How to Increase Traffic to Your Blog (Part 1: Content)

Traffic photo by QT Luong/terragalleria.com

Whether your blog is a humble look at the progress you’re making in your hobby goals, or you envision your site as Mecca for bloggers everywhere, more traffic is always a good thing.  More visitors can provide more inspiring comments to fuel your progress, or can inspire thought as to different viewpoints.

This series of articles is designed to expand upon some simple concepts that can help increase traffic to your blog without a lot of effort.

Nothing found within these articles is particularly revolutionary:  Most of the suggestions are common-sense based, or come from various sources around the internet.  This is because blogging is not a particularly new phenomenon, it’s just that most of us in the 40k blogosphere are gamers first and bloggers second. 

For the sake of brevity (a trait I’m sorely lacking in), I’ve opted to break this topic down into a series of three posts:

  • Content
  • Networking
  • Measurements

Today’s post will expand upon the idea of improving your blog’s content through some simple ideas:

Quality Content Reigns Supreme

If you ask someone what the key factor for determining why they read something, surely they’ll say it’s the content.  Making your blog pretty will surely attract people, but without good content, they’ll just move on without spending time on your site.  So, if you want more readers, you need to ensure you have good content, but just what does that mean? 

Recently I did a poll on my site about what makes people follow blogs and the top response was “The tone/style of the blogger” (see below for complete poll results).  Pictures proved moderately important, as did the armies portrayed in the blog, but the most popular answer was about the style of writing.   This includes tone, and style, but also includes basic fundamentals like spelling and grammar. 

[poll id=”21″]

Tone and style take a while to develop, and the best way to do so (like with anything else) is to practice.  That aside, there are a few easy steps that you can take to improve the level of your content dramatically, quickly and easily: use spelling and grammar checkers.  If you have problems with spelling, don’t worry, WordPress and Blogger both have integrated spell-checks, just get into the habit of pressing them before submitting a post.  Likewise, if you can write your posts in Microsoft Word (or a similar publishing program), prior to copying them to your blog, you can leverage their advanced levels of grammar and spell checking.  

And for those of us who think they’re masters of the English language and have no problems with spelling or grammar, think again.  I’d fancy myself as a bit of an English nut, but everyone makes mistakes (me more than most, I’m sure).  So, it’s a good habit for everyone to get into. 

And remember, practice writing! 

Post Regularly

Another key factor that determines whether people come to your blog (or at least how frequently they do so) is the regularlity of your posts.  Do you find yourself posting sporatically?  Infrequently?  Posting on regular days at certain times can increase your traffic. 

That's one way to stay regular.

Personally, I try to post regularly scheduled content on Mondays and Wednesday at 6:30am Alaska Time.  This way, my blog will show up in various blogrolls around the net when the first people check in the morning.   On even the most popular of blogrolls, that tends to leave my link visible for the remainder of the morning and into the afternoon.  Naturally, people are more inclined to click on those links if they don’t have to dig for them…

I used to post on Friday’s as well, but noticed that I wasn’t getting much traffic those days, no matter how good the post seemed to be.  An interesting study over at Socialnomics seems to explain why: naming specific days as better for posting (Tuesday and Wednesday, for the record).  Then they take this a step farther to say between 10:-11:30am  and 1:00-3:30pm are the best times to post.  Perhaps there’s something to the time and date of posting?   One last thought to consider with regard to time is to make sure you consider time zones.  If your core audience is outside of your local area, you might consider posting at a different time of day (hence why I post at 6:30am Alaska Time, that’s 10:30 EST). 

For those of who who want to time your posts, you can use your blogging software to schedule posts for precise times, rather than writing them whenever you’d like.  For instructions on how to do this in WordPress or Blogger, click the appropriate link. 

One other thought on  posting regularly is not only to consider the time, but also the frequency of the updates.  If you want to have a very popular mainstream blog, you should be posting at least once per day.  Sites like From the Warp, and Bell of Lost Souls use this tactic (in fact, BoLS can post as much as five times per day), which keep people coming back for more.  You’ll note that each of those sites makes use of guest bloggers rather extensively.  Since one person can’t be expected to come up with quality content 7-35 times per week, they employ the help of others.

Using guest bloggers not only increases the frequency of updates, but also gives you a fresh perspective on things, as well as a community feel for your site.   It’s certainly something to consider.

Have A Niche

Another great way to stand out from the pack is to have something you do, but nobody else does.  If you can do it in a way that’s difficult to copy, even better, but that’s not strictly necessary. 

Many of the great blogs out there, not only have regular content, but also have repeating features.  Some good examples of this are:

And there are many more.  These are just a couple of the links that attract me to a blog.  No matter how busy I am, I always manage to sneak a look at these repeating features on their blogs.  Having a great niche like this can bring your blog popularity as well.

Sell Out!

Such negative connotations those two words have, but they do inspire alot of traffic.  A year ago, I noticed an amazing trend in my own blog traffic: people were actually starting to read!  I started attributing it to my seemingly amazing skills at writing content and started posting every day.  Low and behold, traffic increased even more!

But despite the fact that I kept posting every day, within a month, the number of visitors to my site was dwindling.  Try as I might, I just couldn’t inspire the crowds like I used to.  In hindsight, I now attribute this sudden burst of traffic to “selling out.”

Granted, I didn’t write about anything differently than I usually would, I just was excited about the upcoming Tyranid codex, and started analyzing it.  Well, at that time, there was significant hype about the impending 5th edition Tyranid book, and it seems I was riding that wave to popularity.  After the book was released, and people started talking about the Blood Angels, my blogs popularity waned. 

Since then, I’ve noticed blogs who’s content aligns with the upcoming (or recently released) codices also seem to rise and fall in popularity.  So what I’ve learned: if you write quality content about what the internet is buzzing about, people will read it.  Heck, if you write any content about it, people will drop by and take a peek.

Now, I’m not encouraging everyone to write about rumors, or the latest and greatest army, but just trying to pass along my observations.  If you do so, you’re bound to see at least a slight uptick in traffic.

Controversy Sells

Why do people visit Yes the Truth Hurts?  Is it because of his great articles and blog layout?  Not likely. 

Some people will go there for his insight into the competitive game (and rightfully so, as he’s quite intelligent), but the more popular reason is because they like his style.  They might not know why he’s so dynamic or interesting to them, but I’ll tell you.  It’s why Triump the Insult Comic Dog gets a laugh.  People are interested in controversy.

But controversy doesn’t have to be about insulting people (nor would I recommend it).  Controversy can simply be about bucking the system: going against convention. 

The most commented on post that I’ve ever written was about why Necrons (commonly considered to be the worst army in 40k) need to be Nerfed.  In fact, if you do a Google search for “Nerf Necrons” I’ve almost made the front page! 

Now, I’d like to think that I wrote a well-reasoned argument, and people like all my posts, but the truth is that single post was hugely controversial (without being insulting), and inspired some debate.  By the way, if you’d like to read the post in it’s entirety, you can read it here: Why Necrons Need to be Nerfed.

Generating controversial topics, and soundly backing them up is a good way to drive traffic to your site.  Attacking other people, or posting offensive language/topics can also work as a shock-factor to gain more interest, but you need to be very careful with that strategy as it can alienate your readers.  If you are going to introduce some controversy, it’s best to keep things general, and refrain from any personal attacks.

Give Credit Where Credit is Due

Blogging is akin to work.  Sure, most of us aren’t getting paid kajillions of dollars for churning out blog entries.  I’ll even take it one step further: not only do we not make any money writing our blogs, but it costs us time, money, and effort to keep them running. 

And as funny as it sounds, blogs are written works of art.  Granted, some of us don’t churn out Mona Lisa’s in our writing style, but they do take effort, and are inherently copyrighted by their authors upon creation.  So, when you’re borrowing something from another person’s blog (or from anywhere really), be sure to give credit where credit is due.  Whether you’re taking photos of someone else’s models, posting images on your blog, or quoting excerpts from another article, it’s important to credit the original author.

Ok, everyone knows the legal ramifications for plagiarism (if not, you might want to have a gander at my post on Intellectual Property.  So, why is a post covering how to increase traffic going back over this?

A couple of reasons.  First, you’re expanding the 40k-blogsphere as a whole.  People will follow your link to other good articles, and read each other’s works.  You’ll also come across as a more honest blogger with something to provide to the community–thereby increasing your readers chances of becoming subscribers.  Additionally, those people that you link to and cite will appreciate your candor, and will be more likely to return the favor to you.

Citing sources isn’t only the right thing to do, it’s builds the community as a whole, and improves your blog in the process.  If you’d like more information on this particular subject, I’d encourage you to read some entries from the Blog Herald entitled Give Credit When Credit is Due, Ethics and Blogging, and Inspiration, Not Copying.

Summary

So that pretty much covers content and how you can improve your blog from within.  Our next article will cover the concept of Networking and how you can improve your traffic through a symbiotic means, or inspire others to help improve your traffic for you through advertising.  If you’re looking for even more sources (from fellow 40k bloggers) on the subject, I’d direct you to the following posts:

Again, stay tuned for next week’s article on improving your traffic through networking…

Time-lapsed highway photograph copyright QT Luong of http://www.terragalleria.com/Activia image by Dannon.  “Got Credit” image from the website of the same name.  Triumph the Insult Comic Dog owned by NBC.

 

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32 comments on “How to Increase Traffic to Your Blog (Part 1: Content)

      • If you haven’t seen, I put up my part2 the other day, focuses on categories, tags, titles, general in-blog linking stuff. I have a draft to go up either late this week or early next about comment systems, Disqus and IntenseDebate. I have probably another two planned after that.

      • I did read part two, but didn’t have much to add on the subject. It did
        seem like it was more word-press oriented though, as I’m not sure much of
        that applies to Blogger blogs (and sadly, that seems to be the predominate
        choice of bloggers). Glad to hear you’re pushing disqus though. It’s
        such a great solution and deceptively easy to configure.

        I’ll sneak a link into my next one on networking to your comment systems
        post, as it really seems to fit well with the theme.

      • I don’t actually push Disqus in the next one, though it is my preference. Instead it focuses on why using Disqus or IntenseDebate is better than the out of the box systems that come with WP or Blogger. I visit so many blogs that are using the built in comment systems and it’s just horrendous.

      • I concurr. I prefer disqus because of the ease of moderation and the
        transferability of my profile to any site out there. I really don’t have
        much experience with intensedebate (aside from House of Paincakes), but it
        doesn’t seem to be quite as spiffy as disqus–but maybe that’s because I’m
        ignorant.

        Looking forward to your cliff notes on the subject!

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      When I stray from the standard 40k-style posts, I wonder if I’m actually
      reaching anyone out there. I’m happy to hear someone appreciates it. 🙂

  1. Excellent post.
    All very good points. I never realized how hard it was to post each day with something that could be considered “quality content.”

    Fortunately for me, I have a few additional Authors who contribute some great content on a regular basis and I’m at the point where I have a surplus of articles to write and post myself.

    Ron, From the Warp

    • For one person, I dare say, it’s insanity to even attempt a daily “quality
      content” post. I try to limit myself to just 2-3 posts per week because of
      that, and even then, I’m lucky to get one post that I’m happy with.

      With the consistent high level of your posts, I’d assume that “quality
      content” just comes naturally to you. What I like about your posts most is
      that you somehow always put a spin on things so that they give back to the
      community. While I might have a post stating that I’ve completed painting
      another model, you always take it a step further to show a new technique, or
      something to that effect.

      Though I think I’d rather like having a guest blogger posting now and
      again. So, if you have too many, feel free to send them my way. 🙂

  2. I’m really enjoying this series of articles, especially as I’ve done most of these myself.
    However, would you be interested in me adding to this series, along with a screen shot of my site traffic explaining how I got up to 2600+ hits per day with my Space Wolves blog?

    Adam – The Space Wolves Blog

  3. I’m really enjoying this series – there’s a lot to be said for quality content. I keep struggling with my own personal “brand” and finding what fits for me. It’s a work in progress; one I find a challenge since I am interested in so many subjects. Any ideas on how to handle someone that doesn’t “fit” a category?

    You’ve mentioned WP several times and I’m intrigued, but it seems lousy unless you pay. Can you suggest why a WP paid account would be better than a paid site host and doing your own coding?

    Thanks for this really cool series. It meshes nicely with Thor’s without overlapping too much!

    • Not to answer for him, but being a WP user I have my own thoughts. First, WP is completely free. What does cost you money though is that you have to have a webhosting account in order to host the installation of WP. You can get webhosting as cheap as $5 a month, often cheaper if you dare brave possible fly-by-night outfits.

      So yes, it will cost you some money in order to use WP, however there are gains, many in fact. Webhosting accounts often some with an obscene amount of disk space, some unlimited. What that translates into is a HUGE amount of storage space for images, videos, whatever. Remember Brent running out of space for his image hosting? Yeah, that probably won’t ever happen to you with a webhosting account.

      The most important gain, in my opinion, is the software is yours, do whatever you want. If you know HTML & PHP you can do anything with WP. Even if you don’t, WP has a plugin system. So, if you want to do something with WP that it doesn’t do out of the box, odds are someone wrote a plugin for it. In WP all you do is search for a plugin and click one button when you find what you want and it’s installed, that’s it. Same goes for designs/templates. You don’t have to know how to design, find a template and click install, done.

      I could sing the praises of WP all day long. In the end the difference is a matter of wanting full, complete and uncompromising ability with your blog or being content with the offerings of free blog hosting.

      • Not to derail things, but why is it whenever you reply to me, my blog or your blog, I never get an email notice from Disqus? Some preference you’ve set on your account? Only happens with you…

      • I’m special?

        Actually, I’ve no idea. Today, disqus seems to be slow about emailing me with replies from everyone. I haven’t made any changes to my disqus profile recently, but it’s possible these two are related.

        Have you ever received an email from disqus about my responses, or is this a recent problem?

      • Thank you both for such informative and helpful replies. They certainly give me things to consider.

        To be truthful, I have not been very impressed with the templates I have seen from WP… they seem pretty boring to me. Additionally, I FINALLY got my blog the way I like it- the idea of changing it makes me “skeered”, especially after the intensedebate debacle where I turned my comments OFF entirely. (Blek)

        I’m looking at site hosting soon for a variety of reasons- so the WP information is very helpful, even if I sound like I lean negatively towards it. I really only have the information I visually see, so more details and experiences from current users makes a difference and helps me in my considerations.

    • Thor’s really hit the nail on the head here. WordPress.com is free, but
      requires you to have a hosting account. If you’re already paying for
      hosting, I don’t know why you wouldn’t use a framework like wordpress to
      start with. I’m slightly more savvy than the average user, and am able to
      fumble through some coding changes, but by and large, my site is run largely
      on pre-made plugins.

      As for branding, I’m not sure if I even brought it up, but it’s an important
      concept. I’m no expert in the category though, so I’m unlikely to be much
      help. I would suggest that you write about what appeals to you. If you
      find yourself writing about similar topics often enough, that can develop
      into a recurring piece.

      Eccentricity can be it’s own brand though: check out Mik’s Minis for proof
      of that (http://miksminis.blogspot.com/). He collects seemingly every toy
      and plays oodles of games, and manages to incorporate that as his style.

  4. Pingback: Community Pimp: 1st Week of January - Creative Twilight

    • I saw that. I’d have included a link for you in this post, but I’d written it before I saw yours–but rest assured, I’ve included you in the next section (twice, in fact). Looking forward to seeing what you have to offer on the subject. 🙂

  5. Pingback: Community Pimp: 1st Week of January by Thor - Creative Twilight

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