The thing is that the Web changes every day. While we used to talk SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, over and over as the be-all and end-all way to get those coveted readers to your blog, that’s not really how it works any longer. Sure, SEO is still important, because SEO friendly content generally contains lots of writing strategies that make your Web content work for readers. But the shocking conclusion I’ve just come to is that most successful blogs don’t rely on Google or Bing or Yahoo anymore to increase blog traffic.
And I came to it quite by accident.
I’m currently developing a college course on writing for social media, which entails gathering a lot of data to get a full picture of where things are at now. Even when you keep on top of the trends, like I do, the statistics help present an accurate picture.
Of course, the big reason colleges teach students how to write for social media is because that’s what businesses want — why? So their social media campaigns can bring readers to their business webpages and increase blog traffic. In fact the money big businesses spend on social advertising has almost doubled in just these past two years. Now that’s a shock, isn’t it?
So, I set out to figure out just how important social media is to generating traffic and I started with my own websites. How? With Alexa, a free (although you can pay for certified metrics reports) ranking system now owned by Amazon, which collects data from toolbars installed in browsers.
Of course, it’s just a small sampling of the Web, so there’s some room for argument. However, Alexa stats provide some insights into what’s popular on the Web, along with interesting analytics. And again, it’s free for anyone who needs to be able to measure a site’s popularity (like writers submitting their work).
Surely, I thought, that couldn’t be so. Could social media and my links around the Web really be driving that much of my traffic?
Scientific mind that I have (not really, but I like to know why things happen), I decided to check out some of the Web’s most popular blogs on Alexa and see where their traffic came from. Surprise! The numbers showed that even the biggies, like Huffington Post, get less than 20% of their traffic from search engines.
Okay, so that begs the question, why am I spending so much time worrying about trends in the search engine world? Well, some are important — like Google’s Mobilegeddon in April of 2015. That forced all of us to prepare for the big shift to mobile readers that has happened. These recent stats indicate that over half of Google searches are done from mobile devices and 78% of Facebook advertising revenue comes from mobile ads.
And if you’re wondering where that other 80% or 90% of traffic comes from, it’s the great big, wide and wonderful, social Web.
5. Use Mobile Friendly Themes to Increase Blog Traffic
I don’t know how often you surf the Web on your mobile device, but I do quite a lot. And there’s nothing more frustrating than running into a website or blog that’s not mobile friendly. The big thing that seems to not work is the navigation, and how popular will your site be if nobody can find anything on it?
The good news is that Google wants us all to be mobile friendly, so they’ve created a tool that lets you test your site for free. Just pop in your URL and get your numbers plus a report emailed directly to you. It’ll tell you if your site is mobile friendly and how fast it loads on mobile apps and desktops.
Wondering what’s with the speed? Well, when we’re standing in line at the bank checking someone on the Web, we don’t want to wait around for results. Sure, some sites, like travel blogs, are image heavy and thus, may load slower, but by choosing a better theme you can increase your load times.
4. Add Images to Your Posts to Increase Blog Traffic
If you’re not willing to take the time to locate at least one photo to go with your content, how do you expect readers to take the time to go through a page of plain text on a monitor.
Back in the ’90s, images were really tiny or non-existent, and people didn’t mind. They were just intrigued with such easy access to information. But today’s users, even if they’re not Millennials, want some color and graphics on a page of content.
However, I still run into lots of blogs, even the odd travel blog that should rely on photos to deliver a message, that lack an image.
Statistics say it loud and clear too, since content with images gets nearly double the views.
And one final point on images. Did you know that even if you have a fabulous article, it can’t be pinned on Pinterest without an image?
3. Use Twitter Cards to Increase Blog Traffic
Images are important on the Web, and even more important on social media. Twitter is the main social media source of traffic to my travel website — likely because I’ve been using it the longest, so have the best following on it. But that traffic didn’t start pouring in until I added Twitter cards to my blog.
If you’ve never heard of Twitter cards, they’re just a way to ensure that when someone (or you) tweets your article out to the Twitterverse that an image is grabbed to go along with it. While the numbers vary, this 2015 Twitter info indicates that Tweets with photos get more than 300% more engagement (that’s retweets, likes, follows, and more).
All you have to do to get your graphics to tag along with your URL is to add Twitter cards. While there are lots of specific instructions on the Web, depending on your blog service, here’s the basic information from Twitter.
2. Share Your Own Social Media Channels to Increase Blog Traffic
Nowadays, every blogger should be on social media to increase their blog traffic. Yes, they take time to manage and you may have to steal from your writing time to manage social media — but, look at it this way, if 80% of the average blog’s traffic is coming from social media, won’t you be further ahead using it than creating more SEO articles for the 20% search engines are sending these days?
If you don’t have any social media accounts, or can’t decide which one is right for you, this article is full of excellent information: 140+ Essential Social Media Statistics Every Marketer Should Know.
When you do get your accounts up and running, make sure you include plugins in your blog that will give your readers an easy one-click option to follow you on your social media. Here’s a list and recommendations.
1. Provide Social Media Sharing Buttons to Increase Blog Traffic
My number one pet peeve is that a lot of popular blogs still haven’t added buttons to easily share their content–the easiest way to increase blog traffic with no work at all! These buttons let me simply select the social media I want to share on — whether it’s Twitter or Pinterest or Facebook — and do it with a click. Otherwise, it takes me a number of steps, which I usually just plain skip. So, that amazing photo doesn’t get pinned to my Pinterest account. Nor does that fabulous blog post get shared to my thousands of followers.
If you still haven’t added those sharing buttons, do it today! Click here for a great list of free options.