All blogs are created with an intention to attract visitors, but getting traction can prove to be a real challenge for new blogs and websites. First things first, there is no shortcut to generating more traffic or a magical formula that guarantees thousands of clicks overnight (unless you are ‘outsourcing’ clicks from offshore). In addition to quality content, new blogs require time, effort and smart management. Statistics show that a very small percentage of new blogs become successful, mostly because people fail to act smart and understand what works and what does not.
Many bloggers kill their blogs even before figuring out why nobody is reading them. Starting a blog and putting come content is just the beginning of a long journey and one should not get burnt out, discouraged or quit if things are not going according to expectations. With a focus on SEO, this post aims to cover the most important factors that can help attract qualified traffic and transform blogs into success.
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Understanding the Basics
Having a successful blog is much more than just writing the content. Before jumping into the SEO jargon, it’s better to understand the basics first. Creating a blog does not necessarily mean you’d start getting traffic right away. A lot of bloggers make the mistake of assuming that the quality and quantity of content alone equals more visitors. It also isn’t just about attracting more traffic as attracting the right kind of traffic is what matter the most. A blog can serve a number of purposes, including generating links and revenue, enhancing brand visibility or just educating people about a noble cause.
Gaining more traffic is good, but is the traffic qualified enough to help achieve the higher purposes? That’s the question raw numbers cannot fully answer as traffic from the wrong sources does not really help achieve the objectives. Not only you need more traffic, but it should also be qualified, relevant and coming from the right kind of sources. The first thing businesses and bloggers need to understand is that blogs don’t work for everyone. Although content marketing works most of the time, it bears no fruit if done improperly. Let’s start with the basics that can help attract the right kind of traffic necessary to make a blog successful.
Optimizing Content for Search Engines
Search Engine Optimization is often misinterpreted as stuffing content with keywords and expecting search engines to magically rank your site at the top. SEO is meant to make it easier for search engines to recognize your content. Although the SEO rabbit hole can go quite deep, following a few basic principles discussed in this WordPress SEO guide can help in achieving the desired SEO results. The guide focuses on WordPress SEO, but also applies to other platforms and covers the most important elements of optimizing your blog for search engines.
Instead of randomly generating articles and marketing content, a blog should start with proper research, which includes understanding what people in your niche are searching for, their intent behind those searches, the keywords they are using (especially long-tail keywords) and the keywords that are most relevant to your content. Once you have a list of keywords (preferably long-tail keywords), you can start writing articles based on them. You can make use of online tools like ahrefs to generate some keywords, it will also let you see the traffic and competition for the keywords so you can start off by targeting words with less competition.
However, this does not mean stuffing the content with keywords as it would do more harm than good in the long run. The selected keywords should be used in page and article titles and one or two times in the content (this isn’t a definite formula, but makes the content feel more natural). Avoid focusing on vague keywords such as laptops, instead focus on more specific keywords like rugged ultraportable laptop. Be more specific when choosing keywords as there are already a lot of blogs competing for generic keywords.
Relying solely on keyword ranking is also not recommended as intent matters a lot. Useful and lengthy content that includes long-tail keywords help funnel targeted traffic and build a sustainable community. Long-tail KWs help reveal intent of the searcher and make it easier to structure the content. You can expect more traffic if you are able to solve searcher’s problem and answer their specific questions, which is possible if you understand the intent.
Use Social Media to Spread the Word
A vast majority of internet users and population in the developed countries use social networking sites to interact and collaborate. Their online activities are increasingly becoming socially integrated and they tend to share what they like and dislike. This is what makes promoting a blog on the social media sites a pivotal part of any online strategy.
Consider the social media as low hanging fruit that can bring you a lot of qualified traffic. Building social profiles and interacting with people on a regular basis results in better engagement and helps spread the word. There are a number of methods you can use to promote your content on networking sites including:
- Adding social media buttons on the blogs
- Designing a cover photo that calls to action
- Placing links directly on the LinkedIn profile
- Inserting site link into page description (Facebook) and profile bio (Twitter)
- Sharing branded media
- Sharing articles with images
- Writing targeted variations to products/services
- Sharing content at the right time (during peak times of social activity)
- Participating in social conversions, don’t share and forget
- Sharing content on all major social media sites multiple times
- Asking members of your social network, friends, family members, other bloggers, team members etc. to share your content. A small audience can make a big difference on the social media.
Quality and Quantity
Quality is the king when it comes to driving more visitors, but quantity is also very important. The more useful content you post on a regular basis, the more there is to attract visitors. Although there is no conclusive formula for how much content one should post, five posts a week is considered adequate enough and any additional posts can help increase the blog traffic. However, an increase in the number of posts should not come at the cost of decreased quality as quantity alone won’t help much when it comes to attracting more visitors.
Cover Trending Topics and Major Events in Your Niche
Covering important industry events and trending topics is known to boost traction and can result in sudden traffic surge. For example, if you are in the gadgets business, covering launch events and important updates provides visitors with the latest, relevant and useful information. The easiest way to figure out what’s hot is to use Google Trends, but make sure to select the topics that are highly relevant to your niche.
Conversational Tone Helps Drive Comments
Visitor comments and feedback is a good measure of how interesting your blog posts are. A conversational tone is more likely to get people engaged, resulting in more comments. Avoid turning your posts into essays and use ‘I’ and ‘You’ more often. Engage readers by asking questions and ensure the content is properly formatted and easily understandable. Short and to-the-point paragraphs make it easier for readers to digest information, while bullet points help sum up all the important information in a few lines.
People who comment on your blog are also more likely to share them on the social media. Using real names and pictures of the authors help build a more profound connection between the reader and author and increases loyalty.
Use Opt-in Plugins to Build Email Lists
Email marketing remains one of the most cost-effective and efficient ways of communicating with the target audience. Your email lists are your long-term assets and building them is an important element of retaining visitors. Emails have the potential of becoming the biggest source of traffic as most people check and read their inboxes on a regular basis. Your words may fade in the background noise of the social media, but an email reaches a person at a more personal level.
We have already covered some of the best WordPress list building plugins in detail that help build email lists and attract visitors to your site.
Headlines for Both Search Engines and People
Headlines remain the most important element of blog posts and if they are unable to stop the cursor from moving around, chances are slim that the actual content will. Write headlines that appeal to both search engines and people. This may not deliver results immediately, but would certainly help in the long run. Search engines algorithms are considered to be literal-minded, while people like content that is more engaging and addresses their problems at a more personal level.
It’s recommended to avoid writing the same headline for both your articles and pages. An article title is what the people see, while the page title is meant for search engines. There are many tools for available for different platforms that allow keeping both headline formats separate. You can also try being more creative and write catchy and self-explanatory headlines that appeal to both the people and search engines.
Build Strong Partnerships
Partnerships with relevant blogs cost almost nothing, but can do wonders in attracting more visitors. A simple badge on your blog indicating you are part of a network or even including your blog in another blog’s RSS feed can help your own blog grow. There is no shortage of blog networks you can be part of, but they have to be highly relevant and well-reputed. You can even share your own content in exchange for traffic and back linking within the posts.
The more partnerships you have the better as prominent blogs are also looking for useful content. If you are able to provide it to them, chances are good that they’ll link back to you, helping you drive a noticeable amount of traffic. Although not all blog networks would welcome your invitation, the results are so rewarding that it’s worth trying.
Blogger Outreach and Guest Blogging
Reaching out to influential bloggers allows putting your content in front of niche leaders, but the process is more than randomly sending emails. You need to have a proper plan and know what you want to accomplish. A hit-list of 10-20 influential bloggers who have social authority and are active in a particular space helps you manage things more efficiently. You can also check if they accept guest posts, but make sure to check that their own posts attract a lot of comments and engage readers. It’s better to start with bloggers who are popular, but no so much that they won’t reply to your request, and then slowly move up the latter.
Subscribing to their lists, joining groups and sending complimentary emails about their blog posts help you get under their radar. Share their content and let them know you did so. Cold outreach usually does not work well in most cases as humans have a natural tendency to take their time in building relationships. Ask for guest blogging opportunities when you feel you have nurtured a good relationship, but don’t get heartbroken if things don’t work as intended. The process may take some time, but the rewards can be astonishing and you may be surprised by the amount of traffic it can bring.
Improve User Experience and Quality of the Content
User experience is often related to the design element of a blog, but search engines treat the content as part of the overall experience. Does your blog satisfies readers and helps solve their problem? Is it easy to read, properly formatted and meets expectations? Such are the main questions you need to ask yourself in order to improve the user experience. The content should not be entirely about your own ideas, products and service. It should engage the reader and provide useful information about subjects that are highly relevant to your niche. Lack of images significantly impacts visual engagement, which increases bouncing and decreases click-through rates.
The way your blog looks and feels is also a very important element of creating a great user experience. Here are some tips to improve the user experience, which ultimately results in better engagement and more traffic.
- Provide a call-to-action to subscribe
- Responsive and mobile optimized websites, your blog shows up in mobile search results
- Blog snippets provide brief excerpts of the posts, help readers skim through quickly
- Use relevant images with alt text
- Scrolling social buttons make it easier to share throughout the article
- Place main content on the left side, users look there first
- Dark-colored text on a light-colored background makes it easier for visitors to read
- Properly format the content, use bullets, headers and highlight important information
- Use real names and pictures, provide brief intro about the authors
- Break up the content using headers and short paragraphs