This blog post is gonna be a big one. When talking to some of my readers, the number one struggle they tell me they have is getting traffic to their blogs.
Because I’ve had this blog since July 2012, it’s easy for me to forget just how hard it was to get those first few hundred, and then thousand, visitors.
I also want to point out that I am still in the process of growing my blog. I’m not bragging about 67K pageviews/month; that’s nothing. There are lots of blogs with MILLIONS a month. Personally, I’m aiming for 100K pageviews/month right now.
Here’s a screenshot of January 2018’s traffic to my blog:
Here’s an overview of my traffic since launching my blog in 2012:
There are a thousand ways to get traffic to your blog. These are just the ways I did it. Notice, I don’t mention paid traffic. So yes, you can totally grow your blog traffic without paid advertising.
Below, I share with you EXACTLY how I grew my blog’s traffic (without paid advertising).
*Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you choose to purchase after clicking a link. This doesn’t cost you anything, and I only recommend products I’ve used personally and love. Thanks for supporting the work I put into this site!
#1 I became obsessed with Google Analytics
If you care about traffic, you need to become obsessed with Google Analytics. I check it every day and make sure that it’s always showing an upward trend of traffic. You can glean so much information from your Google Analytics dashboard.
The EASY way to set up Google Analytics (no tech skills required)? Install the MonsterInsights Google Analytics plugin.
Essential Google Analytics Vocabulary
- Sessions – Also known as “visits.” These are the number of times someone visited your blog. It could mean that one person visited 50 times or 50 people visited one time.
- Pageviews – This is the number of pages people visited on your blog. It could be that one person visited 3 pages or 3 people visited 1 page. This is the metric most advertisers and brands care about. If you want to collaborate with brands, they’ll want to know your monthly pageviews.
- Users – This used to be known as “unique visitors,” and it’s exactly what it sounds like: The number of unique visitors to your blog. That means it doesn’t double or triple count one person. I really like the Users metric because it tells me exactly how many individual people visited my blog.
- Session duration: This is how long, on average, people spend on your entire blog. The higher the number, the better.
- Bounce rate: This is the percentage of people who “bounce” from your site within a few seconds. A “bounce” is bad because it means your visitor did not find what they were looking for, so they left. You want your bounce rate to be low (though how low is debatable). For now, DO NOT WORRY about bounce rate. Later, as you get more readers, you can focus on lowering your bounce rate.
Which metric matters most? Well, that depends. Again, most brands will care about pageviews. So from a business standpoint, this is probably what matters most.
#2 I switched my blog to HTTPS
As of October 2017, Google has started to mark HTTP sites as “not secure.” Plus, having HTTPS (an SSL certificate that makes your site secure), increases your chances of ranking well in Google which increases your traffic.
Now—don’t panic! I know you think, “Ughhh switching to HTTPS sounds super technical and difficult.” I thought that too, but when it came down to it, it took me FIVE MINUTES. How? I hired iMark Interactive to do it for me for $42. Best 42 bucks I’ve ever spent!
#3 I started using Pinterest to drive traffic
Schedule pins, either in BoardBooster or Tailwind. I’ve used both.
When I first started doing Pinterest marketing for my blog in June 2016, I started with BoardBooster because I had a free 10,000 pins trial thanks to buying the Pinfinite Growth course. But once my free trial with BoardBooster was up, I switched to Tailwind.
Why? Tailwind is the ONLY scheduler APPROVED by Pinterest. When you use other non-approved apps, you’re taking a risk. Plus, my results with Tailwind have been phenomenal.
I aim to pin 25-30 pins per day, at least. But sometimes, I don’t pin any. I also try to schedule some pins and manually pin other ones. Pinterest likes to see that you’re inside the app using it.
Use Tailwind Tribes—It’s FREE.
While I’d been using Tailwind to schedule my pins for the month (which takes me like one hour for an entire month’s worth of scheduled pins!), the number one contributor to my Pinterest success has to be my use of Tailwind Tribes. The best part? Using Tribes IS FREE. Seriously, why aren’t you using them yet?
What ARE Tailwind Tribes?
Tribes are a free feature of the paid Pinterest scheduling manager Tailwind. A Tribe is a group of pinners who pin each other’s content based on a category, so you might have a Mom Blogging Tribe and a Freelance Writers Tribe. The reason this is so fantastic is your pins have the chance to reach a FAR wider audience because it’s being shared on other Pinterest accounts.
On top of that, Tribes usually have a rule that requires Tribemates to pin a certain amount of OTHER Tribemates’ pins. That means your content is almost guaranteed to be shared.
Here’s how to get started with Tailwind Tribes:
Step 1: Sign up for a Tailwind account.
Step 2: Navigate to the Tribes area.
In the lefthand side, you’ll see a menu. Click “Tribes.”
Step 3: Type in keywords to find Tribes related to your blog’s niche.
Click “Find Tribes” on the top left corner. Type in a keyword related to your blog’s niche.
Step 4: Ask to join the Tribe.
There are two kinds of Tribes: Public and Private. If it’s Public, you just click “Join Now” and can join. If it’s private, you have to click “Request to Join” and be approved by a Tribe admin.
NOTE: On the free Tailwind account, you can only be a member of up to 5 Tribes at a time. You can always leave 1 to join another, but 5 is the maximum at any one time. Choose wisely.
**How to Know If It’s a Good Tribe**
Before you join a Tribe, you want to look for two things: 1) Make sure it’s relevant to your pin topics. If you pin about travel, don’t join a board about personal finance. It doesn’t make sense. 2) Make sure the “Activity” shows at LEAST 4 bars. Ideally, you want 5 bars. High bars means it’s a very active group, and your Tribemates are more likely to reshare your pins and boost your traffic!
Read each Tribe’s rules carefully.
On the lefthand side of every Tribe, you will see the Tribe Rules. Read them! Many Tribes, for example, require that for every 1 pin you submit, you must reshare 2 of your Tribemates’ pins. So you need to reciprocate and help your Tribemates out. Follow the rules; otherwise, the Tribe admin might kick you out of the Tribe.
Step 5: Submit your best pins to each Tribe. And reciprocate!
Using the free Chrome extension, you can easily schedule pins and submit them to your Tribes right from Pinterest. On the free plan, you can submit up to 30 pins to your Tribes per month. Again, choose wisely. Submit your best pins.
A) From your Pinterest account, select the pin you want to submit. Then select “Schedule.” You MUST have the Tailwind Chrome extension installed for this to work.
B) Click “Add to Tribes”
C) Check off the Tribes that you want to add your pin to. Then click “Add to Tribe.”
That’s IT! That has boosted my Pinterest traffic, and it’s totally free. Everyone should be using Tailwind Tribes.
Join as many group boards as you can.
How to Join Group Boards
Step 1: Find relevant group boards.
To find relevant group boards, you have two options:
1) Search in Pinterest for group boards by using this formula: “[topic] group board.” So, for example, if you have a travel blog, you might type, “Europe travel group board.”
2) Look at the profile of someone similar to you. What group boards are they a part of? Join those.
Step 2: Read the Board description and follow the instructions for joining the board.
Awesome! Found a group board you wanna join? Click the group board and read its description:
Sometimes, it will say something like “This board is not accepting new collaborators.” Either move on, or try to contact them anyway.
Step 3: Craft a personalized message about why you’d be a good fit for the board AND include your Pinterest profile URL and the email associated with your account!
I own a group board, and I can’t tell you how many terrible requests I’ve gotten. Sometimes, they forget to tell me what their Pinterest profile is! How can I invite you if I can’t even find you? So when you reach out to the group board owner, tell them:
- Why you’d be a good fit for their group board
- What your Pinterest profile URL is
- What your email address associated with your Pinterest account is
If you don’t hear back, it might just be that you’re not a good fit. Or, your account is too small right now. Some group board owners want to see lots of followers and great content before they invite you. You can always try again later!
Step 4: Accept the board invitation.
Once someone reviews your request and adds you to the board, you have to go in and ACCEPT the request. You can find this in the “Messages” tab.
Create a template for your pins and reuse it.
I use Canva (free) to create templates for my pins. Then, when I write a new post, I can just go in and customize the template. It saves time.
Invest in an education to take your Pinterest marketing to the next level.
I have bought WAY more Pinterest education resources than I care to admit, including the ever-popular Pinfinite Growth, but the one that made the BIGGEST difference for me was this amazing course. It’s the only one I recommend for Pinterest. Check out my full review of this incredible course here.
#4 I took advantage of Promo Days in Facebook groups
Forget fan pages, Facebook GROUPS are where it’s at. It’s all about finding relevant groups that have Promo Days; these are days when the group admin shares a post and you can comment with a link to your latest blog post. Others in the thread must reciprocate by sharing other blog posts on social media.
Here are some Facebook groups that I recommend:
- Blogging Boost – Promos are on Monday
- Blog Beautiful – Promos are on Tuesday
- Blogging Newbs – Promos are on Tuesday
- Flourishing Freelancer’s Blogging Community – Promos are on Tuesday
- Share Your Blog + Tips and Tricks – Promos are on Tuesday
#5 I experimented with StumbleUpon (Use with caution)
**Update 2019: StumbleUpon no longer exists**
I played around with StumbleUpon about a year ago with awesome results in terms of traffic. But in terms of, well, everything else, like quality, it tanked. Eventually, StumbleUpon started penalizing me because I shared so much of my own stuff, and now, it doesn’t work for me anymore. But if you’re just looking for a quick boost, try StumbleUpon. It won’t be long-lasting though.
To take advantage of this, you simply create a free StumbleUpon account. Then, you submit or “Stumble” your blog post and attach it to a category. I found it was best to Stumble my post after midnight (weird, I know), and no, there is no way to schedule it.
Check out my results:
As you can see, I was getting up to 200+ visits a day JUST from submitting one blog post to StumbleUpon, which took me 2 seconds. But…it wasn’t quality traffic and that traffic didn’t last. It stopped once I stopped submitting posts.
If you’re going to try StumbleUpon, submit blog posts highly relevant to the category. List posts also do really well for Stumbleupon.
That’s it. Notice I don’t mention Instagram or Twitter, because while I use Twitter a lot for other reasons, neither of those platforms drove much traffic to my site. They made up such a MINISCULE amount of my traffic over the past 6 years, it’s kind of sad. Couple that with the fact that I spend SO MUCH TIME on both platforms.
Consider this: I only started using Pinterest to market my blog in June 2016—and I spend maybe two hours a month on it now. And LOOK at the results it’s gotten me! THAT’S INSANE.
#6 I became a pro at SEO (MY FAVORITE)
Organic search is the number one driver of traffic to my site. I love it so much I’ve written a separate blog post on SEO. But here’s a primer:
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s all about writing a blog post in a way that will make it rank on the first page of Google.
Step #1: Do keyword research.
Before you even try to stuff your blog post with keywords (hint: don’t do that), you need to find out what keywords people are even searching for. So how do you do that? There are free tools like Google Keyword Planner, but I no longer use that. It’s not detailed enough.
If you’re serious about the SEO game, you need a premium keyword research tool like this one. It’s what I use now.
So I’m going to walk you through exactly how I do keyword research and get my posts to rank on page 1 of Google.
First, let’s pretend I’m writing a blog that teaches new cat owners how to raise their cats. What kinds of posts might a beginner cat owner want to see?
Here’s an idea: Maybe my ideal reader would want to know how to train their cat. But I want to make sure people are actually searching about that before I go write a post about it.
So I’ll open up Keysearch and type “cat training” into the keyword planner search:
Okay, so it’s telling me there are 12,100 searches monthly for this keyword “cat training”—that’s awesome. But wait… the “Score” is in red and is 51, meaning competition is “fairly difficult.” It’s highly unlikely I’m going to rank on the first page for this, unless my site is several years old, has a high Domain Authority, and my post is freaking awesome.
I’m better off looking for a better keyword. Thankfully, if I look to the right, Keysearch has suggested related keywords for me:
There are two promising keywords here: “cat toilet training kit” is in GREEN and has a score of 34. It also has 1,900 monthly searches, which is really good still. This gives me an idea for a post where I review a cat toilet training kit and use an affiliate link to show a product on Amazon. Next, “how to train your cat to use the toilet” also looks promising. It looks like when it comes to cat training, most people want to know how to teach their cat to use the toilet! Interesting.
Step #2: Use keywords wisely.
Now that I see some popular keywords and which ones I’m more likely to rank for, I will write a post about that. I want to be sure to include those keywords, but not in an unnatural way. Google is smart, guys. It knows when you’re just writing something to try to rank for a keyword.
This gets pretty detailed, so let’s just use the basics for now: If you’re new to SEO, go install the free Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress. This will guide you as you write your post. Here’s a more detailed blog post on how to install and use Yoast SEO.
Step #3: Write the most detailed and helpful article possible.
Now, forget everything I just told you about SEO and just aim to write THE most detailed and helpful article possible. My #1 ranking blog posts, the ones that bring me tens of thousands of visits a month, were written with almost ZERO SEO knowledge. I just wrote a blog post that answered all the questions I wish people had answered for me.
So as you write your post, THINK about the questions people will naturally ask while researching that topic. Then naturally include those questions as subheadings and answer them to the best of your ability. Write long and detailed posts. Leave no question unanswered. Write posts that are more than 2,000 words if you can. I think most of my posts are 2,000 words or more.
What I use for keyword research
- Keysearch (Use code KSDISC to get 20% off!)
Want to learn more about SEO?
#7 I focused on writing valuable content that solves specific problems
There is no hack, no shortcut, no “trick” that will gain you tons of traffic consistently. There is one very boring thing that will get you steady, consistent traffic though: Writing valuable content that solves a specific problem. That’s it. Know who your ideal readers are. And then consistently solve their problems, and you will have yourself loyal fans who will read everything you write.
If you lack focus, and one day you write a diary entry about how your day at work went, and the another you day you write about a new casserole recipe you tried, and then another day you write about a trip you took to Napa, your readers will be confused. Plus, are you really solving their problems?
Unless you are famous, writing aimlessly will probably not attract many people. That’s not to say you can’t meander around at the beginning. I certainly did. My blog used to be a personal travel blog documenting a road trip with my dad. I didn’t find my blog’s mission until about two years ago, and not coincidentally, that is also the same time I started to see real money coming from my blog.
How often should you post to your blog?
That’s every new blogger’s big question. Here’s a secret: It doesn’t really matter how often you post. In fact, I recommend you post infrequently if it means you can write longer, more helpful posts. It does you no good to post something every day if it’s only 300 words and isn’t optimized. I don’t publish more than 4 blog posts per MONTH. I’ve gone MONTHS without posting anything at all! And on average, I post once per month.
How much traffic does it take to start making money from a blog?
This is a TOUGH question to answer. It varies widely. I can say that my blog started making $2,000 a month with a traffic of 41,000 pageviews a month. There are bloggers who get lower traffic and have higher revenue. It all depends on the quality of your traffic and the price point of what you’re selling.
Recap: How to Grow Traffic to Your New Blog
#1 Become obsessed with Google Analytics
For the EASY way to install Google Analytics, use the MonsterInsights plugin
#2 Switch your blog to HTTPS
To do this, I recommend
#3 Use Pinterest to drive traffic for free
#4 Take advantage of Promo Days in Facebook groups
- Blogging Boost
- Blog Beautiful
- Blogging Newbs
- Flourishing Freelancer’s Blogging Community
- Share Your Blog + Tips and Tricks
#5 Experiment with StumbleUpon (Use with caution)
Only do this for a few “viral hits.” Don’t expect long-term traffic from StumbleUpon.
#6 Learn SEO (this is my FAVORITE technique)
- Keysearch (Currently, I’m using Keysearch. Use KSDISC to get 20% off!)
- Read everything you can from Moz and Yoast blogs
- Be as helpful as possible in every post. Aim for 1,000 words or more (most of my posts are 2,000 words or more)
#7 Write valuable content that solves SPECIFIC problems
People pay for solutions to their problems. You need to know who your ideal audience is and what problems you can solve for them.
I hope my sharing of my experience blogging will help you grow traffic to your new blog!
Again, these are just my experiences. It may work for some, it may not work for others. The best thing is to keep experimenting and stick it out for the long haul.
Success won’t happen overnight. It won’t even happen over a couple of months – so be prepared to work hard, write and persevere…
Remember, you are building an asset with your blog. It may seem worthless right now, but trust me, in a few years, it will be extremely valuable to you! It takes time, but it’s worth it.
Continue learning: How to Monetize Your Blog