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7 Considerations on Generating Traffic to Your Blog

Over the last few weeks I’ve had three conversations with readers regarding different sources of traffic.

In each case I had a number of email exchanges with each blogger (all on the same day) and ended up laughing to myself at the common theme but extremely different opinions being expressed by each of the bloggers.

In each case the bloggers had strong opinions (and experiences to back those opinions up) on what type of traffic was ‘best’ and how to get it.

  1. In one case the conversation started with a blogger telling me that I focus too much upon social media traffic and not enough on traffic from search engines. Their niche didn’t work with social traffic but with search traffic they did best.
  2. In another case the blogger told me that they’d been told to forget about search traffic in their niche and work more on building traffic from other sites and to convert it into ongoing traffic with newsletters.
  3. In the last case a blogger told me that in their opinion the best type of traffic was social media traffic and they didn’t see the point in newsletters.

I was reminded through these conversations just how many different valid approaches there are to blogging. I also came away with a few thoughts that I thought I’d jot down here on the topic of driving traffic to blogs.

traffic-blog.png

1. There are Many Valid Sources of Traffic

The above chart shows just 8 of many sources of traffic to a blog. As I write this others are already springing to mind (for example some bloggers run paid advertising to drive traffic to their blog – others get it from banner exchange programs). The reality is that there are many potential sources of traffic.

2. The ‘Best’ Source of Traffic Varies from Niche to Niche

As I thought about the 3 bloggers I was chatting to above it struck me that each had found great sources of traffic but that they were each operating in very different niches.

The first blogger who had written off social media was in a niche that people were simply not using social media for (I won’t reveal the niche as I don’t have their permission but it was a very very niche focused blog). Perhaps they could have driven a tiny bit of traffic with social media but for them Search was a much better place for them to invest their time.

3. Different Sources of Traffic Will monetize differently

Another important factor to consider is that some sources of traffic will monetize ALOT better than others. I’ve found that search traffic can work very well with AdSense for example (it depends upon the niche and intent of the reader). People arrive on your site searching for specific information, read your content, see an ad that relates to their search term and click on it.

RSS readers on the other hand don’t tend to convert for AdSense as they tend to be loyal readers and many don’t even click through to your site to read your content. RSS readers (and social media traffic) however can convert really well for affiliate promotions or selling your own products to.

4. Traffic Patterns Change over the life cycle of a blog

As a blog matures its sources of traffic often quite naturally change.

There’s no typical one size fits all pattern to this but at first the traffic might mainly come from other blogs or forums where you comment – or blogs where you guest post – or articles that you write. In time you might start to see more traffic from RSS or newsletters as a few people subscribe. Perhaps then some traffic will come from other sites who link to you (people who subscribe via RSS might have their own blogs) and from social media. After a while your search engine ranking might kick in as a result of the links from other sites and your guest posting and article writing and you might start seeing Google traffic. Once your blog is more established you might start seeing social bookmarking viral events that spike your traffic.

Again – this is not going to be the pattern for all blogs but in time traffic will naturally start to come from different places – the key is to try to leverage it for ongoing good (trying to get your blog to be sticky rather than just having one time visitors) and to work out how to convert that traffic for the goals you have.

5. Bloggers should be open to different approaches

While each of the three bloggers had discovered great lessons and good sources of traffic for their niches and the life cycles of their blogs – I was left wondering in each case whether the bloggers were being a little too closed off to different sources of traffic that perhaps could have added to the overall mix of traffic.

I see a lot of SEO type bloggers write about the worthlessness of social traffic for instance. One common comment that I get from some SEOs (definitely not all) is that social media traffic can’t be monetized. The reality could not be further from the truth. It won’t always convert but it certainly can. For example I know in each of the E-book launches that I’ve done in two niches that I’ve seen significant conversions from Twitter traffic.

On the flip side of things I hear some social media focused bloggers write off SEO and say that it works itself out and you don’t need to optimise your blog for search if you just produce good content. While there is some truth in that (good content does tend to generate natural incoming links to some extent) with a basic understanding of principles of SEO and a few minor tweaks a blog can rank much better in search engines without compromising the integrity of the content.

I guess what I’m getting at is that if you get exclusive about the type of traffic you are after you could actually be limiting the potential of your blog’s incoming traffic.

6. Too many Eggs in One Basket Can Be Dangerous

I used to be very focused upon search traffic in my early days of blogging. I worked hard to optimise my first blogs for search and got to a point where I was making a full time living from the ad revenue I was getting almost exclusively from Google. As a result I got a little lazy in some of the other areas – I didn’t work to convert readers to be loyal with newsletters or with prominent calls to subscribe to RSS, I didn’t build too many relationships with other bloggers to generate referral traffic and I was very inactive in social media (although it was much more limited back then).

As a result when Google decided to adjust their algorithm one day and my rankings dropped (and almost completely disappeared) in their results I lost almost all of my traffic – and as a result almost all of my income.

I was lucky in that Google readjusted their algorithm a couple of months later and I regained a lot of (but not all) of that traffic but in the mean time I looked for and found a ‘real job’ – and more importantly learned an important lesson about the power of having more than one source of traffic.

That experience was the beginning of me doing a few things that included working harder on capturing readers as subscribers (email and RSS), networking more with other bloggers in my niche and getting more involved in promoting my blog in other places (mainstream media, social media etc). My hope in doing all of this was to build up other sources of traffic so that if Google ever switched off my traffic again (temporarily or permanently) I’d at least have enough traffic to survive.

Google still does send me around 40-50% of my traffic (it varies a little from blog to blog) but I’m in a position now where I could survive for an extended period if it all disappeared (not that I’d like for that to happen).

7. The Importance of Personality and Being Yourself

I’m sure there are other factors that are at play that might be worth considering when looking at traffic. One of these (that I’m yet to fully think through) is personality type.

For example a lot of my my technically thinking friends seem to enjoy the challenge of SEO a little more. They love experimenting with and testing what happens when they make small tweaks to different aspects of their blogs. They’re constantly testing different setups and do quite well from it. I am not technically minded and find their attention to detail very very unusual (and so far from where that I’m at that I feel like I’m from another planet).

Other friends are perhaps a little more social by nature and as a result seem to do well on Twitter.

Others seem to do better by applying their freakish ability to write blog posts that get tonnes of links from other sites and which do brilliantly on social bookmarking sites..

Others are networkers and spend a lot of time interacting with other bloggers and site owners and tend to get links and traffic that way.

Others just seem to be brilliant at building community on their blog and as a result retain almost everyone who ever comments and build new readers from those people telling their friends.

I guess the lesson here is to be yourself and work with your strengths. Of course you don’t want to let your strengths dominate so much that you ignore or become lazy in areas that you’re not as strong in – but do follow your natural abilities and leverage them as much as you can.

Remember that there is no wrong or right way to generate traffic for a blog. If you were analyze the sources of traffic on many top blogs you’d find quite different factors at play!

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. Personally I use all methods to drive traffic. (Although less paid advertising). Social are big sources for me, but also are links from other sites and guest posts.

    There’s no one size fits all but you do need to be out there in all possible ways and connect with your target market.

  2. I recommend this blog to all my clients when they start blogging. It has more useful info then some blogging courses I’ve paid for.

  3. Agent Deepak says:

    I now see why I didn’t succeed. I was leaving out many options to get traffic. I need to be open.

    Thanks.

  4. Mike Shaw says:

    Thanks,

    This has help to increase my blog traffic massively!

  5. Cara Lumen says:

    Hi Darren
    I’m new to your blog and I have a question. I can’t find your name on your posts. I can link to your site and I still have to go to About to see who you are. I’ts because I’m new, not because you aren’t out there. What is the protocol about attaching your name to a blog post like we do on articles. And even a copyright date for when it gets picked up and forwarded.

    Thanks for your great posts. I keep learning,

    Cara Lumen, Your Idea Optimizer

  6. Darren:

    Let me start by stating that I am very new to blogging. I started building my website in October, kinda got it up by the first weekend of November, and really got it rolling as a true blog Jan 4th when I implemented Squarespace and re-launched the site. Early in this process I discovered ProBlogger and have been extremely loyal to you guys and thank the Lord everyday that I discovered you because you have been an invaluable source of knowledge.

    However, I do find it interesting that you are posting an article like this because I feel that everything you have said is pretty much common sense. Since we re-launched Baseball Underground on Jan. 4th, we have 750 total unique hits and are averaging 25 unique hits/day. These are not great numbers, but they’re numbers I’m pretty happy with considering we have not paid a dime for any advertising. What we have done is (to use a stock market term) diversified our portfolio. We have exchanged links with several websites (which we exchange stories & guest blog with), utilized a number of different social media (Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Delicious & BallHype), and last night I went in and tweaked our keywords for search engines. We have also have free accounts with LinkReferral & TrafficSwarm. LinkReferral has been a great asset to us.

    Has this added to HUGE financial gains for us? No. However, instead of focusing on the money we aren’t making, we are looking at our unique hits and have created clearly defined goals for those hits. For example, our goal is to break 1,000 total unique hits by the end of February and reach 3,000 total unique hits by the end of March. (Both goals I feel are very attainable but which would demonstrate considerable growth.) We are also maintaining the philosophy that increased unique hits will translate into increased money made through our affiliate programs. (I say programs because we also diversified those. Some AdSense, some Commission Junction and Link Share, and we recently added Amazon to our affiliates.)

    As I said at the beginning of this comment, I operate a very young blog, so I’m new to this industry. However, having worked in sales (and hating it, basically because I was always taking orders from bosses who weren’t in the field), I feel that two things are extremely important: 1.) Realize that increased unique hits and one of the few things you can actually control and that more unique hits=increased revenue; 2.) Diversifying your portfolio will never hurt you; and can only help you.

    Thanks for creating such a great resource and I look forward to learning more from you.

  7. Sarah Baron says:

    Just finished reading through the article and the comments. Here is a quick summary of what was said in terms of ways to get traffic to your blog. I’m going to take this list and flush it out for my new blog, add tasks to the ones I think will work, and then experiment. Thanks Darren and all those who commented. Also, by the way, I am a member of problogger.com, and the help there is amazing!

    Ways to get traffic to the blog – see what works for your strengths and niche

    1. Social bookmarking
    2. RSS to email
    3. Social networking
    4. Search
    5. Email Newsletter
    6. Other sites
    7. RSS
    do not convert well for adsense
    8. Other blogs
    9. Paid advertising
    From search traffic, adsense works well.
    10. Offline advertising and PR – from comment section

    Order of traffic for new site – blogs or forums where you comment or guest post or articles your write. Then RSS or newsletters. Then from other sites that link to you.

  8. Sarah Baron says:

    One more thing! I met with an bus exec earlier this week whose business is based on internet marketing. He suggested that you look carefully at what your readers will be looking for. In my case, they will most probably NOT be using google search, but will learn about it from other blogs, social media, and friends. So, while he told me not to ignore SEO, he suggested I spend time on other blogs and social media.

    My site, by the way, so you can understand his advice, is for women about friendship and how to make their long term relationships more interesting and fun!

  9. Prasanga says:

    Great post. I think one of the greatest way to get traffic is through article marketing. This is a matter of writing quality articles and submitting it to the article directories.

  10. Marc says:

    Good point Darren,

    It is good to have a mix of everything and “bee seen”, but I have found that the more I try and “force” traffic the more dismal the outcome (meaning a lot of un-targeted traffic who don’t buy, interact, or share).

    Have good content and let people know your around in different places online, plus some good SEO should work pretty good… and luck! (one can hope)

  11. I can definitely attest to personality being a major key and playing to your strengths.

    For my show, for example, it is all about social interactions (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) plus links from other sites.

    Sure, SEO is important. Sure, social bookmarking is important.

    But I’ve noticed those two happen more organically because of social.

    I just had Brian Halligan (Inbound Marketing) on for an interview and made him try to choose between focusing on search or social. After about 9 minutes of hesitation (well maybe not 9), he went with search.

    If the question was reversed, I would go social.

  12. Drug Rehab says:

    When it comes to marketing, why not just try everything? I am of the mindset that if one thing doesn`t work, if you`ve tried a lot of things at least you didn`t put all your eggs in one basket… besides, what works today, may by obsolete by tomorrow. So, try it all! Articles, Press Releases, Blogs, Social Media, PPC, Banners, e-mail marketing… even old school advertising like radio and TV!

  13. Darren,

    Considering your other passion – photography – I’m surprised that using images as a way of generating more traffic didn’t make your list?

    I’ve been adding images to most of my posts, after receiving some advice early on in my blogging experience, but I also make sure to tag the image so that it aligns with the post content.

    While the ‘stickiness’ of the image traffic is quite poor compared to organic click- throughs from content searches, it represents the fastest growing source of traffic on my blog in the past two months. So the blog is getting a lot more exposure to potential long-term readers.

    For any newbie bloggers using images, make sure you’ve added ALL of the Google image searches – they are different for every country – to your update list and you can get a free list of those from Jack Humphrey’s free ebook – The Authority Black Book.

    Darren, you are always a source of inspiration, and your interview with Robb Sutton on robbsutton.com shows you truly are a class act! Cheers for the advice…

    Write On!

  14. Social media marketing is the process of promoting your site or business through social media channels and it is a powerful strategy that will get you links, attention and massive amounts of traffic.Making an website and offer its services in internet is easy but the harder side is to get traffic on your site and your article is very helpful for them.Without traffic even the best designed site will not make it.I will add some more to your post-Backlinks are a link to your website from another website.When they see the link on someone else’s site it sends the spiders over to your site and they index your site getting it placed on a search engine organically instead of you going over and entering it.This is one way to get traffic more on your website.Ne ways good job.

  15. Like you i already did too many eggs in one basket. I realize that thing is dangerous after i lost all my rank and now i built my blog from the beginning again. It makes me feel sad but i don’t want drown in my sadness and the positive is i have experience that i can tell and share it to my friend that new in blog world not do like i do.

  16. This type of insight view can be written only by a most senior and xeperienced blogger like you…

    very nice tips for a new blogger

    thanks

  17. scheng1 says:

    I like the point about traffic diversification. It’s definitely risky to rely solely on search engines, since search engine algo changes continuously.

  18. Good post and some interesting comments.

    Offline blog promoting is all well and good but it purely depends on your chosen niche.

    Like the post states, there are probably hundreds of ways to drive traffic to a blog, it’s all trial and error with so many influencing factors.

    What works best for you may not work best for me.

    My advice is keep trying new things, diversify and stick with what works best for you in your particular niche.

    The traffic will come.

    James

  19. chandan says:

    There are different source of drive traffic to our blog, just we have to work more for generating traffic to our blog. Now a days SMO is going popular to drive traffic.

  20. Parag Kolhe says:

    Great post.

  21. Chua says:

    May I know if i were to choose only the best way to generate traffic for blog, which is the best way then?

  22. This is so true. I should be open to different approaches. You make me realize that I was probably losing a lot traffic from other approaches that I didn’t put emphasis on it.

    Thanks Darren
    Always a pleasure reading you.

  23. Arnel Tanyag says:

    Great post. I appreciate you sharing your insights in generating traffic.

  24. lana says:

    i have only been blogging for about nine months and i think listing with high ranking blog directories is a good way to go.

    i have found that administrators at more established niche blogs are not always quick to link with a newbie. whether there is anything to it, i don’t know but i have noticed that certain niches, like celebrity blogs, are not given to great written content and they link to other blogs that also don’t have great written content

    also making requests to link to a more established site is almost always not replied to, even when the blog fits into my niche. i imagine some people are waiting to see if newbies are in it for the long haul.

    in my opinion having a lot of “friends” or “followers” from social networking sites doesn’t necessarily translate into lots of traffic. the bulk of my traffic comes from organic searches in google.

  25. Themepremium says:

    I have been using all the techniques apart from advanced email marketing. I used feedburner email marketing, but it never yields great result for me :|

  26. lana says:

    oh yeah. the type of browsers visitors use seem to be determinants in how your blog shows up in search results. under certain queries my blog shows up on the first page of IE8, but in Firefox my blog shows up on page 3.

  27. Bimal Roy says:

    Please put a post on some tools and tricks to rank high in search engines.

  28. Betty says:

    I agree on receiving and looking at the revenue from all the sources you spoke of. I am a newbie, but I see there is more than 1 revenue source for blogs. Thanks for your insight.

  29. What an excellent Post, most bloggers have different personalty styles and that can play out in how they get traffic to their site. I use a variety of all method and don’t just stick one main one and the idea of constantly testing drives me nuts.

    But experimenting with getting traffic is great to find out which one is the right one for your niche.

  30. I think I will go with all of the above to be on the safe side

  31. Avatar Lover says:

    i am student but i still make money
    online with adsense via my vlog.

    i have to manage my time to study and
    to promote my blog.

    well, i can not give all my time
    just to get traffic from all resources like
    above.

    i just focus in getting traffic from video marketing
    and seo,i just use these two ways to get traffic.

    to market with video marketing I will
    upload around 10 videos at youtube.com
    and to market via seo i will make up at least 30
    backlinks everyday at people blog that has good ranking.

    hmm..the result is pretty good.
    for me it`s ok if we try just few resources to
    get traffic but here focus is the main key!

    anyway,,this is really great post.

    thanks! :)

  32. It is important not to be dependent on a single source of traffic, very true point.

  33. Shaune says:

    Thanks for the post. I’m always looking for ways to improve my online presence and make my blog more useful to the readership.

  34. Cori Padgett says:

    I actually generate the bulk of my traffic through social media, and my blog is just now establishing some traction and receiving some search engine traffic. I agree though, that focusing on just one area is a mistake. It’s never a smart idea to put all your eggs in one basket in anything in life, and especially when it comes to your financial well-being. Thanks for the great post Darren… I’m off to continue diversifying! :)

    Warm regards,
    Cori

  35. Farnoosh says:

    Darren, excellent observation and advice: Be Yourself. Be unique and truly develop that voice. For me, that is the reason I blog, and monetization, while it would be nice, comes later.
    How can we enjoy the blogging process if we lose our sense of identity and our own writing voice, and what does it matter anymore how well we are doing financially if we are not enjoying it?

  36. This article has opened my eyes to understanding that you need more than one way to growing your traffic. Thanks

  37. Valentina says:

    Thank you Darren,

    I see that my blog traffic is right on track with your flow chart … nice to know that persistence will begin to pay off with other types of traffic (eventually :-)

  38. Thank you for this great post. In fact, thanks for the whole site – there is some great stuff here.

  39. Hey! Great article! Anybody have experience with ancestry/genealogy blogs and what sources you think I should focus most on? Thanks, Joshua http://www.climbingjoshuastree.com

  40. RickyRobi says:

    You are so right that you shouldn’t limit your self to getting traffic from one source. That would be as bad as only using one method of earning money online. Diversity!

    I like to think of driving traffic to a site as building a chain. Each source is a link in the chain. If you miss one, your chain isn’t very strong. I keep trying to make mine stronger.

  41. Anything preceding a 5% weighting for inclusion of keywords, is edging on the insane, and will more than in all likelihood get the article or webpage unobserved. The average is 2% – 5% – – – with 5% being the high end. Google look to choose the 2% mark. Hmmh! that “SEO expert” who advocates anything above a 5% weight for keywords must be that same charlatan who “guarantees” a top10 ranking – tcchh!!

  42. Great tips for a beginner blogger as myself. Thankyou!!

    Shelina Ishani
    http://coolmamablog.com
    http://jazzyseries.com

  43. Mandi says:

    This is very helpful, thanks! I do think very different niches do get a different response, sometimes you do have to keep yourself from just sticking to the “easiest” or the “immediately most effective” option.

  44. vinay says:

    I am getting traffic around 200 to 300 per day . But still my PR is “0″.My friends have same niche and almost he is copying my Content.But his PR is 2 AND also he is good traffic.Only difference is i am using blogger he is using wordpress.Is this the problem.Please check my blog
    http://www.moviebuffer.com/
    and tell me what is wrong,Hope you reply me soon .

  45. Andrew Pelt says:

    Thx a lot for this post it’s really useful.As a webdevelopping student I find it hard to create a workflow for an application.I start with an application but as soon as things go wrong, I have nothing to fall back to. I’ll definately keep this list and try to follow it as much as possible.

  46. Lialla Igneb says:

    Hi, thanks so much for these tips! My blogs usually do bring readers and responses. One thing I do is engage with the readers. Answer questions in responses and make clarifications where needed. I think they appreciate that I take the time to talk to them.