One of the saddest sights online is blogs that have been abandoned by their creators. Many of these are authors who have been told that blogs will help them gather raving fans who will promote their books. These authors didn’t know that there’s nothing more important when starting blogs than getting traffic. Traffic is more important than content, more important than which software is being used to run a blog, more important than a fancy blog header or editorial schedule.
Though it’s true that the quality of content will make or break a blog, and software and design are important, getting traffic is a blog’s existential requirement. That’s because if a blog doesn’t get traffic, it will probably die. It will become one of those melancholy abandoned sites people stumble across online. We don’t want that to happen, because blogging, when done right, really does return amazing rewards to the authors who pursue it.
By traffic, what we mean is people: people who come and read articles, who participate in discussions, who share passions and interests. For authors who are trying to build communities and prepare the ground for future books, learning to integrate three drivers of traffic—content, social media, and search—will deliver results.
The articles a blogger publishes are content. But bloggers need to make sure content attracts traffic. Each blog post needs a clear reason to exist and bloggers should ask themselves these questions before pushing the Publish button:
◗ Does it help someone solve a problem?
◗ Does it answer a question that a lot of people are asking?
◗ Does it make a necessary task easier or show a new way to do it?
◗ Is it written in a way that really communicates with the people who need it most?
Great blog content is unique, memorable, or helpful, or it answers specific questions. How-to articles, for instance, are highly valued by readers stumped by specific processes and can attract a lot of traffic. Product reviews have also become great traffic magnets, with millions of people relying on them for buying assistance. Interviews, opinion pieces, roundups of expert commentary—there’s no end to the kinds of content bloggers can produce if they know what their readers are looking for.
A blog is the ideal hub to use when expanding marketing into social media. Social accounts are outposts to attract people who can then be encouraged to visit blogs for further information and engagement. Bloggers should ask these questions when evaluating their social media strategies:
◗ Do they provide their followers with great content, entertainment, links, or ideas?
◗ Have they become known as trusted or entertaining resources?
◗ Is there a good likelihood that their social media followers will heed their calls to action?
Savvy authors find people who are interested in their work on social media and then direct them to their blogs, building their own traffic—not just the traffic for the social media site.
Although Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites now account for a huge amount of web traffic, responses to search queries remain the single largest source of traffic to blogs. Bloggers need to have specific strategies to boost their search traffic and should ask themselves these questions:
◗ Have they spent time making sure that what they publish reflects what people are searching for?
◗ Do they know the keywords that are most important in the subjects they write about?
◗ Do they know how to do simple search engine optimization (SEO) on their blog posts?
◗ Do they use blog metrics such as those provided by Google Analytics (a free program) to find out which efforts are having results?
Although SEO is a complicated science, bloggers don’t have to learn very much to start getting results. There are very few authors who seem to pay attention to SEO, and that’s a big advantage for those who do, as they may be able to rank quite well with just a little work.
The point is that people—readers, viewers, buyers—come for a reason. There has to be something to attract them, and they may need repeated exposure before they discover it. That’s part of the job of authors’ social media outposts: to spread the word about their great and useful content.
Getting these three elements lined up and functioning properly takes some work, experience, and thought. But, with the right content, intelligently written to be friendly to searchers in a niche and circulated within an active social media network, a blog will prosper.
Joel Friedlander is a book designer and author; he blogs about book design, marketing, and the future of the book at The Book Designer.