I’ve been managing 3 different websites. The one that gets the maximum traffic is in the area of international MBA admissions. It’s a very niche topic, compared to the sites that focus on mainstream topics such as technology, business, sports, movies. But over time the traffic has grown steadily making it quite popular in its sphere. Here are a few lessons that I’ve learnt from my experiences. Experiment with them and let me know what worked for you and what didn’t.
You might ask – Why would an author need to bother about all this?
The short answer – If you are hoping to be taken seriously by literary agents and publishers, you’ll have to demonstrate that you already have a platform that attracts your target audience.
For most authors, starting a blog isn’t the problem. It’s getting traffic to their blog. So we thought we should have a post introducing the basics of how to build traffic for blogs.
How to increase your author blog traffic
1. Pay serious attention to the content
It’s your personal blog. So it’s easy to get carried away with that freedom and write about anything that you think is interesting – right from what a great (or horrible) day you had to how the new movies have lost the charm of the earlier days. Unless you are already a superstar, most readers would care two hoots about how your day went.
Remember that an author blog is more than just a personal blog. What else can you do?
Reverse the perspective. Think about why readers would be interested in your site. Also think about what’ll keep them coming back for more. If there’s a certain genre that you focus on, think about topics related to that niche. Unlike complete books, blog posts have significantly reduced word-counts (self-imposed as opposed to technical constraints). So there’s no way you can do justice to the vast amount of knowledge and experience you have. Break it into smaller chunks and make it easier for your readers to digest them and come back. Add variety. Experiment with different formats – interviews, how-to, personal anecdotes, guest posts.
2. Tap into the power of social networks
The easiest way to spread the word is by sharing your content with folks who already know you. Where do you find those people? Think Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. You can also reach out to folks who don’t know you by looking at platforms such as Reddit, StumbleUpon and other social sharing networks. The chances of more people discovering you goes up exponentially when your friends and their friends start sharing your work. Even if it doesn’t happen overnight, you are sowing the seeds of your content going viral on these platforms.
3. Become part of communities where your target readers are already active
Apart from just a passive sharing approach on social platforms, you can take a more active involvement and build new relationships by joining forums and discussion groups. Answer queries. Share perspectives. Ask questions.
If you are wondering whether there are forums that focus specifically in your area of interest, stop wondering and start searching. If you still don’t find any community talking about the things that you write on, then there are bigger questions that need to be addressed e.g. Are you writing for an audience that doesn’t exist? Should you widen your sphere?
4. Make it easy for search engines to discover you
The earlier points focussed on building referral traffic. For many websites, a huge percentage of traffic comes from search engines (Google playing the dominant role and overshadowing all other competitors like Yahoo, Bing). If you can take your site to that level, the traffic to your site can explode.
There’s a whole industry behind this. It’s called SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Many big companies outsource their SEO efforts to experts. For your author blog, you don’t need to hire expensive SEO experts. Instead pick up a few ideas of your own and try to experiment with them.
5. Analyse your traffic
Getting traffic to your blog isn’t the main objective. You also need to know if you are getting the right traffic.
If you haven’t done it yet, go and get an analytics software installed on your website (Google Analytics is pretty good and free). It’ll give you a whole lot of insight into where readers are coming from, how many posts are they reading during each visit, how much time they are spending on your site, what are the top raking posts,
6. Do a lot of internal linking
Over time, the number of blog posts will increase. This makes it difficult for a first time visitor to discover all the wonderful content that lies hidden within the blog. Make it easier for your readers to access related content. Maintain a list of topics that you’ve written on and their URLs.
Whenever you write a new post, think about related topics that can be mentioned in passing. That’s a good way for you to link back to the earlier post. Do the same with earlier posts as well. Go back to the popular posts (use the analytics tool to find these) and update them to include cross-links.
7. Set up a subscription option
Many readers might have been introduced to your blog because of a referral or because of organic search. Chances are pretty high that they’ll never discover the other interesting stuff that you write on similar or related topics, because every signal post with never go viral. If there’s a way for your readers to know when a new post is published, that saves them a whole lot of work and suspense.
If you are just starting off, you can use a free subscription service (like Feedburner). When it’s time to take it to the next level, you could explore more powerful, professional-looking and paid options (like Aweber, Mailchimp, Constant contact). We use Aweber for this site, as well as my MBA Abroad Blog. Btw, have you signed up yet?
Some of these aspects can get pretty technical. So we haven’t delved into the nitty-gritties here. Instead we’ve only touched upon those ideas, so you can carry out further research if there’s further interest.
If you stick to these basic concepts, over time, your blog should start attracting traffic. It’s not going to be easy, which is precisely why most of your fellow authors (and competitors) will give up mid-way.
Be consistent. Be persistent.
Have you had trouble or success with your author website? What did you do to increase your blog traffic and readership? What’s the bottleneck? Comment below and include your website in the URL field. We might have some tips for you.