If the title above is a bit presumptuous, I hope you’ll forgive me. The truth is, we all forget much more than we learn, and sometimes we need a reminder. Clearly, traffic alone isn’t the only metric that matters, but there’s also no denying that high enough traffic levels will solve almost any problem we as marketers and bloggers face.
If you master the basics of traffic growth, you’ll go much further than those who learn many of the advanced concepts. Has your strategy mastered these 3 core concepts?
1. Focus on Cumulative Traffic
The holy grail of the modern internet marketer is to make something go viral. I think we need to change that. Going viral can be an incredible way to grow your brand, and we’ve discussed it at length, but viral traffic alone isn’t sustainable. Far too much of the viral formula is founded on luck, and more importantly, viral traffic isn’t cumulative.
What is cumulative traffic? It’s the opposite of trying to create repeatable bursts of traffic. It’s about tacking an extra thousand visitors to your monthly traffic count, even if you stopped putting out content altogether (which you should never do, of course).
Cumulative traffic comes in many forms. Search engine authority is an obvious one. Build your authority with Google and you can expect a steady stream of traffic even with no additional efforts. But the search engines aren’t the only road to cumulative traffic growth.
Customer retention is another crucial measure. Grow your repeat visitor count and you will grow your baseline expectations each month. Yes, you want your visitors to share your content with their friends, but I believe it’s more important to convince just one user to keep coming back than to convince them to share it with all of their friends. And no matter what we tell ourselves, the criteria to convince somebody to share is often completely different from the criteria to convince them to stay.
Finally, cumulative referral traffic is probably the most neglected source for growth. Since most sites see the majority of referrals from social networks, which are only interested in what’s current, most digital marketers conclude that referral traffic is always temporary.
While this is often true, it doesn’t have to be. If you focus on building links from resources, rather than blogs or social networks, you can actually build up a steady stream of referrals that you can expect to see each month. Convinced site-wide links are dead? Try buying a site-wide (no-follow) link on a heavily visited industry resource. You’ll change your mind.
Search, social, and referrals can all become sources of cumulative traffic, but only if you use them correctly. Search is about authority. Social, and blogging, are about retention. Referrals are about getting listed in heavily used resources. Stray too far from this and it doesn’t matter how viral you get: you’ll be back to zero next week.
2. Focus on Repeatable Results
I believe that every blogger should leave room for creative, exploratory, risky projects. I also believe that these shouldn’t make up the majority of your work.
Open up Google Analytics. Find the page on your site that still attracts the most visitors to this day. Why did that page work so well? Figure it out. Then do it again.
We may not like it when the next big Hollywood flick is another sequel to another remake of another crossover, but we all know there’s a reason they do it. They’ve found a winning formula, and they’d be insane not to cash in on it.
I’m not saying you should replicate the content (big no-no) or the subject matter. I’m saying you should look at the title you chose, the keywords you focused on, the way you researched it, the way you wrote it, the way you promoted it, and figure out your winning formula. It worked before. It will work again.
This might sound hopelessly uncreative and monotonous, but it’s what works.
I absolutely believe that you need those creative, risky, exploratory projects. Just remember what they’re for: to find your next winning formula. Very few people are creative enough to try something wildly new every time, and get stellar results every time.
Let’s not forget these basics:
- Start with a keyword that you can rank for today
- Choose a surprising, amusing, intriguing title (that probably has a list number in it)
- Produce content that lives up to the title
- Produce content that is well-researched, actionable, surprising, amusing, and interesting
- Use a call-to-action to drive visitor retention and sharing behavior
The truth is, the boring old basics make up about 80 percent of your success. Master them before you dare trying to master anything else.
3. Work with Proven Talent
Whether you’re a solo blogger or a marketing consultant, I strongly believe that no blogger should operate in a vacuum. Nothing builds more credibility than the endorsement (explicit or not) of somebody who has already earned trust and an audience. Few things can expand your reach as effectively either.
There are two industry practices widely used here: guest posts and public conversations. Guest posts originated in the SEO camp, where the goal is to get a link from an authoritative site. (We’ve written an extensive guide on how to take guest posting beyond SEO.) Public conversations come from the social media camp, where relationship building is a key component.
Both of these strategies are incredibly powerful, but they are by no means the only way to work with proven talent.
One of the most neglected ways to build traffic with proven talent is to turn the guest posting strategy on its head. Rather than seek out a guest post on a popular blog, why not ask a popular blogger to write a guest post on your blog. I think we can all agree that if Seth Godin wrote a guest post on your blog, it would be a tremendous opportunity to expand your reach.
If you don’t think you have the pull to convince a micro-celebrity to write a guest post on your blog, consider opening up your wallet. Buying a link on somebody else’s blog may be a no-no, but paying somebody to write for yours is just the ethical thing to do. In fact, I seem to recall a time not so long ago when paying writers to write was common practice.
This core concept goes beyond asking for blog posts, of course. You can just as well work with a popular graphic designer, a photographer, a videographer, a web designer, or a programmer as a way to build your exposure as well as improve the quality of your blog.
The more you work with others, the more important it gets to schedule and manage your communications. If you have the budget for it, it’s worth investing in a tool like WorkZone to manage your projects, especially if they get especially large and complex.
Innumerable methods for traffic growth are available for the choosing, but I feel that the vast majority of successful strategies put the focus on these core principles. Temporary traffic, no matter how much, is ultimately a wasted effort. You might be able to make it without focusing on repeatable results, but it’s going to be a long, hard journey. And if you work in isolation, odds are good you’ll fail in isolation as well.
Where are your thoughts on this? Any other core principles we all too easily forget?