Building Blog Traffic: A Cautionary Tale

Written by   (author of Obvious Conclusions)

Building Blog Traffic:  A Cautionary Tale

I don’t always treat myself like I treat my clients.  With my clients, I always use a measured, methodical approach.  When it’s just me, sometimes I just jump right into the fray.

I started my blog 4 days ago.  Last night, in a moment of late-night curiosity, I looked at my web statistics to see if I had any visitors.  I had a few who had probably stumbled upon my blog from some random link, but I did not have many.  I then had one of those frenzied thoughts, “I need more traffic now.  Gotta get more traffic now.

So, I typed into google “How to Build a High Traffic Website”.   Of course, I received  numerous responses.  It seems one of the favorite blog topics is to blog about blogging.  Many successful bloggers are like the famed, cartoon-like motivational speaker Tony Robbins, who achieved great success simply by writing about achieving great success.   Quickly, I learned that the Tony Robbins of blogging is a guy named John Chow.  (I have just made him some more money with that link.)  He is a shameless self-promoter and purports to be nothing less:  “I make money online by showing you how to make money online.”

After spending a little bit of time on John’s site, I then looked at many of the other links on How to Build a High Traffic Website.  I then almost did something I shouldn’t have:  Act Impulsively.  It’s something I would never do when working for a client on a technical project.

Question:  Why is taking immediate action to achieve more traffic a bad thing?   

Answer:  You might do more harm than good. 

I will give you a couple of examples, two mistakes I made in the past that cost me both money and viewers in the short and long term.

The first cautionary tale is a hasty email decision that I made several years back.  I had created a website and I wanted to get the word out.  One suggestion I read was to generate an e-mail campaign.  I read all about the great amounts of traffic that could be generated from just one email campaign.  Companies were telling me that for $200 they could guarantee 100,000 visitors, all of whom would be people who voluntarily clicked-through to my website from their email.  $200 for 100,000 visitors.  What a deal! 

Now, at the same time, I was mindful of spam and did not want to send any unsolicited email.  But these email marketing companies guaranteed me that all of the people on their list had “opted-in”, meaning they wanted to receive my emails.  And, of course, I thought my product was great and everyone would want to receive my email!

I suppressed the little voice that was telling me something smells rotten in the state of Denmark.  I went ahead with the email campaign.

Well, of course, these companies had lied to me.  I did receive a good number of web site hits the day the campaign was launched, but nowhere near 100,000.  Were these hits genuine or were they just some sort of automated program pinging my site?  I’ll never know.  And the fact that everyone had “opted-in” and wanted to receive my email?  My domain got labeled as a spammer and then all of my emails were rejected by businesses with spam blockers.

And, adding insult to injury, my site wasn’t ready for the visitors that I did get.  I should have developed it more thoroughly before pursuing any campaign.

The second cautionary tale involves advertising on google several years back.  I had some pages and products that I really wanted to promote.  I had that get more traffic mentality.  Get more traffic…Get more traffic…Get more traffic.  You know the mindset.

So I hastily placed a google ad for my product.  The ad worked.  Google ads definitely work to bring people to your site.  But, once there, will your product sell?  And, more importantly, will they come back for more?  And perhaps even more importantly, does the pricing of your product justify the expense of advertising? 

All of these questions can be easily overlooked with your zest and zeal to get more traffic.  Get more traffic.

After placing the ad, my traffic spiked dramatically!  This added fuel to my fire.  I was getting massive amounts of traffic…and people were buying my product.  I was so excited about the traffic and the purchases that I was not asking the above questions.  I continued to let the ad run for one month with a $100 daily limit. 

At the end of the month, I had spent $3,000 on advertising.  Google loved me.  They were sending me gifts:  towels, USB keys, t-shirts.  I was big player.  And a naïve one.

The $3000 I spent yielded about $200 in purchases.  My site was not well-developed enough, not content rich enough, to foster repeat visitors nor justify the advertising expenditures.  I had my Get More Traffic blinders on and failed to step back and look at the big picture.  This difficult lesson cost me roughly $2800.

So, with these cautionary tales in mind, I know that I need a methodical plan to create traffic to my blog.

But yesterday, I got that Get More Traffic mojo going and almost fell back into the trap.  I had written an article entitled Hillary’s Hypocrisy, about Hillary Clinton’s recent claim that she is the only one who could bring an end to the war in Iraq.

This is a time-sensitive feature.  She made the claim yesterday and I wanted people to read my article.  In one week, it will be old news. 

And so I got that feeling again…get more traffic, get more traffic, get more traffic.  I visited many Get More Traffic blogs, all with links where I am able to submit my blog for consideration.  I visited three of the links.

  1. The first one required a sign-in name and password.
  2. The second one wanted $5.
  3. And the third one wanted me to put a link back to them on my site.

Hold on!  Stop right there!  That little voice was speaking.  And now, as I’ve matured a bit, I know when to listen.  Acting on these impulses may do more harm than good.

Is the site that wants to link back to me, by me putting their code in my site, reputable?  Are they a spammer?  Is the one that wants $5 any good?  If I have to pay for visitors, am I not creating compelling enough content to get them on my own? 

These are questions that I always ask when dealing with clients. 

And, now I realize, in promoting my websites and blogs, that I am my own client…and I need to treat myself that way.

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Richard Cummings

Richard Cummings is writer, traveler, and web content developer.

Get your copy of his latest book entitled Obvious Conclusions, stories of a Midwestern emigrant influenced and corrupted by many years living in San Francisco and abroad. It just received its first outstanding review "...reminiscent of David Sedaris or Augusten Burroughs" on Amazon UK.
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