10 Ways to Build Long-Lasting Traffic to Your Author Website or Blog


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Build traffic and visitors to your website

First things first: Your website, whether it gets a lot of traffic or not, is an essential part of a strong author platform. It serves as your hub—or command central—for all online activity, and should give your readers, as well as the media, a way to engage with you. It should be there if people want to find it, and you can safely assume that traffic will grow as your career grows, whether you try to make that happen or not.

While nonfiction authors might be rightly concerned with traffic to their site (as a part of their platform—overall visibility and reach), novelists, poets, and other creative writers should probably treat their site as a critical tool underpinning career-long marketing and promotion efforts, but not necessarily as an end in itself—unless you’re generating content, blogging, or doing something to attract attention, which we’re about to discuss.

Here are some of the tried-and-true methods of getting traffic to your website.

1. Make sure your social media profiles always link to your website.

Twitter, Facebook, and other social media networks always offer—as part of your static profile—an opportunity to link to your homepage. Be sure to do so.

An advanced version of this strategy: Send people to a customized landing page on your website. E.g., you may want to create a special introduction or offer for people who visit your website from your Twitter profile, Facebook fan page, GoodReads page, etc.

If you blog: Be sure to link to new blog posts on each social media network where you’re active. But don’t just post a link. Offer an intriguing question, lead in, excerpt, or explanation of why the post might be interesting to people on that specific social network. While it may be possible to automate postings across your social networks whenever a new blog post goes live, it’s often more effective to give each post a personal touch based on what you know appeals to that particular community.

2. Include your website address on all offline materials.

Whether it’s business cards, print books, handouts, flyers, bookmarks, or postcards—any print collateral—don’t forget to put your website address on it. It’s helpful if you briefly explain what’s at your site, e.g., “Visit my website to sign up for my free e-newsletter” or “Visit my website to download free first chapters from all my books.”

3. Learn SEO 101 and its quirks for your content management system.

SEO is search engine optimization. You want search engines such as Google to pull up your site whenever people search for terms relevant to you, your books, or your content. For most authors, the two most important SEO questions usually are:

  • Can people easily find my site if they search for my name?
  • Can people easily find my site if they search for my book titles?

Beyond these two questions, most authors don’t need to worry much about SEO. (It becomes more important if you’re trying to make money online or otherwise build a career based off your online content.) However, you should have a basic knowledge of how SEO works, and whether your site is meeting basic requirements. The good news is that if you’re using the very popular content management system WordPress, you’re set up to have good SEO from the start.

Here are some excellent resources for learning about SEO.

4. Install Google Analytics and study how people find your site and use it.

If your site is self-hosted, then you should have Google Analytics installed. If not, get started today—it’s a free service and easy to set up. (Instructions here.)

After Google Analytics has collected at least 1 month of data, take a look at the following:

  • How do people find your site? Through search? Through your social media presence? Through other websites that link to you?
  • What search words bring people to your site?
  • What pages or posts are most popular on your site?

By knowing the answers to these questions, you can better decide which social media networks are worth your investment of time and energy, who else on the web might be a good partner for you (who is sending you traffic and why?), and what content on your site is worth your time to continue developing (what content will bring you visitors over the long run?).

For more analytics tools, check out my Nov. 18 e-newsletter.

Speaking of e-newsletters …

5. Create a free e-mail newsletter.

Whether you send it once a year or once a week, it’s time to start a free e-mail newsletter so you can stay in touch with visitors to your site who specifically express interest in your updates. MailChimp is an e-mail newsletter service (free up to 2,000 names) that has a beautiful user interface and makes the process fun and easy.

Your e-mail newsletter, aside from having useful news or content, should link to your website. Your newsletter can point out (1) popular site or blog content & conversations that readers may have missed (2) free information or downloads you’ve recently offered and (3) anything else that’s changed on your site that might have been overlooked.

6. Create free resource guides on popular topics.

If you’re a nonfiction writer, then this probably comes naturally: Put together a 101 guide, FAQ, or tutorial related to your topic or expertise—something people often ask you about. (My most visited resource on this site is Start Here: How to Get Your Book Published.)

If you’re a novelist, this strategy may take some creative thinking. Good thing you have an imagination, right? Consider the following:

  • If your book is strongly regional, create an insider’s guide or travel guide to that particular region. Or think about other themes in your work that could inspire something fun: a collection of recipes; a character’s favorite books, movies, or music; or what research and resources were essential for completing your work.
  • If you’re an avid reader, create a list of favorite reads by genre/category, by mood, or by occasion.
  • If you have a strong avocational pursuit (or past profession) that influences your novels, create FAQs or guides for the curious.
  • If you’re an established author, offer a list of your favorite writing and publishing resources that you recommend for new writers.
  • Also, see suggestions below.

7. Create lists or round-ups on a regular basis.

A very popular way to make people aware of your website is to link to others’ websites. If you can do this in a helpful way, it’s a win for you, for your readers, and for the sites you send traffic to.

In the writing and publishing community, weekly link round-ups are very common. (See Joel Friedlander, Elizabeth Craig, and Writing on the Ether at this site.)

But you can create such lists or round-ups on any theme or category that interests you enough to remain dedicated, enthusiastic, and consistent for the long haul—at least 6 months to 1 year, if you want to see a tangible benefit.

8. Do something interesting on your favorite social media site.

Especially if you’re not blogging, you may want to consider what creative project you might undertake on a community-oriented site. Consider:

9. Run regular interviews with people who fascinate you.

Believe it or not, it’s rare to come across an informed, thoughtful, and careful interviewer and interview series (or—not just someone looking to fill a slot or post generic content based on pre-fab questions).

Think about themes, hooks, or angles for an interview series on your site, and run them on a regular basis—but only as frequently as you have time to invest in a well-researched and quality interview. Such series also offer you an excellent way to build your network and community relationships, which has a way of paying off in the long run.

Check these interview series for an idea of what’s possible:

 10. Be a guest blogger or interviewee on other sites.

Whenever you guest or appear on other websites, that’s an opportunity to have multiple links back to your own site and social network accounts.

A meaningful guest post means pitching sites that have a bigger audience than you, but they should also have a readership that’s a good match for your work. If you need a strong introduction to guest posting how-to, visit this excellent Copyblogger post.

If you’re not the type to write guest posts, then consider proactively offering yourself up to be interviewed as part of other bloggers’ interview series.

A note of caution: Don’t focus on guest post or interview opportunities strictly tied to the writing and publishing community (unless that is your true audience). You may need to research websites and blogs that feature authors or books similar to you in order to break out of the publishing industry echo chamber and find people who aren’t writers, but readers. An easy way to start this research is to Google similar authors or book titles—ones with the same target readership—and see what sites feature interviews, guest posts, or essays.

Whenever you make an appearance on another site, always promote the interview on your own social networks and create a permanent link to it from your own website.

While these are some of the most popular ways to build traffic to your site, there are many other ways. What has been successful for you? Share your experience in the comments.

Or, for more in-depth instruction on this topic:

 

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  • Cynthia Morris

    Very helpful, Jane! My author web site is a bit cobwebby and this will help me spruce it up. I’m particularly excited about #6 – creating some resources for Paris history buffs, and getting my podcast of the Paris walking tour of my book finished.

    Thanks for consistently delivering useful guidance!

  • Jim McFarlin

    Jane, all of your concepts and ideas are truly outstanding. Thank you.
    -Jim McFarlin, President, Palm Springs Writers Guild

  • Evelyne Holingue

    As always a bounty of great advice and ideas. The guest blogging is especially interesting. Thanks, Jane.

    Evelyne

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  • http://www.facebook.com/davidfnbeers David Beers

    Found your blog through a recommendation and this is the first article I’ve read. Great post. Too many times people give basic, brief explanations in their ‘how-to’s’. Thanks for taking time on this and posting RELEVANT things that I did not know.

  • http://www.wittytitlehere.com/ Cassie

    I started an interview series on my blog a couple of months ago, and I couldn’t be happier with how it has improved the overall quality and feel of my blog. I’ve been lucky to find truly interesting individuals who, not necessarily writers themselves, have written thoughtful and meaningful responses. I love the feedback their interviews receive, and it’s been a great challenge to continuously come up with questions that really make the interviewees think.

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  • Richard Gilbert

    Thanks for this uber helpful post, Jane. I have a related question about picking one’s byline, what version of one’s name to be known by? Maybe this is another advice column by you, as I haven’t see it addressed. It’s on my mind because my manuscript is under serious consideration and because my wife and I just refinanced our house and our middle initials turned out to be VERY important in differentiating us from other people with worse credit ratings running around with our names.

    Now, my name is Richard Gilbert and has always been my byline for essays and other creative work. But there are tons of plain Richard Gilberts, a Google search shows. My middle initial is S, and unfortunately there is a Richard S. Gilbert, a retired minister, who has published a ton–and also a busy doctor with the name.

    There is no one who comes up in a Google search with my complete name: Richard Stuart Gilbert. I am tempted, but am trying to get my head around a much more grandiose sounding byline! I do use it, however, for my gmail name, as my evil twins beat me to plain old Richard Gilbert.

    I’d appreciate any advice, Jane.

    Sign me, for now, just Richard . . .

  • http://twitter.com/JFbookman Joel Friedlander

    Thanks for the shout-out, Jane. Terrific article with great resources, and it’s exactly the kind of thing you mention in #6. Another great tactic for getting traffic is running contests. The monthly ebook cover design awards we’ve been doing on my blog the past year have been incredibly popular, and having a way for readers to participate by uploading their own content makes it even more engaging.

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  • Marjorie Thelen

    Okay, this one I had to print out and tweet and put it in my collection of Jane Friedman’s advice to the writer world. Thank you again, Jane.

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  • Laura Dent

    Wow. I just took your webinar. You are my new hero. I’m just getting started in my freelance career, and you’ve just given me a big jump-start. Thanks.

  • http://janefriedman.com/ Jane Friedman

    :) Thank you so much!

  • http://janefriedman.com/ Jane Friedman

    A pleasure!

  • http://janefriedman.com/ Jane Friedman

    Contests! Yes. A golden tactic—thank you so much for mentioning.

  • http://janefriedman.com/ Jane Friedman

    I would probably go with Richard Stuart Gilbert, or you could try using the two initial + last name if it’s not common: R.S. Gilbert.

    Your domain name should probably be some combination of your name plus the word author or books.

    Hope this helps!

  • http://janefriedman.com/ Jane Friedman

    Terrific strategy. Big thumbs up. :)

  • http://janefriedman.com/ Jane Friedman

    Thanks so much!

  • http://janefriedman.com/ Jane Friedman

    Yes! If the guest blog idea intrigues, be sure to check out some of those references/tutorials. They’re very inspiring.

  • http://janefriedman.com/ Jane Friedman

    Thank you, Jim!

  • http://janefriedman.com/ Jane Friedman

    Maybe I should use the tagline “Being Zen at Light Speed.” Ha!

  • http://janefriedman.com/ Jane Friedman

    Yay! Excellent. :)

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  • http://osconfig.blogspot.com/ paventhan

    can you tell me how to increase traffic to this blog http://osconfig.blogspot.com

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  • http://www.100memoirs.wordpress.com/ Shirley Hershey Showalter

    I always expect the best from you, Jane, and you delivered again! I especially appreciate the info on SEO for writers. This subject has always bedeviled me, but I think I can actually focus on the two issues you highlight and make these happen. I too will print out and tweet. Thanks so much.

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  • http://twitter.com/LovesMoose Carla King

    Great blog post. I’m so glad I became a member of Sisters in Crime recently. I’m discovering some really wonderful and immensely helpful websites like yours. Thank you!

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  • http://twitter.com/wattsworks Lynne

    Wow this is a great post. I’m saving this one for future reference!

  • http://www.arnabmaity.com/ Arnab Maity

    Thank you Jane for this amazing post! These are extremely important tips for every blogger/writer who expects to leave a mark on this ocean called web

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  • http://Search-Engine-Optimization-And-Beyond.com SEOGuy

    You mention linking to the main site from your social profile but didn’t see anything about linking your social networks together. Out of curiosty, would you link your networks together or would it be better to treat them as completely different entities?

  • http://janefriedman.com/ Jane Friedman

    If you mean something like: Should your Twitter posts appear on Facebook and vice versa, no. Treat them as separate entities. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to list your Twitter handle on your Facebook profile, or list your Facebook profile link on your Goodreads profile. So yes, link, but be careful about posting the same thing across all networks.

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  • Mahder

    I have found inviting guest bloggers and i also been working as guest blogger in other blogs and it really works. I really like the posts made and would like to say congrats and keep it up! you can check how to invite guest bloggers in simple steps on http://www.mahderjava.blogspot.com

    Thanks

  • http://janefriedman.com/ Jane Friedman

    Try SEOmoz.com, as well as Yoast.com.

  • Toby Crbtree

    Thanks a lot Jane. Very useful points discussed.

  • www.think-im.nl

    Thanks for the tips. Really helpfull. Greetz from the netherlands. http://www.think-im.nl/website-laten-maken/

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  • Prasenjeet Kumar

    Excellent article, Jane. The best part of the article was your tip on guest posting. I have read many articles on guest posting. You made a very interesting point that you should aim to guest post on blogs similar to the book or genre that you write in, than targeting the writing and publishing industry in general.

  • Sarah Towle

    Wow, Jane! This is a goldmine of information. I shall be taking each and every item on board in the weeks to come. Thanks for the summer study project!

  • Web Passive Income

    Some interesting ideas – thanks for sharing

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