How to drive traffic to your website through your blog

Do you have a blog on your website? In today’s ever-changing social media landscape it pays to have material which will draw people in to your website. A blog is useful for keeping your customers up to date on changes in your industry, current trends and giving them a look behind-the-scenes. A well-written blog which your audience enjoys is also a useful way to generate email sign ups so you can grow your list.

A photo of Rachel ExtanceWhat should you blog about and how do you get your articles in front of people? We asked communications consultant Rachel Extance for her tips.

This is a transcript of a live discussion.

Where do you start with blogging?

Ann Hawkins Give us your top tips for someone new to blogging.

Rachel Extance My top tips for someone new to blogging are:

1.Be realistic. Blogging takes time. It’s not just the writing but coming up with ideas, sourcing pictures and having the time to put it on your website.

2. Make a list of blog titles. What is your audience interested in? And what do you want to write about? The two might be different. Be sure you’re not going to get bored of your blog! You need a good match of the two.

3. Use a site like Answer The Public to find ideas.

4. Make a start! It’s like any writing, you have to do it.

5. Don’t get disheartened if you don’t get lots of hits. Blogging is a slow burner. It takes time to get noticed. Make use of social media to get your work out there.

6. Be consistent. This is why it’s important to be realistic about time. Better to only blog once a month than put one up and it be months before you write another one.

Additional point Have a sign up box. There’s nothing more frustrating than finding a blog I like and not being able to subscribe to get new posts as they’re published. It’s also such a waste – if someone likes what you do you want to be able to keep in touch with them!

How can we make the most of our blog?

Q. I blog fortnightly. Any guidance on how to make the most of our blog would be great, and how do we make our blog stand out amongst all the other blogs that are out there!

Rachel Extance Always write with your audience in mind. What do they want to know about? There’s a brilliant site called Answer the Public which you can put a search query into and it will come up with a list of who, what, where, when, why, how questions. You’ve got a list of blog titles right there!

Pay attention to search engines too. Make sure you have headings and sub headings, marked up as H1, H2, etc (as this blog does) which answer additional questions. The code for these is picked up by the search engines. For example, if your blog post title was: “What do I need to take with me to a holiday cottage?” a sub heading could be, “What is in the kitchen at a holiday cottage?”, then another could be, “Do I need to take towels to a holiday cottage?” It’s worth thinking about how you would ask this to a person because people using Google Assistant or an Amazon Dot might just ask the question, rather than going to a search engine and looking it up.

Something you can do if you’re trying to get people to read a post is to signpost to them what they will get from it. Write a one line introduction and then say: “This post will take you through how to make sure nothing is left behind, what you need to clean, and what to do if something has been damaged.” Then they know if they are reading the right article for their needs.

How to drive traffic to your blog through social media

Rachel Extance Another thing to make sure you are doing with your blog is publicising your content. Don’t just put it out on social media once. If you have evergreen content, schedule it to go out once a week. Vary the text of the post. You can quote yourself or use different pictures.

You can also turn your blog posts into videos. There’s an app called Lumen5 which is good for this.

Q. We’re not very good at recirculating our material so that’s good advice to get a bit more exposure with it.

Rachel Extance It’s worth setting aside a couple of hours and just inputting them. Some schedulers are better at recirculating content than others. I use SmarterQueue but there are others. You just put your posts in, tell it how often you would like it to be reposted and let it get on with it. You can post the same blog each month or possibly even every other week if you change the wording of your post and vary the time of day so it catches a different audience.

Q. We always worry about over doing it but varying the time of day would help. We tend to try and hit people early evening but I guess that is a popular time.

Rachel Extance I would experiment. Think about who your audience is and when they have time to go on social media and read something which might take them 2 minutes.

How do you get people to comment on blogs?

Q. How do you best get people to comment on the blogs. I’ve been blogging for two years consistently and only have a handful of comments. It would be good to get conversations going…

Rachel Extance This is a great question. It’s really hard to get people to comment on blogs. People tend to passively read things rather than responding. I would ask a question at the end or ask for people’s feedback. Make it clear to people you want to talk to them.

Ann Hawkins I think you’re on a hiding to nothing with this. People used to comment on blogs before social media but now even veteran bloggers have given up trying to get comments. I find people respond much better on Twitter, especially if I ask a question in the title.

Q.  OK. Thanks. So how do you effectively promote your blog on Twitter? FB and LI seem intuitive as you can basically put an intro in and ask them to click if they want more. Twitter seems more tricky…

Rachel Extance I would say Twitter is easier but that’s just me. Pull out key messages. So on Monday, you could post it with “What is the magician?”, on Wednesday you could write “How to find the magic in your life”, on Saturday you could post and ask a question like: “What do Obi Wan Kenobi, Dumbledore and Aslan have in common?”

I’d just post a bit of text/question, and then the link to the blog post. Twitter should automatically include in a little mini window showing the featured image, intro blurb. Just the same as any link you might want to share on Twitter.

Ann Hawkins I just write the post with the question in the title and so any link pulls that out.

How do we get other people to link to our blogs?

Q. We’re still trying to get our blogs posted or shared on other sites. For example a recent ‘Taking a dog on your cottage holiday’ blog shared with dog websites etc. We are not getting anywhere with this. Any tips?

Rachel Extance In part you’re at the mercy of their social media strategy. Have you tried approaching them and asking if they would like a guest blog?

Should I transcribe videos on my blog?

Q. I’m wondering what kind of content works well on a blog? I’m not keen on writing but if I include a video should I do a transcript?

Rachel Extance I like a transcript if I’m looking for an answer to something but it’s not necessary. I would signpost the content, like I mentioned above. Say what the video is about and what people will learn by watching it. I would take the time to caption your videos so people can watch without the sound on. There’s no need to write a full blog post or transcript if you don’t want to.

Q. I was going to ask a similar question r:e: transcripts. Is there software to do this? (Videos and podcasts) Sometimes, I prefer to read the transcript.

Rachel Extance You can send it off to people to transcribe it for you. If you’re posting a video on Facebook, it has built-in caption software.

Ann Hawkins I rarely watch videos – I want to scan the page, pick out the headlines, read the paragraphs I’m interested in and skip the ones I’m not. I rarely read any post from start to finish and hardly ever watch a video with sound on.

Rachel Extance Most people watch videos with the sound off.

People scan. They often haven’t come to a blog post eager to read a beautifully written piece of work but to find something out. Always ask yourself: what would bring someone to this and why should they click on it?

Q. Also, transcripts can be good for SEO.

Should you update previous blog posts?

Q. My question would be about recycling content and updating previous posts.

Rachel Extance It’s well worth setting aside time, every few months to go through your blog posts and update them.
It helps if you keep an index and have a note of which ones are:

1. Definitely evergreen

2. Ones which could be evergreen so long as something external doesn’t change (so for social media managers, last week’s Facebook announcement has meant everyone needs to rewrite their advice on business pages).

3. Which ones are seasonal (are there blog posts which only work in winter or relate to Easter?)

4. Which ones are one-offs. They work on that day, and could possibly be posted on social media for a week.

You then need to make a note in your business planner (or whatever works for you) to check back on them at the right time and see if they are still up to date.

This breakdown is also helpful for your social media scheduling.

Would you like to know more? Get in touch with Rachel Extance. Follow her on Twitter @RachelExtance.