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The Essential Ingredients for Building a Blog That Ranks in Alexa’s Top 10,000

This guest post is by Neil Patel of Quick Sprout.

Would you like to know how I grew Quick Sprout to have an Alexa ranking of 10,000 in under four years?

That’s not an easy feat. But the cool thing is I didn’t do anything that you can’t do now. My tactics will work for you, too.

Fortunately, late last year I did an interview with Michael Alexis over at WriterReviews about how I grew Quick Sprout. It’s a great interview to listen to. In the meantime I’ve summarized the content in this post.

Endure and sacrifice to get great content out

At this moment my ranking on Alexa stands at 10,060:

Let me tell you, I’ve had to sacrifice a lot to get there.

Because I’m so busy with KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg I have to use my holidays and weekends to write posts. When people think of Christmas Day or New Year’s Day and time spent with family, I look forward to a peaceful day of writing posts.

Saturdays and Sundays? Because the flow of work-related stuff is slow on these days I use these days to knock out four or five posts.

But listen: I don’t say this to brag or to make you feel guilty. I’m simply pointing out that you have to sacrifice if you want a great blog. You might have a family that will not appreciate you writing blog posts on holidays and weekends.

I totally understand that.

So ask yourself, where are there hours that you could better use your time? And here’s a hint: When you sit down to write during that time, give yourself a two-hour deadline. I’ve found if I focus intensely on a blog post like a surgeon at the operating table I can knock posts out quicker than if I allow myself to get distracted.

Use Digg

This is not the greatest tactic now, but I share it since it has been part of my success with Quick Sprout.

In the early days of Quick Sprout I worked hard to become a top user on Digg. I added lots of friends who had similar interests, submitted their content, commented and even gave them tons of diggs.

Eventually those influential people would friend me back and start to digg my stuff. And so the way it works…the more friends you have the more chances you have of getting stories to the homepage.

It really wasn’t very hard to become a top 100 Digg user as long as you added friends and submitted good stories from BBC, Forbes, Yahoo News, PCWorld, CNN, and the Washington Post. The quality of the posts is what really mattered, and you’ll eventually get in close with the top digg users.

The unfortunate part of being a great digg user is that it can take up a lot of time! It doesn’t have the same sort of impact as it did in the early days of Quick Sprout, but there might be some value if you can invest a minimal amount of time.

Build real relationships with people over time

Another part of my success in building up Quick Sprout is that I systematically built relationship with power bloggers over the years. That’s right: I said years.

See, you can’t expect to get any favors like free traffic from big players unless you invest the time in them. You have to always ask, “How can I help you?”

The way I would do it is travel to conferences and run into these bloggers. I would talk to them, ask them questions and invite them out for a drink or dinner, and always pick up the tab.

Some guys who have been instrumental in helping me grow Quick Sprout include:

I met these guys face to face and over time built a relationship with them. The conference that I recommend you definitely attend is Blog World.

But you should also attend other conferences that are related to your industry. The point is to meet people who share similar interests like you, then go out of your way to see how you can help them.

After a few months, you then have enough emotional equity built up with them to be able to email them and say, “Hey, would you mind blogging about me?”

Of course you need to offer something in return—that you’ll blog about them or something else. Ask them how you can help. Whatever it is, make sure you reciprocate.

The two sides to responding to comments that grow a blog

There are two parts to commenting that will drive traffic to your site—responding to comments on your blog and responding to comments on other blogs. Let’s deal with responding to comments on your blog first.

For me, responding to comments is one of the things that I enjoy the most. It is the time that I get to engage and learn about you, and how I can help.

This is not easy.

It takes time, but it’s worth the effort, even though it takes me anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes a day. But this is not me saying “Thank you.” It’s got to be more than that. Your comments must seem like they really care about the person who wrote the comment, and that you are listening to the questions they ask.

For example, you should acknowledge what they’ve said, point out an interesting point they made and then ask them a question. It could be as easy as “I’m curious, how did you come to that conclusion?”

Equally important about driving free traffic to your blog is commenting on other blogs. As I grew Quick Sprout I would try to be the first person to respond to an article on Mashable or TechCrunch. That first comment gets the most exposure, but you have to be quick on the draw.

How?

Set up an account with an RSS reader that sends you desktop notifications when a blog publishes new content. You can use an iPhone app like Push for these notifications. When you do comment never write “First comment” or “Thanks for this awesome post.” Those are useless comments, and might even get deleted.

Instead, you need to write a detailed comment—one that demonstrates you understand what the blogger wrote about. And you need to ask questions, too, that compel the author to engage and shows that you are interested in learning more.

And don’t be afraid to critique what the blogger wrote about. If you see a flaw in something they wrote, first tell them something you appreciate about the article, and then transition to the point you disagree with. Be kind. Respect goes a long way.

Keep in mind, you don’t have to comment on every single article. Select articles that are relevant to your blog and what you do and that will drive traffic to your site.

Write content people want to read

Finally, when it comes to building free traffic to your blog, you cannot get any better than providing great content. I’ve blogged about this extensively on my guide to blogging. You should read those posts again if you haven’t already and apply the principles behind each.

But perhaps you’re wondering how you find out what readers want. Here are the ways I would go about it:

  • Read hundreds of blogs and figure out three things: who are the top bloggers, what are the top posts, and why?
  • Next, try to put your finger on a topic that is not getting a lot of attention. You are looking for a need in the space that you can fill.
  • Crawl through the comments on busy blogger sites and see what people are saying. You’ll often find a person or two who are asking for something specific. Collect these ideas as possible blog topics.
  • Build your blog and start asking your readers and visitors what kind of content they would like to read. Use survey tools or devote entire posts to asking for topic ideas.

Don’t forget that when you write detailed, long-form posts, you will get better comments. And as the content grows, promote it across the social web.

Grow your Twitter account first

Another free strategy that you can use to build traffic to your blog is to build up your Twitter account before launching your blog. We did this with our KISSmetrics blog.

We invested a whole lot of time in building up our Twitter following by sharing great content across the web, responding to tweets, following influential Tweeters and thanking people for retweeting. When we reached a point where we felt was critical mass, we finally launched the blog.

The Twitter handle had paved the way for creating hard traffic to the blog, allowing us to grow the blog very quickly in a very short period of time.

Check out the 10 Ways to Get More ReTweets and How to Create a Jaw-Dropping Social Media Strategy in 5 Steps posts for more information on this topic.

Invest in ReTargeter

All of the tips I gave you above are based on free traffic. This last one is a paid traffic source, but it’s worth it!

With ReTargeter, you can serve up ads to people who’ve visited your site to encourage them to come back. This is great for first time visitors who may not have subscribed. I pay $500 a month for ads to be served up on various networks. Some of the networks that ReTargeter access include:

  • Audience Network
  • Right Media
  • Double Click
  • PubMatic
  • Glam Media
  • OpenX

As you can imagine, that huge network spreads a very big net. This means my ads are more likely to appear in front of a visitor, and drive them back to my site to sign up.

Two things you have to keep in mind when you create your ad:

  1. Rotate your ads: Create three or four different ads that appeal to the viewer. Tests have shown that you’ll get a higher click-through . Most people will see about three ads before they click.
  2. Create a compelling message: Cute or clever messages will not work nearly as well as a compelling message. Appeal to their pride, vanity, greed, or fear—some emotion that reflects your content but will get them to click.

Conclusion

When it comes down to it, growing a blog to be in the Alexa top 10,000 is really all about doing old-school stuff: writing great content, commenting, promoting and trying to help as many people as you can.

There are no shortcuts. No sensational ways that will get you tons of steady, quality traffic to your site. You can’t have a great blog if you’re not willing to work. So … are you?

What other questions do you have about creating a great blog that I didn’t answer in this post?

Neil Patel is an online marketing consultant and the co-founder of KISSmetrics. He also blogs at Quick Sprout.

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Comments

  1. Lou says:

    “For me, responding to comments is one of the things that I enjoy the most. It is the time that I get to engage and learn about you, and how I can help.”

    I agree. It is vital to get a feel of the reaction a blog post is having on your audience via the comments. What part of the post triggered the response? Answering questions like that will lead to better posts.

  2. A great read. thanks

  3. Justin Mazza says:

    Thanks for sharing Neil. I have been blogging for a little over a year now and I only use the basics for getting my Alexa score lowered too. It takes time and hard work but my blog has only shown growth across the board which means I must be doing something right.

    • Bryan says:

      Wow Justin, you’re already down to 82,000 after just over a year. Well done. I wonder how long it took Quick Sprout to get there.

    • Taline says:

      I checked out your blog. Looks like you have a “lifestyle bog” I’m part of the Yakezie Challenge (you should read about it). Yakezie is a network of personal finance and lifestryle bloggers and all challengers that make it to become members have an Alexa rank of below 200,000! The community helps each other out.

      I joined on 2/4/12 with an Alexa rank of 2,450,000 and now I’m at 903,000. It really works and it is a great community you can benefit and learn from!

  4. Thanks you very much Neil for your valuable tips.I’m trying to lower my Alexa ranking.

  5. livingelpaso says:

    It has taken me a while to see the value in Twitter but the last few months have really changed my mind. For instance, the only reason I saw this article was because I had a.few.minutes to look through tweets on my phone and the title on Darren’s tweet caught ny eye.

    • livingelpaso says:

      Only problem with using a phone to respond is that my fingers hit the publish button before I was finished. Anyway, thank you Neil.for the post, very helpful content. My only question is how do you evaluate how well your blog is doing if its main focus is the local community. Does alexa dig down to rank a site by the city it is in?

  6. free vpn says:

    long long ago , a pigdig , but i can’t use it now. my english is poor…

  7. Benny says:

    I haven’t been too focused on my score but I’ve applied many of what you said over time to grow my blog. Should I worry much about my Alexa score? I’ve read some posts for both sides of the argument.

    • Benny, I think that the Alexa score is just one of many factors you count towards achieving more traffic and more readership. I think it’s still important but it must not be the only thing you focus on.

  8. Thanks for sharing. I have to agree that the most important thing is building a relationship!

  9. Hi Neil, thanks for this post. These are things I’ll definitely think of implementing because I want my blog to be great. I wrote a blog post once about blog commenting because it seems most newcomers have heard that blog commenting is great for growing traffic but have no idea how to go about that; thus the “thanks awesome post” comments we see.

    However, I don’t really know about growing your Alexa ranking; how relevant is that and why? I’m asking because I’ve heard that Alexa only counts visitors to your blog that have the Alexa toolbar…or something to that effect.

  10. Hey thanks for the post Neil. You and Darren have been a big help! I would also like to add I have had good success using stumbleupon….I only reopened my site a week ago and I have gotten about 1000 visitors for from there alone.

    Cheers, Nathan,

  11. raresms says:

    nice post i like it so much

  12. I love your breakdown Neil.

    Keep it straightforward. Stick to the basics and most of all, persist. As you said it might take some time to grow your blog to such heights, but being patient always pays immense dividends in the long run.

    Growing a massive network of power bloggers from your niche makes a huge difference. Share, give, and receive. Gaining cross promotion and awesome tips from high level bloggers is a great secret to success. The more time you spend building your network the easier it becomes to grow a real sphere of influence.

    The content you pen must be in demand. Listen. Keep your ear to the street. Tune into your target market and it becomes easier to write readable, in demand, valuable posts which boost your Alexa.

    Thanks for sharing your insight Neil.

    Ryan

  13. Taline says:

    Here I thought I was the only one who figured out it is important to be the first to comment. Or maybe at least the first 3 to comment. What I do if it is a great post and the first comment is one of those “Great post” or “Thanks for the great content” I usually comment on that and add my own comment. Or if the first comment actually said something that was worth commenting on, I add my reply to it.

    I joined Yakezie challenge and I’m now introduced to a community of personal finance bloggers and they have helped drive traffic to my site (non organic of course) and help with my Alexa rank. So I definitely agree that you need to get involved and build relationships.

    I’ve never tried rotating the adds, I will give it a try and see what happens.

    I wasn’t crazy about twitter at first but now I see the results it gives me and love it!

    Thanks for the great content. I have noticed top bloggers provide valuable content before anything else and that helps them build relationships and trust.

  14. Lisa says:

    Why is it at first your Alexa ranking goes down and then after it peaks and goes back up? Is that because the traffic goes up and then peaks too and you much reach another plateau? Interesting to see you take on Digg, haven’t used it much lately will check it out again.

    • Daniel says:

      Lisa, that sounds about right.

      You probably will see some rises and falls, though, it would also depend on whether you are working on your site consistently, or having sporadic lengthy breaks.

      My Alexa rank was at 2′ 363 ‘ 780 , on 8/10/11 —- now 27/2/12 my Alexa rank is sitting at 373′ 361.

      What you will find is that your Alexa ranking goes up with fluctuations as you improve along the way.

      As other have stated(in comments above) there are many ways to improve your Alexa ranking.

      The big question has always been whether or not Alexa ranking holds much weight.

      For my own opinion, if you have a sub 10’000 Alexa ranking, you are also ranked amongst the top websites Globally(not Alexa ranking) you have a deluge of visitors and you are ranking well for a ton of quality keywords, that’s when you have truly done well with your site.

      Okay, I just described Darren’s(Rowse) Problogger Blog.

  15. You mentioned making sacrifices – I sat down yesterday and read a book about blogging, wrote 3 blog posts, drafted 2 more, and planned out all my posts for the next 2 weeks – on 2 blogs. Some people would say this was a waste of a Saturday, but in my opinion it feels much better to actually work towards my goals than to go out and waste money shopping.
    I had thought that Digg was dead, but I’ve been exploring StumbleUpon recently and I don’t think it would add too much extra time to my workflow to Digg great content that I find. Should you just be Digging/Stumbling content
    in your niche?
    I’m curious to know how much the Alexa rank really matter, I read some posts a while ago saying that essentially it was useless because it only counts visitors to a site with the toolbar installed – but then I read something (I think on their site) that said they have other methods of tracking traffic too. What do you think?

    • Daniel says:

      Rosemary Jayne, Alexa went under a lot of scrutiny a while back as to whether their ranking system could really be relied upon. This mainly had to do with the fact that, the Alexa Ranking was originally based upon the sites who had the Alexa toolbar installed.

      Due to all the negative press, Alexa decided to strengthen their ranking method, by including ranking factors that did not just rely upon website owners having the Alexa toolbar installed.

      So, they are more reliable now, than what they previously were.

      My opinion is that there are far more important thins to worry about than Alexa ranking, as far as your site is concerned.

      I have seen great sites ranked really badly in Alexa, and very average(not really that good) sites, that were ranked by Alexa around 50′ 000 or better.

      Also, there was(possibly still is) a glitch in Alexa that many have manipulated to give themselves a bogus, really great Alexa ranking.

      That factor alone discounts a large proportion of how we should see Alexa ranking, as a measure of a sites success.

      Read what I said to Lisa at the end of my comment above.

      If all those other boxes(actual success in all other areas) are not ticked, then a great Alexa ranking has no value at all.

      And by the way,

      Alexa ranks approximately 16′ 000′ 000(16 million) websites(blogs)

      • Thanks for the response! I assumed that was the case but at the moment I’m trying to focus on creating good content for my blog and finding readers. I can worry about my Alexa rank in a few months, but as my blog is only just 4 months old.. Bigger picture first :)

        It’s a shame the Alexa ranking was previously unreliable as it means people are less likely to trust it now, however out of the 16 million sites you mentioned I’m currently at 1.5 million, it’s a start!

  16. Neil always does it for me with his posts. His breaks down are simple and make a lot of sense. It is all about dedication, hard work, sacrifice and consistency as he says…We all want it to work for us, but do we have these things? the things that will make us diff from many others?

    Thanks for the post Neil!

  17. Alex says:

    Solid tips, I really like the part about working nights and weekends, that is how I feel about almost everything I do for my blogs. When I have free time I would rather spend it working.

  18. Irfan says:

    I don’t know if my blog’s going to get such ranking in future but the best way to decrease Alexa ranking is using Firefox – Checking/Updating old posts – Installing Alexa toolbar – And giving time to blog gives a tremendous ranking in a short period of time. And all for free..!

  19. It’s amazing when you said that you write more posts on the weekends and holidays. I always try not to write any post (or do any blogging stuff) during the weekend, oops.

    I guess it all depends on how fast you want to be successful or big – and there are always things that you have to sacrifice

  20. Jon Loomer says:

    So valuable for the new kids on the block like me, Neil. Thanks!

    I agree with you 100% on commenting, both on your own and other blogs. I major part of my routine is reading through all of the blogs from the current day. My Google Reader is packed full. On those that inspire me, I comment. On others, I’ll share to Twitter (with Buffer), Facebook, Google+ or Pinterest. And some others I will include in a weekly digest of “most illuminating posts.” By the way, this post will be in next Friday’s collection!

    You’re right about sacrificing. I spend an awful lot of time doing things that may not make an immediate impact in terms of revenue, but I know it has value. And I support a family of five, so it’s absolutely a balance. That’s what makes routine and structure so important.

    I’m jealous of your impact on Twitter. While I’ve been on Twitter since 2009 and have done some cool things with it, I’ve never been all that successful with my personal account (@JonLoomer). And to be honest, it’s just not a priority based on my focus (which is Facebook marketing). But I use it, mainly as a way to share stuff I like and respond to others. But I can absolutely see how building that audience first would have been extremely beneficial.

  21. I think the most important thing is to be real. Whether it’s answering comments, writing, networking or anything else, if you’re real you’ll be much more successful.

  22. Abhishek says:

    nice article and very informative i really like it so much, and i’ll try now to use digg…

  23. Andrew says:

    Hey Neil,

    Great post, but I’m surprised you didn’t mention guest posting. I see you everywhere these days so I know it is a part of your strategy. Where do you think guest posting ranks in comparison to the other tactics you mentioned?

  24. Except for the paid traffic method, I have begun to do all that you have mentioned.My blog went from 666,938 on 13 Jan, 2012 to 250,467 on 14 Feb, 2012 and as I write this, its 225,485. Its nowhere near your rank but its progressing.

    Thanks for the tips.

  25. Mukesh says:

    Well said there is no shortcut for success. All is your hard-work and dedication works. At the end thanks for tips.

  26. Great post. I’ve had a lot of success with StumbleUpon…but really never tried Digg. There’s a lot of social sharers out there today. Besides Twitter and Facebook, which ones are the best?

  27. Part of my typical work day is reading the new posts that pop up in my Reader, and responding via comments. I truly enjoy this part of my day. I love consuming the incredible and interesting content that others are creating, and enjoy sharing with them my appreciation for their posts. Consistent commenting has definitely been instrumental in building my relationship with other bloggers!

  28. Bill @ Orange County carpet cleaner says:

    All great suggestions Nei,l but in my case it is really tough because unless your in the market for any of our services, people just don’t really want to read what I need to write about to draw business/ traffic to our website. I have wrote a blog about the unethical side of our industry that people do find informative but not interesting unfortunalty.

  29. Thanks for sharing. From what I learn, it needs consistency to work that tips. It is quiet easy when we have one blog, but if we have more than one, say 5 or 10, i think we can not doing it at the same time.

  30. it needs discipline to do that

  31. Thanks for the great post! I have been working hard on creating great content (at the sacrifice of family time and other activities) and it is good to hear confirmation that I am on the right track for making my blog a success.

  32. Erica Price says:

    Glad in a way to hear it is hardwork, but achievable. It means that it’s a case of focusing effort, writing well and promoting intelligently.

  33. Sheyi says:

    Sometimes ago, Digg worked. Now, its time to ‘rely’ on StumbleUpon and hope you do not get banned.

    Lovely article and there is no other better way of generating traffic other than free traffic without considering SEO!

    Sheyi

  34. Always great stuff. The #1 thing I learned is that it takes time!

  35. Great tips.. i think the main factor in anything online is definitely consistency.. I definitely am going to work on building my twitter following after reading your post. I never realized it was that necessary! I appreciate you shaing these great tips! Super de duper awesome!!

  36. Hi all!
    Really interesting this article, I think also that there’s hard work to devote to blogging as they grow, an important part is self-motivated on occasion the actions we take become repetitive over time but are these ACTIONS and its recurrence which will help you achieve your goals.

    The work has to like it, is first, for that reason I recommend it in an intelligent and interactive. I read here that one of the things that I enjoy their blogs administration is responding to comments sometimes that can devour your time but believe it is necessary and we like is the best if our purpose is to grow as a blogger.

    Another tool that would add to this demanding job is to feed with some apps and websites of interest like Linkedin also allows us to configure a perfir with applications that redirect traffic to our blog, facebook page frans, Twitter, Delicious, Digg and others besides .

    Franklin Pena Beras
    HMM 2.0

  37. Cherie Young says:

    This was a great article, and I LOVE Crazy Egg. Time to revisit using this technology, for those of you that don’t know about crazyegg.com you must visit the site.

  38. hampton says:

    wow, some good tips here as well as some tools a will be looking at.
    ive read and said this a thousand times, title is so important to catch peoples attention
    as well as the all important 1st paragraph…all intended with luring the audience
    its needs to grab peoples attention and hold their interest
    thanks

  39. Kashif says:

    Very valuable advice. I would like to add that along with Digg, StumbleUpon and Reddit are also good traffic generators. So if you do good on them, chances are your Alexa ranking will boost up.

  40. Write content people want to read — this is something that also gets lots of discussion. Should you write for people or for yourself? I think a mix of both is good, and focusing on “what the readers want” can sometimes be distracting and even lead you on a wild-goose chase. Sometimes the readers don’t know what they want to read… you just have to show them.

  41. Maxwell Ivey says:

    Hello; I was just working through my own readers comments, and I’m glad you reminded me that this is an opportunity not just a necessary task. I reply to the thoughtful comments, but generally don’t reply to one line comments or those this is great posts. Its nice to hear that I’m doing many of the things you recommend to be successful. I need to work on building my twitter though. thanks, Max