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How do you drive traffic to your website or blog?

July 4th, 2008 · 26 Comments · Customers/Clients, Marketing, Strategy

19100374 We all want readers.

Bottom line, that’s why businesses and professionals blog or put up a website.  We want to connect.  We want to share.  We want to sell.  And none of that happens without readers.

So I am curious and want to steal your good ideas. 

How do you generate traffic at your blog or site?  Do you have a written plan?  A plan in your head?  Do you have any techniques that make your numbers jump (hits in a day, new subscribers) and how permanent is the leap?

Do you have a few tried and true methods?  Are you always experimenting or do you just chug along, creating good content and letting readers find you over time?

Let’s say creating good content is a given.  What beyond that do you do?

If everyone shares a couple of their methods — we could compile quite a list and really help each other.  So what say you?

Here’s interesting post from Ian at Conversation Marketing about StumbleUpon and how he uses it to earn new readers.  Is that one of your tricks too?

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26 Comments so far ↓

  • BIG Kahuna

    Send out an e-Newsletter (sign up for mine here: link to brandidentityguru.com). When you send out a post tease people in the newsletter to click for more info by clicking on a link which goes to your blog.

  • Duane

    Given my subject matter (Shakespeare), I can’t just rely on content – I needed a hook. So I try very hard to stick to a consistent character and theme of not just what I write about, but also how I write it. I want people coming not because my place is the only place they can find out something (since, after all, much of it’s been discussed for 400 years), but because they like the way I present it. I think it’s working, because whenever people link me they tend to refer to me as a person (“Duane the Shakespeare Geek says….”) rather than as a web address.

    I watch alerts like crazy (google, technorati, delicious…). If somebody’s talking about Shakespeare in the blogosphere, I’ll find it and then decide whether to a) get in on that conversation, or b) link it and start my own. That nets me new users two ways: the owners of those blogs tends to come back and see who linked them, and the readers of those blogs tend to click through as well.

    Sig files are awesome. Whenever I’m commenting on an especially popular blog I make sure my address is in my post. I try very hard to not be spammy about it, and always make sure my comments are heavy on the content and not just the “Please come to my blog too” stuff. I don’t just limit that policy to when I’m commenting on other Shakespeare posts, either. Just because I’m a Shakespeare geek doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion on the latest podiobook, or a tip on how to get toddlers to eat their asparagus.

    Lastly – I do check my numbers regularly. If somebody new has linked me and generated a spike in hits, I’ll make it a point to go find the source and see what and why they linked. Regularly I check out my most popular posts as determined by google traffic, and tune my posts accordingly. For instance I’m high on the hit list for “how old was Romeo” and various incarnations, so I’ve gone in to my archives several times and enhanced that particular post to provide more links, more detailed information, etc…. to encourage the new people who are landing on it to stay longer, and share it with others.

    http://www.shakespearegeek.com

  • Douglas Karr

    Compelling subject lines and automated posting to Twitter has given my blog a boost of recent. However, I’d still say the 2 largest traffic sources for my blog are:
    1. Providing products at no cost (WordPress Plugins)
    2. Commenting on other blogs with similar topics. (I also seek out new blogs quite a bit).

    Great topic!

  • loren nason

    Offline promotion.

    The website I created for the city I live in. Just so happens that the domain name is the city’s tag line.

    The best way for me to find traffic right now is by word of mouth. Every time I go anywhere in my city (coffee, groceries, etc…) I talk to people and say Hi and to come check out the website. Then I give them a business card with the website on it.

    Of course I also write content about the city. Next step is selling advertising space for the business directory I am building.

    Over the weekend or so comes new design and Forum software installed

  • Karin H.

    Hi Drew

    More website visitors: create proper content that ‘solves’ their problem’, make navigation easy so if they want more info they see where to go next, give plenty of options to request more info through other medias (newsletters, downloadable leaflets, video presentations).

    Then find other sites – in our case DIY-forums are great – and start giving away free advice there, with when appropriate links to your own site. Works fine for us. And once they’re there and get/learn/receive what they want they start spreading the word for you on those same forums (our experience).

    Doesn’t happen overnight though: patience and continuous adjusting your site is a large part of it. What I do notice now is that having a blog next to your ‘static’ site is a great help too to get higher listings on the search engines. Add something new to your website and always ‘blog’ about it.

    Karin H. (Keep It Simple Sweetheart, specially in business)

  • Kelly

    Drew,

    My best “tactic” is commenting. I’m a semi-regular commenter at about two dozen blogs, and very regular at about five or six more. I don’t see it as a tactic, so much as a way of interacting with folks who have cool opinions on topics related to my own, but if you’re careful mainly to leave comments of value (as opposed to “good post” kind of stuff), other like-minded readers do start to notice that and head over. Best for me is that I’ve made some great connections with those authors with the cool opinions.

    Now I am not a traffic hunter, by any means, so I should also say that I don’t see a lot of rapid growth spurts from this, but it’s high-quality growth, and that’s what counts to me. I’m here for the long haul and my readers appreciate that.

    Regards,

    Kelly

  • Gavin Heaton

    I have to say that the TVCs that I run both here in Australia and in Europe have been fantastically successful ;)

    Actually, I agree with Kelly — commenting seems to work for me too. I constantly do small tweaks to see what works and what doesn’t. Consistently publishing content works as well … if I do 2+ posts per day I get more traffice, but less if I do 1 or less.

  • Alanna

    I write on a really specific topic – international development and global philanthropy – for me the biggest traffic draw has been twitter. Twitter has let me build up a group of people who are interested in my subject matter and want to hear my take on it. I just just tweet links to my new blog posts – I also send out links that are on topic but don’t need a whole blog post and personal comments. I see twitter as a way to show the person behind the blog.

  • Danny Bishop

    We gathered a brain trust of several in-house news aggregators a few weeks ago to talk about our collective successes in making our web sites more viral. We concluded that while making sure you have plenty of fun and fresh content up front is important, no single thing beats making and maintaining great relationships with other aggregators who have the power to drive significant traffic to your web site — and then never, ever, abuse that relationship by feeding him or her content that’s not compelling to his or her audience.

  • Cherish Anderson

    Drew – Long time reader, first time responder…thank you for sharing your wisdom. I am beginning to re-design my website, full corporate re-brand, with a major focus on driving trafic to my website. I am establishing benchmarks so I can easily track what is working and what is not. My most important question at this point – how do you measure your web traffic??? I have three measurements for June 2008: Unique visitors 520, Visits 715 and Hits 9752. What number do I use??

    Regards,
    Cherish

  • Drew McLellan

    Scott,

    We’ve produced a weekly e-newsletter since 1999 and we do the same thing. Sort of a “best of” series every week.

    You’re right, it does add value and traffic.

    Drew

  • Drew McLellan

    Duane,

    An excellent list of suggestions — thank you. It sounds like you understand the idea of providing value first and then enjoying the benefits of having that returned.

    That’s why you’re successful. I am going to bookmark your site. My daughter is taking a semester of Shakespeare this fall. She might be your most frequent reader!!

    Drew

  • Drew McLellan

    Doug,

    Do you promote every post on Twitter or just certain ones? What do you think is the “right” blend of self-promotion versus publicizing other posts of value?

    How do you let others know about your free products? Do you just let them discover them?

    Drew

  • Drew McLellan

    Loren,

    With having local content/focus — you’re wise to use your off-line methods.

    Can you see a spike in traffic after you’ve been out on the town for a few days?

    Drew

  • Drew McLellan

    Karin,

    Your forum technique is one of my “go to the watering hole” methods. You go where your customers hang out. That’s always a good strategy.

    And you’re very right — this is a long-term game, not a quick fix.

    Drew

  • Drew McLellan

    Kelly,

    It’s all about adding value and knowing that the value will follow you back home.

    Do you tend to frequent blogs that are in your category or in complimentary categories?

    Drew

  • Drew McLellan

    Gavin,

    Do you stray much from your areas of expertise, in terms of blogs that you comment on, or do you try to bridge new ground?

    Drew

  • Drew McLellan

    Janine,

    Makes perfect sense. Thanks for sharing your expertise with us all.

    Drew

  • Drew McLellan

    Alanna,

    How did you find the other Twitter users who shared your interest? How did you build that community/connection?

    Drew

  • Drew McLellan

    Cherish,

    So glad you decided to step into the conversation. Welcome!

    Ahhh, welcome to the frustrating land of statistics. The answer is…all of them. Maybe. (How’s that for helpful?)

    The answer lies in the question — what matters to you in terms of the traffic? Think about why you have the site. What are you trying to accomplish? Is it to get any many new people there as possible? Or have them spend a lot of time (many page views) there once they arrive?

    For me (and everyone’s mileage will vary) the two statistics I pay the most attention to are: subscribers and comments. Everything else is just gravy. But my goals for this blog are to create a loyal readership and to give those readers content that they want to engage with/talk about. I know I’ve hit the mark when my subscriber numbers and comments stay healthy.

    For you…because it’s a website, I would think you should feel good about the number of page hits. That means your visitors are spending a lot of time reading your content.

    Does that help or just confuse things?

    Drew

  • Alanna

    Drew,

    I started by tweeting to nobody for a little while, so I had an archive of interesting links and comments for people to see when they clicked on me.

    Then I searched for people to follow. The twitter search function is terrible, but I did a number of searches for terms like “international,” “nonprofit,” “philanthropy,” and so on. I also searched for people involved with Kiva.org. This was a very slow and irritating process, but over a couple of weeks I found 100 people to follow who I found interesting. I figured if I found them interesting, it would be reciprocal.

    Twitter notifies you when someone new follows you, and just about everyone checks out the profile of their new follower. About 45 people started following me on twitter that way. Once I had that base, new people just started showing up. It’s about 100 folks now, and almost all of them click through to my blog when I mention a new post. Not a huge group, but this represents a big increse in traffic for my very niche blog.

    (My twitter handle is @bloodandmilk, if anyone wants to see what I am talking about in action)

  • Josh Klein

    I find participating in communities to be the best way to drive traffic. If you have something worth saying, and you share it with your community, people will be curious about learning more. They’ll click through to get to your page.

    For instance, I participate on a forum that drives high quality traffic to my website. Visitors from the forum I use are anywhere between 2 and 6 times more valuable as readers than the average visitor; they’re much more engaged. Just yesterday, I wrote down my 10 rules for bringing traffic from forums. They are:

    1. Build Your Profile
    2. Follow the Rules
    3. Start by Responding
    4. Contribute Your Expertise
    5. Don’t be a “Me Too” Poster
    6. Don’t be Selfish
    7. Explain Yourself, But Be Brief
    8. If You’re Wrong, Say So
    9. Write Intelligently and Correctly
    10. Never Go Negative

    If you’re interested, the full article is on my blog (click on my name).

  • Drew McLellan

    Alanna,

    Thank you — that’s an excellent primer in how to find like minded people to connect to on Twitter.

    Congrats on building up a network that I have no doubt will continue to grow!

    Drew

  • Drew McLellan

    Josh,

    That’s an excellent list. How did you go about finding forums that aligned with your site?

    Drew

  • Josh Klein

    Drew,

    It really comes down to immersing yourself in the category. Much like how it makes good business sense to be up to snuff in the industry trade magazines you participate in or provide support to, it should be an imperative to participate in forums (and read blogs, etc).

    But that doesn’t really answer your question :)

    A Google search for “forum” + various keywords your site targets is a good start.

    But many top forums are also paired with industry-leading blogs or sites, so make sure to double check all the places you already visit to see if they host a forum.

  • Drew McLellan

    Josh,

    Thanks for the details…now all the readers can follow suit with your good counsel!

    Drew

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