Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Rand Fishkin, @randfish, CEO of SEO software company SEOmoz, adapted from a post originally published on SEOmoz’s Daily SEO Blog. You can find the first 11 tactics to increase blog traffic in Part I of the post.
From Part I: It’s easy to build a blog, but hard to build a successful blog with significant traffic. Over the years, we’ve grown the Moz blog to nearly a million visits each month and helped lots of other blogs, too. I launched a personal blog late last year and was amazed to see how quickly it gained thousands of visits to each post. There’s an art to increasing a blog’s traffic, and given that we seem to have stumbled on some of that knowledge, I felt it compulsory to give back by sharing what we’ve observed.
#12 – Interact on Other Blogs’ Comments
As bloggers, we see a lot of comments. Many are spam, only a few add real value, and even fewer are truly fascinating and remarkable. If you can be in this final category consistently, in ways that make a blogger sit up and think “man, I wish that person commented here more often!” you can achieve great things for your own site’s visibility through participation in the comments of other blogs.
Combine the tools presented in #10 (particularly Google Reader/Blog Search) and #4 (especially FollowerWonk) for discovery. The feed subscriber counts in Google Reader can be particularly helpful for identifying good blogs for participation. Then apply the principles covered in this post on comment marketing.
Do be conscious of the name you use when commenting and the URL(s) you point back to. Consistency matters, particularly on naming, and linking to internal pages or using a name that’s clearly made for keyword-spamming rather than true conversation will kill your efforts before they begin.
#13 – Participate in Q+A Sites
Every day, thousands of people ask questions on the web. Popular services like Yahoo! Answers, Answers.com, Quora, StackExchange, Formspring and more serve those hungry for information whose web searches couldn’t track down the responses they needed.
The best strategy I’ve seen for engaging on Q+A sites isn’t to answer every question that comes along, but rather, to strategically provide high value to a Q+A community by engaging in those places where:
- The question quality is high, and responses thus far have been thin
- The question receives high visibility (either by ranking well for search queries, being featured on the site or getting social traffic/referrals). Most of the Q+A sites will show some stats around the traffic of a question
- The question is something you can answer in a way that provides remarkable value to anyone who’s curious and drops by
I also find great value in answering a few questions in-depth by producing an actual blog post to tackle them, then linking back. This is also a way I personally find blog post topics – if people are interested in the answer on a Q+A site, chances are good that lots of folks would want to read it on my blog, too!
Just be authentic in your answer, particularly if you’re linking. If you’d like to see some examples, I answer a lot of questions at Quora, frequently include relevant links, but am rarely accused of spamming or link dropping because it’s clearly about providing relevant value, not just getting a link for SEO (links on most user-contributed sites are “nofollow” anyway, meaning they shouldn’t pass search-engine value). There’s a dangerous line to walk here, but if you do so with tact and candor, you can earn a great audience from your participation.
#14 – Enable Subscriptions via Feed + Email (and track them!)
If someone drops by your site, has a good experience and thinks “I should come back here and check this out again when they have more posts,” chances are pretty high (I’d estimate 90%+) that you’ll never see them again. That sucks! It shouldn’t be the case, but we have busy lives and the Internet’s filled with animated gifs of cats.
In order to pull back some of these would-be fans, I highly recommend creating an RSS feed using Feedburner and putting visible buttons on the sidebar, top or bottom of your blog posts encouraging those who enjoy your content to sign up (either via feed, or via email, both of which are popular options).
If you’re using WordPress, there’s some easy plugins for this, too.
Once you’ve set things up, visit every few weeks and check on your subscribers – are they clicking on posts? If so, which ones? Learning what plays well for those who subscribe to your content can help make you a better blogger, and earn more visits from RSS, too.
#15 – Attend and Host Events
Despite the immense power of the web to connect us all regardless of geography, in-person meetings are still remarkably useful for bloggers seeking to grow their traffic and influence. The people you meet and connect with in real-world settings are far more likely to naturally lead to discussions about your blog and ways you can help each other. This yields guest posts, links, tweets, shares, blogroll inclusion and general business development like nothing else.
I’m a big advocate of Lanyrd, an event directory service that connects with your social networks to see who among your contacts will be at which events in which geographies. This can be phenomenally useful for identifying which meetups, conferences or gatherings are worth attending (and who you can carpool with).
The founder of Lanyrd also contributed this great answer on Quora about other search engines/directories for events (which makes me like them even more).
#16 – Use Your Email Connections (and Signature) to Promote Your Blog
As a blogger, you’re likely to be sending a lot of email out to others who use the web and have the power to help spread your work. Make sure you’re not ignoring email as a channel, one-to-one though it may be. When given an opportunity in a conversation that’s relevant, feel free to bring up your blog, a specific post or a topic you’ve written about. I find myself using blogging as a way to scalably answer questions – if I receive the same question many times, I’ll try to make a blog post that answers it so I can simply link to that in the future.
I also like to use my email signature to promote the content I share online. If I was really sharp, I’d do link tracking using a service like Bit.ly so I could see how many clicks email footers really earn. I suspect it’s not high, but it’s also not 0.
#17 – Survey Your Readers
Web surveys are easy to run and often produce high engagement and great topics for conversation. If there’s a subject or discussion that’s particularly contested, or where you suspect showing the distribution of beliefs, usage or opinions can be revealing, check out a tool like SurveyMonkey (they have a small free version) or PollDaddy. Google Docs also offers a survey tool that’s totally free, but not yet great in my view.
#18 – Add Value to a Popular Conversation
Numerous niches in the blogosphere have a few “big sites” where key issues arise, get discussed and spawn conversations on other blogs and sites. Getting into the fray can be a great way to present your point-of-view, earn attention from those interested in the discussion and potentially get links and traffic from the industry leaders as part of the process.
You can see me trying this out with Fred Wilson’s AVC blog last year (an incredibly popular and well-respected blog in the VC world). Fred wrote a post about Marketing that I disagreed with strongly and publicly and a day later, he wrote a follow-up where he included a graphic I made AND a link to my post.
If you’re seeking sources to find these “popular conversations,” Alltop, Topsy, Techmeme (in the tech world) and their sister sites MediaGazer, Memeorandum and WeSmirch, as well as PopURLs can all be useful.
#19 – Aggregate the Best of Your Niche
Bloggers, publishers and site owners of every variety in the web world love and hate to be compared and ranked against one another. It incites endless intrigue, discussion, methodology arguments and competitive behavior – but, it’s amazing for earning attention. When a blogger publishes a list of “the best X” or “the top X” in their field, most everyone who’s ranked highly praises the list, shares it and links to it. Here’s an example from the world of marketing itself:
That’s a screenshot of the AdAge Power 150, a list that’s been maintained for years in the marketing world and receives an endless amount of discussion by those listed (and not listed). For example, why is SEOmoz’s Twitter score only a “13″ when we have so many more followers, interactions and retweets than many of those with higher scores? Who knows. But I know it’s good for AdAge.
Now, obviously, I would encourage anyone building something like this to be as transparent, accurate and authentic as possible. A high quality resource that lists a “best and brightest” in your niche – be they blogs, Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, individual posts, people, conferences or whatever else you can think to rank – is an excellent piece of content for earning traffic and becoming a known quantity in your field.
Oh, and once you do produce it – make sure to let those featured know they’ve been listed. Tweeting at them with a link is a good way to do this, but if you have email addresses, by all means, reach out. It can often be the start of a great relationship!
#20 – Connect Your Web Profiles and Content to Your Blog
Many of you likely have profiles on services like YouTube, Slideshare, Yahoo!, DeviantArt and dozens of other social and Web 1.0 sites. You might be uploading content to Flickr, to Facebook, to Picasa or even something more esoteric like Prezi. Whatever you’re producing on the web and wherever you’re doing it, tie it back to your blog.
Including your blog’s link on your actual profile pages is among the most obvious, but it’s also incredibly valuable. On any service where interaction takes place, those interested in who you are and what you have to share will follow those links, and if they lead back to your blog, they become opportunities for capturing a loyal visitor or earning a share (or both!). But don’t just do this with profiles – do it with content, too! If you’ve created a video for YouTube, make your blog’s URL appear at the start or end of the video. Include it in the description of the video and on the uploading profile’s page. If you’re sharing photos on any of the dozens of photo services, use a watermark or even just some text with your domain name so interested users can find you.
If you’re having trouble finding and updating all those old profiles (or figuring out where you might want to create/share some new ones), KnowEm is a great tool for discovering your own profiles (by searching for your name or pseudonyms you’ve used) and claiming profiles on sites you may not yet have participated in.
I’d also strongly recommend leveraging Google’s relatively new protocol for rel=author. AJ Kohn wrote a great post on how to set it up here, and Yoast has another good one on building it into WordPress sites. The benefit for bloggers who do build large enough audiences to gain Google’s trust is earning your profile photo next to all the content you author – a powerful markup advantage that likely drives extra clicks from the search results and creates great, memorable branding, too.
#21 – Uncover the Links of Your Fellow Bloggers (and Nab ‘em!)
If other blogs in your niche have earned references from sites around the web, there’s a decent chance that they’ll link to you as well. Conducting competitive link research can also show you what content from your competition has performed well and the strategies they may be using to market their work. To uncover these links, you’ll need to use some tools.
OpenSiteExplorer is my favorite, but I’m biased (it’s made by Moz). However, it is free to use – if you create a registered account here, you can get unlimited use of the tool showing up to 1,000 links per page or site in perpetuity.
Finding a link is great, but it’s through the exhaustive research of looking through dozens or hundreds that you can identify patterns and strategies. You’re also likely to find a lot of guest blogging opportunities and other chances for outreach. If you maintain a great persona and brand in your niche, your ability to earn these will rise dramatically.
Bonus #22 – Be Consistent and Don’t Give Up
If there’s one piece of advice I wish I could share with every blogger, it’s this:
The above image comes from Everywhereist’s analytics. Geraldine could have given up 18 months into her daily blogging. After all, she was putting in 3-5 hours each day writing content, taking photos, visiting sites, coming up with topics, trying to guest blog and grow her Twitter followers and never doing any SEO (don’t ask, it’s a running joke between us). And then, almost two years after her blog began, and more than 500 posts in, things finally got going. She got some nice guest blogging gigs, had some posts of hers go “hot” in the social sphere, earned mentions on some bigger sites, then got really big press from Time’s Best Blogs of 2011.
I’d guess there’s hundreds of new bloggers on the web each day who have all the opportunity Geraldine had, but after months (maybe only weeks) of slogging away, they give up.
When I started the SEOmoz blog in 2004, I had some advantages (mostly a good deal of marketing and SEO knowledge), but it was nearly 2 years before the blog could be called anything like a success. Earning traffic isn’t rocket science, but it does take time, perseverance and consistency. Don’t give up. Stick to your schedule. Remember that everyone has a few posts that suck, and it’s only by writing and publishing those sucky posts that you get into the habit necessary to eventually transform your blog into something remarkable.
Good luck and good blogging from all of us at Moz!