Wednesday, July 8, 2009

How to Build Good Blog Traffic

How to Build Traffic on Your Blog

Rachelle Gardner’s Guest Blogger, Jennifer Fulwiler gives us some tremendous advice about driving “good” traffic to your blog.

How do you get blog visitors to come to you?

I've been asking that same question for more than 10 years as I've worked to get the word out about both personal and professional websites, and in this post I'll share my thoughts on the main options for pro-actively driving traffic to your blog.

Commenting on other blogs
Leaving comments on other blogs is the only thing on this list that I would say you must do. Not only is it a way to get new readers, but it's just good etiquette to show an interest in other people's sites. In order to make sure your comments have the most impact, I recommend the following:

- Use a unique name: Even if people don't click through to your site, commenting on blogs can help you build name recognition—but only if your username is unique. For example, if your name is Jessica Jones and your blog is called Writer Musings, if you leave comments as "Jessica" you're not doing anything to build name recognition or to entice people to check out your blog. Leave comments as "Jessica Jones" or "Jessica @ Writer Musings" so that people know which Jessica they're hearing from every time you comment.

- Be careful about linking to your own posts: It's fine to leave a comment referring to a post you wrote if it would really add value to the comment thread, but don't refer to your own blog in every comment you leave. Also, learn a little basic HTML so that when you do link to a post you can embed a clickable link. (Here's a helpful tutorial on that.)

- Be sincere: As we discussed in Part 1, it's all about generosity. Going out into the blog world with the goal of building up fellow bloggers and offering sincere encouragement is not only a nice thing to do, but it will get more people to click through to your site than half-hearted comments with the sole aim of getting traffic to your own blog.

Social media
Social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, Plurk, etc. can be a great way to find new readers for your blog and keep your current readers engaged. If you're not familiar with social media, I recommend signing up for accounts on the two big sites, Twitter and Facebook, and trying them for a week to see if you like them.

The bottom line on social media is this: It's social. If you can find a network that you truly enjoy using to interact with others, you will end up reaching new people and driving traffic to your blog without even trying. But if you find yourself reluctantly participating in one of these sites just to throw out the occasional link to a blog post you wrote, not only will it be unlikely to drive much traffic to your site, but you may alienate existing readers as well. Don't feel pressure to get involved in social media if it's not for you; there are plenty of other ways to build traffic to your blog.

Search engine optimization
Search engines can provide a surprisingly significant source of traffic to your site if it is search engine optimized. All the major blogging platforms take care of the basics for you, but in order to write search-engine-friendly posts it's helpful to understand which words search engines value most:

- Words in links: Search engines track which words show up in links to any given page on the internet, so if you're going to link to one of your own posts, make sure descriptive words are part of the link. For example, "See my post about developing fiction characters" will help people searching on that subject find your post better than "See my post about developing fiction characters."

- Words in titles: Search engines pay more attention to words in titles, so make sure each post's title is descriptive of the subject you're covering.

- Words in linked titles: If your blogging platform doesn't automatically create a clickable link to the URL of your post from its title, check the support documents to see how you can add that feature. Not only is it more user-friendly for your readers, but it will make search engines value the words in your title even more.

Product giveaways
Giving away free products, even if they're inexpensive, is a great idea for attracting people to your blog. I would recommend waiting until you have at least 50 visitors per day to make sure that you get enough of a response to make it interesting, but after that you may want to try hosting a giveaway, offering extra entries for people who tell others about it. Also, if you're using social media, you can be a little more forward about promoting your giveaway posts since you're offering something in return.

Carnival participation and blog directories
A blog carnival, broadly defined, is where one blogger creates a collection of links to individual blog posts on a specific topic (e.g. Menu Plan Monday). Submitting your blog to carnivals is not only a way to bring in a little traffic, but you often end up "meeting" new bloggers with similar interests as well.

Blog directories are sites that collect links to blogs, arranged by category (e.g. Blogflux). Submitting your site to directories can't hurt, but don't spend too much time on it since it's unlikely to bring in much traffic.

Paid advertising
If you're hoping to build traffic quickly, consider purchasing advertising. Even if you don't have the budget to take out a billboard, you might be surprised at what you can afford when it comes to online ads. If you're not sure where to start, I recommend Google Adwords. With Adwords you can have your custom text ad show up on search terms of your choice, and you only pay when people click through your link; you can also set a cap on how much you want to pay per day so that you don't spend too much. Another good bet is to contact the big bloggers in your genre and ask if they sell advertising on their sites. You can often find great deals when you work one-on-one with site owners.

Guest posts and interviews
Guest posts and radio or podcast interviews can work wonders for getting the word out about your blog, and those opportunities are more accessible than you might imagine. First, define some areas in which you have expertise: Are you a published author? Did you help someone battle cancer? Do you have the best garden on the block? Be sure to cast the net wide and define your successes not only in terms of professional accomplishments.

Now, do some searching to find blogs, talk radio shows or podcasts that deal with those subject areas, preferably ones that already do regular guest posts or interviews. Email the person in charge to offer your expertise, and be specific about how you could add value to their project: For example, if you email a blogger about doing a guest post, include a bulleted list of the points you would touch on in the post as well as a paragraph about why you're qualified to write it. You might be surprised at how many people would be happy to take you up on your offer!

Almost all of these options are free, though they do take time; and the more time you can commit to spreading the word about your blog, the more quickly your traffic will grow. However, I recommend following an 80/20 rule here: Spend at least 80% of your time working on the tips from Part 1 to craft a fantastic blog, and no more than 20% of your time marketing it. A great blog will eventually get traffic no matter what, whereas all the publicity in the world will do little to help a blog with poor writing or major usability flaws.

I'd like to close with a word of encouragement: The world is always hungry for good writers. If you love the craft of writing and are serious about using your blog to build a platform, you will almost definitely succeed. It might take longer than you'd like—it usually takes about two years for a blog's traffic to start gaining momentum—but if you follow all the tips from Part 1 and utilize even a couple of the ideas from here in Part 2, I have no doubt that you will create a successful blog.

1 comment:

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