When I first started blogging over four years ago, I experienced something that 99% of all bloggers go through. I’d put tons of work into my posts, only to have no one ever read them. Even if you absolutely love the content you’re creating on your blog, let’s be honest: blogging’s a lot more fun when you have a community of people you can share your ideas with, and you’re not just talking to yourself. In other words, no matter what our reasons are for blogging — be it as a hobby, as a profession, or anything else — we ALL want to grow our traffic. And as we learned from the last Blog Tip of the Day, traffic = pageviews.
A little sidenote confession before we continue on to the good stuff. I fretted a bit when putting this post together. I worried that people would think that these tips felt soulless, that to use them would mean that you’re just in this for the pageviews. But the reality is, many bloggers are interested in growing their site so they can work with brands, or perhaps launch a business off of it, or a myriad of other reasons. So if these help you reach any of your goals in a way that’s authentic to you and your blog, I say cheers! And ultimately, I thought you guys wouldn’t mind these tips too much, because no matter who you are or why you post, no blogger in the history of the world has ever said, “MAN, I want FEWER pageviews! I wish people would stop looking at my great content that I spend so much time on!” Right? Right!
Alright, so, since initially starting to blog, I’ve learned that there are a couple easy ways to increase traffic. Here they are:
(Psst! You can get lots more blog related tips and resources over at The B Bar!)
1. Use Link Within or nRelate
Many of you know about Link Within, a fantastic service that is responsible for those “You Might Also Like…” widgets at the end of posts. However, lots of bloggers are unfamiliar with nRelate, which is my personal favorite. What I like about nRelate is that you can restrict what posts show up as related. So, for example, you can tell the widget to only data mine posts from a certain time period, or from certain categories, etc. This is especially helpful if you’ve been blogging for a while and perhaps your focus changed (me!). I didn’t necessarily want posts from 2008 showing up in those search results, when it was highly unlikely they had anything to do with the types of posts I do now. Link Within or nRelate. Both great options to increase pageviews AND lower your bounce rate.
2. Only publish post summaries in RSS services like Google Reader
You may want to consider limiting how much of each post is published in a feed service, such as Google Reader. Think about it like this: if all the individuals who subscribe to your blog through a service like this can read the entire post without ever having to visit your site…are you losing a lot of traffic? This is something I realized a little while back, and in all honesty, it was initially a tough decision for me to switch over to summaries. I mean, I like to read blogs in Reader, and yes, having the entire post there is much more convenient. And, I worried I’d piss of my subscribers. But I won’t lie — Google Reader is now consistently a top traffic referrer for me, and I know the same is true for many other bloggers who do this! If you’ve also put lots of time and money into prettifying your site, it’s a shame that people won’t see it everyday, don’t you think?
Here’s another thing to consider: if you’re hosting any kind of sponsorship program, are the advertisers who are paying to reach your audience losing out on all the subscribers who consume your content via an RSS feed, and never visit your site? It doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong or that you should go out and change this setting immediately. It’s just something to think about.
3. Get rid of an e-mail subscription option
This one is sort of in the same vein as only publishing summaries. You can take it or leave it, but here’s my own experience, for whatever that’s worth! When I first was starting out, having an option on my sidebar for people to subscribe and receive my new blog posts via email was a great way to gauge how people were responding to my content. Obviously, an uptick in email subscribers was a good thing — it meant people were enjoying my posts, which was so exciting! However, eventually, this had a downside. If readers were getting all my content in their Inbox, they had no reason to ever click through and come visit my site, unless they wanted to comment. Hmm. So, I ultimately took this option off my sidebar, though the original subscriber list is still intact!
I realize these previous two are a little controversial, and I’ve heard arguments in favor of each. My advice? Do what feels right for you!
4. Post breaks, post breaks, post breaks (and page breaks, too!).
I can’t stress this one enough. Not only because it gives you easy extra pageviews, but because visually, if you can break up long pieces of content, it will help your blog IMMENSELY. This is true for both text AND photos. I personally think that in an ideal world, a new reader could land on your site, do two big scrolls of the click-wheel on their mouse, see 2-3 of your posts, and get a good idea of the type of content you’re publishing. What you don’t want is for someone to have to scroll…and scroll…and scroll…just to get to the end of a single long post. Similarly, consider limiting how many posts appear on your main homepage. Most blogs feature anywhere from 3-5 posts on the front page. If people can keep scrolling down and read 20 of your latest posts, they’ll never have to click anything else on your site to see what else you’ve been up to recently!
5. Build out your navigation menu
Navigation menus, like the one you see at the top of this blog and on many others, are a great way to tell readers more about who you are, what you do, what you like, etc. You can feature an About page, or tell people about your freelance business. Many people feature links to their favorite blogs in a blog roll, or press features on their own blog. Molly and Sally from A Piece of Toast keep an archive of all the gorgeous headers they create each month. Grace features a fantastic visual guide to all her DIYs. Mackenzie links over to her 101 in 1001 days posts, which are a series of bucket list type items she’s crossing off. The options are pretty endless! Not only are these menus a great way to share more about who you are and what your blog is about, they’re a simple, effective way to (again!) keep people on your site. Keeping people on your site = higher pageviews and a lower bounce rate. All good things!
There’s a six thing here, but it’s kind of a tricky one. In all honesty, the sixth item isn’t so much easy as it is easier said than done. And that’s having fantastic content. All the shortcuts and tricks in the world won’t help you long term if you don’t continue to develop your blog and provide engaging content that’s valuable to readers. Once you have this in place, these five things will just help you keep readers who love your work and what you’re doing!
Have you tried any of the above? What works for you as far as driving traffic to your blog?
Be sure to check out my online shop, The B Bar, for lots of other great resources and tips that you can download!