TL;DR: Increasing your blog traffic comes down to creating lasting relationships with other bloggers and your audience. Get the inside scoop on hashtag parties and how you can utilize online communities to send traffic to your blog.
Creating relationships is really all that blogging is about! Of course, you want to generate blog traffic, but you don't have to buy expensive marketing software like HubSpot or a hire a marketing team if you can't afford it. You don't have to spend a lot of money to get your first visitors or to grow your current traffic and conversions. If you are into creating great relationships online, then you are on the right track to give your blog traffic a big boost.
In this post, you'll learn about 15 free ways to increase blog traffic or generate traffic from zero, whether you just started out or are trying to bring an old blog back to life. I personally use most of these ways and all of them help create meaningful relationships. I'll explain how.
15 Ways to Generate Traffic to Your Blog for Free
1. Join Blog Engagement and Promotion Groups on Facebook
I joined some over the last two months and I got a lot of traffic, comments and social shares, in addition to creating relationships with other bloggers whom I also invited to guest post on my writing blog. These communities work because they were created with that purpose in mind, so they are very focused and disciplined. You will not see spam in serious engagement groups, and spammers usually get caught within 24 hours of posting. Aim for communities with 1,000 or more members to start. Also look at how active those members are.
What Can These Communities Do for You?
If you meet the requirements to join (i.e. running a blog or at least one social media account) you are bound to make some new connections from day one. Every day, admins or members will create new threads that you can join, or (if the rules allow for it) you can create your own engagement threads. To get started, I recommend you join existing threads.
For example, if today's thread is about promoting a Facebook post, you will share yours and then you'll comment and/or promote other members' posts. The goal is to help one other, so you can interact with as many members as you like, even though the admin might suggest a minimum number of interactions and what kind of content you can link to. Just stick with each community's rules and you'll be fine.
How to Promote the Smart Way
In the example above, you have the opportunity to share a Facebook post, so instead of picking one randomly, you can create a new one where you invite viewers to see some great content or do something on your blog (comment, subscribe, share, download, etc.). That way you can use every opportunity to promote your blog. Create ad-hoc content and share it right away. If you were to share a blog post instead, make sure you put your most important piece in front of the right people.
Observe the community you're in – if you see that most of the members are mom bloggers, for example, you can share free traffic tips or anything you know can make a mom blogger's life easier.
2. Join Blog Linkups or Create Your Own
A blog linkup is a weekly or monthly themed social event for bloggers created by and hosted by another blogger, where all readers and visitors are invited to add a blog post to a list or a grid and engage with all other posts in it.
Before you create your own link up, though, join some to learn how they work, get your blog posts out there and create a community. When you join linkups, you're not just sharing your post for engagement and returning the favor – you are also networking with fellow bloggers. Writer and THGM president David Leonhardt is a big fan of linkups:
Linkies! Many blogs participate in weekly Linky parties, such as WordlessWednesday, giveaway linkies or weekly contest linkies. There are a lot of blogs in the product review, parenting, homesteading/homeschooling and personal spaces that participate in them. Many bloggers build a community of like-minded bloggers by participating.
3. Participate in Hashtag-based Blog Parties
Hashtag parties (like #MondayBlogs) mostly happen on Twitter, but they are spread anywhere you can use hashtags.
Like with any blog parties or linkups, these require a bit of work because you are not just sharing your post and walking away, waiting for it to magically send you traffic – it's a give-and-receive kind of event, so you have to reply and comment on others' posts, get in touch, retweet or share. Once you have identified one or more hashtag parties that are relevant to your niche, share your best (or your most recent) post and then reciprocate – you will create community.
If you notice that some people you tried to interact with are not responsive, leave them and try to get in touch with others. Get involved as much as possible in the roundups but don't take it personally if others are not responsive. Value the relationships you create, not the ones that never worked in the first place.
4. Participate in Blogging Forums' Promo Threads
If you are a member of forums for bloggers and webmasters that encourage users to engage with each other, check if they also run threads to promote your posts. For example, CupMB is a forum for personal and hobbyist bloggers that has a blog promo thread titled “Latest post” where users can post a shout out of their newly published blog post.
If your favorite blogging forums run this kind of thread, by all means participate. Alternatively, ask the admins if this is an option they might consider for the future.
Also, if you run a forum yourself, you can create a promo thread yourself and involve other members into some co-promotion. The give-and-receive mantra also applies to forum threads – after sharing your post, go give others' some love.
5. Swap Guest Posts and Infographics
If you write guest posts and/or create infographics, it would be a good idea to contact bloggers in your network and organize a monthly guest post/infographics swap.
Pro tip: Do not accept low-quality content (even if it comes from your friends)
Definitely, make sure that all guest posts and infographics from your friends that you agree to publish provide real value for your readers and they are supported by research, interviews and expert quotes.
Don't accept low-quality content, and if you choose to give it a chance, ask your friends to improve it until you can green-light it.
SEO is great, but it doesn't have to be the goal. Make sure there are no over-optimized keywords and no hidden links in the content you receive, and especially no spammy content in-post or in the linked resources, because you will not only get in trouble with the major search engines, but – and this is a lot worse – you will turn readers off. Be smart when it comes to SEO.
6. Exchange Blog Comments With Fellow Bloggers
It's always great to invite your blogger friends to check out your new post after you commented on theirs, but what I'm talking about here is a more organized comment exchange.
For example, you may email all your friends and ask them if they're up to swap comments this week, so they can notify you when they have a new post up that you can comment on, and vice versa. This kind of organized exchange helps create discussion and keep engagement alive on your blog so that your visitors will see no posts with zero comments and they will feel safer to trust your content. Also, it's a great way to make existing blogger relationships stronger as you get to know each other better via comments.
7. Host a Blogging Contest, Tour or Giveaway
Now this might be a little more difficult if you are a new blogger, because to host a contest or a giveaway you need a loyal following and a strong presence in your communities. Even so, you can still leverage your current small following to spread your contest or giveaway as wide as possible.
For the specific case of a giveaway, you also need sponsors who will offer some products or services for free to giveaway winners. As an alternative, you might host a giveaway based on your own products and services – so for example, if you are a consultant or a web designer, you can offer free consultation or free buttons and templates.
When it comes to blogging contests or blogging tours, you want to involve readers in activities that are meaningful to them.
So for example, if you run a gardening blog, your readers might not be interested in checking out fashion blogs or liking a software industry Facebook page. Stick to your niche. If you blog about marketing and you want to create a blogging tour, you could ask a series of questions about a topic in your niche that your readers will be happy to answer and publish on their blogs.
8. Host a Q&A on Your Blog
Q&As give readers an opportunity to speak out about their problems, concerns, the biggest challenges they have in your niche, so this way to generate traffic on your blog is win-win, because they need the answers just as much (if not more) as you need to ask the questions and publish the answers.
Once you start receiving questions, produce a blog post (or a PDF) with the answers and then promote this new type of content to your communities, list and social media.
9. Feature Readers On Your Blog
This is a great opportunity for your readers to showcase their expertise and get the appreciation they deserve for being loyal members of your blogging community.
Contact your most engaged readers and ask if you could interview them. If they agree, make arrangements and then post the interview on your blog (as a regular Q&A post or as a podcast), involving both your community and theirs.
If you don't feel up to interviewing people, ask them to show you their most important post (relevant to your niche) and feature it in a roundup, with a commentary.
If you don't have a very engaged community yet around your blog, you might involve your social media contacts, especially if they are influencers.
10. Invite Bloggers You Admire to Guest Post on Your Blog
This will require a little more outreach effort on your part than #5, because here you aren't asking fellow bloggers in your network to swap guest posts, but you are reaching out to people who may not know you at all – and you will have to give them a reason to guest post on your blog.
The reason might be an audience in the same niche that's hungry for new content, big traffic numbers and high open rates for your newsletter. If you are still small and counting on limited traffic, though, you may leverage other assets, like a small but loyal readership (especially if you have one or more influencers among your readers) and the support of the same causes or vision. You may start with inviting influential contacts in your network. Of course, you might not know right away if they're up to guest posting at all, so it's better to run a little research first: go to their website (or run a web search) and find out if they have guest posted previously elsewhere. If not, they may not want to write for “free”.
11. Interview People from Forums and Blog Comments
Visit the communities and forums you frequent, find all the conversations you had with other members in threads or via private message, and invite them to get interviewed for your blog on a specific topic that both of you care about.
This is not exactly like #9, because here you are not featuring your readers, but people who are not yet in your community but are still your audience. The moment you invite them to get interviewed and your invitation receives a ‘yes' response, they will create a connection with you and your blog. Also, you can do the same with other commenters on posts. Click on their names and ask them if they want to be interviewed for your blog.
12. Create a Roundup Post and Email Bloggers You Featured
Write a roundup post of your favorite articles on a topic, then let the people you linked to know.
Even though you might feel excited to create a relationship with these “blogging celebrities” that you admire, refrain from sounding pushy and write it in the form of a suggestion, not as a requirement. The message you want to convey is that you appreciate them so much that you decided to include their work in your post.
13. Participate In Niche Communities
The point of niche communities is that each member can share or create information to make others' work easier, so you will not be just promoting yourself here – you'll try to spark interest in your ideas, content and expertise.
Let's take Kingged.com as an example. In this community, you can create a post or a discussion thread, talk about your idea and include links to your other posts and CTAs. The other members of the community will like (King it) or comment it on the platform, but they may also go to your blog and check out what else you have. The more you engage in comments people leave on your post, the more interest you will create around you and your content.
Of course, you won't just be posting all the time, but you will also engage with others' content (and you must do that per guidelines on Kingged), and I warmly recommend that you start with that as soon as you register an account on Kingged, so that you can create your first relationships and the community will already know you and your value when you start posting. Kingged is one of the 8 platforms I recommend all bloggers check out.
14. Ask If You Can Link Them Out
Adithya Murali from TechWyse shares an unheard-of piece of advice:
One of the best ways I know to build relationships when you're starting a new blog is to reach out to them and ask when you're linking out to their website. And no – I'm not joking. When you link out to a great blog post, case study or article on another website, simply reach out and ask them if you could link out to their content. Also, ask them if they could add any more insights to your content. This goes a long way in establishing relationships with influencers and bloggers alike, and puts you up on their radar simply by sending out an email about referencing them. Second, ask questions. We regularly do interviews with industry experts on the TechWyse blog, and one tactic that works beautifully is reaching out to target bloggers and influencers and asking questions. It can be about anything – about how they're dealing with the tweet counts issue, or why they may or may not be using social share icons on their site, a new blog post they wrote or something they talked about in a conference. I've found this to be one of the best ways to start conversations.
Once again, relationships are the winner. Nobody would deny you the right to link out to helpful content, but the act of asking is by itself a friendly act than can connect you and the other person more closely than any link can do.
15. More Ways Drive More Traffic to Your Blog Post
Sara Duggan from Blogger's Assistant suggests that you use the CoPromote platform to engage with others and generate traffic and interest, and shares her results:
Get your content shared on Twitter with CoPromote. This is a simple tool that uses your Buffer account to share on social media. First, you sign in with your Twitter account and then you “boost” a post which is simply adding your post to the community queue to be shared. Now, in order to reach more people with your post, you share other people's content. Each time you share a post you earn “Reach” which is the currency used to get your posts shared. Other networks you can share to are Tumblr, YouTube, and Instagram. There is even an App for iPhone which lets you share on the go. Since joining in April, I've boosted 9 posts which have been shared 85 times, to over 300K people.
Bryan Jaeger, founder of No-Limit Web Design, LLC, wrote a great post on 12 techniques to generate traffic sources and grow your blog, including testimonials and turning your blog into an app. When I asked Bryan, he also shared a word of caution for bloggers looking to boost their traffic:
Always be sure you are aiming your efforts to targeting your “Desired” audience. I once had a client getting 5,000 visitors a month, but wasn't making much money. So I retargeted that to a specific group of people I knew would be interested in his service. Now he only gets around 750 visitors a month but is making 4 times more. So a phrase I use is “quantity of traffic is not always quality traffic”.
Content Is Always King (and HARO Is Queen)
No kidding. When I went out to ask bloggers about their favorite free tool to drive traffic to their blog, I got many responses mentioning HARO and how it worked like a charm for them. The Best of Fitness owner Casey Miller uses HARO to grow backlinks and collaborations:
One quick one that has helped me is HARO (help a reporter out). I have been able to get some great backlinks from Shape.com for example and have been working with others on multiple articles.
But the first ingredient you need is, of course, great content that will wow your readers. It's the reminder from Irina Weber of SE Ranking:
Content is still effective for quality relationship building. Creating different types of content (case studies, interviews, infographics and etc) for authoritative niche-related websites is a good way to increase your authority, increase traffic and build up new relationships. Try to engage on Twitter with powerful experts and share their content. Mutual cooperation with other bloggers is also a great way to attract more traffic.
Respond to the Hunger for Content
Ike Paz From IMG encourages you to give your content a “fighting chance” (his words):
I'll say this time and time again; If content is king then he is an old man who needs your help! The days of publishing blind is over. You need to get your content caught in the web of your niche. To do this, you need to become a reliable source for reporters and bloggers a like. Reach out to these content hungry influencers and appeal to their NEED for free engaging content. You will have to spin your info in a new light. Nobody wants to hear about “5 Outdated SEO Tactics” anymore. They want to read about “5 SEO Tactics That Will Kill Your Blog!”. Make sure you use plenty of exciting analogies to color your content.
Ask People for Their Opinion
Andy Nathan suggests that you reach out to people and ask directly what they think about your content:
The best way to create relationships with people is to ask for their opinion for blog posts, videos, and other content. It gives you a reason to reach out to them, and usually they return the favor by sharing your content to their social network. Some of my favorite tools to help with this are MyBlogU and HARO.
Using HARO to Drive Tons of Blog Traffic
Eric Brantner, founder of Scribblrs.com, found HARO a great resource to keep traffic up for his multiple blogs:
As somebody who manages multiple blogs and sees over half a million monthly visitors come to some of them, one of the most effective tactics I've used to drive blog traffic is to stay consistently active on HARO (Help A Reporter Out). 3 times a day I receive an email from HARO that has dozens of queries from reporters who need sources for their stories. I carefully comb through the list and respond to every single query I think is a decent fit. But that's just the beginning. As someone who has also been on the other side of HARO using it as a reporter, I know how many responses these journalists get, so if you're pitching them you need to go the extra mile to stand out. Typically, I'll find the reporter on Twitter, give them a follow, and send them a heads up about my pitch. I also continue to nurture these relationships going forward so that I'll be top of mind whenever they need sources in the future. This has helped me get my sites featured everywhere from USA Today to Fortune to Time and many other top sites across the web, and it has played an invaluable role in driving blog traffic.
There are so many ways to generate blog traffic for free that you shouldn't feel bad at all for having to rely on a small budget. Work for your success and make it happen!
About Luana Spinetti
Luana Spinetti is a freelance writer and artist based in Italy, and a passionate Computer Science student. She has a high-school diploma in Psychology and Education and attended a 3-year course in Comic Book Art, from which she graduated on 2008. As multi-faceted a person as she is, she developed a big interest in SEO/SEM and Web Marketing, with a particular inclination to Social Media, and she’s working on three novels in her mother-tongue (Italian), which she hopes to indie publish soon.