Nearly every day I receive some variation of this question – “How do I drive more traffic to my blog?” I would go as far to say that there seems to be an obsession with traffic among bloggers.

In my opinion, this is the wrong question to ask if your goal is to build and sustain a successful personal blog.  In fact, the pursuit of traffic may actually be working against your success.

Picking the right measure for success is vitally important because it should drive all of your blogging efforts.  For the sake of this post I’ll assume most people reading {grow} want to build a blog community that will enhance their personal reputation, business opportunities, and financial gain.

In his remarkable classic (and one of my favorite books) Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t, Jim Collins articulates this better than I ever could. He describes how choosing the right metric is absolutely essential to creating sustainable success in a business. It drives laser-like focus and an activity level driven toward that goal. The same goes for blogging.

The myth of blog traffic

If you really want to build community, is it smart to focus your precious time on driving traffic?  Spend some time with the Google Analytics for your blog.  Click around on the statistics from people who are new visitors — “traffic” that arrived via search. How much time did they spend on your blog?  Probably an average of 0.0 seconds right?  How many page views?  The same. It’s traffic, but it’s empty.

Have you ever had a post go viral — that special day that drives the massive traffic that everybody seems to want?  What were the results? Did you get any new subscribers? A surge in comments?  Probably not.  In fact in my experience, other than a spike in daily “traffic” the result in terms of new readers is zero.  Last summer I had one post average 10 hits a second and a week later my blog subscriptions were LOWER. My point is, a focus on traffic and hoping that a post will catch fire is probably an ineffective way to build blog community in the long-term.

The alternative metric

Now look at the statistics of the people who are return visitors to your blog. These are the people who love you and are engaging with you. You are on your way to creating powerful business relationships with them. They are the good folks who will help you grow organically.

Does it really make sense to place most of your effort into driving a continuous stream of strangers to your blog?  Seeking “traffic” generates tourists to your blog. Focusing on content and your readers generates residents for your blog.

If you’re a “solo blogger” like me — balancing blogging with family and worklife – where you spend your time is a big decision.  If your goal is to drive “massive traffic,” you are probably expending effort on:

  • SEO keyword research and tools
  • Writing posts that are keyword heavy that are most likely to catch a wave of search visitors. By definition, if you are focused on keywords you are probably writing about the same things as everybody else.
  • Promotional efforts focused on the low probability that your post will catch fire

If you concentrate on serving the people who read your blog in a way that will encourage them to come back, you would spend your time on:

  • Unique and refreshing content no matter what the popular keywords are.
  • High engagement with people who comment on your blog today.
  • High connection on a personal level — including email, phone calls, and visits – with individual bloggers and commenters who would likely enjoy your blog and become regular readers.

You can see that there is a dramatic difference in approach. And there will be a dramatic difference in results.

Spending time trolling for readers who might stick around based on a chance meeting with your site is blogging alchemy. The real gold is produced by nurturing relationships with devoted readers who will carry the message of your blog to their friends organically.

Steady gains mean a sustainable community

On a daily basis, I have no idea how much traffic is coming to my blog, but I can always tell you how many return visitors came back that day.  Driving that number up over time is helping me focus on the right value-adding efforts that build a strong community that will be generating valuable business benefits.  And believe me — this is a very sensitive metric. When I write great posts, people come back.   Focusing on this number teaches me how to create a better blog for everybody!

If you adopt this slow and steady approach, at some point, you’ll reach a tipping point where enough people are spreading the word, and their friends are spreading the word, that you begin to see ALL your numbers start to go up.

If you have a corporate blog, I recognize that your goals may be more focused on specific lead generation and maybe SEO does make a lot of sense.  But if you’re like me — trying to build meaningful business relationships — think about taking care of those return blog visitors as your first priority.

Are you serious about building a loyal community?  There are no SEO shortcuts or silver bullets.  You have to build a blog community just like you build your customer base — one person, one connection, one relationship at a time. And that starts with correctly identifying your goals and how you are going to spend your time.

So what are you waiting for?  Let’s get to work!

What’s working for you?  Community? SEO? Or both?

Note: The link to Good to Great is an affiliate link.

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