By this time I am mildly qualified to intelligently explain how to increase blog traffic. My online writing goes back to the AOL days in the 90s and grew over the years. The Wealthy Accountant is my most popular blog, but I have two fantasy fiction blogs pulling around 4 million page views a year, an astounding number for online fiction. The Wealthy Accountant numbers are lower, but the traffic is higher quality; in other words, Google, advertisers, and readers like it more. This blog now boasts 40,000 page views per month with a strong growing trend line. There are a few tricks I learned over the years to accelerate blog traffic. I am no expert on the subject and there are many with greater skills at increasing blog traffic. My experiences, however, should provide a solid framework to take a blog from zero to a million page views in a year.
The first year is always the hardest. Unless you have a name people know growing traffic is done the old fashioned way. It takes work and time. My three steps to building a blog are:
- First, create content
- Then, build traffic
- Then monetize
Jumping the gun on any step can harm traffic. You need content before building traffic; you need traffic before monetizing. Growing quality content is the hardest part for many people. Writing is supposed to be easy. You just sit in a chair and type. And bleed.
I am going to assume your blog already has plenty of quality content. If not, you can bookmark this article for when you are ready. Without content your promotional efforts are wasted. If you have a quantity of great content I will show you a few tricks I have learned over the last few decades to grow your blog to a level where the income is large enough to either live on or seriously supplement the family budget.
Search Engine Optimization is all the rage. Bloggers are bombarded by programs promising magical results using their proprietary SEO skills. Bullshit! I use very little SEO. I write what I want to write and make it meaty. My goal is to add value with each publication. SEO takes time and the time I spend on SEO I can write more stuff people should find valuable instead. And that is what search engines lust for.
The title of this post is a perfect example of how SEO causes bloggers to do really stupid things. The title hits all kinds of hot buttons and Google sees it from the other side of the room. I doubt I’ll get any search traffic to this post because of it. If it does work, I’ll let you know in an update. You can stop holding your breath now.
Bloggers seem to spend a lot of time worrying about this SEO stuff. Keyword stuffing and other insane tactics destroy all value in the writing. Think of it this way. If I tucked the same word again and again in the first paragraph to game the system Google’s algorithms would sniff it out and punish the site. And the writing would be crap anyway.
The best SEO is natural writing that gives the readers value. Nuff said about SEO
Steady Traffic Growth
Spikes in traffic settle down to old patterns after a few days. Building traffic is a slow slog. Constant exposure from other bloggers and media are the fastest way to build a profitable blog. Consistency is the one factor you control and the only factor able to increase your traffic over long periods of time. A quick shot in the arm from a mention by a major news outlet or blogger is like crack cocaine; there is a quick high that just as quickly returns to old traffic patterns. It seems depressing at first
Efforts to spike traffic require more and more input to keep traffic growing. Keyword stuffing and offering wild promises like questionable pictures of a celebrity drive the wrong traffic. It is returning traffic which determines the health of a blog. Readers return when they have a reason to. You have to provide a stream of material they want. If I mixed my fantasy fiction blogs with The Wealthy Accountant, traffic would suffer. No reader to date from The Wealthy Accountant has ever asked to see the fiction blogs. (You in the third row; put your hand down.) The reason is simple. Most readers of this blog could care less about my flash fiction stories and vice versa.
So, how do you build growing long-term traffic trends? Remember when I said a media or popular blog mention temporarily spikes traffic and then declines to old levels. That is only partially true. There is a small amount of stickiness. Some readers will like what you have to say and will return to see what you wrote about today. Some readers will return weekly, some monthly, some very sporadically. The key point is that they return. Returning readers are the life blood of any blog. They provide the baseline of traffic from which a blog (or any website for that matter) draw life.
Ways to Build Traffic
Now that we have a foundation it is time to share some of the ways I use to grow The Wealthy Accountant. Some are intentional, other happen as a normal part of life. Things like social media are minor contributors. Facebook and Twitter drive a very modest amount of traffic to this blog, fewer than 50 sessions per day. Surprising to many, things I do off the internet brings the most loyal readers. Here are three things I do consistently that create growing traffic to this blog.
Help a Reporter Out (HARO): If there is one thing you can do to get media mentions, this is the way. Using HARO I can get a steady stream of media mentions in blogs and media outlets on a regular basis.
Signing up for HARO is easy. I provided the link above. What HARO does is connect reporters with experts in the field they are writing on. For The Wealthy Accountant I review the reporter requests in the finance area for opportunities to provide information to the reporter. HARO sends an email update several times a day with scores of reporter requests. You can respond to as many requests as you want.
When time permits I answer questions in my field of expertise. Reporters usually mention their sources in the article and a link for online versions. No one mention drives massive traffic, but they all play a role in bringing in new readers. A small effort helping reporters in their research is a great way to build your blogs traffic.
Speaking Engagements: I enjoy speaking to a crowd. The most loyal readers here have seen me speak live. To date I have never done a podcast and haven’t been asked either. I do get more requests for public speaking than I can currently accept. For the record, I speak publicly 5-10 times per year. Most of these gigs are for local or regional markets. Once or twice a year I find myself on a plane (I feel a hairball coming) traveling to a speaking engagement.
People attending a presentation sometimes make a connection. They see me in person and usually have an opportunity to speak personally with me afterwards. The rapport built from a personal meeting goes a long way in creating loyal readers. You may have noticed some comments on this blog come from readers acknowledging some of the things I write about as they were part of the story. This works for any business really. People do business with people they like. If they like me they will read the blog and keep returning.
Public speaking is difficult for many people. It’s not that hard. The audience will tell you who to talk to. I talk to the entire audience, but generally focus on a small number of attendees. Anyone interacting in my presentation has a strong chance of becoming part of the presentation. When I get in front of an audience I am very willing to go off-script. The public speaking thingie becomes a personal conversation with friends quickly. That is why I focus on a few members of the audience. As a result I don’t feel the angst some people feel when they are asked to speak publically. All I can say is do it. The more you do it, the easier it gets. Getting up in front of a group of people is the fastest way for people to think you are an authority on the subject.
Comment on Other like Blogs: Once again it comes down to interactions. People want a personal relationship with their bloggers. Expanding your reach to readers of other blogs makes sense. You are not stealing their readers. Their readers want more similar material to read. They are hungry for it.
I have been fortune enough to get mentioned by Mr. Money Mustache. Once the initial spike in traffic returned to normal, my numbers were only slightly higher than before. What keeps coming in is the steady stream of readers from the prior MMM post. You would think all the traffic from MMM would be related to the mention in the post. It’s not! I also comment on the MMM blog when the muse strikes. WordPress has this thing called Jetpack where I can see the source of my traffic. (Google Analytics does the same.) Half the traffic or more from MMM is the result of comments I made on the MMM site!
Comments should be relevant. Most blogs highlight your user name as a link to your blog. It works. No spamming required and if you do you are certain to be banned. Add something relevant. Comment frequently if you desire, but not the point of annoyance. If your comments are part of a discussion, great. If not, keep each comment self contained, adding value to the blog you are commenting on. It is more art than science. The more you do it, the better you will get.
There you have it. Three ways to grow your blog/website traffic. It works. You can try a million other things and they might work as long as you have unlimited time to get the job done. The Wealthy Accountant went from zero to over 40,000 page views per month in 10 months. Those numbers are sure to grow in 2017 even if I fall over dead! All that material is growing in authority in the eyes of the search engines. Quitting today would still generate a small income stream for years, if not decades. (Stop shaking. I am not quitting.)
Another thing I notice is how search engines respond to increased traffic. There is a direct correlation between traffic from other sources and how much traffic arrived from search engines like Google. If my traffic spikes for a day due to a media mention, so does my search traffic. The search traffic appears to be stickier. Of the 1,500 page views each day about 200 come from search. This is up from the low 100s before the last traffic spike. Google likes good material that has been around for a while. That is why I know 2017 will be better than 2016 even if I undertake no promotion. People are still coming and sharing. New readers arrive daily. Google Analytics shows how many readers are new and how many are returning. From this data I can map how many readers I will have in the future based on the number of new readers.
Blogs are tough work the first year or so with few monetary rewards. My fiction blogs reached their 4 million pageview plateau in about two years. The Wealthy Accountant will grow a lot longer due to the content and type of material, but will take longer to reach such lofty traffic levels, if they get there at all. For the record, a half million page views per month is enough to earn a reasonable living.
Or you can resort to trickery and other black hat strategies. You might get short-term, ego inflating gains. Then it will all come crashing down. If you want to build something that works and you can be proud of, build value. Some posts will be better than other, of course. You might even lay an egg or two. It happens. But the more you write, the better you get at writing. I am no Steven King, for sure. But I can push a noun up against a verb with great skill. I even communicate a message now and again. A message my readers can use to make their lives better. And that is why they showed up in the first place.