How to Get Awesome Results from a Low Traffic Blog

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By Will Hoekenga of Copygrad.com

Raise your hand if you’ve been here — you’re getting little to no comments on each post, your mom is the only one opening your emails, and cracking 100 visitors in a week sounds about as doable as scaling Mount Everest. Naked.

And then one day the thought enters your head… So what if I did get 100 visitors in a week? Even THAT isn’t enough to get me more sales, clients, etc.

So you quit.

You join the millions before you who started a blog only to discover an often-ignored truth — attracting visitors to your blog can be pretty freaking difficult.

There’s a huge gap in our thinking when it comes to blog traffic. It looks something like this:

Vastland-Resized
Zero Visitors –> VAST WASTELAND WHERE NOTHING GOOD HAPPENS –> Millions of Fans

Here’s a very corny truth: that so-called “vast wasteland” is actually nothing more than a mirage. See what I did there?

The biggest lie new/early-stage bloggers believe is that nothing good can happen until you start experiencing massive waves of traffic, social shares, comments, and email subscribers.

Fact: You can get major results from a low traffic blog.

In this post, I’m going to show you how I used LeadPages and a combination of other techniques to achieve the following results in the first two and a half months of launching a blog that, as of right now, has only had 595 unique visitors (that’s roughly eight people per day).

  • Seth Godin left an endorsement-like comment on the first post I ever wrote for Copygrad (that’s the name of the blog). It’s been great for building credibility because he’s some kind of respected marketing mind, I hear?       Seth-Godin-resized
  • Three unsolicited queries for paid copywriting projects have come my way.
  • I had a Skype call with someone in a leadership position at one of my favorite companies, Wistia, because he liked a post I wrote about Trader Joe’s.

  • I’ve had two blogs with great audiences come to me and ask for a guest post (one was LeadPages, which is why you’re reading this right now).

  • I’ve had two other blogs with massive audiences (that aren’t currently accepting guest posts) accept shot-in-the-dark guest post inquiries from me.

Listen, this is not going to be another overwhelming post that’s going to promise you tens of thousands of new visitors. Like I said, I got all five of the above results with less than 600 unique visitors.

Am I saying traffic isn’t important and that I’m content with that number? Absolutely not. Heck, increased traffic is one of the reasons I’m guest posting in the first place!

But what I am saying is that you don’t have to wait for floods of traffic before you start experiencing awesome results.

Let’s get started and take a look at the five strategies I’ve employed to get these results out of my low-traffic blog:

1. Used LeadPages to Pass the Eye Test

LeadPages allowed me to accomplish one of the most important steps in this process—I was able to reach out to influencers and secure a spot on their promotional calendar before the site launched.

Think about it, if you’re reaching out to people with established reputations and audiences with a request for them to promote your new site when it launches…do you expect them to say “yes” before they can even see the site?

People with audiences are constantly bombarded with promotional requests, and—spoiler alert—about 95% of the stuff people want promoted looks like crap. And if the site looks bad, there’s little chance they will take the time to look at much else.

That’s why I used the “Launching Soon Page” template to create an incredibly simple, elegant landing page that would pass any influencer’s eye test.

Before my site even launched, I used this launching soon page from LeadPages so my site would pass the eye test.
Before my site even launched, I used this launching soon page from LeadPages so my site would pass the “eye test.”

The eye test is one of the earliest barriers you’ll have to overcome. LeadPages makes it easy.

2. Created Highly Shareable Content by Writing About Stuff People Love

Sure, strategies like writing great headlines, having a nice social share plugin, and inserting “Click to Tweets” make more people share your posts. But the most powerful strategy I’ve found for creating shareable content is simply writing about stuff that people love.

And when I say “love” I don’t mean the kind of stuff people just say, “Oh, I love that,” about.

I’m talking about the kind of stuff people love so much that you avoid bringing it up in conversation because you don’t want to hear about it for the next 15 minutes (think stereotypical Apple users).

So far, I’ve written three posts based on this strategy, and they’ve all yielded great results. They were about:

  • Seth Godin (titled “5 Copywriting Tactics You Can Steal from Seth Godin”)

  • Trader Joe’s (titled “How Trader Joe’s Writes Copy Customers Love”)
  • LeadPages (duh, I somehow had to win their love to get this guest post…oh, and it was titled “How LeadPages Bakes Insane Anticipation Into Every Launch”)

As you can see, all are things for which people have borderline irrational levels of love. But there’s more to this than just fawning over your favorite company like a fanboy at Comic-Con.

There are four things you need to do:

1. Start with yourself.

The first rule is that you need to be writing about something you love. Writers you read, stores where you shop, products that you use.

Before I wrote about Seth Godin, Trader Joe’s, and LeadPages, I had history with them. I had used and recommended their products. I had spread their gospel.

2. Keep lists about your most-loved things.

Simple—if you get these things down on paper as they come to you, you’ll give your brain a head start on ideas for each one.

I wish I could give you some cool Google Doc template I used for keeping track of mine but, honestly, I just kept them in a note on my iPhone (majorly old-fashioned, I know).

Before I wrote the Trader Joe’s post that ultimately got me a Skype call with someone at Wistia, I spent a week or so making the following notes as they entered my brain:

bullet_list3 (1)

Do this with every idea. That way, when it comes time to write, you’ve got ammo.

3. Relate your expertise to those favorite things.

This is the part that becomes challenging. You have to look at your list of favorite things and determine if any of them are doing something that relates to the subject matter of your blog.

For me, that’s copywriting.

As much as I’d love to write a post about Breaking Bad, it’s just kind of a stretch to relate some aspect of copywriting to the show. “How These 3 Simple Copywriting Techniques Could Have Tripled Walter White’s Meth Empire” might be a little bit of a stretch. 🙂

4. When you can, write about people/companies/products that might actually promote your article.

This should not be the end-all, be-all reason you write about something (remember, start with love!). After all, Trader Joe’s never promoted my Trader Joe’s post and it was definitely still worth my while to write it.

However, the two biggest wins as far as helping the visibility/credibility of my blog came when I not only wrote about someone, but then sent the post to them.

Which brings us to technique #3…

3. Shared My Posts with the People/Companies They Were About

This is without question the most important strategy we’ll talk about.

The truth is you can use LeadPages to help your site pass the eye test, you can take the time to write great content about brands people love, but if you don’t actually reach out and ask someone to come to your site…no one is ever going to get the chance to see all the great stuff you just created.

This strategy is how a nobody blogger like me got Seth Godin to leave a comment on the first post I ever wrote for Copygrad.

Here’s how you do it:

1. Find the best contact information you can possibly locate for the subject of your post.

My first choice is always an email address. That’s what I found for Seth. As an avid follower of his, I knew that he actually does read the emails that come to the address he lists on his website: seth@sethgodin.com

When I can’t find an email address, my Plan B has been Twitter. That’s how I originally got in touch with Clay Collins, co-founder of this very platform, which led to a series of conversations that led to this guest post.

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This is not a bad plan IF the person you’re trying to contact is actually active on Twitter. Otherwise, it’s safe to assume you’ll hear nothing but crickets.

Another note about Twitter: favorites and retweets are nice self-esteem boosters, but the real value is in the relationships you can build. Remember that.

Beyond those strategies, you can start to get into creeper territory. And no, I can’t say I’m above drifting there from time to time. 🙂

If I really, really need an email address, I use the method fellow LeadPages user Bryan Harris of Videofruit.com describes in Step #5 of this post. (It involves a Google search, a pretty awesome spreadsheet, and every email stalker’s favorite tool, Rapportive.

2. Craft a highly personal or relevant message.

Mere minutes after hitting the “Publish” button on an early Thursday morning, when I decided to take a shot in the dark at emailing Seth Godin the post I had just written about him, a thought entered my mind:

How can I make this email stand out?

The answer? Do the same thing I did with the post—make the email about something he loves.

Three sentences of back story: The post, “5 Copywriting Tactics You Can Steal from Seth Godin,” was all about a series of products Seth had personally written sales copy for on his website Squidoo. One of the products that he ranted and raved about was a pair of Grado Prestige headphones. Being a bit of a music nerd, his copy convinced me to buy a pair.

Since he’d already revealed that he loved the headphones, that’s what I made the email about. Here is exactly what it said:

email

If I were to create a formula based on that email, it would look something like:

  • [Intriguing Subject Line]
  • [Comment about something highly relevant/personal to the recipient]
  • [Non-pushy link to your post]

Basically, you want to be personal (don’t sound like you’re using a garden variety outreach template), brief (mine was six sentences split into three paragraphs), and complimentary (even if you think they hear it all the time).

With my tweet to Clay, I employed a similar strategy. I made it all about a really exciting LeadPages launch that had just happened the day before. As opposed to just saying, “Check out this post I wrote about your company,” it said, “Wow! That launch you just poured your blood, sweat, and tears into was awesome…let me explain why.”

Clay-Tweet-Resized

3. Keep your eyes peeled, and don’t expect a specific result.

When I emailed Seth Godin, him leaving a comment on my post was the last thing I expected to happen. (Who knew a dude like Seth would have a Disqus account?)

But when it happened, I freaked out patted myself on the back, snapped a screenshot, and started including it in guest blogging inquiry emails I was sending out. It was an atypical result, but I found a use for it that has eventually led to more traffic, email subscribers, and opportunities.

When I sent my post about Trader Joe’s to Trader Joe’s using some submission form on their website, the exact opposite happened. (Nothing.)

But I kept my ear to the ground. And when Jeff Vincent, Customer Happiness Guy at Wistia, chimed in on a tweet about the post, I quickly responded.

Trader-Joe-Tweets

This quick discussion led to a Skype call where I got to meet someone at one of my favorite companies, learn about behind-the-scenes stuff they’re working on, and generally become a smarter person in the process.

And all it took was a tiny amount of follow up.

4. Used LeadPages to Convert Outside Traffic Into Email Subscribers

Ah, LeadPages. Here again to save the day when you need someone the most.

One of the hardest things about having a low-traffic blog is actually finding a way to get that small number of people landing on your site onto your email list so you can get them to return.

That’s where LeadBoxes come in. I have yet to find a better, higher converting tool for capturing people who are reading your blog posts.

LeadBoxes allow you to easily insert an elegant email opt-in form in the middle of your content…without smacking your readers in the face with an email opt-in form right in the middle of the stuff they’re trying to read. (Here’s an example of a LeadBox in action.)

See the linked text at the bottom of my blog post below? When you click it, my LeadBox magically appears. Ta-da!

“But Will,” you’re saying, “why make users take two steps to opt-in? Why make them have to click and then fill out their email instead of just putting an opt-in box in the post to begin with?”

The answer? Science, my friend. Science.

What the fine folks at LeadPages found is that people are subconsciously getting a little sick of seeing opt-in forms all over the Internet.

So, instead, you offer them a link or a button. That way, when the opt-in appears, they’re already invested in getting whatever it is you’ve offered them.

It’s called the 2-Step Opt-In Process, and if you think it sounds crazy, look no further than the results.

Bottom line? LeadBoxes are a super-convenient and super-powerful way to start capturing every last visitor you can…even when you’re not getting that many.

They’re also great tools for guest posting. Just take a look at the conversion rate on a LeadBox I recently used on one:

Numbers graphic resized

5. Know Your Song Well Before You Start Singing

Confession: I’m actually a recovering horrible blogger.

In fact, if you don’t count the Dragon Ball Z website my friend and I made as seventh graders in 2001, I’m on my third blog.

Before Copygrad, I started a blog about music and another one that was all over the map. I really can’t even tell you what it was about.

At my lowest point, I even wrote a post about my top three favorite Bob Dylan lyrics…and it wasn’t for the music blog. While this was perhaps a noble cause, it added little value to anyone’s life other than my own.

Now that I’ve finally started getting traction on my third try, I’ve found that part of the solution lies in, coincidentally, a line from Bob Dylan’s classic “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”:

“But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’.”

The easiest way to flame out when you have a low-traffic blog? Lacking a clearly defined focus.

You’ll find it difficult to trudge onward when you have no idea where you’re going in the first place.

Narrow your focus. Define your long-term vision. Know your song well before you start singing.

And remember — you don’t need tons of traffic to start getting great results. Not now. Not ever.

Resized-HeadshotAbout the Author: Will Hoekenga is the founder of Copygrad, the site where folks learn next-level copywriting techniques. For his next copy adventure, Will plans to join our LeadPages team — so you can look forward to hearing more from Will. In the meantime, you can get access to 25 quick techniques that will help you instantly improve your copy in his free ebook. 

  • Great article WIll. Love the detail.

    • Thanks, Bryan! I’d be lying if I said that the level of detail in your posts hasn’t pushed me to be more specific. 🙂

    • PS: stellar Skitch usage throughout 🙂

      • Haha, I learned from the Skitch master! You should totally write a post about Skitch if you haven’t already.

  • Love your writing style Will

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I’d personally love to see that Breaking Bad post you were thinking of writing: “How These 3 Simple Copywriting Techniques Could Have Tripled Walter White’s Meth Empire” 🙂

    Great stuff!

    Loz

    • Thanks, Loz! Love hearing that from a fellow copywriter. 🙂

      And now that I re-read that post title, maybe it’s not such a bad idea after all… “The first sentence MUST BE PERFECT if you expect readers to read the SECOND SENTENCE, Jesse! Think! Apply yourself!”

  • Ashley Faulkes

    Great read Will. And well tied to Lead Pages. Love it! My hat is now off :>

    • Thanks, Ashley! I’ve always wanted to use that expression, but I look super weird in hats. Thus, I never have one to take off :-/

  • Kevin

    Love it, Will! Awesome post. I’m looking forward to reading more from you. Welcome to LeadPages!

    • Thanks, Kevin! Btw, I stumbled across that post you wrote about the $10k fish the other day…holy crap I am going to have to hear that story in person sometime.

  • Tracy Simmons

    We’re really excited to have you join our team, Will! Welcome!

  • Amazing post Will! Welcome to the team!!!

    • Tim, I so want to read the “How to Start an Amazing Podcast” post that I know is inside your head. 🙂 And thanks, excited to be here!

  • Nice post Will. Good work. I can see you’re a pretty clever Copywriter. I like how you throw in stories that people can connect & relate to i.e. Breaking Bad (Big W.W. fan here!!) and Bob Dylan (not such a fan). Keep up the good work! Enjoyed this post greatly.

    • Thanks for reading, Stuart! Glad you enjoy all my nerd-isms. Also, I feel like there is a weird connection between people in online marketing and Walter White. Not sure I’m ready to explore the psychological implications of that yet, though. 🙂

  • Kat Von Rohr

    Awesome post Will! Excited to have you on the team. 🙂

    • Thanks, Kat! I read plenty of your excellent posts for guidance as I wrote this one. 🙂

  • Welcome to LeadPages, Will!

  • Jeff Wenberg

    Will, excellent article here. I think this exact topic stops a lot of people from getting started building their brand online. These steps are perfect to follow. Super excited to have you on board!

    • Jeff, you’re totally right. I had that problem for so long because it’s such a deflating feeling. Thanks for the kind words and I’m super excited as well!

  • Awesome post, Will! Read it twice before noticing my little Twitter cameo. 😉 Welcome to the LeadPages team – we’re lucky to have you!

    • Kaitlyn, your cameo was essential to tying the whole post together. Thank you for playing your role proudly!

  • Nick Hammer

    Thank you for going Super Saiyan and joining the team. Welcome. 🙂

    • Oh man, I think that needs to be the tagline on the LeadPages jobs page: “Go Super Saiyan…Join LeadPages!” And thanks, I’m excited to be working with y’all!

  • Will, I love this article. Building up a blog audience from scratch is probably the most difficult marketing task I can think of (and IMHO hands down the best marketing education you can get). Congrats on what you’ve achieved with CopyGrad. Anyway, everyone here is so thrilled about your joining us, and I’m honored that I’ll get to work on a team with you. Here’s to the road ahead.

    Warm regards,
    Clay

    • Clay, thanks so much. You and Tracy have put together a team of super talented people that I’m honored to be joining. Not to mention that you also have a ridiculously amazing product. 🙂 Excited to get started!

  • Jay

    Great article, Will. It always feels good to ring that bell with knock-out content.

  • Hey Will, it’s great to read your post. I can testify that what you say works – even if you have zero posts on your blog.

    Welcome to LeadPages by the way – great to have you here! 🙂

    Warmly,
    Halina

  • ZachPJohnson

    Geeeze! That’s so awesome Seth Godin left a comment on your blog. I think your first marketing goal at LeadPages should be to get Seth Godin to write a comment on the LeadPages blog. Look forward to working with you @WillHoekenga:disqus!

  • Epic — Thanks buddy.

  • This is a fantastic post Will. Great job and packed with very usable tips and strategies . . . and results!

    • Would love to hear how/if you use any of the strategies, John. Thanks!

  • www_HypeFree_com

    Great tips! The best one is like the most: “Know Your Song Well Before You Start Singing”.

    Dan.

    • Dan, that one has made a HUGE difference for me. The only hard part is getting to the point where you’re confident enough to think you “know your song well.” Thanks, glad you enjoyed.

  • This post needed to be written. Also, nice customization of the Generate theme on your site. I dig it!

  • Just luv the suggestions in these blogs. Well done and keep em coming. Very interesting read that kept me engaged. I am about to launch my new blog, hope I can be at least as half as inspiring as your posts – any other tips welcome?

    • Neil, one of the most important suggestions I ever followed was to clearly define exactly whom you are writing for and why you are writing. Have a focused blog meant for a specific audience that doesn’t go all over the map. So far, that’s something that has made a big difference for me with my current blog vs. past failed ones. I’m sure you’ve heard this advice elsewhere, but that’s because it’s true.

      Thanks for reading and for the kind words!

      • Thanks Will I’ll follow this advice and continue to develop my blogging skills!

  • Congrats, Will. I’ve been telling people (especially freelancers) to watch you even before this post. Now you’re making me look brilliant 🙂 You’ve got a very bright future ahead of you.

    • Thanks, Kevin, that’s awesome to hear! Can’t thank you enough for helping spread the word. 🙂

  • Nickmarquet

    Nice post and very timely for me to read as I’m launching a book, Blog and product all in the next 3 months and definitely wondering where the traffic will come from. Seems to me the simple formula is (read like Wayne’s World) ‘If you help them…they will come’.

    • Wow, awesome to see you’re getting so much stuff out the door, Nick! Regarding traffic, and piggybacking off your Wayne’s World reference, “It will be yours…Oh yes…it will be yours.”

  • Great post. Thanx!

  • Andy

    Will! Thanks for such an encouraging post — and welcome to the team!

  • Phylicia Green

    Wonderful article Will! I’m so excited to have you on the LeadPages team 🙂

    ~Phylicia~

    • Thanks, Phylicia! The excitement is mutual. Responding to this from my new MacBook, by the way. 🙂

  • Pepperpot Marketing

    Thanks for this Will – awesome post! As someone who is a) a massively failing blogger because the time vs effort ratio for the small traffic figures always seems to win in the favour of doing something else and b) has recently signed up and is fast becoming a huge advocate of lead pages – you have just re-ignited the spark…right, off to retrieve all of those half-written posts 🙂

    • I have a feeling you are going to LOVE LeadPages. I was a customer many months before joining the team, and I can tell you that it was a huge part of pushing me to dedicate myself more to blogging. It also made implementing a lot of my ideas so much easier. It really made things fun, which makes things easier when the going gets tough. Happy to have reignited the spark! Keep going and celebrate the small wins.

  • Alice Dymally

    Love your honesty! Excellent strategies here. Thanks Will! 🙂

    • Thanks, Alice! Would love to hear how you implement any of the strategies and the results you see.

  • Bree Brouwer

    All right, fine. You’ve convinced me. I’m going to go sign up for your free ebook now. Not just because this was an awesome post and I learned something new about email opt-ins (no idea the science was starting to show people are sick of them!), but because apparently your last name is Dutch. 🙂

    • Bree, my last name is so Dutch it’s not even funny. And I’m really not used to it doing me ANY favors, so I will gladly accept this one! 🙂

      I was really surprised when I learned about one-step versus two-step opt-ins as well. So cool! Glad you enjoyed, and would love to hear your thoughts on the ebook.

      • Bree Brouwer

        Even more so for us Dutchies to stick together, I think. 🙂

        I will do that. I have downloaded it and when I get the chance to read it, I’ll shoot you an email!

  • You give me hope, Will. And definitely changed my mindset about a lot of things. Welcome to LeadPages!! Love the site, products and community. 😀

    • That’s so awesome to hear, Aqilah! Would love to hear if you end up implementing anything from this post.

      And agreed. I’ve been using the products and following the community for several months, so I’m a huge fan as well! Thanks for reading.

  • Great post, Will! How cool of Seth to comment on your FIRST blog post, well, first one for that site.

    My question for you is…

    How the he*l do you top that?!

    • Ha! I thought the same thing when it happened, Adam. “Well, it’s all downhill from here.”

  • Great post Will! I’ve been using LeadPages for a while but I know I have not taken full advantage of it. Will definitely go and check out the LeadBoxes!

    • Sheri, you’re going to love using LeadBoxes, especially when you see the results. And thanks!

  • Will,

    Where do I even start? You just make me smile.

    Not only was your information so valuable, but I really enjoyed reading it.

    • Thanks, Peder! Really appreciate that and glad you enjoyed. 🙂

  • Nick

    Hi guys. Can anyone help? On the free almost perfect landing page template how do you input your aweber list details?
    I know I’m in the wrong place but the comment section for that post was closed. (I’m assuming because of support questions like this)
    Haha. If anyone can help it’s greatly appreciated. Great work guys!
    Thanks!
    Nick