Welcome to this, the notes-and-detail version of my talk at Eroticon. I’m going to start by emphasising what I said in the talk itself, that I have a massive vested interest in every other sex blogger doing well and getting shitloads of traffic. We’re not in competition, we’re collaborators: the more traffic the rest of you get, the better it is for me because either you’ll link to my own sex blog, or you’ll be introducing more people to the fun of reading sex blogs, so more people will go searching for them.
Given that, I would love to be able to help if you’ve got any questions about blogging – I am always happy to answer them where I can, and if you don’t yet have a link from my site and you’d like one – please just ask! Either pitch me a guest blog, or ask me to link to you from my Eroticon posts if we met at the conf, or send me a link to the blog post you’ve written that you like the most and I’ll try to slip it into something I’m writing in the future.
There were a few things I wanted to mention in my talk that I ended up forgetting due to stress or just not fitting in because of time, so I’m going to hopefully cover those extra bits off here too.
Building traffic on your blog – the basics
In order to build your readership you need to:
- write regular content (at least once a week)
- promote that content (on whichever channels you prefer)
- measure your content
Once you’ve started doing this, you feed back into that cycle: write, promote, measure, write (based on your measurements of what works), promote (based on your measurements of what works), measure, then keep refining that cycle.
Intro to analytics
One of the most important things, when you’re looking to build traffic, is to get a decent analytics programme on your site. You need to be able to measure three key things:
- Audience (who’s coming to your site)
- Acquisition (how they are getting there)
- Behaviour (what they do when they’re there)
I use Google Analytics – it’s much more comprehensive than in-blog programmes like Jetpack for WordPress, and it gives you more helpful detail. However, having been to an excellent talk the day before mine by ZebraRoseSub, I’m going to explore another analytics programme called Matomo which has a heavier emphasis on privacy.
But as a brief intro, the main thing you need to know about analytics is that it’s a tool to use, not just a way to give yourself a merit badge (“Yay! My traffic has gone up!”) or a stick with which to beat yourself (“Oh no! My traffic’s gone down! I suck!”).
When you open your analytics, go to it with a question, and be aware of what you might want to do with the answer. So for example, let’s say I’ve got a spare couple of hours a week and I want to engage in some traffic-driving work, I might go to my analytics and ask “How useful a traffic-driver is Twitter? i.e. should I spend my extra 2 hours scheduling some more tweets?”
For the first question I go to ‘acquisition’, then ‘channels’ and see that social media sends me about 4.4% of my traffic. Not just twitter, and not just my tweets: the whole of social media. That includes links other people have shared, it includes networks like Facebook/Instagram/YT etc, so I conclude that even if I spend shitloads more time on twitter, I’m only going to be able to boost my traffic by a smaller percentage of that 4.4% – maybe I’m better off spending that couple of hours pitching an article to someone else to get a linkback which can boost my SEO – search sends me over 75% of my traffic. Your answers may be different, of course! I get 75% of my traffic from search, so over the talk I focused on that because it’s what I know best when it comes to traffic-driving, and I think it’s a good (and worthwhile) start for sex bloggers. Especially seeing as quite a lot of social networks want us to pop our clothes back on or fuck off from their platform, and that this censorship of erotic content will get a lot worse before it gets better.
The key thing to remember is that you’re using your analytics to decide on your future strategy, rather than just smile at (or weep at) the past.
Another example: I go to analytics and ask “What kind of content should I write this month?” So I head to ‘behaviour’ because I want to know what people are looking at when they’re on my site, and I see that in the top list of content ‘butt plugs’ seems to come up frequently. So perhaps for this month I decide to do some more butt plug play (Yay! I like butt plug play, it’s fun!) and then write some sexy stories about what happened when I did it. Tailoring my future work based on work that’s been popular in the past, innit.
The actual talk
So now we know how to measure the impact of the work we’re doing, we need to focus on the most strategic ways to increase our traffic. There are lots of people who do SEO for a living, and who could talk to you for days about all the delightfully nerdy detail about what has an impact and what works. But broadly, the most important things you need to know about SEO can be distilled into three key principles (I think):
- create great shit (blog posts, stories, images, audio, video)
- help new people to find your shit (new is key!)
- when they’ve found your shit, make ‘em stay on your site
The good news is that if you’re at Eroticon you’re already creating great shit – erotica, Sinful Sunday pics, sex toy reviews, etc. So tick off option 1, and let’s move onto 2.
Help new people to find your shit
I want to encourage you to think of your website like a shop. Each new piece of content is a product in your shop, and you’re trying to encourage people to come buy your products (engage with your content!). One of the most effective ways of doing this is getting your shop signposted/recommended elsewhere: i.e. getting external links from other sites to yours.
Key rule: the time you spend getting a link should be roughly proportional to the value of that link. (more on this in a sec)
So you go to a bunch of other sites and do things to persuade them to link to you:
- Pitch articles to external publications (e.g. writing for websites that are bigger than yours). This has been, hands-down, the most effective thing for me in building traffic. It’s beneficial not just in terms of links, but for other reasons too: i.e. you should get paid for your work elsewhere, and you’re spreading your excellent educational/saucy/entertaining work with shiny new people who need to hear your awesome thoughts.
- Network with people who have audiences who don’t already know about you. This might be journalists who can interview/quote you, it may be sex toy companies who have great SEO, or it may be other bloggers, YouTubers, podcasters etc. If you came to Eroticon and you met a few people whose work you admired, follow up with them now: drop ’em an email and say ‘I loved your talk on [Blah], I would like to interview you for my blog/external publication that I will pitch to if you have a spare 15 mins or so?]. Make it easy for them to say ‘yes’, and tag them in when you share the piece of work – they might share it on their channels and bring their interview/your work to a new audience. Also you are boosting the work of brilliant people – it’s a virtuous circle.
- Respond to journorequests. The #journorequest tag on Twitter is good for this, and is a neat way to hook up with journalists who may want your entertaining sex stories, info on sex toys, and sparkling quotes to include in articles. Remember the key rule if you’re doing this: time spent getting a link should be roughly proportional to the value of that link. i.e. if a journalist from a major publication tweets to say ‘looking for stories about first times at fetish clubs’ don’t just reply with ‘I’ve got stories! Email me!’ – craft your message to make it interesting enough that they can’t help but get in touch: ‘My first time at a fetish club involved me tripping over a St Andrews’ Cross and then meeting a lovely couple who fulfilled a really kinky fantasy.’ Way more compelling, makes the journalist far more likely to want to contact you!
- PR. If you have a particularly cool project it’s worth considering putting out a press release. A good example of this is the new Menstruation Matters meme by Sub Bee, where she is gathering stories and experiences of menstruation to battle stigma and open up an important conversation. I could easily see this getting covered by some of the big lifestyle websites under a headline like ‘Sex bloggers join forces to tackle menstruation misconceptions’ or whatever. Obviously don’t PR everything you do, but as a general guide new events/memes/collaborations/book launches are all potential candidates. Write a press release, make a list of journalists who may be interested, get your PR checked by someone who receives them so you know it’s compelling/worth sending, then fire it out and follow up a few days later. As Eroticon we’ve had a fair bit of luck with local news and trade press as well as some bigger sites like TimeOut – the key is to target those your PR is most relevant to, and show them why your story would make great content on their own sites. Top tip: May is Masturbation Month, so there will be a fair few journalists looking for interesting wank-related stories during that month!
It all sounds like a lot of work (it is!) but remember: time spent getting a link should be proportional to the value of that link. Links back from new websites, big websites, websites with high SEO: these are incredibly valuable to you. Also remember: good links multiply. You get traffic from the initial link, SEO benefit a little further down the line as Google recognises you as a more authoritative site, and then finally the more you get quoted/linked from big websites, the more likely other journalists/writers are to contact you to ask for quotes in future.
When they’ve found your shit, make ‘em stay
We don’t talk much about this in the sex blogging community (at least not that I have heard, I am frequently scatty so I may have missed some stuff!) but it’s important to make sure that when people get to your site they’re having a good time/engaging with lots of your great shit. The ideal customer in your shop doesn’t come in to buy one item then fuck off again forever – they come in, find what they’re looking for, then browse around for ages because they love everything that’s in there. They gather a bunch of stuff and then they also sign up for a membership card (subscribe etc!) so you can remind them to come back again when you’ve even more great shit in stock.
So a good blog post for SEO should do these things:
- deliver what the person was searching for and
- keep ‘em on site
Deliver what the person was searching for: I have a high bounce rate on my site. The key reason for this is that people find my blog by searching for porn. They arrive, hoping for a video of someone getting banged, and then find a big pile of words and have to zip up their fly and leave empty-handed. So I need to try and optimise my posts for keywords that are descriptive – using ‘stories’ or ‘erotica’ as part of the keyphrase or using titles/meta-descriptions that emphasise personal experience and writing ‘I’ or ‘me’ and avoiding really porny search terms that promise something that can’t deliver.
Useful tools for keyword stuff include (but are not limited to!)
As far as keeping people on site goes, in the example I showed during the talk I took an old blog post and polished it so that what was once a big pile of text is now a more engaging post that includes:
- An image [thanks Hannah Witton for asking about images in the Q+A! Mine are done by the incredible Stuart F Taylor, and occasional guest illustrators when he’s on hols!]
- A call to action
- Internal links
- Playable media [in the Q+A someone asked about adding audio to posts – I use a custom plugin which styles them so they look all fancy on the page, and like a Big Twat I got so caught up in the idea of whether I could share my own plugin that I didn’t mention you can actually just add audio in the posts themselves using WordPress functionality – click ‘add media’, upload your audio as you would an image, and a player will appear in the post itself with your audio in it. Guide here: https://en.support.wordpress.com/audio/]
The post is also much more descriptive (so Google will show it only to people who genuinely want to read that kind of story) and it’s more engaging (so people who get to it are more likely to click/engage on the page).
The aim of this is to reduce bounce rate: the percentage of people who arrive at a page, click on nothing, then leave. These are the equivalent of the customers who walk in the door of your shop and then walk straight back out again. Polishing this content is the equivalent of adding beautiful product displays to entice people to stay.
Slides show change in bounce rate/exit rate (%age of people who left the site at this page) – both 10% lower after the changes.Eroticon 2019 pres FINAL
Optimising the past
If you’ve been blogging for a while (1-2 years +), chances are you know a lot more now than you did in the past, so it’s worth considering doing this for more content – core pieces that people love/will love, but which you didn’t optimise brilliantly to start with. Using research gathered from your analytics/keyword planner/info on trends from linkbuilding/networking with others to ask what works for them, identify a few core pieces of content that would be ripe for this kind of polishing.
Don’t just optimise everything from the past, that way lies wasted time and work! Do it strategically with the posts you think have the most room for improvement, and which best fit the things your readers will like.
I did this in October with a collection of about 20 pieces of content that fit these criteria:
- were sexy stories, so would work as audio porn (audio porn is great for retaining users as well as – OF COURSE – for making erotica more accessible – wooooo!)
- hadn’t been polished well when I first wrote them
- did not contain any of the trash opinions I had when I first started blogging (sidenote: I had a LOT of trash opinions when I started blogging – please don’t beat yourself up if you did too. If we all waited to be perfect before we began, none of us would ever start anything – or learn anything)
So I took 20 of these posts, polished the fuck out of them, then re-promoted them as I would with any new content. Each of these is now getting more traffic than they were before that project (about 2x as much, in case you’re interested), they have lower bounce rates, and I am starting to see an increase in my search traffic overall too – though some of that will also be down to ongoing blogging.
Obviously don’t do this with ALL your content, life’s too short and it’s not valuable to spend time doing it to all posts. But if you have an older blog it’s worth considering applying what you know now to decent content you wrote a while ago, because your blog posts don’t just disappear weeks after you’ve sent them! Each blog post is still a product, acting as a magnet to draw people into your shop. So why not make the best magnets a little more powerful if you can?
Closing bits and pieces
The boring news is that traffic building of this sort is all about time and work – there’s no one weird trick to suddenly get you shitloads of visits, as the things that go ‘viral’ are not always sustainable. But the good news is that if there’s no ‘one weird trick’ there’s also no deep dark secret: all it takes is time and work. Obviously all this is based on my experience and the things that have worked best for me – I could talk for days about all the different ways you can build traffic. But the most important thing is that it’s all part of this cycle where you:
- create great shit
- get new people to find it
- when they’ve found it, make ‘em stay
Do the stuff you need to do to get new people to find and love your shit, measure what works, and then apply the stuff you’ve learned during measurement to create and promote more awesome shit in the future: sorted.
Let me help you, I am a massive keano
Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions on this stuff, I am always happy to help even if I’m dreadfully slow to reply. In fact, fuck it, let’s diarise this shit: if you want me to have a look at your blog and your analytics, and do a quick audit of what seems to be working for you and what might help, hit me up before May 3rd . It’s looking pretty free for me, other than having to wait at home for a plumber, so I’ll block out the whole day to do some blog audits. If you want me to have a look through your analytics, and identify some key areas of opportunity for you, just email me hellogirlonthenet @ gmail dotcom and I’ll book in an hour of that day to have a look through your stuff and give you the best advice I can muster.
All you need is more than 1000 visitors per month and to be happy to give me access to your analytics (which I won’t share with anyone else, obvs). It’s much easier if it’s Google Analytics although I might be able to help even if you’re on Jetpack – I’ll give it my best shot. Eight hours equals eight people, so if you’d like me to do this let me know soonish. While I’d usually charge loads of money to companies to do this, I will do it for free for other sex bloggers on the XXX insert date before publishing because a) I love you all and I want to be helpful and b) I am a giant fucking nerd about blogging, and let’s face it this is fun.
This was very insightful and certainly shows how important it is to know important analytics are. I was wondering if you’d have any different tip on how to build up followers when just starting out? Getting to 100, let alone 1000 seems far out of reach. But maybe it’s just like what you said in the above. It takes time?
Ooh good question! So I think there are two key ways I’d go about doing the initial traffic-building stuff: social media and fellow bloggers. Social media is easy enough: set up accounts on your favourite platforms (taking good care to note their content policies, as many will ban/shadowban you if what you post is too explicit) then start following and interacting with people who post similar content, while also occasionally promoting your own work in the timeline. It helps if you also share other people’s work where relevant too as that makes them more likely to follow you and check out your site. Never shy away from giving a compliment if you read something else you really love! That’s one of the best ways to get noticed, and then start building traffic.
The other thing is fellow bloggers – seek out other blogs that post similar content to yours and see if they accept guest posts. Guest posting for other blogs is a good way to get noticed and start building backlinks that lead to traffic. My guest post guidelines are here if you’re interested: https://www.girlonthenet.com/guest-blogs It’s also worth adding your favourite bloggers to your sidebar or a list of ‘other recommended sites’ somewhere on your blog – when you do this, if you email the bloggers to say ‘hey, I love your work, I’ve recommended you here! I’d love it if you’d be up for checking out my site and recommending it if you like it!’ that may also be a good way to get other bloggers to notice/link to you. I’ll be honest though I don’t tend to do this because I am shy and I don’t like asking for linkbacks, but I know other bloggers who have done it with great success!
Joining in with blogging memes like SinfulSunday and WickedWednesday is another good way to get noticed and build backlinks too!
I’ve had a quick look at your blog and I can’t find a way to follow you on Twitter – are you on Twitter? If so I’ll add you to my ‘sexy writers’ list and keep an eye out for posts to RT! Or if you’d like any more tips on this drop me an email https://www.girlonthenet.com/contact
D’oh! I forgot to add that a lot of the stuff mentioned in the post here will also be useful even if you don’t have any traffic yet (or if you’re <100 users per day) – pitching to external pubs, PR, etc: there's no rule that says you have to be a long-established blog before you do that! You just need to have a really good idea, that fits with what the other publications tend to write about, and sell it really well to the editor you're pitching. I gave it that title because I wanted to focus a bit more on advanced stuff, but if you're up for leaping in with that stuff you totally can! Don't let anyone (and especially my hastily-constructed titles) make you feel like your ambitions need to be small just because your current traffic is small. The SEO stuff and optimising the past may not be as useful to you, but the other promo stuff can be done by anyone with a good idea!
Thank you so much for such an insightful article. I purpose that you change your name from “GIRL ON THE NET” to “AWESOME GIRL ON THE NET”
As far as social media tips, FB and IM are out of the question for actual nudity. I also had that company, they are evil and stand against everything that I believe in.
Is TW any good?
I second everything that you wrote here. Bringing users is takes time.
I want to add that you need to keep trying different approaches all the time and measure yourself. If something is not working, don’t waste time, move on.