32 Practical Ways to Increase Your Website Traffic
You've probably realized driving traffic to your website requires more than just a pretty design. And once you've gotten people to click in, you'll have a full-time job on your hands trying to keep them coming back for more.
Driving traffic is like directing an orchestra. Referrals from other sites, search engines, social media networks, paid advertising, forums, and direct traffic are just a few of the instruments that have to work in harmony with each other. Thankfully, you can learn how to conduct all those elements to get the results you want.
By combining traffic-boosting methods, I've grown my own blog to more than 100,000 unique visitors every month. I've vetted these 32 tips from successful designers; their valuable insight is sure to help you increase your traffic.
What, when, and how to publish
Create seductive content
Seductive content starts with a good title. Users scroll through search results and social media faster than a Maserati on a test track, so you've got to catch their eye before they speed away to the next thing. (Good subtitles can also give readers an extra nudge to click on your page.)
Here's where many sites go wrong. They've mastered the art of titling, but their lousy content decreases their traffic. On the other hand, content that's actually valuable and interesting will increase traffic—because that's what makes readers want to share it.
Provide valuable information for free
To make your blog shareable, it's important consider what you're going to publish there. In this video blog on increasing traffic, designer Chris Spooner explains the value of regularly publishing interesting, useful content. Readers don't care about your self-promotion, but they do care about your answer to a question they have.
That said, valuable content shouldn't come with a price tag. People who are unfamiliar with your site won't want to pay for your information because they don't know if it's good or bad. Offering free content shows a genuine interest in being helpful rather than lining your own pockets—which makes people more comfortable engaging with you.
Most web users can smell a phony blog or site a mile away, and they'll avoid it like the plague. Honest writing draws readers in and invites them to share an idea. When they see you make the effort to create authentic content, they'll be much more likely to share their own stories and comments with you.
When they do that, be sure to respond with a helpful answer to their question or a thank you note for their thoughts. This lets your readers know you appreciate their engagement. And the more valued they feel, the more they'll contribute to your site.
Conduct website surveys
If you're not sure what type of content your users want, ask them. Conducting surveys is a great way to learn about your visitors' values, personalities, likes, and dislikes. (Of course, surveys should be relevant to collect accurate data.)
Surveys can ask serious questions that make people think, but they're also a great way to add some entertainment to your site with humorous quizzes. Publishing the results gives users a reason to come back and lets both of you see whether they're your typical visitor or not.
Use visual content correctly
Everybody knows visual content gets and holds visitors' attention—which is why so many sites post images like a teenager posts Instagram selfies. But there's a difference between just having visual content and having visual content that's effective.
You can make your visual content more relevant by:
- Creating original images with a specific style
- Posting images across multiple platforms
- Captioning them with 1 or 2 hashtags
- Basing visual content on your branding
- Using moving images or videos to tell a story
Give clear calls to action
Imagine driving in a new city with no GPS, just an old map. A map shows you streets and landmarks, but it doesn't actually tell you to do anything. It's easy to get lost without that voice saying, "Turn left on Fourth Street."
Likewise, visitors may get lost or give up unless there's a clear voice telling them what to do. A good call to action should appear on every page and at the end of every blog post, instructing them how to proceed.
You'll want to ask your content team for help optimizing your calls to action; they'll know the right words to convert visitors to clients.
Publish on high traffic days
Creating great content is half the battle—the other half is knowing when to publish it. You can learn how to track your traffic using Google Analytics' Visits report. Once you discover the most popular days and times are for people to visit your site, start posting on those days. Publish your blogs, announce events, or begin and end contests on those days.
One more helpful tip: if you're going to make architecture or functionality updates, do so on your low traffic days so it's less disruptive.
Promote your blog
It's not enough to just publish a blog post and let it ride; promoting your blog generates far more traffic. How you do this depends your target audience and budget.
You'll want to consider your audience first. Think of where they interact online—then look for the most cost-effective way to reach them there. Social media is a popular tactic but can get expensive if you're not careful. Other ways to promote your site include guest blogging for related sites, hosting competitions, or even letting others guest blog for you.
Titles, tags, and tools
Choose a strategic domain name
Before you title blog posts, you have to name the site itself. Choosing a domain name can be maddening. Just when you think you've got it perfect—something short, catchy, and memorable—you discover it's unavailable or out of your price range.
You can avoid a lot of these headaches by answering two questions upfront. First, decide on a budget; then choose whether you want your domain name to be discoverable or brandable.
Visitors can stumble on a discoverable brand just by typing related words into search engines (think slideshow.com). A brandable domain name, like Google, establishes a very recognizable identity not based on common words. Once you've chosen to be discoverable or brandable, you can narrow down your list of domain names and find one that suits your style.
Write stunning headlines
When it comes to picking up site traffic, your headline is like your wingman. It tells potential visitors about you: If it makes them laugh, they'll think you're funny. If it makes them think, they'll think you're deep.
There are several ways to create a good post title. Numbers are popularly included, because they're easy for our minds to process and they pair well with list posts. Of course, anybody can toss in a number. The best way to create effective titles is to know what your audience likes and dislikes—then create very specific titles based on those interests.
Tag your posts
Tagging only takes a couple of seconds yet improves your blog's performance in search engines—making it a quick, easy way to boost traffic.
Even better, it improves your user experience. Instead of searching for content in a disorganized collection of old posts, tags let your users narrow their search to find the piece they're looking for—and be introduced to other relevant posts along the way.
One word of caution: plan your tags in advance. Using too many tags or a bunch of random keywords won't help anyone. It's better to strategize with a lower number of highly relevant tags.
Get WordPress plugins
If you've been in business for any length of time, you know how expensive it can get trying to drive traffic to your site. Even WordPress, which has a reputation as a helpful platforms for marketing, can rack up costs pretty quickly—unless you use plugins.
WordPress offers hundreds of free plugins that you can use to track your site's stats and drive traffic. You'll want to look into the five categories of marketing plugins to see how you can better reach your target audience.
Build traffic with blogging tools
Trying to increase your web traffic without blogging tools is like trying to build a house without power tools—it's slow going. And just like building tools, the blogging variety are designed for specific purposes.
You can find tools to help you improve your social media game or your writing. Creating images, SEO, staying productive—even outsourcing—are all easier with the proper blogging tools. The key is to think about what your site needs most, then research to find the best solutions for you. There are dozens of blogging tools out there, so don't be afraid to shop around.
What to remove
Get rid of published dates
Most web users are looking for fresh, fun content—not something that's been stagnating on your site for five years. That's why removing published dates can help increase your traffic; when people don't notice a post is older, they can enjoy its benefits instead of writing it off.
Of course, removing dates is not a shortcut to avoid updating posts or checking factual accuracy. It's a way to help older—but accurate—posts get a fair shake.
Quality matters when it comes to backlinks. While you should request removal of shoddy links, sometimes they're out of your control and can't be undone. That's where Google Search Console comes in. It has a feature that lets you disavow links, or tell Google to ignore certain links to your site.
This disassociates your site from spam or other negative signals that could be harming your ranking, so Google will see a higher concentration of authoritative, respectable links to your site.
How to optimize your blog for keywords
Plan and place keywords appropriately
Sadly, some people's SEO strategy still seems to consist of tossing random words they think are keywords—but may not actually matter—into their posts and hoping something sticks in Google.
That strategy stinks, because it doesn't consider keyword relevancy or the amount of competition for those words. Instead, plan your keywords using Google's aptly named Keyword Planner to make sure you're picking relevant words that accurately represent your content and have high search volume.
Your keywords' location can also make your blog more SEO-friendly. Meta tags, meta descriptions, post titles, and post URLs are all good places to put keywords. Don't go overboard within the post; instead, you should strive to create real, valuable content.
Start keyword research on your site
People often look to see which keywords others are using, then adjust their content accordingly. But they're leaving out an important step. Uncovering the right keywords for your site starts right there—on your site.
You may already be doing some things right. By learning which keywords you're already ranking for, you can play them up instead of completely changing your content. One simple change is to modify keywords from nouns into adjectives or verbs; this helps you match natural language and rank higher.
Another piece of advice: learn which keyword tools to use. Google's Keyword Planner is one of the most popular, but you may find other tools just as helpful.
When people think of optimizing their site for SEO, they typically think of adding keywords to body text and headlines. If you stop there, you'll miss out on the benefits of image optimization.
Here are a few ways to get the most traffic out of your images:
- Use short, detailed file names.
- Pick specific alt text, but don't stuff it with keywords.
- Store files in a single directory.
- Choose a common file format.
- Supply an image sitemap file.
Connect with the right communities
Join blogging communities
Joining relevant blogging communities lets you connect with people who share common interests and drive them back to your site. Read, comment on others' blogs, and make your own blog accessible via commenting systems like Disqus, Lifefyre, or Facebook.
You can also retweet popular bloggers in your community; their followers will see your account and connect with you, helping you grow. Adding social sharing and commenting capabilities on your site lets others reciprocate by sharing your content.
Follow relevant people
Ultimately, the goal in connecting with an online community is to drive traffic back to your own site. To do that, you'll need to follow and form relationships with relevant people. These relationships help you earn the attention of other bloggers and thought leaders—without awkwardly stalking them or spamming their inbox.
The key is to invest in a real relationship with the people you follow. Engage with their content, learn from the things they're doing well, and don't hound them for help immediately. Only once you've established a real connection is it okay to ask for their help leveraging your content.
Read and comment on others' blogs
Connecting with other bloggers is a bit like dating. You can't sit at home on your couch waiting for the perfect person to show up on your doorstep. You have to get out there and interact with people so they know you're interested.
The same concept applies to blogging. You'll want to jump into the conversation on the blogs you read regularly (if you don't read regularly, start).
That doesn't mean spamming their comments section with links to your page—that's like handing your number out to every weirdo at the club. Just participate in the conversation, let them know you're there, and make friends. They'll eventually get curious and check out your site, too.
Before you run amok commenting on every blog in your industry, pause. Commenting does have potential to increase your traffic—if you say the right things. Be strategic and plan what to say before you do it.
Here are some ways to make your comments more effective:
- Be relevant to the topic.
- Express a specific, strong opinion.
- Leave the conversation open for others to join.
- Comment on recent blogs, especially those currently being promoted.
Participate in your site's comment section
Imagine you're at a party, standing in a circle of people you've just met. The host asks what you do for a living—but as you start to reply, they turn and talk to someone else.
Being unresponsive to your readers' comments is the same thing—you're ignoring a conversation you started. Those bad manners will alienate online users every bit as much as they would ruin an in-person interaction.
However, you can also accomplish the opposite. If you're a "good listener," your users will reward you with increased traffic. A few ways to encourage comments are to:
- Leave an open post ending so people can comment with their own conclusion
- Ask for opinions on controversial topics (but hold back your own thoughts)
- Encourage commenters to interact with each other
- Pay extra attention to active commenters
Use newsletters, mailing lists, and newsgroups
Besides interacting with current readers, you'll want to invite others to join the conversation. The best ways to reach out to many people at once are newsletters, newsgroups, and mailing lists.
Newsletters and mailing lists let you contact people directly. But where a mailing list reaches out to new people, a newsletter reminds past connections your site still exists. On the other hand, newsgroups are forums—as when you comment on or write for other blogs, they let you join a conversation and drive traffic based on connections you make there.
Contribute to popular industry sites
Reading and commenting on others' blogs gets your foot in the door to start writing guest blogs, which are one of the most powerful ways to increase your traffic.
Guest blogging for someone else gives you exposure to their visitors and connections. The more exposure you have, the more credibility you gain because your audience sees industry leaders sharing your content. And the more credibility you have, the more sites will want you to guest blog for them, resulting in more topical backlinks.
It's like being introduced at a party—people base their opinion of you on what they know about the person you write for. And if they like what they see, they'll follow the link back to your site.
Of course, these associations can work the other way. If you guest blog for a low-quality site, people may think your site isn't so hot, either. You'll be more likely to avoid this mistake if you learn how to write an effective guest blog and seek good opportunities, because high-quality sites are looking for high-quality content.
Perform a social media audit
Blindly posting on social media in an effort to increase traffic is not the best use of your time—but it's what most websites do. Chances are, you've already joined the social stampede with underwhelming results.
The best way to recover is to do a social media audit to analyze your brand's social media presence. Ask yourself which platforms you use and how active you are. What do you post? Do people engage with your content? What are other companies in your industry doing?
You'll soon start to see what industry standards are, where you can improve, and hopefully where you excel. But just having that information isn't enough. Use it to set goals for your engagement and social branding. Once you reach those goals, do another audit to see what else you can improve.
Make a social media plan
Most people make the mistake of creating numerous social profiles without doing any research. The idea is to drive traffic to your site—but you can't drive traffic if you don't have a map, or a plan showing how social media will work for you.
If you create accounts without a second thought, you'll likely see poor results and stop updating those profiles—which means there's a dead site out there with your name on it. Researching, testing, and investing in social media content are ultimately what will sustain your accounts and bring in traffic from social sites.
Create a domino effect
You've seen someone knock over a rows of dominoes to watch the chain reaction. But you may not know you can use social media to create a domino effect for your web traffic.
The social media chain reaction doesn't start with big sites like Facebook or Pinterest. Instead, it begins on "second tier social media sites," which are smaller sites specific to a particular interest.
The popularity you achieve on these smaller sites can then carry that traffic over to larger social sites—which are likely to share users with small sites while still opening up a broader audience. You'll find your traffic increasing and gain a foothold in larger sites much faster, rather than trying to fabricate popularity from scratch on a major social network.
Learn from the best in your industry
There's so much pressure to stand out from your competition that it's easy to adopt a "lone wolf" mentality. The problem is, you're far more likely to make mistakes when you try to do everything on your own.
On top of that, yours is not the only business in your industry. So until you're running a monopoly, it's important to see what top competitors are up to on social media. You'll learn industry trends, gain tools to compete against bigger, higher revenue sites, and discover new ways to increase your social traffic. Be sure to:
- Monitor which competitors' most popular posts
- Determine why those posts are successful
- Search your industry on social media to see which articles get shared
- Improve on your competitors' content
Network on Facebook
One of the most popular social sites, Facebook, has huge potential for bringing traffic to your site through paid advertising. Its powerful targeting capabilities let you select your audience's interests, location, career, and other factors—putting your post in front of the most receptive audience possible for maximum results.
Facebook is also a great way to build your network. You can use the social site to create a mailing list of new prospects, or you can connect with past clients (and their friends) by asking them to like your page.
Play up your Pinterest
Remember our tip about having awesome visual content? Pinterest drives traffic to your site by playing up all your cool images. Sharing on Pinterest also forces you to improve that visual content, because your images have to be fantastic to stand out on this site.
If you create the right types of images, your audience will reward you quickly. Pinterest's sharing capabilities make it easy for images to spread like wildfire while simultaneously helping users feel connected to your site.
As you start trying to increase the traffic on your site, remember that Rome wasn't built in a day—and neither is a good site. Instead of changing everything at once, choose a few tactics you think will be best for your site.
Once you've given them some time to work, you can start building up your traffic in other ways. You'll see results before you know it.