Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared on Michelle Rafter’s WordCount blog and is copyright 2009 Michelle Vranizan Rafter. It is reprinted here by permission. The original post can be found here.
Traffic to this blog [WordCount] has grown steadily since I launched it in January 2008 but it’s really started picking up lately. It doubled last month and is on track to double again this month. I attribute it to several things:
1. Timeliness – Writing about timely subjects, such as the story of Roxana Saberi, the freelance broadcast journalist who’s just be convicted of espionage in Iran. I blogged about her situation last month and each time there’s been a development in her case I’ve seen daily traffic spike to four and five times the usual amount.
2. History – My blog’s now 16 months old and people who write about the same subjects – freelancing and digital media – have discovered it, link to it, leave comments on it, etc. I do likewise on their blogs. All of that has added to traffic, though not as much as #1.
3. Consistency – When I first started blogging I was a very inconsistent poster. Then I did a month-long blogathon and posted every day, which gave me a nice bump. After that I blogged M-F for the better part of 8 or 9 months, until earlier this year when I had so much writing work going on I dropped back to MWF. That’s been enough to keep people coming back and traffic increasing.
4. Standing features – Awhile back I started running a recap every Friday of highlights of the week’s news and developments in freelancing and digital media. Now my readers look forward to it – I know because they tell me. I also run Q&As with freelancers on a regular basis. I know other writing bloggers have had equally good results with the standing features they run.
5. Guest posts – Writing guests posts for other bloggers introduces you to potential new readers of your own blog. Likewise, when you ask someone to write a guest post on your blog, hopefully their regular readers will follow them over for the day, discover your stuff and become regulars.
6. SEO – Using tags and keywords helps move your posts up in searches on Google, Yahoo, etc., and that brings more people to your Website. Putting pictures in your posts – and labeling them – is another way to show up on top of search results. Some of my most well-trafficked blog posts got those click throughs because of the pictures I used to illustrate them. Is that cheating? Not really. People may click through for the image, but if you’re lucky they’ll stick around to read the blog post too.
7. Web rings – I’m a very part-time member of a Web ring of freelance writers who help promote each others’ work on social bookmarking services like Digg and StumpleUpon. The few times I’ve asked people to promote blog posts it’s pushed traffic up significantly. If you’re interested in this type of thing, though, you have to be prepared to give as much as you receive, which means spending some small portion of your day Digging and Stumbling other people’s blog posts.
8. Twitter – One of the things I use Twitter for is to promote my blog posts, and it’s not a surprise that traffic to my blog started to really take off right around the same time I joined. When I write a new blog post I tweet about it and include a link. When people follow me, I DM them to say hi and introduce myself, and include a link to my blog. When I see a question about something I’ve blogged about, I’ll answer, and include a link to my blog. That sounds like a lot of promotion it really isn’t, because I also tweet about a bunch of other things. I did an analysis once and figured out that I included links to my blog in only 1 of 10 tweets, and I’d estimate it’s an even smaller ratio now.
9. Links – If you link out to source material that’s related to what you’re writing about and your readers click on those links, pretty soon the owner of that blog is going to come investigate where the traffic is coming from. When that happens, you could take the opportunity to leave a comment on their blog or send them an email – in other words, get acquainted. After that happens, you might offer to exchange links, you put their blog in your blog roll and they do likewise. That drives traffic up for both of you.
10. Good content and good writing – Have something interesting to say, and say it in a compelling way. You can use all the tricks in the SEO book, link like mad and use every social bookmarking trick there is, but if your ideas and writing don’t sing, people will stop in once and never come back.
There are other things too – keeping posts short, lists, sexy headlines, etc., but these are the top 10.
What’s driven traffic to your blog?
Michelle V. Rafter is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore. She has spent more than 20 years covering business and technology for magazines, newspapers, wire services and Websites.