If you’re running a blog and wondering what you can do to drive more traffic, don’t worry, you’re not alone. The good news is there are a number of ways you can increase blog traffic which have been developed by successful blog owners to help you grow your audience. So if you’re feeling a little confused as to why all your hard work is not reaping you the rewards you had had hope for, don’t feel bad, in most cases it’s just a matter of taking stock of what you’re doing and fine tuning your strategy to get the results you deserve.
With this in mind, we felt it was really important for us to develop an “Ultimate Guide on How to Increase Blog Traffic” as a way of saying thank you to everyone for supporting us here at Job Stock and to try and give something back. We do stress however that not all of the below suggestions are right for everyone, but we do guarantee that there will be something for just about anyone who is undertaking a multi-channel blog marketing strategy looking to grow their audience.
1. Give the Customer What They Want
The #1 rule when blogging is to determine what your audience wants and then give it to them. Pretty simple right? In theory yes, in practice it can take a little while to determine exactly what that is. In most cases, successful bloggers have undertaken an enormous amount of trial and error to figure out what works for their audience. Meeting the needs of your audience is a delicate process which takes time and research, as well as a good level of commitment on your behalf; so don’t get down if you don’t nail it first time.
Successful blogging has a strong correlation with persistence, as long as you read the sign posts along the way. Blogging is a journey which you improve at over time. Whether it’s your ability to write more engaging pieces, write in a style which garners more shares or maintains the user on page for longer, all these skills are skills you will develop over time. So be mindful of your customer and you will undoubtedly notice growth in traffic and engagement on your blog.
2. Write Content Likely to be Shared
One of the most important factors to increasing blog traffic is producing content that is likely to get shared. It’s a simple formula for success. The more social activity you get, the more likely you will attract visitors to your site and create valuable backlinks.
For many bloggers, creating content which is highly shareable is a trial and error process. However when determining what sort of content you want to create, it seems the best way to go about it is to target the needs of users which are part of the following two groups:
- Bloggers who are actively engaged in the social media scene within your niche
- Users who are engaged within the social scene and have Twitter, Facebook or Google+ accounts
Many successful bloggers will also tell you that the following types of articles are great for receiving good social sharing counts:
- Infographics which break down complex statistical information and present it in a fun and creative way
- Comprehensive lists which can be read in full or skimmed at the user’s leisure
- “Definitive or Ultimate Guides” like this one which offer an extensive break down of a particular topic
- “How to Guides” stepping your audience through a particular task or topic
- Videos that are entertaining and informative
- Interesting and engaging lists like these three items:
3. Content is King
With blogging, content is definitely king. This saying of course has many meanings, and has certainly been bandied around a lot in the blogging world, but there are definitely some things I’ve noticed and studies I have read which have lead me to make the following conclusions:
- Content length matters. It has been proven by various studies that blog posts over the 2000 word count which address a particular topic in its entirety get more shares, rank better in search engines, and maintain increased engagement.
- People want to see new content regularly and for it to be fresh.
- Infographics are great for getting shares online, especially if you created the infographic originally and didn’t just repurpose someone else’s work.
- Breaking up your article into well structured (also technically) pieces with clearly defined subsections allows your audience to read larger articles with ease and increases engagement resulting in the user spending longer on your site.
- People love images. By supplementing your points of discussion with attractive imagery you increase the likelihood of engagement. This is especially true for most blog owners who have a home page with their latest blog items. People will see the images first, so make sure they’re engaging.
4. Email Marketing
Email marketing is an essential tool to help you increase traffic to your blog or website. The key to successfully engaging your audience via email marketing and driving increased traffic levels is a combination of communicating on a regular yet not too intrusive basis, supplying your audience with relevant, engaging content which they are likely to convert on, and most importantly building and maintaining your email marketing database on a daily basis.
The first step for most marketers is to sign up with a quality email marketing company. We’ve created a list of 40 top email marketing companies to help out with your database management. We recommend managing all your campaigns from an email marketing system because of the excellent reporting software, HTML editing capabilities, and list management tools.
Secondly you want to ensure that you have a prominently placed subscribe form on your blog where users can easily join your mailing list. Subscribe forms often work best when they are simplistic, but you can get creative depending on your goals.
Once you start building your email marketing list, you’ll want to consider what content you’re going to send out, and how regular you’ll be communicating that content to your audience. This will generally have a relationship to the amount of content you are publishing, so if you’re publishing new blog content daily, you may want to consider a weekly or bi-weekly update. However if you’re new content frequency is less than daily, you may consider fortnightly email communication as long as your content doesn’t date.
You may also be wondering what a conversion is in email marketing? Well this can be as simple as a click through to your blog, a registration on your site, or even a share on social media. Defining a conversion is up to you, however you should be thinking conversions when attempting to increase traffic to your blog as it’s simply not enough to drive lots of irrelevant traffic these days, the traffic has to be targeted or react in a way which was intended when sent the email communication.
5. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Keyword Research
Search Engine Optimization is an invaluable set of techniques you can use to help your website rank higher in search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo. You may be surprised to learn how valuable getting your SEO right can be. If you’re able to achieve a #1 rank for a particular search on Google, research shows you’ll get around 37% of all clicks going to your site for a particular search term. For second position you’re looking at around 13%, 3rd position at around 10%, and all the way down to position #10 where you will receive about 2% of all clicks.
What does this mean? Well that without a strong position in search engines like Google, you’re unlikely to see very much “organic” traffic coming your way, and you may be forced to spend on other techniques such as Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising which can be quite expensive. To see just how much great traffic you may be missing out on, we recommend using the Google AdWords Keyword Tool to research the keywords you would like to rank for. Remember, when using this tool to tick “Exact Match” when doing your research. This will give you a second dimension to consider in terms of the value of your chosen keyword in your target market.
Most importantly with SEO you have to write great content. Gone are the days when you can use dodgy techniques to game the search engines. There is no longer a better substitute than writing great content for SEO as the basis of any good strategy, and this is what you should focus on when blogging. If you don’t have much knowledge of SEO, we’ve provided a guide to some of the top SEO blogs to help out.
Ultimately SEO should be a monthly, ongoing part of your strategy to increase traffic to your blog. Talking to an SEO firm or professional is the way to go in most cases. It’s certainly something we have had good success with, but do your research on who you choose before you hire and don’t just look at the price. Review the SEO’s portfolio of work, how long they’ve been around for, and whether or not they’re guaranteeing top #10 results. Gauranteed top #10 results although nice to aim for, cannot be guaranteed, so see this as a warning sign to look elsewhere.
6. Guest Blogging
Guest Blogging is another great way to increase blog traffic. By contacting other niche bloggers in your market and requesting to do a post free of charge, you can really help to create significant awareness of your blog. When guest blogging, you want to write a quality blog piece that will not seem like a shameless plug for your own site, and at the same time add value to the blogger’s site who has been kind enough to accept you as a guest author.
You also want to ensure that you don’t add too many backlinks to your site from within your post. Add a few, but keep the article “natural”. You want to add value to the site you’re writing for so you inevitably get asked back to write another piece. Make sure you research the guest blog you’re intending on writing for and check their social following on Twitter and Facebook (because they will likely post a link to your guest post there), and try to gauge how many visitors the blog might have. This will of course dramatically affect your reach as a guest blogger, but also affect how difficult it is to get a gig as a guest blogger for that site. Don’t just guest blog for anyone though, quality control is of the utmost importance when guest blogging.
7. Accepting Guest Blog Posts
Research potential authors is the name of the game when considering whether or not to accept a guest blog post on your site. The good news is that there are some easy to follow rules you can use to effectively manage this process that will stand you in good stead.
First of all, guest posts are a great way to increase traffic to your website. If you can manage to secure a guest author on your blog, who writes a fantastic post and follows it up with some solid promotion on their site and across the social landscape, this will definitely help to drive traffic to your blog. The key is to only accept guest posts from individuals who have a proven track record and can contribute insightful content to your blog. Accepting spammy guest blog posts from authors who are just looking to boost the number of links to their site is highly damaging to your blog, and your audience will see that and drop off because of this. Only accept the highest quality guest blog posts from authors with a good web presence. Otherwise you’re just going to end up decreasing your blog traffic. So don’t be shy about refusing an author if you’re not comfortable with the quality of their work.
Secondly, accepting guest blog posts is not always a reactive process. You have to seek out guest bloggers and offer them the chance to write on your site. We recommend making a list of your favorite blogs across your niche and emailing them personally one by one requesting a guest post. Don’t be surprised if not all of the requests you send out are acknowledged. However the ones that you do receive a positive response from, you’ll surely be able to build a fantastic cross-promotional opportunity with, so remember; baby steps.
8. Use Google Analytics to Record your Progress
Google Analytics has become the industry standard measurement tool for bloggers and website owners the world over. The beauty of Google Analytics is that it’s very easy to install, FREE, and is in constant development with new and amazing features being released all the time.
There are numerous metrics you can pay attention to in Google Analytics including the number of page views recorded, unique visitor count, time spent on site, the origin of visitors, browser, device, and operating systems used by visitors and the list goes on and on. If you’re just starting out, Analytics can be overwhelming and you can tend to find yourself madly checking statistics multiple times a day tracking your progress. To simplify things, we recommend taking stock of the following metrics as a good starting point every few days and adjusting your blog content based on the successes or failures you experience over time:
- Page Views: Use the Content Drilldown feature under Content > Site Content to see which of your articles received the most attention. Study this, and learn what your audience likes and replicate it.
- Unique Page Views: Monitor how many people are coming to your site each month. This number should be rising on a consistent basis.
- Time spent on site: A good indication of the quality and engagement of your articles is how long people stay. Take a look at which articles garnered the longest time on site, and undertake some analysis as to why some articles worked better than others.
- Traffic Sources: If all of your traffic is coming from a particular social media site, Google, or you’re getting good referral traffic from one country in particular, pay attention. This is your bread and butter, target this and give the people what they want.
9. Create Anticipation
Building anticipation is an incredibly effective way of developing a return visitor base, increasing the number of page views your site gets, and promoting key elements of your site which drive conversions.
Anticipation of something good, unheard of, or what a user may want is very powerful online. If you can manage to capture the imagination of your audience via an e-book, a 3 step guide, a training program, a case study or any other type of marketing device you can release for FREE, you’ll be able to use this marketing collateral time and time again to draw customers in and increase blog traffic.
Anticipation is really what drives engagement online and should be an integral part of your blogging strategy. Just think how you feel when you discover a great shopping deal online. If you can create that same feeling through an offer when someone comes to your blog, you’ll have a very potent traffic generation tool at your disposal.
10. Improve your Site Speed
Improving your site speed is an integral element to driving and maintaining more traffic on your site. As time has gone on, your customers have come to expect faster loading web pages and do not want to wait for your pages to load. KISSmetrics published a fantastic infographic titled “How Loading Time Affects Your Bottom Line”. To the right we’ve included a partial element of that infographic which demonstrates how likely a user is to leave your web page after a certain period of time. As you can see, after the 3 – 4 second mark, things tend to get ugly.
To test your page speed and load time, we recommend trialing Pingdom’s Full Page Test which gives you some really great feedback on how your page or site is performing, and where you can pick up some on some improvements. The Pingdom Full Page Test is a great audit tool, and gives you a good starting point to consider how to improve load time.
If you’re looking for a more hands on approach, installing browser plugins such as Yahoo’s YSlow is a another great way to go. However for a truly quick and effective means of lowering page load time, consider the following:
- You want to lower the number of requests made from your page to the browser as well as the physical file size of content being loaded on page
- Optimize all images for the web (lower file size)
- Consider combining your images into a “Sprite” (multiple images as part of the same image). This reduces the number of requests made to the browser and lowers the overal file size marginally
- If you’re site is getting views from all over the world, consider using a Content Distribution Network (CDN) to boost page load time
11. Use Social Networks
Using social networks to increase blog traffic is a “must-do” activity for all blog owners. Sure you can simply register a Facebook, Twitter or Google+ account, slap a pretty link to you profile on your website and leave it at that, but there are far better ways to go about building your traffic via social media channels.
For instance, on the Job Stock blog you’ll notice that we’ve added a fixed position set of social media sharing buttons that scroll with the page enabling users to easily share posts. This technique combined with a second set of social sharing buttons at the base of all our posts has worked really well for us and has definitely helped us grow our social media presence.
Secondly, I would recommend choosing the social networks you engage in carefully. If you’re a one-man-band, don’t sign up for every social network possible. Research which social networks other blog sites in your niche support and which social networks seem to be providing the most shares for your niche. For example, if you’re in the fashion or food blogging niche, Pinterest or Facebook tend to work really well because of the great imagery you can produce. However if you’re in tech, Twitter and sites like LinkedIn seem to be great options.
With your social media strategy, you’ll also want to ensure that you’re giving out as much as you receive. We’ve especially found this on Twitter. Each day we get a number of new followers who quite often have a strong interest in the digital landscape. We always follow back these types of people because they’re strongly tied to our niche. That’s not to say we don’t follow back other supporters of our Twitter account back, as they may become future customers, but we always tend to support those in the industry with similar interests. Recently we wrote an article discussing Twitter strategy which you should find very useful.
Finally with social media, ensure that you maintain a strong level of professionalism at all times. At certain points you’ll need to pick your battles, take criticism on the chin, and learn from it. The public can be a harsh critique at times, so try not to take it to heart if one person out of a hundred doesn’t like what you to say. Your traffic can either go up significantly or drop like a stone depending on your social engagement, so remember to keep on a virtual smile.
12. Use Images in your Blog Posts
Using images in your blog posts is a great way to improve overall engagement with your blog. By adding images to your posts, you illustrate your discussion pieces better, keep the user on page longer, and create eye catching reasons for a user to share your article on social networks such as Pinterest if you have a great image in the body of your content.
However if you really want to increase traffic to your blog, you’ll take notice of optimizing your images for Google’s Image Search. By ensuring you name your images appropriately, generally with each word of the image separated by a dash i.e. ferrari-california-red.jpg, you’re helping Google to index your images as part of the Google Image Search library which can drive a lot of high quality traffic.
To help out, below is an example of well optimized HTML image tag which clearly describes the content of the image to Google:
Below is the image described above in our HTML example:
If you’re someone who has some skill with a camera and likes to contribute to your blog posts with your own visual work, there is another opportunity you may be missing out on. If you setup an account with a photo sharing site like Flickr, you can actually set licensing requirements for those images where individuals can use your work on their site and are required to give credit back to you in the form of a link or attribution. This can depending on your skill with a camera, also drive significant amounts of traffic to your blog or website.
13. Frequent Post Referencing
Referencing web pages from your site and eternal web pages with relevant content from the body of your posts is a great way to promote the sharing of your content, and to alert external bloggers of your content via trackbacks or searches through Google Alerts.
The key to internal referencing is not to go overboard. Try to use internal links where relevant and remember to add a ‘title’ element to your link describing it. Excessive use of links just makes articles hard to read, so make sure they are beneficial to the on-page content and do not distract from it.
If you’re linking to external sites, make sure there is a strong tie from what you’re linking from, to what you’re linking to. Google and other search engines give heavy weighting to relevant links from blog pages to external pages, so you want to link to content which benefits your audience. By providing helpful resources to your audience they will return to your blog in the future because you’re providing quality content.
You should also not that when linking to other sites, make sure that the link you put in place opens up in a new browser window or tab. This will ensure that your visitors don’t just leave your site and forget about you in their browsing session.
14. The Value of Quality Design
Design is a funny thing. Generally people are swayed by the beauty of things and tend to make a decision to purchase (or in web land – convert) an item if they are strongly attracted to it. With regards too blogging, there are in my experience many blogs that don’t have great design that do very well and drive a lot of traffic, however I really think that you have to look at the niche you’re in and decide whether you can survive that way.
One of the major issues in blog design which has popped up lately is design for multiple devices. There is a big movement to what is called “responsive web design”. Responsive web design provides the user with a device specific version of a particular site. We’ve implemented a responsive web design for this blog and have found that our readers really like it because there is no enlarging the screen on tablets or mobile devices, or odd issues with content. This approach is recommended because it saves you building a mobile site and a standard site to get the same job done, and certainly avoids users getting frustrated on mobile devices and provides them with a simple to user interface increasing engagement and time on site.
In terms of visual appeal, I like to ask myself this question. If you were handed a can of Coke in a plain white can, it may taste the same, be just as functional but it just doesn’t sell the great product. I feel the same about blogging, but have always been a big advocate of usability and design, however I can recommend this.
“Try not to go over the top with excessive slow loading designs, and keep the focus on your brand and a high quality of work and your blog should be in the right place.”
15. Subscriptions and Feeds
As far back as I can remember bloggers have been major advocates of syndicating their content via RSS to all manor of sites and users across the web. By building a subscriber base you can automatically syndicate your blog articles using popular tools such as Feedburner to a wide array of Internet users.
Products like Feedburner allow you to measure how many subscribers you have, what sort of click through rates you’re getting, and opens up a whole new channel for you to market to. With tools like Feedburner, the power of RSS is really on show…however it doesn’t end there.
Browser based tools such as Google Reader have also become a bloggers best friend over the years. Google Reader allows users to add multiple RSS feeds (hopefully yours) to their list of news feeds so they can create their own news streams. Mobile apps like Flipboard also provide similar technology to users and have fast become a global phenomenon. Flipboard allows users to add Twitter, Facebook, and Google Reader content amongst a wide array of other popular site data to their app enabling users to view blog articles in a much more visual manor. This has opened up a whole new market of “beautiful RSS readers” to the public and is certainly a compelling reason to promote your RSS feed so readers can view it via a mobile device.
16. Attending Events and Guest Speaking
Attending events which are closely tied to your niche is a great way to increase blog traffic and grow your audience. Whether you’re able to simply attend the event and network in person, or are able to get up on stage and speak, events are an excellent way to open up all sorts of opportunities.
If you are able to get a speaking gig, this is a major opportunity that you want to put your best foot forward with. The reality is that most industries are quite tight knit, so if you’re able to give a great speech on a particular topic, it’s highly likely that other industry professionals looking for speakers may be in the audience, so give it your all.
Another thing to ensure if you do give a guest speach is to mention your blog or website a couple of times in the presentation or on screen. There is a good chance that audience members will either check out your blog on their laptop, tablet or smartphone during the presentation or bookmark it for later. If you see a traffic spike during the event this should be no surprise. Often audience members will tweet using an official event hash tag and mention speakers and their sites.
Finally if you’re struggling to find good events to attend, or are looking to approach organizers for a speaking gig, try our meetup.com or lanyrd.com. Both these sites are great resources for seeing what’s on in your professional space.
17. Use Engaging Polls
Engaging your readers via a topical poll is a great way to increase interactivity with your blog and can definitely help to maintain longer stays on your site. Generally speaking if a user comes across a poll they are willing to complete, they’ll stay to look around at what else you have to offer. Polls are (believe it or not) also a great way of capturing some very valuable opinion data from your readers which you can use to help improve your blog or find out more about what they want to hear discussed on your site, so don’t discount their original purpose either.
If you’re running a poll on your site, consider the following as part of your polling strategy:
- Keep your poll questions short
- Try and stick to checkbox answers to increase the likelihood of response
- Use proper survey software such as Poll Daddy or Survey Monkey. These software solutions come with some great reporting capabilities and templates you can use to increase engagement.
18. Undertake some Competitive Link Analysis
Taking an in-depth look into where your competitors have been able to earn links from and the sorts of patterns and trends that surround those links is a great way to determine guest blogging opportunities, commenting opportunities, and sites which you may be able build a relationship with in your niche.
To discover these links there are tools which can help you to wade through the thousands of links and select the ones which are most relevant to your needs. I use a few different ones including Open Site Explorer and Majestic SEO. We recommend trying out both these sites to get a feel for link discovery and how you can speed up researching incoming link opportunities.
19. Google Authorship
Recently we wrote a post discussing the benefits of using Google+ to grow your freelancing business. Of note in this post we discussed the issue of Google+ Authorship, which has quickly grown to become one of the most powerful assets a blogger can utilize in their arsenal where search conversions across the Google search product is concerned.
You’ve probably seen search results in Google with a picture of the author next to the result of late. These posts are optimized under the Google Authorship program and are of great benefit to those who use this technology. For example, if you’re a blogger who has a Google+ profile linked to their blog, it has been proven that you’ll currently receive approximately 150% more clicks simply by adding an author image to your search results so you stand out from other search results. This is a fantastic way to increase blog traffic and is only likely to grow in importance as time goes on.
Below we’ve provided an example of such as a result as a guide for what your blog link may end up looking like once you’re all setup:
20. Increase Blog Traffic with Blog Commenting
Blog commenting is another great way to boost awareness of your blog and increase traffic, but only if it’s done genuinely. Most blog commenting systems allow you to post your name, email address and your website address, however purposely spamming blog comments with multiple links to your site is not cool, nor helpful. You want to contribute to relevant discussion within your niche with insightful commentary. As time goes on, you’ll begin to build relationships with the blog owners and other active members within their blogging community and this will drive traffic and open up many new opportunities for you.
It should be noted that by adding your website link in the ‘website’ field on commenting systems, they are generally tagged as ‘rel=nofollow’ links which means that Google takes note of them, but they are not as valuable as a standard link. However this is an exercise in building awareness, not link building, so don’t be discouraged by this. Get out there and engage with users who are interested in what you’re talking about and you’ll be surprised how many people start drifting across to your site sooner rather than later.
21. Video and Podcasts
Video and podcasts are two great ways to increase blog traffic, but for very different reasons. Video, although time consuming to create, gives your audience a way of connecting with you on a personal level and lets them get that littler bit closer to you driving engagement, time on page, and often an increase in shares. Podcasts on the other hand drive return visitors and give you access to a very loyal audience base who have seen something they like and want to stick with it.
With podcasts, generally once a user subscribes to your podcast they stay with you provided you keep them engaged. With video however, you have an amazing opportunity to get your content shared and get your face out there in the community within your niche which is of great benefit.
Quite often videos get shared across social networks and used by others in presentations and linked to as examples. Keeping this in mind, both options have their benefits, and although time consuming and potentially costly to create, can be very beneficial in driving increased traffic to your blog.
Maintaining a successful blog takes commitment and passion, but is a highly rewarding process. If you’re looking to increase blog traffic we recommend trialling some of the techniques we’ve listed above and see which ones work for you. You may already be using a number of these techniques however it does pay to do a review of past work to make sure you’re doing the best job you can.
If you have any further suggestions on how to increase blog traffic, we’d love to hear from your below.