Traffic Technique 7: Networking and Collaboration

Two minds are better than one—especially when it comes to blogging.

For bloggers trying to grow their traffic, working with others can give you a real advantage. The most obvious example is, of course, guest posting on someone else’s blog, but there are as many opportunities for creative collaboration as there are players in your niche—and all of them are different.

I often report on the ways social media has helped me generate traffic for dPS—and connect with new photographers whose content, in turn, attracts more traffic. But today I want to look at some other, more creative networking techniques that you can use to attract attention—and hopefully lasting, loyal visitors—for your blog.

The comment connection: networking with other commenters

I think a great place to seek opportunities for collaboration is in blog comments. Often, when we’re commenting on blog posts, we focus on the post, the author, and making a response that’s intelligent and presents us in an authoritative light.

But there’s a missed opportunity here: the chance to forge connections with other commenters. We all know how easy it is to see who knows their stuff in blog comments. We can usually follow a link to commenters’ blogs or sites and find out more about them and what they’re doing—which may give us ideas that we’d never have had on our own, perhaps for joint projects.

Responding to the comments on a blog post, rather than simply to the post’s author, can be a good way to get a feel for how responsive peers in your niche may be to your ideas, and to get on their radars. If you want to get in touch after that, it should be pretty easy. And who knows? Perhaps together you’ll be able to do far more to build your audiences—and traffic levels—than you’d ever have managed alone.

Connecting with your local audience offline

Recently I ran a small blogging event here in Melbourne, for a sub-niche of bloggers in town (food bloggers). It wasn’t a speech given at a business conference, or a presentation at a blogging event: it was held at the restaurant of a friend of mine, and benefitted him, the event speakers, and the bloggers who came along.

This event was a collaboration between myself, a friend, some of Melbourne’s best bloggers (who spoke at the event) and some of the city’s up-and-coming and established names in the niche (the attendees). Some of these people were familiar with; others weren’t. In all cases, the opportunity to connect in person with people from your target audience was, for me, unmissable.

When it comes to traffic, it’s all too easy to focus on overnight traffic success tactics—like guest posting, which can spike our traffic for the day. But strategies like networking plant seeds that can bear fruit over months or years—you may not see the benefits of that work for some time. But these longer term traffic strategies are essential if you’re to keep growing your audience and your blog sustainably.

Connecting with other experts

This one might come as a bit of a surprise, but it’s just as important as the more direct traffic methods, and shows how valuable collaboration can be.

By networking on and offline, and collaborating with those I’ve met, I’ve built relationships that have directly influenced my blog’s traffic levels.

  • I’ve met the Web Marketing Ninja, as well as Naomi, my designer, who’s helped me optimize my product offerings and the way we present them, and attract more quality traffic to each launch—as well as to my blogs overall.
  • I met Jasmine and Georgina, plus a range of authors, who help me produce content and products that continuously meet the needs of my readers, and which are a basic necessity in attracting and retaining new readers. They’ve also made it easier for me to form more relationships with larger numbers of players in the markets where I operate, which is a big boost to my efforts to find readers.
  • I’ve also formed relationships with other bloggers, like Brian Clark and Chris Garrett. The print book I wrote with Chris is yet another example of a collaboration that sowed seeds for future traffic. We’ve been reaping the benefits of that work ever since.
  • Your traffic network

    Networking and collaboration are excellent ways to grow your traffic in the long term, as well as more immediately. Have a think about your traffic network—in terms of the people you know or you’re working with. Could that network use a little extra attention? Are there opportunities for collaboration that you’re overlooking?

    I’d love to hear how you’re using networking and collaboration to build your blog traffic. Let us hear your tips in the comments.

Stand Out in the Popular Pet Blogging Niche

This guest post is by Kimberly Gauthier of Keep the Tail Wagging.

When I was planning the launch of Keep the Tail Wagging, I heard the question “Do you know how many pet blogs are out there?” As John pointed out yesterday, this is a big niche, with a lot of competition.

But when I was asked this question, I would simply smile politely, while thinking, “Who cares?!” I’m not one to run away from a challenge; I’d been blogging since 2009 and planned to put everything I’d learned into practice on my new site.

Keep the Tail Wagging launched January 1, 2012.  In less than six months, I had a page rank of 2 (I’m convinced I deserve a 3 or 4), over 5,000 likes on Facebook and over 5,000 followers on Twitter.

Succeeding as a small fish in a big pond

To anyone looking to start a blog in a popular niche, don’t let the crowds discourage you.  It is possible to carve out your own section of the pond.  I get emails daily asking how I’ve managed to build Keep the Tail Wagging’s following and it was actually pretty easy. I’ve boiled my success down to five things that I do consistently.

1. Keyword research

Before Keep the Tail Wagging was launched, I downloaded a free version of Market Samurai to help me find an opening within the niche that could be monetized. I didn’t find the opening I was looking for.

But, using the free Google Keyword tool, I did find keywords with the right combination of competition and searches, and I apply these to each blog post I wrtie.

Keyword research

It’s a thrill to know, for example, that a dog owner researching her dog food options found my site through a Google search; this let me know that I was choosing the correct keywords for my audience.

2. Simple SEO

I remember the “Of course” moment that struck when I realized that I could put keywords in the captions and meta-tags of my images.  I’m not an expert in search engine optimization, but I do comprehend the basics and use the plugin WordPress SEO, and I invested in an SEO-friendly, premium WordPress theme.

SEO doesn’t have to stop on our sites; I send those keywords to every site that uses my content—Flickr (as in the image below), Pinterest, and Stumble Upon to name a few.  Any content or site that’s going to be indexed by the search engines is another opportunity for someone to find my site.

Not only is this great for Keep the Tail Wagging; properly tagging on social networks also benefits the pet companies that send me products to review.

Flickr Walk in Sync Image for ProBlogger

3. Promote like hell

I spent the first two months after launch on a PR campaign to make my site stand out.  To start, I told friends and family, handing out business cards, hung flyers, wrote press releases, and added links to my email and forum signatures.

I paid for a Facebook advertising campaign during the first month my site was live. It asked people to click Like if they’re tired of long commercials showing abused animals.  My first few hundred likes came from that campaign—and those clicks led to more referrals.

Facebook Ad

Then I discovered Help a Reporter Out (HARO), which I used along with Reporter Connection as unexpected PR sources. People became curious about Keep the Tail Wagging after seeing my regular inquiries and began to check the blog out.  During my second month, a PR professional was promoting my site to friends for free.

I landed several interviews and, most recently, a monthly feature on a local podcast about pets through these sources.

4. Interact with fans

I focus most of my time on the fans that liked my Facebook page, encouraging interaction, and getting feedback and article ideas.  Word of mouth is big on social networking sites and each week, friends of fans stop by to like my page.

Creating that back-and-forth made people feel comfortable to email me with questions about their dogs, which inspired articles I wrote for Keep the Tail Wagging.  We’re told to become authorities in our niche. Well, what better way to do that than to answer questions asked by our fans?

Leave Dog At Home

Over time, I got over my shyness and started asking people to tell their friends about my blog, share a post, and comment on an article or status update.

What makes a blog stand out is the blogger

I chose to be more personable with Keep the Tail Wagging followers by sharing my daily life with them (pictures, stories, frustrations).  My followers came with me when we fostered our first dog, when we lost our puppy to Canine Parvovirus, and when Blue joined our family.

Sometimes it’s the person, their writing style, or their short and sweet posts that makes a blog sing. There’s a reason why we choose to read some social media or photography blogs instead of others.

I’m not the most popular pet blogger.  I need to work on my bounce rate and I’m on the lookout for regular guest contributors.  But as to my success in the first six months of blogging in this niche, I’d have to say “Not bad.”

That said, we’re all learning every day. Do you spend any time on pet blogs? Do you operate in a similar niche? Share your tips for success with us in the comments.

Kimberly Gauthier is the Editor in Chief of Keep the Tail Wagging, an online magazine for dog lovers.  She’s also featured on Girl Power Hour as The Fur Mom and the podcast Your Pets, My Dogs.

My Secret Strategy to Send Surges of Traffic to Your Blog

This guest post is by Diggy of

As a blogger or website owner you know how important traffic is—and how difficult it can be to obtain.

Traffic is especially difficult to obtain when you are a small fish in the pond, when your site is relatively new and not many people know about you. And waiting for one or two or three years to build your blog before you can get substantial traffic is something that I’m sure you’re way too impatient for. So how do you get more traffic to your website, fast? And without spending money on PPC or solo ads?

Besides SEO, blog commenting, guest posting, Youtube and social media, there is another way.

I recently launched a new blog about how to be confident and my traffic was hovering under 100 visitors per day. Then I implemented my secret strategy for a single post, and traffic surged to over 1000 visits in a matter of hours. It continued into the high hundreds of visits for the next day too!

Traffic spike

I’m about to share with you my secret strategy to send surges of traffic to your website, pretty much whenever you want. It’s a strategy that I haven’t seen many people use, but I think that will start to change soon. The few people who I have shared this strategy with love it and have started implementing it already.

Content is king

You’ve probably read that phrase a million times. Bloggers always tell you that content is king, and to a large extent that is true. But in addition to having engaging, unique and fantastic content, you need to have people who are going to read your content and share it with others. If you have no traffic, you can have the best content on the web, but nobody is going to read it and share it, and it’s not going to bring you any benefit.

However, a big part of this secret strategy to send surges of traffic to your website is to create really killer content. Just one post will do, but it has to be something unique. Something that people really want to read. Like a super-long list post, or a very in-depth analysis, or a very heated debatable topic. Something that grabs people’s attention.

The post that I’m using as an example is titled 100 Ways How To Build Confidence. It’s about exactly what the title states: 100 different ways to build confidence. It’s a very long list post of just over 10,000 words and it took about eight hours to write, edit and format.

There are multiple reasons why an article like this is very effective is drawing mass traffic to your site. Not only is the title something that makes people want to click through to it, when the visitor reads the article he or she can see that it contains useful information and that someone took a long time to create it. That reader is much more likely to leave positive feedback and share the post with friends, which in turn creates even more traffic for your site.

I also used two other articles to test this strategy on separate occasions. The result was the same: mass traffic spikes to my blog within hours.

The other articles I used were Going out alone—here’s how to do it and
10 Things to say to girls.

The secret strategy

Here it is: the actual secret strategy I used to drive over 1000 visits to my blog within hours, with a single post, all while my blog was only averaging around 100 unique visits per day. And the strategy worked again and again on the two other posts I mentioned.

That strategy involves forums. A very simple promotion of a good article on a popular forum will send you boat-loads of traffic. The more related the forum is to the topic of your article, the more traffic you will get, and the better that traffic will convert.

Forum links

Every day, there are hundreds of thousands of people all around the world who are super-bored and have no desire to work, and who spend hours on their favorite forums. These people are all eager to be entertained, learn something, or to discover something new. They are ready to click on new links to new sites, and spend a lot of time if they like what they see.

To go back to the importance of a catchy title and unique, useful content, you can see why this is so important for this secret strategy. The catchier your title, the more people will view and click your thread and through to your link. If your article is unique, members will leave feedback in the forum. This feedback does two things:

  1. In most forums, when a user comments on a thread, that thread is “bumped” to the top of the forum thread topics. This means that everybody logging on to the forum at that point will see your thread first and click on it.
  2. In forums, people love to look at popular threads that have lots of views or comments or high star-ratings. This is because it is assumed that when a thread in a forum has many views, comments, or ratings, that thread is valuable and needs to be clicked on.

So, with a catchy title and useful content, you’ll get people to click through to your site, leave feedback, bump the thread, and allow more users to do the same.

If you’re wondering what kind of message you need to post in your forum thread to get the ball rolling, it’s very simple. All I posted was this:

Forum post

Finding popular forums

Now that you know the secret strategy, you’ll want to know how to find popular forums worth posting on. Fortunately this is very easy because all you really need to do is head over to Google and type in “[YOUR NICHE] forum”. You’ll end up with many results for forums in your niche.

A quick way to tell if a forum is popular is to check the amount of registered users and the amount of users currently online. This is usually displayed on the home page of any forum, towards the bottom of the page. The screenshot below is an example of what a popular forum’s membership would be—this is one worth promoting your post on!

Forum stats

Secret no more!

Let me just sum up the secret strategy in a few simple-to-follow points:

  1. Create a high quality post with a catchy title.
  2. Find forums related to your niche.
  3. Make a simple thread with a catchy title and link to your post.

Note that there is such a thing as forum etiquette or proper conduct. You may need to post regularly in certain forums and build up a bit of a reputation before you are allowed to post links or start threads or begin self-promoting. Even then, don’t do it too often, or you’ll risk being banned.

Be sure to reply and respond to any comments or feedback that you receive in your threads, and participate in the forum generally—after all, if it’s a focal point for your niche, it’ll be a great place to engage with potential readers, build authority, make new connections, and more.

Diggy is a confident, successful young man who is his own boss, travels the world and has fantastic friends and relationships. He enjoys teaching people how to be confident and even has a section with confidence tips for women. If you want to become more confident,happier or successful, it’s highly recommended to subscribe to Diggy’s Flawless Confidence newsletter.

A Guest Posting Strategy for Bloggers Who Really Want Results

This guest post is by Alexis Grant blogs of The Traveling Writer.

Now that you’re convinced of the benefits of guest posting and know how to create content editors want, it’s time to ask yourself: am I really getting as much as possible out of my guest posting efforts?

Most of us guest post as an after-thought, making time to pitch a post here or there when we can scrounge up a few free minutes in our schedule.

But you wouldn’t approach your blog without a plan, would you? And you wouldn’t approach your job without a plan either! Since most of us are aiming to make money from blogging, why be lackadaisical about your guest posting strategy?

When I first began guest posting, I was in that same boat, brainstorming guest posts whenever I could squeeze an extra few minutes out of my day. But once I realized just how much guest posting was helping me sell my eguides and gain new subscribers, I decided to take it more seriously. I decided to actively take my guest posting to the next level.

Rather than submitting guest posts in a once-I-finish-all-my-other-work fashion, I created a plan that would help me keep better track of my ideas, pitch more editors and bring more eyes to my site.

The master doc

How’d I go about creating this strategy? With the king of all planning tools, Google Docs.

Using a spreadsheet, I created a column for each one of these phrases:

  • Publication
  • Editor at publication
  • Contact info for editor
  • Topic of post
  • Date I pitched the editor
  • Editor’s response (whether the pitch was accepted)
  • When I submitted the post
  • When the post was published
  • Outcomes (like traffic peak, new subscribers, sales of products).

Not only will organizing your guest posting efforts in this way help you keep track of where you’ve pitched, the response you’ve gotten from each editor, and which pieces you need to write, it will also help you zero in on what’s working.

By tracking outcomes from these posts—even if they’re somewhat anecdotal or vague (example: you gained ten subscribers when a certain post went live, even if you’re not certain all those subscribers came from that post)—you’ll be able to recognize which blogs are helping you reach your goals.

This is important because you might expect the blog with the most readers to give you the most results, and then find out that a different blog—one that focuses on your niche, for example—is actually better at helping you bring in sales.

It will also help you see weaknesses you didn’t know you had. Once I set up this doc, for example, I realized I needed to better track where sales of my eguides were coming from. That prompted me to finally learn how to add tracking codes to my links, which is helping me become even more effective in my blogging efforts.

And here’s one more plus: know all those random ideas for topics and target blogs that hit you while you’re driving or in the shower? Now you can add them to your strategy doc, so those brilliant ideas don’t disappear.

One more way to optimize

Now that you’re on board with taking a strategic approach to guest posting, here’s one more idea for getting the most out of your guest posting strategy.

Once I decided to make this a priority—because growing traffic to my blog and increasing sales is my ultimate goal—I assigned one of my part-time business team members to the project. “Hold me accountable!” I told her.

Having an employee (or intern, or writing buddy, or someone you found on oDesk) oversee this process could help you keep on track, so you’re sure to hit your goal of submitting however many guest posts you’ve decided to write each month.

But even if you don’t have someone to hold you accountable, this strategy doc will hold you accountable to yourself. You’ll easily be able to see who you’ve pitched, which ideas have worked and which haven’t, and whether certain posts have brought the results—traffic, product sales, subscriptions, and more—you hoped for.

Could this system work for you? Could you approach guest posting in a more strategic, more organized, more effective way? Share your ideas in the comments.

Alexis Grant is an entrepreneurial writer, digital strategist and author of How to Create a Freakin’ Fabulous Social Media Strategy.

3 Strategies that Brought Me 11,710 Subscribers in Six Months [Case Study]

This guest post is by Mary Jaksch of Write to Done.

Imagine boosting your subscriber count by more than 50.7% in under six months.

You’d like that, wouldn’t you?

Okay, so if your blog has only about 200 subscribers, growing by more than 50% in under six months isn’t a big deal. However, it’s harder to achieve neck-snapping growth on an established blog.

Yet a combination of three booster strategies lifted Write to Done from 23,120 to 34,830 subscribers in under six months.

I’m not talking of becoming a guest-posting machine, like Danny Iny, who fired off 119 guest posts in the last nine months, or of becoming a heroic blogger like Leo Babauta. He kickstarted Zen Habits by writing five posts a week, plus five guest posts (whilst holding down a full-time job and raising a family of six kids). You wonder when these guys found time to sleep…

The number one challenge

Ask any blogger, and they’ll tell you that gaining more subscribers is their number one challenge.

My first blog, Goodlife ZEN, had an initial growth rate of … well, near zero. At the end of the second month I was so desperate, I subscribed my cat Sweetie. That made three subscribers: my son, by best friend, and my cat.

Like many newbie bloggers I asked myself: how can I gain more subscribers?

The root of the problem is that in order to grow your blog, you need traffic. But not just any traffic.

You need resonant traffic. You need the people who visit your blog to resonate with your content.

When I decided to rejuvenate Write to Done—the writers’ blog originally started by Leo Babauta—the challenge I faced was to lift this established blog into a new orbit. A combination of  three booster strategies did the trick.

How to put a rocket under your blog

The booster strategies I’m talking about are simple to implement, don’t take much time and effort, and they work—no matter how big or small your blog may be.

Strategy #1: Run an event on your blog

Running an event on your blog can create a buzz and draw resonant traffic—especially if you involve other bloggers.

I experimented with this strategy early on, when I launched the “Blog with Heart” competition on Goodlife ZEN a couple of years ago. The idea behind this competition was to get other blogs to participate in creating competing lending teams for the microlending charity Kiva.

The blog that raised the most money (relative to its subscriber numbers) was declared the winner. We raised over $16,000 during this campaign and subscriber numbers on Goodlife ZEN rose dramatically.

Later on, I created From Fab to Fit: the Great Fitness Challenge, an event that created a host of new followers.

There are many different kinds of events you can run on a blog. For example, you can run charity drives, competitions, challenges, or projects on your blog.

Another great example is Courtney Carver’s Minimalist Fashion Project 303. When Courtney casually mentioned the idea of a minimalist fashion challenge to me over a late-night cup of coffee in San Francisco,  I got so excited I jumped up and swept my cup off the table! Now Courtney’s blog Be More With Less is booming and the movement has spawned a Facebook page with over  3,300 Likes.

On Write to Done, I was able to utilize a ready-made event: our annual contest, the Top 10 Blogs for Writers. As part of the booster combo, we decided to run the Top 10 Blogs for Writers contest in November and December of 2011, integrating it with the two other booster strategies. We received 2,174 nominations, and traffic came pouring in.

But traffic isn’t enough to grow a subscriber base.

Reader habits have changed on the Net. Subscribing used to be a slow courtship where readers returned to a blog repeatedly before deciding to subscribe.

These days it’s more like speed-dating: you only have a few moments to turn an interested glance into a lasting relationship.

Great content, arresting headlines, and an attractive design used to be enough to grow your blog. But now you need something else to turn a first-time visitor into a subscriber.

Which brings me to the next strategy.

Strategy 2: Offer a subscription reward

If you want to turn visitors into subscribers as soon as they visit your blog, offer them a subscription reward. This could be a report, an ebook, a couple of videos, a short course, an app, or anything else that your readers would find extremely useful.

An easy solution is to compile an ebook from your best posts. This is what we did on Write to Done: we created The (nearly) Ultimate Guide to Better Writing.

You can also create a bundle of free ebooks, videos and podcasts. An example is The Blogger’s Toolbox. Another nifty way to create a subscriber reward is to invite other bloggers to contribute to an ebook.

The delivery method depends on how your subscriptions are set up. If you use an email responder service, like Aweber or Mailchimp, the delivery is pretty straightforward: create a follow-up email that goes out automatically as soon as someone confirms their subscription. The follow-up email should contain a link to a delivery page.

If you use Feedburner for subscriptions, use a plugin called RSS Footer. The plugin will put a link to your delivery page at the bottom of every post delivered by Feedburner, whether it’s by email or by RSS. You’ll need to tell your readers that the link to their freebie will be at the bottom of the next post they receive by email or in their RSS reader.

Strategy 3: Launch a product

Whenever you launch a product on your blog, you generate excitement. The excitement is generated in the run-up to the launch. The key is to foreshadow the arrival of the new product so that your readers look forward to it.

I recently asked Jon Morrow when you should start telling readers about a new product. He said, “Tell them about it as soon as you have the idea!”

Here’s an example of how a launch boosted subscriber numbers: Scott Dinsmore used a product launch to revitalize his blog,  Live Your Legend, with great results. Watch the video of an interview with Corbett Barr where Scott explains how he doubled his readership during the launch.

On Write to Done, we decided to create a launch for our ebook, The (nearly) Ultimate Guide to Better Writing in order to drive traffic to the blog.

How the strategy combo works

We combined three booster strategies: creating an ebook as a subscriber reward, launching the ebook, and running an event. This gave Write to Done the momentum to grow by 50.7% in under six months.

If you want to grow your subscriber numbers dramatically, create a booster campaign in five steps:

  1. Produce the product you want to offer as a subscriber reward.
  2. Plan your event and invite other bloggers to join in.
  3. Get your subscriber reward in place with signup forms and delivery page.
  4. Launch your product.
  5. Run your event.

If you follow these steps, you’ll be able to take advantage of the traffic surge created by your event and the product launch.

Just make sure that your event is in tune with your blog topic so that you generate resonant traffic. This means that  people who swing by your blog will be more likely to turn into subscribers—especially if you offer them a useful product in return for subscribing.

What growth strategies have you tried on your blog? Did they work? Please share them with us in the comments.

Want to improve your writing? Check out Write to Done and enjoy more posts by Mary Jaksch. You’ll also find The Blogger’s Toolbox insanely useful.

Traffic Technique 4: Subscriptions

From the marketers’ point of view, subscriptions are a loyalty mechanism—they’re the first technique we’ve looked at that’s most often used to build repeat traffic from people who have already visited your blog, and like it.

dPS subscription options

If they like it so much, why do they need to be reminded to come back? Well, we’re all forgetful—and we know it! By subscribing, we can make sure we never miss a post from our favorite blogs. We stay up to date on all the news, perhaps even becoming part of a community, making friends, and connecting with people.

Subscriptions can take a number of forms, but the three most common are probably these:

  • email newsletters (which, as I’ve mentioned, have been invaluable to me in growing my blogs and making money from them)
  • email autoresponder sequences (for example, a course broken into instalments and emailed weekly)
  • a forum or membership area of your site
  • RSS feeds.

Of course, subscriptions aren’t just for loyal readers—they can also be used to engage brand new readers, which makes this traffic tactic very versatile.

The one thing that you will need, though, if your subscription call to action is going to work, is that the reader has to see it, and to do that, they’ll need to be on your blog.

Your blog: the proof of your subscription’s value

Whether you attract would-be subscribers to your blog through search, content marketing, advertising, or some other technique, it’s important to remember that your blog is the most common reason those people will subscribe.

Sure, they might like what you have to say on Twitter, or enjoy your pins on Pinterest, but they don’t need to subscribe to your blog to stay up-to-date with your news on those platforms. When you think about it, asking a subscriber to add a new subscription to their list—given the plethora of memberships we all have these days—is a pretty big deal. So we need to treat it as such.

As we’ll see in a moment, a subscription is a great opportunity for bloggers to meet audience’s specific, deep needs. That said, if your site doesn’t already deliver on those needs—or their precursors-in some way, you may have trouble gaining those subscribers.

Your first job is elementary: make sure your site looks professional, trustworthy, and responsive to would-be subscribers. Does it reflect their values, interests, and needs? Does it speak to them clearly and directly? Can they see at a glance the kind of value they’ll get from your blog?

If so, you’re onto something.

Your next step is to get that subscription call to action in front of them, and make sure it touches on those needs you’ve already helped them identify. This comes down to copy lines and subscription boxes—but don’t overlook tactics like providing informational pages about your subscription offering, and sample content from the subscriber material, to further entice users.

Remember: you want to make it a no-brainer for them to subscribe. Don’t leave them guessing the value they’ll get from you. In my experience, your best bet is to show it to them.

My latest project, SnapnDeals, is a really simple example. The home page header tells you the site’s purpose—what it offers you. A little scrolling shows you a sample of the details of that offer. And at the page’s bottom, you see this subscribe box.

SnapnDeals signup box

It’s very simple, but as you can see, when you get to the subscription box, there’s no doubt as to what you’ll get in the subscription. The call to action just drives that home.

On the other hand, the dPS site offers two kinds of email newsletters, and we’ve developed a brief informational lightbox to explain the differences between them.

dPS signup box

Within the context provided by the homepage, this information gives a clear idea of what’s included in the subscription.

dPS homepage

For this reason, in-context signup CTAs tend to do very well on my sites. But if you’re having trouble converting readers to subscribers, see our series on conversion optimization for help.

Beyond the signup

Many bloggers focus heavily on getting the subscription. That’s fine—it makes sense—but to grow your list, you really need to deliver consistently outstanding value through the subscription itself.

Moreover, to generate blog traffic from those subscribers, you need to give them no-brainer reasons to click those links you’ve included in the email or RSS feed and come through to your blog, or spend more time clicking around your forums and engaging with the others they find there.

When we look at subscriptions from the blogger’s point of view, that’s what we see: subscription packages give us the opportunity to deliver content that’s really outstanding. It needs to be outstanding to make the subscription worthwhile and meaningful for your readers in the first place. But a subscription offer gives you the chance to get more deeply into topics that are particularly important, deep, complex, or interesting to your readers.

To take this one step further, if you want your subscribed users to actively use that subscription, your subscription material needs to continually reward them for subscribing. It has to anticipate their questions, preempt their needs, and solve problems they don’t even know they have. That sounds like a big challenge, but if you’re the kind of blogger who loves engaging with readers and knows what they want, this will become almost second-nature to you over time.

The easiest way to fulfil those needs is to encourage your subscribers to look at more of your content—through links, cross-references, and ongoing discussions through your posts and in the comments (if you have those turned on). Subscriptions give us a forum to reformulate and recast our existing content by showing readers how it meets needs they weren’t aware of, or, together with other pieces from our blog, provides insight they seek.

Finally, if the subscription is time-limited (for example, your offer is a series of four emails that teach subscribers how to do something), you should really aim to follow it up with something that’s even more compelling at the end of that timeframe. Don’t just let readers languish after the subscription material ends: you have an engaged audience at your fingertips. You could:

  • send them a survey asking for feedback on the subscription
  • up-sell them to a product or service that relates to what they’ve just learned
  • cross-promote another subscription product or offer that may interest them.

Don’t be satisfied with the fact that you know have this person’s email address on your list—keep rewarding them for subscribing with more and more value, and they’ll keep coming back. In this way, those valuable subscribers can form the bedrock of traffic from which you can build new visitor numbers, and traffic growth, upon.

Do you use subscriptions to grow traffic to your blog? Tell us how in the comments.

Comment Marketing 101

This guest post is by Slavko Desik of LifestyleUpdated.

Trying to understand the ways to get more traffic to your site, or even get some backlinks, you’ve probably stumbled across comment marketing.

And correct me if I’m wrong, but the first thing you probably hoped to get out of it was some links (even though most of them “nofollow”, hoping that it will still somehow boost your ranking), and also maybe get some traffic while making the blogger notice you.

Sorry to be the one to break it to you, but this is the wrong way to go.

So what are the basic benefits of comment marketing, and what should you aim to get out of it on the long term?

The benefits of comment marketing

Once you have a deep understanding of the benefits you can get from leaving comments on other blogs, you can learn the right approach to doing so. Let’s look at each of the benefits now.

Make yourself an authority in the field

The first thing that comes to mind when you’re thinking about how you can present yourself as someone who knows your niche, is to leave comments on other blogs that serve that same niche. The only way to make this happen is to leave good, structured comments that add value to the discussion.

Forget about writing “Great post”, or “I completely agree”. You are putting your name out there, so you’ll want to make every comment count. That way, you will grab the attention of those who are really interested in whatever goes in your niche. And those people are usually the key players now, or will be so in the future.

Grab the attention of the blogger

That’s probably one of your main goals here, right? I mean, you probably wouldn’t be leaving your opinion on another blog post if it wasn’t at all important to you. And leaving a comment that adds value to the discussion is the right way to do it.

You can either agree with what the blogger’s is saying, and offer some of your own similar views on the matter, or you can take a different side (something that is highly recommended if you want to grab the attention) with arguments that support your claims.

The word “arguments” is very important here. You can also grab the blogger’s attention by being offensive, or offering some highly subjective opinion—sure. But you probably won’t achieve any of the other benefits listed here if you take that approach. If you disagree with the points made in the post you’re commenting on, make sure to say that in a dignified, respectful way by offering strong objective facts that support your view on the matter.

In any case, if your comment’s strong, you will probably eventually spark a conversation between yourself and the blogger, so be sure to check back on the post after you submit a comment. Most of the comment systems nowadays have optional subscription for replies, but even if the blog doesn’t, you’ll want to return to the post to check out the replies and other new comments.

Making connections

It’s really a no-brainer when you understand the points above, but making those connections with the blogger, as well as the other readers, is so important that it must be mentioned separately.

Connect not only with the influential people in blogs’ comment sections, but also give your attention to those who are new, and not that experienced in the niche. Because note this: Your blogging peers now may one day grow to become A-list players in your niche.

Also, the “natural link building” which is so many times mentioned as the ideal way to gain backlinks, is not so “natural.” If you check the link profiles of some of the most authoritative sites in your niche, you will surely find that a large amount of links come from sites that are very well connected with the sites that they link to. By making connections with other bloggers, you’re passively attracting future links from them.

Just ask yourself who you would rather link to: a person you know pretty well, a person whose blog you love responding to and leaving comments at, or a person you don’t know anything about? The answer is pretty obvious!

Gain some search rank juice

This takes is such a small consideration in light of all the reasons why you should leave comments on sites, that I’m not sure if it’s worth mentioning. But here it is anyway.

If you’re thinking about boosting your site’s backlink count—and thereby search rank—by leaving comments on blogs, you’re probably hoping to find those blogs that allow “dofollow” links back to your site. So you go over there, write a sentence—or maybe two if you are in the mood, pack your name rich with keywords that you are hoping to rank for, and hope for the best.

Sound familiar? It’s all right—many, if not all, bloggers go through this stage at one point or another. However, the link value that’s passed even through those “dofollow” links is almost not worth mentioning at all compared to other methods of link building (and of course there’s none available through “nofollow” links).

On the other hand, if you leave blog comments under a name that’s rich with keywords, chances are that search algorithm updates like Penguin will make sure to greet you appropriately—that is, by penalizing your blog to some extent.

I should probably mention that there are still some sites in some niches that rank or ranked pretty well using this gray-hat SEO strategy in the short term, but it’s just not a viable long-term solution for your brand or your blog. Also by doing that, you’re just begging to be outed by someone out there.

Familiarize people with your brand and yourself

This point is similar to the first, except that this one deals with making a positive impression whenever someone sees you and recognizes your brand anywhere online. That’s why I strongly recommend having only one name, and one avatar associated with all comments you leave. Choose whether this will be your own name, some nickname you go by, your secret ‘net alias—whatever, as long as it’s something you feel comfortable with.

It’s widely accepted that the best option is to use your real name and your headshot, but you should probably decide for yourself. The thing is that this is how people will recognize you, so once you decide, it’s better to stick with the name and image you’ve chosen than to change these details.

For that reason, be sure to choose the picture carefully. You will be surprised how important this is—even at such a low resolution. Choose a professional-looking picture, and try to make a positive impression by smiling. Using Gravatar is a great way to make sure your picture is the same all over the web. This can go long way to build that trust and connection with people.

Get traffic from the other blogs, and expose yourself to a broader audience

Each time you leave a comment, make sure you include a working link back to your site. Remember, the better you fulfil the ideas we spoke about above, the greater the chance someone will click your name, and visit your blog.

I’ve heard that the commenters that get most clicks are those who leave the first few comments. You can also achieve higher CTR by leaving responses in which you (respectfully) disagree with the author—this will surely attract some attention, but you’ll have to make sure that the facts are on your side.

Guest posting opportunities

In some ways, this benefit is closely connected with the second one: grabbing the blogger’s attention. But the thing here is to consistently add value to the discussion over a longer period of time. That way, you’re sure that the connection you are building with the blogger is going in the right direction, and the chances of having a guest post offer accepted are bigger, and more real.

Using the same name and picture each time you comment should help here, because it increases your chances to be noticed by the author. That said, do should consider the number of comments on the page and the response rate of the author. If you’re commenting on a site that has a few hundred comments on every post, it’ll take eternity to get yourself noticed. By the same logic, a site on which there are a smaller number of comments, but where the author is not even willing to spend time responding to them is also a site in which you would have a hard time making yourself stand out from the crowd.

Comment marketing in practice

Building a brand and developing your persona as an expert in your field takes a lot of time, but knowing how to make the most out of the commenting opportunities on other blogs is going to help you a lot.

What are your practices when it comes to leaving comments, or better yet, have you had some experience from the other side of the fence, in the comment section of your own blog? Maybe you have some tips you want to share too. Be our guest, the comment section is right below!

Slavko Desik is writer and editor at LifestyleUpdated where he tries to blend together his passion for living full time with his knowledge and passion for blogging. Find Slavko on Google+ or the official Facebook Page.

Traffic Technique 2: Content Marketing

Content marketing is probably the most common traffic tactic these days. It lets us target specific audience segments, in some cases it allows us to get the benefit of some other brand’s or blogger’s authority with a market, and it doesn’t require that out target readers be using particular tools or networks the way social media does.

As I mentioned in a related post earlier this year, content marketing basically involves repackaging your message to meet the needs of different users and would-be users at specific moments in time, and in specific locations. You might repurpose content you’ve already written; you might not. But in all cases, you’re taking your blog’s key message and presenting it, via content, to a new, targeted audience.

Types of content marketing

How many types of content marketing are there? How long’s a piece of string?! There are as many variations of content marketing as there are bloggers, but here are the main types that we seem to be using:

  • Guest posting: creating posts for publication on other sites and blogs. Note here that “creating” doesn’t necessarily mean just writing. You could be creating other content assets, like videos, infographics, comics, photos, and so on.
  • Article marketing: writing posts for distribution through article “spinning” sites like Ezine Articles.
  • Packaged content: working some of your content into a whitepaper, or mini-ebook, or emailed “course” or series, or some other product that you can offer free in exchange for the reader’s email address, and then promoting that offer in various hand-picked offsite locations.
  • Syndication: disseminating your blog’s content to other locations, either through an open reuse policy (like Leo uses at Zenhabits), or offering select outlets reuse of a certain segment of your blog’s content.

Whatever the format, content marketing is really the process of taking your message—perhaps even taking content you’ve already produced and published on your site—and positioning it in a way that meets the needs of off-site audiences. It can be used to promote your blog as a whole, or a special product or offer that you’re running—really, it’s up to you.

The right kind of content marketing traffic

Obviously one of the great things about content marketing is that we can use it to target really specific sub-segments of our readership. So the traffic it brings us is usually primed for the other information we have on our blogs.

You’ll remember that last time, we talked about search engine optimization. Now, where searchers know they have a need, and it’s strong enough for them to search the web for a solution, the people who come into contact with your content marketing efforts may not realise they have a need for your material until they see it.

The purpose of your content marketing efforts is to show these new audiences that they have a need, that you can meet it, and to draw them through to your blog. For that reason, it’s important to shape the repackaging of the content itself to specific reader types, based on the profiles of readers on the outlets where you’ll be promoting or using that content.

So if you’re writing a guest post, you’ll want to make sure it casts your content as responding to the specific needs of the readers on the site where the post will be published. If you’re offering a special report or whitepaper, make sure that it meets a felt need of the audience of the location where it’ll be downloaded.

Obivously, it’s also important to choose your content marketing outlets carefully, to ensure that the readers who do come through to your blog are actually interested in what you have to offer on a broader scale.

Also, make sure it’s effortless for readers to move from the offsite content to your blog. Finally, the landing page may well make or break their response to, and engagement with, your blog, so pay special attention to that, to make sure readers get what they’re after, as preempted in your offsite content.

A content marketing case study

I think one of the keys to content marketing is being able to adapt your message to the needs of the readers in the locations where you’re doing the marketing. So, if you’re guest posting, the success of your post—not just in being accepted by the host blog, but in terms of drawing readers through to your own blog—depends largely on how well you shape your message to those readers.

The more content marketing you do, the easier it gets to adapt your message, but to make it clear I wanted to give you an example of content marketing we’ve done here at ProBlogger.

Earlier this year we launched Blog Wise, our ebook on blogging productivity. To help promote it, my editor Georgina wrote three guest articles for other blogs:  one for Copyblogger, another for Goinswriter, and a final one for Zenhabits (as well as publishing a small series here on ProBlogger).

We all know that ProBlogger’s about pro blogging, and the ebook is about being productive—professional-blogger productive, in fact. But as the table below shows, these other blogs have different purposes. Georgina had to reshape that key message to suit each one.

Content marketing article plan

How did she do that?

Leverage connection

Each blog’s owner had been interviewed for the ebook, so she decided to leverage those interviews in writing her guest posts. Each post was intended to reveal to the blog’s loyal readers something new about a blogger they already know and love.

Combine topics

For each post, Georgina combined the topics of the blog she was writing for with the key topic (productivity) we’d discussed in the ebook. We’ve listed those on the far-right of the table.

Make it relevant

The above two points helped to make sure the guest posts were relevant, but she had a final imperative, which was to make sure that each guest post stood up for itself on the blog where it was published: if readers of that blog saw her post and had no interest in learning more about productivity through the ebook, they would still get something valuable out of her guest post, and be glad that the host blogger had published it.

Georgina repurposed content from the Blog Wise interviews and ebook to make the series she published here on ProBlogger. That was fine, since the ebook, like this blog, is written with our readers in mind! But for the other blogs, she wrote specially prepared content that met the needs outlined above.

The results for these posts were good—and that’s despite the minimalist bio she published alongside them! Each post attracted new users at a strong rate—between 50% and 90%—and each traffic source had lower bounce rates, higher on-site times, and more average pageviews per visit than most other sources for the same time periods, including social media.

The post on Zenhabits, for example, referred more traffic than any other referral source on the day it was published (including social media, Google, and so on), and remained in the top 5 referrers for a few days afterward. That traffic contained more first-time visitors than traffic from the other posts (around 86%). Bounce rates for that traffic were lower than any of the other traffic sources in the top 5—and about 10% lower than the site-wide average—for those few days.

That’s not bad for content marketing on a blog that’s not, at first glance, even closely aligned with the purpose of this one.

Of course, the added benefit of this kind of content marketing is the opportunity to engage with the readers at these other online locations and build your brand’s profile—something that you can do with search traffic. Have a look at the comments each of those posts generated and you’ll see intriguing discussion and more than a few ideas for follow-up guest pieces. If we continued to guest post at these locations, there’d be a strong chance that we’d be able to draw a larger percentage of readers through to over time.

How does your content marketing perform?

As you can see, successful content marketing isn’t simply a matter of “spinning” your topic to suit a new audience. To work well, it needs to be done with care and, above all, consideration for the location at which your content will be published or shared.

This can be a particularly challenge when you’re doing things like article marketing, because with those options, you simply can’t get the level of audience insight required to target the content as heavily as this. Syndication can work better, so long as you know the blog where your content will appear, and can get to know its readers, too.

This is just one example of content marketing at work—and the kinds of results you can achieve with it. But let’s face it: guest posting isn’t the most innovative form of content marketing. What are you doing with content marketing at the moment? Share your secrets—and your tips!—in the comments.

Get to Know Your Sub-niches Through Targeted Events

This weekend, I’ll be spending some time getting ready for the Melbourne Food and Wine Blogging Event I’m hosting on Tuesday. I’m really looking forward to this event—and not just because of the great food and wine we’ll get to enjoy!

This event targets a sub-niche of my main target audience—it’s aimed at food bloggers who are located in or around Melbourne, or are near enough to participate in the event.

At first glance, that event might seem odd to some readers who see ProBlogger as a blog primarily about making money blogging. Even with the range of topics we cover here, it might seem strange for a blog whose primary audience is based in the States to go to the trouble of running a small, local event like this—and then to focus it on a specific blogging niche like food.

Targeting a sub-niche

Professional blogging is a pretty big niche—and it’s growing all the time. It’s also a reasonably mature niche.

While that means there are more opportunities popping up each day, it also means that those opportunities are becoming more and more fragmented—or targeted—over time. Building authority in a niche like this isn’t just a matter of talking about generic pro-blogging techniques any more. It’s about digging deep into the specific needs of the topic’s many sub-niches.

The food blogging niche is flourishing, particularly here in Melbourne. But many food blogs are global brands now, and I want to know what makes pro- and would-be-pro-food bloggers tick.

So why not host an event for this sub-niche? The idea wasn’t exactly out of left-field for me, since my friend Shane is a restauranteur and a fantastic chef. The event will help to build his profile, but of course it also helps me build my profile at a grass-roots level, with a target segment I want to know better and help out. It’s a win-win-win!

Are there connections in your network who could help put you in touch with a sub-segement of your target audience? Perhaps it’s time you started asking around…

One of many

These days, more and more of my time is spent engaging with sub-segments of my main target audience. Recently, I’ve engaged through online and offline events and discussions in the DIY niche, the mommy bloggers niche, the social media niche, and the travel blogging niche, among others.

Each of those opportunities has let me connect deeply with a sub-niche of the blogosphere, and individuals who operate in that space. And each one has been informative and fun. I know that it’s easy for digitally focused people like bloggers to ignore offline promotional tactics like the Food and Wine Event, but I find them invaluable for actually getting to know readers from important sub-niches.

It’s commonly accepted that bloggers should write with a particular reader in mind. What better way to do that when you’re writing for a sub-niche than to think of someone you’ve met personally, who blogs in that space?

If you’ve talked with them face to face, you’ll know how they feel about key issues, the language they used, what interested them, and so on. That’s a great foundation for writing relevant content, and creating relevant products and services once you feel your authority with that sub-niche is strong enough.

I’ll keep getting involved in small- and medium-scale events and gatherings in the sub-niches within blogging, so that I can get to know as well as possible how those bloggers operate, what they hope for, and what they need.

Have you ever held and event—online or off—to target a sub-niche of your blog’s main topic? What was it, and what did you learn? We’d love to hear you stories in the comments.