Badi asked me how I keep increasing traffic to my website, 14th Colony. So far, unique visits have increased 181%. Repeat visits have increased 143%. And page views are up 246% over last year.
I’d like to say there’s a trick to building traffic for a website but I won’t insult you. Traffic takes work. The good news is generating repeat interest doesn’t take much extra effort. In fact, with the right tools repeat visitors sign themselves up to come back time and time again.
The first thing I look at is the traffic trends. You can use whatever stats program you like that reports these three things: unique visits, return visits and page views. Check out Badi’s overview if you don’t know what these are.
For our purposes unique traffic is an indicator of how your promotion efforts are working. Repeat visits indicate viewer satisfaction (if they hate your site they will not come back!). And page views reveal the value of your site to the viewer. More page views mean more value.
Once I have my tracking in place I set a baseline by putting my stats into a spreadsheet. I add the traffic for each month and divide it by the number of months passed for an average score.
Then I compare where I’m at against the average. My goal each month is to beat the average. And each month the average goes up making this more challenging!
There are many sources of traffic for a website. Some are free, some are sweat equity and some you pay for. For 14th Colony, I avoid paying for traffic. Paying for traffic is like cheating to me. I’m a marketer. If I can’t entice people to this site without a cash bribe I’m in a lot of trouble! Here are tactics that I’ve used with success:
Search Engine Optimization â€“ About 25% of my traffic comes from search engines. This isn’t very much and I could (should?) step it up. There are three reasons search traffic is one of my favorites:
1. It’s targeted â€“ Most of the people that reach your site through a search engine are looking for something on your site
2. It’s fairly consistent â€“ Sure, rank jumps and drops but as long as you aren’t banned the search engines will continuously send you traffic
3. It’s free â€“ OK, it takes some effort though once your structure is good, the rest becomes automatic (like writing search-friendly content or headlines)
Other Site Referrals aka Links â€“ Links help SEO efforts and they are a great source of regular traffic. One of the best things about links is the webmaster of the site linking to yours does the work to make that link more valuable so that it will send you more traffic!
For 14th Colony I wrote a couple reports about trends just before they broke. These became source material for other webmasters who linked back to my articles to explain their own articles and tools. These articles get stronger in the search engines over time and the links pointing to them bring traffic.
Another favorite tactic I use is encouraging new bloggers by linking to them first. Believe me, new bloggers remember when established bloggers link to them the first time. I remember the first time Stuntdubl linked to something I wrote. Todd’s probably picked up more than 20 links from me because of the one he sent me first. Smart linking builds dividends.
Think of links as fine wine waiting to age. Where can you pick up links today that are easy and cheap (free!) to get that will be worth a lot in a few months or a year? Link-building for traffic is all about long-term thinking.
Community Involvement â€“ 10% of my traffic comes from sig links in forums and profile links on blogs and social sites. If you make smart comments, people want to know more about you.
Social Bookmarking â€“ Social bookmarking sites have their own search engines which drive traffic my way. Digg and del.icio.us are great for this.
On top of that, the few stories I’ve been lucky enough to see go popular have drawn a lot of attention. The temporary super-jump in traffic is fun but not sustainable. After each event, a new platform of return visitors about 20% over the previous average occurs.
Traffic Exchanges â€“ This post is an example of a traffic exchange. Today I’m writing for Badi. In a couple weeks, he’ll write something for me. If you can keep things relevant, it works. You are now exposed to my message. And some of you are dying to read more.
Fan Following â€“ I ask people to guest post at 14th Colony. When guest bloggers write, their regular readers come to see what’s up. Just like you will when Badi makes his appearance.
Bring ‘Em Back
Return visits are key for websites that sell products or services. I’ve read that an average buyer has to visit a website 6 times before they’ll make a purchase! Bring â€˜em back marketing is essential to increase conversions as each interaction builds trust with your site.
Community Participation â€“ Being visible at forums and social sites draws blog followers. After all, they like what you say â€“ its part of why they are there! Drawing viewers from social sites is a natural fit.
RSS â€“ Most of the jumps in traffic after going popular with 14th Colony come from RSS subscriptions. I track my feed with FeedBurner which also lets me offer email subscriptions.
Social Tagging â€“ I actually stripped this down with the redesign but making it easy for your users to tag and share their favorite posts helps them remember it. Share This is a great WordPress plugin that lets visitors tag their favorite posts or refer friends via email.
Ctrl+D â€“ When 14th Colony first got started I had a small call to action at the top-right of each page. All it said was “Bookmark this page (Ctrl+D)”. It worked great and AW Stats reports bookmarking still tops 110% which makes no sense but must be a good thing, right?
Keep offering fresh content â€“ The reason people come back is to read more about your topics. A schedule is best though I’ve never been able to maintain one. I keep track of my stats daily and if I see a slide I make it a point to get something new up quickly.
Do something cool every so often â€“ Defining “cool” is tough. Mostly it’s something different from the norm that still fits within your site topics and purpose. This could be a personal post. Or outrage at an industry event. My “Google is evil” posts are almost as popular as my “make money with Adsense” posts. It could also be a new tool or special report. Another cool thing is having a guest blogger or conducting an interview. I think the main thing is to break things up and keep them loose while not losing focus on why your blog exists.
Increasing Page Views
Page views are important if you have an ad-based model for making money. More page views mean more ad impressions and a greater chance of a viewer clicking one of those ads. As mentioned above, high page view numbers also indicate how useful your website is.
Page views are accomplished by two things:
1. Quality of content
If your content sucks, the best design won’t keep visitors. Even if your content is great a bad design can turn visitors away. After redesigning 14th Colony to be leaner and cleaner (less cluttered) page views increased an amazing 72%!
Make the design exciting enough to keep the viewer reading but not so loud or cluttered to become a distraction. Great design is like a well-framed painting â€“ when people comment on the frame something is wrong. You want people to comment on the content within the frame.
With the redesign I also added a lot of “additional resources” links. At the end of each post is a “related articles” list. And at the bottom of each page are category headlines plus the most popular stories. On the right I added a couple “teaser” posts. This was all to increase page views and it worked.
Technorati and Hittail are great ways to see how much buzz and referral traffic your blog gets. I also like Icerocket as a backup stats program because it is nearly real-time and gives the basics without too much extra garbage.
Whatever you want to do with your site make sure you have a way to track success. That’s the only way you’ll really know what works and what doesn’t.
Stay in action! Just keep throwing things at your site until something sticks. A blog that just sits there is losing ground. A blog in action will always catch some attention.