Last year we were planning to go for a 5 weeks’ vacation.
With all the excitement, we kind of let the blog go on an auto pilot. Not adding any new content or promoting any existing content.
Soon we saw the traffic was going down, but I was hoping that when we return from vacation and take it up again.
Everything will be back to normal.
Unfortunately, when we returned it was catastrophic. Due to some technical issues the site was totally down.
The traffic jumped down to almost zero.
I was shocked and thought it was all over.
Totally devastated. Still, I didn’t want to give up.
Still, I didn’t want to give up.
We discussed and decided to start all over again.
Set up a new blog from scratch and get it going better than it was before.
This time we wanted to do it quickly. To achieve our goal, we needed a solid growth plan.
Just didn’t want to do it randomly and wait for growth to happen. I want to grow big intentionally.
We started creating a growth plan.
That means we need to lay out the exact steps to get traffic quickly.
In our mind, we do have a long-term goal.
But for the next milestone, we planned to get 100k monthly views.
I want to get that in 6 months.
It sounded pretty aggressive because I know it takes a lot of dedication and focus.
But definitely achievable.
Fast forward 5 months.
We hit that 100k views.
On top of that, we had laid a pretty solid foundation for more massive growth.
I wanted to share all the tips that we learned to grow quickly.
If you are new to blogging or someone interested in growing traffic to your site.
These tips could be helpful.
Start with competitor analysis
Setting the goal is the first step to success. For us, the goal is set.
100k Monthly Views in 6 Months
Next, the question is, how to achieve the goal?
The best way to find that is by spying the competition.
Learning about our competition is the best way to know what works currently.
Rather than trying 100 things and testing by ourselves, we tried to copy what the experts in our field are doing.
I use SEMrush to do the competitor analysis.
It is a fantastic tool to learn a lot about competition and do SEO. Enter your domain to see for yourself.
Here are the 4 things you can discover using SEMrush.
- Traffic Analysis – Know where your competitors are sharing their content to get the traffic to their site.
- Backlinks – Get the list of backlinks your competitors earned to rank their site higher in Google and just do the same.
- Keyword research – You can learn what content is working best for your competition. Get those keywords and write content for those keywords. Also, find the new related keywords that can get you more traffic and backlinks.
- Discover more competition – The tool also provides other competitors that you might not have known that exist. Let’s say you identified one competitor, and once you entered their domain, it will show other competitors in that space. You can start doing analysis on those competitors as well.
After we collected the data about our competition and then data about our blog. We made a list of things to do.
The list looked like this.
- Social media to focus: We found that these are the sites we need to focus Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. We also made a sub-list with details on the type of content and timings for each website to share. The mix not only had our content but also content from other related sites.
- Related content aggregator sites: There are so many sites that accept to share your content on their sites. Some of them work, and many don’t do a thing. Based on the competitor research we made a list of websites that are effective.
- Backlinks: There are many types of links we can get, like comment links, contextual links, PBN’s and profile links. Based on the analysis we found few easy links like comment links, profile, and web 2.0 links.
Then we also made a list of links and type of anchor text needed for it.
We are continuing to add more of these links, and this would be an ongoing process.
- Competitor Keywords: We found this as one of the easy things to do. Find the most popular content from competitors and do a page analysis through SEMrush and you will get more suggested keywords. Create content based on those keywords and add the additional keywords.
p.s. I understand some of these steps would be considered advanced for some of you. Just let me know in comments if you need more information or clarification.
Once we had an action plan. We had to execute it one by one.
When setting up the blog, you need to make sure the structure of the blog is good and the content flows naturally.
We found the best way to do it is by defining the categories. We picked only a few categories and created content only based on those categories. It creates a lot of focus and over a period of time, people will know exactly what to expect from your blog.
Google and search engines will also know the relevance of your blog when they are properly categorized.
Similar to categories, tags are also important. We created only a few tags and created content focused on those tags and categories. Don’t create a ton of tags and make your blog look like a giant marketplace.
On page SEO
Many overlook this aspect in the blog post. Remember Google is a machine and it looks for clues and structure to understand the meaning of the content.
It is our responsibility to make it easy for search engines to crawl the site and understand the information. Try to follow guidelines on the length of the post, title, and URL.
Yoast plugin will give a ton of information and follow the recommendations.
In SEO, keywords play a huge role.
We follow these steps when picking the keywords.
- Pick one main keyword for each post.
- Then pick 2 sub keyword.
- Finally, pick 10 semantic keywords.
These keywords should be related to the main keywords.
Say your main keyword is Chocolate cake, your sub keywords would be easy birthday cake and party desserts. Now your semantic keywords would be white frosting, eggless cake, cake mix, cake recipe in 30 mins and so on. (I am just making up those keywords for easy understanding).
Add these keywords all throughout the post, they give Google the signals it needs to understand the context of the post.
Follow the recommendations from Yoast plugin for more ideas about the keyword density and placements. To make sure your keywords appear in the post for search engines to quickly identify them.
A blog is a network of links, each link gives relevancy to the other. Make sure your post links to other posts on your blog.
They not only give your visitors more options to visit other pages; it also gives Google the signal it needs to link relevant content within your site.
Make sure not to spam with too many links, just add 2-3 links related to the post. Placement of these links is also important. Based on the content we place them at locations where people are likely to click.
Just like internal links, external links are very important. Link to other pages from authority blogs, related to your content. They also give relevance to Google to find your site and index based on the link you provided.
It is powerful but many overlook this thinking they would lose their link juice or send their visitors to other sites.
The fact is more you link out, the faster your page would get indexed and get more traffic. Remember blogging is all about networking, create the chain of networks and search engines will reward with a ton of traffic.
The speed of the site is one of the most important signals for search engines and also it gives your user a better experience.
No one like a slow site so is Google.
Our blog when we started was super slow. After adding ads and affiliates on the site, it was loading at 60 sec. It was horrible.
We did everything possible based on the information from the web, optimizing the site as much as possible still not much luck.
Then we found that server was responding slowly to our requests. We use a well-reputed provider, but for the kind of blog, it was not performing at the levels we need.
I researched and found this hosting provider called A2 hosting, they had a whole different server configuration and was rated no1 by many experts.
The cost was also competitive. Moreover, when we jumped, it was cheaper than the existing one.
I immediately jumped on it. It took only a few hours, and they moved all the stuff for us. (Support is incredible, they pretty much did everything for us).
As soon as we moved, we saw a huge difference in speed. It went down to 13sec to load a page. It was massive for us.
Even after hosting change the speed was great, but we wanted more, that is mainly because of ads. We had ads from 5 -6 networks and then 3 -6 affiliate networks. It is a lot of requests for the site to handle and we knew we couldn’t expect anything more from the hosting.
Because we saw another site hosted on the same A2 servers without ads, performing at 1.3 secs per page load. So I knew the slowness was because of the ads.
Still, I wanted to optimize it further and was looking for a cache plugin. We already had some premium caching plugin, and it was working ok for us.
While researching I heard great reviews for WP Rocket plugin, but it was super expensive for me. They charge $199 per year.
I wasn’t sure if it would worth it.
Later, I found an irresistible deal and jumped on it.
As soon as I installed and configured it, it worked like magic.
The site is loading at a blazing speed. 7 sec per page load.
p.s. if you are interested in getting this plugin offer, contact me.
Http to Https (SSL)
Google recently announced that site with https ranks better than HTTP.
Moving to a https site requires some planning and some level of work. Here are the steps that involved if you are planning to make the switch as well.
- Purchase SSL certificate and install it. Luckily it was included in our hosting for FREE.
- Install a plugin called really simple SSL and let it configure your site.
- Make sure all your content, images and theme contents like CSS and js are redirected to https. The plugin will do most of it but make sure some of the content could be broken. It happened to us.
- Submit your site to Google, https site is considered as a new site in webmaster. So you need to submit the site again. Sometimes it could take months to reindex all the site content. For us, it only took about a week.
- You need to point all your ads to a secured version. Contact your ads provider to make that switch. Also, remember some ad networks will not support the SSL ads, and you might get a hit in revenue. Talk to them first.
After all, these work, does it really worth it?
Absolutely. The ranking of our site went up within a week.
The secure site looked better in search results with https and green bar in the browser. I felt good about it; I am sure the visitors will also feel the same.
And surprisingly, our ads revenue went up significantly. I don’t know why maybe there is less competition for secured ads. It worked out well for us.
CDN stands for content delivery network. In simple terms, it means the content is distributed to many servers around the world and will be served by the server close to the user request location.
To make the content load faster.
For example, if you have your hosting server in the US and if your user views the website from India, the CDN delivers the content from a server close to India, for the page to load faster.
Cloudflare is a popular one, which is free as well. However, we use an ad network called ezoic. They are really good at optimizing your sites for better revenue.
They also have a CDN built in for Free (which is powered by Amazon, which is better than CloudFlare CDN). I use this to solve 2 problems at the same time.
Traffic is the bloodline for any online business, and blog only runs based on traffic. There is no point in optimizing the site and not have any traffic.
Based on our competitor analysis, we knew exactly where to post our content to start getting traffic.
However, we need to do a ton of sharing and promotion to get the level of traffic we need. So we decided to automate many of the tasks.
We all know social media, especially Facebook and Pinterest can drive thousands of visitors if done right. The challenge is in testing it.
Because they change the rules every day, so we need to continually test to see what works best currently. The problem is testing takes a lot of time.
Fortunately, many tools in the market can help you with automation.
One of the products we used is this one. It can help automate many tasks, especially Facebook groups. It is a game changer if you are serious about growth.
At the same time, don’t rely only on automation. Social media is a place where real people hang out, make sure you are actively involved and help them as much you can.
It works like magic when you interact personally.
At the same time, you cannot be available to answer at all the time. So we built few bots to fill that gap. When the reader interacts with the bot, we take it over from it and handle the customer request personally as soon as we are online.
I believe marketing is getting really personal. There are a ton of generic information on the internet.
But people need personalized information to solve their specific problems. Moreover, I am interested in custom tailor the content based on the user request.
That is why I even encourage people to chat with me and offer to solve the problem on a personal level.
Email marketing helps to do that at some level.
We have different types of opt-in all over the blog based on the content.
If the user opts in, we send content related to their interest.
Moreover, we would be listening to the user request and add more content based on their preference.
It works like a charm, not only we get good open rate but also repeat visitors.
Look at the open rate for our blog; it is way above the industry average.
Another popular traffic source is related sites. There are so many sites that are out there who accept your content and promote it to their audience.
From the list we gathered from our competitor research, we just have to pick the ones that are effective and participate in that.
It brings a ton of traffic and backlinks to us easily. However, the list keeps changing because the website changes and suddenly the site that worked before doesn’t work anymore.
We constantly test and find new ways to promote the content.
You might already know. Videos are currently trending up. Especially for food blogs. Once we started publishing solid contents and got a little bit of traction, we started publishing short videos as well.
They bring a lot of engagement and reach but not so much of traffic yet.
Our long-term goal is not just to get traffic, but also grow a good following and brand building. Initially it might not get the results we need, but eventually, I see this is going to be a great channel to grow our blog.
We yet need to create a marketing strategy for videos. That is on the top of the list for this year.
When we got started, our initial goal is to generate traffic consistently. Not so much focused on the revenue part.
Our idea is to generate 100k monthly views and then start optimizing for revenue.
Still, we didn’t want to miss the opportunity for monetizing the existing traffic. So we had ads on our site, but not much optimized.
Later, when we saw the traffic flowing, we placed some ads strategically.
Ezoic network is one such network which helps to optimize the ads types and placement based on artificial intelligence. We just had to configure that network and let it learn for 30 days.
Here is the result we saw after 30 days.
438% increase in revenue. Huge win without spending a lot of time.
I definitely recommend you to test this ad network for your blog. Ezoic
Then we started testing various ad networks, ad types, and placement of those ads. We see a significant increase in revenue when we rotate ads. For example, if you have one type of ad placed in one location, try to switch it with a different ad type. Like from banner ad to text ad. Then try to move the ad location to a different place.
We see a significant increase in revenue when we rotate ads. For example, if you have one type of ad set in one location, try to switch it with a different ad type. Like from banner ad to text ad. Then try to move the ad location to a different place.
Keep testing these type of variations, until you see a good jump in revenue. Then repeat.
I saved the best for the last.
Affiliate is the best source to make money from your blog. Not many realize that and they waste the blog space on display ads.
I can’t stress enough how huge this is.
We started off with Amazon Affiliate.
The day we included the affiliate links on the blog. We earned about $128 from it. Not great but still we were just getting started.
I am not promising that this will be the case for everyone, because we did configure the affiliate network in such a way the products are relevant and clicks convert.
There are days where we get little from it. Still on an average, it brings some serious money easily. Once again without doing anything.
Amazon affiliate is just a beginning, there are so many affiliate programs that we are testing currently.
Our goal is to remove all the ads and replace it with affiliate at some point.
It is that powerful.
With all these work, we were able to hit our goal of 100k views in 5 months.
And it puts a solid foundation for more growth.
Overall we are at a good start and continuing to grow rapidly. There is a lot of testing and learning a ton of things every day.
The most important lesson we learned is Focus brings success.
I wanted to share this with you so you can also benefit from it too. If you need more information, hit me up in chat.
Each of topics discussed is just a brief summary of what we did, and there are more details involved in each topic.
If you need any help or more information. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me. (firstname.lastname@example.org)