The worst thing you can do when you first create your blog is get caught up in the analytics, fretting because too few people are reading your content. These things take time, and if you focus on quality content and stick to the basics, then it will happen for you eventually. At least to some extent.
But there will come a time when you reach a plateau of sorts; a time when you need to start thinking proactively in order to increase your visitor count. And that’s what this chapter can help with.
There is a lot to cover here as there are many ways you can boost that visitor count and make those analytics stronger. If your site is not quite ready, if you’re still building content, then SEO should be your main goal. But if you’ve done all of that and are just looking for a boost, read on.
What Not To Do
Before we take a look at the things that you can do—and maybe should do—let’s cover the things that you should definitely not do. Some of these things have been mentioned in passing already, some will be covered later on. That’s because these are things that many bloggers do, and things that could do more damage to your blog than a shared hosting plan and a terrible copywriter. If you start looking for ways to boost your visitor count, if you start asking questions, then you’ll be offered some of these. You may also be offered them out of the blue (if your domain is not private, your details will be trawled using Whois bots and you will be spammed by everyone from web developers to SEO “experts”).
As tempting as they are, avoid them at all costs. This is one of those things that really is too good to be true.
Cheap Paid SEO: There are so-called SEO experts out there that are willing to work for very little, often around $5 an hour. You can find them on Upwork, Guru and similar platforms and they’ll respond in their droves to any marketing project that you post. It is true that $5 goes much further in some countries and that you can get specialists for less in these countries, but not at this price. These experts will promise you the world and then deliver something that damages the reputation of your site. You lose out, your hard work is undone, and you have to pay for the pleasure. They use many techniques to do this, including the ones below. Just remember that while actual SEO experts do exist and while you can pay less for ones in poorer countries, ones not attached to major firms and ones without experience (we’ll discuss true SEO experts further down) will still cost well above $30 an hour, while first-world experts can make hundreds of dollars an hour.
Directory & Search Engine Packages: One of the old-school ways of increasing your visit count was to pay for a package that promised to add your site to a number of directories and search engines. This was a great money-spinner for web hosts back in the day. They tagged a random monetary value to this package and offered it as a “special” offer when you purchased a plan or domain. But like most special “one-time-only” offers, these weren’t all they seemed. Search engines will trawl your site if it’s connected to others (and if it’s worth anything, it will be) and directories are not what they once were. It will happen anyway and you don’t need to apply. Also, Google clamped down on link trading and link building programs some time ago and most of these sites (there are exceptions) do more harm than good.
Spamming: In no form is spamming acceptable. Do not pay for email lists, do not spam comment sections or social media, and do not harass bloggers with copy and pasted messages. You’ll raise red flags for your blog and your reputation will take a hit as well.
Paid Tweets: There is something to be said for Facebook ads and even Twitter ads, but don’t be tempted into paying for sponsored tweets. These may have been effective at one point, but only if you had the money to pay people with millions of genuine followers. Anyone who is not a celebrity and has tens of thousands of followers has either spent months following-back low quality accounts, or has paid for fake followers. In any case, neither of these are effective: Also, Twitter users who do pay attention tend to ignore anything that contains the “ad” hashtag, and this is now mandatory on all paid tweets.
Backlinks: Be very suspicious of any person, site or service that promises hundreds or thousands of backlinks for very little money. Even if they claim that those sites have a high DA or PR, it’s not what it seems. There is a reason high DA sites can make hundreds of dollars from posting a single “dofollow” link, and if someone is promising you hundreds of these links for less than $50, something is amiss.
Landing Pages: While effective, landing pages are not really suited to blogs. They require a lot of time and effort (not to mention money, if you’re not creating your own content) which is better invested in other areas.
Fiver: Let’s keep this simple, while gig-based platforms do have their uses, and while Fiverr is great for a gimmick and a bit of fun, nothing that costs $5 in this industry is worth your time.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s focus on the things that you should do, things that can give your analytics a boost.
Be Active in Your Niche Online
There are a few ways in which you can do this. The first is to simply respond to the comments that make it onto your blog. WordPress allows all readers to add their comments and these are a great way to boost the SEO value of a single article. Remember that any publicity is good publicity. If you write about a controversial topic, then you’ll get people who comment to say that they are on your side, and people who comment to call you every name under the sun. But a comment is a comment, and if there is a mixture of both, then that will kickstart several arguments, which in turn will kickstart a flourish of comments.
Comment threads have been known to become viral in themselves and they have even started memes. If someone is involved in a comment argument, which seems to be the norm these days, they will also be more inclined to share that article.
Of course, you will get a lot of abuse and if you’re not used to criticism, then that can be hard to take. But trust us, it will come anyway, and at least this way you can profit from it. There are ways you can close you blog down to comments, but this is not advised.
What is advised, however, is that you tweak the settings a little. Even if your site is not generating a lot of hits, it will still be flooded with spam. These are very repetitive though, which makes it easy to block them.
Click on Settings >> Discussion. This is where you can manage your comment settings. You want to allow “people to post comments on new articles” and “link notifications from other blogs on new articles”. But you want to stress that the “Comment author must fill out name and email”. This is all you need. Don’t be tempted to insist that users are registered, because this is very limiting.
You should also check both of the options under “Before a Comment Appears”. At this point, you’re exposed to spam. Not a lot of it, as the fact they need to enter a name and email will cut much of it down. But spammers are persistent. To get around this, automatically block anything with more than 1 link and include key spam words in the blacklist. You will get an idea of what these are when the spam rolls in, but make sure you don’t block anything that relates to your content.
As an example, a friend of How to Start a Blog recently launched a blog relating to stock trading, and within a week of getting hits, he was inundated with spam relating to handbags, all offering knock-off gear. He added “handbags” to the blacklist, as well as many of the brand names the spammers were using. It worked, and the spam reduced significantly. But if you run a fashion website, you will need to find another angle.
As well as your own blog, you should look to comment on other blogs. You will find that many bloggers comment on your posts and some of them may even recommend that you read their content. This is fine and although it’s technically spamming, it’s okay to overlook if they are polite about it. In fact, if you take the time to read their post and to make a comment of your own, you will establish a connection that could point regular readers of that blog towards yours.
This is small scale stuff though, and only really worthwhile if you’re just starting out and are happy to do the legwork if it means a few extra people who will read your content. You will get even better results if you post on well-known blogs. Just make sure that those blogs are in your niche, and make sure you don’t spam a link to your blog too much.
You should also look for communities that cover your niche, from message boards to Facebook groups and everything else you can find. In most cases you will be allowed to post a link to your blog in your signature, and in all cases you should be able to discuss your blog in threads or chats. You won’t always get “dofollow” links, and these are actually very hard to come by these days when you use those methods. But it’s not about backlinks, it’s about putting your blog in front of people who follow your niche. And you’ll find that the more niche it is, the more likely someone is to pay your blog a visit when they see a link or read a well-informed thread, post or status update.
This may sound small scale. But one reader can do a lot, especially if you have solid, original content. One person can share to hundreds of their online connections. And if just a dozen of those friends do the same, and a dozen of each of their friends do the same, then you’ve put your blog in front of thousands of valued readers in a short space of time.
make sure you don’t spam a link to your blog too much
Be Active in Your Niche Offline
Regardless of your niche, there are usually some events that you can attend that will get your face and your blog out there. We’re not suggesting that you fly halfway across the world just to hand out business cards. But if there are local events, then by all means go along.
Print business cards in advance and use a program like Lanyrd to check when important people in your niche and on your contact’s list are going to be at key events. Offline Networking is just as important today as it has always been. Fellow bloggers and webmasters will ignore your emails and your messages, treating them as spam, but if you’re talking to them in person, they’ll hear you out.
This is a great way to collaborate and to learn.
Use Social Media
It’s important to use social media when promoting your blog, but you have to use it properly. We have already discussed starting social media pages and getting some followers so that your accounts don’t remain empty or inactive. From there you just need to share each blog post to each of your accounts.
To simplify the process, you can use a social media management program, which will allow you to connect all of your accounts and post to each of them. The following programs are all worth considering:
There are also Twitter specific programs, which can be essential if you have a Twitter business account. That’s because you can’t schedule tweets using Twitter (although you can schedule posts using Facebook). You need to either go through Twitter Ads (their paid sponsorship program) or use a third-party program to do this. Some of these are very simple, completely free and web-based; some are a little more complicated and costly. The saying of “you get what you pay for” doesn’t always apply here. But there are some marked differences between the basic free programs and the feature-rich paid programs.
Twuffer: A free, easy-to-use web-based program. It’s easy to schedule tweets, but there are limitations, such as the fact that you can’t add images or any form of multimedia to those tweets.
TweetDeck: Arguably the best program of its type, and one that covers everything.
ManageFlitter: A free program (although there are paid features) that lets you flush unfollowers, spam accounts and more from your Twitter. There are features being added all of the time and this program has always been one of the best of its type.
Tweepi: This program is very similar to ManageFlitter, with the interface and a couple of minor features being the only differences.
Audiense: This used to be known as SocialBro, a name that’s hard to read without picturing a group of drunken frat boys high-fiving each other. Presumably, that’s why they changed it, and rightly so. Audiense focuses on insights and analytics. It can help you to target your tweets and to get more from Twitter ads.
Don’t just post and then hope you get lucky. If you’re using Facebook, attach an image to each post, keep the written content minimal, make sure the image is linked to your article, and use relevant hashtags. For Twitter, include several relevant hashtags so that your content will end up in front of people who also use those hashtags, whether to post or to read.
Always be on the lookout for new connections. Follow someone who likes your post on Twitter; invite someone who likes your post on Facebook.
You can also join social sharing sites like Reddit and StumbleUpon. These can be difficult to get your head around if you’re not used to the format. But these are some of the biggest websites on the internet and there is a lot of value in them if you know how to use them.
There are also social sharing sites for specific niches, which tend to be more accommodating when it comes to posting links and may even be easier to get visitors from. You’ll have to do some research into your own niche. But to give you a head-start, here are a few niche social sharing sites:
You can also try your hand at Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+ and even Instagram. Just make sure you focus on the main ones first, the ones more likely and more obvious. If you have the time and the inclination, then you can try some of the others. Some bloggers have found their niche with obscure networks they barely gave a second thought to when they started out, only to end up getting most of their traffic from them.
Encourage Repeat Visitors
Readers have vast amounts of content at their fingertips. Even if they love your article and your site, they may never return. They may not even pay attention to your blog name or to you, the blogger. But if you make it easy for them to keep track, they might return and they might turn into a fan and a regular reader.
Social media buttons can help with this. Once you have your accounts setup, just add the plugins and connect them. You should also look to add an RSS feed, which will alert readers whenever you post something new and will give each new post an immediate boost without any initial advertising on your part. In the beginning, such a feed isn’t going to do you many favors. But in the long-run it’s a great way of keeping regular readers onboard and attracting new ones.
There are many RSS Feed plugins for WordPress, including:
Feedburner (probably the best one available)
Simple Feed States
RSS Links Manager
Know Where to Focus Your Efforts
Pay attention to your analytics to understand where your hits are coming from. If something is not working but you think it should be, then re-double your efforts and then check back in a few weeks. If it’s still not working, you’re either doing something wrong, or you just need to focus on something else.
Find out what works and then focus more time on that area. If you spend equal amounts of time and money on four different avenues, but the return you get in terms of hits is closer to 60/10/10/10 than it is to 25/25/25/25, then clearly you should be spending more time on marketing efforts that attract 60% of your visitors and less on ones that attract just 10%.
Pay attention to your analytics to understand where your hits are coming from.