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Seven Traffic Techniques for Bloggers—and Metrics to Measure Them

Over the last couple of months here at Problogger.net, we’ve taken a tour of the traffic techniques that are essential to bloggers. While not all bloggers use or focus on all techniques, the ones we’ve covered probably make up the core traffic tools used by bloggers today:

Traffic

Image courtesy stock.xchng user angel_ruiz

I’ve used all of these methods myself, and I daresay that the longer you’ve been online, the more of them you’ve tried. The thing with traffic, though, is that it’s easy to focus just on our total traffic figure, rather than considering whether the traffic we’re attracting is right for our blog, or how it affects our other metrics.

So today what I’d like to do is point out a few alternative ways to consider your traffic levels. Taking a more holistic perspective of how your traffic is reaching your blog can open our eyes to new possibilities not just for promotion, but for reader retention. Let’s see how that can work.

Search engine optimization metrics

Most of us spend a little time each week looking at the content that’s attracting the most search traffic to our sites. we might analyse that content, to try to work out what we’ve done right, or the keyphrases searched on, to see which ones we’re ranking well for. But here’s a slightly different take, that looks at the keyphrases that generated the lowest bouncerates, as a way to get to know your readers better.

  1. Open Google Analytics, and go to Traffic Sources.
  2. Select Search, then Organic.
  3. In this list, you’ll see some of your older posts, but you might also find some more recent ones that have attracted a large amount of search traffic. I think that looking at these posts can give us a good idea of the information our target audience is currently searching for—the problems they’re having right now. To find that out, click on the newest post that’s in the list.
  4. Analytics show you a page dedicated to search traffic for that post. Select Traffic Sources from the Secondary Dimension dropdown, and choose Keyword in the list that appears.
  5. You’ll see a list of all the keywords searchers used to come to your site, along with other information (visits, pages per visit, etc.) for each one.

This is where things get interesting. We know that these days, fewer and fewer visitors land on our sites’ homepages—most are entering our blogs through deeper pages (check your stats to see how this works on your blog). And we also know that many people who come to our sites through the search engines may not be in our target audiences.

As an example, this post attracts a lot of search traffic to ProBlogger, but since he material’s of interest to such a wide range of users, we can immediately guess that only a small portion of those readers are going to stick around. The bounce stats on that piece reflect this.

That doesn’t mean the piece doesn’t target my desired readers, though. In among the high bounce rates are some lower ones, and by looking at the language that those people used to find the post, I can get some valuable insights about how the people who stick around phrase their searches on this topic. If I take a look at a few other high-traffic posts, I can start to form a clear picture of how these users search.

For example, that post I mentioned above, on setting up an email account that uses your domain name, got the lowest bounce rate by people searching with the phrase, “how to set up personal email on gmail.” When I compare this with some of the higher-bounce rate search phrases, like “use gmail with my domain,” I can start to get a hint about the types of people that that content satisfies. When I look at the other low-bounce rate phrases that were used to find other high-search-traffic posts, that picture really starts to take shape.

I could use this information to:

  • see if I can lower bounce rates for similarly formed search phrases on other posts by including key phrases that are written more like these ones
  • review the success of this topic with my current readership as a way to work out if these searchers fit with the larger audience I’m trying to attract, and…
  • …if so, consider dropping in some more content around this topic, using the low-bounce rate key phrase, to better meet the needs of current and potential users
  • see if I can use this kind of language to target more engaged traffic with other techniques, like search or social media advertising.

If nothing else, by reviewing low-bounce rate organic search phrases that searchers use to reach my blog, I can get a feel for the kinds of keyphrases—or, more broadly, topic-specific language, that might attract people who are more likely to be satisfied by the site as a whole. I wonder how this could work on your blog?

Content marketing metrics

Most bloggers are well versed in the process of reviewing their stats after a guest post publication on another site, to see how the post performed, and get ideas about what works, and what doesn’t, and how we can make our content marketing more effective over time.

But if we look at referred traffic levels only, we may not get the full picture of how effective our content marketing effort was. What about social shares and the quality and quantity of comments? Compiling a collection of relevant metrics for each guest post into a tracking sheet that contains information on all your guest posts can help you build up an understanding over time of:

  • which types of content work where
  • how (e.g. they’re readily shared, or the host site has a massive audience that always generates a spike on your site), and
  • why (are your headlines particularly great, is it that you always choose the right format, that your information stands out from the crowd, or something else?).

Taking your subscription levels and bounce rates into account as part of that ongoing analysis can help you get a hold on the other side of the equation: how well you’re managing the traffic that your content marketing generates, and where you can improve.

Looking at pure traffic levels can really limit your understanding—and the efficacy—of your content marketing efforts.

Online advertising metrics

At their most basic, online ad metrics are something we look at to assess the impact of our campaigns. If you use advertising as a traffic generator, it’s pretty easy to assess whether it’s working: just look at your ad service interface.

Once you know what’s working for you to generate traffic through ad networks, why not look to apply that knowledge in buying ad space directly on other sites in your niche? Invest the time honing your visuals and ad CTAs to suit the ad networks, and you’ll have a head start when it comes to creating ads specifically for the readers of peer sites in your market.

Those successes might also play into other traffic generation techniques—keyword selection, for example, which can play into strategies for SEO and content generation. But perhaps you’ll also start looking at tying advertising to some of the other traffic generation tactics you use. Advertising on a site as your guest post is published there is one example. Advertising your subscription offering or downlaodable, free whitepaper is another.

Subscription metrics

It’s easy to look at a rising subscription level and think “great!” but to get a clear picture of what’s going on, I like to consider it in light of overall traffic levels—and the proportion of that traffic that’s new and returning.

A typical increase in my subscriptions is good … unless traffic increased by more than usual over the month. On the other hand, a disproportionate rise in subscriptions when traffic growth has remained normal presents other questions. In both cases, I’ll want to investigate further—to see where subscriptions are or aren’t coming from, and work out if there’s something I should tweak to try to improve the figures.

These questions work well in conjunction with some of the other traffic stats we’ve been looking at. If my review of low-bounce rate search traffic suggests certain language or key phrases could catch new visitors’ attention, I might try a different call to action on my subscription page. If they’re coming from a certain other sites—perhaps as a result of content marketing efforts or backlinks—then I might offer a relevant free download for new subscribers next month, and see if that helps boost conversions.

Ultimately, reviewing the ratio of subscriptions to new traffic often prompts us into some kind of action, and in a way that looking at conversions alone may not.

Social media metrics

Analytics’ Referrals screen gives you access to a good deal of information about all referrers—including social networks. Again, looking at these stats alone is okay for finding out which of your posts is getting a lot of clickthroughs, but there are a lot of variables that can affect click in social media, including how the information is resented by those who share it. So I prefer not to take that information on its own.

Instead, I might compare the clicks Analytics has recorded on individual links through a given social network (e.g. Twitter) with the shares I’ve tracked for that article, to get an idea of a shares-to-clicks ratio. For those that got the most clicks, I’ll also compare those stats with overall traffic to the article for the month. This is a good way to get an idea of which kinds of content perform well in social media, perhaps even over a longer time.

As an example, a post that generated a lot of clicks through Twitter in the last month was Neil Patel’s Guide to Writing Popular Blog Posts, which is nearly a year old. A deeper investigation shows that the post was reshared at the start of the month, causing a traffic spike that lasted for a period of days as that initial retweet was re-shared.

So social media metrics aren’t just about what’s trending—they can also be a good indicator of posts that could provide you with strong traffic opportunities over the longer term, and perhaps provide material for use in other formats too.

Backlink metrics

Their SEO potential aside, organic backlinks offer a real opportunity for the blogger who wants to give their content marketing efforts more punch. For example, looking at your referring sites for the last month can alert you to sites and sub-niches that are relevant to yours, or of growing importance. It can also show that content that’s hiding in your archives is getting attention from others—and may be worthy of more attention from you, too.

This month, I found that this very old post, RSS vs. Atom: What’s the Big Deal? had been linked to from a tutorial on making an RSS feed of your Facebook updates. Although that tute was publish more than a year ago, it’s obviously had some traffic in the last little while—and some of that has flowed through to my blog!

How can I use this information to boost traffic?

  • I could do some interlinking and updating to try to reduce bounce rates from the new traffic coming to that post, and encourage more of these new users to look at other content I have on related topics.
  • At the very least, I could include a link to my own RSS feed in the article, since these users are obviously interested in the kinds of tips that we talk about here on ProBlogger, and are comfortable with RSS.
  • I could compile a Facebook marketing guide using evergreen content from my blog and use it as an incentive to encourage these visitors to subscribe, so I can try to increase their repeat visits to the blog.
  • I could create more content on that topic, specific to that audience need, and send it to other sites in that niche as guest posts (containing more backlinks of course).
  • I could ask the post’s author if he’d like to revamp and “republish” the post on my site as a means to attract even more attention to it.
  • I could offer the site that linked to the piece a sponsorship package for that article, and others like it on my site.

These are just a few ideas‚ but the options are almost endless for each niche and topic area. While bloggers may feel that they’ve lost control over backlinks following the last Google update, backlinks are obviously still worth paying attention to as an indicator of what your audience—and those in related niches, feel is valuable about your blog. And as we know, value is the way to build strong recurring traffic over the longer term.

Networking and collaboration metrics

Of all the traffic sources we discussed, this one’s probably the most difficult to track in aggregate. While you can count traffic generated through a guest-posting collaboration or a shared effort like a cross-blog competition or carnival, it can be difficult to gauge the full traffic benefits of these efforts even in the short term—let alone over longer timeframes.

It’s true that for some of the collaborative opportunities I mentioned last week—writing book, for example, or running a highly localised event—you can do some forms of analysis. You can track the time it takes to organize and run the event, and compare that with the income and subscriptions you generate from it, and traffic levels immediately following that effort.

But I think that often, the number don’t tell the full story here. These kinds of collaborative efforts can have far-reaching effects over the longer term, and often that impact can be subtle, or difficult to attribute directly to the event you ran eight—or eighteen—months ago.

So one of the ways I “measure” the impacts of these efforts is to think about how energised I feel by doing them. If you’re engaged with your blog’s audience, you should get a good feel for their response to these events and ideas. Are they excited? Are they telling others about it? Are they asking you questions about it and engaging with the products of your collaboration wherever they can? How does their response make you feel? Are you as excited as they are? How does your collaborator feel?

Answering these questions should give you at the very least a rough idea of the long-term potential of a joint effort with your blog’s readership.

What traffic metrics are you keeping an eye on?

The world of traffic generation involves a galaxy of metrics. But in truth, with all the other things bloggers have to do, few of us pay very focused attention to the details of our metrics all the time. For most, a general overview, supplemented by a few key metrics, may be all we go on most of the time.

I’d love to hear which metrics you’re paying the most attention to at the moment, and why. Are you looking at your referrers to gauge the impact of your social media efforts, or a guest post you’ve just had published? Are you working hard on SEO, and keeping an eye on your organic (or paid!) search traffic levels? Tell us what you’re watching in the comments.

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. nairamania says:

    Good post, I saw this link through Friendsfeed

  2. I liked the 7 techiniques a lot.

    I would like to add this:

    you must go with more than a method and then find the one that works and put all your efforts on it.

    Remember 95% of the traffic come from 5% of the work, so concentrate on this 5%

    Hope this helped.

    Regards,
    Ahmed Safwan
    ToStartBlogging.com

  3. Thisisgame says:

    do more!

  4. J. Delancy says:

    I knew that not all traffic is created equally, but I’d never factored all of these things into the mix. I think, I’m going to work on converting more visitors into subscribers, which is one small step that I can focus on.

    Thanks again Mr. Rowse.

  5. Dara Bell says:

    Hi Darren

    I’ve got 2 of your books. These seem like great tips to kickstart some traffic.

  6. Maria says:

    Darren,

    Your points on subscription metrics gave me food for thought. When I see them go up, I don’t delve further, just happy they are rising. However your point about them increasing solely based on traffic as opposed to other factors is something I hadn’t taken into account. A rise in subscriptions without increased traffic is well worth looking into. It may be a great post, that could be tweaked for even more improvement in opt-ins.

    Great article…and it’s prompted me to go back and look at my analytics from a different angle.

  7. This is a great read and does take a little time to understand. It’s time however that we do not always have. How many owner driver bloggers have the time to scrutinise their blog in the depth detailed above? I suppose we can counter argue, do we have the time not to analyse…… Interesting!

  8. Hello Darren Rowse,

    Thank you for this really excellent post!! Searching about what kind of content visitors love is very crucial in this business and of course Google analytics shows you extremely important information related to your visitors and what kind of content are best for your readers!

    Traffic is a really challenging factor for many internet marketers online and I agree with Ahmed Safwan that you need to concentrate on this 5% of the work!!

    According to banner advertising it is very important to choice the right blogs to buy advertisements but you do not know exactly the results of these banners unless you give it a try!

    Social media is one of my best ways to generate targeted traffic and the more you interact with others the better for your website.

    Again thank you very much for this valuable information.

    Regards,
    Lavrentiadis Zouras
    monetizing-website.com

  9. Katak Comel says:

    good info..i will struggle all of this to get more trafic..

  10. Diego Isaac says:

    Great GREAT tips. I was looking for some TRUE tips about traffic or user acquisition and found your blog. I just think you can develop some useful tips about the measurement and conversion. Love your blog. Thanks.

  11. Drewry says:

    When it comes to business blogging and backlinks, I’m all game for learning new ways to build links for SEO. How long did it take you to build backlinks to ProBlogger, in getting better positions in the SERP’s ? :-)

  12. Very useful tips, I also like to increase the traffic of my blog. I will use ur tips. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Tony Smith says:

    Darren,

    I learned about you from Pat Flynn, so I decided to go out and buy your Problogger book. I just bought it this weekend, and I’m almost done with it. As a result of reading your book, I decided to check out your blog.

    I can’t tell you how impressed I am with both your book & your blog!

    You are a true inspiration to me, and I can’t wait to follow in your footsteps and start making money through blogging!

    Keep up the good work!

    Sincerely,

    Tony Smith

  14. I love the techniques. Great post! Thanks.

  15. Bobbie Hurst says:

    Great post Darren. Well thought out.

  16. Tom Clark says:

    What a great post Darren! I have been dying to hear your thoughts on choosing keywords to focus on when building up your blog. I have always just created content for my site in a very free fashion, adding in posts as and when and using all the knowledge I have learnt over the years in my niche (guitar tuition). I then started creating and marketing content for a web agency and have changed my entire perspective on blogging. I have been crafting posts in such a different manner and have not published them. Now the folder is bursting with content but I want to hear some of your thoughts on identifying keywords in any niche.

    Thanks once again and I look forward to hearing from you.

  17. Cudjoe says:

    These techniques are really great. I’ll certainly try as hard as I can to apply them.
    Online journey is indeed far.

  18. Thanks for the great traffic techniques, but where should I start? I just started my first blog 3 days ago and while I have seen more traffic than I expected in the first days (60 visitors, 260 page views), I am beginning the process of building traffic for my site, but it seems to be a daunting task. What should my first move be?

  19. This is article is a great find for me. Thanks so much for sharing your expertise. You helped in giving me more ideas.

  20. Ultimate! says:

    You don’t even mention Bing/Yahoo in your SEO section? Bing is a great source of traffic, 30% of all search traffic to my blog comes from Bing/Yahoo (their pretty much the same, Bing Powers Yahoo search)

  21. Saskia Bader says:

    I often look at the performance metrics of articles that I published on bigger article directories and I also regularly look at the traffic that different referring websites are bringing to me so I know which backlinks work and where I get the most traffic from. Thank you for this article. It contained some metrics I didn’t know before so I can now look at them and better opzimize my traffic generation efforts.

  22. Harsh Bhatt says:

    Impressive points for getting know, how to increase traffic.
    I have learned many things after reading it whole, it will slowly increase my traffic & will try to measure what readers liking most.
    Awesome blog.

  23. Dan Norris says:

    Hey Darren, good stuff I’m glad to see some more stuff in here about metrics as my free web app is dedicated to this exact problem (people not having the time to understand their key metrics).

    The thing with metrics though is often they don’t tell the whole story or even accurately reflect what is going on. Here are 2 examples, it might even be worth doing a specific post on this topic:

    1. Organic traffic results in Analytics will often contain a huge % of people who visit your site for ‘brand’ keywords. This is particularly true for new blogs. For example in my case my top keywords are ‘web control room’, ‘webcontrolroom.com’ etc. These visitors totally blow my organic traffic out of proportion and really should be included as direct visits not organic search traffic. I fix this particular issue by using Advanced Custom Segments in Analytics which enable me to have a segment that includes all organic traffic but excludes people who entered brand keywords so it’s much more accurate (although a bit more work).

    2. A lot of the time people’s sales process is separate to their blog. e.g. they sell something offline or sell access to a freemium web app (in my case) or they sell via their newsletter etc. The problem with this is while Analytics can look at conversion rates, often the goal is somewhere short of the actual sale – e.g. opt ins or contact forms completed etc. Even for people who are selling something directly on their site, Analytics is only smart enough to pick up the first sale (it only knows visitors it doesn’t know people). So the information that you really need to know (which traffic source led to the best customers long term) is not available. You are either stuck with which traffic sources led to the most opt ins (which may not end up being customers) or which ones led to initial purchases (which is better but they might be low level one off customers with low lifetime value).

    I’m solving this particular problem by integrating Kiss Metrics into my app which will tell me the traffic source for those customers who sign up to the paid version and track them as ‘people’ over time. So I’ll know which sources sent the best customers long term.

    Anyway, good stuff and thanks for the post, would love to see more posts around metrics.

  24. Mostly I track metrics regarding internal movement on the site. Which areas are not just “sticky” but which also move visitors on through a buying process.

  25. good post

  26. Martin says:

    All 7 metrics are great to focus but I like to foucs on first more – SEO matric.

  27. I love the information. I will definitely put it into use.

  28. Shelby Roth says:

    What the techniques. They are all so insightful and educating than I thought they would. Looking forward to putting them into use since that is actually what the reality taking action means. I liked the way you came up with every area of your traffic techniques and that makes me a successful person. Thanks a lot for sharing, keep up the great job!

  29. yassine says:

    thank youuuuuuu

  30. Perfect article and i think when we are talking of traffic SEO is the best of all because the visitor from this place are really searching for something and we take time to search your site if you are been pick by the search engine. and also the traffic that come from this place are organic traffic…good source of boosting your traffic. thanks for sharing

  31. Daniel says:

    Great post, Darren..

    You have hit this one out of the ball park(so to speak)….and I have bookmarked this page….

    Traffic generation and measuring associated metrics and stats, can be very time consuming….

    As far as methods used, I think for each person it will differ depending on what they are actually trying to achieve…

    For me personally, I am now much more concerned with focusing on the user (visitor) experience, and also improving a number of site performance metrics….as well.

    Working for an overall improvement to my site, does involve a great deal of analyzing stats and various metrics….

    Though, I do not wish to get too bogged down with stat checking, as this would leave little time for providing fresh content…..

  32. Anthony says:

    Great read, thanks Darren.

  33. Clarkmartin says:

    Hi
    Thanks for sharing the Excellent post. If all the points are followed surely one can make easy money on internet. Try to get quality and relevant backlink from the high PR blogs.