Want to know my blogging secrets?
If I could tell you my secret to increasing visits to my web site by over 500% in less than six months, would you want to know it?
If I had a super secret strategy that I could expose that would explain how page views grew almost 600% in less than 6 months, would you pay for it?
What if I told you that I had increased the average visit duration, over the same period by over 40%?
Wait, this isn’t a sales letter and I’m not planning on selling anything. I’m planning on telling you exactly what I did. Because there’s nothing secret about it. You know me. That’s who I am.
But I will tell you this – before we get started. I’m not going to tell you that the secret is to “make your content go viral” or to just “write awesome content” because those are literally the stupidest things I’ve ever read.
My web site has always been a simple little site (virtually unknown) for those who I coach in person. It holds the same resources of material I’ve already shared with them so that I didn’t have to repeat myself.
Back in January of this year I decided to write an eBook. Partially because we all say we should write a book some day. And partially because I was challenging a friend to write their own. And I always want to do what I’m telling others to do.
So in February it went on sale and it started selling. Now, to be honest, I didn’t think of myself as a writer – just a person who had managed remote and virtual teams for a long time. But at a lunch in May, a vendor and partner asked why I didn’t write more. I didn’t have an answer except, “I’m not really a writer.”
Getting in my own way
There’s one more thing to know about my little chrislema.com site. I hate looking stupid. So every year I would go back and look at previous articles and if they no longer were “correct” or “forward-thinking” or demonstrated any level of strategic thinking, I would delete them. I don’t know if you’re like me, but I never want to come across stupid, and I could just so easily see a comment telling me how wrong I was. So only Google’s Webmaster tools had proof of where I’d been wrong (and of my vanity).
But broken links don’t help your domain or page authority. Trust me.
Up until April, before changing any habits, I would write anywhere from 0 to 5 posts a month. This would net me an average of 10 to 30 visitors a day. But on the day or day right after a post, I might see things jump to 75, 100 or even 200 visitors that day.
In May and June I tried to write more often – at least once a week. Now I was seeing 200-400 visits a week. Compared to the months before, that weekly visit count had been more like my previous monthly visit count.
Four things I changed
I simply wrote more often – Now don’t get me wrong; I didn’t jump from once a week to once a day. For a couple weeks I started writing every other day. But by September, I was writing every day. It became a personal discipline like the one I developed decades ago for reading. I read daily. So why shouldn’t I write daily?
I used social media more strategically – What I used to do was publish the post link on Twitter when an article was done. Then I started using Crowdbooster to see when it made more sense to publish (what times). Additionally, if I wrote about a company, their plugin or theme, I would let them know. This often translated into more retweets and greater visibility and traffic.
I could also schedule tweets with BufferApp. And buffer would push links to LinkedIn as well, which sometimes helped (depending on the topic). I started posting to Google Plus, which may have helped get articles indexed faster.
And when the article answered a question that I’d heard in a Facebook community, I posted it there.
I asked the communities I was in what they wanted to hear – In early October I joined a writing group led by Chris Brogan. I thought it would help me get my second eBook written (and it did). And I thought it would teach me better habits, and it did. You can join it now too.
One of his challenges was to write daily for 30 days. And I wasn’t sure I had 30 days of topics. Maybe 4. But not 30. So I went back to the Facebook groups I’m a part of (Orange County WordPress, Advanced WordPress) and asked them what articles they’d like to see. No surprise that they had tons of requests. And since those were targeted communities that focused on areas I cared about, almost all the topics were useful to me. And useful for them to come back to and read.
I finished my 30 day effort, but joined another Orange County bloggers group that had a 30 day challenge in November. And in December I’ve signed up again. While it brings a little bit more traffic, it’s the accountability that makes it worthwhile.
I tracked traffic better and looked for leverage points – I purchased an account with HitTail. I’m sure there are other tools like that out there, but these guys monitor the search traffic that comes to my site and lets me know what phrases were used. This helped provide feedback, letting me know what article topics were bringing greater traffic. I had my integrated statistics from Jet Pack, and I had Google Analytics, so both those helped as well. But HitTail helped me see some longer phrases that were worth thinking about, in terms of new articles.
In looking at the most recent month of traffic and comparing it to June’s what I see is the result of simple steps and the development of habits that don’t require any special expertise. You also don’t need to pay for someone’s super secret special plugin for backlinks or a new way to leverage amazon.
From 1,600 to 9,780 in visits (511% growth)
From 2,676 to 17,776 in pageviews (565% growth)
From 1:32 to 2:11 in average visit duration (42% growth)
And from 650 to 1005 in twitter followers (55% growth)
Three tips from Chris’ class in case you don’t join
This isn’t a post selling Brogan’s classes. So I thought I would share three tips I picked up in the class (out of hundreds) that you could incorporate on your own if it helps you (and you can’t buy the class with today’s super low price special).
Use an editorial calendar to guide your writing – I write about PowerPoint, about presentations, about new product development, about business and leadership, and about WordPress. By rotating thru my topics (not ritualistically), I feel engaged to write again. I can’t write about managing people every day. I can’t write about plugins every day. This helps.
Put yourself in your writing – I hate this one because I rather keep things about the story I’m telling, or the research I’ve read or done. But people have connected with me stronger when I’ve let part of who I am into the narrative.
Learn to write anywhere and everywhere – I had a leg up on this one because of how I work with reading any and everywhere. But writing had been different for me. So now I start posts on my iPhone, on my iPad, on my laptop and desktop computer. I use evernote to capture ideas. And I save email drafts of questions people ask. Just so I can always be ready to write.
So there you have it.
For free. Not so complicated or secret either. In fact, all of it common sense. Stuff you’ve heard before. So what’s left for you?
Simply this. Go do it.