I have had many people over the last month ask what I have been doing to have success in increasing traffic to my blog and other online content. This post highlights my answer to them. You may not be able to utilize all tips on all your posts or content. Use whatever you can whenever you can to improve your results.
1) Pick a relevant theme, topic and title for your blog and blog posts
- Pick a Theme - Figure out the purpose of your blog and develop a theme based on that purpose. If you are going to be blogging more about personal activities than technical posts you would not want to use a name/theme like "Nothing but Technology" or "All Things Technology". A more appropriate theme might be "Technology Tips and Random Comments from Dan Stolts".
- Topic of posts make a huge difference. Make sure the topic you choose for a post is of interest to an audience today and tomorrow.
- Longevity and popularity often determine relevance. If you want to get really good numbers over time, choose topics that do not expire. When you pick a title, use key words that are likely to be typed into a search engine on the topic. Don't be bashful, and do not think you need to keep it simple. If you do a long detailed blog post on an event that is going to happen next week (or happened last week) your audience for that content is limited. As time passes the value of that content also declines rapidly. To use a technology example, for me to spend a bunch of time to create a detailed post on Windows XP or Windows Vista would be a waste of time as it is old news. A topic that is of great interest today like “Increasing Productivity by Deploying Windows 7 Phone in Your Company” or “Windows 8 – You have to see the next version of Windows!” are much better topics. There are many reasons whey they are better.
- The topic will be of interest for a long time (it will not be old information in a week).
- It has several terms that will likely be used when someone is looking for content
- It is appealing to a very large audience
- Use keywords in the title: The more key words you can use in the title, the higher probability your post will be picked up on a search engine. Don't make it too complicated but make it relevant.
2) Help Yourself!
When you make a post, cross promote other posts that might be of interest to others that are reading this post. People may have found this particular post from a search engine or someone sending them a link to it directly. If you are doing a post on "How to protect SharePoint with System Center Operations Manager" and you have already done a post on "How to Install System Center Operations Manager Step By Step" make sure you add a cross link to your prior post. Also go back to your prior post and add a link to your new post. Cross promote your own site where possible (and appropriate)
3) If you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want!
Develop a relationship with other bloggers and influencers. Look for people that blog about topics that are of interest to your audience and watch them. When you create posts, add links to others posts that might be of interest to people that are reading your post. For example: if you are doing a post on "Planning for Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010" and there is another expert that has a post on Business Intelligence (BI) in SharePoint 2010, do a cross post. That is, add a link to the bottom of your post to link to their post. Don't be bashful, let them know that you posted a link from your post to theirs. Eventually, they will start posting links to your site as well. It is also ok to develop an "agreement" with other specialist to coordinate posts to help each other cross promote. BTW, anybody want to cross post with me? Send me a note at http://blogs.technet.com/b/danstolts/contact.aspx.
4) Cross post and participate on "popular" community sites
There are many public and social sites that want the community to be active. Take advantage of this and post your content to these sites. Some like to post a "preview" of the real post and then provide a link to the entire post. Some sites do not allow previews so make sure you understand the rules. If you do a preview, I recommend you make the preview post a complete and relevant post. It is fine to have your real blog post more detailed but you might upset people if you put a "to be continued" type of post online. It may also get you kicked off the site so be careful and considerate. Also, be active on other community sites. Don't just make reposts of your content, answer questions and become active on other sites. As people that are on these sites start to recognize you, they will start watching your blog. This could actually make your blog posts go viral so be smart and do not ignore this one!
5) Content is key Content really is key. Just like the topic and title, the content must be relevant.
- Audience Value: It should be detailed enough to have value to the person that is reading the post. Know your audience and know what they want to know. If you have multiple audiences, you may want to have multiple blogs. One blog for each audience is much better than having a blog that targets multiple audiences. If you have a bunch of information that is not relevant to a particular segment of your audience, they will be less likely to subscribe and follow. If you have a post that would be of interest to multiple audiences and you have separate blogs, make sure you post the content to all blogs where it is relevant.
- Keywords: It should include words that might be used to as search keywords. Using keywords multiple (or even many) times increases probability of being found by search engines. If there are particular "error codes" or "error descriptions" that are part of the post make sure you use those and get the text correct. Take some time to do it right.
- Tell a complete story: If most (or all of your posts) tell a complete story or COMPLETELY solve a problem, the probability of others linking to your site or subscribing to an RSS feed are much higher.
- Increase the depth of your posts. Introductory type posts simply do not get the numbers of deeper content posts. The exception to that rule is for new technology. Technology that is brand new (ie. Windows Phone 7, Internet Explorer 9) is an exception to the rule. Where possible, dive deeper and give people information they do not already have. Supply information that they cannot get somewhere else.
- Understand what you want out of your blog. Make sure that you have a plan to get out of your blog what you want. You also need to make sure that your objectives do not conflict with what your audience wants. They must be complimentary.
- Be as concise as possible. Do not make your audience read through a 3 page post when you really only have one or two messages to share. Make your post readable. Use bullets and bolding to make your posts easy to skim. Make sure you blog does not read like a book. If it is all long paragraphs of text, people will not spend the time to digest the content.
- Visual appearance does make a difference. When people do end up on your blog you want to make sure it is appealing to them. Take advantage of fonts and colors to add appeal to the blog. Pictures, screenshots and logo's are good but make sure they do not have a significant impact on performance. You also want to make sure that your site does not look too much like a "marketing" site with a bunch of advertisements.
- Don’t stop, consistency counts: you need to have a regular cadence. Keep posting. At least a couple times a month is recommended.
6) High performance is a must.
Not everyone has a 20mb x 20mb fiber optic Internet connection. Make sure that the server you are using to host your blog is responsive. Also, make sure you are not showing so many posts on your home page that it takes too long to load. There are other things to consider when it comes to the server like order your content is displayed, search capabilities, appearance, and many, many more. These are beyond the scope of this post.
7) Choose a good URL / Permalink Structure
The URL of your post is important. Use keywords and avoid characters (like space) that URL encode to multiple characters. I am not a fan of creating posts with words all jumbled up. It is much better to add an underscore character instead of a space. The primary reason for this is it makes it more readable. If you have a bunch of %20's in your URL it will be hard to read what the post is about if you are looking at just the URL. Often URL's are forwarded so you want them to be readable. Many blog platforms will automatically generate the URL based on the title. The way around this is just create the post with the words (and underscores) that you want in the URL then go back after the post and change the title if you like to add the spaces or change the words as needed.
8) Video's Rock and can get you pretty incredible numbers
Video's have been popular for a pretty long time now. With the economy being in such bad shape, they are even more popular. People are finding it difficult to get away from the office or to get the money to attend live events. They still need to keep up with technology so they turn to the web for this training. Create your video's using your favorite screencast creation software and post them.
9) Take advantage of other marketing mechanisms to spread the word
Do NOT nag your followers. I do not want to do this for all of your posts but for posts you really want to try to spread or posts you are particularly proud of use other outlets to spread the word. Post a link on Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites. Send emails out to any groups you belong to. Send an email to friends and family (as long as it might be of interest to them) and ask them to help you promote it. Ask fellow bloggers if they would mind helping you promote it. Be careful here. Do not do this too often or you will loose the impact and ability to use this avenue.
10) Getting Started creating and improving your blog…Just Do It!
If you are just getting started creating a blog just do it! If you are uncomfortable getting started. Just start slow with small posts. Instead of doing a 10 steps to success with something do something really small. Perhaps a topic like "Windows 7 Snipping Tool Rocks" how to use this little tool with a screenshot or two can be done in 5 or 10 mins and can build your confidence to continue on. The more you do it the easier it will get. There is no substitute for experience. Another thing you might want to do is look at other bloggers to see how they started. Most blogs have a list of posts by month. Navigate to the first month of their blog to see what they did. This will give you some ideas of how you might get started.
I have found some success in applying these tips and techniques. Be there no mistake about it, I still have a long way to go. I would really like to see 100 times more traffic on my site. However, I can tell you I have found success deploying these techniques and this year I experienced 400% growth in my online reach over the same period last year. Additionally, I have had much feedback from customers thanking me for "saving their butt" by showing them how to solve a big problem they had. One last point… No better time than the present to get started. If you are starting your blog or just want to improve your blogs performance, you have to start. Put a stake in the ground and start building. Good luck!
Feedback / Additions / Disagreements greatly appreciated!
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