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A Personalized, Comprehensive Growth Strategy For Your Blog

The following post on growing blogs has been submitted by Monica O’Brien from Twenty Set

There is plenty of advice out there about how to grow a blog, but little of it is tailorable to an individual blogger’s needs. This article is for people who already have a good blog (with good content and good design) and are ready to interact efficiently and effectively with other bloggers to take their blog to the next level. In this article, I will outline three general classifications of blogs for any niche, how to determine where a blog fits within its niche, 4 different types of interaction strategies, and finally what interactions and with whom will benefit your blog most in a personalized growth strategy.

Three Classifications of Blogs Within a Blog Niche

  • Small Fry/Newbie – Blogs that are new or still in their early stages within a blog niche.
  • Major Player – One of the top 3-5 blogs within a blog niche.
  • Established/Mid-Sized- An umbrella category for everyone else. Within this classification, there may be varying degrees of “established-ness,” but for my purposes these differences don’t matter.

These three categories create a hierarchy for every blog niche. Major Players are on Level 1, Established blogs are on Level 2, and Small Fries are on Level 3 in the blog niche hierarchy. This hierarchy will play a large role in establishing your growth strategy.

I haven’t truly defined these classifications because it will differ based on the blog niche. In the next section I will guide you through defining these terms for your particular blog niche.

Determine Where Your Blog Fits Within a Blog Niche

There are three steps to determine your blog’s fit:

Step 1 – Identify Your Blog Niche

Most of us don’t blog on one particular topic, but rather within a realm of related topics. For example, my blog Twenty Set is about personal and professional development for millennials. To determine my blog’s niche, I could choose from personal development, career development, millennial/generation Y issues, or a combination of two of these.

The way you define your blog’s niche is a crucial step in this process that will drastically affect your blog’s personalized growth strategy. It’s important to choose a niche that is substantial yet focused. You don’t want your niche to encompass half the blogosphere; but you do want a niche broad enough to have at least 20 blogs in it.

When determining your blog’s niche, which you choose should be based on your own experience with the blog topics you write about. My general advice is to first go with a combination, if it exists. If not, choose the smallest substantial niche (20+ blogs), especially if you are newer to the blogosphere. It’s easier to grow into a big fish in a small pond than a big fish in a big pond.

No matter the blog niche you choose, keep in mind the other niche possibilities… these will become your Related Niches, which are important to your blog’s growth strategy once you enter Level 2 in your niche.

Step 2 – Identify the Players

Now that you’ve chosen a niche, it’s time to identify the other blogs that reside in your niche. Start compiling a list, first with the blogs you read, then with the blogrolls of the blogs you read, and so on. In the future, you will want to keep this list up-to-date as blogs within your niche grow and new blogs enter your niche.

Step 3 – Categorize the Identified Players

With a list of blogs in hand, it’s time to categorize them as either Small Fry, Established, or Major Player. If you’ve been blogging for awhile, you might be able to do this exercise without looking at any stats, though it’s worth a look at stats either way to establish a baseline for growth.

Here are a few stats you can look at to determine how each blog within your niche should be classified:

  • Subscriber count
  • Technorati rank
  • Alexa rank
  • # of comments
  • Age of blog
  • # of articles on the front page of Digg
  • # of posts
  • # of articles with high Del.icio.us saves
  • # of articles with high Stumbles

There are many more indicators, but these are a few that will apply to most niches. For your blog’s niche, choose the 3-5 most important indicators and find the data for each blog. Remember that all classifications are relative. You are comparing the stats of various blogs within the niche while blocking out the stats of blogs outside the niche. This means a Major Player in your blog’s niche may only have 300 subscribers, or only 50 posts. The numbers don’t matter; relationships between the numbers do. At the end of this exercise, you should have a good idea of how to classify each blog in your blog’s niche, including your own.

Keep in mind that your blog’s place within a niche will depend on how you defined the niche. You may be a Major Player in a small niche, but a Small Fry blog in a broader niche. Depending on your situation, it might be beneficial to complete a growth strategy for two niches you are targeting.

Summary of Growth Strategies Based on Classifications

Once you’ve determined where your blog fits within its niche, you are ready to create a growth strategy. Here is where you should be based on classification:

Major Player

You will not find major growth within your own niche anymore because you’ve already captured most of the segment. Your goals are to maintain your authority in your current niche and attract readership from other Related Niches. As a Major Player in your own niche, you can play up your authority and focus on Major Players from Related Niches. The exposure will trickle down to established blogs in the Related Niche.

Established/Mid-Sized

You are well-established in your own niche and have captured a substantial number of the niche’s readers. Your goal is to continue growing your blog to become a Major Player in your blog niche, while also capturing some readership from Related Niches. Major Players in Related Niches will mostly want to work with Major Players from your niche, so the maximum growth return will come from targeting mid-sized blogs in Related Niches.

Small Fry/Newbie

Your growth strategy will focus on gaining authority in your own niche by interacting with Established blogs and Major Players. It doesn’t make sense to target blogs outside of your niche at this point.

Interactions With Other Bloggers

You have your niche and you know your blog’s place in it – now it’s time to start interacting with other bloggers. There are four different interaction strategies which are detailed below:

On the Radar

This strategy is used to make your presence known to popular bloggers. Remember that “popular” is relative, depending on where you fall within your blog niche. Techniques include linking to the blogger’s articles regularly and relevantly, participating in their forums, commenting on their blog, nominating them for awards, emailing them for advice, submitting their articles to social media sites, . With On the Radar techniques, you simply want the blogger to know you exist. Then, when your blog is large enough or when you are ready, you have already established a repertoire with the blogger.

Loyal Readership

On the flip side of getting On the Radar of another blogger, you also want to establish a Loyal Readership for your own blog. To do this, you must above all write good content that attracts a readership. Once you have that, however, it’s also important to link out to others on all levels in your niche, leave value-added comments on other’s blogs, reply to comments on your blog, and find and encourage new talent in your niche. By using these interaction techniques, you will establish authority within your blog niche, and a Loyal Readership will follow.

Collaboration

This interaction technique involves working with other bloggers for mutual benefit of all parties involved. Techniques include blog carnivals, guest post exchanges, blogroll exchanges, and promoting each other’s products. Collaboration is one of the most natural interaction techniques to use because the mutual benefit aspect makes it easy to ask for favors – you know you will eventually return them.

Contribute to Discussion

The Discussion interaction technique extends past value-added commenting to building off other ideas and topics in a separate post on your blog (with attribution of course), answering questions other bloggers pose in a separate post on your blog, quoting other bloggers, and reviewing other bloggers. When you contribute to another blogger’s iscussion in a big way, you are establishing yourself as an equal, which is the first step to entering that blog’s level.

These aren’t the only interaction strategies you could use, but I believe they cover most of the ways you can interact with other bloggers to grow your own blog.

Matching Classifications With Interaction Techniques

There is no one interaction strategy that works best; in fact, you will need to employ each interaction strategy as you grow your blog. Here’s a color-coded chart that will help you visualize how all of this works:

On the Radar: Red, Loyal Readership: Blue, Collaboration: Purple, Contribution to Discussion: Green

Growth Strategy.jpg

Loyal Readership and Collaboration also work well on your blog’s level in your blog’s niche, which is not indicated on the chart. A summary of this chart is detailed in the following section.

General Interaction Rules To Follow Based on Blog Classifications

Within Your Blog’s Niche

  • Collaborate with bloggers at your level
  • Contribute to Discussion at one level above
  • Get On the Radar at two levels above
  • Gain Loyal Readership at your level and under

Within a Related Niche

  • As a Small Fry, focus on your own niche first
  • Collaborate with people at your level
  • Contribute to Discussion at one level above (though simply commenting is not likely to provide much return)

With Probloggers

Guest post if you get the chance no matter who you are =D. Remember the saying: “Success happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

Note: These are general rules designed to distinguish the interaction techniques that will give you maximum benefit for your blog’s classification. You can certainly use any of these interaction strategies with any blogger – but it might not pay off as much.

**************************************

Now that you have a personalized growth strategy for your blog, there are only two things left to do. First, start taking action with the interaction strategies, based on your classification. A growth strategy is worthless without action. Second, reevaluate your “niche fit” every few months to determine progress and redefine your growth strategy based on that progress. The faster your blog grows, the more often you will have to redefine your growth strategy. Good luck!

Monica O’Brien is a twentysomething who writes about personal and professional development for young professionals and entrepreneurs at her blog, Twenty Set. If you are a smart, talented twentysomething, she would love to share her articles with you via subscription to her feed.

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. Matt says:

    The timing on this post was serendipidous since I was thinking about my blogging strategy lately. I think one of the key things is understanding who you are and what your blog is about is key. Understanding your niche is very key and something I’ve been trying to refine to more detail myself. Good post!

  2. Matt says:

    The timing on this post was serendipitous since I was thinking about my blogging strategy lately. I think one of the key things is understanding who you are and what your blog is about is key. Understanding your niche is very key and something I’ve been trying to refine to more detail myself. Good post!

  3. Patrick Burt says:

    I like posts that use headers and formatting correctly.

  4. Frugal Dad says:

    This is a must-read for anyone entering a niche with a new blog. It’s a great review for anyone else who has already established themselves as an “Established/Mid-Sized” blog, but are looking to take it to the next level. I appreciate the fact you mentioned interaction with your own readers, because this is a lost art on many new bloggers. They are so concerned with cultivating relationships with other, larger blogs, that they fail to give adequate attention to the readers right under their noses.

  5. I’m with (both of) Matt’s comments about this being a timely post for me. I’m in the very small fry stage, even though my blog is older, and I’m currently researching and working for ways to increase readership.

    If you’d like, I can work on an HTML table that you can upload to your site rather than having the “[Chart goes here - I’ve emailed it to you because there was no way to load it]” comment. Of course, that may be part of your technique to get email subscribers.

    Thanks for the post.

  6. I’m glad to see that I’m accomplishing most of these steps in my journey from mid-sized (am I there yet?) to Major Player (watch out, guys, I’m comin’ after you!)

    You did forget to add a lot of time and patience to your list ;)

  7. Troy says:

    One thing to notice, it’s often a lot easier to collaborate and become part of the community on a mid-sized blog that’s on its way up than on a major player blog. There are fewer comments and posts each day, so it doesn’t flood your Google Reader either.

  8. I love the suggestions in here for establishing the players within your niche and then categorising them accordingly. For those of us in the blogging / IM niche there are some websites out there that have already done a lot of the groundwork to help us. Mark over at 45n5 has compiled a list of the top 100 (well its around 300 now) blogs ranked according to a combination of Google PageRank, Technorati Authority and Alexa Ranking.

  9. DazzlinDonna says:

    Ummm….it’s missing the chart that she emailed to you.

  10. Kacper says:

    Great post. I find it really helpful as I have just started my personal blog about success and personal finances.

    Now, you’ve just shown me a successful strategy for my blog. Thank you.

    Cheers.

  11. Sangesh says:

    First of all, I can’t but agree more with Patrick Burt regarding the formating of this as well as most of the article at Problogger. It is simple outstanding and very very professional.

    And yes, the suggestions in this article is good too. Points like, “Identifying and Categorizing the Players”. Thanks to Monica as well. You are simply outstanding.

  12. Darryl says:

    This is some great information and follows pretty closely the strategy that I’m using to promote a new blog in a very specific niche. Very well thought out. Thanks.

  13. Ian Anderson says:

    Outstanding. Knowing where you stand in the whole scheme of things really does affect your overall strategy.

  14. OMG! you’re post the information of your blog :)

  15. Chris Auman says:

    Man, what a post! I can definitely appreciate the work that went into this post. Nice job. Without spending all this time though, couldn’t this have been summed up with the standard 4 steps?

    1) Write great content
    2) Participate and comment on others sites
    3) Link to others to let them know you exist
    4) Guest post and find other create ways to get the word out

    The small section on collaboration was the best part of this post and I’d love to see more posts about creative ways to spread the word. We all know that we need to write great content and genuinely reach out and help others and participate.

    Thanks again for the extensive work!

  16. Mark says:

    Hi Monica – nicely done! And thanks for linking to one of my posts…Guest blogging has certainly been very helpful for me in terms of trying to grow my website :)

  17. Nice post, i am still newbie in blogging, i need more work!

  18. Hi everyone, I really appreciate the comments so far. I apologize for not having the chart up there – some of what I talk about really makes a lot more sense with it. Don’t blame that on Darren though as I didn’t follow his submission instructions! I’ll work with Darren to fix it… Apologies again.

    I agree this information could be summarized, but I think it helps, especially for new bloggers to have it laid out in detail. Also, not all bloggers have a blog strategy, so if you’ve never thought about yours before it’s probably useful to have everything step by step. Many bloggers will be able to skip over a lot of the steps I’m sure.

    Thanks again for the comments! I appreciate everyone’s feedback.

  19. John says:

    Excellent article. I’m used to reading articles by people just looking generate links to their site instead of providing useful information. You provide methods and reasoning in an organized manner that can actually be applied. Great job!

    The discussion and collaboration is huge, I agree. The more you get your name out there, the better. You never know when you’ll stumble into a connection that gives you that big break you’re looking for, but you’ll never find it unless you’re getting your name out there.

  20. Heidi Cool says:

    Nice article. I particularly like the idea of identifying both your topical niche, and your stature within that niche. When it comes to developing your content (in both topic and style) I think this will also help writers to focus more clearly on the target audience that is reading that niche.

    As you state, interaction with readers and other bloggers is key. Not only does it help build traffic, but it is also a great way to get ideas for new content. I wrote some more detailed tips on this in an article I wrote last year, Enhance your reputation & increase traffic by joining discussions on other blogs.

    The relationships one makes with readers and bloggers also plays a factor in social media marketing. While content is king, an engaged readers may also be more likely to Stumble and Digg you stories, than might others.

    Keep up the good work!

  21. Brian Morgan says:

    Thanks for the facts on Blog Growth Strategy, some insightful ideas and help. I am a new blogger and testing the waters right now, this info is very helpful- Thank You- Brian Morgan

  22. Roman says:

    Great post and great coverage of business fundametals that are applied to blogging.

    What do you do if your niche is not really a niche, but a mass market where a lot of bloggers already exist?

    I work for a marketing agency and just starting to get back to blogging. Since marketing is what I do this is what is easiest for me to write about, but there are so many marketing blogs out there is crazy.

    My plan is to do it for fun first and see how the readership grows.

    Again thanks a lot for the post.

  23. Darren Rowse says:

    apologies about the chart – in returning home to 9000 emails in my inbox that one slipped through before I published this. It’s in there now though!!! :-)

  24. Musing says:

    Thanks for the article, Monica!

    What to do, though, if you’re a small fish in an even smaller pond? I know of no others who are doing what I am…collecting quotes by bloggers (sort of like BrainyQuote, only the sayings all come from the blogsphere).

    And Darren…9000 emails!!! Oh, my!

  25. Casey says:

    Wow, great post! Excellent tips and definitely bookmarked for future reference. I probably fit in the small fry category.

  26. Anthony C says:

    Thanks for this article, it gave a bit of insight on my new blog and how I can improve it :)

  27. Welcome home, Darren… if 9k emails *is* a welcome home ;)

  28. Stanley says:

    Informative article,… im just in the small fry category, but with applying these tips maybe i can move up a level,.. or two!

  29. Neil Duckett says:

    Tremendous post, a great read and although i do many of the things you have mentioned subconsciously, i will now endeavour to formalise them more and make sure nothing is slipping through the cracks.

  30. This was definitely a great post… and timed perfectly. I was going over my blog and it’s past a few hours ago… this article really helps put everything into perspective.

  31. Tom Beaton says:

    Interesting way of looking at things. It is important to spend some time on strategy, but not too much or you will never get anything done! We often need posts like this to get us back to actual strategy and away from just doing “busy work”.

  32. excellent post, well I already knew I was a small fry, but thanks for reminding me. I’m looking for any other small fries wanting to team up! Seriously, I’ll be sure to get this post handy. I’m looking for all kinds of growth strategies, tips, etc Thanks again!

  33. Mari-Lyn says:

    This post is similar to an explanation of the stages a business goes though. Newbie, Teenager, Adult and then a Mature Biz that is over 10 years old. Even though I have been blogging for a couple of years I still feel I am a newbie, feeling my way around and how to develop alliances to be more established.

    Thank you for new ideas to help me get past where I am now.

  34. Thanks again for the comments. I wanted to respond to the two questions that were buried in the comments.

    The first is “What do you do if your niche is not really a niche, but a mass market where a lot of bloggers already exist?”

    My answer is redefine your niche. You mentioned you were in marketing – what products or services do you normally market? Where do you live? What’s unique about your ad agency? In other words, specialize. You can be a marketing blogger; or you can write a blog about marketing beauty products to 40-something women in California.

    The other question: “What to do, though, if you’re a small fish in an even smaller pond?”

    If you’re the only person doing what you’re doing, that’s AWESOME. You have first-mover advantage, and you automatically get to be the Major Player of your niche. it also sounds like you have a really easy way to link to other bloggers – and the nice thing is you can link to anyone.

    What’s important is trying to add value to the blogosphere. A good post could be “The 50 best marketing quotes from bloggers.” Or try tying together a bunch of ideas (quotes) from many bloggers on the same topic. I’m sure Darren has something written about linkbait if you dig a little :)

    Anyone else can jump in too…

  35. MandS says:

    Yes, I believe that it’s a good strategy, I was using the half of the ideas presented in this post. Now I will use all of them! I know that it will help me to improve my blog rankings!

  36. Mike King says:

    Excellent content in this post. And nice good formatting which isn’t always seen, so thanks for that.

    I like the ideas of expanding at each level to expand your blog in different ways. Great summary of such useful techniques.

  37. Garold says:

    This article was definitely what I needed. I now have somewhat of a game plan to help better define my blog and where it fits in the blog universe. I see things I can do better such as determining who else is out there in my niche and then interacting with them more. I also need to do better at linking to other blogs. All in all this was a very helpful post. In fact, I think I will print this one out! Thanks.

  38. Fantastic post! I’ll have to read it again to really let it sink in. Love the tips for getting on the radar and developing loyal readership. Excited to start implementing some new strategies today.

  39. I’ve been thinking about my blog’s niche and the overall blogging strategy lately. Great post, really helped me come up with some ideas.

  40. Great post and good advice. I am Major Player (about number 3) within my rather small niche, always looking to expand, thanks again for the tips.

  41. The timing of this post is just about perfect for me. I started a blog in December that was too broad based on what I really wanted to talk about. So, I refocused and started my new blog in February. I am definitely in the “small fry” category but I would like to grow. I started my blog based on what I was interested in, not what niche would be good to blog in.

    Now that my blog is up and has a few posts I would like to make sure that I get the “right” kind of readers and that I am spending my (very limited) time efficently. This post will give me a roadmap to follow.

  42. Once again a very good post. It is nice to know that there are quality people giving out quality advice on blogging. There is a reason people read your blog. It is the main lesson that I take away everytime that I read a new post. Thanks

  43. Reginald says:

    I am very impressed with the detailed information provided in this blog.

    As your article appears to address those individuals with blogs established already, I would also like to add a resource, for those individuals who are researching for online income options to include blogging.

    Take a peek at the online resource called ‘The Real Money Show’, http://www.realmoneyshow.com.

    The credibility of this online resource is reinforced by the fact that ‘The Real Money Show’ does not endorse anyone or any particular program.

    These five to ten minute interviews allow people to read, watch, listen, and make an educated decision.

    I hope it is viewed as a practical online resource.

  44. Roman says:

    Thanks for the comment and quick response Monica. Everything makes sense and is practical. I did subscribe to your blog and it is really cool reading.

  45. Monica,

    Impressive article. I just wanted to add one thing. If you a fellow blogger emails you, take the time to email them back. It should not matter if you are a small fry or a major player. Nothing urks me more than have someone who does not take the time to email back. You will never know when the two of you can help each other.

    Darren, how do you handle this with 9000 (gasp) emails?

  46. Monica-impressive article.

    I just would like to add to the article. Some of us are small fries and some of us our players. If a fellow blogger emails you, give them the courtesy of an email back. Nothing urks me more than someone who does not take the time to respond. No one is that big. You never know when the two of you can help each other.

  47. Hi Monica, thank you so much for the exelent and comprehensive explanation! Even though it’s funny to think of myself as “small fry” nevertheless I am a new to the whole blogoshere world. I started my blog – In search of my six pack – as a more of an accountability partner, but now it bugs me that not many people read it. So thank you again and I’ll let you know how it goes. With blog and the six pack part as well.

  48. Hi Monica, thank you so much for the exelent and comprehensive explanation! Even though it’s funny to think of myself as “small fry” nevertheless I am a new to the whole blogoshere world. I started my blog – In search of my six pack – as a more of an accountability partner, but now it bugs me that not many people read it. So thank you again and I’ll let you know how it goes. With blog and the six pack part as well.

  49. Hi Monica, Thanks for the great post. I am one of the small fry types just getting started with blogging and this is going to be a big help! I need all the help I can get. Fred

  50. Jason Brown says:

    Another excellent post from problogger, what i was wondering though is, what are the bets tools for gathering intel on other blogs in a niche, I know that Alexa is not the reliable so what would other bloggers out there sugest.