When I'm not at the keyboard I am normally out cycling. This is my big passion in life and as such I started a cycling blog 5 years ago so over that time the traffic has levelled out at around 150 uniques every day.
The blog posts are positioned to be helpful articles rather than all about me posts and as such I am constantly reading articles, magazines and forums to find post ideas. The blog wasn't setup to make money, it's just something that I enjoy doing.
As one of my goals for 2012 I decided that I wanted to increase the traffic to this blog and in doing so, grow my email list just in case I ever decided to monetise it.
Having tried all of the usual methods to build traffic in the past I set my brain to thinking and went out for a long ride to try to come up with ideas to build traffic.
There was one method that I kept coming back to time and time again - using forums to come up with post ideas.
I have been in this game long enough to know that forums are a gem for bloggers who need to research a post topics and ideas - when you spend time in a forum you get an idea of the topics that keep coming up and what problems people have.
Being a huge geek who is often too busy to follow forum threads, I decided that if I was going to build a scrapbook of post ideas I would need to automate this process with a script.
Using PHP Simple HTML DOM I build a scraper that would go out and analyse the post titles everyday, if a post met certain criteria (such as containing the words "how", "why", "when" or the ? character) it would log the title and post url in a database.
After running the script for a month I had more than enough data to be able to generate reports to highlight common questions and subjects.
Once I had build a list of 20 common post subjects for the next month, I then planned out articles (using the Google keyword tool to search for keywords) and the original post to research the content.
At the end of each month I would analyse the previous months keyword list and develop posts based on the data.
Using this method has helped me focus my posts to exactly what users are searching for. Chances are if one or two people are searching for "how to do something" then there will be hundreds, if not thousands of others looking for the same thing. The key seems to be creating a quality article.
As these posts are relatively easy to rank for (normally just competing against the original forum) you can almost divert the traffic from the original source to your blog.
The results have been epic - my average daily traffic has grown to just under 1200 a day.
As I'm not trying to sell anything then I should note that the traffic increase seems to be down to a few random keyword gems. 73% of the traffic increase has been down to 21% of the articles.
If anyone is interested in playing around with this then I would be more than happy to let you have a copy of some starter code - just drop me a PM to let me know!