At Blogher today, Elise Bauer talked traffic. Here are my notes.
So much to cover, Elise warned us.
She runs Simply Recipes, started 3 years ago. She gets over 1 million page views per month, over 20,000 visitors each day. Elise also has a site on Moveable Type – she’s written over 100 tutorials on the topic.
In the room, we were evenly distributed on platforms – Blogger, WordPress, Moveable Type, etc.
The methods she suggests are her opinions, and no promise that they will work in the future.
Looking at building blog traffic through three pillars: Content, Community and Technology.
Community is what brings your site to life, what will propel it forward. Technology is to support your goals.
If you want a high traffic site, you should be either Useful, Entertaining, or Timely. All three would be ideal.
Elise prioritizes Useful – something that has legs. Content that is just as valuable a year from now is a true asset. Something that will keep driving traffic over time.
Elise is writing a series on Blogher.org on this topic.
To have a successful blog, think about where your skills are and what you like to do. To be entertaining, you must be talented! A site based on timeliness requires a tremendous time investment – glued to the computer 12 hours per day.
If you are serious about building traffic, you must focus on a topic. If you are going to be a food blogger, but write about food, gardening, and more, you will not succeed. Focus on one thing that pulls in other bloggers with shared interests. Pick what you are going to focus on.
Post frequently, but not at the expense of quality. Heidi Swanson posts only once per week, but it is quality. People want to link to it, read it in their feed reader.
Use images and photographs. We are visual creatures. When you pull high quality images, it helps break up the monotony of a texty page.
Consider headlines. See Lisa Stone for a headline writing exercise. Two ways – interesting and eyecatching or boring, but with search terms. Google loves post titles, so if you want to be picked up by search engines, make sure that your keywords are in your headlines. If you can be entertaining and have the keywords – great!
Traffic can result from polls, Top 10 lists, Contests, How-to’s, Conducting Interviews. Be controversial. Cause a storm and people will link to you. These things will make your site interesting, and will encourage people to link to you. They can backfire if you are using them just for traffic.
Write well. Be consise. Use paragraphs. Spell check.
Be excellent. Only post things that you are proud to have your parents see.
Write about someething you are passionate about. Else you risk burn out. Elise’s recipe site is an expresssion of love for her parents. She may tire of posting, but her care for this topic continues to inspire her to return to writing on it.
Link! The most important thing you can do to boost traffic is to link out to other bloggers. You should have a blogroll so that others see you are linking to them and they get to know you. Link out and be generous with your links. Link in posts themselves.
Leave comments. Find people who share interests and let them know you exist by commenting. Show people you are giving them attention.
Plan and join online events. A blog carnival is a great way to connect with your community and build traffic. Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen has weekend blog carnivals and people participate and they all link with each other. The host selects a theme. Hosts can alternate. Elise has a write up on BlogHer.org on this topic. Also see BlogCarnival.com.
Contribute to the community. Someone created a Food Blog School to help other food bloggers get started. Take the time to volunteer at conferences, create useful things. The community will appreciate it and express their appreciation. Be generous.
How do People Find Your Blog?
- Someone else’s web site
- Google or other search engine
- Repeat visitor who has bookmarked the site
- Newsfeeds – Bloglines, My Yahoo, Google Reader
- Del.icio.us, Technorati or other social bookmarking tool
- Someone emailed your URL – add a form for Email to a Friend
- Press – Email relevant editors. Get credibility this way.
So much of building traffic to your site is based on the algorithms that search engines use to determine who shows up on top. That’s what page rank is. Example – a blog about photography or tree trimming or shoes. You want to be at the top of the search results for those keywords searches on the engines. The higher your page rank, the higher you will show up.
What contributes to page rank?
- Links from other web sites
- Links from web sites with high page rank
- Text-based content (not flash)
- Use of keywords in text
- Page title
- Good HTML structure (appropriate header tags)
For example, writing about blueberry muffins? Make sure that your page title is Blueberry Muffins so that the search engines can find that.
What hurts your page rank?
- Links to link farms, spam sites
- 404 errors – links that go to pages that don’t exist
Make it easy to read, easy to find stuff.
-Keep images under 15.5K
- Page length and size under 100K, including images. 4-5 posts with images is ideal.
- Font size (must be readable in different browsers). Black text on white background is ideal.
- Clutter (reduce). Everything on the page should benefit the user.
- Colored backgrounds are not helpful.
- Eye tracking study (focus on upper left corner). Put your most important content in the upper left. Put your search bar there. If you put ads there, you are taking away from people who are looking for content.
- Search bars – help people discover your content
- Categories – helps to have a platform that allows you to easily categorize your content and it lists the categories on the site.
10-20% of users see any page beyond the home page. Help them get to your deeper content.
14% of Simply Recipes visitors are using 800×600. It’s very constrained. Put your computer on these settings to see how your site looks at this resolution. If your content is off the page, you are shooting yourself in the foot.
A feed reader is a program that helps you see feeds of information from web sites, lots at the same time. You can browse the sites you’ve selected and see their latest content. Check out personalized Google. You can pull in feeds from news feeds, NY Times, Blogs. Make it easy for people to add your feed to Google’s page. Look under their publishing tools section.
Feedburner is a place that you can publish your feeds from. You can see all sorts of amazing statistics. You can find out exactly which content people are clicking on through your feed. If you have an RSS feed, get it set up on Feedburner. It’s a very powerful tool. It’s free. You can see who is linking to you.
Feedblitz is a service that lets you publish your feed as an email. People who aren’t into feed readers, may be more likely to want your content in their email box. This is also free. You can put a form on your site that says “Subscribe by email”. You can find out what people are clicking on within the email you sent.
Promote your feed with the buttons from My Yahoo, Add to Google, My MSN, and Bloglines. Put those buttons on your page and automatically people will be subscribed to your feed.
Technorati – Claim your blog. Start using tags if it makes sense for your content. It can be more easily searched if tagged properly.
Delicious is a social bookmarking service that can help you manage your bookmarks.
Measuring site traffic
Lots of services that are free to help you figure out
- page views
- individual page views
- search engine bots contribute 5-15% of your traffic
Services – Sitemeter Google Analytics
Software – AWStats
What stats should you care about?
Number of subscribers
Number os subscribers clicking through
Individual page Views
Technorati – who’s linking to you
Engage your community
Tune your site
Promote your feed
Create a blog of which you are proud!
Heather from RookieMoms.com asked if we want to switch to FeedBurner, will we screw up any visitors who were already reading our feed through RSS.
Elise-Yes, you can screw it up so go carefully and read the documentation.
Asha from parenthacks.com – do you have a search engine recommendation to help visitors search the content on your blog.
Elise – suggests the google tool and creating the google site map to help google spider your site quickly.
Amy Garon – From rightconversation.com – Important to leave comments – she has created a great strategy for leaving comments and the info is on her site. The post is called No Blog is An Island
Kalyn – By hand is sending her users emails of specific posts because she has users who don’t want to receive every post via FeedBlitz. Is there a way to take care of this?
Through the paid service, you can specify when to send an email, rather than for every post.
Heidi from 101 Cookbooks uses Constant Contact so that it only notifies for specific categories of contact.