How to build your blog's traffic the easy way
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I'll admit it - I've never had a blog as popular and well-read as this one. But then again, I've also never cared as much about a blog as I do this one. Over the course of two years, this blog's traffic has increased dramatically.
Building a blog takes time. It's not necessarily difficult work, but it can definitely be time-consuming work. If building a successful blog were that easy, everybody's blog would be the most popular blog on the Internet.
That, of course, is scientifically impossible. Not everybody's blog can be the most popular. In fact, most blogs won't be all that popular at all, and there is a reason for that. Most blog owners simply don't do the things necessary to build the foundation of a successful blog.
Below I talk about the six critical factors in building your blog's traffic.
1. Care about your blog
First, you must give a shit about your blog. Give a shit about how it appeals to your audience. Give a shit about colors, fonts, readability of the text, professionalism. While there are widely successful blogs that aren't all that professional and well-designed, they usually fulfill a unique niche. And almost by default, these blogs will get traffic. But still, these blog owners care about their blogs. It has become more than a hobby. It's what they do and think about - almost all the time.
Over the years of my blogging career, this has been where I struggled the most - the "idea turnover". One day I come up with a wicked idea for a blog and spend the next couple of weeks putting it together. I maintain the blog for a few months, but my interest level slowly begins to wane. My care level decreases. I quit posting as often. I don't involve myself within the community. Basically, I allow the blog to go stagnant because my interests have turned elsewhere. I've done this with technical, political and health blogs time and time again.
But I've found Personal Finance to be something I care deeply about. After all, my wife and I practically live this stuff. It's what we do, and it's what is enabling us to retire so ridiculously early.
Blog about something that you both like and enjoy. It will keep you focused and completely engaged in your blog and your interest level hopefully won't go stagnant.
2. Comment on other blogs
Spending the time to comment on other blogs can be an amazing way to increase traffic to your own blog. I spent hours commenting on blogs when I first started TSR. Admittedly, I don't comment quite as often as I once had, but I still do comment on other blogs.
Remember: The idea here is to provide something useful in your comments. Make them insightful, something that actually adds to the discussion. As a blog owner, I routinely visit blogs who's owner wrote an awesome comment on my blog. I've stumbled across some fantastic new blogs that way and I still visit those blogs on a weekly (and sometimes daily) basis.
However, comments like "Thanks for the article" or "I agree with everything you said" almost never gets me (or my readers I would imagine) to visit that commenter's blog. When your intent is to point traffic in your blog's direction, it comes across loud and clear. Resist! Keep your comment meaningful or don't comment at all.
3. Create (and stick to) a consistent publishing schedule
Closely linked to technique #1 above, care enough about your blog to write consistent and dependable content, but be careful not to overwhelm your audience with too much content. Not only will your audience feel bombarded with too many articles (even if you're writing top-notch stuff), but you may very well burn out faster if you're churning through four, five or more articles every week.
For the record, I like to publish two articles every week - not including my Friday Feasts that I publish every Friday. I keep this publishing schedule as consistent as possible, only taking days off for holidays because I know that my readers probably won't be in front of their computers at that time.
When I go on vacation, Wordpress can auto-publish pre-written articles, and I heavily utilize that feature of Wordpress. I am routinely five to ten articles ahead of schedule and simply configure the Wordpress scheduler to post articles at the right time. If you're using another piece of software to run your blog, it too may have the ability to auto-publish. If it does, use it to help maintain your posting schedule.
And by the way, blog post timing does matter. There is a ton of research about when to publish blog posts for maximum viewership. For example, more men than women tend to read blogs at night. Most blogs get maximum traffic on Mondays, and around 11am is the average blog's highest traffic'ed time of day.
Here's one example of the many research studies about blog post timing on social media:
Unless you love numbers and graphs, don't go crazy reading through all this research. The important thing is to pick a schedule and stick to it.
For the record, my posting schedule is Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6am EST. Occasionally I will post a new article over the weekend, but these tend to be more fun and lighthearted articles.
4. Get linked from authority sources
This one can be easier said than done, but links from high traffic web sites can provide insane traffic spikes and a huge increase in followers and readership on your blog. For example, I've been linked to from high traffic web sites like Rockstar Finance, Business Insider and Forbes. I've also been linked to from within a The Penny Hoarder post on Facebook, which exploded my blog's traffic.
Keep in mind that these opportunities usually come after you've already established your blog, so don't throw a blog together and a week later reach out to popular web sites for links. That will almost never work. Remember that popular web sites view outbound links as important and naturally become more sensitive to the material that they are linking their readers to as their readership expands. Trust me, as your blog grows, you will too.
Also, just a single mention on a popular web site could get the snowball rolling downhill for more links. In my case, Rockstar Finance was my first major link from an authority site. Then, Business Insider picked it up and Forbes eventually contacted me about doing an article with them.
But Steve, how do I get that first link from an authority web site? Good question. It happens differently for each of us. Sometimes it's just dumb luck. Other times, it takes a lot of interaction between you and the blog owner. Simply asking sometimes works, but usually, there is more to it than that.
A few ideas to try: first, target a couple of authority web sites and comment as much as you can. Again, insightful comments work best. Also, follow the blog on social media and share their content. Post links to their content from your social media profiles. Consider writing a follow-up post on your blog to one of their posts, and link to it from within your post (they will eventually find that link if they are paying attention to their traffic referrals).
5. Maintain a social media presence
This almost goes without saying, but social media can provide an incredible flood of consistent traffic to your blog. I used to be a Facebook advocate, but since starting TSR, Twitter is my main social media outlet to share my content.
In my experience, the three most critical social media profiles to create and maintain for your blog are:
I just recently started to use Pinterest and I'm giddy over the results. A popular "pin" on Pinterest can provide a gigantic flood of traffic your way, just like a shared post on Facebook or re-tweeted tweet on Twitter (say that three times fast!). While this traffic increase is generally temporary, you will likely get a few new consistent readers every time.
To help manage all your social media profiles, consider using one of the many services that can schedule postings to your social media profiles. I personally use Buffer and generally love the service. All of my profiles are connected to my Buffer account, making it super easy to schedule out posts to all of my profiles at once.
A couple of key points to using social media effectively:
- Post regularly; people generally don't actively follow stale profiles
- Don't over-post; keep your postings meaningful, but don't overwhelm your audience
- Use hashtags! Hashtags are a great way to label your posts, making them easy to find
- Including pictures in your posts can help its visibility
- It's okay to re-post tweets and statuses, but consider changing the wording of the post slightly
6. Give your readers a way to follow your blog
The key to generating repeat traffic is to make it easy for your readers to return to your blog. One of the most effective ways to keep them coming back is by automatically emailing them whenever you publish a new post. A ton of services offer that email capability, like Feed Burner, Mail Chimp and AWeber - all whom, coincidently, connect seamlessly with Wordpress's Jetpack plugin (see my Orange-ish "Follow Our Goals From Your Inbox" form on the right-hand side of the page).
Once setup, each of your followers (who submitted their email address) will be emailed every time you publish a new blog post. This happens automatically if integrated into a blogging platform like Wordpress. Feed Burner is pretty basic, but it's also free. Services like Mail Chimp are much more feature-rich, but of course, those features require a fee.
There are a couple different ways to get your visitors to fork over their email address. One is by simply slapping the form up on the page like I've done. Another is to display a popup window every time a visitor navigates to your page, requesting a follow.
Personally, I NEVER respond to pop-ups. Ever. Even if I wanted to follow a blog, if I get a pop-up screen that requests a follow, I most likely won't follow that web site just because they used a pop-up.
I guess you could say that I have a thing against pop-ups...
They are very in your face. They block the content that you're actually trying to access and they require an additional click to get rid of the pop-up. No thanks - I hate them and will never use them.
But as a blog owner, you're ultimately responsible for deciding which mechanism is right for your site.
Bonus Tip #7: Spread the love. The more you link to other web sites, the more exposure you'll get as a result. Not only are my Friday Feast articles a way to spread the love, they also showcase some of the other incredible talent that we have in the personal finance community. When those blog owners that I link to see my referral, they will sometimes link back, or post a blurb about it on their own social media profiles, or at least comment on the article. Interaction is awesome!
Even with all the incredible personal finance content I have here on TSR, my Friday Feast articles are some of my most popular, and for good reason. And trust me, I have a ton of love to spread! :)