Building Blog Readership: No Shortcuts. Content.

I spotted a question on LinkedIn today about how to increase traffic to your site. The person posing the question threw out a couple of ideas – social bookmarking and link strategies, for example, and a few people answered with a tip or two.

Most of the tips, while valid to a point, missed the mark in my opinion. They all missed the basic point – the key to building readership for your site is good content. Indeed, one of the answers gave a caveat, “…but this requires a lot of work and will also require that you be able to create quality content regularly…”

My advice: if you don’t want to work and create quality content regularly, don’t start a blog.

Shortcutting causes erosion Social bookmarking sites can boost your traffic, no question. I frequently see a jump when someone submits one of my posts to StumbleUpon. However, this is usually a temporary jump – it’s rarely (if ever) sustainable. Most of these people arrive at your site, read the page (quickly, too – traffic from these sites doesn’t stay long on my site) and leave. What’s more, you need people to vote your content up to start with.

Other people suggested putting your site’s URL in your email signatures (I’d do it on every social networking site you’re on, too). Again, this may drive a few people. SEO is important too – do your utmost to rank highly on the topics you’re writing about.

Still, all of the tips in the world won’t help you if your site is populated with garbage.

To attract – and retain – readers you need to consistently produce stuff that people want to read/watch/see. Decide who you’re writing for and write for that audience. If you’re not producing targeted stuff that grabs people, all of the other tools will only ever produce temporary spikes in traffic. Over time, good content drives people to your site and keeps them coming back. That’s what gets you ranked well in search engines, that’s what gets people to Stumble/Digg/etc your posts and that’s what gets people to link to your site.

Content 101 aside, all of the other tactics – bookmarking, linking, SEO, “top 10” lists and more – are great ideas. But, like Hertzberg’s Hygiene Factors, without good content all the rest is useless.

What do you think? Aside from posting great content, what have you found to be the best way of generating traffic for your site?

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.