Yesterday I shared the story of how back in 2004 I almost losing my business overnight. That big blip made me realise that I had too many eggs in one basket when it came to both traffic and income.
At that time the basket that all my eggs were in was ‘Google’.
I was reliant upon Google for most of my traffic and most of my income (by monetising purely through Google AdSense).
Over the next week, I want to suggest a number of ways I’ve tried to diversify my business since 2004, to build something that isn’t quite so reliant upon any one thing.
My hope was and is to build a business that could survive any one source of traffic, income stream, type of content or trend disappearing.
Today I want to start with the most obvious area and one that was a big problem for me….
Diversifying Sources of Traffic
Yesterdays story is the perfect example of why this is important. I was reliant upon Google for around 80% of my traffic so when that traffic all but disappeared – so did my income.
If I’m honest with myself I think I had become a little complacent about traffic in 2004.
Two years earlier I had worked hard to grow my readership. Every day I networked with other bloggers, submitted content to other blogs, engaged in forums on my topics, commented on other blogs, learned about SEO and much more. The result was growth in profile and traffic. All of the above also contributed to a growth in search engine rankings.
So in 2004, when I was getting decent traffic from Google and was making a decent income, rather than pushing to grow my blogs through every avenue available, I’d allowed myself to become reliant upon search traffic and stopped pushing as hard.
That traffic disappearing was a wake up call that I needed. I’m actually grateful for it because it started a sequence of events that led to much faster growth of my blogs.
At the time I decided to do a number of things to grow new traffic streams to my blogs including:
1. Identifying WHO I Wanted to Read my Blogs
Part of this process was paying more attention to thinking about what type of reader I wanted to attract to my blog. This thinking later led me to create reader profiles for my blogs.
Action Item: spend some time working on reader profiles for your blog.
2. A Renewed Focus Upon Creating Great Content
It dawned on me that I’d not only become a little complacent with growing my readership but I’d probably also become complacent about creating compelling and useful content for my blogs.
This wakeup call changed all of that. I began to identify my readers’ problems and needs, and write content that served my readers rather than content that I thought might rank well in Google. In doing so I created content that made a big impression upon the readers I did have – and they did the next step, sharing it with their friends!
Action Item: spend a little time each day dedicated to trying to understand your readers needs. This might be by creating a survey for your readers, engaging with readers on social media, running a poll or discussion oriented post or perhaps even shooting some emails out to those who’ve left comments on your blog to try to get to know them.
3. Writing Content on Other Blogs as a Guest Author
At the time the term ‘guest posting’ wasn’t that common but people did feature content from other bloggers from time to time. I sought out a number of these opportunities and they drew new traffic to my blog but they also helped me get ranking again through new incoming links to my site.
Action Item: identify a few other blogs in your niche that accept guest posts and try to come up with some ideas to pitch them for posts.
4. Starting a Newsletter
At the time I didn’t realise how important this would end up being but I started a free newsletter for readers of my site.
I offered to email monthly updates to anyone who signed up with the best content from the blog. It started very slow and initially only sent a trickle of traffic to my blogs each week but today we now have over 1,000,000 subscribers and each week when I send these emails the result is great waves of traffic.
Action Item: if you’ve not got a newsletter already, set one up today!
5. Promoting Other Subscription Methods
At the same time I began to realise that I should be working hard to promote other ways to subscribe to my blogs. I began to promote our RSS feed more prominently both in navigation areas but also occasionally in blog posts.
Action Item: when was the last time you mentioned your RSS feed on your blog? Perhaps it is time to incorporate a Call to Action to subscribe to it?
6. Social Bookmarking
Back in 2004/5 social bookmarking sites were just starting to hit the scene. Over the next few years we saw sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, Delicious and Reddit rise in popularity. I didn’t spend a heap of time on them but certainly began to create occasional content that I thought might have a ‘shareable’ appeal to it which led to some great spikes in traffic when that content did hit the mark and get shared around.
Action Item: spend a little time on sites like StumbleUpon or Reddit to research the kind of content that gets shared around on the topics that you write about.
7. Social Networking
At the time there wasn’t a lot of social networks around but in the years that followed I certainly began to jump onto networks like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ as a way to engage with readers but also drive traffic.
Action Item: another thing to spend some time researching is what social networks your readers are on. You can find this out with a survey or poll – but also check out what other blogs in your niche are focusing their energies upon.
I also spent more time getting to know other bloggers at this time. At the time as there were so few social networks this was largely done through commenting on other people’s blogs and email.
At one point in my early years I made a point of emailing one other blogger in my niche (or related niches) every week. This led to some great friendships and a few profitable partnerships in time too.
Action Item: Set a little time aside this week to reach out to another blogger in your niche. You never know where it might lead!
2005 saw me make a decision to start finding readers to my blogs through attending and running events. It started very humbly by me running some free workshops in my local library to 20-30 people at a time but in time I saved enough money to attend some conferences relevant to my content – and eventually even got invited to speak at a couple. All of this helped grow traffic, little by little.
Action Item: is there a meetup or event that is running in the coming months in your local area that relates to your niche? If not – why not try pulling one together? It need not be anything major – even a small gathering could lead to some interesting opportunities.
10. Personal Interactions with Readers
At this time I also realised that while all my Google traffic had vanished, I still had something pretty powerful – I had regular readers. The people who had already subscribed via RSS or had bookmarked the site in their browser were real people and they were connected with a lot of other people.
Rather than spending all my efforts looking for new readers, I decided to spend some serious time looking after the ones I already had. So spending more time in comments on my blog, emailing readers to thank them for contributions, linking to their blogs, running site challenges and engaging with them on social media all helped to build relationships which led to readers telling others about the site.
Action Item: look through the last comments left on your blog and choose one reader to give some personal attention to. Shoot them an email, visit their blog, follow them on Twitter – get to know them!
11. Pitching Other Blogs
Another technique that helped grow my blog a lot at this time was promoting the content I was writing to other bloggers in the hope that they might link up. I didn’t do this for every post but when I’d written something that related to the topics of other blogs I would email those bloggers suggesting that they take a look.
Back in 2004, this would often lead to those other bloggers blogging about it. Things have changed a little and I find that most times these days when you pitch other bloggers they share the posts on Twitter or Facebook – perhaps not quite as good as a link on a blog but still a great way to grow your traffic.
Action Item: Choose the best post you’ve written in the last few weeks and find a blogger to shoot the link to. Before you do – check out my post on How to Pitch Bloggers which is written for PR people but is also relevant to us sharing our content too.
The Twist: An Unintended Impact of Doing All of the Above
My intent with engaging in the above strategies was to diversify the sources of traffic coming into my blog and become less reliant upon search engines.
I’m glad to report that the strategy worked and traffic from other places did increase, however the unintended implication of doing all of the above was that my traffic from Google actually increased too!
While I’d previously done some SEO on my blogs with limited success this intentional effort to grow my readership from other sources than Google actually increased my search rankings higher than they’d ever been before.
The satisfying thing is that while I’d hate to fall out of Google again my business today wouldn’t but sunk by that happening. It’d hurt – but the blow wouldn’t be fatal any more.
Further Teaching on Finding Readers for Your Blog
Looking for more teaching on the topic of growing your readership? Check out my free webinar on the topic here (it’s completely free without any need to register).
You might also like to read my recent post that analyses 5 posts from the first year of my main blog – Digital Photography School – and how they led to 6 million views since publishing.
PS: in the coming days I want to turn my attention to other areas that I think it might be wise to diversify in as a blogger.
Great! I thought you did not write guest posts in other blogs. lol
I started guest blogging to rebuild my blogs traffic. Also writing contents seriously from now.
The most hard and clever thing is to create a reader profiles. Is it your unique idea?
I’ve not done guest posts for a few years but in the early days I did quite a few.
The idea for reader profiles is used in numerous businesses – I first eared about it from an advertising executive who created them for advertising campaigns that they were building.
I’ve since heard of many people using them to describe customers, readers of magazines/newspapers etc. They are sometimes called ‘Avatars’ or ‘Personas’ too.
This is really useful – thank you! As I was reading some points, I’m happy to say I was thinking “check, check” – but I could certainly do with re-visiting each point and doing more. I shall be storing this article somewhere safe, so I can refer back to it, and so that I can share the points with my little introvert clan – who, by the way, I have just learned to value far more as a result of your article.
Great post Darren – Its certainly more relevant today than it would’ve been a few years ago.
Apart from the traffic diversification methods, it’ll be great if you could share the revenue diversification techniques that you adopted.
How critical is AdSense revenue for you today?
Briliant post. However, things have changed alot over time. It some how become far more easier to generate traffic from other sources courtesy social sites. To get that.. not only your title should be catchy enough but content should also grab readers attention to be shared. That can end up providing constant stream of traffic over time.
You did it in times of unavailability of social site medium so you should be appreciated for that.
You are huge inspiration for me and thousands of fellow bloggers.
Darren, I’ve been following you sporadically for a while now, and just want to say thank you for this post (and others, of course)! I recently re-engaged with blog-style content in an effort to figure out the key to building a sustainable, quality site with unique content, and your diversification ideas really got my wheels going and forced me to start looking at the various ways I can create streams of visitors to the site.
Keep up the fantastic content, and thank you again for the inspiration to buckle down!
I’m very new to this game. My site has only been up and running for a couple of weeks, and I’m still finding my way around Word Press – I could almost write a separate blog on ‘How to get a handle on basic Word Press functions for a tech-deficient Gen-Xer’! Naturally, I have been devouring your posts throughout this very steep learning curve.
My focus at the moment is to get some good original content up and keep it coming, and try and build a mailing list so that I can start a newsletter. What did you find was the most effective way to encourage readers to sign up for a newsletter?
Thanks for these great tips, Darren. These will be of great help as I increase my blog readers as well. All the best!
I agree with you Darren, our first focus should be delivering quality products posts to our customers, the readers. They are our assets that need to be valued and taken care of. Without them we cannot achieve anything of value.
I too have learned the hard way not to rely on one source of traffic. As you have said participation in relevant forums can help to bring quality traffic to our blogs. I have also found that youtube traffic is also one the best converting traffic a blog can get.
Once again thanks for another gem.
Another terrific post. I got a lot of good ideas but the biggest takeaway for me was to hang in there and be consistent.
Building anything takes time. Too may people, including myself, get hooked on the shiny object syndrome and give up on stuff too early.
You could have quit when your traffic issues arose.
But you stayed the course. You believed in yourself and your business; the result being today’s success.
Congratulations. And thanks for continuing to share great posts
Thank you a lot for this two last posts, there are very interesting and i hope that gonna help me a lot.
My question is, Darren, does getting links by guest posting still work. Some say it’ll get u punished as for link buyers.
Many of us relied on Google years ago to drive all the traffic to our blogs and websites. While that strategy is still important, there are no shortcuts to success. Most online bloggers discovered there is no substitute for networking, creating great content and interacting with readers. Reading other blogs, guest blogging and pitching good blogs is also effective and helps you become a better reader and writer.
I think that your lesson comes back to basic marketing: understanding your customer needs and behaviours is the key for any business to grow.
I have done all the above guideline except the guest posting because some bloggers has mentioned that guest post is no more reliable for the seo score. but i will do it again
I have found that guest blogging works. It can bring you some traffic if you have written useful articles on other sites. These days it is better not to rely on Google for the traffic.
Hi, is website speed is going to be a great issue for Google ranking. In my blog there is post regarding restarting of Sony Xperia, In all days I’m getting only around 200 visitors for this post.
But I just come to know that there are around 10k+ searches every day for this issue. My post has got so many back links including from Sony’s blog also. Still there is no hike.
I’m hosting in “Host Gator” shared hosting cost around $200/year for unlimited domain+space+band width. Is this hosting going to kill my blogs?
Darren, it was a nice read, especially the 2004 story and the same repeated for millions of webmasters / bloggers during the last couple of years with all the Panda and Penguins from Google. Though your advise to concentrate on other traffic methods are great tips, but however one still needs to work according to the ethics (sic) / tips given by google for webmasters to gain the google search traffic and that is one traffic which we still cannot forget about, it is just too huge to put in the backburner. While concentrating on google traffic it is easy to overlook other methods as the traffic flow from google is just mindblowing and not comparable to other methods. The dilemma for a blogger is just heavily stressful :(
Diversification is the soul of least-risk in every blogging venture including traffic, monetization and even content sharing. I would follow all these tips to make my blog free of undue risks.
Now days , each hour new blogs are created with OMM(online money making) niche , so on which blogs topic Blog and which you should chose for your blog.
Great post, Darren. I like how you mentioned doing better on Google as a result of diverifying traffic methods. Many bloggers and website owners alike tend to focus too much on SEO. I think that when you actually focus on the reason why you made your blog and ‘not so much’ on SEO, that is when you do better at search engine ranking. If you focus too much on SEO, you might find yourself writing for bots rather than humans.
I found the exact same thing. As soon as I stopped worrying about the almighty Google and focusing on my readers, social networks and content the Google traffic miraculously increased. It’s still tempting to log into Analytics every now and then but I’m not on there everyday sweating the small stuff.
Nice post Darren,
This time if you depend on some traffic source google,guest blogging & social Newtwork etc, you cannot compete other. You try all source.
I having gotten into e-mail newsletter marketing yet nor heavily into meeting up at Internet marketing events, but I know all of these tactics are useful. Back in 2007, I learned the hard way too, about relying on search engine traffic solely as a means of secure Web traffic. Over the years, I learned social bookmarking, forum networking, article marketing and blogging or all useful methods combined to help bring in visitors out of the wood works on the World Wide Web. Last but not least, I also learned that quality content posted to your site daily will do more than keep search engine spiders interested going beyond just getting people to read your stuff.
you got over 1,000,000 email subscribers !
wow that’s amazing , i think 90% of visitors will not be interested in email subscription..
But u have made it and achieved lot of visitors , so let me try it to my blogs too :)
guest blog is one way to earn traffic. still not confident to write on other’s blog.
Just focus on writing for your own blog for now. :) Once you get used to it, writing for other blogs won’t be as difficult. Another option is article directories – write for them as they’re easier to get approved on and once you write that article that goes viral, you will probably have no issues at all writing on other blogs as well. :)
[ Smiles ] I like the part about pitching other blogs.
I am yet to give social bookmarking a try.
Thank you for providing such an informative post on the different ways drive traffic to your site. I do agree, the first you must do when creating a blog is having a newsletter and creating a subscribing list. A lot of my traffic from my site is also from Social Media like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, And Pinterest. This are my top social media that I do very well with and able to connect with others.
As always a great post Darren! I havenot tried Google Trends yet and I am going to do that right now. These are really great tools to gauge where your website ranks and need to improve. Thanks for the article!
Hi, I like to read quality blogs and your blog is one of them. The traffic sources you shared are very effective and result oriented. I am also doing some methods you have mentioned here but the result is not upto my expectations. Can you guide me in this regard. Keep on sharing such good stuf, God Bless you
Good reminder, Darren! I’m getting close to half of my traffic from search engines (almost all of that from Google), which is actually down from 80%+ not long ago. A big part of that is #4 on your list! But I’m still paranoid that my search traffic will disappear overnight. That would be bad!
We are passing through the same phase that you were in 2004. I agree sir business based on Google Adsense never get success and dreams vanish. Please i request you to put some more light on how to build readership.
I think this is a crucial mindset to establish early doors in a project. One algo update could scupper all your plans and ignoring the other traffic streams available to you simply can’t be ignored anymore.
One of the points you seem to stress, not only in this article but numerous others, is networking, but more importantly attending to the needs of your readership. I have to thank you for such insights as I’m just starting out(in the blogging part of the web,) but what I’d like to know is…
Other then greating quality content and basics of SEO, what should be some of my first steps? I really have a desire to come out swinging in the social media(connecting with my “hopefully soon-to-be”) readership. Though I know very little about the social platforms at the moment, I am working constantly to change that.
All-in-All this is a very great article that I value very much(same goes for this whole blog,) and can not thank you enough for what you do here with ProBlogger. :)
Great tips. I personally have a problem with Google. They’re the worst business partner you could ever have, because they don’t care about you or your site. So I’d love to be Google free too, and that’s what I plan to do. If I get in their SERPS then fine, but I won’t be actively trying to get there.
Great article! As a realtor in Charleston SC real estate, I normally write about news, updates trends and things hapening in Charleston and share them to several social media platforms.
I share not only showing properties but also events/activities in the said areas as well as answering my visitors queries about real estate related topics. I also encourage my visitors to share their own experiences about a particular subject discussed in my blog post. This fuels fruitful conversation and foster engagement.
People go online not only to communicate but also to learn or find answers to their questions. By providing useful information, you are creating a positive impression to your audience, and sooner or later, you become a trusted authority in the business.
Joining several forums and answering questions on areas that you are knowledgeable about will improve your credibility. You can also find several potential contacts in forum sites where you can ask to become guest authors on their websites.
The tips you’ve shared are very useful. Thanks for the wonderful article.
It’s extremely kind of you to share such a pity experience with others. Now I see that google is not as reliable as it may seem.
That’s great, Darren. One should not put their eggs in one basket.
This may sound weird but I was invited to participate in a group giveaway and I couldn’t believe how many Facebook and Twitter followers I gained. Now I have thousands of followers from participating in giveaways but none of them give a hoot about the content on my Blog. Here’s the weird thing, I’m now getting paid to write reviews and sponsored post just because I have a huge following, now of which will probably read the reviews or sponsored posts!
Great post btw, just what I needed since I’ve just starting out.
Got my own blog, hosting and domain up and running. I guess I’m struggling with the same problems every newbie does and that is to get enough eyeballs on your blog…
So what if you would give me your best advice to drive traffic to your blog, what would that be?
I will definitely start reading your blog.
All the best
Very Nice article for newbie like me. Thank for sharing for us !
My Google traffic always increases when I get lots of social mentions too.
I know the popular travel blogger Gary Ardnt relies very little on Google traffic and has good success with FB ads for acquiring new readers.
I totally agree Darren, We should always diversify our traffic sources.
My strategy is 50% Search traffic and 50% social + Newsletter traffic.
As in these days search traffic has became unreliable due to frequent updates.
NIce article, and finally enjoyed reading.
87% of my website traffic is from Google search. But now.. Dec’13 I suddenly saw a dip and im exactly think the same like how you were in 2004. Worst thing is my google adsense application got rejected again and people who copy my content blindly (I can even see my name there) have an approved adsense account. Not sure how I can get my account approved.. went thru” policies word by word. Thanks for the above information..