Over the past several years the most common questions I’ve been asked by fellow bloggers revolve around traffic and how to get more of it. Whether a blogger has 10 visitors a day, 100 visitors a day, or even 10,000 visitors a day, they always seem to want more (myself included).
With that in mind, no blogging guide would be complete without giving enough attention to traffic building tips and techniques. This chapter will be devoted to a few of the things that I have found to be effective in my own blogging experience. The following chapter will cover the topic of guest posts. That content goes along with this chapter in terms of building traffic, but guest posting is especially important in my opinion and deserves enough coverage to warrant it’s own chapter. So if you aren’t reading this book from cover-to-cover and you are only checking out this chapter for building traffic to your own blog, be sure to also read the following chapter.
How Much Traffic Does a Blog Need?
Those who are new to blogging typically have no idea how many visitors they will need to attract in order to be successful with their blog (and with no experience blogging, how would they know?). Unfortunately, there is no easy answer that will apply in all situations. The number of visitors you need will depend on a few factors like the niche you are blogging in, your monetization methods, your level of effectiveness with those monetization methods, and the level or responsiveness of your audience.
For a blog that depends heavily or completely on advertising, you will probably need 100,000+ page views per month in order to make a few thousand dollars per month on advertising. In some niches where advertisers are willing to pay more, you may be able to make more money with fewer page views.
If you have a product to sell or if you are effective at promoting affiliate products, you may be able to make several thousand dollars per month with 25,000 – 50,000 visitors per month. Notice that advertising is more dependent on the total number of page views (which equal more advertising impressions) and selling products and affiliate products is usually more dependent on the number of visitors instead of total page views.
These numbers will vary greatly from one blog to the next, and from one niche to the next, so it’s impossible to say how much traffic a blog needs in order to be successful without knowing the specific details of the blog.
Traffic Starts with Quality Content
The first, and most important, tip for generating traffic is to focus on the quality of your blog’s content. Blogs with high-quality content tend to be found and appreciated eventually, regardless of the promotional efforts of the blogger. Blogs with a low level of quality in content may be able to temporarily attract a lot of visitors with a variety of different strategies, but the readers will have no reason to keep coming back.
If you get nothing else out of this guide, at least walk away knowing that your content is the single-most important factor to your blog’s success. Having quality content will make your promotional efforts so much easier. All of the techniques and strategies that we look at in this chapter will be more effective with quality content than with average or below average content,
Potential Sources of Traffic for Bloggers
Probably the most sought-after type of traffic comes from search engines. Visitors that arrive at your blog as a result of a search are valuable for a few different reasons: it’s free traffic, it’s targeted traffic, these visitors are looking for something specific, and high search rankings can result in a steady, ongoing stream of traffic.
Let’s start with the first point. There are plenty of ways to drive traffic to your blog if you are able and willing to spend money on advertising. In general, I wouldn’t recommend paying to advertise your blog (advertising your products may be a different story), but the possibility is there. However, if you’re able to get your blog ranked near the top of Google for a popular search phrase you can attract hundreds or thousands of visitors every day for free.
Visitors from search engines are usually well targeted. They searched for something specific and your blog came up in the search engines as being one of the best matches. These visitors are probably looking for the exact information that you are providing. This isn’t always the case with other sources of traffic.
Because visitors from a search are looking for something specific, they are sometimes in a buying mentality. This depends on the specific search, but generally when someone wants to buy a product online they do one of two things: they either go directly to a site that they know will carry the product that they want (like Amazon), or they do a search to find a relevant product or to find it at the best price. If you are selling a product from your blog and you are able to achieve top search rankings for buying phrases related to your product, you’ll likely make some sales from the search visitors that you receive.
The ongoing aspect of search engine traffic is HUGE. Sure, there are other ways to bring visitors to your site. You may be able to use social media to get a boost in traffic, or you may get a link from a popular blog. Those types of traffic tend to be short-lived and they die down after a few days, at the most. On the other hand, search engine traffic can continue to come day-after-day for a very long time.
If you publish a post on your blog and it becomes popular with social media users, maybe you’ll get 5,000 visitors in a day from social media. Within about 2 days that social media traffic will be almost non-existent. Search engines may only send 50 visitors to that same post per day, but it might continue for years. Even one year of just 50 visitors per day to that post would equal 18,250 visitors.
Search engine traffic tends to grow slowly but steadily for blogs. The more content that you add to your blog the more opportunities you will have to attract search engine traffic. This doesn’t mean that you should post poor-quality content just to get more pages on your site, but all other things being equal, blogs with more content will have more opportunities for search traffic. If your blog is new and it has only 10 posts and each one of them attracts 5 visitors per day from search engines, that would equal 50 visitors per day. But if your blog had 100 posts and each one attracted 5 visitors per day, that would equal 500 visitors per day. Of course, in reality the numbers won’t work out quite like this, but this example shows the point that more posts equal more opportunities for search traffic.
One of the most common misunderstandings of new bloggers is that the majority of visitors will enter the blog through the home page or front page. While your home page may be the most-viewed page on your blog (although in my experience it is usually not), most visitors will arrive through one of the posts on your blog. It may be from a search engine, or it may be a result of a link from another site.
When you realize that each post on your blog has the ability to attract visitors on its own it’s easy to see how having more content on your blog will give you the potential to get more search traffic. So as you consistently add new content to your blog you should see a slow but steady growth in the total number of visitors that arrive from search engines.
Another reason that search engine traffic tends to increase with time is that the search engines prefer to send visitors to sites that they trust. With so many spam websites and blogs out there it can sometimes be difficult for search engines to determine which websites and blogs are of high quality and worthy of top rankings. One of the factors that is used in determining search rankings is the trustworthiness of the domain, and domain age plays a role. When your blog has been around for 3 years and you have been consistently adding new content, and other blogs and sites have been linking to you, Google (and other search engines) will view your blog is a trustworthy source. When your blog is new and you only have a few months of history with search engines, you haven’t had as much time to build that trust.
These two factors of adding new content and gaining trust will typically equal a long-term growth in search engine traffic. From one of my old blogs you can see how search engine traffic grew steadily, but not quickly, over a period of a few years.
We’ll take a more detailed look at search engine optimization (SEO) in chapter 8 but for the most part I don’t recommend that bloggers obsess over SEO. There are a few key factors that you should focus on, but the other smaller factors are often not worth worrying about, in my opinion.
The main factors that you want to focus on are the structure of the code of your blog theme, page/post titles, setting up Google authorship, and inbound links. If you’re not familiar with HTML, CSS, and SEO you may have no idea how you can improve the code of your theme for better search engine results. The easiest advice I can give without getting into highly technical details (this subject could be a book in itself) is that most free WordPress themes will not be coded very effectively and could have a negative impact on your search engine rankings. This is, of course, not always the case as there is a very wide variety of free themes available. Some will specifically mention that they are optimized for search engines, and in some cases they may be.
If you’re not sure about a theme’s code quality, the best thing that you can do is to stick with one of the well-known and respected theme developers. The Genesis framework from StudioPress is a good starting point. You could use the framework on it’s own or you can buy other child themes built to run on Genesis. The framework itself currently costs $60 or you can get it for $80 with the blog theme of your choice. Likewise, the Thesis framework is also considered to be very good for SEO purposes. Thesis currently costs $87. At ProfitBlitz I’m using Genesis.
Aside from having clean, search engine friendly code, the title tag of the page will be the most important on-page SEO factor. The page title is obviously a good indicator of the content of the page in most cases. The title tag is what is shown at the top of your browser.
By default, WordPress will give your pages and post a title tage of “Blog Name > Page/Post Name”. So the “About” page on ProfitBlitz would have a title tage of “ProfitBlitz > About”. That’s not usually ideal for search engine optimization. The preferred approach would be to reverse it and put the page/post title before the name of the blog, or just use the page/post title without the blog name. In this case the title would either be “About | ProfitBlitz” or simply “About”. You can easily have control over the title tag settings with the help of a free plugin. The most popular options are the All-in-One SEO Pack and the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast. My personal preference is WordPress SEO.
With the help of either of those plugins you can also set custom post/page title tags. So for example, you may want to give your post a catchy title that will attract attention from visitors (this is the title that will show up on the post itself), but you may want to tweak the title tag for better search engine optimization. Without the help of a plugin you won’t have precise control over title tags, unless that functionality is built in to the theme that you are using.
When it comes to link building for SEO, the best thing you can do is publish high-quality content. If people really like your content it will attract links naturally.
I know a number of bloggers who have built their initial traffic to a new blog through a strategy of leaving a lot of comments on other blogs. Blog commenting for traffic building can take a significant amount of time if it is done extensively, but it can be an effective strategy. My personal recommendation is to make blog commenting a part of your traffic strategy, but not your entire strategy.
Almost every blog allows visitors to leave a comment on posts, and almost every blog also allows you to enter a website address (URL) when leaving a comment. When your comment is approved and displayed, your name will be a link and if someone clicks on it they will be led to the URL that you entered.
The goal of the blog commenting strategy for traffic building is to leave a lot of helpful and valuable comments on various blogs throughout your niche, and to attract clicks as a result. While no comment will typically result in a huge number of clicks, the combined total of a lot of comments on a lot of different blog posts can result in a significant number of visitors.
There are a few keys for this strategy to work:
- Leave Quality Comments
First and foremost, your comments have to contribute something to the conversation. Don’t leave a short generic comment that could apply to any blog post. Leave your thoughts about the post topic, add your own thoughts, ask questions, answer other people’s questions, or even disagree with the post author if you feel it is appropriate (just be sure to always be respectful when disagreeing).
If you add valuable insights or answer questions left by others in the comments there is a great chance that a visitor will be impressed by your comment and click on your link. Visitors who do click on your link for this reason will be very highly-targeted visitors. They’ll be more likely to subscribe to your blog or newsletter because they respect what you have added to the conversation at the other blog. That is why the quality of your comment is so important.
- Don’t Ignore Smaller Blogs
Another part of the commenting strategy is to get the blogger to visit your site. Even if no other visitors click on the link to visit your blog, if the blogger himself or herself does, it could be well worth your time. When I first started blogging I would visit the link of every person who commented on my blog, and I would usually try to leave a comment on one of their posts to show them that I noticed and appreciated their comment. This really helped to encourage people to keep coming back to my blog and to continue commenting, and before long I had an active audience with many comments on each new post.
As my blog grew and my posts received more comments (and as I got busier) the individual comments stood out less to me and I usually did not visit the commenter’s site. From what I have observed, this is also common with a lot of other bloggers as their audience grows. The reason I point is out is to show that there is a often a benefit to commenting even on small blogs that don’t have a large audience. You’re more likely that way to get a visit from the blogger.
That’s certainly not to say that you shouldn’t comment on popular blogs where the blogger may not visit your site. Popular posts are more likely to bring more clicks to your link and it’s still certainly possible to get the attention of popular bloggers by leaving great comments, but it may take several comments for them to visit your blog.
- Get There Early
Another key to this strategy is to be one of the first visitors to leave a comment on a post. Posts at popular blogs can get many, many comments. If yours is posted after a number of other comments it will be buried at the end and most visitors will almost never read down that far. Try to be the first, or one of the first, to comment on posts and you’ll generally get more clicks because of better visibility being shown directly after the post content.
In order to be one of the first to comment you will need to know when new posts are published. The best way to do this is to set up an RSS reader, like Feedly, and subscribe to the RSS feed of all the blogs that you want to follow for commenting. The RSS reader will typically show new posts within a few minutes of being published, so it’s one of the fastest ways to be notified of new posts. In order to get to the posts early you should check the RSS reader as frequently as possible and go to posts to comment right away. Read through the post and take a few minutes to leave a helpful or thought-provoking comment.
- Take Advantage of Threaded Comments
Some blogs use what is referred to as threaded comments. Without threaded comments each new comment will be posted below the previous comment. With threaded comments you can reply to other comments and your comment will then be shown directly below the comment that you are replying to, and it will usually be indented. If you are commenting on a post that already has a lot of comments, you can get yours closer to the top if the blog is using threaded comments by replying to one of the first comments. Of course, it’s still important to use the same approach of leaving a valuable comment. Also, be sure that you are actually responding to the person’s comment. Otherwise, using the threaded comments in this way can be seen as spam if it is just a trick to get your comment to the top.
- Be Careful About Posting Links in the Body of the Comment
Most comment forms will include a field for you to enter your URL. This is for the purpose of allowing you to give your own blog a little bit of exposure. Many bloggers won’t appreciate it if you also leave your link in the body of the comment. Don’t treat it like a forum post where you leave a signature at the bottom including your link. This is often viewed as spam and it is likely to get your comment deleted.
The only time when I would recommend leaving a link to your site within the body of your comment is when you have a post on your blog that can add some value to the conversation. If you have posted on a related topic there may be a legitimate reason to share your link in the body of the comment, but otherwise stick to just using the URL or website field.
- Use Your Own Name
Because the name on your comments is used as the anchor text for your link, many people choose to use keywords instead of their own name. For example, the name of the commenter might say “Los Angeles SEO” instead of “John Smith”. Personally, I’m not a fan of this approach. I know that there are some SEO benefits in having keywords in the anchor text, but most blogs use “nofollow” tags on links in the comments section to tell search engines to ignore the links. As a result, the SEO benefit is lower and it is just another reason to use your name instead of keywords.
Even if there were SEO benefits, using keywords instead of your name is bad for networking and it’s likely to cause your comment to be deleted. There are so many automated systems that leave spam comments on blogs, and most people using these systems will use keywords instead of their name. So not using your name will put up a red flag that the comment is spam. I will rarely approve a comment with a keyword stuffed name unless I can tell for sure that it is a legitimate comment from a real person. It would be a shame if you spend a lot of time leaving comments only to have most of them deleted for something like this.
If you’re goal is to get clicks on your link and to get recognition for your comments, using your name is much more effective. If you don’t want to use your real name, use a pen name or perhaps just your first name.
- Set Up a Gravatar
Many blogs also show a thumbnail photo of the person leaving the comment. In most cases, these photos are pulled from Gravatar. If you don’t already have an account at Gravatar it is easy and free to set up. Just upload a photo and it will be shown whenever you comment on blogs that integrate with Gravatar. It is tracked by email address, so when you leave comments enter the same address that you used for the Gravatar account.
If you don’t have a Gravatar account, most blogs that display Gravatars will show a default image. Using your own photo or image will help to make your comments stand out and for recognition as you leave comments on a lot of different blogs. If you don’t want to use a photo of yourself you can use or create a different image.
- Get Around
In order for this commenting strategy to really work well you will need to comment on posts at a lot of different blogs. Make an effort to keep finding new blogs in your niche, and keep commenting at the most popular blogs, or at the ones that are sending visitors to your blog.
So far we have talked about a few different ways of attracting new visitors to your site. While new visitors are important, especially when your blog is just getting started, repeat visitors are critical to the long-term success of your blog.
Some people that follow your blog will come back week-after-week, or even daily, to see what new content has been published. When they are looking for something specific that is related to the type of content that you publish, they may come directly to your blog and do a sitewide search rather than trying a Google search. These are the types of visitors that will make your blog successful over the long-term.
Repeat visitors are important because they will be much more receptive to your product promotions (whether it is your own product or affiliate products), they will often help by sharing links to your posts via social media or at their own blogs, they’ll boost your traffic numbers, and they’ll be more responsive in the comments. All are important things that will help to make your blog successful and profitable.
So it’s obvious that repeat visitors are good, but how do you go about converting a new visitor into a repeat visitor? You’ll never be able to entice all of your first-time visitors to keep coming back, but there are some things you can do to increase the number of repeat visitors.
- Publish Quality Content
Ok, so I know I have beaten this topic to death, but it really impacts everything you do as a blogger. If visitors like your content they will come back. If they don’t like your content, they won’t come back. In reality it’s not quite that cut and dry, but as a general rule the quality of your content will determine how many repeat visitors you are able to attract.
- Offer a Newsletter
I’ve also mentioned the importance of newsletters several times for different reasons, and they are simply one of the best ways to encourage repeat visits. Some bloggers will send out a newsletter every time they publish a new post. Others might send out one per week with links to all news posts from that week. Others might send newsletters whenever they have something important to promote. In any case, newsletters can be used to encourage repeat visitors.
People who have signed up to receive your newsletter are obviously interested in what you have to say or they wouldn’t have chosen to receive emails from you. These people are probably your most loyal followers and they’ll return to your blog many times if the content continues to interest them.
- Promote the Newsletter Opt In Form in Prominent Locations
In order for your newsletter to be effective at driving repeat visitors to your blog, you will need to be able to get people to subscribe to the newsletter. To maximize signups, place an opt in form in a prominent location somewhere on your blog.
A lot of bloggers use the top of the sidebar for collecting newsletter subscriptions. Others use the header, the area right at the end of the post, or even a popup. I’d recommend trying a few different things to see what gets the best results for your audience. Right now at ProfitBlitz I’m using the Optin Monster plugin.
- Offer an RSS Feed
Not everyone who wants to follow your blog will opt in to receive emails. Some people, especially in more tech-savvy industries, will prefer to subscribe by RSS. While email newsletter subscribers will be more valuable to you, you should also offer an RSS feed for those who want to follow your blog that way.
Almost all blogging platforms have an RSS feed created automatically. Most bloggers prefer to set up their feed through FeedBurner because it keeps track of your subscriber count (warning: FeedBurner counts are not always accurate). However, there has been a lot of speculation that Google may kill FeedBurner in the near future (FeedBurner is owned by Google), so I would recommend going with FeedBlitz to avoid possible headaches here, or just use the default RSS feed from WordPress or your blogging platform of choice. Include a link to your RSS feed someplace where it is easy to find, like your sidebar.
- Be Active on Social Media
Social media and social networking sites are also great for encouraging repeat visitors. I’d encourage any blogger to be active on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. If nothing else, at least publish links to your new posts on these sites. Ideally, you’ll be more involved and interact with other users, which will help you to build a bigger following. Then every time you publish a new post on your blog you can link to it via social networking sites. Those who follow you on social sites will be able to see your links and they’ll have plenty of chances to visit your blog.
Imagine if you had 10,000 followers on Twitter (which is realistic with some effort). Every time you publish a new post on your blog you could promote that post to 10,000 people. Even if only 1,000 people happen to see your link (because tweets can get buried pretty quickly), and only 10% of those people actually click on the link, that would still be 100 visitors to each new post just from Twitter. Those are pretty conservative numbers. If you have 10,000 followers and you’re fairly active, you should be able to get more than 100 clicks on links that you tweet. And that doesn’t even count the visitors that you could get when other users retweet your link.
- Offer a Good Sitewide Search Option
If visitors to your blog are able to easily find the content that they are looking for, they will be more likely to come back again when they are looking for other content related to your topic. If they can’t find what they are looking for, they will go to some other blog, and that blog is likely where they will return the next time they are looking for something.
The easiest way to help visitors find the content that they want is through a sitewide search. The default WordPress search or a Google custom search engine will work.
With a quality search experience your visitors will quickly find what they are looking for, and they’ll be more likely to come back and do it again in the future.
- Publish Posts Consistently
Some bloggers publish posts extremely consistently, and this can help with encouraging repeat visitors. If your readers know that you publish a new post every Monday morning they may get in the habit of visiting your blog every Monday.
Even if you don’t publish posts with this extreme consistency, it’s possible to still attract repeat visitors just by publishing somewhat consistently. Maybe you publish a new post every week, but the day will vary. Or maybe you publish a few times per week, but not always on the same days. In these cases your readers will see that you are active and they will know that you are likely to publish new content pretty frequently. They may check back at your blog every now and then just to see what you have published.
- Publish Posts in a Series
Another way to use your posting strategy to attract repeat visitors is to take advantage of the opportunity to publish multiple posts in a series. This can be done in a few different ways, and you can even use your creativity to come up with some new approaches.
The first option would be to publish a multi-post series on a specific topic rather than publishing one long post. For example, at ProfitBlitz I could post a series of three posts on choosing a theme or template for your blog. The first post would cover free themes, when to use them and where to find them. The second post could cover buying premium themes or templates, the best places to buy them and what to look for when buying one. The third post could cover hiring a designer to create a custom theme, how to choose the right designer and what you should expect to pay. I could publish these posts on three consecutive days, one per week, or at some other interval. The first post would mention the two upcoming posts to draw attention and to encourage readers to come back. The second post would link to the first and also mention the upcoming third post. The result would hopefully be more attention and visitors.
Another series approach would be a regular, recurring post on a particular topic. For example, at ProfitBlitz I could start a series called Social Saturdays and I could publish a new post each Saturday that covers some topic related to social media and how to use it to market your website. Readers would get used to seeing a new post on this topic each Saturday. Hopefully they would like the posts and look forward to the new post each week, which would result in more visitors coming back to the site over and over again.
- Build Anticipation When Appropriate
Building anticipation is a great way to encourage repeat visitors. It is often used for promoting and selling products, but it can also be used for unusually important content. You can mention the upcoming product or content in your posts, publish a post specifically to announce the upcoming product or content, or post teasers on social media sites to build anticipation.
If people get excited they will be more likely to make it a point to come back when your new product or content is live. Of course, you’ll need to be able to deliver with something worth the hype, or else your future efforts of building anticipation won’t be as successful.
- Offer a User-Friendly Experience
Another aspect of the user experience that is becoming increasingly important is having a mobile-friendly website. More and more visitors are accessing websites from smartphones and tablets instead of from desktops and laptops. Having a mobile version or a responsive website can help to make the experience more pleasant for these visitors, and they’ll be more likely to return from the same device later.
Links from Other Websites and Blogs
Link building is important to your blogging success for a few resources. One is that the links can help to improve your search engine rankings. This is the primary motivation for the link building efforts of most bloggers and website owners.
Aside from impacting search engine rankings, links from other sites can obviously drive some traffic to your site as visitors click on those links. The amount of traffic that you get will vary greatly from one link to the next, but hopefully the cumulative total of having a decent number of links from a lot of different websites will be a steady flow of referral traffic (visitors that are at your site via a link from another site are considered referral traffic).
Another benefit of links is that they can help to develop your reputation within your niche or industry. If readers notice that a high number of blogs in the niche are linking to you, they will probably assume that you are an authority on the subject, and this helps to develop your reputation of expertise.
Link building can be a big topic all on its own. If you’re interested in in-depth information on the subject, I highly recommend the link building course from Point Blank SEO. I’ve personally purchased this course and it is well worth the money.
Another traffic source with major potential is social media and social networking sites. Currently, networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest all are capable of sending a considerable number of visitors to your site. In past years, sites like Digg, Reddit, Delicious, and StumbleUpon were the main focus of social media marketing. Digg used to be the king of short bursts of traffic (anywhere from 5,000 – 25,000 visitors in a day for the average “popular” link), but its popularity has faded significantly. These sites are all still capable of sending visitors to your site, but most social media marketing today is focused more on sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.
Social media played a huge role in helping me to get my first blog off the ground. After a month or so of posting I studied social media to increase traffic, and after applying what I was learning my visitor count literally went from 10 one day to 2,000 the next. Of course, the visitor count dropped a bit after the initial rush, but I was able to duplicate it with other content, and my blog was never the same.
My opinion is that social media should be a part of your blogging strategy, but it shouldn’t be the primary method that you expect to drive traffic to your blog. I recommend every blogger to have an active Twitter account and Facebook page. The Twitter account can be in your name personally, or it could be branded with your blog’s name. For example, I set up an account called @profitblitz to use for this website rather than a personal account. Also, I recommend setting up a Facebook page for your blog (a business page, not a personal Facebook profile). See this page if you are not familiar with setting up a fan page on Facebook. Google+ is also increasing in importance, and it can have an impact on Google search rankings, so I also recommend every blogger to have a Google+ account.
My recommended approach to social media involves a few different things. These actions can help you to have an impact and drive visitors to your site through social media without dedicating huge amounts of time to it.
- Link to Your Social Media Profiles from Your Blog
Your blog visitors may be interested in following you on social media sites, so somewhere on your blog you should link to your profiles at sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. These links are commonly placed in the blog sidebar, so many visitors will look for them in that location. You can use icons, text links, or widgets/badges provided by the social media site.
- Test a Few Sharing Buttons on Blog Posts
Many blogs include buttons on blog posts that make it easy for visitors to share or vote for the link on social media sites. You can get buttons directly from sites like Twitter, and Facebook also has “like” buttons. An alternate approach is to use a plugin that will add the buttons either at the beginning or end of your posts. Popular WordPress plugins for this purpose include ShareThis and AddThis.
The idea behind these buttons is to remind visitors to vote or share the link, and to make it easy as possible for them. In reality, sometimes they are effective at getting more traffic from social media and sometimes they aren’t effective.
I recommend that every blogger tests to see if the social media traffic is impacted by the buttons. Include them for a week, then remove them for a week, and compare the amount of visitors from social media sites. I also recommend testing them at the end of posts and before posts. If they are working you can leave them on your posts to keep getting that social media traffic. If they’re not effective, remove them. These buttons sometimes can slow down the loading of your pages a little bit, and every bit of speed counts. If no one is using them they are really just adding more distraction that could be avoided.
- Share Links to Your New Posts
With your profiles at sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, every time you publish a new post you should share the link. If you’re able to build a following at these sites it can be an easy way to get visitors to your new posts.
In addition to just sharing your new posts, you can also occasionally share links to older posts from your archives if they are still relevant. Not that many bloggers do this, but it’s an easy way to increase the number of visitors that see the posts in your archives. These links may get retweeted or shared by other users, and the result can be a nice amount of traffic to content that you already have just sitting on your blog.
Aside from the sites already mentioned, you may also want to submit some of your posts to sites like Digg and Reddit. These major social news sites won’t send any significant amount of visitors unless your links get enough votes to allow it to go “popular”, but if you are able to get some votes you never know what can happen. I no longer recommend spending much time on these sites to build up your profile. Currently, your time is better spend doing other things.
- Dedicate a Small Amount of Time Each Day to Interact
As I mentioned earlier, one of the potential downfalls of social media marketing is that it can become a major time waster for many people. It’s easy to lose track of how much time you are spending on social networking, and the goal is to get an impact with just a small time commitment so you still have time for other things. My recommendation is to set aside a specific amount of time each day to interact via social media. It could be something like 15 minutes or 30 minutes each day, and that should be plenty. Set aside that time each day and don’t go over the limit. With just a few minutes you should be able to check your profiles and respond to any messages that you received from other users. You can also send out your own messages, share links to noteworthy posts on other blogs, or initiate contact with other users. In order to develop a following on social media you will need to do more than just share your own links, so it’s important to be active, you just want to limit it.
There are some free tools out there that can help with making your time on social media more efficient. I use and recommend the free version of Hootsuite. Hootsuite interacts with your profiles at sites like Twitter and Facebook, so you can use it as a hub for your activity. You can see and respond to messages sent to you, and you can send out your own messages. One of the most useful features for me is the scheduling of tweets. Every morning I take a few minutes to find a few links to blog posts that I want to share with my Twitter followers. I scan through my RSS reader to find the best posts of the day and I set up tweets that are scheduled to go out at various points throughout the day. So I spend about 15 minutes, but it allows me to have several tweets going out at various times, which helps to reach more followers who may be active on Twitter at different times, which also helps to attract new followers. About once every three months I also take 30 minutes or an hour and set up tweets to go out that link to popular posts from my blog’s archives. I set up about one tweet per day to an old post, and I do it for about 3 months at a time. The traffic generated by any one of these links isn’t huge, but the cumulative result of traffic is well worth the 30 minutes or the hour that it takes.
- Use Any Popular Niche Social Media Sites That Can Send Traffic
A lot of industries or niches will have social media sites that target a very specific audience. These sites won’t send thousands of visitors to your links like the major social media sites can, but there are some real benefits from using them. First, any visitors that you get from niche social media sites will probably be well targeted, which can increase the chances of them becoming a repeat visitor. Second, achieving “popular” status with your links is generally much easier and more realistic than with the major sites. For example, when I started blogging about 5 years ago I had a number of posts on topics related to web development. I used a site called DZone that targets web and software developers. It only took about 5 votes (including your own) to get you link to be on the front page of DZone. Being on the front page would send anywhere from 500 – 1,000 visitors. Getting just five votes was pretty achievable. I chose not to spend much time on Digg, which was a far more popular site at the time. Back then Digg could send many times more visitors than DZone, but it took 100 – 200 votes on average to get your link to the front page of Digg. You could spend a lot of time and get nothing out of it, but with DZone I could spend just a little bit of time and get almost every link I submitted to the homepage. The end result was more visitors, targeted visitors, and not much time spent.
If your niche has an active social media site, I recommend that you use it.
- Form a Small Group of Bloggers to Help Each Other
When I started promoting my blog posts on social media it took me a few months to realize the dirty little secret that most social media marketers weren’t sharing in public. Most of the effective marketers at that time were promoting content on Digg because of its potential, and in order to have success with Digg you needed to get votes. So marketers would start groups where they would share requests with each other whenever they needed votes. The group members would help each other by voting, and the result was that it was easier for everyone in the group to get traffic to their content. As Digg adjusted it’s algorithm to identify unnatural voting patterns, and as the popularity of Digg dropped off, the use of these groups also seemed to die down. However, they are still used effectively by some bloggers and they are often now used to request tweets, shares on Facebook, Google+ votes, or votes on niche social media sites.
This can be one benefit of having a strong network of other bloggers in your niche. If you know several other bloggers that are interested in getting more exposure for their blog posts you could contact them to see if they would be interested in forming a group to request tweets, shares, or votes. From my experience, many bloggers are interested in these types of collaboration. The group could be set up formally through a Google Group, or it could be an informal thing where you send your request by email or IM.
- Create “Shareable” Content
All of your social media marketing efforts will be much easier if you have content on your post that people want to share. As you use social media you’ll start to notice that some types of content tend to attract more attention from social media users. Things like controversy, humor, and list posts are often successful at getting more votes and shares via social media.
The post headlines that you use will also have a huge impact on your success with social media. Posts with catchy, interesting titles will be shared much more frequently than posts with average or boring titles. To learn more about how to write effective headlines, I recommend the series How to Write Magnetic Headlines from Copyblogger.