How to Get Traffic to Your Blog and Find Readers for Your Content
OK, so you’ve followed all of the instructions in my post on how to start a blog, and your shiny new website is finally up and running. Now all you need are readers, right?
Well, not quite: what you really need first is content. Too many new bloggers seem to obsess over finding readers, and gaining followers, when there’s nothing there for people to read or follow. I mentioned this in my last post, but before you even think about driving traffic to your new blog, you have to first of all make sure there’s something for all those visitors to actually see. You don’t have to write several month’s worth of posts before you start promoting, but I’d definitely recommend having a few at least: if people arrive at your blog and find tumbleweed, they’re not going to stick around, and they’re definitely not going to follow you.
Assuming you have the content ready, though, where do you find readers for it? How do you drive traffic to a brand new blog (or even an existing one, for that matter)?
My best advice here is this:
Look for readers in the places they’re looking for you.
There are already plenty of people out there looking for good content to read. They may not be specifically looking for blogs to read (although some of them definitely will be), but they’re out there looking for information, advice, inspiration, entertainment – all of the things you’re able to provide as a blogger. In order to persuade those potential readers to come to your blog, rather than any of the other millions of websites out there, you need to know:
a) What they’re looking for – sometimes before they even know themselves
b) Where they’re looking for it.
Simple, right? Well, no, not really: if it was, we’d all be internet millionaires, and I’d be on the beach with a cocktail in my hand, right now. To simplify things, though, I’ve identified four places blog traffic typically comes from, and how you can increase your chances of finding readers in those places. These aren’t the only places to find readers for your blog, obviously, but they’ll hopefully be good starting points for new bloggers.
Where to find readers for your blog
01. Search engines
Search engines like Google are one of the most obvious sources of traffic to blogs, but it’s far from a quick or easy way to gain readers, and it can take a long time to start seeing results. You get traffic to your blog from search engines any time someone types a search query into them, and lands on your site as a result. Search engine optimisation isn’t a subject I can sum up in a short paragraph, but in very simple terms, in order to make sure your blog shows up on Google when someone types in a particular phrase, you need to make sure that phrase appears on your blog.
That means writing the type of content people are searching for, for one thing. If your post is a recap of your weekend, for instance, it’ll be unlikely to gain much in the way of search engine traffic, because people don’t tend to hit up search engines and type “recaps of people’s weekends” into the search box. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write that post, however – it could be valuable to your blog in other ways, and might attract visitors from another source. What it does mean, though, is that if you want to gain traffic from search engines, you’ll have to consider also writing some of the type of content that people will be searching for.
I find the type of posts that tend to do well on search engines are the “how to” type posts: tutorials, reviews, that kind of thing – anything that helps people or answers a question. If you have a news-type blog, current events, or posts relating to celebrities can also be successful, whereas things like Instagram roundups, or “here’s what I’ve been up to lately” posts won’t fare as well.
02. Social media
In recent years, social media has become a HUGE source of traffic to blogs – in fact, there are some sites which owe much of their traffic to their success on sites like Twitter, Facebook and other social networks. The difference between social media and search engines (in blog terms, at least) is that people aren’t normally searching social media for specific types of content: most of the time they’ll just follow people they find interesting, and when something comes up on their feed that they like the look of, they’ll click on it.
This makes it an ideal platform to find readers for the type of content that doesn’t do so well in search engines. That weekend recap, for instance, may not get thousands of visitors from Google, but it may get clicks from the people who follow you on Twitter or Facebook, who’re more likely to be curious about what you’ve been getting up to lately.
Again, successful use of social media is something people have written entire books about, and all networks are different, so what works for one, may not work for another. At the very least, however, I recommend:
- Signing up to the main social networks – Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google +, Instagram. Use your blog name as your user name if you can, to help build your brand.
- Use the same profile picture or logo on all of them, so you’re instantly recognisable to readers.
- Make sure you put your blog URL in your bio, so people who follow you can click through and visit your blog.
- Add prominent links to each network to your blog, so readers can find and follow you.
- Promote your posts on each network by tweeting links, adding a link to each new post to your Facebook page, pinning photos, etc. I know a lot of bloggers who say they’re embarrassed to promote their own posts, but if you want people to read your blog, you need to tell them about it – it’s as simple as that. HOWEVER…
- Don’t OVER-promote: people will very quickly get sick of someone who’s just posting links to their own blog, so be sure to share other content too, and engage with the people you follow.
- Write headlines that are likely to pique people’s curiosity and encourage them to click – that might mean writing a different headline for your post on social media, rather than just using the same one from the blog itself.
03. Other blogs and websites
One of the biggest sources of traffic to my blogs is other websites who’ve written posts about me, or linked to something I’ve written. If the site that links to you is a popular one, it can send you TONS of traffic – and, whats’ more, it can KEEP sending you it, sometimes for years. Of course, getting other bloggers to link to you isn’t easy, and sometimes it’s a matter of pure luck (as it has been in my case). I’d say the best way to do this is by building relationships with other bloggers, but doing it in a genuine kind of way. Some things to try include:
I constantly read blog tips articles which advise people to comment on other blogs in order to get traffic to their own, but I’d advise you to use extreme caution if you’re doing this. I talked about blog promotion through comments in detail here, but to summarize, I think it’s a really bad idea to start leaving comments JUST to get traffic.
By all means, leave comments when you genuinely have something to contribute: bloggers LOVE getting comments, and they’re a great way to start building relationships… which may well lead to them linking to you, or tweeting about you, at some point down the line. It’s really obvious, however, when someone has left a comment purely to try and promote their own blog: I get this all the time, and I NEVER click on the links those people leave – I actually find it really rude, which doesn’t make me want to read more from the person. (In my post on blogging and perception this week, I had a couple of comments which were clearly just promotion, which was particularly disheartening given that it was a fairly heartfelt post, which generated some really thoughtful responses, but which some people obviously just viewed as an advertising opportunity…)
A better way to get readers from other websites is to build genuine relationships with the bloggers in question: leave useful or thoughtful comments (I ALWAYS click on the links on those), don’t over-promote your blog in them (type the URL into the space for it: there’s no need to add it to your comment, too), and avoid saying things like “Follow me and I’ll follow you back!” or “Check out my giveaway!”
Another way to get traffic from other blogs is to write guest posts for them. I don’t do this myself because I just don’t have enough time, but I have occasionally accepted guest posts on my other sites (I accept shoe-related posts on ShoeperWoman.com, for instance) and have had good feedback from the authors of those posts, who’ve gained some new readers from the links in the posts. They key to guest posting is to make sure your post is a good fit for the site you’re submitting it to, is original (i.e. you can’t just copy and paste one of your existing blog posts), and doesn’t read like an advert, or the other blogger won’t want to publish it.
Many bloggers sell advertising in their sidebars: this obviously isn’t a free way to promote your blog (although sites like Passionfruit Ads do allow bloggers to swap ads, rather than paying for them), but if you’re willing to invest some money in your blog, advertising could be one way to do it. Try to pick blogs which cover similar topics to your own – their readers are more likely to be interested in what you have to say.
Some bloggers publish weekly posts which they invite other bloggers to “link up” to: this normally means that a link to your post will appear at the bottom of their post, and you’ll be expected to link back to them in turn. There’s a directory of linkups which you can join here: again, try to pick ones that are a good fit for your content!
Bloglovin is essentially a feed reader, much like Feedly, and the now-defunct Google Reader. The difference with Bloglovin’, however, and the main reason I’m including it as a source of traffic, rather than just another way people can follow you, is that, in addition to allowing readers to subscribe to the RSS feeds of their favourite blogs, Bloglovin’ also sorts blogs into different categories, provides suggestions for bloggers you might like to follow, and ranks posts according to popularity, so you can log onto it, and look through tons of different posts. In other words, it makes it really easy for readers to find blogs to read – and one of those could be yours.
In order for that to happen, however, you have to add your blog to the site, which you can do here. There are lots of other RSS readers out there, and plenty of other sites that are similar to Bloglovin’ itself, but if you have a fashion, beauty or lifestyle blog, I’d really advise you to make sure people can follow you there, as it’s particularly popular amongst people interested in those topics.
(Oh, and while we’re on the subject of Bloglovin’, you can follow me here!)