Traffic can feel a bit like catch-22. You need people to share your posts but if you have no traffic … there’s no one to share…
At the start of 2014, I decided to prioritize my email list and grow my blog from a small side project to one of the top marketing blogs. In less than a year, traffic grew by more than 400%! Today, I want to show you 10 actionable strategies you can use to grow your own blog’s traffic each time you publish a new post.
1- Start Building And Prioritizing Your Email List
Growing your email list is an amazingly vicious cycle. You get subscribers, email them when an article goes live, they go read it and then share it with people. Then those people subscribe and the cycle delightfully continues.
But, to build an email list you have to ask for visitors email addresses. The easiest way to do that is to use plugins for your blog. I use the SumoMe plugin (built by AppSumo) and the apps List Builder and Scroll Box. The tools will help you start building an email list without any technical knowledge.
(Scroll Box is a great way to ask engaged readers to sign up towards the end of a post–you can set it to appear only after someone has read 50% or 75% of your post.)
The CoSchedule blog is a great example of what you should be doing if you want to build an email list. Each CoSchedule blog post there is a chance to sign up at the top and in the middle of the post. They also have a pop-up that has a persuasive offer to first time or one-off visitors
Now, if you had to pick only one place to ask for emails, where would you ask?
It’s not in a pop-up or a scroll box: it’s your homepage.
Before 2014, my homepage included links to recent blog posts, archives, and the menu bar. After using heatmaps, I removed all of the distractions and left visitors with only 1 option:
Now my most trafficked page is also my #1 email address generator. If you’re serious about growing your email list, make it extremely simple for each visitor to give you their email address.
2- Be Part Of A Community
I got involved in two key communities for marketers: GrowthHackers and Inbound.org. Before asking for anything from these communities, I did my best to spend time where my readers are, add value, comment in the forums, share articles and upvote other posts (not just OkDork posts).
Being part of these communities helped pinpoint what posts our target audience (other marketers) wanted to read, the common elements of the most liked/upvoted posts, and made it more natural to ask for help promoting OkDork content. As a result, by mid-2014 GrowthHackers and Inbound.org were the two largest referring sites to OkDork.
Engage your readers (or customers) where they are already spending time. Respond to their questions, suggest resources, add value every time you login or visit the site.
Find a forum, sub-reddit, or a similar site that carries your target audience, become part of the community, add value back, and then begin to submit your own high-quality content.
3- Publish Long Content
Arguably the biggest change that brought traffic to OkDork was reaching out to writers who had lots of marketing data that could be put into long form content.
Why? Because the content was outrageously good and exactly what our target audience/community wanted. In fact, the majority of viral articles are over 3,000+ words and explore a single topic in depth.
The longer the post the most shares it got. (Plus each guest writer notified their own email list and shared the post on Twitter which brought additional targeted traffic to OkDork.)
Although it may be tempting to write lots of short content or to ask guest writers to write short posts, set your standards high and publish long content that contains more of what your audience wants.
Take note of the posts that get lots of share within your community and make sure you do the same with each post. If your community is data driven include 10x as many statistics or if they are image driven add 10x more images than usual.
4- Build An Inner Circle
In May 2014, I put together a list of 15 to 20 friends, colleagues, fans that a) wanted to help me and b) were already enjoying the content on the blog. This “Inner Circle” or “Insiders List” reviewed upcoming posts and provided an early traffic boost to new posts — often by sharing it 24 to 48 hours before the post was sent out by email to my main list.
To build your own “Inner Circle” first list out:
- Interesting people within the community you are a part of;
- Customers/readers who provide constructive feedback;
- People who regularly send you the best articles or resources;
- Any people connected to special sites or channels you want to be on;
- And a few influencers who seem too good to be true.
After you have the list, send an email like the one above that explains why they were selected, what the list is, and what they’ll get. Offer them a way out so that you’re not spamming people each week.
Once you have their permission send an email from your personal account once a week or once every two weeks with a link to the latest blog post. It’s also important to occasionally help your Inner Circle with whatever they are working on.
5- Post On Popular Aggregate Sites
In the past, when a new post was live on OkDork I occasionally shared it on a few sub-reddits or a community site like GrowthHackers. There was no system and in the busyness of running a blog, there were times when it wasn’t shared at all.
To solve this two things happened:
- I developed an “Inner Circle” (above)
- Created a checklist of the top aggregate sites that referred traffic in the past.
The checklist helped me see which aggregate sites and sub-reddits had not yet posted the article. Most of the time the Inner Circle took care of sharing it on their favorite sites, but if a site was missing it was easy to remember to add it or reach out to someone I knew was active in that particular community or site.
To create your own checklist list out the top sites/groups/sub-reddits where your customers/visitors spend time.
6- Make Images and Posts Easy to Share
As traffic grows on your site, one of the most obvious ways to help it along is to make it easy to share the content on multiple channels. If a visitor has to copy the link, create a new email, and then share it — you’ll only have a few people sharing the article.
Again CoSchedule does an awesome job at this with its floating social icons on the left of each post and with an image sharing plugin to make sharing images easier.
On OkDork I added the Share plugin to so that on each post people can easily share it on the usual channels Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. The plugin also offers a bunch of other services like Evernote, Amazon Wishlist, Digg, and plain ol’ email.
I’m convinced that great long form content gets shares 1) because great content and 2) everyone wants their friends to think they read an indepth article — whether they actually read it or not– so make sure it’s as easy as possible to share!
7- Repromote Your Old Content
Repromoting old content was one of the easiest ways to grow traffic on OkDork. Every two months, we used Google Analytics to find content that hadn’t been visited over a certain threshold in the previous three months. (That threshold should vary depending on your own site.)
Then we scheduled each post to reshare it on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, etc. over the next three months. The advantage of this is you don’t have to do much work (no creativity required).
You can also repromote and schedule content you just posted as well. Here’s a simple graphic from CoSchedule to show you how:
8- Click To Tweet Quotes
In my most popular posts (most shared and organic search), I added Click to Tweet quotes throughout. While this had a smaller impact on overall traffic than some of the other methods, it is a more organic way to ask someone to share the post.
When you select the best quotes from an article you make it easier to read, share, and re-share. As you repromote old content, you’ll also see an uptick in the number of shares.
If you’re not already, you should be using the CoSchedule Plugin to make tweeting selections of your blog post a breeze. SumoMe also offers a highlighter that allows a user to “click to tweet” their own selections. It’s a nice complement to the CoSchedule plugin.
9- Send The Highlights Of Each Post In An Email
By now the tactics are getting really easy…but this is an important one. One of the biggest contributors to traffic came through the email list, but we found a simple way to drive traffic and get a boost in click through rates: making it easier and sexier to click through.
Emails announcing a new blog post tend to do one of three things:
- Mention 1 new post and include a lead paragraph
- Link out to multiple new posts each with a lead paragraph
- Include an entire post in the email
The first two aren’t terribly convincing— the meat of an article is almost never in the first paragraph! And the third option provides 0 reasons to actually click through and visit the site (meaning no additional traffic).
Beginning this past summer, when an OkDork goes out it mentions only 1 new post and breaks out the 3 of the most valuable insights. It’s extremely simple (example below) and doubled click through rate from an average of ~5-6% to ~12-15%.
Spend time figuring out what is most valuable to your audience and include those highlights in the email.
10- Publish on a Regular Schedule
The other thing I did was create a calendar that we followed closely to make sure that new posts were going out every week and we didn’t fall behind. If you’re reading this on CoSchedule you already know that publishing regularly is critical to traffic. Not only does it help you be consistent, it creates a healthy expectation within your community and for your readers.
A regular schedule made all of the other 9 strategies above doubly effective. In fact, if you’re not publishing regularly or at least with a consistent rhythm many of the tactics above will fall flat or produce few results.
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Each tactic above isn’t a silver bullet — doing only one tactic won’t put you on the front of the New York Times. However, combined the 10 strategies can help you grow your traffic and even surpass OkDork’s 400% growth.
To access the free tools mentioned above, visit SumoMe.com–each tool can help you grow your traffic through shares and your email list with sign up forms.