It's a problem that every new blog or website faces in its early days—or every day (!): How to get readers (also called traffic).
There are a few well-worn pieces of advice in this area, such as:
- Comment on other people's blogs. Virtually all comment systems ask you to leave your name and site URL. If you leave valuable comments, people may visit your site.
- Link to other people's blogs frequently and meaningfully. If you link to someone, and you send them
significant traffic, they're going to notice! They might link to you
one day, or pay attention to your work if you're within the same community.
- Add your URL to your e-mail signature, business card, book, etc.
- Offer guest posts on sites/blogs with more traffic than your own.
- Be active on relevant community sites, which can interest people in what you're doing, which can lead to visits to your site/blog.
- Ask for a link trade, where others agree to permanently link to your site/blog in their blogroll, and you return the favor on your own site. (This is by far a less popular method nowadays; it's pushy and can damage credibility if you don't believe in the links you're sharing. Better for this to happen naturally, over time.)
- Be active across social media and alert people when you have a new post. (And/or make sure your URL is clearly listed on every social media profile.)
Your mileage will vary on No. 7 depending on your social media presence, how savvy you are, and if you're reaching out in the right areas.
But I'm a strong believer in the breadcrumb method, where you have accounts on multiple community sites. That's because you never know how people might find you, and the more doorways you have leading to your site, the more traffic you will get over time.
Even if you're not active or devoted to a particular community site or social media channel, you can still appear to be active if you adjust the settings in your favor.
To help explain, let me show you where my site or blog traffic comes from, then explain how that traffic happens.
Here are 5 key, continuing sources of traffic for this blog (No Rules) in the past year—aside from search engines and direct traffic.
Both Writer's Digest and I have active presences on Twitter (130K and 50K followers, respectively). When a link is broadcast that a new post is up, it reaches thousands of people initially, and then thousands more through retweets and mentions.
New blog posts are automatically fed onto my Facebook personal page, as well as the Writer's Digest fan page (without any help from me, because it works through NetworkedBlogs). Other people also commonly post links to my blog content on their own Facebook walls.
There's a permanent link to all Writer's Digest blogs on the homepage, and it's a consistent driver of traffic to No Rules.
4. BLOGGER MENTIONS (and permanent bloggers' links)
When taken individually, one person's blog or site may send just a handful of visits per day or week. But when you multiply that effect by dozens or hundreds of bloggers, that's a huge impact. But you only get to enjoy this dynamic if you're blogging for the long haul. It rarely happens overnight.
To tell the truth, this is one site where I am not active, and only recently did I even start an account. But over time, this site has started sending MORE traffic my way as my most popular posts are tagged and catalogued. (Right now, this controversial post that's tagged is sending me a few dozen visits a day from StumbleUpon.)
Here are the top 5 sources of traffic for my personal site (JaneFriedman.com) in the past month. They constitute about 80% of my traffic.
1. THERE ARE NO RULES (this blog)
This make sense since NO RULES is where I focus most of my time and energy in producing new content. I rarely link to my personal site in my posts. Instead, it's a static link on the lefthand sidebar if people want to know more about me.
2. GOOGLE (organic search)
The No. 1 search term that brings people to my site is "Jane Friedman." I am probably attracting a considerable number of visits from people looking for The Other Jane Friedman.
Traffic from Twitter comes from 3 areas:
- from the static URL on my Twitter profile (see above)
- from the tweets I send with links
- from the retweets and mentions from my followers
4. DIRECT VISITS
These visits are from people who have bookmarked my page, click on direct links from e-mail notifications, or otherwise type in "JaneFriedman.com."
Traffic from Facebook comes from 3 areas:
- from the static URL on my profile page
- from the links I post to my site
- from the links other people post to my site
Some of my biggest traffic bumps happen when a major Facebook group posts a link to my series, When Mom Was My Age—which shows you the value of consistent series or features on your site/blog.
If you look at the long tail of my site traffic—on this blog as well as my personal site—I'm getting a significant number of visitors, over a year's span, from:
- Various Google referrals (from things like my Google Profile, Google Reader Shared Items, and so on)
Does it take me any effort to get this traffic?
No. I simply make sure that I use all settings and opportunities for auto-updating, when applicable.
Take my LinkedIn profile as an example. I don't spend time on this site. But I'm "active." See below; the top red arrow points to my Twitter updates, which are automatically fed into my profile and provide constantly refreshed information about what I'm doing. I don't lift a finger.
The bottom arrow points to a mash-up of things I've told LinkedIn to report, based on my other activity online.
On LinkedIn, I also feed in my blogs, which appear under my profile summary.
This keeps me active on the site without requiring my time. Look for these types of feeds and settings on every site you use!
This is why I give the appearance of being everywhere at once, while really just focusing my energy on a few things: my professional blog, Twitter, Facebook.
Because those places give me the most return on my investment of time and energy. Everyone's results will be different, though, which is why you absolutely must find out where your site traffic comes from. (Use Google Analytics to get started.)
People will find you in a hundred different ways, and it's more important than ever to have your own site—so you can direct people to your "home," where readers and community influencers have an opportunity to find out where you're most active, and choose their preferred means of staying updated.
I can guarantee that after this post, I'll have a lot of people joining me on Facebook or LinkedIn because they didn't realize I was there!
And that's a good thing.