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Develop a Plan to Boost Your Blog’s Profile and Readership Online [Day 29 31DBBB]

Today your task in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog is one that should help you think a little strategically about where you spend time online building your online profile.

One of the ways that many successful blogs build a readership and profile is by spending significant time and energy building up a presence on other websites. Whether this be forums, social bookmarking sites (like Digg or StumbleUpon), social messaging sites (like Twitter), other blogs or any other type of site – time invested in other websites can be a great way to build your own brand.

However…. spending time on other sites can also be a complete waste of time.

A trap that I see many bloggers falling into (and have fallen into myself) is sinking significant time into building a presence on sites without having really thought through two things:

  1. Whether it’s the right site to build a presence on
  2. What their strategy and purpose is for being on the site

Perhaps I’m describing myself more than you here – but many of us as bloggers tend to DRIFT around the web from site to site without any real direction or purpose.

20 minutes onTwitter, 5 minutes on MySpace, 20 minutes reading other blogs on Google Reader, 30 minutes checking out photos of friends on Facebook, 20 minutes checking out the latest threads on our favorite forums, back to Twitter for 20 minutes, 15 minutes following links we found on Digg……..

It’s easy to get to the end of the day and wonder what it was that we really achieved. We aimlessly drift around the web and have very little to show for the time we spend.

Can you relate?

It is a pity that so many of us struggle with this problem because spending time on other websites has the potential to really build our blogs…. however for so many people it can end up being largely a waste of time.

Your Task Today

Today your task is to do something that some of us (yes I’m talking to myself here) will find difficult. Depending upon our personality type it could feel a little too rigid – however I ask that you humor me and see where the exercise takes you.

1. How Much Time Do You Have?

Work out how much time you have each day (or week) for spending time on other websites to build the profile of your blog. Remember that you need to also have put aside significant time to spend on your own blog (writing, interacting with readers etc).

2. Describe Your Desired Reader

Spend 10-15 minutes describing the type of person that you want to read your blog. For some of you this will include very specific things like demographics (age, gender, location) but for others of you it will be less specific. Your potential readers might be defined more as ‘beginner photographers’ or ‘people interested in learning the latest patch working techniques’ (ie a description based more upon people’s needs or behaviors).

3. Ask yourself this Question

Where are my potential readers gathering online?” This is a key question be asking yourself regularly. If your goal is to build your blog you need to know what type of people you want to attract and to be on the look out for other sites where this type of people are gathering.

Of course this question is not easy to answer and it can take a lot of time to identify these types of sites. Let me give you some examples of how I’ve answered this question:

  • Flickr – for me a site dedicated to photo sharing was an obvious place for me to have a presence when starting my photography site.
  • Lifehacker – a blog with an audience with a techie interest but that was all about helping people with ‘hacks’ or tips. A logical place for me with all three of my blogs which hare ‘tips’ related blogs.
  • Twitter – until recently Twitter has been mainly used by social media buffs – it’s a logical place for me to have a presence for ProBlogger and especially TwiTip.
  • Forums – when launching ProBlogger I spent a lot of time on webmaster related forums like DigitalPoint and Webmaster World. When starting out with my photography blog I spent time on a lot of photography forums.
  • Blogs – I still hang out on a lot of blogs related to my niches but particularly in the early days of my photography blog I was a daily commenter and occasionally guest poster on quite a few.
  • StumbleUpon - image based posts tend to do really well on StumbleUpon – as a result it was a logical place for me to build a presence for my photography blog.

These were some of the places that related to my own blogs – for your niche/topic it’ll probably look quite different. Perhaps there are other social media sites (for example Facebook often has strong ‘groups’ on different topics or LinkedIn might be a more appropriate place to interact) or other types of sites that seem to attract your kinds of readers.

Keep in mind that you’re not just looking for other sites with your exact same niche/topic. For example, Lifehacker is not a blog about photography but it has a readership that overlaps with the type of people I want to read my photography blog. The Webmaster forums were not forums about blogging specifically – but they had a user group which would have had a % of people who operate blogs.

So don’t just identify sites in your own niche – look at related topics and whether there might be some kind of overlap between the readers that they have and what you’re looking to attract.

As I mention above – learning where your potential readers gather online is a long term search – but try to come up with at least a couple for the purpose of this activity.

4. What Opportunities are there to Build a Presence?

Once you’ve identified at least a couple of places that your potential readers are already gathering spend some time looking at what opportunities you might have on these sites to build your own blog’s profile.

The opportunities will again vary quite a bit from site to site. Some of them we’ve touched on earlier in the 31DBBB challenge and include:

I. Guest Posts – if it is a blog do they accept guest posts? Some blogs actively seek contributors (look for ‘write for us’ pages) while others don’t advertise it but do use reader contributions.

If you’re accepted as a guest poster pay particular attention to what types of posts work well on the site you’re writing for. Look at comment numbers and try to find out what types of articles might have done well previously on social media sites. Quite often the blogger will be willing to help you and give you examples of what has previously worked on their blog.

II. Submit Tips/News – similarly – some blogs rely heavily upon readers for story ideas and will give credit for the source. For example in the early days of my photography blog I was regularly emailing Engadget and Gizmodo when new cameras were released. I’d send them not only the news of new cameras but images that they could use. They didn’t always use my stories and link back but when they did it was a boost both to traffic, profile and SEO.

Quite a few blogs have links in their navigation areas inviting these types of tips and ideas for stories so don’t be afraid to use them.

III. Leaving Super Useful Comments – if there’s no way to share tips or write guest posts the comments section of another blog is a place that you can really build a profile. Don’t just leave quick pointless comments – go to some effort. I was speaking with one blogger recently whose strategy was to leave at least one post length comment on another blog each day.

By ‘post length’ comment they meant that they aimed to write at least one in depth comment of 500 words or more every day on another blog in their niche. The comment would extend the ideas in the posts they were commenting upon, share examples that made the posts deeper, added resources etc (not just with links back to their own blog. The strategy was to add comments that were attention grabbing by their usefulness.

The result was that the blogger was regularly asked by other bloggers to guest blog on their blog and that other readers began to visit their blog even though they rarely linked to it in their comments.

This same strategy can be used in forums. Start a new thread that is a tutorial or highly useful resources – people will want to know more about you if you do (more on this strategy of using Forums to promote your blog here).

IV. Making Connections/Building Your Network – if the site you’ve identified is more of a social networking or social bookmarking site then one strategy you’ll want to work on is making connections with others on the site. Set up an account and start making ‘friends’. Pay particular interest to making friends with other active users and people with shared interests.

It can also be well worth identifying key players or influential members on the site. Watch how they operate and look for opportunities to build relationships with them.

The key is to be a genuine participant on the site. To add value, to become a key member of the community. As you do this opportunities will arise that will allow you to promote yourself and your blog a little more.

V. Profile pages – Does the site have an opportunity to set up a profile page or have any ability to promote yourself in any way? On most social media sites and forums there is the ability to say something about yourself, share a link back to your blog, customize your presence with an avatar and/or background image and nominate some keywords as tags.

Try to keep your brand consistent across the different sites that you are building a presence on where you can. Also think about using a ‘landing page’ as the page that you link to rather than just the front page of your blog (read more on how I do this with a Twitter Landing Page).

VI. Signatures – If it’s a forum (or some other community site) you might have an opportunity to add a signature. My only tip with this is that sometimes less is more. Long, flashing or bright signatures can look quite spammy – so go for something tasteful and descriptive.

Other opportunities to promote your work exist on other sites. For example on Facebook you can promote your blog using a variety of applications that allow you to pull in your latest posts or list your blogs. See what other bloggers are doing and test to see if their strategies work for you too.

VII. Advertising – this won’t be for everyone but many sites will have opportunities to engage their readers with advertising. While this might sound very expensive there are quite a few sites that allow you to start ad campaigns that are quite affordable and with a small budget.

For example social media sites likeMySpace (disclosure: they are currently an advertiser on ProBlogger), StumbleUpon and Facebook all have advertising options that allow you to target specific demographics and even people with certain interests. They all allow you to set up campaigns with quite small budgets too.

Other types of sites might not have quite the same sort of ad opportunities but might be open to other types of advertising. If it’s another blog of a similar size to yours you might even approach the bloggers to do an ad swap – you put an ad on their blog and they put an ad on yours.

Further Reading: Run a StumbleUpon Campaign on your Blog (from the last 31DBBB challenge)

VIII. Volunteer to Help – if it’s a forum site that you’re wanting to spend time on there are often opportunities to help out by becoming a moderator. Most sites won’t take you on as a moderator straight away but contribute genuinely over time and there may be opportunity in this area. While you don’t want to abuse the privilege it – moderation status gives you a certain level of authority and profile on a forum.

5. Plan a Strategy

OK – so you’ve identified some sites where your potential readers are gathering, you’ve assessed some of the opportunities that exist to build your profile on these sites – the task now is to think a little strategically about what you’re going to do on these sites.

Don’t feel you need to have a highly developed plan or strategy – but jot down some of the following:

  • How much time will you spend there? (prioritize which sites you want to spend more time on than others)
  • What times of the week would be best to be active on this site? (sites have their own rhythms and some will be more active on some days/times than others).
  • What types of things am I going to do on this site (which of the opportunities that you’ve identified in step #4 will you pursue?)
  • Set yourself some goals. Again – they need not be highly formal but could include things like getting a guest post published, becoming a moderator, posting X number of comments a week, getting to know the owner of the site etc.

You can extend this step by actually planning out what an average day or week will look like for you as you go about your blogging. I know of a few bloggers who’ve gone as far as setting up a spreadsheet with each day and the hours on that day outlined. They then block out times for each day for certain activities. They fill up their most productive times of day with the most important activities (like writing content on their own blog) and then set aside time each day/week for spending time on other sites.

While this type of schedule might not work for everyone – I personally have used it at times where I’ve felt particularly ‘aimless’ with my time. Even doing it for a week or two can help you to develop more healthy habits online.

6. Analyze Your Current Activity

The last step in this task is to take a little tie to analyze what you’re currently doing with your time online.

  • What sites do you spend time on already?
  • Do these sites actually help to build your profile or could you be more effectively use your time elsewhere?
  • Are you being effective with the time you spend on these sites?

I did some analysis on this 12 or so months ago. At the time I was sinking a lot of time into two main social media sites – Twitter and Plurk. While I enjoyed both I realized that it was Twitter that was a more effective place for me to be interacting. While I’d become a top 10 user on Plurk it wasn’t really as effective use of time for me so I decided to stop interacting there and focus my energies upon Twitter.

Note: I’m not arguing that everything you do online has to be productive and building your profile. Some of you use Twitter more as a social thing than to build your blogs and that is legitimate – however it is worth asking yourself the question and doing a little analysis of your online habits.

Lastly – Keep Balance

My last words of advice are to not become obsessed with building your profile on other people’s sites. I’ve seen a number of bloggers spend so much time building their presence on sites like Twitter that they fail to actually build up and develop their own blogs. Identify key sites to spend time on – but put your own blog at the top of the list and set aside as much (if not more) time for working specifically upon it.

6 Posts for Suggested Further Reading:

Feel free to discuss here in the comments, or over at the forum post for this task.

Want More?

This task is a sample of one of the tasks in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook – a downloadable resource designed to reinvigorate and revitalize blogs.

Join over 14,000 other bloggers and Get your Copy Today.

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. 500 word comment/day == madness.

  2. Mario says:

    @Jodi,

    I’m pretty sure I came along your blog on stumble-upon.

  3. Whew, some of this I already knew, but haven’t done because of the time consumed. But I convinced my daughter and boyfriend to help (believe me that wasn’t easy) so I guess I better get off my butt and do it.

    Also so helpful info about places to look and what works best where. It could take you eons to visit all of the options and figure out what you need to do to even grab a little interest.

    Once again, excellent post! Will have to read it a second time.

  4. Wayne says:

    Thank you for stating what I have been feeling, how do I more effectively use my time to promote my blog. Your comments will spur me to set a plan in motion so I am not spinning my electronic wheels.
    I have found some of the travel forums eat up my time – providing good travel content and answers, but produce almost no traffic. Social media has helped, and I am looking into the backlinks suggestion.
    Each day I find my followers grow depending on my content.
    http://www.traveltothewest.com
    Wayne

  5. Jodi says:

    Darren,

    I tried to educate my readers but maybe I need a more detailed post. My readers seem to be very viral – but moreso on forums (a little on twitter and FB). They talk there – not so much with things like DIGG and SU, etc.

    Maybe I should not worry too much. My goal is to triple my readership in the next year. I started in March 2008 with my latest Photography/Photoshop blog (where I post 5-7 days a week). And went from about 300-400 unique visitors a day to currently an average of 1,600 a day (some days as high as 2,500+). I would love to be at around 5,000/day unique visitors by next year.

    My blog has a different audience than yours – and a different feel. I love yours so much but mine works and feels good to me. Mine has a slightly more casual feel – mostly portrait photographers, etc. I also rely less on ads and have thought of not having any. My blog is a marketing tool for my photoshop training and actions – so I have a different source of income. Maybe that makes a difference on what I do and how I do it – or maybe not?

    I LOVE some of the ideas you have given – and have taken lots of notes. I was already doing a decent amount of what you said (partnerships, having guest bloggers and being a guest blogger, questions to engage readers, etc). Many things I was not doing well or often enough (for example – list posts).

    Do you ever do personal critiques of blogs for pay? I would love your thoughts and ideas on what I do well and not so well. I have ideas on that – but it is hard when you are too close to the situation.

    Anyway, I would love to get Diggs and Stumble Upons more – but as I said there are other ways to grow a blog too.

    Thank you – and if you do paid critiques, I would love to have the chance to do so, or even talk with you for an hour and talk about what you feel I can do to grow even more in my niche.

    Jodi

    * And Mario – funny that after my comment you said you saw me on Stumble-Upon. I know I put my blog on it not that long ago. And maybe once every month I will see hits coming from there – I want daily or weekly! LOL

  6. desiree fawn says:

    Great post — sometimes I do feel like I’m spending less time on my blog than I should be and more time trying to spread the word. It’s so important to even it out and make sure you have enough time to do it right.

    http://sofawned.com

  7. Yo darren do you know how long it takes or what you need to get listed on search engines?

    I have made out a plan and everything, I’m working every day to get some results but still nothing. By working for results I mean having quality posts, submitting my blog, using pinging services to ping my blog, commenting on other blogs, etc..

    I’m actually in the “make money online” niche…Is it the niche i’m in that’s hard to penetrate the google search engines?

    Anyways keep up the good work, so far this 31 day thing helped me out in some aspects, looking forward to day 30 post!

  8. Jarlin says:

    Great tips, Darren. I need to derive a plan.

  9. Dana says:

    Darren, I appreciate your candor, you made me feel like it isn’t just me… I become overwhelmed at times and find myself thinking “just walk away from that computer!” Thanks for the unbelievable list of tips!

  10. Please publish this series in a PDF format so I can use it as a reference tool when I working on my site! I know you were already thinking about doing it and I want to add my voice to say – Please!! I know it is free on your site, but I would pay to have it in a PDF that I can have at my fingertips on my computer.

    Thanks!!

  11. Nice post mate.I know now where had I got wrong on my directions.Yes I believe making real connection to our readers is most likely to have real visitors and if our blog perform well, he will tell his friends, and it can go around like a snow ball.I think viral is really what we are looking for not just for the sake being presence at other sites which is time consuming.

  12. Andy says:

    I Think you have made lot of good Ideas. Here in Germany, all the possibilities but not so large as to you, but we work on it.

  13. Nice post mate.I know now where had I got wrong on my directions.Yes I believe making real connection to our readers is most likely to have real visitors and if our blog perform well, he will tell his friends, and it can go around like a snow ball.I think viral is really what we are looking for not just for the sake being presence at other sites which is time consuming.
    Sorry… forgot to say great post – can’t wait to read your next one!

  14. This is a great assignment. I do go out and read other blogs but not with any plna in how I do that. so, I will analyze my wanderings and try to be more intentional. I frequently comment but only if it’s something I can honestly find a response to. People have brought up issues about commenting and it’s sincerity, etc… Yesterday I got a comment on a blog which I posted though I didn’t really want to.. it exemplifies the points made here: “Hi, nice post. I have been thinking about this topic,so thanks for posting. I will definitely be subscribing to your blog.”

    The blog was about voodoo! Humorously, of course. I really think the comment was strictly to get business for their blog. though maybe it is a budding voodoo goddess. I’m not really judging and I did post it.
    So I agree visiting other blogs can present challenges and I hope that at any time I comment it seems a ltitle more relevant and heartfelt…
    And if the above person is here on this forum I would kindly suggest a little more creativity.
    I’d love to hear what others do about comments that are off the mark.. the vauge ones that you don’t feel quite right about? I tend to post almost anything one comments, unless it’s extreme.

  15. Playstead says:

    I’m curious as to what works for others on this board. I haven’t had much success with Digg or Stumble Upon, but some with Twitter and Facebook. To me, this is the worst part of blogging.

    CP

    http://fullcontactfatherhood.com

  16. Marie says:

    Haven’t even been to Digg yet – must get myself there. I’ve been to stumble upon, but not sure If I’m even doing things correctly there or not.

    It is probably just like a business. The more you are out there, updating your blog, delivering great quality – you’ll be found and those that find you will stay with you.

    I’ve really enjoy learning how to build a better blog. Darren you have made a huge difference. I’m so glad I participated.

  17. elizof says:

    I can definitely relate to this post because for a while there, I was a serial social media sites troll. I enjoyed the process of joining, connecting and interacting until it all became … well, too much! I enjoy twitter, linkedin and a few others and have found that a good chunk of my traffic has come from those sites but there is more work for me to do.
    I recently took a week off social network sites to focus on other demands on my time and on creating more content for my blog. I recognize that while these sites help me expose my blogs to a varied audience, I need to put energy into developing content for my blog and reviewing what next steps to take.
    This has been an excellent journey and I have learned a lot… Thanks again Darren!

  18. Amy says:

    It’s the old “If a tree falls in a forest…” conundrum. I’m blogging three times a week, people are emailing and Facebooking me to tell me how much they love the recipes and enjoy the posts, but my numbers remain stagnant. My issue is that I write for newspapers and magazines for a living, so doing this blog for free was a bit of a leap in the first place (meaning, not being paid), and while I am enjoying it, I’m not really willing to put in much more time in to getting more people to my site. The funny thing is, my biggest view spikes happen when the ‘traditional’ media, a national newspaper in Canada, prints my blog address at the bottom of my weekly food column.
    So, sure I’d love it if more people were reading my blog, but I guess I’m a lazy fatalist, and an optimist to boot: I’m just assuming that one day my blog will suddenly go viral and boom — I’ll be on easy street. I guess what I’m asking is…isn’t there an easier way for lazy bloggers?

  19. Momofsixteen says:

    This is a very important consideration for those of us who try to run a household while blogging. How much time do we give to cleaning as opposed to reading and posting? I like to try an even trade: 15 minutes of housekeeping wins me the guilt-free reward of doing 15 minutes of reading and posting!

  20. Sam sall says:

    Hi EVERYONE
    i have very limitted time as i start on my blog after i come home from my regular job. Spending most of my evening on trying to build a presence for my blog,. Most of the time i loose the sense of time using the social bookmarking and other blogs it could take me 90 min browsing and commenting on other blogs, 30 min on working on my own, dig 10 min ,twitter 3 min,stumble upon 5 min
    As for forums amost less thatn 15 min most of them in probloger forum and that for scanning the post quickly.

    I’v been invited as a guest writer in 2 blogs

    Darren thank for opening my eyes , i really need to spend more time in social bookmarking and forum and i need to visit the sitethat my reader are gathering.
    i ll work on that from now on
    thank you

  21. mepc says:

    It can be difficult to find blogs/posts to leave comments on that are relevant to your own business and blog – because they’re often your competition.
    I’m generally trying to write a collection of good content and hoping that will generate links, however long that might take I don’t know.

  22. I find myself split between 3 different niches, with 3 different blogs. One of the blogs I love and definitely needs some PR work – my Mommy Blog; another blog does well all on its own – gluten free foodie blog (this is the niche-market on its own pulling in more readers by a less saturated market than mommy blogs) and my wordpress modification blog – which is between the two.

    Question – how do you combine identities? Or do you? There are pros and con’s to keeping them separate and combining them. I’ve been thinking about this for months now – the more popular one blog gets, the more difficult it will be to ‘change’ or combine my online identity.

    These were good questions – I love the ‘bigger picture’ type of posts, very well thought through! Thank you for spending the time on this one!

    Cathy
    Strawberries Are Gluten Free
    Desperately Seeking WordPress

  23. Unionhawk says:

    Oh, my God… how did you know how I spend my afternoons?!?

  24. Molly says:

    Darren,
    Like Cathy above I have diverse blogs (one on music: currently advice but I’m migrating it to gig links only, one on cleaning since I clean apartments in ‘real life’ and one on online research assistance. All but the first are in the near future). I’m trying to come up with a ‘social plan’ (Where do I promote which blog, how often, what time of day, etc.)
    So far this is what I’ve come up with: Stumble Upon, LinkedIn, Ecadamy and Xing for the RA work, including promoting my website, because I already have a small presence in each while learning CSS, website development, SEO, etc… and they’re more for the geeky and/or professionally oriented.
    My MySpace ID for the music gig blog (toss in a few band specific sites I already belong to as well, like ReVerb), especially since I have a different ‘brand face’ on MySpace as well as a yahoo ID that I can’t change as my MySpace url.
    The cleaning blog is still very much up in the air as to promotion, but I’m already a member of EZine, eHow, etc.. so I imagine I’ll promote through those sites as it’s a natural fit.
    Twitter and Facebook are catchalls right now, but I’d like to concentrate just one aspect of my online ID to each as they can get noisy/distracting if I’m not careful about what I post. FriendFeed is going to be hardest to redesign my presence on as I’m pretty much addicted and am like a free range chicken on there, picking up bits and pieces of everyone’s conversations/links/subscriptions that hit my interest at the time.
    Thanks so much for the series (though I’m saving it for later after everything’s set up). Got your links in a special folder on my desktop and on DVD backup. In the meantime I’m lurking and reading.
    Molly

  25. Great stuff. You never cease to amaze me with the content you provide. Love the action plan steps.

    Keep it coming!

    Dr Dave Hale
    The Internet Marketing Professor
    http:www/drdavehaleonline.com

  26. Darren,

    Appreciate this thorough walk through. All of us struggle to find that balance you touched on at the end of your post. As a student, classes and other study make it difficult to produce while consuming and aimlessly participating on Twitter and Facebook only continues to become easier. :)

    As I read this post, I took notes of the steps and certain points that stuck out to me.

    Here’s my tip: Instead of reading and moving on, which we’re all good at doing, record important questions and thoughts (including your plan) in a notebook/binder, so the next time you’re lost or lack zeal necessary to produce without being overwhelmed, you have something to turn to which may help to give you that spark.

    Once you know your plan, work your plan. Cheers!

    -Mig

  27. thanks for your thoughtful tips, they do help me a lot

  28. maxOz says:

    Great Series Darren, particularly love this post,

    cheers Michele (maxOz)

  29. Ann Sachs says:

    Where was Day 28?!

  30. myblog says:

    Great post Darren. Lately I’ve been spending about 7 hours a day promoting my blog and building up profiles in forums and on other blogs. It definitely helps out a LOT!

  31. Thanks a lot for the great tips! I spend a considerable time in BlogCatalog. I remember the first time that other people noticed me was when I started a discussion about who I am and what I do and what my blog is all about. I maintain a Christian Blog and because of that I started a discussion saying I’m a Certified Christian Blogge. without me knowing, more than a hundred have already replied and discussed in that discussion. It in fact became one of the most commented discussion for a time in that site giving a front page view in BC. So from time to tim, I start discussions that are catchy for peopl to start noticing me. I also send some broadcast with simple blogging tips (not really related to my niche) to my friends to help them out in their blogs. This way I give VALUE to the site. I think that’s what’s really important being valuable to any sit, blog we spend time in.

    Lately also, I’ve changed my comments to my complete name to be more personable and “knowable”. I also make sure that I reply to every comment left in my site, this way I build a 360 communication with my readers.

    But I got corrected with what you said. a lot of times I just waste my time spent on other blogs. when sometimes my tendency is to just blog hop and drop.

    thanks again for the tips! I hope that this comment has given value as well!