I still don’t really know how to get website traffic

Despite having three whole months, I managed to put off finalizing this quarter’s blog post until the last minute. The topic?

Pick a colleague’s post, and explain why you chose that one. Outline a plan for the post to get 1,000+ views. Imagine that you have a US $20 budget to work with.

I’m far from an expert on building site traffic. I blog, but rarely, and more for myself than an audience. To be honest, it’s never been necessary for me to get a lot of site traffic. I’ve never relied on my site for getting work, or revenue, or traffic to a business. So I found this post pretty intimidating — and our recommended two-hour timeline just made that worse.

I know, vaguely, that building an audience for your site is a lot of work, and takes a lot of time. WordPress.com alone has a lot of good resources for that: You not only have to write posts, but publish them regularly. You have to promote your posts via social media and sharing sites, and it can be beneficial to build up some kind of online community. But I’ve never actually had to put it to action — or really thought about how to promote just one post. I felt a little lost about where to start.

At least I did know what post I wanted to promote: Allan Cole’s Capturing Your Ideas. I spend a lot of my day staring at a screen, using a mouse — I’ve been trying to move away from that in my free time, but am bad at remembering to get away from it while working. Allan’s post is a good reminder to hit the (sketch)books, or even use a tablet to sketch, just as a break from familiar tools. It’s a reminder I can always use, and figured it’d be good to share.

I started trying to wrap my head around how to approach promoting his post by searching online for how to increase blog traffic. I also hoped something would jump out to me that I hadn’t considered before.

Though I found good ‘build an audience’-like advice, some things I found were also questionable. I ran across a lot of lists that were more quantity over quality, mixing advice about promoting my site on social media with suggestions like “Organize events and be a speaker” and “Run a scholarship for students” as surefire way to increase traffic.

I also ran into suggestions that made me uncomfortable — things like using certain social-sharing tools that allow you to export the email addresses of folks who’ve shared your posts, so you can follow up with them when you’ve updated a post in hopes of getting them to share again. Or only allowing visitors to read part of a post, and hiding the rest, asking them to share it on social media before they can read it. This kind of stuff seemed more likely to lose an audience than build it.

I admit, I fell down a bit of a rabbit hole just looking at the advice that’s out there. I really wanted to come out of this with a better understanding how to drive traffic to Allan’s post. In the end, I think I ended up feeling more overwhelmed and confused than I did before. I also ate up most of my allocated two hours just reading. 😳

At this point, feeling stuck and frustrated, I started reading other posts about this from my fellow writers on this blog. There are a lot of great ideas in there, things I wouldn’t have thought of:

Ola explained how to use long-tail keywords — something I’d seen in a few lists but wasn’t really clear about — in a way I could actually follow. This made it seem like a more accessible thing I could actually do, instead of some weird abstract SEO magic.

David opted to use his existing blog and social media audiences to drive traffic to his selected post. But he explained how to tackle it in a more concrete way, with publishing schedules, and promoting more than one post, to gain traffic.

Caroline shared real-world examples from her own site and years of building up an online audience. Michelle interviewed a friend with a successful site, which I thought was inspired — who would know better how to drive traffic?

Many folks also posted pragmatic advice to get more people to visit your site — write often, write well, find an audience, share your work and build a community. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg — there are many posts I haven’t read yet.

What did I opt to do in the end? Well, I didn’t end up having some amazing idea — I ended up pretty much in the same place I’d started, feeling a bit defeated after my two hours badly spent.

First, I figured I should spend the money, since I had the resource available. A bit overwhelmed where to spend it, I opted to promote the post on Facebook or StumbleUpon. Either service would allow me to target who’d see my shared post, to those hopefully who’d be most interested and likely to click for more.

Low on time, I didn’t get a chance to finalize which would be best. Also, unfortunately, from what I read, $20 wouldn’t get me 1,000 visits from either of these sites. So part of this would also be on me.

This is where we come back around to my own low-traffic site. I don’t have the audience there or on social media to drum up decent traffic. I would have to rely more on others to help boost the signal, after my own efforts hopefully caught their attention (or after I asked really nicely!). This isn’t something I’d feel comfortable repeating, even if it was successful. Without an audience of my own, I’ve no way to “thank” folks who helped boost a link for me by promoting something for them in return.

In the end, I’m doubtful I got Allan his 1,000 views. I spent too much time searching through the mountains of advice out there, both good and bad. I can see how people hoping to promote their sites and gain new traffic would get lost, and even give up early on — especially since research alone is time-consuming. If you somehow get through that and find good advice, you still face a lot of work and trial-and-error before really seeing gains on your own site.

Puzzle photo from Pexels – CC0 https://www.pexels.com/photo/assemble-challenge-combine-creativity-269399/

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