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Building Blog Readership by Monitoring What Other Bloggers are Writing

Monitor-BloggersToday I want to share a technique that I used when I started my first money making blog to find new readers. It’s one of those tips that probably won’t bring you thousands of new visitors to your blog all at once – but it definitely did help me to grow traffic levels in the early days.

Before I share the tip – let me start with a short illustrative tangent

Regular readers will know that we recently put our house on the market (and sold it). One week after we first began the marketing campaign to sell our house (we advertised in newspapers and online) we began to find that our mail box was filled with letters from a variety of companies including moving services, mortgage brokers and house cleaning services.

Obviously these companies were watching who was advertising in different real estate websites and newspapers and gathering the addresses of advertised properties to send their own marketing material to. In this way they were targeting prospects who were more than likely to be in need of those types of services.

While I found these letters somewhat annoying – they actually did work. We booked a window cleaner through one of them and my wife’s collected all of the removalist companies for when we move home in December.

What does this have to do with promoting a blog?

While checking our mail box this morning and finding another moving company letter I was reminded of something that I used to do when I was starting up one of my early blogs.

The blog was on digital cameras and photography and as most new bloggers do – I was struggling to find readers for it.

One day when I was pondering my lack of readership I went to Technorati and typed the words ‘digital camera’ into the search field there. I was actually looking to see if there were any new cameras being released – but what I found instead were 15 or so blog posts written mainly by personal bloggers talking about different aspects of their use of cameras.

One was complaining about his camera being a piece of junk, another was boasting about her new camera, another was asking for advice on which camera they should buy, another wanted to know how to use their camera better…. etc

I spent half an hour that day leaving helpful and relevant comments on each of those blogs – making suggestions for new cameras, giving tips on how to use them etc. In each case I left the URL of my camera blog in the URL field so that they could find my blog – and in a couple of the posts I even left links in the comments pointing to useful pages on my blog to help the blogger find more information.

What I found was that around half of those that I left these comments for responded to me either with follow up comments or emails. In each case they said they’d check out my blog. Not only did they do this – but I found that many that I helped with comments actually linked up to my blog in days and weeks following me making contact.

As a blogger with just a handful of regular readers I decided that this technique could be quite powerful and I began to monitor a variety of keywords on Technorati with the goal of interacting with other bloggers when they brought up a topic that I was writing about.

Tools for Monitoring Keywords that Bloggers Use

These days there are a variety of tools that you can use to help you to monitor keywords that other bloggers are using in their posts. these include:

  • Technorati Watchlists – you can use these to monitor keywords and/or URLs. You can set them up to report any blog that uses those words.
  • Google Blog Search Blog Alerts – in the same way Google’s Blog Search allows you to track keywords and have them emailed to you either as it happens, daily or weekly.

There are other tools available for this type of monitoring – but I find between these two that you are pretty comprehensive. Feel free to suggest any of your favorite monitoring tools that you use.

Be Useful and Generous

The key with this technique is to not only find when people are talking about topics that relate to your blogs – but to respond to what they’re saying in a genuine and helpful way. Don’t spam their comments with your links but answer questions, make suggestions, share your experience etc. The more useful and generous your comment is the more likely you are to have someone check out who you are and what else you might have to say that is useful.

Building Your Blog One Reader at a Time

I’ve shared this technique with a number of people and around 50% of the time that I have done so I’ve had people write it off as all too hard and not worthwhile. Some bloggers are only interested in building traffic to their blog quickly and any technique that doesn’t have the potential to bring in hundreds and thousands of new readers is ignored.

My own experience is that techniques like this one that build your blog’s readership one reader at a time can be very worthwhile. One new reader who comes back on a daily basis over a number of years because they’ve been genuinely helped by you can have a significant impact upon your blog not only in terms of their own visits and comments – but when they’re a blogger the potential for them to bring their readership with them can be significant.

Image based on one by practicalowl

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Wow! I like that idea!
    I am going to do that as soon as I get the opporotunity!

    The key is definitely writing relevant, helpful, and quality comments.

    Thanks Darren!

  2. Darren, this is exactly what is integral to building traffic. Gaining readers shouldn’t be a quest to make money, but rather a quest to provide useful and relevant information / services that benefit that person.

    My father owns his own carpet cleaning company, and he took a very grassroots approach to building relationships in the early stages of his company, and as a result the “word-of-mouth” advertising led him to become one of the top 3 cleaners for my metropolitan area.

    The reason this is such a great post is because of it’s simplicity, yet effectiveness. Thanks a bunch!

  3. TravelingMel says:

    Thanks for the post. As a new blogger I’m definitely looking for new ways to draw readers in. One person at a time is still a big jump for someone without too many regular readers!

    I’m guessing this method (making helpful, relevant comments) brings in readers that will stay awhile and check back often. Plus, as you said, they’ll spread the word.

  4. I really like this for two reasons:

    1. It builds relationships that have a very good chance of further development.

    2. Because it takes time and effort, as you say most won’t bother, which makes it unique.

    Great advice Ta

  5. A Taylor says:

    Darren,

    Yet another great idea.

    I am curious…have you thought about creating an E-Book (or even a standard book) at a future point with some of your tips.

  6. Sean says:

    Excellent post Darren! I really liked it.

    I too have a huge list of popular blog that I visit daily to comment and read what they’re talking about. Problogger is one of them =)

    Yes, this is important and I do use it to get new readers to my blog. It really work.

  7. I used to that using technorati. When you want to write about some theme (this trick is useful when writing about news) you may search what others already said about that subject, and maybe even link them if they provide any useful information about the subject. You’ll get at least one more visit and maybe even one more reader (the owner of the blog you linked to)

    Additionally, if I find the same content I want to link in two blogs I will link the less authoritative one. It will convert in a reader more easily ;)

    Sometimes you can do something like: Look who’s talking about this: and then link to 4 or 5 other blogs

  8. engtech says:

    Why didn’t I start doing this sooner? Such a great tip.

    I also like the idea of emailing direct responses to your commenters as a way of building a relationship with them and (hopefully) turning them into long term readers.

    I even built a tool to make that easier:
    http://internetducttape.com/tools/wordpress/wordpress-comment-ninja/

    Did you see the post by Shoemoney a while ago where he figured out that each RSS reader was worth about $2 to his bottom line? Get regular readers and the rest will follow — so true.

  9. I know!
    It helps building better and quality visitors, as you said “one reader at the time” like that!

    Must say you have some great memory there.

    FYI: Just bought new camera so I can post some hawaii pictures you’ll see what’s the beauty!

  10. Matt Robison says:

    You’re right, it is hard. But it is worth it. While the time vs. rewards don’t seem that high at the beginning, it grows exponentially.

  11. Jay says:

    This is a very good idea, Darren. It is one of those “why didn’t I think of that?!” simple but missed ideas that really could help. I agree with making sure that the comments are legit and helpful and not just spam.

  12. Deborah says:

    I’m all over this post.

  13. Rob Malon says:

    A Taylor: You just reminded me of something…Scribd.com

    When you put up an ebook its an excellent way of getting your name/site out there. Its all about using all your resources and making sure your external content is high in quality. Sometimes the smallest things make a difference in the long run.

  14. Going hand-in-hand with that, you can use Google to discover what topics are hot at the moment and go to the sites that already hit on those topics or make a new post of your own with your own point of view or spin on it.

    For example, being a big Star Trek fan, I instantly caught on to the new movie going into production and got in on the 2 day wave of people looking for the Heroes star who will be playing Spock.

    Warning: be true to your blog’s theme or schtick, though.

  15. There is another tool that WordPress has now, called Tag Surfer…it’s on the Dashboard part of the main WordPress.com site…anyways, while is only covers WordPress blogs, it’s a nice way to look up blogs by tags you want to watch.

    Great idea.

  16. i embrace the comment idea, darren. unfortunately, not all the hawaii blog owners where i leave post related comments for readers interested in hawaii reciprocate the favor.

    i guess i got to pick up on the ‘technorati watchlist’ and broaden my commenting approach to vacation and travel in general and not just hawaii.

    thanks. aloha, pua

  17. DavidYin says:

    Good idea!
    I will try them when I blogging.

    Specially, I feel your keywords section is very useful.

    Thank you for sharing.

  18. Leon says:

    Liking the tip. Won’t be as effective for me as my blog is so random. People need to realise that there is no shortcut to developing loyal readership, and that fast traffic will disappear as fast as it came.

  19. Darren says:

    I love earning single readers at a time. I feel like I have more in common with one rather than many. A single reader is almost like a friend you’ve made whilst a group always seems less helpful.

    I always use the comments they then leave behind so that I can track them. When I check them again I leave another comment which reminds them of me and my site keeping them doing the same for me.

  20. I’ve never heard of Google Alerts before. That looks quite promising. It would provide another opportunity for me to find relevant content without having to subscribe to dozens of blogs.

    I’ve set a few alerts up on certain keywords to email me weekly. I’ll see how it performs.

    Thanks for sharing that.

  21. doug m says:

    i think the biggest thing to take away from this is to leave comments that actually add to the post. as long as it fits the context of the post that is :)

  22. CatherineL says:

    Thanks Darren – that is a brilliant idea. And you’ve just given me a few new ideas for finding readers.

    I had wondered if it was worth mailing to people who were selling houses and whether it worked. And it obviously does, as you found service providers that way.

  23. richard says:

    THIS IS A GREAT TECHNIQUE I WILL BE TRYING AND WRITING ABOUT IT ON MY BLOG http://WWW.THEGEEKBOYS.COM

  24. Sonia Simone says:

    Great post. I take this approach on forums (hmm, I should really blog that), thanks for the step-by-step on taking it to the blogosphere.

    I love that spirit of Web 2.0–that genuine helpfulness and value are seen and rewarded. (If they’re consistent!)

  25. I’ve been doing this for months. The high number of splogs indexed by Google and Technorati makes it a time-consuming and relatively low-value task IMO.

  26. Brad V. says:

    Hi Darren! I’ve been doing this over the past few months and you’re right, it really does work! I’m not getting thousands of hits to my blog, but I have noticed a sharp upswing in my average daily hits.

    The key, as you pointed out, is to make thoughtful, useful comments and not to spam someone else’s blog. I only comment when I have something to add to the discussion – thus I’m very selective on what posts I comment on on the blogs I read.

  27. Absolutely.. been doing this for years and years.. before there were blogs, I used the newsgroups, before Google Alerts I searched by hand..

  28. Kelvin Kao says:

    This reminded me: When I was using Craigslist to find subletters for an empty room we had, besides the potential subletters responding, I also got many responses that are advertisements for housing / roommate matching service websites. Although I found that a little annoying, there’s no doubt that they are targetting the right people.

  29. Jeff Kay says:

    Thanks for the reminder, Darren. I need to be better about commenting and participating in other peoples’ blogs. It’s #62 on my Big List of Things I Need to Put More Effort Into.

  30. Avinash says:

    I agree that one has to build their blog one reader at a time. I guess it works the same in all areas of ones life. It is all about building relationships that last.

  31. I have been highly impressed by your advice, I decided to get serious about blogging only this week and your posts are helping me get off on the right foot. I can definitely understand what you’re saying, I’m sure your success is mainly in part because of the large amount of people that you have helped. I know I am one of those people so thanks and keep up the good work!

  32. Sue says:

    I’ve been using google alerts both for news related to keywords and for blogs for a while now. I always get a rush when my posts show up at the top in the blog alerts. :D
    Be careful when you set up your keywords, though. I’ve had to revise mine several times by disallowing certain words, or else you get a lot of irrelevant noise. You wouldn’t think something like “lighthouse” would have to be modified, but do you know how many foundations, churches, software, music, companies, buildings, etc. there are out there using that word?
    I’ll have to try the Technorati one, that looks useful. Great post as always, Darren. I think you personally are raising the level of blogs out there, just by all the practical advice you’re giving here.

  33. Sia says:

    I would like to add to your list another element we shouldn’t forget: building reputation. This goes hand in hand with “building your blog one reader at the time.” The more you focus on each of your readers the more you have to win: trust, respect and build rapport. A very effective technique in the Web 2.0 world. :)

    I think this is also how you build reputation: by focusing on each reader you answer to their needs, you show that you really care about what they think and want from you. If they are happy, they will certainly spread the word…

  34. KirkWarren says:

    Great post. I have recently opened my own blog and have been using this technique. I combined it with related blogs and forums that allow signatures at the end of your posts.

    Forums seem to be the best place for this, at least for niche topics, like my comic book blog. You can typically make a small 500×100 pixel banner and place in your signature that links directly to your blog. As long as you post relevant and informative replies and do not just spam your site nonstop, you can build up a decent amount of new readers.

    Also, if you wrote a particular article that relates to a topic posted, you can leave a summary of your article and a link to the actual post telling people that if they were interested in a longer, more detailed version to check the link.

    Either way, great article. The personal approach is the best way to new readers as it builds a relationship with each new person you help and that is what makes for longterm readership, which is what you want early on.

  35. Insane Seb says:

    Great idea Darren, I’ll start doing that right away.

    Here’s an extra tip for your readers as well:
    I started a new blog recently and have seen a sharp increase of readership and subscription as soon as I offered free stuff (software or ebooks). It benefits the readers and grows my own list at the same time.

    For example, here’s one of my offers that has showed much success: http://insanemoneymarket.com/blog/2007/09/15/ezine-machine-v1-incredible-free-offer/

    It’s always good to understand that you cannot expect anything from your readers without giving them something in return. Logical, no?

    Thanks again and log live ProBlogger!

    Insane Seb

  36. Asako says:

    I totally resonate with this post. Actually, among many tips you have provided in increasing traffic, this feels the best fit for me to implement.

    How much % of Problogger readers are loyal, and how much % of readers are new? Among loyal readers, are they mostly people who come back to your site at least once a week (like myself)? How did that portfolio change over time? If you have a chance to share that with us, in the future….

  37. Taylor says:

    Another benefit to this tip, for me, is that I’m expecting to grow as a writer, webmaster, etc. as a result of the daily blogging I’m doing now while I don’t have very many readers. I still spend 45 minutes struggling with WordPress about every other time I make a post. (poor me, right?)

    But I couldn’t grow without those readers I do have. I think it’s just the right time for having a small readership. I have no idea how long the learning curve will be, but it doesn’t help me learn to think about that.

    I know that’s not very “pro” of me. :-)

  38. vargas says:

    That’s an excellent idea Darren. I’ve never really thought about focusing my comments to other bloggers by using key words. I’m definitely going to try that!

  39. Jayne says:

    Thanks for those tips!

  40. Quais says:

    Really great post Darren. One truth about increasing traffic to your site at the beginning phase of it is that it is a slow process, specially if you want to build a loyal readership and aren’t looking for one-time visits. And this post reinforeces that belief for me. Thanks Darren.

    A Taylor mentioned something interesting above. Are you planning to write a book on blogging, Darren? From where I see, if there is anyone qualified to do so, it is you. I would personally really love to see a book from you.

  41. Steve says:

    This was quite an informative post. I have had a blog, updated sporadically now for about a year. The thing is, following advice in another blog traffic article, it suggested turning comments off to avoid readers seeing that your blog has no comments on every post. This is something I did, but it has just occurred to me that I have no readers anyway – so what does it matter? I might just turn comments back on now!

  42. infonote says:

    Hi Darren,

    I have recommended your Digital Photography Blog to a work colleague. He was very impressed with your site, especially the assignment part.

  43. Ethan says:

    Excellent post. I will try this kind of stuff on my blog. thanks.

  44. baiguai says:

    Thank you SO much for this! After spending hours reading the same old advice (usually good advice, but things I am already doing), to find fresh pointers that are new to me is great. I have underestimated other bloggers – focusing too much on readers. Bloggers are readers too! heh.

  45. Ann says:

    Hi Darren – thank you so much for sharing these tips here. I will begin today implementing them. I do use Google Alerts, but I think I must be using them incorrectly. I’ll go look at that again, and I’ll also give Technorati a try as well.

    Thanks again!

  46. Steve says:

    Thanks for the article – I have found that the majority of visitors to my blog have come from a link I placed after leaving a helpful, relevant comment in another blog.