Updated September 9, 2021
How do you get more blog traffic?
What if you build this big, beautiful, amazing thing and nobody actually comes?
How do you actually make sure that people are going to find you?
It’s a really important question, and unfortunately, putting a blog up is actually the easy part. By the way, I have a guide for how to do that here.
The hardest part of building a blog is not registering it or putting your first post up.
The hardest part of building a blog is actually creating something that people want to read. Because there’s a lot of competition out there. And not every blog will get traffic. In fact, most don’t.
So here are the reasons that your blog might sound like an empty desert with a tumbleweed rolling by (ain’t that a picture?) It’s also why you’re googling “How to make ur blog popular.”
So let me tell you.
And don’t worry, for each step, I’ll tell you some surefire tips to increase blog traffic. Here’s how to grow your blog audience.
This post may contain links to affiliate products, which–if you choose to purchase–pay us a commission at no extra cost to you. This helps to support our work. We only promote products we’ve used and love.
I’m a proud affiliate partner for Bluehost, which is what I used to start Roostervane. If you want to start a blog, I totally recommend them! Click here to check your domain name and get started for $2.95/mo!
1. You’re not doing keyword research
One mistake that a lot of blogs make at the start, and this one was no exception, is not writing what people want to read about. The sweet spot is when you can find things you love to write about AND know that people want to read them!
So if you have never done keyword research, you need to do some.
Make no mistake, people who have blogs that work use keywords research. There’s a good chance you landed here because I’m pretty damn good, if I do say so myself. But it’s not hard… modern tools make it super simple to do some basic keyword searches.
Don’t skimp on SEO. You can learn the basics quickly, and it’s a tried and proven method for getting traffic to your blog, even when you’re not posting.
How to do keyword research
Before you plan any content, make sure you know that it’s something people are actually looking for. I try to blend this with things I LOVE to write about (let’s be honest, I’m not the fricken Encyclopaedia Britannica–I do this because I love it.)
You don’t have to pay for a keyword tool yet.
However, I will say that one of the best keyword tools — Ahrefs — does have a $7 trial for 7 days which I’ve used, and lets you explore YouTube and Amazon keywords. They also have an awesome guide to keyword research for beginners here.
These are simple tools that will tell you how many people search keywords a month in google (for example, Ubersuggest says 1000/month search “PhD Jobs.”)
They also tell you demographics of the searchers, link to some top posts, and give you alternate keywords to try. A deep dive on keywords is a great place to start for developing a blog strategy, and rest assured this work will pay off!
2. It’s not optimized for mobile
This is a big deal in 2020. It is likely that more than 70% of people who visit your blog will do it on the phone. If you only ever write it on a computer screen, and you have no idea what it actually looks like on a phone, it’s time to change this.
The good news is, mobile optimization isn’t hard. It’s being build into a lot of blog builders now, so you can rest easy knowing that your page will load on any device.
How to optimize your blog for mobile.
There’s no one way to optimize a Blog for mobile, but the WordPress editor, Gutenberg, has a pretty great built-in tool that lets you see what it looks like. I build all my sites with Elementor Page Builder and that also gives me a mobile preview. I can actually create different versions of the site between mobile, tablet, or desktop and save each one. Make sure you install and use Google Search Console, which gives you great tips on usability issues that affect SEO (it’s totally free).
Incidentally, less than 5% of the people who use this site use a tablet, so I don’t stress about it much 🙂 This is what it looks like when I edit for mobile in Elementor…
3. Out of touch research
Roostervane was launched for graduate students, and has expanded to help all students find careers.
The problem a lot of smart people make when they start blogs is that they think that they need to show off how intelligent they are. Don’t.
How to fix it
Keep your blog posts simple and accessible. Your point is not to show off, your point is to communicate.
Ask yourself if you would read that blog post if you stumbled across it. Or, send it to a few people in your potential audience and ask for brutal feedback. Is it interesting?
4. Tiny text, huge paragraphs
When I click to a blog and see an enormous chunk of text in front of me, I click away without even reading it.
You need to remember that blogs are things that people read because they want to, not because they have to.
And unfortunately, our attention span is getting shorter and shorter.
How to fix your writing
Blog writing is a different medium. Keep it short, snappy. This isn’t Nature—half of your readers are sitting on the toilet! If you want people to actually read your blog, make it really easy to read
5. You are not giving your audience value
One of the myths about the internet, especially in the age of the influencer, is that people want to read a blog just for what you have to say.
There may be exceptions here. I do think that people often watch YouTube videos for absolutely no reason. I’ve seen kids watch YouTube videos of other kids playing Fortnight.
Website readership is usually an exchange of value… People want to know what’s in it for them.
How to give your audience more value
Do the work to figure out who your audience and what they need. Pick an avatar that you write to, and give them information that will help them.
You can use the keyword research as a clue.
People are already searching for what they need to know. All you have to do is answer their questions.
Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to go deep! Give specifics! Too many people who write to serve an audience use high-level generalities that never help anyone. The more depth you can add (while keeping it readable of course), the better!
6. You’re not promoting it
After I’d published the first post on Roostervane, I sat there trying to figure out how to get my blog noticed. The answer came a few months later, when someone asked a question on a popular Twitter thread. I posted my blog link (which answered it), and it took off!
I love SEO, Search Engine Optimization, but that’s only a part of where this blog gets its traffic from. Social media is still a damned good way to drive traffic to your blog.
Sometimes when people start blogs, they are too precious and shy about them. No blog is perfect. This is a work-in-progress, but people still read it. Even if posts have typos in them, which mine nearly always do.
How to promote your blog.
Promoting your blog can be a full-time job. But if you want to know how to get your blog noticed, start with social media, especially if you already have a following there. Even if you don’t, you can find relevant communities to share it in (don’t just spam them, join them!). (I wrote a guide to using social media to drive traffic here). In addition to social, look for opportunities to guest blog, or pitch newspapers or websites. Work to build your own audience by leveraging existing ones.
If you want people to read your blog, especially at the beginning, share it.
Share it consistently.
You can try to share it across every social channel. But what’s worked well for me is sticking with a few channels that I understand and spending most of my time there.
We get hundreds of hits a day from Twitter, where I spend most of my time.
Share the same post again and again. Don’t be shy. Just because you shared it once doesn’t mean that everybody who wants to read it saw it.
7. You don’t have backlinks
This this is not an in-depth post about SEO. But organic traffic, that is, traffic from Google searchers, is a beautiful thing. A post you write this week can still be generating views for your blog 5 years from now.
There are a lot of moving pieces to SEO, but one of the best ways to boost traffic to a new blog is actually to get links from somewhere else. When someone else links to your content, especially if it’s a reputable site, it tells Google that your content is worth showing in search engine results.
How to get backlinks
After you have 5 to 10 posts finished, reach out to other blogs or media outlets and see if you can write for them. In your post, you can add a link back to your own blog. This link from a reputable website tells Google that you are legit, and you will see your search-engine traffic go up. It’s a tried and true method for getting quality backlinks
Connect with other bloggers and see if they will include a post of yours as a resource. Or, if all else fails, just be patient! If your content is good enough, backlinks will often grow over time.
8. You’re trying to show off knowledge
If you want to start a blog that a few people in your field will read, that’s cool. Some fields might work well for this.
But if you’re launching a blog you hope will be widely read—better to avoid a lot of jargon or nitty-gritty theoretical discussion.
How to fix it
Don’t obsess over showing what you know in a blog. Get obsessed with telling your readers what they need to know, and nothing more.
9. You are deleting stuff
This is another SEO problem. Google has some wonderful bots that crawl your site every week. They then use what they’ve found to create an index, which helps the search engine find stuff on your site fast.
When you continually delete things, it changes the structure of your site.
Even worse, if you wrote a post that links back to that post that you later deleted, you now have a dead link on your page. This makes the Google bot angry and it doesn’t know how to process it. It will respond by penalizing your page and moving it down in the rankings.
How to fix it
In general, if you want to get rid of an old blog post, the best way to do it is to update it. For example, if I wrote a post on how to generate search traffic in 2019, and it’s not relevant anymore, I could rewrite it for 2020.
But when I do this, I would not change the slug (the web address of the post)
When you update instead of delete, it actually tells Google that you are legitimate and trying to provide your readers with the best information.
When you delete, it confuses the poor robots.
10. Your posts aren’t long enough
I’m an academic, so I can pretty easily crap out a 1500 word post in an hour. That is plenty long enough. If you have very short posts, say 400 words, they will not rank as well on Google, because Google considers them less comprehensive.
How to fix it
You don’t need to write novels, but you should try to keep your posts to a minimum of 1200 to 1500 words.
That being said, it’s better to post 400 words than nothing at all.
11. Your titles suck
Writing titles is actually something that I am not great at, although I am trying to get better. Research shows that the title is one of the biggest determiners and whether someone clicks on your blog or not.
How to write good blog titles
The imposter syndrome is hitting, because I’m pretty sure my titles aren’t always amazing. But if you want to see addictive titles, go look at “Pocket” (the online news service that is my Firefox homepage). They choose articles with IRRESISTABLE headlines. It’s a master class. Otherwise, I hate to say it, but numbers work for a reason. Humans LOVE numbers, especially weird ones (ie. 57 ways to comb your hair). Make sure you install a SEO plugin on your blog, which will give you headline tips. I use RankMath for Roostervane.
When you create a blog post, take some time with the title. Write six different versions of it, and see which one is the snappiest.
There are AI tools that you can use to check how good your titles are. To be honest, I’m not sure how effective these are, but you can find one here.
12. You aren’t using an SEO plugin
A lot of these tips are about SEO. While SEO is intimidating to beginners, it doesn’t have to be all that complicated.
But if you are guessing about what you think we’ll be good SEO, you are doing it wrong.
What’s the best SEO plugin for WordPress
The easiest way to build your SEO, if you have a WordPress site, is to download a free plug-in. One very popular one very popular SEO plugin for WordPress is Yoast. It will give you tips to make your blog more SEO friendly. I actually have one that I like better. RankMath is a fantastic plug-in that, in my humble opinion, is way more comprehensive than Yoast. And it’s also free.
13. You don’t have a blogging voice
You’d think academics would be amazing bloggers. After all, they have an intricate understanding of English grammar and they write like ninjas.
But it’s not that easy. Being a good technical writer doesn’t instantly make you a good blogger. You need to develop a voice.
How to fix it
Treat blogging as an independent genre. Know that you might suck at first, but you will develop your skills with time. That’s totally okay!
Experiment with what people like to read, and don’t be afraid to rewrite parts of posts that don’t do well — especially intros.
14. You don’t have a well-defined niche
A niche is still important. If you have an enormous range of topics you are writing about, your audience might understandably be confused.
On the other hand, if you are only going to write about the proper way to feed your goldfish, your audience will be very small.
If you want to serve them, you’ll need to focus a bit. This doesn’t mean that others won’t find your blog and be interested… au contraire! In fact, this post is serving a wide range of people… only some of them are in my niche. But starting with a focus will be your secret weapon.
How to find your niche in blogging
It’s tricky to figure out exactly what a good niche is. You could actually argue that the niche for Roostervane is way too big. But, when I came up with the idea of careers with purpose, I wanted to include everything somebody would need to build a career, which includes a wide range of stuff.
It’s not perfect, but it works, and I bring in lots of Google traffic.
In general, I would say to pick a niche that has a lot of possibilities in it. Careers is a great niche. Photography is a great niche
But with all the competition online, a focused niche can give you an easier space to dominate. So, “import cars” might be a good niche. “Nature photography” might be a good niche.
If your niche is careers for military history majors or how to photograph robins, you will probably run out of things to write about.
15. You aren’t posting regularly
You don’t have to post 15 times a week, but you should post on a regular basis. Even if it’s once every two weeks, consistency is important. Google wants to give its searchers up-to-date information, and if your site never changes, it tells Google that you are not providing that.
How to blog consistently
Set yourself realistic posting goals and stick to them. If you decide you will post once a week or once every two weeks, make sure to do that almost without exception. It’s the best way to grow your blog. I find a calendar can help–setting in advance the things I want to blog about. And I’m creative in how I make content. One of my top hacks is that I use Evernote on my phone for voice-to-text creation while I walk, wait in line, or watch my kids at the park. I’ve composed thousands of words of blog post without ever sitting in front of a computer.
16. It doesn’t look good
The way a website looks influences how seriously we take it. If your blog is poorly designed or has terrible branding, people are less likely to take your blog seriously or, more importantly, to share it.
Whether we like it or not, humans are aesthetic creatures. It’s worth spending a bit of time (not necessarily money) to make your blog look nice.
How to make your blog look great
The easiest way is just to keep it really simple. I would recommend black letters on a white background. If you find yourself putting blue text on to a yellow background, stop.
There are many free themes for your blog that look professional. Or, if you want to go a step up, you can use a program like Elementor, which we use for Roostervane. It is really easy to design beautiful websites with it, and it has a lot of ready-made templates to start with.
17. You’re not building an email list
There are different schools of thought about why it’s important to build an email list. One of the simplest reasons is that people sign up for an email list because they want to know when you post something new!
How to build an email list
Use a free program to put an email sign up on your website (I really like ConvertKit). These programs are straightforward, can be used to collect emails, and you can send out a notification when you create a new post if you want. That means that people will keep coming back to your blog.
18. You’re not telling enough stories
I go overboard with stories sometimes. I’m a bit like a grandfather who was in the war sitting on my front porch, telling anyone who will listen random thoughts about my life.
But you need to include stories. We humans naturally love them.
How to tell good stories
Start telling stories! The caveat here is that I don’t think you need to tell long, drawn-out stories. You just need to include them here and there to draw your audience in. This is a part of developing your voice.
Share things that happened to you. Stuff you’ve learned. Mistakes you’ve made.
If you’re building story into your brand, the book Building a StoryBrand is a great place to start! It’s helped me really think through my work with Roostervane.
19. You aren’t including images
Blogs need images! If your blog doesn’t have any images, or if they are stretched out and garbled, it makes you look less professional and takes away from the experience.
How to fix it
The most important is your feature image, which usually shows at the top of a post and will appear when you share it. But include images throughout the post as well.
However, keep your image resolution low so that it doesn’t slow down your user experience. I use Pixabay to find free photos that look great.
20. Your images don’t have alt text
This is another SEO thing, but your images should have alt text in them. Google can’t read images on your site, so it relies on alt text to tell it what the site is about.
How to fix it
Include an alt text for every image you have on your site. Your keyword for the post should be the alt text for the feature image.
21. You aren’t updating old posts
Which has more value, the amazing post you write today, or the only okay post you wrote last year?
This is an SEO question, and you might be surprised to find out that the post you wrote last year has way better traffic potential right now. (I’m not saying don’t write that amazing post, because next year it will have the same potential!)
Google loves your existing posts. They’re like a long-time partner that isn’t as sexy as that new thing you’re about to slap up, but Google knows your existing posts. People have linked to them, read them. They have a place in Google’s structure.
And that’s why, old forgotten posts have some of the best potential. So if you want to know how to increase blog traffic fast, start with updating old content!
How to update old content
Go figure out how people are finding your blog. The free way to do this is with Google Search Console–it will tell you the keywords you have. You can use one of the SEO tools I mentioned above for this too (Neil Patel has a great guide here if you want more info). Find out where people are going and fix up those posts: add more keywords, data, links, more VALUE, and just generally make them awesome. (BUT DON’T CHANGE THE URL SLUG–NO MATTER WHAT.)
If you’ve been having trouble getting blog traffic, follow these steps and the visitors will be streaming in before you know it! It’s your surefire guide for planning how to get your blog noticed.