The following guest post has been submitted by Trent Hamm from The Simple Dollar
Hopefully, that title got your attention a little bit, but it’s true. I launched The Simple Dollar at the very end of October 2006. I had no pre-existing blog that I could use to drive early traffic, nor did I have any personal contacts that I could use. I also had zero advertising budget. But by June 2007, I had 12,000 RSS readers and was generating enough traffic that I had to switch hosting plans twice. How did I do it? Here are a few specific techniques that really helped me build my blog’s traffic over time.
1. Lay some groundwork before starting
By this, I mean plan out your blog. What is going to be your topic area? It should be clearly defined, but not too narrow. Who is your target audience? Look at their age, their ethnicity, their nationality, their cultural awareness. You should also establish some goals – I would focus on having initial goals stated in percentages rather than raw numbers. Something like 10% readership growth per month for the first six months is appropriate. Some people miss the value of laying the groundwork for a blog, but if you’re intending to be successful, you need to be very clear on what you are talking about and who you are speaking to.
2. Listen to del.icio.us
The most valuable content that a blogger can create is the type of content that readers want to come back to time and time again and also that they want to share with others. These pieces will continually provide value to you, and the surest way to identify such content is to know how many people have saved a particular post at del.icio.us. I keep track of this by using Feedburner’s site statistics package and enabling the “flare” that shows this information. Posts that have del.icio.us bookmarks are usually the ones I use as guidelines for what works on my blog – if I try something different and no one bookmarks it, I usually realize that it’s a bad idea. I’ve found that time and time again, del.icio.us is the best barometer of good content.
3. Find your community
When you begin blogging, you may feel rather isolated from other bloggers. Try to communicate with other bloggers in your niche just to exchange ideas and build a framework of connections. Don’t initially go for the most popular bloggers in your niche – some of them are often so inundated with contacts that by sheer necessity they have to filter what they respond to. One good way to get started is to find blog carnivals in your topic area and contact the people running these carnivals.
4. Immerse yourself in a social bookmarking site
Many people have a hard time getting their foot in the door with social bookmarking because they just try to use it without giving back. Most social bookmarking sites are a community of people who enjoy interaction and discussion – if you just pop in long enough to toss up some links and then wonder why you’re not successful, you’re simply fooling yourself. If you want to be successful on a social bookmarking site, get involved. I’m involved in several – I post links to both my own articles and to other things and I’m also involved in many discussions on what others submit. Over time, people start checking in on what you submit on those sites and tend to be predisposed to voting them up, which can in the end merit you a lot of legitimate attention.