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7 Considerations on Generating Traffic to Your Blog

Over the last few weeks I’ve had three conversations with readers regarding different sources of traffic.

In each case I had a number of email exchanges with each blogger (all on the same day) and ended up laughing to myself at the common theme but extremely different opinions being expressed by each of the bloggers.

In each case the bloggers had strong opinions (and experiences to back those opinions up) on what type of traffic was ‘best’ and how to get it.

  1. In one case the conversation started with a blogger telling me that I focus too much upon social media traffic and not enough on traffic from search engines. Their niche didn’t work with social traffic but with search traffic they did best.
  2. In another case the blogger told me that they’d been told to forget about search traffic in their niche and work more on building traffic from other sites and to convert it into ongoing traffic with newsletters.
  3. In the last case a blogger told me that in their opinion the best type of traffic was social media traffic and they didn’t see the point in newsletters.

I was reminded through these conversations just how many different valid approaches there are to blogging. I also came away with a few thoughts that I thought I’d jot down here on the topic of driving traffic to blogs.

traffic-blog.png

1. There are Many Valid Sources of Traffic

The above chart shows just 8 of many sources of traffic to a blog. As I write this others are already springing to mind (for example some bloggers run paid advertising to drive traffic to their blog – others get it from banner exchange programs). The reality is that there are many potential sources of traffic.

2. The ‘Best’ Source of Traffic Varies from Niche to Niche

As I thought about the 3 bloggers I was chatting to above it struck me that each had found great sources of traffic but that they were each operating in very different niches.

The first blogger who had written off social media was in a niche that people were simply not using social media for (I won’t reveal the niche as I don’t have their permission but it was a very very niche focused blog). Perhaps they could have driven a tiny bit of traffic with social media but for them Search was a much better place for them to invest their time.

3. Different Sources of Traffic Will monetize differently

Another important factor to consider is that some sources of traffic will monetize ALOT better than others. I’ve found that search traffic can work very well with AdSense for example (it depends upon the niche and intent of the reader). People arrive on your site searching for specific information, read your content, see an ad that relates to their search term and click on it.

RSS readers on the other hand don’t tend to convert for AdSense as they tend to be loyal readers and many don’t even click through to your site to read your content. RSS readers (and social media traffic) however can convert really well for affiliate promotions or selling your own products to.

4. Traffic Patterns Change over the life cycle of a blog

As a blog matures its sources of traffic often quite naturally change.

There’s no typical one size fits all pattern to this but at first the traffic might mainly come from other blogs or forums where you comment – or blogs where you guest post – or articles that you write. In time you might start to see more traffic from RSS or newsletters as a few people subscribe. Perhaps then some traffic will come from other sites who link to you (people who subscribe via RSS might have their own blogs) and from social media. After a while your search engine ranking might kick in as a result of the links from other sites and your guest posting and article writing and you might start seeing Google traffic. Once your blog is more established you might start seeing social bookmarking viral events that spike your traffic.

Again – this is not going to be the pattern for all blogs but in time traffic will naturally start to come from different places – the key is to try to leverage it for ongoing good (trying to get your blog to be sticky rather than just having one time visitors) and to work out how to convert that traffic for the goals you have.

5. Bloggers should be open to different approaches

While each of the three bloggers had discovered great lessons and good sources of traffic for their niches and the life cycles of their blogs – I was left wondering in each case whether the bloggers were being a little too closed off to different sources of traffic that perhaps could have added to the overall mix of traffic.

I see a lot of SEO type bloggers write about the worthlessness of social traffic for instance. One common comment that I get from some SEOs (definitely not all) is that social media traffic can’t be monetized. The reality could not be further from the truth. It won’t always convert but it certainly can. For example I know in each of the E-book launches that I’ve done in two niches that I’ve seen significant conversions from Twitter traffic.

On the flip side of things I hear some social media focused bloggers write off SEO and say that it works itself out and you don’t need to optimise your blog for search if you just produce good content. While there is some truth in that (good content does tend to generate natural incoming links to some extent) with a basic understanding of principles of SEO and a few minor tweaks a blog can rank much better in search engines without compromising the integrity of the content.

I guess what I’m getting at is that if you get exclusive about the type of traffic you are after you could actually be limiting the potential of your blog’s incoming traffic.

6. Too many Eggs in One Basket Can Be Dangerous

I used to be very focused upon search traffic in my early days of blogging. I worked hard to optimise my first blogs for search and got to a point where I was making a full time living from the ad revenue I was getting almost exclusively from Google. As a result I got a little lazy in some of the other areas – I didn’t work to convert readers to be loyal with newsletters or with prominent calls to subscribe to RSS, I didn’t build too many relationships with other bloggers to generate referral traffic and I was very inactive in social media (although it was much more limited back then).

As a result when Google decided to adjust their algorithm one day and my rankings dropped (and almost completely disappeared) in their results I lost almost all of my traffic – and as a result almost all of my income.

I was lucky in that Google readjusted their algorithm a couple of months later and I regained a lot of (but not all) of that traffic but in the mean time I looked for and found a ‘real job’ – and more importantly learned an important lesson about the power of having more than one source of traffic.

That experience was the beginning of me doing a few things that included working harder on capturing readers as subscribers (email and RSS), networking more with other bloggers in my niche and getting more involved in promoting my blog in other places (mainstream media, social media etc). My hope in doing all of this was to build up other sources of traffic so that if Google ever switched off my traffic again (temporarily or permanently) I’d at least have enough traffic to survive.

Google still does send me around 40-50% of my traffic (it varies a little from blog to blog) but I’m in a position now where I could survive for an extended period if it all disappeared (not that I’d like for that to happen).

7. The Importance of Personality and Being Yourself

I’m sure there are other factors that are at play that might be worth considering when looking at traffic. One of these (that I’m yet to fully think through) is personality type.

For example a lot of my my technically thinking friends seem to enjoy the challenge of SEO a little more. They love experimenting with and testing what happens when they make small tweaks to different aspects of their blogs. They’re constantly testing different setups and do quite well from it. I am not technically minded and find their attention to detail very very unusual (and so far from where that I’m at that I feel like I’m from another planet).

Other friends are perhaps a little more social by nature and as a result seem to do well on Twitter.

Others seem to do better by applying their freakish ability to write blog posts that get tonnes of links from other sites and which do brilliantly on social bookmarking sites..

Others are networkers and spend a lot of time interacting with other bloggers and site owners and tend to get links and traffic that way.

Others just seem to be brilliant at building community on their blog and as a result retain almost everyone who ever comments and build new readers from those people telling their friends.

I guess the lesson here is to be yourself and work with your strengths. Of course you don’t want to let your strengths dominate so much that you ignore or become lazy in areas that you’re not as strong in – but do follow your natural abilities and leverage them as much as you can.

Remember that there is no wrong or right way to generate traffic for a blog. If you were analyze the sources of traffic on many top blogs you’d find quite different factors at play!

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.
Comments
  1. One of the better posts in recent times on Problogger. Some slightly different ones that people may not have thought of

  2. When I read this…

    “a niche that people were simply not using social media for (I won’t reveal the niche as I don’t have their permission but it was a very very niche focused blog)”

    I smiled!

    I always thought I was the only one to suffer such a niche!

    Any hint to check this guy’s blog? Or at least a DM to @los_ziegler? Please? It’d be of great help!

    Thanks!

  3. Diversify. Diversify. Diversify. That’s the lesson I take away from this article. It’s also a great reminder that the ultimate key is persistence, even when you’re at a point that many would consider to be successful.

    Thanks Darren for the morning pep talk!

  4. Use diversified means of traffic, thats what you meant to say a Darren, I believe in that, but you see when you first start your blog, you’ll have to depend on social media for traffic and exposure and also to generate links for search engine traffic in the future.

    http://www.dumblittleblogger.com/

  5. Hey, Darren, good observations. I relate closely to #7 – I’m extremely social and find that when I’m most active on social networking sites is when I get the most traffic. I’ve also built a pretty good community of devoted readers, followers, and network of bloggers.

    It’s extremely important for bloggers to experiment, maximize what works, and minimize what doesn’t. More importantly, don’t be afraid to get out there and try different approaches. The worse you could do is waste your time and the best you could do is gain new readers.

    Thanks for your insight.

  6. Great post. There are many methods of getting traffic and it varies from niche to niche.

    For most bloggers I recommend using social media to help build a community of people that keep coming back. I believe return visitors to be one of a blog’s greatest assets.

    Return visitors don’t care about your Google PageRank or your search engine optimization; they care about your content and interacting with you.

    You can be banned by Google but return visitors will keep coming back.

  7. I found it interesting that you mentioned that generating traffic varies from one niche to the other.

    I think you’ll are correct when you say it’ll have to be added in one basket. Even though I am fairly new I did think it is important to get as much traffic from as many sources as possible.

    Thanks for the great post

  8. My search traffic is out of whack, percentage too low. I’m willing to take a short term hit on commenting and traffic to build more search engine friendly content (which means long, technically accurate articles on coding, etc). Need more traffic diversity.

    • Dave – not sure how long you’ve been at it but one factor is the time your site’s been around when it comes to search traffic. The other major factor of course is incoming links – so building relationships with other bloggers, writing guest posts and basically putting yourself out there is important to start that happening.

  9. “RSS readers (and social media traffic) however can convert really well for affiliate promotions or selling your own products to.”

    That’s a good point. I’m tinkering with the idea of making some of my longer fiction stories available in audio format (when I’m able to actually find a quiet moment in the house that would make recording possible). My RSS readers might be a good target for this.

    • Kosmo – it doesn’t always work that RSS/social traffic converts that way but from my experience they’re more likely to convert than a one off search visitor.

  10. Lots of great points here. It’s important to be open to all different avenues and focus on the most productive for your niche.

    It is crucial to remain yourself though.

  11. This is all very good, but it focuses online. The world’s top websites spend almost all of their marketing dollars offline. Sure, generating traffic from online sources is very important, but bloggers might gain more success if they take a tip from the worlds’ leading websites and spend their efforts in offline marketing. Generating traffic from offline sources should not be neglected. In fact, for many sites, most of their traffic is generated offline. How do you think the BBC gets much of its traffic? By constantly promoting its web activities using offline methods. Sure online traffic generation is important, but perhaps too many bloggers are not getting the traffic they could receive because their minds are focused too much in online activities.

    • Graham – offline is certainly important but it can be a bit difficult to compete with the likes of a BBC who have a TV network to leverage. Not saying bloggers shouldn’t look offline (I wrote about some methods for doing it here and in a series here) but in most casees I think bloggers primary focus as it gets more bang for their buck will be online where their potential readers are already gathering. That’ll vary from niche to niche and person to person depending what they have offline to leverage.

  12. Great roundup of traffic sources. My blog is still relatively new, so I’m getting most of my traffic from social media and niche directories like Top Mommy Blogs. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t write search friendly content. I know that as my blog grows in popularity and I generate more and more inbound links, I’ll start popping up in the search results more often. So, I think it’s important to balance your SEO and Social Media strategies.

  13. While my niche gets about 50% or more of its traffic from searches (quite of bit of that from image searches, and I’m not even a photography site) I find it wise to keep traffic coming from different streams, as you stated. Great blog, btw.

  14. Tapping into every possible resource is a valid approach, diversified avenues. But, I wonder what would we do if we actually got all the traffic we wanted.

    Be careful what you wish for…..

    Are our blogs even ready to handle the traffic, are they designed well, do we have our products in place and ready to convert.

    I want boat loads of traffic, but heck I am no where ready for it….

  15. Traffic generation is an ever adapting thing – you could do well with social media, then all of a sudden, people tune you out. Or you could have a huge email list and RSS subscribers that take in your newsletters and see your pitches for new products, but less people bite because your newsletters wind up being missed in email inboxes.

    Sometimes you have to try different things and roll with what people are in tune to at that particular moment. There’s no rule stating you have to promote yourself in a certain way – do what works well for you, and also don’t be afraid to try something new.

    They say if it aint broke, don’t fix it – but they also say that a change will do you good.

  16. We are currently have equal traffic percentage wise. Search Engines, Direct and other site each bring in 30% of our traffic. I agree that each source of traffic = different ways to make revenue for your business. Learn and study each visitor to understand what it is that they need and provide it.

  17. Very informative post. This principle of diversification applies to every aspect of life, not just life. If you are investing all your money in single company, you are doomed. If you are concentrating on single income source, you are at risk. If you are dependent on only single technology, be ready to sell pencils.

    Besides, why not give each of the option a try at least, if it doesn’t take much of your time. Explore different sources of traffic and see which one works for you. If one option works most and rest brings in little traffic only, still skewing towards only single most source can prove dangerous.

  18. Very informative post. I belive that all kinds of traffic will help you out in the end and that it will change from time to time. Posting to search engines have ruined some blogs that i have seen so just be careful.

  19. Thanks for sharing this helpful information. I believe everyone has the chance to be a pro blogger but not everyone can be, depending on the paths they choose to take. Say, you aim for traffic to your blog and you keep exchanging links with everyone. Yes it will drive traffic, but is it the “targeted” traffic? Are your driving the right group of audience to your blog? This can just be one of the valid approaches to generate traffic but it will not hurt if you will aim more. Hope the 7 factors posted can be an eye opener to those who think they have already get it on. At the same time, hope this post can guide aspiring bloggers to achieve more. Thanks.

  20. Hi, very informative post, my traffic has actually improved since I use twitter more, and as a result of your advice. But then, I have also lost more then 50% of traffic due to Google’s throwing me around. It is slowly getting back to normal.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Have a super weekend and lovely valentines day!

    Colin.

  21. Great advice here. It’s important that although you’re really writing for your readers, you should also be writing for the search engines. Treat your blog like an ecommerce site by adding header tags, keyword-rich titles, decent keyword density in the post, image optimizations, etc.

  22. Diversification is king once you gain ground on a few tactics. Same goes with money generating activities, why wouldn’t the same be true for social and traffic generating activities?

    Well said Darren

  23. Don’t they say that there’s no such thing as bad pub? Having said that, I think that certain types of traffic are worth paying for and certain types are not. From my experience, random traffic like stumbleupon is often short lived, where traffic that comes from a targeted nitch area typically will stick around. My best traffic, but most expensive, comes from blog directory paid advertisements.

    There are so many free ways to advertise on the internet and you can’t go wrong getting free traffic. You may want to put your time in where you will get the most results though.

  24. Thanks for sharing this helpful information. I believe everyone has the chance to be a pro blogger but not everyone can be, depending on the paths they choose to take. Say, you aim for traffic to your blog and you keep exchanging links with everyone. Yes it will drive traffic, but is it the “targeted” traffic? Are your driving the right group of audience to your blog? This can just be one of the valid approaches to generate traffic but it will not hurt if you will aim more. Hope the 7 factors posted can be an eye opener to those who think they have already get it on. At the same time, hope this post can guide aspiring bloggers to achieve more. Thanks.

  25. Darren, you give wonderful advice, especially to us nre bloggers – Thanks.

  26. Thanks Darren for these ideas. The visual is great too!

    One question that I had is about ping.fm and tools like this. Seems like there is a growing number of people signing up for these services so they can be in more places.

    I haven’t done this yet but plan to.
    Any thoughts or are their similar tools you would suggest?

    Kevin

    • Kevin – I’ve not really used ping.fm or any others like it. I guess it’s worth testing to see if it works for you. Let us know what you find out!

  27. Hi Darren,
    My blog is half-way through it’s first year and I’m still learning the mechanics of driving traffic to my site.

    I’ve recently had good luck with google sending traffic for an “accidentally” good keyword. Looking forward to the day, when it happens “on purpose”.

    I love my social network marketing: twitter and facebook and stumble. I’m just trying out ehow, although they’re having technical difficulties preventing people from posting new articles (yikes!). They’re busy launching their UK version, but I’m sure they’ll remedy the situation soon.

    Guest posting – me posting on other people’s sites and other people posting on mine – is one of my favorite traffic drivers and link builders.

    Lots to explore and figure out. We’re all different and things change from one day to the next. Sorta like being in a relationship.

    Speaking of which, Happy Valentine’s Day, Darren. mwah!

  28. I remember a short while ago when I started to get more serious about blogging that I was more focused on search results.

    Now, I just have fun with it, give out great content and use whats working. I’ll agree, not all sources work for all blogs. For me, search and social media don’t seem to be that great but I’ve got great readers who share the content themselves and that seems to work just fine with me.

  29. While I agree that a multi-pronged attack is a good strategy, I strongly feel everyone can benefit from learning more about SEO..other than what it stands for…Unless you have incredible name recognition or dominate a niche, bloggers should focus more on how to maximize SEO for their site, rather than spamming Twitter or baiting subscribers with free e-books.

    • Rick – I agree that people should learn the basics of SEO. It’s certainly worth getting some basics down pat as it can really lift things over the long term of your blog.

  30. Well I’m fairly new to the entire process but I am a self professed “social butterfly” so I tend to go the social media route. Facebook & twitter have been good to me according to my stat. Not a lot of comments but people are looking and each day my numbers are growing. I do agree that putting all your eggs in one basket is not good. The more diverse you can be the better off you are because as we all learned with Real Estate,trends change. Thanks for your insight, you’re a new bloggers go to guy for sure

  31. I really think the two points of having your own voice (I mean who wants to listen to the same thing over and over from different people?) and NOT keeping your eggs all in one basket are critical.

    I too found out the hard way and once I allowed myself to open up to new avenues for traffic I now understand that a customer gained from ANYTHING is one more customer than you didn’t have before. Sure social media is generally anti-capitalism, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t get customers from it. Pigeonhole-ing yourself is a huge mistake, so kudos to Darren for pointing that out today.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  32. Content is always king. A lot of SEOs are now realizing that you can only do so much to build backlinks manually. Social media and traditional ideas of branding are now increasingly important.

  33. I’m working on learning seo and using twitter because I’m not a technical or social person. Your right, you shouldn’t use only one form of generating traffic because some reader would rather interact with you on twitter than comment on your blog.

  34. Right post at the right time for me. Thank you for the useful tips.

  35. Hi Darren,

    I agree with not nesting all your eggs in one basket. I have tried to build more networking and social media networks but that appears to be my weakspot so far. So building on SEO appears to make sense and it hit home when you said that optimizing for the search engines makes sense rather than simply focusing on quality content. I have been able to build some good content in my articles section, while keeping close attention to optimization as well and so far its been good. I have alot of readers complimenting on the content so it is reaching my intended target and at the end of the day, that’s what truly matters… the personal satisfaction that I’ve helped another.

  36. Jazz Salinger says: 02/12/2010 at 12:06 pm

    I like to use Google Analytics to see where the majority of my traffic is coming from and focus my time and energy on those areas.

  37. For me, Search engine traffic is the best — but rss traffic also is worthy to increase because they are loyal readers.

  38. #7 is so important in my opinion. For every article I’ve read that says “Never do this” there are countless examples of where “this” worked for someone else.

  39. Thanks so much for this post. I’m just starting to look at the monitization of blogging after a year of getting hooked on the enjoyment factor of writing blogs. Your steps helped clarify some of the different approaches and the validity of them all. Much appreciated, Oraea

  40. Great advise. Now I realize the importance of good content to keep readers on coming back. thanks Darren.

  41. Good topic well addressed. Leverage your strengths and work through your weaknesses seems very good advice.

    I think step 0 not addressed is recognition and analysis — are Bloggers collecting the metrics and understanding where their current traffic is coming from?

    • Bruce – “Leverage your strengths and work through your weaknesses seems very good advice.”

      Yeah – that’s become a big part of my approach over the last year or two.

      In terms of analysis – yes I think its important for bloggers to have a system for working out where traffic is coming from and to know how to monitor how it’s trending.

  42. This is a good post, definitely helps push the idea of staying diverse. Though at the same time, while starting out, trying to be diverse made my head spin. It was a killer trying to keep track of all my different ventures for blog promotion, but now it’s evened out and gotten easier to manage.

    It’s a bit ironic, I’m a total geek and have been designing websites since I was a freshman in high school, but I can’t stand SEO. Maybe I’m just taking the wrong approach to it…

  43. I definitely think the best strategy is to try and gain loyal readers. Google searches will fluctuate but loyal readers will always come back…and tell their friends too.

  44. David, I like so much your tender and at the same professional manner to elaborate the things unknown to the amateurs. I liked your 6th and 7th points as they summarize your ideas to be yourself and not to be lazy.

    Dave, being an amateur I am wondering whether I can ask a question. Is it worth to transfer well established website to the recently created WB blog which is now is included in my main website as a page? The concerns are whether I won’t lose any ranking even after rightly done redirections. I am sure it will help to my poor designed set outs but in reality would not it be easier to optimise Blog than a website and so on?

    So warmly and with gratitude,

    Michael. (I am following you in Twitter)

    • michael – were you meaning me – I’m Darren not David ;-)

      I always feel a little risky in transferring sites. I think with the right redirections you’d be ok but you’ll probably want to get an SEO expert (I know a bit but am no expert) to help you with that one.

  45. I am currently focusing my traffic on search engines (SEO), blog commenting and forums. I guess I have to extend far more than that if I want to be a successful blogger.

    This article really inspire you get out of your comfort zone and do something to promote your blog.

    Thanks.

  46. Important Point “Too many Eggs in One Basket”

    This is a universal thing is it not?

    We hear it everyday in all aspects of out lives and I definitely believe that following this statement is important. Yes OK, different people have different ideas and many bloggers have a fav method of generating traffic, but what would be the harm in diversifying your effort over a few more different strategies.

    Some work better than others and some work great together.

  47. There are many ways to generate traffic for your blog. I like to use Google Analytics to see where the majority of my traffic is coming from and focus my time and energy on those areas.

  48. Great post Daren!

  49. Brilliant post suggesting various ways to bring traffic to the blog. Being yourself is very important while blogging. One has to keep a track of the traffic patterns as it keeps changing.

  50. Getting traffic is a combination of many things, the goal is to create great content that visitors want to use, search engines will love and other websites will naturally link to.
    Yes it totally depends on type of blog ie your niche. So if your blog requires to be fresh then it’s good. But also remember that don’t blog excessively so that your readers may get obsessed with it. Let them digest your content.

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