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Perennial Favorites: Traffic Dos and Don’ts

Are you looking to grow your audience? Here are ten tips to get you closer to your goal.

One of the most frequent questions bloggers ask us — and themselves — is how to get more readers. In this post I wrote a year ago, I went over some of the basic things you should consider when trying to grow your audience. While there’s no secret magic formula (do share if you’ve found one!), I hope it gives you some fresh ideas to try out. And, if you’re looking for a more in-depth look at traffic and growth, you’re in luck: we have a free ebook devoted exclusively to that topic.

One of the main reasons bloggers stop blogging is lack of traffic: at some point, they get tired of being the proverbial tree in the forest, making sounds nobody hears.

We’re here to help. No list of advice can guarantee your blog’s success, but it’s important to be aware of the most critical elements at play. Five dos, five don’ts: give them a try.

Dos

  1. Write regularly. Producing fresh content on a regular basis is essential. First, it makes your blog more appealing to search engines, which means new readers are more likely to find you. Just as important, it creates a sense of loyalty among the readers you already have, who know you won’t be stranding them for weeks at a time.
  2. Write well. What makes a post engaging, moving, or entertaining is clearly a matter of opinion. What’s not a matter of opinion? Correct spelling. Reasonable grammar. Sentences and paragraphs of manageable length. Go over your post, spellcheck, and edit — above all — for clarity. (A strong title never hurts, either.)
  3. Keep your blog easy on the eyes. While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, unattractive blogs are surprisingly easy to spot. Some minimal care can pay great dividends, even if you don’t have time to think of every possible detail. Choose a theme that suits your needs and your content. Make your homepage attractive with striking images or easy customizations, and make sure your content is easy to read.
  4. Use your existing network. As a beginning blogger, you should rely on friends and family to visit your blog and share your posts on their own social networks (use common sense to decide how often and how insistently you ask them). Keep them informed by publicizing your posts, and keep them interested by addressing, at least at first, topics you know they’ll enjoy.
  5. Create new networks. The blogging community is immense. The best way to find your own niche within it is through meaningful reciprocity. Follow and leave thoughtful comments on others’ blogs, and take the time to respond to feedback left on your own site. Use widgets to make it easy to follow and syndicate your own blog. Participate in events, or attend a blogging conference to make new friends and learn new tips.

Don’ts

  1. Don’t forget to tag. Unless you’re already a famous entity offline, readers won’t search specifically for your blog. That’s why smart tagging is so important: add a healthy mix of general and specific terms related to your post, and your potential audience will find you, either through search engines or on the WordPress.com Reader.
  2. Don’t spam. Community members and search engines alike are quite savvy in telling thoughtful content from fluff. One-word comments? A blog full of pingbacks and reblogs with very little original content? There is no surer method of pushing your audience away, even if your intentions are good.
  3. Don’t be afraid of the Publish button. The only post guaranteed to attract zero traffic is an unpublished one. Don’t worry too much about posts that ended up different from your initial vision. At worst, you can edit and update them later. At best, their shortcomings, if any, can be part of the conversation you start with your readers. Either way, what could you possibly lose?
  4. Don’t stop reading. Writing that exists in a vacuum will be less appealing to readers who don’t already know you. Whether it’s a new bestseller, other blogs and sites around the web, or the great content we feature daily on Freshly Pressed, staying part of existing conversations keeps your content relevant, and will engage a wider audience than an entirely impenetrable musing.
  5. Don’t lose sight of why you blog. Even if you’re doing everything right, it might still take a while before your blog gains traction. It’s a good idea to remind yourself why you decided to start a blog to begin with. Whether it’s to express your opinions, record memories, or any other reason, you’re the most important member of your audience, and should enjoy the experience. Fun tends to be contagious: a writer who enjoys blogging regardless of traffic is, paradoxically, more likely to attract it.
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  1. Everything was fine until I read “write well” lol. You know, I don’t think the number of followers are that important, Do we write for an audience? Do we need an audience? Yes, I guess it’s nice to know somebody actually reads what we write. But it’s not the most important thing. I have fun, I think that matters as well :-)

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Haha Same here, I cringed when I got to the write well. Spending much time editing a post usually results in me never publishing it -.- So I just tend to go back a few weeks later. Having fun is what matters but connecting with other bloggers through comments and such helps with the fun I think :)

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  2. Thanks for the tips! I’ve definitely tried to connect with other bloggers who write about similar topics. I enjoy their posts and I think the relationships have helped me to grow my traffic too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Create new networks. The blogging community is immense. The best way to find your own niche within it is through meaningful reciprocity. Follow and leave thoughtful comments on others’ blogs, and take the time to respond to feedback left on your own site. Use widgets to make it easy to follow and syndicate your own blog. Participate in events, or attend a blogging conference to make new friends and learn new tips.

    As sure as night follows day, this is the one everybody ignores. Every week people contribute to the Community Pool asking why they are not getting hits when they’ve been around for six months already. When you ask “are you commenting on others’ blogs? Are you following them? Participating in discussions?” the answer is inevitably “no, I guess I should start doing that?”

    It really cannot be emphasised enough.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Such a good point. I think this is why my previous efforts at blogging failed: I was always afraid to comment on others’ posts. For one, despite the safe anonymity of the internet, I felt shy and hesitant about making a comment on someone else’s work or initiating a conversation with a total stranger was the best thing ever. Secondly, I was put off by how contrived it felt: was I only commenting in order to draw attention to my own work? That mentality is the worst in real life conversations, and online felt no better.

      Now, I’ve tried to stop thinking so much about it and just say what I feel like saying g. Still, participating can be easier said than done at times.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Most bloggers welcome strangers’ comments. I’ve seen the odd type who seems to ignore every attempt at conversation, but most people are glad somebody has dropped by and engaged with the content enough to have something coherent and maybe even thoughtful to say.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I disagree with that. I have spent 8 years noting that new bloggers invest far to much energy into fiddling with themes and widgets, and invest far too little time into commenting on blogs with similar content. Invest your time where it counts ie. into commenting meaningfully on other blogs.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Agree! I just started blogging in June and picked a theme at random. After I became a little more experienced (although I still have a long way to go and SO much to learn!) I decided to play around with another theme. I may change it again sometime but making the change allowed me to post an update on Facebook where I thanked those who folks who were already readers and invited others as well to check out the changes I’d made. It made a huge difference and my stats soared for the next couple of days!

      I’m always thrilled to get new followers, comments and likes but the fun is the writing, the composition and the opportunity to be creative!

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      1. I’ve been stuck with the academica wordpress theme with my blog : Englishpost.org , I haven’t changed it because the new themes don’t satisfy my needs, I have been thinking in buying a premium one but I haven’t made my mind yet , I wish they were a little bit cheaper , you know like $40 to 50 but some one of them even reach a $100.I consider that commenting important to create communities and not feel alone as a blogger.

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      2. @JManuelCamosN: In case you’d like to give them a try, both Moka and Ubud are premium themes in a significantly lower price range than the one you mention, and both are very sleek.

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  4. Thank you very much , i try to follow most of the dos and i think it has started paying off. It is such a nice platform to connect with people who think along the same lines ..and its so much more fun !!! Thank you once again ☺

    Liked by 2 people

  5. All very helpful advice, thanks. I have a fairly large network through a regular newsletter that I send out. I have mentioned my blog and I get some people visiting each time I mention it – but perhaps I need to encourage them to follow the blog (well, encourage them in a less ‘indirect’ way!) I was never one of those kids who could confidently walk up to a group of kids playing and ask ‘Can I join in?!’ Perhaps it’s time for a change!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I found Little Miss Menopauses’s theory (see below) fascinating! My friends used to joke that if I had continued living in the surfside suburb I once lived in (up to the age of 6) that perhaps an alter-ego may have developed. They called her ‘Sheena’ and apparently she would have worn a pink flippy skirt and rollerskates and chewed gum a lot. She would have been fearless….and slightly clueless. I feel a new blog coming on….

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Trueee. Blogs do represent your personality. But they can also show who you WANT to be, the hidden person inside of you that won’t really show itself in real life. Blogging can really show your true character.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. That is very true! I find that I write what I am feeling and thinking much more clearly than I speak. Though, if the real me is more ‘introverted’ and shy than the me that people normally perceive, this may not bode well for more traffic, if Little Miss Menopause’s theory is correct.

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      4. But in writing, it’s not as easy to show your introverted self much. Or maybe it is… I’m not sure. Her theory probably works to a certain extent, but I don’t think that the most popular and outgoing people will have the best blogs. Many of them are owned by the shyest and quietest people out there!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Cannot say how much I loved this! The reasons for Blog traffic fascinate me! The one thing I think is paramount is your personality type. I have found that blogs are a direct reflection of our status in the world, at least “traffic-wise.” Are you gregarious, outgoing, and the life of a party at school, work and in real-life social situations? You probably have a lot of “living traffic” then. You know. . . friends with Invitations, dates, phone calls, texts, job offers, etc. You probably have a high-traffic blog, too. Not necessarily because your real life contacts are the ones reading/sharing it either. But because your personality type is naturally conducive to implementing the above tips-in the networking category. But are you kinda shy, reclusive, and wall-flowerish? You will probably have to try much harder to get your blog off the ground and read. I know I fall in the latter category and I almost have to be an actress when it comes to being lively and “out there” in my online behavior. I just got back from a blogging conference and people who follow me were surprised at how mild and quiet I was. Those who have been leaving comments that I should be a stand-up comedienne were flabbergasted that I barely talked! Interesting stuff to think about. I would be curious to know if others feel they’re being “popular” in real life translates to lotsa traffic/followers.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I never thought of it this way! I merely thought having a Philosophy blog meant that readership will be modest too. Well, I am a lot bubblier than I am in my writing. Though I have been trying to add more of my personality gradually. Seems like Susan Cain’s Quiet hasn’t seeped into the blogging world.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Don’t forget a lot of people blog about their daily life, where it’s all about their personality. If you’re blogging about a niche subject there are obviously going to be less people willing jump on your boat, no matter how gregarious you are.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I agree 100% with you. The majority of humans are extroverts, no matter what their country of derivation or residency is or what their culture is

      I’m in the minority who are introverts and I’m not the least bit shy. In fact my personality type is INFJ and it’s rare, making up less than one percent of the population. That costs me when it comes to building relationships offline and online, but I’m okay with that because I seek quality and not quantity in all things.

      Offline and online I speak up only when when I believe I have something of value to say. And, I strongly believe that finding out your personality type can provide insights into your writing style, its strengths and its weaknesses, and how to make improvements.

      Your Personality and Writer’s Voice

      Liked by 2 people

    3. So, here I am, totally ignorant about blogging. Started what may be a blog to more or less talk about a nich issue. My goal was to record the info mainly for myself but in blog form gives me opportunity for others input. Traffic is not an issue although lack of limits my learning from others.
      I really enjoy your aspect of personality comming through. As mine does and I get more in depth maybe I will find new reason to continue. Thanks

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  7. Yep, I agree with “not blogging from being that tree in the forest”. For a while, I thought I was like that, but it took some time for me to realize that my blog cannot grow into a massive community overnight. It is true that followers are our encouragement to continue blogging!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I’ve been struggling with a couple of things mentioned here. While the people in my life wouldn’t be completely surprised about me blogging or what I blog about, I still feel like I need to keep it to myself. Having an impartial audience who also have no idea who I am to even be negative, means that what feedback I get will be solely for what I write and not who I am.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think one of the the beauties of blogging is exactly that we don’t know each other from Adam, so we can all appreciate each other (or not) for what we write without extraneous stuff getting in the way. I wouldn’t want family or friends following me out of obligation. I’d rather wait a bit until I get readers who genuinely enjoy my style and content.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Great insights. I think the one I struggle most with is readability: not just grammar and spelling (which I think I have a good grasp on), but sentence/paragraph length and clarity. It always helps to have posts ready to go early so I can sleep on them and go over them with fresh eyes, but sometimes I’m pushing them out the door to stay on schedule.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve learned — the hard way! — to compose first in Word and then copy / paste. Our network connection can be flaky at times and I’ve lost some good work only to have to try again to recreate it.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. This kind of hints are really valuable. Sometimes I think I am using too much tagging, but I do that just in case anyone is looking for that specific theme. For instance, my blog that is about my travels and pictures uses a lot of words of places that are uncommon, and I tend to use those names of such places as a tag. Not only the name of the city or country, I also include the names of the main buildings. Is that advisable?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think mixing specific tags with more broad-appeal ones is wise. Be sure, though, not to add more than a total of 15 tags and categories per post — doing so makes them invisible in the WordPress.com Reader (this is an anti-spam measure).

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Very helpful information, thank you. I’ve been contemplating.. I think I may need to work on #s 2, 3, and 5 on the DOs. Whilst it may be discouraging at times especially after thinking I’ve written a very interesting piece and no reaction, I keep in mind why I blog in the first place. It keeps things in perspective, looking at the grand scheme of things.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m a new blogger, and I found this to be very helpful; however, I am not so sure I would want to share all of my blogs with my family (which are on my social media sites) because I write about things that they necessarily won’t agree with. Some family, anyway…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Of course, different bloggers have different circumstances that shape the way they do (or don’t) share their work with people they know in real life. Whatever makes sense to you — it would clearly be a shame not to write a post because Uncle Moe might find it offensive.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. “Write well … Correct spelling. Reasonable grammar. Sentences and paragraphs of manageable length.” Hahaha, good one!

    The blogosphere overfloweth with crap writing. Not to mention volumes of people who can’t distinguish or discern good from bad. Can’t count how many blogs I’ve visited with content that’s at best pedestrian — AT BEST! — and the comments praise it to the high heavens! Makes me puke.

    On the flip side are the blogs, admittedly rare, with truly well-written content that go ignored or unappreciated.

    Point being, using quality writing as the criterion, what is posted and/or perceived by readers and the masses as good– No. 2 requirement on your Do List — most often is deserving of a swift toss into the round receptacle.

    Better to suggest “write as well as you can.” That’s more realistic than “write well.” Because most cannot (and to iterate, most wouldn’t recognize good writing if it smacked ‘em between the eyes).

    And oh yeah, thanks for the chuckle.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Ha! True story, AAlleycat! Poor grammar drives me nuts. So does whining and maudlin histrionics. But when we stumble onto something truly worthwhile to read – oh, what a pleasure it is! I think to myself, WHY isn’t blogger X Freshly Pressed?? I guess there is also a whole lot of good work out here to complete with as well. I enjoyed your comment in any case. MH

      Liked by 2 people

      1. @motherhendiaries – “when we stumble onto something truly worthwhile to read – oh, what a pleasure it is!” — couldn’t agree more! Honestly, however, I haven’t the time to go excavating for the golden nugget in the Mountain of Crapola so often seek out sources that promise quality. Love me my local library! :) A bird — I mean book — in the hand is worth 200 hours in the blogosphere.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. The gods of WordPress look around the blogosphere and, if something takes their fancy as being outstandingly amazing/controversial/useful etc they decide to feature it. Being FPd is basically like winning the blogging lottery, and about as likely too happen to the average Joe out here. But then, with a kazillion blogs to choose from, they are hard pressed to decide on who will be graced with a massive spike in readership. As you likely know, there is some proper talent out here. :-)

        Liked by 1 person

      3. If you ever stumble on a post that you think should be featured on Freshly Pressed, we’d love it if you sent it our way — the best/easiest way is to tweet us @freshly_pressed.

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    2. @julieallyn: other than attributing divine features to our team of WordPress.com editors, @motherhendiaries’ description is pretty apt — we read dozens of blogs a day looking for standout posts. We follow many bloggers, tap into our respective social networks for tips, receive suggestions from readers, and, for the most part, just wander around the blogosphere.

      The limited number of eyeballs and infinite number of posts does mean we’re bound to miss out on some great stuff. But we do encourage people to share with us great posts they’ve read — we always welcome suggestions via Twitter, @freshly_pressed.

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  14. All good advice. I’ve just come back from two weeks away so I’ve not been able to post or read and comment on the blogs I usual follow and my traffic is about 1/3 of what it usually would be. Thoughtful and interesting comments do lead to more traffic and you can link up with new bloggers in the same field.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I have a rather simple question that I was polling my household about earlier. After coming to a standstill with an even divide, I’d like to hear the opinions of others and perhaps find my tie breaker.

    In each of my weekly blogs, I attempt to include one photograph. I’m a visual person. Which do you find more aesthetically pleasing: A photograph placed at the beginning of an entry or at the end? (Or in the middle of the mix, lose it at all together, etc. –I’m open to suggestions!)

    http://gipsyinmysoul.wordpress.com/2014/08/01/reasons-i-dont-fear-30/

    http://gipsyinmysoul.wordpress.com/2014/08/08/it-cant-rain-all-the-time/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello,
      In the future, it would be great if you shared feedback requests over at the Community Pool, which is designed specifically for that purpose, and kept comments on posts related to the post in question. Thanks!

      Like

  16. Comment fail. I apologize for the improper placement of my previous question! I was in between tabs and did not intend to post that question here.

    On topic: I found this article to be helpful! It gave me something new to consider and I enjoyed the Community Pool.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. @gipsy – Replies maxed out in above dialogue so putting it here. “Speaking of, clutter is a concern of mine, too” got me curious so I took a quick gander {I got a good eye.} Kill that background. Too busy. Distracting and annoying plus renders text in left sidebar quite difficult to read indeed. Any additional feedback and I’ll need to charge. {teasing} Hope that helps a little.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. As difficult as it was for me to let go of that background, I took your advice. I feel like my blog is Plain Jane but it does allow for more focus on the content, which is what is most important.

        Thank you for your perspective!

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