Steal these 8 Actionable strategies to increase blog traffic
I was on my fast track to increase blog traffic.
I used to refresh Google Analytics every 10 minutes. My team and I would write what we thought were the most amazing pieces of content, get ready with the bubblies, publish the article on our blog and then…CRICKETS.
Running a blog for a B2B SaaS company seemed…necessary. Everyone else was doing it so why not us? People would boast about money machines and blog-based customer acquisition strategies. In fact, some of the companies I admire have awesome content and part of myself wanted my company to be able to grow the same way. But noooo. Not so fast, Yannis.
Let me start over. Moosend started as an email marketing tool to design, launch and track all sorts of email campaigns. We did a great job driving sales through traditional routes. What primarily worked for us was Salesforce-driven acquisition. My strategy has always been to grow our sales through organic sources, aka writing good content. We spent a good amount of time trying to figure out why it didn’t work and, finally, last year we did. In fact, since last year we have grown our organic traffic more than 4X.
But this isn’t about us. I am keen to show you the things that we did wrong, so you can avoid them. Then, we can go over those we improved so you can copy the heck out of them.
An Ideal Blog Post
Before we start let’s consider an ideal blog post, like the one in the image below.
Both people and machines these days are so busy that they only scan your content. They will start from the title and first paragraph and scan section headers as they scroll down.
An ideal blog post is one that wins you readers BEFORE they even start reading your article.
There are some articles, even in magazines not just blogs, which are so inviting to the eye, just because of their structure.
Do you know what F-layout stands for? One that starts with full-length paragraphs and gradually diminishes to bullet points and shorter sentences, much like letter F.
Not much of a choice here, since we are still contained in the alphabet area, with Z-pattern. This means that we respond better to a Z-shaped layout on a webpage, especially when that page is not text-heavy.
Everyone understands layout considerations play a much bigger role now.
It always has, only in the past there was less competition; now, if it takes more time for someone to navigate your blog, they’ll roam.
With all this competition out there, you can’t afford anybody roaming.
It’s becoming more about what’s scannable anda easy to read than the kind of content and grammar that would get us a straight A in school.
Keyword Research to Increase Blog Traffic
I could write a book about keyword research – but you want the short version, right?
You may think that because you know your company so well, you can guess what your customers want to read about on your blog?
WRONG! In fact, you may be able to guess what content is relevant to your audience.
But you have no idea whether you can actually rank in Google for that content. Neither do I, for my own content.
You need to use a tool for that, period.
Write content your customers are actually interested in
Every time we have content ideas, we open up our trusted keyword research tool and type the keywords and topics that come to mind.
Ahrefs is a great tool for this sort of job. Sign up for a free trial and go for the keyword research tab. Type in the content idea you came up with and try to think of other alternatives around the same topic. For example:
If you think “marketing automation for WooCommerce” sounds like an awesome idea, try to add also things like:
– Marketing automation for eCommerce stores
– Marketing automation for online shops
– How to use marketing automation for eCommerce
– E-commerce marketing automation, etc.
When you hit “Submit”, your tool will activate all sorts of robots to find some stats for each of those keywords. The main stats to look for are volume and difficulty.
Volume illustrates the number of searches this keyword is getting, while difficulty shows how easy it would be for you to rank for that keyword.
You need keywords with significant volume but not super high demand.
Set some boundaries and goals in terms of what you are looking for in these stats and be consistent for at least several months. Don’t shoot for the stars, aim for the low hanging fruit and you will get your chance for trophy keywords later in the game if you are consistent.
I think that keywords with volume over 50 and difficulty of less than 40 are good targets to start with.
If you can’t find keywords that meet these goals reiterate your content ideas until they make sense.
At the end you will have a topic that makes sense for your business goals, such your audience will actually want to read.
Copy your competitors
I’m lazy. There! I said it.
If you are lazy like me, or super busy to run proper keyword research or even need a little bit of inspiration from…who else but your competitors, there is a tool to save your bacon.
Ahrefs provide what they call a “content gap analysis tool” as part of its offering. ***This is absolute magic***
You pop in the domain names of your top competitors and at the end your own domain and it finds the content that your competitors are ranking for but you aren’t. Sneaky but OMG!
Mind that you need to make sure that you don’t enter necessarily your top level domain, you need to enter the domain and path you are running your blog from.
For example, for Moosend it would be moosend.com/blog because it’s the path that we run all of our content from. If it was blog.moosend.com then that’s what we would pop in. Similarly, for all of your competitors.
Eavesdrop your customers (like, from a distance. In a very GDPR-y way. Anyway, it’s legal and 100% anonymous.)
Have you ever felt that you are being followed? Or that someone is in your mind? This trick will make your prospects and customers feel exactly like that!
Imagine if you could search the conversations that happen in fori and Quora threads and are relevant to your product or business.
To find the questions your audience is asking and the answers they are looking for? Wouldn’t you be able to devise the most relevant content ever made?
Buzz Sumo is a tool that does exactly that. Its question analyser feature allows you to search for conversations deep inside forums, threads and message boards. It’s not similar to Google because it removes the clutter by focusing on those specialised sources.
So, type in some topic that you would like to rank for – aim for something broad if you are B2B or something more specific if you are B2C. And ta-daa!
As in the previous examples, you can use this kind of sorcery trick to find content ideas that your audience actually cares about.
Really make sure your headlines stand out
I’m going to go all in on this one and be absolutely upfront. Your content headlines are 50% of your content writing.
Keyword research (among many others) is what drives rankings for relevant searches, but headlines are what drives people to actually click through and read your content.
Back in the day – with the crickets we mentioned in the first paragraph – we would just pop the first headline that came to mind in each one of our articles.
For example, if we were writing about open rate tips, we would put something absolute genius as our headline:
“Open rate tips”
Eew. No. That doesn’t work. We had to put a whole lot more effort than this to make this attractive enough for our audience.
To be honest, creating an awesome headline is a bit of an art and I can’t really summarise it in step by step instructions. But I can show you a few tips that you can use for inspiration. Here we go.
Tip #1: Make it PUNCHY
It’s so competitive out there that, really, you cannot be mellow on your subject lines.
Show enthusiasm and the Hollywood rule: always leave your audience wanting more. My theory is that headlines and email subject lines need an element of motivation, partnered with an element of intimidation. Your readers need to go OH MY GOD, HOW DO THEY DO THAT? and THIS IS AWESOME I CAN TOTALLY DO IT.
For example, let’s say you want to write a blog post on ways for someone to improve his email open rates. You can be a party pooper and go for something like:
“Improve your open rates with these tips”
Or go for something punchier like:
“5 Open Rate Hacks That Guarantee Engagement”
Now, which one would you choose?
Tip #2: Make it practical
You have 1 second to attract your readers’ attention as part of their search quest. Ok. I lied. You only have 0.5 seconds.
Readers are super trained these days to read less. To click through to as few resources as possible. Readers only read for specific information to select the things they need to do their task. We are SO busy, right? Why would we want to real useless fluff?
You need to account that fact when writing headlines for your blog posts.
Think of our open rate tips blog post. With a headline of open rate tips, it will end up below a huge clutter of similar posts in Google.
Make your post seem a lot more useful and the fate changes:
“5 open rate tricks you can apply in 30 minutes”
That’s it. 30 minutes. Who doesn’t have 30 minutes?
If someone is looking for open rate tricks then they will sure as hell have 30 minutes to apply them. So use such techniques to hail the usefulness and practical aspect of your blog posts.
Tip #3: Make it grand
Your audience needs to know that they are not just going to read yet another article on the topic they are looking for.
They need to know that your article is the single most important resource they will need.
“The one! The only! The Ultimate Resource.”
Make sure your headlines are written in that way.
Writing something mellow and boring like open rate tips will not cut it. You need a whole bag of stardust to make this click-worthy. Think more along the lines of
“The Ultimate Guide on Improving your Open Rates this year”
Now, which one would you click as part of your search?
Tip #4: Use your keywords
Remember that blogging comes in 3 phases. Planning, writing and marketing. Headlines are part of your writing but they should directly connect with your keyword research.
Your headlines need to are packed with your keywords. If your main topic keyword is, say, “improve open rates” then aim for something along the lines of
“Improve your open rates with 5 tips that actually work”
There – you give a little bit of a hint to Google about your topic without overdoing it making your headlines seem fabricated and fake.
Tip #5: Make it about your audience
Entrepreneurs get itchy about sharing their success. It’s such a rollercoaster ride that you want to share your good moments with a wider audience.
But when it comes to your content and blog posts you can’t just share stuff that only your team will understand. For example Xmas parties. You did your Christmas party and you want to write a blog post about it. “Moosend goes crazy at our annual Christmas party”. Woohoo right? Not quite.
When it comes to blogging you always – ALWAYS – write about your audience.
And, quite frankly, not a single soul from your audience will enjoy reading about your Christmas party. No one really cares about it anyways.
The only person that cares about your Christmas party is me cause I’d love to get an invite next time!
So have a think when you are planning your blog post and consider if what you are writing is about you or your audience and always make it about them.
I promised the real story. How we tripled our traffic in less than a year. And changing the way we wrote content for our blog posts was really key. So let me introduce you to Iné, who heads our Content Writing.
Hi there! Iné taking over. I’m here to share my tips, strategies, and hacks from my experience of growing – in my capacity as the Head of Content at Moosend.
I love creating content that feels right for the user. Content creation may spring from a hunch, a discussion with our team, a need to foresee user needs, implications for further research from journals, or user messages to our Customer Support.
I haven’t always been fabulous leaving glitter marks when I walk and talk.
In the past, I used to write blog posts dictated by seasonality, which went like “Hey, Iné why don’t you write a post on Black Friday subject lines?”.
Other times I would bring to life random Manager inspiration (“Uhm, it’s summer so why don’t you write something about setting your office on autopilot in the summer”). This entire phase was pure Dilbert comics material, I’m telling you.
And of course, there was this most professional way of writing content called “Monkey say, monkey do”. It went like “So, our competitors wrote an article about this, no idea why, but they must have their reasons, why not write about that, too, huh?”
I know what you’re probably thinking right now.
These are all cool ideas, what’s wrong with these?
But they were mini-goals. These pieces of content served no higher purpose. They were not part of a bigger plan.
“Really? Who writes like that?”
I used to write in this beautiful formal style.
Used impersonal language, beautiful subjunctive, extraordinary passive voice phrases. Oh, my English teachers would be so proud.
And I signed everything as Moosend team. Yes. That was my conscious decision to NOT make this a person-centric blog, but a corporate one. Ask me again, I’ll tell you what a fool I was.
Oh, and I used fancy words. But things weren’t going too well, so I changed back to simple words. And back to fancy words. I was running around like a headless chicken.
At the same time, I was being recommended blogs that I hated.
You know, I don’t care what you tell me, how many people follow this guy, how many people are fascinated by that guy.
If they don’t tell me something that sticks with me, something that impresses me, I’m not going to follow their tips just because everyone else does.
When did quantity over quality ever work?
I used to write blocks of text. I would be shooting out 3-4 of those 500 to 1000-word texts. Per week. Useless.
And there was nothing there practical enough for the reader to follow and implement.
My examples were only a sentence long or part of the paragraph and…in brackets. Examples need to BE your paragraph. Your audience is looking for practical, actionable content.
We were never going to see #1 place on Google search, even if it hit us with a hammer.
Back to the future
The most succinct way to put this is this: Before you hit Publish, make sure you add something to this sweet chaos of content.
No need for formalities
What a major difference it makes when you walk it like you talk it. I now write in the exact same way as I speak. I could practically just transcribe the way I speak. Yes, those Dad jokes come effortlessly in writing, too, some people we are just born with it, what can I say.
Every person has a unique way of talking, bantering, expressing themselves. For you, it could be recording yourself to speak and publishing podcasts, especially if you like to add a little bit of drama to what you say.
For someone else, that could be a sarcastic tone, a bantering style, or referring to themselves in the third person. Really, anything goes, share your beautiful insanity with the world!
Takeaway: Look for style, tone, diction in your writing. Put yourself on the map, Mary!
Size does matter
“The more the merrier” does not necessarily apply everywhere. I certainly used to think so, hence the multiple blog posts.
When I snapped out of it, I literally quadrupled the average number of words per blog post.
So now I write an average of 3.000 words per article, while some of our Complete Guide collection posts go as high as 10 or 15 thousand words (or 27.000 words!). Don’t worry it’s not all text, there are some beautiful Galifianakis gifs, too.
It all makes perfect sense, now, you know. You can’t possibly unravel an entire concept in 500 words. Nor can you explain something adequately, with examples and all, in a few hundred words.
So I take my time writing about a topic. I make sure all terms are duly introduced and explained so that there is a smooth reading experience for the reader.
And of course, I link to other blog posts of ours which offer complementary information or a good read. Which brings us to the next characteristic…
Did you know? In a recent research by Ahrefs, the highest-ranking texts featured between 25-40 hundred words. You know what to do, Clarissa!
Create a web of links within your content
I like to call internal linking “blog post synergy”.
You see, in the past, I used to write all these mini-articles, and they were completely unrelated.
For example: If I had written a post on SPF and DKIM, another one about Welcome emails, and another about Email Deliverability, I would… well, nothing, I would do nothing.
Right now, these three articles scream “HIGH OPEN RATES”. I wish they screamed louder before so I could hear them.
What I should have done is write a blog post that would look like this:
- BLOG POST TITLE: How to increase your open rates
- Check your Deliverability score with THIS tool
- Set up your SPF and DKIM parameters
- A/B test your subject lines for higher open rates
- Send users a Welcome email sequence or an Onboarding sequence to stir up excitement and higher engagement levels from Day 1.
This looks a lot like what we do now.
We link back to so many of our articles. It helps those who find something interesting (e.g. visual storytelling examples) to stay on our platform before they wander off to Google search looking for more information.
By making everything simpler, bringing everything within the reach of their hand, users are more likely to stay on your platform. Because they feel safe there, if they don’t know something it will probably be there answered.
This establishes a relationship of trust between you and your subscribers.
Takeaway: It’s time for you to match a few blogs together, since you don’t seem to be working your matching skills with your tie, Jacob.
Working creatively is on your daily tasks.
This article would be incomplete if I overlooked the creativity component which is a major aspect of content marketing success. Blogging is a highly creative task. So, without the “poof!” it’s not what it should be.
But it’s not easy for me to put it into words, particularly because it is so unique to everyone.
And because, in different cultures, what is considered creative, funny, unique differs on so many levels.
I’m afraid I’m not professionally equipped to provide you with cross-cultural examples of creativity and humor, As far as I am concerned, I like to bring together all of the platforms of interest.
In the past, I would resort to reading what was online and maybe add some of my thoughts, but very few tips or ideas.
But that wasn’t me.
Eventually, creativity would find its way out, one way or another.
So, now, everything I see, read, hear I keep track of it. I keep little notes on my Google Keep app on my smartphone and tablet, I have more than 30 tabs in there, all of which I update regularly. It might sound like a headache to some, but to me, it brings me peace.
If I show you my Favorites folder on my phone, you will be shocked at how many screenshots I’ve kept of newsletters, website layouts, branding details, and so on.
And then, I take all of this to my blog posts. I somehow try to recreate reality 360 degrees.
Takeaway: Show the world what you got. Mark your territory, Mark.
How do you actually increase traffic?
We did it! Wrote the most awesome piece of content, published, and… CRICKETS.
It turns out that that’s super common. Even the most talented content writers experience this sometimes.
When I started blogging I believed in “write it and they will come” concept. Turns out that’s actually wrong.
See, I have a theory. Writing without marketing your content is not a blog; it’s a diary.
You may have excellent content ideas, that derive from actual research and have the most awesome writers in place, but unless you have a decent marketing strategy in place you are just not gonna get enough traffic. Even the best blogs need a bit of help in getting discovered.
The following strategies are guaranteed (promise) to bring traffic to your blog. Using the strategies below, our small marketing team at Moosend was able to triple our traffic in less than 12 months.
A few months ago, I considered outreach, or simply link building, a sort of a spam activity. Link building is the process of getting people to link from their content back to your article. When done right, this activity is a content marketer’s bazooka and really moves the needle in terms of traffic.
Having said that, it can be a ticking time bomb in the wrong hands.
Why would getting people to link to my posts have such an impact in terms of search engine rankings?
i) For starters, Google understands that your article is an authority on a topic and pushes it further up the rankings. The more links to your article, the higher the ranking. Obviously, this is oversimplified but that’s the theory in a gist.
ii) You get traffic from people clicking on links reading those articles that link back to you. So you build referral traffic in the process, as well.
“Easy for you to say, Yannis. You run the show and have unlimited resources.”
Wrong! Moosend has been doing link building part-time (meaning without someone dedicated to this effort) for fewer than 4 months. I didn’t have the time to do it myself so I hired an intern to help me out. Here is how we did it:
- You need AWESOMENESS. People will not link back to you as a favor...remember that you are doing this for others to discover your content. The content itself has to be unique. Be it a visual infographic, or an embeddable quiz, or a data-driven blog post with data from your database, or content you compiled after thorough research. All in all, it has to be content that other editors will want on their sites.
Use a tool for your outreach. Once you have an awesome piece of content, you need to do the hard bit; sell it to others. First, you need to find a list of sites that may be interested. As soon as you have a list of sites that may be interested in your content, you need to reach out to their editors and make your pitch.
As this is not the definitive guide to link building, I cannot expand on strategies and techniques to do the research and outreach manually. I would strongly suggest that you use a tool like Pitchbox that will massively save you time. Here is how we use it:
First, you have to choose the type of campaign you want to run. We usually run Blogger Outreach campaigns and occasionally we might use the Advanced Operator Search where you can use search operators such as inurl: “email marketing” to get super accurate results.
After selecting the type of our campaign, we’ll add some additional information and fill our the keywords that we are going to target.
Now that we have our keywords and all the relevant information about our campaign in place, it is time to set up some Quality Filters to ensure that we are going to contact high-quality opportunities only!
Pitchbox makes this as easy as it gets by simply specifying our targeted Domain Authority (MOZ) and Domain Rating (AHREFS) range.
Now that we have our quality filters in place it is time for Pitchbox to work its magic and acquire all the relevant opportunities based on our keywords and filters.
This process usually takes between 3-5 minutes… which is super cool, right?
While we wait, let’s build a quick and easy email template that we will use as a base for our campaign.
Don’t worry, this template is going to be the most personalised email your opportunities are going to receive.
We use the Recent Blog Post field which already has the page title of the opportunity we are targeting, making it super easy to make adjustments.
As well as adding additional personalisation fields in order to make our email even more personal.
Now that we have acquired our opportunities and also have a template in place, it is time to inspect our opportunities and make sure that they meet our standards. Inspecting is super easy because Pitchbox allows you to see a preview of the opportunity without opening a new tab.
We’ve got the opportunities that we want to pursue and it’s time to personalise them and set the appropriate email up. Pitchbox suggests a list of plausible emails and it is up to us to narrow it down to 2-3, making it sure we contact the right person.
This process is quite time-consuming as we are going to take a glimpse at each opportunity and find what it’s about in order to write a relevant, personalized email.
Here is a preview of the email that we are going to send to that opportunity:
We’ve got everything in place to launch our campaign. We select all the opportunities from the list and click on Automated Email Sequence.
Now we just wait for people to respond to our emails…hitting Refresh every second (I’m kidding – you have time for a beer or two).
Mind that this process may take a bit longer in the beginning, but you should aim for approximately 16 hours on outreach efforts for a single post. That’s it! Not a whole lot, huh? Not overwhelming, anyways.
Obviously, this is a rule-of-thumb and results may vary so as a KPI aim for 4% of link placements. In other words, if you approach 100 sites, then you should aim for 4 placements. As you develop your link building superpowers, you can amend these KPIs as you see fit.
Let’s get Social
Social media these days require the budget to move the needle. Algorithms in various sites have changed to promote sponsored posts. We have seen that in sites like facebook we get little to no traction unless we promote our posts with a little bit of budget.
I personally believe more in good content combined with a consistent link building strategy and strong email marketing versus social media, especially for a B2B company.
So we have basically created an automated superweapon to take social media outreach off of our hands. We have devised a schedule that we follow religiously for every blog post and use Buffer to share on different channels. Confusing, I know. Here is a visual way to think of this.
So every time we publish a blog post, we create a set of snippets for various social media. You can fine tune this as you see fit but we have seen that an automated, consistent strategy like this is better than ad-hoc posts every now and then.
We probably spend less than 30 minutes to set everything up every time we publish a blog post. My marketing guys would kill me if I shared their routine with you but I know you can keep a secret, so here it is:
It is really intuitive to design your social media posting schedule on Buffer.
1. Sign up for an account with Buffer.
2. Sign in to connect and sync your social media accounts, such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. (*Make sure that you hold an Admin page role where applicable, to avoid surprises.)
This is what your Buffer Dashboard will look like once you have connected everything:
In this screen, you see all your connected accounts.
This is where you can jump-start the process of writing a new post.
When you hover your cursor over the box, the following popup appears:
From here, you can customize the posting time to your liking.
If it helps you more, you can choose the Calendar view in the top right. All your posts will show like this:
Out of everything we discussed so far the only thing that you can do for free or super cheap is email marketing.
I mean you want to increase traffic to your site right? And you have probably built a list of customers, visitors, prospects right? Then what’s the easiest way to get them back to your site? Just send them an email with what you ‘ve published
Moosend offers a free plan for up to 5.000 subscribers and plans start from 10K. If you are a startup you get a free ride. So no excuses here.
But gone is the time that an email blast would suffice. Re-engagement sequences, A/B testing and relentless segmentation is the new norm. Here are a few tips that we always do:
– We A/B test everything. Especially subject lines. I mean we have written the tool that writes better subject lines, but we don’t believe in Abra Kadabra.
A/B testing is the only chance you get to optimise your campaigns in real time. Just pick two subject lines you like (hint: use the headline tips) and get going
– We re-engage with non-openers. People are busy these days and inboxes are cluttered. That doesn’t always mean that your content is bad or your email campaign landed to spam.
Maybe your audience needs a little nudge. We nudge them by reminding them of the content they missed in a second email sent to those that didn’t open the original one.
In other words, if Joe never opened my original campaign for our new blog post, we’ll send him a reminder a few days later.
Here is exactly how we set this whole thing up with Moosend:
First things first – create an account. Make sure you register with your business email, since Gmail and other free emails don’t get as good deliverability stats these days.
1. Once you are in click on the mailing lists, create and import your existing subscribers in this new mailing list.
2. Then, click on the New Campaign button, located right next to your account logo!
3. Select between a Regular Campaign and or an A/B Split Test Campaign and fill in the rest of the fields such as subject, sender etc.
4. Click next and select the mailing list you created in the first step.
5. Click next and design your campaign in our awesome WYSIWYG HTML editor.
6. Go through the remaining steps of the wizard where you can schedule your campaign for later or send a test and you will get to the summary screen. That’s it – you did it! Click send and grab a drink – your campaign is on its way!
How do you actually get sales out of this?
You did it though, yeah? If you’ve done all of the above you have increased the traffic of your blog significantly. We increased it by more than 300% in 12 months.
But, unless you are Chanel or Ferrari and you are doing all this for brand awareness, chances are you are doing to increase sales. And in any sales funnel, more leads means more sales.
Getting leads through content is tough, but if done right its impact is crazy high. Our conversions through this tactic are through the roof! Here is what we do:
Mini content upgrades. Every time our content team prepares a new piece of content they spend some time on a bonus giveaway. Let’s consider an example content upgrade:
“20 subject lines that guarantee conversions”
Once my team researches and write the subject lines for the core article, they will spend some time on the extra bonus. In this case, this can be an additional 10 subject lines.
I know, it’s extra work. But at least, the kind of work that brings back a multiple of its worth. It gives our users the added value.
It goes above and beyond the expected product to deliver the augmented product.
Then we place those close to the title:
And in a few other places inside the article:
We alternate banners and text links but that’s not important.
What’s more important is that, once our readers click on these links, a form pops up prompting them to enter their email address to receive their bonus material.
We see an average of 40% conversion through this lead generation tactic. In other words, if 1000 people read our blog post, 400 of them are converted to leads by downloading these content upgrades.
We have opened up the doors of one of our highest-performing departments and let you backstage.
We shared our hard-earned insights and some of our high-priced expert pieces of advice.
But, as is the case with every in-depth presentation, all of these tips we just shared with you woden’t work unless you do.
And, really, these are as good as 2018. Things are changing fast and the bar is being raised every day. Don’t squander time while your competitors are already implementing our tips.
Stay tuned for our upcoming Blog Success Tips reveal.