A friend asked how many of my posts have over 100 comments so I decided to find out with the “Most Popular Posts” widget. It turns out that Financial Samurai has roughly 70 posts with more than 100 comments and several hundred posts with over 50 comments. In other words, every 10th post or so becomes “a whale post” which leads to a tremendous amount of recurring traffic.
In this post I’d like to share with you some strategies that will really provide a boost to your site. I’m confident that if you follow these strategies, you’ll get random folks flocking from all over to be your biggest fans, or biggest detractors. More important than seeking adoration is attracting enough traffic for growing a life sustaining blog.
STRATEGY #1: CREATE POWER CATEGORIES
Less is generally always more. If you create way too many categories your readers will start to zone out. It’s much better to be a master of a few topics than a jack of all trades.
When I say to create “Power Categories” I don’t mean limiting the number of categories to just a few topics. Although it’s probably best to limit your categories to 10 or less. What’s most important is focusing on three to five categories where you plan to go DEEP.
For Financial Samurai, the Power Categories are:
I post four times a week on average and will always alternate between these five topics + another topic from one of my other five normal categories. Over the course of a year, I should therefore be able to generate roughly 30 posts in each power category. Over the course of five years, each power category will then have 150 posts of some of the most meaty content on the web. The resulting concentration from SEO also gets magnified as search engines see a trend towards relevant keyword rich posts.
The folks who start getting in trouble are those who spread themselves way too thin. If you have 20 categories with only 10 posts in each category, it’s very hard to gain traction and compete with other blogs online who are focused. The internet has enabled everyone to become specialists in very niche subjects because it’s easier than ever to find customers. I recommend everybody take a look at the number of posts in each category and merge the bottom 25%.
Another benefit of focusing on Power Categories is making readers think your blog is only about one category despite having multiple Power Categories. For example, many readers think Financial Samurai is just a Early Retirement blog or only a Real Estate blog. When you start getting such feedback you know you are on track to creating authority. Your readers tend to think and read what they want to read. As administrator, you see the entire gamut of your traffic, comments, and post count.
If I can make readers believe my entire site is focused on Early Retirement while only having 10-15% of all my posts on the subject, then I know I’m doing something right. Don’t be shy to occasionally survey your readers to find out more.
STRATEGY #2: WRITE LIKE YOU ARE SPEAKING TO ONLY ONE PERSON
If you can make it seem like you are playing for just one person in an auditorium of thousands, you’ll be able to create some of the most enthusiastic fans. When a reader comments on a personal level, I know I’ve been able to connect with them and make an impact.
The keys to making your content speak to individual readers is to add personality, personal stories, and examples of friends who everybody can relate to. Everybody who is over the age of 35 knows Norm from Cheers. If you use Norm as an example to buttress your point, you’ll be able to reach many more people. If you use Marilyn Manson as one of your subjects, you’ll probably lose a lot of folks.
One of my most popular posts is “Disadvantages Of A ROTH IRA: Not All Is What It Seems” with around 275 comments so far. I am extremely vocal as to why I think contributing to a ROTH IRA before maxing out a 401(k) and a traditional IRA is a mistake for the majority of people. The vocal commenters who contribute to a ROTH have taken my article very personally and feel that I am insulting their decision.
They see a picture of a young man barfing on the streets and think, “What the hell?” I use simple math to buttress my point that it is highly unlikely you will make more in retirement than during your prime earning years. Yet all of this is ignored because once you contribute to a ROTH, you want to feel good about your decision.
Whether you save in a ROTH or not doesn’t really matter to me so long as you are saving. What matters is for folks to thoroughly think through their retirement savings decisions so they minimize regrets later on. Saving for a ROTH is better than not saving at all. I’ve explicitly said this in my post and in my comments to deaf ears. Despite the banter, I’ve gained a lot of followers from the post who respect me for my opinion even if they don’t agree and want to hear more about other topics.
The final thing everyone should do if you really want to make your posts seem like it was written for just one person is to respond to as many comments as possible. Responding is a very time consuming task, but it’s worth it over the long run. Comment responding is part of the reason why I like to post every other day instead of every day. At the end of each of your posts, definitely ask questions to get your audience involved.
STRATEGY #3: KEEP YOUR AUDIENCE GUESSING
Bisexuals have it best because they can mate with everyone! If you only like guys, you’ve immediately cut your potential pool in half. If you are only a debt blogger, you aren’t going to capture the interests of those who like debt or don’t have any debt. If you only write about pro Republican issues, then you’re likely going to alienate a lot of Democrats.
I’ve been accused of arguing both sides on multiple occasions and that’s fine by me because that’s exactly what I like to do. One of Financial Samurai’s main goals is to welcome diversity so we can better understand each other to become better people. Imagine not speaking another language, never leaving your town, and having all your friends look and speak like you. It becomes very difficult to branch out if you don’t have more perspective.
I’ve always thought Capitalism was better than Socialism. I believe in a meritocracy where those who work the hardest receive the greatest reward. But when I learned about continued big government legislation and retroactive taxes I wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. As a result, I wrote “Socialism As A Means To A Brighter Future” to help argue the other side. Furthermore, I decided to take a two week business trip to Holland, Belgium, Norway, and Denmark to understand more about the happiest people on earth who all so happen to come from Socialist countries. What I found were low crime rates, extremely high tax rates, a less stressful way of life, and genuinely happy people. You can read more in, “Learning From The World’s Happiest People.”
As a result of my trip and the feedback from my “Brighter Future” post, I’ve come to accept that big government is here to stay by doing my best to join the majority. Now I have ardent Socialists and Capitalists both visiting my site and sharing their perspectives on their ideologies. Nobody is ever 100% one way, so the various posts I have arguing both sides helps soften up rhetoric.
If you keep your audience guessing, you’ll create an addictive urge for your audience to always wonder what you’re up to. I’ve got folks who hate everything about me from my race, to my views on wealth, to my writing style, but they keep on coming back for more. So long as you have tremendous amount of content that back’s up your thesis, you should be able to convincingly make a case in either direction. In the process, you’ll be able to capture more readers who will appreciate what you are trying to do and add their own viewpoints you may have never thought about before.
My three strategies for boosting traffic and creating a more exciting type of blog aren’t for everyone. I have a lot of respect for low key sites which produce neutral content that ruffles no feathers because many of them are crushing it. Such sites also appeal to a wide variety of search traffic visitors because there’s nothing that could turn a reader off.
If you enjoy writing for writing’s sake, challenging conventional wisdom, and blogging mostly as a hobby, consider employing my strategies to boost your traffic. I’m pretty sure that within a couple years you will surprise yourself with how far you will have come!
Readers, do you currently employ any of these three strategies to various degrees? What are some strategies you’ve found that have really helped boost traffic?