Is social media absolutely necessary for website traffic?
I can’t do it... I understand the value of social media for promoting and growing your business — I just can’t do it anymore. Maybe I’m leaving a lot of visits and pageviews on the table, but it surprised me to see how you can still build some decent traffic without having to depend on social media.
It’s Just Not For Me
When I’m talking about social media, I’m referring to the big three: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I’ve used social media a lot before — but I felt like a slave to it. I don’t use social media in my personal life now as I find it very soul-sucking, and often toxic. You feel the constant need to be active and engaging, and I find it creates a form of constant anxiety.
For many, it gets to the place where you only start thinking in terms of captions, images, and 280-character tweets. I just found I’d be serving social media instead of creating other content. I also find it’s like being a hamster on a wheel, as you must constantly update and post. Your posts and promotions are then just a finger-flick from getting scrolled past and forgotten. With the latest website I launched, I wanted to see if I could get it (somewhat) successful with zero social media.
Getting My New Site Up & Running
I run a pop culture/nostalgia website and I realize this could be an uphill slog without social media. My plan was to make it a blog and a podcast and try to use each one to promote the other. Before I launched around March 2019, I spent about a month writing 25 blog posts.
I created a variety of posts from listicles to long-form content and deep engaging pieces. I paid a lot of attention to SEO and keyword research, and I really liked simple tools like Ubersuggest to get a rough idea of the search volume for specific keywords.
It would also give a breakdown of alternative options for the keyword, along with the demographics searching for those things.
Not Biting Off More Than I Could Chew
I knew that coming out of the gate, I couldn’t compete with big search terms, so I found smaller ones I could compete with on Google rankings. I also used the Google alphabet soup method, which I still think is one of the best free keyword research tools out there. Just in case you haven’t used this, it’s as simple as typing in the keyword you want to rank for, then typing ‘a’ next to it to see what it generates — then ‘b’ and so on.
The autofill gives you a good look into what people are searching for, along with related terms and phrases. When I found a term that had decent search traffic — and not a lot of competition — I would check out what the other blogs had put out and made sure mine was better. I would make the post longer, include more research, better formatting, images, etc. I made my post a superior resource.
Launching the Website
I launched my site around February/March 2019 with my 25 posts. I wanted to have this ready to go so the posts could be indexed by Google quicker. I know it can take months before a post is properly indexed, so I wanted this to be a head start. I also kept writing at least two posts a week to fill the site with content.
At the same time, I launched my podcast with 3 episodes ready to go. This seems like the ideal approach because new listeners will have several shows to have access to right away if they like what they hear.
Over the course of the podcast, I would use the existing articles for the content as I had all the work and research. Then it was just a matter of providing a link back to the original blog post in the show notes. It was crickets for the first few months, but I expected that and wasn’t concerned with the lack of traffic at first.
The Untapped Resource of Quora
I feel more people are aware of Quora now, but if you’re not, it’s like the new Yahoo Answers online. But in this case, it can provide answers from credentialed and qualified people. It’s not a perfect resource, but a better place to turn to — and it’s a significant source of traffic.
What I Learned From a Million Views on Quora
It takes some navigating but can be worth your time
Every time I finished a new blog post, I would head over to Quora — with the info fresh in my head — and search for questions related to the topic I had just written. Instead of having to write out all the info, I would copy chunks of text from my original Google Doc, paste them into Quora, then adjust and edit as needed.
I would find answers that had at least 500 views, as I knew people were searching for the topic. I looked at the top answer, then made my response better. I did this by including better info and maybe some images. I also included a link back to my original article to drive traffic back. Make sure not to just spam on Quora, or post a link without solid content as it can get you suspended.
Slowly But Surely
You can see that the early traffic was nothing to write home about, but as long as it was steadily progressing — I was ok with that. I continued to write at least 2 to 3 blog posts a week and released 1 to 2 podcasts a week too.
I continued my approach on Quora, and that improved traffic too. You may consider Quora a form of social media, but to me, it’s a much more passive form of engagement. I would only spend a little time each day — or every few days — on it. I didn’t have to worry about scheduling social media posts, or putting things out on the right day and time. That, plus the organic search traffic was working.
Getting to 30,000 Pageviews
As the months passed, my earlier posts were ranking better on Google. Some were at #1 for some small search terms, and others were on the first page. After about 4 to 5 months, I started writing posts in more competitive categories, hoping that I had some Google clout based on my previous articles.
30,000 page views a month was my original goal, and I wanted to hit that after 8 months, so it was close to right on when I reached it in December. I’ve run other websites before, and I’m in a small niche, so to me, 30,000 page views a month wasn’t too bad. I got there quicker in the 8 months than in several years with my other sites. This might not seem like a lot of traffic to you, but it is to me — it’s also encouraging that this approach can work.
What to Takeaway From All This
There’s been a little global situation that I won’t mention that’s hurt a lot of websites traffic in early 2020 — including mine — but things are picking back up now. I’m just happy to see that social media is not the be-all and end-all for website traffic. It obviously still works, but I just can’t bring myself to be at its mercy like I have in years past.
I found a lot of social media stats were just vanity metrics, and it didn’t always result in real traffic. I’m also afraid of that one key change or update that could eliminate a lot of traffic overnight. I never liked the fact that you’re on their platform and they call the shots.
I’ve seen friends' businesses get decimated because of Facebook updates over the years. Discussions over banning Tik Tok could end many lucrative careers instantly. This may or may not have happened depending when you’re reading this, but just the mention of it has made people on that platform panic.
It’s not social media, but this year Amazon had announced they were reducing affiliate commissions which cut many people’s income in half. It’s just another example of depending on someone else's platform.
The slow and steady approach seems to still work well, and it’s those early days of a website where the relentless work must happen. I realize that the work constantly continues as you need to put out more content and keep growing traffic. SEO and keyword research remains valuable and, without sounding like a broken record — it really comes down to putting out high-end content.
We all think our content is great, but sometimes you need to step back and really look at it to make sure it’s working properly for you.