how to increase blog traffic: 5 hacks to make your content contagious

Everyone wants to increase their blog traffic, right?

It would be too discouraging to write articles, knowing that no one will ever read them.

So whenever we write a new post, we’re secretly hoping that it will bring tons of new visitors to our blog.

But do you really think that “hope” is enough? Certainly not!

It’s not the circumstances that determine if your articles will get traction—it’s the tactics and strategies you execute that make it happen.

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And right now I’m going to show you what you can do to increase the odds that your articles will get the attention they deserve.

3 Natural Ways To Increase Blog Traffic

If I ask you where your blog traffic comes from, you’re going to name a lot of different things: SEO, social networks, forums, banner ads, etc.

But in general, all natural traffic sources fall into 3 different categories:

  • Search traffic
  • Your audience
  • Word of mouth

Let me visualize this concept for you:

how to increase blog traffic with 3 natural ways

Please Note: I’m using the term “natural traffic” because you can also use all sorts of advertising to generate “paid traffic” to your blog and website.

1. Search traffic.

This one is self explanatory. People search Google for hundreds of things every day and it sends them to hundreds of different websites.

You can also search for videos on YouTube, for presentations on SlideShare, for photos on Flickr, for tweets on Twitter, etc.

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If you want to get search traffic from all these platforms, you just need to put your content there and make sure it’s optimized for the keywords that people might use to find it.

Well, actually it’s a little bit more complicated than that, but just by publishing your content on all these sites, you really win half of the battle.

2. Your audience.

These are the people who already know about you.

Some of them are on your email list, some subscribe to your RSS, some might follow you on Twitter, some have your blog in their bookmarks.

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In other words—these people regularly check back with you to see if there was an update.

And all you have to do to make them come back to your site is publish a new article and let them know about it via your distribution channels (email newsletter, Twitter, RSS).

3. Word of mouth.

That’s the kind of traffic you get when your audience—and people coming from “search”—share your content with their friends.

They might tweet your article, share it on Facebook, link to it from their own blog, or send the URL to someone via Skype.

So how can you help people share your content with others?

Well, if you need the short answer—you have to make your article “contagious”.

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And in case you want to go really deep, read along…

5 Hacks To Make Your Content Contagious

Did you notice from my visualization that “word of mouth” is actually a loop?

This loop amplifies any incoming traffic that lands on your article. But the coolest thing is that it actually amplifies itself and goes in rounds for a while before it finally fades.

And the extent to which this “word of mouth” loop will amplify your blog traffic mostly relies on how well you’re going to execute the following strategies:

1. Find A Contagious Idea And Build On Top Of It

I know that many people will go hard on me for advising to “steal” ideas from someone else. But I can easily convince you that there’s nothing wrong about it.

Take the Tesla car for example. The guys just took a car and put an electric motor into it. How unique is that? 

how to increase blog traffic by capitalizing on a great idea but executing it better than anyone else

So how come no one is accusing Tesla of stealing someone else’s ideas?

Because it’s not about the original idea, is about how well you execute that idea.

So why don’t you “steal” some great ideas and build a “Tesla car” of your own?

Here’s a great tool that will help you find the most contagious ideas—Content Explorer by Ahrefs:

how to increase blog traffic with Ahrefs' Content Explorer tool

Just put any keywords into the search bar, and the tool will give you a list of most popular content based on your keywords.

Play with this tool for 10 minutes and I guarantee that you’ll find tons of golden nuggets that will inspire you to write your own contagious article.

Here’s a fun fact: Content Explorer is not the only tool of its kind. I know many other tools that were launched long before it.

But these guys are known to crawl the Web at Google scale, which means their index of articles is a lot bigger than any other tools can offer.

That’s exactly how you take someone else’s idea and nail it with your execution.

2. Add Some “Practical Utility” To Your Content

Do you know what makes people want to share a certain piece of content?

In a recent study, researchers examined the sharing patterns of the New York Times readers.

Guess what happened to be the biggest driver of shares? Practical utility!

how to increase blog traffic with useful content (it's shared more than anything else)

And here’s how you make your article more practical:

  1. Give your readers detailed action steps that they need to take.
  2. Provide them with lots of examples and case studies to prove your points.
  3. Show them the exact numbers that they can achieve.

You won’t believe how much people love case studies and exact numbers!

Peep Laja from ConversionXL attributes the entire success of his blog to the fact that he never gave a piece of advice if he could not support it with a research paper or a case study.

Alex Turnbull from Groove published a great article about the importance of writing persuasive research backed content which you also can’t miss.

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And here’s a bonus hack that you can use to easily make your articles more practical—try to add the phrase “for example” next to every piece of advice that you give.

3. Make Your Content Visually Appealing

I just told you that people love exact numbers and case studies.

So how about this one:

According to Jakob Nielsen, 79% of people always scan through any new page that they came across and only 16% read it word for word.

And here’s another one:

According to Josh Schwartz of Chartbeat, there’s no correlation between social shares and people actually reading your article.

If you combine these two studies together it’s easy to digest that…

People can make a snap judgement whether your article is worthy of a share just by skimming through it.

Which means that…

Your article doesn’t necessarily have to be worthy of a tweet, as long as it looks like being worthy of a tweet.

I know it sounds quite controversial, but it’s actually backed with research studies. And in fact, when I think of my own tweeting patterns, I realize that I’ve tweeted quite a lot of articles just because they seemed worthy to me.

how to increase blog traffic with visual content

So here’s how you make your article look more appealing to people who are just skimming through:

  • Write an introductory paragraph that will briefly tell people what’s in there.
  • Use meaningful sub-headings (not “clever” ones).
  • Use bulleted lists.
  • Use one idea per paragraphUsers will skip over any additional ideas if they are not caught by the first few words in the paragraph.
  • Use a lot of high-quality graphics. This will instantly boost your credibility.
  • Use a lot of outbound linksThis will show that you did a thorough research and know what you’re talking about.

Speaking of “high-quality graphics”—a study conducted by Moz showed that articles with visual content actually tend to attract more links:

how to increase blog traffic with more visual content shares

4. Help Your Visitors Share Your Content

So let’s assume that your article is based on a highly contagious idea, it’s highly practical, and it looks like something worthy of a share.

That alone will guarantee you a fair amount of shares, I promise!

But you can easily squeeze a lot more shares from that same article if you go just a few steps further.

And here are these steps:

Step #1: Make sure your social sharing buttons are easily accessible.

This seems so obvious that it’s almost not worth mentioning. But I’m sure I’ll be able to surprise you with a few tips on something you’ve considered to be a no-brainer.

According to a study from BrightEdge, content with sharing buttons is 7 times more likely to spread than content without.

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And if you look at my own blog, my social sharing buttons are floating at the left side of my article, which makes them always accessible no matter how deep you scroll.

I also have two big bold buttons at the very end of my article, so that people could share it immediately after they’ve finished reading it.

But the fun doesn’t end there. You can push even further and optimize the design of your sharing buttons to get even more shares!

Optimize the text on your social sharing buttons.

Guys from Pixable carried out quite a few A/B tests to identify what makes people click on their sharing buttons more often.

In their first test, they’ve tested the call to action and discovered that the “Share with Friends” phrase outperformed the phrase “Share” by 107%!

The other test was even more amusing. In addition to the Facebook share button, they’ve added a Tweet button to see how that would impact their shares:

how to increase blog traffic by sharing with friends

That Twitter button increased the total number of shares, which was quite expected. But the amount of Facebook shares increased as well!

It seems that by providing the visitor with a choice, the second option gets them deciding on which platform to share, instead of whether or not to share.

Step #2: Ask for shares.

As I’ve already mentioned above, only 16% of your visitors will actually read your article from start to finish. But these 16% are your most loyal visitors!

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You should not miss your chance to ask them for a share.

You’ve just given them tons of great information for absolutely free, and all you’re asking in return is a simple tweet. It should make them feel bad if they won’t reciprocate.

Pro Tip: Explain your readers why they should share your piece of content. Give them a reason to do it. According to research by Ellen Langer reasoning may pump your acceptance rate to as high as 94%.

Here’s what the last sentence of my 7,000-word Guide To Strategic Writing looks like:

“And please do me a little favour and share this guide with others, for there’s a good chance that it will help them with their blogs.”

Can you see how I give my readers a reason to share my article?

Step #3: Add sharable “sound bites”.

People share tons of different stuff on social networks: thoughts, quotes, takeaways, images.

So why are you leaving your visitors with a single option—”whether or not to share your article”?

Remember that fun experiment when the guys added a tweet button, which reframed the situation from “whether or not to share” to “which platform to pick for sharing”?

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Well, you can move that frame in a different direction—from “whether or not to share the article” to “whether to share an article or a quote from it”.

Yes, I’m talking about these “tweetable quotes” that you see all over the CoSchedule blog.

This strategy was adopted by lots of popular bloggers. I see the “tweet this” quotes on almost all of my favorite blogs.

Wonder if this actually works?

I once noticed Michael Hyatt using a “tweetable quote” by Jeff Goins in one of his articles:

It’s not fun to fail, but it just might be the only way to succeed. —Jeff GoinsClick To Tweet

I immediately jumped on Twitter to see if his readers were actually tweeting it.

And here’s what I saw there:

how to increase blog traffic with tweetable quotes

Here’s a real life example of how tweetable quotes can help increase blog traffic through contagious content.

Lucky for you, the guys from CoSchedule were kind enough to develop a free WordPress plugin that you can use to create tweetable quotes in your articles.

And if you have a little bit of money to invest, I invite you to check my own plugin, which is a little bit more advanced than the free one by CoSchedule. It’s called TweetDis.

And if you want to know why this plugin is worth every single penny—just let me know.

5. Optimize Your “Share Snippets”

So you’ve just learned what makes people share your articles. That opens up your viral loop.

To effectively close the loop, you need to optimize your “share snippets” to get the maximum “clicks per share”.

People should eagerly click on your article when they see some of their friends sharing it. This will guarantee that your article will go through a series of viral cycles and your blog traffic will fade very slowly.

how to increase blog traffic with more shares

Here’s how you squeeze more clicks out of your share snippets:

Step #1: Write an irresistible headline.

There is actually tons of advice on writing irresistible headlines.

All you need to do is simply apply all these tips until you come up with at least 5–7 headlines to choose from.

You can then go play with CoSchedule headline analyzer tool to pick the winning one.

I’m afraid there’s no magic bullet. The more headline variations you will write, the better you’ll get at it.

The guys from Upworthy are known to write 25 headlines per article before they settle with one (and so does CoSchedule):

Step #2: Attach images to your “share snippets”.

What usually catches your attention as you skim through your Facebook newsfeed?

Wait-wait!.. I know the answer! It’s images!

Most social networks allow you to attach images to the things that you share, and that’s an opportunity you can’t afford to ignore.

Let’s look at some data:

Photos are the most engaging type of content on Facebook, with a whopping 87% interaction rate! No other post type received more than a 4% interaction rate.

And attaching an image to your tweet can boost retweets by an impressive 35%.

how to increase blog traffic with graphics engagement

So in case an image is not being attached every time someone tweets your article—you’re seriously missing out.

Here’s how to set this up from a technical standpoint: Just install WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast and enable “Facebook Open Graph” and “Twitter card meta data” within its settings.

Once you do this, the plugin will attach the featured image of your article to every single share. Yes, it really is as simple as that.

BONUS: How To Turn Your Visitors Into Email Subscribers

In the headline of this post, I promised you 5 tactics that will make your content contagious. 

I’ve just listed them, and I really hope you’ve enjoyed the read.

But there’s one more content marketing tactic that I just can’t help sharing with you.

It has nothing to do with blog traffic (at least not initially), but it will grow your email list at a pace you’ve never seen before.

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This tactic is called “content upgrades”, and here’s how it works.

Most bloggers create a single “opt-in bribe” and pitch it everywhere on their blog: on their homepage, in the sidebar, on different popups, and slide-in forms.

And it works pretty well. 

But a single “opt-in bribe” can’t be relevant to every article that you have on your blog. People coming to read an article about “content marketing” are not interested in your e-book on “conversion rate optimization”.

A few smart bloggers realized that and started offering “content-specific opt-in bribes” and embed them right into the content of their articles.

I bet you’ve seen these yellow boxes offering you some bonus content.

Here’s an example from a blog of Brian Dean:

how to increase blog traffic with content upgrades

This is an example of how Brian Dean uses content upgrades at Backlinko. The downloads complement the context of his articles perfectly.

This tactic is called “content upgrades” and it converts readers into email subscribers at a crazy rate, because the “opt-in bribe” that you’re offering is highly relevant to the content of the article and actually complements it.

Here’s a case study of how I implemented this strategy on my own blog:

[CASE STUDY] How I Increased My Email Conversion Rate By 300% Using Content Upgrades

OK, now I feel that I’m leaving you with enough information to make you completely rethink how you approach content marketing.

Hope you loved my content marketing hacks and won’t mind sharing this article with others.

Or would you? :)

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How do you write contagious content to get more social shares and blog traffic?