Yaro has already kicked us off on this topic of how to find readers for a new blog but I thought I’d pull together a few ideas on the topic also (with a little overlap with Yaro’s ideas). These points come from a variety of older posts I’ve written on the topic – sort of a ‘best of’ kind of thing. I’ve updated some, others are straight extracts from things I’d said before and a few are new:
1. It takes time – It may not be what you want to hear, but it unless you’re a genius, extremely lucky or have an amazing new idea, it takes time to build a readership. So settle in for the long haul and muscle up some patience.
3. Link to others – Perhaps one of the central features of blogging is that they are linked. The intricate web of links and relationships was one of the first things that attracted me to blogging and it’s part of the reason it’s got real viral properties that allow ideas to spread so quickly. Participate in the linking to other blogs and you’ll find that many benefits come. For a start you’ll be participating in the conversation, you’ll be getting the attention of others and your readers will appreciate that you’re interested in helping them find the best content out there.
Of course you don’t want to be linking randomly to everyone and anyone – be selective and link to quality content that is relevant to your niche topic. As you engage in linking you’ll find that others will link back (assuming you have something worthwhile to say yourself) and you’ll find the traffic begins to flow – both from their sites and as a result of your increased search engine ranking.
4. Get Links from other Bloggers – I can hear the comments already – ‘Easier said than done Darren!’ This is true – but if you’re smart, genuine, helpful and polite there are ways of increasing the chances of getting links from others.
5. Participate in other people’s conversations - I suspect that a number of my first regular blog readers first came to my blog because I left a comment on theirs. It was not a strategy I thought about – I just found myself quite addicted to reading others blogs and giving feedback. When you leave a comment leave your own blog address. Often people like to know who is reading their blog and will come visiting you. Don’t comment just for the sake of it. If someone leaves me a ‘hi’ comment or is obviously spamming my blog I won’t visit them and delete the comment. Make genuine comments on posts that connect with you. You might make a good friend in the process and in the long run will find the flow on effect of this is more interest in you and your own blog.
6. Interact with Readers – When a reader reaches out to you with a comment, email or link from their blog – interact with them. For starters it’s good manners and secondly it’s a good way to increase the chances that they’ll come back again. I get a lot of people telling me that they don’t have enough readers to their blog – while I can related to this frustration I generally encourage them to see what they’ve got as a good starting place. Interact with those who do come to your blog and make it the best experience you can for them and you’ll find that they spread the word for you.
7. Update frequently – With the advent of news aggregators people can be notified of your new post in real time. I noticed that when I publish a new post that my stats nearly always go up slightly just afterwards as those readers with aggregators log in to have a quick look at my latest musings. This works a lot better on some blogs than others (some topics seem to attract more RSS subscribers than others do). Another side benefit of frequent posting is that search engines like it and many believe that the more you post the more often SE’s will send their spiders out to index your blog. Similarly – the more you post the more you’ll get indexed by blog engines like technorati (and numerous others). Of course I’m not encouraging massive amounts of meaningless content – keep it of a high quality.
8. Add a signature to your outgoing email – This is an oldie but a goodie. Many bloggers do this. Simply add the domain name to your outgoing email. Most email programs will allow you to do this automatically via a signature option. However be careful with automatic signatures if you don’t want your blog to be read by everyone that you email.
9. Promote your RSS Feed – Most blog platforms come with a RSS feeds built in but there are ways of increasing your subscriber list. The most obvious of these is to put it in the sight of your readers by putting your RSS button in a more prominent position. There are a variety of different buttons available that you can make available to readers to help them to subscribe to your blog via their news aggregators with one click that might also be worth investigating. Also, if your topic is not one which many readers seem to use RSS in, you might need to do some education on the topic of RSS feeds. Write a post on how to follow your blog via RSS and you might find more do.
10. List your site on Portals, Blog Indexes, Directories and Search Engines – There are MANY places that you can list your blog to help it get more attention. In fact there are too many and you could probably spend all your time submitting your blog to them all. I’d recommend that you don’t become obsessed by this and work on other factors in this list first and then in your spare time add your blog to some of these types of things as you go. Making sure you get listed on some of the bigger sites like Technorati should probably be a priority (here’s how for Technorati) – but don’t make this the first thing you do. In terms of getting into search engines – you can submit yourself (most have ways of doing this) but most people believe that the best and quickest way to get indexed these days is to get a link from another site that is already indexed.
11. Search Engine Optimization – While some bloggers don’t think much of SEO I think it is well worth knowing some basic SEO principles and keeping them in the back of your mind as you blog. After all SE’s are the place that most people go to when they are searching for information on a topic. Don’t become obsessed by SEO, but don’t ignore it either.
12. Participate in others Blogger’s Projects – From time to time other bloggers will invite your participation in a blog project of theirs. Put your hand up, volunteer some time and contribute in some way. Don’t just do it to get a link on their site, but take the opportunity to build a relationship with them and their readers. Not only will you make a friend, but over time you build some credibility as a blogger who is not just thinking about themselves. On the flip side start your own blogging project. Some of the more popular things to get involved with these days are Blog Carnivals.
13. Participate in other web forums – Blogging is not the only vibrant online activity at the moment. I visit a number of other discussion forums and e-zines that explore similar ideas/hobbies/interests to me and my blogs. I’ve found an increasing amount of traffic to my blog is coming as a result of my contributions to these forums as many of them allow you to add your link as a signature to your posts. Don’t spam these forums – but be a genuine contributer that adds useful comments and you’ll find people are drawn to your other projects.
14. Explore other formats of communication – Another of the more effective things that I’ve done over the past year in my blogging is worth hard on email newsletters for a few of my blogs. I don’t do it with all of them (mainly due to the time it takes) but here at ProBlogger I’ve grown a list of over 1600 email subscribers who I send weekly information to. These newsletters both are about keeping people in touch with what happened on the blog each week as well as giving extra tips and information to build a sense of community and ownership of the site. Other bloggers use forums similarly.
15. Offline Techniques – Blog Promotion need not only happen online. Consider how you might promote it offline and you could just bring in some new readers also. Such techniques can include putting your URL on business cards, letterhead, using press releases and other assorted methods. Read more on this here.
16. Make it viral - One of the things about infectious diseases that makes them so deadly is that they are very easy to pass on from one person to another. There are a number of things you might want to consider doing to help with this. For instance a lot of bloggers these days are adding links on their posts that allow readers to bookmark the post in social bookmarking sites like del.icio.us and digg. Other bloggers have features that allow bloggers to ‘email a friend’ about a particular post. Others (like ProBlogger) allow readers to subscribe to comment threads via email. All of these types of plugins allow your readers to do the work for you in either spreading the word about your site or making it more sticky. Speaking of social bookmarking – there are also ways of writing content that tend to be picked up more in this scene that you might like to explore if that’s a source of traffic that you’re interested in.
17. Advertise – I’ve written a lot over the past year about running advertising on blogs as a form of income – but on the flip side of many advertising platforms that you can run as a publisher are the opportunities to actually advertise your blog in the attempt to find new readers. In the last few months I’ve dabbled a little in this side of things, mainly using AdWords (the advertiser side of AdSense) but also advertising on a few sites using BlogAds. I’ve actually been learning about AdWords using Perry Marshall’s e-book (aff) on the topic and am finding it quite helpful if you’re looking to a good introduction to using it (he has a free 5 day taster too). Of course you’ll need to weigh up the cost of advertising vs the benefits that you think it’ll bring – but I know of quite a few bloggers who run an AdWords campaign in the first month of a new blog to give it a kick start and swear by the method.
18. Link baiting – This is one of the terms that has become quite common among bloggers over the last year. In essence ‘link bait’ is some sort of comment that will attract links to it and in many ways is no different than paragraph 2 above – write good content and people will link up. Of course there are many tactics that many bloggers use to link bait – I’ve explored a few of these here.
19. Take all advice with a grain of salt – Be yourself and have fun! – The web is full of advice like the above – what I’m saying isn’t rocket science. There are no rules of blogging and it seems everyone’s experience of growing a blog (or not growing one) is different.
I’m sure there are a lot of blogs out there that ignore all or most of the above advice that have a bunch of regular readers and healthy hits. So relax, be yourself and have fun with it. Experiment with new tools, styles of design and writing.
My suspicion is that bloggers who obviously enjoy the blogging process and who are themselves are the type of bloggers that people are drawn to. Bloggers that are uptight and who complain constantly about how their blog isn’t achieving what they want it to achieve probably do quite the opposite and turn people away. Traffic is a good thing for a blog but it’s not the ultimate measure of a good blog in my books. Write it for yourself and have some fun and a lot of the rest will end up looking after itself.