This is the fourth part in my Start a Blog series about blogging. In this post, I will assume that you have a blog and you’ve built up at least a small library of content. If you only have 1-2 posts, go back and keep creating before you worry about pageviews. It isn’t worth the extra work until you have enough content to keep someone interested for a while.
One of the first things that people usually focus for their blog is pageviews. Seasoned bloggers will tell you that pageviews don’t matter and you should only focus on content because good content will bring people to your site. It will happen “organically” – the favorite buzzword of many a blog conference.
This advice is crap.
There are two problems with not worrying about pageviews. (1) If you don’t have anyone – absolutely anyone – reading your blog, you can create all of the beautiful posts you want and it won’t matter. You will be the tree falling in the forest with no one to hear it. (2) If you’re hoping to make money from your blog, every company who works with you is going to be interested in pageviews. One of the best things I ever heard at a conference is this: nobody is going to pay you to blog. Companies are not interested in becoming patrons to your creative side. They’re interested in eyeballs on their product and how many of those eyeballs will actually buy something. In order to be worth something to a company, you have to have an audience. So your blog is going to need some eyeballs.
Before we get into the getting of pageviews, let’s talk about the different types of blog audiences. It’s important to define your audience early, so you know who you’re talking to and whether or not you’re reaching who you want to reach. Included in the descriptions are some loose figures for unique views (the number of different computers that logged onto your site) and returning readers (how many people who visited your site had been there before). Here’s a few options:
The Large Engaged Audience: this is the holy grail of blogging – an impressive number of people who tune in all the time and leave comments because they love you so much. These people buy whatever it is you’re talking about on your blog because you’re really cool and if you like it, they like it. Companies fall over themselves to work with bloggers who have this kind of audience. Unfortunately, it usually takes years of consistent quality posting to build up this level of trust – phone it in and your audience will start to fade immediately. (100,000+ unique views per month, high rate of returning readers)
The Small Engaged Audience: this type of audience is quickly becoming just as interesting to companies looking for advertising. Here, you have lower pageviews but your audience is heavily engaged and they comment, buy things you like to buy, and have probably been reading you for years. The perk of a small engaged audience is that you most likely know (or feel like you know) a lot of your readers because it’s a manageable group. Companies like working with these blogs because they’re usually a more affordable way to still get a high rate of conversion – sales that are worth the amount they’re spending to advertise with the blogger. (50,000 – 100,000 unique views per month, high rate of returning readers)
The Large Drive-Thru Audience: this audience is made up of people who visit your site once or twice but don’t return to your site over and over. You get this kind of audience when you offer valuable content that someone would find if they were searching for a specific problem, such as “how to get rid of weeds” or “types of hypoallergenic dogs”. Companies who just want people to see their ads like working with these types of blogs because it’s easy. They can rent some space on the side of the blog or in a pop-up ad and everyone who shows up will see their ad. (100,000+ unique views per month, low rate of returning readers)
The Small Drive-Thru Audience: this is the same audience as above, but on a smaller scale. People are still finding these blogs through searching for specific topics, but in this case the blog is so focused that there aren’t that many people searching for these things (such as a blog dedicated to different types of salt). With this type of audience, the companies that would get the most out of advertising would be companies that fall into that exact niche (such as a salt seller) who want to pay to get really focused eyeballs on their ad. (20,000 – 100,000 unique views per month, low rate of returning readers)
The Large and Small “House of Mirrors” Audiences: the final type of audience I’ll talk about is the misled audience – people who end up at your site even though they didn’t want to be here. These people show up because you’ve put up a post with a catchy keyword title, but when they get to your site they realize that you don’t have any new content at all – maybe just a link to someone else’s site. Or, perhaps you posted a cute photo on your Pinterest board but when they clicked through there was nothing but ads that pay you for every person who sees them. Haha! Gotcha! This is BAD, BAD Blogging. Spammy ad companies will still pay you if you stuff your blog pages full of ads and lure people in, but they’ll never pay you enough to make it worth it and you can’t build a career this way. Don’t do it!
Now, the interesting thing is that sometimes you go for a drive-thru audience and you end up with an engaged audience of people who really feel connected to you. This happened to a friend of mine who runs a coupon website. She just intended to share sales and coupon codes to make a little money with each post (this type of blogging adds up quickly), but people were so appreciative of how good she was at sharing sales that they started wanting to know more about her. She shared more of herself little by little and now, years later, her personal weight-loss journey and her infertility struggles have created a community of readers who support her and feel like they know her. THIS is the organic part about increasing page views – quality leads to shares, which lead to more eyeballs. Very awesome.
BUT…like I said, you can’t just create beautiful posts and expect your numbers to jump up and up and up. It’s like throwing a party – you can glitter the place settings and fall over yourself creating new recipes, but if you didn’t invite any guests it’s just going to be you and a bunch of cupcakes topped with tiny plastic deer.
I put a lot of thought into the advice that I’m going to give you. I also did some experimenting with different services designed to help you with page views, so that I could report back on what worked for me. I’m going to go through the process from start to finish, but I’m not going to cover any SEO (search engine optimization – how to get people to find you through Google search and other things like that) because I have a guest post coming from someone who is better at that than I am. So I’ll tell you about the other stuff, step by step.
Writing a Shareable Post
In order to get more page views, you need to deserve them. Phoning it in, writing posts about how you haven’t blogged in a while and you plan on blogging more, or using/linking to content from other blogs isn’t worth more page views. So let’s assume that you’ve written something that is (1) interesting, (2) helpful, (3) pretty, and/or (4) entertaining. You want to make sure the post stands on it’s own, so if you reference other things you’ve blogged about earlier, be sure to link to the previous post you’re talking about.
Also, add in a large photo or two relevant to the post. Otherwise, people won’t have anything to pin on Pinterest and when they share your link, sites like Facebook will generate whatever photo is available. That might not be the best photo to draw people in, so be mindful of the visual.
Emailing People the Link After You Hit Publish
One of the tempting things when you first start blogging is to email your friends/family with your blog posts to get them to read them. This sort of works, but it really only works once for most people because if they want to keep reading your blog they will check back. You might be bugging them, making them less likely to view/share your stuff.
You may also be tempted to email other bloggers to tell them to share your post, but unless you’ve written something specific and you are emailing them to show how it connects to something they’ve done (“I saw your recent piece on girl bullying and wanted to share my blog post about my personal story with you…”), the chances are high that the blogger will just pass over your link without looking/sharing. I know this from experience because people email me blog links all the time. I don’t have any judgment about whether or not these people are good bloggers because 98% of the time I don’t even open the link. I just don’t have time and unless I can use it, it’s not going to grab my interest while I’m trying to slog through my email. I’m MUCH more likely to click on someone’s blog post if I see it shared on Facebook or Pinterest (or in a comment on my blog) than I am if they’re filling up my already-overflowing inbox.
Sharing the Post on Facebook
Facebook is an interesting beast. If you share something on Facebook, you’re sharing it with people who have already made the active decision to be connected to you. So these people have a higher chance of clicking on your posts, but they also hold you to a higher standard. They have included you in their digital circle intentionally because you bring something to the table. Spamming Facebook friends with lots of links to your post (especially if you’re linking to the same post over and over) will either make people turn off notifications from you or just find you unfriended permanently. So will tagging everyone in your blog post links – it’s one thing to do it if you really think that particular person will find your post interesting. Tagging as a way to force your friends to see your stuff? Hello, desperate.
In my experience, the best way to share your posts is to upload a photo and then add some text and the link to your post as the photo description. Posting the link alone as a status update doesn’t get seen as much and isn’t as likely to be shared. If someone does share your link, be sure to like it or comment to say thanks. Also, be mindful of how you’re using Facebook. If you’re sharing links to your blog, be sure to add in other things like regular status updates or links to other content so you don’t look like a giant self-promoting commercial. Facebook works better if you remember to behave like a normal person.
Final note: be wary about sharing your links in groups/pages if you aren’t in charge of that group/page. It might not be allowed and it could sour your reputation or get you booted from that community.
Sharing the Post on Pinterest
Pinterest is my second biggest source of traffic across all blogs, right behind Google search and wildly ahead of Facebook. It’s turning into a commonly used search engine, so posting useful/pretty things on that site is likely to get you a lot of eyeballs in a relatively short amount of time. You also don’t need to have a lot of followers on Pinterest to get a lot of page views from it. Followers help because they’ll see your pins and you might catch their interest, but lots of people could see your pins from searching alone.
To grab that audience be sure that your pins are pretty and that it’s obvious what your pin is about. You can raise the rate of repinning if you choose pictures that are vertical (tall and thin) and pictures that have more oranges, reds, and pinks in them. Be sure the description sounds like what someone would search for (“best corn chowder recipe”, “how to iron pants”, etc.) and include the link to your post right in the description. Users can click the link when they see it, saving them a step and making it more likely that they’ll visit your blog.
You can also autoschedule pins using paid services like ViralTag if you want to pin lots of images from the same post over an extended period of time (to catch more people and to avoid flooding). I tried this service out when I was looking for things to tell you about and, although I was impressed with how easy it was to use, I only saw a minimal jump in my page views. I think pinning on your own time is just as effective.
Sharing the Post on Google+
I heard at a blog conference recently that Facebook is for sharing posts with people you know and Google+ is for sharing posts with people you don’t know. Follow the same process on Google+ that you would for Facebook (photo with link in description) but add keywords with hashtags (#Disney, #parenting, #foodallergies) on Google+ so people looking for that keyword will see what you’ve posted. You can also join groups on Google+, like on Facebook, and share posts just to that audience. People are more accepting of linksharing on Google+ and it can get you new page views on a specific topic quickly.
Sharing the Post on Twitter
Twitter…blah. Some people love it, but I don’t so if you really want to use Twitter I might not be your person. I can tell you that adding an image to your tweets means more people will look at them, so the image + post link formula works. That being said, Twitter moves so fast that you usually have to time it just right and promote your blog posts a couple of times to get any real engagement. At least, that’s been my experience. I use Twitter in the hopes that people will see my tweets and visit my profile to click on my blog link, not in the hopes that they’ll click on each individual link I share. I actually turned off autotweets for my blog posts because I decided they were probably just annoying people more than anything else.
I did try HootSuite, which allowed me to schedule tweets to reach the maximum number of eyes and I can tell you that it didn’t do anything for my pageviews. Again, that could be because I’m not a power user, but if you’re just starting out you’re probably not a power user either.
Drawing People In Across the Web
Beyond the classic social media, there are a ton of ways to increase page views. Other sites like Reddit, YouTube, Digg, etc. are heavily used by lots of people to promote their blogs, but I don’t use any of them so you’ll have to learn about them somewhere else. The other things that I do include commenting on other people’s blog posts (real comments – not just links to my blog) because if you actually have a conversation with someone on their blog, they’re more likely to click through to see what your story is. I also include links to relevant posts on Amazon reviews or as answers to questions people have posted on the web. Honestly, I don’t do much beyond that because more than half of my traffic comes from Google Search and Pinterest so using up energy to spread myself all over the Internet hasn’t often paid out. My big strategy is to keep people on the blog once they click through for the first time.
Getting People to Look Around Once They Hit Your Site
This is one of the most important things you can do to increase your page views if your goal is to have an engaged audience (vs. a drive thru audience). Ideally, you want someone to go to your blog for the first time, read what they came to read, and then notice something that makes them want to explore your blog further. That includes having menus, things on the sidebar, links to related posts, and – MOST IMPORTANTLY – good content beyond that first original piece. To get people to look around on my Disney wedding blog, I set up a menu at the top that links to galleries in the hopes that they’ll explore older posts. I also have a widget on my sidebar that randomly generates photos that link to blog posts so readers might notice something else they’re interested in.
The short term goal is, of course, to get more page views out of that person on their first visit (say, 8 pages instead of 1 page) but the long term goal is to get that person to save your site somehow because they want to come back to it. That’s why it’s so important to define what your site is offering to your audience. If someone shows up at my Disney wedding site, they can scan it and see that it’s a library of pretty photos. If they’re looking for wedding inspiration, they’re in the right place. If they’re looking for cheap places to stay in Orlando, I’m not the blog for them. I could, of course, add in some random articles about cheap places to stay in the hopes that I grab that person’s attention, but it would dilute the purpose of my blog and lower the quality of the blog experience for the Disney wedding audience that actually wants to be there. Keeping it focused increases the chance that the small-but-engaged readers I’m trying to reach will come back.
Final thoughts on the subject: it does take time to build up page views. Some people try to get a jump on the process by posting something sensational or offensive that lots of people will tune in to see (the equivalent of a blogging train wreck) but those spikes don’t last that long so I don’t think they’re worth it. Pinterest is the best place to start if you don’t have a lot of content because you can’t tell from a pin if the blog is established or if the blogger just started the blog last week, so if you work on anything this weekend you should work on Pinterest.
Also, try not to get mad if people don’t read your blog. I know it’s frustrating when you’re watching your numbers and they don’t change, but you have to remember that people are busy and media overloaded. They also just might not be blog people – especially if you’re talking about friends/family. I can tell you with absolute certainty that 90% of my friends don’t read any of my blogs. Maybe ten of my relatives read my blogs – mostly women looking for photos of those cute babies – and none of them ever leave comments or engage in any way. It’s just not their thing and there’s no point in taking it personally. I don’t visit them at their offices either, you know?
Next up: wildly helpful guest blog post about SEO. Coming soon.