This post was originally published on happytowander.com in 2016. For more up to date blogging resources, check out our free guides here.
In the past 9 months, I’ve somehow managed to quadruple the monthly traffic of this blog.
… and today I’m going to tell you how I did it.
My Blogtoberfest babies, we’re rolling onto Week 4 of this wild ride, so no time like the present to bust out an overly dramatic hook, right? Now I admit, if there’s anything I hate, it’s all those dramatic traffic building posts that are click bait to the max, relying on ridiculous and abnormal case studies to draw you in and read their BS advice.
Most traffic building posts out there regurgitate the same thing over and over: write often, use social media, SEO-optimize your posts and try not to cry, etc. etc. etc.
This post is not going to be like that. Instead, today, I’m going to give you no-fluff strategies on how to drive more traffic and pageviews to your site through actionable tips that work. If you fear these past few weeks of blog insanity have warped my brain: don’t worry. I very much intend to keep the valiant promise I made to you back in Week 1 of Blogtoberfest, which is that I’ll be giving you nothing but real talk advice. The truth is building steady traffic takes truckloads of work, and I need you to know that. There’s no such thing as an overnight success. Even viral hits can’t be sustained.
Take it from me…. I was one.
You see guys, once upon a time (at the start of my blogging career), I got my 15 minutes of fame when a DIY project of mine landed on the front page of Buzzfeed Life, promptly (and unexpectedly) launching me into the scary realm of Internet popularity. Strangers were tweeting that they wanted to be my best friend, people at school would stop me in the middle of campus to ask if I was the ‘snackpack girl’.
In hindsight guys, it was super weird.
And you might have expected this to be ‘my big break’… but just like the many one hit wonder casualties of the music world, I faded meekly into obscurity, left with nothing a brief taste of viral success. After switching my name and domain a few months later, that Buzzfeed feature was as good as useless.
So let that be a lesson: you need to work on building consistent and steady traffic, and you need to work hard to do it. Don’t worry though, that’s what today’s post is all about – the actual strategies I have used to build traffic, alongside a few that I am eager to implement soon. My blog is by no means a traffic monster, but the steady growth speaks for itself and I couldn’t be happier.
Basic Things to Keep in Mind
Good traffic requires good content
Unless you want to live your days as a spewing clickbait machine, all of the following strategies will require a solid base of quality content on your blog. Refer back to Week 2’s Guide on Creating Epic Content if you have to.
Install Google Analytics and pay attention to what it’s telling you
Alright, first thing’s first, every one of you should be using Google Analytics to monitor your traffic.
If you haven’t heard of it, allow me to quickly rescue you from the rock you’ve been living under.
In short, this is a badass tool that makes it socially acceptable to stalk your readers, (which is something I can definitely get behind!) With it, you not only get a gauge of how many sessions, users and pageviews you get, but also where they come from, what they’re interested in, what they’re clicking on and so. much. more.
The wealth of information available through this tool is insane, and will help you in the long run to determine what’s working for your blog, what the massive traffic drivers are and therefore allow you to adjust your strategy accordingly. Here’s Google’s guide on how to set it all up.
Create a proper promotion workflow and checklist
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably juggling 24938 tasks at any given time, with an attention span that’s destroyed at the sight of any fluffy dog or shiny object. This inevitably means of course that some tasks get forgotten. So, to ensure that you’re promoting the heck out of each piece of content you slave over, you should create a checklist of tasks that you do after each article is published. That way, you can keep track of your promotional efforts and make them consistent.
Leveraging networks to boost traffic
After last week’s massive social media guide, I bet the last words you want to hear are ‘leverage’ and ‘networks’. Don’t worry, since I dished out so many secrets last week, I’ll keep this brief… But relationships and networks are crucial to increasing traffic. Here’s a few tips on how to use them effectively:
Realize that sharing to your own social media channels is not enough
Publishing your post on Facebook and Twitter isn’t going to get you a lot of traction… especially if you’re new. This is because social media feeds everywhere are crazy competitive. Maybe 5-10% of your Facebook fans will see your post come up, and the same goes for your Tweet which gets buried in messy feeds. So in short, if your audience is small, then your traction from social media will be ‘teacup chihuahua’ tiny.
What I did: I began to go beyond my own social media channels, and started to make use of social media sharing threads (as we discussed last week). I also began to diversify my promotion methods with the tactics discussed in this post.
Make your stuff easy to share
This is SO important. Sometimes I’ll come across a piece I love and want to share with others, only to find that there’s no easy sharing button anywhere for me to press. This is the most frustrating thing ever! You have to realize that humans, at their core, are lazy, so if you make their job even 0.0000001% harder, they’ll flake out. A while ago, I realized that my blog wasn’t optimized for sharing, which was hurting me a lot more than I knew.
What I did: I installed the SumoMe plugin about a month ago and added the sticky share bar on the left (or the bottom if you’re on mobile) and the result? My posts are getting shared like candy on Halloween. This plugin is one that I highly, highly recommend, because even its free version is packed with awesome features that work like a dream.
Stalk your ideal reader
Hey guys, remember in Week 1 when I told you the importance of identifying your ideal reader? Remember how I told you about Cass, the badass sass machine that I envision to be in love with this blog?
*ominous music* Now we’re gonna find out where she lives.
Okay, before you rush to call the cops, know that I mean this in some kinda online metaphorical way. Here’s the thing: to effectively drive traffic to your blog, you need to find out where and how you can reach your ideal reader. Find out the online communities they participate in, the Facebook groups that they frequent, etc. This way, you know where you’re likely to find them.
What I did: For each post I wanted to promote, I brainstormed who would benefit from that information, and where I could find them. With my 99 Ways to Save Money for Travel post for instance, I realized that this information would be perfect for students and backpackers. That’s why I emailed my article to a bunch of different hostels, university Study Abroad departments, and joined several backpacking groups on Facebook. By tapping into these resources, I found people willing to share my article with my target audience, which helped expand the reach of my post by a metric shit ton (my favourite unit of measurement).
Embrace the power of email
It is absolutely mindblowing how few bloggers do this, but the amount of traffic it brings is truly incredible.
What do you do after you hit ‘Publish’? Besides crack open a bottle of champagne and run yourself a bubble bath?
Well the answer is… you should be emailing your post to relevant people, and asking them to share it.
For us travel bloggers, this would be tourist boards of the places we mentioned, restaurants, businesses, etc. that we might have name dropped. These people WANT to know that you’ve written about them and are usually eager to share good content that mentions them. In this way, it’s really a win win, and the impact on traffic can be huge.
What I did: I started emailing my articles out all the time. For instance, with my monstrous 99 Awesome Things to do in Munich, I mentioned a lot of different businesses, restaurants, etc. So, I sat down one day, taped my eyes open, set up an IV drip of coffee and for a few hours, sent out emails to every single business I mentioned, along with tourism boards for Munich, Bavaria and Germany. The emails were simple, a more professional version of this: “Yo dawg I mentioned your business in this post. If you like it, I’d appreciate a quick share on your social media channels”.
Not everyone responded, but a lot did… and not all of them shared the post, but enough of them did that it’s now one of my highest performers.
So, here’s the lesson: send your posts out. You’ll see results, I promise. A lazier way would be to reach out through Facebook messages, but I’ve gotten a lot more success with email.
Engage in Pinterest wizardry
Every blogger will praise the seemingly magical way that Pinterest drives traffic to their blog. Pinterest is personally my biggest traffic driver, so I can vouch for the fact that this platform is the bomb diggity. If the time commitment for Pinterest seems daunting, I highly recommend you try out some pin scheduling services like Tailwind. You can access a free trial here!
What I did: I went full steam ahead on Pinterest, designing/redesigning/re-redesigning pretty pins for my posts, and went nuts on sharing groups. For a brief refresher on how to be a Pinterest rockstar, check out these tips from my social media guide.
Instagram’s ‘Link in Bio’ Trick
As I mentioned last week, Instagram isn’t the biggest traffic driver, but one trick has helped boost my traffic from it immensely: the link in bio trick.
What I did (and what you should do):
- Paste individual blog post links in your IG bio as your website (e.g. funwebsite.com/coolest-squirrels-in-texas)
- Have something in the line above that indicates what the link is (My list of the coolest squirrels in Texas —>)
- Lastly, mention any new posts in the caption of your new photo (hey guys, I just posted a roundup of the coolest squirrels in Texas! Check it out. Link in bio.)
Simple, but effective. The results aren’t crazy substantial, but it’s a huge improvement on… zero conversions, that’s for sure haha.
Don’t be scared to share content more than once
It’s probably hard to tell with this wacko Internet personality I put on, but deep down, I’m petrified of being annoying.
That’s why for the longest time, I resisted re-sharing my content on social media.
But then I had a very liberating epiphany:
Nobody really cares.
Really! Not a single soul is paying attention to your every move because readers are bombarded with content daily, so there’s no harm in sharing your posts over and over, even years down the road. The key here though is to make sure that you don’t just tweet the exact same thing 500 bajillion times. Vary your content, spice things up, but lead back to the same post. Nobody will notice!
What I did: I started batch scheduling social media posts for my favourite pieces of blog content. Some are scheduled to go out even months from now. Having it done and out of the way means more time for me to relax in a blanket burrito at home. I recommend Buffer as a scheduler!
Comment on other blogs
This once used to be the golden egg of building SEO link juice. Sadly, Google has gotten considerably smarter, and now most comment links are considered ‘nofollow’. Still, commenting on other blogs accomplishes two things: 1) there’s a chance that blog’s readers will see your magically insightful comment and click through to your blog and 2) that particular blogger might be interested in checking your blog out too to reciprocate.
This does help build traffic, although to be honest, it’s a very time consuming tactic, and not all that effective. It’s handy for building connections though, so use this as an avenue to establish a genuine relationship with fellow bloggers (and don’t you dare just leave “GREAT POST” all over the Internet cuz we know your tricks!)
Guest post for bigger dawgs than you
It’s simple, guest posting for someone with a bigger audience than you means you’re getting exposed to tons of new readers who are interested in the stuff you write about. This is something that I personally haven’t done yet but would love to once things settle down.
Big dawgs, holla at me if you feel your blog needs some sass.
Increasing traffic through your content
Identify information that people need and write about that
Coming up on Google is by far the best way to passively gain traffic, and is crucial in sustaining long-term growth for your blog. While a big part of ranking high on Google is getting backlinks, establishing Domain Authority, etc., a sneakier way to land on Google’s first page is to simply write about something that hasn’t been covered.
What I did: 2 years ago, I went to LA, ate a lot of burgers and attended a TV show taping. I thought to myself: hey, there’s a lot of handy info I can offer about my experience! Hence my random guide about how to get tickets to Conan was born.
Now, 2 years later, it’s one of my top performers, with hundreds of people flocking to my blog every week to read it. You wanna know why?
…. Because I’m pretty much the only person who offers it.
So, dig deep, do some research… figure out some knowledge that you can offer which hasn’t been covered by any other blog already and write about it. Pack it with keywords, give it an SEO-friendly title and watch the magic happen.
Create useful, evergreen content
As good as engaging stories are, they tend to not be massive traffic drivers. This is because people like information that helps them in some way, and these are the posts that keep people coming back. Proof: Through my Mailchimp analytics, I’ve seen some of you click back to some of my emails over 24 times. Like, that’s the kind of stalker devotion that melts my heart. Clearly, by offering helpful, value-packed information, you keep people coming back.
Plus, evergreen content (by definition) will always be useful. Posts like “Christmas 2012 events in New York City” will definitely get you less long-term traffic than “An Easy Guide to Spending Christmas in New York City”. Likewise, that second title will get you more traffic than “My Family’s NYC Christmas Experience”. It’s important for you to think about value. Storytelling is great, but integrate that into useful information that people will want to bookmark for the future.
What I did: I began to create posts with a lot of helpfulness and longevity. I also created ones that people would want to refer back to, like these blogging guides for instance, or my roundup of Gorgeous Travel-Inspired DIY Projects. The result has been increased shares, increased traffic and of course, increased/overinflated sense of pride!
Start interlinking your blog posts
If you haven’t noticed. I’m a big fan of subtly (or probably not that subtly) referencing old posts of mine. This isn’t a coincidence. I’ve started doing this rather recently, and realized that it’s been a great way to keep readers engaged and moving onwards through my site. There’s a high chance that your reader hasn’t seen all your other awesome pieces of content, so there’s no harm in dropping a link and showing them what other cool pieces you have.
What I did: I went back into old posts and located opportunities to link back to other relevant posts on my blog. I also began to write new posts with interlinking in mind. Easy as pie. Easy like….. saving money for travel 😉 #QueenOfSublety
Become a grand master of related posts
One of your main goals should be to keep your readers on your site as long as possible. They should be reading your stuff for so long that they start to grow beards. And one of the best to do this is through related posts.
“Oh that’s so basic!” you cry.
Nuh uh, the truth is, most of us have been doing related posts all wrong.
MISTAKE #1: We let WordPress choose related posts for us.
The problem with automatically chosen related posts is that they tend to be grouped together based on category more than anything else, which can be problematic because the related posts might not necessarily be tailored to what your reader is looking for. Let’s say I have a luxury hotel review that is in my ‘Germany’ category, and also a post about backpacking Germany in my ‘Travel’ category. It’s likely that WordPress would group these two together for related posts, even though the audiences are so different. This is problematic because let’s face it: that luxury hotel seeker probably isn’t interested in the fact that I ate bread for 5 days to save money. So how can we fix this?
What I did (and what you should do):
- Manually put in your own related posts – just add in a “YOU MAY ALSO LIKE:” section at the bottom with links to articles that you know people might like, based on that post. Use image links to catch attention. I did this initially, but then moved onto another tactic…
- Download a plugin that gives you more control. I use Inline Related Posts, which allows you to organize related posts by tags. This is awesome because then you can strategically use tags to link appropriate posts together. This plugin also has a second amazing perk to fix the second big mistake, which is…
MISTAKE #2: We only put related posts at the end.
Let’s face the brutal truth – people usually skim through blog posts and sometimes don’t even make it to the end. This means all your fancy Related Posts suggestions might not even be seen. The great thing about Inline Related Posts is that they (you guessed it) place the suggestions throughout the article, at random intervals that you set. You’ll probably have encountered this because big sites like the Wall Street Journal and Business Insider use this plugin too! There is a pro version that you pay for, but in my experience, the free version works great, and comes with a lot of different options to toy around with.
Optimize your navigation for readers to move through your site
This one is tough because after spending countless hours staring at your blog, things begin to look natural, and you don’t really question how well it functions for a newcomer, but you need to consider things like how user-friendly your navigation is, whether or not you have a visible search bar, and whether or not readers can easily access your most popular/latest posts. These factors play a big role in whether or not readers stick around and read more of your content.
What I did: I reconfigured my navigation menus to make them more visually appealing, and I grouped them into more specific/enticing categories. I also added a sidebar to most of my posts (not these blogging ones though hehe), which had a list of my most Popular Posts/Latest Posts. The result has been a massively decreased bounce rate!
Create some phoenixes
There are some blog posts from the far far depths of my early blogging days that have miraculously risen from the ashes and become massive traffic drivers.
Because I am lame, I call these my phoenixes.
And okay, I say ‘miraculously’, but the truth is I worked hard to resurrect them. Here’s what I did (and what you should do):
- Pick an old blog post that’s not doing so hot.
- Update the photos and visuals, make that thing look brand new.
- Update the copy if necessary and improve the writing [resist the urge to vomit upon reading your early blogging]
- Make a Pinterest-friendly vertical image for it.
- Share it to some Pinterest sharing groups (Access my list of favourites here).
- Share the post on social media, email it to relevant people and show a few friends.
- Watch traffic explode for this previously dead piece of content. Voilaaaa – phoenix!
Confront your fear of SEO
I genuinely believe that SEO is one of the most confusing and allusive concepts in the travel blogging world. Cloaked behind the mysterious workings of the Google algorithm, much of SEO knowledge sharing between bloggers seems to be the blind leading the blind. In other words, most of us have zero idea what we’re doing.
I’m not going to contribute to this noise, because I am by no means an SEO expert.
Hopefully someday this will change, and I can write an in-depth guide for you all. Until then, here is a mega helpful resource from Moz that details a Beginner’s Guide to SEO. Some of the little tricks that have really helped me are:
- Writing keyword-rich articles that many people haven’t written about. Again, my post about attending Conan tapings is the SECOND result on Google for “Conan tickets”… under only the actual site where you book tickets. Pretty wicked. My post about Mistakes to Avoid in Brussels has also attracted a lot of Google traffic. Neither of these are my proudest posts content-wise, but they both perform really well.
- Building backlinks. I haven’t started doing this until recently but I’m already seeing results! The thing about building backlinks (i.e. having other websites link to you) is that it makes your website look legit in the eyes of Google, and boosts the chance that your page will rank highly. This has done wonders for me, and I just looove watching my posts slowly creep up in Google rankings.
- Using the Yoast SEO plugin. I’m nowhere as dedicated to this as some people are, and I tend to lose patience with trying to get my article a ‘green rating’, but still, it has a lot of cool functions that you can take advantage of. I usually just use Yoast to edit my Google snippet (the little bit of text under your title in Google). I feel like this has made a big difference, but it’s hard for me to quantify.
Host a giveaway/competition
I’ve travelled to a lot of different countries, experienced how amazingly diverse cultures can be and witnessed how even the most basic of our assumptions can be broken in an instant.
One thread however has been universal.
An ardent love of free shit.
Like, genuinely, even it’s complete garbage, humans will just swarm around chances to get things for free. Do you have any idea how many random ‘free’ things I have lying around the house? I legitimately have a tube of Yelp-branded chap stick (lol how is that even a thing) sitting on my counter that has been there for 3 years. Will I ever use it? It’s probably pure poison at this point, so I reckon not…
But dayum did it feel good to get.
So how can you work this love of free into your blog strategy? Why not leverage the Internet’s ‘gimme’ mentality by hosting some kind of competition on your blog? Whatever it is, make sure it’s something that people actually want and make sure the contest details are all found on one landing page. That way, you can promote like crazy on all your different channels and then, kachiiing, rake in the views on your blog.
There’s a few different services you can use for your contest, but I’ve heard great things about Rafflecopter.
NOTE: Be wary that any follows/pageviews/subscriptions you get may not be of the highest quality. In an ideal world, you want people to stick around because they like your content, not because you’re their suga mama, so keep that in mind. Traffic is nice, but quality traffic is what you really want.
Do roundups and stroke egos
This is indeed, a very cheap trick, but it works incredibly. When you include the valued opinions of other bloggers in your post (whether through a collaboration post or a roundup), it’s a pretty sure bet that they’ll share it with their networks too.
Think about it this way: if I wrote an article about “The top 100 travel blogs to follow in 2017” and you were on it… what would you do?
Well, apart from cry and eat a celebratory burrito bowl, you would share it! Because you want people to know you’re smart, perfect, valued, etc.
With 100 blogs featured, that’s almost like a guaranteed reach boost of 10,000%.
So how can you put this into practice?
- Create some kind of roundup post – e.g. “Top blog posts for aspiring travel bloggers” and link to different resources, then let the bloggers know you’ve linked to them.
- Put together a collaboration post about a certain topic e.g. “Best beaches in the world according to travel bloggers” and ask in Facebook groups for people to send in their submissions.
- Even do a collaboration post with your readers! Ask people to email/comment with their favourite tips, destinations, etc. and do a ‘Readers’ Roundup’.
The possibilities are endless. What’s crucial though is that you engage in some solid email marketing after… Let these bloggers know that you’ve featured them, and why. Send a thoughtful email, not just a copy/paste one. Trust me, it’s pretty easy to spot those. And on another note, don’t just name drop because you want them to share… only share content that you feel your readers would value, otherwise that erodes reader trust and isn’t worth it.
Try to go viral
Ah, the lofty goal of every 2012 marketing company.
Going viral these days has become a lot more common, with instant fame stories sprouting up pretty much everyday on the Internet. From boys with white shoes to moms with funny laughs, the Internet has a very strange way of picking the ‘the chosen ones’ that skyrocket themselves to fame. Still, going viral hasn’t gotten any easier.
A “sure” way to skyrocket your traffic is by writing a piece that goes viral, but of course that’s easier said than done. As I mentioned earlier, this isn’t a sustainable strategy at all, but if you really want to go for it, here are some suggestions:
- Do something absolutely epic that nobody has done before, and write about that.
- Offer a radically different new opinion on a popular topic (e.g. when those travel vloggers went to North Korea and claimed they loved it? Yikes). In other words, you can try this strategy:
One of my favourite marketing books is called Contagious by Jonah Berger. It’s a fun, easy read that details why things go viral, and how ideas spread. In it, Berger recaps all the research he’s done on virality, and there’s one section on emotions that’s particularly compelling. What would you reckon are the emotions that cause people to share?
… It’s actually not strictly positive ones like contentment or happiness, it’s high-arousal emotions like anger and awe that rank at the top of the list.
This is not a strategy that I necessarily condone, but one really good way to get attention for your blog is to be controversial. This doesn’t need to be a bad thing – it could just be that you’re introducing a new perspective to a popular discussion, or sharing an unpopular opinion. Either way, this could be a great way to get eyes on your blog. … just pretty please don’t rely on saying horrible things to get attention.
Land press coverage
Getting covered in mainstream media is probably one of the biggest things that can happen to a blogger. Last year, I created a campaign against irresponsible voluntourism as part of a university project, and it got picked up by The Guardian. This quickly snowballed into media features from a slew of outlets, radio appearances (I said ‘like’ a lot) and even a TV interview (where they caked my face with 10 layers of makeup). Media coverage is huge. One big hit, and your inbox will probably be full of inquiries.
… but how do you get there?
The truth is: your story needs to be unique and interesting. Just being a travel blogger doesn’t cut it anymore and isn’t enough for the media to care about you. To land press coverage, you need to do really really cool things, unique things that grab attention and make people go “wow”.
Another important thing is connections and networking. The likelihood of a journalist finding you and wanting to cover you is pretty slim. You need to do some leg work to a) get them to notice you and b) build a decent enough relationship with them that you don’t feel weird pitching potential ideas/angles.
My advice? Find bloggers who have received coverage from mainstream media and look at the journalists/outlets who wrote about them. You know that these people write stories about bloggers, so figure out what it is that they find newsworthy, and go from there.
If you’re still conscious after that massive knowledge vomit, congrats on being a strong badass. I swear, sometimes I tell myself “this will be a short one” and then in some caffeinated daze, I’ll spew out over 5000 words.
I just have a lot to share…. and I hope you don’t mind!
So, if you’re still with me, don’t forget to leave a comment with your best blog post so I can check it out! I’ll see you again next Saturday for… *gulp* the last instalment of Blogtoberfest!
Have a lovely week 🙂