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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.
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  2. Driving traffic to my site used to drive me insane. I remember when I first put a site up back in 2002, I woke up the next morning and expected that people would have magically visited overnight! Much to my surprise, I realized that I would actually have to work at it for awhile! I’ve found that sharing links, generating good contact, and taking real-world offline techniques to the web work: put up a free classified at the grocery store or gas station with your URL and what your site offers. People will find you – there are lots of people interested in getting online and making money.

    Thanks for the awesome site!

  3. Interesting post, although it will only work for certain niches. Some people just want free information and are not prepared to pay for products.

    Is the Google keyword tool accurate? I have my doubts at times.

  4. Hi, I am new blogger, just 2 days old. Before starting a blog, I read you posts and rough plans and really tried to applied them.

    I just need a fresh blog promotion plan or some points to bring genuine traffic.


  5. Thanks for putting this up. I searched on how to make good comments and after not getting much I found this which I learned about how a profile can make an impression.

  6. I have implemented one of your ideas into my blog. My blog is about dual and multiscreen systems, I have created a space in my right column to display the readers PC’s. We will see how this works out. It might suck, it might be wildly successful. It will undoubtedly be educational for myself. creating a place in my blog that is interactive to my readers, or more specifically making my blog more interactive makes it more interesting, I think. Thanks for your insight.

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