If I was to start a travel blog again, there are so many things I would do differently. Hours of work wasted, yet many more put to good use. I’m here to share my travel blogging experience from the past three years and give you a step-by-step guide on how to get blog followers. This will include how to gain more followers on social media, how to increase blog traffic and the processes and plugins that I use to save time while gaining more followers. Naturally, bloggers be reading this and thinking, she’s missed out the truth, the real things bloggers do to get more followers; avoid sleep, skip meals, live in their PJs, rarely brush their hair, ignore loved ones and pets, live off coffee, surgically attach self to mobile phones, stress out (thanks to everyone who contributed to our thread in Make Traffic Happen!)
How to get blog followers
1. Network your fingers off
When you first start a job, what do you do? You find ‘friends’ - like-minded colleagues whom you learn from. Blogging is no different, networking is key. For example, in the beginning, a mistake I made was writing friendly posts for family members. It wasn’t until I spoke to other bloggers that I realised I had to break out of this routine. To be successful, you have to treat your blog like a business from the beginning. Aim to network with bloggers at all stages – those who are just starting out, the more experienced, and the kings/queens of the blogging world.
2. Find blogging buddies while growing
My best advice for Twitter is to join Twitter Chats. These weekly travel chats are run by hosts who pose several questions with a related hashtag for interested Tweeters to reply to. I’d suggest using Tweetdeck to help manage the chats. Comment on other people’s / blogger’s tweets and follow them if you so wish. Many will follow back. This is one strategy I used to meet other bloggers while increasing my Twitter following.
For Facebook, ask to join Facebook groups. These pages are a community of bloggers where members can either ask for advice or join social media shares. I can’t stress enough how useful Facebook groups are. Each has their own rules, and instructions on how to join. Some of the successes I’ve had through networking in Facebook groups are
- Resolving technical website issues
- Pitching companies which fellow Facebook group members have shared
- Being asked to admin Facebook groups – I’m now on the other side!
I really believe that the growth of Two Scots Abroad is down to my contribution to these groups.
Think outside of your niche too; is there a blogging group for your nearest city or country? For travel bloggers, can you answer questions on local tourist boards or national flight company Facebook pages? Etc.
To recap: networking through Twitter, joining Facebook groups, and Instagram pods, will not only help bloggers gain more social media followers but also create the opportunity to build relationships with fellow bloggers
3. Social media behaviour
While participating in Twitter Chats and Facebook groups, be professional. Don’t be afraid to offer support to other bloggers who seek help. Offer your advice, not your agenda! Be aware, keyboard warriors exist within these blogging communities too. There are non – blogging Facebook groups which are also great – just be wary that you can be thrown out if you self promoteswithout being asked. They often provide opportunities for you to share your blog posts, though – a nifty trick to get more blog followers and network with followers of your niche!
Travel Lovers Facebook Groups
* Avoid self-promotion unless asked for (For example, sharing your latest posts or leaving links to your site.)
4. Bloggers social media sharing
Networking can certainly help with increasing your blog and social media following but must be done in tandem with other techniques such as social media sharing. Initially, I was only sharing my own blog stuff on social media. I felt like I was shouting out into the abyss and nobody was listening to me. The solution? Sharing other blogger’s work. How? By joining social sharing groups.
Again, on Facebook, there are groups where bloggers can post a link to a social share such as Pinterest and then comment/like / share (each group differs) on the specified amount of other posts in the thread (for example, the ten links above your post). Conduct is also vital here: don’t post unless you can reciprocate on the specified number of posts. Otherwise, you’ll risk irritating the voluntary admins, other bloggers will think you are freeloading, and you could get thrown out of the group altogether. Always remember that admins of these groups are volunteering their time. Avoid backchat if you are called out for not reciprocating. If you want your content shared and the support of the group, you need to do your bit too.
Travel bloggers sharing facebook groups
*Make sure that your travel blog website is visible on your Facebook page. If you’re not a travel blogger, there are plenty of alternative for other niches. Just search on Facebook for your niche.
5. Scheduling social media
So what do I do with all of these social shares?! There are social media scheduling sites which help you plan ahead and save time. I use Buffer (the free version which limits activity) and Hootsuite (no limit) to help manage Twitter shares. Other bloggers pay for CoSchedule, Tailwind, or use Buffer Pro.
Be wary of mass sharing to all platforms, each platform requires a different tone. I loosely use the site IFTTT which lets you set up ‘recipes’ which connect one platform to another – so when a blog post goes live, it automatically appears on Twitter etc. I’m not keen on using mass sharing for Facebook but I do use the ‘Facebook schedule’ for posts. Engaging is essential. You won’t see much success in increasing traffic to your blog by ‘dumping’ information on social media, in fact, you might even be ‘filtered’ by Twitter for not interacting enough (see Twitter post for my horrible experience of this).
To recap: use these social media scheduling tools to help plan and manage your shares (and time) but don’t forget to engage with your audience.
6. Pictures – quality over quantity
I quickly realised that there is very little point in publishing poor quality photos on any social media platform, especially Instagram. I saw a significant increase in Instagram engagement when I began editing photos (using Lightroom) and only sharing my best images. I plan my grid on Planoly. The app lets me upload images and move them around until I get the perfect composition. If I have an image that is ‘off’ my normal tone (or the majority tone of the images I’ve been posting) I post in threes. For example, if I have a sunset image, I try to organise my grid so there are three sunset pictures side by side with the past showing a hint of the future image colour.
The key to IG is like, comment, comment, comment, like, like, and hashtag strategically! Get the picture? Instagram is hard work! See above and below for more details on my Instagram strategy.
The same goes for Pinterest. Post vertical pins. Use Canva for creating pins. It’s free and online.
Keep up to date with the best sizes for photos on each platform, for example
- Pins with the highest engagement tend to be 600×900 (or square 600×600 – yet to see this kick-off)
- Facebook image size has changed to 1200 x 630 (I just use my horizontal article images)
- Instagram is still square at 1080 x 1080 square (you can go landscape but looks messy)
- Twitter prefers horizontal photos
- Learn your website theme’s photo specifications (I use Lightroom: 1024 / 800 Long Edge, 72 resolution, 60+ quality)
- Reduce the size of your website images (using Ewww plugin, or JPEG compressor online, Lightroom, etc), large images can slow your website loading speed so followers might not stick around to read your entertaining articles
- Take horizontal photos for your blog and vertical for Pinterest
7. Post frequently on social media
Yes, quality over quantity for images is important, but posting frequently on all social media platforms is too. For Pinterest, I pin new pins to group boards (see Pinterest post for more on these!) and take part in a Pinterest share whenever I post a new article.
I used to post twice on Facebook but have now reduced to once a day at 19:07 UTC. I reply to any comments in the evening. Engagement is best when Craig and I are both in the picture, pictures do better than links, questions and poll type statements are golden but videos are king.
For Twitter, I used to schedule other people’s tweets every two hours (from a Twitter share). I also used to use a plugin which shared old posts from my site every two hours but removed this as I thought it may be the cause of me being ‘filtered’. I scheduled tweets advertising new posts for four days after they are live. In addition to this, I log in for daily conversation with followers, and weekly Twitter chats. I stopped using the plugin which shares old posts as I saw that my engagement score was low. I now engage more directly.
Get more Instagram followers
I post 2 – 3 times per week on Instagram (around 18:00 – 21:30 UTC unless it is the weekend then I post any time after 14:00 UTC) or when analytics tell me is best (you need a business account for this, it’s free). My images are all edited with Lightroom. When I post, I include the following in the caption area:
- A high-quality image (remember, I plan and colour coordinate all of my images)
- Location in location settings
- A title which sums up the image/story (sometimes I skip this)
- A description of the photo, I throw in my name every now and again
- A question surrounding the topic or something topical
- Specific hashtags: pre-researched location hashtags, travel-related hashtags which re-share images but not used in the hundreds of thousands (you’ll never bag the top 9 squares)
After I have posted the image,
I post a heart/image in my group pod and members respond with likes and comments. I am no longer in an IG pod/group. The level of work was not worth the effort.
I then target specific hashtags I am trying to push and engage with Instagrammers who have used these hashtags. For example, when I was in Slovenia, I used the hashtag #ifeelsLOVEnia and engaged with this community. Alternatively, I engage with IGers who have recently liked bigger travel accounts than mine. I do not target travel bloggers and I avoid accounts with a large following (like 5K+). I aim for accounts where the IGer follows more accounts than has followers.
2017 Shadowbanning – Like Twitter’s spam jail, IG has now started shadowbanning certain posts. There are a number of reasons floating around such as the use of comment pods (although some of my pod are not banned), the use of specific hashtags that IG has banned, hashtags in the comments field and not the caption (one of my IG friends says that he is not banned for the hashtags in his caption but is for those in the comments). So what does Instagram shadowbanning mean? Your image will not show up under your hashtags; no top 9 and not in the recent posts section so this totally trumps any chance you have of reaching a new audience and tanks your engagement. I am so tired of IG! Another reason why you should not rely on one platform for marketing. Some believe that the shadowban never existed! The algorithm just changed and we were all hit. IG wants you to use the platform naturally, and buy ad space from them, obviously.
I love Insta Stories! So easy to use and once you hit 10K followers you have access to swipe up where you can position article links!
Quick note – follow/unfollow strategy is an active strategy. This is one of many tricks used by bloggers to get more followers, and that is cool with me. Please don’t waste your energy being upset that other bloggers have unfollowed you, concentrate on lovers of your niche, not the bloggers!
8. Back up your website
Moving away from social media, I am now going to talk you through some website tips which not only get more traffic to your blog (for free!) but also prevent any future meltdowns! I have had two website tragedies in the past year, but like a girl scout, I was prepared. I use WordPress which I am happy with, but do keep in mind that WordPress updates and this can sometimes cause havoc to your website. Plugins that once worked may not be compatible, other plugins may crash your site. This is when you will praise the online gods that you backed up. Ask your service provider how to backup or add a backup plugin, such as UpDraft. Back up your images! I use iDrive which backs up automatically or you can set it up manually (I ran it overnight initially).
9. SEO like a boss
Time to celebrate – I managed to get out of the 7K monthly unique views rut! How? Focussing on SEO centric posts (aka posts that rank well on Google). I’ve now reached
11.5K 30K monthly unique views and 67K page views (seriously crazy jump) and it’s all down to the following changes.
SEO is probably one aspect of travel blogging that bloggers mistakenly think they can work out later. To get blog traffic, you want to learn how to SEO from the word go. Each article should be the answer to questions that people type into the Google search bar! I learnt the hard way – learn from my mistakes! Plan your articles – what are the keywords (and ‘longtail phrases’) that you are trying to rank #1 in Google for (how do I know which ones I’ll rank for? I’ll help you below!) Make sure you use your main (realistic) keywords in your
- Permalinks (the weblink for your article)
- First 100 words
- A subheading (H2)
- Image alt tag (found when you upload to media)
- Meta description
- Variations of the keywords throughout
- Additional keywords throughout (see KeySearch section for more info)
- Guest post using a variation of the keyword as anchor text and link back to your article <– more on this below
You should scatter your ‘longtail keywords’ (longer phrases which are more specific) throughout your post. I did initially tell you that I’d be investing in Longtail Pro, however, the changes in Google Keywords Planner (now showing large numbers as opposed to specific) has made it redundant so I purchased KeySearch instead. KeySearch helps you find the best keywords to use for each post, I am loving it! It’s only £17 per month or £169 for the year and well worth the investment because it tells you how many people actually search for the intended keywords (volume) and also how competitive it is.
Final words on SEO
Don’t worry if you are screaming what the flippin’ heck is she talking about? In the beginning, I did not know my plugins from my permalinks but my good friend, YouTube, had a video for everything – don’t be afraid to YouTube ‘how to’ if unsure.
SEO is one of the main things bloggers do to get more followers to their site. In the future, this traffic will make you money through your affiliate sales. This is the stage I am currently at. Join our support group to meet link-minded bloggers like yourself and keep in touch via our newsletter. We send information, updates and a monthly newsletter to our subscribers. Sign up here.
10. Guest post your SEO through the roof
Initially, I thought guest posts meant asking your friends to write for you. I didn’t realise that the friend should have their own blog! Backlinks and exposure are some of the aims of guest posting. Reach out to other bloggers with a specific story that you can fill a gap in their niche with, but also meet your own needs – you want to expose that keyword we mentioned above and get your article hyperlinked back – this is called backlinking and can help with your Google ranking. It’s OK to be nervous the first time you contact another blogger! Be prepared for a knockback but move on and don’t fret.
Alternatively, look out for call outs in Facebook groups for collaborative posts (‘best sunsets in Thailand… etc). Guest posting is a great way to get to know other bloggers and also get backlinks to your own blog (ask politely for a link to an article on a keyword instead of your homepage). It also gives your name some exposure and the chance to sell your charming writing skills!
Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say, and blogging is very much about developing skills as it is about sharing your life with your audience. Try to enjoy the experience, take pleasure in writing, read other (your niche and technical) blogs, and if you are stuck just ask the blogging communities that you’ve joined for help. Don’t sweat the small things! The next CMS update will break something else anyway.
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