If there’s one thing bloggers rely on to grow their business, it’s readers. I can tell you from personal experience that writing blog posts to what feels like a black hole can be draining. My very first blog (a “handmade home” lifestyle type of blog hosted on Blogspot) had about five readers for the first six months or so.
The day someone I didn’t know commented on a post you might as well have assumed I won the lottery. In fact, I’m certain I had a celebratory dinner that night.
Celebrating new traffic to your site is a must for morale. But many bloggers wonder “if I write it, will they come?”
No. And yes.
There are a few things you can do as a blogger to bolster the traffic to your site and increase your blog traffic over time. Many of those tips that already exist on the Internet include vague suggestions like “Create better graphics”, “Use social media”, and “Do link roundups”. While those tactics can work, there are key elements missing that the real pros put into place to see major results.
In this article we’ll unpack 10 of the top pieces of advice out there and take it one step further with how you can make it stick and truly see your blog traffic take off.
#1 Install Google Analytics
For a free tool, Google Analytics truly is powerful. For instance, you can learn about the key demographics of your website visitors, what your top blog posts are, and how much time your readers spend on your site. Here’s how you can install this workhorse to your WordPress website. And here’s how you install it to a Squarespace site.
The Real Tip:
Setup goals. And, no, I don’t mean setting the personal goal of “not running away screaming” (which, to be honest, was my own goal the first time I looked at the Analytics dashboard). Google Analytics just skims the surface of what you can learn when you don’t have goals setup.
Claire Pelletreau puts it quite succinctly:
If you don’t have Goals set up, there’s a lot of info you’re missing out on. The biggest problem, though, is that you can’t see what websites or sources (social or otherwise) are making you the most money.
And the real pros know exactly what is making them the most money so they can capitalize on that channel. Since you’re interested in helping your blog traffic take off like the pros, you’re going to want to setup some goals too. Here’s exactly how to get your goals setup in under ten minutes.
#2 Make Your Content SEO-Friendly
Acronyms make me want to pull my hair out. What the heck does SEO even mean? Maybe you’ve had conversations with blogger friends where they go “Well, you have to write for SEO, of course,” and then you go “Yeah, of cooourse,” while you’re nodding and smiling and mentally noting to Google “WTF is SEO”.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO for short) is a way to help your readers find you. Think about SEO like this: what would your reader type into Google at 2am?
Why does my dog bark in his sleep?
How can I strengthen my upper arms?
Do I really need to be on Pinterest for my blog?
That kind of thing. Here’s the trick with SEO. You want to go basic. While you might write “How can I strengthen my triceps?” because you’re a personal trainer and know that the muscle on the back of the upper arm is called a tricep, your ideal blog reader might just know it as “that jiggly back part of my arm”. Using the words your readers use helps the Google Gods (or any other search platform gods) find your blog. These words are often referred to as “keywords” and it’s recommended that you use your main set of keywords over and over again in your content.
The Real Tip:
Writing for SEO is great in theory but many bloggers miss the boat on this one. There are two kinds of keywords: short tail keywords and long tail keywords.
Short tail keywords are single words and long tail keywords are phrases. Think “potatoes” versus “how to make the fluffiest mashed potatoes”. Of course, long tail keywords have a lower volume of traffic since they’re more specific but think about how that specificity can lead to the best readers you can imagine for your blog.
According to Yoast (the makers of one of our favorite free SEO WordPress plugins), long tail keywords are crucial to standing out in a search:
It is much easier to rank for long tail keywords than for more common keywords. Another benefit for focusing on long tail keywords is that, although these keywords are used less in search, the visitor that finds your website using them is more likely to buy your service or product.
Finding a balance between short tail and long tail keywords will do your blog justice in the long run. Know the words your readers are typing into their own searches and mimic them back in your copy. Don’t over-do it by typing the single short tail keyword as often as possible but work long tail keyword phrases into your copy to maximize your search results.
#3 Participate In Communities Where Your Customers Are
This one sounds fun and easy, right?! Just find the communities where your ideal customers hang out and talk to them. As an introvert, I have to tell you this is one of my favorite ways to market my brand. But how do you take that first step and actually find the communities your customers are participating in? And once you’ve done that, how do you talk about yourself and your work without sounding “salesy” or getting kicked out of the group?
It’s questions like these that stop most people in their tracks with this tip. But when it’s implemented correctly, you can cover every bit of marketing you’d ever need in just a little on-screen socialization.
The Real Tip:
There are two real tips here.
1) Most people spend their days hanging out in groups of their peers. While this kind of networking is great for learning more about your own industry, it’s not helping your marketing efforts much. Yes, your peers could send you referrals but why not go straight to the source?! This is where your customers come in. You could use the 10 Person Rule to find out where they hang, think about where you’d like to hang out online if you were them (because many of us were our ideal customers in our past), or tune into social media to find communities they’re already in and loving.
2) Provide meaningful interactions. If all you do is spam the lot with links to your blog and constantly reply with “send me your email and we’ll talk!” you’re likely going to get kicked out of the group. Not to mention the fact that no one likes Salesy Sally and they’re not buying what you’re selling if you don’t provide value first. Be a good community member and you’ll be rewarded with traffic, fans, and boat loads of trust.
#4 Add Graphics To Your Posts
Adding a photo to your post makes it more socially shareable. More socially shareable means more eyes on your blog. Eyes = Traffic. In fact, tweets with photos have a 35% boost in retweets over those without images. Many bloggers know this (you likely already do) and add images to every blog post. They spend hours creating images from scratch in Canva or Photoshop and painstakingly edit photos to make them more “pinnable”. And that’s all well and good. Depending on your niche (like, say, food bloggers) you may need your own original images. And having a branded image template you can swap out for each post does build recognition and reputation when your images are shared on social media. Adding images to your posts is a basic requirement of a blog these days.
The Real Tip:
Take advantage of those images and ask for linkbacks. A link what? A link back. Essentially you’re giving your readers permission to reuse your images on their blog as long as they link back to your original image. Here’s the cool thing about linkbacks. When someone does this for your images (actually links back to your original blog post from their image) you get street cred in Google Image Search and your image will pop up all over the place.
#5 Guest Blog
Sometimes the last thing a blogger wants to do is write more blogs to end up on someone else’s site. But that is a fatal mistake for many. Guest blogging (writing original posts that appear on a blog other than your own) is a great way to build your audience, connect with new people who don’t already know you, and quickly expand your reach. So, yes, write and publish guest blog posts often. In fact, go ahead and put it into your editorial calendar so it happens regularly.
The Real Tip:
Guest posting can be one of your greatest allies for your blog. And if you do it right, guest posts are a fast and vast way to increase awareness of a new product or service. But that’s just it, you have to do it right. Guest posting doesn’t mean just writing a post that the blog’s readers will enjoy and hoping for the click throughs in the by-line. Guest posting is a strategy and should be treated as such.
Knowing what you want your post to accomplish is the first thing to figure out. A guest post can serve many different purposes depending on what you’re looking for in the outcome. Do you want to drive new readers to your blog? Do you want to set yourself up as an authority in your industry? The answer to all these questions will change the way you write your post, who you submit it to and how you evaluate the results.
And since results is what we’re after here, it’s valuable to have a call to action to move the readers to your own site and your email list (where they are more likely to become customers!). When Nathan did a guest post for Smashing Magazine, he included a content upgrade for those readers who wanted to take what they read to the next level. To date, Nathan has more than 4,000 email subscribers from that single content upgrade!
Want to know more about how to create a powerful content upgrade like Nathan did? Read this: The (Actual) Complete Guide to Content Upgrades.
#6 Allow People To Subscribe To Your Posts Via Email
Do we really need to tell you that building an email list is a critical part of having a successful blog? While allowing people to subscribe to your list might not seem like it can increase traffic, it really can. Here’s how: someone reads your blog post and sees your opt-in form for your RSS feed or traditional email list. They sign up and start getting regular messages from you pointing them to your blog posts. They click the links inside the emails, read your blog, and your page views go up. They love the blog post, go back to their inbox, hit forward, and send it to a bunch of their favorite people, and then they click your links and add more traffic to your posts.
This actually happens every day for people who have active email lists. So adding an RSS or email opt in form to your blog can mean the difference between regular, predictable traffic, or questionable page view patterns.
The Real Tip:
Once people are signed up to your email list, you have to actually email them. Here’s what happens when you don’t: someone reads your blog post, signs up to your list, gets your “thanks for signing up” email, and then moves on with their 254 other things they have to think about that day. They likely don’t bookmark your blog or add it to Feedly or make it their homepage on their browser (wouldn’t that be nice!). Six weeks later they get an email from you with a link to you latest blog post and they are highly confused as to who you are and why you’re emailing them. They forget they signed up to your email list. They unsubscribe. You are sad.
In order to have an engaged email list who expects to hear from you each week (or even multiple times a week) you have to get active with them. Say hello, send regular emails, send them useful content they want and expect to see. Ask them questions and reply to their answers. It’s just like your momma always told you, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” Email is no different and you’ll drive better blog traffic to your site by consistently staying engaged with your list.
#7 Use Your Email Signature To Promote Your Blog
Adding a link to your blog in your email signature truly does make an impact. Think about all of the people you email every day who may or may not have been to your blog. When you’re in contact with them anyways, why not invite them to hop on over and read more? Melissa Cassera does it like this:
The Real Tip:
Adding a link to your blog is nice and all, but is there really anything enticing about that? Up the ante with a link directly to your free opt-in and watch those signups to your email list soar. After all, if “the money is in the list” (and it is) you can bet this is what the top bloggers are doing for major impact.
Check out Sarah Von Bargen’s sig below:
#8 Survey Your Audience
I have yet to find a person who doesn’t like talking about themselves and/or telling people what they want in the world. I mean, look at social media (anytime, anywhere) and it’s chock full of opinions, one-sided conversations, and links with the simple yet effective “THIS” written in the caption.
People like to tell you what they want and need and nothing does it better than a survey. One of the easiest ways to poll your audience is once they’re on your email list. You’ve likely heard the advice to ask your new subscribers “How can I help you with X topic?” and you insert your topic of your blog at the end there. And that does work. You’ll get responses that range from the basic (which you’ve likely covered or will cover on your blog) to the three paragraph more complex answer that you never really want to dive into.
Posing open ended questions as a “survey” of sorts is tough to pull information from. Surveys are powerful, yes, but you have to ask the right questions in the right way.
The Real Tip:
Get specific in your surveys. You could certainly build a Typeform or Google Form or SurveyMonkey survey and ask multiple questions to have data to go back to later. I’ve done that with my own audience and built out a list of blog post and product ideas from it. I also got a lot of feedback that I couldn’t do much with.
The best way to survey your audience is to ask if they’re interested in hearing more from you on specific topics or concepts. And thanks to link triggers, you can do that right inside your email. Check out how Caitlin Bacher does exactly that for her subscribers:
Snazzy, right?! So when someone clicks a link inside that email to tell Caitlin what describes their business best, they then get a tag assigned on the back end of the system and that tag tells Caitlin who’s ready to purchase a program or hear about a webinar she’s hosting for, say, product selling people. Link triggers are an incredibly powerful way to survey your audience and have all of the data automagically compiled for you right in your email provider. That is, if you have ConvertKit. 😉
#9 Share Your Posts on Social Media
This one’s fun, right? Sure, share your posts on social media. Absolutely make that happen. In fact, share them multiple times a day and be sure to share posts “from the archives” too. Play around with different headlines to see what gets the most traction, use images and try them without, and, as always, make your social posts meaningful and not spammy.
The Real Tip:
Find the right social platform for you and stay there. There’s absolutely no need to try to be everywhere at once. Have you ever tried to do that in real life? Go ahead and try to be at the mall with your friends, sitting in church, at a little league baseball game, and writing at a coffee shop. It simply can’t be done.
When you’re on every single social media platform known to man, your message gets diluted. Not to mention the fact that, unless you have a social media manager to help you make the magic happen, you’re spending a ton of time creating all of that social content instead of focusing on your blog and clients.
While a focus on growing your blog traffic might equate to being in as many places as possible, it’s actually quite the opposite. Pick two (maybe three) platforms and hone in on them. Love the people who are there. Give them more. Let them help you spread your message. Wash, rinse, repeat. When you’re everywhere, you’re nowhere. And your blog deserves to be somewhere.
#10 Be Consistent
We hear it all the time.
“I have a blog but I haven’t written on it since February….. of 2012.”
“My editorial calendar is sitting in Asana, I just never stick with using it.”
“I really need to be more consistent with my email list.”
Yep. Ya do. Consistency really is key to real blogging magic and nothing is successful overnight. Remember not to compare your beginning to someone else’s middle or end. Consistency is a game changer, to the point that Nathan’s entire episode of the Reach Podcast was about how consistency led to this very business who’s blog you have the pleasure of reading right now.
It's like we go back to when we learned how to ride a bike, you would get excited about riding your bike every single day just so you could practice and learn and keep doing it, and now, you don't have to ride a bike every day in order to know you can ride a bike, so, same thing for blogging. When you're first sitting down to write consistently (and consistently can look like different things) it could be daily, it could be making sure your email goes out to your list every single week. Your consistency can look different, just make sure that it's there so that later on, like now, you can sit down and write a blog post no problem, basically any time you feel like it, because you have that muscle built up of writing a thousand words every day.
The Real Tip:
Don’t just talk about it. Do it. Show up. Do the work. Write every day. Email your list consistently. Use the plan you setup. Consistency truly does pay off to those who put it out there. That’s how the pros increase their blog traffic, and it’s how you can too.
You Made It This Far, Keep Going!
With these Real Tips in your back pocket, you can leverage your blog like the pros and see measurable results. Remember that there’s no such thing as an “overnight success” but with these tips close by, you truly can see your blog traffic skyrocket over time.
How do you leverage your blog traffic and help it grow? Share your favorite tip in the comments below!