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How My Blog Traffic Grew 20% During a 3-Week Vacation (or How to Take a Vacation Without Losing Traffic)

This is a guest post from J.D. Roth. J.D. writes about smart personal finance at Get Rich Slowly. He has been blogging since 2001.

200711162216The summer doldrums — most bloggers fear them. It’s not just that traffic tends to be lower, but bloggers are people, too, and need to take vacations. Yet even when big-name bloggers take a break, their traffic falls. Imagine what things are like for mortals like us!

Yet it doesn’t have to be that way. In July, I spent three weeks traveling to London, Dublin, and New York. During that time, my blog didn’t lose traffic. In fact, it gained readers. Here’s how I did it.

Begin planning early

I often see bloggers post requests for guest entries just days before they leave town. This isn’t enough time. It’s not enough time for guest authors to write anything, and it’s not enough time for you to edit it. When preparing for a vacation, you don’t want to prepare days ahead, or even weeks. You want to plan months in advance. Because I knew that I was leaving on July 14th, I began planning for my absence in April.

Be organized

To make things easier, I created a spreadsheet listing the slots that needed to be filled. I post either once or twice a day at Get Rich Slowly, so I had a two-column grid covering the days I would be gone.

Grsvacationgrid

As I accepted guest posts, I slotted them for a particular day. The schedule changed frequently, but modifications were easy because I was using a spreadsheet.

Adjust your schedule

Planning for a three-week absence takes work. Even when filling the space with guest posts, each entry must be edited, formatted, and scheduled. In the weeks leading up to your vacation, slow your daily production. If you post twice a day, but back to just once a day. Use the extra time to write pieces for your absence, or to edit the guest posts that you’ve received.

Plan beyond your return date

When I returned from my trip, I was exhausted. I didn’t want to write. Fortunately, I didn’t have to. Instead of just planning three weeks of guest posts, I had planned four. I knew that I might be in a time crunch upon returning, so I made sure to have extra posts ready to go.

Aim high

Here’s the meat of this strategy. In order to keep your readers interested, and in order to maintain traffic, you need to offer top-notch content. To do this, you need top-notch authors. It’s always smart to ask colleagues — bloggers in your same niche — if they’re willing to contribute. But better yet, ask people who seem out of your league. What do you have to lose? At worst, they’ll say “no”. At best, they’ll say “yes”, and you’ll have made them aware of your site.

I decided to ask for posts from big-name writers I admire, including Penelope Trunk, Malcolm Gladwell, and Liz Pulliam Weston. These folks aren’t small potatoes. Each is a published author who also writes a regular newspaper or magazine column. Because I knew these people were busy, I kept my e-mail brief. I introduced myself, described my site (emphasizing its subscriber numbers, which are its strength), and explained the situation. Most importantly, I pointed out that a guest post at Get Rich Slowly might introduce their work to a new audience.

Not everyone will be willing or able to lend a hand. But some will. Trunk and Weston both agreed to provide posts. And while Gladwell couldn’t do so, he did grant me permission to excerpt several pages from one of his books.

All because I had the courage to ask.

Final touches

Once you’ve assembled your collection of guest posts, place them in an order that makes sense. You have a feel for the rhythm of your blog — attempt to duplicate it with the posts you’ve gathered. Some of the guest articles will be better than others. Don’t cluster the good stuff together. Instead, space things out, using the best articles as tent poles to hold up the weaker entries.

200711162218It’s a good idea to recruit a recruit a trusted colleague or a loyal reader to act as editor while you’re away. There may be long stretches during which you have no access to a computer. During my trip, it was comforting to know that there was somebody around to put out fires. (And there were fires! The very first post of my vacation stirred up a hornet’s nest.)

Enjoy your holiday

This may sound like a lot of work, but it’s really not. And it’s worth it. If you start early, and work on the project a little at a time, you’ll find that it comes together with ease. Best of all, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your holiday because you’ll know you’ve left your readers with quality content.

When I left for vacation in mid-July, Get Rich Slowly was averaging 7,500 unique visitors a day. When I returned three weeks later, it was averaging 9,000 per day. (And my subscriber numbers had grown too!) All it took was a little elbow grease and the courage to ask for help.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Kevin says:

    You’re a genius.

    It’s planning, attention to detail, and information like this that make you a pro.

    Know I know why people think this stuff is so easy; you make it look easy!

  2. Kevin says:

    ^^
    “Now I know…” – excuse the typo.

  3. Dan Schawbel says:

    Smart. Your blog is what brands are attached to it, write for it and engage with it.

  4. Live Crunch says:

    I plan my posts ahead but, with my new iphone that i got few months ago I think i will be ok even if I go to vacation as long as I hit some wireless I will still be able to hit “publish” button.

    But there is always friends backup!

    Nice blog. So

    Darren are you back yet?

  5. Mandy says:

    I had a three week holiday in August and got it all wrong! If only I had read this post back in April!

    You’ve made a huge point – plan ahead early

    I learned a lot and now know what I have to do for next year, with 2 little kids I think I’ll start in February…

  6. FMF says:

    JD –

    I think you did so well because that first post really started you off with a “bang.” ;-)

  7. Joe says:

    Great stuff Darren, I probably should have done something when I left for a short trip recently, but I found that since I posted on a topic that i have a strong opinion on, and was related to the trip I went to, that particular blog gained traffic also.

    Create a bit of controversy or hit someone’s ego and they will come also it seems…

  8. SpicePuppy says:

    Some good uncommon sense here, J.D. Most people just don’t take the time to be strategic about things like this, but it obviously paid off for you!

  9. I think planning is the key to every successful blog. I have just started with notjohnchow.com and I have already benefitted by writing posts weeks in advance. Now I think Ineed to plan a nice vacation like you did. Thanks for the good post.

  10. NoCaf4Me says:

    I simply use time stamp with articles written and it post in advance the days I’m away. Make’s blogging a breeze and the readers never know I’m on vacation.

  11. Great Post AGAIN!!! Welcome back from your week trip and keep up with the stache. Planning is definetly very important when you are starting a blog (or business) it is also important in day to day operations of both. Planning is important in almost everything, even hunting which is what i blog about.

  12. Miche says:

    You’re certainly an expert in your niche – but what about us little guys who don’t have the luxury of guest contributors? I’ve figured out some of my own solutions, but it would be interesting to see what your thoughts are on the matter.

  13. Very good post. Planning in advance and being resourceful is the key.

  14. Excellent!…its good idea to plan things in advance!

  15. Its a great idea, really! Thanks you.

  16. J.D. says:

    Miche wrote: What about us little guys who don’t have the luxury of guest contributors?

    If you’re just starting out, there’s really no need for guest posts. If you have a handful of readers, you probably have a more intimate relationship with them. I know that’s true at my smaller sites. In this case, guest posts aren’t necessary. Or, if you want to have them, you can actually draw upon these readers.

    (And if you don’t have readers, you don’t need guest posts. I have a blog about animal intelligence, but few people read it. When I go on vacation, I don’t worry about guest posts.)

    Any slightly larger blog should have several sources of guest posts: “superfans”, colleagues in your niche, and contacts outside the blogging universe.

    Bigger blogs should have all sorts of contacts they can call upon.

    Regardless of your blog’s size, though, it never hurts to ask for a guest post from somebody who seems out of your league. As I say in my article, the worst they can do is say “no”. Though I didn’t mention it in my post, I asked Darren and John Chow. Though neither was able to contribute anything, I was glad I had asked. I also wrote to other big-name money authors (not just bloggers, but actual authors). Most didn’t respond. A couple said no. And one or two gave me stuff for after vacation.

    What I’m saying is: take a chance, even if you think your blog is too small.

  17. Excellent! I how much a HUGE blog like Boing Boing or even Problogger would grow with these tips.

    Great ideas, man, thanks!

  18. J.D., I like your take a chance attitude. Why not? If you ask politely, the worst that can happen is they say no.

  19. Max Powers says:

    I guess you need to get over the “but only I can write for my readers” attitude to finally take some time off. Good planning ahead of time sure does make it seem easier.

  20. plonkee says:

    I’m just about to go on holiday for a week myself, (like, tomorrow) so this would have been handy if it had come up a couple of months ago.

    I did ask for some guest posts from some blogging friends, and also announced it on my blog, and I’ve been lucky enough to have some great articles come my way. Looks like I should have asked J.D. though.

  21. Derek Baker says:

    Pretty nice to grow that much without being there. Must have put a lot of confidence in your writing and guest posters. Nice post.

  22. This is exactly what I did at HD BizBlog while I was moving from NC to Maine earlier this month. I plotted out three weeks’ worth of posts and got some help from my pals at 7pproductions.com and thedailysaint.com.
    Planning is the number one thing to be a success, thanks for your story!

  23. Skellie says:

    This is a post topic I was thinking of covering myself, but what else is there left to say? Fantastic post :-).

  24. Gisele B. says:

    Great tips J.D.

    I also was away for about 6 weeks and I wrote the content for all six weeks before leaving + I also had content ready for the two weeks after my return because I knew I would be really tired.

    It does take a LOT of planning and time, but it can be done. I found it essential not to loose the momentum I had started to create just because I needed to get away.

    One of Darren’s guest posted an article on being a Happier Blogger…I think that vacation time is part of the mix. If not, then blogging will make us quite miserable people.

    Thanks for a great post!

    Gisele
    http://www.mybeautymatch.com

  25. I just recently took a week vacation and the average # of readers shot up by a good 10% but traffic dropped 50%. However, the traffic before the vacation was about 50% stumbleupon, so that explains that. Didn’t do anything special – and it was very spontaneous – yet my blog has more readers than ever before. Try figuring that one out.

  26. 66tx says:

    “Now I know…” – excuse the typo.

  27. Derrick Tan says:

    Great way to enjoy your holidays without any fears. Thanks!

  28. Wayne Liew says:

    If you ask me to leave my blog and go for a vacation, I will give you the “NO!” answer immediately.

    I know planning ahead is important if we know we are leaving for a vacation or a blogging rest but this just don’t work for new blogs.

    For me, new blogs should at least maintain or build up their voices and post frequency to be open to option like having a blogging break. The traffic base for a new blog might not be firm even you are getting high traffic and this will lead to a huge loss of traffic if the writer is missing.

  29. I was planning a vacation this summer. Now I know what to do! Thanks!

  30. I went on a 4 week vacation in Sept/Oct this year and I did everything on your list. I post once a day for 6 days a week and whilst I was away my blog didn’t miss a beat. And I organised enough posts to keep me afloat for the first week after I got back too. I didn’t have too many guest posts (only 4) but I got into the planning a couple of months ahead and built up my ‘bank’ of posts which I then juggled around on a spreadsheet (remarkably like yours) until I had the right blend of topics.
    The only thing that was missing was the marketing activities which I obviously couldn’t do. So i wasn’t able todo the promotion of posts that I would normally do. Otherwise my readers were kept happy with their daily dose of content and I returned home to a thriving blog.

  31. Sangesh says:

    Welcome back Darren…

    Hope you have come back with more energy.

    Cheers.

  32. Dan Blank says:

    J.D. – I love how seriously you take your blogging, and obvious it is that you value your audience. So many in established media think of blogging as something more haphazard – but your preparation is a testament to the hard work involved.

    Also, it’s great to see you able to take a break from the entrepreneurial spirit of blogging.
    Have a nice evening.
    -Dan

  33. Taong Grasa says:

    very great post. we can only envy you. I’ll keep note of your tips.