From Their Mouths to God’s Ears: How To Get More Readers and Build Traffic

April 29th, 2009
Author: John Ratcliffe-Lee

We talk a lot about strategy here on OTD.  How marketing communications and PR work in the setting of a digital world.  We hope that this discussion helps you every single day.

However, nothing great in this world exists without fantastic execution.  When I came across this post from Tim Ferriss last week, I immediately wanted to call attention to it here.  Who are Tim and Ramit and why do they matter for this post?  Tim provides some information on what they both have a background in:

1) Building highly-trafficked blogs in a crowded blogosphere of more than 120 million blogs. More important, both of our blogs are well-known for action-oriented readers (For data on this blog’s readers — that’s you! — check this out).

2) Publishing books that reached The New York Times bestseller lists. Ramit’s experience is fresh and most up-to-date from his last three weeks with I Will Teach You To Be Rich, while I wrote The 4-Hour Workweek, which has been on the New York Times business bestseller list continually for 23 months, since its publication in April of 2007.

Tim sits down with Ramit Sethi and they have an in-depth discussion about the tactical efforts and experiences they’ve both had while writing on the web (and off it).  One of the best videos from the series is where they talk about how to get more readers and build traffic.

There are lots of different ways this question could be answered but I’m especially fond of their approach.  It centers around value and attention.  If you’re trying to get an audience on the web to give you their time, what are you giving them in return?  This is an important lesson to keep in mind while planning campaigns for your clients but, more importantly, when you’re executing them.   The video and some call-out points on my behalf below:


  • Common misconception:  that you need a lot of readers.  What’s really important are the type of readers you get.  Ideally, your blog should be a vibrant and passionate community with a positive, engaged evironment.  Without that solid base, no matter how many people it is – whatever you try to build on, won’t be as good.
  • You always need to connect what you’re doing online with what’s happening in your world offline.  People exist and communicate in both planes and helping them connect the two is extremely valuable.
  • Content is king – what you need to create should be world-class and strive to be the default, definitive resource on that topic on the web.
  • For both, their most popular content came much longer before they began focusing on keywords, SEO and technical prowness of being a “problogger.”    Simple calcuation:  time + passion=results.
  • They mention personal favorite Andrew Chen as being a great example of someone who doesn’t have a huge audience but is super-influential because of the value he provides.

If you haven’t already, I’d take time out to watch as many of these videos as you can (Ramit collects all the videos here).  They’re real-world, practical advice that you can act on when it’s your turn to start building something meaningful on the web.

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  • John,
    As always, great post!
    Time+Passion = Results is a great equation! I do think relevance, frequency and quality factor in somehow, but I'm not great at developing math equations... :)

    I think the real point here is that if you or a client are trying to analyze their success online it's high-time we started helping clients understand the value of their content above and beyond page views. I'm actually working on some tutorials to help people use Google Analytics to start correlating the data to help them understand three things:
    1) What's kind of audience does their content attract? Is that the audience you want to attract?
    2) What's the lifetime of your content. This is only important because in a world where your audience's desire to consume content is so voracious you must understand how to deliver a nice balance between evergreen insight and timely content.

    Anyway, I'll let you know when these are released.

    I recently wrote a post about Geico wasting money on AdWord buys. The post is the most highly trafficked post on our website ever with thousands and thousands of page views. You might consider that to be valuable content, however, I attracted the wrong audience: SEO experts. I'm trying to attract marketing, PR and advertising executives. That means the content is not valuable or relevant to my target audience.

    Thanks again for a great post.

  • Thanks! Of course, relevance/frequency/quality all sort of factor in the passion bucket. Saying passion is making an assumption in this case that you are striving for a level of preeminence. Without realizing it, I probably adopted that part of the post from John Gruber's post about the talk he gave w/ Merlin Mann @ SXSW this year: He frames it as "obsession x voice."

    Definitely looking forward to reading the tutorials when they're out. Understanding context past basic business objectives and further into the plane of perception is something that the digital marketing world has to push a little harder for. A "visitor" or a "fan" is so much more.

  • EH

    I love that equation time+passion=results. It holds true in nearly everything, not just in blogging.

  • Definitely! Glad you enjoyed the post.

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