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How to Diversify Your Blog Traffic Sources to Make Your Blog Stronger

Today’s episode is about how I almost lost my blogging business overnight. It was right after I had decided to blog full time and had quit my part time job. My traffic fell by 80% and my income fell by about 85%. It was an awful feeling and I’d like to share this story with you to make sure you know what to do if disaster ever strikes your blog. I share why it happened, what I did to recover from it, and what I do now to prevent it ever happening again.

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In This Episode

You can listen to today’s episode above or in iTunes or Stitcher (where we’d also LOVE to get your reviews on those platforms if you have a moment). In today’s episode:

  • Why relying solely on one source of traffic or income source is risky
  • How working out who you want to read your blog can make finding readers easier
  • How creating content that solves the needs of readers can make your blog stronger
  • How to appear on other peoples’ blogs
  • How and why collecting email addresses of people who visit your blog is so important
  • Why having an email newsletter is so important
  • How developing a presence on social media can strengthen your blog
  • Why networking with other bloggers helps your blog, and how to do it
  • Why, when and how you should share your blog posts with social influencers
  • Why a content event can help your blog and how to do it

Further Reading and Resources for How to Diversify Your Blog Traffic Sources to Make Your Blog Stronger


This graph shows my blog traffic at the time that it dropped overnight:

Darren Rowse Problogger Podcast Episode 62-How I Lost 80 per cent of my blog traffic overnight

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Hi there and welcome to the ProBlogger podcast. My name is Darren Rowse and you are listening to episode 62. Today, I want to tell you a story of when I lost (I think it was) about 81% of my traffic literally overnight. It was back in 2004 just after I’d gone full-time as a blogger and it completely threw my blogging business, my brand new blogging business into a tailspin. 

I want to talk to you about what I did to recover that traffic by diversifying my traffic sources and ask you a really important question that I think could potentially help you if a disaster was to strike you. You can find today’s show notes at

I want to tell you this story. It happened back in 2004. I think it was the 17th of December, literally a week before Christmas. I was in that winding down mode that particularly us Aussies do at that time of the year. Christmas is a time where we take our summer holidays, so I was getting ready to take a week or two off blogging and to relax. 

In the last few months, I’ve gone full-time as a blogger and quit my last part-time job to completely dedicate myself to blogging. I had no other forms of income, my wife was a brand new lawyer and not making a whole heap of money, so my blogging was now my family’s main source of income. Then, it happened. 

One morning I woke up—a week before Christmas—I checked my blog stats and something was wrong. I knew it immediately as I saw it. My stats for the day which was nowhere near what they normally were. At first, I thought it was a glitch and began to check on the internet to see whether other people were having problems with the stats package I was using at that time and no one else was reporting it.

I continued to watch the stats all day, literally refreshing it over and over and over again, and began to realize I had lost a whole heap of traffic. Traffic was trickling in. I was getting 10%-15% of my normal traffic, but most of it was gone. It didn’t take me long to work out where it had gone because at that point, 85% of my traffic was coming from one source, the day before at least it was, and that was from Google. 

My blog at that time, it was a photography blog, camera review blog was ranking number one in Google for most cameras at least here in Australia on It was sending me almost all of my traffic and overnight it disappeared. In fact, overnight my blog pretty much disappeared from Google altogether. 

To this day, no one really seems to know what happened. Obviously Google changed their algorithm at that point. Back in 2004, there wasn’t really a whole heap of information on Google’s algorithm changes. It just happened and no one really knew what was going on every time it happened, but at this particular moment, it pretty much meant we completely disappeared from Google.

This completely threw me into a tailspin as I said earlier. I had just quit my last part-time job and along with 85% of my traffic disappearing, went almost all of my revenue for my blog. In fact, it was even more than 85% of the revenue disappeared as well. I guess I realized at that point that I became very reliant upon Google traffic. In fact, I became quite complacent on my whole blog because I had to have this increasing traffic from Google over the years and had never expected that it would go away. As a result, I really stopped pushing hard on my blog to continue to grow my blog. 

I worked hard for the first two years, but because I got to this full-time level, I became a little bit lazy, a little bit complacent. That traffic disappearing on that particular day just before Christmas in 2004 was the wakeup call I needed. While it completely threw me for the next day (actually probably for the next week or two) and I got quite depressed, in the long run, I’m very grateful that it happened because it started a sequence of events for me that led to my blogs becoming much much bigger in the long run. It taught me some really important lessons, the biggest of which was to diversify.

From that point, I decided to diversify in two ways. I started to diversify my income streams because most of my income at that point was from Google AdSense, but I also decided to diversify my traffic. I’m going to talk about how I diversified my income streams in a future podcast, but today, I want to talk a little bit about how I began to diversify my traffic because what I learned that day was that relying on any single source of traffic is risky, very risky.

This whole situation threw me so much that a few days after it happened, I actually went out and started applying for work. I actually got myself a part-time job to get me through the next few months, but I also began to work really hard on different areas of my blog and I want to walk you through ten of the things that I did around this time that paid-off big time in the long run. Ten different ways that I began to diversify the traffic that was coming into my blogs.

Let’s get into the ten things. Firstly, I began to work really hard on trying to identify who I wanted to read my blog. Up until this point, I was pretty much just open to anyone reading my blog. I just wanted traffic. But this whole process of losing money made me start to think that maybe I needed to get a little bit smarter about who I was trying to attract.

This is something that I talked about in previous episodes of this podcast. You can go back to episode 33, in particular, where I talk about developing a reader profile or an avatar for your blog to actually identify who it is that you are trying to reach. To spend some time thinking about who they are demographically, but also what their needs are, what their problems are, what their challenges are, who they are. This is something that I began to do. I began to identify who I was trying to reach with my blogs which made finding those readers a whole heap easier.

A little action item for you is to spend some time developing a reader profile for your blog or an avatar if you haven’t already. If you haven’t, go back and listen to episode 33 where I give you some ideas on how to do that. That was the first thing I did. 

The second thing I did was connected to that. I decided to put a renewed focus upon creating great content that solved those readers’ needs. I became a little bit complacent with growing my readership in this particular period back in 2004. I spent a whole heap of time thinking about what would people be searching Google for, what could I rank in Google, optimizing my site for Google, and that’s why I had so much traffic coming in from Google.

I realized once this traffic disappeared, that I have been spending so much time developing content for Google, that I wasn’t actually spending a whole heap of time developing content for real people with real needs and real problems. So, this process of actually working out who I wanted to read my blog and what their problems, needs, and challenges were was actually a really good exercise to do because it enabled me to refocus my attention on creating content for real people with real needs and real problems rather than trying to develop content that was all about the keyword that people might or might not be searching for. 

Making this switch of attention was really a powerful thing. I spent more and more time every day trying to understand what my reader’s needs were and creating content around that. My action item for you today is connected to the first one, work out who you want to read your blog, but then really dig into what are their needs, what are their problems, what are their challenges, and how can you find those things.

We actually have just done a survey on ProBlogger and I want to give you an invitation to participate in it in today’s show notes. We do a census every year on ProBlogger asking our readers about who they are, but also what their needs are, which is trying to understand their habits, the way they spend their time, the way they spend their money as it pertains to our particular topic, but particularly, asking them what their problems are, asking them what their challenges are.

I think this is a really useful action item that you can do on your blog, whether your blog is big or small, whether you got a million readers or whether you got a hundred readers. To run a little survey with your readers, asking them about who they are and what their needs are, is a very powerful thing. It actually will help you in the long run with your search traffic as well because what I discovered throughout this whole process is that people are just typing in their problems into Google. The more you understand about their real need and real problems, the better position you’ll be in to create content to be found in Google anyway. These first two things aren’t really technical things, but the third one is. 

The third thing I started to do was to think about how I could appear on other people’s blogs as a guest author but also as a commentator. What I realized is that whilst I had fallen out of Google at this point, all the other blogs on my niche had not. They still had all the traffic they previously had and they had the readers that I wanted to have as well.

While there was no such thing back in 2004 as guest posting, it wasn’t something people talked about as a technique, that’s what I began to try and do. I began to get to know other bloggers in my niche and that’s something I’ll talk about a little bit later, but I also began to offer to write articles for them and to be interviewed by them, and to contribute to their blogs whether it be by content but also by comments on their blog. 

This is something I’ve talked about in previous episodes so I won’t go into great detail, but you can find a little bit more on guest posting, creating content in forums and Facebook groups in episode 37 of this blog. My action item for you on this one is to identify a few other blogs in your niche, Facebook groups, Facebook pages, or forums that are on your topic, and to try and come up with some content that might be able to appear in those places. Again, episode 37 will help you in this process.

The fourth thing I started to do back in 2004 at this point where I lost all this traffic from Google was to start a newsletter. What I realized at this point was that I needed to be able to direct traffic to myself through my own means and the best way to do this was to start collecting email addresses of the people who came to my blog so I could email them with updates on new content that was coming. I started to use Aweber at this time and started to gather email addresses from my readers at this point.

At first, it was only a trickle of emails that started to come in that gradually over time, that trickle grew. To this point, on all of my email lists, we have over a million subscribers. Each week when I send a newsletter out to my subscribers on Digital Photography School and ProBlogger, I am able to direct my own massive wave of traffic to my own sites. This is probably the most powerful thing I’ve ever done and I really wish I started it earlier. 

If you haven’t got a newsletter today, please set one up. If you are not collecting email addresses from your readers, please start doing it and more importantly than just collecting the email addresses is starting to warm up your list and communicate with the people who are on your list. If you are just collecting emails and you don’t send them anything for another year or two, they’ll forget that they subscribed. You need to keep your list warm.

The fifth thing that I started to do to diversify my traffic streams was to begin to promote other subscription methods. Email is a great way of driving traffic to your blog and is also a great way of selling to your list as well, but there are other ways that you can get a secondary connection with your readers. Some people just don’t like emails, so you might want to offer them another source, but it’s also good to have a second resource of connecting points with them. 

Back in 2004, the thing that we were focusing on as bloggers was to get people to subscribe to our RSS feeds. Blogs do have RSS feeds today and it is a way that you can grow subscribers to your blog, but today I’ll probably be putting more emphasis on trying to get subscribers and followers on social media. This will vary from social media network-to-network, depending upon where your readers are hanging out, but you should probably be looking at Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, even Periscope, or Blab.

Actually, as part of the survey that you do with your readers, ask them where they are hanging out and begin to develop a presence in those areas. Don’t just rely upon one source of traffic. Your main source of traffic actually may be Facebook. It may be Twitter. It may be Pinterest. So, go beyond that as well.

The sixth thing that I started to do was to network more. I became quite insular with my blogging. I became quite self-reliant and had not been interesting as much as I had previously done with other bloggers in my niches. At the time back in 2004, there weren’t really too many social networks to interact with other bloggers on, so most of the networking that tended to happen back then was through forums or through email. 

I decided to put a renewed effort to that and put aside a little bit every week to be emailing other bloggers in my niche to get to know them, to ask them if I can help them in any way, and to try and even meet them in person if I was able to do that. This renewed effort on networking led to some really great friendships and also led to a couple of profitable partnerships in time, but more than that it actually began to open up opportunities for me to link to other bloggers and them to link to me which was about sharing traffic.

In the long run, I brought in a lot of traffic and had the secondary effect of helping us with our search engine optimization as well and helped to repair some of the problems that we had with Google because when you get links from other sites, that helps a lot. Today, we have a lot of ways we can network with other bloggers. There continues to be email and there are forums around but there’s social media as well. Twitter and Facebook groups are wonderful places to begin to network with other people, other influencers in your niche, and you probably want to interact with other bloggers but also other influencers on social media as well. 

Probably the best way you can network with people is to meet them face to face, so if you do have the ability to get to go on a conference for social media influencers, bloggers, or people in your particular niche, take that opportunity because the real face-to-face interactions that we have, the meals that we have, the chats we have over coffee and drinks, while we are lining up to go to the bathroom and sitting next to each other in sessions, those interactions that we have lead to all kinds of wonderful win-win, fruitful relationships in the long run.

The seventh thing that I began to do is related to what I was just talking to. I began to go to events and began to run some events of my own. What I realized is that if you can get in front of a potential reader, shake their hand, meet them, learn their name, and they learn your name, that the potential for them to become not only a surfer, someone who pops by your blog every now and again, but to have them become a reader, to have them become a fan of you and your blog, it really grows when you meet them face-to-face.

The first event that I have ever run was me noticing as I walked down the street one day that my local library ran workshops and people could volunteer to teach on different topics in the local library. So, I went in and said, “Hey, would you be interested in me running a class on how to use digital cameras?” and the librarian said, “Sure. We’ve never had a photography class before. You can do it.” 

I put up a sign in the library and I had about 20 people come to that first workshop. I ran a few of those and while 20 people isn’t a lot, I know that 10 or so years later, that some of my readers for my blogs actually continued to read my blogs because I met them in that library all that time ago. It’s likely that some of them probably brought their friends along to my site as well. Little by little, this helped to grow my traffic and also gave me the confidence to start to attend other people’s events, go to meetups, to attend conferences, and also down the track to start the ProBlogger event that we run today, which now has 700 people come to it. 

Again, I know for a fact that every time we run an event for ProBlogger that the people that we meet at those events become more entwined in the brand. They feel like they know us because they actually do know us. After every event, I notice that the people commenting on our blog and social media are often the people who come to our events. They become advocates, they become evangelists for the site, and they become the most engaged users as well. If you can have an interaction with your readers at a real-life event, it can have a massive impact. 

The eighth thing I began to try and do (this actually came a little bit later) was to have other personal interactions with readers as well. I’ve actually talked in previous episodes of this podcast how I used to email readers who left comments and this is something that I began to do more and more particularly back in 2004, but there’s a whole heap of other ways that you can build in more personal interactions with your readers. I think I mentioned in episode 61 about building community with your blog, with your readers that mediums like Periscope or Blab can give you that particular personal interaction with your readers, but there are all kinds of other ways you can do it as well. 

Build those relationships one by one. Respond to comments, email your readers, interact with them on Twitter. Anything that is personal. Anything that shows your readers that you noticed them, that you value them is a really important thing. Your readers that you already have are very powerful. Once I lost 85% of my readers back in 2004, I guess I realized that I still have 15%. I still have some readers and they have the potential to help me grow my blog. 

The ninth thing that I began to do was to pitch other bloggers. This is something that perhaps is a little less relevant today, but I think there is a way that you can do it. Back in 2004, the main way that people shared links on the internet was on their blog. So, it was quite normal to have blog posts which just link to other blog posts. I remember on ProBlogger doing it quite regularly. I think we had a weekly post that was just the things I’ve been reading this week. It was quite normal to pitch other bloggers and say, “Hey, you may want to share this with your readers.”

Today, that doesn’t tend to happen as much. Bloggers don’t tend to link out in those places as much, but where they do link out is on Twitter and on Facebook. I still think it’s irrelevant to share your blog post with other influencers. You won’t want to just spam every influencer you know with every link that you write, but if you write a blog post and you think it’s particularly relevant to another person, whether they be someone on Twitter, a blogger, or a Facebook user, then shoot them a note and say, “Here’s something I wrote. It might be useful to your readers.” 

Don’t force them to do it or try to twist their arm. Just put it out there and say, “Hey, if you are willing to share, it might be useful to you,” and if it’s a useful post that you’ve written, you’ll be amazed how many people will share it because they realize that if they can help their followers, if they can help their readers, they may look good as well. Again, you don’t want to do this with every post that you write and you don’t want to just be pitching the same people over and over again, but begin to think about who I could be sharing this with. That may be able to extend the reach of my content and again, this brings in a different source of traffic.

The last thing I began to do and again, this was 2004–2005 was to do what I now would call a content event. I began on my first blog to start doing group writing projects. I think the first one I ever did was called Blogger Idol. This is the time where American Idol, Australian Idol, and all of the Idol television shows began to become quite big and I decided to do Blogger Idol. 

I don’t remember exactly how it ran but I think it was me suggesting a topic. I think from memory, the first one was the 80s and I encouraged my readers to go away and write a post on the topic of the 80s on their own blogs and then to come back and share links to the post that they had written. Then I developed a list of all the links. Some people might call it a link party today and people would (of course) share my blog post where their link was featured. This sent traffic to them or the participants but it also brought a lot of traffic into my blogs. 

I later started doing group writing projects on ProBlogger in similar ways and did 31 Days to Build a Better Blog which is a series of 31 blog posts over 31 days, which gave my readers something to learn but also something to do and to come back and share with other readers. In some ways, it was a content event as well.

Running projects like this, whether it be a week-long challenge where you get your readers to go away, take a photo, and share it on Instagram, or whether it’s something that they go away and do their personal lives, come back and comment on, these types of things bring readers back to your blog daily for the period that you run the challenge, but they also are shareable, and many times I see a lot of traffic come into bloggers who do this content events.

They vary a lot from blog to blog depending on what your niche is and what your readers like to do, but if there’s anything you like to do like that, whether it be a series of blog posts that gets people to go away and do something and they share it or whether it be something that you ran on Instagram, they can be very powerful. 

I have done all these ten things that I ran through, but what actually started to happen was I started to get traffic from all of these other different sources from other blogs, from social media, from my email and newsletter list, but the other impact of doing all these things was that I actually started to rank again highly in Google. This is partly because Google just changed their algorithm again six or so weeks later, so I lost all that traffic for six weeks and then six weeks later the traffic came back again. 

It didn’t come back at the same rate and this think was because Google changed its algorithm, but as a result of doing all these other stuff, my traffic actually ended up being a whole heap higher than it ever was and we started to rank even higher than we had previously because suddenly, people were linking to us and I was getting a little bit more engaging with my content as well. As a result of doing these ten things, our Google rankings and Google traffic began to rise as well. 

The question I want to ask you today is this, “What is your number one source of traffic?” It’s very easy to find out. Just go into Google Analytics or whatever stats program you are using and check it out. Then, ask yourself, what would happen if that traffic was to disappear tomorrow? Would you be able to survive? Would you be able to sustain your blog? Or would you be in trouble like I was back in 2004? 

Once you asked that question, what could you then do to start to diversify your traffic? To grow other sources of traffic into your blog as well? What can you do as a contingency plan if that worst thing happens? Also, how can you perhaps alleviate that problem from ever happening by beginning to build up that other traffic as well? Could you be a guest posting on other blogs? Should you be starting an email newsletter? Should you be changing your approach to creating content on your blog? Could you be promoting other subscription methods? Could you be networking more with other bloggers? Could you be running an event, beginning to attend other events? Could you be a little more proactive with the readers that you already have? Could you be pitching other bloggers? Could you be running content events on your blog? 

Don’t wait until the crisis happens to begin to do some of these things. Build into your weekly flow, being proactive about building traffic in these ways, and you might just find that if the worst thing happens, it’s not as bad as you think it might be.

I’d love to hear your feedback on this and what some of the other things are that you would be doing to build proactive traffic into your blogs. You can find today’s show notes where there’s an opportunity to comment on Before I finish, if you have heard any screaming children in the back of this podcast, apologies. I’m a dad. I work at home and I have four 4-year-olds in the house right now having a playdate, so I hope that this has been […] for you today and that you’ve enjoyed the screaming as well as some of the content that I produced for you today. If you haven’t heard it, please disregard this disclaimer and I’ll chat with you in the next episode, episode 63 of the ProBlogger podcast. Thanks for listening.

How did you go with today’s episode?

What did you learn from today’s episode? What is your number one source of blog traffic? What would happen if that blog traffic was to disappear tomorrow? Would you be able to survive? Would you be able to sustain your blog? What could you do to start growing other traffic sources for your blog? Do you have other tips that have worked for you? What will you try next?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Finally, if you have a moment we’d love to get your feedback on the ProBlogger Podcast with this short survey which will help us plan future episodes.

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