I took a year-long break from blogging – not proud of it, but I had to recharge. Before I took my break, I blogged about 4-5 times a week for about a year (yeah, no wonder I got a blogging-block). Back then I was always quite concerned with my website audience, and often checked my Google Analytics. Actually, I had a little plugin for my Google Chrome that would keep me up to date of my numbers all the time. I was a little obsessed.
Then, my break. I didn’t even look at the website for a while. When I returned a year later, I checked my Analytics, and was absolutely flabbergasted.
I still got 6000 unique page views per month.
That’s quite the crowd. In the existence of this website, I have attracted one hundred and twenty thousand individuals to my website. Yeah, that’s a bit daunting. Whether or not these people return to my website in my opinion is not very important – they find my website, read my blogs and see my work!
How come I got these kinds of ratings? I know you too want more than just your mom, dad, significant other and grandma to read your blogs. So, let me tell you.
1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Yes, you have probably heard about Search Engine Optimization about a million times. But trust me, don’t discard this one! It’s probably the most important reason I get so many visitors. Google is my friend. See the evidence here:
Almost 60% of my visitors find me through search engines. And most of them find me through Google. Look:
How good a friend of mine is Google? About 94%. I’d call that a best friend.
SEO can be really complicated. I’ve mostly come across complicated explanations that make my brain hurt. Algorithms schmalgorithms, I say. My trick?
All you need to do is install this baby on your WordPress (or, if you use a different content manager, I am sure they have SEO plugins for those as well), toy around a little with the settings (not too much or you blow stuff up), and make sure you fill in the WordPress SEO details for every post. It will even give you a page analysis on what you can do to improve your SEO. Once you’ve done that, you are set!
2. Don’t underestimate StumbleUpon.com
Almost 30% of my visitors finds my website through referral websites. In the following table I want to focus on StumbleUpon.com for now.
SU.com is number one of all referral sources! It has sent me about 10,000 visitors which is pretty impressive.
StumbleUpon needs people to add a certain page to their database (I won’t go into detail too much, if you are interested in exactly how it works, go visit their site). So what I always do is, as soon as I’ve published another blog post, I upload my page to their database. You can install a StumbleUpon plugin into your web browser (Chrome, Firefox) and make it even easier (click the thumbs up button in the bar to go to the add page). Or, if you have social media buttons added to your blog post, add SU.com as well and use that one.
You’ll be directed to an “add page”, where you can add your blog. Fill in the details as carefully and fully as you can and select appropriate tags (I usually skip on the comment though). That’s all there is to it! From there, people will automatically stumble upon your site through SU.com’s randomizer.
I admit it’s a hassle to have to add each blog manually to SU.com, but as you can see, it pays off.
One last tip: make sure you don’t change the URLs of your blogs after you’ve added them to the SU.com database – once you do, it can’t find your posts anymore.
3. Don’t overestimate Facebook and Twitter
As you can see in the table above, Facebook and Twitter combined lead only about 7% of my audience to my website. Harrumph. That’s not very many. I spend a lot of time trying to write good tweets, deciding which hashtags to use, etcetera. Perhaps these numbers are more an indication of my sucking badly at social media, but … Somehow I do doubt it.
I know you reach more people on Twitter than on Facebook (even more so now that FB has their immensely stupid Promote rules, limiting your audience even further). But I think that (and this is from personal experience) people have a “READ MY BLOG PLZ” overload, from all the blog-shares going on on Twitter. I very rarely open a link to a blog anymore, and if I do, it must have really appealed to me. I’ve become a lot more efficient with my time, lately, and not spending hours reading random blogs I found through Twitter is part of that. I can imagine others feel the same.
But, are all my efforts to spread the word through social media futile? No, certainly not. And this is why.
Why this isn’t a reason you should give up on social media
Look, my data aren’t really useful for a generalization (the external validity is rather low). Your data would probably look quite different compared to mine. I took a year-long blogging break, and during that time, I did not really share anything on Twitter or Facebook, either. So, people technically and practically couldn’t find my stuff on there!
What I think really speaks for the use of the social media is the following (click on them to enlarge)
As you can see above, although Google and Stumbleupon send me a lot of visitors, these people tend not to visit the site for long. They visit one, occasionally two pages. The amount of new visits is high, but the bounce rate is, too (80% of the Google visitors closes the page after just a few seconds, deciding this was not what they were looking for).
However, the stats for Twitter and Facebook show something entirely different. They more often visit two or more pages, they tend to take their time to read on the site, the amount of people who return here more often is actually higher, plus people are much less likely to close the page after a few seconds.
Morale of the story? Although you attract tons of people through the search engines, they might find your blog post didn’t really match their search query and will close your site immediately. However, the ones that decide to click on your tweeted/shared link on FB or Twitter do so because it appeals to them. They take their time reading your site, and quite likely also return if they like what they see.
So there are pros and cons to both SEO/SU.com and Social Media: with the former, you reach a lot of different people, with the latter, you reach less people, but you reach the people that are already interested in you and/or in what you write.
4. Lastly, write a lot (but not too much)
My last tip is to write a lot. I have published many posts that attract people. Another tip: write about a few topics, don’t limit yourself to one. You’ll attract more kinds of people. But make sure it’s not too haphazard – my posts have always been related to what I do in my academic career, what I find interesting and stuff that I use for my books. If it’s too far removed from what you think would make your blog readers buy your book, they won’t buy it (and this applies to any kind of business, really). It’s as simple as that.
On the other hand, don’t write too much, or you’ll be burnt out like I was. Four to five posts a week is doable with more people, but trust me, two to a maximum of three is more than enough on your own. And you’ll appear as more stable and trustworthy to your returning reader, too.
And then, one very last piece of advice: don’t expect major changes in your stats overnight. For instance, Google’s algorithms work in such a way that once your site is visited more, it will put you on the top of the search results more often. That takes time – give it that. Don’t check your analytics every day, because you’ll be obsessed and disappointed, like I was.
Well, that is it for now! I hope this is useful to you. If you have any questions, please ask .
If you have any tips for me or other readers, please share them in the comments section. What do you do to attract people to your site?