Facebook Pixel
Join our Facebook Community

My REAL Secret to Growing Traffic to a Blog

Posted By Darren Rowse 15th of December 2009 Blog Promotion 0 Comments

“Tell us how you ‘really‘ get traffic to your blog?”

After presenting to a group of bloggers at an event recently I was surprised to be asked this question by someone in the audience.

I wasn’t surprised that people would want to know about how to get traffic to a blog – it’s something most bloggers want to know about – I was surprised to be asked it at THIS event because i’d just finished speaking for 30 minutes on the topic of ‘getting traffic to your blog‘.

After 30 minutes of sharing how I generate traffic to my blogs – I was asked to share what ‘really’ works. Hmmmm – was my presentation that bad… or was there something else going on here?

I sat down for a coffee with the person who asked me the question to dig a little deeper and as the conversation unfolded it became clear to me that the blogger was after a ‘silver bullet’.

He wanted some secret method of generating traffic that would flood his blog with new readers, some new technique that most bloggers had not cottoned onto yet that would lift him above the rest and propel him to blogging super-stardom.

He told me that he’d tried all the normal tips on how to get traffic – some had worked and had found him new readers and others had not – but now he wanted something new. What advice could I give?

I decided to share my ‘real’ secret to big blogging traffic.

Identify What Works…. and Do it Again…. and Again….. Improving it Each Time

Here’s the thing – there’s no one technique that is going to bring every blog new traffic.

But if you try lots of different approaches and identify what does work – even if it only works a little – you’re on the way.

Find something that works for your blog, your niche, your demographic and then build upon that.

Here’s an example of how this worked for me:

  • A couple of months after starting my photography site (a few years back now) I started a Group on Flickr which allowed readers to share their best shots – to show them off, get some critique on their work and see what others on the site were doing with their photography.
  • Readers LOVED sharing their shots. We soon started a forum with a specific area for sharing of shots – (ingeniously called the ‘Share Your Shots‘ section).
  • This section of the site became so popular that we expanded it and started a ‘Critique‘ area where people could not only share a shot but get feedback on it.
  • This section was so popular that we started multiple critique areas – for different types of photography (eg: Landscape photography, Portrait photography etc).
  • Also early in the life of the forum we started doing Weekly Assignments to let readers all go out and take shots on the same theme each week and then come back and share their best one.
  • To this point all the sharing of shots happened in the forum – but I began to realize that not all of the blog readers visited the forum so on a whim one day I asked readers on the blog to share their best shot ever. We had 300 comments left – most with links to their favourite shot on Flickr or a photoblog.
  • I continued to invite readers to occasionally share a favorite shot on the blog in comments – usually when we posted a tutorial on a specific type of photography. Each time I did this we had heaps of comments left.
  • Earlier in the year I decided to give readers a ‘photographic challenge’ – to photograph something within 10 meters of them. People really responded to the idea of a challenge.
  • As a result I decided to start ‘Weekend photography Challenges’ on the blog – similar to weekly assignments on the forum but for those who either didn’t become forum members or those who wanted two challenges a week. At first they were only every few weekends (the first was a Landscape one) but as readers responded so well to them we made them weekly.
  • The challenges continued to become popular so we added a plugin to the blog that allowed people to share photos IN the posts (see this in action in our Pet Photography Challenge) – not everyone uses this feature but it increased participation a lot. We also improved the challenges by getting people to tag their photos on Flickr with a common tag and link to the challenges.

What started as a fairly simply idea (giving readers a place to share their shots – not even on my own site but using Flickr – evolved into multiple ideas that built upon that initial idea. Each time we evolved the idea we created buzz, reader engagement, traffic and site stickiness.

Keep in mind that this process has taken us over 3 years. The changes have been gradual, we’ve made mistakes along the way, but instead of spending all our time trying to find a ‘silver bullet’ that we could just drop into the site to bring heaps of traffic – we improved something that showed promise in the early days.

A further example of this would be the site’s email newsletter list. In the early days when we first tried it I remember wondering if it was worth the effort of sending a weekly newsletter out to 100 people… but I saw some potential in it and each week it grew, each week I learned something new about improving the newsletters and each week it became more worth the effort. Today it drives hundreds of thousands of visitors to the site each week.

Some questions to help identify what is working (or what might work) with your readers and niche:

  • What topics generate most comments on your blog?
  • What topics generate most comments on other blogs in your niche?
  • What other sites do your readers visit a lot? What activities are they doing there?
  • What features are readers asking for?
  • What was your biggest traffic day – what brought it about?
  • Which of your posts seem to get Retweeted most on Twitter and passed around most on other social media sites?
  • Which of your posts are getting linked to most from other blogs/sites?
  • What other sites send you most traffic? How can you build relationships with these sites?

This list could go on and on – really it is about looking for points of life on your site (even small ones) where there’s some kind of energy or positive outcome happening – and then repeating them in some way – looking for opportunities to build upon and improve what you previously did.

Got any examples to share of where you’ve done this on your own blog?

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 and LinkedIn.
  1. I had an epiphany about two weeks ago. I put a post on my blog about a board game that supposedly helps people study for the bar exam. (http://baradvisor.blogspot.com/2009/11/skymall-helps-you-pass-bar.html.) I posted it thinking, at best, it might elict some random humorous comments. Instead, it has been the most successful product I have ever linked to via Amazon. While the amount sold is minimal, it got me thinking that what people want is a solution that seems fun, interesting, different, but also effective. This board game promises to lessen the drudgery of studying for the bar exam, and people are buying it for that potential.
    I guess the trick is to come up with these sorts of solutions and offer them to your readers in good faith and with an open mind. Their response may surprise you.

  2. Try everything, when you find something that works, do your best to ramp it up. It’s that simple.

  3. Thanks for this. Generating traffic has been something I’ve struggled with since the inception of my blog.

  4. I like how your example is building upon what worked before. I think many beginning bloggers will see try something that shows some small result, and then either think “this worked, but not enough, I’d better try something else” or “I’ll try this exact same thing again”.

  5. Definitely. It’s just like in football: Run a play until they stop it. If something works once, try it again, is surely a life lesson on how to improve your life; and your blog.

  6. to reply to the first post, I also get a lot of new traffic, something like 80% of all traffic I get are new visitors from search engines and reffering sites.

    lately I’ve seen an increase in direct traffic and returning visitors, because when I first started % of new visitors was more than 95% lol.

    it’s a constant struggle I agree…

  7. Thanks for the post =)

    I find that adding friends on myspace, and containing a link to your site on your profile, generally draws hits.

    Also, paying for ad space on google or myspace will draw a lot of exposure and traffic, but you have to pay per click. So if you can generate an average of $.10 profit for everyone that comes to your site, and pay $.05 for every click, then you will be rich.


  8. It is nice that you sat down with the person after they asked the question as well as did a follow-up post for us here.

    Do you start to feel after awhile that folks want you to “do it” for them. What I mean is you have clearly laid out the steps to get more traffic both in your speech, I’m sure, as well as repeatedly here on your blog, but still the same question arises. Why is that?

  9. Love reading articles like this Darren because it just goes to show how much hard work you put into things and how much you enjoy what you do!

    I recently had a big spike in traffic because I was linked to by a large news site. The reason they linked to me was because of an article I wrote for my niche. I’ve realised that I need a good mix of articles – some fun and some indepth, constantly looking to push the boundaries of my niche and explore the topic in depth.

  10. Good post. Testing what works is a good way of identifying where to keep working.

  11. It’s inspiring to not only read a post like this, reminding us that simple solutions when refined often are what dreams are made of, but also because it allows for interaction with other people in the same boat – regardless of niche and type of blogg. Good luck to all of us, and trust me when I say that Youtube can be a savior :)

  12. Right now I’m struggling to get traffics to my blog and I’m doing the best I can. This is my first time actually doing a blog and I know i will face alot of difficults, but you just can’t give up and thats what i believe. Thank you for writing this article because I always want instant traffics or become instant popular blog, but it just wont happen that fast and I need to keep remind myself everyday. Also, you need to put the woods in the fire first before you can have the heat.

  13. I’ve been experimenting with different methods for a little while now. I’m glad I read this, otherwise I would probably drop anything that didn’t drive the kind of traffic I want quickly, but it makes a lot more sense now to keep at anything that works and improve it over time.

    So far my biggest problem is adding value while promoting myself. I believe it was somewhere on this site that it was mentioned to avoid just joining a forum or a group for no reason other than self promotion, since it looks bad.

  14. Thank you for sharing this info.

  15. Great post, thanks for sharing these great tips! I’m still a newbie blogger so this really helps!


  16. I think this is so real. “Identify What Works…. and Do it Again…. and Again….. Improving it Each Time”. There is no shortcut to this. Especially if you are very new to it. Look at the long term goals. You build a blog because you feel to share and give your visitor something they can benefit from. Then cross selling probably will only come in later. It is so hard to tell people that no shortcut of doing so. But that is the reality.

  17. I think however you compliment bloggers is a good thing and adds to your credibility and increases your visibility as well. That, in the long run builds your following. I tweet and share blog posts all the time so my followers/readers can get the best info there is on any given subject. People will follow those who help them. Thanks for you comment!

  18. I think the real secrets to get traffic are time and patience.It is always that some ways work this person but not for others.We need to try different ways to find out which ways work for us.It needs time and patience.But the process is very interesting.

  19. Great advice for the newbie blogger. Do what works and keep making it better. Try and keep trying. Don’t give up.

  20. Thanks for sharing the “traffic story” of DPS website!

  21. Really? Well, that makes sense. I’ve been doing this at WarriorForum, and with blog comments, and stuff. Even with Twitter – although not as much.

    I think I need a way to get my blogs community-spirit up somehow. Got any ideas how? I like your contest idea – I think I’ll start one up somewhere!

  22. Hi Darren,

    With much pleasure I’ve read your post, this is really the sole thing that can help your blog to get traffic: play with the content (what topic rocks?how much comments? keywords?), play with your design (putting in ‘related posts’, a clean layout, etc) and spend loads of time examinig what really works for your blog and what doesn’t. That’s the ‘silver bullet’!

    And after you think you’re done, you can start over again fine-tuning everything. It should be a continious process to achieve your goals for your blogging site.

    Thanks for sharing the aspects what worked out fine for your blog and I must say that I’m thinking to introduce a newsletter to? Very good idea!

    Cheers & Ciao …

  23. I’m a fairly new blogger so I don’t have anything to share that hasn’t been shared alerady. But I appreciate the article…it certainly the silverbullet the person was asking for.

  24. I have seen so many posts about how to make money online, how to make money by blog. But none of them give suggestion of increasing the traffic(every one knows the traffic is the most important). I think this is the most important article I have ever seen on the web!!!

  25. Organic growth sure, but I want crazy steroid-type growth for my Blog. Crazier than Christian Bale on a movie set. What then? There’s got to be some kind of Blog “Juice” I can buy, right?

  26. What topics generate most comments on your blog? Contest!
    What features are readers asking for? Funny Items

    If you always have a contest running 24/7 visitors will fly in to join.

    Make sure to always pay what you offer and get the person to write a review for you on his or her website.

  27. Hi Darren,
    I have same problem with your audience. I have bloggin for about 5 months but until now my traffic is so little. Ok thank you for your blogging tutorial, I will research until I know how to increase traffic to my website.
    thank you

  28. I am new to blogging Really useful tips I will implement the tips on my blog.

  29. @Kris Adi,

    Hey Kris, I went to your site and checked it out. It looks real good. I also see you are using WordPress- good deal! One thing that I noticed was that your title tag could use some work. This is the MOST important tag of all. You should use your keywords, and make it longer. Put your top three keyword phrases in this tag. :-)

  30. Also- If you are not cloaking your links….Google will slap you down HARD! It will not matter what you do. I had a site once that would not show up in search even if I used my URL! I mention this to you because I put in much time and energy, started to get traffic- and then bang…. I was gone in a flash. Hate to see other people go through the same thing…

    And… If you use the wordpress cloaking plugin, and you make ONE mistake…CRASH!… now you have to rename your access file and you just lost ALL links…

  31. Darren,

    This is an awesome post…but seriously…what is the “secret”? :)

  32. Yesterday i got 500 unique visitors to my blog via Blogengage,faqpal and other voting websites.
    For me these are best source of traffic.

  33. In the big scheme of things, I don’t have thousands of visitors a day, but I did try a little experiment recently that bumped up my traffic and got my blog post featured on boston.com, which is the website for the Boston Globe, the main paper in the Boston area.

    From sitemeter, I noticed that around this time of year, people are searching for Christmas cookie recipes. Oh, I’m a lifestlye and food blogger if you’re wondering about the random topic. I also noticed that people are constantly searching for recipes with Nutella in them.

    So I figured that I’d create a Christmas cookie recipe with Nutella in it and see if I could get the Internet to explode! Well, I didn’t explode the Internet, but people love this recipe. Happy Holidays to you! : )

  34. Darren

    Blog traffic is not an overnight success. Yes, certain articles may get picked up and traffic is great … for that day and a few days later. The most important thing that every blogger has to remember is to see what works and to stick with it. Drop the thing that are driving a little bit of traffic and concentrate on the ones that work.

    So many want to start a blog and have 1000 traffic counts the first day and grow that each day. That is unrealistic. I assist clients with this – set realistic goals and when you hit a number that lasts for a week or so then go to where the most traffic is coming from and see what ways you can tap into that source more. Really it is about learning that area and almost mastering it – similar to new SM platforms. Learn twitter or facebook and all the offerings.

    Thanks for sharing how the photog site was able to be such a winner. It just takes time and people have to love blogging to wait out the time.

  35. One way there is tracking your source of traffic then focus on how you can improve your traffic based from that source.For me SEO is still the best method to get tons of traffic to your site

  36. Dear Darren
    I thank you for the interesting article and
    useful councils of motion of блога

  37. I know how it is when people just expect a “silver bullet” that would just make them into stars in one day. That never happens in real life! Your best shot is just to work hard and smart, and not only wait for opportunities but MAKE them.
    This post was really insightful. The sharing idea is always a great one that’s why I already included an iShare blog in my website. However it hasn’t picked up yet because I haven’t had time to work on it well.
    Sharing shots seem to be very viral, but that’s easy for you when “photography” is your topic. People usually love to show off stuff they love and I support that. That said, not all topics have room for sharing fun stuff that would go viral. Like my blog is mainly business-related with a fun twist, and the audience I target is much different than one who has the time to answer challenges (that’s something I know works well because I tried it in my classes and the students responded beautifully).
    I guess this is going to require a bit of a creative vision on my sight to work out something.
    Thanks for the knowledge!

  38. Great tips, Actually learning!

  39. identify source of traffic is the best :-)

  40. For me, twitter works pretty well.

  41. Great stuff! This post inspired me to write about the silver bullet in blogging. Hope it suits many of you:

  42. I’m new to the blogging domain, but I’m already learning that tenacity is one of the cornerstones for success- paired with the desire to provide something of value to others. The nature of blogging is like building a library where you write all the books. It takes times, but people will eventually find items of interest. There will be some dullards on the shelves, but every once in awhile you’ll write something that becomes a best-seller. The process has to start from that desire to want to provide something valuable and long-lasting to your readership.

    Darren… I’m still learning. :)

  43. Thank you so much for the insights here. I had been wondering about some of these very things wondering if I was right. You’ve got a new follower!

  44. Covering hot topics is good – climate skepticism is going through the roof with blogs like WUWT hitting 3 million hits a month!

  45. Hi, Thanks for this post…I am new to SEO marketting and its really a helpfull article to increaser traffic to our site.

  46. Your tips makes sense! I will try them and see what will happen. I hope I get as much traffic as you get :)

  47. If you’ve tried all the “tricks” and you have no traffic, look in the mirror: your writing sucks. Nobody wants to acknowledge that, but most of the time your content just isn’t good enough. You’re not connecting with your audience. You’re not giving them what they can’t live without. Your writing has no voice, no personality. You’re not solving problems or entertaining people enough. Your headlines are lame.

    The only “outside” force to be concerned about is maybe having a small network to spread your content to. But even that is fixed by having content which people will want to spread, because that’s how your network grows.

    It all comes back to what you’re saying, and how you’re saying it.

  48. The questions you ask at the end there are very useful, I hadn’t really thought about that before (even though it seems quite obvious).
    We’re all obviously aware of days that spike our traffic or posts that generate more comments than others. But, how often do we really think about the specific details of what made that happen, then figure out how to repeat the act.
    Thanks for this.

  49. Thank you for the helpful tips. I, like many others, have just started blogging, and your post has helped me drive traffic to my site.

    Best regards,

  50. This makes me think of a quote by Albert Einstein. It’s his definition on insanity:

    Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

A Practical Podcast… to Help You Build a Better Blog

The ProBlogger Podcast

A Practical Podcast…