I've Googled a lot when it comes to improving a travel blog.
Weeks worth of searching for every tip, piece of advice, or insider secret there is in order to build my blog to 100,000 page views per month (and a dream $100,000 per year blogging income). Why is this arbitrary figure important to me? I really have no clue, but it certainly sounds nice, doesn't it? For me, this represents a five-fold traffic increase from my current figures, and seemed like a good 12-month target to give myself.
So I began searching for what to do in order to make that happen.
What did I discover from that search? The people who write about hitting that magic figure have no idea how they got there. Seriously!
I'm here to tell you that nearly everyone who tries to explain how they got X number of page views within just a few months of work is absolutely, 100%, clueless.
Regretting Doing This Exercise
After running my blog for nearly six years and not achieving any noticeable traffic gain from 15,000-20,000 page views per month after a long lull (admittedly, my mistake), I began my quest to learn the “secrets” that others have used to succeed.
As a first check, I turned to Google.
My first thought when staring at the thousands of search results was this: “holy crap there are a lot of people giving away their ‘secrets' for high page views.” But after opening the pages, it didn't take long to realize that many of these were worthless.
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There were the posts telling you that SEO keyword optimization will get you 100,000 page views per month (although the term SEO was never used- giving the first clue that they have no idea what they're talking about). The posts from those who opened a Pinterest profile and used custom images to get 100,000 page views per month (we do fairly well here, don't get me wrong, but Tailwind will only take you so far). The posts telling you to shamelessly plug yourself on Digg and Reddit to get super traffic by violating their TOS. The posts telling you to write good content and “socially network” them. The posts telling you to curate other people's work.
I could go on.
I saw two issues with all of these suggestions:
- There was no clear and precise instructions in any of them.
- There was not one comment in any article saying “I followed your tips and did it too.” Just a chorus of “great ideas!” from a random person looking for a back link.
How Google decided to index these posts on the first page, I have no idea. (Although, I kind of do but that is a rant for another time).
What I took away from most of these articles is that no one really knows what they did to become successful, and I started to feel like I was wasting my time.
Did They Really Make 100,000 Page Views Per Month?
Now you may be asking yourself, did those people touting their glory of achieving 100,000 page views per month actually make it happen?
I have no reason to doubt anyone who published how they got to 100,000 page views per month. Heck, the process they used may have actually been true, too. But what has to be said, and I don't see many people mentioning it, is that they all got very, very lucky. That luck, in most cases, contributed to nearly all of their page view growth and their “process” is, for the most part, irrelevant.
The problem with reported processes to earn six-figure page views each month is that they are not repeatable. Yes, you can try them on your own, you can repeat every step without fail, and most everyone will not have the same result.
If you can't publish a technique that is repeatable for at least 5% of your readers (and I'm being incredibly generous here as I'd rather see things repeatable by 50% of an audience or more), you probably shouldn't publish your data at all.
That is luck, not technique, and anyone who says otherwise doesn't understand data trends enough to talk about it.
The Techniques That Appear Repeatable
If I could source one article out of the countless I read that actually sounds valuable, it would be this one from Quick Sprout. I like this one because the author has done it on several sites, plugged real numbers, and gives techniques that have been verified to work on countless other blogs as well. The downside is that he clearly had his act together and used powerful connections to jump start the process. That never hurts to have, and I can appreciate the honesty even if most normal bloggers don't have that starting out.
(Likewise this one from Boost Blog Traffic is also a great article about building traffic, but not necessarily focused on building to 100,000 page views per month).
So what all have I taken away from this? Well, here are the techniques that seem actually worthwhile:
- Collecting emails for a newsletter via opt-ins. It should be a no-brainer that this is the most valuable thing you can do. Direct access to your reader's inbox whenever you want. Build that list and keep a continual stream of features going out (be it once a month, once a week, or daily depending on how your site runs). The more people you get to sign up, the more people you'll have returning each month. For more newsletter tips, click the previous link.
- Partner with larger blogs. Be it for guest posting, social media shares, interviews, or any other scenario you can do that gets your name out there, you can't go wrong with large sites. First off, the backlinking is incredibly valuable, and second you'll hopefully get a stream of referral traffic that you can try and capture with your newsletter. Just be cautious on the difference between guest posting with a blog and giving free content to a company trying to avoid paying you. This one gets abused a lot.
- Write unique content on trending topics (before they trend, if you can). I read one story from a blogger who went viral (and the headaches they had to deal with as a result of going viral) and it was because they wrote a story about a technology that was launching shortly thereafter. They jumped ahead of a pending trend and captured the traffic for it due to their unique position as a beta tester. Articles that regurgitate the same information that is already out there won't perform nearly as well as something new that people want to read. So, sadly, I probably won't hit my six figure target with this one. Damn!
- Build social media. This one is hit or miss, especially depending on the size of your site, mostly because the referral traffic is never anywhere as good as it would be with a powerful newsletter. But, as capturing an audience is important no matter what, sometimes you take what you can get. I'd never say no to more followers on any channel that I actually use.
- Advertise. Don't rank for posts on the first page of search engines? You can get around that by paying for it. You'll probably need a significant budget and weeks of testing to make it worthwhile. There is no problem that can't be solved with enough money.
- Don't go halfway. If you're going to do it, do it. If you can't commit to being the very best at any topic- be it an article series, a social media profile, or anything else, don't do it. You're going to waste your time otherwise and no one likes following crap.
- Get SEO right from the start. Those articles about doing good SEO work to get traffic are true. It is something everyone should be doing. But you probably wont get 100,000 page views per month by doing it alone. If you have any SEO flaws in your site, fix them now. Not tomorrow, not next week, now. You may not be the best at it, but if you have a plan and implement it site wide, you'll probably see some good results.
- Test everything. Make smart changes to your site one at a time. Log what you did and how your audience responded. Was it good? Take it further. Was it bad? Go back to the better step. Not only will this help you keep track of what you've already tried, it will also prepare you for being able to share real data if you ever make it to your goal and publish a post about it. That is what makes traffic generation articles worth reading, and no one is doing it. Hmm, sounds like a viral post in the making to me.
- Not every blog can make it to 100,000 page views per month and there is no shame in that. Finally, there is the most important thing that needs to be said. Some blogs just can't get there. This is not a bad thing, but at some point you have to realize when your traffic is good enough and focus your attention to other worthwhile tactics to reach your ultimate goal- be it engagement, social clout, or monetization. Your efforts may be better spent elsewhere, and if you don't have a reason for needing that many page views, you are, again, wasting your time.
Looking back at this list, I can see why my blog traffic was stagnant. I did none of these until now. But now that I put increasing traffic and subscribers as a priority for 2015, it shouldn't take much to figure out what I am doing to make it happen. (Hint: see above).
If those don't work, well, I'll fall back on that last bullet point and be happy working with what I have. When it comes down to it, traffic does not pay the bills, and there are better ways to make money than just having good numbers. But I can put a year into giving it my all to see what happens.
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