I read a post in Facebook recently by someone who was frustrated that she had been unable to grow her website traffic by as much as what she had heard others had. She was not the only one. In fact, some people were saying that they wondered if it was actually possible to increase page views from a couple of thousand to over ten thousand within a few months.
It was not until this point that I realised that what I had done was perhaps a big achievement – I had managed to do this. I generally shy away from posting anything on this blog that isn’t directly travel related, but I thought I would make an exception in this case to share what I have done and how I did manage to do what many seem to find impossible – building a beginner blog’s audience substantially in three months, so that my website traffic was up to 12,000 page views.
This view does not show the whole picture. Up until mid October, when I launched my new site and became serious about growing my blog using all the tips below, I was receiving only a couple of hundred page views per month. All this changed basically overnight in October. By mid January, I had 12,000 page views for the previous month. Here’s a weekly view of a three month period from October to January:
Below is a summary of the ten ways that I achieved these increases!
1. Moving my site from blogger into self hosted WordPress
This was the biggest and most important step I took.
Moving from blogger to WordPress was not easy. Not at all. The most frustrating part was that I had only moved into blogger from my own custom website a year previously. If only I had researched my alternatives properly before moving to blogger.
I still have literally hundreds of posts that need updating after this move. The main problem is that the images still link back to blogger and moved over as thumbnails.
The move was so worthwhile though. Not only do I have full control over my own site now, but my search engine hits went up basically overnight increasing my website traffic immediately. The post that is by far the most successful on my site, things to do in Taipei with kids, now gets far more hits per day from google than my whole site did before this change. This post already existed in the blog before I made the change.
Thanks to the many plugins available, I was able to achieve so much more in the layout, design and basic usability of my site than I was able to do in blogger.
If you want some tips for how to get started in WordPress, read our post about how to start a travel blog.
2. Researching SEO and putting this information into practice
SEO (search engine optimisation) can seem incredibly complicated, but it’s really not that bad. Basically, it’s about basic usability of your site, well written content and putting a bit of effort into researching keywords.
It is worth spending time learning about SEO BEFORE publishing your blog. Before I moved from WordPress into blogger, I read a lot and followed recommendations for my site. I particularly found the Yoast WordPress SEO guide useful.
I broke one of the rules though – I changed my permalink structure. I figured my hits and back links were so low that I had nothing to lose. I am glad I did. I not only changed my permalink structure, but I changed many individual URLS. I included more keywords and removed the dates from the URLs. I put categories instead, full of keywords.
I do wonder if this has hurt me. It is taking me a long time to build my domain authority, much longer than it seems to take others who started brand new blogs around the same time, but overall, it is hard to believe that it has. About half the visits to my website come from google search, and obviously this is a massive improvement on what was happening before I made this change.
I also regularly go back over old posts and try to improve the keywords and their general SEO. For example, I noticed my Johor Bahru post was getting a growing number of hits and impressions from google search, so I worked on adding some keywords and presto – I started to get even more traffic and I improved my average search ranking.
I do not recommend following Yoast suggestions for keywords. Learn how to find keywords here.
3. Having a regular and consistent post schedule
Instead of posting whenever I had an article, and then going months without posting, I drew up a schedule and created a plan of how often I would post. For these three months in the graphs above, it was three times a week. Since then, I have posted twice weekly – purely because I have less time and the fact is, I don’t want to be a blog that relies on posts every day to drive traffic.
At the moment, I consistently post every Monday and Friday morning Australian time – this coincides to afternoon American time. These are my two biggest markets. During these three months, I also posted on Wednesdays. I find weekends are my slowest times, so I keep new posts to week days when I get more engagement on social media. I have a schedule for the year, although it is flexible and I often make small changes.
I think it is more important to be consistent with when you post rather than how often. Of course, others will disagree and everyone has their own way to schedule articles. As with everything written here, I am just telling you what has worked for me. It is important for SEO to post somewhat regularly though.
4. Increasing engagement on Facebook
At the time that I released my new website in October I had a Facebook page, but I had less that 200 likes. I didn’t post very often and I had no clear direction. By the time that this period ended, I had nearly 500.
I wrote a plan of how I would engage people – how often I would post and what types of things when. It was quite successful engagement wise, and I upped my hits from Facebook. However, I have found that Facebook is not the best social media to use to increase my website traffic. Twitter and Pinterest have been more successful for me.
5. Starting a twitter account
I didn’t even have a twitter account until early November. I started a new one and didn’t do much on there until we were on our Deep South road trip in late November. I started tweeting what we were up to using relevant hash tags and slowly grew followers.
However, I did not really get anywhere with twitter until I started following a large amount of people. They would usually follow me back, and then I started seeing some traffic from twitter. By the end of this three month period, about a third of my traffic came from twitter. My strategy of following people, tweeting old posts and using triberr to promote others paid off. You can read more about it in twitter and growing blog followers.
6. Creating pinnable images
I am quite a fan of Pinterest and it is the social media outlet which is paying off for me more and more over time.
In my opinion, the mistake many make with Pinterest is to put normal, average photos on there. They may look ok on your blog, but on Pinterest, they are small, boring and blurred.
I spend a fair bit of time making pins for each of my blog posts. I read a lot about Pinterest and the best way to make pins, and I use the best resolutions (737px wide and long) with some text. I am not a graphic designer, so my pins don’t look as good as I would like, but they do ok. Even without many personal followers, Pinterest helped contribute to my success, and in fact Pinterest is growing day by day for me even now and the main reason I now get well over 12,000 page views a month. It has become my biggest source of website traffic.
Updated 29/09/2014 – I have finally published my complete guide to how to use Pinterest to drive traffic to your website/blog for full details of how I have been able to use Pinterest with great success.
Pinterest, Facebook and twitter are the main social media I use, but I have also experimented with others. This is mainly Instagram (still yet to give me a hit!), Google+, stumbleupon and reddit. The final two can give you a bit of a burst, but since my goal is long term sustainable website traffic, I don’t really see the point in me adding my own posts and encouraging others to share.
My main tip would be to experiment with others, but stick to a few and work on growing them. Social media success does not grow overnight and, like everything else in the blogging world, it takes time and effort to make a success out of social media. If page views are you main goal, it is better to have just a couple of social media that are giving you success than spread yourself too thin over many.
8. Engaging with other bloggers
The blogging community is large and mostly very helpful. I have learned so much by “listening” to other bloggers. I am in a few different blogging facebook groups which all help me become a better blogger.
They help in three main ways. One, from learning from their experiences, like you might be doing now by reading this article. Two, by sharing each other’s posts, interacting on social media, commenting on your blog, etc. I think it would be close to impossible to be a successful blogger without networking. Three, they keep me sane. It is easy to get frustrated and overwhelmed by all the tasks involved in trying to build a successful blog and it is so nice to have people to share the frustrations and successes with. People in my everyday life do not understand, and I love chatting with other bloggers who can understand why I am so excited when I add another 100 Facebook likes.
9. Taking my niche into account with everything I do
The biggest mistake that I personally think that many other starting out blogger make is that they don’t really have a niche, they are just a travel blog. I am no expert, but I think that when starting a blog, you really need to find a way to distinguish yourself from the pack, or at least your own personal voice. What makes your blog special? Anyone can have a Photo Friday or similar theme day. Why is yours different?
For me, it is travelling with young kids. There are not that many blogs around that travel on crazy international trips such as ours with such young kids. For some people, it is about their budget, or working abroad. Don’t try to appeal to everyone. Find something and stick to it.
I actually was very hesitant to post this post as it is going outside of my niche. However, I do hope that the occasional wandering off topic is ok too!
10. Working very very hard
Unfortunately, there is no magic formula and no easy path to having a successful blog. My blog is still a long way from being something that I would describe as successful, but it is continuing to grow, and I have faith that if I keep working hard that it will get there.
It is hard to keep this faith. It often seems like others get success easily, or that I will never get it to the point where it will be worth the effort I have put in. As a mum of young kids, the time I spend on this is filled with guilt. I don’t really have personal time, anything I do is taking time from my husband and kids, so trying to establish a successful blog can be a big decision.
I also think it is important to treat it like a business. Just because I have a bad week, or I am going away, or I am extra busy, does not mean I can ignore it. I always factor it into my schedule. On our US road trip, it was hard as we were on the go most days and I was exhausted and having to plan our next stop as well as blog. I kept to my schedule though, as I see my blog as my business. It is not just my hobby anymore, and this is also how I have managed to increase my website traffic.
Even back home, I work 50 hour weeks as a beginner teacher, I look after my kids all but three days a week and they still wake at night. I am permanently exhausted. I want this to work though, so I keep putting in the time. Excuses do not work if you want to be successful. The amount of hours I spend a week definitely vary, but I have a timetable of must do tasks and I stick to them no matter what.
I think putting some thought into what you spend your time on is also important. If you are going to work hard, it should be for specific goals. Mine is always to grow my blog hits. Being very busy has the benefit that I am brutal with what I spend my time on. Put some time and effort into deciding what exactly you think are the best ways to reach your goals. Then use your time on this and don’t let other things distract you.
Read our next article in this series – how I reached 500,000 page views and how you can do it too!
You can read more about my journey to grow this blog and become a digital nomad on Digital Nomad Wannabe. If you have not started your blog yet but are dreaming about it, check out our article about how to start a travel blog.
What is your biggest tip to people who are trying to grow their blogs?