Something Steve A. wrote last week got me thinking. I’m paraphrasing, but if I’m interpreting him correctly, he’s written every day, or nearly every day, for about four years and would like to cut back, but is kinda-sorta addicted to the traffic he gets by writing every day. But there are more effective ways to get more blog traffic.
I think writing every day does increase your traffic, to a degree. But for long-term, sustainable traffic, I think it helps only indirectly. Here are seven things I’ve found that helped me get more blog traffic.
Pillar posts = more blog traffic
I see a pattern in my own traffic. Ten years ago, I was writing nearly every day. The majority of that content gets absolutely no traffic today. But there are a handful of things I’ve written over the years that continuously generate traffic. Day in and day out, people keep landing on those pages. Some might get two hits per day. Some get 20. A handful get more than that.
There’s a pattern to the stuff that stands the test of time. Professional Internet marketers generally call them “pillar posts.”
Here’s how you can write some pillar posts. Think about things you know that you don’t bother searching the web for. Either that’s because nobody talks about it, or because you know more about it than the people who do write about it. For the purposes of just getting traffic, I think obscurity is a little better. For the purposes of getting regular readers, expertise helps. Whatever you have, go with it. Experiment. Write about something like that at least once a week, and make a habit of visiting your stats page once a day to see what people are reading.
Over time, you’re going to start to see certain posts appearing over and over. When that happens, congratulations. You’ve written your first pillar. To get another one, try writing about the same topic, but say something that you didn’t say last time. Something related, but different enough to be worthwhile in its own right. If your first pillar was specific, go broader. If it was broad, zero in on something a little more specialized.
My rule now is that if something won’t get two hits per day five years from now, I won’t write it.
In the early days of blogging, many of us tended to write about several things in a single post. At least the circles I ran around in did. It’s better to stick to one topic per post and dive a bit deeper. If there are seven things I want to write about, I pick one, start separate posts on the six others, and come back to those another day. Not all of them will stand the test of time but at least they have a chance. Search engines don’t know what to do with multi-topic posts.
I always downplayed the value of images because I value a fast site, and images transmit a lot slower than text. But eventually someone convinced me to try adding relevant images to my highest-traffic stuff, and started getting more traffic. Search engines like images. So, when you can, illustrate the point you’re making with a helpful image and write a good caption that helps drive your point home. The search engines will reward you. Don’t go overboard, but images can help immensely. And some people are visual. Visual people appreciate being able to look at what you’re talking about.
If people stay longer, instead of bouncing right back to their search results, the search engines notice and rank you higher. So increasing the appeal of your posts helps.
Once in a while I get a message begging me for a link. It goes something like this. They say they like a post I wrote, and they want me to add a link in my post to something they wrote. Their post doesn’t mention mine anywhere.
I generally turn them down. They probably asked 50 other people for the same thing. My philosophy is that if your stuff is good, people will share it and link to it without spamming people and asking for links. That’s been my experience.
Something else that helps is linking to your own stuff. It’s a hassle, but if you mention something in a post that you’ve written at length about before, link to that content. On a slow day, 20% of my readers will click one of those links and read one more post. Some days, a lot more will. Keep reading, and you’ll see how I do it.
Supposedly, internal links to your own stuff also helps your search engine rankings. I don’t know about that, but I like getting 20% more traffic from the people who were already here anyway. Adding links helped me unearth some content I wrote years ago that was languishing in obscurity and get it some traffic. It can take me as long to find stuff to link to as I spent writing the post, but if I can find five links, potentially I can double the amount of traffic the new post generates.
Some people only write 3,000-word posts. Others say 300-word posts are best. Some of my stuff warrants 3,000 words. But I have one post that’s 180 words long and there’s just nothing more to say.
I think if you’re a decent writer, you know when your post is long enough. Don’t push it. Write content of adequate length, link to supporting posts, and call it good.
I use the Yoast SEO plugin. It helps guide me to write in ways that Google likes to improve search rankings and drive more traffic. Write content that gets you the green lights from Yoast, using keywords that are a phrase people type into Google, and you have a formula for getting some traffic. Using Yoast can double your traffic.
Remove the dates from your WordPress URLs
One of the best things I ever did, besides installing Yoast, was to remove the dates from my URLs. The dates are useless data to Google. It took a while to figure out how to do it, which was why I didn’t do it sooner.
Monetizing your blog
Some people don’t care at all about monetizing a blog. Much of what I make goes back into my blog one way or another, so I don’t feel bad about making something off it. Here are some Viglink and Adsense tips that helped me.
I’m not going to guarantee tens of thousands of readers, simply because if I knew a formula for that, it would only be a matter of time before everyone was doing it, and then it would stop working. What I will say is that if you write about stuff that very few people are talking about, and you do a passable job–that is, your writing has no critical flaws and what you say works–then traffic will follow.