How to attract traffic to your blog without selling out

“Are you going to SEO optimize your blog to help people find it?” – My partner, last night.

I guess, if you’re reading this, to some extent, I did. Or else you were hoping to buy the domain and found that some half-assed blogger got there first. Or maybe, no one is here and I held true to my creative principles. If a blogger writes a smug post about holding true to their ideals, but no one is there to read it, did it really happen?

This battle – whether to compromise creative freedom in pursuit of commercial success – is one I’ve been having a lot.

It’s not just me. One of my friends recently worked out that the Instagram algorithm seems to massively favor their reels that use trending music vs. the ones that use non-trending tracks.

Knowledge is power, right? Right. But in this case it’s also a massive downer. Making reels had once been a creative outlet for my friend. Now she had to choose between shoehorning content to fit a trending track, or sticking to her guns and knowing the Instagram algorithm would file her reel in ‘swallow for all eternity’.

That’s how I feel about SEO as well. My heart says ‘just write what you feel’. My head says, ‘ha! go ahead – enjoy your two readers a month’. But the thought of keyword analysis and content buckets and mind maps is making me feel… ICK. Lucky this is an anonymous blog so I don’t even have to wrestle with whether I should bring over our SEO consultant from the main business to work his magic over here.

So what are the alternatives? How can you get people to see your creative content without having to totally sell out?

(a) Word of Mouth

What better than a recommendation from someone you know and trust? Encouraging your friends and family to read your blog, and tell their friends and family too is the perfect way to get the ball rolling with your first blog traffic.

…except for the fact that I’ve totally scuppered myself here by writing an anonymous blog, so I can hardly tell my friends and family to swing by and have a read! Having said that, I could post anonymously about it somewhere like Reddit and hope that curiosity leads the occasional reader here.

Once people do visit the blog, I could also encourage (maybe even incentivize?) any readers I do manage to get to tell their friends and family. I’ll have a little think about how to do that in the coming weeks.

(b) Paid Ads

We’re talking things like Google PPC, Facebook Ads, that kinda thing. Most will care to a certain extent about the content of the page you send the paid traffic too – e.g. that you didn’t make an ad saying ‘get a free box of chocolates’ and then when people click through it’s a page about crypto. But they won’t exert the same creative control as seeking organic traffic through SEO.

The downside is that it’s… well, paid. That’s all well and good if you’ve monetized your blog in such a way that you’re getting a profit on your ad spend. But that’s not the case with this blog, and I’m not vain or wealthy enough to pay for readers for the sheer kick of it. So paid ads are off the table for now!

(c) Guest Posting

The idea is that you write a blog post but instead of it being published on your site, you convince someone who already has traffic (ideally in a related area) to publish it on theirs. For them, it’s free content. For you, it’s a chance to speak to a readership who are potentially going to want to read more of your content, and you’ll be able to mention your own blog somewhere in the post so that they can potentially follow you there. There’s also an SEO boost on offer if the guest post is published on a website with higher authority than yours, and includes a link back to your website. Win, win!

This actually sounds pretty good. I’ll probably give this a shot in the near future, and I’ll write about the process in full here so you can see how it pans out.

(d) Press

I was just thinking about the list of podcasts I subscribe to, and how I came across them. I’d say about 80% were word of mouth recommendations. About 10% were featured on other podcasts I already listened to as a ‘guest episode’ that I enjoyed. And the last 10% I read about in the press, because they were making waves like Serial or had a cult following like Criminal.

It’s a principle that can work well for a blog, and you don’t have to go to the national press. For example, for this blog I could find other niche publications (blogs, magazines, websites) related to entrepreneurship and pitch them the idea of writing about an anonymous ecommerce CEO who writes articles that are seriously long and rambling like this one. Sorry, brevity was never my strong suit!

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