Starting a blog is pretty simple. Actually getting people to visit it is hard. It’s not enough to just create great content and hope they will come…
Because they won’t.
Today’s successful blogs dig into a deep bag of tricks that include SEO, design and analytics…and then combine these elements into ever more advanced tactics that help them drive traffic to their sites, grow their audience and rank high in the search engines.
Here’s a list of ten of those tactics that I’ve had great success with in the last couple of years to help you increase the traffic to your blog.
Make it easy for people to find your content over the web
One of the latest developments at Google is author markup. This feature allows you to connect all of your content across the web beneath one author/bio profile.
For instance, here’s what Danny Sullivan looks like on the search engine results page on a search for “SEO advice”:
The image of Danny sets him apart from other SEOs, and if you click on the “by Danny Sullivan” link you land on his Google+ page:
Click on the “More by Danny Sullivan” and you get a Google results page dedicated to his content:
As you can see adding author markup feature to you social identity will improve your chances in search results, increasing click throughs to your content.
Implementing author markup isn’t easy, however, unless you check out AJ Kohn’s guide on how to implement REL=AUTHOR. This is a great guide that AJ put together with the help of three Google engineers.
Strategically join relevant audience communities
One thing about link building and SEO strategy that gets missed so often is the relationship…actually getting to know people is the bedrock to getting links.
You do this by participating with your audience where they are hanging out. A really great way to make this very strategic is to use Google’ doubleclick planner.
Here’s how it works. Drop in a relevant web address…
Then copy down the list of sites that it creates:
You can start at the top of that list and start visiting, reading and sharing comments on those sites. In time you will start to create relationships with some of the other readers that will lead to links and traffic.
Doubleclick will also give you an idea of the typical interests of your audience (based upon the web address you enter):
I’ve found this list great for strategically pursuing other industries that might need my help. It’s also a great way to come up with content for guests posts.
As you add value to these different communities, people will start rewarding you with links and traffic. Avoid spamming and dropping self-promotion links…the community will ignore you if you do that.
Use Super-Sized Images, Photos and Illustrations
Last year the 2011 Technorati State of the Blog report stated that 90 percent of bloggers share some type of media on their blogs.
Photos are the most popular:
But when it comes to great blog/site design and attracting links, just sharing any old photo won’t do the trick. Besides, why not leverage the excellent resolutions of new monitors by sharing beautiful photos?
This was the very point behind Boston Globe’s Big Picture blog. Every day they share some of the best photos on a certain topic. The images are big and bold…filling up at over 990 pixels wide. They are hard to ignore and got the blog picked up by Time as one of 2011’s best blogs.
Now that’s a great link to have!
Even though it’s been less than a year since their last redesign, Fast Company redesigned their blog so they emphasize photos and images on their site.
It’s reviving it’s readership with these outsized photos, drawing readers and links alike. Some sites like Cabin Porn are even taking it farther by filling the entire screen. This kind of out-sized use of photos leads to new viewers and links.
Think Outside of the Social Media Sharing Box
Facebook, Twitter and Google+ aren’t the only social sites that have the power to push traffic to your site. Other niche communities can do the same thing:
The idea is to go through a list of social networking sites, identify the ones that would be relevant to your industry and then systematically add value. As you build up relationships with users of those sites you’ll eventually start to gain links and followers.
Working these other social sites will also help you develop content for you blog posts. Watch to see what is gaining popularity in content and discussions and then create posts that address those issues.
By the way, back in December Reddit served over 2 billion page views:
…so you should not ignore that source for an opportunity. See if there is a subreddit you should join.
Join Question-and-Answer Sites
The best way to leverage these question-and-answer sites is to try to provide value on discussions that are important, interesting but have not had a lot of answers.
Here’s one…the “best SEO strategy.”
You can also look for questions that are getting a lot of attention because they are on the site’s home page, making the rounds on the social web or ranking well in search engines.
When you answer in a way that provides a substantial solution to a person’s problem, providing relevant links and data, you will get the attention of anyone who is in the discussion or joins.
I’ve also found that you can put links back to your site and not get called a spammer as long as they are significant to the conversation.
Jump into Trending Discussions with Thought Leaders
There are a few sites out there that present a great opportunity for engaging readers on important issues and getting the attention of those thought leaders.
As you strategically choose these sites and dive into the conversation, you could get some links and traffic as part of the process.
A great example of this was when Rand Fishkin jumped on Fred Wilson’s AVC blog to disagree about a post Fred had written about marketing. Fred wrote a follow up the next day with a link back to Rand’s post.
You can find the latest buzz and trending conversations by using sites like TechMeme, Topsy, Alltop, MediaGazer and PopURLs. These are quick sites you can scan to find headlines that might be of interest to you.
Design Around These 3 Crucial Elements
A lot of the things I’ve been discussing up to this point are off-page optimization and link building tactics…so now it s a good time to discuss what your site looks like and how it performs.
You could spend a substantial amount of time involved in all of the above tactics, but if your site is not clean and beautiful, then you may not get the links. So you’ve got to build great, usable design.
But it also needs to be fast. So, when designing your site and to make the most out of your SEO link building efforts, follow these three tips ruthlessly!
- Build a beautiful web design – We are in a time where sentiment search is growing, so what a user actual thinks and feels about your site will impact rank, links and conversion. Invest in a great design!
- Site speed – This is essential. A slow site will drive traffic away. In fact, Google proved that users are much happier when search is faster. To test this they slowed down their results by as little as 400 milliseconds and reduced the number of searches by half a percent! So, evaluate your site speed.
- Important content above the fold – Research has shown that people do scroll, but more than 80% stay above the fold. Keep the critical stuff in that top 768 pixels.
One of the neatest ways to measure the success of marketing blogs has been Ad Age’s Power 150 List.
This is a list that ranks the top marketing blogs based on a few key KPIs. The genius behind the list is how it drives traffic back to its site, making it a very powerful link bait tool.
In this particular case, the Power 150 is called “ego bait” because it appeals to the ego of those on the list. And if you are on the list, then you have the option of embedding the Power 150 badge on you site, which then…you guessed it…links back to Ad Age.
That’s a very powerful SEO traffic driver.
This can work for you by creating a top ten list and then offering a badge for those who make it on to the list. Write to Done’s Top Ten Blogs for Writers is a great example.
Crawl and Validate Your Site
By the way, one of your first steps to enhancing your site and using advanced SEO tactics to drive traffic to your site is to determine where your site is by crawling and validating it.
What exactly should you validate? Here’s a checklist:
- Accessibility (Section 508 and WAI Standards)
- Dead links
- Multiple browsers
- Multiple devices
Now, more importantly, how do you validate your site? Use these two tools: Crawl Tools by SEOmoz or visit the W3C validation tools. Both of these tools will help you find all the problems that need to be fixed on your site…and the priority…before you start link building.
Repeat the process until you’ve got a clean site.
Test, Track, Measure and Tweak to Improve Success
No campaign is complete without analytics. So all this SEO and link building work you are pouring into your site can not be improved if you don’t measure results.
Here’s what you have to do at the minimum:
- Google Analytics – Create an account, embed the tracking code on your site and start collecting data. Do this immediately to create a benchmark before you start any kind of campaign. Understand where you are before you try to grow. That’s your simplest measure of success.
- Webmaster Tools – Sign up for both Google and Bing webmaster tools to stay on top of the data that your site is generating. Bing may not deliver the same amount of traffic as Google, but it is sending roughly 30% of search traffic, and is likely to grow. Don’t ignore it!
- RSS Feed Analytics – More than likely you will be pushing out content through an RSS feed so make sure you are paying attention to these metrics, too. You can do this with Google Analytics.
- Browser Tests – You’ll also want to make sure that your design and the photos that you are sharing on your site are looking good across browsers. This doesn’t mean all browsers, but a general rule of thumb is to test on a browser with at least 2% market share. Chrome, Internet Explorer, Opera and Safari are all safe bets.
- Online Usability – While code analytics are great for tracking online behavior you are still left to interpret the results. With a usability test you can listen to what the user was thinking while they navigated through your site. For $40 a test, usertesting.com will give you a video of the person going through your site and typed comments about issues encountered.
You will never know if you are winning or losing if you don’t track your results. Analytics will help you learn from your mistakes, jump on new opportunities and reach your site’s fullest potential.
Increasing traffic to your blog is an art that combines more and more advanced techniques…and as you pile up these techniques (and the links!) you will slowly grow your blog and ultimately dominate in your industry.
And by the way, SEO link building is progressive and never-ending, so don’t give up if you aren’t getting the kind of results you want right away.
What new and advanced SEO tactics have you been using to drive traffic to your blog?