As a beginner blogger you know how it feels when you publish a great post but no one visits let alone shares it. Attracting large visitor numbers is what every blogger wants. A blogger friend of mine told me that his wish is to have 500 unique readers per day within the next six months. This is a very ambitious goal that is not easy to reach as most sites will never attract this large audience.
In a world of millions of websites, starting a new blog is not news but growing it to getting hundreds or thousands of visitors is. Even though it may be difficult, it is definitely possible to do and is a great challenge. This post features my marketing lessons learned from attracting 1,000,000 visitors in less than four years after starting my blog. These are key traffic driving principles that will help you get visitors to your blog too.
Get a domain name and optimize for search engines
Search engines can be a valuable driver of traffic in the long run and you should optimize your blog for them (this is called doing SEO). You should get a domain name that will help you rank. In my experience a unique and descriptive domain name has proven to work better than one of those free domain names that many choose to use. Here’s a guide on picking your name. Another thing you can do for your long term search engine results is to use WordPress as according to Google it helps optimize your blog for SEO out of the box.
Create thrilling content
Regularly produce valuable content that your target audience wants. Every other step you will take 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. In some of my best visited posts I have used popular names and events to attract attention. I profiled and wrote articles about lessons learned from several big bloggers and writers. 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 fans to visit your content and share it with their friends. That’s how you earn attention.
Creating great content is the most effective thing you can do to generate online buzz. Focus on quality and not on quantity. One quality post will mean so much more to your traffic numbers than several unoriginal posts. Without awesome content the rest of the steps in this article won’t be able to help you much. Check out my guide on creating quality content.
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. See 25 rules and formulas for writing irresistible headlines.
Make your posts social media friendly
Social media plays a big role in the virality of your content. Aim to publish social media shareable assets within your posts. These are pieces of content such as interesting quotes, curious stats, cool facts, nice graphs, funny videos, statements that get reactions and stunning imagery and infographics. These are the types of content that work very well in social media, they get people to talk about them and make people share them.
Have optimized design with social sharing buttons
Allow your existing visitors to help you out and spread the word for you by sharing your social media drops. This is the best way to reach more people. Include Twitter share button, Facebook “Like” button and any other “share” button that is relevant to your audience on each of your posts. This is easiest done with one of many free WordPress plugins. Mashshare is a great option as it displays the total share count for each post and by showing this social proof gets people to share as well. Social Sharing By Danny is a simple but great alternative.
Don’t just put 20 random share buttons on the bottom of each of your posts though. That will decrease the impact the buttons have as your visitors will be overwhelmed with choice and it increase the loading time of your blog. Be selective, think which of these network your target audience spends time on and only select those buttons.
My complete guide on picking the right blog design.
Retain your first time visitors by turning them into followers
Have prominent subscription options as you want to retain a good percentage of your first time visitors in order to get them to return regularly. This is easiest if they bookmark your site or subscribe to it in whatever way they prefer: via email, via RSS feed reader or through your Facebook page or your Twitter stream. Consider giving them an incentive to subscribe on top of the quality content – free ebook for example. This can help get more subscribers.
Actively share your blog posts
Writing quality articles is not enough as visitors do not come automatically. You need to promote your content. 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.
Go where your audience is and actively spread the word about your work. Explore Twitter, Facebook, relevant forums, Pinterest, Tumblr, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Q&A sites like Quora and any other platform that you find relevant. Don’t spam but do push your site when you can, while also sharing interesting content, helping people out, solving their issues and being a part of a wider community discussion. See how I do it with my post publishing marketing routine.
Join Twitter and use Twitter search
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. A tactic I have used very successfully in the early days of my site was to search Twitter for relevant keywords and phrases. I used to search for phrases like “start a site” or “install WordPress” and then interact with all the real people that used those phrases. I used to spend hours on this daily as it is a great way of getting visitors and spreading the word about yourself. You can do the same. More details on how to get traffic through Twitter is here.
Reach out to big blogs for guest posting and syndication
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. I had great success with this early on. My first visitor other than myself was someone clicking over from a comment I had left at another site. Make sure the post you comment on is relevant to what you do, make sure the post has and will have a lot of visitors and try to be one of the early or top commentators. Check out my complete guide to writing effective comments.
Another option is to write guest posts on popular sites. Many bloggers accept guest posts as it is a nice way to automate your blogging. 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. This is guest posting process that I follow myself.
Syndicating your content is another great option. Sites like LinkedIn, Forbes, Medium and many more host articles from a variety of writers. Similar to guest posting but more relaxed and you could even reshare some of your older articles. A great way of boosting your reach with not much effort. Always make sure to link back to your original post in order for Google and other search engines recognize that this is just a copy.
In general try and build connections with other bloggers and influencers. 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 and both commenting and guest posting are a part of the relationship building process. If you need advice on how to reach out to someone influential take a look at things you need in your outreach pitch.
“How I went from 0 to 700,000+ blog visitors” presentation
Slides of my presentation are here:
There you have it, all the easy and practical rules that you can follow to get visitors to your blog. 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. Always keep in mind that writing quality articles is just a part of your blogging job, while promoting your work is just as important aspect of having a successful site. A good rule of thumb is to spend half of your time producing content and the other half of your time promoting your articles. Good luck!