Recently, I Twittered about my blog’s unique monthly visitors count rising from 2942 visitors in December, 2007 to over 10,000 in February. (My final unique visitors number for February was 10,352.) Several people replied and asked how I accomplished the feat of more than tripling my blog’s visitors in just two short months. This post contains every detail of how I tripled my blog’s traffic in two months, and how you can do the same.
It’s worth noting that I didn’t start out with any specific visitor goals in mind. I know some bloggers talk about how having specific goal numbers to hit every month helps keep them motivated to blog. I found I didn’t operate this way. Instead, I focused on four things:
My Four-Step Plan To Tripling My Traffic
1) Write catchy headlines.
Most blog owners aren’t very good at writing catchy headlines. To figure out what worked, I went to pfblogs.org and flipped through several pages of their headlines. I noted what made me click and what didn’t. pfblogs.org also has an indicator that shows how many times an article has been clicked, which is also a useful gauge of what is getting people’s attention. Posts with specific numbers in the headlines made me click. Posts that made me think worse of myself didn’t.
The worst headline of my recent blog entries was Why Your Business Isn’t Doing As Well As It Could Be. The post has some great advice, but the negative headline doesn’t make people click on it, because clicking would be akin to saying your business isn’t doing well. I learned a lot from that headline and the resulting low traffic.
On the other hand, Why You Don’t Save Money, Even Though You Know It’s The Right Thing To Do was my most popular post in January. Business owners have a tough time admitting their businesses aren’t doing well, but almost everyone will agree with the statement “I need to save more money.” We all have excuses as to why we don’t save, and this struck a nerve. In fact, Trent from The Simple Dollar pulled it out and made an entire post on his blog about it. That drove a lot of traffic to my site (more about that later.)
Takeaways: Read a ton of other blogs — the more popular, the better, and the more geared toward your niche, the better. Study which headlines do and don’t work well, and figure out what emotion they invoke in you. Think about which words you can use to invoke the desired emotion in your readers.
Final note: I often don’t write headlines right away. I start writing the blog entry and then write the headline at the end. Just as often, I’ll type a “starter” headline and then change it as I realize the blog entry is going off in a different direction. Don’t be afraid to change the headline before you publish your blog post.
2) Look at common themes from a different perspective.
When I started reading a lot of personal finance blogs in December, I noticed a theme: most blogs encouraged their readers to set up an automatic savings plan. Also, blog owners encouraged readers to look at ways where they could save money; cutting out trips to Starbucks was the most common example cited.
Instead of simply parroting those same lines, I decided to go one step deeper and address why most people weren’t saving money. If saving for retirement was as simple as cutting out a latte every day and putting that money in a retirement account, why weren’t we doing it? Why are we so savings-poor as a country? I realized it wasn’t about the dollar amount of the latte, but that we felt entitled to have that latte. We’d earned that latte. The latte had an emotional significance that putting the money in the savings account could not compete with. I could write an entire book about this (and for sure, other people already have — including the excellent Your Money or Your Life.)
Why You Don’t Save Money, Even Though You Know It’s The Right Thing To Do talked about my discovery of the emotional significance of spending money. In February, I took this a step farther and wrote a controversial post about how renting instead of owning a house can make you a millionaire in 20 years. Using my headline skills, I called it The Real American Dream (Hint: It’s NOT Owning A House!) This post turned into what I’d call a “blockbuster” post, with over 10,000 visits, about 50 new subscribers, and 77 comments. I took a theme (easy steps to save money), combined it with a “why”, and wrote something that got people’s attention and made them comment.
Being controversial (and being able to back up my points) makes the world a lot more interesting — I had a ton of fun responding to comments and emails about the blog post and working to correct or expand on my thoughts as necessary.
Takeaways: Don’t be afraid to stir the pot! Take common perspectives and put them in a different light — preferably one that not everyone will agree with. Polarizing your audience is one way to build loyal readers and fans (I got a huge number of emails thanking me for writing about renting as a path to millions.) Think about why certain things happen instead of just noting that they happen. The “why” is often as much or more valuable and relevant than the “how.”
Final note: I plan to be controversial a LOT more in the future. One of my upcoming posts is about how men and women think completely differently about starting and owning businesses. In it, I detail reasons why men are generally more successful than women in business. I expect it to generate a significant amount of controversy, talk, and interest. That’s good — getting people thinking differently is one of my big goals on this blog.
3) Email and comment on other blogs or websites where I know my content might be of interest.
I haven’t had much luck emailing blog owners, as most seem to be swamped just with keeping up with their blogs! However, leaving a comment on their blogs garnered huge responses. My big win in January was when Trent at the Simple Dollar posted an entire blog post regarding my blog about not saving money. You can see the comment that I wrote that generated his response on this blog post of Trent’s (look for comment #6.) As you can see, it’s just a simple request for his opinion.
You have to have good, thought-provoking content for this to be successful. Preferably, it should also be polarizing. I sent this same post to several personal finance blog owners, but only Trent picked it up and ran with it — indicating that it struck a personal nerve with him, but not with the other blog owners.
I also email Patrick of patrick.net whenever I post a new blog about real estate. He posts news about real estate every day. His site drove 3500 blog readers to my January blog post, Real Estate Bubble: The Tidal Wave of Foreclosures Strikes the Bay Area. It also drove over 7000 visitors to my “Real American Dream” post.
I plan to email my real estate-related updates to several other places in the future, but if Patrick likes your real estate post, you have a small gold mine of traffic waiting for you. Keep in mind that Patrick posts from a contrarian perspective, so any cheerleading posts will be ignored. That’s part of figuring what sites will work best for your posts.
Takeaways: Comment often on other blogs related to your niche; blog owners love it. Use a unique name (or your full name) to make a comment so they will remember that you have commented often. Commenting is the best way to reach other bloggers. Every time you make a post, comment about it on other blogs (but please don’t spam them — if they like it, they’ll post about it.)
Final note: I also used several blog carnivals to promote my “Real American Dream” post. These can be good way to get visibility and backlinks. I didn’t get a huge amount of traffic from them, but I still think they’re worth doing to help build up “link love”. My post got selected as an “Editor’s Choice” on a few of them, which drove comparatively more traffic. If your post does get selected for a blog carnival, do drop the carnival owner a “thank you” comment as a courtesy.
4) Keep up with comments and feedback from my visitors.
Question: What’s the #1 way to turn a commentor or emailer into a subscriber?
Answer: Email them back!
I try to respond to every email I receive about this blog. Mostly, I send a quick “Thank you”, and if the person isn’t a subscriber, a note asking them to consider subscribing so they can continue to receive great content. Most of the people I email asking to subscribe do, so the few minutes spent writing emails is definitely a worthwhile investment. If someone emails with questions, I try to answer their question quickly by referring them to books or blog posts regarding their question.
I also respond to most comments on the blog. Similarly, this generates loyal readers. By request, I added a “Notify me of followup comments via e-mail” button on the site, so you can get an email when there are new comments.
As this blog grows in the future, I can’t guarantee I will be able to reply to everything (responding to emails already takes 2 hours of my week.) However, I know how important it is, and I may end up eventually hiring someone or setting aside more time to do this.
My primary goal right now is to simply grow my blog’s unique visitors and subscribers every month. I haven’t set a more specific traffic goal at this point, though I expect to in the future. I also have a goal to write at least one “blockbuster” post per month — those posts are worth the time and effort to write since they generate a ton of links, comments, and emails.
How have you grown your blog’s traffic? Do you have further questions or comments? Leave them as a comment below and I will respond as I can!