits.
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This was super helpful, thank you!