When you first start out blogging it feels extremely exciting and liberating.
You start piecing everything together one brick at a time and believe with every fiber of your being that you’re going to be a rock star.
You picked the perfect domain name and love your hosting service.
You finished designing your website just the way you like it.
You made sure google can find you on the internet.
Then you start writing great content!
Your first post goes live, then your second and your third, but as time goes on you start to notice something, no-one is visiting your site.
You look at your analytics just to be sure your not going crazy and yep it’s true, not a single eyeball is checking out your content.
You start to wonder how can this be?
I’m written great content, my site looks great, google knows I exist and I’ve even done some blog commenting on my favorite sites, but still no visitors.
So you start going through your checklist.
Make sure my website is easy to navigate and looks great ✓
Make sure I’m indexed in google ✓
Make sure my content is excellent ✓
Make sure I have targeted keywords in my excellent content ✓
Comment on several blogs ✓
It seems that no matter what you do you’re destined not to be successful at this blogging thing.
Then reality sets in
And you start to question yourself….
Maybe my content isn’t good enough, maybe I really don’t know enough to be successful, maybe the search engines don’t care about what I write, maybe, maybe, maybe.
You exhaust yourself with all the reasons why your site isn’t getting the traffic it deserves and it makes you feel overwhelmed and unhappy.
You start over-complicating the little things, lose focus on your main goals and forget the reason you started blogging in the first place.
You stop working on the basics (such as writing great content on a consistent basis) and feel like giving up.
You look at dozens of other how to blogs to try to find something that works and dabble around with every strategy you find from SEO to article marketing to blog commenting, but you never stay consistent long enough to see results and get even more frustrated.
The one thing that keeps you going is knowing that while it seems like others are just destined to be rock stars from the beginning you know deep down that with enough time and effort, and the right strategy it’s possible for you to succeed as well and you want to badly, you just don’t know how to get there and its driving you crazy.
Keep it simple smarty
First of all blogging isn’t rocket science.
Trust me I’ve been through all of these techniques and I know how frustrating it can be when you feel like you’re doing everything you possibly can and still not getting the success you hoped for.
There’s a good chance that many of the things you’ve tried may actually be very good at making you successful….. In the long run.
In the beginning the search engines aren’t likely to favor you from day one, people who have never heard of you aren’t likely to gather at the gates waiting for you to let them in, and your site most likely won’t be advertised all over the internet like some 1990’s Michael Jordan billboard campaign.
Building relationships, understanding basic SEO, having a good marketing strategy, and being consistent are the keys to success.
A simple traffic building strategy for new bloggers
When you first start out it can be very easy to assume that all you have to do is write a few blog posts and visitors will come running in droves to hear what you have to say, but that isn’t they way the internet works, or blogging for that matter.
The first things you’ll want to focus on once you’ve built your website is building relationships, marketing your content and gaining authority.
It’s true that SEO is very important and worth taking the time to learn, but you shouldn’t expect search engines to put you at the top of their list if they’ve never heard of you and you barely have any content.
In time the search engines will pick up your content and slowly start to rank you for your keywords (It can take several months or more depending on how much content you have and how well your content it is optimized), but in the mean time focus on building your relationships, marketing your content as much as possible and building authority.
The more people find value in what you have the say, and the more people hear about it the faster you will reach success.
Now I know what you’re going to say: Well that sounds all fine and dandy Patrick, but how in the heck am I supposed to find people if no-one is coming to my website?
One of the best ways to get noticed and start getting traffic is by spending more time on other websites producing content (such as guest posting) and participating in active discussions.
Some very successful bloggers will even tell you that in the beginning you should have an 80/20 rule for blogging and I agree.
Spend 80 percent of your time marketing and building relationships on other sites, and spend 20 percent of your time working on your site.
As traffic begins to build and you begin to attract more visitors you can adjust the rule to spend more time on your site, if necessary.
I know you’ve heard this one before but, it all begins with great content!
This is one of the most basic rules for becoming a successful blogger.
Take your time and write extremely useful, detailed (possibly entertaining) and easy to read content.
Quality over quantity is the goal.
It doesn’t hurt to tell stories or use personality either, in-fact its extremely important to show personality in your content if you want to keep your readers interested and sharing your content.
You want your content to be as good as possible before you hit that publish button.
The better it is the more likely it will be to be a rock star post and get you noticed.
If you know you can only write one high quality post per week for your website, but everyone who reads it loves it then you’ve hit a home run.
Sure you can write a dozen quick posts, but it’s not going to be nearly as valuable to your readers if you just slap some words together and hit the publish button.
I would recommend writing at least one post per week because consistency is extremely important in keeping your readers coming back.
If you can write more than by all means please do so, but don’t sacrifice quality for quantity.
There are plenty of successful bloggers who only post content two or three times a week, but they are high quality, consistent and their audience can count on knowing they will get those gems (posts) on a weekly basis.
A few questions to ask yourself before you the publish button.
- Is the content I am writing relevant and extremely useful to my audience? Your readers are reading your content because it is relevent to them and giving them exactly they want. If it isn’t relevent and helpful you could be wasting your time as well as your readers so keep your posts high quality.
- Is my content giving my readers new information or a new perspective on something they’ve already heard? It isn’t enough to write great content, you need to present it to your readers in a way that benefits them. If they’ve heard it a thousand times before then it doesn’t matter if your content is the greatest thing since the internet, to them it has no value!
- Would I share this content with my friends if I found it on the internet? Asking yourself this question can be a good marker for whether or not your content is great or just good?
- Is my content easy to read and follow? You may love your blog post, but if readers can’t understand your lingo than it won’t do them (or you) much good.
In addition to my previous statement on producing new and excellent content there are times when you will want to repeat a topic on a post you already wrote.
If you frequently write content then it is important to go over previous content again both for your existing readers and your new readers.
The fundamentals (basics) never get old so make sure you remind your readers every now and then, just try to add a new perspective on it and keep it fresh.
After you’ve written your masterpiece
Next, after you’ve written and published your post you’ll want people to know it exists and this is where building relationships and having a solid marketing strategy comes in.
This is very important.
There are many methods you can use to get traffic to your website from blog commenting to participating in forums and discussions.
You don’t need to try all of them, one or two will work in the beginning.
Just focus on being consistent.
One of the best methods I’ve found for new bloggers to get noticed (and I highly recommend) is to write guest posts for established blogs.
I’ve found guest posting to be much more effective for gaining traffic in the beginning than dabbling around in the forums or trying to read and comment on every popular blog that pops up in the hopes that someone will click on your name and fall in love with your blog.
Don’t get me wrong I love reading and commenting on blogs that I have found value in and that have helped me reach my goals, and forums are a great way to build relationships and gain loyal followers, but you have to focus on growing your blog and spreading your content as well, so don’t go overboard and get distracted by every shiny thing that pops up.
Pick a handful of sites that you enjoy reading and dedicate a certain time to reading them so that you can go back to working on building and marketing your content.
Tip: If you’re like me and you have a lot of great blogs you love to read consider using a rss reader.
It’s great for aggregating all of those posts on various websites into one easy to read page that you can skim through and find the posts that interest you without having to visit each website.
It can save you hours of time and hassle.
Now back to the main topic.
Guest posts are a great way to get your content in front of thousands of eyes and gain notoriety that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach.
Many blogs allow you to put your websites link in the byline section of your post which allows anyone who likes your post to go directly to your website.
Some websites will even let you put a link or two directly in the main content area of your guest post which gives you more opportunities to gain visitors, but they will usually only let you link to highly relevant content on your site, so don’t waste your time linking to non valuable or irrelevant content.
Not only is guest posting a great way to promote your site, but it can also give you some credibility and authority by having your content on a highly respected and trusted website.
Readers will take the time to listen to you because your content is considered worthy enough to be posted on their favorite established website.
One excellent guest post could get you a flood of traffic and even get you noticed by the blog owner or other popular bloggers, which in turn can get you more guest posting opportunities and even help you build some valuable relationships.
It’s very important to choose blogs that have topics similar to yours.
It’s also vital that you bring a fresh perspective to the table.
If you want to get noticed on an established site and gain visitors then their readers will need to be impressed and inspired to see what you have to offer, especially if the site already has a lot of guest posters.
You don’t want to write about the same thing the last guest blogger did otherwise you’ll just end up creating another post that nobody cares to read because they just read it, or your post might not get accepted at all.
Again focus on great content and getting that content in front of the people who want to learn from you and hear what you have to say.
If your posts topic has already been written about many times over on a site you’d like to guest post on then find another site that is similar but hasn’t talked much about the topic.
Not only will it be more likely to get accepted, but it will offer more value to their readers and increase your chances of success.
And being rejected isn’t the end all be all. It’s possible to write something that one website doesn’t care much about but another one thinks is the best thing since sliced bread.
Have a list of sites that would likely be interested in what you have to say and be ready to submit to one of them if the site you tried to guest post for turns you down.
If you’ve truly taken the time to write a great post than it’s likely that someone will find great value in it.
And one more thing. I know it hurts to give some of your best content to another site, but if you have zero readers and you post it on your site then you end up with a great post and zero readers.
Building relationships and the importance of interaction.
Interaction is a key element in blogging.
The more you can talk to others, build friendships and help those that look to you for advice the more likely you are to stand out and gain loyal (grateful) followers.
Loyal followers = Recommendations to their circle of friends which = Additional traffic and authority which = More notoriety, and the cycle goes on and on untill one day you’re a rock star!
Focus on providing solutions, if the purpose of your blog is to teach others how to do something then create content that solves a need they have, or if you’re an entertainer focus on being as entertaining as possible.
There will always be someone who knows more than you and is more successful than you, but their will also be those who know less and will look to you for advice.
If you’re friendly and willing to go out of your way and help them you’ll gain a loyal following that will do their best to help you succeed.
You don’t have to be a know it all to be successful.
The best part of having a loyal fan base is the word of mouth that you get.
Seth Godin wrote an excellent book called Tribes in which he talks about building a tribe that will spread your ideas like wild-fire.
How great would it be a have a group of one thousand raving fans who share your content with everyone they know?
In essence your loyal readers become your marketers working to help you grow your blog and your influence by spreading the word and telling all of their friends.
If you thought you were the only one who could market your blog think again, and while you’re at it think about growing your own tribe.
Building your influence can come from writing guest posts, participating in forums and answering comments on other websites among other things.
Forums, social networking sites and blog commenting (Building your tribe).
Building your tribe (a group of loyal followers/raving fans) begins with communication.
As Seth Godin, says it’s great to be the leader. (Not an exact quote.)
What that means is that you can either lead your tribe or be a member (follower) of a tribe.
The difference is that the leader reaps most of the rewards, is looked up to as an expert, is seeked out by other popular bloggers, and gets most of the fame.
It’s also perfectly fine (and beneficial) to be a follower to those who can teach you and help you grow, but you need to focus on building and leading your own tribe.
Inspiring others, showing them how to get where they want to be and getting them to take action are all very important aspects of leadership.
Being part of a forum or social networking site is a great way to start building a reputation.
Leaders lead by their actions and inspire (not force or trick) others to join them.
Your popularity and authority will also affect how quickly your followers will join you.
The more respect and recognition you gain the faster your blog will grow.
Now you may be wondering why you’d want to start a tribe in the first place.
There are several benefits that will be well worth taking the time out to build your tribe.
- Having one thousand raving fans (tribe members) who will spread your content to everyone they know is like having one thousand copies of yourself marketing at the same time. Your outreach will expand much more quickly than if you try to do it alone.
- If you produce truly remarkable content and products then your one thousand raving fans will be the first ones in line to purchase your products and will tell all their friends about it as well.
- You’ll gain exposure well beyond your own tribe. Not only will your tribe members friends hear about you, if their like you then they’ll tell all of their friends as well.
(Optional and Advanced) Using Multimedia to gain visitors.
Please note that this is optional and not necessary for your success, it’s just another method you can use to gain visitors.
Once you’ve gotten the basics down and started gaining regular traffic to your website you may want to create some videos or even a podcast.
Multimedia is a great way to gain visitors from other websites such as YouTube, or from services like iTunes who prefer to learn and be entertained through methods other than reading.
It allows you to reach out to a whole new audience which can be a great way to gain visitors as well as add more value to your existing audience.
As a blogger you typically have three types of people on the web.
Those that enjoy reading (blogs, News, Sports, Technology etc.), those who like to watch videos (YouTube, Daily Motion etc.), and those that like to listen (audio and podcasts).
Of course there are other types of people as well, but for the sake of focusing on traffic generation well just stick with these three types of people.
Each of these three types of people enjoys taking in information in their own way and by accommodating them you gain an upper hand in building your traffic and keeping your visitor’s attention.
If you’d like more information on using multimedia to gain traffic than check out this post: How Multimedia Can Help You Grow Your Audience.
A few tips on maximizing your reader loyalty and gaining more return visitors
First of all as a blogger and entrepreneur if you aren’t selling something already you will be eventually, and many of your buyers will be people who visit your site on a regular basis and have gained lots of insight and value from your content.
Unless you are already well-known and established most people will be hesitant about buying your products so it’s important to make sure they are coming back and visiting you on a regular basis.
A high number of return visitors is also a good sign that your content is great and likely to be shared with their friends.
A good referral from one of your loyal readers will greatly enhance the likelihood that their friends will read your content and buy your products if you plan on selling something.
If you diligently followed the first few steps of writing great content, marketing your butt off and building relationships, and your starting to get traffic then congrats it’s time to take the next step.
The sooner you implement these techniques the better your chances are of increasing your traffic and maintaining a higher reader retention from the beginning.
Your goal is to convert your visitors and readers into loyal followers.
Now let’s get started.
Set up a rss feed
Setting up a rss feed is a great way to inform your readers when new posts are out.
People who enjoy your content will be notified via rss every time you post a new article and having a rss feed means that your content will be in front of more people without them having to go to your website every day unsure of whether or not you posted something new which could get very annoying.
Having a rss feed is great for several reasons.
1) Having a rss feed means that your visitors will automatically get notified when you post new content.
2) Since your rss feed subscribers are automatically notified you won’t have to worry about them losing interest and forgetting about you.
3) Some people prefer to read rss feeds as opposed to constantly having to go to each website and see if something new is posted and you’ll want to keep them happy.
4) If you do decide take a break from blogging than your readers will most likely stop visiting your website.
When you do decide to get back into the game you’ll be relieved to know that your loyal rss subscribers will be notified that your back and that you posted something new.
5) Your rss feed can give you subscriber statistics and other information you can use to add value to your content, as well as help you move in the right direction towards your goals.
Set up an email opt in form/newsletter
Not only does an email opt in form have many of the same benefits a rss feed has it also allows you to be more personal and take a break from all that darn writing.
What make auto-responders so great is that it allows you to prepare a series of emails that will go out to your subscribers in a given sequence so your readers will stay engaged in your content, and the best part is you don’t have to do a single thing after you’ve created your content.
You can create a 5 part (or however many you like) email series that gives them additional content outside of your blog, send emails to your subscribers anytime you have something of value you’d like to share, and have your readers emailed every time a new post comes out.
A big part of retention is in keeping your readers engaged and an email opt in form is a great way to do that.
Even if you don’t email frequently having people subscribe allows you to share something important with them when you need to, and you’ll be able to keep those subscribers even if you no longer have or use your blog.
Tip: If you do decide to set up an email opt in/newsletter than you might want to take a look at Aweber.
It’s the email client I personally use and recommend.
It’s simple to use, has tons of getting started resources and has great customer services.
Even if you have a rss feed or opt in form not everyone will sign up for your rss feed or newsletter so….
Set up at-least one account with a social network
People like to interact and be interacted with in different ways so people who friend you on Facebook may not sign up for your email opt in or rss feed.
And you’ll probably notice that you’ll have different groups of people signing up for your content in different ways so it helps to have a way to communicate with each of them.
Websites such as Twitter and Facebook are great for keeping people updated on whats going on with you and your blog.
The social aspect of these services also allows you to connect easily and instantly with your followers.
I would recommend spending a few minutes a day interacting on your social networks but don’t over do it, being productive and effective is much more important than wasting hours chatting when you should be creating content and marketing it.
Even if you don’t plan on using one of these social networks as a primary marketing tool its nice to know that you have another method for getting your word out.
I think it’s great to have and can definitely aid in growing your website, even if you only plan on using it once or twice a week it can still be a beneficial asset.
Tip: Don’t exhaust yourself by setting up 10 different social networks, choose one or two that you will focus on and spend your time mastering those.
You don’t want to over exert yourself or you may end up wasting more time than being productive.
Add social sharing buttons to your website
Make it easy for your readers to share your content with their friends.
Not only will it help you gain new readers, it will also allow your readers to remind one another that you have new content.
Social sharing buttons are a great way to get the word out without having to put any extra effort into it.
Breaking the process down even further
Ok, I’m going to attempt to simplify this and make this as simple as possible.
Here’s an easy to read step by step summary of everything so far.
- Focus on creating great content that gives a fresh and unique perspective to your readers. The more helpful and entertaining your content is the better.
- Quality not quantity is the key. Sure you can write one post a day, but if they aren’t high quality and providing useful information to your readers they will go else where. If you can only write one high quality article per week but its rock star content than that’s what you should do.
- Market, Market, Market. You should be spending more time marketing in the beginning than you spend on your website. 100 blog posts and zero marketing equals zero visitors (unless you have an excellent SEO strategy). And even if you have a great SEO strategy get your content out there. Write guest posts, participate in forums and discussions and comment on other blogs when appropriate. Build relationships and authority.
- Once more with feeling! Guest posting is one of the best ways to gain lots of visitors and increase your authority when you’re first starting out so don’t take it lightly. That’s how I gained my first readers/subscribers and you can too!
- Remember it takes time to get readers when you first start out so don’t get upset when they don’t come to your website in the beginning because that’s not how the internet works. You have to put in the work in the beginning and later the internet (and your fans) can work for you.
- Build relationships with people. You’ll want to build your tribe as quickly as possible because once you have your tribe of 1000 people you’ll have 1000 people helping you market your content, build your brand and perfect your writing, and that’s much better than doing it alone.
- Learn some basic SEO. You don’t need to master it but learning some basic SEO it will help you greatly in the long run. Chances are you won’t see results in the beginning and it may even take months before you start seeing some traffic from the search engines, but the earlier you learn to implement it the better your blog will do in the future when people are searching for content related to your blog.
- Set up a rss feed, email opt in/newsletter and social sharing buttons for your website. Once you start getting traffic you’ll want to maintain your reader’s interest and give them an opportunity to share your content with their friends.
- Set up at-least one account with a social network. Being able to share your information, build a tribe and interact with your audience can really help you improve your reader retention rates and maximize the likelihood of having return visitors who will become fans and loyal readers, and share your content with their friends. It allows you to be more human and gives you a direct platform for building and interacting with your tribe.
- Be consistent. One of the biggest roadblocks most bloggers face is a lack of consistency. In-fact this is probably the number one reason most bloggers don’t succeed, so stick to the basics and kiss (keep it simple smarty).
- Don’t forget to read the last part on analytics and implement it!
- And like I said before, remember it takes time so don’t get discouraged.
Last but not least, Why analytics is so important.
Analytics isn’t just important its vital. If you don’t have it than you need to get it ASAP!
After all how will you know if you are getting closer to your goals if you don’t have a clue whether or not what you’re doing is working?
Knowing where your visitors are coming from, what they spend the most time reading and where they are leaving will give you a lot of insight into what’s working and what’s not.
If a post you wrote is lacking you’ll know instantly that no body is reading your post or they only read it for about 10 seconds then leave.
You’ll know exactly where your visitors are coming from and how much time they are spending on your site and each of your pages, as well as which topics are popular and which aren’t.
This can tell you whether or not you need to tweak a headline, write more on a specific topic or eliminate it all together.
Analytics can also tell you what content people are finding through the search engines and what sites are sending you the most traffic.
You can find out where your target audience lives.
For example you could see whether the majority of your visitors are coming from the USA, Germany, Australia, Africa or anywhere else in the world, and even break it down to the state and city.
This will allow you to find out what type of information you should be writing about, what their demographics are and what price point you can expect your products if you sell any.
If you’ve targeted a keyword for a specific term and gain lots of visitors your analytics can inform you that the demographic you’re writing to can’t afford to spend $100 dollars on your product, or maybe that demographic is looking for information on a topic that has nothing to do with what you wrote about.
Most importantly however, having analytics tells you whether or not you’re getting traffic in the first place.
Its gives you an instant answer as to whether your marketing strategy is effective or not.
If you’d like to check out some of the analytics software I use and recommend then take a look at the resources page.