Running a blog often sounds very appealing. You’ll have a place to share your thoughts, build a community, and also generate some much-needed cash. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Well, the reality is it’s not as easy to achieve this as a lot of people make out. I hear the same old things time after time: “Just create awesome content” or “Build a social media following so that you can drive traffic back to your blog.”
It sounds obvious, doesn’t it? That’s because it is obvious.
Who in their right mind would start a blog with the intention of producing crap content and completely neglecting social media? Morons, that’s who.
The reality is you could be producing the most awesome content in the world, but if nobody gets their eyeballs on it then it all goes to waste.
I’ve been blogging for a fair amount of time now and have learnt a lot of tough lessons along the way. During my early days of blogging, the thing that I really craved was advice on how to generate traffic without having to spend a fortune doing it. Most bloggers don’t blog full-time, at least not at the beginning, so they don’t have thousands (or even hundreds) of pounds (or dollars) to be spending every month to get things off the ground.
Within this post, I’m going to show you some ways that you can generate traffic to your blog without breaking the bank. I’m going to mention some paid tools, but nothing that will cost you a fortune!
To kick things off, let’s look at driving traffic through from the search engines, and in particular finding some low-hanging fruit.
Long Tail Keyword Research
One of the first personal blogs that I set up was my travel blog. This became my testing ground for new link building methods and I was really keen on making a big impact within the search engines (all within a tiny budget – i.e. under $50 a month).
During the early stages of my campaign, I made some rookie mistakes on the keywords that I was going after and it really set me back. I decided that I wanted to rank for search terms like travel blog and cash in on huge amounts of traffic to the homepage. I spent massive amounts of time and resources in doing so, and I actually managed to reach the bottom half of page 1 for around 2 weeks. This then died down because I was going up against some of the big boys in the industry that were literally spending over 100x more than me.
It wasn’t the best use of my time, and to be honest, the reward wasn’t great. Most users that came through from this kind of search term bounced from the site and didn’t look at my articles, which is what I really wanted.
It was time for a change.
I shifted my focus away from short-tail, highly competitive keywords and moved to finding some low-hanging fruit in the form of longer, more specific search queries. The result? Just check out this snapshot of my Google Analytics from last year (it’s search traffic only):
This made me stand up and take notice. I’d increased traffic from search by over 450% – not bad. What’s more, the visitors were staying on the site because the content was directly relevant to the query they were searching for.
Now, you’re probably thinking, “That’s great, Matt, but I’m not an SEO expert and don’t really know where to start with keyword research.”
Don’t worry, I’m hearing ya!
This is where I’ll suggest a tool. The tool in question is Keyword Eye and it costs £9.99 per month (~$16) for the Pro package, but there’s also a free version.
The reason why I’m suggesting this tool is because it uses data from SEMrush, an awesome tool that costs a significantly larger amount (the top package is $149.50 per month).
The thing with Keyword Eye is that it’s really simple to use. It has a ton of advanced features, but the main feature I want to talk about is the Question Finder feature.
In a nutshell, the tool allows you to plug-in a general topic and it will gather a number of informational queries related to it. In the example above, I’ve searched for blogging. This has returned a long list of questions that people regularly search for related to blogging, along with the search volume and competition scores. This is perfect for finding some opportunities.
There’s a post on the Keyword Eye blog that goes into a little more detail about this feature – you give it a read here.
My approach, on a basic level, is to pull off a list of broad topics that are related to your niche and then plug them into the Question Finder. From here you can start creating content focused around them to drive through organic search traffic over time.
This is exactly what I did with my travel blog and the results were a dramatic and sustained growth in traffic. Here’s a small snapshot of my Webmaster Tools from the past couple of weeks:
As you can see, the vast majority of these search terms that are bringing through traffic to the blog are very specific, long-tail queries.
Extra Reading: I recorded a full review and tutorial of Keyword Eye last year that goes into some of the other features of the tool. One thing to note is that there’s been a TON of new features added, but this should give you an insight into what else it can do.
Social Media Scheduling
I can’t stress the importance of growing a social media following enough. For bloggers, it’s a hugely powerful resource to have when you’re looking to build traffic to your content.
Having said that, it’s not always easy when you’ve got a minimal budget at your disposal. This is where you have to make the most out of what you’ve got by being smart with your social sharing.
I’m not going to go into the details of choosing the right social channel to pursue because there are tons of articles out there that you can read which directly focus on this (if you’re interested, check out this, this or this).