Okay I am not really one to talk about blog traffic, seeing as how I don’t have a high-profile blog. But, I’ve been in this world for about 6 years now, and I’ve picked up a few things along the way. I have seen my blog traffic grow, and I have intentionally kept it a somewhat smaller community. (Though, part of me would like to get back to blogging and keeping the community on my blog versus on Twitter or Facebook. But that’s another post for another day.)
A few people have asked me recently how you go about raising traffic to your blog. Joanna at keeping feet summed it up well: 1) Post often; 2) Find a community; 3) Engage with readers (in comments, twitter, FB). I totally agree with her. Blogging can be fun, theraputic, and a great way to make friends. Many people have also found it a good source of income. In order to get the latter, you need to have a good number of visitors and readers. Just like anything worth having, it takes work, time, and patience to get to that point. Here are some ways you can make it happen:
Write often and write well
No one likes to read books that are poorly written; the same can be applied to blogs. Take care to be grammatically correct and check for spelling errors. I almost always reread my blog posts before I publish them – and usually once more after they’re published. Find a writing style that’s comfortable to you, and try to polish it. Post regularly – I’d say 3-4 times a week, at least – because people like fresh, current content. If you’re going out of town, write a few posts for auto-posting. Once you have an established readership, you can take breaks without it affecting your traffic too much.
Find your niche
Most people can sum up their blog in one sentence or phrase. “A blog about saving money”… or, “A humorous look at life with 3 kids”… or, “Our struggles and triumphs as we deal with X“. I’m not saying to limit your content, but rather keep it focused. Though I think it’s harder, some people are successful with the “daily life” focus. Keep asking yourself, “If I was a reader, what would keep me coming back for more?”
Dialogue as much as you can
Blogs aren’t like writing an article for a magazine – they’re fluid and two-sided. Encourage people to comment. Ask questions like “How about you? Do you have a similar experience?” Take time to respond to the people who comment on your posts, especially if they ask a question. Visit their blogs and leave comments. Utilize Twitter and Facebook. I don’t have any personal experience with those two mediums in relation to my blog, but I know that it can be a great tool for engaging your readers (to borrow Joanna’s term).
Have a nice design
I probably place more importance on this than other people. :-) But I do think it’s crucial for a successful blog to be visually pleasing. Simple is better – keep it uncluttered and fresh-looking. Try to stay away from been-there-done-that templates. Make sure that when the reader first opens your blog in their browser, they see all the important information: the blog title, a brief description or summary, and the beginning of your most recent post. You might also include an easy-to-find link to an “About” page. Keep your posts visually pleasing too: put spaces between paragraphs, have a good mixture of long and short posts, and use pictures to break up long portions of text.
Follow the big blogs
Pay attention to the high-traffic blogs out there. What makes them popular? How can you incorporate those same tactics in your blog? Use what they do right as an inspiration. Comment on their posts – you have a chance to not only share your blog link but also to introduce yourself to a high number of readers. Keep your comments intelligent and respectful. I know I find a lot of new blogs through comments on other peoples’ blogs. Check out the blogrolls on other blogs to find new people in the blogging community.
In a quest to find the perfect “formula” that will drive readers to your blog, don’t forget to be yourself. Be genuine, approachable. Also, don’t be afraid to be honest when you slip up. We’re all human, and we can empathize with people who struggle.
Controversy tends to bring in the numbers
Let’s face it, it’s true. We all love a good debate. I mostly stay away from controversial subjects on my blog, but usually get the highest number of comments when I do approach them. As you debate (whether on your blog or on others’), be respectful and courteous. However, be careful not to let online debates suck you in! It’s okay to go to bed before you’ve had the last word. :-) Also, you need to develop thick skin. Controversy also brings out those anonymous commenters who like to attack your person, and you need to be like a duck and let it roll of your back.
Don’t be shy about linking!
In addition to original content, don’t be afraid to link, link, link! Did a fellow blogger write a post that really spoke to you? Highlight it on your blog! Bloggers love that sort of thing, and they might even reciprocate! Link to blogs, articles, humor, etc. that you think your readers might like, and dialogue about them. If you’re posting a recipe you found online, link to the original source. Did another blogger point you to an article or post you want to expand on? Make sure to thank them for sending it to you! (Like I did with Joanna at the top of this post.)
Participate in carnivals
Carnivals are a great way to participate in the blogging community! A carnival is when a blogger writes on a topic and invites everyone else to as well. The host blogger provides a list of links to those who have participated. One of the most popular ones is Works-For-Me-Wednesday. I’ve also seen things like Tackle It Tuesday, Wordless Wednesday, 7 Quick Takes Friday, among many others (that may or may not be regular weekly installments).
Guest posting is a great way to spread the word. I’ve never done one, but I assume it’s as easy as approaching the author of a blog and offering to write a guest post. Include a little bio with a link to your blog. You could also have people guest post on your blog, which would bring their readers to your blog. (This can be useful when you’re on vacation or otherwise unable to blog for a period of time!)
If you’re new to blogging, then definitely check out a great resource site called Blogging Basics 101. It’s a comprehensive guide to all things blog-related. They explain basic stuff, like “what is a URL”, to more complicated things that even I’ve never heard of. :-) They even have a whole category devoted to bringing traffic to your blog!
To keep track of who is visiting your blog and how they’re getting there (to know what methods are working), check out the free service called sitemeter. There might be others out there – I just have personal experience with this one.
Don’t steal images that you find on the internet. If you use one, make sure you give credit to the original source. Better yet, you can get free stock photography to use in your blog posts at stock.xchng (no credit needed). You can also use some pictures you find on Flickr – just check the Creative Commons license for the picture you want to use. For a free alternative to Photoshop, try out GIMP.
Let me know if I’m missing anything important!