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Quality Vs. Volume: The Traffic Spectrum, and How You as Bloggers Can Harness It

As web usage grows, and we all become more connected more of the time, it could seem like getting traffic to your blog should be getting easier.

But as connectedness increases, so does competition. There are only 24 hours in a day, and the blogger’s job is to convince readers to spend a few precious minutes with us.

motorway_traffic_trail

Image courtesy stock.xchng user ansmedia

Attracting more readers to your blog

A lot of the time, it can seem like we have two options for attracting readers to our blogs:

  • entice them in, one at a time
  • “explode” your blog with “viral” content or promotions.

You can imagine these as two extremes on a spectrum; for most of us, traffic growth usually sits somewhere in between. Though for bloggers at the beginning of their careers, the one-at-a-time scenario is very real. And occasionally, any of us might hit on an “explosive growth” moment where our blogs get a massive volume of traffic for a brief moment (comparatively!) in time.

Of the traffic that comes once, only a portion will ever come back, and even fewer will subscribe. No wonder it can seem like an uphill battle to build a tribe around a blog!

I’ve found the best way to make the most of both kinds of readers is to cater to both.

Capturing attention—and holding it

If a blog has strong, targeted content that really gives value to readers, it’s off to a flying start. The design should also be easy to use, and attractive to the target group—that goes without saying.

So what is it that captures and holds the attention of individuals arriving at your site either as one-offs, or as part of a massive stream of traffic that you’ve generated through, say, some viral content, or great search positioning?

Let’s look at some of the tactics that suit each group.

The hard-won, single visitor

Perhaps this person’s found your site using a very specific search phrase, or they were having coffee with a friend who mentioned your blog. They might have seen the column you write for the local paper, and typed in your blog’s URKL out of curiosity, or had a contact share a link to a particular article on your blog that they thought would help this new visitor.

I think of these kinds of visitors as pre-engaged. When they arrive at your blog, they’re open-minded about what it has to offer, but they also have an expectation that it’ll solve a problem or answer a need that they have.

What can we do to capture the attention of these readers? Things like:

  • links to further reading on the same topic
  • signup forms/newsletter subscriptions
  • a contact form for questions they might want to ask
  • a free download targeting their need
  • an active community of commenters or forum members
  • links to social media/rss subscriptions.

The generic, viral visitor

By “viral visitors,” I’m talking about people who arrive at your site as part of a crowd sent by a viral piece of content you’ve published somewhere, or a big-name blog making mention of you.

We know that this traffic traditionally spikes and plummets soon after, and while the traffic can be strong for a short period, the majority of those visitors tends not to come back.

Every blogger wants to capture a larger slice of the viral traffic pie. How can we? I think that the answer here is a little more complicated. When I click a shared link on social media, I’m in either “entertainment” or “intrigue” mode. I’m wanting distraction, or a quick fix of new knowledge in an interest area. I’m not looking for a long-term relationship with a blog!

If I’m coming from a contextual link that’s on another site I’m reading, my motivation is usually a fairly specific kind of curiosity related to the topic in question, and my level of engagement will depend on how much I trust the site that linked to you, and the content I was reading when I came across the link. I’d guess that viral traffic that comes through contextual links is likely to have higher expectations of your blog than that coming through social media—I know this is true for me as a user.

So how can we capture viral readers with such different levels of engagement and motivation?

To be honest, I think that if the landing page for viral traffic convinces them to re-share the link, you’re probably doing a pretty good job. The fact is that a lot viral traffic coming through social media isn’t often strongly targeted.

If you can go one better and entice them to follow you on social media as well, you’re doing very well. To achieve this, you’ll need prominent social media buttons that allow them to follow you on every post. If they can also reshare the content direct from the page, so much the better.

To capture those coming through links from another site in your niche, you might consider extra tactics like:

  • making comments on posts prominent
  • offering a free download or subscription related to the content on the same page
  • following up with the linking site to see if they’ll accept a guest post, so you can further build your profile with the site’s readers
  • offering the linking site an exclusive piece of quality content (e.g. a whitepaper or report that links back to your blog) on the same topic, or one that’s related, that they can share with their readers.

How do you capture different kinds of new visitors?

These are just a few ideas that I’ve used to try to capture different kinds of new visitors to my blogs. Do you target different kinds of new visitors differently, or use specific tactics to try to grab their attention?

I’d love to hear how you’re handling things—and what’s working for you—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. Ejaz Alam says:

    Rightly said Darren, what I think is that capturing visitors is one part that can be done somehow or the other but keeping him with you needs something valuable to offer. This will help to make him your regular reader. As you mentioned about some free downloads or newsletters or good related content etc. is extremely useful. I always learn from you problogger. Regards and good luck

  2. Hi, Darren. Great post! After reading your thoughts, I realized that I am already doing most of the action steps you are doing and recommending. I also found a couple in there I’m not doing and will begin doing. Working at making your blog more user-friendly and visitor-interactive, while maintaining professionalism is ever a challenge. I keep mind-maps of all of my ideas, as quickly as I think of them. And then look at the actionable steps to incorporate the ideas into my blog. I look forward to reading more of your articles. Thanks alot.

  3. Jon Rhodes says:

    This is quite obvious, but very effective. Guest blogging! If you REALLY put the effort in and write your best work and get it published on a very popular blog related to yours, then you will get a lot of targeted traffic. Of course then you need strong content and plenty of options for them to connect in order to retain them. Newsletters, RSS, Twitter, Facebook are all essential to give them as much choice as possible to connect with. It’s also good to add plenty of reminders about connecting with you. I recently added a WordPress pluggin called “WP ABout Author” and added a short bio, my pic, and a link to my newsletter sign up page. This has massively increased my sign up rate.

  4. Anurag says:

    Well, for now I am just focusing on building quality content but I have already done almost all the things you have stated here. Thank GOD, I am so lucky.

  5. Hi Darren!

    thanks for another right-on-target post!

    I´m on the side of the spectrum where I tend to attract visitors one-by-one (although as u mentioned, every once in a while I get a traffic spike because of a post that friends have liked so much that they share it on social networks).

    One other way that I think helps us attract visitors is using the right tags/categories, particularly for those on WordPress.I find that the wordpress blogging community has played a large part in growing my blog traffic, in the sense that when I write a post and tag “food, baking”, those who are interested in these aspects may chance upon my post in the WordPress “reader” and I´ve made friends with many of them (who may have ended up following my blog, and I end up following theirs too.)

    Just sharing my thoughts! hope it was food for thought!

    cheers from Buenos Aires,
    felicia

  6. Good post Darren ,

    I’m in the middle of a case study as we speak and I have noticed big differences in traffic by WHERE it comes from.

    It seems like it’s relatively easy to share a link and get people from social media to stop by and take a quick look.

    The problem is they have the shortest attention span of any type of visitor.

    Getting new traffic is cool but its targeted traffic that will stick around for a while that’s the ticket.

  7. I’m very wary of huge spikes in traffic. There have been huge spikes for me when a couple of mentions on The Consumerist were published, as well as a huge spike from a very busy mention on Reddit. While it’s nice to see your content get noticed by such a large crowd, there is a huge downside as well. The traffic from certain sources tends to be very bouncy, which I am not a fan of, personally. No matter how easy you make it to engage, subscribe, or connect, it just doesn’t happen in certain instances. Seeing a tremendous jump in traffic while bounce rate and time on site shrink almost equally as much makes for a not-so-fun combination in my view. Of course it helps if the linking/referring site or source is in a similar field that way the visitors would be more likely to stick around, but that’s not always controllable.

    The problem also lies in the issue of just how much of a distraction do you want to provide readers. Do you want to have them stay on site and click around the deep-linked posts, or give them numerous chances to leave the site by prominently asking them to connect on social media? There are benefits to both, of course, but it’s almost like having your cake and eating it too.

  8. Paul Profitt says:

    Hi Darren,I am a firm believer of quality over volume of traffic. So one of the things that I am using to get more visitors to stay longer on my blog, and come back again. Is to make full use of social media. The 2 plugins that help me the most to do this are Comment Luv Premium and Premium Viral Magnet.

  9. Anand Govin says:

    Hi Darren, i’m new in your blog. What you’ve said is correct. You’ve given a very good article for those who are blogging for the first. Keep it up Darren i’m looking forward for more articles from you. tc man

  10. Thanks for some great ideas on the conundrum of one at a time, or viral. As you say I think everyone starts out ‘one at a time’ and it’s painful, then you get a couple of viral peaks which you think are the answer to your problems until you see traffic plummet shortly afterwards. Cue for post Post depression :) Thanks for explaining why this sudden fall in readers happens, and how and why it’s important to target both groups of traffic.

  11. Nikki Comma says:

    Great post,Darren. Quality of traffic is often forgotten. I also agree with what Eric J. Nisall said about social media connections as exit points. It can be tough to strike a balance.

  12. Thanks for the post, Darren. This post definitely contains a number of useful tips that I’ll be sure to implement into my posts. The power of social media is crazy, it’s a shame that a lot of people don’t capitalize on viral traffic!

  13. As always, excellent article! and you’re write always awesome post. Which People will benefit from using the pieces of wisdom in this article!

  14. Hi Darren, hope you don’t mind but I unsubscribed from the main PB feed and switched to your individual author RSS feed. A bit hypocritical perhaps since I’ve written a guest post here myself, but it’s nice to be able to block out all the guest post noise and just focus on your content.

    Anyway, I’ve experienced both kinds of traffic with my website. I find that targeting individual people is something I have to do at the early stage my site is at, in fact I probably get more subscriptions from individual targeted visitors than from viral ones.

  15. Dan Erickson says:

    Great post, Darren. I’ve been learning a lot about blogging, traffic, tactics, etc. Your ideas are right on. The problem for me is two-fold: time and technical expertise.

    I’m a single dad, author, and full-time college instructor. I started blogging to promote my first book at http://www.danerickson.net I’m slowly learning and implementing some of the tactics you mentioned in your article, but I have to work within time constraints and my own technical learning curve. To date, I’ve not hired out technical help, because I want to learn these aspects of blogging on my own. However, as my content quality increases and I gain more followers I might have to get some help to keep up with demand.

  16. Simon Dodd says:

    Great post Darren,

    My main sources of traffic these days are (in order) Twitter, Other Blogs, Facebook, Google (Organic) then others.

    I get a very small amount of traffic from the few guest blog posts I have written but I haven’t written one of those for over a year. I am surprised at how well my traffic has kept up since I have been taking a break from blogging. I am back on it now though and am moving my blog to a new direction with more regular content.

    I’ll make sure I report back when I have some updated results on my traffic sources.

    Thanks again for your great post.

    Simon

  17. LivenUpLife Author says:

    I think where many bloggers go wrong is that they put the need to be recognized as first priority instead of letting it happen naturally through their content. For all the tricks in the world, people won’t return to a website or blog that doesn’t impress them, but will definitely find their way back to place that aroused interest in them – even if you don’t manipulate them into it.

    Some words from Confucius, that many in the internet would do great to think for a few minutes:

    “I am not concerned that I have no place, I am concerned how I may fit myself for one. I am not concerned that I am not known, I seek to be worthy to be known.”

  18. JanBierens says:

    It’s hard work, I know. Having a full time job and blogging is even harder work, but it’s all worth while. On tip I could give is “Use awesome blog post titles”. People like to “Scan the highlights” and have a short time to decide on actually read on, or move away from your site.

  19. Greg C. says:

    Outside of having quality content and awesome free information such as eBooks and newsletters, I believe there are many other ways to engage your “new” blog visitors and help them stay on your blog a little longer. I’ve used such tactics as: video libraries, photo galleries (especially on my blogs regarding travel). I also implement quizzes, contests and polls, as opposed to just inter-linking or suggesting related blog posts or topics on other sites.

  20. Cerdas says:

    On one of my sites, I am using the combination of the quality post people usually search and the community I ‘ve builded through social media. It’is proven it could drive more and more visitors not only the loyal follower but also new readers. However, your advices are also inspiring too and I believe could be beneficial as well. Thanks.

  21. Great read Darren
    I get great interaction and involvement on social media, reach goes haywire when I ask my followers questions and make it easy for them to reply. Currently working and using some of your pointers for improving my blog reach.

  22. I’ve sort of been throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks! I am definitely working on improving my content (style and value) so that no matter who visits or how, they’re impressed with what they find. That’s my hope. I think I’ve had equal success with both, and based on your post, it seems that I’m okay appealing to both.

    Never though of this way. Learn something new every time.

    Best

  23. There’s nothing better than offering a freebie to a first time visitor. That instantly helps build a connection with the reader although some would argue it works against you.

    • Greg C. says:

      @ Harshit Singhal,

      I’m one of those who strongly believe that extending a gift or gifts to “first – time” visitor is a huge NO NO, simply because if your content is NOT of value, your “first time visitors” won’t come back anyway. Gifts only work in conjunction with “great content”, even for “first time visitors.”

      With that being said: One of the best way to convert “first time visitors” into loyal readers of your blog is to “first” focus on the primary thing that will continue to benefit them the most. And without question, that should be the “QUALITY”, as well as the “CONSISTENCY” of your content!”

      I believe it is much more important to extend value to your readership by providing them exactly what they expect from your blog, and by making them love just about everything your blog has to offer. If you continue to “serve their needs” and “fulfill their requirements” within your “content”, I guarantee you they will remain very loyal readers, followers and subscribers, weather you are offering them gifts or not.

  24. Daniel says:

    Well written post, Darren.

    I would prefer targeted traffic in constant smaller doses, rather that being flooded with the occasional Traffic rush, of social site traffic(viral , etc)…..

    Return readers in growing numbers, should be the best outcome for us to aim for…..

  25. Santosh says:

    Excellent tips .. got a lots of tips here! keep posting great tips often.. Good job!

  26. Great post. I’ll definitely put some effort in making my new blog better using your ideas. Thanks.

  27. Hi Darren, i use forums to capture their attention. I go to forums and search for questions are asking and answer the question as a post in my blog, i try as much as possible to be detailed in my explanation. when the article is very useful, i get some subscription from there.