“What is the biggest struggle you face as a blogger?”
It’s easy to learn how to drive more traffic to your website, but you have to be patient enough to understand you won’t explode in a deluge of traffic overnight. Building an audience takes time and requires lots work (at least in the beginning).
There are lots of things you can do to garner an audience, so let’s get started and find out what you’re already doing and what you should add to your list of tasks.
Content Isn’t Always King
You have a super-awesome idea for a really informative blog! You know all there is to know about the subject (…shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo, pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried…). Now, all you have to do is write posts, and your web-traffic cup will runneth over, right?
That’s the trap we all fall into when we first start out. Initially, we’re of the “If you build it, they will come” mentality. (I should get a gold star for two movie references in the same section!)
Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple.
The question is, how long did it take you to realize that? One post? Two? A dozen? Have you written 50 posts and still aren’t getting any traffic?
Don’t fret. It doesn’t mean you’ve necessarily done anything wrong. You just haven’t learned to promote and optimize your posts and your site to make people realize something’s there.
The internet — much like space — is vast and open with many places to visit and discover. You just have to be the person with the telescope who shows people where your constellation of articles are located in the sky.
So how do you do that?
Forums are those chat boards where you go and discuss things with other people interested in the same topics. They were widely used before the invent of social media — even before MySpace (kids, ask your parents). In fact, they can be considered the first form of social media — they played the same part, just on a different sort of stage.
So if they were the precursor to social media, do people still use them? I mean, EVERYBODY does Facebook, right?
Well, you may be surprised to learn that there are people who prefer forums to social media. Archaic as they may sound, forums are quite the congregational outlet for like-minded people hell-bent on bucking the system of social media.
You can find forums relatively easy for any niche. Just type “[insert your niche here] forum” into the search engine of your choice (example: gardening forum), and you’ll find dozens, if not hundreds, of forums in that niche.
Now that you’ve found these forums, you have to introduce yourself and tell people what you’re about. Forum users — much like Reddit users — don’t like people just blast spamming their links. They want value. They want you to contribute to the conversation. Then, they’ll receive your links a lot easier, and may even start promoting them on the forum for you.
With all that said, you should also consider Facebook groups as “forums” with the same rules. Don’t spam, take part in meaningful conversations, and add value to the group. You’ll be more accepted by the group (and the admins). Also, be sure to check the rules (and even ask the admins) to see if it is alright for you to leave your links in the group. Some groups are picky and don’t want them at all, and they’ll boot you without warning. Always better to be safe than sorry.
Optimize Your Site
Everyone wants a clean, well organized site — especially the users. If they come to your site and can’t find anything but clutter and flashing ads, they likely won’t come back — if they even stick around to read the article in the first place. You could even apply the principles of The Konmari Method to simplify and organize your website, just as you would your home.
Remember that less is more, sometimes. Put on your site the things you need to make money (if that is one of the goals of your site) like ads and such, but don’t cram a dozen ads into your sidebar and think that’s ok. It overloads people to the point that they won’t look at your sidebar at all… and that’s NOT a good thing.
Your sidebar (as well as your header and footer area) is valuable real estate where you can lead people to other sections of your site — including your top performing articles, or ones you specifically want them to read that may be loaded with affiliate links. If it’s bogged down with a bunch of useless stuff, the things you want to get seen that will drive more traffic to other sections of your website will be lost in the clutter.
Update your blog on a regular basis (think of it as housekeeping), it will stay neat, tidy, and easy to read. Users will appreciate the ease of use, and they’re more likely to come back — and to send new users your way, too.
That’s a LOT of people… that’s a lot of potential readers.
Sharing your posts through your various social media accounts will help get more traffic to those articles. Once you have shared them, your family, friends, and fans who find the article interesting are likely to share it with their friends, or at least like/comment on the social media post… and if you’ve been paying attention on Facebook, when your friends like or comment on something, you may end up seeing it too — even if you don’t follow that particular page.
Another way social media will help get more traffic to your site is if you add your URL to your profile(s). If there’s a place for “website” on your profile, be sure to fill it out. If there isn’t, add it to the description section. If there’s no website listed anywhere in your profile, people following you on that social media may not know you have a site at all.
Even your personal profile on Facebook can be used to promote your website(s). In the part of your profile where you can list jobs, list your blog — you can even tag your blog’s Facebook page! That way, when your people go to your profile, or hover over your name, they’ll see your work information — instant, free advertising!
Think of social media like a big snowy hill. Once you start a little snowball (your article) and start pushing it toward the slope (promoting it on social media), it could very well roll all the way down the hill and be a massive snow boulder by the time it hits the bottom!
Have you ever tweeted to some celebrity (even a minor one) and had them reply? It made you feel good, didn’t it? Did you know that most fans who regularly comment on someone’s articles or social media look up to that person to some degree? That’s why when they get a response, they feel so good.
Did you know your fans may consider you a “minor celebrity”? Here you are, a blogger who is an authority on what you blog about to the point that you have tons of readers and followers. When they comment on your blog (or social media), and you reply to them, it makes them feel awesome!
No, you don’t necessarily have the time to reply to every single comment you get, but engaging with your fans on some level will build a sense of community that people truly enjoy. Those people will become your loyal readers and fans. They’ll help promote your stuff — particularly when it’s an article that resonates with them and their friends or family.
Engaging with your fans is probably the best way to build community. Reply to comments on your blog and social media — even if it’s just a couple a day.
Comment on Other Blogs
Just like you enjoy seeing comments on your posts, other bloggers enjoy seeing comments on theirs, as well. Here’s the catch — if you just comment “cool” or “nice”, you’re not really helping much. You’re comment should have multiple purposes.
When you comment, find an article that you truly enjoy, and (once you’ve read it) tell the blogger what you agree with and liked about the article. This will help prove their authority on the subject as well as yours. The blogger (and often times, some of their readers) will appreciate this, and they will likely come to your blog and at least take a look around. Chances are, though, they’ll comment on an article or two.
When you comment, there’s always a place for your URL. Typically, people add their homepage URL there, but there’s a better way that will not only potentially drive traffic to your site, but will help the SEO of both your site and the blogger’s site on which you are leaving the comment. If they’re writing about their experience with cloth diapers, and you’ve written an article also dealing with cloth diapers, put the link to that post in the URL field instead of your homepage. This is considered a backlink, and Google likes seeing backlinks from one article to another that are relevant to the content. In other words, it helps your Google ranking.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
“How do I improve my SEO so I can get ranked better in the search engines?”
The simple answer is to write good, thoughtful content. Make sure your article contains keywords that are relevant to the topic. Adding some good subheadings (particularly one with keywords) will help, and write longer articles. Short, “fluffy” articles may get a lot of views in a short amount of time on social media in pops, but longer articles perform better over time.
I recently wrote an article on my homesteading and survival blog about “How to Make Compost in an Apartment.” The “keywords” for that article that will help me get found better through search engines are “compost”, “apartment”, and “how to”. Those are the ones I want to repeat throughout the article. I also want to have relevant words and phrases like “DIY”, “make your own”, “composting”, “fertilizer”, “dorm room”… anything that has to do with the main keywords.
Don’t stuff as many keywords into the article as you can, do it organically and Google will be your BFF.
Guest blogging used to be white-hot. It was good for SEO as well as relationship building (with your blogging colleagues), authority building (proving you know what you’re talking about), and community building with a wider audience (getting your name and ideas in front of people who may not already be reading your blog).
Unfortunately, Google has deemed guest blogging as spammy and doesn’t like them so much for SEO any more (and Matt Cutts explains why here). Basically, just make sure that any links to the guest poster’s site should be “nofollow”.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do some guest blogging, and you shouldn’t shy away from accepting guest posts on your site, either. Just do it the right way.
Only accept guest posts from someone you already know as an authority in the field about which they want to write. Only write for someone that you know as an authority, as well. This practice will make for a great relationship builder and will help you both (either way it goes) to expand your audience(s).
Your posts on their site will show their audience you know a little something on the topic, and they will most likely become a fan of your site, too. Since you wrote the article, and you want your fans to read it, you should share it on your social media, as well. This will send your fans to the blog owner’s site — getting them views from people that didn’t already know about them too.
Join Blogging Networks
When I first started SurvivalatHome.com, I found a couple of really awesome blogging networks that were in my niche (of homesteading and preparedness). When I joined these groups, the amount of information I gained and the tricks I learned were phenomenal! I was totally blown away.
Within a few months, my website traffic had more than tripled! People within the groups were sharing my stuff with their fans, friends, and family, and they were commenting on my articles. It was awesome. I can honestly say that joining those blogging networks has totally changed my life as a blogger!
Do a Google search (or search on Facebook) for “blogging network” or “bloggers network” and see what you can find. You may be surprised at the amount of traffic you get just from joining — plus you’re sure to make some pretty amazing friends, too!
Analyze and Duplicate
You’re using Google Analytics, right? Google Analytics will tell you a ton of information about the traffic coming to your website.
You can find out which posts are doing the best, and which are doing the worst — as well as where the traffic you’re getting is coming from.
Once you get a grip on how to read Google Analytics, you can find out which articles are doing the best with your audience and attempt to replicate those results in another article.
For example, I recently spoke with a client of mine for whom I do website maintenance and evaluation & consultation. We took a look at her top 10 performing articles and found that she had more views on one post than on the rest of her posts combined! It was a simple DIY egg gathering apron that she made from a pillow case. Her site is about chickens, and her readers LOVED the article.
They loved it because they’re already there because of the chickens — most, if not all, of her readers also have chickens. They gather eggs, and they also have pillowcases that they never use. She found something that was such a strike with her audience, it wasn’t just a homerun — it was a grand slam!
She is now looking around her house for other things she has made — quite simply — and is starting to write posts about them, as well.
You can do the same thing. Find out what your audience has loved the most, and write another article similar. The results could be even more astounding than the article from which you gathered your inspiration.
Repurpose and Repromote Old Posts
We’ve all got that one or two (or two dozen) articles on our site that aren’t up to par with our current writing style. They may be articles that you wrote when you first started, or they could be ones that you felt obligated to pump out because you haven’t posted anything in a while.
Either way it goes, those old articles that aren’t performing very well can be revamped, republished, and/or repromoted.
Note: I would highly recommend against republishing an article unless you’re using the “yoursite.com/article-name” format of permalinking. If you’re using the “yoursite.com/year/mo/article-name” format, and you republish, it will change the URL, thus creating dead links from any place that has linked to that article in the past (including your own Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest accounts).
Dead links cause 404 errors, and 404 errors make the Google people very sad. If you’re using the date format, you can change your permalink structure relatively easy by using this Yoast tutorial on How to change your WordPress Permalink Structure.
You don’t have to create the most complex newsletter on the planet — a simple RSS-driven newsletter will suffice. You can set it up to send out a newsletter every week that includes your newest posts, or you can make it send a newsletter every time you post something new.
Any way you do it, building that email list is as important as building your social media followers — if not more important.
Drive More Traffic To Your Website
So there it is. Some of it you’ve probably been doing since you started. Most people are utilizing social media to some extent or another, even though Facebook continuously changes its algorithms.
Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see immediate results. Remember, you’re in this for the long haul, so instant gratification shouldn’t concern you at all.