How I Tripled My Blog Traffic In Less Than One Month

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How I Tripled My Blog Traffic In Less Than One Month

July 2012 has been the most successful month in the near 2 year history of AvocadoPesto – by far. I nearly tripled my traffic, see for yourself:

When I was a wordpress.com and didn’t have Google Analytics – traffic from Dec 2010 up to June 25th 2012

Traffic for first 25 days after blog redesign June 26 – July 252012

Summary:
Total Views All Time (Nov 2010 – June 2012): 88,245
Total Views June 1 -  June 25, 2012: 10,610
Total Views June 26 – July 20, 2012: 36,992

How I Did It

There is no one change to credit here but instead a series of sweeping changes in the way I approach blogging and my website. I will try to address each change individually. In some cases it is somewhat difficult to get granular information pre Google Analytics because wordpress.com tracks only very basic site statistics:

New Design and Better Performance

What kicked all of this off was my major site redesign in late June, whereby I moved from wordpress.com to just a regular .com and implemented the Thesis Theme. I was also considering other website design options to help with my performance, which involved installing some new plugins for performance as well as some back end work that D did (mostly image optimization, combining external files, setting up Cloudflare).

Implementing some basic performance techniques, particularly installing W3 Total Cache and Cloudflare has increased my performance from a D and a C to:

This is the sort of thing where I wouldn’t expect it to get more people to your site, since people don’t know about your site performance until they’re already on it. However, if the site is performing well it’s reasonable to believe that people will spend longer on it and surf more pages. Unfortunately I don’t have data related to this before already implementing these changes in July, but consider a basic scenario:

1000 visits per day * 1.60 page views = 1600 page views per day

Now, if your site is performing faster you might be able to bump that up to say 1.70 page views or even 1.80, in which case you’re getting an extra 200 page views a day or 6k a month. So, there certainly is some merit in making sure your site is performing well.

Referral Traffic

Referral traffic is really the heart of this blog and it accounts for 72% of my traffic. There are tons of food porn sites where, if your photograph gets accepted, it can basically turn a mediocre day into an outstanding day. My progress here has been two fold:

  1. Getting more photographs accepted
  2. Expanding the number of sites from which I get my referral traffic

Consider my All Time (Dec 2010 – June 25th 2012) referral traffic:

All Time Referral Traffic

Now consider the month of July – top 10. Remember that in order to match up correctly with views you have to multiply visits times pages/visit.

As I mentioned before there are some clear stand outs. Firstly, getting more photographs accepted to sites like Foodgawker resulted in me getting half as many page views in July as I had received from the 1.5 years prior! In fact, of the 33 photographs that have been accepted to Foodgawker about 1/3 of them are from July. This has a bit of a spiral effect because if a photo is accepted to foodgawker then there is a good chance it can get picked up by another one like Tastespotting or even featured on a lesser known site like Healthy Aperture. I can’t stress enough the difference a photo editing program like Lightroom does. If you’re serious about food photography I think this is a necessary investment – unfortunately it doesn’t come cheap.

This month I also started submitting to a lot more photo sharing sites, mainly to see which ones generate the most traffic. Sites like Finding Vegan and Chowstalker are more niche in what they take, but there are also less submissions and as a result give you more of an opportunity to stand out. It can really be time consuming submitting to all these food porn sites so I strongly encourage you to spend one month really testing the waters and then committing fully to the top few which really provide you the best traffic boost.

Surprisingly the site RecipeNewz which accepts all photos, regardless of quality, generates a decent amount of traffic. So for those of who whose photos are still getting rejected by Foodgawker and Tastespotting, head over to RecipeNewz and submit all your posts there (max of 3 submissions a day).

This month I also joined the food network Tasty Kitchen where you create a profile, friend fellow bloggers and submit recipe with photos. The downside to this site is that to submit a recipe you need to individually type out each ingredient by quantity, measurement and type (so that users can easily change the number of servings). I have found that this site has been bringing a decent amount of traffic though and each visitor seems to stay on my blog longer and go through more pages than the other food sharing sites.

Social Media

Prior to July I shared my recipes on facebook via my profile as well as through my avocadopesto twitter account. My social media ended there. In July I took it a step further (something I should have done a long time ago) and implemented a few key elements to bolster my social media:

  1. I created a dedicated Facebook Page for my food blog
  2. I became more active on Twitter and began to follow other food bloggers
  3. I created a Pinterest account
  4. I installed two social media plugins specifically to help gain followers; digg-digg bar and facebook like box pop-up

Consider the results from July (referral traffic):

Again, July ended up being about half of what I had achieved in 1.5 years working on Pinterest and Facebook. Twitter, while not overwhelming, was triple what it had ever been before. I believe the plugins I mentioned were key in allowing me to “make up for lost time”. For example, the digg digg bar has allowed users to share my posts on various social media sites and floats unobtrusively down the side.

The big winner though is the Facebook like box pop up. One thing I noticed about food blogs is the high amount of traffic that comes from new visitors (80%). Many visitors will come to your blog once and then possibly never return. It’s important to make a strong effort to “capture” them while you can. The plugin I added to suggest that people like my Facebook comes up once every 10 days for each user. So, if you are new to the site, you see it the first time, and then if you visit again it won’t be shown for another 10 days. This way it is not bothersome but at least makes the suggestion to everyone who visits the page. You can also do this for subscriptions, though those plugins are a bit more difficult to find for free and I found this Facebook like box to be super easy to install.

A few things to note here. I believe the Facebook pop up box was installed around July 6, so as you can see my new likes (daily) shot up after that and have remained higher than my pre pop up box average. I’m not sure but I also think that the 113 Like Box and Like Button refers to that plugin. Overall I have got over 200 likes in just one month of creating a page, advertising it on my home page, and installing the pop up.

SEO

I’ve never really been much into SEO. I write my posts how I want and whatever happens happens. However, once I designed my new blog I decided to make a more concentrated  effort in this area. It’s really difficult to true back SEO work to results but a few of the things I did were.

  1. I went back and updated my images to include ALT tags
  2. I installed YOAST’S plugin for SEO
  3. I included meta descriptions for all my posts which contained the key word(s) (essentially the title).
  4. I added the easy recipe plugin so that my posts would look nice in search engines, displaying the thumbnail as well as the prep time, etc.
  5. I set up Google Webmasters and submitted a site map so that my posts would get indexed by Google.

Google seems to be happy and is crawling my website more

Indexing my sitemap and practicing some basic SEO has increased my impressions

To be honest it’s difficult to properly evaluate this because I redirected my blog. Also, search engine traffic isn’t the major source of traffic for this blog, but one thing I do like about it is that it is dependable. Once your posts are on Google they are essentially there for good, and while I can’t control if Foodgawker is going to accept one of my photos, I can always count on traffic driven from older posts. Moreover, it’s a good long term strategy and I hope to see more of the effects of my SEO work going forward.

Conclusion

I think it’s pretty clear here that there are a lot of factors at play, and that probably comes at no surprise, because it’s rare that you all of the sudden triple your traffic in one month. Frankly, it also helps a lot that I was coming from nothing (I mean really, no Facebook page for 1.5 years!). It’s unlikely that I will see this same growth next month but it does go to show how much opportunity there really is. Note that I didn’t change any of my content and it’s still the same old me writing. It was just a matter of being more efficient with my marketing – it’s all in the presentation.

 

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Comments

  1. cravingthis says

    Hi Vicky ~ what a great post. I am new to blogging and yes, traffic is a huge concern for me. I’m still trying to figure everything out, but I have come across some of the sites you suggested for submitting photos. Also, I love to receive comments and find I’m receiving very few. I do try to make my titles interesting and end each post with a question. I’m not sure if visitors just prefer to hit the “like” button rather than take the time to actually submit a comment. In any event, your post was very helpful. Thank you!

    • Vicky says

      Thanks! There is definitely a lot to figure out and sometimes it’s difficult to figure out where your efforts should be. I too love to receive comments and know exactly what you mean about some posts not getting some or any comments. To tell you the truth I am not really sure what brings readers to comment more. I have read that ending with an engaging topic or question is supposed to help but as you say, it doesn’t always work that way. If I do pinpoint exactly what helps generate more comments I will be sure to let you know! Best of luck with your blog!

  2. TammyOnTheMove says

    Hey Vicky, What great tips. Thanks for sharing. Really need to move from blogspot to my own url. Also want to move to wordpress. It seems so much better. I’ll try some of your stuff as well though. Cheers!

    • Vicky says

      Thanks! I can not say enough great things about wordpress. I’ve been using it since late 2010 and haven’t had any issues with it. Since the .wordpress.com sites are free you could always start a test site just to play around with wordpress and the free themes offered to see if you actually like it.

  3. Amina at PAPER/PLATES says

    This post is a dream come true! When I kicked off my blog last month, I had huge traffic at first, which then leveled out and I’ve been trying to figure out how to restrain that initial success. I’m definitely going to try some of your tactics. Thanks for a great post!

    • Vicky says

      Thanks! Yes when there is a surge in traffic and then all of a sudden it drops off it can be incredibly discouraging but you just have to keep at it. I personally think the quickest and most straight forward way to generate more traffic is through the photo sharing websites and though to get the most traffic you need to take great photos there are many other sites that aren’t as strict that still generate traffic.

  4. Paula @ Vintage Kitchen Notes says

    Great information you posted! It´s good to see how to link all this social media universe together.

    • Vicky says

      Thanks! I know I’m always looking for posts like these on blogs so hopefully other bloggers are too and can find this post helpful!

  5. Lea says

    Hey,
    Thank you so much for this post and your good advises!!!
    I’m a french blogger and I’ve been following your blog for a while. I really like it!
    I have a little advice too. You should have a look on this website : http://www.hellocotton.com/ it’s a blogs community. So good to discuss with other boggers and it brings a lot of visitors!!!

    • Vicky says

      Thanks for following and commenting! Hope you are able to use some of my tips. Thanks so much for your advice! I had never heard of the hellocotton site but I am always on the look out for blog community sites and I just signed up for it today! Will have to find you on there and follow you! Any other advice is welcome too!

        • Vicky says

          I see. So far just starting to figure out how hellocotton works but once again thanks for letting me how about it! By the way that passionfruit curd on your blog looks delicious! I’m going to have to use google translate to get the recipe!

  6. Heidi @ Food Doodles says

    Great for you!! I love these kind of posts. I found some things I want to try out(plus I’ve been meaning to finish up my seo forever and now I’m going to just get it done!) I’m so glad you mentioned some other food photo sites. All the “extra” ones I’ve tried submitting to haven’t given me many hits, but I’m going to try a couple new-to-me ones that you mentioned :)

    • Vicky says

      Thanks! I feel like the specific food restriction sites like finding vegan (for vegan food) and chowstalker (for paleo food only) have helped and it could also bring new readers to your blog who do not check out sites like foodgawker because they specifically are looking for paleo/vegan recipes. Have you heard of the site yumgoggle? They commented on one of my posts and they seem to be a new photo sharing site that I just started submitting photos to and so far it has generated a bit of traffic.

    • Vicky says

      Thanks! Hope you are able to use some of my tips and if you have any other questions don’t hesitate to contact me!

  7. Jess @ Flying on Jess Fuel says

    This is a great post! Thanks for all the info & congrats on what you’ve attained!! **someday…** ;)

    • Vicky says

      Thanks! When I started my blog in Nov 2010 I could never even imagine getting so many page views or getting my photos accepted to sites like Foodgawker but it definitely is possible and I just want to say if I can do it, so can you! So do not get discouraged – before I redesigned my blog or started getting photos accepted to the photo sharing sites my traffic was growing very slowly but really improving my photography helped significantly!

  8. Lisa says

    This is such a helpful post! Thank you for being so generous in sharing all of your discoveries. I am very new to the food blogosphere – just launched my site a couple of months ago and I thought Foodgawker and Tastespotting were it! I tried some of the other sites you suggested and was very pleasantly surprised. It can be very time-consuming doing all of the submissions but, as you said, a good experiment to learn where the best traffic can be generated. I’ll definitely keep an eye on your blog!

    • Vicky says

      Thanks! I’m glad you found this post helpful! Best of luck with your blog! Your blog looks great — love the take on it and all the international dishes on there — Uzbek plov is seriously one of my all time favorite meals!

  9. website design says

    Great post Avocado Pesto. I think sometimes those of us who are out there everyday take these tips for granted but they are so important. I can also say that creating your own group is quite powerful for building interest and traffic to your blog content! Thanks

  10. Liz says

    Hi Vicky

    Lots of great advice! Thank you. Just a few questions regarding the Facebook like pop up:

    1) Which plugin did you use? I like the idea of it disappearing for a few days, or it could get annoying I would imagine?
    2) Once someone likes your page, will it then display for them again?

    Someone posted my latest page on reddit yesterday and it increased my traffic more than ten fold for that post. It was about animal abuse in China. I would imagine though that recipes aren’t really followed much on reddit? Do you know much about it as a platform for food bloggers?

    Thank you for your advice!

    • Vicky says

      Hey Liz

      We were using the Facebook Like Box plugin. We’ve since disabled it because we noticed that although it caused a large spike at first, afterwards it didn’t seem to do very much. Also we could shut it off for some period of time, like a month, but there was no way to make it not show for people who had already liked the page – I do think there probably is some plugin that can handle this.

      Yes, reddit can be great but it’s unpredictable and limits the amount of posts that you can upload in a day.

  11. angie says

    Hi Liz, thank you so much for the great tips! Will definitely have a look at the plugins especially the facebook one.
    It is totally depressing when foodgawker rejects a post because it means less traffic. :( and I have been trying to find ways to generate more traffic whenever that happens.

  12. Niki O'Neil says

    This is a great post! As a newbie food blogger myself, I really appreciate your tips, as they’re definitely things I can work on to try and drive more traffic to my blog :) Thanks again – Niki x

    • Vicky says

      Glad you enjoyed this post. I’m always looking to help out new bloggers as I know I was curious of all this information myself when I just started.

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