Growing blog traffic is definitely an exciting motivator for every blogger – the growth in readership also means that your content is reaching more people and an indicator that your efforts are going in the right direction. I wanted to talk about some essential tools that I’ve been using to significantly grow traffic on this site for the past three months.
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Traffic Report (March 2020-May 2020)
First, I wanted to show some Google Analytics reports from March 2020-May 2020, the period where I saw the most growth.
March 2020: 4.3k total sessions
In February and March, I concentrated on reviving this blog. This meant scrubbing through old posts that were outdated, fixing broken links, and investing time and money in education. I took two courses on blogging that taught me how to approach it with a strategic plan. (I plan to elaborate on those courses in a future post.)
While traffic was higher than in February (you can see in the graph below March traffic in solid line vs. February traffic in dotted line), it wasn’t significantly higher until the spike toward the end of the month. My bounce rate and session duration also didn’t improve.
April 2020: 9.1k total sessions
April was an exciting month because this is where I saw my traffic double and the efforts that I made in Feb/Mar pay off relatively quickly. I think it’s because my site has been around since June 2018 so it had some domain authority and wasn’t “starting from scratch” so to speak.
Key Takeaway: Taking a good hard look at Google Analytics to see which were top-performing posts and optimizing those for search and readability made a huge difference in traffic. You can see in the graph below that unlike March, traffic is now steadily on the rise, and jumped up mid-April to average around 400 sessions a day.
May 2020: 19k total sessions
May had its up’s and down’s – on one hand, I saw my traffic double again, totaling almost 20k monthly sessions. However, it’s also a month where I’m seeing my traffic start to taper off instead of steadily climbing like it did in April.
I also experienced a sharp decline in traffic around the middle of the month because I migrated servers. I was using an old server and migrated it to Bluehost. Many bloggers recommend Bluehost as a hosting server for bloggers or digital marketers just starting out because plans are cheap (starting at just $2.95 a month).
While it is true that you definitely can get started easily and cheaply using Bluehost, I wouldn’t recommend it to people who already have an established blog and are trying to migrate it over. The migration process was pretty bad and my site was down for almost half a day. It impacted traffic that I am still trying to re-build.
Alternatives: If you’re a new blogger looking for affordable hosting, rather than Bluehost I actually recommend Siteground more. I have other sites that I host with Siteground and it’s been a better experience overall. It’s just as cheap, but the setup was easier and loading time is generally faster than Bluehost.
If you want to grow traffic, you’ll want to learn Google Analytics and get comfortable using it to analyze your traffic. On Google Analytics, you can see traffic patterns and user behaviors that can help you determine whether or not you’re moving in the right direction or develop a new strategy for growth if needed.
For example, my traffic used to be driven primarily by my Pinterest – this changed around in mid-April when it suddenly flipped.
As you can see in the below graph, Google and organic search started driving significantly more traffic to my site in the week of 4/19-4/25 and grew from that point. I believe this is because of the focus I placed on keyword research and optimization, signaling that I was doing something right.
Takeaway: Between March and May, the biggest lesson I learned was how to decide on topics to write about. Instead of randomly picking topics you think people want to read about, you should spend a lot of time researching topics and keywords that people are interested in.
Nowadays, content planning for my blog starts with keyword research. You have a lot of options when it comes to keyword research tools. I’ve used two personally that I can recommend: Ahrefs and Ubersuggest.
The first is a paid tool, Ahrefs, and I’m not going to lie – it is a pricey tool.
I signed up for their 7-day free trial and was able to get enough keyword ideas to generate content for the next 6-8 months. For new bloggers, I don’t think it’s necessary to invest in such a premium powerful keyword tool such as Ahrefs, but for more established bloggers who are already making some money, this can be a smart investment.
Ahrefs features that I liked: I was especially impressed by Ahrefs’ content gap analysis tool where they show you keywords that your competitors rank for that you don’t. By signing up for the free trial, I also get e-mail alerts whenever my articles move up/down in Google search rankings.
Because Ahrefs has so many features and tools, there is a steeper learning curve. It took me some time to get familiar with the interface of Ahrefs, so if you do sign up for Ahrefs, definitely plan some time to learning it so you can take advantage of all that it has to offer. Their blog also offers a lot of how to’s and resources that you can check out.
Ubersuggest is the daily tool I use for my keyword research. I use the free version and it gives me enough information for my current blogging purposes. I’ve also used the Site Audit tool to uncover a lot of improvements I needed to make on my site.
For new bloggers, I believe Ubersuggest is a good enough tool to plan out content and ensure that your site is in good SEO health.
Yoast WordPress Plug-in
Adding the Yoast SEO Plugin on WordPress should be a no-brainer. It analyzes the posts you write and checks it for optimizations you need to make for SEO purposes such as:
- keyword density
- outbound/internal links
- meta description optimization
Another feature I really like is the readability tab. Some bloggers overlook readability as an important factor that Google takes into account. Poor readability means poor site experiences, and that will hurt your site in the long run. Yoast will analyze your post and help give it a grade of green, yellow, or red for things like sentence length, subheading distribution, and active vs passive voice.
Page Speed Optimization Tools
Google continually rolls out updates to improve user experience and ensure that the search results they serve are the best and most relevant. It’s no secret that they’ve been increasing the importance of site speed as a search ranking criterion that can either help boost or decrease traffic to your site.
My site speed and loading time were pretty bad due to it being bloated with too many plug-in’s and using a shared hosting service such as Bluehost. I used the tools below to help improve my score. While I’m still not done completely optimizing my site’s speed, it’s definitely an improvement over where it was.
GTMetrix is a site speed analysis tool that will grade your website from 0 (poor) to 100 (best) and give you recommendations on how you can improve your speed.
Since I lack the technological know-how to go about fixing all of the recommended items on my site, I figured it would be easier to outsource this instead of spending hours doing it myself. I used the website Fiverr to look for someone who can help optimize my page speed.
Fiverr is an online marketplace to find freelance help for design, tech, marketing, translations, or videos, and animation. It’s rare that we have the ability to master everything at once so it’s nice to know you can outsource certain tasks to manage your time more efficiently.
I searched specifically for WordPress page speed optimization and many results came up. To be honest, all of the services provided seems to be the same, so I reached out to a seller who seems to know what he’s doing, and asked him how much my site speed can improve by.
After some back and forth, I bought his standard package service, and the work was completed in 2 days. All in all it cost me $32 – $30 for his services and $2 for the service fee that Fiverr charges.
Here is the GTmetrix report of my site before optimization:
Here is the GTmetrix report of my site after optimization:
WordPress Plugins for Google Rich Snippets
Google rich snippets appear in search results – you may have seen them before. There are a variety of different snippets, from ratings to FAQ’s to table of contents. These rich snippets help your result stand out from the rest of the search results and increase the likelihood of people clicking on your post over the others.
Here are three plugins I use on my site to help get Google rich snippets for my posts.
Table of Contents
As I’ve mentioned above, one of the features of the Yoast SEO tool is that it grades your posts on readability. The easier your posts are to read, the more likely your visitors will stay and read the whole thing. This is beneficial for two reasons: your session duration (how long visitors stay reading your content) will increase and your bounce rate (the rate at which visitors leave your site without visiting another page) stays low.
The Table of Contents plug in will help organize your post by headers. Headers help Google understand the flow of your content, and more important, helps to guide the reader when they’re digesting the information. By having a Table of Contents at the beginning of your post, you allow the reader to see what your article will cover and jump to the most relevant section if they wish.
The purpose of people visiting your site and content is generally to get the information they’re looking for as quickly as possible. If you can meet their expectations, it will help you build trust and relationship with the reader. This increases the likelihood of them re-visiting your site, or even better yet, following you on your social media channels.
WP Product Review Lite
If your site has reviews or ratings of any kind, installing the WP Product Review Lite plugin will help display your rating directly on the search result.
In addition, you will also get a snapshot summary of the review at the end of the post, populated by your rating.
Structured content is another plugin that I use to help organize my content for Google rich snippets. You can use Structured Content tool for FAQ’s, job postings, events, and courses.
During my keyword research process described above, I will uncover frequently asked questions about the ingredients and skincare products that I write about. I use this Structured Content tool to format the questions and answers in the post so that it will show up in search results as rich snippets seen below.
Formatting your content so that Google can crawl your pages easily and display it in a way that encourages clicks in search results helped me go from under 5k monthly sessions to almost 20k monthly sessions in just three months.
For my next steps, I want to focus on optimizing my page load speed even more, and will document those steps in a separate blog post once I’ve successfully achieved this goal.