How to Build Traffic on Your Blog
Algorithms come and go. Social networks will shadowban you at random points for reasons you cannot discern, and yet still you need to keep building traffic if you want to make a living from your blog. So how do you go about doing it? The good news is that there are some broad principles you can apply which have been true ever since blogging began. And they will likely remain foundational no matter which new promotional channels pop up and then disappear. The bad news is that applying these principles takes time and work. But when you know what it is you’re trying to do, you can make sure that your traffic-building efforts are heading in the right direction. Hopefully, you’ll prevent those horrible moments (we all have them!) where you stare at your stats and want to weep because nothing you’re doing seems to be paying off.
These three steps are more strategic than practical, but by bearing in mind the overall strategy, it can help you sort the useful traffic-building work from the tasks which won’t make a difference:
- Create awesome (regular, varied) content
- Get new people to find your content
- When they’ve found your content, make ‘em stay
Create awesome (regular, varied) content
This may sound incredibly obvious, but the most important thing for your blog is creating great content. You can do all the traffic-building work in the world, but if the content people arrive at when they get there doesn’t rock their world, they’re unlikely to return. And if they come back to your blog and don’t find anything new, they’re probably going to leave again.
So first point: you need to create new content regularly. By “regularly” I mean once per week minimum. I know that might sound like a lot, especially if you’re juggling blogging along with lots of other work and hobbies and childcare and all the other bits and pieces that make up a life. But regular content really is important if you want Google to crawl you regularly, and readers to keep coming back. If you’re stuck for ideas, check out this piece on great ways to generate content.
Think of your blog a little like a shop.
You want people to visit regularly and buy things, so having new products means they’ll be tempted to come back more often. Plus, each time you add a new product (a blog post, a photo, a video, or piece of audio) you give yourself a chance to re-promote your site with the headline “NEW!”
The other key point, alongside ‘regular’, is that ideally, your content needs to be varied. If all you post is sex toy reviews, then the only people who’ll visit your blog will be people who are sex toy geeks like you are or those who have specifically searched for a review of a particular toy. Likewise, if you only ever post erotica, you’ll get erotica fans but few others. One of the most helpful things for me in terms of building traffic is the mix of SFW posts amongst the NSFW ones. In the last few months, the blog posts which have performed best are ones that discuss break-up emotions or relationships and dating. In the past, I’ve had some great success with posts about feminism or sexual politics. Why? Because while people love the smut, they’re unlikely to share it, so mixing in other topics means your blog will get shared more widely, which will help introduce you to those all-important new people.
Which leads me neatly on to…
Get new people to find your content
The key word here is “new.” There are plenty of fabulous ways to get your work noticed within the sex blogging community. Joining in with memes or commenting on other people’s posts is a fantastic start if you want to get the attention of other bloggers. But when you’re looking to build traffic more broadly, ideally you need to look beyond the environment you already know and into new places where shiny new people are waiting to discover you.
You can do this in a number of ways:
- Social media
- Link building
- Email/word of mouth
How did you feel when you read that list? Was there one option that made you sigh with relief and go “phew! I’m doing that already!”? Then cross that off the list immediately, and focus on one of the ones which scared you. I’m serious: getting new people to find your stuff means putting yourself outside your comfort zone. If they’re the kind of person who already uses the channels you’re on, they’ve probably found you already.
To my mind, one of the most useful ways to build traffic is via link building, and ideally link building in major outlets which have really good Google rank. If you’re going to build links from places like the Guardian, Cosmo, Metro, or any major publication you need to do one of a few things:
This means finding the guidelines for submitting your own opinion piece or article and writing a pitch that grabs their attention.
This means making connections with journalists who are covering your topic area, following them and sharing their work, getting in touch with them to let them know you’re available for quotes, and responding to their callouts when they’re writing new pieces.
Promote something big or cool that you’re doing. A new book release, a cool project, a partnership with someone, whatever it might be.
The first two things have already been covered brilliantly here by Kayla and on the Smutlancers podcast so please do check out the links above! The third is one I’ll cover in a later column so subscribe to the Smutlancer newsletter to keep an eye out for new tips!
The key thing to remember is that when you’re building traffic, new links are always more valuable than old ones, and big platforms are (of course!) always more valuable than small ones. If it takes you two hours to write a guest blog for my site, but you’ve written for me already or you could have pitched that guest blog to the Guardian? Ignore me, go for the Graun! I’ll always be there to publish you later if your pitch doesn’t work out, but why not give it a shot and see if you can get your work in front of more people?
When they’ve found it, make ‘em stay
This principle comes in part from the Google algorithm, which places a higher value on your site if it knows that people who go there stay for a long time. Google can tell if you’re dragging people in using the keyword ‘free hot sex stories’, but not providing those free hot sex stories. People will click straight back to the search results and look elsewhere. Hence your site loses ranking.
But alongside pleasing the Google Gods, providing rich, enticing content is good for your traffic building anyway. Giving people content that they want to engage with, and enjoy for a long time, means they’re more likely to do other things you want them to do, like sign up to your newsletter or comment or share your work.
The best way to do this is to try and offer them rich content which they’re tempted to click on. If you visit a single blog post and all you see is text, then you’ll likely head off once you’ve read the text or – worse – when you’ve scanned the page and realized it doesn’t offer what you’d like. If you visit a page that has text, images, a “play” button to let you hear that post as audio, an embedded video, or a tempting list of “related articles” too? You’re probably more likely to spend a little time having a browse.
Use These Principles to Focus
Remember the shop analogy from the start of this piece? If you pop to Tesco for milk and bread, you’re often going to walk out with some discount biscuits and a meal deal as well, because the clever people who do shop layouts know that you’re far more valuable to them if they can tempt you with other treats. They’ll also usually try to get you to sign up for a loyalty card too (the equivalent of getting someone to subscribe to your newsletter or Patreon) because they know you’re more valuable if they can get you to return the next time.
As I say, these principles are more strategic than directly practical. But by remembering these (very) broad principles, you can better focus your practical work and make sure you’re heading in the right direction when you try to build traffic. Creating awesome content, getting new people to find it, and making them stay on your site. Good luck!