Updated: March 20, 2015
It’s the question on everyone’s mind: How can I get more traffic to my blog or website?
Website traffic can be elusive. While there are no guaranteed solutions, there are some good practices. Here are my tips:
Create valuable content
Whether you’re writing posts, publishing ebooks, creating videos, recording podcasts or producing content in any other form, make it valuable and high quality.
If you consistently produce excellent content, people will naturally want to get more, and then they’ll visit. On the other hand, there’s no quicker way to ding your online reputation, and therefore hurt your traffic than by posting flimsy or too sales-y content.
Be active on social media
Once you’ve got your own site, get active on social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.). Never miss a natural opportunity to refer your followers back to your site. Be explicit about it sometimes. Check out my call to action tips.
The biggest tip I can offer about being active on social media is hang out where your target audience hangs out and when they hang out! Focus your efforts there.
Always link to your website from social media
This is a no-brainer, but missed my some. Make sure your bio includes a working link to your site: Facebook (here’s how), Twitter (more tips), Pinterest (tips for that too), LinkedIn, Google+ (here are my tips), etc. You might also consider signing up for Klout.
And put a note on your calendar (every 3-6 months) to check your bios and make sure they’re current.
You don’t have to provide a link to your homepage. Provide a link to the content the audience on a specific platform would be most interested in. This is called deep linking because you’re linking deep within your site, not just the homepage.
Put your link in the right place on social media
Also, when linking, note how much space you have. Don’t let your link get buried underneath the “Show More” prompt. For example, look at the mistake I made on this Facebook post. I included a URL in the text of my post, but I put it too far down and it got buried.
Only after the “See More” link is clicked does it appear:
It’s better to put the URL further up in the text so it doesn’t require an extra click for the user.
YouTube is another common place this happens. You can paste a URL in your video’s description, but by default, YouTube shows only the first few lines of the description. Make sure you put it near the top!
When it comes to building traffic, friends are much more likely to promote your stuff (and you’re more likely to promote their stuff which is important too). Be willing to step out, make connections with people and be real friends. Allow time to build the relationship before you ask them to promote for you.
Attend IRL events
There’s no better way to jumpstart relationship building than attending IRL (in real life) events. These might be conferences, workshops, meetups or even one-on-one meetings (be wise of course). Keep your eyes and ears peeled for opportunities to meet others face to face. The benefits of this extend far beyond traffic-building. Attending a conference in 2010 was a major turning point for me. Read my networking tips for more.
Leave useful comments on blogs & social media
If your goal is to drive traffic to your site, leave a comment that adds to the conversation, without hijacking it by making it all about you. Offer something valuable, funny or useful instead of simply “Great post!” (unless simple encouragement is your goal, which is good too). Choose strategic places (i.e. where your target audience hangs out) to comment, not just anywhere. Read more commenting tips here.
Leave a link to your site in comments you leave, the right way
Most blogs that allow you to leave a comment require you to register your name and email address first. They also usually give you the option of leaving your URL. Do it. Every time. Where indicated. Not in the body of your comment itself (unless you have an exceptional, super-d-duper reason to do so). Leaving a link to your site in your comment or “signing” your comment with a link to your site is considered poor netiquette by many.
Deep link in your comments URL
Here’s another deep linking tips. When registering to leave a comment on a blog, there is no rule that states you must leave a link to your homepage. I recommend you find a knock-em-dead post related to the comment you are writing and leave that link when you register your comment. That way, people who are already interested in the topic can get right to the spot where you offer more info.
Link to your site in your email signature
This is a simple thing to do and it highlights your site to every person you email. If you use Gmail like I do, I explained how to add a signature to Gmail in this post.
When you guest post on someone else’s blog, you get exposure to a whole lot of people that might not otherwise stumble on your site by themselves. Not only that, if you land a guest post on a blog that gets high traffic, it’s great for your SEO. Here are my tips about guest posting if you want to go this route.
Try a different medium
Switch things up. If you normally post on your blog, try Periscope or do a Hangout and it’ll be available on YouTube. Try a podcast or create a presentation and put it on SlideShare. A different medium (likely) means a fresh audience, and therefore more potential traffic.
Take part in forums
You can find all kinds of forums on just about any topic. If you’re not sure how to find them, simply search for “[your topic/niche] forums” (ex. “baking forums”). Try with and without quotes.
Put a link to your site in your forum signature
Be reasonable about this. Signatures full of links and/or tons of text and/or blinking things makes one look amateurish at best, and spammy at worst. A forum changed the course of Crystal’s blogging journey.
Brand some merchandise
Many years ago, I made myself a goofy t-shirt with a quote and my website domain in tiny lettering beneath it. It was available on hoodies, mugs and more. If I was to do it again, I’d make my domain center stage and much larger.
I used a site called Cafe Press to make mine. I bought a t-shirt for myself, and surprisingly, others bought my design as well. You might just get others to market for you too!
Link your Facebook Profile to your Page
So many people don’t do this properly and it makes me sad. The about section of your Facebook personal profile has a spot for your Work & Education. It’s the perfect place to link to your Facebook Page although for many, it leads to a dead-end page. Follow the instructions on this page.
Make sharing easy for readers
Use social sharing buttons. Speaking of sharing, make sure your sharing plugin or service isn’t making you lose out on traffic!
Stop comparing yourself
Glance at what others are doing, don’t gaze at what others are doing. Keep tabs, don’t keep score. It’s helpful to watch and observe but you’re wasting precious time if you obsess about the traffic of others and how yours measures up.
Flip your discouragement thinking
Don’t be discouraged. I know, easier said than done. It’s a bummer to look at others and wish you were where they are. The thing is, we’ve all been there. Every blogger or website owner is, has been or will be at the exact point you are now. Feeling late to the game? Think of it this way: start today and you’re way ahead of the people who won’t start their blogs or websites for weeks, months or years. But you’re not comparing yourself, right? 🙂
One of the main reasons you shouldn’t spend too much time watching what others are doing is because you risk adopting too much of them. And then you’re just a clone and why would anyone pay attention when you’re not the real thing?
Sign up for the long haul
I know it seems like you should build a blog or website and people will find it, end of story. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Sites you find easily have been around a long time and have a massive web of connections underneath. It takes time to build this sort of foundation so understand that it will probably take a few years for your site to be easily found too.
One of the greatest traffic-building mistakes
Update: I no longer think what I wrote below is entirely the case. It’s not that it’s wrong, it’s just changed. The basic advice for many years (reflected in my advice below) is to “not build your house on rented land.” In other words, share only snippets of content on platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. but always direct people to your site for the rest. I still think you should definitely have your own site. I still think you should make backups of content you share elsewhere (try IFTTT to do this), but I now think there is value in sharing great content on other sites if serves your audience and broadens your portfolio.
There’s one thing that makes me sad when it comes to building traffic. I see a lot of people working hard to drive traffic to their profiles or pages on social media, at the expense of their blogs or websites.
There’s nothing wrong with building traffic on social media of course, but when I see people writing long, beautiful updates on Facebook for example, I think to myself, Noooooo!
Instead of housing your best content on a site you don’t own, turn it into content on your own site.
By all means share it on Facebook, but share it as a link to your site or post a teaser on Facebook and then direct people to the full post on your blog (or in your newsletter)! Better to stay in control and maintain ownership of the stuff you create!
Granted, there are times when posting on a social media site makes more sense than on your own site (YouTube videos come to mind), but if you do that, at the very least, back up everything you might want to keep for the future.
Build your own digital assets. There’s obviously not much point in building traffic if you have nowhere to send that traffic, right? Get yourself a blog or website if you don’t already have one. It’s one of the top three digital assets you should build, the others being your email list and any products you create.
Related: What is Good Traffic?