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Adii Pienaar

Now working on Receiptful. Co-Founder & ex-CEO of WooThemes. Author of Brandiing. New Dad. Ex-Rockstar.

How I Grew My Blog Traffic By 300%

I started this year with a very clear goal in mind: build as big an audience (and mailing list) of like-minded entrepreneurs as I possibly can.<...>

Ever since pressing pause on PublicBeta, I knew that I'd eventually work on the next thing. And whenever that time came, I wanted to be armed and ready.

In this sense, that meant crafting the foundation from which I'd be able to launch easily, effectively and efficiently.

To help me accomplish that I set myself the goal of trying to write daily and - importantly - publishing a new article every weekday.

The daily writing was part of my own therapy, but the publishing was purely down to growing an audience of people that appreciates the stuff I put out here.

So first off, I actually accomplished this goal and I published 23 articles on here last month. This is what my writing stats looks like:

  • Documents: 32
  • Words: 22 164
  • Characters: 124 970
  • (Time Spent: Approximately 20 hours)

The second thing to ask though would be how effective this regular publishing was in achieving my goals?

This is what my Google Analytics traffic looks like for January 2014 (compared to January 2013):

Google Analytics January

In addition to my blog traffic, both my mailing list (by 49%) and Twitter followers (by 1%) trended upwards and to the right:

Mailing List January

Twitter Followers January

The point of this post wasn't boast of course. Even though, I'm pretty happy with the results.

Instead I wanted to share a few thoughts and tactics on why and how I think these results came to be...

1. Regular Writing AND Publishing

The first thing to note about the data and the growth is that there was a massive difference in the amount of articles I published last month versus January last year: 3 vs 23.

In fact, in the whole of 2013 I only published 81 articles here. So publishing 23 in one month means I've written almost a third of my annual contribution already.

There's many benefits to writing and publishing this regularly, but two stand out (for very different reasons):

  1. Practice makes perfect and the more you do it, the easier it becomes. As the month progressed, I found it increasingly easy to sit down, write and publish. At this stage, I can easily knock out between 700 - 1000 words for an article within about 40 minutes. Over-and-above the things I've written too, I've captured (and am working on) more than 40 ideas for future articles. So both the writing and what-to-write-about bits are skills I developed.
  2. Regular publishing creates a consistent drumbeat. This is something that I remember from the time when WooThemes work with an external PR agency; the PR team would always tell me that the key to gaining publicity is to create that consistent drumbeat. I'd like to think that publishing a new article daily helped craft a consistent habit for those within my audience, who would come back and read my stuff. This is also suggested by the relatively consistent traffic throughout the month, with no one day or one article that tended to be an outlier in terms of its performance.

To achieve all of this, I've learnt two very important things:

  1. I needed to stop being the writer that I'm not; and
  2. Writing is all about doing (something else) first.

Both of those lessons has had a major impact on my writing habits and this ultimately helped me write and publish with greater consistency and quality.

2. Leveraging a Mailing List

Not having had - or properly used - a mailing list in the past, is one of my biggest regrets.

As I've slowly been building a mailing list since August last year, I've tried various different things to actually use that captured attention to help me succeed with my goals.

First up though, I've tried to be as authentic, altruistic and helpful as I possibly could via my mailing list. The aim has been to build relationships and get to know the individuals that value my experience enough to give me their e-mail address. Whilst I know this won't scale, this is something that I can still do comfortably now.

For starters, I've tried sending various types of weekly newsletters to my list:

All three of these have been successful, but it's especially the latter two that have managed to drive quite a bit of traffic back to my block. This is also why you'd notice that almost half of my traffic are from returning visitors, which in turn supports my notion of quality over quantity.

Beyond this, I've also implemented a tiny hack on my mailing list that automatically follows up with a new subscriber after a couple of days and exposes that individual to some of my best content. This has been so successful in driving traffic that I'm already working on a separate article to share insights into this.

3. Using Twitter

Twitter is still were the majority of my audience (almost 17 000 followers) resides, even though the engagement and conversion rates are totally shit. (Which is why I've been figuring out ways to get my Twitter followers to give me their e-mail address instead.)

I use Buffer for all of my tweets within the week. My tweet schedule currently sees me tweeting 10 days during. Of those 10 tweets, 4 are normally links to my content and the other 6 is links to other content that I've enjoyed or found valuable.

The key take-away here though is how I've structured those 4 tweets that are designed to drive traffic back to my blog:

  • At 12pm GMT+2, I tweet a link to the new article that I published that day. This is within my secondary time-zone in terms of reach.
  • In the next couple of hours (amongst tweets linking to other stuff), I tweet a link to an article that I published in the last week. This is either the article from the day before or sometimes the article that had gotten the most traffic in the last week.
  • At 9pm GMT+2, I publish 2 tweets (with links) within 5 minutes of each other. Both tweets contain links to the new article that I published on this day and I tend to use two, different formats with different content for these two tweets. This is my primary time-zone in terms of reach and that's the reason for the 2 tweets (which casts a wider net).

Even though engagement and conversion from Twitter kinda sucks, Twitter is still responsible for driving up to 40% of my traffic on a daily basis. Buffer - and this tactical approach - helps me to maintain that consistent drumbeat and do so on auto-pilot.

4. Being Unashamedly Me

The previous three things can mostly be considered as tactical things. This one is different in the sense that there is no, real purposeful decision behind this.

If you read every piece I wrote last month, you'll likely experience the rollercoaster of emotion that I've experienced.

This is partly down to the fact that I've always worn my heart on my sleeve and that I'm generally okay in sharing the more personal things that are on my mind.

These things aren't always easy to admit, because it is sometimes like airing out my dirty laundry. But this is part-and-parcel of all of the experience (about entrepreneurship and startups) that I had acquired over the years.

I think - or I'd like to believe - that this has become a key feature of my writing. You may not get the best (or the definitive) tactical advice on any given topic here, but hopefully you'll relate to the personal challenges associated with every task, project or challenge that I ever talk about here.

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