Traffic growing lessons

A friend of mine told me that his goal is to have 500 loyal visitors daily within the first six months of launching a new blog. Most blogs will never attract that large an audience. In a world of millions of blogs, starting a new one is not news, but growing it to attract hundreds of true fans is.

Starting a blog is relatively easy when compared to actually getting and retaining visitors. Beginners often focus a lot on the design of a blog, thinking that simply building a blog means that visitors will come automatically. Typically, the reality is the other way around. Getting the first visitors is one of the hardest, if not the hardest, thing for most bloggers.

500 daily visitors is a very ambitious goal, it’s not easy to reach but it is possible to do. Before the internet, it was impossible for you to build your own platform. Mass media ruled the world.

Now with a good idea, hard work and some luck, anyone can build an audience. Whatever idea you may have, it no longer takes a lot of time and money to test it in real life. Having a blog allows you to test ideas and get feedback instantly.

This guide will show you my blog marketing routine and actions I take to draw people’s attention to my content. If you’d like to get visitors to your blog, you will love these traffic driving principles.

Let’s get to it…

80% of all referral traffic comes from two sources

This is one amazing fact you need to understand. Almost 80% of all referral traffic to the biggest websites online comes from only two sources: Google and Facebook.

Trying to get visitors to your blog without having a marketing strategy for Facebook and without doing search engine optimization (SEO) for Google won’t be very successful.

I will discuss some elements that are essential in getting ranked on Google’s search results further along in this guide.

Having a descriptive domain name is one. Optimizing the way your blog looks, feels and how fast it loads is another. Publishing great quality content that your audience loves is another key to ranking in search. Getting out there and spreading the word about your content is essential too.

Facilitating social media sharing on your blog is important for getting traffic from Facebook and I will share details in this guide. But you also do need to be more proactive when approaching Facebook.

Launch a Facebook page and work on building an audience. Then share your posts on your Facebook page. I find that displaying the image on my Facebook page instead of the link thumbnail works best in terms of reaching and engaging the highest number of people.

Go to Facebook groups too. Almost a billion of people use Facebook Groups every month and they’re highly engaging properties. Find the relevant groups to your work and start adding value. Be an authority and you will be noticed. As you begin building trust and relationships with people in the group, you can start sharing your relevant content too.

Overcome the stigma of self-promotion and spend 50% of your time marketing

You’ve created what you believe is a great blog post, gone through the checklist of things to do before publishing, and your article is now live.

Don’t just sit and wait for visitors to come. It won’t happen. They won’t come.

You need to overcome the stigma of self-promotion. Selling yourself is a big part of having a successful blog. If you have the reluctance to promote yourself and you lack social skills, you will be unnoticed.

There are only a limited number of opportunities for all of us to take. Most of us are not very comfortable with self-promotion, not many people enjoy blowing their own trumpets all the time.

If you speak a bit to the different types of creative people, you will realize that most of them are very passionate about the things they create and not so much about actually selling themselves and selling their art. It feels like “selling out”, it feels obnoxious, it feels cheap, distasteful and it feels like selling your soul. It’s not what they are interested in.

They would rather be spending on something more interesting and more creative. You want to get on with the next story, with the following post and the new design project.

But marketing and selling are everywhere around us. You sell yourself by the way you dress or speak. You sell your point of view and what you believe in when you talk to your friends. Selling is a part of life and we are all selling.

Self publishing hustle

You need to make it a habit of spending at least 50% of your time promoting your blog content. Without a promotional push, your content will most probably go unnoticed no matter how good it is.

Think of it as informing an audience rather than a push of a marketing message that they don’t want. You know what people want and you give excellent and informative answers to their questions in your blog content. You help them solve their pain points. You supply their demand.

You do need to take massive marketing action right now.

You’re a dinner host; get your house ready for your guests first

Think of yourself as a dinner host. Before inviting guests, you need to make sure that your house (your blog) is ready to host your guests (your potential visitors).

1. Get a domain name that helps people discover you

You need a domain name for your blog. That’s how your visitors will find you (and remember you).

In my experience, an inviting and descriptive domain name works much better than one of those long and free domain names. It especially helps you rank well in the search engines. If you don’t have one, register it, and you won’t regret it.

2. Earn attention by publishing amazing content

Posting valuable blog content that your target audience wants is the most effective thing you can do to generate visitor interest.

When it comes to content, you should focus on quality and not quantity. One excellent article will bring you so much more traffic than many dull and uninviting posts. Every other step you can take to attract visitors relies on the quality of articles that you publish.

3. Without eye-catching headlines, your content will be ignored

People are bombarded with too many choices for things to click on. The best way to get attention among tons of competing choices is to write remarkable and irresistible blog post headlines.

Don’t just write some headline at the end of the process as an afterthought. Spend just as much time creating your headline as you devote to the article itself.

4. Turn first-time visitors into true fans and build direct connections

A visitor that comes to your blog, spends a few seconds on it, but clicks on the “back” button and never comes back, is a lost opportunity.

You need to get a first-time visitor to become a true fan that you can reach out to and get them to return again and again.

Make it easy for people to give you permission to stay in touch with them. Let them subscribe to your email newsletter. Open rates on emails are higher than reach you get in social media. Email is an open platform and very easy to start with. It’s a direct line of communication with you in control.

5. Facilitate social media sharing

Word of mouth and social media play a significant role in the viral spreadability of your content.

Your true fans love your blog content. You should empower them and encourage them to help you spread the word and do the marketing for you.

Highlight most important points of your post and ask people to share them using a plugin such as Better Click To Tweet. Include social media sharing buttons using plugins such as Mashshare and Social Sharing By Danny.

Places to share, promote and distribute your blog content

When your house is all tidy and ready, it’s a good opportunity to send out the guest invites. Without invites, no guests will know about you, and nobody will show up.

1. Don’t get trapped following the herd

Take advantage of the network effect on social media. Ensure that you actively spend time on reaching out to new people and spread the word about your work. Your audience will be somewhere and will like an expert to help them out with their questions and problems.

Don’t just only use the same channels and platforms that everyone else uses. That’s a trap. Find the right channels to focus your marketing effort on instead.

Experiment with all the possible sources and see which are more or less effective (or more or less expensive) for your specific blog and the audience that you are targeting. There are many platforms to experiment with, new ones are emerging regularly too, so do spend some time trying each and every platform before making your conclusions.

These platforms are tools for you to reach that audience, introduce them to the work you’re doing and get them to visit your blog. This helps you diversify your social media presence and you do not over commit to one platform as you don’t want to be platform dependent.

2. Tailor your promotional approach to the particular network

Just setting up an account on a social media platform doesn’t automatically get you anywhere. Actively sharing your content doesn’t mean that you send spam. There’s a fine line between good content marketing and spam.

You only mention your blog where it makes sense, while also creating value, sharing interesting information, helping people out, solving their issues, and being a part of a wider community.

Spend some time learning the guidelines and the way to approach each individual platform. Twitter only allows a 140 character limit, so you have to be smart about the way you write your copy.

In general, all the platforms are very visual so posting attractive and shareworthy imagery is a great start and will result in more reach and engagement. Inspirational quotes. Curious stats, impressive facts and nice graphs. Funny videos. Provocative statements.

3. Repurpose your content in multiple formats to multiple platforms

There’s a lot of potential in reusing and recycling your content in different formats on different platforms. Here’s how it works for BuzzFeed:

A seven-step web recipe for slow-cooker chicken becomes a 46-second Facebook video, and then a 15-second Instagram clip with the instructions written as a comment, and finally a Pinterest post with two images and a link back to the Facebook video. And if it’s going on Snapchat, it needs to be shot in portrait mode as well. It’s all the exact same recipe, but “we put it on Facebook, and we put it on YouTube, and we put it on AOL and Yahoo, and all of a sudden it’s 15 different MP4 files.”

Take, for example, the series about short-girl problems: It began with an article on the website that attracted more than 8 million views, titled “30 Awkward Moments Every Short Girl Understands”; it then became a scripted YouTube video (“10 Problems Only Short Girls Understand”); and ultimately it inspired a cartoon titled Trans Girl Problems that appeared on Facebook.

Check out more options for recycling and repurposing your content.

4. Repeat the push

Aim to repeat the push on particular platforms several times over the few weeks after publishing your latest blog post. Sharing more than once brings many more clicks as most followers don’t see the first post. On Facebook, for example, less than 10% of your audience sees your post. Nobody is bothered by you reposting and your clicks will increase, so it’s hard to argue against this.

Twitter is perfect for reposts and I aim to tweet a post 3-5 times over the 48 hours after the article has been published. Add some variety and mix it up if you wish not to be repetitive and boring. You can do “title + link” once. Next time use an interesting quote or a fact instead.

5. Create your own marketing routine

Create a marketing routine of places where you share your content, and follow it after publishing each new blog post. Places where your potential audience is. Here’s the list of all the places I go to in order to share my content. Some may not fit your blog, some will. Go through the list, make your own list and use it every time after you’ve published something new.

Content marketing routine

Send your latest blog post to your mailing list

If you have a newsletter or a mailing list of loyal subscribers, you should send some special (or even all) posts to them. These could be the first wave of visitors that help you share your new content to even more people.

Guest post and syndicate your post

The idea is to go to big sites that are popular with your target audience, publish excellent content as a contributor, and use it to attract new visitors to your blog. Many sites host articles from a variety of writers.

Write a targeted article that’s useful and attracting to that particular kind of audience (some sites even allow you to repost your existing content). Include a link (or two) to content that’s already published on your blog to make it easier for readers to click over and visit you

Here’s a list of some of the most popular sites that are looking for writers:

Go to niche sites, forums and other communities

Depending on the niche you are in there will be several community sites and forums that allow you to submit content. Sites like Hacker News. There’s a Hacker News type site out there for every niche.

For example, if you’re a food blogger it is worth submitting your posts to niche sites such as Foodgawker and TasteSpotting. Flipboard is another interesting community.

Answer questions on Quora and other Q&A sites

Quora, Yahoo Answers, Stack Overflow and other Q&A sites are great sources of referral traffic. If you’ve researched before writing your blog post, you’ve probably found questions people had and answered them in your content.

Now you can go directly to the different Q&A sites, look for people asking similar questions and help them out while at the same time indirectly promoting your content. Answer questions the best that you can directly on the Q&A site, help people solve their problems and then link people back to your blog if they want to learn even more by reading the full post.

Take advantage of the paid advertising (if you have a budget)

All blog traffic has a price really. None of it is truly free. Driving traffic to your blog can cost you time, money or both. As time is a limited source, paid marketing can help you scale and get there faster.

It’s increasingly difficult to get reach and clicks on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Investing a bit of money in strategically important platforms and posts can give you a great boost and get your content in front of a larger audience.

The majority of platforms mentioned in this post also accept paid advertising in order for you to boost your content to a larger audience. Finding the right channel for you and getting a bit of marketing budget can work wonders for you.

Reach out to and build relationships with other bloggers and influencers

Learn how to leverage already popular blogs in your niche to send traffic to your blog.

Build relationships with influencers (bloggers, journalists, forum moderators, social media power users) who have the attention of an engaged audience relevant to your field. One tweet from an influencer recommending your content can result in a cascade of traffic and shares coming your way.

This does take longer time than the other advice in this post, but it’s a robust strategy. I send personal tweets and emails to certain bloggers and other influencers that I think the post might be interesting to in hope of getting them to share it with their networks. I also reach out to anyone that I have mentioned in the post.

Don’t spam, don’t beg for retweets, let the quality (and usefulness and relevancy) of content speak for itself.

Tweet out the post

One of the first things I do is to tweet out the headline and the link to my Twitter followers to make them aware of the new post. Many times I also include an image as that seems to get more attention. See more on my Twitter strategy and how you can get more followers.

Share the images on Pinterest

I submit the post image to the relevant Pinterest boards. I make sure to include a headline in all the images that I put on my blog and that was mostly thanks to the increasing importance of Pinterest as a traffic driver. It makes the images look better.

Post it on LinkedIn

I also publish the link to the post on my LinkedIn profile. You can even post it in relevant LinkedIn groups you are a member of.

Share the article on Tumblr

I keep an active Tumblr account with the main objective being for it to be a traffic driver to my blog. I post any new article on Tumblr adding the relevant tags.

Post the picture on Instagram

Instagram is a bit different as you don’t have an option to add a link, but it is still an interesting platform. People on Instagram can be more engaging than on other platforms and you can catch their attention by using some stunning imagery and lead them to type in and visit your blog manually.

Share it on Reddit

Some of the articles I publish fit well in certain subreddits on Reddit. Reddit has the potential to drive thousands of visitors to you so it is definitely worth exploring if you have a relevant article to submit and you can find a relevant and popular subreddit.

Comment on other blog posts

I comment on the most recent posts on relevant blogs that have good traffic numbers. Commenting on posts is a simple tactic that can be very useful when building a connection to another blogger.

Proper commenting etiquette is all about respect. When you’re on someone’s blog, you’re on their “property.” Just as you would treat someone’s home with respect in life, you should treat someone’s blog with respect in the virtual world when you leave a comment.

Find blogs related to your content using Google or social media. Subscribe, follow them and explore their content. Show up regularly. Feedback on their content. Contribute with your opinion. Don’t just comment for the sake of it. Most comment areas list their comments from first to last. You must comment on the post soon after it has been published.

If you do that you will expose your comment to thousands of people who are going to read the post. The earlier you are, the more people will see your comment.

Search for people on Twitter

I search Twitter for keywords and phrases relevant to my content and my target audience. I then follow, interact with, and help the real people who talk about and ask questions about my topics.

I used to spend hours on this every day in the early days of my blog. It’s a great real-time way of getting visitors and spreading the word about your content. It helps you establish your name in the field.

StumbleUpon your article

Stumbleupon is still a nice source of traffic and I aim to stumble all the posts that I publish in the hope of getting some visitors from there.

Share it on Google communities

Google+ may not be very popular but depending on your topic there might be some active communities on there. Join relevant Google+ communities, be active by sharing your knowledge, and then post your link once in a while too.

I try to link to my new post where it’s relevant in the popular posts from my archives. In that way, I try and lead some of my visitors to explore more of my newer content too.

Monitor and analyse the results of your activities

Take a look at the results, feedback and the data on your marketing push. What is the pickup like in the social media?

This will help you figure out what went well and what didn’t go so well. It will help you improve and optimise your marketing strategy. You might need to make some slight changes to the original post itself according to the feedback to make it more interesting.

You can try with a different format or a different angle to the story. Can you make a better headline or a more interesting image for example?

There you have it. All the easy and practical advice that you can follow to attract people to your blog. Taking these actions (and putting in the time and effort over a longer time) will put you on the road towards getting 500 or even more loyal blog visitors.