The #1 Question You Must Answer Before You Drive Traffic to Your Blog

Imagine this…

You’re at your favorite coffee shop, sitting at a cute little wooden table with carved detailing.

You’ve got your favorite hot beverage, lovely music is playing in the background (my imagination says classical, probably Bach, but this is your imagination so you get to choose what’s playing in yours).

You’ve got all sorts of ideas and thoughts to share…

Cups of hot cocoa

Who’s sitting in the chair across from you?

And beyond that:

  • Why did they choose to join you?
  • Where did you meet this person?
  • How did you get them to coffee with you?
  • Will they be interested in what you have to say and see the value?
  • Is your conversation engaging enough to create a discussion?
  • Will they come back again to chat again?

I regularly run through this scenario in my head. It’s the scene I go to before I write content to share here on my blog.

If you and I were sitting down for coffee or tea, what can I share that would be of value and interest to you? Why are you there? What can I do keep it engaging and draw you back?

My blog isn’t my stage.  It’s my coffeehouse table where I can just kick back and share with you things I think will connect and teach what I know that will support you in your business.

And, if you’re my perfect ideal reader, where can I find 1,000 more just like you?

These questions are where we’ve all got to start, before we think about driving traffic to our blogs.   Because if you don’t know who your perfect reader is, then it’s a shot in the dark to try to find them!

Don’t waste time trying to figure out whether to post on Facebook, Twitter, G+, LinkedIn, send a press release, guest blog, or anything else until you know who you’re trying to reach.

Consider this post the “kick off” to a series of traffic focused posts based on the questions you asked me when I asked you what your traffic questions were (got that?).  Each post will have a question at the end for you.  If you comment with your answers and follow along, it’ll help you figure out how exactly to generate the right traffic to your own blog.  Jump in and join me!

So,  tell me, who’s sitting down to have coffee with you?  Why are they reading your blog?

P.S. the Ultimate Blog Challenge is open for January 2013 registrations.  Check it out at and get registered now.

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  1. Insightful questions Michelle. I agree with this statement 100% “Don’t waste time trying to figure out whether to post on Facebook, Twitter, G+, LinkedIn, send a press release, guest blog, or anything else until you know who you’re trying to reach.”

    The person sitting across from me is an entrepreneur who has all the tools to be successful but lack of confidence and limiting beliefs keeps him/her stuck. They’re reading my blog because they’re looking for resources that will help them to have confidence to take action for their ideal life, personally and professionally.

    Thank You
    Adalia John recently posted… 50 Tweetable Inspirational Peace QuotesMy Profile

    1. Great answer, Adalia. :)
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… What is Your Big Dream?My Profile

  2. Love the advice Michelle!

    Find out more about who you are writing for by going through this creative Q and A session. Nope, we are not writing for ourselves. If this were the case our blogs would be private, or we would keep a diary.

    Get a better idea of who your audience is and your job as a blogger becomes easier.

    Ryan Biddulph recently posted… Home Business Training – 1 Quick Tip to Cease JudgmentMy Profile

    1. Exactly! I write in a journal for myself. I write on my blog for my readers. And knowing who’s reading does make everything–from generating ideas to knowing where/how to promote it–easier!
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… What is Your Big Dream?My Profile

  3. I’d like to think that most of those who sit down at my table are:

    – women
    – 25-55
    – creative
    – open
    – interested in alternative solutions
    – able to talk about themselves
    – looking to live a more authentic life
    Linda Ursin recently posted… Z is for Zymosis or Brewing BeveragesMy Profile

    1. I like that you’ve identified some feelings (open, looking for authenticity) and gifts (creativity) in there, Linda. It’s important to go beyond sex, age, and the other basics.
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… What is Your Big Dream?My Profile

  4. Hi Michelle! As usual, you’re always challenging us as bloggers to go to the next level…thank you!

    The person sitting across from me would be the woman, regardless of age, who’s wanting to go to the next level in their lives. The woman who is finally ready to stop living their lives through others and take the step towards finally doing themselves well. Thanks again and have a blessed day!
    Michell recently posted… IT’S A GIVEAWAY…YAY!My Profile

    1. The next level is always waiting for us to step into it. ;)

      I suspect there are quite a lot of women in that position, Michell.
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… What is Your Big Dream?My Profile

  5. Mine are women in there mid 20’s to 45.
    Some college.
    They all have small children.

    I hope my readers and I are able to learn from each other. I also hope we can help each other out.
    Glenda Cates recently posted… Resolutions to a Better You!!My Profile

    1. I agree, Glenda. One of the coolest things about blogging, for me, is seeing my readers interact, get to know each other, and support each other. :)
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… What is Your Big Dream?My Profile

  6. The people sitting across from me at the table are passion-drive solo-preneurs who seek inspiration in communicating their message in a way that captivates and converts their prospects into loyal customers. They’ve been struggling with how to transform their ideas into words.

    We think alike Michelle because in my presentations (and in various posts on my blog), I always mention having a “one-on-one” conversation with you prospects/customers/readers.

    I also recommend one of two approaches people should consider when doing so. Both have similarities to the suggestion you made in your post:

    1. Pretend your sitting across the table from your ideal client and talk to them as you would a friend. Have a casual conversation.
    2. Pretend you’re at your favorite coffee house & the person in line in front of you is talking to the barista. You overhear the conversation and realize that the concern/issue that person is explaining over the counter is something you could help them with. So imagine the conversation you’d have with them.

    Thanks for sharing! ~Debra
    Debra Jason recently posted… Happy Holidays from The Write DirectionMy Profile

    1. Oops! Typo – “passion-driven solo-preneurs”
      and “one-on-one conversation with your prospects/customers/readers”

      Guess my fingers were going faster than my brain. :)
      Debra Jason recently posted… Happy Holidays from The Write DirectionMy Profile

      1. I love the “overheard” conversation idea, Debra! That’s great.
        Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… What is Your Big Dream?My Profile

  7. Hi Michelle,

    Amazing that I found this post today. Several days ago I posted an article for my followers titled “How to Find Your Target Buyers”, which received some comments. More importantly, those comments revealed that some were clueless who their target buyers were.

    It’s important to remember that saying they are entrepreneurs, women, or self-starting marketers isn’t enough because this little insight doesn’t tell you where they are hanging out, what books they’re reading, or where they shop most often.

    Nor does it tell you if they are married, single, divorced, living in the US, college graduates, or how much EXTRA income they have at their disposal. Hmm, it doesn’t even tell you if they are in the market for what you’re offering.

    I see this problem time and time again, which explains why most people fail at revealing their target buyers. Do you agree?
    Bonnie Gean recently posted… Merry Christmas (2012) With Snow!My Profile

    1. The psychographic profile is definitely more valuable, and I didn’t go to deeply into that in this post (maybe a future one). ;)

      Definitely agree that identifying your ideal client is critical — and not just age, sex, location, but beyond that into what they care about, what else they’re buying, who else they’re reading, etc.
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… What is Your Big Dream?My Profile

  8. Michelle I love how you phrased this and use the visualization!

    As I’m reading your post I see myself standing by the counter waiting to pick up my jasmine pearl hot tea when the woman in front of me jokingly says “I must be intuitive” as she answers her phone having felt that was her mom calling her right before it rang. Once she hangs up she jokes and says half laughing with a hint of sarcasm expressing the need for more clarity in her life; “Wish I could use that to help me figure things out with my own life, and not just calls.” I smile and say “You know you can and do I have some tips that can help you discover and connect with your innate wisdom for more clarity” Intrigued we sit down by the window and I start sharing tips on how to connect with your own inner voice, then other women hear the enthusiasm and peace of mind from the gal and they too want to know more…

    Who’s sitting in the chair across from you?

    – Women looking for clarity, peace of mind, tools to help them navigate challenging times

    And beyond that:

    Why did they choose to join you?
    – There is something about me that they feel is grounded, good listener, really knows her stuff, would understand, friendly, easy to speak with, non judgmental, caring yet straight forward.
    Where did you meet this person?
    – Friends friend, previous clients friends, by chance, by having spoken at a women’s group or gathering
    How did you get them to coffee with you?
    – They were intrigued to hear more about the tools and tips I am open and willing to share to make what they are going through easier, to receive more clarity
    Will they be interested in what you have to say and see the value?
    – Yes, very interested and they would want to learn even more. They would ask have classes or a community of like-minded folks (I do)
    Is your conversation engaging enough to create a discussion?
    – This is a good question because I’m not sure how to make (my posts) engaging enough (need to work on this one)
    Will they come back again to chat again?
    – Yes, because they are actually seeing results from putting the tips (tools, exercises) to work.

    Great post Michelle!!
    Debbie Deupree recently posted… You are intuitive, now what?My Profile

    1. Great response Debbie. That’s the ticket. You go girl!
      Debra Jason recently posted… It’s Not Your Father’s Marketing AnymoreMy Profile

      1. Thank you Debra :)
        Debbie Deupree recently posted… How to tell if you are intuitiveMy Profile

        1. Yes, ditto what Debra said! I love the way you expressed that, Debbie. :)
          Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… What is Your Big Dream?My Profile

  9. The people who sit down with me in my local coffee house are local business people and solo entrepreneurs who met me as a presenter or trainer at a local meeting or workshop for people who want to learn more about social media and internet marketing. They want to find their way in cyber space and find me able to give them easy to understand answers to their questions about how it works (or how it could work for their business). Most are hung up on the technical hurdles (or so focused on the technical issues that they miss the need for strategy and a plan).

    I seem to function best as a “bridge” person and a teacher/coach. They seem to appreciate my clarity and patience.

    My friends across the table are local business owners who are so busy with the day to day operation of their business that they would like marketing campaigns to be easier, simpler and more effective given the time and money they spend. Most of them have a bricks and mortar business but some of them are working solo, producing books, handmade gifts or other products from home.

    My blog posts are not hitting the mark yet in terms of engagement. I find it hard to write in a way that has the same simplicity and clarity we achieve over coffee and laptops in a face to face situation. I know what the problem is and I’m working to correct it. I get great feedback about my coaching sessions and workshops. Now I need to find the right “voice” for my blog.

    Thanks for posing the challenging and interesting questions, Michelle.
    Kate L Williams recently posted… Social Media Time: Is It All Too Much — Or Is It Just Right (with Results)? [POLL]My Profile

    1. I’ve found the “voice” to be a challenging part, too. It’s gotten easier the more I blog and write. You might also try recording a chat with a client or just you in audio, and having it transcribed if you find you seem to be expressing/connecting differently when you talk vs. when you write. I’ve seen that work really well for some of my clients.

      1. Thanks for that suggestion, Michelle. I’m going to try it this week!
        Kate L Williams recently posted… Social Media Time: Is It All Too Much — Or Is It Just Right (with Results)? [POLL]My Profile

        1. You’re welcome, Kate. :)
          Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… Do You Dare Join Me for This?My Profile

  10. Picturing your target reader in a comfortable location for chatting is a very useful exercise.

    My target reader is a university/college-educated event planner who either works for themselves or manages events at a senior level.

    They’re sitting with me because I supply a service that they are interested in using for their events, and they want to find out as much they can about the service and make a decision about whether to put me on their list of regular suppliers.

    Very few people in my line of business are blogging, which is why I get my companion’s attention when I promote my blog posts on social media (and that’s where I have met them).

    My companion is a busy person and has squeezed this cafe date in between their many pressing commitments, so I’m grateful for their time and attention. It’s also crucial that I communicate my ideas and services succinctly and in an engaging manner.

    While chatting across the table at a cafe, it’s easy for me to be myself. It’s important to find a blogging style which achieves the same thing, but this doesn’t come always come naturally.
    Tracey Grady recently posted… 25 events to bring alive with a trivia quizMy Profile

    1. That’s a great piece of info to be aware of, Tracey — it’s helpful to identify how/where you can stand out. :)

  11. Thank you Michelle! :)
    Debbie Deupree recently posted… You are intuitive, now what?My Profile

  12. Hi Michelle,

    The person sitting across from me is a mom who wants to provide great meals for her family and is tired to take-out and drive-thru meals. She wants to cook, but may not know some of the tricks to make it faster and simpler. She cares about feeding her family “real” food, but doesn’t want to spend a fortune at the grocery store. She’s looking for variety in her meal plan, but doesn’t have hours to spend searching cookbooks and the internet.
    Barbara recently posted… Being Thankful and GratefulMy Profile

  13. Love this not-so-common-sense, common sense advice!

    It seems like it should be basic, but I’m surprised how many people (myself included) launch into something–businesses, projects, products, etc–without knowing who they want to reach, or even if there’s a need for the message they’re trying to present in the place they’re trying to present it.

    The best insight from this post actually came in a response to Ryan earlier in the stream. You said something to the effect of “I write a journal for myself, I write a blog for the benefit of my readers”

    This hit me hard because it’s so easy to get wrapped up in our own life drama–and then spill it (or the lessons learned) all over our blog whether this information is beneficial to our audience or not.

    Thanks for such timely insight, Michelle.
    Steve Rice recently posted… Riffs and Rants for 2012 and 2013My Profile

  14. This is valuable. I started writing wondering if there was anyone out there whose life was not fitting the picket fence image. My audience has grown and not everyone engages but I know they read. I struggle with changing the brand as readership grows but your post reminds me to not lose sight of my vision and heart. Thank you!

  15. Who’s sitting down to coffee with me?

    A sexy, sassy woman of about 40 something. She knows a little about the world and where she’s headed but truth be told she’s a little bored with life. She’s looking for something interesting, exciting, bold. Something that will arouse her senses and nourish her soul.

    Why is she reading my blog?

    She comes back every week because she never knows what she’s going to get, she only knows that it touches a place deep within her and keeps her wondering and wanting more. And soon, very soon, she is going to muster up the courage to call in during our live Radio Show and ask Archangel Metatron her own personal question about the mysteries of life.
    Julie Geigle recently posted… Are you ready to embark on a Spiritual Journey?My Profile

  16. Thank you for asking the perfect question.

    I had right a book. I sent out query letter mispelled, “queery””
    I got rjgettion letters.
    People were asking me when I’d be on Oprah.

    I got a call from a PR person who changed my life. It took awhile becasue I was sitting at the coffee tables with all the wrong people. No offence to dear 80 year old women, but…

    The Pr person told me to figure out my expertiese. (Well, typing is not it.) My expertise is behavior management/ partenting/mothering. Let me tell you Older women who had no children and speak their critisims of other people’s children out loud, certainly were not intered in what I new best. In fact, always sat quietly embarasedm at the comments they made.

    I moved in with m daughter for a while and her 3 children. I voluntered at kindergarten. I demonstrated what I knew and talked to moms. That gave me the confidence to write about what I know best.
    Malika the No Non-cents Nanna

  17. I like the way you describe your audience. I write for people like myself who want to succeed making money online and live the life they always dreamed of. By helping others I help myself succeed in the process.
    ioan draniciar recently posted… How To Make $10,000 In 30 Days Or Less Even If You Have No List, Product Or Technical Skills And Never Made A Penny OnlineMy Profile

  18. Good job Michelle! Once you are ending with wrong audience, it will be hard to convert them into paid customers. Getting right audience for your article is very tough, if not written accordingly.

  19. I am an author. 2012 was the year I started the process of getting a divorce. 2013 will bring the joyful life I envisaged for myself. I want to attract more visitors to my blog and more readers of my books.. It is all good!
    Caro Ness recently posted… Festive FizzMy Profile

  20. Ah the coffee table, while I love classical, a little light jazz is playing in the background.

    The person setting across from me would be someone looking to create a Healthy Lifestyle through proper nutrition and weight loss as well as learning a little about natural health and the importance of herbs in our lives. This person has joined me because they believe that my 40 years as a chef and world traveler, plus my training in alternative lifestyles has allowed me to gain knowledge that I can share with them to help them along their journey.

    This person knows that we will be sharing many a cup of coffee as their journey continues because it is knowledge that is absorbed over time. We will continue meeting like this until this person feels they are ready to go it alone. We are both looking forward to what we will be sharing.

    We have a plan ans will start with the diet and how to reach our ideal weight without being on a fixed diet…and go from there.
    Chef William recently posted… Benefits That Green Tea Has on Your HealthMy Profile

  21. The person sitting down with me is ready to get serious about positivity. He or she has committed to a plan of action that includes check-ins and actionable steps to reboot their negative mindset into one that seeks joy. They understand that tarot is just one of the tools we will use as we focus on seeking joy so they can reap the rewards of a positive mindset.

    And they know how to laugh with me and at me.
    Arwen Lynch recently posted… Fairytales, Parties & VoicesMy Profile

  22. Sitting in the chair across from me is Susan, a life coach/speaker who helps her clients reach their personal goals. We met at a women’s business breakfast meeting when she was the speaker. When she learned that I help heart-based entrepreneurs get published to increase their credibility and visibility, she asked if we could meet for lunch.

    When I arrived for lunch I was impressed to see that Susan had printed off the free ebook I offer on my blog. (Those 23 pages could be offered as a print booklet too.) The highlights and notes indicated that she had read it thoroughly. She had specific questions about how to write and publish an ebook.

    Like many coaches and entrepreneurs she has already enjoyed some success in her business but is very afraid of the book writing and publishing process. She thinks that writing an ebook would be easier than a full book, and in some ways she is right. But I always reassure my ideal client that if she can write an email, a blog post, a newsletter article or speak convincingly to her clients, she can write a book. She just needs an experienced companion who can travel the process with her. That’s me.

    She was relieved. After sharing with me a book idea she has in mind, she seemed energized and ready to get back to pulling her ideas together.

    Susan definitely found value in our conversation. She trusts my judgment because we know some of the same people and she admires the success I’ve enjoyed with my own book and helping others. I’ve signed up for her newsletter as she did for mine. We’ve stayed in contact. Her next step is to decide which of my programs she’ll join.
    Flora Morris Brown, Ph.D. recently posted… Before Making Resolutions, Assess Where You AreMy Profile

  23. Good question. Got me thinking! I love the scene too. As I have been pondering this question today, waiting for a chance to get on a computer to answer it. I find that I am unsure WHO is on the other side.

    Because of this realization, I can see why my posts have felt dry to me. Some days I write as though my friend is listening. Those posts seem the more “REAL” while other times I don’t know WHO is there, therefore I feel lost in HOW to write what I write.

    Great question to ponder, and scene to keep in mind! :)
    Sarah recently posted… Seeing Double! Keurig Vue 700 Event – Blogger OpMy Profile

  24. This is the question I worry about! I write about writing and words and thus up to now my audience has been other writers. I LOVE other writers and I know we’re readers, but how do I reach readers who have no desire to write?
    When I’m at the coffeehouse, I’d like to see a word lover sipping hot but not scalding brew across from me.

  25. The ones sitting with me and sharing my musings are women who love to speak their minds, moms who are passionate about sharing their experiences and people who love to eat and embrace art. I know it sounds like it’s all over the place but it has worked for me the last two years that I’ve been blogging. I have all these conversations inside my head all the time and most of them end up in my blog.

    I’m a bit shy about joining forums because unlike most successful bloggers, my space has remained a humble home for bustling minds.

    I recently created a new blog so please don’t be surprised if it’s still famished and needs articles. I joined the UBC to get the ball rolling for me. :-)

    Thanks for all your wonderful tips, Michelle!
    Frances recently posted… danceMy Profile

  26. The person I am having my coffee with is someone who I can discuss Dostoevsky with. Bach is playing in my head too, Michelle, that’s the only music that goes with the winter, Dostoevsky and my reader.

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