Do you REALLY want more traffic to your blog?

by Mack Collier

Chris Brogan wrote a post today on a sure-fire way to get more traffic to your blog: Write more posts.  He’s exactly right, I’ve seen it here on my blog, as have many of you if you’ve ramped up the volume of your posts, I am sure.  I also know that in general, the exact opposite happens when I stop writing, that traffic usually falls.

Here’s the thing about traffic and Retweets on Twitter or ‘Shares’ on Facebook and other sites: They can fool you.  Let’s be honest, it feels good when you write a post that immediately gets a lot of RTs and it feels good to see a traffic spike for that day.

It all makes you really feel like you accomplished something, doesn’t it?

But did you?  If traffic alone is how you define the success of your blog, then you’re probably pretty satisfied.  But what if your goal is something else?  What if you don’t need more traffic in general, but more potential clients?   Or what if you are a jobseeker that wants more potential employers to read your blog?

My point is, you shouldn’t be chasing more traffic simply for the sake of getting it.  Let’s go back to Chris’ example.  In his case, he is trying to directly monetize the content on his blog, to a degree.  So more traffic probably helps him.  But if you are NOT trying to directly monetize the content on your blog, then more traffic doesn’t help you unless that more traffic performs some other action.  It may be that you want them to email you for information about your company, or maybe you want them to download your resume, or sign up for your email newsletter.  But simply getting more traffic might not be enough.  Sure, it might stroke your ego, but unless that extra traffic is also helping you meet a larger goal for your blog, then who cares?

BTW this is just on a personal note, but I am growing very weary of blogs that publish multiple posts a day.  In fact Chris’ is one of the few that I still subscribe to that do this (and Chris is great, so I subscribe).  For example, I unsubbed from Mashable for 2 reasons:

1 – I was tired of getting 10 new posts a day

2 – I knew that my friends would SHARE the really good ones via Twitter and Google Reader, so I didn’t need to sub anyway.

Something to think about.  Chasing numbers if fine, if you understand the value of catching them.

{ 37 comments }

Allen Mireles September 2, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Hi Mack,

I liked this post and found it valuable as a reminder: stay focused on your goals and objectives. (That would be me, speaking to me, now.) Chasing numbers for the chasing the numbers’ sake just doesn’t make sense. Working to increase the readership of your blog can make sense for the reasons you mention–and more.

Nicely done, sir.

;)

Mack Collier September 2, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Thank you Allen! I think chasing the numbers is fine, as long as there is a conversion happening. It’s far too easy to get enamored with getting big numbers, and think you are accomplishing something, when you might not be.

For example, when I first started blogging, TechMeme picked up one of my posts. I saw a HUGE jump in traffic for that day, and loved it! So the next day I wrote a more tech-focused post hoping to again get picked up by TechMeme, and it was! And another flood of traffic resulted!

Then after a couple of days I realized that even though I got that nice spike in traffic, that it didn’t result in ANY comments or ANY emails or ANY contact whatsoever. So while it stroked my ego for a couple of days, when the smoke cleared, those big numbers for a couple of days really didn’t help me.

But it did teach me a valuable lesson about reaching the RIGHT people versus targeting big numbers.

Heidi Cool September 2, 2010 at 3:46 pm

I’ve experienced the same correlation between posting frequency and site visitors. You’re absolutely right that all readers are not equal. I want to attract readers who are potential clients, industry peers and others who want to learn and share ideas about Web development, marketing, social media etc. Many of my readers fall into that category. But I also get low-level link builders spamming my comments with the strange idea that my readers want discount pharmaceuticals. And I get overseas SEO practitioners who want me to hire them to help out on my projects. I’m sure the latter mean well, but I’m simply not looking to outsource my SEO. So gains in traffic are a double-edged sword, we want the traffic that supports our goals, but not the traffic that wastes our time unnecessarily.

Mack Collier September 2, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Heidi that’s a good point about spammers, they do tend to pick up on blogs with higher traffic. So I guess there’s a price to ‘fame’ ;)

Paul DeBettignies September 2, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Hey Mack,

One of my goals for 2010 was to blog more. By that I meant from 2-3 posts a week to 9. Between career, recruiter and HR, the local business scene and events I can have that many and still be providing good content.

I did not really get into it until June and have scene a noticeable spike in traffic, RSS subscribers and the email newsletter.

But I gladly trade the 200-250 visitors a day for 10 IT professionals seeking new opportunities and 1 company looking for a search firm guy to help them.

The ROI on that would be awesome.

College football season is here!!!

I hope you are well.

Paul
@MNHeadhunter

Mack Collier September 3, 2010 at 10:15 am

Hey Paul! This is the area that frustrates most/all bloggers. I know that if you post more, that you’ll usually get more traffic. And I know that getting more traffic will INCREASE THE LIKELIHOOD of getting more subscribers/comments/clients, etc. It’s the ‘rising tide lifts all boats’ idea.

But I can’t always find a clear way to tell if I am reaching the ‘right’ people. And I think this goes back to a conversation I was having on Twitter with @be3d about blog audiences and the demographics of the people you are actually reaching.

Not sure there’s a clear answer, at least not yet.

And yes, thank God college football season is here ;)

Mike Sansone September 2, 2010 at 4:38 pm

I’ve recently amped up my posting frequency. Part of that has to do with time, part has to do with some stuff I’ve been storing up.

It’s important to know our readership (how to is another post, surely). If any one segment (ideally multiple, but…) can draw value from what is written, then write it. And while I believe in “if it’s important to you, it’s important to someone else too,” the value of your post should be outwards.

Personally, as for numbers, gradual and consistent growth is better than a spike — and heaven help me if there’s a huge spike — because then I try to keep that as par (yikes!). Great conversation and thinking points.

Mack Collier September 3, 2010 at 10:18 am

LOL! Ok Mike your comment reminded me of a few conversations I’ve had with other consultants/strategists. In theory, producing more good and useful content via a blog/Twitter/Facebook/whatever helps that person get their name out there, and gets them more work/speaking/etc. But if they have that work, then they don’t have time or as much time to create that content, that will help them get MORE work.

I guess there’s a trade-off that needs to be made and a balance that needs to be struck. I am still playing with the balance myself ;)

Mike Sansone September 5, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply. By raising comments, I raised the bar (not the balance bar) and that raised the workload…well, that’s what you just said, isn’t it?

In a bit of serious (but just a wee bit), this balance issue is one reason I highly suggest bite-sized, taste-on-a-toothpick posts. I tray (and teach) NOT to say everything on a subject in a single post. Make it a conversation by leaving some white space (a gap) where either the community can engage or you can follow-up in future posts.

The quick post saves time, aids the balance battle, and allows for a more thriving community.

See ya at #blogchat

Mazher Abidi September 2, 2010 at 4:39 pm

Mack, this is so so very true, agree with it completely. It’s like followers on twitter. So what if you’ve got 42567 followers, if you do nothing with them. I’m pretty happy with my 180 odd.

Followers are folly, engagement is everything. It’s my mantra online.

Oh, and:

“2 – I knew that my friends would SHARE the really good ones via Twitter and Google Reader, so I didn’t need to sub anyway.”

Perfectly summed up.

Charlie Southwell September 2, 2010 at 4:57 pm

I agree completely – traffic needs to convert otherwise it is pointless other than an idiots ego boost.

I may have to direct some of the heaps of SEO enquiries I receive here. Nice to read a succinct rant on the matter.

I also trust my Twitter friends opinions on what is a good read (reddit is another great source of crowdsourced content for tech news)

Mack Collier September 3, 2010 at 10:22 am

Yeah Charlie I was totally stealing your point about traffic having to convert in my comment to Allen ;) And you’re exactly right, if the traffic doesn’t lead to some larger goal/outcome, then it’s just numbers.

Helps the ego, but that’s not always enough…

jennifer September 2, 2010 at 5:58 pm

Thank you for posting information like this. There is so much blogging advise out there that sometimes as a newbie it is hard to know exactly what to do. Your post brings the questions you should be asking yourself to the forefront of my mind.

Chris Brogan... September 2, 2010 at 7:21 pm

Remember, as marketers, we have to remember that OUR preference isn’t necessarily our audience’s preference. Mashable and the other guys publish multiple times a day because that behavior is rewarded. From a marketing perspective, it makes perfect sense.

In my case, it’s a simple numbers game. Simpler numbers below:

If 100 new people show up, 50-60 will scram.
40 or so will stick around for a few new posts.
20 of those 40 will subscribe.
4-6 of these will take an action I really wish they’d take.
2-3 will become long term friends (if only the online type).

Add a few zeroes to each of these and it sure doesn’t hurt. The people who MATTER versus the people who get something out of my post isn’t really for me to decide.

: )

Mack Collier September 3, 2010 at 10:33 am

Chris I agree with your points, but I think there’s an elephant in the room that everyone is ignoring:

More posts often means the overall quality of those posts falls.

You go from 2 great posts a week, to 5 pretty good posts a week. Or maybe you really ramp it up and go from 5 pretty good posts a week, to 10 ‘eh, not too bad’ posts a week.

At times I have tried to write a daily M-F post, and I can never keep it up. Because eventually I reach a point where I am writing the next day’s post because I feel I HAVE to, not because I WANT to.

I remember when Kathy Sierra was blogging, she would rarely write more than 2 or 3 posts a month. But every post was a freakin’ epic, and would get 50-100 comments. And this was before Twitter and Facebook. Every post was an A+. Sure, she could have ramped that up to say 1-2 posts a week, but I bet even her quality would have fell from say A+ to B+ per post.

So I guess it’s a tradeoff for most of us, and we all have to find our own comfort zone and where we want to be between writing great content vs getting bigger traffic numbers.

Deana Goldasich September 3, 2010 at 10:47 am

I have to agree, Mack. When I “force” more frequent posts, they tend to become weak and watered down. NOT helpful for winning readers’ loyalty and perceived value. A while back I decided to actually “forfeit” a scheduled blogging day and dedicate that time to scouring others’ blogs, learning from them, sharing and making comments. That balance turned out to be a great week, traffic-wise!

Ryan McCormack September 3, 2010 at 10:48 am

Thanks for another good post Mack.

Your comment about quality is the one that rang most true for me. Any desire for traffic should be tempered with the ability to generate interesting, engaging, valuable content. I think good content will ultimately drive people to engage and take action (“converting” in some way, shape or form). When frequency goes up, but quality drops, I think the hidden price is greater than whatever benefit comes from the traffic.

Mack Collier September 3, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Hey Ryan! I think one great way to get more content on your blog, and Chris is a master at this, is to write about other people. A lot of his posts are about the interesting people he is connecting with via his travels, and the interesting work they are doing. You could do the same thing on your blog via a weekly recap of your favorite blog posts from your reader, or favorite discussions on Twitter, or whatever.

Angela Beasley September 3, 2010 at 11:13 am

Mack and Chris,

As a newbie to the world of Internet marketing, I have always been concerned about the “quality” and quantity of my posts. On top of doing everything myself and being new to the game, frequent posting is not easy.

I have a lot of respect and admiration for both of you and was wondering how you managed when you were starting out?

Mack Collier September 3, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Angela I think blogging is like anything else, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. For me, the writing process itself has become easier, while PICKING the topics of the posts has become harder. I want to make sure I am always bringing either new topics, or a fresh and new approach to an existing topic. Which gets decidedly more difficult as time goes by ;)

As for posting frequency, I have learned that committing to LESS upfront, is often better. IOW, commit to shooting for a post a week, instead of a post a day. Odds are you will find out that you can probably do 2-3 a week, if you want. Better to get there if you start out lowballing yourself, IMO, because if you downgrade from 5 posts a week to 2, it can be a bit disappointing. And unnecessarily so.

Does that help?

Angela Beasley September 3, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Yes, it does help!

Thank you….

Ari Herzog September 2, 2010 at 8:22 pm

Good for you unsubscribing from Mashable.com. I once subscribed to that, Techcrunch, RWW, and countless other echo chamber clones — and put them all in the same RSS categorical list. Then, one day, I unsubscribed from all of them for the reasons you cite about social proof. If something is influential enough to read, it will be read.

Ian Greenleigh September 2, 2010 at 11:19 pm

This is why the GA Funnel Visualizer is incredibly powerful. Whatever you count as a conversion, more traffic should equal more of them—if you’re going after the right traffic. I’d rather have only 10 visits a day if 9 of them converted in the ways I prefer. Throw 10,000 my way that aren’t who I’m trying to get in front of and I’m grateful as hell, but not really doing my job as a marketer.

All that said, I realize we’re not all business-driven when it comes to blogging, and that’s perfectly cool, too. But everyone has an audience in mind, even if it’s just a strictly-social endeavor.

Mack Collier September 3, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Sigh. I really wish I better understood how to fully utilize Google Analytics. Ian have you written a post on the Funnel Visualizer, or know a good tutorial?

Rufus Dogg September 3, 2010 at 7:23 am

I quit using RSS readers because I follow enough people on twitter who will link to the breaking news, interesting stuff. And occasionally, I will find something first but almost never as fast. It runs in the background and beeps and buzzes on search terms I care about that week, mentions and DMs.

David Wang September 3, 2010 at 7:31 am

I’ve noticed a few blog posts along this theme of focusing on the audience and objective of blogging rather than on the numbers and fame from a large audience. For example, Laura Roeder’s post on David Risley’s blog http://www.davidrisley.com/teachers-pet-blogger/

Thanks for bringing this into the conversation. I’m hoping it will help marketers grow more mature in their strategy :)

Gillian September 3, 2010 at 10:23 am

You and me both – I’ve unsubscribed from a bunch of bloggers who generally write informative blog posts but way too often and like you Mashable was one that bit the dust. Seth Godin has survived because his posts are short and quick to scan over and also Chris Brogan since he never writes something that’s not worth reading.
Maybe frequent bloggers would benefit if they put the title of the post in their email notifications – after all it’s all in the Headline – then its easier to decide if you want to read it or not.
I really don’t think that frequent for frequents sake is going to keep people coming back for more – now this might suit some bloggers if they want numbers rather than followers.

Melody September 3, 2010 at 10:45 am

Slow and steady wins the race. I absolutely think that post quality falls if a blog is posting high volume rates of content. It’s strange that well-established professional blogs operate as such. I once in a while notice brand new bloggers flooding their site with content (such as 40+ short, fluff articles) during their first month, as if it’s an empty bowl that must immediately filled full. Rather, I see my blog as a pet that has to be regularly fed, about 3 times per week (and I’m about to cut back to 2x a week because it is killing me. My blog is JUST a hobby. I don’t earn a penny from it).

Lots of great comments here. If my blog traffic drops because I’m posting less, so be it. RIght now it’s great to have xyz uniques a day, but I really just want people who stay, read, and share their insanely crazy enthusiam for my narrow niche topic.

Melody

Mack Collier September 3, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Thanks Melody. Going back to Mashable, I think a big reason why they have gone to so many guest posts in the last year or so is to keep interest up. It’s really a great tactic, bring in a well-known blogger/marketer who can write a post for you (lessening your workload), then they have an instant incentive to promote that post to their network, which is also a win for Mashable.

Rose September 3, 2010 at 10:54 am

I have been blogging a lot lately. Yesterday I published multiple posts. not because I was trying to get more traffic, but because I had a lot to say. One of my post was very successful. It generated 58 comments including my own and is a top post. Many tweeted it. I must say it did feel good & perhaps some of those who read it but did not join the debate will become readers of my blog. Who knows!

Mack Collier September 3, 2010 at 12:22 pm

Good for you, Rose! Sometimes I get hit by inspiration and can write multiple posts in a day. I usually try to schedule those to go out over the next few days, in case I hit another writer’s block ;)

Elaine September 3, 2010 at 11:02 am

Sigh. So much to do, so little time.

Thanx for the post, and all the great comments! I’m rebuilding my blog after a year away. Trying, for now, to start slow & steady and hope, eventually, to garner referrals and some solid back links. What I value most from my visit here is the emphasis on measurement — across all social media channels, to include Twitter. Head count isn’t nearly as important as engagement, rapport that leads to some kind of productive synergy.

M P Friedman September 3, 2010 at 2:32 pm

Mack – great post, great discussion. I think you are dead right. Somehow, the social media world has tended to coalesce around the value of tonnage versus quality. So many marketers today track the number of RTs or followers vs the quality of followers.

As Old Spice has taught us, viral does not necessarily build business. As marketers, we need to start with objectives, then develop the tactics and metrics that drive the objectives.

I recently blogged about a HubSpot webinar that single-mindedly defined the success of a presentation in terms of number of RTs. How silly! That’s a tonnage approach. A presentation with thousands of RTs that failed to persuade its target to take a desired action would be an unequivocal failure in my book.

It’s time to move beyond the tonnage discussion, and again focus on quality. As Paul DeBettignies commented above, I’d gladly trade 250 visitors a day for 1 high quality lead.

Eric Hoffman September 3, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Mack, there is another element of posting frequency that hasn’t been discussed in this thread and that is the setting of expectations of when a post is posted. I really like that Chris Brogan and Seth Godin publish a post (usually) once a day because I know when to expect content from them. I even get frustrated at times with blogs that publish on irregular schedules because I don’t know when to check in and will often miss their new content unless I look carefully through my reader.

Certainly quality is the base determiner of whether a blog will gain readership and engagement, but I do think that some sort of consistency in a publishing schedule will help to build this as well.

Moot September 5, 2010 at 4:22 pm

You’re absolutely spot on. Traffic does not necessarily mean anything, and everything should be about the website’s goal. And with subscribers, I have yet to believe that people actually subscribe to blogs with the pure intent to get updates.

Gabriele Maidecchi September 6, 2010 at 9:11 am

I agree, traffic is a good thing just if there’s a good reason to WISH for it.
Although I absolutely don’t blame bloggers who do it just for a passion and for that nice warm feeling of popularity, most bloggers will have a reason to blog that goes beyond the simple will to share opinion and experiences.
Blogging to attract traffic to your site and consequentially to your business doesn’t mean your content isn’t good or worth sharing, in fact it’s pretty simple to distinguish between a self-promotional useless blog and one worth of your attention even if with business purposes.

Cynthia Bailey MD September 7, 2010 at 12:25 pm

I’m totally with you on disliking multiple daily posts. Information overload is a burden in our busy input-rich lives; I value quality, concise posts that expand my world view.

My personal blogging goal is to post twice a week with helpful content for people with common skin problems. My site sells skin care regimes that I have developed to address some of the common skin problems I’ve treated for years in my dermatology practice. My blogs topics either feature my advice for, or new scientific information on these problems (eg. rosacea, acne, aging skin, dry skin, skin cancer risk, seborrhea etc). I also blog on related skin problems and health information so that people find my site and hopefully explore it.

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