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:
# 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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)
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.