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The Truth About Creating a High-traffic Blog

Keeping You Posted by Skellie.Skellie wrote this post. For more, you can follow her on Twitter.

Did you know that some blogs receive over one million visitors each month?

Have you ever wondered how they do it?

This kind of traffic isn’t easy to attain, but the pay-off for a high traffic blog with hundreds of thousands of page views each month (or more) are considerable. With that kind of traffic it’s hard not to make good money!

Most blogs with huge amounts of traffic are in fact run by a dedicated staff of writers who can churn out content much faster than a single blogger could ever hope to manage. Part of the reason these blogs are so highly trafficked is because a repeat visitor knows there’s likely to be something new every few hours or so. They have reason to visit multiple times during the day. Examples of blogs like this are the Gawker Media blogs, such as Lifehacker and Kotaku.

Most of us don’t have the money or the desire to take on a large contingent of writers to keep our blogs updated every few hours. The good news is that huge traffic is still possible at a single-author blog. Look to StevePavlina.com, Zen Habits, Entrepreneur’s Journey, even ProBlogger itself (I pick these examples because you’re likely to be familiar with them, but there are so many others). These are just a few examples where a single-author blog is receiving hundreds of thousands of page views each month, and in some cases, over a million.

Can we do the same?

These are the kind of stats we dream of for our own blogs, but most of us doubt that this would be possible for us. This is probably because the steps involved in getting there seem very blurry. You’re producing great content, growing in size slowly but surely, gathering new loyal readers and increasing your traffic, but you’re still miles away from the kind of huge audience those blogs experience. What are the factors that separate the average blog from these super high traffic blogs?

This is the point where you expect a cop-out — for me to say that it is, of course, great content that separates those blogs from the average. Unfortunately, your expectations won’t be met here. I’m not interested in content right now. At least, not directly. In fact, your content may be just as good, or better, than any one of the blogs I’ve mentioned, or any other successful single-author blogs you can think of.

What I am interested in, and I hope you will be too, is to know where that traffic is coming from.

On a multi-author blog producing reams of content it’s likely to receive many of its ‘visits’ from single visitors who make multiple return visits each day, in addition to high search traffic due to the vast amount of content archived at the blog, and social media traffic, because multi-author blogs generally have the resources to break important stories. When we look at single-author blogs, however, traffic sources are going to be coming from very different places.

Instead of producing dozens of posts each day a blog run by one person is probably going to be producing, at most, a handful of posts per day. The average level will probably be one post per day. For this reason, single-author blogs probably can’t expect visitors to return five or ten times a day to check for new updates. So, we knock out that traffic source.

I want to suggest that very highly trafficked single-author blogs are knocking the ball out of the park in at least two of the following three core areas:

  • Search
  • Social media
  • Evangelism

The last one is a must. Waves of social media traffic come and go and search engine traffic can disappear with the next Google algorithm update. If readers evangelize your content, as they do for Steve Pavlina, Leo Babauta, Yaro Starak, and you have probably done for Darren Rowse (by recommending him to a friend, or linking to one of his articles with a glowing recommandation) you will find it difficult to receive anything but huge traffic.

Performing exceptionally with at least one of the others is also very important, and it’s particularly useful if you can master both.

SEO

Most single-author blogs with huge traffic are getting a lot of that from search (sometimes as high as 20%). Some blogs, however, will never receive exceptional search traffic, no matter how popular they get or how much SEO work is done on them. After all, most people use search to solve a problem. They want to know how to do such and such thing, and the problem is that they don’t. So they search. However, some blogs are not so much about providing answers as they are about asking questions. Others might provide answers to questions you didn’t know you had. If you’re seeking to be entertained, they might entertain you in a way you never would have searched for on your own.

One of the best blog posts I’ve read in recent memory was Errol Morris’s dissection of two pieces of war-time photography in an effort to decide whether one of the pictures was faked. It was called ‘Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?’ and generated over 900 comments. Were people searching for this content before they found it? Very unlikely. Even putting the photographer’s name in the headline probably wouldn’t have improved the SEO situation very much, but it still didn’t hurt the story any. In fact, it went on to become a viral sensation.


Photo by victoriapeckham.

Social media

I relate the above example to show that some topics suit high levels of search traffic much better than others. If you feel you’re in the latter camp it’s still very possible to receive high levels of traffic, but you’ll find it much easier to so with the help of social media. If you’re not setting StumbleUpon on fire with your posts you should aim to get some love from Digg or Reddit. If you don’t know how to do that, hire someone who does and get them to write for you once a week. There are plenty of talented writers out there, looking for work, who really ‘get’ social media. Look for for an excellent front-page story on Digg that relates to your blog topic and then find out who wrote it. If you’re lucky, that person may be looking for more work.

Once you’ve produced a great post, get a top user to submit the content before anyone else. You’d be surprised at how easy this is if they think the content is good. Once it’s done, let their network take over. With a talented writer and a bit of audacity it’s surprisingly easy to go popular on social media pretty much, well, whenever you want to. But that’s material for another post, another time.

Case studies

Let’s examine three blogs that I’ve mentioned above. First, this one, ProBlogger. I’m pretty certain most of Darren’s traffic comes from direct links (evangelism), search (a high percent, due to practical topics and clever SEO), and StumbleUpon (a whole lot of it). While most of us are receiving traffic from these sources, high-traffic blogs take this to another level. The importance of evangelism from the reader base is the driving force behind all these things. ProBlogger wouldn’t rank as high in search if thousands of people hadn’t linked to it using juicy keywords. It wouldn’t receive loads of StumbleUpon traffic if its readers weren’t motivated to vote for it.

Next, let’s think about where Zen Habits is getting its traffic from. I’m not sure about the level of search traffic it gets, but I know it receives an exceptional amount of social media traffic from StumbleUpon and Digg. I also know the reader base is highly evangelical and links to Leo’s articles regularly. The blog is also spread through word of mouth networks. Once again, the success on social media probably wouldn’t have progressed as far as it has without an evangelical reader base. That factor is essential for the other factors to exist.

Evangelism

By now you will have noticed I’ve been throwing the word ‘evagelical’ around a whole lot without really explaining what I mean by it. The word comes from religious evangelicals, so it’s best to start there. While the word has been appropriated to describe a particular group of religious people, it has also been absorbed into the language of marketing.

To evangelize something really just means that you are passionate about it and try to get others to be passionate about it too (in a religious context, this would be a particular understanding of God). In fact, I want to suggest that you’ve done some evangelizing whether you are religious or not. If you’ve forced a tattered copy of your favorite book into the hands of a friend, you’re evangelizing it. If you told someone their next laptop should be a MacBook Pro because you love yours, you’re evangelizing the product. When you tell an aspiring blogger that they really should be reading ProBlogger, you evangelize this blog. When you link to it, vote for it or recommend it via word of mouth, you are evangelizing it, and the same goes for any blog you enjoy and try to share with others.

The key difference between the average blog and a high traffic blog is that the high traffic blog has an evangelical following: people who think, “My God, more people have to see this!”

Someone who only skims your posts will register on your stat counter but they are not going to spread the ‘gospel’ of your blog to others, so to speak. An evangelical reader might stumble every post they read and link to you every week. They do the kind of things that allow you to rank highly in search, and to get torrents of traffic from social media. In other words, to build a high traffic blog you need to create a highly evangelical audience.

What makes someone passionate and evangelical about a blog?

It’s not fluff. It’s not controversy for its own sake. It’s not self-indulgence. It’s not stale formulas. It’s knowing deeply the kind of individuals your audience is made up of, what their needs and wants and dreams are, how you fit into that, and how much you can make their lives better, whether it’s by making them smile, laugh, cry, go ‘Ah-ha!’, feel empowered, feel informed, entertained or more skillful.

The amount of improvement you make in the lives of your readers will be in proportion to the amount of effort they put into evangelizing your blog and helping it become more popular than you may ever have imagined.

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Comments

  1. Thanks Skellie for a very great post!
    You said that : “If you’re not setting StumbleUpon on fire with your posts you should aim to get some love from Digg or Reddit.” I have used StumbleUpon and Digg to increase my Blog traffic, however I have never used Reddit! Could someone tell me how good is Reddit? Should I use Reddit? Thanks Skellie again and thanks for helping!
    http://easyadsensevn.blogspot.com/

  2. Prasanna says:

    Hi Darren, Thanks for sharing this great information. From past some time I was hearing a lot about Evangelism but, I didn’t knew anything about it. After reading this post only I came to know about its exact meaning.

  3. Wayne Tully says:

    I evangelize all the time about almost everything and it is fun to recommend something that helps you in your blogging or marketing online, sometimes there are times in the day were I do nothing else.
    As an affiliate marketer I recommend products that benefit people, but also to recommend non affiliate products just for the recommendation alone can be quite useful to others.

    High traffic blogs are what we all dream if we have not reached that level yet!

  4. asosa says:

    This is something I am struggling with but with informative info like this, I hope to gain ground after time. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Dr. Teeth says:

    Even Balkhis.com is climbing the success ladder fast

  6. Quality content, SEO, and social media seem to be very popular blog posts lately. I think more and more bloggers are realizing that these three elements are the basis for a successful blog.

  7. Rob Chant says:

    On the subject of evangelism on marketing, it would be well worth checking out Seth Godin’s work on tribes and tribal marketing.

  8. Lex G says:

    What about accenting that different niches have different competitive levels ? Getting good SEO results for an internet business niche is for instance harder and will take longer time than getting good results than other niches.

    Hence the timing of starting the blog is imperative. Take Problogger itself for example. The meta blogging and make money online niches are saturated now, but were they when Darren started 4 years ago ?

  9. wow I didnt know I even had to think about stuff like this. I just started blogging to have a record of what I was doing. I never knew blogging was so intense. thank you for all your hard work it makes me want to do better.

  10. Angel Cuala says:

    This is the best explanation about getting high quality traffic so far.

    I think this post only reminds us about some important aspects in life, whatever career we choose. Being trustworthy is the key to success. Although some people may not agree with some of our ideas, it is the humility in our hearts that will be seen by our readers.

    Giving what our readers need and making it more interesting to read are the main reasons why they want to read our next posts.

    Building a network is not magic, as it requires a lot of hard work, patience and character.

    Thanks for the tandem of Darren and Skellie for another useful article.

  11. Just found this website and it has some great content for bloggers. Evangelism works and will be reflected in just about everything that you do on your blogs and websites. It you put the time in and are passionate about what you do then things just have a way of working out.

  12. CoolProducts says:

    Here’s a question: Do you believe that being a guest writer on a big blog may generate a lot of traffic to your own site? I’m directing this question to Skellie since her situation really is the perfect example.

  13. Bill Connell says:

    Thank you for a concise summary on the subject. I think you are spot on!

    As a fellow blogger (at http://www.CorvetteBlog.com) and as an Evangelical (one who believes in the biblical Gospel, that is, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God) myself, I would like to make a clarification so that your article would be perfect.

    You repeatedly use the word “evangelical” as the adjective when you mean “evangelistic”. “Evangelical” is usually used as a noun, although an exception would be in the phrase “evangelical church”. Please use “evangelistic” when you are talking about spreading any good news, which is what your wisdom is.

  14. saleel says:

    Remarkeble and enlightening post by skellie. Everything is detail is given. all we need is patience and learn as skellie had it to say

  15. Caleb Rogers says:

    This is a great article. I’ve been trying to increase traffic to my site and this post gave me some great ideas. Lately, I’ve been spending some time on the SEO and Evangelism aspects of traffic generation, and I’m starting to branch out into using social media to get my numbers up.

    Though, what’s worked the best for me so far is just to have content that the readers find valuable.

    Thanks for an informative post!

  16. Alex Wilson says:

    I really would like to learn about generating more traffic to my blog using social media – as I am Australian and my content is mainly for Aussies.

    How do I generate social media to my site when it does not appeal to the US?

    My site is:

    http://www.savingsguide.com.au

    A blog on how to save money, make more money and generally learn to save money.

  17. So – where is the best place to find someone to write for your blog who knows “social media” and can write great content. I would be SOOO willing to pay for quality, INTERESTING content, but so many people who are looking to write for pay, can’t write.

  18. javed Khalil says:

    You are right Skellie. I would prefer just content and aim. If someone has got some purposeful blog, i mean if he has given it a thought that why is he creating a blog then I think he knows what he gonna share there and so the content will be unique and his own voice which has to spread in any way. People like to read and visit original content. Even search engines can tell the originality of content. Always a long and consistent road and a gradual process. Do not just start a blog. Start sharing, communicating and understanding it while enjoying it.

  19. Syed Balkhi says:

    This is an excellent post. After saying that I like to say that it is very possible to get up that high with a single author blog. How? Simply write good content and be consistent. I think my blog is on a road to this journey soon. Maybe not a million visitors a month yet, but in 6 figures for visitors definitely. The reason: Search Engine traffic and Social Media traffic.

  20. Ankit says:

    An Amazing article for the somebody’s in the blogosphere because i don’t think it does a lot of good for newbies.
    I agree with ruchir in the comment box that it is easier for sites to go from medium to high but takes a lot to go from low to medium.

    Social media is something that people with blog intellect can relate to.We cant expect a normal internet user to be aware of digg,stumble upon though these things are getting very popular off late.
    And ,even for a single author blog is it possible to come up with an interesting post a day.it seems difficult to me
    It was still a great read.Will bookmark it when my blog,if at all gains some popularity.
    Adios

  21. Yeah I was browsing for some high page rank dofollow blogs when I noticed the most popular ones update their material every hour! That seems like a very good idea, and when there are bloggers out there willing to post for $1 a post, this should only cost about $15 a day. That doesn’t seem like a bad idea!

  22. Coral says:

    As a blogging ‘newbie’, I found this post very interesting and helpful as I do a lot of your articles, Skellie.

    Thank you.

  23. UnosTips says:

    Mouth-to-mouth is the best marketing! Instead in the good and bad things!

  24. Late to the conversation. I bring up Glenn Reynolds as an example of another type of blogger. Glenn rarely comments on other blogs. He doesn’t have comments on his blog.

    What he does, twenty or thirty times a day is link to other blogs with a comment. If you are “Joe Average” blog, an Instalanche is huge.

    He makes money. Some of those he links to make money. Some of us would kill to be linked by Glenn more than twice a year.

    He’s not the only blog of this type, but he is, by far, the most successful. If only…

  25. jawbreaker says:

    Hi Skellie..Nice post you have there…I just want to share that I have tried mypage.com, it’s free and its nice. They have a lot of apps.and also communities you can be a part of.(“:)feel free to post there.

  26. alifahru says:

    I believe with quality and fresh content, the reader will be visiting regularly. With growing quantity content, the traffics will increase truely.

  27. MyLifeIsCrap says:

    Great post Skellie!!!
    I’m one of those people who start from the bottom…by the time I get to one million people …with my average of 100 visitors a day…it will take me 27 years…but hey, who’s counting…I’m actually doing a lot better every month…but am finding it hard for poeple to stumble upon my blog if I don’t advertise for it…like here. So there you are…I’m pleading…check out my blog…I’m sure you’ll get a good laugh out of it, it’s actully guarenteed. And since there are so many experts here please give me feedback on what I could/should change with it to my email: [email protected]

    http://mylifeiscrap.com

  28. Ben Moreno says:

    This article is very inspiring. I love articles like this. I need to get more involved with stumble upon.

  29. charles says:

    Yeah! Some other blogs gain millions of monthly traffic and they gained alot of money from it. Hope i can too.

  30. @DoctorWill: LOL. Yea. I also need to find new friends!

    Most of my friends don’t really use the Internet or blogging much. They still don’t know the power of the Internet.

    @MichaelMartine, thanks for introducing Gary Vaynerchuk blog to me.

  31. Kendrix says:

    it is easier to write a good content if you are native english writer or you have excellent writen skill in english. Its really hard to deliver a message in english if you think in some other language. This is my main obstacle when writing an article.

  32. Shafar says:

    Very Helpful post for a beginners like me. Thanks Skellie

  33. @Chetz – You’re welcome, Chetz! Thanks for visiting Remarkablogger and commenting there, too.

  34. @Kendrix – get some friends who natively speak English to help you if you can.

  35. nick says:

    Very very helpful. Time to put it all to practice.

  36. This post has a lot of valuable information. Its going to take a while to soak all this information up but will work on the advice you give in this post.

  37. With the exception of big budget blogs, marketing is the key to any web presence. Without marketing and spreading the word your good content won’t see the light of the day.

  38. Just wanted to say I found the whole article very useful. I’ve spent the day familiarizing myself with some of the sites you mentioned and it’s amazing how much easier it made things for me. Thank you.

  39. Ebony Jones says:

    I am trying to increase our traffic. I have tried the usual means, stumble – check, dig – check, reddit – check, entrecard -check…they have all produced spikes in traffic but not the sustainable growth I would like to see.

    We currently only get about 2000 visits a day (except for the occasional stumble spike, then it can double or triple). How can you get people to evangelize for your site if they don’t know it’s there?

    We’re pretty passionate about our subject matter and we have a lot of pretty decent content. So what gives? Just patience?

    http://www.urbanswirl.com

  40. francis says:

    Social media marketing, on the other hand, is an off-page characteristic of social media. This includes writing content that is remarkable, unique, and newsworthy. This content can then be marketed by popularizing it or even by creating a “viral” video on YouTube and other video sites. Social media is about being social so this off-page work can include getting involved in other similar blogs, forums, and niche communities. Search engine marketing (SEM) involves utilization of all available social networking platforms to brand a product using SEO techniques of communication, to the end consumer.Social media marketing has two important aspects. The first, SMO, refers to on-page tactics through which a webmaster can improve a website for the age of social media. Such optimization includes adding links to services such as Digg, Reddit and Del.icio.us so that their pages can be easily ‘saved and submitted’ to and for these services.

    ———————————
    francis
    Link Building

  41. gillberk says:

    Most Blogs with huge amounts of traffic are in fact run by a dedicated staff of writers who can churn out content much faster than a single Blogger could ever hope to manage.These are the kind of stats we dream of for our own blogs, but most of us doubt that this would be possible for us. This is probably because the steps involved in getting there seem very blurry.
    —————————–

    Gillberk

    SEARCH ENGINE

  42. Shumit says:

    *sigh*

    This sounds wonderful enough, but it’s written in ‘insider’-speak. For someone relatively new to the- and check this, I one word- blogosphere, it’s a bit obtuse. How do I start getting someone I don’t even know to Stumble Upon the blog?

  43. gout says:

    yes….most success blogger say seo in very important and seo out more important……and one best ways to buid seo out are social media……thanks for nice posting

  44. Yes it’s true… you really have to give people something outstanding in order for them to want to tell everyone. Good article.

  45. Peter Szabo says:

    And all this time I thought excellent content would do the trick. There is always something to learn, and I’ve gained even more from this post. Thanks!

  46. Siaar says:

    What a great content based blog, I like longer text based blogs I always like to read such type of articles please post more . I will come and read again and again….

    Siaar of Siaar Group..

  47. Kelly says:

    There is a lot of good ideas here. Being new to the whole blog thing I can see spending “bazillion” hours surfing the net just to create back links, post ideas and an unlimited supply of opinions.
    I can see this type of endeavor quickly replacing the personal to the digital potentially making people benign to reality. This is why I have chosen to teach people how to build their lives as they would a house or any other building structure at http://askthebuilder.kryanusa.com

  48. Hello
    I agree some great information on getting traffic with blogs etc,ive recently seen more traffic using this technique,and along with other great free business tools will be returning for more great info.
    kevin.