It started back in 2010, when I accepted my first corporate gig as the Social Media Coordinator at Vistage International. One of my main job responsibilities was to grow their blog. At the time, I had minimal to moderate experience using social media to generate new business, so much of my time was spent doing research, and through trial and error. After a year of being employed at Vistage something amazing happened… the blog that I had been working on for a year suddenly took off! I couldn’t really believe it! Did I really grow the traffic by over 700%? This success story was featured in the book 8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success, however I’d like to share the more in depth version- the story that tells you the strategy of how to increase blog traffic.
Interested in growing your blog traffic? In this complete guide, I’ll share my story and strategy of how I grew blog traffic from 2,000 monthly visitors to over 16,000 in a one year period. Here’s my step-by-step playbook and strategy of what made the blog grow:
The first project I had to undertake was giving the blog a facelift and a new brand. The reason I decided it needed a new brand was because the blog looked like it was being written by employees at the company, and you couldn’t connect with the authors on an individual level. What the blog lacked was trust from the readership. Our readers wanted to know that the content provided was relevant and purely to add value. It looked like our whole blog was written to promote the Vistage brand. I wanted to switch the focus from a blog that was about the company, to a blog that was about helping our target market (CEOs) find great information that related to them. This is an example of what the blog looked like back then. If you take a look at the blog below the first thing you’ll see is the brand Vistage but you don’t get a feel for the audience that this is supposed to attract or the authors that are writing the articles, and what their expertise is.
We had a brainstorming session amongst the marketing and PR department to come up with an entirely new brand. The end goal was to create a new name for the blog and to create a new brand that would relate to our audience and that would be semi-easy to rank for.
We ended up choosing the name Executive Street– a play on wall street and main street. From there it was time to draw up the concept for the blog. I took inspiration from the elements I liked on Mashable, Workshifting (Citrix’s blog), and Social Media Examiner and drew wireframes of each page of the blog.
Then I had our designer do a mock-up of the blog layout in photoshop so I could see the concept come to life. From there we hired a programmer to create a live version of the site in WordPress and that is how we came up with the finished blog design and brand.
At the time I took over the blog we only had about 8 authors who blogged consistently and we were getting anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 unique visitors per month. We were posting 3 articles a week- on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I knew that in order to grow traffic, we had to get bloggers that covered many different categories of business. My first milestone was to have enough content to get us posting 5 times a week and my second was to post 7 times a week. I started with our internal resources first (our employees) but this took a change in culture, I had to explain the importance of writing for the blog and then give each person ideas on what to write about based on their background. Then I started with other resources that had an affiliation with our organization- our speaker community. Vistage has a community of expert speakers that come and speak to the CEO members so I pitched the speakers on writing for the blog saying that if they wrote for the blog, it would give them more exposure to our community and it would get them in front of the right audience (which was definitely true). Lastly, I reached out to some of our business coaches and CEOs asking them to write content for our blog, because they were all subject matter experts at something- so getting them to write content about lets say Marketing (as a marketing agency) or Innovation (as a innovation consultant) helped us get content for the different categories we wanted to focus on.
Tip: Getting people to write for your blog is an art in itself. You have to lead with the value and tell them what’s in it for them. Think most of the people that you want to write for your blog are very busy… Why should they spend an hour or more of THEIR time to write a blog post for YOUR blog?
Examples: WIIFM if you write for our blog?
1. If you write for our blog it will help brand yourself as a subject matter expert.
2. If you write for our blog, it will help give you exposure to the target market you’re marketing to.
3. If worse comes to worse, we’ll let you include a couple of links in your post that you can link back to your site and help increase your SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
A big element to growing traffic is using social media and social bookmarking tools to drive traffic back to your site through the content you create. When you’re starting out and you don’t have a lot of followers on your networks yet, create headlines that stand-out and create content that provides lots of value.
Your main goals in your content marketing strategy should be to create content that:
Next, figure out the social networks that make the most sense for your business. If you’re a B2B business, the networks that probably makes the most sense for you are Twitter and LinkedIn. If you’re a B2C business, the networks that might make the most sense for you are Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. It really depends on your business and your target market, however it is better to be focused and do a really good job on a couple of social networks where your target market is than be doing a mediocre job on every social network.
Question: How many people in your company have social networks? How many friends of yours have social networks?
Answer: Probably almost every one of them
New Question: How many of these people like to spend time finding interesting articles that relate to their followers?
Answer: Very few…
We created a social media street team and the goal of the street team was to help people grow their own personal brand through their social networks by providing interesting relevant content to their followers. We created a list of interesting business articles from some of the top business publications (HBR.org, Inc magazine, fast company, etc.) and of course our blog and sent an e-mail out to a group of employees, friends, business coaches, and speakers every Monday and those people sent these articles out to their network.
Even though we didn’t have many followers on our corporate account at the time, this group of people on this e-mail distribution list quickly grew to over 100 people who were looking for interesting content on a weekly basis. This tactic alone greatly expanded our reach and helped us get in front of a new audience as each person on the e-mail distribution list was building their own followers.
Steps 1-4 greatly grew our traffic in a fairly short amount of time but I have to say targeting influencers is one of the strategies that can make the biggest impact on your blog. Sort of like how many brands target celebrities to build their brand, targeting internet celebrities or “influencers” can grow your blog and brand awareness faster than any other tactic, if it’s done right.
The first thing to do would be to find influencers that have the same target audience as you do. There are many different sites that you can use to do this, however the one that I used was FollowerWonk. You can use this tool to search various keywords and find people on twitter with the most followers that relate to that keyword. Also, another good way to do this is finding thought leaders with a large subscriber list.
How do you approach a thought leader:
The book Launch by Michael Stelzner outlines the best strategy I’ve come across for approaching influencers. However, if you’re looking for a shorter version of the strategy basically you have to interact with them enough so that they notice you. Share their content, comment on their posts, etc. Once you’ve built a relationship through social media, then it’s time for the outreach piece and remember ALWAYS lead with the WIIFM (What’s in it for me). Why should they write a post for your blog? Will it help them sell more of their books (if they’re an author)? Will it help them get more speaking engagements? Will it help them sell more products? Why should they do you a favor and write a post for you?
We approached Chris Brogan as our first influencer and flew him out to the Milken Institute Global Conference as our blogger. What was in it for Chris? He got the opportunity to go to a conference with some of the world’s biggest leaders and greatest minds. In exchange for travel arrangements and entry to the conference he only had to write 3 blog posts over the 3-day conference. After we posted the first article from Chris, we saw an immediate jump in traffic to our site. All Chris had to do was send out 1 tweet to his followers on Twitter, G+ and Facebook and instantly 1000s of visitors came to our site.
Yes, this was a short term bump in traffic, but we got brand exposure to a different audience than we had previously. This resulted in a lot of repeat visitors that we wouldn’t have had otherwise.
By following these steps and of course incorporating some of your own creativity, you should see your blog traffic grow exponentially. Again, a successful blog starts with providing value to your target audience and helping your audience solve a problem. Here’s what our traffic looked like over a 12-month period and after 24 months our traffic hit 20,000 unique visitors.
Hopefully this article provided value to you in helping you on your quest to grow traffic to your blog and website.