Starting a blog really could not be easier, thanks largely to content management systems like WordPress. However, setting up and running a successful blog is a different story entirely.
As part of a broader digital strategy, a regularly updated blog can be worth its weight in gold. Whether running an ecommerce enterprise, looking to boost brand recognition or simply looking to profit from paid ads, blogs are the ultimate business tools.
Like with any online business venture, traffic holds the key to running a successful blog. Without traffic, a blog is just a bunch of words and visuals floating around unnoticed in cyberspace.
All well and good, but how can you ensure your blog stands out from the crowd and gets noticed. With WordPress alone publishing more than 70 million blog posts per month, what can you do to boost traffic volumes and maintain them?
A Word on Analytics
Before getting started, it is essential to acknowledge the importance of continuously tracking analytics. Unless you’re always keeping an eye on who’s visiting your blog and who isn’t, you’ll miss out on key insights for improvement.
Other than this, each of the following should be brought into your strategy for bigger and better blog traffic:
1. Create Audience Profiles
Prior to publishing content on your blog, take the time to get to know your target audience on a deeper level. Ask as many questions as necessary to help you build a picture of who you are writing for. What kind of age group are you targeting? What is their location? What is their occupation or education level? What kinds of problems are you trying to solve for them? What is their preferred content format? What would you want if you were in their position?
The answers to these and other important questions should be factored into each and every piece of content you publish. Unless it fulfils every key requirement for your target audience, rethink it and rework it.
2. Conduct Strategic Keyword Research
A common mistake among bloggers is ‘guessing’ the keywords they should be targeting. Or perhaps, attempting to use a certain amount of intuition to figure them out. In reality, the only workable approach to keyword research is actual keyword research.
There are countless free and paid keyword research tools available, which can more or less do the hard work on your behalf. You simply to enter a search term, your blog’s URL or the URL of one of your competitors and all the information you need is returned in seconds.
3. Focus on Useful Content
Entertaining content will always be popular, but there is far too much of it doing the rounds. By contrast, genuinely useful content is much thinner on the ground. This refers to things like opinion pieces, comparison articles, tutorials, how-to guides and so on. Basically, anything that has practical value to the recipient.
These are the types of articles that should form the backbone of your blogging strategy. They can be interspersed with light-hearted entertainment pieces, but keeping things genuinely useful will keep your readers hooked. It can also work wonders for SEO, as Google always prioritises content that is genuinely useful.
4. Prioritise Readability
It’s often possible to assess the readability of a piece at a glance. Precisely why unattractively presented text is one of the leading causes of elevated bounce rates. Short paragraphs, legible fonts, plenty of white space, catchy subheadings – all essential.
If time permits, you can take things to town with an automated readability and SEO tool like Yoast. Though when using tools like these, it’s important not to lose sight of the importance of writing for people – not for machines. If an algorithm is instructed to write in a way that goes against your actual voice/tone, proceed with caution.
5. Create More Internal Links
Time and time again, Google has emphasised the importance of internal linking. It improves site navigation, boosts readability for crawlers and is a major SEO contributor. It’s also one of the quickest and easiest ways to boost the performance of your blog.
Internal linking should be a routine task, incorporated into every piece of content you publish. Link to primary landing pages, category pages, individual product pages and other relevant blog posts. Don’t get carried away with the numbers – a handful per post is more than enough to get the job done.
6. Work on Building Backlinks
Likewise, the importance of good quality organic backlinks has never been greater. Even if you run a relatively low-key blog, you still need to take the time to build backlinks. From time to time, pitch a piece of content you’re particularly proud of to an authoritative website as a guest post. Link swaps can also be easy to arrange, wherein you offer to post a link on your site in return for the favour.
One important note – buying backlinks outright is highly inadvisable. Google recently reminded publishers of the potential consequences of buying even the highest authority backlinks. Purchased backlinks across the board are overlooked and discounted entirely by Google. They hold no value and if anything could have a negative effect on your SEO performance.
7. Keep Things Visually Attractive
The visual appeal of your blog will make a big difference regarding who comes back and who doesn’t. Examples of visual content to improve the user experience include infographics, images, charts and so on. Quite simply, anything that improves the aesthetic quality and overall value of the content you publish.
Ideally, you should be looking to create your own unique visual content from scratch. Curating from other resources and crediting the owner is fine, but you’re technically just regurgitating what’s already available.
8. Publish More Video Content
There’s no shortage of options to explore where video content is concerned. Popular options include screencasts, slideshows, tutorials with voice overs, interviews and vlogs. Research has shown that the average user spends more time on blog posts with video content than those comprising just images and text.
In addition, the major search engines look favourably on sites with plenty of video content. As it’s what today’s web user wants, it’s what Google and Co recommend. Curated video content is again fine, but original video content is exponentially more effective.
9. Request User-Generated Content
UGC exists in a wide variety of formats and serves a long list of important functions. Just a few examples include user reviews, guest posts, testimonials, instructional videos and even simple comments. In a nutshell, anything created by your audience members that can be published on your blogs.
User-generated content has a tendency to be far more engaging and influential than conventional blog content. People are instinctively more likely to listen to their peers than the brands attempting to secure their business. As an added bonus, user-generated content is also 100% free of charge.
10. Share Your Older Articles on Social Media
Newly published posts fade into the background quite quickly, when promoted on social media. You publish an article, you spread the word and a bunch of people check it out. A day or so later, it’s gone – long before countless other potential readers had a chance to see it.
This is why it can be useful to regularly promote your older articles on social media. Keep a record of the posts you’re most proud of and believe have the highest potential for generating traffic. While publishing new content, refer people back to your older posts on a regular basis. Better yet, repurpose and republish anything you feel deserves a second shot on your blog.
11. Host Q&A Sessions
Even if you would prefer not to do it in real-time, you can still use your blog as a Q&A platform. Select a subject of importance to your readers, invite their questions and answer them accordingly. The same can also be just as effective in reverse, where you ask the questions and request answers from your readers in the comments.
Questions in general have a tendency to be much more engaging than conventional content. They make people think, they generate discussion and they give people the opportunity to get on the soap box and share their thoughts. They also indicate that you have a genuine interest in your target audience and its opinions.
12. Reach Out to Influencers
Last but not least, handing over vast sums of cash is not the only way to get influencers on board. Nor is it the best way of getting an influencer to promote your business, your products, your services or your blog. If you’re doing something right, they should be willing to promote you to their audiences for free.
Scour social media for micro-influencers within your niche. These are the influencers that are not only affordable to work with, but tend to have much greater influence over their compact audiences. High-profile influencers and famous faces may have much bigger audiences, but can also be difficult to take seriously.