I’ve been working slowly on building readership for this site. It hasn’t been live very long, but I’ve had days with upwards of 20k hits, so I must be doing something right. I seem to have gotten into a lot of discussions lately over short cuts and “tools” that are supposed to dramatically increase your “traffic,” and I wanted to get some thoughts down.
Meaningless traffic serves no purpose. In the earlier days of Internet advertising, when no one in the world had a clue except the few who could work the web, pulling up huge hit-count numbers was how you sold the “suits” on advertising. From this was born the pay-per-click empires and the sites of MLM like clickers going from site to site, building clicks and being paid so that advertising could be sold on the basis of visits to websites for no purpose other than to click. That’s a mouthful, huh? In any case, the world is becoming more savvy, and the web is becoming more “real” and meaningless traffic has been found to be - well - meaningless. If you go to a website and the guy claims he can dramatically increase traffic to your site, ask to see the stats for HIS site, and ask to see the number of people who hit the site, commented, or interacted in any way. If there is no interaction, it’s the same as if there was no traffic. Seriously.
So what do you do to get people to read your blog, or visit your site? I have five tips. Actually, I probably have fifty, but I’m limiting it to five. Number five on my list is the most important, and though everyone won’t want to hear it, it’s an important truth. Let’s get to it.
1) Dynamic Content. You can no longer use your website like a business card and hope people will return to it. If there is not something new, relevant, and of interest on your site daily - or close to daily - people will move on. The currents here are fast. People want to be entertained, and if you bore them, you lose them.
2) Be unique. Don’t try to emulate the success of others. Don’t copy their design, their topics, or their content. If there are number one, two, and three folks in any niche, you aren’t going to knock them out of those positions by trying to become their clone - you’ll just be part of the backwash.
3) Don’t spend your time bouncing from site to site lost in discussions of “how can I get people to come to my site!” - if you are doing that YOU aren’t even at your site. (Yes, I am well aware of the irony of that statement in this post) Think about content, make the design as usable as possible, and become something and someone worth visiting. Reading blogs is an investment - give them something in return. If people visit you and like you in your real life, figure out the qualities that bring this about and infuse your blog and web presence with heavy doses of the same.
4) Think about what you want to say. Then think around the edges. If you have a very focused theme for your blog, invest some of yourself into the content as well. Drag in subjects and content from the periphery. If focus is important, it can’t hurt to widen your target audience by flirting with other topics / subjects / or just plain injecting yourself and your life into the project, as long as you do so without completely diverging from your main topic. You want people to trust you, let them know you.
5) Here we go. It can’t be taught. Blogging is writing. For some of us, writing is life. I can do it, I know a lot of people who can’t. I also know a lot of people who want very much to write, but never get past the “what should I write” stage, or the emulation of others. Some blogs are popular and some are not. Some people are popular, and some are not. If there was a magic formula to follow, I’d share it, but I’m not even sure I’m on the “cool kids” list myself - I just know it’s there. People read what interests them. The top bloggers did not get there by learning to blog, or even, really, by thinking about it. They had ideas, and they shared them. People liked the ideas and listened. A following is built by leading…and if you spend much time trying to figure out how to get more people following, you are trying to manage. We all know that Seth Godin has described the vast difference between managers and leaders - the static state of the one, and the limitless possibilities of the other. So rule number five is - however large your following actually grows, it will reach its zenith faster if you write what is important to you, in the manner you want it to be read and quit worrying about how everyone else got so many readers.
In the immortal words of some long-lost Nike advertising guru…
“Just do it.”