Okay.. I’ve written here for five years and if I’m honest, the first 3-4 years, no bugger read it, I felt like I was shouting into an abyss and posting was pointless, it seemed daft for writing for 30 people a day (if that). I was becoming very down, and admittedly, I just couldn’t be arsed with it.
I’m a bit stubborn, and decided to stick with it, with a complete ‘Build it and they will come’ attitude, and do you know something? It’s working! I just thought I’d share a few random snippets of stuff I’ve picked up along the way that could help with increasing your blog traffic. in no particular order.
1 – WordPress, WordPress, WORDPRESS!!
I’m not going to get into any discussion, or arguments, I’m a MASSIVE WordPress fan, it works, it’s flexible and it can create beautiful websites without too much geeky knowledge. Whilst Blogger is great as a platform, and fairly n00b friendly (this was hosted on there for YEARS), I’ve honestly not looked back since making the switch, the power of WordPress is unrivalled. Regardless of whether you choose to host directly with WordPress, or you opt to use a different host like GoDaddy or WP Engine, you won’t be let down. If you decide to go with a different host for a managed WordPress, you can read reviews on websites alike to makeawebsitehub.com to get an idea of which host would be best for you, but you’ll still get the full benefits of WordPress! You can get a multitude of amazing themes for it, I love browsing through ThemeForest just to see what you can do with WordPress with a £35 Theme. Also there seems to be plugins for just about EVERYTHING in WordPress, don’t like the way WordPress displays pictures? Get a different Gallery Plugin! Need to make a detailed Contact Form? Get a contact form plugin! There are thousands of them that work wonderfully, and most are FREE! I’d also recommend going down the ‘Self Hosted’ WordPress route – I use Vidahost (there’s a post here explaining why). If Blogger suits you more, then that’s cool, just remember you’re playing with Google’s ‘ball’ and it MIGHT not be around forever.
2 – Don’t beg PR people for stuff to Review – Review YOUR stuff!
A common blogging faux pas is that everyone assumes bloggers get a tonne of freebies to review, some do, but – you’re not just going to get sent stuff because you’ve managed to make a blog. You need an audience, and a ‘following’, this takes TIME, so in the mean time – review stuff you have! I write reviews on a multitude of stuff, and you know, they are some of my most popular posts in the lifetime of the blog, they’ve got picked up by Google and people just keep reading them. My MiFi review can get between 30-50 views a DAY, all from people Googling for the Model number! It was something I purchased with my own money, and just made a review for! You don’t NEED free stuff from PR people.
3 – SEO Helps – A lot
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is VERY important, I didn’t really worry about it at all to start with, but, the month after I installed the Yoast SEO plugin, and configured it, I was getting 5 times the traffic on my blog. I had to go through old posts and add the SEO data, but it really paid off. Yoast is fantastic and works on a ‘Traffic Light’ system, if you’ve got a green light on your post, it means the SEO is good, amber and red lights – less so. The best thing is, it will TELL you how to improve your post – using your chosen ‘keyword’ will help, as will stuff like having a good word count, using header tags, having a decent meta description. It might sound a little confusing and baffling, but honestly, Yoast makes it VERY easy, and will hold your hand through SEO.
A good example of the Yoast SEO plugin doing its magic is here –
There, you’ll see my review of the Koochi Speedstar is 2nd in Google (you’ll also note the ‘Rich Snippet’ (see no. 7)) – It’s actually higher than Cosatto’s OWN page on the Koochi! Just shows you how powerful SEO can be.
4 – Whore your stuff – At the right time, and in the right places
There are a range of plugins, and websites that will help you publicise your blog posts, and push them to social networks – whilst that is great – automation isn’t always the best idea. With this blog, when I publish something – the Jetpack plugin posts it to my Facebook Wall, and my LinkedIn. I use dlvr.it to post to my Twitter and RSS Graffiti to post to my Facebook Page. Using these different methods allows for a slightly delayed push, so you’re not throwing it out there immediately across ALL networks. You also need to remember that Twitter is pretty instant, so mentioning something on there ONCE, will probably only be seen by a handful of people, do it a few times a day, so more people see it. Don’t go nuts, try and find the right balance! Automation is all well and good, but if you’ve automatically got stuff posting during a time when say, a celebrity / world leader dies, you might look a bit of a knob.
Reddit is an incredible source of traffic, especially the ‘funny’ section, if you’re posting in there when America is awake, you’ll see an insane spike in figures. Reddit is reputation based, and if you whore your own stuff too much, you’ll get your account locked down. They recommend it’s best to share stuff on a 1 to 10 ratio, so one of your links for ten other people’s links. Also don’t share EVERYTHING to Reddit – just a little bit.
5 – Facebook doesn’t like giving you stuff for free. EVER.
If you’ve got a blog, with a Facebook Page, you can see your ‘reach’ – or how many people see you post, Facebook, clearly in a bid to sell you adverts, seem to dislike posts with links to your blog in. The reach on these can be pretty small, sometimes laughable, there is a sneaky trick around it though. DON’T put a link you your blog post in the Post – stick it in the comments – it’s a bit rough and ready, but it works, the reach is much larger. Facebook may cotton on to this soon, so make hay while the sun shines.
6 – Write from the heart
Don’t always keep it twee and sunshine, write about the harder stuff, people do appreciate honesty – I had such a good reception from the poem I wrote. I plan to write a little more from the heart in the next year (maybe with less swearing!). I’m not saying paint your blog black and put on ‘The Smiths’ back catalogue, but sometimes, people don’t really give a toss about your shiny new Stokke, or how cute your kids are. Be honest, and truthful and people will appreciate it.
7 – Rich Snippets and Twitter Cards are great!
I’ve written a little bit about Twitter Cards before here, but put simply, when you publish a post to Twitter, if you’ve got the Twitter Cards set up correctly, the reader gets a snippet and picture from the post. It’s better than adding a twitpic or similar, because people have to click to see the snippet. It won’t just clog up people’s timelines.
Rich Snippets are similar, but for Google Search Results, I won’t bore you with the details of them (this page gives you examples), but if you’re reviewing an item, or doing a recipe, they are fabulous, and will bump you up Google more, as those posts with Rich Snippets end up nearer the top.
Both Rich Snippets and Twitter Cards look difficult to set up, but in reality, there are easy, there are a multitude of WordPress Plugins that will help!
8 – Ditch Disqus
I LOVE Disqus, it’s a fabulous commenting system, and it looks very pretty and shiny, but.. In reality.
It’s a bit shit.
The concept of it is great, but a lot of people do have troubles with using it, especially on Mobile Devices – since switching it off, I’ve seen a massive increase in people leaving comments. People will probably try to comment once, if it doesn’t work first time, they’ll think ‘Sod it’ and not do it any more. The WordPress standard commenting system is ugly, but it works.
9 – Think about your readers, and how they read your blog
I’ve noticed, probably 65% of my traffic is on mobile / tablet devices, so therefore, I want my readers to have a decent ‘experience’ of my blog on whatever screen size they have. Far too many bloggers don’t actually bother with how their site looks on anything other than their computer, using a standard ‘mobile’ template and hoping that’ll do.
Bog standard ‘Mobile’ templates are shit.
Think about finding a ‘responsive’ design for your blog. Responsive designs adapt your site to the screen size it’s being viewed in, to give the reader the BEST possible experience of how your site should look. If you’re reading this on a desktop web browser, shrink the size of the window – you’ll see the design change to try and match the decreasing / increasing size.
When you’ve got a responsive design – test it on a multitude of devices, and see how it looks, ask friends / readers to see how it looks for them, don’t just stick with ‘ahh that’ll do’. Give your reader a good experience and they’ll come back to read more.
10 – Build it, and they will come.
Above all – Don’t get sad that only a few people have read something you’ve spent an age writing, it’s the internet, it’ll be on there forever (if you want it to be!). Just put it out there, and people will read it, maybe not on the day you wrote it, perhaps not even that week, but someone will see it, and appreciate it.
The best bloggers write because they love writing, not because XYZ Corp is giving you free stuff, or paying you to write – do it for the love, not the money.