Ok, “thriving” and “popular” are extremely subjective, but compared to what the blog was before, I think that’s an accurate statement :)

As of yesterday, Blogging Bookshelf is a month old. I’ve been EXTREMELY pleased with the progress of the site so far and with all of the amazing people I’ve been able to meet. I didn’t quite know what to expect when I started this blog, but I think it’s safe to say the result has been way more positive than I thought it would be.

So how did I go from absolutely zero traffic and zero readers a month ago to my last blog post getting 87 comments and 32 retweets? Glad you asked! Keep reading :)

Disclaimer: While this post might not be as entertaining as some of my others, the value here is probably the highest of any I’ve done yet. So with that in mind…

Wanna see some stats first?

Ok! Here are some stats, keeping in mind that everything was at ZERO exactly a month ago.

Traffic Stats (blogging tips)

  • Highest number of visits in a day: 178
  • RSS Subscribers: 50
  • Newsletter subscribers: 64
  • Twitter followers: 946 (I had exactly 34 when I started)
  • # of words written: 31,000, or about a thousand words a day (includes blog posts, pages, and ebooks here, but doesn’t include any comments here or elsewhere or any guest posts). I expect the real number of words I’ve written to be at least… 75,000? More? Less? I dunno.
  • Backlinks: ~1,650 (none of which were automated)
  • Current Alexa rank:  323,334

Here’s a screenshot of the Alexa graph thing:

Alexa Rank (blogging tips)

And here’s an overview of my traffic sources.

Traffic Sources (blogging tips)

It’s interesting to note that WordPress.org was my #3 traffic source (actually #2, because direct traffic doesn’t have a source, now does it?). That’s from my Publish Confirmation plugin.

So these numbers aren’t anything too groundbreaking in the grand scheme of things, but I think they’re pretty freaking good for a month. And they make you realize that  the ratio of visits to comments is surprisingly high.

So, how did I do it and what should you do if you’d like to boost your site’s traffic a bit?

1. Have a great comment policy

See that little blurb of text at the top of the right sidebar? The one with the 6 points? That’s my comment policy. I think it’s been pivotal to getting the amount of comments I’ve gotten. By putting that front and center (or, technically, top and right…), every new reader that comes to my blog knows that his or her comment will be valued. I even have that comment policy above my “all important” list-building newsletter opt-in form. THAT is how important my readers are to me.

I’ve heard a lot of bloggers question the necessity of replying to comments on your own blog. I think it’s essential. Here’s why I do it:

  • First off, it obviously shows visitors that I value their comments.
  • Second, it reminds them to leave a comment. Just like having a Twitter retweet button at the top or bottom of a post will remind and encourage people to leave a comment, the comment policy reminds people to leave a comment.
  • It shows that if they have any questions, they can be assured I’ll read them and do my best to answer them. This provides extra value for the reader beyond what they got out of the post itself.
  • People know I will read their comments, so I think this spurs them on to really write quality comments. I mean, have you read some of the comments on here? They’re freaking amazing, and the average comment here is far longer than on any other blog I’ve seen (that’s not to say I don’t love short comments. Whatever your style is, that’s fine with me!)
  • I also like replying to every comment because it doubles the number of comments I have, and this is good for the self esteem. Seriously. Try it.

I also think the fact that I try to comment on the blog of everyone that comments on mine is a big reason for the high number of comments. Everyone is looking for more comments on their blogs and they now that if they need one, they can come here and get one pretty quick.

Now, I admit that I haven’t been quite as good at commenting back on people’s blogs in the past week or so as I was earlier, and I apologize for that. It’s just getting to the point that there are a lot of blogs to comment on! I still think I’ve gotten everyone, though. But don’t be angry if it takes me a day or two to get back to your blog, and please forgive me if you somehow fall through the cracks. If I haven’t commented after a couple days, @mention me on Twitter and I’ll come write two comments on your blog :)

Oh, and you don’t necessarily have to have your comment policy displayed like I do. I think it’s definitely helped me here, but it can also be implied.

2. Comment on tons of other blogs

Commenting on other blogs has been an absolutely essential part of this blog’s launch. I have commented on hundreds of blogs in the past month. Think about that! HUNDREDS! On average, I comment on about 20 blogs a day. There have been 2 days where I’ve commented on more than 50 blogs. Those were looooong days, but I definitely saw increases in my traffic and subscription numbers.

If you’re wondering, I can average about 10 or 12 comments an hour.

I read every post that I comment on and try to write a quality comment that adds value to the page. Sure, I could comment on way more blogs if I just skimmed through and left a short comment, but my goal with all of this commenting isn’t just to get traffic; it’s to get readers. By leaving a well-thought-out and [hopefully] useful comment, I hope to intrigue/impress the person enough to come back to my blog and leave an equally good comment.

3. Work hard. No really, work HARD

I work on this blog anywhere from 8 to 12 hours a day, sometimes more, never less. I get 5 to 6 hours of sleep a night. I’ve given up a lot of things I enjoy to work on this blog and grow it. It’s amazing how much you can get done on a blog if you work on it for 12 hours a day!

For me, this blog is a startup company, and I am in startup mode. I eat, drink, and sleep this blog.

4. Have awesome content

Of course, if you work hard but have no quality content, your work is all in vain. I think this is where Blogging Bookshelf really stands out from the crowd.

My posts are not short. The last several have at least been in the 1500 words range. Do you still wonder why it’s called Blogging Bookshelf? :) Not only do I try to provide as much value as possible to my readers, but I think the long posts encourage long comments. The longer the comment someone writes, the more invested the person is in that comment, and the greater the chance that the person will come back to see if you’ve replied.

My posts are unique. They’re based on my own experiences, and as such, no one else can duplicate them.

In addition to being unique, my posts are 1) immediately applicable, and 2) infused with my personality. In the future I will go into more detail as to what the “quality content” that we’ve all heard so much abou really means and how you can tell if you have quality content on your blog.

5. Build quality relationships

I’m not a terribly outgoing person in “real life.” I’m not shy, but I’m quiet and introverted. Even so, I’ve managed to foster some awesome relationships and friendships in the last month. The people I’ve connected with through commenting, Twitter, and guest posts have definitely been essential in helping me expand my blog quickly.

You want people to share your stuff? 1) Share theirs, and 2) be an asset to them, their readers, and their blog.

Several people have emailed me and asked me specific questions about various blogging things. I’ve been able to help them out a bit and I feel like I’ve gotten some very loyal readers out of it. Win-win!

6. Use Twitter

My last post was all about Twitter, so I won’t go into too much detail here. And I’ve had requests to write more on how to effectively use Twitter, and I’ll do that in the future. Again, that’s a reason I won’t go into much detail here.

But let me just say that Twitter has blown me away. I didn’t get it before I started this blog, I really didn’t. I’d had an account for a year or so but hadn’t done anything with it. But once I really truly understood how it worked and how it could be a valuable tool, I became a true convert. It really is an extremely powerful tool for getting traffic. As I said in my post a couple days ago, it’s my #1 traffic source.

7. Write lots of guest posts

I’ve written 9 guest posts in the last month, 8 of which have been published so far. The ability to connect with entirely new (to me) yet firmly established audiences has truly been invaluable. I’ve gotten a lot of new readers, subscribers, and friends through my guest posting efforts.

Not only that, but I have made some great friendships with the people whose blogs I guest post on. Not only are these important and helpful now, but I expect they’ll become even more so in the future.

If you’re not guest posting, you’re hurting your blog. It’s that simple.

8. Don’t be afraid to change directions

When this blog started, I was intending it to be a blog that reviewed books about blogging and internet business. I realized pretty quickly that that wasn’t all I wanted to do, so then I decided to review other people’s free ebooks, too, and even the occasional premium ebook. But then I realized that I didn’t want to do THAT, either. I decided that I just wanted to write blogging tips from me, and not summarize them from other people. And that’s what I’m doing now.

And yes, all of that happened in about a two week period!

I’m telling you this because I’m trying to say that it’s ok to change things up a bit. If you don’t like the course your blog is taking, stop it! It’s YOUR freaking blog, after all! Your readers probably won’t care. A big part of why they’re reading your blog is YOU. As long as YOU stay the same, you’ve definitely got some wiggle room as far as what you write about.

Some miscellaneous notes…

These are random thoughts that didn’t really fit anywhere else but I wanted to mention. They don’t really fit together in any other way, so I won’t make any effort to connect them :)

  • I have made some affiliate sales this month through both e-Junkie and Amazon. But I’m not pushing to make money with the blog now.
  • Someone did give me a review copy of their ebook, and you can expect a review of it in the next couple weeks.
  • The site was indexed in Google within a couple days but it took almost a month to rank for my target keywords (see below for more on SEO).

So what’s in store for the next month?

I think the major challenge for me is going to be taking the traffic to the next level. Around a hundred visits a day is awesome, but it will be hard for me to get much more than that just from commenting on other people’s blogs.

Twitter is going to play a huge role in getting more traffic for me, and I hope to have another couple thousand followers a month from now. I think that between getting more followers and being more active on Twitter, I can get significantly more traffic. And while I do thank everyone who retweets my articles, I’m not very fast at it. I also am bad at promoting my older posts, and I want to get better at retweeting the content of those who retweet my content.

I’ll start focusing a bit more on SEO so that I can get more organic traffic that way. SEO has never been a particularly strong point of mine, though I have ranked several blogs on the first page for their key terms. Right now I’m ranked for my target keywords for this blog, but I’m deep, deep in the rankings.

I also want to get on the radar of some big-name bloggers. I’ve never done this kind of thing before, but I’ve got several ideas in mind. Hopefully they’ll work so I can come back and report here :)

As for content here, you can bet it’s going to be awesome! I hope to release another free ebook or two, create some killer tutorials and comprehensive video guides, and play around with infographics some more. I also plan to release a free Thesis theme skin for those who, like me, sport Thesis. I’m interested to see how much traffic I get from that.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to join the Blogging Bookshelf newsletter to get your free copy of my ebook 101 Ways You’re Killing Your Blog. It outlines the 101 biggest mistakes bloggers make. It’s useful, trust me.

As always, that retweet button is just right there :)   Oh, and that reminds me. If you’ve ever got a particular post that you want me to retweet and I don’t get around to it, let me know!

  • If you have any questions, please ask them in the comments!
  • And if you want me to cover certain topics in the next month, let me know in a comment.
  • If you have any suggestions on how I can grow the blog, I’m all ears!