In a world of millions of websites, starting a new site is not news but growing it to getting thousands of visitors is. As a beginner blogger you know how it feels when you publish a great post but no one is visiting let alone sharing it. Attracting large visitor numbers is what every blogger wants. This post features my marketing lessons learned from achieving the 200,000 visitors mark in the first year and the 1,000,000 visitors milestone in less than four years after starting my site. It is a simple formula that will help you drive traffic to your own site too.
From 0 to 1,000,000 visitors: 10 traffic lessons learned
These are the best traffic tips that I would recommend bloggers when starting out and growing their sites:
Create thrilling content
Every other step you will take rests and relies on this one. Create thrilling content that wows people. Inform them. Entertain them. Educate them. Make their lives easier. Solve real problems. Help them reach their goals. Create something very valuable. Something that is timeless and that will stay relevant for a long period of time. Something that people normally charge money for (but give it away for free). You could create a simple blog post, an ebook for example, a case study or a report. You could create a plugin, an app or a tool that people find useful. That’s how you earn attention. Creating great content is the most effective thing you can do to generate online buzz. Without awesome content the rest of the steps in this article won’t be able to help you much.
Social media plays a big role in the virality of your content. Aim to create social media drops from your posts. Each post should result in several social media drops that you can share in social media. These can be variations of the headline, quotes from the post, stats and other facts, interesting statements and stunning images. Share these drops regularly over a longer period of time after posting your article.
Have a marketing routine
Create a marketing routine and follow it after publishing a new post. This ensures that you always spend time on reaching out to new people instead of always thinking about new content. Creation of your content should only take 50% of your time. Promotion of that content should take the rest of your time. If the creation process takes you too long I recommend you limit your output, focus on publishing great posts only and spending the rest of your time promoting your new but also existing content.
Use big names and events to create timely content
In some of my most popular posts I have used other popular names and events to attract attention to my own site. For example I profiled and wrote articles about lessons learned from several big bloggers and authors. I have done case studies on what makes some of the biggest websites great. This is a great strategy as the popular names, topics and events have many people interested in them so it becomes much easier to attract these people to click over to you and share your content with their friends..
Write irresistible post headlines
We are bombarded with too many choices for things to click on in our feed readers, on Twitter and in Google’s search results. The only way to attract attention among tons of other choices is to write remarkable and irresistible article headlines. Spend just as much time creating your headline as you spend on the article itself. List headlines work great, so do how-to’s. They are very clickable and shareable.
Comment on bigger sites and forums to bring the initial traffic
In early days you won’t have a large social media following and search engines will not be sending traffic to you, which makes commenting on other sites a great tactic. My first visitor other than myself was someone clicking over from a comment I had left at another site. In those first days all my visitors came from comments I left on bigger sites that had relevant content to the topic I was focusing on myself.
You can also join forums. This is a traditional way of building authority and driving traffic but it can still work. Find a relevant forum where your target audience spends time, create an account, compose a nice signature from where you link to your site, and start being active by helping people and joining popular discussions.
It works exactly like this for question and answer sites like Yahoo! Answers and Quora. Join these sites, explore them and regularly help people in your target group in order to build fans, followers and traffic. These Q&A sites are also good for sourcing content ideas.
StumbleUpon is a great place to get the first spikes in traffic
I started looking to connect to relevant people on StumbleUpon fairly soon after launching the site. First time someone stumbled my post shortly after and that sent me 19 unique visitors first day and 37 the second day. Those were huge numbers for me. Even today Stumbleupon still sends me a good amount of visitors.
Use Twitter to get an audience and spread your links
I joined Twitter shortly after starting the site, immediately started looking for and following people in my audience and got 55 unique visitors from there on the first day. Twitter has continued to be one of my main traffic sources to this day.
Proactively look to acquire quality links
Some of this will happen naturally as people discover your thrilling content and choose to link to it from their own sites. In other cases you would have to manually get out there and tell people about it. Do the blogger outreach. This is not about gaining backlinks for SEO, but about getting links from authoritative sites that will put your name in front of more eyeballs and help you reach a new and larger audience.
A more traditional way to get links is by using trackbacks. Trackback is WordPress-lingo for a link that “helps you notify another author that you wrote something related to what he had written on his site”. Basically you should just insert a link to another blog article in your post and if the other site runs on WordPress your “trackback” will then automatically be placed in the trackback section of their comments area.
Although writing ‘linklove’-articles is widely appreciated by most bloggers, flooding your posts with trackbacks probably isn’t the greatest idea. You should keep it in proportions. Nobody likes a spammer, and nobody likes to read articles that are spoiled with links. Keep your articles valuable and only use a trackback when you really have something to add or want to say “thank you!”. Make sure the site (and your new audience) you’re linking to is related to your post. Make sure the article is recent, otherwise nobody will notice your link. Tracking back to a recent post raises the chance of your article being listed first below the ‘Trackbacks’-heading. Make sure the site you’re tracking back to shows trackbacks in their articles.
Publish guest posts for bigger sites
One of the ways to get links is by guest posting. Submitting guest posts not only sends you traffic, it gives you authority, spreads your name to a targeted audience and also gives you a great value link for your future search engine rankings. It is important to carefully choose a site very relevant to your content, and write a very targeted article to that specific kind of audience. This gets the attention and interest of the right audience, and that way you can get visitors who are very attracted to the content of your site, which leads to higher engagement.
Build relationships with influences
This is one of the most neglected traffic-getting strategies that work. What you do is find influencers in your industry, get in touch with them, connect and build relationships. This can be other bloggers, can be journalists, forum moderators or simply Twitter or Facebook power users. Being close with influencers gets you the ability to get your content spread to a larger audience. It does take time but it is a very strong strategy.
Slides of my presentation are here:
There you have it, not just 1 but 10 ways you can use to drive visitors to your site. I hope that these tips can help your site gain a momentum in social media and search engines. If you put in the time and effort and do it over a longer period of time it is definitely possible for you to achieve similar or even better visitor numbers. Good luck on the way to your first million visitors!