Author Blogging 101: 11 Sources of Organic Traffic

by Joel Friedlander on February 27, 2012 · 26 comments

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When we talk about building an author blog, we’re talking about getting more visitors. For most bloggers, readership size will be the way they usually measure their blog’s growth.

Nonfiction authors will have more ways to measure the success of their blogs, like converting visitors into subscribers or buyers, but you need to have visitors—traffic—to prosper in almost all cases.

In the first article about blog traffic in this series we looked at three kinds of traffic you can get to your blog:

  1. Organic traffic, that is traffic from links in content that somehow relates to your own subject matter
  2. Search engine traffic, sent to your blog in response to people’s searches
  3. Paid traffic, coming from advertisements or other links you pay for.

Now we’ll focus on many of the ways you can develop organic traffic to grow your blog, your readership and eventually your book sales.

Two Kinds of Organic Traffic

The simplest way to understand organic traffic is to divide it into two kinds:

  • traffic from links you create
  • traffic from links other people create

Obviously, the big difference here is that you can control over the first kind, but have little say over the second.

Since links that will send traffic to your site have to be on other sites, placing these links means you have to have access to sites that allow you to create a link.

This leads us directly to the best places to create these organic links, and there are a lot of them. Let’s have a look at some of the options you have, then we’ll be able to come up with a strategy that will start to bring in traffic right away.

But First, a Word About “Do-Follow/No-Follow”

There are actually two ways links can help you, and it pays to understand them before we go any further.

  1. Visitors—Someone visiting another website can click a link that will bring them to your blog.
  2. “Juice”—A link from a site with more authority, a higher rank with search engines or a longer lifespan can confer some of that authority to your site by linking to it.

However, due to a fair amount of abuse in the past by people trying to artificially enhance their site’s ranking, many sites now tag the links people leave in comments on a blog as “no-follow” links.

This means that none of the blog’s authority will “follow” the link to the site being linked to.

However, since we’re focused on traffic in this article, this makes very little difference. Visitors can still click these links and go to your site, with “juice” or without it. So let’s focus on those visitors.

11 Ways to Get Started Linking for Traffic

If you think about it, you’ll quickly see that social media presents the easiest opportunities to create links back to your site. That’s because social media always allows interaction, and it’s through the tools of interaction on the social web that we can build a network of links that can grow to a huge web, each node of which is a point of entry to your blog.

Doesn’t that sound exciting?

Take it from me, it is.

Here’s a list of some of the places you can be thinking about as great places to start your link-building campaign.

  1. Blog comments—One of the best tools to start your link building because it can also help you develop your relationships with other bloggers in your niche. In most commenting systems, the link to your site is embedded in your name, but some also allow you to add another link that will pull in your latest blog post.
  2. Guest posts—When you post an article on someone else’s blog as a guest author, you have the chance to link back to a couple of relevant articles on your own blog. You’ll also get to add an author bio with links.
  3. Status updates—Facebook, Google+ and other social networks encourage you to share great content, and you need a link to direct people to that content.
  4. Twitter links—One of the most popular uses of Twitter is to create a great short headline and combine it with a link. Responsive followers will re-post your link to their own networks.
  5. Forum discussions—It seems like there are forums for every interest online, and finding a couple in your subject area can be a real boon. Posting useful content will allow you to link back, when appropriate, to your own blog.
  6. Social signatures—Every time you create an account somewhere, you’ll be asked to complete your profile. Don’t neglect these opportunities to link to your blog, and don’t neglect your “signature” file either, which appears whenever you post something. Links in signatures can be creatively crafted and quite effective.
  7. Google profile—Even if you don’t want to use Google+, you should have a Google profile. It only takes a few minutes but it’s well worthwhile.
  8. Email signatures—What’s in your email signature? Do you link to your writer’s blog or mention a recent book? Think of how many emails you send per week, and you’ll see these links can help you, too.
  9. Article marketing—Nonfiction authors have been using article marketing for years to expand their influence, raise their search rankings and draw targeted traffic to their sites. It’s not hard or very time-consuming, and you can link back both from the body of your article as well as your bio at the end. When these articles are re-published by others, the links multiply.
  10. Online press releases—Even if your budget is challenged, you can use free press release services to spread news and updates about your books or linking your books to current events through well-crafted press releases. Links in the article and in the contact info section of the release also multiply when news sites or other bloggers pick up the releases.
  11. New services—There are social sites appearing constantly online. We would all go crazy trying to keep up with them, but ones that catch your attention, that are becoming popular, deserve a look. Recently services like Instagram, About.me and Pinterest have gained big followings. Each gives you an opportunity to put more links out in the big world.

Your Linking Strategy

The most important thing to remember about building this network of links is that it will take time.

Each of the places in the list above might only generate a few clicks, if that. It’s the cumulative effect of all those clicks that will eventually create a steady stream of visitors to your blog.

Some of these will take more time than others. If you’re trying to grow your blog, it’s a good idea to comment regularly on a select group of other blogs that have a lot of traffic, and where you can make comments that add to the discussion. That’s part of your basic blog marketing and networking, so it doesn’t require an additional strategy.

Getting into article marketing takes more time, but with a couple of dozen articles you can develop from your existing content, you can generate thousands of visits over time. Once the articles are done, it’s all automatic.

Forum and email signatures and social media profiles are quick to update. Change them when you have a special promotion or a particularly good piece of content to share. Otherwise, set them up and you’re done.

Guest posts and press releases are most often tactics we use in larger, strategic operations like a book launch or blog tour. But you can use them for special events and tie-ins to events that draw massive media exposure, too.

Getting Started on Your Link Campaign

As with everything else you do to market your blog, I think the best advice is to start with one or two things that are simple and repeatable. You’ll get the most effect initially by setting up all the static links like profiles and signatures, so do those first.

Then pick one tactic that appeals to you and spend 10 to 20 minutes a day on it. Don’t do this stuff for hours, because you will burn out and that won’t help you in the long run.

It’s amazing how quickly your network of links will grow with small, regular efforts. And every one of those organic links you’ve placed will be in content that appeals to the readers most likely to be interested in your own content.

You are building hundreds or thousands of doorways to your author blog, and as you grow more and more people will come through those doors to visit you.

Next up, we’ll look at the other kind of links, the ones you have no control over, but which can have the biggest impact of all.

Photo: heath.windcliff

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    { 20 comments… read them below or add one }

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    Shahzad July 8, 2012 at 2:52 pm

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    Reply

    Network Marketing, Home Business March 31, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    You have probably heard the term “blogging,” but may not know exactly what it means. According to Webster, a blog (or weblog) is an online personal journal. However, that definition has changed and grown since it was originally conceived almost 20 years ago. Wikipedia has the more updated definition as a method of tracking and commenting on events, articles, graphics, and even videos.
    BlackHat IM Marketing
    Nathan Ethans

    Reply

    Jacob Avery March 18, 2012 at 12:48 am

    Without question, one of the smartest moves a nonfiction author can make is to begin blogging as soon as possible. Blogging is an excellent way to start attracting readers interested in your subject specialty. In addition, it builds your authority in your specialty and provides a substantial boost for you in your book’s niche.

    Reply

    Ted Nottingham March 14, 2012 at 9:06 am

    Dear Joel,

    Having known and worked with you some twenty years ago as a master craftsman in the world of book publishing, I am delighted to discover your superlative material for the self-publishing revolution in this digital age. I came across some words of yours not long ago that inspired me to risk repackaging and rethinking the presentation of material in order to make it more marketable. In other words, your advice encouraged me to take an existing product and transform it for new presentation. I can tell you that I have found significant success and response with that simple creative approach made possible by the technology and age in which we live.
    Thank you for continuing to be that master craftsman in this new day when all the rules have changed.
    Wishing you and your family the very best.

    Ted Nottingham

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander March 14, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    Ted,

    Thanks much for your comment. I’m very glad you found some practical value and inspiration of a kind in the writing I’ve been doing. I was just talking to someone last week about the Durckheim book we did together, and I remember the entire experience with great fondness.

    Ted, you must have a huge amount of content from your many years of writing, and I would encourage you to explore publishing your material, especially in ebooks, which can be done very inexpensively and pretty quickly. High quality content is the basis for many online enterprises, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to take advantage of the new publishing technologies the web has to offer.

    Very glad to hear from you, and thanks for visiting the blog.

    Reply

    P B Dillon February 28, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    Great post as usual, Joel. I can’t help but wonder, though, if all this focus on link-building in the conscious, dedicated manner isn’t counter to what authors should really be doing, which is writing great books and letting them act as natural link-bait…

    It’s a chicken-and egg question that I haven’t figured out yet. One part of me says, ‘well , it hasn’t worked that way so far, so why not do it the way Joel says?’. And yet, another part of me thinks, ‘Just get on and finish that next book. Get famous enough to generate a positive feedback loop, and go from there.’

    Perhaps you’ll address this (or amybe you already have?) in another post some day…

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander February 29, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    P B,

    Interesting point, but I’m not sure I agree, and one of the reasons is the terrible sadness of abandoned blogs. Why are they abandoned? Often, it looks like it’s because there were no readers, and that’s either because the blog was terrible, or (more likely) the author had no idea how to market the blog. That’s where linking comes in. This type of strategy really can be done in under 30 minutes a day, so it’s quite efficient.

    And yes, I’m writing about that in this series also.

    Reply

    Matt February 28, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    It seems number 1 and 5 (Blog comments and Forum Discussions) make up a majority of website link traffic.

    What do you think, 80% combined, the rest left at 2% here, 3% there? Of course they all add up, maybe a synergistic effect, but maybe to allocate one’s time, maybe at least half on just those two, get to the rest with time left over..

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander February 29, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Matt, you are right, and the reason is that blog commenting and forum participation yield far more than just links, and they really ought to be part of most nonfiction author’s marketing.

    Reply

    Louis Shalako February 28, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    Thanks, Joel;

    I had only an instinctive understanding of linking when I began, so thank you for the specific suggestions. One time I had 4,000 page hits and I had no idea where they came from. It was only later when I realized that I had commented in a major newspaper on a major topic, and they had a link field which I filled in. Never comment anonymously if you can help it. A friend of mine has an author links page, and while it seemed like a lot of work at the time, I’m thinking it’s either readers or writers looking for tips that would consititute the major audience. So now, I have little choice but to build one. The whole audience identification thing has great relevance for a writer, whether it’s for a blog or the books themselves.

    Reply

    Wendy A.M. Prosser February 27, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    What Johanna said!

    Reply

    Johanna van zanten February 27, 2012 at 7:27 am

    Hi Joel,
    Thanks again for that comprehensive and clear post. I will certainly start the strategies for expanding followers for my blog; your posts and your generosity are much appreciated by a new blogger.
    Johanna van Zanten

    Reply

    Ryan Hanley February 27, 2012 at 6:18 am

    Joel,

    I have found commenting on blogs I enjoy and share similar communities with to be a very powerful source of traffic.

    I know that some experts will say that blog commenting takes too much time but I’ve found the traffic to lasting versus the fleeting traffic you may get using other tactics.

    Plus you can really target the type of traffic you want to draw.

    Thanks for a great article. I pinned it to this week’s Content Creation Curation… http://pinterest.com/ryanhanley/week-6-content-creation-curation/

    Ryan H.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander February 27, 2012 at 10:58 am

    Thanks, Ryan, I haven’t delved into pinterest yet.

    It does take time to comment on blogs if you’re going to do more than leave a “Hey dude, great post” comment. But I see that as a benefit rather than a penalty.

    Leaving substantative comments on top blogs gives you exposure to a whole new audience. And if that’s what you’re trying to accomplish, it’s much better to put some thought into what you’re writing.

    Much maligned, blog commenting remains a powerful way to find readers, become part of the ongoing conversation in your niche and begin establishing relations with other bloggers.

    Reply

    Turndog Millionaire February 27, 2012 at 5:30 am

    As always, great post. Totally agree with the ‘one or two things good, rather than a lot bad’ mentality. It can take a while to get into a groove, i know i am still doing so, but it begins to get easier and you find your fave sites and methods

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

    ps. I plan on writing some Guest Posts on the train to London tomorrow, so will be sure to send an idea or two your way

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander February 27, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Looking forward to it, Matt.

    Reply

    Toni @Duolit February 27, 2012 at 4:42 am

    Great overview, Joel! Attempting to understand the ins and outs of dealing with search engines can be uber-overwhelming and you’ve laid everything out here in a very clear way.

    I would also recommend that all authors have a solid idea of the target audience for their blog (readers? other writers?) before doing any heavy link campaigning/SEO work. This will help ensure that they’re expending their efforts targeting traffic that will help them reach their goals. Any traffic, however, is certainly better than none!

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander February 27, 2012 at 11:02 am

    Thanks, Toni. Understanding who you’re writing for is essential, even though it sometimes takes new bloggers a while to figure this out. The more you understand your audience and what they’re looking for from you, the more effective your blogging will become, and the more targeted your efforts to promote your blog. It works.

    Reply

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