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Why You Shouldn’t Drive Traffic

In the first 7 days of this blogs life, 20,000 visitors checked it out.

Sounds like a pretty nice result doesn’t it?

I was super happy, but a little disappointed in one specific respect. Only 500 people subscribed.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved and nurtured those 500 subscribers and 500 subscribers in any time frame is not to be sniffed at!

My problem was, how can you have 20,000 visitors check out my blog and only 500 of them want to stick around?

The cause? I was “Driving” traffic …

Big Lessons Learned

I had been involved with a couple of successful blogs at that time so I had some idea of what I was doing, but when I sat down and looked at my stats a light bulb went off.

As anyone familiar with Authority Blogger will know, I was breaking the norm a little bit with this blog at that time by steering away from traditional blog monetization. Those 20,000 visitors did not bring me any income at all in terms of ad clicks or page views.

For my fledgling blog to be a success, I had to get subscribers. I didn’t need to get millions, in fact my strategy has always required a more engaged audience rather than a mass audience (which is why my free ebooks are not about topics like generating a lot of cash overnight and other instant appeal subjects).

The two big lessons were:

  1. Traffic sources have a massive impact on the success of your blog
  2. What people see versus what people expect can determine what people DO when they visit

In conclusion, you are not a cowboy driving a herd of cattle, you are a content creator trying to attract people to check out your stuff.

Instead of driving a mass-audience to my blog, I should have been attracting the RIGHT people and showing them something compelling.

It’s a subtle difference, but one that could make ALL the difference.

The Demise of Digg and the Rise of Referrals

A big percentage of the traffic I received in those early days was from social bookmarking sites such as

Gratifying as that traffic was (and problematic as I hopped around from web host to web host to avoid traffic spikes shutting my site down), it was never as good in terms of quality as the traffic I got from friends, fans and partners.

When you think about it, that makes perfect sense.

It is like we have gone back to the local community where word of mouth is far more compelling than a primetime Super Bowl ad.

From the point I noticed this trend I changed strategy to suit, and therefore attracted only the best and most lovely people to this blog – people like you 😉

How to Attract Visitors

So if driving traffic is the wrong thing, what should you do instead?

  1. Work out who you most want to attract
  2. Get to know those people as much as possible
  3. Develop content that will be super attractive to the people you want
  4. Meet them where they hang out and be useful
  5. Bring them back home with links to your best, most relevant stuff

Where they hang out might be forums, other blogs, or social networking sites. You can turn up, hang out, be useful at any of those venues. It might be the big industry conference everyone talks about.

Just as long as you can get your best stuff in front of the right people at the right time, it will be far more effective than trying to herd people towards your site!

Look at your own approach – are you trying to push people to your site or are you attracting them? Is it about what you want them to do or how you can help them?

Notice the difference?



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  1. I have had two traffic spikes from my posts going viral through StumbleUpon. How many extra subscribers did I get from either of them? 0

    I do wonder what this means.

    I agree with your approach Chris. I’m not sure if it works as well for other topics, and ones without large numbers. Making money is a big topic with lots of people interested.

    • If there are not enough people interested in your subject then you are going to struggle anyway? Part of the research you need to do as a content creator is find the intersection between what you have and what people want 🙂

  2. If by subscribers are you just counting newsletter signups? If so, that seems like a reasonable number. Especially because I would rather stick a spoon in my eye than sign for an email list, and most younger people I know, especially in the web design field, feel the same way.

    It could be that we are a small minority, and email is still a popular way to bombard your followers… but I really just hate getting emails, no matter how wonderful they may be. Yet most popular blogs still promote their newsletter signups so it must still be working but it seems like that trend should be dying off as people use email less.

    Curious to hear how useful you think newsletters are?

    • Most people, especially in business, are happier with email than any other subscription method. Remember business/entrepreneurs/coaches/authors/marketers make up a large percentage of my audience.

      10 years ago we thought RSS was going to be the thing, but it didn’t turn out that way, and people think Twitter/FB/G+ might be the alternative now, but it will vary between niche and niche.

      In terms of responsiveness and people taking action, email still beats any other method people use to follow blogs.

  3. Great reminder Chris as I started rebuilding my confidence blog for women it reminds me to focus on being in the right places like you said rather than just sharing posts to increase numbers. I have been aiming at increasing the number of people to my blog to increase subscribers too and now I need to make sure they want to stay around and sign up like you recommended.

  4. nice post. I am new blogger. But i don’t want to drive too much traffic, because i am a very bad writer. Many times i think that is my blog is ready to drive traffic.

  5. RD Carrington says:

    This is great advice for small niche or newer sites too. Focusing on “Will I ever get the million+ hits I seem to need” can be discouraging.

    • The amount of traffic people think they need is discouraging, it is a shame people think they are a failure if their visits are not counted in the millions.

  6. For my current commercial project, I’ve actually been spending more time connecting with individuals on forums and on twitter. I try to make my website’s content super friendly, but like 80% of my “marketing” time is emails, tweets, skype chats, forum messages, etc. Building a loyal readership one at a time. Because like you said, it’s those loyal readers who become loyal customers 🙂

  7. To add to/continue with your “How to Attract Visitors” bullets above:
    * Make your best/relevant stuff very powerful and media rich — add podcasts and videos that allow your personality and style to shine.
    * ebook-ify this killer content and give it away in exchange for an email address.
    * Offer ^these^ people above further opportunities to engage with you by giving them more great stuff. In our case, we offer a range of free online seminars to teach athletes about specific triathlon training topics. Each email teaches them but also allows us to display our own styles and personalities.
    * Over time this email list grows, becoming a tremendous asset of people with whom you’ve created a relationship based on instruction and you giving them stuff without asking for anything in return. In our experience, when it does come time for them to make a buying or hiring solution, you’re at the top of the list.

    But this process is enabled and enhanced by the collection of email addresses. Email address = permission to engage in a conversation = more opportunities to create a relationship and let your uniqueness shine!

  8. Thank you Chris. I run a *very* niche blog – Hawaiian funk music from the 70s and 80s – and currently received ~100 hits/day on average. I have less than 10 email subscribers.

    I’d love to increase my email subscriber list, but I’ve found that my audience loves to connect on Facebook and Twitter. So “meeting them where they hang out and be useful” is great advice for any blogger. I’ve made extremely valuable connections on social networks outside of my website, and it’s been a terrific experience meeting these people who genuinely care about my work.

    1,000 hits a day would be nice, but I’m happy just to connect directly with fans across the world, whether it’s 2 people or 200!

  9. 20k in 7 days, Awesome Chris. I had about 10k visitors from StumbleUpon in Oct/Nov of 2011 and 99% of them were hit and run readers. Traffic is nice but relationships are the key to making it online. Great points in your post.

  10. Very good article and this is something I have noticed also. People who find you (like through search engines) tend to hang our longer (Because they looked for you). If they were directed froma forum or a social media site, they do not want to hang around.

  11. This is great advice from a veteran blogger. And I think now with the new Social Searches that Google has in place these thing you are talking about are even more important. I see a lot of online publishers, bloggers and artists who don’t really connect on Social Media sites. They sit back and let people come to them. I don’t get that – but maybe they are too busy. And I have to disagree with what Tyler said above about email. Their may be a small niche of web designers who dislike email but for most people it is the hub of all their information. And most people are hungry to learn so they sign up for things.

  12. Hey Chris, great article. When I worked for a network marketing firm, one of the first things they had us do was create a list of 25 people we knew who could use thier services. You always start with friends, family and people who know you. Thats why some of those firms are so successful.

    They use people to market for them.

    My blog is brand new! Still a baby wearing diapers. But I’ve had moderate success. Its good to know that driving traffic isnt the only way and that I shouldnt worry about my subscribe numbers too much if I’m giving my small group of followers what they really want. 🙂

  13. I hate to ask such a simplistic question but, over all, do you feel Digg is just a waste of time now? I understand the point on creating content for our target market and focus on where that market gathers. It seems that, more than likely, traffic on Digg will be so diluted it would be very tough to attract our ideal visitors. I guess I’m asking if we should just kick sites like Digg to the curb and focus our time on better targeted resources.

  14. If you can post into the correct digg subgroup it will be ok, but if you promote your own stuff all the time it’s not going to go well for you.

  15. I’m trying to narrow the focus of my site to my specific niche (real estate) this year. I’ve always tried to right to a “general” audience. But what I’ve noticed as well, is that other practitioners (the social media consultants, the people in other industries) are often the one’s that un-subscribe from my blog – I checked my recent un-subscribe stats to try and confirm who was un-subscribing and that’s the conclusion I arrived at.

    I’m not dwelling on it or anything. But the way I see it, is I’m writing for a specific audience and those are the people I want sticking around. I’m not writing for everybody, just those who care to listen and care to learn what I have to teach. No more trying to please everybody.

  16. Your five tips are money- Luckily I’ve figured out how valuable participating in the forums where my ideal customers are, and even though it’s mind numbing to forum post for 30 minutes every single day, it’s brought very significant results over time.

    P.S. I just recently came across your blog and instantly got 5-6 ideas how I could improve my own- Thanks.

  17. My blog has recently had a spike in traffic and I haven’t yet been able to pinpoint the cause. What I have determined, however, is that those extra visitors aren’t engaging with my content (lots short visits and high bounce rates). Before reading your post, I’d already determined that I was happier with the 27 visits I received as the result of one thoughtful — and contrary — blog post. Those visitors stayed on my site an average of 10 minutes and visited an average of 15 pages. Those are the visitors that I want more of… not those hundreds that come and then click away.

    Thanks for the acknowledgement that I’m on the right track with my blog.

  18. You know you can drive as much traffic as you want to a blog or a website but the wrong kind and it’s just wasted. That was my biggest problem. I have four blogs and some of them rank well and have traffic and others rank well but no traffic. In interest the blog that doesn’t rank that makes money and it has the least amount of traffic. I am also learning off them people quite a bit at what they want and when they want it. The blog that makes money I try to learn why it makes money it’s by chance did not happen Goggle suddenly started sending the wrong traffic. But it wasn’t I just had never looked at my blog as making money apart from adverts a big mistake. I agree with your third suggestion and I think that is where I am going wrong and going to change that. With the fifth point I am getting there pretty much. I am going to work on the two points I am not doing well on. Its now my second year in blogging the worst thing I ever done was push people to my mental health blog I got spammed I don’t mean one comment either or two I was getting over 250 comments a day. By the way I love genesis too my mental health blog runs on it. Some of the free plugging is great and time saving.