Here’s the number one complaint after starting a new blog: Why aren’t we getting traffic?!
I’ve heard this complaint once. I’ve heard it a million times. Eager blog writers get burned out, discouraged, and quit. The decline is simple: They start a blog. The traffic does not materialize. The blog fizzles and dies.
The why-am-I-not-getting traffic question basically sums up the entire industry of SEO, so that doesn’t provide much of a focus for a helpful article. Instead, I want to focus on one angle.
This is my angle: Why isn’t my new blog getting any traffic?
New blogs are the ones at the greatest risk for vanishing in a puff. Without a sturdy understanding of the blog basics, a business’s content marketing may get derailed.
Let’s set a few things straight for the record
In the interest of setting expectations, let’s deal with a few common misconceptions. Having a long-lasting blog doesn’t just require just the teeth-gritting endurance of writing something every day. To have an enduring blog, you need to understand a few principles.
Just because you have a blog doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to get traffic.
Blog does not equal traffic.
Here’s what a lot of people think will happen after they launch a blog:
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
In reality, there may be no increase in traffic or a gradual increase in traffic.
You don’t simply need traffic. You need the right kind of traffic.
And what if you do get traffic? Life is good, right?
Yeah, sort of. But what’s the point of having a blog? Is it really just traffic?
I’d argue that the answer is no. Most of the time, a business starts a blog in order to serve a higher purpose — marketing, brand visibility, more clients, higher conversions, etc. A blog does not exist for the sole purpose of publishing more content. The web doesn’t need more content.
A blog exists for conversions, revenue, information, etc. Traffic is simply an indication that your blog may be achieving its real goals.
Gaining traffic is not a good thing unless your blog is also achieving its other purposes. What if you’re getting traffic from all the wrong sources? That traffic is not going to convert, and your blog becomes essentially useless.
Instead of frenetically grasping for traffic, you need to be pursuing the right kind of traffic. What is “the right kind of traffic”? Look for it in point two below.
Maybe a blog isn’t the best strategy for you.
I’m writing this as a die-hard content marketer. I get content marketing. I do content marketing. Heck, I helped write the most extensive and detailed guide of advanced content marketing techniques that exists today.
In spite of this, I’m willing to admit that content marketing may not be the solution to your woes.
The lingering 10% who don’t utilize content marketing may be doing so intentionally and strategically. There are plenty of other ways to do marketing, and even to do so effectively. Some of the businesses that are doing content marketing might be wasting their time and resources.
I didn’t write this article to help you diagnose your business’s particular situation. I’m simply raising the question. Is content marketing really the best strategy for you?
You have to decide.
Now, let’s dive into a few of the specifics. Remember, we’re asking the question, why isn’t my new blog getting any traffic?
Here are the answers.
1. You Aren’t Sharing it Socially
Issue: Social Signals and Visibility
We’re in the era of the social web.
The social web refers to the fact that the Internet is a place of social interaction and collaboration. As proof, consider this: 74% of all American adults use a social networking site.
When people “go online,” they are likely to do several things — research, email, etc. — but increasingly all these activities are integrated socially.
For example, someone doesn’t simply read an article. They share it, comment on it, tweet it, etc.
It naturally follows that an online strategy devoid of social sharing is missing out on the vast and viral potential of the social web.
Solution: Promote your content
Writing content is only half of content marketing.
The other half is spreading that content. Don’t expect the traffic to come flooding in after you click “publish.” Publish your content, and then promote it.
Here are some tips:
- Add sharing buttons to your blog article.
- Share content at the peak times for your audience’s social activity.
- Share your article on Twitter with images.
- Share content multiple times on every social site.
- Keep up with your content as it circulates on social, and be sure to participate in the conversation.
- Encourage blog authors, contributors, and team members to use their existing social networks to share the article.
2. You Aren’t Focusing on Any One Keyword or Subject
Issue: Keyword Optimization
Much of SEO is fairly common knowledge by this point. Most people are at least aware of keywords, and title tags, and have at least a vague idea of how it all works together.
But in spite of the widespread knowledge, it can be hard to strategically apply it to one’s own blog.
Keyword optimization is one such shortcoming.
Often, a blog writer starts by assembling an editorial calendar, which is basically a list of blog articles with dates. She may select these article titles based on the fact that they are interesting or perceived to be relevant to the target audience.
Solution: Research and target long tail keywords
This approach described above is misguided. Content marketing should not start with articles. It should start with research.
- Understand your marketing persona.
- Understand what they are searching for.
- Understand the intent behind their queries.
- Understand the keywords that would gain traffic from these queries.
At this point, you can come up with a list of longtail keywords.
From the list of keywords, you can develop a list of articles. Using the list of articles, you can create your editorial calendar.
Each article should use the selected longtail keyword in the 1) page title, 2) article title, and 3) one or two times in the article itself. Be sure not to stuff the article with the selected keyword.
3. It’s Boring as Heck
Issue: User Experience
I’m convinced that user experience is the sine qua non of Internet marketing. It trumps all other marketing techniques, and stands as the supreme methodology for gaining and retaining customers.
Obviously, user experience is an extremely broad subject. It effectively encompasses nearly every other aspect of digital marketing — from conversion optimization to search engine optimization.
Content marketing falls within the broad realm of user experience. When a user goes to visit your blog and read your content, what is he experiencing? Does it satisfy his needs? Does it answer his questions? Is it easy to read? Does it match his expectations?
One of the reasons why user experience in content marketing is such an issue is because Google says it is.
According to the document, the Quality Rating Guide, Google rates content based on expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. Human raters review selected content on the blog in order to refine and streamline the algorithmic formulae behind content quality grading.
Low quality content gets downgraded. High quality content gets upgraded.
Only high quality content will get the ranking improvement that will produce higher traffic levels.
Solution: Improve quality
This is why the quality of your content matters. I’ll point out a few of the issues that are considered low quality — i.e., boring.
- It’s all about you. Content marketing should not be exclusively about your business, your products, your awesome sauce, and your employees. It should be about subjects that are relevant in the industry. For a great example of B2B content marketing for a company not tooting it’s own horn, check out TopTal’s blog.
- No images. If your blog doesn’t have some sort of visual engagement like pictures, graphs, charts, or videos, it’s boring. Sorry.
- Not relevant. If you are producing articles that aren’t relevant to your target audience, you lose. No one cares about content that doesn’t answer a question, solve a problem, or meet a need. For example, on the Kissmetrics blog we aren’t going to write any articles about parenting. Would it get traffic? Probably, but it doesn’t target our audience. And it would alienate our readers.
What happens when you commit these content marketing mistakes?
Your bounce rate rises, your dwell time drops, your clickthrough rate sinks. Google measures these metrics and reduces your site’s rank accordingly.
The better your quality, the better your traffic.
4. Your Blog Design is Horrible
Issue: User Experience
Another user experience issue is blog design. Why does it matter? The way your blog looks, feels, and functions affects how users engage with your blog.
If the design is awful, then your users will not engage with the blog.
Based on my research and analysis, here are the ingredients of a great blog design:
- Your website should be responsive. If your website is not mobile optimized, it won’t be featured in mobile search results. Use this tool to see if Google views you as mobile-friendly.
- Feature blog snippets on your main blog page. Snippets are brief excerpts of a main article that people can skim through at a glance.
- Make your main content prominent. Place it on the left side, where users are most likely to look first.
- Use scrolling social buttons to encourage social sharing at any point in the article.
- Use an 11px font or larger for the body text.
- Use a 17-25px headline font.
- Use a sans serif font.
- Use a light colored background with dark colored text.
- Use headers and short paragraphs to break up the content.
- Use plenty of images.
- Use headers, bullet points, short paragraphs, and easy vocabulary.
- Include the name and possibly a brief bio of the author.
- Provide a CTA for users to subscribe to the blog.
Improving your blog’s design can dramatically improve your blog’s quality, readability, and traffic.
If you want your blog to not die, you may need to make some improvements. The reasons your blog may not be getting any traffic are pretty simple. Thankfully, the solutions are relatively simple, too.
Keep in mind that traffic may be slow in coming. Content marketing isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. If traffic doesn’t spike overnight, don’t be dismayed.
Be patient. Give it a few months; things will improve. If not, read this article again.
What’s your experience with blog traffic, and the reasons for growth or decline?
About the Author: Neil Patel is the cofounder of Neil Patel Digital.