How do you build a successful blog? What does it take to create a blog or website that receives more than a quarter of a million unique visitors per month? Do you need any special skills, are there any hidden secrets or is it something that everyone can do?
These are only some of the questions I will try to answer in this post but first let me do a bit of introduction for first time readers.
I am working online for more than 10 years and during this period I had the opportunity to try all sort of things related to SEO, creating blogs and websites and getting traffic from search engines. At the beginning the results were not so good but gradually I figured out what I was doing wrong and came up with my own flavor of SEO that I am using today on my own websites and on clients web properties.
One of the blogs that is build according to these standards is caloriesecrets.net. Caloriesecrets received more than 250,000 visits in June 2013 with the majority of the visits coming from Google. I also wrote about it back in May 2013 when the traffic from Google passed the 100,000 unique visits (you can read the post here: how to get more than 100,000 visits from Google per month or get my book from amazon), but today I am happy to write this post since the traffic increased by 40% in just 2 months. As you can see from the screenshot above, traffic from Google alone increased by 50% and reached the 150,000+ visits per month.
Two more quick notes before we get to the main part of this post:
1) If you think that this is a Photoshop trick you can find in my previous post (link above) a way to verify the traffic claims.
2) I am not suggesting that 250,000 monthly visits is something extra ordinary. I am sure that many websites and blogs get to this number (and many more) but for beginners this may give them encouragement and motivation to work on their blogs because hard work gradually pays off.
How to create a successful blog
What I will describe below is what I think to be the main reasons that made caloriesecrets a successful blog. I have spent quite some time thinking what to write about to explain the process and instead of giving you some general advice I will try below to analyze the success of caloriesecrets so that you can relate this with what you are doing in your blog or website.
Good useful content written by experts
I am sure you’ve read this a thousand of times but it is truth that everything starts with good content. Without having good quality content you cannot expect to go far so before making anything else make sure that you sort this out. Some tips to consider:
Write for users but make sure search engines understand you as well – Your primary goal is to write content that users want to read but at the same time if you don’t write content that search engines understand then chances are that only a few people will read your content.
The Google keyword tool can help you a lot in this manner. You can use it to find out what people are searching for and then associate your content (especially your titles) to match what search engines want. This is very important so let me demonstrate this with a real example:
Let’s assume you want to write an article about the effects of sugar on weight gain. You have written a great article based on research and studies but when it comes to choosing a title you select “No more sugar for me!” While this is a good title for social media it is not good for SEO. Unless you are writing for New York Times or webmd chances are that with this title your post will not rank for anything. A more suitable title would be “Does sugar cause weight gain?” – It’s not as fancy as the previous one but it’s obvious for both search engines and users what the article is about.
Besides the titles other things are also important like content length, descriptions etc. You can read about them in many details with examples in these 2 articles 10 SEO copywriting tips and 10 content marketing tips
Not just publish, promote your content as well – Your job as a blogger does not stop in publishing content, you have to promote it is as well. Nowadays promotion of a blog post is mainly done through the various social media channels and if you have a good social circle (that is followers on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ etc) you can spread the word quite easily.
If you are not an expert on the topic, find one! – This is another problem that a lot of bloggers face. They want to create a blog about a particular topic but they either don’t have the expertise or they are not good in creating content.
In such cases the best way is to find an expert to write the content for you. I am not talking about hiring a writer from odesk or buying the content from some mass content production website but I am talking about making long term partnerships with real and certified experts that will work with you and get paid for their work (if money is an issue at the beginning you can arrange some revenue sharing deal with them).
The quality and uniqueness of the content is important so unless you have this covered, there is no reason of proceeding any further.
Usually the domain comes first but I wanted to give more emphasis to the content that’s why I am mentioning this now. What do I mean by a clean domain?
A clean domain is one that did not participate in any form of non-white hat SEO techniques for the purpose of either manipulating Google rankings or Facebook likes (for example by purchasing likes in bulk).
If you don’t understand what I mean by this then don’t worry you are good to go but if in the past you tried to get higher rankings by purchasing link packages then better start fresh on a new domain.
Running a WordPress website? Then download this how to guide and learn how to optimize your website like a Pro.
Once a domain is penalized it’s very difficult to recover it completely so it’s best to put your efforts on a new blog rather than risking working on a domain that it’s difficult to rank.
Care should also be taken in cases where you buy a domain or website from Flippa. Make sure that before you buy it, you are 100% sure that it is clean.
Good on page SEO
It is generally accepted in the SEO industry that after the recent changes to the Google ranking algorithm (aka Panda and Penguin), content and on page SEO have gained once again the importance they deserve.
On page SEO is about usability and visibility. Usability from the user’s perspective and visibility in terms of how visible the website is to search engines. On page SEO is not hard to follow but not doing it correctly can be one of the factors why your website or blog is not performing well in search.
If you are not sure what is on-page SEO I suggest you spend some time learning and mastering the basic SEO rules.
No link building
Links are still important, even after Panda and Penguin links are one of the most efficient ways to rank a website. The only difference is that any links that are not 100% natural are bad. In other words you still need links to get higher rankings but if you try in any way to purchase those links or get them the easy way it can do more harm than good.
You can read my previous article how to grow your traffic without links for many alternatives to traditional link building, but it should be noted that with CalorieSecrets I forgot about the term link building altogether. I did not try to build any links either directly or indirectly but when I check my webmaster reports I see thousands of links pointing to the website. Why? Because the content is good and many webmasters in the same niche naturally link to from their websites.
In the case that you are so obsessed with link building and you cannot live without, do not try to purchase any link packages or guest post on low quality websites, but instead try to find high quality websites and try to get a link.
Important: Do not forget that it is un-natural for a brand new website or blog to have many incoming links so before even trying to do your link building make sure that your web site is at least 6 months old and loaded with a good amount of quality content.
Social media acceptance
Social media is very important these days for many reasons:
- It is a new way of building links
- A way to get more traffic and customers
It is also a good method to understand if your content is good. When you promote your posts in the various social media channels and provided that you already have a decent number of followers, then normally you should get social media mentions as well i.e Likes, +1, Tweets etc. If this is not happening then this means that you need to work on your content more.
You can take it for granted that if what you are publishing is not accepted by social media then you have to go back and take some corrective actions otherwise you are losing your time and effort.
If on the other hand everything is ok then you can use social media to gain more exposure and natural links, and this is what happened to CalorieSecrets from the very beginning.
Take a look at this article: 10 social media marketing tips for beginners to help you get started with social media and this: How to get your first 10,000 fans on Facebook for even more social media exposure.
Users can engage with a website in many ways. They can participate in discussions in the form of comments, provide ratings, write reviews etc. User engagement is a sign that the content is good and useful. Some ways to encourage user interaction:
- Make sure that you always reply to comments
- Encourage users from your articles to write comments
What happened with Caloriesecrets from the beginning was the submission of many comments (mainly questions) on the website but also on our android app. If you look at the comments our app received from Google Play you will see how satisfied the users are from the content and how it helped them solve problems related to diet and weight loss.
Incentives to come back again and again
A successful blog besides many visitors from search engines has another characteristic. It has a lot of direct visits. This means that people open their browsers and type the address of the blog directly.
Direct visits are an indication of loyalty and a blog with thousands of direct visits per day does not have to worry about SEO, social media or anything else. Once you create your tribe of loyal visits then all you have to do is make sure that you keep them happy so that they come back again.
Two ways to encourage visitors to come back again are:
Constant publishing schedule – You need to create a publishing schedule and stick to it no matter what. Your loyal visitors will know when to expect a new post and they will come to read it so make sure that you don’t disappoint them.
Free Services and tools – When you offer services or online tools, they will visit your website again and again to use the tools or take advantage of your services.
On CalorieSecrets we offer our users a free calorie counter, a BMR calculator and free diet plans and in terms of posting schedule, new content is uploaded every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
One of the things I wish I had when I started blogging was someone to talk to and explain to me what I was doing wrong and could not get any decent results. If you are stuck, it will be very difficult to find your way out since there is so much and conflicting information on the web about SEO and website ranking and also you don’t know who to believe or not.
If you are in a situation where you don’t know if what you are doing is in the right direction or you don’t know what to do next, you can make use for our SEO Audit service and we can help you out. The cost is not prohibitive (even for bloggers) and you will get a chance to have someone to review your website or blog and tell you exactly what you need to do in order to start getting the results you want.
A successful blog is one that gets enough visitors to fulfill its purpose. There is no magic formula or magic tricks that can get you thousands of visits without effort and hard work. What I have described above is how I run caloriesecrets.net and why in my opinion the blog’s traffic is increasing steadily since the day it was created. Certainly there are many other methods or strategies that work but one thing is certain: You need to be patient and work consistently towards your goals always aiming for the forest and not for the tree.