|*** Monthly Feature Column ***
One of the joys of blogging is knowing that other people are reading. Without that sense of connection, the effort it takes to write on your blog is seldom worth it. The entire purpose of the blog is to connect with other people, so without traffic, blogging often fails to make it onto our priority list.
That said, the obsession with chasing after more readers can be as detrimental to our blog’s health as a lack of readers. Blogging at its finest is about passion, and when it exists only for numbers, the readers can tell you lack passion.
Today I’m writing about increasing traffic to your blog, but before you take these steps, make sure that your reasons for doing so are clear in your head. Traffic = Money, at least when it’s applied correctly, but the efforts to increase traffic can often ruin your desire to write. Writing for business is very different than writing for personal satisfaction, and both you and your loyal readers are going to go through rough patches as you make the transition.
Some people don’t like it when a personal blog starts to try to make money, so be prepared for some level of backlash.
That’s your warning. Here’s your advice.
1) Content: First and foremost – traffic is the result of high quality content written by you in the first person. Traffic is a function of stickiness, and all of the internet marketing in the world won’t keep readers at a site that’s poorly written.
This doesn’t mean you have to be a journalist or an English major to do well, but your take on the world has to be relevant, timely, and something that your target audience can relate to.
Most personal blogs are eclectic in their choice of stories. While this entertains our friends and family, it’s very confusing to readers that stumble upon you from search engines or links from other sites. If a reader can’t understand in the first few seconds what your writing is mostly about, they won’t bother to come back.
So pick a topic, one you’re an expert in or want to be an expert in, and start writing. To expand your writing, focus on topics that are related to your initial subject, and dig deeply into the subject matter. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about diapers or particle physics – stay relevant and you’ll generate an audience.
2) Design and Naming: If you really want to make money on your blog, spring for a professional design and a url. Sites on blogspot, typepad, or wordpress can do well, but purchasing a name and not using a template tells readers that you are serious about sticking around. Think of it as buying a home versus staying with friends. If you’re trying to convince a community that you’re in it for the long haul,
wouldn’t they believe you more if you put down roots?
As for cost of a design – you have to decide what your budget is, but the cost should be something that you will recoup in at least a year’s time. Don’t overspend if you have a few hundred readers, but don’t think you’ll get to $1000/Month in revenue with a $200 template.
3) Comments: You’ve probably read this, but comments are a great way to build traffic. The problem with this advice, is companies have started paying people who lack basic communication skills to leave comments on your blog. Comment spam is no more welcome than e-mail spam, but most advertising agencies don’t care, and they get paid per comment.
When we say comments can be used to generate traffic, what we mean is that you should find other blogs that relate to the topic you want to write about, and you should become active in the comment sections of those blogs. Individual comments left on someone’s post that are off-topic, or are never followed up tend to be viewed negatively. And they should be. I delete comments from spammers and ignore those from people trying to take advantage of my traffic and Page Rank.
At the same time, I’m very curious about readers who leave comments that advance the discussion, and direct me back to a thoughtful blog in my area.
So don’t use comments to build traffic – join communities where comments are welcome, and the traffic will come from people who want to see what you have to say. The difference in those two strategies is all the difference.
4) Directories: Never pay for a directory, but if you see a free one, consider entering your blog and putting interesting information about your site. 5minutesformom has a great one, both for blogs and mom stores. You can also do searches at Best of The Web, and on Google for “mom blog directories”, and “list of mom blogs”. Don’t forget to sign up at Technorati.com and claim your blog. You’re given the opportunity to add tags describing your blog, which helps when people are looking for your topic.
5) Guest Blog: Once you’ve found some friends online, be willing to write posts in their areas of expertise as a guest blogger. Keep your eyes open for people who need someone to blogsit for a week or so, and look for group blogs where they are looking for new writers.
Personally, I don’t cross-post, but it’s worth your time to come up with unique content to help a friend, and let her audience know where you write.
Check in next month for Part II of Building Website Traffic.