This is an actual traffic graph for my website last week.
Traffic in general increased by 439%. Traffic from Twitter increased by 10 times. I know it sounds like a line straight out of Cash4Gold, but it’s true. I used no special tricks. I did not pull any favours. I did the same amount of work. I actually posted less. All I actually did differently was correct a simple mistake I habitually made without thinking about it. This is a mistake you probably make too, and it’s very simple to fix.
Like me, you probably have a small-to-medium sized blog, with readers from just a few visits a day to several thousand. Like me, you think you’re doing your best, and you aren’t entirely clear on how to improve. Also like me, you feel that “your time will come” or something, and that slow and steady wins the race. Yet another part of you wishes you had a bigger audience right now.
Well, what if you could get both?
I’ve spent a lot of time over the past month studying how good bloggers get traffic to their sites and keep it there. Many of these people, I know personally, but never asked them for advice, and didn’t do what they did.
I went at it my own way. That was stubborn and stupid.
The result was a smaller, less responsive audience… an audience I care about a lot, actually, but with a growth curve that wasn’t satisfying for the work I was putting in. Like you, I work hard on the posts I put out and make sure they’re very interesting, and that’s very satisfying.
But the posts were not working for me. They were throwaways– not investments. They weren’t delivering what I needed once they were out in the wild. To do that, they needed more.
So, here it is. Here is the problem I solved and, along with it, the results.
Stop writing 7/10 posts
Be honest with yourself. Like me, most of your posts are probably pretty boring. The content itself may be fine (I’m very proud of mine), but the way in which they’re delivered is probably kind of dull. Some of my favourite posts on this blog have great content. But they need better delivery.
Examples include All Belief is Religion, which I love but was Facebook liked by no one, and The Privatization of Culture and Illusion of Depth, which is so obscure that it’s a miracle it even got any views at all (mostly from existing subscribers, I’m guessing).
If you’re anything like me, you write your posts, and your titles, with yourself as audience. This results in a majority of posts which rank 6, 7, or 8/10 with the outside world.
Last week, if I didn’t have a 10/10 post, I didn’t publish at all. This resulted in three posts instead of 5-7, and many more subscribers than I’ve gotten in previous weeks combined.
The real breakthrough
Here’s the main thing, though– the real transformation. When I stopped accepting 7/10 posts, I also stopped having 7/10 ideas. I started having 10/10 ideas, and suddenly I started recognizing them, and I suddenly had three in the span of one week.
Much of the difference has to do with titles, as well as opening statements. This post from last week started as You Are Nowhere Near the Edge before I realized I could do better. As a result, it became the most liked, tweeted, and commented-on post in the history of my site. But the content was the same.
But that post wasn’t alone– the whole week was better. I was able to produce writing that will work for me longer than any posts I’ve written in probably the last year. I can only imagine if I’d written posts like this one with this principle in mind.
This realization is frustrating, because it feels like a lot of time and effort was wasted. Fine, but this means you already have a bunch of ideas you can call upon and improve– in my case, this means years of backlog you can work with.
This week helped define what I wanted to be to my audience, and it helped me understand what I wanted this blog to be about. It helped me see what people on Twitter respond to. I had a kind of realization, one in which the content really does market itself, and if it doesn’t, it’s because the delivery is simply not strong enough.
You know this already
What’s nuts about this is that I’m telling you stuff you already know. I knew all of these things going in too. I wrote a bestselling book about the social web, for God’s sake. I would never advise a client to write posts like I did– instead, I would advise them to write things like 23 Snacks For All-Night Gaming, which hit the top of Digg pretty much as soon as it was published, and built audience and links very easily, because that’s what it was designed to do.
But I wouldn’t take my own advice. Why? Because I thought I knew better. And yet, I can look at tons of “social media experts” or whatever and point to all this content that simply does not cut it. But they don’t know how to fix it. They don’t know it’s a mistake because it’s inside their own gates.
You have to push how edgy your content is, and how sticky it is. Add handles, make it more blunt, or appeal more specifically to an audience. Push it closer to the edge. If you do this, it will get retweeted, and linked to, more. Your content deserves this.
At the beginning of this article, I stated that you could triple your traffic from Twitter. Using the stuff stated above, I actually multipled it by 10. So I’m being conservative with this headline, instead of hyperbolic. But think about it this way: Triple the traffic means triple the chance for a subscriber, and triple the chance for a comment. It means triple the chance for a tweet, too. Finally, it means triple your chance to have an impact on the people that need it.
At some point, it may not be necessary, and you can be like Seth Godin and publish whatever you like. Until then, follow this advice. If you feel that this is “below you,” and that you’re better than needing to resort to “cheap tricks,” I suggest you read about the archetypes of the fool and the trickster. Realize that the only way to get speak the truth to power (tell people what they really need to hear) is first by getting them to listen. It’s all fine and good if you want to sit in your corner, but I’d prefer to have a wide reach. I imagine you do too.
So try it. And good luck. Let me know how it goes by leaving a comment, and please tweet this out if you feel it’s useful. Thanks. :)