Grow your blog readership overnight! (or slowly over 3.5 years)

I’ve been blogging regularly for about 3.5 years (irregularly for 4). When I first started looking at Google Analytics about 3 years ago, a “big” day might mean 100 visits. When 168 Hours launched, I was thrilled to see a spike of 700 readers on the day it came out.

Three years later, 700 visits is a meh day. So traffic has grown, which is good. But as I’m trying to grow it more — per my goal of doubling this year — I’m studying what works. Here are a few ideas, most of which are obvious. But they are effective!

1. Post regularly. Generally, the more often you post, the more visits you get. Some of the big blogs post new content constantly, but unless you’ve got a staff, that’s probably not going to happen. I’ve averaged about 4x/week. On the weeks I do 5 posts, one is generally a round-up.

2. Post interesting stuff. Over time, you’ll figure out what you and your readers both care about, and you can try to write new takes on these topics. Of course, part of the fun of writing a blog is that you can write about whatever you want, but popular blogs are often known for something in addition to serendipity.

3. Link to other people’s blogs. Often the blogger will come visit, and maybe you’ll form a blogging relationship — writing about each other and sharing audiences. There is a strong community aspect to blogging. I’ve certainly enjoyed meeting some bloggers I read in person.

4. Comment on other people’s blogs. See above — it works roughly the same way. Plus it’s just good manners to read the blogs of people who read you.

5. Guest post. This is another way to introduce yourself and your voice to readers of other blogs. Some of them might come visit you, and some chunk of these people will stick around. I do some of this, but I’ve also blogged for various places professionally, which brings a few hundred people over each month.

6. Score media coverage. I always gain new readers around book launches because I’m more focused on seeking out press. While it’s hard to know how many readers come from print or broadcast media (sometimes people leave comments saying that’s why they’re here), online media provides a pretty clear metric via incoming links and referral stats.

7. Be sticky. You want new readers to stick around long enough to learn that they like you. WordPress has a widget that puts related posts at the bottom of each post, but you can also include your own links no matter what software you’re using.

8. Remind people you exist. One reason I do a monthly newsletter is that it’s permission to email people once a month with blog links. There’s always a traffic spike on the day or two after the newsletter comes out. Facebook and Twitter also send people over, though I’ve found less of an effect. Facebook seems to have a higher referral rate for me than Twitter, but your mileage may vary.

9. Be patient. There are probably ways to gain thousands of readers overnight, but my own experience with spikes is that they come…and then go. You can chase spikes, or you can concentrate on building a blog that convinces some of those people to stay with you. It’s a slow process of gaining readers, but sustainable progress is real progress.

But I’m open to other suggestions! After all, I know from my 3.5 years of blogging that a list like this should have 10 items.

In other news: I was quoted in the New York Times this weekend in a piece on “How to Conquer Your To-Do List.

I’m on Time Management Radio chatting about our hours.

13 thoughts on “Grow your blog readership overnight! (or slowly over 3.5 years)

  1. Fantastic numbers! I find it interesting the difference between blog visitors and blog commenters. You have a core group of commenters here. I guess there are blogs that I pop on to read and not comment.

    What do you think your ratio of visitors/commenters is? 4% or so?

    1. It’s probably not even 4%. Looking at Google Analytics, a day might get 900 reads and 9 comments that aren’t mine (15 or so when you add mine in). I wonder if other blogs get a higher percentage of comments. I love comments, but I also have to remember in writing that people who comment are not my only readers, and might not be representative, either.

      1. Yep, comments represent a very, very, very small percentage of my readership. For instance, if there’s a day when I get 9,000 page views, there are only maybe 50 comments left on a post. Some of that is because a portion of my traffic comes from older posts, but some is just because more people read than comment.

        1. @The Frugal Girl – that’s been especially true on spike days for me. I think people have to feel comfortable around a blog before they comment! Which makes sense.

  2. Great question about blog commenters. Most comments I get for my posts come after my Facebook link, not on the blog page. I’m not sure why that is- if they’re already on the blog, why go back to Facebook to comment? It bothers me not to see the comments on the blog itself. I feel it under-represents how much traffic I get.

    1. @Leanne – I think Facebook seems like a more protected space. It’s all friends. Commenting on blogs is more out in the open in the wild west of the internet.

  3. I’m curious about RSS feed readers. Are you able to track traffic that uses them? I’ve found a good web-based reader to replace Google Reader (it’s called NetVibes), and I have added your feed.

    But, do you see it in your statistics that I have received your feed? I follow about 50 blogs and podcasts and really want to know if the publishers know I loyally read them.

    Thank you for your blog, it always gives me hope.

    1. @Becky – I don’t know. I would imagine that wouldn’t register as a visit, since it’s not a visit to the site itself. I think you can figure out how many people are subscribed, but then how would you know if the person read it or not? I hadn’t really thought about that.

  4. This is all great advice. My site has had huge growth since I launched it 11 months ago. Just this morning I met with a new blogger, and I told her I attribute my success to three things:
    1. Have strong, clear opinions.
    2. Good writing counts for a lot.
    3. Be personal. Share way more secretes than you ever thought you would. Remember: there are no new stories. You connect with others when you share your sense of shame.

    Happy blogging, all!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *