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Monday, October 3, 2011

The MGBG Guide to Creating a Blog That Doesn't Suck

Today's MGBG Q&A post answers a question that I get a lot: "How do I get more traffic on my blog?"

Now first off, I'm not sure how qualified I am to write a post like this. I've been lucky to have enjoyed a decent amount of success at my blog in a relatively short period of time. But there are many more bloggers out there who have enjoyed much more. They get hundreds of thousands of pageviews a day on their blog. And many write articles that will dispense similar advice. I encourage you to also read those posts for additional ideas. Just letting you know that I didn't exactly invent the wheel in this department.

I certainly didn't set out to get to where I am today. And I think most of how I got there is a combination of dumb luck, alcohol, swear words, and epic costume changes. But there were a few things that I did do intentionally that worked really well. That's what I'll share with you all in this post.

1. Why do you want more traffic?

I'm going to be honest with you folks. You can do everything that all of the articles on this topic suggest and still be a lonely blogger in some dark corner of the internet. Over 20,000 blogs are started on the web per day. Your odds of standing out among that mess are slim to none. I'm not saying you're not an awesome person who runs an awesome blog. I'm just shooting straight. It's probably not going to happen.

So am I saying you can't increase your pageviews? Not at all. It will happen...at least a little. I'm saying that increased readership is not a goal in and of itself; at least not one that is sustainable. If you make that your sole reason for blogging, you'll just end up frustrated. You're not going to enjoy a meteoric rise to fame. Your new ebook will not fly off the virtual shelves. And you won't be cashing a fatty fat check from Google Adsense any time soon.

What's that leave you with? It's different for everyone. It could be a love for writing. For me, it's not necessarily the blogging itself, but the stuff that happens to me because I blog. I get to see all the new, cool minimal shoes before they hit the market. I get to meet really cool people from all over the world. And I get to have experiences that I never could have done without a blog.

The bottom line is that you need to love what you are doing....period. Blogging, if done right, is hard work. It's at least another part-time job for me. But as they say, "If you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life." I haven't worked a single day as a blogger. The day I do, I'll probably quit because the pay is shit. On the other hand, if you don't love what you're doing people can tell, and they'll stop reading. That is...if you even continue to post stuff for them to read.

2. Find your niche.

This video illustrates my next point nicely.

Just like Barefoot Steve here, everyone who starts barefoot running seems to feel the urge to blog. There are literally thousands of barefoot running blogs out there right now. And I guarantee that all of those blogs are about that person's "transition to barefoot running". I also guarantee that their site is filled entirely with descriptions of workouts, a review of the Vibram Bikila LS (or whatever shoes they currently own), and race reports.

And there's nothing wrong with a blog like that. I think barefoot running is a skill that requires a lot of reflection, and blogs are good for that. But forgive me if I don't read it. I don't much care about your workouts and race reports. And I have a three pairs of Bikila LSs already. Unless your readers know you personally, they are probably going to say the same thing.

In order to get pageviews, you need to stand out among the crowd. A great example of this is the blog of my friend Justin Owings; a little site called Birthdayshoes. Perhaps you've heard of it? If you've searched online for information on Vibram Fivefingers, chances are good that you have.

His site is almost devoted to everything Vibram Fivefingers. He has the latest news and reviews on the subject. He's also doing something that no one else is doing at the same level. As a result, when people want information on Fivefingers, they universally turn to his site. The result...massive pageviews. I won't give numbers, but his pageviews are generally about seven times my own.

Your niche doesn't have to be a particular brand of shoes, or even barefoot running. But it should be something that you know a lot about and enjoy talking about. You all have unique knowledge that you can share with the world. Share that instead of someting that thousands of other bloggers are also sharing. If you do that in a way that no one else is doing, your audience will find you.

3. Write good content

Seems pretty obvious right? It's also the hardest thing to do well. But if you want readership, you need to know how to write

I can't teach you to be a good writer in a post like this, so I won't spend a lot of time on the subject. I will give you this observation though. I know a lot of people that I consider to be good bloggers. They all share one trait. The manner in which they write is exactly the way they are in person (which is awesome by the way).

So really all I can say to you on this subject is to be yourself and write in your own voice. If you do that, and you're a likeable person, what you write about will be great.

4. Four words: Dude...Search Engine Optimization

I get a vast majority of my pageviews off of Google searches. A good blog usually does also. Why? Because in order for people to read what you have to say, they have to find you. Most people find stuff on the web through Google searches. It pays to know how they work.

I want you to do something for me. Google the words "New Balance Minimus Trail Review". Where is my review? If you answered #3 in your search results, you are correct. How did it get there? I have no fricking idea.

Actually I do....a little. Google displays their search results based on a combination of factors; most importantly website traffic. The pages that are clicked on the most are probably the most relevant, and therefore displayed at the top. My review is #3 mostly because it gets the third most traffic behind the review from Running and Rambling and iRunFar (both great sites by the way).

But that's not the only reason. I didn't always have a lot of traffic, and yet that review has always been on at least page two of the Google results. That's because I did a little work to make my review look more relevant. That's done with a magic voodoo ninja skill called Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Now Google doesn't actually share how they craft their various searches. So SEO is a lot like the equation used by the underpants gnomes.
  • Step One: Use SEO
  • Step Two: ??????
  • Step Three: Pageviews
It's a murky concept that I don't think anyone really understands. Here's what little I know. SEO is all about keywords. If you want to write a blog about a particular topic, you need to think about how people would search for content about that topic. Then you need to put those key words in your post. If you're writing a post about a particular minimal shoe, you better have the name of the shoe in your review. People search for information about that shoe by typing something like "New Balance Minimus" or "New Balance Minimus Review". They don't type in something like "Ewoks and Unicorns". That search would bring up some cool stuff, but you don't want it to bring up your review.

You can write a whole article just about this SEO stuff. I'm not going to, because it's boring. But if you want more traffic you need to find some of these articles and learn the basics of SEO.

5. You gotta have friends

Let's be honest folks. I haven't gotten to where I am today because of talent. Hardly anybody does. I got here because of the people in that picture, and everyone else I have met in the barefoot/minimalist running world. Your success in the blogging world depends entirely on other people. So it helps to get to know some. It also helps if they like you.

I have made it a point since day one of my blog to shake hands with everyone I possibly can in the barefoot/minimalist running industry. I will continue to do so until I've either met everyone, or I take over the world. Either way I'll be happy. Everyone in this field is super cool. And world domination would be pretty sweet.

Networking is important in any business, and blogging is no different. That being said, networking is a tricky business. It's not as simple as shaking every hand you can and asking for a handout. That's the annoying style of networking. And it doesn't work. I'm not going to help you out just because you awkwardly shook my hand or spam emailed me.

I will help you if I like you and respect you. Simply put...I will help you if you are my friend. So the good kind of networking is the kind where you just make friends and be nice to people. You receive love and respect by giving the same. I try to live that way each and every day in this business. If you do the same, good things will come to you.

6. Link back biotch!

What's an example of a way that a friend can help you out? By putting a link to your blog on their website, or on their facebook page. They could also ask you to guest post on their blog. This does a couple of things. First, it puts your article in front of a different audience. Many of those people may not know about your blog. Instant expanded audience...

Again, web traffic and relevancy are key. In that order. If you're a barefoot running blogger, would you rather get linked on my website, or on your friend's gardening blog. Even better, would you rather be linked by my website, or Christopher McDougall's? Need I say more?

There are a lot of other ways to get links back to your site too. You can participate in chat forums. You can comment on other people's blog posts. Anything that gets your website in front of the eyes of a different audience will increase your views.

That being said, don't be annoying about it. You don't read spam, so why would you expect other people to do the same. The best kinds of links are the ones generated by other people because they genuinely like what they've just read.

Want some more tips from another successful barefoot running blogger?  Check out Jason Robillard's post on the same subject (coincidentally posted on the same day):


I hope that these tips get you started towards blogging success! Virtual cheers citizens!


  1. 1. Oh yeah - you were totally writing that for me, my senseless whining must have gotten to ya. LOL

    2. That picture of all of us has been passed around more times than a Swedish whore. Too bad it's not at all in focus.

    3. Will you write a guest post on my blog? :p

  2. It wasn't directed at you Trisha. I just wanted people to know that writing content is the easy part. Successful bloggers spend more time doing stuff other than writing that will help them out. I only spend about 10% of the total time I spend on my blog actual writing content

  3. First time, i've been on the blog since the make over. It looks good. I keep toying with the idea of a blog, but like you said there are 20,000 a day, so would mine matter? (at least that's the little whiny voice in my head). That being said, I think I may be able to infuse some primal life aspects with my chosen profession for something unique. Anyway, thanks again for all your information and the info about paleo/primal down from 240 to 185 and still moving strong.

  4. I think a blog can matter without being read Caleb. That's why my first point is so important. A blog is a great way to share yourself with others, even a small few. It's also a great way to put your thoughts on paper. I've learned a ton about myself by writing. Just remember that sharing for attention's sake isn't fulfilling for very long. So as long as you have a purpose there's nothing wrong with starting yet another blog. I started a blog with no expectations. So now every day I'm happy with the results.

  5. I agree with christian entirely. Writing a blog should be yourself first, readers second. Yah it's nice if you have the page views, and it can lead to cool things in your life. However, learning about yourself, and then sharing that experience is pretty cool in and of itself. Take that for what it's worth. Plus, even small blogs get freebies thrown their way sometimes.

  6. My favorite thing is just getting the ideas out. I find that I get to learn a lot when I write a blog post because I never want to publish something that is untrue. I'll end up doing some research, even if it is minimal, and I usually find out something that is useful to me in my daily life. Great post MGBG.

  7. Great post today. I am a new blogger and am enjoying every moment of the experience so far. Already, it is very time consuming, but completely enjoyable as writing and BSing are two things I love to do. Great tips that I will definitely be taking on board!

  8. Wow, nice post. Really informative. You and Jason Robillard are on fire today.



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