Now that’s the age old question isn’t it? At least it feels like its the one you’ve been wrestling over in your mind since you started. As much as you wish it was the case, the old adage of “Build it and they will come” isn’t always the case.
In this article, I reveal to you my secrets behind how you can grow your traffic numbers. Traffic is the lifeline of your blog. Traffic means eyeballs. Eyeballs mean impressions. Impressions mean advertising dollars. Impressions also means greater influence as you become a trusted resource in your niche. Traffic means getting the word out and hence higher probability you’ll be discovered. In a nutshell, you WANT and NEED traffic. Cricket *chirping* is not what you want to hear when you work so hard to put out awesome content.
The keys to building traffic
- It doesn’t happen overnight
- Takes time to build up
- Be strategic with Google
- Good SEO
Spokes of traffic
To build your traffic generating machine, you’re going to need some wheels. Wheels with lots of spokes.
If you don’t get my drift, what I mean to say is you need to build lots of streams of traffic. Just like how you can’t deceive yourself in thinking people will go to the browser and type your website’s URL directly, you also can’t depend on getting all your traffic from Google.
Don’t get me wrong, Google is pretty damn important as you’ll see below but your job as a blogger is to figure out where else you can bring more eyeballs to your site.
- Social media
- Guest posts/writing
- Get your content featured on other platforms
We’ll be talking a bit about some of these a little later on. Now what about this little thing that starts with a G and sort of rhymes with bamboozle?
Playing the Google game
Ultimately for travel bloggers, Google is always going to be your #1 traffic driver.
Looking at my 2014 traffic so far on Going Awesome Places, I’m at close to 60% organic traffic through search. That’s HUGE.
Knowing this, there’s an incredibly opportunity to capitalize on this. You should therefore be doing everything you possibly can to optimize for search.
SEO sounds scary but it’s really not bad!
Just don’t suck at it.
It doesn’t have to be as complicated as it sounds though. I wrote about the 7 SEO basics you need to know about and I highly recommend you follow those tips.
In a nutshell, just follow these steps every time you post and you’ll be set:
- Get a good SEO plugin like All-In-One SEO or WordPress SEO by Yoast
- Craft your title with keywords that you intuitively feel like people will use in Google search or if you want to be hardcore use Google’s keyword tool (You will need a Google AdWords account which is easy to sign up for). For example, if your post is about a 5 day itinerary in Bali, I would make sure that itinerary, trip, planning, Bali, Indonesia, 5, five and things to do are used throughout.
- Properly leverage header tags throughout the post. Header tags matter.
- Drill those keywords into your head and make sure you drop them in naturally in your post. You don’t have to be a Nazi about it. Just make sure you use those throughout.
- If there are links to authoritative sites that would be of help to your readers, drop them in. Just don’t go overboard.
- Internal links are key for keeping your audience engaged with other posts they can check out and also matters for SEO. Just see how I’ve done it in this article. Again don’t go overboard.
- Don’t ignore the photos as well. You want to make sure they have proper titles instead of the OLYM1234567 titles they get straight out of the camera. If there’s more detail you want to put in, put it in the captions or in the ALT.
- Make it part of your posting routine to fill out all the SEO fields provided by the plugin. Again, drop those keywords in there. Make it a ritual.
At a site level:
- Make sure you’ve filled out the proper titles and descriptions for your site via your SEO plugin
- Get this Sitemap plugin or use your SEO plugin’s one and make sure it’s submitted to Google Webmaster Tools. That’s like handing a hand-drawn map with an X clearly marked for where the treasure is. Make it easy for Google to crawl your awesome travel blog.
There are more ways to do better with SEO but if you stick to some of these core principles, you’ll do well.
Know what does well on Google
Aside from all that technical SEO stuff, the other important piece to the Google puzzle is writing content on your blog that you know people are searching for.
Take a look at my top ranking pages for this year.
What do all of these post have in common?
These are all posts where people came to my site with very specific questions in mind.
Let’s look at all the trackable search key terms that came through this year.
Now things make a bit more sense as to why I’m getting so many hits on these pages. People have questions that need answering. I help answer them and that’s why I end up getting traffic via Google. Now turn around and think about your content, how can you write your content so that it help others?
The social media beast
This topic is ENORMOUS but I’ll leave you a few tidbits to get you thinking.
- There are many platforms out there. None should be off limits
- Twitter, Facebook, Stumble Upon, Pinterest, Google+
- With the platforms you know, experiment with different ways to attract users to click. Is it the photo? Is it the text that you used? Is it timing?
- Use analytics to see which platform is more effective in driving click throughs to your blog
- It’s all about testing and iterating. Do more of what works and do less of what doesn’t.
Here’s a look at what social media has done for me in 2014 so far.
My experience with social media so far can be summed up to these few bullets:
- Facebook is my #1 social media driver followed by Twitter
- Twitter is on the rise with my automation systems in place
- I haven’t had much luck with Pinterest so far but after a recent clean up, I’m hoping to turn this into my #3 social media traffic driver
- Being disciplined and properly interacting on each social media platform on a weekly basis is the key
- Analytics told me most of my audience checks out my blog at around 9-11AM EST so that’s when I’m most active
- Images always get more click throughs so I try my best to incorporate those into my shares/posts on social media
Where else can I get creative?
There are so many creative ways to drive more traffic. Where is your audience hanging out? How can you get in front of them? Perhaps you can tap into new audiences by leveraging another blogger’s or media outlet’s platform?
Nomadic Matt’s done some viral work on Thought Catalog, perhaps that’s something to try?
For awhile I spent some time building back links on travel research sites like TripAdvisor, Fodors and Lonely Planet. Ultimately I stopped because it was way too much work but if you’re willing to spend the time honestly answering people’s questions on the forums and then dropping a link at the end, you’re guaranteed click throughs.
Where to focus on
- Getting your SEO down pat is priority #1
- Just like Mapping Meg mentioned in our interview, start with what you know when it comes to social media. Already on Facebook? Start learning there as you already have a head start in knowing how the interface works
- Focus on doing well on two social media platforms first (for most that’ll be Facebook and Twitter). Once you’ve gotten it down to a regular routine and you’re seeing results, move on to learning a new one.
- Don’t forget that content is still king. More content = more posts that could rank well on Google. More content also means your regular readers will keep coming back as well. Keep to a schedule whether it’s once a month or many times a week.