And More Bits of Unsolicited Advice: Getting Traffic For Your Blog

The last thing one should do to an old man on a bench is to encourage him to dispense unsolicited advice. No sooner than you do so than out comes more and more words of dubious wisdom.

In the last post, I dispensed some very general advice about the art of blogging. In this post, I get a bit more specific, focusing on what I feel is the best way to build traffic for your blog.

For those of you who believe that they blog for their own satisfaction and do not care if anybody else reads it then please skip the rest of the post. But for those of us who desire an audience but struggle to get one (as I did once upon a time and the frustrations of which I detailed previously), here are some general thoughts on the topic.

The most important thing of course remains the same. Good content. Last time I said “If you build it, they will come”. Sure. But if the water runs out and the toilet stinks, then they won’t stick around. Trust me on that.

Use your friends:  Unless you are a celebrity, it is likely that the first visitors to your blog are going to be those who are interested in the blog not so much for the content (because they have not read it yet) but because they know you personally. In other words friends and relatives.

While it is quite easy to get your parents to read your blog (whether you want to is of course completely another matter) getting friends over to your corner of the virtual world is sometimes a little bit more difficult. It is difficult because you know telling your friends to do something “once” usually never works , be it giving the treat they owe you or returning the text book that was borrowed last week.

So you need to press them a bit. But then there is that conundrum: at what point of time do the “Hey I just started a blog. Did you read my latest posts” start becoming an imposition, where is the point at which you cross over from being an enthusiastic writer to an unctuous seller of life insurance?

While it is difficult to provide a definite answer to the above question (since one person’s hard-sell is another’s publicity), my suggestion would be to 1) keep your blog URL in the signature of your personal e-mails 2) if you belong to an e-group of friends then mention the fact that you have started blogging once in an email and then leave it at that (after all you do not want to appear desperate with the operative word being “appear” which is exactly how you will look if you have a “Please read my blog” in every mail) and most importantly 3) do not try to oversell ; when a friend you find is not visiting your blog don’t push him. Unless you want to lose him as a friend in which case by all means do.

Comment on blogs: No rocket science here. Commenting on other blogs allows you to put a link to your blog on their blogspace and enables you to announce yourself to a community (for instance if you are a start-up mommy blogger, commenting on a mommy-blogger’s blog will connect you to other mommys). Not that that should be the only reason you should be commenting but it’s not a wrong reason. However a few things to remember.

1) While your reason to comment may be to publicize your blog, don’t wear it on your sleeve. That is don’t just plonk your blog’s link in the comment-space and say “I also wrote on this topic. Here is the link”. Remember you do get your blog-link in the comment once. No need to put it in again and telegraph your over-eagerness. The better strategy to get traffic is to make well-argued comments consistently. People will definitely click on your blog URL if you do.

2) Don’t try to stand out amidst the comments by being a troll i.e. attacking the blogger or other commenters with the explicit purpose of getting traffic attention. While it does get a temporary spike of attention, it is unlikely to be something you can sustain consistently.

Leverage social media:  The best publicity you can hope to get is when people recommend your content to a friend.Most people now prefer to share content through Facebook and Twitter as opposed to forwarding over email. As a matter of fact, as a content-creator you would prefer they do not use e-mail. I can say that from my personal experience since forwards have this notorious trait of “losing” your name and it has happened to me several times that my posts have been forwarded back to me, with my name and URL removed. In order to prevent that from happening, make it easy for people to share your posts. This you can do my adding “Share buttons” for Facebook and Twitter giving people the ability to publicize your links through the click of a button. In addition, posting your blog-URLs as your status messages on Facebook  is a far more effective and far less intrusive way for publicity than emailing links yourself.

Twitter is often seen as a “blog killer” providing a lazy alternative to blogging—allowing one to get away with 140 characters and sparing oneself the effort of the exposition and analysis a full-fledged blogpost demands.  It does not have to be an alternative but instead can be used as a powerful supplement for your blog. For instance, I use it to post links or put small comments on happenings that are too trivial for the overhead of putting  on a blog. Putting your blog URLs as tweets is also an effective way to build traffic because of the organic way re-tweets spread in the Twitterosphere, making it possible for you to reach people who otherwise would not have heard of your blog.

Join community blogs: When I started out, I joined a group blog CSF (now defunct). But the experience was great because it enabled me to learn from and connect with fellow bloggers and tap into the community that had been built around CSF as a source for potential readers. So join up blog networks  Blogcritics or Desicritics or start a community blog with your friends. In that way, you are guaranteed an audience that not only includes your relatives and friends but also those of your co-bloggers, a significant part of which you would hopefully be able to siphon off to your own individual blog as time goes by.

Optimize for search engines: While it is easy to get carried away by buzzwords like “Search Engine Optimization” some amount of it is necessary to make your blog search-engine friendly so that people who are looking for a topic that your blog talks about can find out about you.

Promote your blog feed: Make it easy for people to subscribe to your blog feed by keeping a subscribe button in a prominent place. Some people try to make people visit the blog (as opposed to just read the feed offline) by providing partial feeds (say the first ten lines) but I personally do not approve of that. If people want to read your blog from their feed-reader client, allow them to do so. They will be pleased at the convenience.

Attend/organize blogmeets: People who know you are most likely to read your blog when you are starting out. People who have blogs themselves are more likely to read a blog. Putting these two together, it makes perfect sense to befriend other bloggers and blogmeets are the best place to achieve that.

And finally remember one thing. The multiplicative effect of traffic. While it may seem that getting four people to visit your blog after meeting them at a blogmeet is hardly worth the effort, if they like your content and endorse it on their blogs or on their social networks, each can bring in four other people and this effect, provided your content is good, can cascade onwards. For those struggling to get their voice heard, remember all it takes is one good post and a small critical mass of initial readers to make your blog go viral. Which is what makes it worth laboring on.

48 thoughts on “And More Bits of Unsolicited Advice: Getting Traffic For Your Blog

  1. Thanks.
    Not that any of this works for me.
    But that’s OK, staying sad is part of the identity.


  2. 1st in TOP 5!

  3. Thanks GB..
    I am gonna use these tricks..

  4. damn it.. i thought i would be the first to comment and get some traffic on to my blog ..

  5. M bit late but still would like to say you have an awesome blog running…. 🙂

  6. Hey,
    If you gave away real Ipods, you don’t need these tips ;-). People flock to your website like those morons committing suicides for YSR.

  7. such aspirations!! you have started taking yourself too seriously my friend.

    don’t forget why people visit your blogs…what you have written could have been found by a simple google search.

    stick to your USP! you should have included that in your list 🙂

  8. I know you have mentioned this clearly – “for those of us who desire an audience but struggle to get one (as I did once upon a time and the frustrations of which I detailed previously), here are some general thoughts on the topic” and that “good content” rules.

    But reading your lessons on being popular here is like listening to Kuknoor advising young people on the secrets of making a “hit”.

    GB, the popularity you achieved has been incidental. Why many of us started coming here was your originality and your gifts of writing and linking parallel cultural themes in one spoof.

    I agree with S that you’re taking yourself too seriously now – a tragedy with someone’s who’s excelled in bursting the serious bubbles around the absurd. A word of advice from someone whose blog following is roughly a thousand of yours – and you’ll never be “popular” enough to not deserve a word of advice for every one you offer – don’t take popularity so seriously. I think your bigger gold here is that you’re the thinking man’s blogger; and don’t waste that. Let the Abhijit Bhaduris blog on increasing traffic on websites.

  9. I couldn’t resist myself from replying to Mr. Angshuman. Sorry! I don’t agree to your opinion at all. This is completely pseudo-intellectualism and arrogance for any one if he/she feels that he is too big a person to write a post on how to increase blog traffic. I am too small a person to comment on what you wrote, but take my words. If you are humble enough!

  10. Didn’t get what Partha was trying to communicate. I however, do not agree to Anshuman’s statement that is a thinking man/woman’s blog. More accurately, it was a thinking man/woman’s blog. In fact, at a time when the author was at a stage when he actually needed to implement the suggestions that he has doled out, his posts were rather enjoyable. They were heartfelt, beautifully etched and thankfully devoid of the graphic sarcasm that currently hogs the limelight of his posts (Check out the one he wrote about the visit to the jail housing the freedom fighters. Now THAT was a good bit of writing.). Even a cursory glance at his latest posts reveal a dearth of original thought process, a predilection for reviews of forgettable movies and even more forgettable personalities and an overdose of sarcasm that masquerades as “coherent and entertaining writing”. Where are the real issues being tackled? Where are the real sentiments revealed? Where is the guy who could echo the feelings of one and all at the sight of Dada leaving the cricket ground for the last time? It reminds me of a certain line from “Eye of the Tiger” which went like “Don’t trade your passion for Glory…”; Its sad, but I suppose, that’s the price to pay for an ever increasing fan base…

  11. That is some sage advice GB! I tend to oscillate between being the ‘blogging for myself’ blogger, and the kind that wants traffic! There have been times when I’ve agreed with you and times when I vociferously wrote dissenting comments. I have never been bored though!

  12. I thought it was going to be a list of tongue in cheek and sarcastic post for the despo traffic seekers. However, it was a serious one. Anyways, I’ll wait for the regular and usual ones, on which I can ROTFLMAO 🙂

  13. the headline said it all UNSOLICITED, I am sure you know it very well. we like you & your blog & say among us friends here that DARUUN LIKHECHEY (well written)at times however it is changing to GYAAN DICHCHEY. may be its loosing some charm there. however in terms of sheer percentage you write good articles so much that we are drawn in to read whatever you jot down. hope to see more fascinating articles like those on the bookfair, world cup , satyajit ray etc etc, you are a class act there.

  14. Twitter and Facebook are the most important traffic genrator for my blog.
    I do not have many RSS followers like you GB. 😀

  15. @ Hatikvah: Actually that’s what I meant. You have worded it better. I miss the GB of yore too.

    @Partha Let’s agree to disagree. I have heard the pseudo-intellectual argument too often as a substitute for mental inertia. The argument veers us to a future where everything will be petered down to easily-digestible bits which can be swallowed from 6yers old to 60 yrs.

  16. Don’t listen to the naysayers, GB. All the advice is much appreciated.

  17. Hey GB… a query here.. how to increase following for one’s anonymous blog?

  18. you should consider writing a bible for blog newbies..
    the previous post and this must be basic reading for anyone who wants to have a popular blog…yea, me included:P

  19. Well, here is some of the writer’s advise being dispensed, write something and try and make a point. Never read this writer before, but I think he or she has a right to talk about the “bidness” of writing a blog. Us writers are so greatness blinded that we are at times snobbish, as though we don’t trouble ourselves over lack of audience or ablutionary processes. I don’t know. Your writer might be changing, but perhaps you now need to listen in a different way, since if he/she did not change, then he/she would not be human and all that other great advise will have been for naught. Well, gotta go, the parrot is cawing…

  20. Hi greatbong, offtopic – your views on and lehren tv [] please.

    PS: Hope it can be at India TV!!

  21. where is Alok Nath this time?????


    THANKS !!

  23. LOL imagining you as an old man on a bench. 😉

    Great bits of advice…. you are giving out the best-kept secrets of blogging. May your tribe increase.

  24. True enough ideas. Another thing which I think important is to be punctual. The lesser and the non-periodical is the frequency, the lesser are visitors. After all, how would one know if you published anything!
    Material is the most important thing, i agree, apart from depth, and moods. The more variation in mood, the better the traffic.
    Having interesting issues of greater scope is also the key. If i don’t connect myself to your writings, i won’t read them either…

    Thanks for the Ideas Arnab da,
    Sincerely yours,
    One of the most silent readers.

  25. @Anshuman: I agree. The original spark is missing, but you know, like all the things in life, this too follows the sine curve. It’ll be back, i hope.

  26. This post makes me say something unpleasant.
    Not a single bit of those advise is unknown to not so new bloggers. You have said nothing new special or unique. I agree with someone above, who commented that your popularity is incidental. I have read many bloggers with similar or probably better humour quotient, but they probably don’t follow the rules you have listed above, so they will never match your popularity. Popularity has become numbers, which is sad. But then is there any other way to quantify it ?

    I don’t know if you already know, but you too have shortcomings.
    You don’t reply to comments, it is quite discouraging for commentors looking for an interaction. But then, you have conveniently declared that, you don’t take onus of your comment section. In my view, that’s shying away from an important responsibility as a blogger. Comments make a blog complete. You may choose to think otherwise, but the fact remains. That’s why most of the time your comment section resembles like a suburban local train- thronging with first five seat snatchers, Ipod beggars, blog vendors, lepers, hijras and chamchas who personally attack anyone who expresses their opinion contradicting your viewpoint. Naturally, all you are surrounded by ass-kissers. You are not a ‘thinking man’s blogger anymore. You have started taking assumed responsibility and started considering yourself beyond criticism. The fun ends there.

    I realize two facts today…..
    1. Grapes are sour.
    2. What goes up comes down.

  27. Nice post dude!

    One thing I must admit is that this and your last post are somethings that really push irregular bloggers like me , especially the term ‘Don’t give up’ :).

    Though not being a great blogger, I must point out 2 things [in addition to your style of writing which is comparable to some of the best Indian English writers I have ever read] which I find great about your blog, one being your website design which very rarely shows off any technical glitches (I have seen a lot of blogs which have pictures/videos/links that are misformed, or don’t appear as they are intended to), and also, the fact that you come up with really nice blogs on a very regular basis. Be it a political event, a cricket incident, a Bollywood masala story, or just about anything that you read, you are almost certain to find a greatbong story on that one .

    Just keep the good work going 🙂 .

  28. Arnab, the photos on your cellular jail post are not opening.
    Did you manage to visit the cellular jail yourself since then ?

  29. Im pretty sure this particular post would have shot up your hits by atleast a few thousands! 🙂

  30. @B-Vision
    Fantastic man.. Very nicely put!
    In fact I want to ask you whether you have a blog page yourself.

    I used to have RSS subscription for this site..
    but then too much of ‘analysis of Jaswant’ started flowing in as opposed to ‘langdadon’

    Lack of humility cannot go unnoticed even if prefixed by phoney self effacing disclaimers like ‘demented’ or ‘unsolicited’

  31. Very interesting conversation here.

    Even though I have my fair (or maybe unfair) share disaggreements with Arnab, one thing I cannot have complains about, is the quality of Arnab’s writing and his sincerity towards his commenters.

    I have hardly seen Arnab not respond to someone who has addressed a comment to him, however inane that may be.

    Arnab tries to walks the tightrope of “ideological correctness” with the weight of wittiness, mirth, silliness, satire, educational and populism, all at once on his shoudlers.

    To say the least, I am impressed by him.
    ……… that coming from someone like me who gives a damn about his blog and am only interested in my “bigger cause”.

  32. “Ideological Correctness…” yeah, right! The author of this blog reacts to criticism with the same sportsmanship as Nero would have reacted to his subjects slighting him, but then, why should that be surprising? After all, when one gets to hear that his style of writing is “amongst the best in English”, criticism, however constructive they may be, would appear as appealing as the sight of a Jew to an Arab during the 6 day war.
    Make no mistake, the author is actually good, so long as he can listen to his heart above the din of his fanfollower’s demands…

  33. I like to post these advice on my friend’s blog. This guy is such a blogwhore. He posts one crappy blog everyday and sends link to his friends via email everyday.

    My question is, can blogger find out the IP address, from where comment was posted?

  34. How to let blogwhores know that they are being annoying without hurting their sentiments?

  35. While your more active participation in the discussions ensuing will definitely be welcome on your blog, I don’t think that you are as aloof of the comments as much it seems to be for the reasons pointed out by Rishi Khujur.

    Anyway, this week’s Tehelka carries a mention of you , your blog and your forthcoming coming book. I couldn’t find the link, but I read the magazine. I didn’t find that in your “In the media” column, so wanted to just point out. It is somewhere in one of the last pages.

  36. @BigGun: If he has WordPress, he can very easily do that since each comment has IP address attached to it. If he has blogger (i.e. blogspot account), it may be slightly difficult. I say slightly because if not many people visit his blog, he can look at the referral stats (which contain IP info) and look at the time the comment was posted and make the connection.

    As to how to let a blogwhore now, just make a casual joke about it and he will get the message. If he does not, make another.

    @Sumit: Did not know that.

  37. @ Hatikvah:
    “…would appear as appealing as the sight of a Jew to an Arab during the 6 day war”.

    🙂 Interesting
    I thought those Quran-ists caused more blodshed during the Yom Kippur war.

  38. Hatikvah,

    Yes I think GB has the best English writing style in the blogosphere. Do you have any problem with that? If you are sad that I have nothing to say about you, I can give you a toffee if that helps.

    I think the main problem here is that GB is not reacting to all this crap and that what makes you all so angry (i.e. he is not commenting). What you guys forget is that over here you have the privilege of saying nasty things about GB and have it remain on his blogspace whereas for other blogs you would not have comments enabled or bad comments moderated. If this openness to criticism does not show his supreme tolerance besides also the fact that he chooses not to react to it, I wonder what does.

    Normally I myself as an admirer of this blog would not have reacted to trolls but when you say “author of this blog reacts to criticism with the same sportsmanship as Nero would have reacted to his subjects slighting him” even after the fact that the man did not say ONE WORD in his defense I was forced to say something.

  39. Nero… Jew to Arab…?

    Hatikvah, are you trying to polish your similes in the cloak of a debate?

    Don’t know about the best, but GB is definitely damn good.

  40. not unsolicited, but most welcome advice! 🙂

  41. Really surprised by the vitriol thats being poured in liberal portions out here against GB.This blog is good in many aspects and not-so-good in a few.Whats so surprising in that ?

  42. Very helpful post – thanks.

    Now (like how Rani Mukharjee did Bunty Aur Babli after Black) how about a post on the following?

    The best melodramatic moment in the history of Bollywood, wouldn’t you say? 😉

  43. Arnab, thanks a lot for this post! A pleasure to see this post, especially after I requested for the same through a comment on the previous one. Knew most of them, some have been eye-openers, will use all of them.

    I think the comment thread has been unnecessarily harsh, because I am sure I was not the only one who asked for this advice, and also this was absolutely not unsolicited but much requested. If I were to get batting tips I and I had a chance to ask a Tendulkar directly for them and he was kind enough to offer then I see nothing wrong there. I think by stretching the comparison a bit it’s obvious if any new blogger or someone looking to make it bigger in the blogosphere wants tips s/he can’t get better ones than from you.

    So, thanks once again:)

  44. Greatbong,
    Just getting curious about the average hit on your blog site?
    Can you let me know?

  45. some of the tips are already followed..some would be taken up now!m a sucker for comments!:D

  46. Thanks GB for taking the time out to write these two long, detailed lists of advice for your fellow bloggers. I think the folks writing out those negative comments above didnt notice the time it must have taken you to do that, and which you gladly gave.

    Nowhere in these two articles is there any chest-thumping proclaiming the greatness of this blog itself (except in the name of course), and even then some people seem to get so hot under their respective collars! And its particularly telling, that they picked this blog to vent out their complaints about the quality of the posts going down etc etc.

    And yes, the most telling fact is that GB didnt bother replying to these comments.

  47. I never thought I would be writing this for Arnab since I really don’t find myself being a great fan of anyone. But this seems an ethical issue to me here.

    I don’t see any reason why people are being so caustic in their remarks! Is it genuine dislike (which they should keep to themselves at least out of courtesy) or plain bad mood finding a vent here!! We all know how blogging works but there can be a lot of people taking the plunge now and would want to know the basics neatly put then having to comb the internet for bits of advice. I am one of them.

    For one, I have just started blogging and believe me, even though I know a blog has to be regularly posted on, it’s so difficult to think of interesting things to write about all the time. Let’s appreciate someone’s consistent effort over five years, which is a really long time! To be honest, I personally am not a big fan of Great Bong, my husband and his sis regularly read him. I feel the style of writing is so high sounding and moreover I thought I could never write like that. But at the end of the day it is his style of writing and he has his loyal set of readers so who am I to complain.

    At the end of it, I think a blog is written for one’s personal satisfaction. If people choose to read it and like it, that’s a bonus. So anybody who doesn’t like something can choose to not read a particular blog. But it would be very unfair to upright criticise someone and expect a change happening cz ‘you’ think so!! This is the right and ethical way to look at it. Not like you enjoy it while it’s good and start breaking chairs when ‘you’ feel the show isn’t to your liking.

    PS: If Arnab replies to every comment to keep his readers happy, he’ll only be doing that in life!!

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