How to Build More Targeted Traffic to Your Blog

Admit it, at least part of the reason you choose to write for a blog is to increase your traffic. Maybe you are a business trying to push your brand, or you might just rely on your content itself to produce revenue. Either way, you won’t get anywhere without plenty of people reading what you write. You can never have too many readers.

The truth is, some of this is going to come down to time. It takes a few years to really build brand loyalty, especially for a blog that deals entirely on interaction between the blogger and the audience. But in the meantime, you can definitely do many things to start increasing your traffic and so improve your chances of hooking the ever-sought long time reader.

Begin Narrowing Down Your Readers

One of the biggest mistake people make in any kind of content campaign is trying to appeal to everyone. Believe it or not, casting your net too wide will actually hook you less readers, and bring is far less traffic. Without a plan, you will just to blindly attempting to find people in an endless crowd, and most will not have any interest in your blog.

Ask yourself: who are you writing for? What kind of person will be most likely to read and enjoy your posts? Are they male, female, young adults, middle aged, in North America, in Europe, in Asia? Once you know who you want to write for, it will be easier to find out what content gets the most attention.

Further reading:

Start Researching What Those Readers Like

Now you have an idea of who you are targeting. It is time to start looking into their common interests. If you already have a following, even a small one, this is even easier. Most social accounts and blog commenting is connected through services like Disqus, or using social sign on with Facebook, Twitter, ect. You can just follow the line and see what catches their eye.

There is a fair chance you will actually be within your target demographic, and so will have a personal sneak peek into what they might like. If that is the case, take some time to consider what content you have looked at, saved, read through or shared lately. What gets you excited?

Further reading:

Begin Reaching Out To Other Blogs

Reach out to other blogs – or individual bloggers – and see about potentially writing a post for their site, invite them to contribute to yours or set up an expert interview with them. All it takes is one post on a single blog with regular traffic, and you can see a serious increase in your own blog’s traffic.

Not only that, but it boosts your own visibility and authority around the web. The more of an expert you appear on your niche, the more people will seek you out to find your opinion.

Further reading:

Build a Social Media Presence

This is one of the single most important things you can do as a blogger. Social media is the perfect compliment to a blog, because it allows you to both share your content and to engage directly with your potential readers.

Become well known on at least one social network, building up your followers there and really beginning a conversation. A well rounded social strategy is best, with different accounts for different types of interaction (Pinterest for sharing images connected to posts, Twitter for finding influencers, Google+ for connecting with others in your niche or microblogging, ect).

Further reading:

Viral Content Buzz social media influencers

Find Out What Is Popular From Competitors

Your competitors are another great place to see what is popular with your demographic. You can take a look at their highest performing posts, what is being shared, and on what networks. Read through the comments and get a feel for what people are saying, and what questions they might have.

While you won’t want to directly the topics of their posts, a competing blog can give you some inspiration, while pointing you in the right direction.

Further reading:

 Get Comfortable With SEO

SEO is as much a part of search ranking as it ever was. But there is a right way and a wrong way to doing it, and you need to learn the difference to properly optimize your content. Having the right keywords to target, including them naturally in your posts, using tags and descriptions, meta-data and image optimization…this is all a part of it.

Further reading:

Make Sure Your Site Flies

Nothing is worse than spending weeks and months on building the traffic and then losing your peak moment because your server is down.

Besides, your site performance and load time also affects your user experience and hence rankings.

Further reading:

  • Make sure your server is reliable. Site Geek is my top source of hosting reviews and uptime reports.

Site Geek uptime reports

Track Your Site’s Analytics

Once you start to produce content, it is time to watch how it does. Tracking analytics, both those from your blog itself and on social networks, is a key to doing this. Seeing what is most popular, and what drives traffic more, will give you an idea of what to write about in the future.

It will also show you what content to re-promote later on, or repackage as other forms of media to further exploit.

Further reading:

Conclusion

Increasing your traffic in a more targeted way takes work. But it is also very rewarding, and over time using these tactics and a bit of consistent content writing/sharing, you will begin to really see results.

Have any advice to offer others searching for a way to boost their blog traffic? Used a particular method that has worked wonders for you? We would love to hear about it! Let us know in the comments.

When The Dumbest Idea Is The Best One

This post is an excerpt adapted by Brian Carter from the forthcoming book The Cowbell Principle: Career Advice On How To Get Your Dream Job And Make More Money, by Brian Carter and Garrison Wynn. Brian and Garrison will be giving away a limited number of digital copies at launch time. To get notified when they’re available, sign up at http://thecowbellprinciple.com/getnotified

Have you seen the More Cowbell sketch from Saturday Night Live? It’s more than just funny. Believe it or not, it’s a powerful metaphor for a successful work life. And it provides insight into the kind of people you need on your team, and what makes an effective team.

Everyone has at least one cowbell — it’s your unique, profitable talent people pay you for or your company’s unique offering. It’s something people have a fever for. When you discover it and give those people a ton of it, you gain success and happiness for both yourself and others. It’s a win-win.

A cowbell is simultaneously something you love doing and something other people really want as well (although, as we’ll see, you still will have detractors and critics). A cowbell creates joy for you and other people. It makes them yell for more. They can’t get enough.

Sometimes the Dumbest Idea Is the Best One

 “I’m telling you guys, you’re going to want that cowbell.”

TheBruce Dickinson (Christopher Walken)

Garrison once worked for Hendee Enterprises, a company that came up with industrial solutions. When one customer approached the company looking for a way to prevent moisture from getting into its paint vats, Garrison suggested a simple alternative to the warping, leaking covers the customer was using: “Why don’t we put a giant shower cap on there and you can throw the caps away every day?” Five engineers said it was the dumbest idea ever, borne of Garrison’s lack of education and understanding of the idea. But the covers had to be disposable because any wood or metal fabrication would warp or degrade. And caps made of special plastic and elastic wouldn’t cause static electricity.

The customer bought 250 boxes of 500 covers each. Now every paint vat in the country is required to have this cover and it’s sold in 30 countries. Not bad for a dumb idea, huh?

“I’m telling you guys, you’re going to want that gargantuan shower cap.”

— slightly modified by TheGarrison Wynn

We often confuse simplicity with stupidity. It’s easy to think that if something is simple, it must not be the best or most effective. Wrong! Sometimes an idea seems dumb because you’rebeing dumb. Or snobby.

Ignore the Snobs… For the Most Part

There’s a big difference between what movie critics like and what the mainstream public will pay to see. In the 2000s, Brian often looked at Rotten Tomatoes to decide whether to see a movie, until he realized that he often disagreed with the critics whose reviews were featured on the site. Sometimes you want to see a mindless action flick, and most of those are disliked by movie critics. And some of the top-grossing movies are universally panned by the critics.

IMDB is a great resource, because it contains both mainstream viewer ratings and metascore, which is a measurement of critical response to the movie. If you’re in the mood for something mainstream, ignore metascore. If you want to have a great time AND have your mind blown? Look for a movie that does well with both metascore (over 70) and high user ratings (above 7.0).

Movie critics are, at worst, snobs. They want something new and unpredictable, but often what people like isn’t much different from what they liked 10 years ago. At best, because critics watch more films and think about them more than others, they have more insight than the average person.

What underlies snobbiness is nothing more than a kind of elite stubbornness. We have a way of doing things that has a tradition to it; it’s the “right” way to do it. If you’re doing something in a way other than that, we know it’s not as good.

A snobby high school girl says, in essence, “My situation is far superior to yours. You can’t make a contribution to me. By virtue of your birth, I should not even acknowledge your existence.” What is this? Nothing more than a defense mechanism. High school is tough, so to look unafraid and invulnerable —to prevent people from bullying you — you look down on others first.

For us, the question is whether snobbiness — whether it comes from outside or inside ourselves — helps you create things that tons of people like. Sometimes, you definitely need to have standards. But sometimes snobbiness creates an intellectual paralysis that leads to creating things that only a small number of other snobs like.

One thing we’re sure of: If your inner snob is causing writer’s block, you need to exorcise that self-judging demon.

Try Something Stupid

Is there something you’ve been afraid to do that you thought was a pretty good idea but you believe others would view as stupid?

Exercising through stupid ideas leads you to better ideas. Look at all the stupid contraptions we humans tried to fly in our quest to get airborne! Sometimes the onlyway to genius is through stupid.

We can guess that Formula 409 means the other 408 spray cleansers didn’t work. Number 17 probably sprayed dirt onto dirt. And Fantastik may have had had an earlier version called Purty Good. “How’s that clean?” “Oh, Purty Good… a lot better than Not Bad Spray!”

Are stupid ideas a good idea? Yes.

Since when is the first idea the best idea? If the first idea were indeed the best idea, then progress makes no sense.

Be Willing to Be Crazy

Every city has some local dealership with a crazy commercial. If you were an intellectual, acting like that would kill your career, but nobody cares about the sophisticated furniture guy. Crazy Eddie Furniture beats that guy every time.

Mattress Mack is one of the most successful businessmen in Houston, Texas – so successful he once lost a $7 million football bet. In his commercials, he held a big wad of money and yelled, “We’ll save you money!” Mattress Mack did, however, lose to chainsaw-wielding Hilton “That’s a Fact Jack” Koch in a Conan O’Brien contest for most annoying advertiser.

If you’re buying cheap local TV ads, it’s good to be crazy. Crazy can be an advantage in certain other industries too; it depends on the market. And even if you’re not the craziest person or company in oyur market, a little occasional craziness reassures your customers that you have a pulse. Which is good, because, most of the time, dead people don’t sell a lot of stuff.

Load Balancing and Failover Improve Hosting

Everyone wants their traffic to go viral, but most don’t realize that if they do get mentioned on a major site or go viral on social media their hosting company is likely to take their site down. When this happens, they lose the benefit of having gone viral!

The reason for this is traffic limits on almost every hosting solution. If you go over your traffic limit, some hosting companies may charge you for the overage while others will immediately take your site offline.

This is only one disadvantage of typical hosting plans. Another is server failure. Your site is typically hosted on only one server. If that server has a hard drive head crash or any other technical failure your site goes down.

Content Delivery Network

By using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) also known as a Content Distribution Network, your site is hosted on multiple servers in diverse locations. This is the ultimate protection against technical failures, power outages, and internet slowdowns.

CDNs also provide caching in multiple locations closer to the end users, decreasing page load times. Other benefits are enhanced security and resistance to DDoS attacks thanks to high capacity networks of servers.

Server Failover

The best CDNs automatically reroute traffic from a failed server to the backup, ideally without human intervention. Some CDNs require the process to be activated manually while others provides automatic failover detection to immediately activate your preconfigured backup server and alert you via email.

 

Load Balancing

With Google’s emphasis on page load speed, using a CDN with load balancing can be the easiest method to decrease delays.  The idea is to have multiple servers that can serve traffic and then use the CDN as the “middle-man” to distribute the incoming requests between these multiple servers. There are many load balancing methods. Legacy CDNs usually rely on Anycast routing while the more modern ones take it a step further with layer 7 load balancing solutions.

The benefit of the later method is that, while Anycast routing using the shorter path from user to server, the layer 7 load balancing is also able to route traffic to servers based on their current traffic load.  Using both helps you not only take the shortest path but also to choose the best recipient. However, with Anycast-only solutions you always run the risk of overcrowding the popular servers while leaving the un-popular ones un-visited and underperforming.

Security

CDNs are a very effective method of protecting your site from DDoS threats and other cyber-attacks because a CDN network of servers can handle vastly more requests at one time and because its servers are positioned on the edge of your network, where they can expect all incoming traffic.

“An effective defense against an HTTP flood can be the deployment of a reverse proxy – in particular collection of reverse proxies spread across multiple hosting locations. A reverse proxy is somewhat akin to a bouncer at a nightclub, deciding which guests are allowed into the party, where the real web server is. By deploying many bouncers in different locations, the crush of incoming traffic is split into fractions, lessening the possibility of the network becoming overwhelmed.”

Today some CDN platforms also provide websites with Web Application Firewall (WAF) and even offer the options to add custom security rules for organizations that want to tweak the default security policies.

Simple Implementation

Manually implementing your own load balancing or failover solution is extremely complex. Mistakes could lead to loss of traffic and other undesirable side-effects (i.e. temporary loss of Google rankings). Fortunately, implementing an existing CDN solution can be as simple as changing the DNS for your site at your domain registrar to route your traffic through the CDN.

How CDNs Work

When an internet user goes to your URL (such as www.yoursite.com), instead of the domain name server (DNS) pointing directly to your original server that hosts your site, the CDN will send the user to the server closest to their location (based on their IP address) or least busy instead. Depending upon the size of the CDN, there could be dozens of copies of your site each on a server in a different location.

Do You Need a CDN?

Huge sites with thousands of simultaneous visitors spread across the world need CDNs. Whether you need a CDN or not depends on the type of site you run and how critical it is for you financially for that site to stay online

Business focused websites will benefit from the security aspects, faster page load times and additional availability options. With commercial CDNs services available for just few dozen dollars a month, and freemium CDNs offering free plans and trial offers, any site owner whose income is derived from being online should consider upgrading to the use of a CDN.