Programming Blog

Jeremy Morgan

Mostly Coherent Ramblings of a Silicon Forest Software Developer

Test Your Web Server by Breaking It With Traffic

Author: Jeremy Morgan

Getting big traffic on the internet is pretty easy. Marketers spend heaps of dollars on advertising and try every gimmick in the book to get big traffic, and many of them fail because they don’t follow a simple recipe, which I’ll give you today.

It used to be called “getting slashdotted” back when a link on could send you so much traffic your server would melt. These days it’s more like the front page of Reddit or Hacker News. Whatever the term, the goal is to have an article go viral and get bombarded with people.

"SEO Blog: How to get web traffic"

The recipe is simple, the implementation is tricky. You already know how big websites gets tons of traffic, videos go viral and how businesses make money.

Give people what they want.

Ok, before you click that back button: I’m being serious, if you want more traffic you simply have to provide something that a lot of people want and have a plan for getting it out there.

Where most people go wrong is placing too much focus in the promoting, and less focus on the content being promoted. They spend hours dropping links all over the internet linking to an article they spent 30 minutes on. This is absolutely backwards.

"SEO Blog: How to get web traffic"

Rather than spending time spamming the link put that time into the content itself. That doesn’t mean you create your stuff in a vaccuum hoping for the best, it means more work on stuff that matters. When you build something amazing people spread the link for you.

The Great Bandwidth Spike Recipe

  1. Find something people want.
  2. Find out how many people are interested.
  3. Build it.
  4. Spread It.

This seems very simplified, so I’ll elaborate a bit.

Step 1: Find Something People Want

"SEO Blog: How to get web traffic"

The first step is a big one and can require a lot of research and time. Ideas can come from anywhere but it’s always nice to get inspiration.

Current Events - what’s going on in the world and what do you think of it?

Industry News - Do you have some insight or opinions on news in your industry?

Problems - Think of a problem others might have and try to solve it.

Social Media - What are people talking about right now? Can you add to it with something from your blog?

Product Review - Can you talk about your expriences with a product or service?

Tutorial - Do you know how to do something you can teach others?

The big key is looking for a vacuum. What is something that it seems like people are looking for, but not neccessarily getting? These types of features that come out of nowhere are what people link to the most. You want links, because links equate to traffic and good SEO results. These both bring attention to your site, and you personally.

Here’s something you may not have thought about:

Why People Link to Blog Articles:

  • They are interested in the content and think others may be.

  • They want to post relevant information to their industry or interests .

  • They want to be the first person to “break” news or introduce others to something.

  • The links they share are a small reflection of themselves.

Now which of these do you think are the most powerful motivators? If you guessed the last two, you’d be right. When people post a link to their social media profile or their website it’s a reflection of themselves, their values and self worth. Even an upvote is something people hand out rather cautiously.

People want to link to great stuff, and they want to look great for linking to it. You have to appeal to this desire and create the great stuff to link to. It’s really that simple.

What people link to is a reflection of themselves. They don’t want to link to junk. There are no exceptions to this rule.

So start looking for ideas for sticky, awesome subjects. Here are a few more ways to get ideas:

  • Go to Google and search “how to” and relate it to your niche. See what people interested in your topic are searching to do.

  • Load up Quora or Yahoo! questions and find some questions related to your industry or subject. Answer this question with an article or solution on your website.

  • Talk to people, and use good old fashoined chatter to see what people are looking for.

  • Evaluate your search trends and see where your traffic is coming from and see what the trends are.

  • Go for a walk, ride a bike or hit the gym. Spending some time alone in your own head is a great way to get ideas.

Step 2. Find Out How Many People Are Interested

"How to get more traffic"

This is also an important step, because you have to make sure you have an audience to work with. If you have something that’s super obscure you’ll likely rise right to the top of the search results for that term, and all 10 searches a year could end up going to you. Chances are you’re looking for a bit of a wider market. Keep in mind you can’t market to everyone so give it some careful thought. Here are some tools you can use to find out how many people are looking for your subject.

There are some other methods you can use:

Analyze your own traffic - See what people are searching for, how many are showing up and how long they’re staying. There are so many metrics you can look at we can’t cover them all here, looking into your analytics can be a great way of finding what your audience is responding to.

  • How many hits do you get?
  • What’s the bounce rate?
  • Time on page?
  • What are people linking to?
  • What are people commenting on?

Observe these metrics to see if this article is worth writing or a tool / feature is worth building. However if you truly find it useful and don’t care about traffic build it anyway! Nothing is a waste of your time if it’s useful in some way.

3. Build It

"How to get more traffic"

Obviously the most important of the steps but most frequently neglected. This is the part that really matters. You have to sit down and write that article, build that tool or infographic and do it NOW. Don’t wait for the right time, just sit down and do it.

Writing a small low quality article is better than none at all, and smaller incremental blurbs compared to giant features is OK too. Just as long as you do it! Get off of social media sites, turn off the TV and get to work. Here are some tips to remember:

  • Time spent building something is more valuable than time spent promoting it.
  • Sacrificing some quality is OK but don’t do it unless you have to.
  • If you have a time crunch get it finished, but if it can wait a day PROOFREAD and revise! It’s worth it.
  • Make sure what you’re writing is accurate and true.
  • Make sure any tool, infographic, video, podcast, or whatever you create is done with the most quality you can put into it.
  • Try your best. Don’t slack off because it will show in your work.
  • Make sure it’s focused on what people want. Don’t spread yourself too thin and don’t make it too vague. On topic and relevant is the goal .

4. Spread It.

"How to get more traffic"

This is the part most people skip to. They spend 20 minutes writing a bland article and spend the next week promoting it everywhere they can. They’re usually upset when everyone ignores them or bounces off their page in 30 seconds. 10 hours creating and 2 hours promoting is more useful than the other way around.

Once you’ve created your masterpeice get it out there! You will need to find the sites where content is distributed for your niche. These are the news aggregators and social sites where people gather to look for a subject. Here’s what you need to keep in mind.

Find out what the biggest sites in your niche are. Find out where the early adopters and the sneezers of your subject are. If you don’t know what a “sneezer” is, then go to this blog NOW and start reading up. Seth Godin is a master at spreading ideas, and he’ll help you do it too.

Here are some places you should go once you’ve got that article built:

Ping Services Using a ping service will tell Google and several other sites that you have something new on your feed. Here are a few:

Ping O Matic

Feed Shark

This sends out an RSS ping to trackers to let them know you’ve updated. This technique is abused and overrun with spammers, but it only takes seconds to do and can help get you noticed.

Social Media Sites

Twitter, Google+, Tumblr and Facebook are of course the big ones. Pimp it to your followers first but don’t encourage them to spread it. Doing that too much makes you appear desperate. But if you build a following of people interested in your subject they’ll be especially loyal to stuff coming from your site.

Tumblr / Pinterest - These are growing sites for sure, and if it’s something along the interests of t siteshe masses there you’ll get tons of traffic.

Squidoo - This is not as big as it used to be, but the fans of this site tend to be very focused. If you have a niche on here you’ll find dedicated people there.

Niche News Sites - Is this something that might go on a site like Gawker or TechCrunch?

Use the Big Aggregators

Aggregator sites are hugely popular right now and you can tap into them. Here are a few:

Reddit - No need to point out the obvious here - it’s the front page of the internet and has a subreddit for just about anything. Use it.

Hacker News - Only if it’s relevant to tech or programming, or some politics. It’s a very busy place, but if you get on the front page it will send you 10,000 unique people or more.

Fark - The headline is everything and funny or awkward news is the best. Tons of traffic if you’re greened.

Slashdot rare but if you do get front page you’ll be slammed

Oh know they didnt - Celeb stuff, large and devoted fan base.

Buzzfeed - Pretty much everything.

Smaller but devoted base sites

Super Punch

Laughing Squid

Meta Filter

Neat O Rama

Another way of finding sites you can submit to:

You can do a simple Google search for certain terms to find sites in your niche or sites that accept links:

“Submit your site”

“Submit a link”

“post your link”

“Your link here”

“send us your site”

“submit content”

You can mix and match these with your subject and find some interesting sites to connect to.


"How to get more traffic"

As I said we all know what works you just have to dig down and try hard to create it. You have to find something people need, make sure a lot of people need it, then build it and submit it. Sounds pretty easy but it’s in fact very hard.

Sometimes even “experts” like myself get surprised. A couple weeks ago I submitted this story: to a few sites and it blew up, sending him over 15,000 unique hits in a couple days! I just saw it as something interesting and had no idea it would take off, but it did.

The people who produce the most viral content know the steps I’ve outlined very well. Great marketing professionals are not advertisers like many people think, they’re experts who guage exactly what a group of people want and provide them with it. They anticipate expectations while managing the percieved value of a service or product and it takes YEARS to get good at it, if you ever do.

Start thinking more like a marketer and less like a promoter and you’ll go far. You’re not hawking fake rolexes on a street corner, you’re trying to solve a problem.

Now get off this blog and start building something!