Welcome to Week 3 of my 6-part series “Blogging Secrets Revealed.” Every Thursday, I’ll be sharing insider knowledge to help those of you wanting to turn your own travel (or non-travel) blogs into income-generating businesses that let you travel the world.
At this point in the series you should have an understanding of your brand and who your audience is (or will be). This week, we’ll dive into some important blog traffic tips. You should leave this lesson with a clearer idea of how to actually attract an audience to your blog.
While social media sharing is part of the equation to gaining traffic, remember this: everything you do, everything you share and everything you spend your precious time working on should be done with intention. Simply hitting the tiny Facebook button on a published post and letting it sit there, hoping that if you “build it they will come” is not a thoughtful strategy.
If you’re confused about what is a thoughtful strategy, don’t worry. Every Thursday I’ll be focusing on:
- 11 Essential Questions For Better Blog Clarity
- 7 Ways To Find Out Who Your Readers Are
- 10 Simple Tactics For Gaining Blog Traffic (this post)
- 22 Awesome Ways To Engage Your Blog Readers
- 19 Essential Tools To Grow Your Blog Business
- Your Ultimate Guide To Blog Monetization
Tip: Want to know how to *seriously* turn your travel blog into a profitable business? Click here to sign up for my FREE 5-day email course and learn fresh blog monetization strategies.
So now let’s get into it. Here are 10 smart and strategic ways to bring traffic to your blog (that go beyond simply sharing on Facebook).
1. Use Pinterest Like A Search Engine
I see many people who are confused about Pinterest; which is unfortunate, because there’s a lot of traffic to be gained on this platform. Start by outfitting every blog post with a 735 pixels x 1102 pixels Pinterest pin — like the ones at the bottom of this post — to encourage sharing. Alternatively, you can create vertical title pages sized 800 pixels x 1200 pixels that also work well with Pinterest (like the one at the top of this post).
Not design savvy? Canva is a free graphic design tool that can help just about anyone create beautiful pins using their pre-populated templates.
Speaking of sharing, be sure to optimize pins with keywords so they’re more easily found in search. You see, while Pinterest is a social media network it’s also a search engine. Add a keyword-rich description as well as a keyword into the pin image’s “alternative text” (often called “alt text”). You’ll see the “alternative text” box when you upload your Pinterest pin image to your blog post.
Homework: Create a free account in Canva right now and create pins for your last three posts (or more). Now share them to a relevant Pinterest board, making sure to optimize each with keywords. Engaging on group boards with your pins is also a smart idea. Not part of a collaborative group board? Start one yourself!
2. Automate Your Pinterest Efforts
There are a few tools on the market for those who want to automate their Pinterest efforts. One I highly recommend is BoardBooster. Platform features keep your boards clean, let you know best times to pin and keep you active on Pinterest without needing to physically be on Pinterest all the time.
The two features I use most are Looping and Campaigns.
Looping refers to re-pinning old pins so they don’t get forgotten. This is a smart tactic in terms of blog traffic tips. Using BoardBooster, I’ve been able to see what my most popular times are to pin, and set the platform to loop accordingly.
With Campaigns I’m able to save pins to a secret board. From there, BoardBooster pins these to the boards I’ve selected at the times I’ve chosen. Say you really want to get active on a group “Budget Travel” board; you can create a secret board of budget travel-related pins and have BoardBooster re-pin them to the group board.
Homework: BoardBooster offers a free one-month trial, so sign up today and try it out. After that, you’ll pay only a penny-per-pin automation.
3. Join Social Sharing Facebook Groups
I’m of the mindset that a collaborative vs a competitive mindset gets you farther in the blogging world. There are tons of Facebook groups where bloggers in the same niche share each other’s posts. Many of the groups are organized by thread and topic. For example, Monday the group moderators may post a thread to swap re-pins, while Wednesday might focus on Twitter. This allows you to choose which days and channels work best for your strategy.
Homework: Hop onto Facebook and search for a social media sharing group. Remember, you’ll want to join a group in your niche so you’re not confusing readers. For instance if you’re a budget travel blogger, sharing high fashion posts wouldn’t make sense.
4. If You Mention Someone In A Post, Let Them Know (And Include Graphics!)
Every time you publish a blog post that mentions a brand or quotes an influencer, and you don’t let them know, you’re missing out on free traffic. Instead, get into the habit of writing a personal email to every brand/influencer mentioned to let them know. Make it super easy for them to quickly share during their busy day by including social media graphics for them to use, as well as pre-written text for Tweets and Facebook shares.
Not sure what to write? Opt in here to receive my email templates for letting brands/bloggers know they were mentioned.
Homework: Take this idea one step further and create a piece of content that uses multiple brands/bloggers as sources. Here is an example.
- Choose a topic of interest to your audience.
- Instead of writing the entire post yourself, reach out to 10+ bloggers and ask them to provide a short blurb giving advice.
- In return, you should credit them with a link back to their blog (and potentially social channels).
- Once the post publishes, write to each blogger included. Let them know the post published and encourage them to share on their channels with social media graphics for their use. As mention above, Canva.com is a free graphic design tool that can help with this.
5. Share Content By Others Using Snip.ly
One not-so-smart tactic I see many bloggers using in their social media strategies is being very “me-me-me.” Yes, of course you want to share your own blog posts; but realize how much value there is in sharing content by others, as well. Not only does it make your blog brand more community-oriented, but you set yourself up to be presented in front of a new audience.
Let’s look at an example. Say you share a post by Molly’s Travel Blog on your Facebook page, tagging Molly’s Travel Blog’s Facebook page in the share. It might read something like “Loving this post on Berlin budget tips by @Molly’s Travel Blog! Who knew you could eat for less than $20 per day in such a popular city?” From there, Molly’s Travel Blog might share your Facebook post with their audience, or return the favor. At the very least, it’ll put you on Molly’s Travel Blog’s radar for future collaboration.
Now let’s take that a step further and add Snip.ly into the equation. This allows you to share a post by someone else using a special Snip.ly link. This link also shows a post by you to anyone who clicks it. The goal is to choose a post you think the reader would be interested in, and bring them back to your site.
If you’re confused don’t worry; I show you exactly how to use this tool in the video below.
Homework: Watch the video below. Then, create 10 Snip.ly links and schedule them to be shared on your social media channels. Hootsuite is a great free tool for scheduling.
6. Use A Plugin To Encourage Social Sharing
Sure, if Susan is reading your post she’s already made it to your blog; but encouraging her to share means your post gets placed in front of Susan’s audience.
Which means potential new visitors to your blog.
Create content that’s awesome enough to entice visitors to stay — and then share with their own audiences. From there, the goal is for the cycle to continue. Depending who shares the post, you may even end up being picked up by larger bloggers and publications.
Recently that happened when a friend shared one of my blog posts on Facebook, which then led to it being shared by the famous Tim Ferris.
(holds heart in starstruck fashion)
Let’s just say I had thousands of new visitors pouring into the site that day.
Homework: My absolute favorite plugin for encouraging sharing of my blog posts is SumoMe (which I encourage you to install, as well). SumoMe is jam-packed with features, my favorite of which include the Smart Bar, Image Sharer, Highlighter and Heat Maps. Check out the video below for an overview of how and why to use these extremely effective features.
7. Turn Readers Into Subscribers With A Freebie
One major goal every profitable blog should have is growing their email list. The more email addresses you have, the more people you have in your tribe.
Think about it like this. People who give you their email are essentially giving you their digital phone number. They’ve taken that extra step to say, “Hey, I like you enough that I don’t mind having you visit my sacred inbox from time to time.”
Which is huge!
A trick for getting targeted email subscribers is to offer a freebie related to your blog’s products/services or overall mission. For example, over the years I realized many of my readers were also interested in starting their own travel blogs. So, I created a number of online blogging classes. Because I want to get people on my email list that might be interested in signing up for these classes, my freebie for subscribing is access to my library of professional blogging funsheets, checklists and Mad Libs.
Not only does this help me make sales down the line, but it also turns a reader who may have just been stopping by into a subscriber. Within your email marketing software you’ll be able to automate sending out a RSS campaign. This means that at the end of the week or month, your subscribers will be sent links to your new posts right to their inbox!
Discount: For email marketing I recommend Mailchimp. Use this link to get a $30 credit for a paid account. Mailchimp is free for up to 2,000 subscribers; however, I recommend paying for the $20/month plan as it allows you to take advantage of email automation. I’ll be diving into this tactic in detail in Travel Blog Prosperity.
Homework: Create an opt-in freebie for your subscribers that relates to your products/services and/or your blog’s niche. Typically easy-to-digest content like checklists or worksheets does well for this. Think about what pain point you can solve for your readers, and create an easy-to-digest solution. It’s that simple.
Once you’ve created the freebie, make a graphic advertising the freebie that will go in your sidebar (and anywhere else you’d like to place it). Link the graphic to your sign-up form URL so that when people click your graphic, they can immediately sign up.
Tip: If you’re not sure how to create a clickable image using html, install the free Jetpack plugin. Once it’s activated, an Image Widget will appear in your blog’s widgets section. Find this under Appearance -> Widgets in your blog dashboard.
8. Add Your Freebie To Your Social Media Bios
Okay, so you’re encouraging subscribers — who will regularly receive your content updates — on your blog. Now let’s extend that to your social media profile biographies. Make your bio short and sweet, and end with a sweet freebie for followers. I also recommend creating a custom bit.ly link for your freebie that’s short and has the word “free” in it. This will further entice visitors to opt in.
Homework: Re-vamp all your social media profiles to be less about you and more about what people can expect from following you. If you’re not sure what to say, try:
- “I help X do Y so they can Z better. Grab my FREE [insert freebie]. [insert bit.ly link].”
9. Have Good Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is how I bring in over 80% of my traffic, so I highly recommend having a strategy for this. The easiest way to keep up with your SEO is by installing a plugin called Yoast SEO. The plugin creates a box under your blog post drafts that you’ll fill in.
Start by choosing a keyword for the post. You can use Google Adwords Keyword Planner to find a highly searched, low competition keyword. Or you can simply think like a searcher. What keyword or phrase would someone search to find your post (and want to read it)?
The more narrow your keyword, the better. For example, if your blog post is about beautiful views in NYC, using “NYC views” would be better than “beautiful views.” Remember, you want to make sure the person searching the keyword will definitely be interested in reading your post specifically. Someone looking for beautiful views who isn’t near NYC won’t likely be interested.
From there, you’ll sprinkle the keyword into your blog post, URL, blog post title and image alternative descriptions. The Yoast SEO box also has spaces where you’ll input a meta title and meta description, each of which should have the chosen keyword toward the beginning.
The really awesome thing about this plugin is it gives you a checklist of ways you can better optimize the post. Meaning if you forget a step, the plugin will let you know.
Homework: Download the Yoast SEO plugin and optimize all of your posts, or at least start with your 10 best posts. The plugin is awesome in that it tells you exactly what needs to be done to a post to get their green light (literally, you’ll see a green circle pop up on the plugin box below the post).
10. Host a Giveaway
If you’ve never hosted a giveaway, don’t worry, it’s simple. First you’ll need a prize your audience will want. Once you’ve narrowed down a few prizes, reach out to the brands and see if they might be willing to donate it in exchange for you promoting them through the giveaway. Otherwise, you can purchase prizes to giveaway. Hint: the more expensive or exclusive the prize, the more traction you’ll likely get.
Once you’ve narrowed down your prize, it’s time to set your terms. How can people enter? Do they need to leave a comment on a certain post? Subscribe to your blog’s newsletter? Visit a page? Interact somehow on social media?
Additionally, you can offer a number of ways to enter, assigning different point values to each task. For instance, maybe they get 3 points for subscribing to your newsletter and 2 points for Tweeting about the giveaway.
Remember, the easier it is to enter the more entries you’ll have. Read: having someone visit a Facebook page or share a blog post is easier than having them create a video.
Homework: Plan one! I’m a fan of Gleam for hosting giveaways. They offer a free subscription, and if you want more features from there it’s affordable. Gleam also lets you easily add the entry options you want, creating a beautiful widget you can embed into a blog post for people to enter. At the end, the platform chooses the winner at random.
If you want to start really small, you can swipe an idea from me.
- To help grow my Instagram following I hosted a series of postcard giveaways.
- Each week, I asked a question about a posted photo, and told entrants that in order to win they needed to answer the question and also follow my account and like the photo.
- I then took the Instagram handles of the entrants and chose one at random using randomresult.com.
- From there, Touchnote made it easy for me to turn the featured photo into a postcard, write a personal message and send it (without even needing to leave my house). This postcard was the prize.
- If you’d like to drive traffic to your blog instead of just growing your social media following, you could use the channel of your choice to post a link and ask people to choose their favorite photo in it. You’d then choose a certain number of winners and send them their preferred travel photo.
Yes, you’ll likely get some people who are just stopping by for the giveaway; but you’ll also get your great content in front of new eyes. The goal: keep them coming back.