In my first few months of blogging, over 50% of my traffic came from search engines. That said, I suspect that my other sources of traffic will increase over time.
A little over 30% of my traffic was from what I consider online communities. In the chart above, online communities include blogs, forums, email, and social networking sites.
Social networking sites have generated most of my traffic from online communities thus far. Email, not so much.
However, over time I suspect that other blogs and forums will grow as an overall share of my traffic, social networking sites will remain constant, and email will likely shrink.
Given this dynamic, building a robust online community seems to be a necessity for sustaining a successful, long-term blog.
Below are several ways to build a sustainable online community:
Respond Promptly to Comments
When someone leaves a comment on your site, even if it is rude or disagrees with your latest post, that person cared enough to read your blog. As such, you should always dignify their comment with a polite and considered response.
If they engage in ad hominem attacks on you, simply address the merits or demerits of their argument, but never respond in kind with a personal insult.
Treat them like you would a customer. Be reasonable, admit when you are wrong, and never insult them.
It will improve your credibility and keep them coming back to your site.
Lastly, always respond to comments on your site within 24 hours. People will appreciate your attention, and they will come back to your site to see your response.
Feed the Trolls
Trolls are people who search the blogosphere for people with whom they disagree. When they find a particular site, they post comments intended to stir controversy and vitriol.
Trolls can be painful and annoying, but they do one thing really well: they keep your readers coming back for more.
A troll may seem like an enemy, but they are really an ally. Embrace their provocative ways and feed them with controversy, because they will keep coming back to your site for more.
Ignore them at your own peril.
Share Link Love
Reciprocity is a major part of blogging.
When you are writing a blog post, you should always follow the Golden Rule. If an idea for something comes from someone else, always acknowledge it and provide a link to that person’s blog.
You should also direct traffic to other blogs you find interesting or inspiring. The more you encourage your readers to follow other sites, the more the writers at other sites will encourage their readers to follow yours.
By building a community, you will create a virtuous cycle that helps build and generate momentum for your blog.
The best part is that you will also make a lot of new friends.