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How to Grow Your Blog with Viral Copy

Blog-Promotion - Viral ContentThis week I’ve been exploring five strategies that I’d employ to promote my blog if I were starting all over again.

I said earlier in the series that I’m assuming ‘great content’ is being added to the hypothetical new blog that we’re promoting. However when it comes to blogging not all ‘great’ content is equal when it comes to drawing attention to your blog.

Take a look around your niche at any given time and there will be posts appearing on blogs that are of a high standard that are largely ignored – and posts appearing that are spreading like wildfire throughout the niche as everyone links up to it.

This type of ‘Viral’ content can be an elusive thing for bloggers and I’m fully aware that it’s something that most bloggers attempt to do but something that many don’t achieve.

Sometimes the key to viral content is luck – the right person reading it at the right time and linking up can send it to the top of every social bookmarking site there is – but many times it’s the result of good research, creative thinking, clever writing and getting the right people to promote it.

I can’t teach you how to write content that will go viral because there are so many ways that it happens – however I will give you one tip that helps me a lot every time that I do it.

Spend Time Analyzing the Success of Others

I’d encourage you to take some time out to analyze the types of posts that are going viral in your niche (and other niches) at present. The simplest way to do this is to look at what’s ‘hot’ on social media sites like Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Techmeme etc

I regularly spend time on these sites and find myself learning a lot from looking at what’s most popular on them.

  • What is it about them that seems to be key to them doing so well?
  • What can you learn from them?
  • How can you put some of these principles into action in your own writing.

Pay particular attention to the titles used on the social media sites themselves but click through to visit the content itself. Look at how it’s presented, written, the topics covered, post length, intended audience etc.

The key to this is not to do this analysis to simply copy it – but to come away inspired to apply some of the principles that others are using in your own writing.

Further Reading

A term that is being used less these days that applies to this topic is ‘linkbait’. While it’s not really a term that is used as much as it was this time last year many of the principles of good linkbait apply to this topic. I’d suggest you check out my previous series on linkbait – particularly my post analyzing 20 Linkbaiting Techniques.

Share Your Examples

Lastly – I’d like to open things up to you to share your own examples of ‘viral content’ – whether they be posts that you’ve had success with on your own blog or posts you’ve seen others do well with. Tell us about these posts and hopefully we’ll all come away from them a little inspired.

Using Social Media to Grow Your Blog’s Readership

Blog-Promotion - Social MediaThis week we’re looking at five different methods that I’d use to find readership if I were starting a new blog. So far we’ve explored guest posting, advertising and networking – but today I want to turn our attention to the explosive and dynamic area of social media.

Social media sites have exploded onto the online publishing scene over the last couple of years and can generally be divided into two types of site:

  • Social Networking Sites – where the primary activity of the site is ‘connecting’ with others. Two of the most prominent sites in this space are Facebook and MySpace.
  • Social Bookmarking – where the primary activity is the finding and sharing of web content through different systems of ‘voting’ on sites. Two examples of this type of site are Digg and StumbleUpon.

The above two classifications of social media sites are fairly broad – in reality there are many different sites appearing every week, many of which have elements of both of the above as well as other features.

The point of this post is not to define social media but rather to look of it as an opportunity to find new readers for your blog. The reason that I include it in this series is that over the last year or two I’ve seen numerous blogs virtually launch themselves via social media sites.

The reason for their success is that social media sites are among the largest sites on the web at present (the volume of traffic that they do is mind boggling) but that by their very nature they are about helping people to discover new parts of the web (particularly social bookmarking sites) – and as a result they are used by people actively seeking web content.

As a result I would argue that social media sites are a logical place to position yourself as a blogger. Let me say it again:

Social media sites have a lot of traffic and they are used by people to find content – why wouldn’t you position yourself on them?

Qualification: let me qualify that last statement before going any further by saying that social media is not THE answer to finding readers for your blog. It is not enough just to promote your content on social sites – but it is one element that can help you find a lot of new readers.

9 Keys to Using Social Media to Find New Readers for Your Blog

Much has been written about using specific social media sites to drive traffic to a blog. I’ll include a few links to things I’ve written about specific sites below – however in this post I’d like to speak in a more general sense and share some principles of using social media to drive traffic.

1. Be an Active Participant - it is important to see these sites for what they are – they’re social sites which are designed for regular use and interactions between readers. They are not designed for people to come to to spam their own links and leave – they’re designed for ongoing, genuine and helpful interactions between people. As a result those who spend time using these sites are the ones who generally are rewarded for doing so over the long haul. While there is a temptation to only use these sites on occasion when it benefits yourself you’ll find them more fruitful paces to visit when you regularly participate and genuinely interact with others.

2. Learn the Rules and Culture – different social media sites have different rules, standards, cultures and acceptable behavior. This covers things like how you interact with others, the language you can use and importantly for this article – linking and promoting your own content. Some sites allow (and even encourage) you self promoting – others do not. Some might allow it officially but will have users who don’t like it and who will ‘bury’ your efforts if you do. The key is to participate, observe and learn from your experiences.

3. Find Key Players – one of the best ways to learn about social media is to find and get to know key players on the different sites. Who is using them well? What are they doing? What might they be able to teach you? How might you work with them for mutual benefit? Many social media sites make it easy to find these key players by producing lists of ‘top users’ – these can be strategic relationships to have.

4. Make Friends – extending upon this is the principle of be-friending others on social sites. This is a key part of what they are all about and many of these sites make you more powerful based upon the number of your connections. So get out there – make friends and interact with your network. From this can come many fruitful interactions. It’s also a great branding exercise to ‘connect’ with people in these ways.

I should say at this point that I see people using their ‘networks’ on social sites in two main ways either as natural influencers or in more concerted and coordinated ways. The first (influencers) is about building a network that you naturally interact with and who will take notice of what you do. This makes you a powerful user and both by the social site taking more note of you but also as others will do so also. The second is what some users have been doing for a while now – joining together to vote up each other’s content. DoshDosh has some great tips on making and interacting with friends in social sites (particularly Digg).

5. Don’t Be Self Centered – I’ve mentioned this already but it’s worth a point of it’s own. If your primary activities on social media sites is self centered then you’ll limit your own fruit from it. I know a number of top Digg users and in each case they are some of the most generous and ‘other serving’ people you’ll ever meet. They go out of their way to help others achieve their dreams. In doing so of course they themselves benefit – but it’s others first.

6. Find what Works Best for Your Blog – a regular comment on posts where I write about the power of using social media is people saying that they’ve ‘tried it’ and it doesn’t work. When I unpack these comments with people I often find that what they mean is that they tried one social media site once or twice – and it didn’t have much impact. The mistakes with this kind of thinking are numerous (ie it takes time to get to know a social media site, get to know people etc) – but one main thing that I’d say is that not all social media sites work for every topic of blog. For example I find that StumbleUpon works really well here at ProBlogger – but that Digg works on some more technically focused sites that I have worked with. The other thing that I’d say is that sometimes the biggest social sites are not always the best ones to use – but rather smaller and more focused ones can have bigger benefits. Every week new social bookmarking sites appear around different niches – search them out and focus on them too.

7. Social Media as a Branding Exercise – while social media sites can send you a lot of traffic very very quickly they can also be excellent places to do branding. Every time a reader or potential reader comes across you on a social media site the more you reinforce your brand. Get active on a site like stumbleupon and promote the content that others publish and you could actually get on their radar and end up benefiting yourself in many ways.

8. Convert to Loyal Readers - one thing that many bloggers fail to do when they succeed in driving traffic to their blogs from social media sites is to convert them into loyal readers. Getting readers to your blog is just half of the challenge – getting them to return tomorrow and every day afterwards is the other half – it can be the difference between a one off traffic event and a blog with an ongoing growth in readership. I’ve written more on converting one off visitors into regular readers here (and also here).

9. It’s all about the Content – one factor that exponentially increases (or decreases) the impact of your efforts in social media is your actual content. Without content that engages social media users you are wasting your time as it will rarely capture their imaginations and inspire them to promote it. Writing great content is the focus of tomorrow’s last post in this series on growing blog readership – so I’ll say more then.

Further Reading at ProBlogger on using Social Media to Build Traffic to Your Blog:

What Topic Is Your Blog On [POLL]

What topic do you blog on?

This is the topic of this week’s poll. I’ve chosen a handful of categories that I think most will fit into but if there’s another one that I didn’t include click ‘other’ and add your topic to comments below. Here’s the poll:

What is the Topic of Your Blog?
Total Votes: 3066 Started: 3/13/2008 Back to Vote Screen


Looking forward to seeing the results of this one.

AdSense Release Ad Manager

Ad-ManagerI’m about to fly out of Austin but thought I’d post a link to a story that broke this morning on the official AdSense blog – they’re releasing a free Ad Manager service.

I’ve been sitting on this story for a few weeks and even got a sneak peak at it and I think it’s going to fit with the needs of quite a few medium to larger bloggers who want more control over their ad serving. It’s able to be used with a variety of ad networks as well as your own direct sales of ads.

“If you operate a site with remnant ad inventory as well as reserved ad inventory that you sell directly to advertisers, then Ad Manager is for you. It can help you sell, schedule, deliver, and measure directly-sold and network-based inventory. Google Ad Manager offers a wealth of features, including an intuitive user interface, automated yield optimization, and proven Google speed and reliability.”

The service offers:

  • Inventory management
  • Yield optimization
  • Ad targeting
  • Trafficking, ad delivery, and order booking
  • Creatives and rich media management
  • Reporting
  • User interface navigation
  • Account administration

You can learn more about their Ad Manager and apply to be in the beta here.

Advertise Your Blog: An Interview with a Mystery Blogger

Earlier today I posted about using paid advertising to Promote Your Blog. In the research of that post I interviewed a fellow blogger who I’ve seen use Advertising very effectively to launch numerous blogs. I asked if he’d be willing to speak publicly about his experience and he said he’d do so if he could remain anonymous. He blogs in a couple of quite competitive niches so wanted to keep his tactics under the radar for competitive reasons. I’ll call him ‘Bob’ below:

Darren: Why do you use Advertising on your blogs?

Bob: For me it’s purely as a kick start to a new blog. I find that the hardest thing about getting a blog going is finding the first readers. I’m confident with my ability to write engaging content that will grow the blog through word of mouth – but when you have no one reading your blog to start with it most difficult to start a word of mouth thing happening. Advertising brings in an influx of initial readers to kick start the blog.

Darren: What advertising methods do you use?

Bob: I used to exclusively use AdSense which enabled me to target specific search terms and other sites in my niche but have also started using both StumbleUpon (great for a quick influx of traffic to content that you feel is suited for social media sites) and most recently Facebook (good for targeting local traffic and interest groups).

Darren: What kind of budget would you put into an Advertising Campaign to promote a blog?

Bob: My campaigns have all been under $300 across all ad platforms.

Darren: Do you advertise your blogs beyond a launch period?

Bob: I have tried this but found that the most effective time to advertise was for the week or two around launch. After that I find that a more organic blog growth starts to kick in as your current readers start to pass on word of your blog to others. I do follow up the launch campaigns on occasions when I have a particularly good post for social media by running small StumbleUpon Campaigns but I would only really spend $20 or so on these. I do occasionally also target other blogs in my niche with AdSense which can help with brand awareness – but most of my efforts are around launch time of a new blog.

Darren: Do you have any tips on how to write effective ads?

Bob: Well with StumbleUpon the actual site you link the ad to is the ad itself – so make it great quality content. With Facebook and AdSense you need to target a key need or benefit that someone will be motivated by. Make your ads ‘active’ and where possible ‘personal’. Personal ads are particularly effective on AdSense where you can actually target the readers of particular sites with a message that will catch their attention and drive a response. Also you need to think about the landing page for the ad and how you’ll capture the visitor by getting them to subscribe to your blog.

Darren: What impact has advertising your blogs had in terms of traffic?

Bob: I would not launch a blog these days without some sort of advertising. As I mentioned above, the hardest part of establishing a readership is getting your first readers. By spending just a few hundred dollars on advertising I managed to get the readership of my last blog up to around 300 daily visitors and 500 RSS subscribers (this was the figure a few days after I stopped my campaign). This was partly as a result of one of my StumbleUpon campaigns ‘tipping’ into an organic rush of traffic (the real beauty of SU campaigns over others). Since that time the blog has continued to steadily grow (a few months later it’s now double those figures) and I’ve now broken even (and some) on the initial investment.

Darren: Any last tips?

Bob: Yes, one very important thing that I know you’ve mentioned in your own previous posts about advertising and that is to not spend your money all at once. You can blow money very quickly with advertising by setting up a campaign in any of the ad options I’ve mentioned and expecting it to work first time. They rarely do and you’ll burn through your money in an hour or so and not see any real benefits. Start with a $20 campaign, test how the ad performs, track how many people subscribe and then tweak your ad and the landing page. Run another small campaign and see if the results improve. Tweak it again and run another campaign. If something simply isn’t working – stop doing it. If something does work – keep tweaking til you perfect it and then do it some more.

PS: If you’ve got tips to share on how you’ve advertised your blog effectively feel free to add them in comments below. Also if you’re looking to advertise with StumbleUpon check out my tutorial – Run a StumbleUpon Advertising Campaign for Your Blog.

Promote Your Blog by Advertising It

Blog-Promotion - AdvertisingHave you ever considered advertising your blog? Today I want to explore this idea as part of my series of posts on how I’d promote my blog if I was starting from scratch.

Most blog promotion tips that I see given are about growing your blog’s readership quite organically (something I firmly believe in) – however one strategy that I’ve seen more and more bloggers using is to pay for Advertising to give their blog a kick start (particularly in the early days of their blogs).

One of the wonderful things about the space we’re operating in at the moment is that you don’t need hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote your product or service (or blog) these days via advertising.

While I know that for some even a small amount will be out of the reach of some – if I were starting out today as a blogger and wanted to gather an initial audience (or was wanting to expand my audience) I’d consider experimenting with a number of different advertising campaigns.

I know that this goes against the grain for some blogging purists but my approach has always been to invest at least a portion of the money made on my blogs back into improving them – and one way to do this is to invest that money into advertising.

I’ve concentrated my own limited experimenting with advertising in three types of advertising:

  • StumbleUpon – I’ve written previously about using StumbleUpon Advertising so for an expanded post with tips I’d head there. But in short – the great thing about SU advertising it is that it can start an organic flow of StumbleUpon traffic also. The key is to get your landing page optimized so that StumbleUpon users who see it will vote it up! In this way you kick off the traffic with some cost but then scale it back as organic traffic begins.
  • AdWords – An oldie but a goodie. The reach of AdWords is enormous as it opens up places to advertise everywhere from Google results pages through to many many thousands of websites on any number of topics. Many bloggers have used this with great effect to launch their blog. Particularly useful is the ability to target specific sites that run AdSense and to develop ads that target those readers specifically. This enables you to target specific ads to specific sites (like John Chow did a year or so back when he advertised here on Problogger with personal messages to my readers).

  • Facebook Advertising – I experimented with this recently with some success. Facebook Ads allows you to run ads that target certain demographics and interest groups. Ads can either be bought on an impression basis or you can pay for them per click for as little as 0.01 cent per click. I tried both and found that paying per click was a much better way to go as at least that way you’re guaranteed some actual traffic.

Please note – there are many many other ways to advertise your blog if you have a budget. I’ve chosen these three because they allow you to have very small budgets and to target different groups of people by interest and/or demographics.There are of course many other options open to you as a blogger to pay for advertising of your blog. You could use a tool like BlogAds (something I did a few years back) or even buy ad space on another blog through a direct sponsorship deal.

Tips for Advertising Your Blog

There are many smarter people than me around that could give us all some tips on using advertising effectively (please give you tips below) but let me give a few quick tips that I’ve picked up along the way:

Landing Pages not Front Pages
I’ve found that instead of directing people clicking your ads to your blog’s front page that it’s much more effective to send them to a specifically designed landing page. The front page of your blog is a good page for regular readers to see what you’ve been writing lately – but for someone coming to your blog cold from an ad it can be a bit of a random destination. So design a page that is aimed at ‘converting’ these first time readers into regular readers. This page could highlight some of your best content, perhaps give some key selling points as to why they should subscribe and then have a call to action (a way to subscribe to your blog for example). This way you’ll not only get a new visitor to your blog – but you’ll have every chance of them coming back again and again.

Relevancy Relevancy Relevancy
I’m not just repeating myself for emphasis – but because I’ve found that three elements of your ad campaign need to have ‘relevancy’.

1. The Site Displaying Your Ad
2. Your Ad
3. Your Landing Page

The more aligned these three things are the more successful your ad will be. When people run ads that don’t relate to the sites they display on they rarely get clicked. When people click ads and then are led to a page that has little relevance to the ad they get angry and rarely take the action that you want.

Track Your Results
The last thing that I’ll say is that you can very easily spend a lot of money with little results in advertising. As a result it is essential that you know what you want to achieve from your advertising and that you have a way to measure it’s effectiveness. I also take the approach that it’s worth starting out slow with a small campaign to test the waters before pouring much cash into advertising. This enables you to optimize your results without spending much and then to ramp things up when you are confident that things will convert.

Bonus Interview Coming Soon

Later today I’ll be sharing a short interview with a blogger who I’ve seen using Advertising very effectively to launch numerous blogs. They’ll share more on how they use the above strategies to give their blogs a ‘kick start’.

Supercharge Your Content With Voice

The following post on finding your blogging voice was submitted by Lance from Honey and Lance.

We all know that content is king, and we’re also aware (sometimes painfully) that the vast majority of bloggers come from non-writing backgrounds. This means we come across a lot of bad writing. Grammar, structure, even spelling is the pits. Ever surf into a blog where you thought, “Gee, great idea, too bad I can’t read this.” Then click away? Me too.

I’m not hating on bloggers…I love bloggers, and any medium that gets regular people writing and giving value is a great thing, even if the writing isn’t so hot. The good news is, just by reading a resource or two and by pumping out content, it’s pretty easy to improve the technical aspects of your writing. Grammar and structure isn’t that hard, we have spell checkers to correct our misspellings, and thesaurus.com to improve our vocabulary.

So what’s the best way to supercharge your writing and really take your content to the next level? The answer is developing a unique VOICE. Joel Falconer wrote a great post on voice here, and I want to expand on his ideas.

Voice is the distinct sound/feeling your words create in a reader’s mind. Voice is what makes your writing unique. Voice can be changed, massaged, enhanced, and even manufactured. One of my favorite blogs is fakesteve.blogspot.com. Ever heard of it? Dan Lyons blogs as a caricature of Apple CEO Steve Jobs. The voice comes across as acerbic, neurotic, arrogant, narcissistic, dripping with irony, and just plain hilarious.

Fake Steve is unique, and more importantly, his voice makes reading Apple news compelling and fun. In fact, it’s more than compelling. It’s addictive. Several hundred thousand fans visit each month, and Fake Steve’s voice is what brings them in.

So how do you find your voice and have it permeate your blog? Here is my 6 step method. These are pretty simple, but a few of them require a fair amount of work. Nothing new for a problogger.

voice.jpg
image by platinum

1. Find 10 Blogs that have an interesting, unique voice.

If you’re already a hardcore blogger, you probably have 10 blogs lined up. If not, start looking at blogrolls and find them. Fakesteve is a fine starting point. Problogger.net is written with a certain voice. Can you name the qualities? After that, go immediately to bloggies.com and check out any of the award nominees. Pay special attention to the Most Humorous and Best Writing categories. Read those blogs and soak in what makes them unique. You’ll find that ALL of the top authors have a distinct voice.

2. Brainstorm the qualities you want.

Get a piece of paper or fire up Word and just punch out qualities of your potential voice. Don’t know what that voice is? Identify it, stat. If you’ve got a blog about technology, you might shoot for: brainy, geeky, clear, authoritative, dry. If you’re writing about Premiership soccer, you might try: flippant, cheeky, cynical, zealous. Sometimes when I’m writing fiction, I like to give certain characters counter-intuitive voices, ie assign them qualities you wouldn’t expect. Try writing your tech blog in the cheeky, cynical, zealous soccer voice. Now you’re creating a unique and fun reader experience.

3. Experiment with your voice.

Once you have a couple of ideas, try writing a single post in those voices. The content will be the exact same, but the reader experience will be different. When experimenting, go over the top, and see what your stuff sounds like when you get really crazy. Try writing a post about soccer in a Hunter S. Thompson voice. Go nuts.

Once you do that, you’ve got a range to operate in, and you’ll have a handle on where you can take it. I would even write 3-4 posts to get a feel as you move across different subjects, post structures, and word counts. On one of my blogs, I wrote 10 posts before settling on a voice, and then I went back and revised every post to make sure the voice was consistent.

4. Decide what voice is best for your Blog.

After you’ve experimented, you should have a pretty solid idea of what’s going to work for your content and what you’re comfortable with. The key here is sustainability. Whatever voice you settle on, you better be able to write in that voice every single day…forever! Make sure it’s something you enjoy and feels natural. If you can’t do Fear and Loathing without struggling, that might not be the right voice for you.

5. Become a character, and get into that character’s head.

On my dating advice blog, I write as Lance. Lance isn’t the real name of the author, it’s a pseudonym. When I write as Lance I actually imagine a fictional character, a guy with his own unique personality. That let’s me assume his voice when I sit down to blog and the words flow from there. I’ll not only imagine what he sounds like, but I’ll imagine what he looks like, what he’s wearing, his haircut, even his mannerisms. That way, I have reference points to use, and I can answer the question, “how would Lance respond to this?”

Not only does this have functional value, but it’s a lot of fun get in character and write. Lance is a slice of my id, and it’s a cool release.

6. Read real books.

Are you reading books in your spare time? Real books? If you’re not, and you’re serious about being a professional blogger, get to Borders and pick some up. There’s an overwhelming amount of information on the Internet, but good literature is scarce. Reading feeds your head and informs your blogging. Reading will open you up to what’s out there and what’s possible with voice. I recommend starting with some classics. Try Hemingway. Try Delillo. Try Toni Morrison. Try Grace Carol Oates. Try Cormac McCarthy. All of these authors have will take you to school on voice.

If you’re looking for shorter, more digestible pieces, I highly recommend anything in the Best American Series:

  • Best American Sport Writing
  • Best American Fiction
  • Best American Non-Fiction
  • Best American Essays

Any of these will introduce you to a ton of fresh voices and give you ideas for expanding your writing. After I go to the bookstore, I always feel jacked and ready to pump out killer content.

So there you go, 6 steps to create your own voice and take your blog content to the next level. By the way, what’s the #1 most subscribed blog on the planet? That’s right, it’s Engadget. A tech blog with a unique, witty voice that is fun to read.

Read more of Lance’s work at Honey and Lance

How to Promote Your Blog through Networking

Blog-Promotio - NetworkingThis week I’ve been suggesting five ways that I’d promote a new blog to new readers if i was starting out again.

Today I want to turn our attention to Networking as a great way to promote a blog.

If I were starting out in blogging today knowing what I now know I’d invest significant time each day into connecting with others online. The old adage of ‘it’s not what you know it’s who you know’ rings true in blogging.

By networking I mean doing all of those things that I regularly write about here at ProBlogger. Commenting on others blogs, answering comments that others leave on yours, emailing other bloggers when you write something that you think will interest them, making helpful suggestions to other bloggers, connecting with people via social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, emailing people to introduce yourself, linking up to others in your niche…. the list could go on… and on…. when it comes to ways to network but today I’d like to put forward a few more general suggestions.

A number of suggestions that I’d make in networking with bloggers:

  • Be generous – a lot of the networking that I see going on between bloggers is fairly much about ‘taking’ rather than ‘giving’. One way to make a real impression on another person is to be generous with them. Help them achieve their goals – highlight their best work – encourage them – go out of your way to work on their terms. While you do need to have good boundaries (otherwise people will abuse your generosity) I think a spirit of generosity is the right attitude to go into networking with.
  • Don’t Expect too much too quick – the most fruitful relationships that I’ve been a part of in blogging have emerged over time. Let the relationship grow naturally as you build trust and a mutual understanding of who the other person is and how you can work together.
  • Look for the B-listers – many so called ‘A-lister’ bloggers are approached all day long with requests to connect. While you might get lucky – I’ve found that approaching slightly less know blogs can have more chance of working out (and they can still drive a lot of traffic).
  • Prove Yourself First – if you’re brand new to your niche it could take time to make an impression. This isn’t necessarily because people are being cliquey – it’s often because they’re waiting to see if you’re going to stick with it and if you know what you’re talking about. There’s nothing more frustrating that networking with someone who disappears a couple of weeks later. Show you’re in it for the long haul and that your blog is making a contribution to the niche and you’ll find people more willing to connect.
  • Persist But Don’t Annoy – some bloggers will take a few emails or conversations before they’ll warm up to you. There’s a lot of noise around the blogosphere so don’t be offended if people don’t respond – try again in a little while – but don’t stalk them :-)
  • Look in Neighboring Niches – it is important with blog networking to interact with other bloggers in your own niche – however don’t close yourself to relationships with bloggers outside of your niche – particularly in those that neighbor yours. When you limit yourself just to other bloggers exactly like yours you will end up dealing mainly with people who could see you as a direct competitor. While some will be open to interacting with you I’ve found networking with people outside my niche can be fruitful. Another way to be strategic is to not look for networking opportunities just with other bloggers on your topic – but with bloggers who share a similar demographic of reader.
  • Ask Questions – one key that I’ve found to work in networking is to ask a lot of questions of those around you. Some bloggers go into networking with obvious agendas and goals but fail to listen to the other party. When you become a person who asks others about their goals and objectives, where you know what their strengths and weaknesses are and where you know their dreams you not only create a good impression on them but you’ll be in a great position to know where your situation aligns with another person’s – this is where networking becomes most effective.
  • Become a Go-To Person and a Connector – as you network with others don’t just focus upon you and the other person – but attempt to draw others into the relationships you have. I find that people are particularly grateful to me when I can’t help them but point them to someone else who can. This creates a good impression upon both of the parties that you connect which can lead them to come to you again with opportunities (ie you become the ‘go to’ person because they know you’ll either help them personally or point them to someone who can).
  • Have an Elevator Pitch – a lot has been written about business people being able to articulate what they do in a concise statement (having your elevator pitch). I think being able to do this is important with blog networking too. I get many emails every day from people wanting tow work together in some way and in many cases it’s a few minutes into an email that I even work out who they are and what they are on about. Develop a few key sentences that describe who you are, what you do and what you offer others. Another good elevator pitch is on what your blog is about. Having thought through these things will help others understand what you can bring to a relationship – but they will also help you understand that too.
  • Look for Points of Synergy – perhaps this says more about my personality type, but I’ve found the most profitable relationships to be ones where there was a ‘spark’ or ‘energy’ around our interaction – particularly where there was some sort of synergy around goals and objectives but also some sort of a connection when it comes to personality. My style has always been to look for points of ‘energy’ or ‘synergy’ and going with them. Perhaps someone else has a more technical description of this but it’s worked well for me.

Looking forward to hearing more about your own experience of blog networking and how it’s helped your blogging grow.

7 Ways to Make Your Blog Stickier

GlueThis guest post by Matt Harzewski of Webmaster-Source. Get webmaster resources, tips, and tutorials delivered straight to your feed reader by subscribing here.

You don’t just want people to subscribe to your RSS feed. You want them to keep coming back to the actual website. You want to build an online community that your users get lost in, staying for over an hour until they realize what time it is. You want your site to be so immersive that they come back the next day.

The usage of the term “sticky” goes back a long time, to the ’90s even, and refers to the phenomenon where users become addicted to a certain website, and keep coming back, spending relatively large amounts of time there. Webmasters have all but driven themselves insane trying to attain that level of user satisfaction. How do you do it?

Create engaging and unique content

Provide something useful or entertaining. Work hard to create great content, and spend plenty of time thinking up new and different ideas. If you’ve seen it somewhere else in some other form, keep thinking. Writing new and unusual content is the hardest part of blogging, and probably the most important. You want your blog to be source of content that’s enjoyable, and unique.

Normally, people wouldn’t read through your archives randomly, just for fun. I would, if I was on a blog I really liked. If I’m skimming through your archives, visiting your blog in my spare time, and leaving plenty of comment, congratulations, you’re blog is fairly sticky.

Promote your full RSS feed

Yes, I said “full RSS feed.” If you want subscribers, then you had better have a full feed. Plenty of people will unsubscribe as soon as they notice that your feed is summarized. Make sure your RSS feed, and email subscription form, are above the fold in a visible spot. Yes, you want people to come back to the actual site, but that starts at making it easy for people to recieve notifications of new content. They may read your new posts in their RSS reader, but that doesn’t mean don’t visit the actual site. Also, be sure to put a second feed link at the end of every post (in the single.php template, for those who use WordPress).

Keep them there

Interlink your posts, have a visible search box, set-up a central archives page like Darren has done, highlight popular posts, use the Related Entries plugin. Do everything you can to keep ‘em reading. Provide plenty of ways to find more interesting content.

Write often

Pick a regular posting schedule, writing regularly and as frequently as you can, and stick to it. I currently blog every day, while some bloggers take a weekly, or “every other day” approach. You want your readers to know when there’s going to be another post, and you want them to eagerly wait for the next one. Don’t be too strict with your schedule, though. If you find a piece of breaking news that no one has covered yet, ignore your schedule and jump on it, be the first to cover it. Who knows, maybe it will be Dugg.

Optimize For Speed

A lot of people use the Google search engine as their browser’s home page. Why? Besides arguably being the most relevant search engine, it loads really fast. Speed is very important on the web. Face it, people have little patience when they’re using computers. There are whole guides to improving your load time, but here are a few things to start with:

  • Keep JavaScript and images to a minimum. Use as little images as you can in your template (though don’t worry about the images in your posts), and get rid of unnecessary JavaScript widgets.
  • If you use WordPres, uninstall unneccesary plugins, and remove reduntant template tags that can be replaced with static text. For example, why use <?php bloginfo('name'); ?> when you could just put the name of your blog?
  • Install the WP Super Cache WordPress plugin (warning: may break some plugins).
  • Pick a stable and fast host. Cheaper hosts may be, well, cheap, but you get what you pay for when it comes to hosting.

Branding

People can’t come back if they don’t remember where they were.

  • Make sure you have a short, memorable domain name.
  • Use a unique design. You won’t make a very good impression if you use the same free theme that 372+ other bloggers are using. Design it yourself, pay someone else to do it, whatever. Go out of your way to get a blog theme that you could just look at for half an hour.
  • Get a good logo. If you see the Nike “inverted-wave,” or the Apple logo, in a commercial, you immediately know which company’s ad you’re seeing. Why should your blog be any different?
  • Be memorable. Write-up a witty tagline (a.k.a. slogan), develop a unique style of writing, whatever. Do all you can to make a big first impression.

Be more than a blog

Content is one thing, but what really makes a blog sticky is interactivity. Great content may be your first priority, but your blogs “stickometer” will skyrocket if you can make your blog more interactive. Give your readers something to do, and they’ll stick around. Don’t just be a blog. Be a community.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Encourage commenting. These WordPress plugins may help, though you should also respond to the comments, and participate in the discussion actively.
  • Launch a forum.
  • Accept guest posts.
  • Ask questions in posts, and let your readers answer in the comments.
  • Let your readers email you questions, and answer them in Q&A posts.
  • Make use of social bookmarking and networking sites. Make it easy to submit posts to Digg, Del.icio.us, and StumbleUpon, link to your profiles, create a Facebook group, etc.

This post is not a definitive list. Use it as a general guideline, and experiment. There are many unknown ways to improve your blog’s stickiness.