I find blog traffic to be pretty fascinating. I have always been a numbers guy. I took something like 40+ hours of statistics between undergrad and grad school so needless to say blog stats and traffic are interesting to me. One of the first things I had to decide in blogging was that I wasn’t in it for a popularity contest. Early on, I loaded up my sidebar with a couple of different religious blog rankers but after a while I wondered why those we really necessary. Does it make a difference if I am ranked 1 or 100 if I am doing something that is helpful to others? I decided the popularity contest type blogging was not a winning battle and it was not a priority of blogging. When I first began I considered blogging anonymously to make it even less about me but I decided against that because there is something to being able to associate content with a particular person, perspective, and background that I believe is helpful to readers. Being relevant is far more important than whether or not traffic is going up or down. So before I go any further I wanted to make sure that people understand that I don’t see increasing blog traffic as a good thing in and of itself. I do, however, see being relevant and finding ways to spread your important message to as many people as possible as a positive thing.
Back to blog traffic…it really surprises me that some of the very best blogs out there get very little traffic and have very few feed reading subscribers. I read great post after great post but hardly anyone else seems to be reading. Then there are some blogs out there that are weird and don’t really seem to have a whole lot going for them that get loads of traffic. What gets some sites tons of traffic while other, better (in my opinion) sites get little? Here are a couple of things that can drive blog traffic.
- Google Page Rank. If you are using the Google toolbar you will see the page rank of each page you visit. It is on a 1-10 scale. The higher your rank, the more likely you are to be higher up in the google results on a given search. Obviously, if you can get in the top 5 hits on a google search for something fairly common you are going to get a lot of traffic based on that. I have seen some posts on other people’s blogs get 200,000 hits in a matter of months just due to search engines. How valuable is that? Not all that valuable unless the post people are reading is something actually worthwhile and something that is a good representative of the content of your blog. I have personally never been that lucky and have never gotten more than 5000 hits off any individual google search term. How do you get a good google page rank? Most of it has to do with how many people have linked to your blog. When people link to you it gives you a certain sense of authority in the eyes of the search engines. It is like saying – other people say this is good so there must be something to it…so google gives that site an edge in google searches. One way to find out how well your blog ranks in searches can be found out through Google webmaster tools. You can read how to use that with wordpress here.
- Links from other blogs and websites. The more blogs and websites that link to you, the more opportunity people have to click on your blog. It also gives your blog more authority in search engines. It is important that they see your blog is up to date and has something to say. Giving credit where credit is due is so important. If you get an idea, video, picture, etc from a blog make sure to give them credit through a link.
- Shameless self promotion. I know several guys that email everyone on their email list any time they post something new. I don’t fault anyone for doing that. I just can’t do that myself. I figure if I am writing something worth reading, hopefully people will come without me having to stick it in front of them. If people want my posts emailed to them they can subscribe to that service without me forcing it on them.
- Content – One way to drive traffic is to be an expert on something. When people actually do arrive at your blog they will be more likely to come back over and over again or even subscribe to your feed if you have something to say that is worth reading.
- Your comments – The more you comment out there on other people’s blogs, the more likely people are to click on your comment or your link in the “recent comments” section on the sidebar. It also shows other bloggers that you read their blog and they might want to find out more about who is reading their blog. I know I often click on the web address when someone I don’t know leaves a comment/link to their blog. Personally, I have found that I am not a very good commenter. I am better at reading what someone has written and posting a link to what I find to be exceptional rather than just leave a bunch of comments around. It is never a good idea to comment just to get linked to…it is important you have something to advance the conversation on that person’s blog!
- A feed reader that displayed toward the top of your blog. Feed readers may actually reduce the amount of traffic you think you are getting because people will be reading your blog from their email inbox without actually visiting your blog. So your traffic may actually decrease. That is a problem if you are in a popularity contest to see who gets the most hits. That is not a problem if you are wanting your content to reach as many people as possible and make as big an impact as possible. Make it convenient and people will appreciate it.
- Wildcard factor – Some blogs just fill a niche and so while they seem weird to us they get tons of traffic because of the personality of the blogger, or because it fills a very particular niche.
- Your background – Everyone seems to be an expert in something. Blogging toward your strengths will interest people and draw them in as you talk about the things you know the best. Your experience, writing style, and education can all play a role in making your blog interesting to a particular group of people. It is then just a matter of getting those people to know that your blog exists and that it has content that is interesting to them. Tags and categories are key to accomplishing that.
- Effective use of tags and categories. One way of getting your content toward interested people is by effectively using tags and categories. They allow you to put your content in with any of a number of other blog posts that are on a similar subject. People who want to read about your topics can easily find your content there. Tags and categories should be broad and they should be narrow. In other words, using a broad category like “politics” will get a wider audience of people who are searching that category but will also be lumped in with a zillion other posts. A tag like Randy Harris will probably only be with a few dozen other posts at best and so people looking to read about Randy will be likely to view your content.
- Blog frequently. The more content you have, the more likely search engines are to pick up your content. Again, make sure what you type is of acceptable in quality and don’t just blog just to blog. Increasing the frequency of your posts will help people see that the blog is an active one as well.
What other ideas have you thought about or found effective?