I asked my Twitter community for some tips on increasing hits on my blog, and I got some really helpful answers.
I’ve been blogging since 2012, first at Blogger.ca, and then in 2013 I switched to WordPress and the site you see here. After six years I would have expected to have some pretty decent traffic to my blog, but I don’t. A friend of mine who no longer has time to post to her blog gets far more hits than I do, and she’s not even creating new content.
I decided I needed to do something about this. Why? Do I want to be more famous? Do I have a specific threshold readership I’m trying to reach? No to both of these. Mostly I think I have interesting things to say, and I want to broaden my reach so that I can hopefully engage in broader, shared conversations about topics that come up on this blog.
I decided to poll my Twitter community for advice. I could have googled “drive traffic to your blog,” and I did, but I found the advice was really impersonal and generic. I was looking for a more personal spin on things.
So here you have it: 9 tips for increasing your reach on social media, courtesy of my friends on Twitter.
1. Post more often.
I already post once a week, every Wednesday at 8.30am. I get emails from people telling me that they’re always so glad to get an email notification every Wednesday which means I’ve posted a new blog for them to read.
But twice a week might draw in a few more people. Thanks to my sister’s suggestion (@storied_selves), I’ve decided to also do a Saturday post. This will be called “Saturday Shot,” and will feature a photo I’ve taken along with a brief blurb. I did the first one this past weekend, with my new-to-me typewriter. So Saturday posts are shorter, and focused on photography. Which is probably a good thing because it will make me take my camera out more regularly.
2. Add a “dek” – a 1-2 sentence summary at the beginning of your post. Thanks to Zazie Todd (@companimalpsych) for this tip. According to the article I linked to, a dek “helps readers get an idea of the story and make a decision about whether they should continue on to read the full article. [It also] informs the reader about the topic at hand, and usually complements or further explains the headline.”
So now, instead of hunting through the text to figure out what I’m talking about, the reader can see a brief synopsis right off the bat. I will be retroactively adding these to my existing blog posts.
3. Write specific types of posts like this one (“9 ways to X Y Z”), or “How I Did X,” or “What I Learned from Y.” Thanks to Katherine Firth (@katrinafee) for these tips. Her note reminded me that one of our most popular posts ever on Science Borealis is a listicle. People like to see in advance what they’re in for – even before they read the dek. And people like to see that they might come away with some new knowledge.
4. Make sure you’ve got good SEO in your website code.
Basically what you do is go into the code of your site and add keywords in the backend that something like Google will pick up when someone is doing a search. This is a great idea (thanks Elizabeth Holdsworth – @eaholdsworth), but because I use the free version of WordPress, I don’t have this option. I am considering moving to a privately hosted site using a CSS site template so that I can get into the back end and do whatever SEO optimization I can, but this is more of a long-term goal.
5. Share your posts with other bloggers
This came from Anna Garleff (@annagarleff) and is a tough one for me, because it requires self-promotion and I often feel a little queasy about that. She suggested I “send [my] missives to successful blogs published elsewhere – big names with big readerships, always inviting them back to [my] own blog for more, of course.” I know this works, because the one time I shared a blog post with Rob Macfarlane, the UK’s most well-known nature writer, he retweeted it and a ton of people read it.
What I’ve started doing is tagging people who are mentioned or whose work is mentioned in my blog post. For this post, for example, I’ll tag everyone who provided a tip for this list. But I think I have to consider larger blog platforms with whom I can share my posts.
On a related note, a couple of my Twitter friends (e.g., @StephenBHeard) asked me to tag them when I have a new blog post out, so that they can share it with their audience. That was really kind of them and I appreciate it. This will do a lot to expand my reach.
6. Ensure your posts are readable.
This tip was also from Anna Garleff and makes complete sense. You don’t want to post a bunch of gobbledygook that no one can understand. I’m fairly certain I write highly readable posts, but the issue may be that I get a bit philosophical. I’m not a “hands-on, this is what I did and now I’m going to write about it” blogger. I’m more of an “I read this cool thing that relates to these other cool things in ways you haven’t thought of yet but I’m here to show you” blogger.
I think my writing is accessible and I strive to use plain language. But it’s definitely not basic – and I wouldn’t want it to be. I’ll stick with my current writing style and aim for more readers like me. 🙂
7. Cover topical media issues
This was a tip from Manu Saunders (@manusaunders). This is a good way to get your post seen and heard – to link to what’s happening in the world today. I do this regularly on my blog, with posts about Stephen Harper, Donald Trump, the Ford-Kavanaugh hearings, wildfires, etc.
People are hungry for information beyond the news. I wrote a guest post for Science Borealis about the Fort McMurray wildfires, and it was their second most read post ever (after that listicle I mentioned above). My annual posts about the wildfire situation in the west are also a good draw.
I don’t want to *only* cover newsworthy items. But I see the value in them, and will keep covering them as I can. Perhaps I’ll try to cover one news item a month.
8. Create shorter weblinks to your posts.
When I write a blog post in WordPress, it automatically assigns it a URL. But I can go in and manually change that URL to make it shorter and to the point. Anne-Marie Cenaiko (@acenaiko) suggested that I do this so people get a better sense of what they’re linking to. It’s kind of like when you copy a link from a newsletter and it has a whole bunch of extra stuff attached to it – it’s always easier to clean up the link and make it clear where it’s pointing to.
9. Cross post blog posts on Medium
This was a suggestion from Phillip Smith (@phillipadsmith), who runs a Journalist Entrepreneurship Boot Camp. His note reminded me that I already have a Medium account that I can use, and under which I’d already published a few posts. Also Medium has a much broader reach than just a single WordPress blog.
I’ve started cross-posting my more popular blogs to Medium just to see how it works out. No “claps” yet (same as “likes” in Facebook), but if you want to see what I’m posting over there you can click here.
So there you have it: 9 ways to increase reach. I’ll let you know how they work out.