In each case the bloggers had strong opinions (and experiences to back those opinions up) on what type of traffic was ‘best’ and how to get it.
- In one case the conversation started with a blogger telling me that I focus too much upon social media traffic and not enough on traffic from search engines. Their niche didn’t work with social traffic but with search traffic they did best.
- In another case the blogger told me that they’d been told to forget about search traffic in their niche and work more on building traffic from other sites and to convert it into ongoing traffic with newsletters.
- In the last case a blogger told me that in their opinion the best type of traffic was social media traffic and they didn’t see the point in newsletters.
I was reminded through these conversations just how many different valid approaches there are to blogging. I also came away with a few thoughts that I thought I’d jot down here on the topic of driving traffic to blogs.
1. There are Many Valid Sources of Traffic
The above chart shows just 8 of many sources of traffic to a blog. As I write this others are already springing to mind (for example some bloggers run paid advertising to drive traffic to their blog – others get it from banner exchange programs). The reality is that there are many potential sources of traffic.
2. The ‘Best’ Source of Traffic Varies from Niche to Niche
As I thought about the 3 bloggers I was chatting to above it struck me that each had found great sources of traffic but that they were each operating in very different niches.
The first blogger who had written off social media was in a niche that people were simply not using social media for (I won’t reveal the niche as I don’t have their permission but it was a very very niche focused blog). Perhaps they could have driven a tiny bit of traffic with social media but for them Search was a much better place for them to invest their time.
3. Different Sources of Traffic Will monetize differently
Another important factor to consider is that some sources of traffic will monetize ALOT better than others. I’ve found that search traffic can work very well with AdSense for example (it depends upon the niche and intent of the reader). People arrive on your site searching for specific information, read your content, see an ad that relates to their search term and click on it.
RSS readers on the other hand don’t tend to convert for AdSense as they tend to be loyal readers and many don’t even click through to your site to read your content. RSS readers (and social media traffic) however can convert really well for affiliate promotions or selling your own products to.
4. Traffic Patterns Change over the life cycle of a blog
As a blog matures its sources of traffic often quite naturally change.
There’s no typical one size fits all pattern to this but at first the traffic might mainly come from other blogs or forums where you comment – or blogs where you guest post – or articles that you write. In time you might start to see more traffic from RSS or newsletters as a few people subscribe. Perhaps then some traffic will come from other sites who link to you (people who subscribe via RSS might have their own blogs) and from social media. After a while your search engine ranking might kick in as a result of the links from other sites and your guest posting and article writing and you might start seeing Google traffic. Once your blog is more established you might start seeing social bookmarking viral events that spike your traffic.
Again – this is not going to be the pattern for all blogs but in time traffic will naturally start to come from different places – the key is to try to leverage it for ongoing good (trying to get your blog to be sticky rather than just having one time visitors) and to work out how to convert that traffic for the goals you have.
5. Bloggers should be open to different approaches
While each of the three bloggers had discovered great lessons and good sources of traffic for their niches and the life cycles of their blogs – I was left wondering in each case whether the bloggers were being a little too closed off to different sources of traffic that perhaps could have added to the overall mix of traffic.
I see a lot of SEO type bloggers write about the worthlessness of social traffic for instance. One common comment that I get from some SEOs (definitely not all) is that social media traffic can’t be monetized. The reality could not be further from the truth. It won’t always convert but it certainly can. For example I know in each of the E-book launches that I’ve done in two niches that I’ve seen significant conversions from Twitter traffic.
On the flip side of things I hear some social media focused bloggers write off SEO and say that it works itself out and you don’t need to optimise your blog for search if you just produce good content. While there is some truth in that (good content does tend to generate natural incoming links to some extent) with a basic understanding of principles of SEO and a few minor tweaks a blog can rank much better in search engines without compromising the integrity of the content.
I guess what I’m getting at is that if you get exclusive about the type of traffic you are after you could actually be limiting the potential of your blog’s incoming traffic.
6. Too many Eggs in One Basket Can Be Dangerous
I used to be very focused upon search traffic in my early days of blogging. I worked hard to optimise my first blogs for search and got to a point where I was making a full time living from the ad revenue I was getting almost exclusively from Google. As a result I got a little lazy in some of the other areas – I didn’t work to convert readers to be loyal with newsletters or with prominent calls to subscribe to RSS, I didn’t build too many relationships with other bloggers to generate referral traffic and I was very inactive in social media (although it was much more limited back then).
As a result when Google decided to adjust their algorithm one day and my rankings dropped (and almost completely disappeared) in their results I lost almost all of my traffic – and as a result almost all of my income.
I was lucky in that Google readjusted their algorithm a couple of months later and I regained a lot of (but not all) of that traffic but in the mean time I looked for and found a ‘real job’ – and more importantly learned an important lesson about the power of having more than one source of traffic.
That experience was the beginning of me doing a few things that included working harder on capturing readers as subscribers (email and RSS), networking more with other bloggers in my niche and getting more involved in promoting my blog in other places (mainstream media, social media etc). My hope in doing all of this was to build up other sources of traffic so that if Google ever switched off my traffic again (temporarily or permanently) I’d at least have enough traffic to survive.
Google still does send me around 40-50% of my traffic (it varies a little from blog to blog) but I’m in a position now where I could survive for an extended period if it all disappeared (not that I’d like for that to happen).
7. The Importance of Personality and Being Yourself
I’m sure there are other factors that are at play that might be worth considering when looking at traffic. One of these (that I’m yet to fully think through) is personality type.
For example a lot of my my technically thinking friends seem to enjoy the challenge of SEO a little more. They love experimenting with and testing what happens when they make small tweaks to different aspects of their blogs. They’re constantly testing different setups and do quite well from it. I am not technically minded and find their attention to detail very very unusual (and so far from where that I’m at that I feel like I’m from another planet).
Other friends are perhaps a little more social by nature and as a result seem to do well on Twitter.
Others seem to do better by applying their freakish ability to write blog posts that get tonnes of links from other sites and which do brilliantly on social bookmarking sites..
Others are networkers and spend a lot of time interacting with other bloggers and site owners and tend to get links and traffic that way.
Others just seem to be brilliant at building community on their blog and as a result retain almost everyone who ever comments and build new readers from those people telling their friends.
I guess the lesson here is to be yourself and work with your strengths. Of course you don’t want to let your strengths dominate so much that you ignore or become lazy in areas that you’re not as strong in – but do follow your natural abilities and leverage them as much as you can.
Remember that there is no wrong or right way to generate traffic for a blog. If you were analyze the sources of traffic on many top blogs you’d find quite different factors at play!