This “Engaging” Secret Makes Online Self Promotion Virtually Unnecessary

I hope you’re ready for another monthly report, because it’s time!

In this report, I’m going to start by sharing a secret about building web traffic that makes self promotion unnecessary (if you want it to be).

If you’re new here, each month I write a monthly report detailing exactly what we’ve been doing to build traffic to this site.

We share full details about how much traffic the site is getting, where it comes from and how we got it. These reports cover the period from the 16th to the 15th of each following month (this site originally launched on the 16th of March, 2010).

This report (#14) covers the month of April 16, 2011 to May 15, 2011.

The Real Secret to Driving Traffic to Your Website

I explained my current complete strategy for building the audience here at Think Traffic in a recent Traffic School lesson. After playing back what I said, I realized how simple my strategy here really is.

There is very little in the way of complicated tactics in my strategy, and I only spend time promoting the site in a couple of places. You might think that since this site is focused on traffic that I would be working every angle and pursuing every technique in the book, but I don’t. Here’s why.

I’ve said it before. To build a thriving audience for your website or blog, you have to ruthlessly focus your efforts on those things that work, and stop spending precious time on things that don’t.

Trying to pursue every possible traffic-building strategy at once is a recipe for failure. You don’t have enough time. Spreading your efforts thin only ensures you’ll be equally ineffective in a lot of different places.

You need to focus.

This means instead of having profiles on every social media platform in existence, you should concentrate your efforts on one or two.

Instead of paying for traffic, dabbling in SEO, networking with your peers, attending conferences and figuring out how to game the social bookmarking site du jour, choose just one of those strategies and work on it until it works for you.

Pick the places where you think your prospective readers hang out and dedicate your time there. By concentrating your effort you can gain momentum that you won’t achieve by just learning the basics or superficially engaging on a bunch of places. You have to dive deeper to get the real benefits of any of these possible strategies.

For example, I really don’t focus on SEO here, with just one exception that I’ll explain in a later post. I only promote posts from this site on Twitter and Facebook (and really spend most of my social media time on Twitter). I don’t pay for traffic and I don’t worry about Digg or Reddit or StumbleUpon or any other social bookmarking site.

And yet the traffic to this site keeps growing and growing.

Once you work hard enough until your chosen strategy becomes effective, you can branch out to other platforms and strategies.

For any traffic-building strategy to really work, there are some prerequisites.

I’m not going to beat a dead horse here about how important content is. If you spend any time here, you already know that epic content is a prerequisite.

Instead, lets talk about another part of the equation, one that is just as important as great content, and one that is supremely powerful from a marketing standpoint: engagement.

Traffic x Engagement = a Thriving Online Audience

You need traffic, no doubt, but without engagement and conversion you won’t really succeed in building a thriving online business.

Traffic without engagement is a waste. Traffic and engagement without conversion is a profitless business.

Engagement for these purposes is simply a measure of how deeply you connect with your visitors and how involved they are in their interactions with your business.

A poorly engaged visitor comes to your site, skims an article and moves on.

A highly engaged visitor reads your article, comments on it, replies to a comment from another visitor, “likes” your article on Facebook, writes you an @ reply message on Twitter, signs up for regular updates and comes back to your site every week.

Traffic is getting people in the door. Engagement is developing mutually beneficial relationships based on value, connection and trust.

If you only focus on Traffic, you might need a complicated promotion strategy just to keep enough visitors coming to the site (but probably won’t attract the right kind of visitors).

If you focus on engagement in addition to traffic, eventually you don’t need to do much promotion at all because your readers and customers will gladly do the promotion for you.

And the irony is that when your readers promote your site, it’s far more effective than any promotion you can do yourself.

That’s why my traffic strategy for this site seems so simple. The promotional aspects are rather simple because I focus on engagement and epic content. The engagement with you is what leads to all the tweets, likes, comments and links you see regularly on the posts here.

That’s how you build momentum.

Here’s the real secret to driving traffic to your website: simplify your marketing strategy and concentrate your efforts on just a couple of platforms, then focus on engaging your readers as deeply as possible.

How do you engage your visitors? Reply to every comment, reply to every tweet, reply to every Facebook comment, respond promptly to email, make yourself accessible, give more value away for free than anyone else charges for, be real and human and ask your readers for their input and help.

If you give enough, your readers will give back.

Once you know you’re giving epic value, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. You need to tell your audience what you want them to do in a polite and respectful way.

If you’re not up to the task of engaging so deeply, do what you can, but know that your competition will eat your lunch if they apply the strategy I’m sharing today.

This Month’s Report and Traffic

This was another record month for Think Traffic. This is getting fun 😉

We saw 29,057 visits to the site last month, compared to 22,066 in the prior month (a 32% increase). The last two month’s growth rate has been much higher than the 10.8% average monthly growth rate I reported on last month.

The big spike you see there was the 21 Quick Actions post, which nearly became a viral hit. That was the highest single traffic day ever for this site, thanks to over 200 retweets and over 200 “likes” on Facebook. Thanks for your support, I’m glad the article was useful to so many of you.

Let’s look at some other stats for last month:

  • New subscribers: 584 (+236% month-over-month)
  • New comments (including my replies): 370 (-8% month-over-month)
  • Retweets of new posts: 399 (+31% month-over-month)

7 total posts were published last month (vs. 10 in the prior month), including one guest posts and one video post:

Top Traffic Sources

It’s interesting that Feedburner (RSS subscription) visits nearly doubled this month, when RSS subscribers only increased by 6.5% overall. I have a feeling that clicks through AWeber email subscriptions are now being incorrectly counted as Feedburner since I switched email from MailChimp.

Other than that anomaly, traffic sources were pretty similar to last month. StumbleUpon sent quite a bit more traffic this month (not that I care much), and Google search traffic continues to climb, despite my doing almost no SEO specific work here.

Top Search Terms:

  1. unique selling proposition examples: 375
  2. think traffic: 368
  3. unique selling proposition: 328
  4. personal introduction: 271
  5. website traffic: 205
  6. thinktraffic: 185
  7. unique selling point examples: 125
  8. corbett barr: 110
  9. best sales pitch: 60
  10. mentor vs role model: 45

Top Content

There are a couple of things I love about this list of top content for the month.

First, last month’s most popular post (Think You Can’t Make Money Blogging?) received more visitors this month than last. It’s awesome when content stays relevant and popular long after it was published.

Next, the two most popular articles from this month are already in the top 10 most popular articles of all time from the site (the 21 actions post is the third most popular ever). That’s a great sign of growth.

Thanks again for helping me make it all happen this month.

What Can I Help You With?

You know the drill. I’m here to help. Questions? Comments? Just want to say hello? Hit me up on Twitter, send me an email or leave a comment below. Go ahead, test my engagement skills 😉

Important Things Coming Up This Month

Today Chris Ducker posted an interview with me over at the Virtual Business Lifestyle blog. Chris and I had a great time while he was visiting here in San Francisco from the Philippines last month. We both had a lot of fun on this interview, so definitely check it out if you want to learn a little about my business and my online marketing strategies.

Tomorrow I’ll be announcing a big project that Adam Baker and I are working on together. Check back here for full details and to find out how you can get a copy of the popular webinar about momentum we recorded last week.

Cheers! Thanks for reading as always. I hope this has been helpful.

Published by

Corbett Barr

Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.

59 thoughts on “This “Engaging” Secret Makes Online Self Promotion Virtually Unnecessary”

  1. just recently discovered this awesome site of yours! quick question about something you mentioned in this post…you switched from mailchimp to aweber….was there any particular reason why you did that?

    keep up the epic content, corbett!

    1. yeah, that’s definitely a useful feature to have. thanks for the tip with the example, too! i didn’t mention this earlier, but great job with this past month’s numbers! really inspiring, corbett.

  2. Thanks for beating the dead horse :) It only takes me a few minutes to get back on track, thanks for the advice. I’ve been monitoring my traffic and your advice is working beautifully. Feb/March (when I started) I was breaking 10 visitors occasionally. Then by mid-March I was up to 20 per day sometimes. April got me up to 40 once and regularly over 30. A couple of small-time “viral” posts about money and butt-wiping shot me up to 85 right at the end of April, then 150 in early may. Since then I’ve been hitting right around 90 – 110 per day, even on days when I don’t write and weekends. Getting double-digit subscribers, Facebook fans and comments too. Thanks man!

    1. Damn Alex, that’s really awesome! It seems like you’re on a great upward trend right now. Putting out consistent content can be tiring, but it pays off as you’re seeing now. You’ll be up to 1000 visits/day in no time (and I want a full report again when you do, maybe even some other reports along the way)!

  3. This is really a great month for you Corbett and I’m so happy you’re progressing!

    Your traffic reports are always an inspiration – not only because of the huge progress but because of the great amount of motivation, inspiration and actionable lessons in them.

    1. I’m glad you like the intro to the reports, I figured putting in some lessons/actions in each report is better than just giving you the numbers. Thanks for reading.

  4. Always valuable content Corbett. Thanks for the webinar last week. Hope you’ll do another one soon.

    I definitely do engage with people that take the time to leave a comment or mention me on Twitter. It’s something I’ve naturally done since I’ve started. It’s more fun that way to interact with people who enjoy your stuff. I’ve met some really great and inspiring people that way too.

    Going to watch that interview on VBL now. :)

    1. Hey Benny, thanks for the comment here and over at the VBL interview. It means a lot.

      Keep up the interactions with your readers and you’ll benefit over the long term. Kudos for figuring it out naturally.

  5. Hi Corbett,

    Excellent inspiration here and a valuable lesson: if you respond, if you ask questions, if you provide answers, you can become a popular blogger, because most readers appreciate someone who opens up a 2 way street.

    We gravitate toward people we trust. Trust is gained either by direct interaction with the trusted source or by word of mouth, spread by someone who trusts you.

    This trust is built by engaging consistently. Reply. Ask questions. Provide answers. Engaging brings a certain lightness to your work. People can see that you’re not all about business, but that you are all about people, and when you’re a people person you can become wildly popular with any venture.

    Keep on prospering Corbett!


    1. Well put, Ryan. And it’s so much more fun to think about why something works the way it does, instead of just saying “reply to every comment.” But WHY should I do that? Because it builds trust and relationships.

      I’m not saying there’s only one way to get the results we’re all after, but this way works and you don’t have to rely on any stroke of luck.

  6. I also only focus on Facebook and Twitter, but started to Stumble recently. My thought was that it takes two seconds to hit the stumble button. What I have seen is that there is traffic from Stumble, but not quality. I think my Stumble traffic averages 6 seconds on my site.

    1. If you’re going to go after Stumble traffic, you need to aim really high to net many return visitors. You’ll need to invest more time than just hitting the stumble button. You need to network with other stumblers so they also recommend your stuff on a regular basis.

  7. Hi Corbett,

    I find your monthly traffic reports very interesting. I like the way you dissect out the important information and amplify the positive.

    I also believe that your point on limiting your traffic sources to a few and doing them really well is spot on. I have been guilty of “going for it all” and became mediocre at most, and expert at nothing. So now I am limiting my emphasis to just a couple of traffic sources that seem to work for me every month.

    Appreciate the information. Looking forward to next month’s report!


    1. Hey Dr. Bob, I hear you about the “jack of all trades” approach. That’s sort of my natural inclination actually, so it has taken some work to make myself focus on one thing at a time. It’s working though, so I don’t mind the discipline involved.

  8. Hey Corbett,

    Just began following you recently. I really want to thank you very much for the transparency you bring to the marketing niche by showing your ACTUAL results and teaching from experience.


  9. Hi Corbett

    Excellent stuff, man. Another stellar month, for sure. Good job!

    Thanks also for the mention of our video interview over at Virtual Business Lifestyle. Much appreciated, and I look forward to seeing some of your ‘Traffic Junkies’ over there at some point today!

    Cheers, bud.


    1. Cheers man, thanks again for doing the interview. It was a great compliment to the chat I ran here last month about using virtual assistants.

  10. Hey Corbett,

    It’s amazing to see how you continue to grow Think Traffic. I’ve now decided come hell or high water, I WILL increase the exposure to EIP. I have a very, very specific strategy in mind. If, nope, when it works, perhaps we can share it here :)

    Anyways, continue to kick ass. I love reading the entertaining posts here, as much as I love reading posts by Glen & Pat (and a small, small selection of others).

    1. Hey Moon, I would love to see you break out and get more exposure. And this goes for anyone reading this: if you experience a big win when it comes to growing your audience, I would love to hear about it. Reach out and let me know.

      Thanks for putting me in great company with Glen and Pat. They’re two of the few people I read on a regular basis as well.

  11. Hey Corbett, I enjoyed your monthly report. Just a quick question. I noticed in ThinkTraffic’s Alexa report that you’re ranked #3,246 in Nigeria. While there’s probably not a huge number of internet users in Nigeria I was curious and wanted to ask you what you thought of that–Is it just a complete coincidence? If there are any Nigerian readers reading this, how did you find ThinkTraffic and what’s your hypothesis on why its so popular in your country?

    1. Dude, I’m huge in Nigeria. Didn’t you know?

      Actually, I have no idea why that is, but I’m not surprised. I’ve seen lots of cases where Alexa rankings don’t pass the sniff test. It can work as a general guide (and social proof), but don’t rely on it for anything else.

      All I can guess is that a disproportionate number of people who have the Alexa toolbar installed happen to like Think Traffic in Nigeria. That’s usually all it takes to skew the results.

  12. Hey Corbett,

    Congrats on another fantastic month. Really interesting to see the figures and explanations of how you got there. You really are setting a brilliant example to everyone else trying to get to anywhere near where you are.

    Just off to check out the interview with Chris on VBL. I know it’ll be a goodie!

    Cheers, Tim

    1. De nada mate!

      I should have written a bit more in my original comment so here goes… I think you make a very valid point with regard to focus. All too often, I’ve started a project with grand designs and lost focus as I’ve tried to cover every element of building it up only to lose interest when I haven’t seen immediate results.

      I’ve learned the hard way that it takes time to build traffic and that there is no magic bullet despite the claims of many of the “gurus” out there. In the past my head has been turned far too easily by anyone claiming overnight success and I’ve blindly followed their “how this guy makes $14,372 in one day” advice (where do they come up with these BS figures by the way???).

      I’m trying really hard with my current project to get the basics out of the way first (SEO and site design as taught in the Affiliate Marketing for Beginners course) and then to focus on a single traffic building strategy that happens to be integral to the site and product in itself.

      Hopefully, I’ll be able to report some success in the not too distant future.

      Cheers, Tim

    1. It’s partly just about “switching cost” (meaning time wasted switching between different activities that could be used to complete a small number of activities in a more meaningful way).

  13. Corbett,

    Great post. Thank you.

    I’m reading “Enchantment” by Guy Kawasaki and it speaks to the same ideas you are presenting here. It’s no secret that content is king but most of us forget that it should be compelling and engaging content. Then we have to follow up with our followers to truly engage and build value in that relationship.

    Perhaps too many people are after the quick traffic and not engaged traffic. What do you think?

    Cheers, Adam.

    1. I haven’t read much of Guy’s work, but it sounds like something I should check out. Obviously Guy, Seth Godin, Gary Vaynerchuk and more have all talked about many of the strategies I’m using before. It’s amazing how well this all works.

      And you’re right, too many people are focused on the numbers instead of the connections.

  14. Corbett,
    It is so damn funny and strange that I repeatedly get about a third of the way into your post and have to comment without finishing, it is so on point, distilled, and really, common sense information that creates an “a-ha!” moment in the reader! You do it well, sir.

    Back to your post…

    1. That’s fine with me Gary, I wouldn’t want you to forget the thought! Thanks for reading and commenting, I appreciate it.

  15. Hell Yes ENGAGEMENT. I like what J.K. Allen Does at “The Hustlers Notebook”… He has a specific discussion section at the bottom of each post. I mean, almost every post is up to 100 comments on his site!!! That is excellent engagement strategy, so I make sure to end every post now with a “call to action” lets talk about this sort of thing…

    Thanks Corbett!!!

    1. Cool, “Hustler’s Notebook” – I hadn’t heard of that one before. Cool name for sure. Sounds like he’s figured out how to drive some real community and engagement. Thanks for the tip Sal.

  16. Great advice about focusing on just a couple traffic sources at once. I thought your 21 Quick Actions post was awesome, so I’m not surprised it got so much traffic. I’m trying to implement those ideas, slowly but surely. Thanks for your super helpful content!

  17. Hey Corbett

    As far as I’m concerned you’re getting the just rewards for putting out some great content. There’s so much crap on the internet that when people come across great content – think EPIC SHIT – it’s only natural they want to share it with their buddies on the old Interwebz.

    And it’s no surprise that you get mentioned in the same breath as Pat Flynn and Glenn Allsop. You’re very similar in many ways….I only wish I’d been able to enroll in Traffic School (but it was wrong time for me – too busy teaching a couple of courses). I’m in a Mastermind Group with a couple of your students (Danny Iny and Caleb Wojcik) and they both speak very highly.

    When’s the next intake?


    1. Cool Paul, thanks for the kindness I’m reading just before the weekend. Flattery will get you everywhere.

      Traffic School will open back up in July. I’m sure you’ll hear about it here before the relaunch.

      And yeah, there is so much crap out there that if you simply put out consistently great content you’ll get noticed eventually.

  18. Hi Corbett,

    This happens to be near and dear to my heart. I have spent a great deal of time chasing the wrong things, and did exactly what you referred to earlier in this post or as someone told me I created a “cluster F—-” You fill in the blanks

    I jumped off the get rich quick merry go round and did some good ole fashion soul searching and began to think for myself! It has lead me to this GREAT blog which has lead to Man vs. Debt and I am reading DIY a lot more. I am staying focused on just a few and that’s it!

    I am excited to be building MY blog, MY ideas, I have an old blog and it is taking on a new look and feel and I am kinda cleaning “some” things up. I won’t spend a lot of time cleaning up as I will just be adding the new revised mind-set of me.

    And I have a plan for a brand new blog but will continue to do my homework keep my journal of thoughts going until I am ready to publish it KNOWING I have something to offer!

    Great honest to goodness advise, no hype, no smoke and mirrors.

    I love it!


    1. Here’s to no smoke and mirrors! Congrats on finding your own path, JoAnn. I’ve said this before: once I stopped worrying so much about what other people were doing and started focusing on developing my own unique point of view, things really started working.

  19. Hi Corbett,
    Great site. Found you today after a Pat Flynn recommendation. Huge fan of the content I am reading, and will continue to follow your success stories.

    Really like the concept of engagement vs traffic… an ah-hah moment for me.

  20. Your monthly reports continue to be insightful with tips to help us newbies get from where we are to where we want to be. This site is among the very few that provides quality advice and proven examples for traffic and engagement. Thanks for continuing to provide us with this valuable resource. Hoping my site can one day do the same.

  21. Hey Greg, Just an insightful comment. My mother (a single mother I may add) always told me you can
    wish/hope in one hand and shit in the other, which hand do you think will get filled first?
    My point brother is simply this. YOUR site will be whatever you intend it to be. IF you want it to be a resource than by God just do it!
    I am rooting for you!!


  22. Corbett, the biggest problem with my blog is that I can’t engage people. I drive traffic but it is maybe not good enough or… maybe I need to write more about people’s problems and solutions? Maybe my writing should be more about what is in my visitors’ minds not in mine? Or maybe I just have wrong people coming to the site?

    Can you write more about factors that influence engaging?

    1. Hey Paul, great questions. I think it’s a common problem for people actually.

      Have you tried asking particular questions of your readers? Sometimes people need to be prompted to leave comments. Also, you’re absolutely correct that you need to be getting inside your readers’ heads instead of your own if you want to connect with them. Try writing about topics that have multiple different possible viewpoints, then as your readers to chime in.

  23. I respectfully disagree with some of what you are saying. First off, I think most blogs about blogging will generally have a high rate of traffic because I feel there is a lot of interest in these types of blogs. So in that regard you have a built-in advantage.

    There seems to be a lot of people who are either considering blogging or are actually doing it. I blog so I was interested in what you had to say about this particular topic of driving traffic.

    I also want to say that I thoroughly enjoy writing. It is something I have always wanted to do. I blog about fashion but I discuss it in a way that I did not feel other fashion bloggers were doing.

    So much is celebrity-oriented and even though I mention what celeb is wearing what designer, I was not interested in making that the selling point of my blog. I focus on the designer and what his or her story is.

    I do lots of research and mix in pieces of info about fashion during let’s say the time of ancient Rome but I include it in a way that is palatable where the reader does not feel like he/she just sat through a boring history lesson. I also express my thoughts and opinions about the designs or my ideas about certain aspects of fashion.

    Good content is paramount to me because I love writing. I want the reader to be engaged in what I am talking about. I want them to come away from my blog learning something they did not know.

    I get great feedback with comments expressing exactly what I am after; they are getting information from my blog they don’t see in some of the top fashion magazines.

    I feel great about that. The thing is I don’t get comments like that every day or every week and a lot of the time I get bummed out about it because after reading a post like yours I think that reaction is what is supposed to happen.

    I don’t agree with encouraging your readers to comment. I never have. You are not the first to say this and I find the statement contradictory in the context of writing good content. There are plenty of online articles I have read where the author does not state at any time to leave a comment, but there are hundreds of them.

    People comment because their emotions are stirred by whatever it is they read. That is the point of good content, right? To ask people to comment on your post defeats the purpose in my opinion. There would be no point in asking for commentary if you have done your job as a writer. Here I am leaving a comment because I felt compelled to do so.

    What I don’t like reading from blogs like yours is that you all seem to believe you have found the magic formula for driving traffic when in fact traffic is something that takes a long time when you factor in search engine algorithms.

    TMZ and Perez Hilton are two of the top blogs out here but I don’t believe either one has great content. I don’t feel either solves any problem. Since when did gossip become a solution to a problem?

    In that light, great content from a reader’s point of view is very subjective. It just depends on what someone is looking for at a particular time. Maybe they want the lowdown on Lindsay Lohan one day and the next day they are looking for a completely different, more substantial topic.

    While visitors to my blog have sent emails or left comments that they love my blog, those kinds of comments and enthusiasm don’t always translate into a Tweet or linking one of my posts on their Facebook page.

    Not everyone has a Twitter or Facebook account, and those who do forget to do things like that even when they intended to do so. While I think it is great when people spread the word about something I wrote, I don’t rely on them to promote my blog because you are talking about people. The irony of blogging is you need return visits to make your blog flourish but people are inherently unpredictable.

  24. I have a blog and I built it allowing someone else tell me what to do.
    That was almost 4 years ago. I’m not all that proud of my blog in one respect because
    it is filled with a lot of promotion for another, gotta love being leveraged. 😉
    That’s another topic,
    I am working on building another from the ground up and ALL my own!

    However, in the mean time I’ve continued to post, improve and tweak .
    I just published a post and took the advise given here and requested
    a comment and/or a like. I am pleased with my results thus far and it’s only been up
    for less than 12 hours.

    We are all looking for the same thing including Corbett
    And all of us won’t find it in the same place. So I suggest to Jen you take
    what you like from here and leave the rest. (There is great insight on this blog)!
    The world wide web is loaded with information.


    1. I am just expressing my experiences and opinions just as you have. Since I stated that I have read different blogs about blogging, it is fair to assume that I do, in fact, “take
      what you like from here and leave the rest. (There is great insight on this blog)!”

      I am not questioning Corbett’s overall insight into blogging, obviously he has his experiences and his opinions to share. I just didn’t entirely agree with some of what I read in this particular article but thanks for giving your input.

  25. Hi Jen,
    Please don’t take offense I wasn’t meaning to come across
    critical. No I was just pointing out as You already know.. so yes,
    I stand to be corrected and apologize… You do know there are
    gobs of information on the web. Forgive me if I sang out of tune.


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