This is the third and final part of a three part series. In Part I of Marketing and Growing Your Blog, I discussed the importance of content and making it easy for visitors to engage. In Part II, I talked about connecting with other bloggers. In this installment, I’ll cover spreading the word about your blog and building links.
Spread the Word
If you have created great content, paid a reasonable amount of attention to using the words and phrases your desired audience is most likely to search on, and have started to connect with other bloggers, you will almost certainly see the amount of traffic to your blog and your subscriptions begin to rise over time. If you really want to jump start things, though, you need to be more proactive.
Tell Your World
I know there are readers who will cringe at the idea of self-promotion, and if you just aren’t comfortable with the following steps, that’s fine – just know that it may take a bit longer to really get your blog off the ground.
E-mail friends, family, colleagues, and customers
In other words, tell the people you know that you have a blog. Provide a brief description of what you are writing about and what benefits they (or people they may know) might get from it. Provide a link to the blog, explain the subscription options, and directly ask them to subscribe. Finally, ask them to forward the e-mail to others who may be interested. Keep in mind, this e-mail will probably need to be a bit different for each of the audiences to which you send it. Your message to family, for example, is probably going to be different from your message to customers.
(I realize your family and friends may not be your target audience, but they may know people who are, and besides, it’s helpful to know that someone is reading!)
Keep working the e-mail channel
Include a link to your blog in the signature are of your e-mails, and consider also including a very brief message that highlights a particular post. This should be changed from time to time so that it remains interesting to people who hear from you frequently by e-mail.
Make use of social networks
If you have built up friends, followers, or connections on one of the various social networks (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), you can leverage these to attract traffic to your blog. If don’t currently participate in a social network, now is a very good time to start building up a presence on at least one of them. And if you aren’t quite clear on what social networks are, I recommend taking a look at Commoncraft’s excellent Social Networking in Plain English video, and possibly also the Twitter in Plain English video.
May sure you include a link to your blog in the profiles you maintain on any of the social networks. And, make use of status updates to notify your network when you publish a new post. Naturally, use your judgment when doing this. If you post multiple times a day, your network may not appreciate getting an update every time. Also, if all you ever send out on your status updates is links to your blog posts, people may start ignoring you pretty quickly. Make sure you are sending out other interesting content as well.
Don’t forget the offline world
It’s easy to think that blog promotion is something that only takes place on the Web, but of course there is still a huge part of your life that takes place off line (right?). Don’t forget to mention your blog in face-to-face conversations, and be sure to include the address for it on your business card.
Listen and respond
Take the time to monitor your brand and track topics that interest you on the Web by using various listening tools, and respond appropriately whenever you “hear” something of interest. And again, don’t forget the offline world. This entire series of posts came about because of a need expressed by a group I spoke to recently.
Tell the World
You will already be stretching yourself well beyond your usual network if you take some of the steps above, but consider taking it one step further and use a service like PRWeb to issue regular press releases related to your business and your blogging efforts.
The way the Web now works, press releases are no longer meant only for attracting the press. In fact, they are not even mostly intended for attracting the attention of the press. They are an avenue that can lead directly to the browser of your potential readers and customers. To get a better understanding of what I mean, take the time to read David Meerman Scott’s excellent, free eBook on The New Rules of PR.
Given that Web PR will inevitably lead to links to your blog (because you include them in the press release), this last point is a good segue to my final point:
Actively cultivate links
Links from other sites – particularly sites that are popular themselves – are one of the most important factors in ranking high in the search engines. And even if you don’t care that much about attracting gobs of traffic to your blog (really, we should all care about quality, not quantity of traffic), links can help make sure that the people most likely to care about you will find you.
Like so many of the points in this series, even mentioning “link building” is like pulling at a thread on a sweater – there is much more to be said about it than can be covered here. Nonetheless, there are simple steps you can take.
First, make sure you include a link to your blog pretty much anywhere you maintain a “profile” on the Web – i.e., a page in which you provide basic information about yourself. Arguably, profiles on sites most related to the topics you cover on your blog are more valuable than those on more general sites, but there is seldom a good reason not to have a link to your blog in one of your profiles.
Next, ask for links. You’ll already get some through commenting, but it’s much more valuable if people will link to you from the body of their articles or Web pages. In most cases, links in the places previously mentioned (profiles, blog comments) will be “no follow” links, meaning that the search engine spiders that crawl the Web will not follow them to your site. So, while they are great for potentially leading people to your site, they don’t help move you up in the search engine rankings. On the other hand, a link from the body of a blog posting or Web page usually will be followed. If it happens to be from a highly popular page in a highly popular blog or Web site, all the better.
To complement the links you seek out (or attract through your great content – again, see Part I!), also consider submitting your blog to some of the better Web directories and blog directories. These are places where you can create links that will get followed by the search engines and searchers in the directories themselves may be prospective blog readers who would otherwise not find you.
Finally, don’t overlook internal linking on your blog. If you have written about a topic in earlier posts, be sure to link to these posts in any new entries. And even consider going back to earlier posts and linking forward to new posts. Among other things, internal linking helps the search engines make sense of your site, and it makes your site more “sticky” by helping visitors find other parts of the blog they may want to visit. (Many blogging platforms have “plug-ins” that will automatically display a list of related posts at the end of a blog entry. These are great, but it is also important to link to other posts from within the context of your entries.)
The Sixth Discipline
I have covered five key areas in this series of posts, but there is a sixth area which is more important than all of them – keeping at it and continuing to learn. Like just about any thing else that matters in life, success at blogging takes work. Take a close look at some of most popular blogs out there you can tell pretty quickly that these are not casual affairs – the people behind them are working hard.
For most bloggers, generating huge amounts of traffic like these blogs do isn’t really a primary goal, but even the effort of simply reaching your desired audience on a regular basis with content you are willing to put your name to should not be underestimated. Blogging is easy; blogging successfully is not. It takes time and practice to figure out what works, both for yourself and your audience.
As someone who has been at it for a while, though, I have found the benefits of consistent blogging to be extraordinary. The blog you are reading attracts more visitors to this site than any other part of it. And for my purposes, that really does not have to be a huge amount of traffic to result in enough customers for me to run a viable business.
On top of that, I continue to develop my own thinking and skills by continually writing about the topics at the center of my work, and I have formed invaluable professional connections through doing the things described earlier in this series. This is the side of blog “growth” that really has little to do with numbers – and for many bloggers, it can be more important than anything else.
Bonus Segment: Monetizing Your Blog
After I posted the second part of this series I received a comment asking whether I planned to talk about monetization – i.e., making money from your blog – in the final section. I had not really planned to, but I’d hardly be worth my salt if I didn’t at least respond to the comment at some level here. I’ll offer just a few brief notes and then perhaps do a dedicated post on the topic in the near future.
Direct vs. Indirect Blog Monetization
For most bloggers, the main question is whether you can generate significant income directly from transactions on your blog or whether your blog is a path to other sources of revenue generation.
Direct monetization typically comes through pay-per-click advertising placed on your blog, sponsorships, or donations. To generate any significant level of income, all three of these generally require a larger amount of traffic than most bloggers will ever see. And in many cases, they may be off-putting to your audience, and thus not worth whatever marginal income they produce.
A fourth option, which I see as somewhere between direct and indirect income, is affiliate marketing. As an affiliate marketer, you place links and/or ads on your site – often on distinct landing pages – that promote specific products and then earn a commission whenever a visitor clicks on the link and purchases the product.
If you feature affiliate products that are highly relevant to your audience, you are likely to get at least a few purchases, and the commissions can be quite generous. I’ve earned a fair amount as a Teaching Sells affiliate, for example, which is a program that I see as very relevant to visitors to this site. If you want to learn more about affiliate marketing, I recommend the Wealthy Affiliate University program (yes, that’s an affiliate link;-)
While all of the above are options, the reality for most bloggers is that your blog will support other revenue sources rather serve as a revenue source itself. There is nothing wrong with this, though – it’s really hard to think of a better avenue for generating Web traffic, providing value to your prospects, and highlighting – tactfully – the paid products or services you can provide. As I have noted in a previous post, I think a powerful approach to indirect monetization can be to curate your catalog with a blog.
Like I said, I’ll write more about monetization at a later date. In the meantime, I welcome your comments on this series of posts. My goals have been to provide some help to new bloggers I have met recently as well as to engage in a bit of personal learning by thinking through and articulating some of the aspects of blog marketing and growth that have been most important for me.
I know experienced bloggers will read this and feel there is any number of things I have left out or perhaps over simplified. I have, no doubt – and that has been on purpose to try to keep this to blog length rather than book length! That said, please comment and tell me and other readers where you think there are gaps that need to be filled in.
And if you are a new blogger and have questions about anything you have read here, please comment as well. At the very least it will help alert some people to your blog, and I’ll try to provide whatever guidance I can.
Hedgehog & Fox
P.S. This series is an example of what I have called a “perennial” post in other places and an attempt at what what blogger Yaro Stark has called a “pillar article.” If you like this post, please vote for it on Association Jam!