Building more blog traffic requires work. But it's not rocket science. It's a series of simple steps that require time and effort to execute, but the steps themselves aren't a secret. You simply have to be willing to DO THE WORK.
Three weeks ago, I set out to prove that point by following those simple steps here on the Sugarrae blog. When I wrote about earning an income through blogging I ended that post by stating “Blogging isn’t easy money – it’s simply an easy opportunity. YOU have to decide what you’re going to make of it.” And that's the truth.
On September 24th, I decided to put a little more effort into Sugarrae than usual and document what I did and the effect that it had on the blog. I know the “steps” work – I do it on commercial blogs all the time. But I wanted to be able to show you it in detail – which meant doing it here on Sugarrae. The results of following these simple steps? Evident…
Now exactly – EXACTLY – how did I do it?
Adding (traffic) content
Using the very tactics I blogged about in how to come up with new blog post ideas, I found a few phrases people were looking for in Google that I didn't have content on yet, but could easily create. How to create new blog post ideas, how to decide on an affiliate niche, etc. I created those posts, promoted those posts, was careful in wording the title tag for those posts and began to cross-link those posts within other content I was creating with relevant and varied keyword phrases (note, I JUST did that above).
Adding (good) content
Not every piece of content I create is to get traffic from search engines or make money with affiliate marketing. In the brick and mortar world, these might be referred to as “loss leader” posts. A loss leader is a product that the merchant knows it won't make any profit from directly – they might even lose money on them. It's more of a “get them to the store, and hopefully, they will buy other things” play. Loss leader content doesn't make money directly, but it helps to increase your branding, your traffic, your visibility and bring new people to your blog.
There's no direct profit being aimed for – only indirect profit by increasing your regular readership and your mailing list subscribers (in my case). I would describe the 48 Things I Know I Wish I Knew Then post on the lessons I've learned as an entrepreneur to be one of those posts. Any direct income? Nope. 265 tweets, 213 likes, 77 +1's and 6,100+ visits with 4,900+ of those being NEW visitors to my blog and a 250% increase in mailing list subscribers for a week as the post circulated heavily? Yes, please.
Adding (money) content
For me, my “money” content is primarily found in reviews. Reviews (like the one I did of Yoast's Video SEO Plugin) make me money directly from my core audience as they're published, as well as make me money for people who have never heard of Sugarrae, but are searching for “product name reviews” in Google for a long time following the initial publication. I cannot stress enough to do HONEST reviews and never, EVER sell out the trust your audience has in you to make a commission. I'd also suggest these be sprinkled in, with care, and not bombarding your audience with you “money” pages, whatever they may be.
Timing the extra content effort with traditional promotional opportunities
The time frame I chose to do this in correlated with my attending SMX and speaking on three panels there. Though I was representing my then agency in an official capacity, I'm “known” by my handle, so I always mention it when I'm introducing myself on panels. I purposely tried to be showcasing more quality content while attending this show. So maybe now you're thinking, “Um, Rae, I don't speak at shows.” Do you attend trade shows and hand out business cards? Are you going to be mentioned in the news or on a high traffic blog? Are you participating in a tweetup? Whatever kind of traditional marketing exposure you get, always try to maximize it.
I did two guest posts in the last few weeks as well. One was called lies people tell themselves about building a blog audience. It was published 9/26 and while the direct traffic wasn't astounding, the number of times to post was shared – and the increase in how often my brand was mentioned – on Twitter was awesome.
Same goes for the guest post I did on getting Google Analytics training for free.
Back to the five lies post – in it, I very deliberately linked to a page on my site about how to make money blogging. I'd created the post about a month ago, and it had easily popped into the top 10 for the term on Google after a week or so and was sending some decent traffic even with the low ranking. Within a few days of doing the guest post, I watched my ranking on the term go from the bottom of the first page to the top of the first page – with the expected increase in traffic as a result.
CopyPress got a post I put a lot of effort into, I got a lot of branding out of it and was able to swing that into increased search engine traffic on a term I was targeting as well. Win, win, win.
Running a small Facebook Fan campaign
Back in September, I had decided to start running a small campaign to attempt to increase the amount of “likes” – in a MEANINGFUL WAY – on the Sugarrae Fan Page. What do I mean by meaningful? It's easy to run contests or do stuff to increase your likes on a fan page. But I didn't want to increase the number of people liking the page for the sake of boosting the page ego. I wanted to increase it with likes from people that would read – and potentially share – my content when it gets posted.
I got the idea after I saw an ad for the Shawn Collins fan page in my sidebar, which I hadn't thought to visit previously. But once it was in my face, I was like “oh, yeah, he rocks [like]” – THOSE were the kind of likes I wanted.
So I set up a small ad campaign with a limited budget. I tried to make it pretty targeted. The limitations on where the ad showed were as follows:
- who live in the United States (WHY: I wanted to limit if for the first test)
- between the ages of 24 and 50 inclusive (WHY: I find that fits my primary demo)
- who like search engine land, Shawn Collins, seomoz, #Search engine optimization or #Affiliate marketing (WHY: If they “like” any of these pages, they will likely be interested in the type of content I deliver)
- who speak English (US) (WHY: because I do)
- who are not already connected to Sugarrae (WHY: Waste of money to advertise to people who are already fans)
- whose friends are already connected to Sugarrae (WHY: Birds of a feather…)
From 9/15 through 10/6, I spent $35.53 to obtain 53 new likes directly from the ad campaign. That works out to about .67 per like. The campaign also showcased my brand to almost 9K people during that time. I'm ok with this CPA for meaningful likes, so I restarted the campaign again today. I'm also ok with the increased traffic referrals Sugarrae.com is getting from Facebook as a result of obtaining more meaningful likes.
Cross promoting ALL content
Whenever I published a blog post, I promoted it via all avenues possible. Tweets, Sharing on Facebook, +1'ing it on Google+ – and when I saw content go even hotter than I expected, like with the 48 things post, I purposely reached out to people with massive reach and made them personally aware of the content, hoping to make it even hotter.
Growing an audience is all about chasing and increasing the baseline
The baseline – in my head – is the average traffic you receive even if you're not doing anything “extraordinary” or active promotion. Every time you do promotion or have a hot post or actively work (like above) to increase your user base, you'll get peaks from doing so. The peak isn't the important part to me; it's the resulting valley – the new baseline – of traffic you're receiving once whatever promotion you're doing cools off or slows down. When the dust settles, I want my new baseline to be higher than the baseline before the active promotion. THAT's the game.
As long as you keep working to increase that baseline, you'll keep growing your audience and the monetization possibilities your blog holds. Wash, rinse, repeat.