Could it really be possible that almost everything you are doing to promote and monetize your website is a waste of time?
We’re not just talking about questionable hacks you picked up on some weird forum. We’re talking about proven techniques recommended by industry leaders in authority publications.
But you know what?
It’s mostly a load of crap.
Over the last five years, I’ve mentored over 2,000 bloggers. I’ve examined their promotional activities. I’ve seen their traffic stats.
And the vast majority of what you’re being told to do simply does not work.
It’s not just less effective than advertised. It produces almost no meaningful results whatsoever.
What, exactly, is a “meaningful result?”
Well, I’m glad you asked…
How to Measure Traffic Growth When You’re a Beginner
Consider this question:
If you implement a traffic technique, and it doubles your traffic, was the technique successful?
Most people would say yes, but let’s examine some numbers, and I believe you’ll see it differently.
Let’s say you’re getting one visitor per day, and you try out a new traffic technique, and your traffic goes up to two visitors a day. It’s a 100% increase, but it’s still only one freaking visitor per day.
To get that visitor, let’s also say it takes you one hour per day. The technique is therefore producing one extra visitor per hour invested.
Pardon me for saying so, but that’s horrible. You could run around naked in a public parking lot with a sign on your back advertising your website address and do better than that (although fair warning, you might get arrested).
It doesn’t matter that you received a 100% increase in traffic. When you’re a beginner, you only have so much time to invest in getting more traffic, and therefore, the best measure for a beginner isn’t unique visitors or page views or any of the other things most analytics programs track.
It’s visitors per hour invested (VPH for short). Or put more precisely:
You have to give it some kind of time limit, or you end up waiting hundreds of years to measure your results, and that’s not very pragmatic. Thirty days, on the other hand, is a good trial period. If it doesn’t produce results by then, you can adjust your strategy and try something else.
Of course, you might be wondering…
What’s a good ratio to shoot for?
If you’re just starting a blog, and you have no audience at all, shoot for 50 visitors per hour (50 VPH). Scale the number up as your site becomes more successful.
I’ll go ahead and spare you the suspense, though. Almost none of the traffic techniques so-called experts recommend will get you 50 VPH. Here’s why:
The Two Types of Traffic Techniques
Most experts seem completely oblivious to the fact that there are two very different types of traffic techniques:
- Those that work when you have an audience
- Those that work when you do NOT have an audience
For example, you’ve heard you should publish great content, right?
And it’s true, you should… when you have an audience. You’ll get the highest possible VPH.
But before you have an audience?
It’s the worst. Of all the techniques my students have tried, publishing great content on their own site gave them the lowest VPH.
It seems absurd, but it’s true. Soon, I plan to publish an official study with precise numbers.
But you might be wondering…
If publishing content on your own site is so ineffective for beginners, why do so many experts recommend it?
My guess: they underestimate the importance of their own audience.
They don’t realize that the traffic they receive from publishing new content is the result of an audience who likes and trusts them sharing that content. Take away that audience, on the other hand, and the same content would fall flat and get them no results whatsoever.
It’s a principle I unveiled in Blogging for Busy People called The Martin Luther King Effect.
The bottom line is the vast majority of traffic techniques depend on you having an audience. To be more precise, they depend on you having at least 1,000 subscribers who like and trust you. Anything less and the traffic techniques don’t work well at all.
Let’s go through them…
11 Traffic Techniques You Shouldn’t Be Using
According to our research, the following traffic techniques are NOT effective when you’re a beginner (and some aren’t ever effective):
- On-page SEO: You’ve probably heard you need to choose keywords for your posts and then optimize each post for those keywords. You also might’ve heard about optimizing images, link structures, and choosing a WordPress theme with “good SEO.” According to our research though, these activities are almost a complete waste of time (low VPH) until you have a substantial audience. I’ll talk more about this one in a future post.
- Commenting on Popular Blogs – Once upon a time, this used to be effective, but as the blogosphere grows, and popular blogs receive more and more comment spam, its VPH is falling dramatically. Yes, it can open doors to a future relationship with the blogger, but the traffic from click-throughs to your blog is no longer great enough to justify doing it.
- Press Releases – Just to be clear, I’m not against press releases as a publicity technique. If you have a genuinely important story, and you want to connect with the press, a press release can still be effective. On the other hand, if you are publishing press releases to get links and traffic to your site, you’ll be sorely disappointed with the results. Yes, it can deliver both, but the traffic and links are untargeted and spammy, leading to visitors who have very little interest in your content.
- Submitting Your Site to Directories – Years ago, submitting your site to directories used to be an essential part of SEO, but the benefits have largely disappeared. The only exceptions are high-quality, curated directories where you have to meet eligibility standards, kind of like winning an award. In general though, this strategy has been dead for a long time.
- Answering Questions on Forums – Yes, it can certainly drive traffic, but it’s an enormous time suck. You can spend hundreds of hours answering questions, receiving maybe a few hundred visitors in return. The VPH is terrible.
- Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. – This one is a surprise. As it turns out, building a following on any of these sites actually has the second lowest VPH of any of the techniques listed. If you’ve been fretting about finding the time for Facebook or Twitter, you can safely relax. You can ignore all of these platforms until you cross 1,000 blog subscribers.
- Reddit, Hacker News, etc. – While these sites can drive enormous traffic, it’s difficult to get your content to the front page until you have lots of readers to vote for it. So again, cross this strategy off your list until you hit 1,000 blog subscribers.
- Creating Videos for YouTube – Curiously, our students who start YouTube channels are often successful at getting views for their videos, but they struggle to turn those views into visitors and subscribers to their blogs. Also, they report struggling to find the time to maintain both their blog and YouTube channel. We may revisit this strategy again in the future, but for right now, the VPH in terms of actual blog traffic is mediocre at best, so we can’t recommend it for new bloggers.
- Paying for a Unique Design – You’d think paying for a unique design would help establish your legitimacy and lead to more traffic, but in reality, it doesn’t seem to have any effect on traffic at all. You’re far better off using a free or inexpensive WordPress theme, and investing the money elsewhere.
- Releasing Infographics – Not long ago, infographics were extremely powerful for driving traffic, and they still are, albeit to a lesser extent. The problem is, for an infographic to go viral, you need either an existing audience to help you promote it or a solid outreach strategy. As a standalone strategy, we can’t recommend it.
- Publishing Great Posts – Much like infographics, great posts can also drive a lot of traffic, but again, you either need to do outreach or have a large existing audience to help you promote the post. As a standalone strategy, publishing great posts on your own blog actually seems to have the lowest VPH of all the techniques listed here.
Again, I’m not saying any of these techniques are inherently bad. I’m just saying they are an ineffective use of your time, especially when you’re a beginner. Until then, you’re much better off investing your time elsewhere.
So, which techniques actually work?
The Only Four Traffic Techniques That Work for Beginners
As it turns out, only four exist:
- Guest blogging – If you’ve been hanging around me for long, you know I’m a huge fan of guest blogging, and there’s a reason why: it has the second highest VPH of any traffic strategy for beginners. Used properly, you can quite easily cross 50 or even 100 unique, targeted visitors per hour invested. For a free mini class on guest blogging, click here.
- Interviews/podcasting – Interviewing influential people and then asking them to share the interview also turns out to be a highly efficient strategy. You can do it as a podcast, or you can record the interviews privately and group them together as an incentive to join your email list. Both avenues have their pros and cons, but either way, the VPH is excellent.
- Outreach – This is where things get confusing. While great blog posts and infographics have a poor VPH by themselves, they have an excellent VPH when paired with outreach. You have to be willing to face rejection, and your content also has to be some of the best ever published on your topic, but the long-term traffic from this strategy is excellent. Over the short term, it’s beaten by guest blogging and interviews, which is why I typically don’t recommend it until you cross 1,000 subscribers, but it is still an efficient way to get traffic when you’re a beginner. Click here for a detailed guide on how to do it.
- Advertising – Last but not least, the technique with the highest VPH of all: advertising. The problem? It costs money! If you’re a beginner, you might not be able to afford it, which eliminates this strategy for many bloggers, but if you have a budget of a few thousand dollars, you can save yourself months of effort in attracting your first 1,000 subscribers. In the future, I’m considering launching a new self-improvement blog exclusively with advertising and then doing a case study to prove just how effective it is.
And there you have it.
If you are a beginner, and you are building your blog from scratch, the above four techniques are the only ones you should be using. Normally, I recommend my students start with guest blogging and interviews, and then transition into publishing great content combined with outreach.
The results from students I’ve mentored following this strategy?
A Fine Parent, Be a Freelance Blogger, Get a Book Deal 101, Rediscover the Magic, Make Creativity Pay, Tinder Hacks, and others, all over 1,000 subscribers now, many of them pushing toward 10,000 subscribers and up.
In other words, it works. 🙂
(Side note: I’ll be accepting applicants to my mentorship program again soon. Get on the interest list here.)
How to Grow a Blog Efficiently and Effectively
Do what works. Avoid what doesn’t work.
Until now, you might’ve been struggling to figure out exactly what those things are, but now you have a data-driven approach to guide you. If you’ve been using the wrong traffic techniques, you can adjust course and start using the ones that work.
Because listen… blogging doesn’t have to be something that consumes your life. If you have a job or a family or business, you can totally build a popular blog in 20 hours per week or maybe even less.
You just have to use your time efficiently. With everything you do, measure the time you invest and the results you receive.
Stick with it, and you’ll have a popular blog before you know it. And if you follow the strategy I outlined here, you’ll even have time to enjoy it.