Friday, October 15, 2010
Are you happy with the traffic you're getting at your blog?
When I first designed this blog in 2007, I had no clear idea what I was going to do with it, let alone how I was going to gain readers. And I'm not a super techy person, if I'm techy at all. So I started off slowly.
It took me another year before I started posting regularly.
A whole year before I started posting regularly! Sounds crazy, right? It's not. It's how most of us get started with "this blogging thing." Such a foreign concept. Why do we need to do it? What's the point? Who's going to want to read all these posts? So many questions go through your head as you try to convince yourself why you don't need to do this. It does seem like a waste of time, and somewhat complicated, at first.
But then, if you're like me, you figure it out. In your own way. You start to see traffic showing up. People stop in to read a blog post or two. They poke around to see what else you have on the site, and eventually, they post a comment. Surprise!
Then, they come back. Wow! You have a returning audience. You start to perk up. You wonder if maybe you have something here. Maybe there's good reason to do this after all.
That's when you get excited. That's when you know you should take this more seriously. That's what happened to me. I had an idea. I designed the first page. And then I started writing. As time moved on, and the readers kept returning, I was able to more clearly define my purpose. It helped to pay attention to what you were reading, to try to focus on what you seemed to need from a blog like mine.
Now, three years later, I've learned a few things that could help you increase the traffic to your site. To be sure, I've learned the lessons slowly. I've adopted some of them and am working on others. But if they can help you, I'm willing to share. They're not even complicated. So here are my 10 simple tips for attracting more traffic to your blog. If you follow even one of them, it will help. If you do them all, and have the patience to wait for results, they should be positive:
1) POST REGULAR UPDATES. That was the first thing I picked up after participating in my first Blogathon a few years ago. If you can post daily, that's great, but any changes to the blog, really, can make a difference in how easy it will be for others to find you. Google likes updated content. So even if you don't have something to blog about every single day, consider changing something on the blog. Maybe add a new photo on the site or a new plug-in. Update your blogroll (links to other blogs you like, read, or would like to read). Add a new Page or some new feature. Any update helps. My goal is to blog or make some kind of update to the site at least three times per week to maintain the blog and keep it active and interesting.
2) ADVERTISE YOUR UPDATES. You don't have to do this non-stop, but the more you put the word out about your content, the more people are going to have a chance to remember you even exist. With nearly 9 million self-development blogs out there, I know I have quite the competition. And I'm no Steve Pavlina, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't strive to gain his kind of notoriety. He's listed on many sites as one of the top self-development blogs in the world. Well, he didn't get there by staying quiet. He used his live networks to promote himself first. He told his friends, his family, and his clients until his message was clear. "I'm out here. I'm good. Read my stuff." Not in those exact words, of course.
3) USE SOCIAL MEDIA. Look, in this day and age, you shouldn't have a blog without also being on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Well, you can, of course, do whatever the heck you want. But why not take advantage of a free opportunity to spread the word and build your visibility--not just with friends but strangers, too? Bring 'em all in! Yeah, sure. If you build it, they will come. But not if you don't let people know you built it in the first place and then remind them about all the cool improvements (i.e.: new posts and other updates). Use social media to do that.
4) LINK UP! When you first get started, share links with your friends. Have them post your link on their blogrolls, and you do the same for them on yours. The next step is to use the search engines to find other blogs to link with, blogs that have more traffic than you do. Ideally, a lot more. And refer to other blogs in your posts, in general. Quote them, use them as sources, highlight blogs you have learned from or think your readers might like to read for a specific purpose. You'll see I've done this here. Eventually, these kind of steps will help people find you and want to share links with you. Their readers will find you as well, and you'll all post comments on each other's blogs. This kind of activity lessons the amount of time you have to go out and hunt yourself. That's the ideal place to be. It's what you want to work toward. The more sites you can connect with in this way, the better. That means you're going to be easier and easier to find. Traffic will roll right in, and you'll feed them good content. This is the ultimate back and forth that makes blogging so effective.
5) PROVIDE QUALITY CONTENT. If you're posting the same old thing all the time, not only will you get bored but so will your readers. Change things up. Post a mix of long and short blogs. Focus on weekly, monthly or quarterly themes. Have a picture-only day, or a video day. Do a "Question of the Day" post on a regular basis; these invite readers to participate by answering the question--and they will. They'll post comments. Readers want to interact with you. So take advantage of that and find ways to include them. If you're providing quality content, you'll know from the number of subscribers you have, the number of readers you see returning, and the number of comments you're attracting. If you're not seeing some kind of growth, you're not doing something right, and it might just have to do with your content.
6) FOCUS ON WHAT YOUR READERS WANT. Seriously. You're not just writing for the sake of writing or for something to do with your spare time. You're trying to build an audience, a platform for your book, or connect with potential clients. Whatever your exact purpose, you'll do yourself and them a favor if you focus on what they want from you. So ask them periodically. Use a post to ask them what they would like to see more of on your site. Take a poll and then dissect it for them in another post. Pay attention to which posts get the most comments. If they want you to comment on related news, do that. If they want you to tell more stories or add book reviews, do that. If they'd like to read Q/A interviews from people in your industry, offer that. If they'd like you to profile readers, incorporate that. Find out from them what works or what doesn't, and then make the necessary changes so you don't lose readers and will continue to gain new ones.
7) ASK YOUR READERS TO HELP YOU SPREAD THE WORD. If they like what they're reading, ask them to blog about you, share links with their friends, or post an update on their social media sites. A blogging community has to work together in order for the community to stay alive and intact. If we don't work together, we fade away.
8) KEEP UP WITH NEW BLOGGING FEATURES. Blogger just added the ability to include a site counter, so I added that today. It also added a feature that allows you to see the most popular blog posts. I added that today as well. It's a fun feature, and you can see it on the right-hand side of the page, if you scroll down far enough. Keeping up with any new blogging features allows me to play around with what I offer my readers. It keeps the blog from staying static, and it offers me the chance to create something that may be more useful to you.
9) FOCUS ON SIMPLE CHANGES. Meagan Francis, a writer friend of mine over at The Happiest Mom (She could also use your vote to help her gain the gig as the Good Mood Blogger, if you wouldn't mind clicking and voting for her.) suggested you periodically re-evaluate your goals and then make simple changes to direct your attention to those goals. For example, she now responds to those who comment on her blog via e-mail. She likes the one-on-one contact and thinks that this encourages them to come back and continue the conversation. But even if you don't do that, something as simple as adding a "most-popular post" list, can help bring in new readers and give them a reason to dig around more on the site.
10) FIND A NICHE YOU CAN FILL. If you're not seeing growth in traffic after you've made some of these changes and given them time to take effect, then you might also consider the niche. Are you writing about something that people care about? Is it something you're passionate about? Is it a topic that is over-saturated? If so, how is your content different from the content on other popular blogs in your niche. Find a way to differentiate yourself, whether it's your point of view, your design, your attitude, and then work to capitalize on that.
If nothing else, I hope these tips comfort you in some way, because now you know there is no one thing that will boost traffic to your blog. It's a mix of action steps. It's practice. It's trial and error. If you need to consult an expert, that might be worth doing as well. Because I'll tell you what. I'm happy with my current traffic. It's grown considerably since I started blogging three years ago. I've taken all these steps and followed my own tips. But I want the blog to continue growing. So my next step is consultation.
Stay tuned for more changes, more updates, and hopefully more content you can use.