How Blogging Regularly Took a Site From Zero to 10,000 Visitors a Month

How Blogging Regularly Took a Site From Zero to 10,000 Visitors a Month

Let Me Ask You a Question…

  • Site A has 5 pages of quality content
  • And Site B has 5,000 pages of quality content

Which one will get more traffic?

Well, the short answer (ignoring any number of potential variables) is Site B.

It’s simply because more quality content means:

  • More links from other sites.
  • More of your pages being shared on Twitter and Facebook.
  • More traffic through the search engines.
  • More repeat visitors.
  • People spending longer on your site.

Simply put – a site with more quality pages is a much stronger resource than a site with less pages, and in the vast majority of cases this leads to more traffic.

But a lot of this is what I’ve already touched on in a previous post, so let’s get to the meat of this particular post:

 

From Zero to Ten Thousand Visitors a Month (in Just Under Six Months)

Okay ‘zero’ is a slight  exaggeration.  The site was getting maybe five or ten visitors a day.  But then it took off, and kept taking off.  Here’s how the traffic stats look at the end of December 2012:

And as I write this the site continues to hold steady at 250 – 350 visitors a day, with no new work being done (although new blog posts, and new links could help increase these traffic levels many times over, and relatively quickly).

Now please note I’m not going to reveal this site as that’s private to a client, but I was managing every aspect of the content creation and link building for the site, and that client now owns a site getting over 100,000 visitors a year, and that’s just the start of this site’s potential.  Top sites in this market easily bring in 50,000 visitors a month (as a low estimate).

Right now, for the site in this example the majority of traffic (around 85%) does come through Google, which is always a somewhat unreliable business model to depend upon, but it’s worth nothing that these continued traffic increases came during the multiple Penguin updates, when tens of thousands of sites pretty much disappeared off the map (dropping from top 10 to number 1,000 in the results almost overnight).

One reason for this is with this particular site I played it particularly safe.  With a real focus on high quality content on the site, regularly adding new content to the site, and working to only get quality links that would stand the test of time.

Now, doing things in this way is very time consuming and a lot of work, but it can pay off significantly, and as much as is possible can help a site ride out the ongoing algorithmic updates.

Of course I can’t pretend to predict the future and Google’s whims in one or two years, which is another reason for avoiding depending just on traffic through the search engines – at the very least the site in question should start building an email list as soon as possible:

Even a 5% opt in rate would add around 500 subscribers a month, and honestly 5% is quite a low figure depending how the opt-in is presented.  I’ve seen some sites that easily convert 20% of visitors or more into email subscribers which in this example would grow an email list of around 24,000 in a year (obviously ignoring variations in traffic levels, people unsubscribing…etc).

 

The Point of This Post

Quality link building is of course very important for growing traffic, but this particular post is all about content.

Creating content that attracts traffic to your site is often known as Inbound Marketing as it helps attract traffic to you through the search engines, through links, and through social sharing, compared to spending money on advertising for example, which is in turn referred to in some cases as Outbound Marketing (and also sometimes as Interruption Marketing).

And quality content over time can also help make your site an authority in your market that often gets referenced and linked to by others, and when you reach that point your traffic levels, and business can grow many times over, and actually make your search engine placements much more difficult to dislodge.

That said, you don’t have to be the next Wikipedia.  50 pages is a great starting point and should be enough for you to start seeing results, and then regularly adding new quality content can help your traffic levels, and business, to keep growing.

And again – as I very often mention aim for longer rather than shorter posts, with 1,000 words or more per post a good figure to keep in mind.

So what I’m going to particularly focus on in this post is how I researched the content for the site in question, planned it, created it, and what I kept in mind during this entire process.  Whereas in a future post I’ll spend more time talking through the link building side of this case study.

 

Research and Planning for Content Creation

First things first, it helps to know your market.

If you’re already in the market, you should generally have a good understanding of your potential visitors/customers, what they’re interested in, the problems they’re looking to solve, the current hot topics in the market, the evergreen topics in the market…etc.

Or if you’re moving into a new market, the time spent getting to know your market is time very well spent, as work attracting the wrong segment of your market for example could end up being a complete waste of time.

So getting to know your market could simply involve spending time reading forums, reading blogs, reading magazines, visiting competitor websites, speaking with people already in the market…

All this work will help you:

  • Plan content, and your site’s future.
    .
  • Write content (if you’re going to be doing any of the writing yourself).
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  • Understand the potential of the market, and so help you to prioritize how much time to spend on this project, compared to everything else you’ve got going on in your business.

Next generally comes keyword research.  A great starting point is the Google Keyword Tool in which you can enter a root keyword (often a broad and high traffic keyword relevant to your market – for example: car insurance) to bring up a lot of other related keywords.

You can then use these related keywords to grow the list into the thousands quickly by entering those into the keyword tool as well, plus this keyword tool also allows you to ‘scrape’ keyword suggestions from competitor websites.

Just using the tool in this way can build a huge list quickly.  You can then arrange this data in Excel to make sorting columns easy, and then delete duplicate rows.

There’s also plenty of other keyword tools including:

Then once you’ve built a huge list up, rather than the old way of writing every blog post around one single keyword (which can end up with very similar content across your site, and frankly is a rather old fashioned way of doing things), group similar keywords together,  for example:

  • car insurance
  • car insurance online
  • research car insurance
  • find cheapest car insurance
  • …etc…

You could potentially write a post around every single similar keyword, but as mentioned your blog will start becoming very repetitive which could turn off visitors, and even the search engines.

I’ve found it works well to often group such related terms together into a single post, and the more terms you’re bundling together and the more competitive they are, the more in depth the blog post should be, up to potentially many thousands of words in length.  Even tens of thousands.

Bundling related keywords together in this way helps to make your text natural sounding, since you almost automatically use multiple variations and related terms of the keyword.  This also helps to avoid the old practice of thinking about keyword density (“I must use my keyword exactly 3.5% throughout this article!”).

But that said, for really competitive keywords (again, like: car insurance) where there’s plenty you can talk about, creating more than one in depth blog post (as long as the content is unique, high quality, and stands by itself), might be a good idea, since you can’t really guarantee which blog post or article on your site will get the most attention from readers, and from the search engines.  And as long as every post stands by itself, and isn’t just a regurgitated version of another article on your site, every such article is another fishing hook cast into the lake that is Google, so to speak.

This is one of the main reasons more content is better than less content – you naturally cover a lot more keywords.  Plus there’s always the chance one of your articles will go viral, and each new article or blog post increases those chances.

But one point to bear in mind regarding this – since the title tag contents (what’s between the <title>…</title> tags in your page code) is incredibly important for giving context to the search engines, you’ll want your most important keywords to be in the title tag, and if you’ve bundled 20 related keywords into one in depth article, you might have to make a hard decision about which to prioritize in the title tag (usually the one with the highest traffic).  So this in fact is an argument for not bundling too many keywords into a single post.  Really, this is more art than science, so you’ll find your own style with this process.

 

Moving From Planning to Writing…

So by now, you should have a huge spreadsheet with thousands of relevant keywords, and you may have sorted this spreadsheet by either traffic levels or alphabetically.

Then choose one shorter keyword to get the ball rolling, and then search for that keyword throughout your spreadsheet.  You’ll likely find a few, or even dozens of related versions of it, for example:

  • trimmer
  • strimmer
  • buy a strimmer
  • garden strimmers
  • garden trimmer
  • buy petrol strimmer
  • best buy grass strimmer
  • cordless strimmer
  • petrol strimmer reviews
  • best buy petrol strimmers

And there’s well over a hundred similar keywords that Google returns when you type in ‘buy a strimmer’.  Again, if you created a page around each individual term, your blog would become very boring very quickly, so here’s a few ideas for grouping keywords together from the list above:

 

Keyword Bundle 1:   buy a strimmer,  garden strimmer

Article Title 1: Looking to Buy a Garden Strimmer?  Here’s What You Need to Know…

 

Keyword Bundle 2:  buy petrol strimmer,   petrol strimmer reviews,  best buy petrol strimmers

Article Title 2: Looking For a Petrol Strimmer?  You Need to See These Reviews…

 

As you can see it’s often difficult to cover every single variation in the title without it reading strangely, so focus on the most trafficked of the keywords from the ones you’re grouping together, and ones you’re not able to include in the title they’ll generally end up naturally (or very easily) as part of the main content, without sounding forced.

Then once you’ve exhausted your entire keyword list, either get more keywords, or create more articles around the highest traffic keywords, or simply around keywords you’d like more traffic from.  And as you go through this entire process, always be on the lookout for what’s new in your market, what the hot topics and hot products are… and make a note of this so you can keep adding to your keyword list as on ongoing basis.

Okay, so you can either go through your entire keyword list and group keywords together at the start, or just do that as you get ready to write each article.

Here’s the process I take: 

  1. Research keywords.
    .
  2. Organize keywords into spreadsheet.
    .
  3. Group keywords for first article.
    .
  4. Come up with article title, suggested length and also article synopsis (if necessary, not generally required for short articles of 500 words or so).
    .
  5. Repeat step 3 and 4 until you’ve enough articles planned to get the ball rolling.
    .
  6. Then either get writing, or outsource the writing.
    .
  7. Publish articles as they’re finalized (or schedule for later), and then repeat this process for as long as you want to keep adding new content to your site.

 

Now, you don’t necessarily need to create every blog post around a set of keywords, you can if you like just write around any relevant or hot topic you want, but structuring a good amount, if not the majority of your blog posts around keywords while still keeping the content interesting and the article titles punchy, helps set your site up for traffic through the search engines, every step of the way.

 

 

Is Ghost Blogging so Wrong?

Is Ghost Blogging so Wrong?

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What is Ghost Blogging?

Very simply, ghost blogging is when your blog is written for you by someone else.  It’s just like ghost writing, but specifically for a blog.

The only part of this that may be even vaguely controversial is when you put your name to blog posts that are actually written by someone else.  For some strange reason, certain people seem to think this is unacceptable, but frankly if you’ve paid someone to create a well written and informative blog post, and you’re happy with the post, then you may as well have written it yourself!

And many if not most business owners don’t have time to write their own blog, so they either get an employee or service provider to write for them.  Then again, the only part that could be even vaguely misleading to any reader is if the content has your name on it, but wasn’t actually written by you.

But again – if you approve the post, then it’s pretty much the same as the tens of thousands of ghost written books out there (because most celebrities don’t have the time, interest, or skill to write their own autobiographies!).

 

What Are The Benefits of Ghost Blogging?

Well, simply put, it gives you all the benefits of regularly blogging, without having to take time out of your busy day writing the content yourself.

And if you’re not yet sold on the benefits of regular blogging, they include:

  • Making your company website look much more credible.
    .
  • Positioning you and your business as experts.
    .
  • Helping reassure visitors about your company, making them much more likely to become customers.
    .
  • Regular blog updates gets visitors coming back again and again.
    .
  • Great content gets other sites linking to you, driving more traffic and helping push you up the search results.
    .
  • Great content gets shared on Facebook and Twitter.
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  • The more good content your site has, generally the more traffic it gets through the search engines.

So effectively — a regularly updated blog with quality content helps attract more visitors, and helps convert more visitors into customers.  Frankly, the only downsides of blogging regularly are that it takes time.

 

Your Name or a Pen Name?

One decision you need to make is whether ghost written posts will be published in your name, or under an employee name or even pen name?

If under your name and you’re going to review every post written, then that can work well.

If under your name, but you won’t be checking posts before they’re published, you’ll want to make sure you’re entirely happy with the quality of the work of the person writing your post.

And different blog post topics can be more or less sensitive to legal and regulatory issues of course, which is another point to keep in mind regarding this process.

 

What About Writing Posts Yourself?

Writing posts is time consuming, there’s no way around that.  Even just writing 500 words a day can take 30 minutes each day which comes to 15 hours of extra work a month.

That’s assuming you want to write something interesting, readable, and up to date.  You can rush through 500 words in ten minutes, but chances are it won’t be fantastic, and could even potentially reflect badly on you and your business.

Or if you have an assistant perhaps you could dictate to them, and they transcribe what you say and turn that into a post, which may work faster.  Or there’s even software like Dragon Naturally Speaking which transcribes (generally with quite a few errors) what you say, but frankly this can still be a slow process as you have to think about what you say, and then edit before publishing.

I do find such software helpful sometimes, but my articles when using dictation software tend to turn out quite stilted, and it’s really not a fast process I’ve found, although less tiring than typing out everything by hand.

 

Deciding on Topics and Keywords

Researching relevant market topics and keywords, and deciding in which order to publish them in articles can also take a while.

This becomes easier the more you do it, and ongoing forward research and planning make this easier, but if you’re looking for your blog to be handled in an entirely hands off way, you may also be looking to outsource the research and planning too.

Generally the process for writing blog posts goes:

  1. Researching/understanding the market.
    .
  2. Researching keywords and topics.
    .
  3. Grouping keywords/topics into possible articles.
    .
  4. Choosing the approximate length of each article.
    .
  5. Coming up with article titles.
    .
  6. Creating the article content.
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  7. Editing and finalizing the article.
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  8. Finding one (or more) suitable images for the article, and making sure you have the right to use them.
    .
  9. Submitting the article to the blog, and either making it live immediately, or scheduling it for a future publishing date.

So as you can see, even for short blog posts the work can be significant.  So if you are busy with other aspects of your business or are looking for a hands off approach to your business, then the more steps of this process that can be handled for you, without you worrying about quality at any step of the process, the quicker and easier your blog can fill out with fantastic content.

 

Deciding on Article Length

This may sound like a minor issue, but article length is actually very important for a number of reasons:

  • It’s widely thought that Google gives priority to longer pages over shorter pages.  Largely due to the fact that a long page generally means more useful and interesting content, plus the longer the page the more time (on average) visitors will spend on it, which is another sign of quality to Google.
    .
  • It’s an extreme example, but can you include more interesting information in 200 words, or 2,000 words?  Longer is better for that reason, as long as you stay on topic and the content is interesting and easy to read (short paragraphs, lots of sub headings…)

There’s a lot to be said for keeping every post on your blog over 800 or even 1,000 words, without having a hard limit on maximum length.  Or you can have a variety of lengths from 300 words to 3,000 depending on the subject of the posts.

‘News’ type posts are generally quite short, even 300 words or so.  Whereas in depth tutorials and resource level posts (also known as Pillar Articles) can be many thousands of words.  Variety is good in this way, but it is suggested you lean towards longer, again remembering to keep things easy to read.

 

Structuring Blog Post Titles

The title is one of the most important things about your blog posts.  This is what will entice people to actually read your post, and can also be instrumental in people sharing and linking to your content.

A boring post title, however interesting the content, means the post is unlikely to be read much, if at all.  Whereas an interesting, enticing, and even timely blog post title make it much more likely the post will be read and shared.  You can actually take this too far, and make your post title many times more interesting than the post itself.  Or even worse your title promises the moon, but the post content doesn’t actually deliver.

For more details on ideas on structuring post titles see this post.

 

What About Pictures?

Really, every blog post needs a picture these days, whether it’s a photo, vector art…

A great looking picture makes your post look a lot more interesting and makes it much more likely to be read.  It’s worth spending a few minutes finding a suitable picture, or asking the person looking after your blog posting to add at least one great picture to each post.

Generally the picture is included just below the title of the post, and then often other pictures are included throughout the post.

You can take your own photos of course, or there’s plenty of sources for paid pictures including:

And there’s also a ton of sources of free to use pictures – here’s just a few:

With these make sure you’re clear on the terms of use before you start adding the pictures, and make sure the images you use are suitable for commercial use (if your blog is for a business).

 

What Are Your Outsourcing Options?

If you’re not writing blog posts yourself, nor an employee looking after them for you, then you’ll be looking to outsource either the entire research, planning, writing and publishing process, or perhaps just parts of the process.

So if you’re just looking to outsource the writing you could use our article writing service, or there’s plenty of other options too including oDesk, eLance and many other marketplaces for writers.  The consistent problem with outsourcing writing is that it can be very hit and miss finding high quality and reliable writers.  Plus you often have to spend a lot of time recruiting and managing writers, and more often than not, sooner or later they disappear on you due to lack of interest with the work, or personal circumstances.

That’s specifically why we offer our blog writing service that can look after every aspect of the work for you so that all you need to do is approve our posts and publish them, so you get high quality content without any of the usual hassles of managing and working with writers.

 

Getting Your Ghost Blogging Under Way

Hopefully this article has been helpful in helping you decide whether ghost blogging is right for you, and helped give you an understanding of what’s involved with the process.

As you can see, there’s a lot of pros and cons to the many different ways to approach your blog, but one fact stands out – not blogging regularly and with high quality content is detrimental to your business.  Your competitors are blogging and attracting more links and traffic to their sites – you should be too.

 

 

How to Write Attention Grabbing Article Titles

 

How to Write Attention Grabbing Article Titles

 

Something as simple as your article title can mean the difference between an online hit, and an article that gets ten readers a month.

Now of course if your title is intriguing, but the content of your article is bland, or even worse doesn’t actually fulfill the promise of the title, then people won’t spend long at all reading the article itself, and even worse they certainly won’t be recommending it to others by linking to it and sharing it.

So if you’ve created great content that you want people to see, share and link to, it’s vital that you also have an article title that captures attention as well as accurately portrays the content.

So first of all — a good rule of thumb is, whatever audience you’re aiming for, think:

Magazine Article Title

Magazines and newspapers are a great source for what consistently works when it comes to titles, since their entire existence depends on capturing people’s attention long enough so that they actually spend money to read the rest of it.

Now of course, different magazines have vastly different tones.  A magazine about marketing is going to have much more conservative article titles than a celebrity gossip magazine, so when constructing article titles, make sure the tone of the title (and the writing tone of the article itself) is right for your audience.

 

An Easy Example to Get Started With…

As I write this blog post, Windows 8 by Microsoft has just launched, so I’m going to use that as an example.

And let’s imagine you own a technology news blog and want to talk about Windows 8.  With that subject in mind, here’s some quick title possibilities:

 

Windows 8 Has Launched

Boring.  Doesn’t give the visitor any particular reason to read the article in question.  It does present the article as news which is always a good angle, but it could easily be so much stronger.  Let’s try again:

 

All Systems Go! — Windows 8 Has Launched…

Much better.  Gets the reader involved immediately, excited, but still isn’t really giving the reader a strong reason to read right now.  Let’s try once again…

 

All Systems Go!  Windows 8 Has Launched…
But, Should You Wait Before You Buy?

Even better.  Includes all the factors touched on already (exciting, gets reader interested, reports news…) but also asks a leading and relevant question to pull the reader in.

Questions can work great for getting visitors interested in the article itself as mentally they’re already trying to answer it.

And actually as a side note to this — you’ll find questions are often used in magazine article titles, even often slightly ridiculous questions in fact where the answer is almost without fail ‘No’.  An example of such a title would be:

 

Is Today The Beginning of The End For Microsoft?

Very leading, intriguing, over the top, and the answer is 99% likely to be no.

You’ll see this format of title used a lot, and it does work, although generally needs to be somewhat sensationalist to really grab the attention, which may not be suitable for every audience.

Or how about…

 

Five Reasons Windows 8 Will be a Failure

An outlandish, controversial, timely statement delivered with absolute conviction.

You’ll find this format of title used a lot too, and if you do take this route it greatly helps if you can present a strong argument.  You don’t have to necessarily be right, and this type of title may not be right for you, but as long as you can present compelling arguments to back up your case, it can create an interesting and informative article, and create a lot of debate.

Plus, such article titles are often called ‘Link Bait’ as they can attract a lot of links from other sites due to their controversial stance.  Now of course you can take a controversial stance too far and it could end up backfiring on you, but used wisely this can be a great way to get attention, links and traffic.

 

Common Article Title Structures

If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to putting together article titles, do pay attention to what other blogs both in and out of your market are doing, especially the particularly high traffic sites.  And if you’re not sure where to start looking for those go ahead and browse Technorati to find plenty of possibilities.

And it may be a bit of a side note but something definitely worth mentioning as regards article titles:

Just like magazine titles, article titles are often written in what’s known as Title Case, where the first letter of each word is capitalized, except generally the particularly short words (at, the…etc).

So here’s just a few basic title structures to help give you ideas and short cut the process:

 

How to…

The old classic ‘How To…’ is a classic for a reason — it still works great.

Using the Windows 8 example again:

How to Easily Upgrade to Windows 8

How to Decide Whether Windows 8 is Right For Your Business

How to Master Windows 8 in Two Hours or Less 

 

Asking a Question?

Asking a question helps draw in the reader’s attention, particularly if the question is intriguing and the reader wants to know the answer to it.  Some examples:

Will Windows 8 Mean the End of Computer Viruses?

Is a Windows 8 Laptop More Secure That an Apple Laptop?

 

 

5 Ways / Tips / Reasons…

People love to read lists  Some examples…

Note: Due to the amount of numbers referenced in these example headlines (because of the ‘8’ in ‘Windows 8’) I’m going to use words instead of numbers to start these titles as I feel it should make them more readable, but generally I would lean towards using numbers instead of words to start these titles with.

Ten Reasons Why Windows 8 is Inferior Than Windows 7 

Seven Things You Must Know Before Upgrading to Windows 8

Five Windows 8 Upgrade Disasters (And How to Avoid Them) 

 

Writing Your Title First and Then Your Article

If you have an idea of what you’re going to write about, creating an article title first, and then planning the article after can sometimes help clarify your thinking and make the subject and overall impact of the article stronger.

So if you’ve not done it before maybe try this approach for your next article — if you know roughly what you’re going to be writing about, start putting titles together until you’ve a number of strong options.  And then choose your favorite, put together a brief outline for that article, and if it all looks good, then write the article itself.

This approach forces you to think of capturing the reader’s attention first, then once you’ve decided on the title, by next creating an article outline if forces you to make sure you can actually complete the article successfully (that you’ve actually got enough to write about to keep the article on topic with the title), and only then fill in the blanks and write the full article.

 

 

Or — Writing the Article First, Then Creating a Title

Or perhaps you prefer to write an article first, and then figure out the title later.

Whether you start writing an article with a subject in mind, or are creating content purely around certain keywords, once your article is complete and you’re happy with it, you then need to start brainstorming title ideas.

If the subject of the article is one you know readers in your market are interested in, creating a title that draws interest shouldn’t be too difficult.  You may however find it particularly difficult to create interesting and intriguing titles if you’ve simply written about what interests you, and then when trying to create an interesting title you may become particular aware that presenting your content in an interesting way may be difficult.  That’s one benefit of approaching writing articles with the title first, as it forces you to think of your audience and what interests them.

Anyhow, put together a list of possible article titles, and then remove options from that list until you’re happy with the only one remaining.  You may need to do this over a couple of days, as it’s difficult to be particularly objective often in one sitting (for the same reason it’s always good to read through an article you’ve written the next day, before making final edits and publishing it).

 

Choosing the Right Tone for Your Audience

As mentioned earlier, the tone of your article and title should be appropriate for your target audience, and that’s where knowing your market, and in particular being a regular reader of blogs, magazines and news sites in your market not only help keep you up to date with what’s happening in your market, but also helps you to become familiar with the writing tone your market is used to and comfortable with.

Writing in a matter of fact and conservative tone of voice on a celebrity news blog probably isn’t going to get you very far.  And nor is writing breathless headlines with plenty of exclamation points going to go down well on a business blog.

Entirely obvious I know, but knowing the right tone of voice for your market (and being able to write in that tone) will greatly help your content get read and shared, as in particular it will allow you to craft headlines that your market responds to.