(Please note this article was written in 2011 – my traffic sources change and right now the #1 source of traffic for me is from my regular emails. At other times it has been from paid advertising).
Most articles about winning business online start with how to get traffic – but I've left it until last.
And the reason is that so should you.
There's no point in getting a ton of traffic to your site if none of it turns into subscribers or clients. You first need to get your content right to get visitors engaged and your conversion right to get clients.
Once you're confident that the traffic you get will turn into something useful, then you can start ramping it up.
Sources of Traffic
There are a zillion sources of traffic for your blog. I can't hope to possibly do justice to all of them. So instead, I'm going to tell you where I get my traffic from (with a few additional recommendations).
Overall, I get roughly 10,000 unique visitors per month.
My #1 Traffic Source: Google
I get 52% of my traffic from search engines – 48% of it from google.
For me, search engine traffic is critical. Not just because there's so much of it – but because the traffic is from people searching for something. And if they find my site, it means that most of the time, they're searching for something I can help with.
There are really two main sorts of searches I get. There are what I call “problem” searches. This is where visitors (hopefully potential clients) are in the early stages of trying to address an issue and have come searching about the issue itself.
So the search could be something like “how to get more clients”, or “how to become a trusted advisor”.
The second type are “solution searches”. Where the visitor already has an idea of what they need – so they're searching for that. Things like “sales training” or “marketing consultant”.
Solution searches are from people who are closer to buying – so theoretically they're the best. The trouble is, they haven't built a relationship with me yet and I've got a short space of time to build up the trust and credibility needed for them to feel confident hiring me.
Problem searches are a longer sales cycle. But the advantage is that if they keep coming back to my site, or subscribe to my newsletter, then by the time they've figured out what they need, they'll already know and trust me (and my blog may have influenced what they decide they need).
Early on, I figured out what the important problem and solution searches would be for my services and I invested heavily in my own education on search engine optimisation (SEO) to make sure I knew how to make sure I ranked at the top of google for those phrases.
A few years later and it's paid off.
I thoroughly recommend you make a similar investment. Not in the technical details (unless you really want to). But in learning the key principles so you can make sure anyone who does SEO work for you is doing it right.
I'll be writing more on this topic soon.
My #2 Traffic Source: Direct visits
25% of my traffic is direct. These are visitors who've come to my site directly without clicking on a link on an earlier website or a search engine.
So they've either bookmarked my site and are coming back, or they're on my email newsletter list and are clicking on a link in their email program.
These are crucial visitors for me. They're my regular subscribers and repeat visitors. The people most likely to become clients.
But I can't directly control how much of this traffic I get. It's a function of how many people come from other sources and how well I do in converting them into subscribers/repeat visitors.
My #3 Traffic Source: Social media
11% of my traffic comes from social media: 6% from Twitter, 3% from Facebook, 2% from Linkedin.
It's not a ton of traffic – but it's over 1,000 unique visitors so it's worth having.
I don't do a lot on social media. A few minutes every day on each of the big sites.
But I have a big Twitter following and I've implemented quite a bit of automation to make me more productive. I tweet each of my new blog posts a couple of times. I also have a plugin installed called “Tweet Old Posts” which randomly tweets one of my old blog posts every few hours – that doubled my twitter traffic when I installed it.
Most of my Facebook and Linked traffic comes from the “like buttons” I've got on the blog (via a plugin called Digg Digg). Readers click the like button for their preferred network and their followers, contacts and fans see a link to my blog posts.
Linkedin is particularly interesting. Despite getting less traffic than the other social media sites, I get over 5 times the sign-up rate from Linkedin traffic as from Facebook or Twitter. I assume because there's just a greater number of relevant people connected to me and my contacts on Linkedin.
Although none of the social media sites were so big when I started blogging nearly 4 years ago, I would definitely recommend it for people starting out.
I've helped a few people get their blogs up and running recently, and social media has been a big help.
It can take a long time to get a decent ranking in google for your key search terms – but with social media you can be up and running much quicker and generating relevant traffic. Especially if you have a pre-established network.
The downside is that you have to keep working at it.
With SEO, one you've worked to get a good ranking you have to put in much less effort to maintain it. With social media, you have to keep working just as hard forever.
The remainder: Other referring websites
The remaining 12% of traffic comes from people clicking links from other people's websites. This may be links from an article directory, a blogroll on another blog, or a specific blog post or article which mentions my site.
Exactly which sites I get this remaining traffic from changes each month – as does the “quality” of the click.
I get particularly high newsletter signup rates if I write a guest article for someone else's site or blog, or I'm interviewed by them or otherwise mentioned favourably. This is obviously particularly true if the other site is closely related to mine.
For example, a year or so ago, one of my articles on referrals was reprinted on the site of veteran sales trainer and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar.
I got a flood of traffic, and over 30% of the visitors subscribed to my newsletter.
I get subscription rates of 10%+ for other articles I've written. Whereas with less directly related links, there are often no subscribers or a very low percentage.
Joint Venture Traffic
I ought to say a few words about what's called Joint Venture Traffic.
A few blogs have managed to get huge amounts of traffic by being recommended in the email newsletters of other highly successful bloggers or internet marketers.
This is very similar to the quality of traffic you can get from links from your own articles or strong recommendations on other sites. But if the other blogger/marketer has a big following, the traffic and the quality can be even higher.
However, there's almost always a commercial relationship in this case. The new blogger may be a client or mentee of the other marketer. Or they may be sending traffic for a cut (usually at least 50%) of the revenues from a product the blogger is trying to sell.
For that reason, unless you're already well connected or have a proven product to sell, you're unlikely to get much joint venture traffic.
In fact it's worth being a little wary of so-called experts who talk about the rapid results they've got – when in fact they're really due to someone else sending them a ton of traffic. A strategy that you're unlikely to be able to reproduce yourself.
Good stuff if you can though.
So, based on my experiences, what do I recommend you do to get traffic?
- As soon as you can, identify your problem and solution keywords and invest in search engine optimisation to drive traffic from google. It'll take a while to pay off though.
- In the short term, use social media to get relevant visitors to your site. Tweet your new blog posts and share them on Linkedin and Facebook. Make sure you have prominent social sharing buttons on your site. If you're in the professions – pay particular attention to Linkedin. Build up your presence and contribution to relevant groups and occasionally link to some of your articles.
- Get traffic (and help your SEO) by offering guest articles (sometimes even a minor rewrite of an existing article will do) to other sites in similar fields to yours.
Above all, keep putting out quality content. Eventually your initial small following will share your quality material with others and it will grow.
In the final article in this series I share some of the best resources to get you started blogging.