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.