In September 2014, I did a handful of things which, collectively, increased my blog views by almost 25% almost overnight.
I focus almost as much time on increasing / maintaining the average number of pages that readers view on my blog as I do trying to reach new readers and convert them into long term readers (mail list subscribers). Page views is important to me because the main way I monetise my blog is through ads, and the more views I have, the more revenue I earn.
If a reader has come to your blog and you don’t make at least some effort to keep them there, then you’re throwing away potential readership!
INCREASING PAGE VIEWS
In September last year 2014, I specifically dedicated time to research and experiment with things to increase page views per visitor. The things I did increased the average page views from 1.2 to almost 1.5 per reader. That’s a 25% increase in page views!
So if you’re currently getting 100,000 page views a month, it would increase to 125,000 views without any increase in the number of readers coming to your site.
Or another way to look at it is this:
1. The average page views per visitor used to be 1.2 pages which is the equivalent of 1 in every 5 people viewing 2 pages (and the other 4 viewing 1 page);
2. After I did these things, the average page views increased to 1.5 pages per reader which is the equivalent of every second reader viewing 2 pages. That’s a phenomenal improvement.
HOW TO GET READERS TO STAY ON YOUR SITE LONGER
I view it in two buckets – the first being the obvious things, related to overall blog design, navigation and appeal, and the second being the specific things I did back in September 2014.
OVERALL BLOG DESIGN AND NAVIGATION
I know it’s obvious, so I won’t go into detail here. When you visit a new site, if it’s easy to read and well laid out with gorgeous photos and interesting recipes, you are more inclined to stay and browse. It’s the same way with readers on your site.
These are the sort of things that fall into this category:
- Having a well laid out, aesthetically pleasing blog (that is a nice way of saying that your blog looks professional and pleasant to view). A lot of that comes down to the blog design. I use the Foodie theme using the Genesis Framework (note: I use the previous version. The current version is called “Foodie Pro” and it’s brilliant, it is the theme I am using for the FBC website). A well designed blog = visitors more inclined to stay and explore;
- Easy to navigate – I actually had a handful of readers asking me to organise my recipes properly so they could browse them more effectively;
- Photos and content – I don’t need to explain that content is king.
In addition to the above, the things I do to encourage readers to stay and read more than one page include:
1. Displaying my most popular posts in my sidebar. That way, no matter which page readers come in on, they will see my most popular posts (note: I’ll do a separate post on how to add a Pinterest counter under the sidebar images).
This had a fairly strong, immediate impact. I don’t remember the exact page view % increase, but I did this along with #2 and #3 below and collectively, my average page views increased by roughly 20% almost immediately.
NOTE: I specifically chose NOT to use a plug in. I tried using a plug in that showed popular posts in a grid form on the sidebar and found it did nothing. Being able to control the image and text size is key to making it stand out.
2. Cross pollinate popular posts (editing popular posts) – when I notice a particular recipe “taking off”, I go back to it and edit it to add references to popular related recipes within the post (ie. not just relying on the related posts plug in which appears at the bottom of my blog). But I don’t just add a hyperlink and some text. The average reader spends just over 1 1/2 minutes on each page. Which means there is no way most readers are reading the entire post – that’s just enough time to scan photos and read the recipe. So I make sure I add a thumbnail photo of the related recipe within the posts as well so it catches their eye. When I started doing this, I instantly noticed an increase in page views per visitor.
You can see an example of how I did this in these posts:
- In Crack Bread, my most popular post, I embedded references to Pizza Bread and No Washing Up Ham, Egg and Cheese Bread Bowls.
- In No Washing Up Ham, Egg and Cheese Bread Bowls and Pizza Bread I have thumbnail photos and a reference to Crack Bread.
If I really wanted to go “all the way” (and if I had more “cheesy” party food), I would create a “post hop”. So starting with Crack Bread, I would promote No Washing Up Ham Egg and Cheese Bread Bowls (“Ham Bread Bowls”). Then in Ham Bread Bowls I would promote Pizza Bread. Then in Pizza Bread, I would promote another similar recipe. And so on. But I don’t have enough stretchy cheese party food recipes to continue it!
3. Recipe Collections – I created Recipe Collections which are focussed on seasonal recipes and themes – like Winter Warmers, New Ways With French Toast, Food for Crowds. I did this simply by creating new Categories then tagging recipes that fit within those Collections.
Then within the popular recipes that relate to those categories, I embed a thumbnail of the Recipe Collection image. This didn’t have as massive an impact as Cross Pollinating directly within posts but it definitely had an impact (which you can simply tell by the number of people that view the Collections).
Here’s an example of how I work Collections into my blog:
- Here are the Recipe Collections;
- Here is an example Collection – New Ways With French Toast; and
- And in this Mini Strawberry French Toast recipe you can see how I integrated a reference to the french toast collection.
I also include images in my sidebar for the most popular Recipe Collections (see above right screenshot).
And don’t forget the most obvious cross pollination!! YOUR RECIPE! When you are writing up your recipes, don’t forget to hyperlink it to other relevant recipes on your blog. Classic examples include: side dishes or sauces that go with the recipe you are posting, or homemade versions of ingredients in the recipe.
Here’s an example of this in action – in this Pulled Pork Enchilada recipe, I linked the recipe to my Pork Carnitas recipe and my Homemade Enchiladas recipe.
4. Building up a stock of recipes in a few categories rather than trying to cover many categories. I have focussed on breakfast, easy dinners and party food. Categories I have not focussed on include: sweets, drinks and sides.
Why did I do this? Well, my logic is that when readers click on the Dinners, Party Food and Brunch menus, there are plenty of recipes to choose from. As opposed to having many categories and less recipes in each.
Have a good stash of recipes encourages readers not only to stay longer on your blog, but also return visitors because they will (hopefully!) remember you as a source for one pot meals, or whatever your “niche” is.
No one can do it all, even if you’ve been blogging for years. So select your niche, and do it well. That doesn’t mean I never blog sweets. It just means that’s not where my focus is.
This is a fairly unique “key tip” (I think). I’ve certainly never read it before. I stumbled on it accidentally when I first started out. I wanted to create a free cookbook as incentive to sign up to my mail list. And I wanted that cookbook to have a specific “theme” (which was “15 Minute Meals”). So I blogged lots of 15 Minute Meals in those early days, then I used those same recipes to create my first free cookbook.
As a side note, I took that same approach to build up a stash of recipes to use for my 2nd free cookbook (called “Fast Prep, Big Flavors”). Having a specific goal is a really great way to keep your blog focussed on your niche.
And the evidence that this works?
I can’t provide specific evidence that this exact tactic had x, y or z impact. But I can tell you that I focussed on this a lot during July/August 2014 so by September 2014, I had a fairly decent stash or “fast meal” recipes (that’s when I released my 15 Minute Meals free cookbook) and that’s also when my average page views jumped from 1.2 to 1.5 per visit.
I’ve also been really humbled and honoured to hear from readers (and friends!) that they actually now just come to my blog for easy dinner ideas instead of recipes sites / cookbooks they used to use. Yay! The best compliment a blogger can receive!
5. Building my Mail List – this has had an enormous impact on my readership. The effect wasn’t instant, because it takes time to build a mail list, so it wasn’t a major contributor to the near instant 25% page views I experienced back in September. But I had to include it in this list because it is the single most important blog growth strategy that I have embarked on.
I’ve invested a significant amount of time on creating ebooks (two) to incentivise people to join my mail list. And I’ve experimented with various “opt in” strategies, pop ups and bars, and walking that line between “annoying” pop ups vs appearing just at the right time to capture engaged readers.
I’ll write a separate post on it to cover it thoroughly because this is a key topic that is very close to my heart. The % of my monthly views from mail list subscribers is dismal because my mail list isn’t that big proportional to my blog traffic (just over 5,000 subscribers to 1 million monthly page views). Having said that though, up until the end of September 2014, I was doing nothing to encourage readers to join my mail list. I had around 250 subscribers at that time. I really started to focus efforts on building my mail list and I’ve grown it to over 5,000 subscribers as of the end of February 2015 (i.e. in in 4 1/2 months).
So there you have it! None of it is rocket science. And I can’t guarantee that these things will work for you. I implemented #1 to #3 within a fairly short period of time – a few days of each other – and almost immediately, the average page views per visitor increased from 1.2 to 1.5 per reader (25% increase) so my monthly page views also increased by 25%.
These are just the ideas I came up with that worked for me. I am sure there are many more things that other bloggers have done to increase page views.
Have you got any suggestions you’d like to share?
Thanks for reading!