This is a guest contribution from Jerry Low.
Google is a b*tch
Like so many things on the web, the world of Google is constantly evolving – and while that flex can lead to good things, it also creates a volatile environment for bloggers and websites that rely on their search rankings – which, is pretty much all of them.
The short of it is that, while 90 percent of internet experiences begin with search – but of those, only a small fraction will move beyond the first two pages of results. Needless to say, there’s a reason so many people have invested in SEO to boost their ranking – but that volatility we were talking about makes that a huge risk as all of that work and investment could go out the window overnight should the algorithm changed. Which has happened many a time.
Google Penguin threw the SEO world into frenzy… and you’d think we’d have learned. But they did it to us again in September with the Panda 4.1 update – so much so that some sites are seeing more than a 70 percent loss in search visibility. As ever, we don’t know exactly what the algorithm changes were – only that they work to better hone in on quality content.
You need Google-less approach to build blog traffics
All of this having been said, Google’s algorithms are constantly changing – so it’s important to build your blog’s success in other ways. You know that saying, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket?” Apply that here.
Relying solely on Google’s organic search to drive traffic to your blog is simply not a good business model – you need to diversify. In this article, I am going to share a few strategies that work well for me – these are the mainly how I quadruple my site traffics ever since it got hit by Penguin in April 2012.
Strategy #1: Blog Commenting
First off, commenting on blogs is quite possibly the most overlooked method for building blog traffic – mostly because people suck at making quality, meaningful conversation with strangers (myself included). However, blog commenting is a quality method for building traffic that also happens to be free – can’t argue with that!
Blog commenting, NOT spamming
Let’s back up for a moment – I’m not talking about dropping a link out of the blue or spamming the blog owner with a “nice post – thank you” comment… those aren’t relevant, nor will they get you anywhere.
I’m talking about leaving a quality, helpful comment that intrigues the blog owner and their readers, making them want to learn more about you – which means you need to give other readers a reason (in your comment) to learn more about you.
Effective blog comment marketing
There are two golden rules to blog commenting:
(1) Always write a quality comment – meaning, if you don’t have something meaningful to add to the discussion, don’t leave a comment (Read: Do not leave “Thank you – great post” comments… they’re useless); and
(2) Only drop a link where appropriate – don’t spam, no matter how tempting it may be; it will backfire on you. While not a golden rule, perhaps, it is important – if you leave a link, don’t just give your blog’s URL – instead, link to a relevant post of your own that contributes to the original post and discussion… that relevancy is key.
Real life scenario: Blog commenting done right
Here’s a great example of someone who has done it right:
For starters, Mr. Miller goes into some detail, offering unique perspective relevant to the original post while also letting readers know about him and his relevancy to the topic. By sharing his own experience, he displays his own expertise in the search field, earning my attention and drawing me to learn more about him… so much so that I clicked on his Moz profile and now follow him on Twitter.
This is how it works… and did I mention that it’s free?
Strategy #2: Freebies marketing
This one is fairly straightforward – after all, who doesn’t like getting something for free?
You, the blogger, will provide readers with an incentive – something free in exchange for joining your email list, subscribing to a newsletter, submitting a giveaway entry… you get the idea.
However, not all freebies are good on their own – you need to think outside the box when you promote them so that you provide the public and other bloggers a reason to talk about your freebie and link back to your blog… the whole point is to get traffic, after all. Beyond that reason, you need to think like your audience – where does your target audience hang around? Where can you best reach them? Venue is just as important as getting your freebie out there in the first place.
Use freebies as a reason to reach out
Also, when you launch your freebie, don’t just sit on your laurels and wait for the visitors to come – you need to stay active, reaching out to influencers to let them know about your giveaway; otherwise, you’re leaving too much up to chance and missing opportunities.
As for your actual freebie – it doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg; what it does need to do is hold relevancy and value to your target audience.
For example, if you are selling your cooking ebook no your blog, you’ll likely want to stay active on mommy blogs or other cooking blogs where your target audience is likely to reside – giving away free recipes on those blogs is a great way reach that audience and intrigue them to learn more about you (and your own blog).
Real life scenario: Free icons at Web Hosting Secret Revealed
Another example – my core business at Web Hosting Secret Revealed (WHSR) is promoting hosting services.
Rather than squeezing into the crowded Google SERP, I’ve found better odds targeting web designers who likely have use for my hosting advice… to land a seat with that audience, I’ve created loads of freebies. Those loads of free icons? Yep – freebies targeted to my primary audience. The free icons actually earned substantial attention from the blogosphere, bringing in new visitors and social followers. If you’re interested, these are just a few of the blogs that featured our free icons:
Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.
Strategy #3: Crowd Sourcing Post
Crowd sourcing is a way of playing in the sandbox with the other kids.
You’ll leverage the reach of other bloggers, customers, business owners, etc., getting a seat in front of their audience for your blog.
The best way to get this moving is to invite others who could benefit from the cross promotion (or simply want their link on your website) to publish their opinions or tips on your blog. The get for them is that they get their own backlink while also getting to establish themselves with your audience – and, since they’re likely to want to share their being featured as an expert outside of their own site, they’re likely to share your post with their own audiences.
Real life scenario: How I did it?
For example, to create this crowd-sourcing post, I reached out to roughly 30 bloggers, asking for their past blogging mistakes. The response was overwhelming and led to tons of new traffic, social media shares, and blog mentions… for free!
Like I said – playing nicely in the sandbox with others.
Strategy #4: (Creative) Social Media Marketing
Social media is a no-brainer – it’s free and a great way to find and grow your audience.
That said, sometimes making that social media endeavor a winner is a bit of a puzzle.
Remember that quality content is key to social media marketing success.
Key to success: Quality content, timing, headlines, creativity, connection with influencers
Before you can drive traffic to your blog, you need to give readers a reason to follow you; the best way is to provide quality content. Take a stand and don’t be afraid to speak your mind – then, write a quality post about it. Here’s a great example from Sean Davis about his frustration creating web forms with Aweber. It’s relevant to a specific audience, it has a voice, and it’s identifiable – net, net; there’s a benefit.
Secondly, timing is everything. Your audience is bound to have peak times and low times that they use social media – time your posts accordingly by applying intel learned from Simply Measured free tools.
While a book can’t be judged by its cover, that cover certainly catches eyes – so make a point to write interesting headlines. UpWorthy has a rule that, for each post, you should write 25 headlines – the idea is that your thinking will evolve and you will better hone your message as you let your ideas filter and play on one another. Whether 25 is your magic number, I don’t know – but I do like and stand behind the idea.
Next, don’t forget the value of images. Use as many as possible – not just to add color to your page or because “you’re supposed to,” but to actually add value and make your content more digestible and appealing. Ditch the clipart and instead look to infographics, flow charts, memes, and scenery – they’re evergreen and a great way to attract a social media following. Also, in my own experience, I’ve found that using tall graphics and writing meaty content improved my Google+ engagement rate by 8,400% in one of my recent posts… yes, that’s right; 8400%.
Finally, be fun and creative. Take the lead from AJ Kohn’s Google+profile… okay, yes – people follow him anyway for sound SEO advice, but I bet there are also many followers who were attracted by his beautiful scenery photos.
Strategy #5: Q&A Platforms
Forums are another great place to get a seat in front of your relevant, interested audience. The trick is to monitor ongoing conversations in your niche so that you can chime in when you have something helpful to say (and no, not every post is going to be an opportunity – but some will). You’ll need a good feed reader, such as Feedly, to make this work.
Not finding an exact fit or enough on-the-dot opportunities?
Create some custom content relevant to a particularly hot conversation. For example, if someone asks how to do something with .htaccess code, you could write a tutorial and post it to your blog – then, in the Q&A section of the site, respond to the requester with a teaser, linking them to your blog to get the full codes and demos. Odds are that if one person asked the question, others have that same question – and your forum answer and link will live on to advise them as well when the time comes.
Real life scenario: Where to start?
In terms of which Q&A platforms to use, I recommend Quora, Klout, and Yahoo! Answers – these are three of the best general Q&A platforms out there. If you are a publisher selling programming books, StackOverflow is right up your alley – at a minimum, ask your writers to stay active on the site. For travel bloggers, I highly advise staying active on Trip Advisor.
Bonus: Sponsor, speak at, or organize an event
Here’s something that lots of people overlook: you can market your blog offline. Events are a great opportunity to establish yourself as a leader in your space and to promote your blog in the process.
Real life scenario: ProBlogger Event
Take for example Darren who created Pro Blogger to fill a void. Initially created as a roundtable concept for bloggers, the event grew substantially in just two years – so much so that more than 30 speakers had access to an audience 550+ strong. Can you imagine getting to speak to a relevant audience of that size – and directing those attendees to your blog? That’s potentially 550 new hits in just one day.
Some events will invite speakers, whereas others take submissions. Do some searching and see what you can find – odds are there’s a relevant opportunity for you, but in the off chance there’s not, take a page from Darren’s book and launch your own. And when you do get that opportunity, don’t be shy – shamelessly shill for your blog, Pinterest boards, Twitter handle – you name it. Be a real resource and offer attendees a way to continue getting value from your experience.
One thing often overlooked: getting that traffic is only a part of the game – you still need to know what to do with it.
Remember that you’ll need to focus on maintaining that traffic – so focus on creating an ongoing conversation and way to continue the dialogue. Landing pages are key here, providing you a quick way to get information from and to your reader.
When your visitor lands on your landing page, make it clear what you want them to do – that could be signing up for your newsletter, following you on Twitter, commenting on your blog – the list goes on. The point is, be clear and direct – this is not the time to be coy. Also, take the opportunity to include a sign-up form that collects their email address; this is a seamless way to grow your brand and create remarketing opportunities.
There are plenty of ways to grow your blog’s traffic – without relying on Google. Better yet? Most of them are free!
Have a method I missed or questions about one I included? Please share your thoughts below.
Jerry Low is a geek dad who enjoys building web assets. Get his best blogging and growth hacking advice here.